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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rain is in the forecast

An old-timer birder, Pansy Espy,* always told Kelly Bryan that if you saw a cloud cap on Blue Mountain (between Ft Davis and Davis Mountains Resort) then it was going to rain. Well, we saw it this morning so I'm waiting for it to rain. Of course, I'm sure she didn't mean in the Christmas Mountains, but even the less reliable weather service is forecasting rain. They can't both be wrong can they?

By the looks of all the blooms around Alpine, you'd think it must have gotten lots of rain already, but that hasn't been the case. I can't find any butterflies around town since a little cool front arrived.

The monsoons will arrive, I'm not worried.

*I was sorry to never have met Pansy before she passed away several years ago, but I did spend several months entering the birding data she left behind (those that included dates and locations) into Ebird, so I feel a special bond with her. In her days very few people kept any kind of bird sightings records, so I was glad for what I could glean from hers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fun, fun, fun

Grim reminder of the fires a couple of years ago                                                

Got two lifers at the Davis Mountains Preserve today. Both Cloudywings. Here is the Desert Cloudywing...

And here is the Drusuis Cloudywing. Thank you, Brian for the IDs. Hopefully, I have them right. I didn't find the guide book very helpful on these two similar species.

No one can turn treasure into trash as easily as I can. Less than a week ago a Red Satyr was my treasure. Today I saw so many at the preserve that I couldn't stand to take another photo of one.

I didn't see any noteworthy odonates, but now that I've seen mating Plateau Spreadwings, I can feel that my life is complete.

Here is a shot of the female. To me it doesn't look like the female in the above photo, but what do I know?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Life's coming at me fast

I wore myself out doing the work in the arroyo, so went to bed at 8 PM.....  always a mistake. As happens, I woke up at 3 AM and couldn't get back to sleep. So now I'm really, really tired but trying to stay up until at least 9 PM so I have more chance of sleeping through the night. I'm excited to be going dragonflying with Kelly tomorrow. I'm sure to get lifers, both odes and butterflies.

Banding this morning was a little strange. We started at CMO at 8 AM, on schedule, and my sister and her sons showed up to watch.

Then as they were leaving an hour later, a group of naturalists from the Lower Rio Grande Valley arrived to watch. It was rather like giving a banding presentation twice, back to back. But it was fun. No complaints. Of course, I didn't do anything different. It was Kelly who did the "presentation." He seems to thrive on stuff like that though.

We had the fun of photographing this Neon Skimmer today. 

And this Southern Spreadwing

I saw the skimmer yesterday, but didn't ID it (it didn't perch), and the spreadwing I probably would neither have seen nor ID'd without Kelly. Hopefully, I'll learn these before I develop old age dementia.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fun arroyo work

Got an unexpected day off from banding so decided to do some much neglected pruning and trail maintenance. After pruning along the road and lower arroyo, I decided to rework the overgrown arroyo trail between the upper and middle dam where we found the swampdamsel a week ago today (see July 21st post).

As usual, I forgot to take a before picture, but vegetation was making it hard to walk down the arroyo. Now that I know it can hold treasures, I wanted it to be more accessible, without reducing the vegetation. Not an easy task. I managed to keep the side pruning to a tiny minimum, and only removed two soapberry saplings from the middle of the path. The soapberries on the edge should grow over and benefit from the thinning, and make better shade for the path.

There was a problematic area where a bush had completely grown over the trail and rather than prune it back drastically, I determined to make the path go around it, which meant modifying a rocky slope. Here's the "after," looking east.

With pick and shovel, I removed the higher portion of the rock protrusion. The old path went under the bushes and across the rocks that you see toward the center of the photo. Those are hard bedrock and very difficult to chip away at, but I got enough of it out in the new section of trail that I can live with it, at least until a flood exposes it and I can chip out more.  (That rock was once volcanic slag.)

Below is the view looking west. As I was taking my pick, shovel, water, camera, and binoculars, from the work site, I had to pass the clump of basketgrass you see on the right side of the photo. Just as I came beside it, where the trail is pretty narrow, I heard the dreaded rattle of a rattlesnake. I know when you don't see the snake you should freeze and not move, but I've never been able to achieve that amount of discipline. I hastily launched myself away from the clump of basketgrass.

When I poked the shovel at the grass, the rattler departed, rattling as it went. On the left of the same photo is a soapberry sapling (somewhat larger than the ones I removed) that I was able to leave. You can see where the trail now curves to the right around the brush. It still goes up over that rocky outcrop, but I reduced its height a good 6 inches or more. And on the very left side of the photo, off the frame, is where we saw the swampdamsel. Here's a closeup of where I still need to whittle another 6 inches from the bedrock in the new section of trail.

And lest anyone is curious as to how one gets into the arroyo, here are the two "entrances."

I know the sunflowers are really wilted in the above photo but if it rains they'll perk up.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

You can see what I saw

I love chats. Can't explain why, but they and Bell's Vireos are the two species that feel like indicator species for a healthy riparian Chihuahuan Desert oasis. Chats are so inventive in their calls, and always sound energetic and upbeat. The oasis is replete with them this year, to my great satisfaction.

While traversing a barren area near the oasis I came upon this Globeberry happily clinging to a spindly Catclaw Acacia. Go figure!

Not often do I see a butterfly out in the middle of the water taking a drink.

Or Red Saddlebags mating...

I guess this is a Kiowa Dancer. Not a good photo.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

My computerized world

This is what I saw when I turned on my computer first thing this morning.

Then when I logged onto Facebook, I was met with this.

I guess that's the payback I get for stating the other day that I can't live without modern technology, including my computer. So much for anonymity. On the bright side, I'm the youngest today that I'll ever be for the rest of my life. That's seeing my cup half full. Seeing it half empty, I'm the oldest I've ever been. Hmmm.... 

Enough of that. I managed to get away from the computer and phone long enough to snap a few photos. Here's a better shot of that Perezia Wrightii I posted yesterday. I love it when beautiful flowers bloom that have grown with no help from me.

 I finally got around to photographing where I fell Monday. The slope was wet as I went down with tread-less shoes. At the top of that skid mark you can see the cottonwood tree root that my tail bone landed on. Fast and hard, I might add. It still hurts, too.

I've taken and posted Palmer's Metalmark photos before but I especially like this one the way it has it's wings spread open like illustrations in the book sometimes do.

Talk about emerald eyes, this jewel has them. Too bad the photo isn't sharper. Gotta work on that. There are so many dragonflies around that I'm totally overwhelmed with trying to ID them. Here's an example of one that I have no clue as to what it is. If I had to guess, I'd guess female Swift Setwing.


UPDATE: Kelly thinks that last ode is a female Band-winged Dragonlet. Since I have no idea, I'll go with that.