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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

El Paso by proxy

This morning I had an email from a blog follower in El Paso with photos of a Blue-throated Hummingbird that he wanted ID confirmation on.  I told him it looked like one to me (from his not so great photos), but just to be totally sure, and not knowing if that was a rarity for El Paso, I consulted with Kelly. Seems El Paso didn't have documentation of that species, so Kelly contacted the experts in El Paso, including Barry Zimmer. Zimmer went and photographed it late this afternoon. Good thing that species isn't a lifer for me because I could not justify driving to El Paso to see it. So I enjoyed the sighting vicariously, as well as with Barry's wonderful photos. Here's my favorite.

Photo by Barry Zimmer

A week ago I went to Marathon and took this picture with my cell phone at Gage Gardens and forgot it was on my phone since I hardly every use it. But I had wanted to post it, so better late than never.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lajitas or bust

Had more energy yesterday, and still more today, so I determined to go check out the odonates at Lajitas. I figure for every ten I see, there are a hundred I don't see, but ten is a ten in my book.

It's the time of year for the annual Chili Cook-off. Most locals pointedly avoid leaving their homes during the cookoff (to be held this weekend west of Terlingua Ghost Town). I went once years ago, and never again. This is the 25th year for it. Already a trailer town is growing. And that doesn't count the tent village.

I had previously been told about Lajitas cutting down a bunch of pine trees that were blocking the "view," so it wasn't a surprise. I was surprised at the bat houses, though. Go figure!

I have told all the management and CEOs that a birding habitat would generate more income than the golf course, by replacing the turf with trees, and no more water usage. I've done all I can do. Lajitas could be a world birding center, but apparently this will happen only in my dreams. 

While servicing my feeders at the oasis before leaving this morning, I noticed the feeder that this Red Admiral was feeding from yesterday was very soured. I'm thinking that's what attracted him to it. This morning he didn't visit any of the feeders, maybe because they were filled with fresh solution. But I can't let them get sour. It attracts nasty black flies and makes them terribly difficult to clean. Probably not good for the hummers either.

I've been trying my best to get diagnostic photos of amberwings, both at the oasis and again at Lajitas. Hopefully, a couple I took there today will be good enough to identify at least one as Mexican Amberwing. I don't think that species has been documented at Lajitas before. Here's one of my better ones.

I need to use fill flash to reveal the shadowed part but I'm technologically challenged on things like external flash, etc. In this case, the color and pattern of the thorax is diagnostic. Too bad it's in shadow on my photos.

I took pics of one at the oasis a couple of days ago that couldn't be confirmed, but I have already documented that species there, you may recall, so no big deal, although it would have been nice.

Also at Lajitas I saw hundreds of checkerspots that I thought were Chinatis until I checked my book. They're Theona Checkerspots. Here's one on its host plant cenizo, which is abundant around Lajitas.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The oasis-at-large

The phrase "community-at-large" drives me crazy. I can't really find a good definition of it. If it means community in general, why don't they just say that? The general community, or something. So I got to thinking, what if I said "the oasis at large?" (hyphenated or not, is also unclear) What would I mean by that? The oasis in general?

I'd rather move on to my Cyna story. Cyna Blue is a tiny Mexican species that wanders north into this area. I found them last year and this year in Alpine, even posted evidence that they breed in Alpine (post of Oct 24), but until today, try as I might, I couldn't find one at the oasis. So, after carrying my camera around while watering trees, and seeing nothing of interest, I put the camera down.... somewhere in the oasis-at-large. AND my sister,* who I frequently stop by and visit on my way to or from the oasis, seldom ventures up the bad road to my place unless I need her to check on something when I'm gone, or whatever.

Today, she came up for something while I was here, which was a treat for me. We love to walk around and discuss the wildflowers. She knows them better than I do. No sooner had she arrived (I had turned off the faucet anticipating a fun visit) than I spied a little butterfly that could be a potential Cyna. I asked her to keep her eye on it while I ran for my camera. Then I spent the rest of her visit totally focused on the butterfly. Gotta do what I gotta do. Good thing we're understanding sisters.

I never did get a good photo of it, but good enough that Brian could confirm it was a Cyna. I have plenty of good Cyna shots, just none from the oasis before today.

Neither of us could remember the name of the common flower it was feeding on.

Most of the ripe acorns are gone from the trees. The Western Scrub-Jay is still feasting on them. I was happy to notice that one small Live Oak tree still has a lot of green acorns on it, so I can look forward to the jay's continued presence. Maybe if you click on this photo you can locate a bunch of the green acorns.


* Andrea Ohl, a year younger than I, is an archaeologist for the Center for Big Bend Studies in Alpine. We were raised like twins. For the past 20 years, in her free time, she has been building her awesome unique home one mile north of the oasis. Like me, her body won't let her do all that she wants to do anymore, but her house is nearly completed. She hopes to focus on landscaping with wildflowers after that. On November 7th she'll be giving a presentation on stone tools at the annual CBBS conference.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Waiting for energy to return

Coming south from Alpine this morning the highway was littered with bicyclists and their accompanying vehicle entourages. It was like an obstacle course. All I could think of was if they used all that energy working on my road what a lovely road it would be. Oh, well. Maybe November will be warm and lovely making winter not so long. And hopefully my health won't fall apart anytime soon. I've just dragged around lately with no energy. Hope that ends soon.

I stopped to hang my newly repainted sign coming onto my property.

Then coming within sight of the oasis, I was pleased to see how green and lush it still is in late October.

I don't often see butterflies nectaring at the hummingbird feeders, but maybe this Red Admiral managed to get his head inside the port and reach the sugar water.

This Empress Leilia wasn't as successful. The type feeders I use (Dr JBs) have internal baffles to prevent bees from reaching the solution, which probably hinders most butterflies too.

Nothing sweet on my camera lens either. I hope.

Empress Leilia

The red lantana I planted this summer sure looks happy.

I planted a third Woolly Butterfly bush today. The first two didn't make it. I'm determined to keep the new one from freezing this winter. That species grows wild down by my sister's place. I don't see why I 'm having such a hard time with it. Sorry, forgot to take a photo.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Trying to make every minute count

I feel the weight of impending winter. The next four months are the months I dislike  hate the most.

My replacement camera body arrived, so I took it for a test drive today. I love it. It's the exact same as my other camera body. (Did not want a learning curve.) Even though I bought it used, it seems like new and looks new. My son is going to send me a 210mm lens that hopefully will let me get closer to odes and butterflies, then I will be all set. With backup.

Season for butterflies and odes seems to be winding down although I see lots of them mating. Guess they have a plan to make it through the winter. Or their progeny. Here are a pair of Cyna Blues, although I already assumed they were breeding in Alpine. Haven't had them at CMO yet. They were so intent on their activity that when I got up close to remove the pesky grass shadowing this photo, they didn't flush.

So I got a much more satisfactory shot of the...  inaction.

Cloudless Sulphur female
Here are a couple of skippers. They never cease to confuse me and I always have to ask Brian what they are.

Fiery Skipper

Sachem Skipper
Orange Skipperling
All the above taken today with my "new" camera. It passed the test. Going to go to CMO tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll get some work done, and take some fun pictures while there.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Not ready yet

I'll never be ready for winter. You can forget that. But I thought I was well enough to go on a little adventure to Marathon. I hadn't used my inhaler for days; had breathed fine all night long. But as soon as I got out at the Post Park, it felt like a vise grabbed my chest. Hadn't even occurred to me to take the inhaler with me. Having driven all that way, and having been cooped up in the house way too long (anything over 30 minutes is too long), I toughed it out. Didn't stay long. Thought the manicured Gage Gardens inside town would maybe be better. Fewer weeds. It was only slightly better. But all so worth it! Just as I was heading back to the car, I spotted a stupendously gorgeous butterfly.

Whenever I see a species I haven't seen before, some name pops into my head, right or wrong. The name that popped into my head on this one was Palamedes. Never seen one. That's just what my brain's computer spit out. Based, I guess, on my subconscious absorption of photos in my guides. On the way back to Alpine I opened my butterfly app. It's not very good, especially at 70 miles an hour, but from what I could tell, it looked like a "Desert" form of Black Swallowtail. No idea of what its range is, but figured it was not that unusual. When I got to Alpine and downloaded my photos, I still wasn't sure. Didn't look like the Desert, either. And way out of range.

Determined to figure it out without Brian's help, I searched online and in my book. Nothing matched exactly, but Anise Swallowtail looked like the best fit. Way out of range for that species, too. Hmm...  Seemed I would have to consult Brian, after all. 

He says it's a rare form of Black Swallowtail called "pseudoamericus." I would never have figured that out. It's not in my butterfly book either. So that was pretty exciting!

Everything else from today certainly pales in comparison. This lovely little flower was out in a grassy area all by itself. I'm told it's called "Devil's Bouquet." (Nyctaginia capitata)

I saw more Black Swallowtails today than I've ever seen at one time before. Here's a lovely specimen from the same place today that shows how I expect a Black Swallowtail to look.

While I was disappointed I couldn't ID the "pseudoamericus" by myself, it was perfectly understandable to me why I couldn't. But I really was irritated at myself for not identifying these Autumn Meadowhawks without help. I should have gotten it, but didn't.

And I love the pink blush on this Southern Dogface. Not that a name like that isn't worthy of a blush.