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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Every day is different

Today seemed a bit more different than other days. I arrived at my oasis from Alpine early AM to find a dead skunk in the middle of it. I dragged it away hoping the smell would dissipate quickly. It didn't. And I didn't consciously leave the carcass below this cut-off utility pole. The Turkey Vultures probably smell worse today than they normally do.


 And hopefully, no Elf Owls are nesting inside this pole. Actually, I don't think the owls are nesting yet. I see plenty of them all over, but no nesting activity. Today I accidentally flushed an Elf Owl from its daytime perch, something that I don't recall ever doing before. They usually hide well and don't flush.

When birders arrived we got down to some serious birding. Ended up with 56 species, but I always know there are quite a few more than are located.

After everyone left I was filling hummingbird feeders and probably left the screen door unlatched to the little cabin where I keep the feeders. Then the wind probably blew it open and a Wilson's Warbler got trapped inside. That's the first time that ever happened. I propped the door open and chased it right out with less trauma to it than if it had been trapped in a bander's net, but still, not pleasant for either of us.

All visitors today carried serious cameras and we got some nice shots, I think. Here are a few of mine.

Nashville Warbler


 The above is a Swainson's Thrush that Mark Lockwood discovered soon after he arrived. I'd like to think I would have discovered it myself, but realistically I probably would have called it a Hermit.

Female Bullock's Oriole


That's a hard act to follow so I think I'll leave it at that for today. Tomorrow promises to be another exciting day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Big birder day

Usually I just have birders in the morning when birding is best, but today I had them all day long. Here's my favorite (and only) birder shot of the day...


John Vanderpoel was one of the visitors I had this morning. Here's a link to what he had to say about my place. He's doing an ABA Big Year this year. http://www.bigyear2011.com/

And here's my favorite bird shot of the day. Another one of my one minute visitors that only I got to see...Olive-sided Flycatcher.


In second place is this young Scott's Oriole who looks like he's been eating a red popsicle.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Another eventful day at CMO

I went down to my oasis early in the morning. First thing I noticed was the Yellow-headed Blackbird that we had seen on April 22-23 (photo on previous post). This time he was floating in the tank, deceased. In hindsight I realize he had been rather lethargic. Anyway, I wanted him out of the tank. I had not waded into the tank lately because if it was nearly empty I didn't want to know it. I had estimated it had about 3' of water left. I've been afraid to water my trees because it might not rain until August and I need that water if things start to wilt. Basically, I'm just rationing severely. Just enough to keep things alive. So now I had incentive to wade into the tank and retrieve the bird (for science). As I had estimated there was close to 3' of water there, so it could have been worse.

We saw well over 50 species today, but only 3 or 4 species of warblers. If that number doesn't increase dramatically in the next few days I'm going to assume they bypassed this area because of drought, or winds took them right on past. Here are a couple of shots I took today.

Lark Sparrow

Hey, Mom, what's for dinner?

And look what I have pooping on my courtyard floor. Click to enlarge if you're so inclined.




Sunday, April 24, 2011

More migration fun

I really enjoy sharing my birds and oasis with other birders. A couple of them today were from Missouri. Not to worry, I showed 'em.

Today I tallied at least 55 species, including a couple of male Bullock's Orioles (No, I'm not counting the reflection in the water as one of the two.).


And a Spotted Sandpiper working his way down to the rapidly shrinking water...


Last, but not least (unless it's a Least Flycatcher) is an empidinax that I think is either a Dusky or a Gray. Any imput on ID appreciated.



Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cat on a hot tin roof

Kidding! The roof wasn't hot. What cat would be stupid enough to walk on a hot roof of any kind? I saw it across the street just before I left Alpine for CMO. Can't stay away during migration. Had some birders here from Finland, and some from Houston. All left satiated with birds. Nothing real exciting for me today. More warbler species. The Lucifers are still displaying. Didn't take any photos, other than the cat.


Tomorrow I'm going to try to photograph a couple of the empidinax flycatchers I saw today so that I can hopefully ID them.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Covered a lot of ground

A lovely, birdy morning at CMO. I needed to go to Alpine but hung around until 10AM, not sure if birders were coming or not. So many have been visiting lately that I totally lost track of who's coming when. While I waited and filled feeders I photographed this Yellow-headed Blackbird and Solitary Sandpiper. Isn't migration wonderful! I saw empidinax flycatchers. And warblers everywhere in blooming acacia. And as of 10 AM, no one to share it with.



So reluctantly, I departed and came to Alpine. I left behind loaded mulberry trees and gobs of birds and got to Alpine where we have even more loaded mulberry trees (7 at last count, although some of the ones I planted more recently don't have many berries on yet). By the time I got there, ate lunch, filled hummingbird feeders, watered plants, did laundry, etc, the day was pretty much shot,  so I decided to wait and bird early tomorrow morning. But one bird I couldn't ignore so easily as it foraged in the mulberry tree outside the kitchen window ——a scruffy looking Indigo Bunting, probably an adult not in full breeding plumage yet. But if someone were to say it was a first year bird, I wouldn't argue.


And while I hate being away from my oasis, I'm making the best of it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Elderhostel group visited

Today I hosted an Elderhostel group. I've enjoyed doing that once a year for quite a few years now. We saw 56 species, but I'm sure there were many we missed. With all the activity and different areas to monitor, it's not possible to get them all. Most of these people are beginning birders, so it's not a case of the more eyes the better.

There wasn't much time or energy left for me to take many photos, but I did get one blurry shot of a male Lucifer Hummingbird trying to intimidate another male.


Hopefully, I'll get some nice photos in the morning before I have to head to Alpine.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Migration ramped up

I saw my FOS Lazuli Bunting today. Couldn't get a shot. By the time I ran for my camera it had taken a quick drink and left. Beautiful male though. A short time later I saw a bird perched on a mesquite next to a mulberry tree. The back was black, the breast was red. No white on it, so I'm thinking it has to be a Slate-throated Redstart. I ran for my camera (can't carry it and get work done too) as it dove into a mulberry tree. I spent the next 2 hours searching for it. All that was there, besides the mockingbirds, etc., was a male Varied Bunting. I'm still trying to convince myself that's the bird I saw, but I know what I saw. I got a good look. Whatever. I'm not counting it. Here's the bunting. Looks nothing like the other bird I saw. See update below.


Ok, I've been studying and thinking and I'm 100% positive it was a Slate-throated Redstart. For one thing, it couldn't be an artifact of lighting. I was looking NNE toward the sun. I was seeing the shadowed side of the bird. I got a good clear close look, enough to see that some of the wing edges were whitish. I noticed the same look on the STRE photos in Stoke's guide. My main arguing point against it being a STRE was size. I thought the size fit a VABU, and an STRE was smaller. So imagine my surprise to learn they're the same size. I studied VABUs all day in all lights. No way was it a VABU. It couldn't have been anything except a STRE. And considering that the books list them as casual in W TX, I don't see the conflict with that ID. I think it got a drink and moved on, just like the Lazuli did. I can't explain why they didn't eat berries unless they ate before I got to the oasis around 7:30 AM. I'm going to count it.

And here's a bird that's here year-round but always fun to observe. It pecked on that buckeye seed pod until the pod fell off the tree. And then, I suppose, it wondered where the pod disappeared to.





Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Phainopeplas gone

Bummer! I didn't see one all day even though there are still plenty of mulberries left on the trees. Kenn Kaufman wrote that their "movements are complex and poorly understood" (Lives of North American Birds, page 498), so maybe they'll return. They're known to descend on berry sources in flocks like I had. I sure miss them.

I still have plenty of Lucifer Hummingbirds though and they are still doing courtship displays like crazy. I wonder if the shiny band on this one helps him attract females.



Saturday, April 16, 2011

Another morning in paradise

I usually don't get to spend so much time enjoying my oasis but my husband is on a fishing trip. I saw a flock of about 25 White-throated Swifts circling the pond and taking turns drinking like they normally do, but they're too fast for my camera to focus on any of them. Same with the displaying Lucifer Hummingbirds.

I got so tired of taking Phainopepla photos I decided to try for some Phainopepla-eating-berry shots. Here are the results.

With one eye watching for the mulberry police, he looks for a ripe berry with the other eye.

It's nearly impossible to get a clear shot. They're always so hidden inside the tree.


And then when he's finished he carefully cleans his beak with his napkin. We call it a tree limb.


Ready for the next berry.



Friday, April 15, 2011

Early morning birding

Yesterday the group of birders here missed a lot of action that occurred before around 9 AM when they arrived. Today I went down to the oasis from the house at 7 AM as the sun was coming up over the mountain and birds were still silhouettes.


For well over an hour the male Lucifer Hummingbirds cavorted and displayed to the females. The action was too fast for either my camera or my ability to use it, but this will give you the idea.


The Varied Bunting that was so elusive yesterday put on a fine show early this morning.



And Phainopeplas were abundant everywhere.

male Phainopepla

female Phainopepla
The mulberry police would prefer that no birds except them entered the mulberry trees.

Mockingbird on guard duty

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mulberries & Phainopeplas

 The mulberry trees are packed with mulberries that are starting to ripen. I've never seen so many Phainopeplas at one time before. Must be a dozen of them.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cinnamon Teal

I was pleased to have a Cinnamon Teal rest in my dwindling water reserve. Later he frolicked and seemed to be having a good time.



Monday, April 4, 2011

Mountain climb

I climbed the mountain overlooking my oasis hoping to find Lucifer Hummingbird nesting activity. Didn't find any at all. Things look bleak and dry, especially the cholla where I would expect Lucifer nests. Too much cold, too much drought, but when the summer rains come they'll probably rebound. Ocotillo were blooming, as were a few Claret Cup cacti.


There was an interesting nest hanging from a yucca. It may be partly detached and hanging, not in its original position. My best guess is that it was a Scott's Oriole's last year's nest that came loose on one side.


 While I'm ever mindful of snakes, I didn't see any until I got back to my vehicle on the road. I guess it's a Big Bend Patchnose.


The grueling  four hour ordeal really wore me out, and it was very windy. The terrain is incredibly rugged. I'm getting too old to lug my camera and other gear up that mountain, that's for sure.