Nature Sightings: April - May 2012
May 29, 2012 - Zach Schierl - Of Butterflies and Squirrels
This Anise Swallowtail butterfly was recently spotted alighting on a blade of grass near the Whitman Memorial. The Anise Swallowtail appears very similar to the Oregon Swallowtail. A few differences are that the Anise Swallowtail has a body and wings that are predominantly black with yellow stripes, while the Oregon Swallowtail is predominantly yellow with black stripes. The small black spots in the center of the yellow patches just below the body are also indicative of the Anise Swallowtail. The fact that this particular butterfly is missing several chunks of its wings (including the "tail" that makes the swallowtail family so easy to spot) makes identification even more difficult. This strikes at the importance of taking pictures of a hard-to-identify species, whether it be a butterfly, a bird, or a snake. Using this picture, Ranger Renee and I were able to notice details that I didn't notice in the field, helping us identify the butterfly.
May 13, 2012 - Renee Rusler - Easter Eggs in the Trees?
This morning as I was walking down the north side of the hill, gazing into the tree tops, a flash of yellow and red caught my eye. A male Western Tanager! With lemon yellow bodies and bright red heads, these robin sized birds are easy to identify. I searched for more of them, but instead of the yellow and red, I next caught a flash of blue, then a patch of orange. Easter may be past, but I felt I was hunting for brightly colored Easter eggs hidden by the leaves and branches of the trees. By the end of my search I had seen Western Tanagers, Lazuli Buntings (the flash of blue), Bullock's Orioles (the patch of orange), and American Goldfinches (smaller lemon yellow birds with a black patch on forehead).
May 1, 2012 - Renee Rusler - It's Turtle Time!
It's Turtle Time! When it gets warm the turtles clamber back onto the wooden platforms that float in the park's pond. These were seen this last weekend.
Two types of turtles live at Whitman Mission, the Western Painted Turtle and the Slider (an introduced turtle). Both kinds are in this photo. They can be challenging to tell apart since both have yellow stripes on their legs and head. Learn some ways to tell them apart or just sit back and enjoy watching them.
April 22, 2012 - Renee Rusler - Spring Has Sprung!
NPS - Renee Rusler
As my husband and I returned to the park after visiting the Southwest, we were greeted by a profusion of trees in full bloom. I was so happy! These flowering trees are my favorite part of spring and I thought I would miss it: the bright colors, the perfumed air, the hum of a thousand bees.
In addition to all the flowers, there are more birds on the park grounds. On Saturday a flock of American White Pelicans were seen circling above the park; over the past few years these birds have become a common sight in the spring and fall. Sunday morning four Northern Shovelers were swimming on the pond; Shovelers are a type of duck with a distinctive long, broad bill. Visitors reported seeing a variety of other birds including Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and even some Great Horned Owls.
After hearing that the owls were in the park, two visitors were especially keen on seeing one. They searched the tree tops. One spotted what she thought were the owl's distinctive ear tufts. But the yellow eyes that looked back down at them didn't belong to any owl.
Life is full of surprises!
Did You Know?
Great Basin Wild Rye Grass is part of the natural landscape at Whitman Mission. The name Waiilatpu, meaning place of rye grass, was used by the people to name the mission site.