I climbed out of my car to the sounds of Dark-eyed Juncos singing away and the raucous call of a Steller’s Jay. The sun had not quite come above the horizon. A short walk through some douglas firs put me out on the prairie. The landscape is this series of gentle undulating mounds that apparently are a result of the last glaciation in the Pacific Northwest. The soil is very well drained because of the stones and cobbles that dominate it. This forms ideal habitat for prairie plants. This preserve is just south of Olympia near Littlerock, Washington.
The managers are actively working to restore this unique habitat that is home to a number of fascinating plants and animals. Oregon oaks and douglas firs had started to invade parts of the prairie. Scot’s broom is also a threat to this habitat; this is not native to this area and can rapidly spread. Local Native Americans use to burn this habitat because fires encourage the growth camas lilies. The bulbs are good to eat and this plant does very well following fires.
I was sitting on the ground to photograph a camas lily when I heard a loud buzz over my shoulder. I twisted around to watch a large bumblebee land on a lily flower right beside me. These flowers are small, an inch or so across, and on a thin stalk. The bumblebee was so heavy that the bee and flower bent upside down. The bee stayed only a few seconds before it moved to another nearby flower. I watched the bee work a series of flowers over the next five minutes before the bee flew out of my sight. Each flower snapped back upright when the bee left.
Several butterflies require this habitat for their life cycle. I may not have stayed late enough into the morning to find them out flying around because I didn’t see one. I plan to return later in the year to look for them. Savannah Sparrows were calling at regular intervals along the trail. I watched several sing on bushes or isolated trees. I stopped walking when I heard the wonderful melody of the Western Meadowlark. Their flutelike song is a series of whistles and gurgling warbles. I spotted the bird on top of a small tree where it was proclaiming its ownership of the surround prairie. The yellow belly with black V was easily visible from a distance.
I found it fascinating to hike through this unique habitat and am so happy that my friends told me about this place. I plan to return a few times during this year to see the succession of flowers and look for butterflies.