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Monday, April 30, 2012


Still very few warblers. Don't know if they're running late or just bypassed the area due to the drought. Had a group of sixteen VENT (Victor Emanuel Nature Tours) birders this morning, including  Barry and Kevin Zimmer, the group's leaders. They all got to witness the male Lucifer doing its courtship display.

Looking at this last photo I'm thinking I either need to beautify the seating area or stop taking pictures of it. But, at least it's shade with a great view of the feeding arena.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A few birds from today

I was fascinated by a Savannah Sparrow today. I've seen tons of them before, but none with as much yellow on the face as this one. It's fun to finally see one that looks like the guide. Usually, the Savannah's I see don't have a detectable trace of yellow on them, and I wondered why the guides show them that way. Now I know.

Also saw this Mourning Dove that had me check my guide. I guess it's a juvenile.

A few days ago I hung another thistle feeder. It's taking the birds a while to get used to it. This American Goldfinch hesitated a long time before it made the leap.

New feeder is on the left.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Migration in full swing

I haven't had any big fallouts but numbers are up today. Here's a very uncooperative Nashville Warbler. But that's OK. He's hungry and needs to replenish his stores for the rest of his journey. That has priority over photos.

Here is a Western Kingbird that stopped by for a visit.

In all, I saw over 43 species today, but in a normal year, with mulberries and water in the tanks, that number should be around 60 during this time of year.

Did you ever wonder what a displaying Lucifer Hummingbird looks like from the rear? I didn't think so, but I'll show you anyway.

Since I water the mulberry tree a lot, wise flowers choose to bloom beneath it. Here are a few Mistflower (eupatorium greggii) blooms.

And some Harvard Penstemmons nearby.

Later, this afternoon, more birds arrived bringing the day's total up to 49 per my ebird report. Here is a Western Wood-Pewee having a bad hair day in the wind.

The cholla looked even lovelier today.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

More happy birders

First, I want to thank all the birders who visit and leave generous donations. Without your support, both financially and in morale, I don't think I could have carried on this long. It's people like you that keep me truckin,'... water, that is.

Another great group arrived late this afternoon in the heat of the day (98°), but had a fun time anyway.

They were led by Woody Wheeler (back row, center), who is headquartered in Portal, AZ. The participants are from all over the country. This is the second year Woody has brought a group and I hope there will be many more.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I persevered and hauled water most of the day. And I also persevered in getting a shot of the mama Say's Phoebe at her nest in the courtyard... above the front door, actually. She just whined and refused to go near the nest with me around. Waiting motionless under my camo sheet I was sweating profusely, and my back and feet were killing me. But I was determined...

Finally, after what seemed like an hour, she (or he) made a quick visit to the nest but didn't feed the near-fledglings. I departed in a hurry so we could all get back to work.

Later, just before dark, I walked from the house to the oasis. Along the way I saw this scrawny deer eating dead sotol. Very sad.

At the oasis, at 8:45 PM, the Elf Owls came out. Their nest is in the tallest agave about 8 feet above the ground, facing west. It's hard to believe they're no bigger than a sparrow.

Elf Owl hole visible near center of photo.

Today is the first day ever that I've recorded 100° at CMO in April. Frightening!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Birds and birders

A pretty full day of birding. Spring migration doesn't last long so we have to enjoy as much of it as possible, although my most popular birds spend the summer here. Quite a few people added quite a few species to their life lists, including Varied Bunting, Lucifer Hummingbird, Clay-colored Sparrow, and various other species. At dusk a happy group of birders got dim looks at an Elf Owl, which may explain the smiles on this photo. That's me still wearing my hat in the middle. The group's leader, Darren Wallis, took the photo.

Earlier in the day I photographed a couple of birds at the feeders.

Above: Black-throated Sparrow and Varied Bunting. Below: Lark Sparrow.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Perversity of nature

When things are the driest ever, wouldn't you know the pitaya (Strawberry Cactus) put on a show.

Maybe they're just more noticable because they're not obscured by dense vegetation this year.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A semblance of normalcy

A lovely group of birders from North Carolina visited this morning so I took a welcome break from hauling water.

They racked up lifers on their trip to Big Bend and for one person in the group the Varied Bunting she saw at CMO was her 500th life bird. Congratulations Shelley!

I watched a Summer Tanager catching insects in a mesquite early this morning.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A little Lajitas birding

I rode around the Lajitas golf course with my son this morning. It's hard to bird with a non-birder riding a cart, but it was fun anyway. Here was my favorite spot. They pump warm thermal water into this arroyo where it runs for a while before disappearing underground. Just the gas for the diesel engine to do this costs around $22,000 a month. Mind-boggling!

I noticed that birds didn't drink the water until it went further downstream where the temperature wasn't as warm. I'd like to visit this spot during a cold winter norther.

As for birds, I saw a lot of nice ones, but nothing unusual. At least 4 Redheads...

I wish I had thought to photograph some of the interesting flora, all in bloom, but I didn't. One thing that intrigued me was the deep reddish Desert Willow. I must get me one. Another large shrub/small tree looked like a legume but the blooms were yellow brush-like. I've seen acacias with white brush-like, and with round yellow balls, but I don't remember seeing this shape in yellow. I'll have to research it and see what it is. Oh, I just remembered, I did take a bad photo of it. Here it is.

UPDATE: The above tree has been identified as a Screwbean Mesquite.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Surprise lifer

After I finished watering and was walking out the door to leave for Alpine, the phone rang. It was Heidi Trudell from Marathon. Her husband Matt (York) had found a Swainson's Warbler at the Gage Gardens in Marathon. So I rushed to Alpine and called Heidi. It was still there, in fact, she was looking at it. (Aren't cell phones great!) I told her I'd be there in 30 minutes. Bless her heart, she didn't let the bird out of her sight until I got there. They pointed me right to it. Doesn't get easier, or better, than that.

Here it is eating something, worms, I guess.

Whatever it's finding, it can't seem to get enough. Until today I didn't know they forage on the ground in leaf litter. Curiously, it's body seemed to vibrate while it was foraging. Unfortunately, it stayed in the shade all the while I was there, so my photos are a little drab.

Back at the oasis, my new trailer works like a charm. Hopefully, the days of breakdowns are over.

And my new cholla patch is putting on new growth. I'm pretty excited about it because it doesn't need much water and in a few years it might attract a Lucifer Hummingbird to nest there. If that happens my oasis will have "arrived," in my estimation.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

More tribulation

A spring broke on the water trailer and before I could get it to where I wanted to park it the other spring broke. Now it's sitting, unmovable, in the middle of the road. My husband is coming down from Alpine tomorrow. He ordered a new trailer, which hopefully I'll get early next week. I'm so stressed from having to haul water. The new trailer has 2 axles so maybe that will do the trick. I just hope my little pickup can pull it. Maybe it'll rain.

On a brighter side, I had time to take pictures since I couldn't haul water. I love Red Yucca. When I first planted my oasis I put in a small patch of them, but gophers (?) uprooted them so bad they all finally died. So a couple of years ago I made wire baskets under the ground and planted some inside them. So far it seems to be working. This is the second one that has ever bloomed.

And a couple of birds from today. What's not to love about a Varied Bunting?

And a Grasshopper Sparrow...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Alpine flowers

My sister, who lives one mile from me, said she got half an inch of rain Saturday evening so this morning my husband took me to the oasis to see if there was any water in my tanks. Not a drop. Very disappointing. Nothing in my rain gauge either. So back in town I had to content myself with the flowers here. Bluebonnets have totally overtaken my asparagus patch.

And the roses look gorgeous. I forget what kind they are. Fiesta or something.

If it doesn't rain today or tomorrow I'm going to have to start hauling water in a couple of days.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

More blooms

Here is the Berlander Acacia in the courtyard.

And the Wisteria. It's not as lush as normal, but at least it's still alive.

Next is the Lantana

The slopes are covered with blooms of ocotillo but I can't seem to capture anything except the close ones with the camera. Maybe if you enlarge the photo and look closely you can get a better sense of it.

Needless to say, the hummers aren't interested in the feeders these days.