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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

First CMO banding for the year

Kelly Bryan and Charles Floyd came down from the Davis Mountains to band hummers at CMO early this morning. Anticipating a large number of birds I asked my sister, Ann, to come and help record. I'm glad she did because they banded 65 hummers, 49 of which were Lucifers. Seven of the 15 female Lucifers were gravid (pregnant), so there should be a good crop of juveniles this summer. It really helped having Charles assist, too. Things went smoothly and efficiently. If it had just been Kelly and me like was usually the case, it would have stressed me out with so many birds. Charles and his wife, Nancy, have moved to the Davis Mountains so I'm happy that we'll have their help from now on.

I feel like I'm the "Lucifer Lady." Who else in the entire world turns all the feeding ports on the Dr JB feeders so that the slots are aligned vertically to better accommodate a Lucifer's curved bill? And I make their sugar water solution in glass bottles, not taking a chance on any bad stuff entering it from plastic containers. Not to mention I've participated in a ten-year banding project just to be the one who did the trapping to ensure each hummer is handled gently and safely.* (Not one of the hundreds of Lucifers that were in my hands  has ever been injured, nor have any of the other thousands I've handled of other species either for that matter.) So it's gratifying to have a record number of gravid females. And banding is the only way I could enjoy that knowledge. Now if I can just locate a nest up on that mountain. There are lots of females in the Blue Oak vicinity, which I call the "nursery," but my knees just haven't let me clamber around on those steep slopes looking. But it's going to happen. If not this year, then next year.


* I should mention that banders are perfectly competent to handle hummers without injury, but when there are large numbers of hummers they need someone to trap so they can process the birds in a timely manner. And it's the potential trappers I would have concerns about, not the banders. Now that Charles and Nancy are here, both wonderful banders, I won't need to do the trapping much anymore.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Up and at it again

Ann and I went up the mountain for a couple of hours. I'm so exhausted by the time I get to where we last worked that I really have to push myself to get anything done. But this weekend I'm expecting some help. We will see if any actually arrives. I do feel like I made some progress today, but I have lowered my standards a bit.... for now anyway. Some places are narrower than I'd like them for sure. Sorry, no photos. I was too tired. Next time. You probably wouldn't notice much on them anyway, but I think I did at least 30 feet of really rough stuff.

Back at the oasis there are loads of recently fledged birds and lots of feeding activity. Here's my first photo of a Yellow-breasted Chat carrying food to the nest. Distant and heavily cropped.

I've been searching for the Peregrine eyrie and here's what I've come up with, but not confirmed. Arrow is pointing to a little ledge to the left of a white-washed area. I'm thinking that may be the eyrie, but I could sure be wrong. That area of the cliff face is the only area with white-wash, so I'm thinking it has to be somewhere in that area. This photo was taken with 400mm zoom at about a half-mile away.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Trail to trail

I try not to work on the hard Blue Oak Trail on two consecutive days. It's too strenuous, plus Ann and I have to coordinate our town schedules. She works part time at Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross, and I have my husband in town that I have to spend a few days a week with. So tomorrow it's back to the hard trail, but today I worked on the S Rim Trail. Peregrines seem to be feeding young high on the rock face. I need to set up my scope so I can find the eyrie. Meanwhile, dawn found me heading that way.

I know I progressed at least 60 feet on the trail, but you sure can't tell it. My pickup seems to stay the same distance from where I'm working. And still lots of flat land to go before the trail starts to climb. But it's fun.

It got up to 100° today.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Routine day

I spent most of the morning up on the mountain swinging the pickax. The girls are way far ahead of me. They're barely visible in this photo right in front of the oak patch.

Here I've zoomed the camera lens a bit. They rough-in the trail and leave the finishing to me. I didn't make much progress today. Really rugged terrain. Julie's daughter, Gabrielle, joined the work crew today.

Here is an example of a spot they roughed-in. I, jokingly, told them they must have turned into mountain goats somewhere in this process to be calling that a trail. But, of course, in reality, I like the system just how it is. I like to do the final decisions on how steep, wide, smooth, etc. to leave it. It makes me feel like I'm doing the creative part with a whole lot less labor. Doing it all by myself on the S Rim Trail reminds me of just how much help they really are. 

Section of trail roughed-in

Same section after I sculpted it.
Here is the roughest section of the trail so far. At some point it's going to need some heavy pickaxing. That one outcrop is right in the middle of the trail. No other options. A person can walk over it but I'd really like it to be removed. I think I'll see what the sledgehammer can do.

Next is a perfect example of the cholla status up there. They all looked dead after 2011 but many are starting to look like this. It appears that the roots survived the record freezes and big new shoots are coming up. And apparently Lucifer Hummingbirds will nest in dead ones in the meantime, although I haven't found a nest yet this year. That's mostly due to lack of searching.

And back at the oasis I sat and birded with some birders. Good thing I did or I would have missed seeing this Yellow-billed Cuckoo one of them found. It's a distant heavily-cropped shot, but my first photo of that species so I'm not too picky.

Such an interesting bee or wasp. It sure looks like it says "8333" on its back in big yellow letters.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Birder's birthday bird

A lovely young couple visited today. It was the birthday present to the husband. For his birthday he wanted a lifer Lucifer Hummingbird. He certainly got his wish. Happy Birthday, Alban!

Alban and Evelyn Guillaumet from Austin
They also found a Baltimore Oriole gorging itself on my apricot tree.

And I got my first Band-winged Dragonlet for the year. 

Here is a picture I took a couple of weeks ago when Brian was here, but forgot to post it. It's an Ursine Giant-Skipper pupa. Brian loves raising them.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Two happy surprises

One of my favorite most beloved persons, Dennis Shepler, visited today with the most perfect surprise for me. He painted me a painting of  a Lucifer Hummingbird and if that wasn't awesome enough, he made me some "Christmas Mountains Oasis" T-shirts with that painting on it. I am way over the top honored!!! I forgot to photograph the painting before I headed to town, but will do it when I get back to CMO. Meanwhile, here's me with Dennis wearing one of the shirts. Unfortunately, the light was such that the lettering doesn't show up good on the photo.

...but here is a shot of it when not being worn. Is that perfect, or what?

Surprise number two was a lifer butterfly at CMO. Dennis and I and his companions were sitting in the viewing blind chatting when I jumped up and ran for my camera exclaiming that I saw a butterfly I wanted to photograph. It was on the fresh Vitex Chaste Tree (more like a bush) blooms. Brian ID'd it as a Meridian Duskywing. Awesome! So this is my second post for the day. Makes up for days when I have nothing to blog about, I guess.