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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pictures of pictures

Stuck in town today and trying to get rested up. I'm run down and hurting from a fall I took a couple of days ago. Nothing serious, just wearing no-tread shoes going down a wet slope. Landed hard on my tail bone because I was trying to protect my camera instead of myself. Ended up getting the camera muddy anyway, but after I cleaned the mud off it, it was no worse for the wear. Now me, that's another story. So trying to take it easy because tomorrow is a heavy banding day. Growing old isn't for the faint-hearted.

Some nice person who once visited the oasis sent me this cool butterfly book. I think I'll really enjoy it.

I had fun today entering some old dragonfly sightings into the Odonata Central online database. I had half-heartedly set out to do it a couple of years ago, but now that I have a couple of good records, and that rare Cream-tipped Swampdamsel, I had to get serious about doing it. The site had seemed rather user-unfriendly, but now I dove in and mastered it, and even like it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gotta love the damsels

Kelly said I could post some of the odonate photos he took at CMO yesterday, so here are a few. The first is the Cream-tipped Swampdamsel.

Next is a Spot-winged Glider.

And a Double-striped Bluet.

And finally, a female Powdered Dancer.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Exciting new oasis species today

After banding at a couple of places south of the oasis today, Kelly and I came to the oasis to see what was here. At first it didn't seem very promising, but looking is still fun, like a treasure hunt. I decided to go back into the arroyo between the two dams (where the soapberry thicket is) and see if I could find any interesting butterflies. Kelly was photographing some odonates at the big tank.

Soon thereafter, I saw a different looking damselfly with a white looking tip on its tail. I wondered if it was an egg sac or some deformity. Seriously, I can be pretty dumb. Hey, just this morning I was photographing white sacs on this acacia branch (Cottony Cushion Scale, see yesterday's post).

So you see things are not always as they appear to be, and I had abnormal white stuff on my brain. Anyway, I took several photos of the strange damselfly just in case, then got to thinking I should alert Kelly, just in case. I'd feel bad if I left, then later showed him the photos, and it turned out to be something rare that he really wanted to see and photograph. Besides, his photos are perfect and put mine to shame.

So I hollered for him. No answer. I hollered as loud as I could, hoping he didn't leave something awesome and come running for nothing. Or think I was snakebit or something. I don't recall ever hollering for him before. When I was about to give up and leave, I heard him near the arroyo, asking if I was in the arroyo. I told him I was, and shortly he carefully approached, at which time I pointed to the damselflies (I was eyeing a couple others that I couldn't ID too.)

He immediately recognized that the one with the white-looking tail was something unusual, and after he took a few perfect shots of it, he went to get his book and see what it was. I heard an exultant shout a few minutes later, by which time, I was dying to know what it was myself. Here's my pitiful photo of it.

 Only after Kelly told me it was a rare Cream-tipped Swampdamsel, a species only found in the US in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of  TX, did I allow myself to get really excited about it, too. Next, he wanted me to keep my eye on it while he went for his closeup lens, which I did. But when he returned and tried to get closer to the ode, it disappeared, not to reappear.

One reason my damselfly shots are so poor is because I have to shoot on manual focus. My autofocus feature won't focus on such small critters. Kelly's won't either, but apparently his eyesight is better than mine. Not to mention Kelly's superior camera and photographic expertise. Looking through the viewfinder, I can't tell if I have it in sharp focus or not. I'm just glad this first W TX swampdamsel species got good documentation, regardless of who got the best photo of it.

One of the other damsels was a Plateau Spreadwing. Another of my poor shots that I got to compare to his perfect one.

All and all, a fun afternoon.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Back to normal

Whatever normal is. At least the electricity is back on. Every rain-less day that goes by makes me think how lucky I am to have gotten that one rain mid-June. I would be so miserable hauling water right now if not for that one random shower. I'm not under pressure to get my tanks topped off (yet), and still enjoying watering things better than if I felt the need to ration water.

This afternoon I really enjoyed spending a little time sitting beside my wildlife pond watching dragonflies, and absorbing the ambiance. Dragonflies are such awesome creatures. Even other insects are interesting to watch. This is some kind of wasp, I suppose.

There's some weird white stuff hanging from a Catclaw Acacia bush. It was too high up for me to get a better shot at it, plus I was hot and tired so didn't feel like hauling a ladder. Tomorrow I'll try for a better photo, and maybe someone will know what it is. What they're not, are blooms. Maybe moth cocoons, or gall, or something.

There's only one Bell's Vireo nestling left in the nest. I imagine the others fell out. If the nest had been predated, all four would be absent. (See post of July 14)

Weeks fly by and tomorrow starts another round of banding.

UPDATE: That white stuff has been identified as Cottony Cushion Scale.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


I rushed down to CMO yesterday after helping band hummers in the Davis Mountains and finishing up some things I needed to do in Alpine. Got to CMO minutes before the power went out sometime around 4 PM. I was tired, hungry, couldn't water, couldn't cook, couldn't download pictures, couldn't use the phone, couldn't blog or check email. I tell you I was miserable.

It felt akin to what I imagine a claustrophobic panic attack would feel like. Too hot to sleep good. After 12 hours I beat a hasty retreat to Alpine. I'm not prepared for a life minus technology. Not sure I'd even want a life without technology.

Anyway, my sisters collected, and saved, a scorpion that had her back literally covered with babies, that they thought I might enjoy photographing before releasing. (Those are grains of gravel in the container with her. I didn't want them out of the photo bad enough to reach in and remove them.)

And here's an interesting looking bug I saw.

Two to three weeks ago Kelly got word from an Alaskan bander that there were no more Rufous Hummingbirds left in Alaska. They had all departed south. Now they're showing up here in Texas. We banded numerous ones yesterday, and I saw one guarding a feeder at CMO. I think they're about the toughest hummers in the US. Not only do they make the longest migration, but they defend feeders and won't let other hummers feed from them. But I put out plenty of extra feeders for the other species, not to worry.

UPDATE: I found that bug near, or on, this milkweed plant, and I'm thinking it's a Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Finally finishing drying peaches

I have to leave real early to go help band in Ft Davis in the morning but can't go to bed at least til midnight, when hopefully all the peaches will be ready to take out of the dryers. Off and on for two weeks we've been drying peaches and finally today I put the last of them into dryers (we have four). My husband sliced some of the peaches, and when his finger hurt too bad, I took over, then when my shoulder couldn't go anymore, he pitched in. Whew! We'll try to make them last for a year, but no promises. We both love them dried.

Here's a photo that I took at CMO a few days ago and sent to Brian to ID. He declared it a worn Chinati Checkerspot, and the only reason I'm posting it now is because he asked me to. I guess he thinks it's cool seeing how worn they get in their short lives. Beats the dead Pipevine Swallowtail I posted two days ago, though.