Click any photo to enlarge

Friday, January 27, 2012

Luna's Jacal

I couldn't resist taking a couple of hours this morning to make one last try for the Nutting's Flycatcher. But I think it either found a better place to winter, or got eaten by a predator. I wonder how savvy it is around unfamiliar predators away from its normal range.

On the way back I stopped at "Luna's Jacal." It's impressive that Gilberto Luna, who built the jacal around 1890, lived to be 108 years old. Contemplating that, I noticed he had a view of Santa Elena Canyon from his house. I think I could live that long with the great view, plus eating nothing but home grown food like he and his family surely did. (He died in 1947.)

I'm not sure how authentic the walls and roof are these days but I'm sure the floor was wet and tamped like hard adobe, then swept occasionally. The Mexicans that built my house never slept indoors, so I'm thinking this structure was more for cool food storage than for actual living space.  For one thing, it's earth-sheltered for coolness, has thick rock walls,and no windows. He had a large produce farm and keeping food cool had to be vitally important to marketing it successfully.

Having said that, in an old photo taken in the 1930's ( there's a bed outside under a ramada attached to the front of the house. And protruding from the roof just inside the entrance of the jacal was a stovepipe. That undoubtedly was for cooking, but would surely have added warmth. Perhaps the cooler back part, by the wall consisting of a huge boulder, was the storage area.

Besides, can you imagine how hot it would be to sleep in there if it was full of warm bodies and no breeze during sweltering summer nights? By some accounts he had 11 wives and fathered over 50 children, but that could be an exaggeration. Some of his "offspring" may have been grandchildren, or poor relatives from Mexico who weren't faring as well. 

And you gotta love the view!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A good day today

My sister-in-law visited the oasis today and right away discovered a Brown Thrasher. I hadn't seen that species here since the spring of 2006, so that was exciting. It was above 70° too, which I loved.

While I was waiting for the thrasher to come into the open for a clear shot, I photographed a Texas Antelope Squirrel AGAIN. But they're so cute I can't resist.

Lesser Goldfinches are here year-round so I seldom bother to photograph them.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

CMO rainfall statistics

For those who are interested in this sort of thing, here are the rainfall totals at CMO from 1998 to present.

1998=  7.20"
2001=  5.20"
2002=  8.60"
2003=  9.85"
2006=  8.75"
2008=  9.40"
2011=  2.25"

Hauled 2 loads of water today and going to haul one or two more tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

To Santa Elena Canyon today

My plan was to go there and help birders locate the Nutting's Flycatcher and try for a shot of the flycatcher's open mouth. Sounded like a fun challenge.  Life is what happens while you're making plans. Whew! I tried every strategy I could think of to find that nutty bird. I'm positive I didn't miss it; it just didn't show up. Hopefully, tomorrow the birders from today, that are all going back, will find it. I can't go back tomorrow, but plan to on Thursday.

I took the Old Maverick Road to Santa Elena Canyon, as it's much shorter. However, dirt roads are slower...

...but it seems like the canyon is getting closer.

It is getting closer, isn't it?

Now why was it I agreed to drive the low-clearance town car?

I gotta be almost there, don't I? (It does look closer through my telephoto lens.)

Ah, my destination, at last.

Now the waiting game. I walked, I waited, I bushwhacked, I waited....

Buses loaded with teenagers came and went. Finally, I gave up the quest after the sun set behind the canyon wall. It disappeared around 3:30, I left around 5:00.

Wonderful scenery, wonderful companionship, how can I complain?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mexican Blue Oaks

Until someone mentioned today in a previous post comment about my relict oaks, I had forgotten that I had promised to post photos of ours. I searched all my files and could only locate this photo (filed under Lucifer Hummingbird nests, would you believe?). If I can't find better ones, I'll take some in the spring. The second photo is a close-up from the first photo. There are probably a dozen of the oaks there of various sizes, the tallest being maybe 15-20,' but I'm not a good judge of height. Lucifers nest in that area.

Here they are from a greater distance.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Probable Nutting's Flycatcher

Today was an exciting day. Dale Ohl (my sister-in-law) and I rode down to Santa Elena Canyon with Kelly Bryan. We got there early. We were there hoping to find a probably Nutting's Flycatcher reported and photographed from there. Other birders had been looking unsuccessfully since daylight. Apparently, the bird doesn't forage until the sun comes out and insects become active. After about an hour of about ten people spreading out searching, I located the bird as it began foraging across from the rest rooms, one of its favorite haunts. A birder from Virginia had gone hundreds of miles out of his way just to see this bird. He just happened to be the person closest to me when I spotted the bird, so I called to him in a loud whisper that I had the bird, "get Kelly." Bless his heart, he took off in the opposite direction of his coveted sighting, without so much as a glimpse at the bird, to get Kelly. When Kelly arrived, everyone then gathered around quietly while Kelly recorded the sound. As luck would have it, after the first call Kelly's recorder broke. Not knowing that, I was stopping cars and asking people to turn off their engines so he could get quality recording. However, the flycatcher didn't vocalize again all the while we were there. That didn't prevent everyone from getting ample looks and photos.

All that saw the bird agree it must certainly be a Nutting's. But until the record committee rules, we can't count it. It didn't forage the same as the only other option, an Ash-throated Flycatcher (ATFL). I felt the tail looked too rufous for an ATFL, and the belly was too yellow. Not to mention that ATFLs usually vocalize (a different call note) freely. Too much brown on the top of the head and rufous on the rump for an ATFL. The jizz just wasn't the same.

 I didn't really work at taking good photos. Kelly takes better shots than I do and he was there taking lots of them. I socialized with old friends (and made new ones) more than I would have if documentation would have depended on me.

I took a few photos just because I could.

UPDATE: Eventually confirmed as a Nutting's.