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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bay-breasted Warbler in Marathon

Another life bird sighting today. Matt York works at the Gage Hotel in Marathon where he discovered a Bay-breasted Warbler yesterday. Today I managed to get a few photos of it high in the canopy of a tree in spite of my vertigo which made my world spin whenever I looked up at it.

Matt and Heidi are awesome birders. So wonderful to have them nearby. I look forward to many more fun birding times with them.

Matt has determined this bird to be a juvenile male. Fall Bay-breasted Warblers are notoriously difficult to ID. I'd like to get better photos if it sticks around.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Big surprise!

I arrived at my oasis yesterday morning and have hauled 1500 gallons (5 loads) of water since then. I was really down in the dumps. Felt like it was an exercise in futility, while my granddaughter and her husband are suffering financially, and here I am buying water with money that could be easing their financial situation. Admittedly, in the past giving them money hasn't helped, but in theory, and all.

Since yesterday morning I hadn't seen a bird that inspired me to photograph it. Just because I wanted to photograph something I took pictures of some of the Hermit Thrushes running all over the place.

But I've taken so many Hermit Thrush photos that I found it boring and wasn't cheered up at all. So I figured if I got an extra load of water and sprinkled it extravagantly on the trees as birds played in it, that might cheer me up. I got back with the water around 4 PM, set the sprinkler, and sat contemplating.

I thought about how every day something exciting happens here and it's been two boring days of hard work. It even occurred to me that every time I get discouraged, something exciting happens and I get all recharged again. I knew it was late in the day and nothing like that was going to happen. The sprinkler wasn't cheering me up. Since I have a hard time sitting still when I constantly see work that needs doing, I started to take down dirty hummingbird feeders. As I approached one hanging beside the shade water feature, I saw a tiny reddish bird scoot into the brush. Before long I got a good look at it, and knew immediately it was a Winter Wren, even though I'd never seen one before, and had thought they were gray, not reddish.

Now you see why I keep on keepin' on!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Catbird fun

I drove down from Alpine and unloaded the mulch. Am feeling better than I have for several weeks. Vertigo almost gone. After I hauled a couple loads of water I actually had enough energy left to play a while. My idea of play is to photograph birds. I located a Gray Catbird, to my delight, but couldn't decide how I wanted it to pose. I tried it by the water, but that was too far away. I wanted something closer.

So I tried it in a bush, but couldn't get a clear shot without the bush blocking part of the image.

I tried to coax it up onto a rock, but a Curve-billed Thrasher kept stealing the show.

Finally, I gave up and let it do what it wanted to do... forage in the mulch.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hummers and sparrows

Today I started hauling water again. My "month's supply" that I got two weeks ago was used up. I could have gone another week before hauling, but I decided I'd rather haul water than not water today, so that's what I did.

I photographed ten species of sparrows today at the feeder. Here is the most interesting, a Grasshopper Sparrow.

I hate it that bird seed has nearly doubled in price. Not to mention the cost of water went up from 3 cents per gallon to 4 cents per gallon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Today's hummers

I saw what I believe is the last Lucifer of the year. I think it's a young female, but without Kelly trapping it, I can't know. It's catching insects in the second photo.

I haven't seen the last two male Lucifers since yesterday morning. This morning I did see what I think were two female Anna's, but when I tried to photograph them late this afternoon, all I could find was the Lucifer. Earlier today I did manage to photograph a male (I think) Anna's in the courtyard. It appears to be banded.

Update: Kelly said the above Anna's is a female.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Aoudad and javelina

My sister lives a mile north of me, but both our places are overlooked by the same mountain on the east. Her son from Boston is visiting and he saw, and photographed, 8 Aoudads (African sheep) on top of that mountain yesterday. So this morning I scoped the top of the mountain and actually saw one Aoudad. Here's a photo of my end of the mountain that I took last summer (when things were green) from several miles away.

And here is the Aoudad I saw today, taken from my oasis really far away.

Also this afternoon while I was sitting quietly photographing sparrows, several javelina were headed towards me. I yelled at them, and they stopped and sniffed the air, then proceeded towards me. I was a bit nervous, I admit, but eventually I ran them off a little ways, then I departed as they ambled back.
proceeding towards me

I have most of my wintering birds here, I think. Here is one of my favorite wintering birds, a House Wren.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My latest invention

I decided to make double-decker hummingbird feeders by hanging one beneath the other.

The advantages are:

1. Hummers are accustomed to foraging at different levels so it's more natural for them.

2. One ant guard protects both feeders.

3. Less blowing, therefore spillage, in high winds, at least for the top feeder.

4. Have more feeding ports in their favored locations.

It's ridiculously easy to make. Just hang a wire from a feeder, then use an "S" shaped wire to hang between the two feeders, or you can buy those S hooks. I made mine from a small section of a wire coat hanger.

Below is a young male Rufous Hummingbird. I saw at least 3 today here in Alpine.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A few blooms

If one looks around the oasis it's likely they'll locate a flower or two. Fragrant Mimosa grows wild on my property and looks similar to this. This is Velvetpod Mimosa that I planted. I water it occasionally.

This next bush is also native, meaning it grows wild on my property. One of its common names is Yellow Bells (tecoma stans).  I planted this one and seldom water it.

Next is a volunteer Feather Dalea (dalea formosa). I occasionally water it. When I spread the mulch I made sure to protect it in its location along the rock-lined path.

Bee Brush has come up under most all the trees.... anywhere there's moisture. It fills the oasis with a heavenly fragrance.

As you can probably tell, I get lots of pleasure and peace from my oasis. One thing that delighted me today was to see a Spotted Towhee and Hermit Thrush foraging in the newly spread mulch in the "pine forest" area of the oasis.

I doubt if they would have been there if it was blanketed with tall grasses like is normal for this time of year.

I positioned myself where I could photograph the action. Didn't capture the towhee though. Had to leave for Alpine. I don't like driving after dark, so was just glad that I got to spend what time I did in my favorite pasttime.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Oasis today

Got down to my oasis this afternoon with another load of mulch. After unloading it I took a little time before dark to watch birds. Still a couple of Lucifers left. I miss them already and they're not all even gone yet.

This is that young feisty male I photographed before (Sept. 26th). He's just so cute, and he'll be gone soon, that I couldn't resist. Very surprised to see a Blue Grosbeak today since they've been gone for quite some time. Probably a young bird here.

When I first planted my trees they were small and slow growing, so I enjoyed having grass and wildflowers fill my oasis. Better to look like a prairie than a patch of dirt. But then the trees got pretty big, and still I was taking the grasses and wildflowers for granted. Then along came the drought, and gradually it became just the trees (with mulch spreading underneath as fast as I could make it happen). I decided I prefer it this way, not only because of snakes, but the grass and weeds use water that should be there for the trees. Everyone else seems to prefer it without the grasses, too.

So now that I don't want the grasses back, that little rain we received recently has grass and weeds (wildflowers, whatever) growing everywhere, even through the mulch. Probably it won't rain and all the grass and weeds will die, but I don't want to have to mow it if it gets tall because mowing it is hard enough (for my husband) but with 2-3 inches of mulch there, it would be nearly impossible. There are just too many for me to pull out by hand, though some that are real close to trees and bushes will have to be hand-pulled.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Alpine birds and bottle

I was given a "special" bottle to make into a hummingbird feeder by a special person (Martha Latta) who works at the Alpine recycle center. She's doing a bottle tree and wanted the bottle, but unselfishly gave it to me. Notice the word "special" is scultped in relief on the bottle. How cool is that?

My hummingbirds have dwindled down to 3 or 4, which is as it should be this time of year.

There has been a juvenile Yellow Warbler around for about 2 weeks. I didn't think much of it, but when I entered it into the ebird database it showed as rare for here this time of year. That surprised me so I thought I better document it with a photograph.

We're supposed to get rain down at my oasis in the next few days. Here's hoping! This is what my "stucco tank" looks like after I pumped out what I could salvage from the dirt tank a few days ago. This is about 3-4 thousand gallons and should last me into November during this cooler weather, if I don't get rain. Very nice reprieve from hauling in water.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Up close and personal

Today I was bailing out the big tank again (you know the drill) as a very determined Lincoln's Sparrow was practically underfoot. Normally, I think of that species as a moist underbrush skulker, difficult to see, but I guess with the drought it has to find lunch wherever it can. Not much moist understory around. Actually, none. (The sparrow is on the tank floor behind my tub.)

Other than that, the next most interesting bird of the day was a juvenile Scissortail Flycatcher. I wasn't able to get even remotely close to it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Monarchs everywhere

It's awesome to see the oasis swarming with butterflies, and impossible to get a satisfactory photo of the spectacle.

What with banding almost over, cooler weather, and a month's supply of water in my tank, I feel a big burden lifted. I removed my self-imposed state-of-emergency status that I've felt under for the last several months.

Still lots to do, though. For one thing, I need to start preparing should the drought continue into next summer. And I need to get the pump situation rectified. I'm working on all that. More about it in future posts.