Don’t Touch It!

Lytta vulnerata cooperi blister beetle on rabbitbrush near Deschutes River/Wishram Bridge Wasco County id Jim Labonte
Lytta vulnerata cooperi (blister beetle) on rabbitbrush near Wishram Bridge Wasco County

“Don’t touch it.” In the case of this colorful beetle… good advice.

According to biologists bright red/orange/yellow color is a warning sign to go away and leave this critter alone.  Biologists refer to the concept of warning coloration as aposematism… apo = away… sema = sign. The beetle in the photo… grazing on rabbitbrush, a member of the Compositae family of flowers… is commonly called a blister beetle… releases a poisonous chemical that causes severe blistering of human skin. Don’t touch it.

Do you want to see this species of blister beetle for yourself? Try driving east of The Dalles to the Celilo exit and then to the Deschutes River bridge on old highway 30. At the bridge turn right onto Old Moody Road… a gravel road… and go toward The Dalles about four miles… the exact spot for those of you that use GPS is 45.6412 North latitude and 120.9824 West longitude. At that position you will find a pullout and a lovely view of the Wishram Railroad Bridge that spans the Columbia River 580 feet below. Let’s face it… if you don’t find the beetle here at least you can enjoy the scenery.

Scrutinize the rabbitbrush growing roadside… if you find the beetle heed the warning… don’t touch it. And, if you do touch it, do not put your fingers in your mouth! (If you do both of those things let me know immediately… I want to be the first to say: “I told you not to touch it!”)

Thanks to Jim LaBonte, ODA Entomologist, for his help in identifying the beetle as Lytta vulnerata cooperi, a task made immensely more difficult by having to use my photo instead of having a specimen in hand.

Story and photos by Larry

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Northwest Forest Pass Required

We were greeted at the trail head for one of Oregon’s most outstanding hiking trails by the sign shown below. New to us but since we had not hiked the trail for several years we were surprised. Purchasing a pass on site is out of the question so the search for a ticket agent began. We drove to Cascade Locks and tried several dealers but no one seemed to know where the pass could be purchased. It occurred to us that perhaps the agents at Multnomah Falls would know. Eureka… they were willing and able to sell us a pass. Then I thought to ask about my Golden Age Pass. To my surprise the agent said I wouldn’t need the Northwest Forest Pass if I had any of the federal park passes. If you read the fine print on the sign no mention is made that any other pass is applicable. Do you wonder how many people buy a pass they don’t need?

byLarry

 

pass required sign at Eagle Creek... wait a minute
pass required sign at Eagle Creek… wait a minute
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Deschutes River butterflies

Cousin Marvin and I were out sauntering 15 April and stopped to check out the butterflies in Jones Canyon which is tributary to the Deschutes River Canyon on the western edge of Sherman County, Oregon. Normally a small creek flows across the gravel road and seems to be a good spot to find butterflies “puddling”.

We weren’t disappointed. We saw a half dozen comprising two species but we expected a lot more from past experiences at this time of year. It was significant that the creek was almost dry… well, described as damp at best without too much exaggeration.

The lack of moisture provides alarming prospects given this time of year with the snow melt from winter and the spring rains recently past. It appears we will have another very dry summer.

The photo is of a Northern Checkerspot (Chlosyne palla), a small butterfly (easily covered with a 50 cent coin) and common in these parts. They are a challenge to photograph because they seem to alarm easily. The other species was Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon). Ours were easily identified as males (blue top wing rather than brown as in the females). The Checkerspots were probably males also since it is reported that the males puddle and the females do not.

Chlosyne palla Northern Checkerspot Jones Canyon, Deschutes River, Sherman County, OR
Chlosyne palla Northern Checkerspot Jones Canyon, Deschutes River, Sherman County, OR

There is some dispute over the name of this butterfly so let me provide a disclaimer. I am not an expert on the subject of butterflies so I rely on research done by experts. Robert Pyle’s book “The Butterflies of Cascadia” is a frequent resource.  Dana Ross has suggested that the butterfly in question is now called “Chlosyne acastus” (Sagebrush Checkerspot). He does so by providing ample evidence for the name change. You, gentle reader, might be happy with calling it a Checkerspot or maybe just “Butterfly.”  I intend to study a bit more and be less inclined to jump to a conclusion.

tbc

Larry

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Related Images:

Yachats, Oregon Coast

Our favorite wave-watching site is at Yachats, Oregon. From our motel window (Fireside Motel) we watched a winter storm cast up waves… a crab boat (Michele Ann) and seabirds of various species… mostly seagulls.

byLarry

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Malheur Field Station (MFS)

The Great Basin Society, Inc. (GBS) does business as the Malheur Field Station (MFS). GBS is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 charitable organization and depends in part on charitable donations for support of its business activities. I have been a member of the board of directors for several years and was delighted to be elected president of the board January 10, 2015, taking office April 1, 2015. Basically we meet quarterly. Our organization has bylaws and policy statements which govern our operation. According to bylaws we use Robert’s Rules of Order to govern our meetings. On December 6, 2015 I submitted the following letter of resignation by email to other members of the board:

“Hi all… Let me make it clear that this is not about our Station Directors it is about the board. It is clear to me that I do not enjoy the backing of the board… and it appears to me this board like previous boards is totally dysfunctional. I envisioned my leadership would be based on our bylaws and policies and yet this board does not follow either of them. It would have been easier for me to judge our Station Directors performance had they made the reports the policy handbook requires and that I had requested citing handbook policies. I realize that in the past the Station Directors have been required to work in a vacuum without direction from an active board. I intended to change that perspective but have been met with indifference by the board and total disrespect from the Station Directors. I have suggested on many occasions that the policies and job descriptions be updated but to no avail. During my tenure on the board committees have been appointed to make those updates and I volunteered to help but no action was taken. Given that I have no support from the board I have little choice but to resign as president and resign my chair on the board effective immediately. Good luck in your future endeavors. ”

Although my tenure on the board will not continue the story will not end here.

tbc byLarry

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Photographs of Nature