Common Raven (Corvus corax) Corvidae

Palouse Falls State Park, WA
June 8, 2015
Robert Niese

Ravens are always the first birds to greet me upon reaching the sagebrush deserts of eastern Washington. 

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Washington Pass

North Cascades National Park, WA
August 17, 2014
Robert Niese

I’m off on an adventure with the BF for a couple weeks, then heading to UC-Riverside to do some research with a fellow ornithologist. I’ll resume regular posting in July! Until then, get out and enjoy the sunshine! Cheers!

Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) Caprimulgidae

Palouse Falls State Park, WA
June 8, 2015
Robert Niese

Nighthawks are neither hawks nor are they nocturnal. They are more closely related to swifts and hummingbirds than to hawks, and they tend to be more crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) than nocturnal. They are most easily observed while hunting insects over bodies of water. Look for their characteristic dihedral (v-shaped) wings and listen for their calls. This was the first time I had ever seen a nighthawk perched! So cute!

Halictus sp. “Sweat Bee” Halictidae on
Geranium viscosissimum “Sticky Geranium” Geraniaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

Sticky Geranium, as its name would suggest, is covered in tiny glandular hairs that are quite sticky to the touch. Some have suggested that these sticky glands are capable of capturing and digesting small orgnanisms, making the plant slightly carnivorous. It grows in meadows, Ponderosa Pinelands, and at the edge of sagebrush-steppe habitats throughout the PNW. 

Prunus virginiana “Chokecherry” Rosaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

Chokecherry is a native species of cherry that is abundant on the drier, east-facing mountain slopes of the PNW. It was a staple food for many tribes in our area and is still regularly harvested by many native peoples. Each small fruit has a pit in the center (like a cherry) which can make its preparation difficult. Check out Abe Lloyd’s blog for details and recipes for things like Chokecherry fruit-leather, jam, and wine.

Castilleja hispida “Harsh Paintbrush” Orobanchaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

There are three or four species of paintbrushes with red bracts in the Pacific Northwest. The two most common are the Harsh Paintbrush (C. hispida) and the Common Crimson Paintbrush (C. miniata). C. hispida has a dense coat of long, hispid hairs (which look lovely when back-lit!) and will always have lobed leaves on the upper third of their stems. Conversely C. miniata is often less hairy and will have unlobed leaves on the entire stem (sometimes with small lobes on the upper-most portion). The two can also be differentiated by their calyces which are pointed in C. miniata and blunt in C. hispida.
Fun Fact: All paintbrush species are parasites, growing on the roots of other plants to survive.

Anemone multifida var. multifida “Cut-leaf Anemone” Ranunculaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3 2015
Robert Niese

This anemone is found sporadically throughout the northwest – from the Olympic Peninsula and coastal BC to the Cascades and various eastern mountain ranges – but it is uncommon throughout its range and varies drastically from population to population. Its subspecies designations are thought by many to be inaccurate and based on traits that simply vary with environmental conditions, even within populations.

Anemone piperi “Piper’s Anemone” Ranunculaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

Piper’s Anemone doesn’t look much like other common PNW anemones. It tends to have glabrous, trifoliate bracts that look exactly like leaves, while other anemones would have highly dissected, not-very-leafy bracts such as these here. And instead of having five white petaloid sepals it can have up to eight, as you can see in this photo. Apparently, the genetic and developmental mechanisms that determine which floral parts will be sepals, petals, or stamens are easily changed, allowing flowers with loads of stamens (like roses, buttercups, cherry blossoms, anemones, larkspurs, etc.) to produce a few extra petals instead. This is how we get the ornamental varieties of many Ranunculaceae and Rosaceae flowers (their wild versions should have five petals). Piper’s Anemone is a PNW endemic and is uncommonly found in moist coniferous forests from the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon and southwestern Washington, through central Idaho, west to the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana.

Potentilla gracilis “Slender Cinquefoil” Rosaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

Cinquefoils are named for their 5-parted leaves, although many members of Potentilla lack these characteristic leaf shapes. Potentilla fruits are aggregate fruits like raspberries and blackberries and, while completely edible, they are said to taste horrid.