July update - Research-related photos

This month I planned three road-trips measuring vegetative and reproductive traits of several Mertensia species in Colorado, Arizona, and Utah.  These road-trips brought me to many interesting places that I wouldn't otherwise have the chance to go to.

July 1st to 3rd (M. ciliata and M. bakeri)

Blue Mesa Lake, the largest lake in Colorado.

Blue Mesa Lake
View of Blue Mesa.

I stopped at a couple of places during the drive to stretch my legs and check out the beautiful scenery.

Sunshine Mountain on the left and Wilson Peak on the right.

San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests.


Sheep Mountain
Sheep Mountain.

Vermillion Peak
Vermillion Peak.

San Juan Mountains
View of the mountains, see larger image here.

M. ciliata on a dry stream bed in San Miguel county.

M. ciliata.


Mertensia ciliata
Close-up on the flowers.

Trout Lake
Trout Lake in Uncompahgre National Forest.

Unknown land
Unknown area on my way to Hinsdale county.

Blue Mesa Lake
Passing through Blue Mesa Lake again.

Foggy Morning
Foggy morning on July 3rd.  I actually arrived at the site on the afternoon of the 2nd, but thunderstorm with hail prevented me from visiting the site until the following morning.

Carson, a abandoned ghost town

Carson, Ghost Town
View of the surrounding peaks in Carson.

View from Carson
View from Carson with clouds forming.

Mertensia bakeri
M. bakeri in Hinsdale county.
M. bakeri

One of the surrounding flowering species - Geum rossii.

Yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris)
While I was measuring the plants, I noticed this marmot resting on a rock and observing me as I do my fieldwork.

Yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris)
I was able to get pretty close to it.  Unfortunately, I did not bring my telephoto lens with me.

Yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris)

River flowing into Lake San Cristobal
Drive back to Gothic.

Lake San Cristobal
Lake San Cristobal.

There are parts of the drive that look very similar to Grand Canyon (based on what I had seen in TV and movies), which I will visit in mid-July.

Lake Fork of the Gunnison

Unknown hills

Colorado State Highway 149

July 7th to 9th (M. clokeyi and M. parvifolia)

M. clokeyi in Boulder county.  I actually mistimed the flowering phenology of the species and there were only four flowering plants left when I got there.  I guess I will have to come back again next year.

Passing through Boulder Falls

Due to dangerous conditions, the trail to Boulder Falls is closed off.  The waterfall is just behind the trees in the center of the image.

M. parvifolia in Larimer county.


Before I got to the site, I actually missed my turn onto Highway 14 (and almost drove to Wyoming) and had to sleep in the car in front of a driveway next to the highway.  And while I was measuring the flowers the following morning, rain started to fall and my digital caliper failed on me and I lost feelings in my fingers due to the wetness.  It was not a fun day overall.

A moose made out of wires in front of the Moose Visitor Center in the State Forest State Park.

On the way back to Gothic, I passed by the Welford Mountain Reservoir.

Wolford Water Reservoir
See larger image here.

A large family of Red-breasted Mergansers, I counted at least 27 babies.

Green Mountain Dam
Green Mountain Dam as I was trying to find a place to camp that night.

Camping in White River National Forest - Prairie Point.

Mount Massive
The following morning, I passed several 14,000+ feet mountains - here is the second highest summit in Colorado - Mount Massive.

Sawatch Range
Sawatch Range. See larger image here.  There are three tall mountains here - Mt. White (13,667' - second peak from the left), Mt. Antero (14,269' - third peak from the left), and Mt. Princeton (14,197' - the peak on the right side of the valley).

Mallow (Sphaeralcea sp.)
Mallow flowers (Sphaeralcea sp.) next to the sign.

Madonna Mine
The abandoned Madonna Mine next to US Highway 50.

July 12th to 16th (M. franciscana and M. umbratilis)

For my final plant-measuring trip, I traveled to Arizona and Utah to measure two Mertensia species.  Each part of the trip took at least nine hours of driving so I was pretty much exhausted by the end of the day.  Nonetheless, I got the opportunity to visit Grand Canyon and see parts of Arizona and Utah that were very unique (compared to Colorado) and spectacular.  I will post those photos on a separate blog post because I took too many photos.

Humprey's Peak
I arrived in Arizona in the evening of the 12th and started doing fieldwork the following (early) morning.  Here is Humprey's Peak in the morning - the highest natural point in Arizona.

View of Flagstaff in early morning
View of Flagstaff

Mertensia franciscana
M. franciscana in Coconino county, Arizona.

The flowers.

The corolla of this species seems to be fairly narrow compared to the other species I had measured.

While measuring the flowers, I came across at least two Anthophorine bees resting on flowers.

A fly pollinating a flower.

Anthophorine bee pollinating a flower.

I noticed there were holes pierced on the side of the flowers (towards the bottom) which indicated nectar-robbing.  True enough, I later saw several Anthophorine bees and this metalic green Halictid bee trying to get at the nectar at the base of the flower.

Bee robbing flower nectar & wasp fly-by
While photographing the bee, I photographed a wasp doing a fly-by.

One of the co-flowering species: Butter-and-eggs (Linaria vulgaris).

After measuring the plants in the morning, I stopped at Grand Canyon National Park in the afternoon.  I camped near there that night and then resumed my trip northward to Utah the following day.  I didn't get to the site until the 15th.  By the time I got there, I found out that all of the plants are way past flowering and most had dispersed their nutlets already.

M. umbratilis in Cache county, Utah.

This was the only plant I found with two remaining flowers.


Unknown plant
One of the surrounding flowering species - some kind of Sidalcea sp. I think.

California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)
California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)

Well, that pretty much conclude this year's field season, especially with my M. brevistyla and M. fusiformis plants (here in Colorado) dispersing most of their nutlets already.  Overall, I would consider this a successful field season once again.

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