|King's sandwort, Eremogone kingii var. glabrescens.|
|Mountain bluebird, Sialia currucoides.|
We headed off to Satcher Lake in the vicinity of Devil's Postpile, where I had my first real views of the intriguing douglas squirrel, a small species that, although it looked closer to a grey squirrel, was much more similar to a red squirrel in its proportions. Near a damp slough I found one of my wishlist plants, the unusual three-petal bedstraw. I had a personal interest in this plant because unlike hundreds of related species, it chooses to bear three instead of four petals in its inflorescence. Alongside this species I also found few-flowered spikerush, a native grass by the name of meadow barley, and a sad looking white-veined wintergreen. Unfortunately I messed up many of the photos at this site. Because I'm not mature and responsible I'll blame the darkness of 6am instead of myself!
I did get some passable photos of a singing Lincoln's sparrow however, which visited me while I was scoping out the lake shore. This was my first ever experience of this bird on its breeding territory, and it is amazing how different the bird looks and even acts in this environment. Unlike the reclusive, ground-hugging Lincoln's sparrows I encounter during the winter months back home, this sparrow was high in the branches, singing, and not afraid to show itself. Unfortunately It was not kind enough to stick around when I called the group over to see it however, so this experience will have to remain personal.
|Three-petal bedstraw, Galium trifidum.|
|Few-flowered spikerush, Eleocharis quinqueflora.|
|Lincoln's sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii.|
When the forest shifted to open sagebrush I quickly found Jepson's willow, a low-growing shrub species. Nearby some group members turned up a great carabid beetle under a fallen log, Pterostichus lama, which completely dwarved all previous Pterostichus I have encountered in the past. At Rainbow Falls itself I located pink alumroot, which with its dainty powder-pink blooms was easily spotted on the cliff faces. This was alongside the vivid scarlet of bridge penstemon, not to mention the glorious pink inflorescence of mountain pride. Singles of black swift swooped in overhead, followed by a horde. It was a real pleasure to see these birds loop and glide before us, the real acrobats of the bird world.
A nearby flicker of Townsend's solitaire was an excellent sighting, only my second encounter with this mountain species. Here I was also able to confirm pink everlasting, a species I tentatively saw earlier but not in fully matured growth.
|Jepson's willow, Salix jepsonii.|
|Mountain pride, Penstemon newberryi.|
|Black swift, Cypseloides niger.|
Just before hitting the car I found a second wishlist plant, white hawkweed, which I snapped quickly to avoid the wrath of the trip leader for falling too far behind!
|Pacuvius duskywing, Erynnis pacuvius.|
|"Rocky Mountain" white-breasted nuthatch, Sitta caroliniensis ssp. nelsoni.|
|Whiskerbrush, Leptosiphon ciliatus.|
Before leaving I made use of flash to pick up decent photos of Steller's jay, a species that I still have not managed to do justice!
|Sierra shooting-star, Primula jeffreyi.|
|Alpine timothy, Phleum alpinum, alongside probable Mt. Shasta sedge,|
|Steller's jay, Cyanocitta stelleri.|
On route back to Minaret Vista I noticed mountain jewelflower on the roadside heading up. The entry gate to this section of the park was home to a Vashti sphinx, which I snapped through the car window. This is only my third hawk moth species in California.
|Window shot of Vashti sphinx, Sphinx vashti!|
Back at Minaret Vista I rephotographed a few plants with the full midday sun, including one new tree for the trip, mountain hemlock. A large hoverfly, Blera scitula, was a welcome find on Calyptridium flowers. At this site I also had life views of two-banded checkered skipper, a small black and white butterfly that buzzed around with a most delicate flight style. Unfortunately at every instance I spotted one a sudden, violent gust of wind would rush through and blow them out of sight. This happened multiple times, as if on cue!
|probable Jessica's stickseed, Hackelia micrantha.|
|The unusually low-growing red elderberry, Sambuca racemosa ssp. racemosa.|
|Western sweet-cicely, Osmorhiza occidentalis.|
|Record shot of two-banded checkered skipper, Pyrgus ruralis!|
|Red-bellied clerid, Enoclerus sphegeus. Usually the red colouration|
is only visible from underneath the beetle, hence the name.
Mosquito Flat itself soon showed the meaning of its name, with everyone's arms covered in mosquitos in the blistering heat of the midday sun, and at 10,200ft elevation nonetheless! I quickly found slender cinquefoil and Drummond's rockcress in the parking lot, along with an unusual cranefly with vestigial wings which I'm dying to identify beyond Tipula sp.! A fly-by of lustrous copper was a sight to behold, eventually settling on a native cinquefoil for close-up photos.
|Lustrous copper, Lycaena cupreus.|
Besides this, welcome species were tea-leaved willow, Virginia strawberry, maiden blue-eyed Mary, and a few other mystery plants pending ID. This area has a lot of potential and one day I hope to revisit it,
A final check up at some sites along Rock Creek added curl-leaf mountain mahogany and Sierra juniper, pushing the day's ticks to 59, and raising the trip total to an incredible 156 new species! Although I had high hopes for trip I never expected that I would cross triple digits in only a few days!
Many, many thanks for Vic Leipzig and Steve Sosensky for the ride to Mammoth and the shared accommodation! One of my most memorable experiences in several years.