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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Fun oasis watering day

I do believe more migrants drop by the oasis when I'm running a sprinkler and a couple of hoses. Friday, I tallied 53 species for the day and I'm sure I missed a bunch. They don't stay long and I'm busy moving hoses, etc. But it spoils me. Then when I water without seeing birds, especially in winter, it's a drag. All worth it though!

Young Bullock's Oriole

Birders have been wanting oasis T-shirts, so I got another batch in. Can be purchased when visiting, if I'm there at the time. Probably not going to order more, but I thought since Dennis Shepler designed them and he passed away not long ago, it'd be a nice tribute to him.

Here's a cool photo that Mike Gray took yesterday of a new yard bird for his place in the Fort Davis area. Sure wish I could take photos like that, but I know my limitations. Not to mention, I can't spend the gazillion dollars on equipment that he does. Such complicated equipment too. 

Cape May Warbler.

I was thrilled to get a Cape May Warbler at the oasis this spring. Fall migration has been good too. Lots of Dickcissels, which is unusual. No summer monsoon at the oasis. Maybe we'll get a fall monsoon. It could happen.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Here and there

I've been enjoying fall migration and weather that's a tad cooler. No rain though. If the oasis doesn't get rain soon, it will be bleak water-rationing to make it through to next summer's rainy season. I really should let a few water-needy trees go. So hard for me to part with them. Mostly referring to the half-dead cottonwood tree. Birds love it so much. But at least the oasis will always have it's specialty species, like Elf Owl, Varied Bunting, Lucifer Hummingbird, etc.

Couldn't resist doing a little birding in Marathon and lots of birding at my ponds here in Alpine too. Here are a few photos I like. Finally getting better with the camera. This Swainson's Thrush here in Alpine doesn't have a tail. It hung around for 2 or 3 days.

Next is a Blue-headed Vireo captured on the game camera at the oasis. Alas, I didn't see it, so can't count it on ebird, or as a lifer, but it is a new oasis species.

Got lucky on this Nashville Warbler shot in Alpine. They're hard for me to photograph, especially considering I was so far away from the bird. Too far away to see what it was until I looked through the camera lens.

On the other hand, this Black-and-White Warbler was much less evasive. Even saw one in Marathon, the oasis, and in Alpine.

The nice thing about fall migration is that it drags on for a month or two, unlike spring migration that only lasts two weeks. So it's not over yet, and maybe, just maybe, we'll have another awesome winter of birding like we had last winter.

One month from today I'm scheduled to get my new implants put in. I surely hope nothing prevents that from happening.


Thursday, September 7, 2023

Not enough time

This morning I was to meet with the phone company about the mess they left on the road. I told my husband after that, I'd bird a bit and when it got hot, I'd come back to town, around 2 PM. 

I spent more time with the road situation than planned, plus had to service and wash feeders. So when I finally sat down to enjoy birds, time flew. At 2 PM I called my husband and told him I was running late and would be back by 4 PM. That only left me 30 more minutes to watch birds. And wouldn't you know, it was very birdy. I snapped as many photos as I could before reluctantly heading back to town. Wish I had just planned to spend the day. Usually, birding slows down around noon, but with it being migration, triple digit heat, and a tree loaded with pistachio berries, it was crazy!  I enjoyed what time I could and took a few nice photos. Finally getting the hang of my new-again camera.

I'll go back Sunday and spend the day watering and leisurely birding. As leisurely as possible while rushing around moving hoses, of course. It'll still be sweltering weather, so the running water should bring in birds.

Warbling Vireo

Empidonax flycatcher

Townsend's Warbler

As for the road mess, I'm satisfied they'll do everything they can to make it right. We'll see...

Out of curiosity, I asked if anyone else complained about their roads. They must have buried cable throughout about a thousand miles of Terlingua Ranch roads. They said, "no," all the other roads had "windrows" along them before they did their project. Well, mine didn't. I hate those ugly rows of rocks and dirt a grader leaves, so I never tolerated them. If I was 20 years younger, I would just rake them away and pick up the rocks, but I'm no longer able to. Once it rains on that stuff it's not rake-able. And rain is forecast for later next week. (I imagine none of the other property owners on Terlingua Ranch get nearly daily emails saying how lovely their place is either.) Maybe I'm being too picky. I've made up my mind that after they do their re-manicuring, I'll just accept however it turns out. At least it's not on roads that birders traverse. Unless they get turned around and head out the wrong way. I hardly use that road anymore myself. I guess it's just knowing there's ugliness on my land. To be sure, there are a couple of ugly places* on my land that nothing can be done about it. I have to accept what I can't change.

* In 1979, a couple of years after I bought my property, a pair of miners told me they had mineral rights on the mountain to the south of CMO (Williams Mountain), and brought in equipment across my land, then cut roads across the pristine face of the mountain. I protested and demanded a survey. Ultimately, they packed up in the night and left. The surveyor told me I now owned a fluorspar mine. So that ugly scar is there forever. I removed as much of their debris as possible and had my late husband dig a pit and bury some of it, including a bus they had their workers stay in. In hindsight, I should never have let them enter my land. I didn't know any better in those days. And back then it was really difficult being a woman in a man's world. For me, anyway.

Then when I was building a road to my property at the end of Snake Road, I had it flagged where I wanted it to go. While I was busy building my house and getting supplies etc., my dad decided he knew better where the road should go so he dug  part of a switchback across the top of the big hill. I stopped it as soon as I saw it, but that's another blight on the landscape. 

And the huge boulders we dynamited from the top of the hill so the road wouldn't be so steep are still an eyesore. Getting the concrete on the big hill took priority to getting those gone, but I still have hopes that an opportunity to fix that situation will happen. Originally, we removed the big boulders, but through the years more have eroded off the edge of the cut into the hill we made. Not giving up on that. Just so much work piling up all the time, that it gets moved to the far back burner. 

These rocks were removed in 2017, but more have fallen in their place.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Beauty and ugliness

I've spent over 45 years protecting and beautifying my land. It's an endlessly wearying battle. Went down today to discover the crew that buried the new fiber optics cable had left an ugly mess. Of course I complained and will be meeting with them Thursday. Not sure how fixable it even is.

Here's where they destroyed my lovely rock and concrete low water crossing. Wish I had a before photo. It never occurred to me that I might need one, unfortunately. Makes me really sad.

I've always kept my roads as manicured as possible and never would have tolerated ugliness like this alongside them.* I cleaned up a bunch of rocks and brush near the guesthouse this morning, then raked as best I could, but I'm physically no longer able to clean up such messes. Maddening.

They came in my east gate, not via Snake Road, so it's not an area birders normally see, but to have that ugliness on my property is distressing.

On a brighter side, the rain two weeks ago has left blooms and beauty everywhere else. (Big Bend Silverleaf, Senna wizleni, and beebrush)

The oasis is almost overwhelmingly fragrant. I water this Texas Sage all the time, but it refuses to bloom until it rains.

My Trifoliate Orange at the oasis bloomed for the first time ever. (Some of you may remember way back when I planted my little "citruseria" in March of 2016.)

Summer rainy season is almost over, without the oasis tanks being filled. Just gotta hope we get some fall rains.

Fall migration is underway. Here are a couple of oasis migrants.

Rufous Hummingbird by Amy Boyd

Plumbeous Vireo, I think. (photo by me)

I've noticed I haven't been getting comments on this blog since I set it to moderation. Is it not allowing comments?

UPDATE: Thanks all for your patience! I found the problem and fixed it. It was as simple as going into settings and clicking on "email comment approval requests." I won't miss them now. So sorry.


*There are some ugly gigantic boulders near the road at the top of the big hill. I've done the best I can with them through the years, but it is an ugly spot. Dynamiting into the hill to make a road that wasn't impossibly steep is the cause. It was the only way to have a road through there. Even so, the steepness required me to have concrete put on it so cars could make it up. The price we have to pay. The ugliness on the other road is not a necessary evil.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Reunited with my camera

I got my like-new camera back from the repair shop in California. My number one priority every time I touch it is going to be its safety. 

Still struggling with it. I used the back up Lumix just long enough to where I forget which dials, knobs and levers I need to do on the Sony. In the confusion, I am either too late for a photo, or take a bad one. I'll get the re-hang of it.

Yesterday my son and I went to the oasis. He decided there was enough water in the dirt tank to pay to pump. It took all day and wore us both out, but the 18" of water it added to the stucco tank might be the difference between the oasis making it until the next monsoon. Which may or may not happen before next summer.

The Chinese Pistachio berries are starting to ripen, so migrants are beginning to show up. Of course mockingbirds are patrolling the tree, trying to keep the berries for themselves.

So much maintenance needs doing at the oasis that it quite overwhelms my son. The place needs full-time care. Don't know when that's going to happen, but he's making progress in that direction.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Saga of rescuing and being rescued

I arrived at the oasis around 7 AM. Rain gauge said 2.33," but it was a slow soaking rain, almost no runoff. There was a little in the upper settling pond and the upper dirt tank was full. I'm not able to wrestle with the big gas pump in the dirt tank, so hoping for more rain soon to fill the tanks. Meanwhile. I set up an electric pump in the settling pond to at least get that. Took about an hour.

While it was pumping I went to my quarters to eat brunch. Soon a birder came up to the door, informing me he had gotten stuck on Snake Road and walked in. I found out later that he had called his wife (from my wifi) and told her their car was stuck near the oasis.

As I was loading a chain into my pickup to go pull him out, I noticed I had a tire that was almost flat. Couldn't get the air compressor to work and my little portable one from my pickup didn't work either. The birder said he had one in his car. So, with 7 lbs of air pressure in my tire, we drove the two miles to his car. After airing up my tire, I easily pulled him out. (I'm ordering a new compressor today.)

No more I could do at the oasis, other than watch birds, so I decided to go back to town. Everywhere is an oasis right now, and you know what that means... dispersed birds, not concentrated at the oasis.

In town I just got unpacked when my sister called. Seems that when the stuck birder's wife couldn't reach him, she called the sheriff, who went to the oasis looking for him. Finding no one there, the sheriff stopped at my sister's to make inquiries. She knew nothing, but figured I might know. So she put the sheriff on the phone and hopefully we got things cleared up. Apparently birder's phone pinged off a tower in Mexico. Not my area of expertise, but I know that he followed me to Alpine, so there you have it. 

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Hummingbird festival, day four


Today was day four of the festival. Even though I had watered Thursday, I didn't want to come to town  without watering. It's been so hot, and even though rain is forecast for this week, can't chance it. So once again festival participants were navigating my hoses. But I just did a light 3 hour watering instead of the full 5  hours. I'm sure it's going to rain this week.

Here's a cool photo a participant took Friday (while I was uselessly in town).

Olive-sided Flycatcher by Melissa Weaver

I didn't take many photos today. Can't stand my camera, and no real interesting birds. I saw a female Lucifer hanging around the cholla patch, but could find no nest. It's so dense. Almost impossible to get in there to look. Right now Lucifers are doing their final nesting for the year and they do nest in cholla, which is why I planted it. But I really, really did my best to locate a nest, to no avail. Not giving up. Next time I'm down there alone I'll sit quietly and hang around more than I was able to do today, what with watering and helping birders. I don't water the cholla so it's got a lot of dead stuff on it. Hoping for good rains to perk it up.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Hummingbird festival, day three

I think the festival is going well. Everyone seems to be having a great time. For Day Two I decided to go to Alpine and help the group going to Johnson Ponds find Calliope Hummingbirds and whatever else interesting might show up. That didn't work out too well. I saw two male Calliopes before the group arrived around 10 AM. Couldn't locate one while they were there to save my soul. Later on in the day, a female showed up. No other interesting species were around. So my presence was not helpful. (Someone took this photo of me, unbeknownst to me, and sent it to me.)

Meanwhile, at the oasis yesterday, without me there, the group that visited didn't get to see the Crissal Thrasher.  I'm not sure how many species they saw. The leader didn't do an ebird report. One yesterday's participant reported 19 species. Compare that to the 37 the previous day (per trip leader) and 34 today (per trip leader). I saw more than those numbers because I was present a couple hours before they arrived and after they left. I made sure everyone got to see the Crissal, though. And I'll be here tomorrow for more of the same. Or hopefully, better.

A Killdeer was here when the group arrived, so I got them on it before it departed.

And I think most everyone got to see this lovely Western Tanager.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Hummingbird festival, day one

I had a lot of juggling to do, but got it done. Went to the oasis yesterday afternoon, then watered today while group one visited. I hated to water with people here, but since groups will be here for four days and I wanted to be in town at my habitat there for tomorrow's group to it, I made the choice. Actually, watering brings in more birds, I think. Just hate having hoses strung out everywhere. Now that's done, I can enjoy the rest of the festival.

Birding was good. A couple species we should have gotten didn't show (Varied Bunting and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher), but every participant got to see the Crissal Thrasher. That was a lifer for some. Six hummingbird species were seen.  A Diamond-backed rattler showed up for the party.

The group was off chasing a potential Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, so fortunately I'm the only one that saw it. Surprised to see it out in the sun when it was 88° in the shade. I could've stepped on it, if I hadn't seen it.

I sent my Sony RX10 M3 off to repair. It's costing $677 which is about what I paid for it used four years ago, but I'm assured it'll be like new when I get it back and I don't know of a better camera for the money. I'm not happy with my Lumix but will have to tolerate it for another ten days, more or less. I'm going to really be careful with the Sony, now that I've learned I'm capable of breaking a camera.

One festival participant showed up today in a CMO t-shirt. I've resolved to order more of them. Haven't had any to sell for a long time.

Barbara Pankratz

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Difficult but good day

Yesterday morning I left Alpine around 6 AM to go water and service feeders at the oasis. About fives miles from town I discovered I didn't have my cell phone, so went back and retrieved it. I wasn't in a huge hurry, since I had planned to spend the night at the oasis, and spread watering out over two days, leaving lots of time to enjoy migration. 

Along Snake Road the phone company had finally finished burying the new cable, and a small shower the day before had somewhat helped settle the dust bowl they had left. So I poked along, stopping frequently to rake and pick stray rocks off the road. Then I headed straight to the oasis to check feeders and see what interesting migrants were around. No big hurry.

Making my usual initial inspection, I soon discovered that something had overturned three chairs and broken a cast iron chair to pieces. One chair leg was off, one arm was off, and when I picked it up another leg fell off. The back was broken in two places.

Since it happened near the back water drip, I took the card out of the camera hoping to determine the culprit. When I got up to my quarters with the card, I discovered no internet service. That meant rushing through watering, in what was left of the day, and getting back to town. With a very late start (11 AM), it was going to be grueling. No brunch to be followed by a nap. (I can either digest food or work hard, but not both at the same time.)

All I could find on the card was a bunch of javelina. Best I can figure is one accidentally got a tusk caught in the chair and thrashed around, flinging the chair ten feet or so away. Or a possibility that a birder moved the chair over closer to the water drip for better photos and a javelina tangled in it there. Either way, doesn't matter. It can be welded, and in the future, I'll put the cast iron chairs in an area that javelina don't frequent. (Birders are welcome to move chairs around.)

The temperature quickly climbed to its high of 107,° which was made worse by humidity higher than I'm used to. And my foot, which had been almost better, I had thought, was hurting real bad. I had no choice but to painfully limp around all day. I must have re-injured it, but no idea how.

The good news is my inflamed lymph node is getting well, and my Hep C lab work shows I'm totally cured of that! I was confident I would be, since the cure rate is almost 100%, and I had done everything exactly as prescribed, but nice knowing for sure. It's official.

Not much time for birdwatching, although the place was very birdy. Here are a couple of pics from the day. Since my good camera is off to repair, I'm not happy with any of my photos. Documentary only.

Male Lark Bunting beginning winter plumage

Willow Flycatcher

Crissal Thrasher

I was too exhausted to blog when I finally got back to town, but this morning, I'm none the worse for the wear.

By the way, I set my blog so comments have to be approved by me. Don't let that stop you from commenting. I was just getting too much spam garbage. I remove it as soon as I see it, but hard to stay on top of. 


Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Camera headaches

My wonderful Sony fell off the dining room table onto the thickly carpeted floor. Since then, the screen is black, even though it turns on and zooms normally. I'd like to get it fixed, but fear it might cost more than it's worth. And I needed a camera immediately. I had my old Lumix as a backup, so am using that, but can't be without a backup. That would be like being without oxygen if the Lumix were to break. LOL I don't understand cameras. Would surely take better photos if I did. The Sony's value is three times what the Lumix is, or the new Canon Powershot I just ordered.

All three cameras have around 20 megapixels, and good zoom capabilities, so I don't know why the Sony is so much better. I was told by a friend it has a superior sensor. It's for sure heavier. Anyway, I can't justify spending over $500 for a camera that I'm sure to break before too long. (I got the Sony from a friend for half-price.) Taking photos is one of my great pleasures in life, so I can't stand not carrying one around all the time for fear I'll miss a great shot. I know many photographers that use two or more cameras simultaneously. I probably should have kept my heavy wonderful Canon Rebel just for special photos and carried a light bridge camera for documentation, but I'm always trying to simplify life. And it never happens. The effort usually ends up making life more complicated. LOL

"All the time" means while working, pumping, pruning, weed-eating, everything. Which is why I buy only used cameras. I'm hoping the Canon Powershot SX70 will be superior to the Sony RX10M3 and easier to learn. Ironically, it has been 3 years since I used my Lumix so I totally forgot how. I'm struggling to get a handle on it. And in a few days I'll pack it back up and struggle to learn the Canon. I'm so challenged on cameras, but I had finally gotten "literate" on the Sony. I don't think the Canon will be all that difficult to learn. My concern is, for the most part, if it'll take quality distance shots.  

Here are a couple of my better Lumix shots from today in Alpine. Since I take them through the bedroom window where feeders are just a few feet away, it's not a problem. Having lots of trouble with the focus though. Finally, just set it to manual focus and left it. I'm just grateful to have a camera at all right now.

At least five Calliope Hummingbirds here I suspect. And at least five species of hummers. Still on the lookout for a Costa's.

This excessive heat is very stressful for early migrants. Many aren't surviving. My sister had this exhausted Virginia's Warbler drop in at her place. I guess it couldn't quite manage another mile to reach the oasis, even though the oasis was surely within its sights. She gave it water and it left after a few hours. I'm hoping to find it on my trail cam when I get to the oasis.

I speculate that with global warming, as early migrants perish, later migrants will have the reproduction advantage and eventually migration will evolve to later in the year.


UPDATE: I finally figured out the camera differences. Too late. My Canon will arrive any day now. It's in the sensor size. I thought they all had one inch sensors, but not. Only the Sony did. I'm so stupid! I won't like the Canon any better than my Lumix. What to do.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Looking at myself

It's 3 AM. An 83 year old woman feels her way down the darkened hallway, not daring to open her dried out eyes until she puts drops in them. But first, she has to get to the toilet lest she wet her pants. She limps slightly. Has been for months now. Nothing unusual about this night, except her head hurts. Headaches are scary. She had endured debilitating migraines for thirty years, until discovering the cause was msg. That was fifteen years ago. So had she inadvertently ingested msg the day before, or was this just a headache from dehydration? After all, she had overworked herself the last two days without her needed naps. And it had been 109° when she had watered her trees the day before yesterday. 

Her arm is throbbing in pain. An inflamed lymph node that would have to be dealt with if it didn't get better on its own soon. But the headache is what has her attention. She almost never takes anything, but decides to take an ibuprofen. If the headache is from msg, the ibuprofen won't help. She wants to know. And relief from all her aches and pains might help her eventually get back to sleep. Sleep would be unlikely for a while, she fears. So, meantime, she'll blog about the hummingbirds she saw the day before. Migration is going at full speed. She finds it exciting!

She had spent hours yesterday looking out the windows, snapping dozens of photos of various species.

She had counted at least five species. Some had been hard to identify. Like this one. She had consulted expert Kelly Bryan to be sure it was a Broad-tailed. Too bad she hadn't gotten a better photo of it. 

Then she recalls the excitement of picking out a Lucifer in the swarm of Black-chinneds. A common species at the oasis, but rare for Alpine. She thinks it's a juvenile male.

She badly wants to get a Costa's before the hummingbird festival brings groups to her places in less than two weeks. Her headache is gone now. Maybe she can get back to sleep. It's 4 AM.

But first she wants to show you a couple more hummingbird photos she took yesterday. There had been at least three tiny Calliopes. Always such a treat!



The Bird-of-Paradise is starting to bloom. She visualizes it looking wonderful for the festival. And observes how hummers can't resist it.

It's 5 AM. As the old lady heads back to bed, she wonders how the feeders at the oasis are faring. She barely notices her mild tremor or ringing ears. Just grateful her headache is gone.


Update: Kelly said he thinks my "Lucifer" in Alpine is actually a hybrid Lucifer and Black-chinned.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Where rainbows wait for rain

Maybe the wait is nearly over. Yesterday I saw a rainbow to the east of the oasis.

And today we got a nice shower in Alpine. This afternoon my sister took this next photo from her place looking south toward the oasis. She's a mile north of the oasis. If you look carefully, you can see the concrete strip ascending the "big hill" (north of the oasis) in the center of the photo and the tip of Williams Mountain to the south of the oasis just peeking over the big hill..

Almost nothing but sprinkles for the last two months during record breaking heat. Fortunately, rain in May enabled me to keep the oasis watered. Not real lush, but a sufficient haven for birds. Berries are ripening, so I'm hoping for a great fall migration.

Texas Persimmon

Chinese Pistachio

A few days ago I had a Calliope Hummingbird in Alpine, then later I saw one with a damaged eye. Maybe the same one. The hordes of Black-chinneds are vicious. Maybe not the same bird. This time of year Calliopes migrate through.

July 27

July 29

When my sister read that I put one of the square potholders she made into my hat, she immediately made me a round one. Pretty spiffy, if I do say so myself!  I'm sure there's not another like it in the world. (The edges were wearing thin after I washed it in the machine (won't do that again), so I covered it with a strip of material.) I try buying new hats but haven't found one I like yet.