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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Wintery weather

Trying to stay upbeat during our first norther of the season. Not easy. Especially when my back is so bad. The doctor called me yesterday with the results of my MRI, but it's not the specialist I'm going to in El Paso. The local doctor said I have "advanced degenerative disc changes." I did a little online research:

"After a patient reaches 60, some level of disc degeneration is a normal finding on an MRI scan, rather than the exception."

I also gathered that discs degenerate worse with dehydration. It's probably safe to say that in the past 40 years that I've lived in the Big Bend, I've been moderately to severely dehydrated half of the time. Oh, well, hindsight and all...

The bottom line is I'll probably just have to manage the pain with medication. Also possible that when I get bad enough the proteins that cause the pain will be used up and my pain will decrease. But the doctor in El Paso probably won't consider surgery an option (as there doesn't appear to be any herniated disc, and probably not a pinched nerve). I'm OK with that. I change what I can, and accept what I can't. It's hard to accept winter though.

I recklessly joined a Lower Rio Grande Valley butterfly group on facebook and now I'm subjected to the torture of seeing daily photos of all the great butterflies showing up there. But in fewer than three months (about 80 days) Lucifers will be buzzing around the oasis feeders. Meanwhile, I have a couple of cold hummers hanging around. This selasphorus in Alpine is probably a Rufous. There are a few Anna's around too but the selasphorus won't let them near the feeders. I don't know how they survive.

Here in Alpine my genius son made a koozie for a feeder. We've been changing out our frozen feeders frequently today. The koozie might help. Can't hurt.

At CMO there are several Anna's besides an Allen's.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Time to blog

Our Alpine ponds this morning

I spend most of my time in Alpine this time of year. Especially since CMO got over an inch of rain (no runoff) a few days ago and I don't need to water.

The doctor in El Paso had to cancel my appointment for yesterday so I went to CMO to check things. Good thing too because the feeders were covered with bees. I think I need to put larger covers on them for better protection from rain. The rain must have come in sideways because even the feeders under the roof had bees. However, I've noticed that when some feeders' internal baffles get overrun with rainwater, bees think all feeders are fair game and swarm them all. So I redid the feeders and came back to town.

My appointment in El Paso is rescheduled for next Tuesday.

Friday, December 2, 2016

About my CMO journals

As you probably know, blogging isn't the only record I keep. I also keep journals. This year I tried a different method of documenting my butterflies and dragonflies. Daily wasn't doable for me, so I tried monthly. That worked out well, although I think weekly would be better. But that would be more than I can handle. So next year I'm going to do the monthly thing again with a few minor tweaks. Here is this year's dragonfly page. They all fit on one page, but it was a bad ode year, and I'm hoping for better next year. So I made the grids closer in order to fit more on a page.

(Yup, forgot the J for January, but added it after this photo was taken)

The butterfly records filled two pages. Toward the middle of the year I realized that page 2 didn't need the first three month of the year because, by the time I get to that page it'll be later in the year. If I haven't seen a species, say until May, I won't need to record it in previous months. So I left those months off on page 2.

Butterflies, 2016, page 1

Butterflies, 2016, page 2

Butterflies 2017, page 1

Butterflies, 2017, page 2

The rest of the journal is full of birds, temperatures, rainfall, tank levels, 
the names of visitors, etc.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Quick visit to CMO

I've been hanging around town doing what I need to do to arrange for a consultation with a back surgeon to see if my back can be fixed. So Monday I'll be getting an MRI and then Tuesday I'll be seeing the surgeon in El Paso. But today I ran down to CMO to water some things and service feeders. I was surprised at how many butterflies were there, but stuff is still blooming and, other than a few trees that have turned gold, everything is still green. Wish I could have stayed longer, but as it was I missed a call from the doctor. Got it straightened out though.

I've known for a long time I have severe degeneration in my back. I think that's pretty normal for my age. But I want to see if I have a herniated disc or pinched nerve that could be fixed. Like my sister did. It's getting so bad I can't put my socks on, or turn over in bed without excruciating pain, etc. I hate to live on pain meds. Ibuprophen helps, but I don't want to have to rely on that unless there's no other options.

The stucco tank was down 2" from when I measured it 6 days ago, so that means it's not leaking. That much is accounted for by evaporation. The previous time when it didn't go down at all for 3 days we probably had cooler, cloudy weather. Supposed to get cold and maybe rain this weekend.

Still quite a few Anna's Hummingbirds and the one Allen's. Soon I'll be getting the place ready for spring migration. Except not sure if I can do anything about the road.

On the way to CMO I listened to NPR (radio) and Michael Powell, the retired biology professor at Sul Ross said the native grasses are the best this year he's seen in the 50 years he's been here. He has a book out on the grasses, one on the cacti, one on the trees and shrubs, and soon his book on the flowers will be out. I can't wait! He also said that Love grass, Buffelgrass, and Bluestem grass are all invasive species here, brought in about a century ago when this land was overgrazed. It helped with erosion, as was the intention, but competes unfavorably with native grasses, which is not good.

I'll keep you updated on my back and all.

Cloudless Sulphur male

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Alpine ducks

As I mentioned awhile back, our seven ducks returned after spending the summer somewhere else. A few days ago they were joined by four more Mexican Ducks. Now today we had a Canvasback show up.

Other than that, not much going on. I was going through flower photos hoping to get some unknowns ID'd with the help of online research, my sister, and a local plant Facebook group. It's tough going though. So many different species. Way worse than birds, butterflies, or dragonflies. And, of course, my photos aren't very adequate for the fine distinctions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Christmas Mountains miracle

When I left the oasis 3 days ago, I measured how far down the water in the stucco tank was from the water inlet pipe. I measured carefully twice so I wouldn't get down here today and be disappointed thinking it had lost more water than it actually had, due to not measuring carefully. Immediately wrote it down. 25½" exactly. No wind moving the water. So today, after being gone exactly 3 days, I measured carefully again. Twice. Then a third time. No wind. 25½" down. It's truly unbelievable!

I had to take lots of pictures of the oasis to remind me how good it can look this time of year. Spring is just around the corner.

I got another happy surprise today. Among the weeds that grow all over the oasis are some weeds that look like poinsettias, except they're always green, called Toothed Spurge, sometimes with tiny splotches of red in them. I never pull them up because they're related to poinsettias, which I love. Well, today my sister and I were walking around and discovered bunches of them and they were red. We'd never seen them red before. Sure feels like Christmas in the Christmas Mountains today.

So I researched it, Euphorbia dentata. I've since been told that the poinsettia relatives do turn red when the weather gets cold. 

Today I hung one of the feeder covers. Tomorrow I'll hang the other. This one is fastened to the top of the pipe so it can't interfere with the banding trap.

A couple of weeks ago I did my annual housecleaning, thinking I'd have company for Thanksgiving, but the kids from Austin had to cancel their visit. The house needed cleaning anyway, but the kids coming always motivates me. Previously, I posted photos of the bedroom area of the living room. Here's the sitting area. Now I can be on my computer and visit at the same time.

I plan to either raise the bed, or get a taller bed frame so I can fit a twin mattress under this double bed. That way when the kids visit, with their growing families, and it's too cold or too hot to sleep upstairs, we can pull out the twin mattress for extra sleeping space. I know, they could sleep at the bunkhouse where there's bunks and all, but they like to stay in the house. More together time. Plus there's no wifi at the bunkhouse.