Click any photo to enlarge

Monday, July 25, 2016

I owe lots of apologies

I just discovered my blog has a spam folder and there were lots of legitimate comments mixed in with the spam ones. Lots of questions I would have been happy to answer if I had received them. So to all of you that waited in vain for my response, my apologies.

Son's store sign is done. Took all day though. Here's when the first side was finished and he's starting on the other side.

I think it was clever to incorporate "twin peaks" into the triangle logo, since Alpine is known for having "twin peaks." Of course I'm his mother and I'm supposed to think he's clever.

Saw a butterfly today that I was hoping was something other than a Variegated Fritillary but after I took pictures of it and checked the field guide, it was a Variegated. Still a very lovely specimen.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Expectations exceeded

My son here in Alpine owns the Triangle Market on the west side of town and he needed a sign. My son from Austin has a sign business. So he made a quick weekend trip to install a sign. They had been planning for this a long time.

My plan was to hang around, take pictures, and make myself helpful. But then I checked my Facebook butterfly group and read that Maryann Eastman had seen two Crimson Patches in Marathon recently. I couldn't stand it so I made an excuse to slip away for a little while. Walking through the gate at Gage Gardens I immediately saw two Crimson Patches. Everywhere I looked I saw some. It was great, but I didn't have enough time to get good photos like I would have liked. They were constantly flying and when they landed, they would close their wings. If I would have had more time, I could have waited them out. But I'm thrilled to get this bonus lifer on a day I expected nothing.

I was surprised to see how much larger they are than Bordered Patches. Really gorgeous!

Tomorrow the sign will get finished and I'll post the after picture. This top photo was early this morning. After Lee worked all day in the bucket (welding and such), Eric got into the bucket to help him finish up wiring the LED lighting before dark.

And that juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, first seen July 11th, was still at our ponds this morning.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Lucky twos!

On this 22nd day of July, I finally got my lifer Hackberry Emperor. He's on page 222 of my Butterfly guide (by Jim Brock & Kenn Kaufman). Total surprise, too. I was rushing around watering some stuff in the garden here in Alpine and filling hummingbird feeders since I'll be at CMO for the next couple of days. Got a glimpse of a yellowish butterfly a couple of times but it didn't land. Around 7 PM, making my last trip outside I saw it land on the trunk of a mulberry tree. I ran inside for my camera just in case it wasn't an Empress Leilia and was able to relocate it perched on a nearby grapevine.

That makes a lifer two days in a row.

Earlier this morning I visited an elderly neighbor in the hospital. She used to be a nurse and after she told me she had a bad night due to hip pain, we got to talking about my hip pain yesterday. She told me I have sciatica, not arthritis, when I described it and showed her where the pain originated. Hip-hip-horray! So much better to have that. That's what my sister had her surgery for. It's a much easier surgery than hip replacement. So, if worst comes to worst, I'll get the surgery. Gonna try to agitate it less. For one thing, I'm always carrying my heavy camera on my left shoulder. Can't carry it on the right shoulder because it's drooped and the strap wouldn't stay on. I guess because of the damage I've wreaked upon the rotator cuff or whatever. No more trail building, and cleaning the tank ever so slowly. Sitting is the most painful thing, so gonna spend less time at the computer and try different cushions, etc. And I'll carry my camera in my right hand and just lay it down when I need to move a hose or something. I've had back pain for 35 yrs ever since my invinsible back was carrying a one inch sheet of plywood. A dust devil came along and whipped it around. I should have just let the plywood go. Bad decision to hang onto it. Ten years ago I was told my back is severely degenerated (MRI). So, at this point, I can't complain.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Adventurous day in Balmorhea

I hadn't gone oding in the Balmorhea area ever before, so wasn't sure what to expect. It was great fun and not disappointing other than I took a tiny misstep and hurt my hip.* The pain was unbearable. Just stepped slightly off-balance due to a small dirt berm alongside the road. I managed to get into my pickup since I was only a few feet away. Then I took ibuprofen and just sat there for awhile. I'm still in pain but managing.

One other "incident," but it was in pursuit of a lifer (well before the hip incident). Totally justifiable. At the San Solomon Cienega in the state park near Balmorhea I was scoping out the canal behind the cienega. The canal is way down a steep bank and I was walking above looking down with binoculars. I saw a lifer ode that I just had to photograph so had to go down the steep bank. My plan was to hang onto a mesquite tree and ease my way down, but the bank was made up of loose rocks and my body just scooted down. The only thing the mesquite accomplished was to scratch my arms. A clump of grass at the edge of the water kept me from sliding into it. The water was about two feet deep, I guess. But I did get my lifer Four-striped Leaftail. Worth all the work!

Another ode that I saw a lot of, but read is supposed to be uncommon, is the Desert Whitetail. I checked with some experts and apparently it's not that uncommon around Balmorhea and other places in West Texas.

This next Eastern Amberwing is a common species. I have them here in Alpine right now, but I almost never see a female, and near Balmorhea Lake today females were abundant. Go figure!

And here's a damselfly that hasn't been identified yet. Possible, Dusky, Sooty, or even Tezpi.

A couple others besides the above one, I sent off to Greg Lasley for IDs. Will update when available. Gotta go rest my hip. Sitting is the most painful.

*What actually happened was I went to step up on the berm made by a road grader with my right foot and didn't put enough energy into the step up, which caused me to lose my balance backwards off the berm. To catch myself and not fall, I landed back with my weight jolting onto my left foot. (Something I have probably done normally since a toddler without ever feeling it.) That's the side with the bad hip. For a few moments I literally couldn't move.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hummingbird banding day

Kelly Bryan banded at the oasis today. We were hoping for more juvenile Lucifers but perhaps due to the 3½ months without rain, and constant triple digit temperatures, nesting may not have been very successful yet. If monsoonal moisture comes, there's still time for another nesting. Here's the only juvenile at my place today, as far as I know. A male with his first gorget feather.

Kelly caught several more at a banding site 3 miles south of the oasis. That location received several rains that just missed me. I don't know if that's the reason, but the thought did occur to me.

Thinking about going oding somewhere tomorrow. If I keep going to the same places, I get the same species, so contemplating places around Balmorhea. Have never oded there.

In town, our Red Bird-of-Paradise is slowing coming along. In a few years it might make a lovely bush.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Traumatic beginning at Lajitas today

All started out according to plan. At 7:30 AM I parked under a cottonwood tree at Lajitas. My favorite spot, and dragonflies were already abundant. What could go wrong?

A cuckoo, that's what. I heard a cuckoo in the tree above me as I was getting my gear in order and all. Thinking I have no cuckoo photos, I grabbed my camera and began scouting in the tree. Oops, better shut the car door so the interior light goes off. Slam. Oops, didn't remember pushing down the lock button. Must have done it automatically when I cracked the window and put my keys in my fanny pack. Except, the fanny pack was still laying on the car seat. Hadn't strapped it on yet. To make matters worse, I had forgotten to turn off the headlights. Stress! The one thing I'm so trying to avoid.

I placed my camera in the bed of the pickup. Normally there would be a wire in there somewhere. But not today. Next I rushed up the hill to the restaurant and explained my problem. A nice man, I think the manager but with my face blindness not sure, offered to get a wire hanger from somewhere. I waited for what seemed like a really long time, then decided to look around for a wire. Luckily I found some on an old ocotillo screen around some equipment and it wasn't even fastened on any longer. Grabbed it and ran back to my pickup.

It was surprisingly easy to hook the clasp on the fanny pack and drag it up to the crack in the window. Got the clasp out the crack with a little maneuvering and with 2 fingers (all I could get into the crack) I unzipped the bag. By then the man arrived with a hanger. I had him hold the strap while I intended to stick a wire into the pouch. But just then I saw a large tag on my keyring and managed to get ahold of it. That's because it was on the top near the zipper. And that's because when I made my trail I had stuffed the pocket full of flagging. It's not a large pocket anyway. So within 30 minutes I had my impossibly locked pickup open. I hugged the guy, whoever he was. He told me he'd leave the coat hanger with me in case I needed it. Huh! Not ever again in my lifetime!

Blue Dasher

I set out to calm myself down with odonates. Of course I promised myself extra time there. Which worked out well because I carried my little red folding stool with me, and sat in promising locations every chance I got. Kept me from getting tired and since I got there earlier than usual, it was nice and cool.

While I didn't get any lifers, I got a chance to get familiar with the species there. That was an important goal of mine. I need to learn at a quick glance what is worth a second look and what isn't. And I'm always carrying that stool from now on. It weighs practically nothing and by carrying it in the open position, when I want to take a picture (camera on shoulder strap), I just drop it in place. Handy to set something on if I need to put my camera down to dig into my fanny pack or something. I'm getting a good system going and even a favorite circuit to walk.

Swift Setwing

I would have loved to go on to Cottonwood Campground afterwards (to see if the Clay-colored Thrush is still there) but know that midday there is no bird activity. It has to be done early morning. Soon, though.

Checkered Setwing

Red-tailed Pennant