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Saturday, March 28, 2015

First spring banding day

We headed south to band hummingbirds without really knowing what to expect. It turned out good. At CMO, since the ocotillo weren't blooming there yet, the hummers seemed to be dependent on the feeders. By shortly after daylight we had captured 15 hummers. All but two were recaptures (previously banded) and one banded Lucifer female was gravid (with egg). I expect a great crop of "hummerlets" this year.

In the above photo Kelly is taking advantage of natural light to take measurements on one impatient subject. A very delicate operation, for sure. Note blue covers over all feeders except those inside the two traps. That greenery is mallow that I'm allowing to remain for the butterflies. At some point it might become a snake hazard that I'll have to mow or pull out. Always a work in progress. The acanthus bushes haven't greened up yet, nor have the mallows bloomed.

We stopped by Far Flung Outdoor Center to check there for hummers but didn't see any. The flowers there were impressive though. The owners have created a beautiful place there. Flowering vines were everywhere....

I don't know what the vines are. Below are some succulents covering large areas of the ground. I don't know what they are either. (Pictures today via my iphone.)

Far Flung is at a lower elevation and things bloom there before CMO. Also they have lots of employees working on the grounds all the time and plenty of water. I love to see what beauty man can create. Like Gage Gardens in Marathon, or the resort at Lajitas. Or, in its small way, CMO.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A long day

Got up at 5 AM and arrived at CMO before daylight. Did what I could in the dark, then when it got light out I finished filling feeders, then watered a few things before heading back to town to take my husband to the doctor. About a month ago he pulled a muscle in his neck and goes for steroids and whatever. Glad I'm never going to get old. My son is out of town so I had to go get his wife a prescription last night. They know me well at the prescription shop.

I need to go back to CMO and water things thoroughly. This time of year I start watering twice weekly, but I haven't even watered once in the last week. Tomorrow I'll ride down with Kelly to help him band. I've been having birders visit nearly daily, but haven't been able to enjoy sharing the place with them either. At least they're still getting to see the Lucifer Hummingbirds. Soon that'll end when the ocotillo start blooming.

I didn't have time to look for flowers and butterflies. I saw where the javelina (I presume) tried to dig up the seed feeder, but I think I have them thwarted. I hope.

Notice the 3 stakes where they were digging (The center one is like a long bolt and the outer ones are rebar. I scrounge around for whatever I can find).

I hurriedly took photos of two white flowers because I had thought they were both Bicolor Mustard but after looking at similar white flowers posted on West Texas Xeriscape Gardener's facebook page, I question my ID. I'm getting confused now (for the first time ever in my life) and wondering if this first one is Spectacle Pod. 

And this other one I now see is different so I have no idea what it is.

When I get the white flowers sorted out and labeled, I'm going to tackle the yellow ones. There are well over a dozen different species of them. 

Not sure how many purple species, but at least half a dozen. It'll keep my busy, OK overwhelmed, until dragonflies start showing up. Still none yet.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Around Alpine today

Getting restless stuck here in town. Gonna have to head south soon. Prowling around town I enjoyed seeing this cool car at the Sul Ross campus.

In front of the university there's a cactus garden. Not much going on there. I photographed a few of the cacti, but none were blooming. I've forgotten the names of them now. I think this was some type of pincushion cactus.

On our patio the pansies are looking good.

And there are lots of these wildflowers where bluebonnets will soon bloom. They look somewhat like phacelia but I don't know what they are.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Along the highway

Lots of flowers everywhere including between CMO and Alpine. Here are a few I shot along the way. I had the urge to stop more often, but I've learned that I never get where I'm going if I do that. For one thing, I drive slower, really slower, if I'm anticipating stopping. There were lovely Wild Rhubarb / Canaigre Dock (Rumex hymenosepalus) growing near Elephant Mountain.

Endless patches of verbena and mustard. Here's some I think are mustard.

And a few days ago I mentioned the cottonwoods being half-leafed out along Calamity Creek. Stopped and grabbed a photo today. I'm pretty sure these are the AZ cottonwoods (Populus fremontii var. mesetae), which are the most common cottonwood in the county (Brewster). They're nearly fully leafed out now.

 My cottonwood (Eastern) still looks like the last shot of it I posted. But many of my trees are greening up in the last couple of days. I'm getting really exciting about the upcoming spring, summer, and fall.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Trash to treasure

Years ago I sold a piece of land to my brother. He, with the help of my late husband, built a concrete foundation for a cabin there. Then my brother moved away and it sat there until I finally bought the land back from him. I owned the pad whether I wanted it or not. NOT!

I never went up there for various reasons but today I decided to look for wildflowers up high and it was an easier walk up that washed out driveway than bushwhacking. When I got to the pad I thought it would be nice to take a photo of it for posterity. (The emotional memories from there have mellowed through the years.) While looking for the best angle I noticed lots of trash and rotting wood around it. So I walked down the driveway and somehow got my pickup up the steep, gullied drive. As I was loading it full of the trash I turned over an old piece of wood, unearthing this Texas Banded Gecko. I don't recall ever seeing one of those before. It was just as cute as it could be.

Another reason I went up there was to look for a potential Peregrine nest. My sisters and I have been hearing them screaming along the bluff (right side of photo) but so far I've been unable to locate a nest.

When I got back to the house I went online trying to ID the gecko. The only photo that looked like it was from a 1997 article, "Trash Heap Treasures," referenced on someone's blog. It said they frequent trash dumps.But it just called them Banded Geckos and nothing specific. Kelly promptly ID'd it for me. Here's a photo of the mountain I'm monitoring. My sisters call it Turtle Mountain.

I was going to crop off the bottom of the photo but decided to leave it on so you can see my scope set up in the bed of the pickup. I did see a couple of Aoudad on top, and I saw Peregrines aplenty, just not at a nest. They may be courting, or nesting on the other side, or not nesting yet. On April 4th a biology class is going to look for Lucifer Hummingbird nests up that mountain, so hopefully they can find the Peregrine nest.

There are flowers everywhere, of course, what with a record wet year so far, and I can't even begin to ID them.  This one got ID'd by helpful people on a Facebook group. It's Phacelia coerulia. One of the common names I've found for it is Skyblue Scorpionweed or Blue Phacelia.

Oh, almost forgot. My friend, Bonnie Wunderlich took this photo of  Bluebonnets at Big Bend Ranch State Park yesterday. Thank you, Bonnie, for allowing me to share your amazing photo.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Another rainy day

This morning I was real eager to get to CMO, but once I got here it misted, sprinkled, or rained most of the day. That's good,of course, but disappointing when you're wanting to go look for flowers and butterflies and such. There was about an hour break where the sun almost came out. I hurried outdoors into the well-washed air.

W Corazone Peak

Found a few interesting flowers and one Mexican Metalmark before I had to give it up and come indoors.

The above photo was taken with my little Lumix camera because it's hard to climb around on the wet rocky terrain with my big canon. I went and got the canon after taking this photo, but never could find the butterfly again. My goal was to find Rigida Paintbrush. Didn't find any, but found some awesome flowers, including this gorgeous Lyre-leaf Twist Flower. Maybe tomorrow I'll go back with my big camera and try for better shots. It's supposed to be warm and sunny tomorrow. I'm ready.