Wednesday, June 10, 2015

9-Jun-2015 Peavine Canyon, Washington

Site location (click to enlarge)
Today Rod Crawford and I returned to the canyonlands west of Wenatchee, this time to Peavine Canyon.  Interesting name!  I had to consult the Burke Museum's Herbarium page to confirm that wild peas (Lathyrus sp.) may indeed grow there, something I initially doubted.  As it turns out, several species of native pea grow in the ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests in this part of Chelan County.

Sample site
Most pine trunks had
fire scars
My sample site was a steep, south-facing slope dotted with ponderosa pines.  Green islands of snowberry (Symphoricarpos sp.), Oregon-grape (Berberis aquifolium), grasses and herbs made up the understory in places shaded by trees, but the cones and the sandy soil were bone dry.  The temperature on the exposed hillside certainly approached 100 F (38 C).  As I tapped cones through the early afternoon and felt the breeze strengthen into gusts, I knew that the "high fire danger" warning posted for the area was appropriate.  Charred bark on the ponderosas was a reminder of the wildfire that swept through the canyon in September 2012.

Cones on a bone-dry game trail
Cone on lush herbs...and bone
dry pine needles
Cones were plentiful, completely open and lying in every possible disposition: on bare soil, in drying grass, on still-green herbs, under shrubs, and accumulated against fallen tree branches.  I tapped 50 cones from as wide a variety of dispositions as I encountered and collected 3 spiders.  None of them were identifiable to species.  It's unusual for a Washington cone sample not to provide at least one identifiable species.  This is only the 5th time this has happened since I started tapping cones in 2008!  The load of associated needle litter that I sifted produced no spiders at all.

Collomia grandiflora has blue pollen!
Flies were constantly landing on my hands and arms while I worked on the hillside, but since they were there for a lick of salt rather than a bite, they were only a minor annoyance.  The birdsong rising from the shrubby thickets along Mission Creek in the canyon bottom was lovely, and my eyes were treated to a quick glimpse of the bright blue tail of a western skink (Plestiodon skiltonianus).  The only mammals I spotted (besides Rod, who can be hard to detect when he's sifting litter) were the dirt bikers who occasionally buzzed by on the canyon road.  To the person they each waved hello and slowed down so as not to kick up too much dust as they passed.  I really appreciated their politeness.

The feisty Lorquin's admiral
Butterflies abounded on the thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) growing near the creek.  This Lorquin's admiral (Limenitis lorquini) was defending territory from a stretch of thimbleberry near where I was sifting needle litter, so I got to watch it sally forth and chase away whoever flew by.  Usually it was a western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus).

We didn't stop for any of the famous Aplets and Cotlets when we passed through Cashmere on the way home, but we did pause for burgers and shakes at Mountain High Hamburgers in Easton.  In my estimation, its the best of the burger joints on a certain arachnologist's list.

Read Rod's account of the day here.

Green irrigated orchards contrast starkly with dry
natural hillsides, a common sight near Wenatchee

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