Went down to the oasis today. Saw 41 species in the little time I had to watch between chores. The highlights for me were lots of Lark Buntings, a Field Sparrow, Cardinal (while I have lots of Pyrrhuloxias, I seldom get Cardinals),
and here's a female Rufous Hummingbird.
Summer residents are still arriving. Now have Bell's Vireo and Ash-throated Flycatcher. Sage Thrasher still around.
I noticed that pair of Mexican Ducks is still hanging around (see post of Feb 2, 2011). We have a pair of domestic ducks also, and we've found quite a few duck eggs in the ponds. I don't know which ducks laid the eggs. So today I tried to construct my first duck nest tunnel. We'll just have to wait and see what happens. I know next to nothing about it but it would be so cool to have baby Mexican Ducks running around.
Any advice on how I can improve the nest will be appreciated.
I'm sure you all must be tired of seeing and hearing about my Lucifers, but I just wanted to tell you about what I recently observed. Yesterday it seemed the courtship activity was winding down and I didn't see a courtship display until 7:30 PM.
So today when I wanted to show some visiting friends the display, we got ready with our cameras around 7 PM. Around 7:15 PM the female went and perched on the yucca (I call it the lekka-yukka). Periodically she'd fly out a foot or two and back into the yucca as if she was trying to make sure the male noticed her there. From the sound of it I think he was doing a little display to another female out of our sight. She continued doing her little forays until right at 7:30 the male came and displayed to her. Unfortunately, it all happened too fast for any of us to focus our cameras, but it was awesome to see. Below is a photo of her impatiently watching and waiting.
The male Black-chinnedHummingbird (pictured below) did his own courtship display, but his dives and loops are way too fast for me to photograph.
Came down from Alpine early this morning hoping to take video clips of the Lucifer courtship displays. After I gave up near noon, and was a ways away, I heard the display briefly. Got there too late. Maybe tomorrow.
Because of the many past dry months I'm rationing water. However, I can't resist putting the sprinkler under a couple of cottonwoods and mulberry trees. It brings so many birds in to drink too. Mulberry below.
If we don't get another freeze this spring there will be lots of mulberries for migrants.
It was a surprise to see both the male and female Lucifer Hummingbirds this morning for the first time this year. I had expected the male to arrive first. The only Black-chinned Hummingbirds here are the males.
There are the usual large number of sparrows for this time of year. Among them I located a Field Sparrow, several Brewer's, Lincoln's, Black-chinned, and some I'm not sure what they are.
I love Green-tailed Towhees and since they'll be leaving soon I thought I better take a photo of one.
I saw the badger that was seen by the Dortch's a couple of days ago (see Mar 10th post). I assume the Elf Owls have arrived even though I haven't seen or heard them yet. They don't call every night and I haven't looked for them in the evening. It's getting exciting around here.
The electric company is still working on my place. I had so hoped they'd be done by now. Shortly after daybreak today, SUNDAY, no less, they were loudly putting up a new bigger pole beside my guesthouse where a few weeks ago they had replaced the previous pole. I guess the previous replacement pole wasn't tall enough. This too shall pass. Or so I keep telling myself.
At least by working long hours 7 days a week they should be through quicker, which will benefit the Elf Owls. My reasoning is that they'll have all the old poles down so the owls won't try to nest in them. Woodpeckers won't have time to excavate new holes, but not to worry, I have my place fully out-fitted with nesting options. Just hung two more last week.
And a parting shot. As I was leaving my beloved place to come to Alpine this morning this deer was standing behind a hill in the road watching me approach.
I know all of you want bee-free feeders. I get quite a few inquiries about that. Well, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here goes. This first photo I took this morning of my bird seed feeder. Bees are so bad right now. It doesn't get worse than that. They're all over the feeder. You may need to click to enlarge.
Yet, an instant later I took a photo of my nearby hummingbird feeder which had been hanging there for 2 days. No bees.
It is possible to keep your feeders bee-free, but you have to be diligent and consistent. Like training a puppy.
Start with Dr JB feeders. They cost more but last longer and are convenient to fill and clean. You must keep the outside surfaces very clean. After filling a clean feeder, don't turn it over until you're ready to hang it. Then quickly flip it and do not let it tilt. If you hear it gurgling, that's not good. It could mean the solution (1 part sugar/4 parts water) is filling the basin and overflowing the internal baffles. Those baffles prevent bees from being able to reach the nectar and reserve it for hummingbirds. (Dr JB feeders are for sale online at http://drjbs.com/)
If a feeder gets tipped accidentally, or by raging wind, people, animals, whatever, it's best to empty the solution into a bowl, reclean the feeder thoroughly, refill, and rehang. It only takes a few minutes to do and is well worth the effort.
If you find that you have bees for any of the above reasons, when you rehang the feeder, hang it in a different location for a while. If that doesn't help then I squirt a tiny bit of permethrin on the glass part of the feeder. That's supposed to keep the bees from being able to smell the solution.
It's unbelievably awesome to enjoy a yard filled with hummingbirds and no bees. Bees are not native to our country and aren't the efficient pollinators that our native pollinators are. Today most bee hives have DNA from African Bees to some degree or other.
For ant problems you can buy permethrin ant guards, or make your own. More about that in a future post.
Driving down from Alpine I saw a fire on Cienega Mountain (south of Cathedral Mountain).
The electric company is still working in my area. I'll be so glad when they're through and no equipment going up and down the road, and some quiet.... The new heavier cable sure stands out in the early morning light.
There have been a pair of Phainopeplas hanging around the oasis these days. I sure would love for them to nest here. I couldn't get a shot of the female except looking into the sun, and at the far distance she was, this photo is documentary only.
I have lived in the Christmas Mountains since 1976, and started my oasis in 1996. You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for visiting instructions if you are a birder or naturalist. No minors. Pet rules are the same as for Big Bend National Park.