Monday, May 11, 2020

What's Blooming and Singing up Strawberry Creek, Great Basin National Park

We've been glad to get out and stretch our legs while still doing social distancing. A good place for that is the Sage Steppe Loop Trail, a 1.3-mile loop at the end of the Strawberry Creek road in Great Basin National Park. There are options to make the hike longer.

I wanted to see what flowers were blooming and what birds were singing. So here's a quick look at what the trail looks like in early May.

When the snow melts, one of the first flowers to emerge is snowy buttercup (Ranunculus nivalis). 

 Another yellow flower, not as pretty, but more widespread, is creeping barberry, also colloquially known as Oregon grape (Berberis repens). The leaves turn a beautiful red color.

This next flower is extremely tiny, the small-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parvifolia).

We hadn't come far by this point, we had simply crossed the foot bridge and entered the large meadow.

Many of the flowers were unobtrusive, like this carrotleaf desert-parsley (Lomatium foeniculaceum).

This tiny clover, hollyleaf clover (Trifolium longipes) is easily overlooked.

Here's some Nevada biscuitroot (Lomatium nevadense).

In 2016, a lightning strike started a 4,500-acre wildfire in the Strawberry Creek watershed. The sign survived, but the hillside behind it burned. I like seeing how the landscape is returning.

The sagebrush bluebells (Mertensia oblongifolia) were just starting to bloom.

Continuing up the trail. The kids had decided I was taking too long and were way ahead of me. We were the only vehicle in the parking lot (good thing, as it's not a big parking lot!), so I didn't mind them going ahead.

Then I started seeing more color--arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata).

And a little long-leaf phlox (Phlox longifolia).

This tiny flower is slender phlox (Microsteris gracilis).

This West Coast Lady butterfly seemed to like it a lot.

Desert Girl had waited for me, so I pointed out some flowers as we crossed the creek and headed back through the forest to the vehicle. I had challenged the kids to find at least five different flower species. They were not interested. Sigh. At least they were outdoors!

A variety of birds were also out, like this male Mountain Bluebird.

A green-tailed towhee fluttered into the shrubs. I like the red tuft of feathers on the top of his head. I also saw lots of chipping sparrows flitting about the ground.

A yellow-rumped warbler stopped for a moment.

A female mountain bluebird isn't nearly as bright, but is still beautiful.

A female Cassin's finch is a bit non-descript; the males have a bright red head. The females of many bird species are more camouflaged so they can sit on a nest and not attract attention.
The kids like the sage steppe loop as they know it's short. When they were little it would take a couple hours to do. Now we can do it in way less than an hour--unless I'm looking at all the birds and flowers! It will be fun to visit periodically as the flowers will change notably through the season.

On the way out of Strawberry Canyon, we noticed a large herd of elk in the fields across the highway. We've seen the elk on both sides of the highway in this area, so be careful traveling through here.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief glimpse of what's going on in this corner of the world! Have a good day!

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