Mount Rainier From the Sunrise side

Returning, finally, to Rainier, I got my first view of the mountain, and enough snow had melted on our routes for our crew to begin performing butterfly and wildflower surveys. Being a citizen science project, the Cascades Butterfly Project encourages volunteers to help us by participating in our surveys, even if they would prefer tagging along for a hike to catching butterflies. We saw our first volunteers of the season this week, and surveyed 3 of the 5 routes we will be frequenting this summer.

An Edith’s Checkerspot butterfly on a Sitka Valerian flower

Relatively cold temperatures and cloud cover, combined with the early season state of most of our nectar plants meant that we didn’t identify a large number of butterflies. A boon for us was the wildflowers. In the places that had melted, wildflowers were already flourishing and we found that the temporal patters their blooms follow are as intriguing as the flowers are beautiful.

One of the earliest flowers on our transects, this Seuss-like Puff ball is a Western Anemone that has already gone to seed. As the season progresses, it will get shaggier. Behind it are the leaves of the False Hellebore, a plant that is still in a vegetative state, meaning it has yet to flower.