The Nicola Naturalist Society held our first field outing on 20 June in Kane Valley since the beginning of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. It began as a grey drizzly day but despite the damp weather 9 members showed up. Because of the damp weather 9,000 mosquitoes showed up. The weather improved and a breeze brought some relief from mosquitoes so we had good wildflower and wildlife experiences.
We arrived in separate cars and scrupulously maintained 2 m spacing, in keeping with the anti-COVID guidelines.
Our first stop was at Hill’s Homestead on the Kane Valley ski trails. This big open slope bounded by lovely old growth forest is always a great spot for spring flowers – and it did not disappoint.
Arrow-leaved Balsamroots light up the hillside at Hill’s Homestead. Photo: ©Alan Burger
A close up of Arrow-leaved Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) flower. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Sticky Geranium (Geranium viscosissimum), a common flower on the hillsides. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Silky Lupines (Lupinus sericeus) were at their prime on 20 June on Hill’s Homestead meadows. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Masses of Arrow-leaved Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata). Photo: ©Alan Burger
Woolly Groundsel (Senecio canus), also known as Ragweed. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Upland Larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum) – providing splashes of brilliant blue among the yellow Balsamroots. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Margaret inspecting flowers at Hill’s Homestead. Photo: ©Alan Burger
The hillside meadows are home to many sparrows – Vesper Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, and, bordering the forest, Dark-eyed Juncos and Chipping Sparrows. But small nondescript sparrows are hard to see as they flit among the hillside plants so their songs are usually the key to identification.
A Vesper Sparrow broadcasting its lovely song among the Balsamroot stems. Photo:©Alan Burger
Another look at the Vesper Sparrow among the Balsamroot stems. The small diagnostic patch of cinnamon shoulder feathers are just visible in this photo. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Small-flowered Penstemon (Penstemon procerus) – uncommon but found in clusters on the Hill’s Homestead meadows. Photo:©Alan Burger
Yellow Salsify (Tragopogon dubius) – a distinctive bloom on the hillside meadow. Photo:©Alan Burger
Meadow Death-camas (Zigadenus venenosus) – a common plant in the meadows. Photo:©Alan Burger
Denise among the masses of blooms of Hill’s Homestead. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Andrea and Chris did the most adventurous botanizing – hiking over the hills in search of rarities. Chris reported “…vast mesic meadows with masses of bloom included: Thread-leaved Sandwort, Pink Twink, Microseris nutans, Wild Forget-me-not or Blue Stickseed, Parsley Fern, Sweetgrass, Sedges, Junegrass, several types of Pussytoes, Tower Mustard, Desert Parsleys, Heart-leaved Arnica, Lupines, Round-leaved Alumroot….to name but a few.”
Spotted Saxifrage (Saxifraga bronchialis) – one of the distinctive specialties discovered by Chris and Andrea at the high rock ledges. Photo: ©Chris Rimmington.
Common Sweetgrass (Hierachloe odorata) and sedges. Photo: ©Chris Rimmington
Nodding Microseris (Microseris nutans). Photo: ©Chris Rimmington
Timber Milk-vetch (Astragalus miser) in the pea family. Photo: ©Chris Rimmington
Those in the group who were the least mobile ended up having the best wildlife sightings – a black bear, a mule deer doe with a fawn close by, and Canada Geese with goslings on the nearby pond. The same pond also had a muskrat, Western Toad tadpoles, a young Columbia Spotted Frog and a few large leeches.
A muskrat crossing the pond at Hill’s Homestead. Photo: ©Alan Burger
The nearby old-growth forest also provided some interesting birding.
A couple of singing male Lazuli Buntings were one of the avian highlights. Several of our group had good views of this colourful male among the big trees bordering the hillside meadows. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Gerry and Helen in the old growth forest bordering the Hill’s Homestead meadows. Photo: ©Alan Burger
A female Cassin’s Finch – one of the 31 bird species seen on our 20 June outing. Photo: ©Alan Burger
On rocky outcrops we discovered a different set of plants flowering …..
Shrubby Penstemon (Penstemon fruiticosus). Colourful clumps of this hardy plant occur on rocky slopes. Photo:©Alan Burger
Round-leaved Alumroot (Heuchera cylindrica) – another fairly common plant of the rocky outcrops. Photo:©Alan Burger
One of the Campions – possibly Night-flowering Catchfly (Silene noctiflora) growing on gravelly soil. Photo:©Alan Burger
Our second stop was another large hillside meadow further along the ski trail loop. By this time the clouds were opening up a little and we finally saw a few butterflies.
A tiny Silvery Blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche lygdamus) on a larkspur flower. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Common Alpine (Erebia epipsodea) was the only butterfly that was active at mid-day, although most, like this one, were lurking deep within the vegetation. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Andrea and Chris explored to the top of the rocky hill above the meadow. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Here too masses of Arrow-leaved Balsamroot provide swathes of colour. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Scattered among the moist grassy areas were Chocolate Lilies (Fritillaria lanceolata). Photo: ©Alan Burger
Blue Stickseed (Hackelia micrantha), also known as False Forget-me-not – a common plant in the open aspen woodlands. Note the mosquito sucking nectar on one of the flowers. Male mosquitoes are content with nectar, while the females, needing extra nourishment to produce eggs, are sucking blood from the photographer. Photo: ©Alan Burger
Desert Parsley (Lomatium ambiguum). Photo: ©Chris Rimmington
Parsley Fern (Cryptogramma crispa) showing the different leaf forms – the taller vertical leaves are the fertile ones carrying the spore-producing sori, and the lower more horizontal leaves are the sterile ones just for photosynthesis. Photo: ©Chris Rimmington
Rockcress (Boechera retrofracta). Photo: ©Chris Rimmington
One of the many Ciquefoil species, probably Sticky Cinquefoil (Potentilla glandulosa) just starting to bloom. Photo: ©Alan Burger
A House Wren – a common bird of our forests, usually nesting in old woodpecker holes. Photo: ©Alan Burger
For a checklist of the birds, mammals and amphibians recorded on this outing click here: NNS Critter List 20June2020