Sunday, 29 July 2012

Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area

I recently had a chance to visit the Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area on a travel day from Revelstoke to Valemount.  The grasslands are tucked away just northwest of Kamloops on the west side of the North Thompson River, as seen below:

View Larger Map

I always draw in a deep breath of awe when I'm in a novel landscape.  The panoramic grasslands made for an amazing vista and I made sure to snap off a few shots to illustrate the beauty of the arid expanse.

Sagebrush and rolling hills as far as the eye can see in the protected area

The grasslands are dotted with alkaline ponds and small lakes that create stunning contrast to the bone dry habitat

The vast expanse of grasslands were a little too parched for my liking, which made it difficult to find interesting plants and animals.  The more you wandered, however, the more you would find.  I eventually tracked down several of the excessively showy Sagebrush Mariposa Lilies (Calochortus macrocarpus), which are always a showstopper!

This Sagebrush Mariposa Lily adds a brilliant splash of colour against an otherwise drab setting

Searching for interesting plants yielded many interesting sightings, none of which were rare plants.  I managed to find several species of butterflies, including Long Dash Skipper (Polites mystic), Grey Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), Western White (Pontia occidentalis) , Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice), Common Woodnymph (Cercyonis pegala), Small Woodnymph (Cercyonis oetus), Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele), and Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa).  I unfortunately missed the one Oregon Swallowtail (Papilio machaon oregonius) that Jamie Fenneman spotted in my absence.  I did, however, manage to photograph four of the species listed above for your viewing pleasure.

Common Woodnymphs can be separated from other woodnymphs by their overall brown colouration and eyespots that are of equal size

Small Woodnymphs are noticeably smaller in size and the lower eyespot is marginally smaller than the upper one

This Western White was nectaring on Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), which is a great nectar source.  In fact, if you look at the Small Woodnymph above you will see it was utilizing it as well.

The aquamarine pools cradled in each of the red spots on the hindwings of Melissa Blue are truly spectacular and I always take the time to lean in for a close look at this feature

Butterflies were not the only insects of interest found in the grasslands.  I have been trying to create a library of robber flies over the past couple of years and it is a rather slow going process.  I now believe this is due to the lack of time spent in the dry interior!  It seemed that every dozen steps I took, I would put up a robber fly.  I photographed several of the encountered robber flies and sent them to Rob Cannings for identification, as they one of his specialties.  Below is a sample of the robber flies encountered and their proposed identifications.

Efferia benedicti (male) eating a small wasp

The pointed ovipositor of this female Efferia benedicti can be seen at the end of the abdomen.  Females in this genus use their ovipositor to lay eggs in the ground or in the grass flower spikes.

Stenopogon inquinatus (male) was an impressively large robber fly that I initially thought was a damselfly!

This female Stenopogon inquinatus posed nicely on some sagebrush

Must be make-up sex... this pair of Stenopogon inquinatus can't even look each other in the eyes!

Efferia staminea (male) posing on pussytoes

Apparently a trickier one to identify, this may be a female Efferia staminea

I documented one last sighting from the edge of one of the alkaline ponds.  While watching dozens of bluets hovering over the shore, I flushed up a noctuid moth.  I followed it until it landed on Red Glasswort (Salicornia rubra) where I was able to snap off a nice shot of it.  I thought the clear photo would make this moth a cinch to identify, but it proved to be extremely difficult.  I think I have finally figured it out thanks to the amazing new Pacific Northwest Moth website (  I found a specimen shot of Euxoa tristicula that closely resembles the individual I photographed, and the detailed species account reveals that this species matches in terms of ecology as well.

I'm using to seeing American Glasswort (Salicornia pacifica) on the coast, but it was neat to see the Red Glasswort growing around the alkaline ponds.  The fact that the moth, Euxoa tristicula, used it as a perch was just a bonus!

The Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area, despite being fairly dried up, yielded many interesting sightings and I envision it being even more spectacular a month earlier.  If you're passing through Kamloops and looking for a large sagebrush grassland to wander through, this is the place to go!

No comments:

Post a Comment