Citizen Science in Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument with Dr. Michael Parker

Turtles have a superpower. No, it’s not that they are all mutant ninjas, but they do seem to have the power to bring people of all ages together and fill them with excitement and awe. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of spotting a basking turtle on a log, no matter the age of the spotter. 

At our September Hike & Learn event, the Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument teamed up with Dr. Michael Parker, aquatic biologist and professor at Southern Oregon University, to provide an opportunity for citizen scientists to meet our region’s only native turtle, the western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata). 

Populations of these turtles are currently under threat due to habitat alteration and loss from a variety of human caused factors, such as the building of dams and roads, the introduction of non-native species, pathogens and parasites, and removal from the wild for the pet trade. 

The combination of these stressors, on top of the threat of climate change, has scientists worried about the future of this species. Currently the western pond turtle has been proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and is federally designated as a "Species of Concern." In the state of Oregon, they have been listed as "Sensitive" and have been designated as an "Oregon Conservation Strategy Species." 

Dr. Parker is one of the scientists conducting monitoring efforts to track populations of western pond turtles throughout Southern Oregon. This data will be crucial evidence for present and future western pond turtle species conservation. Our September Hike & Learn program took us out into the field with Dr. Parker to learn more about his western pond turtle research and assist him with his data collection!

On Saturday September 7, Dr. Parker brought reptile enthusiasts and eager learners up to the pond at Willow-Witt Ranch, one of the sites in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument where he is conducting western pond turtle monitoring. The day before the hike, Dr. Parker put out a number of traps in the pond to lure in turtles of all ages and sizes. We were able to catch a total of 19 turtles in the traps, ranging from just a few years old to some that could be as old as 50! 

Each turtle was weighed by our citizen-scientists and a number of measurements were recorded. These measurements included shell height, carapace (hard upper shell) length, plastron (bottom shell) length, and carapace width. Each turtle also had a photograph taken of its plastron, a way of “fingerprinting” individuals since no two plastrons look exactly alike. 

Out of the 19 turtles we caught and collected data for, only seven had been caught in the past. We knew that from the coding system that scientists use to mark individuals, where different combinations of marginal scutes (scutes are the large “scales” on turtles) are notched with a file to represent a number (see photo below). Each individual that is caught is given a number and is tagged with these notches. Don’t worry, creating these notches doesn’t hurt the turtles! Each time that these individuals are caught, the same measurements are done to track their growth. 

Marking individual turtles also helps scientists estimate the total population size. Dr. Parker informed us that since 12 out of 19 of our turtles had never been caught and marked before, it may be possible that this particular population at the pond at Willow-Witt could be as large as 100 individuals! 

The population of western pond turtles up at the Willow-Witt Ranch are of particular interest to Dr. Parker’s study because it is currently the highest elevation that these turtles have been found, an elevation just below 5000 feet. Studying this population may give us a glimpse of how these turtles may adapt as climate change forces plants and animals to move to higher elevations and temperatures increase. 

One mystery currently surrounding this particular population of turtles is: Where do they go in the winter when it snows and the pond freezes over? Dr. Parker informed us that this fall he will be attaching radio transmitters to individual turtles living up at Willow-Witt to see where they go and what they do during the annual heavy snowfall at that high elevation. Stay tuned for his results!

There are so many questions to be answered and so many mysteries yet to uncover in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. We hope that you continue to join us as we team up with local scientists to learn more about their research in this special place! 

- Written by Ellie Cosgrove, Program Coordinator of Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Photos by Ellie Cosgrove

Hike Recap: Meditation and Mindfulness in the Monument

By Stasie Maxwell

When you walk into the woods, how often is it to observe or learn about yourself? With a National Monument that is home to over 3,500 species, including birds, butterflies and an amazing diversity of conifers (just to name a few), your own self may not have been on the list of things to observe. On May 25, it was.

While our Hike and Learns are usually organized with the scientific lens of ecology or botany in mind, this one was led through the lens of biomechanics therapy, specifically Qigong and meditation. Biomechanics is the study of human motion and is utilized in determining what caused injuries and how we may prevent them in the future. Qigong is between 4-5,000 years old and is a system of breathing practices and movement therapy geared towards rejuvenation and regeneration.

As we all probably know already, walking into the woods has an immediate anxiety reducing effect. Meditating in a sunny meadow, surrounded by trees and wildflowers can only deepen those relaxing qualities for the body and mind. I, Stasie Maxwell, am a long-time student and practitioner of Qigong and meditation. While we can learn much about the many plants, birds and animals, they also have much to teach us about ourselves. As I led the participants through both seated, standing and movement meditation (Qigong) I shared my favorite relational exercise.

I invited everyone to choose a plant, or animal somewhere in the meadow and observe the characteristics of that plant. I used vetch as an example; the plant spreads easily and quickly, it has many little tendrils to reach out and climb up or out. We can interpret this as an outgoing, opportunistic plant. It spreads its tendrils out in many directions searching for every opportunity. I can then relate those traits to myself. I am more of an introverted person, not outgoing, but I can see when the traits of being outgoing are beneficial. In terms of opportunistic, there is a strategy in feeling out many opportunities and moving in the direction that works best for you.

As you walk through the woods the next time, observe the various traits of the plants and animals, consider if you possess those traits yourself, or if you’d like to, or if there are situations where you could utilize those observed traits. There are lessons all around us, and opportunities for rejuvenation.

Launching the Grassland Restoration Research Project

Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument teamed up with KS Wild and the Bureau of Land Management for the 5th Annual Weed Pull at the Mariposa Lily Botanical Area in the Monument on June 17. This area is a very important section of the Monument because it provides crucial habitat for the rare Green’s Mariposa Lily (Calochortus greenei).

Much of this area has a long history of heavy grazing which has drastically changed the plant communities from native bunchgrasses and wildflowers to mostly non-native grasses and flowering plants, such as yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) and medusahead grass (Taeniatherum caput-medusae).

This year’s weed pull was a little bit different because it also served as the kickoff for the Grassland Restoration Research Project in the botanical area. Participants worked alongside Charles Schelz, the Monument ecologist, to create two 5m x 20m plots in the botanical area. In each of the two plots, four 5m x 5m subplots were created to test out different methods of removing non-native plant species and encouraging native plants to grow in their absence.

One of the four subplots served as the control, so no treatment was done in those subplots. In the second subplot, no weeding was done at all, but the area was seeded with a mix of native plant species. In the third subplot, light weeding was done in patches and the area was seeded with the same seed mix, and in the fourth and final subplot, volunteers manually pulled out all of the non-native species and the area was seeded.

One year from now, we will start a monitoring project that will give us a better idea of what the best method is to remove non-native plant species in this area. Will it be seeding only? Light weed pulling and seeding? Or pulling everything and seeding with native species? Keep your eye on our future newsletters for opportunities to take part in this monitoring effort!

Ellie Thompson, Program Coordinator

Hike Recap: More than Morels with Bashira Muhammad

There’s nothing like the excitement you experience when you come across a delectable-looking mushroom on a walk in the woods, or even discovering one in your backyard! In Southern Oregon, the mushroom that seems to be on everyone’s minds is the elusive but delicious morel. But before your mouth starts watering too much… can you explain what a mushroom is, and how it is different from a plant?

On Saturday, April 6, the Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, KS Wild, and the Siskiyou Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon teamed up to offer a hike for mushroom enthusiasts to learn the answers to these questions, and to see what types of fungi we could find living in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Guess what? We found More than Morels!

Bashira Muhammad is a mushroom farmer and the founder of Zoom Out Mycology, a local company based in Ashland that helps people grow mushrooms and teaches fungi-centric environmental education programs. As our guide, she encouraged us from the beginning of the hike to resist the urge to harvest the things that we found, and instead take this opportunity to make observations and see what we could learn from them. We were also encouraged to think about our impact on the landscape during our hike, and how we could be good stewards of the land during our visit. One example of this is replacing the logs that we rolled over in search of fungi.

This hike took many of us to a part of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument that we had never been before: an area off of Emigrant Creek Road, just north of Buck Rock. On our hike, we traversed between multiple different habitat types with varying microclimates: warm, open oak savannas and cooler, mixed woodlands with more conifers and lots of shade. In the more open, warm oak savanna, we discovered bird’s nest fungi, a member of the Nidulariaceae family. This fungus gets its name from the tiny fruiting bodies that resemble eggs inside a bird’s nest.

In the mixed woodland, we came across another exciting find: a false morel! False morels are members of the genera Gyromitra and Verpa, not to be confused with true morels, which compose the genus Morchella. We learned that true morels have hollow stipes (stipes are the “stem” of the mushroom), while false morels have stipes that are filled with fibers or chunks of tissue. False morels contain a toxin that if ingested, can lead to illness and even death. Bashira impressed upon the group the importance of not harvesting or eating anything if we aren’t sure it is an edible mushroom.

After making careful observations of each mushroom we found, we were able to deduce that mushrooms are not members of the plant kingdom, but are instead a member of the kingdom Fungi. The two main differences between fungi and plants are 1) fungi cell walls are composed of chitin (the same material that makes up insect exoskeletons!), while plant cell walls are composed of cellulose, and 2) fungi do not make their own food using photosynthesis. Instead, a fungus gets its food from non-living organic matter, breaking it down and releasing nutrients back into the soil.

While we did not end up finding any true morels on our hike, we discovered a huge diversity of fungus among us. In addition to the false morels and bird’s nest fungi, we found turkey tail, puffballs, jellies, cup fungi, and a few gilled mushrooms. The diversity of fungi that we found in such a short time got us thinking: What mushrooms would we find if we returned next week or next month? And how many more species of fungi call the monument home? There is so much more exploring to be done!

“More than Morels” was the first of a series of spring hikes planned collaboratively between KS Wild, the Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, and the Siskiyou Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. Join us as we continue to chase the wildflowers through the elevations in our backyard monument! For more information about the next two hikes in this series, visit KS Wild's calendar of events.

- Written by Ellie Thompson, Program Coordinator of Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Photos by Ellie Thompson

2019 Monument Research Symposium

By Nicole Ferer, Friends of CSNM Student Board Member.

What do American pika, the Oregon Vesper sparrow and the Western Cascades have in common? They all were student research projects conducted in our wonderful Monument, supported by the Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. For the past three years, the Friends have hosted the Monument Research Symposium, highlighting research projects ranging from dragonflies to great grey owls. The event provides a platform for scientific research communication where community members, students and Monument-enthusiasts alike can learn about current research being conducted in the Monument.

This year at the Monument Research Symposium we were fortunate enough to have four knowledgeable and enthusiastic student researchers, all recipients of the Friends Research Fund, whose passion for their field research, specific projects, and the Monument as a whole was infectious for the entire audience.

Emily Lind SOU, MS Environmental Education

Morphology and vocalizations of the Oregon Vesper sparrow subspecies in and around the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Dr. Stewart Janes, SOU Professor of Biology / Director of Environmental Education, served as faculty advisor.

The Oregon Vesper sparrow subspecies is currently being petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Emily and her research team collected feather samples for future genetic analysis, and morphological metrics (form and structure) for all birds captured. They also recorded vocalizations (calls and songs) from 25 individuals from the Rogue Basin, Willamette Valley, and Great Basin populations combined. All of this data will be helpful in determining subspecies distinctions between the Willamette Valley, Rogue Basin, and Great Basin Vesper Sparrow populations. The preliminary analysis of morphology shows that there are significant differences between the Willamette Valley and Rogue Basin Vesper sparrow populations.

Dylan Carlini University of Oregon, BS Geology

Geochemical analyzation and geologic mapping of the Western and High Cascades. Dr. Jad D’Allura, SOU Professor Emeritus, served as faculty advisor.

The interface between the Western and High Cascades is a particularly geologically interesting location and warrants much greater study. The goal of this research project was to contribute to a comprehensive geologic map of the CSNM in order to provide a better understanding of the history and genesis of the Monument. Dylan’s field research consisted of mapping and geochemically analyzing (determining the chemical compound) volcanic rock units of the Western and High Cascades using LiDAR data (surveying method that measures distance using lasers), topographic maps, and petrographic analysis. Dylan and his team were able to extend the range of the Western Cascade exposures by over half a kilometer into what was previously mapped as High Cascade materials.

Alec Bayarsky and Neil Clayton SOU, BS Environmental Science and Policy

Distribution of American Pika (Ochotona princeps) within the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Dr. Jamie Trammell, SOU Professor of Environmental Science, served as faculty advisor.

While a population of American pika was recently discovered in the CSNM, there is a general lack of information about their abundance and spatial distribution. The purpose of this study was to describe the distribution of American pika within the Monument, specifically through: (1) location analysis using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping to determine potential pika habitat, (2) physical survey of known and potential habitat, including documenting the presence of hay piles, active latrines, and identification of individuals, and (3) comparison of vegetation availability with hay pile composition. Evidence of this population would also alert the wider scientific community to its existence and provide insight into pika behavior in the face of adversity such as genetic isolation and climate change. Not only did the results show that the CSNM does in fact contain habitat that is suitable for use by the American pika, Neil and Alec saw and heard the distinct “MEEEEEP” of our furry friend during their time in the field!

In addition to our spectacular student researchers, lichenologist and mycologist John Villella presented the keynote address about lichen communities of white oak in the Klamath-Siskiyou region. White oak plant communities are one of the most threatened habitat types in the Pacific Northwest, and often host diverse and characteristic lichen communities. John and his research team investigated the oak lichens of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and observed floristic patterns (where plants grow) that indicate a mix of species from six geographic-floristic groups. He shared how his research findings influence our current knowledge of white oak lichen communities and the importance of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument as a dispersal corridor and refuge for lichens within the Klamath-Siskiyou region.

Shannon Brown, Executive Director of Friends of CSNM, wrapped up the evening by sharing new discoveries made by biologist/micologist Scot Loring (who serves as a board member for Friends of CSNM) in the Monument. Scot’s new mushroom find is of particular note: it’s in the genus Cortinarius and is the first known endemic mushroom to the Monument. Scot also discovered a species of lichen, Calicium pinastri, in the Monument previously unknown to exist in western North America. This discovery represents a major range extension and begs the question: what else is there to discover in the Monument?

Stay tuned to find out about this year’s student researchers who will soon be heading out into the field!

Continuing a Legacy of Public Land Conservation

Today is a historic day for conservation as the largest public lands bill in a decade has been signed into law. The bill was a sweeping show of bipartisanship, broadly passing both the House (363-62) and Senate (92-8). It was signed by President Trump just hours ago, making this a day of celebration as more than a million new acres of lands will be protected for the future generations of Americans.

The most important provision in the bill permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which allocates fees and royalties paid by offshore oil and gas drilling companies to fund onshore conservation programs.

The LWCF has been the major resource to fund land acquisition within the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, further establishing connectivity and biodiversity protection throughout the region.

Oregon sees major gains in land conservation through the Public Lands Bill. The act creates a new wilderness area in Oregon: the Devil's Staircase Wilderness in the Coast Range. It also includes permanent protections for 280 miles of Oregon rivers through National Wild and Scenic River destinations.

Of the new Wild and Scenic River designations, the bill includes protecting 18 miles of Jenny Creek, which flows along the eastern border of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. This is heartening news for the endemic Jenny Creek sucker and redband trout that thrive here.

Under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, designated rivers are safeguarded from development for their current and future "natural, cultural, and recreational values."

Oregon now leads the nation as the state holding the most waterways with Wild & Scenic designations.

- Written by Shannon Browne, Executive Director of Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

Jenny Creek ambles along the east side of CSNM. Eighteen miles of Jenny Creek are now designated as Wild & Scenic.

Jenny Creek ambles along the east side of CSNM. Eighteen miles of Jenny Creek are now designated as Wild & Scenic.


Musings from a Winter Wildlife Walk

Forging a path through several inches of fresh and powdery snow, our small group is eagerly scoping out signs of wildlife. On February 23, Friends of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument partnered with Vesper Meadow Education Program for their pioneer expedition, the Winter Wildlife Walk.

We were led through Buck Prairie II, a Sno-Park just outside the northern boundary of the Monument, on snowshoes and skis to reach an expansive viewpoint of Vesper Meadow, blanketed in snow. Vesper Meadow Education Program is a non-profit wetland restoration project headed by Jeanine Moy, our knowledgeable leader on the wildlife walk.

Beginning in a dense coniferous forest, Jeanine points out all the different types of lichen living on trunks and branches. Elk love to graze on lichen-crusted twigs like these and last winter 26 elk were spotted in this area, so maybe we would see one today, or hear a faint bugle.

A little farther along we stopped to analyze some tracks – a squirrel of some kind, most likely a Douglas or western gray. The tracks showed that the hind and front feet landed together, which is how squirrels have adapted to navigating through the snow in a movement called “bounding.” If these squirrels aren’t hiding out under the snow, they may be up in the trees munching on mistletoe.

As we walked along, the forest gave way to the open prairie. Large snowflakes graced us gently as the sun would occasionally peak through the clouds, warming our faces.

Besides signs of wildlife, Jeanine was also passionate about teaching us the traditional medicinal uses for some of our region’s native flora. Oregon’s state flower, the Oregon grape, has historically been used for its antibacterial properties found in its roots. Willow and Douglas spirea have been used to cure headaches.

Continuing on along a tributary, we discovered more signs of wildlife: a large snag filled with the rectangular holes from a pileated woodpecker, stoneflies, wasp galls on willows, and some old beaver gnaw marks on a group of aspens. There are many signs of wildlife that we can find in winter that we may not be able to see other times of the year. We look forward to doing more winter expeditions like this each year.

Photos and text by Kiley Graham, Friends of CSNM Board Member.

Student Research Topics in the Monument

Searching out squeaky little pikas, analyzing rocks, and studying vesper sparrow genetics-- an exciting and wide variety of scientific research has been taking place within the monument over the past several months.

Each year, the Friends Research Fund awards research grants to undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in pursuing a faculty-supervised project that enhances an understanding, appreciation, preservation, and/or protection of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Read on to hear from our most recent recipients and see what they have been up to on the monument!

Emily Lind, a graduate student studying Environmental Education at Southern Oregon University (SOU), is studying the Vesper Sparrow with the help of her SOU faculty advisor, Dr. Stewart Janes. She is currently using genetics, morphology, and vocalizations to determine if the Vesper Sparrow population in the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument is the Oregon Vesper Sparrow subspecies (Pooecetes gramineus affinis). This research is important because the Oregon Vesper Sparrow population is estimated to be fewer than 3,000 individuals.

“Throughout the spring and summer of 2018 we captured 26 male Vesper Sparrows at Howard Prairie. We collected feather samples for future genetic analysis, and morphological metrics for all birds captured. We also recorded vocalizations from 25 individuals from the Rogue Basin, Willamette Valley, and Great Basin populations combined. All of this data will be helpful in determining subspecies distinctions between the Willamette Valley, Rogue Basin, and Great Basin Vesper Sparrow populations. Because the Oregon Vesper Sparrow is currently being petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act, this research is timely.

We have also been spreading the word about this important research. Two citizen science events brought 16 volunteers into the field to help look for color-banded Vesper Sparrows, and local multimedia artist Daniel Thiede has been documenting the research project. Photos and more details can be seen on the Klamath Bird Observatory website http://www.klamathbird.org/vesper-sparrow, and a Vesper Sparrow Documentary trailer can be viewed on the new Vesper Sparrow Documentary website https://www.vespersparrow.org/.”

Dylan Carlini, an undergraduate student studying Geology at the University of Oregon has been working with his SOU faculty advisor, Dr. Jad D’Allura, to map and geochemically analyze the rocks of the Western and High Cascades. The goal of his research is to gain understanding about the nature of a strange variety of contact igneous (or altered) rocks between two major rock units.

“So far, we have made many changes to the previously published geologic map, which was just a reconnaissance map. We began by breaking out an entirely new unit that had previously been lumped in with a chemically distinct flow. We have also discovered the source vents for separate lava flows for units dating back at least 6 million years, and we have mapped the location of a swarm of dikes (long, linear eruption fissures) that may help us to understand the regional stresses around the monument. We are currently creating thin sections of the rocks so that we may look at them under microscopes in order to analyze the difference mineral assemblages in each flow type. One very interesting product of our field work thus far is that we have extended the range of the Western Cascade exposures by over half a kilometer into what was previously mapped as High Cascade material. “

Neil Clayton, an undergraduate student studying Environmental Science at Southern Oregon University has been researching the American Pika (Ochotona princeps) with the assistance of his SOU faculty advisor, Dr. Jamie Trammell. Through observation of the pika and their surroundings, as well as exploration of possible sites suitable for habitat, he intends to describe the distribution of the species within the Monument.

“My research began immediately following the acceptance of my award this year. I completed a majority of the work that was to be done in the lab in which I used GIS to create maps that may help to describe the distribution of pikas in the monument. These maps were created also to predict the places in which pikas may be found, considering all the habitat requirements. A meta-analysis of scientific journal articles, from historical to current, was conducted. The information extracted from this analysis was used to determine variables that were input into GIS and habitat suitability models were created to predict where pikas may be found. Data was gathered by my research partner from the NPS and their current pika monitoring program. These data points, which represented current, verified pika occupancy in environments similar to the CSNM were used to create a different type of habitat suitability model to predict pika occupancy in the monument. As new data is collected and added to the models, these maps will be combined to show current and historical occupancy in the monument.

I spent time in the field in other locations around the Pacific Northwest with a pika ecologist that works for the USGS in order to understand the way in which pikas are monitored by the USGS and the NPS. I then returned to my sites in the monument and applied these techniques. This was a great help in understanding the distribution of pikas in the monument. With this greater understanding, more data was collected and more questions arose. I spent the entire summer either in the field at pika sites in the CSNM or at other locations in the PNW. There is now a somewhat clear picture of occupancy across the monument, mostly along Surveyor Ridge.

In the spring of 2019, myself and my research partner intend to return to all of the sites in the monument where data was collected in the summer and fall. This round of data collection will help to verify whether verified occupancy at sites predicted by the GIS model is historic, current, or both.”

Come and hear more about these students’ research findings at our annual Monument Research Symposium at SOU on March 14th, 2019! Save the date!

Interested in helping foster student research in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument? Donate to the Friends Research Fund today!

Hike Recap: Great Gray Owls in Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument with Harry Fuller

As we travel through a quiet forest, it is hard to know how many creatures are watching us, lurking just out of view, motionless and undetectable. On October 12 and 13, the Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument examined one of those creatures that, though rarely seen, has captured the interest and admiration of so many. That creature was the great gray owl, which breeds in the Oregon portion of the Monument. Harry Fuller, author of three natural science books including Great Gray Owls of California, Oregon, and Washington, helped us to glimpse into the world of this charismatic predator during our final Hike & Learn of the 2018 season.

On Friday October 12, more than 70 birders, bird-lovers, and eager learners gathered in the Ashland Outdoor Store to learn more about great gray owls in the Monument. Harry informed us that many birds that call Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument home are living on the “edge:” the edge of two habitats, the edge of their range, or the edge of extinction. For great gray owls in particular, all three of these may be true. They prefer to inhabit areas where dense forest meets open grassland. The population in Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is the southernmost population of great gray owls in the world. And, if suitable habitat continues to disappear, these birds just may be pushed over the edge.

The following morning, Harry led us on a birding expedition with stops on the way to Little Hyatt Reservoir and along Soda Mountain Road. Despite the fact that the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument harbors the largest population of great gray owls in the continental United States (there are more than 300 individuals in Jackson and Klamath county), we were unable to spot one during our outing. However, we did see plenty of other birds, including Lewis’s woodpeckers, western bluebirds, an American kestrel, a dipper, and a group of busily foraging Clark’s nutcrackers.


To read more about our Saturday trip, visit Harry Fuller’s blog: https://atowhee.blog/2018/10/14/nutcracker-sweet-2/.

Story and Photos by Heather Wilson, the 2018 Hike and Learn Coordinator

Welcome to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument: Ranger Recap

By Anna Kennedy
Monument Interpretive Ranger Intern, Summer 2018

It was an honor and a joy to spend this past summer as an Interpretive Ranger at the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Even after spending the previous year exploring the trails as a hiker and a naturalist, there was so much that I had yet to learn about what makes the monument so special.

Having a background in conservation biology and a solid understanding of ecology, I was not surprised when my love and appreciation for the incredible biological diversity grew each moment I spent roving the trails. I was not shocked by my awe at the incredible interdependence of organisms, nor at the shear number of species that one could count hiking through various habitats.

What did come as a surprise to me was the diversity of people that I met on a daily basis, visiting from a wide variety of places and enjoying the monument for a wide variety of reasons. Whether I was staffing the information center next door to the Green Springs Inn, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, or leading an interpretive program, each and every visitor I met had a unique story to share.

Engaging in conversation with visitors and learning why and how they were enjoying or utilizing their public lands was one of the most rewarding aspects of my summer experience. During evening interpretive programs at Hyatt Lake Campground I had the opportunity to get to know many folks that were camping out, some just escaping the smoke at lower elevations.

While hiking the trails between Hobart Bluff, the Green Springs Loop, and Little Hyatt Reservoir, I met a multitude of PCT hikers, some that traveled internationally to begin their through-hike from the Mexico-California border.

Working with kids during my Jr. Ranger programs was oh-so rewarding as we learned about the diversity of birds that call the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument home. I got to chat with some folks who decided to stop off at the Green Springs Inn for a slice of pie--some of them had no idea there even was a National Monument in Southern Oregon.

With each and every conversation I got to experience a diverse stories, perspectives, and ideas. Despite the smoke, the Interpretive Ranger team made contact with more than1,200 visitors throughout the summer!

As summer comes to an end and I once again enjoy the monument as a mere hiker and naturalist, I look back with great gratitude for being able to get a taste of what it’s like to be a Ranger. I hold great appreciation for the Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument for the opportunity to experience the monument in a different light, to develop my skills as an interpreter, and to meet the wide range of visitors enjoying and supporting their public lands.


Geology of Grizzly Peak - Hike Recap

Hike with Jad D’Allura, September 7-8, 2018

Geologist Jad D’Allura, SOU professor emeritus (with red hat, right center), shows Hike and Learn group the summit of Grizzly Peak. Heather Wilson photo

Geologist Jad D’Allura, SOU professor emeritus (with red hat, right center), shows Hike and Learn group the summit of Grizzly Peak. Heather Wilson photo

The earth beneath our feet is full of stories just waiting to be told. On Saturday, September 8, a group of eager learners gathered to learn the geologic story of Grizzly Peak. Our guide was Southern Oregon’s resident geology guru, Jad D’Allura. Together, we would trace the history of this well-known landmark, included within the expanded boundary (2017) of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

During a pre-hike talk the night before, Jad brought an audience of more than 70 attendees into the fold, introducing us to the jargon and processes that would help us interpret the geologic stories that surround us. We began by learning about the general characteristics of volcanoes before focusing on features unique to the Bear Creek Valley. Wrapping up the evening with a hands-on quiz (which everyone passed with flying colors), Jad had set the stage for a highly educational trek to the top of Grizzly Peak the following morning.

Our educational journey began even before we made it to the trailhead. We stopped several times on the way up Dead Indian Memorial and Shale City Road to observe signs of a tumultuous past. Across from a dacite quarry, we stopped to inspect large blocks of lava rock dotting a grassy field. These boulders were brought there long ago by a landslide that extends approximately five miles to the skyline ridge.

We stood at the base of this landslide looking up at Grizzly Peak, noticing bands of vegetation that were made possible by variations in the underlying substrate. The inclination of these bands hints at tilting of the rock units that has taken place since their formation. These clues from nature would be the first of many that we observed along our geologic expedition.

After unloading at the trailhead, we discovered more geologic clues almost immediately. Boulders both large and small are scattered all along the trail. When we stopped to observe one of the more impressive specimens, Jad offered some insight. First, we were encouraged to notice the positioning of the rock and how it appeared to have been dropped there on top of the landscape. Second, he directed our attention to the reddish hue of the rock due to the oxidation of iron. This suggests that the rock was exposed to air, perhaps at the edge of a volcanic vent. With these observations in mind, we were able to surmise that we were looking at chunks of bedrock hurled there as spatter during an eruption of Grizzly Peak many millions of years ago.

As we continued, the trail began to flatten out and vegetation became more scarce. Smoke in the distance dashed our chances of glimpsing Mt. McLoughlin, let alone Mt. Shasta or Crater Lake. This was no major hindrance, as our focus was firmly on the geologic features beneath our feet.

Atop the Grizzly Peak formation, we saw what looked like a more continuous lava flow rather than the spatter we had been seeing along the way. We also began to notice platy lava, or lava rock that cooled to form joints that look like flat stacks of dinner plates. Although these joints were parallel to each other, they were inclined about 15-20° to the northeast. This is due to the constant, slow uplift of the Klamath Mountains, a reminder that the landscapes we think we know are constantly under revision by the forces of tectonism.

On our way back to the trailhead, we stepped off trail to stand atop a subtle pile of boulders that marks the summit of Grizzly Peak at 5922 feet (without Jad to point it out, most of us would easily have missed it). As we victoriously summited these rocks, we still had questions swirling in our heads. Geologists have done wonders to shed light on how our landscape came to be, but there is still much that remains a mystery. As Jad says, the clues that geologists have at their disposal are much like a jigsaw puzzle bought at a garage sale - a lot of the pieces are missing and we may or may not even know what we are looking at. With patience and the guidance of a talented teacher, we can come to make sense of the stories that the earth has to tell.

by Heather Wilson, Hike and Learn Coordinator

Photos by Heather Wilson, except where noted.


The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)

Have you ever studied a map of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and noticed all the private land within the monument? This checkerboard of public land and private land makes management of this eco-rich area very complicated. And, by the end of this month a major change could make managing the checkerboard even more challenging.

Early in our monument’s history, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) made it a priority to establish connectivity corridors by purchasing lands to fill in this checkerboard. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been integral in helping fund acquisition of private land as it comes up for sale within the monument.  

The LWCF is a federal program funded from royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf. That money is then used for land conservation and park development. LWCF was established in 1964, and since then the fund has conserved more than seven-million acres across 40,000+ project sites.

Most people don’t realize the impact this fund has had on our communities, at no taxpayer expense. The list of landscapes that are in the public domain because of this fund goes on and on, including National Parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers, lakes, trails, and community parks in every single state.

For Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument the fund is vital to monument connectivity and safeguarding biodiversity. “To date, we have added a total of 12,607 acres to federal ownership in the CSNM through the LWCF,” informs Joel Brumm, BLM Assistant Monument Manager for Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

So, with all this in mind, we should all be very concerned about what is about to happen: the LWCF authorization is set to expire at the end of September. If Congress doesn’t act, this fund that is so vital to our communities in establishing recreation opportunities, clean water, and conserving landscapes for future generations will disappear.

Contact your House and Senate representatives today to tell them just how much you appreciate the landscapes and parks this fund has helped acquire, conserve, and protect, and urge them to not let the LWCF expire.

Contacts:
US Representative Greg Walden
US Senator Jeff Merkley
US Senator Ron Wyden

This 2015 map shows land acquired (in green) through LWCF within the monument. Since then a 314-acre Mountcrest parcel located in the extreme NW portion of the CSNM on the West side of I-5 and an important 5-acre parcel along Keene Creek that is critical habitat for the federally-threatened Oregon Spotted Frog have been added.

This 2015 map shows land acquired (in green) through LWCF within the monument. Since then a 314-acre Mountcrest parcel located in the extreme NW portion of the CSNM on the West side of I-5 and an important 5-acre parcel along Keene Creek that is critical habitat for the federally-threatened Oregon Spotted Frog have been added.

Written by Shannon Browne
Community Partnerships Director
Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. 

Through Smoke to the Monument

There is a saying, Per ardua ad astra, that translates to “Through adversity to the stars.” This summer I’ve developed my own personal version: “Through smoke to the Monument.”  

Ranger Anna Kennedy tells about day hikes at the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Information Station. C. Beekman, BLM photo

Ranger Anna Kennedy tells about day hikes at the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Information Station. C. Beekman, BLM photo

Needless to say the early (and nearby) fire season has impacted my time with the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. For several weeks while the Klamathon Fire burned we had maps in the Contact Station and our back pockets outlining what portions of the Monument were closed for the public’s safety. When driving back down Highway 66 after a full day of hiking and talking with the public we would watch the dark plumes of smoke roll over the Siskiyous, often squinting to try and find Pilot Rock.  

When other fires began, filling the valleys with a gray haze, I wondered: Would visitors still come up to the Monument?  

The answer has been a resounding yes. Over the summer I’ve spoken with people from all across the country. Some sought to get out of the heat and find a shady spot by Little Hyatt Reservoir to dip their toes in. Many came to hike trails like the Greensprings Loop, or get a field guide to the wildflowers that lingered into July on Grizzly Peak. Others visited for an evening program on the beach and a Junior Explorer activity in the morning.  

In their own way, these people remind me of the resiliency of our forests. The fires are a natural part of this area and so are taken in stride. Our visitors seek out the clearer air and leave refreshed, ready to begin again, and our residents hold onto their roots, however young or old, here in the mountains. One way or another, like myself, they all have come through the smoke to the Monument.

by Paige Engelbrektsson
Interpretive Ranger Intern
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Photos by Paige Engelbrektsson, except where noted.

Hike Recap: Bryophytes and Lichens

Hike leader John Villella identifies macrolichens, such as  Letharia vulpina , a species of "wolf lichen."  E Thompson photo.

Hike leader John Villella identifies macrolichens, such as Letharia vulpina, a species of "wolf lichen."  E Thompson photo.

with John Villella, August 3-4, 2018

You may not know it, but you are surrounded by unsung heroes of the natural world. They inhabit twigs, trunks, rocks, soil, and even city sidewalks. Right beneath our feet, bryophytes and lichens are hard at work performing numerous ecosystem functions with little or no recognition at all. During our latest Hike & Learn, botanist and lichenologist John Villella helped us take a glimpse into the tiny world of these fascinating organisms.

On Friday August 3, John walked us through the basics of bryophyte and lichen biology. Bryophytes, including the liverworts, hornworts, and mosses, are spore-producing plants with no vascular tissue. More than 500 million years ago, bryophytes became the first plants to colonize land. Lichens are a bit more complicated. A lichen consists of a fungal partner and an algal partner living together in a mutually beneficial relationship. Essentially, the fungus provides a place for the algae to live and the algae provides “food” for the fungus through photosynthesis. Lichen can come in many shapes and colors, some subtle and hard to notice, others vibrant and other-worldly. A good rule of thumb: if it looks like it was made by Dr. Seuss, it is probably a lichen.

During our Saturday morning hike to Pilot Rock, we learned about the many ways that bryophytes and lichens benefit our ecosystem. When we see macrolichens such as the hairy-looking Usnea and Bryoria coating the branches of trees in the forest, it is easy to assume that the lichen is a parasite. It turns out that the exact opposite is true. Lichens do not steal nutrients from their substrates. Instead, their bodies absorb water from the air, creating a humid microclimate that helps trees obtain the moisture they need. When it rains, these lichens slow the flow of water down the trunk of the tree, which prevents soil erosion around the roots.

Mosses and lichens also provide habitat for microorganisms and invertebrates, which in turn form the base of a food web that supports larger organisms like birds and mammals. Moreover, lichens create habitat for plants on rocky substrates by breaking down rocks through the process of chemical weathering. Once larger plants are able to gain a foothold, their roots further break down the rock and slowly create soil.

One of the themes that emerged as we learned about lichens was their acute ability to survive. Lichens are not only incredibly long-lived (some are thousands of years old), but they can withstand incredible catastrophe. Wildfire, glacial events, and even the vacuum of space are no match for many lichens. These bizarre organisms can be found in every corner of the planet, even in the most desolate places. For instance, Antarctica, home to only 2 or 3 species of vascular plants, houses hundreds of species of bryophytes and lichens. These organisms are often the first to become established after environmental disturbances like fire or landslides, and pave the way for recolonization by other plants and animals.

As we arrived at the base of Pilot Rock and peered up into the smoke, we saw the rock formation in a whole new light. Pilot Rock is not only a popular landmark and a huge volcanic plug - it also habitat for dozens if not hundreds of species of lichens. Taking a closer look, we were scarcely able to find a single square inch of bare rock. Here, the lichens compete for real estate fiercely, if not extremely slowly. Who knows how many seasons they have seen, how many disasters they’ve endured, or how much longer it will take them to transform Pilot Rock into soil. These organisms, though small and easy to miss, hold the power to shape landscapes and form the foundation of ecosystems. Who knew all of that excitement was happening right beneath our feet!

by Heather Wilson
Hike and Learn Coordinator

Photos by Heather Wilson, except where noted.

Take A Closer Look with Ranger Ellie

L to R: Interpretive Ranger Interns 2018 Anna Kennedy, Paige Engelbrektsson, and Ellie Thompson at CSNM Information Station.

L to R: Interpretive Ranger Interns 2018 Anna Kennedy, Paige Engelbrektsson, and Ellie Thompson at CSNM Information Station.

    What IS the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument? What is special about this place? Why should we care about it? What should people know about it when they visit? Those were some of the questions that rolled around in my head as I drove up to the Hyatt Lake Campground on a warm June morning. I had just begun my summer internship at the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument as an interpretive park ranger, and I had been tasked with coming up with an interpretive program for visitors at the campground. I knew I wanted my program to be fun and engaging, but I also wanted to leave my listeners with something to think about. I had spent hours poring over books and resources, searching for something that would help me explain the importance of the monument and the value of its incredible biodiversity, but I was coming up empty.     

Feeling slightly discouraged, I parked at the kiosk at the entrance for the Hyatt Lake Campground and hopped out of the rig. And then suddenly, there it was. My inspiration. The most beautiful moth I had ever seen—a Ceanothus Silk Moth (Hyalophora euryalus). I instantly stopped in my tracks and paused to marvel at its beauty up close.     

As an interpretive park ranger for the monument, I get a lot of visitors asking me questions like: “Where is the monument?” Or: “What is it?” It’s true that perhaps at first glance, the monument looks like just any other place in Southern Oregon. Yeah, there are mountains, and trees, and creeks, but so what? What’s the best way to communicate the importance of public lands, and this national monument in particular? Seeing that beautiful moth made me realize something. We can talk and talk about the meaning of biodiversity and the importance of protecting natural areas for hours, but the best way to build connections between people and nature is to engage their sense of wonder.

After having the privilege of being up on the monument almost every day for the past month and a half, I feel like I can begin to answer the question, “What is the monument?”. The monument is the beautiful Ceanothus Silk Moth. It’s the striking Striped Coralroot (Corallorhiza striata) orchid along the Pacific Crest Trail; getting its nutrients from fungi underground. It’s the Western Fence Lizard basking in the sun on a rock covered in five or more species of lichen, and it’s the calm and serene waters of Little Hyatt Reservoir. Sometimes you have to take a closer look to discover what makes a place special and unique.

As an interpretive park ranger for the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, it’s my job—no, my honor, to speak on behalf of this beautiful place and to encourage everyone I come across to take a closer look.

Come and check out our evening programs every Friday and Saturday night at 8pm until Labor Day, at Hyatt Lake Campground! Learn about the "Cascade Connections" by exploring the unique combinations of habitats and humans that meet here in the monument with Ranger Paige. Check out “Whooo Comes Out at Night?: Superheroes of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument” to learn about the diversity of owls that call the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument home, and take a closer look at what makes owls so special with Ranger Anna. And learn the answer to the question, “Why So Many Butterflies?” Have you ever wondered why there are so many butterflies at CSNM? Learn about some of the special butterflies that can be found on the monument, and what brings them here, with Ranger Ellie.

And if you are passing through the monument in the morning, check out our Jr. Explorer Programs on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 10am-12pm. Participate in some fun activities, learn about the monument from a park ranger and receive your Jr. Explorer badge!

All of our programs are put on at the Day Use Area of the Hyatt Lake Campground. Our programs are FREE and open to the public!

By Ellie Thompson
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Interpretive Park Ranger

Photos by Ellie Thompson

Meet Our Rangers and Free Public Programs

All of our interpretive ranger programs take place at the Day Use Area of the Hyatt Lake Campground. Our programs are FREE and open to the public!
     Come and check out our evening programs every Friday and Saturday night at 8pm until Labor Day, at Hyatt Lake Campground! 
     Cascade Connections with Ranger Paige. Explore the unique combinations of habitats and humans that meet here in the monument. 
     Whooo Comes Out at Night: Superheroes with Ranger Anna.  Learn about the diversity of owls that call the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument home, and take a closer look at what makes owls so special.
     Why So Many Butterflies? with Ranger Ellie. Learn about some of the special butterflies that can be found on the monument, and what brings them here.  

Jr. Explorer Programs are presented on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 10am-12pm. Participate in some fun activities and learn about the monument from an interpretive ranger and receive your Jr. Explorer badge!
 

MEET OUR RANGER INTERNS

Interpretive Ranger interns Page Engelbrektsson, Anna Kennedy and Ellie Thompson at Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. 2018 Photo by C Beekman

Interpretive Ranger interns Page Engelbrektsson, Anna Kennedy and Ellie Thompson at Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. 2018 Photo by C Beekman

Our interpretive ranger interns at Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument are Paige Engelbrektsson, Anna Kennedy, Ellie Thompson. They are graduate students in Environmental Education at Southern Oregon University.     
     They are inspired by the monument’s biodiversity and wilderness and looking forward to share this special place with people of all ages--to care about nature and our public lands.

Paige Engelbrektsson, a Virginia native who grew up finding the wonder in the wild places around her suburban neighborhood and childhood barn. After graduating with a B.S. in Biology from the College of William and Mary, she was elbow-deep in assisting museum researchers when she discovered two things. One, teaching visitors about the new and intriguing natural history facts she uncovered offered its own kind of wonder. Two, there was an entire country full of awe-inspiring, truly wild spaces she could live and teach in. So began a cross-country trip that has lasted four years and counting. From guiding backcountry pack trips in Yellowstone National Park to teaching outdoor afterschool programs as an AmeriCorps member in North Carolina, Paige’s pursuit of sharing the wonder of the natural world has led her through a checklist of mountain ranges and ultimately to Southern Oregon.

Anna Kennedy grew up in a small town in Northern California, surrounded by redwoods, the Russian River, and a wild backyard full of endless possibilities. Whether hiking along the coast, camping in the redwoods, or building tree-forts, she found tranquility, inspiration, and a fascination for life in the great outdoors. This early love and curiosity led her Anna to pursue a degree from UC Davis in Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology. Over the summers, Anna worked as a Trips Guide at Skylake Yosemite Camp, leading kids on day and multiday backpacking adventures in the Sierras. Her longing to be outside and learn everything about the natural world evolved into a desire to help educate and engage children outdoors. After graduation, Anna continued to work with youth as a Montessori Assistant Teacher and as a summer Camp Director.

Ellie Thompson developed her love for nature and the outdoors at a very young age. As soon as she could walk, she began exploring the family farm in Eugene, Oregon and the ponds behind her house—collecting flowers, insects, and minnows to observe and marvel at. Her family vacations consisted of camping and hiking all over Oregon, spending days kayaking the remote Owyhee River, and visiting many natural history museums; learning about the land and its native flora and fauna. Her inquisitive mind and passion for learning about the world around her drove her to pursue a degree in biology at Portland State University. While she loved her major, she wasn’t sure what career to pursue after college. It wasn’t until she stood on the banks of the Kinabatangan River, in Malaysian Borneo, that she realized what she wanted to do. Witnessing the devastation of one of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world was a powerful experience that ignited passion for conservation and education in her.

Come by and say hello! 

A Land For All Seasons 

Witt-Feature-SoOR-Mag2018.png

A photo essay by Matt Witt about the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is featured in an 8-page color spread in the annual arts issue of Southern Oregon Magazine.
     Matt, a 2017 Artist-in-Residence, shares his images of the Monument on our newsletter and shows us all the many reasons to champion our public land. 


Howard Hunter, Friends of CSNM Advocacy Chair at 4th of July booth. Photo by Ellie Thompson

Howard Hunter, Friends of CSNM Advocacy Chair at 4th of July booth. Photo by Ellie Thompson

Thank you for your support at the The 4th of July Celebration in Ashland, OR!
Friends of CSNM and our interpretive ranger interns enjoyed meeting everyone who stopped by our booth in support of our monument and public lands!  During this 18th anniversary, we enjoyed sharing about the biodiversity and wonders of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. 

 

Recap: Wildflower Walk & Wine Tasting

With Naturalist Jeanine Moy, June 10, 2018

Naturalist Jeanine Moy identifies sun-loving lithophytes.

Naturalist Jeanine Moy identifies sun-loving lithophytes.

On the brink of summer, a trip up a mountain can mean a trip back in time. Many flowers that have bloomed and gone to fruit on the valley floor are still in full glory above 5,000 feet. This was the case for our Wildflower Walk & Wine Tasting event on June 10. As we unloaded at the Grizzly Peak trailhead it was as if we’d travelled back to April again. We knew we were in for a great day of botanizing.
    As expected, the trail was lined with interesting and beautiful native wildflowers. Our expert guide, Jeanine Moy, helped us to put all of these species into context by sharing useful natural history information along the way. We were all excited to find some very healthy striped coralroot (Corallorhiza striata), an orchid that gets its energy from mycorrhizal fungi instead of photosynthesis. Another interesting sighting was the western trillium (Trillium ovatum) whose petals had turned dark pink and nearly translucent. These flowers fade from bright white to deep pink as they mature, seemingly signaling to pollinators that their services are no longer required.
    Jeanine also shared ethnobotanical information about the species we found. From the potent, spicy root of the wild ginger (Asarum caudatum) to the edible camas bulb (Camassia quamash) to the yellow pine pollen that coated the trail, it seemed that we were surrounded by plants with nutritional value. Many plants hold medicinal value as well, such as the Lomatium whose root produces a latex that has antibacterial properties.
    The forested scenery quickly changed as we made our way toward the scenic vistas at the far reaches of the Grizzly Peak trail. Grizzly Peak is in the recently expanded portion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and encompasses an area that burned in the Antelope Fire of 2002. As we looked out over the landscape, we saw the life that had returned in the 16 years since the fire punctuated by the burnt snags that stood like statues. A lush carpet with patches of larkspur, fiddleneck, seablush, paintbrush and more covered the area that was barren not long ago. The stark contrast between the blackened fire-scarred trees and the pastel rainbow of wildflowers told a story of rebirth.
    As we made our way back down the trail, we were sad to leave the cool, calm forest, but we were looking forward to our next destination - wine tasting! We headed back to civilization with our sights set on Belle Fiore Winery. We kicked some of the dirt off of our boots before finding a seat on the patio. The manicured lawn wasn’t quite as interesting as Grizzly Peak, but we had botany bingo to keep our minds active. Soon, the table was full of flights of wine, which we sampled and savored with delight. As the wine slowly disappeared, we reflected on what a wonderful day it had been. Wildflowers, wine, and great company on a gorgeous day - what more could you want?

Photos and text by
Heather Wilson
Hike and Learn Coordinator

BioBlitz Braves Blustery Weather to Identify 117 Bird Species in Monument!

By Katie Boehnlein

Saturday May 26 began at daybreak for the 85 participants of this year’s Bird BioBlitz, bundled up against the misty, cold weather that awaited them throughout the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Eleven different groups, each led by a knowledgeable leader, dispersed throughout the Monument’s diverse habitats, from the northernmost reaches at Grizzly Peak to the far south Horseshoe Ranch area. All groups sought to locate as many birds as they could throughout an eight hour period, relying on both sight and knowledge of bird songs to identify species.

Despite the fact that groups consisted of both first-time birders and seasoned veterans, the BioBlitzers were able to identify 117 species all together, both resident and migrating species, as well as almost 2,000 individuals! John Alexander, director of Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) stressed how remarkable it was that “during one eight-hour period, nearly half the number of species that have been reported during the entire month of May in all of Jackson and Siskiyou counties were recorded.”

I felt lucky to bushwhack through Chinquapin and scramble over rock outcrops at Surveyor Ridge, a high elevation site in Klamath County that is a recent Monument addition due to President Obama’s 2017 Monument expansion. Led by SOU Biology professor Michael Parker and avid birder Bob Hunter, we spent most of the morning chasing sunshine as we traversed the large rock outcrops that dot Surveyor Ridge. Our group of eight tuned our binoculars towards the trees all around us, feet feeling to avoid rock crevices and the snare of Chinquapin bushes. At first we just listened, trees alive with calls, shoos, chits, and delicate songs, our avian friends announcing their presence- a Williamson’s Sapsucker, a Dusky Flycatcher, a Mountain Chickadee. But later in the morning, as we perched on the top of a rock outcrop, a trio of “lemonheads,” or Hermit Warblers, called together and then emerged to chase each other through the bare branches surrounding us. Their colors seemed as bright as the spring sunshine, seemingly not dampened by the cold mist blowing by.

Surveyor Ridge was one of many sites that had not been surveyed for birds prior to 2017’s expansion, so this year’s event was an exciting time to generate useful data for science and conservation. Thanks to the dozens of citizen scientists and group leaders, we now have a greater understanding of bird abundance and diversity at Surveyor Ridge, Grizzly Peak, Little Hyatt Lake, Horseshoe Ranch in Northern California, and the lower reaches of Jenny Creek. Our scientific partner this year, Klamath Bird Observatory, aided us greatly by compiling all data through eBird Northwest to ensure that the results of the eleven surveys could be collected and compared together.

Despite seemingly disparaging weather, both participants and leaders enjoyed themselves. Ornithologist Pepper Trail, who led a group to along the PCT near Hobart Bluff, remarked that “it was very rewarding to lead others into the monument to document its tremendous biodiversity first-hand. Even on a cold and soggy morning the enthusiasm was palpable.” Participant Barb Settles who visited Box O Ranch with John Bullock, said that her favorite part was fording Jenny Creek barefoot and “feeling absolutely happy to get over it and find birds. It was so lovely with the meadows and the willows and the birds calling us.” Participant Carol Mockridge, who went with Frank Lospalluto to Pilot Rock reflected that “you know you’re fighting for a great cause when the weather conditions are miserable and you just keep going. We are so lucky to have such a treasure in our backyard and so many people who love it.”

Thanks so much to our expert leaders and the citizen-scientists for participating. Scroll down to read short summaries of each group’s findings and see the map for the corresponding Monument location. Many thanks to the Mindful Birding Award, Rogue Valley Audubon, and Klamath Bird Observatory for their generous donations and volunteer collaboration for this year’s BioBlitz! We are excited for many more to come.

Bird BioBlitz Survey Sites

Bird BioBlitz Survey Sites

Summary of 2018 BioBlitz, by site location and leader:

GRIZZLY PEAK: Sooney Viani and her group surveyed Shale City Road, Grizzly Peak, and Willow-Witt Ranch areas, which encompass the newly-added northern reaches of the Monument. The morning was cold with low clouds while the group ascended Shale City Rd, but the bright colors of a Lazuli Bunting and two Western Tanagers soon warmed them up. The group observed 34 species throughout the day, including Mountain Quails and a Pacific-slope Flycatcher calling through the drip, drip of the foggy forest. A special highlight was a grand Pileated Woodpecker that swooped by the group, its right wing almost grazing Sooney and Jeff!

HYATT LAKE: Dick Ashford and his small group surveyed Hyatt Lake and Little Hyatt Lake. This team experienced fog and cold throughout the day with a nice stretch of sunshine in the late morning. Overall, they reported 48 species, highlights being a surprise Great Grey Owl and a not-often reported Marsh Wren as well. Water-loving Double-crested Cormorants, Osprey, American Dipper, and a Killdeer with a broken wing display added to the fun.

UPPER JENNY CREEK: Norm Barrett and his group surveyed the upper reaches of Jenny Creek. Their morning started out cold, wet, and miserable until 10am when the sun and birds came out. By the end, they had found 32 species, including MacGillivray’s Warblers, a Rufous Hummingbird, and Warbling Vireo, and Chipping Sparrows.

SURVEYOR RIDGE: Michael Parker, joined by Bob Hunter, surveyed Surveyor Ridge, an important high-elevation site in the Monument. Due to its easterly location (the only area of the Monument in Klamath county), the group seemed to avoid the pervasive clouds that other groups experienced. They had 32 species, including two Rock Wrens on one of the site’s characteristic large rock outcroppings. They also had a Williamson's sapsucker, Hermit and Yellow-rumped Warblers, a lone Fox Sparrow and a very vocal sandhill crane. The highlight of the morning, however, came on the drive to the site when a Northern Goshawk crossed in front of the caravan- the delight of everyone!

EMIGRANT CREEK ROAD: Ellie Armstrong and Shannon Rio’s group surveyed Upper Emigrant Creek Road, the lower-elevation reaches of the newly expanded Monument. They had an especially great group, say the leaders, and everyone was fun! They ended the day with 42 species.

CORRAL AREA: Vince Zauskey and his group surveyed the Corral Area off Hwy 99. This team of five started by ascended to the Mt. Ashland turnoff inside a cloud with only 100 feet of visibility! Most of their survey was done above the Corral parking lot, and highlights included two Evening Grosbeaks, four Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and a Wrentit. However, they were surprised that they did not see any chickadee species or any woodpeckers except a Red-shafted Flicker. Vince’s group ended up seeing 36 species by the end of the day.

PIILOT ROCK: Frank Lospalluto’s group surveyed the Pilot Rock area, and were birding in a cold, wet cloud all day. They found 30 species by day’s end.

AGATE FLAT: Romain Cooper and his group surveyed the Agate Flat area, which is in the southern part of the Monument near the California border. They were lucky to have a generally sunny day of birding despite beginning the day by fording Jenny Creek on a bitterly chilly morning. Out of the 50 species observed, one unexpected bird was a Prairie Falcon. The group also noticed that Warbler flocks (including Townsends) indicated migration is still on-going across the border.

SODA MOUNTAIN: Pepper Trail and his group surveyed Hobart Bluff, including parts of the Soda Mountain Wilderness. This intrepid group kindly did not make any remarks to their leader about the 5:30 start time on a cold and soggy morning. They slogged along the muddy PCT picking up a total of 31 species throughout the day, buoyed by coffee and pie at the Green Springs Inn, of course. Good sights included a Green-tailed Towhee, Townsend's Solitaire, Wilson's Warbler, Lincoln's Sparrow, and Pine Siskins, as well as rain-spangled wildflowers.

LOWER JENNY CREEK: John Bullock and his group surveyed the lower reaches of Jenny Creek at Box O Ranch. Despite a foggy morning, by the time they had arrived at the trailhead for the Box O Ranch, there were only a few scattered clouds scudding across the sky, driven by a cold wind. This enthusiastic group of ten split into two: one group crossing the creek to survey, while the other heading north along the ditch road. This group found 51 species, including many highlights: 26 Lazuli Buntings (!), two Sandhill Cranes, and a Cedar Waxwing hiding among the willows.

HORSESHOE RANCH WILDLIFE AREA: Joey Russell’s group surveyed Horseshoe Ranch, also a new site in the expanded Monument and the only site occurring in California. They located 39 species including Acorn Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, a Willow Flycatcher, a Hutton’s Vireo, a Black-throated Gray Warbler, and an unidentified hummingbird. It was a wonderful day, especially on our way back down Scotch Creek, says Joey, rather cold and windy in the morning with lots of mud sticking to our shoes!

See the full list of species found! (PDF)

Three Artists in Residence 2018 in Monument

In June, 2018: Jeanine Moy, Artist-in-Residence at Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.  Photo from artist.

In June, 2018: Jeanine Moy, Artist-in-Residence at Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.  Photo from artist.

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is pleased to announce three artists for its 2018 Artist in Residence (AiR) program. David Atkinson, Kim Faucher and Jeanine Moy will each spend two weeks in residency creating works that represent the natural and cultural resources of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. They will each present at least one public program to showcase their work. Partnerships and shared conservation efforts like the AiR program are a vital in managing sustainable, working public lands.

“We are delighted to welcome this talented group of artists to Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument this summer,” said Kristi Mastrofini, Cascade-Sisikyou National Monument manager. “This is our second year with the Artist in Residence program, and we are thrilled with having artists in the area creating inspirational pieces of work for the public,” continued Mastrofini.

Varied representation of arts media will be presented throughout the summer. The Artist in Residence for the month of June is Jeanine Moy. Moy will focus her work creating a series of panoramic oil paintings. In July, artist David Atkinson will compose a musical piece using different instruments. In August, artist Kim Faucher will create a body of artwork with anecdotal record to convey the monument’s unique biodiversity.

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) AiR program offers artists the opportunity to pursue their artistic discipline amid inspiring landscapes.

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
BLM Medford District
3040 Biddle Road
Medford, OR 97504