Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Field Trip to Pattee Canyon

For two days in a row have visited Crazy Canyon (part of US Forest Service Pattee Canyon Recreation Area [USFS-Pattee Canyon webpage]). Another review of site from the Missoulian Newspaper Hiking guide.

Target today being lichen discovery. However, this area is also excellent for birds, butterflies, and wildflowers (photos below) in other seasons. The paved road going into the area is usually well maintained even during winter. This allows wildlife watchers to find 'higher elevation' species almost year round.
Green Comma
Common Camas
Gray Jay
Today heard one/two pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator) calling (courtesy of xeno-canto webpage):
Clouds prevailed on both days, but temps were above freezing. Time flies by when intensely focused on the ground, especially moss on downed timber. Below are three photos of lichen (Cladonia genus) photographed today. You can do this too, give it a try :-)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Another Field Trip for Lichens...@ Kim Williams Nature Area

A recent warm spell has melted early snows in spots at least at the lower elevations exposing many lichen species. An especially good place for finding these plants (and other wildlife) is the Kim Williams Nature Area (Missoulian Newspaper guide to Trail) along the Clark Fork River in Missoula, Montana. 
It may be the factors of trees and rock bordering the river that make this a productive site for discovery of lichen.

The trail, a former railway bed, is great as it directly borders the rock cliffs/talus slopes and conifer stands for excellent access. Lots of people recreate on this trail; a good safety feature when wildlife watching here. If you are geologically inclined precambrian and cambrian rock is exposed; note also the strandlines of Glacial Lake Missoula on the sides of Mount Jumbo looking north across the Clark Fork river. Another feature I really like is the 'seep' coming out of the rock cliff immediate to the trail:
Here are two lichen species (from the Cladonia genus) recorded here:
Cladonia cerviconis
Cladonia pyxidata
I encourage you to find these plants yourself, it is fun and will become addicting once your knowledge begins to build. Go forth and discover!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bass Creek rock face...why are the rocks colored?

The colors on the rocks are from lichens. Lichens are the result of fungus having a symbiotic relationship with certain types of algae. Many different combinations result; there are over 500 different species of lichens in the Pacific northwest. Yep, that means color, structure, and habitat are different for each also. All lichen do not live on rocks; they also are found on wood and soil. They are beautiful and somewhat ubiquitous. Here's a close up of a member of the Cladonia genus:
Take along a magnifying lens or camera on your next hike and look closely for these miniature splashes of color. Not everything is currently covered with a white blanket of snow...discover that oasis of greenery.