(Click any image to biggify.)
While sitting on a boulder at the edge of the East Rim, I noticed a ladybird beetle right in front of me. It wasn’t until I took the photo and zoomed in on it that I realized how much the lichens around her look like brains. (It’s a zombie ladybird!)
Then I saw another one by my foot. And another by my hand. And then my visual pattern recognition kicked in and I realized that they were everywhere. I carefully put a hand down to avoid squishing any, slowly pulled up a foot, then twisted around to stand — and that’s when I saw that the rock behind me was covered with thousands of beetles.
This photo doesn’t begin to capture their multitudes, but it’s the best I could do. They were on every stick and twig, and especially in the rock crevices. The shadows under that rock are hiding hundreds more, all jammed together in great clumps. I have no idea whether they blew in or what, but it’s hard to believe that the sparse vegetation up there could support enough prey insects for larval ladybird beetles to feed upon.
There were many blooming wildflowers at the summit of Steens Mountain, all of which were tiny and low to the ground. (Better resistance to harsh weather conditions.) At least five different species of butterflies flitted past in the space of twenty minutes, and then there were these adorable yellow bumblebees. They were huge relative to the size of the flowers, and whenever one landed, its weight would take the flower right down to the ground. Didn’t seem to faze them, though. They’d crawl over the flower, get what pollen they could, then heavily buzz to another flower and bonk, down to the ground they’d go.
Speaking of tiny, low-slung flowers…here is a perfect example. It’s a lupine, usually seen in much taller forms. But this little lupine is endemic to Steens Mountain (meaning it grows nowhere else in the world), and has adapted to the local growing conditions. If that yellow bee were in this photograph, it would be larger than one of the flower heads.
My mother commented that I spent a lot of time with my nose to the ground, considering the gorgeous scenery all around me. I can’t help it; the micro world has always intrigued me. I once read a quote from a naturalist who said he’d spent the whole summer exploring a completely unknown land, and by the end of the season he’d almost made it out of his backyard.
I totally understood that.
(Real life update: as you read this, I’ll be at 30,000 feet, heading home. Have you ever noticed that the closer you are to home, the more you miss it?)