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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fire near Alpine

I had to go to Alpine today. On the way there at the big hill to the south of town I saw the fire I had just heard mentioned on the radio. Here is the photo I took of it. It's in the area of Mitre Peak north of town. You can see the town in the foreground.

My sister called me from her place a mile from my oasis. She said she got .2" of rain and it looked like I got more at my place. So I'll be eager to get back down there tomorrow afternoon. I'm sure I didn't get enough to put any in my tanks, but it's nice if the surrounding vegetation got some rain to keep it alive. I especially worried about the soapberries, hackberries, and persimmons in the arroyo adjacent to my habitat.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Still hopeful...

Another triple-digit day of hauling water. Saw a selasphorus hummer that I knew I could only ID for certain if I saw the tail spread. So I actually sat down for a bit and waited...

It's an immature male Rufous Hummingbird.

On my way here from Alpine this morning I looked for Burrowing Owls along Terlingua Ranch Road that someone had reported seeing there on the 26th. I did locate one, and got a distant photo of it. I'm sure they're nesting there. They've been nesting there for over 30 years that I know of, but some years they're so scarce that I get to thinking they're gone. I was delighted to see one.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Four hummer species in Alpine today

Just for kicks I endeavored to photograph all four species present. Here is the most common one, the Black-chinned:

Next is this Lucifer male that's been present for several weeks off and on.

It took longer to photograph this male Calliope, and I didn't get a very good photo of it, at that.

But this male Rufous was pretty easy to photograph.

And there you have it...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Upgraded from despair to hopeful

I left my camera cord in Alpine so can't download the photos I meant to post today. Earlier this afternoon, after we finished with our hummingbird banding at other locations, I was anxious to haul some water to my trees. And once again, the truck wouldn't start. I was seriously thinking I needed to just give up and throw in the towel. But to make a long story short, I figured the problem must be with the battery, and after trying various things, I managed to get the battery posts cleaned and it started right up. To a man this probably means very little, but to me it was huge. (I'm not mechanically inclined.)

Then, on the way back from Terlingua Lodge with my precious water, I watched it pouring in the distance and it appeared that it was headed toward my place. In fact, immediately upon arriving at the oasis, I actually did get the edge of a nice little shower. Only about one-tenth of an inch but it lifted my spirits to see the ground wet, even though the tanks are still empty. Things felt almost normal, as in WINNING!. Maybe the dry spell is broken now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Calliope Hummingbird in Alpine

I was watching for the selasphorus that I saw yesterday in hopes of getting better photos of the tail spread to confirm if it's an Allen's. I didn't see it today but did see this gorgeous male Calliope Hummingbird.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Indigo Bunting

I've never had an Indigo Bunting here in July before. I first noticed it yesterday, but didn't get a decent photo of it until today. Hubby came down from Alpine and hauled me a couple loads of water. I'm going to Alpine now, then banding with Kelly Bryan the next couple of days. Better rain or things are going to get bleaker around here. For now I gave things enough water to keep them alive a few more days.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Frog legs, anyone?

Just when I thought I was winning and could weather the drought by hauling in water from Terlingua Ranch Lodge, my water hauling truck broke down. Now the situation here is even more dire. Yesterday I got to my oasis, after a trip to Austin, gung-ho to haul water and save my trees. Still triple digit heat every single day! Not the rain I had expected while I was gone. The starter is out on the truck and it won't be a quick fix. My son came down from Alpine, begrudgingly, and took off the starter. It'll be a while before he can come and put on a new one, or fix the old one.

Meanwhile, I used half of my emergency water that was in the guesthouse tank, but in this heat, it's a paltry offering to my trees. Chance of rain again this weekend.....

Fall migration is starting and I haven't even had one summer rain yet. Here's my first Rufous on his way south. (Little white pin-feather on the chin denotes molt is beginning, I think)

The next photo is of a Varied Bunting that posed nicely for me.

Oh, the frog legs? Sorry, they're already taken. (The snake may be an E. Black-necked Garter Snake.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hungry orioles in Alpine

I've never seen so many orioles in Alpine at one time. Has to be because of the drought. I assume the first two are juvenile and adult male Orchard Orioles...

Next is a Scott's Oriole (I don't know why the white on the throat)...

And a  Bullock's Oriole ...

Also saw this male Lucifer Hummingbird. It looks like the same one that visited on July 4th (see post for that date).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Last July 12 vs. this July 12

If a picture is worth a thousand words, these ought to be worth volumes. Here is July 12, 2010

Same vantage point July 12, 2011 below...

But, I'm WINNING! I've kept everything alive and it should rain any day now. Just this afternoon they got a big rain (about half an inch) a few miles south of me, and the same a few miles north of me. That's the third miss so far this rainy season. Can't miss every time.

On a brighter note, we finally got all the silt  removed from the big tank. It's water-ready. (That 3" line protects a smaller line that goes to the submersible pump.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Blue-throated Hummingbird

Well, we caught the one I reported on yesterday and Kelly banded it (his 1st male BLUH). Comparing the photos from the one I had in May I concluded it's not the same individual.

The above photos were taken after he was banded. Maybe he'll still be there in two weeks and I can get better photos. The hummer flew off to an ocotillo so this last shot is pretty distant.

We didn't see the hybrid Lucifer so my photos are it, as far as what we have to work with to ID it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Unusual hummingbird year

Lucifer Hummingbirds are popping up at feeders in many out-of-the-ordinary places, presumably due to this record drought depriving them of natural nectar sources in their normal range.

White-eareds, which you would think would be in the same situation, are scarcely being reported anywhere. On May 8th (see post for that day) I had a Blue-throated at my feeders for a few hours, and now Bonnie Wunderlich (near Terlingua) has one at her feeders. I went over yesterday to photograph it, but I didn't have much time and it didn't show up while I was there. However, she saw it again today. Tomorrow we're hoping to photograph it, and maybe help Kelly Bryan (a licensed bander) capture and band it. To be updated...

While I was watching for it I saw a strange looking Lucifer Hummingbird that we also hope to capture tomorrow. It appears to be a hybrid. Measurements will help determine of what.

So even though I didn't see the BLUH, it wasn't a wasted trip.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hummingbird limerick

I wrote this today:

In our desire to understand 'em
We're devoting ten years to band 'em.
But the more we learn,
The harder to discern
Their actions as anything but random.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Lucifer Hummingbird in Alpine

I spotted a male Lucifer Hummingbird at the feeders late yesterday. It was too dark to take a decent photo but I did the best I could to document it. That's the first male LUHU I remember having in Alpine. Had a female once. The male hasn't been seen today. I was hoping to get a better photo in the daytime.

The domestic duck is sitting on a nest full of eggs again. Hope she's successful this time.

There's been a cute young Summer Tanager hanging around for a few days. Couldn't get close to him for a better photo.

Update: I later learned that a hummingbird lover who lives about 12 blocks away had a male LUHU at her feeders all day on July 3rd and 4th. Since I had mine near dark on July 3rd, it was possibly the same bird. She has blooming sage in her yard and if I've learned anything about Lucifers it's that they prefer flowers to feeders and are more likely to go to feeders where there are flowers.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sprinkle yesterday

It cooled off nicely, and sprinkled enough to wet the ground, and to whet my appetite for some real rain. After such a bitterly cold February, followed by endless drought and heat, just having it cool and damp seems heavenly. Birds are plentiful, and amazingly there are quite a few juveniles. Was surprised to see a male Orchard Oriole.

Here are some of the birds hanging around the feeders.

Painted Bunting
I tried to post the preceding yesterday, but was having computer problems. The technician came out this morning to fix it right at the same time my husband came from Alpine to clean some more dried silt from the tank. So I had to leave the tank project and go to the house with the computer guy. It was scary leaving my husband alone with the tank. After the computer guy left, I rushed to the tank to see what was left of my gambusias floundering in mud, trying to survive. When Hugh takes out the mud, he scoops water with it, gambusias and all. I rushed to the lodge and bought some water and put it on the poor things. Some have survived but millions were probably lost. OK, hundreds. Here are some photos of what I found when I got down there. He dumped the muck where I had told him to put the dried stuff. (He wasn't supposed to get into the muck because it stirs things up too much and destroys too many gambusias.)

I can tell you what he was thinking. He was thinking to get as much out of the tank as he could. Get it clean. He figures the gambusias will die anyway. But I'm thinking, keep as many of them as possible alive so when it does rain the mosquitoes won't be as bad. I'm thinking a little mud in the pond is worth it to keep more gambusias alive.

If I had gotten the 3 inches of rain that fell a few miles from here yesterday, I wouldn't be having this conversation with myself. All my tanks would be full and mosquitoes and gambusias would be multiplying like crazy. Ah, well, I try not to take life too seriously. That ridge of mud is left in the tank because I wasn't there to shovel it into the loader bucket. Tomorrow I'll shovel it into my 5 gallon bucket and haul it out. Thought I'd let it dry a bit first so it'll be lighter. Probably about 10 buckets full. No rain in the forecast, but you never know.....

Speaking of plagues, I wonder how many more are in store for me. Haven't had the insect plague yet. Had the drought, cold, wind, heat, and deer plagues. Still lack the hail plague, but that usually comes with rain, so can't get that one yet. Deer. They descended on my oasis and stripped everything they could reach. Most trees had long ago been pruned up above their reach, but bushes and new trees were vulnerable. Also the apricot tree. I hadn't pruned it up because they never bother it and I like to be able to reach the apricots. Not that the birds ever leave me any, but in my optimism and all. So they pruned it up for me. I know the lower branches they stripped would eventually grow new leaves, but I went ahead and pruned them all off. To reward my pitiful tree, as I lopped, I promised it a good soaking with the sprinkler, no less. I kept my promise.

 Rain west of here today. Was to the north yesterday.

Another day in..............West Texas!