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Friday, May 28, 2010

Lucifer with nesting material

Here is a female Lucifer Hummingbird.

The next photo op caught me totally by surprise. The camera settings were wrong, the light was wrong, the background was not what I would have chosen, but I couldn't pass up the chance to document a Lucifer gathering nesting material.

She jabbed  in and out of there like the needle on a sewing machine.

Some serious wing and tail action was called for here, but she left with a big wad of cotton. Now if I could just find the nest!!

Tank photos update

I was surprised to discover that the huisache tree (pictured in my previous post) by the wildlife pond fell over into the pond, or part of it did anyway. I quickly pruned another part of it to prevent the same thing from happening to it. It was tilted badly and I didn't have help to prop it up or I might have tried that first. Speaking of help, I sure could use some. If you, or someone you know, would like to camp here for a month or forever and help me with light work in return for living in paradise, let me know. It would have to be someone financially secure with a travel trailer or motorhome. I can't afford to pay anyone, but I'll be seventy next month and I just can't keep doing all this by myself.

This next photo shows how the water at the lower dam has seeped underneath the dam to where you can see some of the persimmon tree trunk. See photo in previous post.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

CMO tanks full

CMO received nearly an inch of rain last night so all tanks are full. 

I run water into this "cienega" whenever I have extra, like today.

This concreted tank is the largest, now with 9 feet of water in it.

This stuccoed tank is a little smaller and leaks so I use it first for watering my oasis.

This "lower" dirt tank holds water almost as good as the stucco tank. When the stucco tank gets low I pump what water is left in this dirt tank into the stucco tank. There's an "upper" dirt tank (not pictured) that I can pump into this to replenish it, but the upper one leaks out in a week or two,  so I try to empty is as soon as possible. Meanwhile I planted some native trees around it that thrive. Keep in mind that all this is at 4000' elevation, high in the Christmas Mountains, not along the Rio Grande River somewhere.

This pond isn't used for anything except wildlife. No water goes over my diversion dams until all my tanks are full. A few days ago a Sora foraged among the reeds in this pond. (See a picture of the Sora in a previous post). The three diversion dams have water backed up all along the drainage so a wonderful habitat is developing there as well. Mostly hackberries, soapberries, desert willow, acacias, juniper, sumac, persimmons, and stuff like that.

This is the lower dam where the runoff heads into a large canyon and off my property. I don't have a pump installed there anymore so I was concerned that the persimmon trees would die standing in 6 feet of water, but they continue to thrive. You can barely make them out on the left edge of the dam. Their trunks are totally submerged, but I've learned not to stress about it. They didn't grow there until the dam was built about 14 years ago.  The water will clear up in a few days, but then there'll be a mosquito issue. Since the gambusias (mosquito fish) are in my tanks and escape into the arroyo during heavy rains, they'll eventually multiply enough to take care of the problem, but for a week or so mosquitoes will be annoying, to say the least.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Woodpeckers, Varied Bunting, Lucifer Hummingbird

We got nearly half an inch of rain and a little hail after dark today. My tanks are all brimful .Tomorrow I'll post photos of my full tanks. I took the following photos before the storm and before dark today.

Both the male and female Ladder-backed Woodpeckers were busy feeding their nestlings.


By the looks of the enormous quantity of food they deliver every few minutes, there must be a large brood inside. The male really loads the grocery cart.

male Varied Bunting

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bell's Vireo nest-building

It's so funny to watch her frantically stuffing cotton (provided by me) in and around her nest. I've never seen such a well-padded Bell's Vireo nest. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chat and Sora

Two species that I love are around so I couldn't resist attempting to photograph them. The Yellow-breasted Chats are all over the place doing courtship displays and the Sora was skulking in the reeds. I would likely never have seen it if another birder hadn't pointed it out to me. Thanks, Jane.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Desert blooms

I went up the mountain behind my house this morning to see if any caterpillars of the Chisos Metalmark were on the Prunus Havardii (Havard Plum). I'm not sure I found the right plant, but didn't see any caterpillars. What I did see were so many fantastic wildflowers that I couldn't identify. My sister is working on IDing them. I'm better at birds. She's better at flowers. Meanwhile here are a few. The first one we think is a Hairyseed Bahia (?) Click to enlarge.

The next one is a Fragrant Mimosa. I was surprised to see so much of it up there. I thought it preferred moister areas along arroyos.

I was enthralled by the beauty of this next flower that my sister identified as a James Dalea.

She thought the next one was an evolvulus. Bob Harms, a research associate at the UT Plant Resources Center, has identified it as evolvulus alsinoides.

The next one is a Texas Paintbrush (Castilleja rigida).

Also blooming were acacias, prickly pear, ocotillo, Angel Trumpets, and all kinds of stuff that I couldn't identify. A neat cactus I found is called a Chaffey's Pincushion. Unfortunately, it wasn't blooming.

I'll close with the view I had to endure while looking for caterpillars. And by the way, I would never be able to bring myself to handle a caterpillar, in case you're wondering. I would have photographed one had I found one. The name of that mountain is West Corazon. That dead juniper was the only one around.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Elf Owls

The Elf Owls were very active this warm evening after dusk, around 9 PM. I wanted photos, but couldn't hold a light and manual focus. Without light the camera wouldn't auto-focus. I've got to learn this stuff, and I will. Meanwhile, here are the results. I just love these sparrow-sizes, avian creatures of the night. They enhance my life so much. Elf Owls even look tiny inside a small woodpecker hole.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Night-blooming Cereus

Last night my sister's cereus (peniocereus greggii) bloomed. We'd been waiting and watching for the big event. It was the warmest night we've had so far this year. Maybe that had something to do with it. Her property is adjacent to mine.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More spring migration

Things are ramping up here, though I feel it hasn't peaked yet. Usually it has by this time, but with all the cold weather we've had, it may be a later migration. The acacia aren't blooming yet and that's what attracts large numbers of warblers. You can see we've been putting my new parking area to good use.

After today's birders left, I sat in the shade, determined to photograph a Northern Waterthrush that I hadn't seen yet this year until today. Here was the best I could do. It could be better, but I'm satisfied with It. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spring migration

As usual, this is a busy time of year. This past weekend I had the fun of hosting fifteen Texas Ornithological Society (TOS) field trip participants. There were between 50-60 species present each day. Here's me scouting the fruiting mulberry trees for any elusive birds. (Photo by Paul Swasko)

After a strenous hike in Big Bend National Park the day before, one participant called this sitting-in-the-shade birding "Zen birding." She may have a point.

Yesterday I saw this Yellow-headed Blackbird along the road between my oasis and house. I had to slam on the brakes to grab a shot of it.