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Thursday, August 27, 2015

An intense summer

What with having to water endlessly and drying all that fruit for weeks and weeks, I feel about like I did during the drought of 2011. At least I'm not buying and hauling water.... yet. Can't ever go through that again.

The last group of banders got 5 species (Calliope, Black-chinned, Ruby-throated, Lucifer, and Rufous) at CMO this morning. Here's bander Fred Bassett admiring a male Lucifer's gorget.

I finally got a distant shot of that elusive Belted Kingfisher. Not bad considering how far away she was.

This snake scooted across the path while I was watering. Startled me. A herpetologist said it's a baby coachwhip.  O..K.. That's a hole below its head. It briefly stuck its head in the hole. Maybe sniffing for food. Don't know.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Yet another hot, dry day

This weather pattern has to end sometime, at least that's what I keep telling myself. I did my usual thing, watered and took pictures. Late this afternoon a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher stopped by for a drink. I wish I could have gotten a better photo of it, but it was really far away and not about to come closer.

Other than that, not much activity today, but then, I didn't get here early like I normally do. I had only been in town less than one day so didn't have things caught up there. I came down because of the group of banders coming early in the morning. Of course, I love an excuse to come right back down and with the unrelenting triple-digit temperatures things need watering as much as I'm willing to water.

There were a couple of very cooperative saddlebags perched in the shade, so I took lots of photos of them. This Red Saddlebags has some red mites on it, five to be exact. You may need to enlarge to see them.

And after not being able to get photos of Black Saddlebags for years, suddenly they're everywhere this year.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Today did not disappoint

Kelly arrived right on time with his enthusiastic group of banders. All went according to plan, as much as something like hummingbird cooperation can be planned. They caught and banded 30 hummers of four species (Ruby-throated, Black-chinned, Lucifer, and Rufous).

Of course, Kelly was heavily involved with managing and instructing the participants.

Here are the tools of the trade. All took turns banding.

Here is Sheri Williamson enjoying the oasis experience.

She took tons of photos that she's hoping will be useful in her second edition.

I would say today's session was part data gathering, part classroom, and part entertainment.

Thursday the remainder of banders will come to do it all over again, but whereas today's group consisted of 20 people, Thursday's group will only be around 12.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Oasis somewhat birdy

A good number of migrants for a fall migration day. Guess there isn't much water at other places in the area. I saw two Belted Kingfishers at the same time but could not get one photo of either of them all day long. So skittish. And I saw three Solitary Sandpipers arrive. When I tried to photograph them, two left immediately, and the third left after my first camera click. So this is all I got. Pretty pathetic!

An Olive-sided Flycatcher was a little more cooperative.

As was this Northern Waterthrush. It sure looks all fattened up for the winter.

Still very little odonate and butterfly activity. Waiting on rain like I am, I guess. Here's a nice specimen of a Saltbush Sootywing, the first I've seen of that species this year.

I did see a [Rhionaeschna] darner today but it didn't land and I couldn't get focused on it in flight. Probably a Blue-eyed, but could have been an Arroyo or Turquoise-tipped. 

Copulating damselflies are easy to zero in on, but when they're as small as these Desert Firetails, I almost never get a sharp photo. Today was no exception.

Kelly Bryan and his group of hummingbird banders managed to band around 200 hummers of 8 species today at his place in the Davis Mountains. They'll be lucky to get four species here tomorrow. And lucky to get 40 hummingbirds total. To be updated with photos tomorrow. Since my help won't be needed, I plan to take pictures. Kind of a vacation within a vacation.

HOLD THE PRESSES! After blogging, around 8 PM, I went out to check things and fill a few hummingbird feeders, getting ready for tomorrow, when I saw a dragonfly going to roost low in a tree. I hurried to the pickup for my cameras. I do not do good photography in near darkness. So with each camera (Canon & Lumix) I tried all the settings, flash, monopod, etc I could think of. My hunch was correct, it was a Spot-winged Glider. Not a new oasis species but one I don't see very often. Pleasant surprise. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Fall hummingbird migration

In West Texas fall is the best time of year to see a large number of hummers and the largest diversity. So that's when the hummer festival and banders convene here. This evening I went to the festival (in Fort Davis) for awhile. Got to visit some more with the participants who visited the oasis Friday and also see Sheri Williamson's excellent presentation on hummingbirds. There was a lot of knowledge crammed into it, which I hope I can retain somewhat.

Previously, I hadn't realized that hummers existed in the Old World (millions of years ago), where they became extinct, but flourish in the Americas. And I had never realized that they thrive best in mountains, and not the rain forests as I had assumed.  I think that's interesting because Lucifer Hummingbirds favor mountain slopes for nesting, and Lucifers are the Christmas Mountains main hummingbird nesting species, although Black-chinneds nest there too.

Above is Sheri starting her presentation. She's the author of an excellent hummingbird guide in the Peterson field guide series. I think she's coming out with an even better second edition.

Kelly, of course, is the backbone of the festival and next week he's hosting about 40 banders. They'll be banding at CMO twice next week. Hope they have a great time. I'll keep you updated.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Davis Mountains Hummingbird Festival weekend

CMO might have set a record today for the number of birders or vehicles there at one time. I was expecting, like, half the 13 vehicles, or I could have done a better job parking them. Some vehicles parked along the road. I didn't count heads, but I'm sure there were between 30-40 hummingbird festival participants at CMO this morning. And anyone who hadn't already seen a Lucifer Hummingbird got their lifer today.

I had to come back to town afterwards. So frustrating, when I went down to CMO Wednesday I forgot my spare camera battery. Then today I came to town, where the battery was, to discover I had left the charger at the oasis. Living in two places can be a pain when you're overwhelmed with so much to remember. 

Also frustrating that 30 miles north of CMO got an inch of rain last night and still none at CMO. Not too long ago 10 miles south got a lot of rain and none at CMO. I just have to believe I'll get at least one good monsoonal rain yet this season. And that will top my tanks off until next year's rainy season.

Sometimes, driving to town I see the herd of oryx at the O2 Ranch. Recently I learned that species is extinct in the wild. so I felt motivated to get a photo of them. Known as the Scimitar-horned or Sahara Oryx, the most interesting thing about them is that in drought they can raise their body temperature by several degrees, up to 116° F, which causes them to conserve water by avoiding sweating.

The herd was so scattered that I couldn't get them all in one photo.