Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pickleweed Autumn

Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge covers about 19,000 acres of the Bear Lake Valley in southeast Idaho near Montpelier, and most of it is bulrush marsh, open water, and flooded meadows.  But, this year I found a surprising landscape on the eastern edge of a public tour loop.

This red salt marsh must have been placed here just for photographers!  There are acres of pickleweed scattered over several large areas east of the main driving tour loop.  Normally this stuff is green, but it turns red in autumn, and this year the color is really vibrant.

 Pickleweed (genus Salicornia)  is also known as glasswort or samphire.  It thrives in salt marshes where it stores excess salt in pod-like sections.  It is edible, in the same family as spinach, and has even become a gourmet delicacy.

We didn’t see much wildlife, but there were insects living in the pickleweed.  We found a few dragonflies that didn’t cooperate very well, but this huge spider (argiope aurantia) posed for photos with a grasshopper that had been a recent meal.  Geese nest in the grassy islands scattered around the marsh, and we found a few broken egg shells.

The red color varies a bit depending on the direction in relation to the sun, so we saw variations of red, pink, and magenta.  No filters were used for any of these photos.

The salt marsh had dried enough to explore on foot, and we found some yellow pickleweed. It added a little variety to the red scenery, and a wide angle lens emphasized the great distance to the mountains surrounding the valley.

Several photographers from our Sharp Shooters Camera Club have been here, and I returned to the scene three days in a row.  I found this Z pattern on the last day.  There is always something interesting to see at Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge.