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Friday, August 31, 2012

Lovely oasis day

I arrived at the oasis early this morning with a long list of things to do. Bird watching wasn't on the list. But as I applied water sealer to the wooden benches and picnic tables it was hard not to notice a few of the many birds present. The one that stood out the most was this Acorn Woodpecker. My oak trees have almost no acorns this year and the ones it does have are small and green. I usually have more acorns. The scant rains must have come at the wrong time.

Yesterday in Alpine I went to the recycle center and loaded my pickup with logs as big as I could lift. They were about 4 feet long. Then I took them to my husband and he sawed them into firewood as I unloaded them. Then I reloaded the firewood into my pickup and today re-unloaded it at CMO to top off my winter supply of firewood. I've no idea what kind of wood it is, but most of it is heavy and there's no sap in it, so it'll make great heat in my efficiency wood stove. 

I'm trying to sort out the garter snake species I have at CMO. (Notice the full belly. Probably a frog.) I think this one is a Western Black-necked Garter Snake but I'm not sure, and I also think I have the Eastern Black-necked Garter Snake and maybe another species of garter snake. I'll photograph them when I see them and get it sorted out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Little shower

I got to use my new rain gauge for the first time. Now I can measure my rainfall in hundredths of an inch instead of tenths. So I got .23" last night. Cool.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Couple more flowers

This first plant is a noxious weed, in my opinion, but does make a lovely flower. It is so stickery and invasive that I dislike it. I try to pull up most of it and leave patches of it where I can tolerate it. I have to put on leather gloves when I pull it, which is a big pain. It's in the nightshade family I believe.

The next flower is so tiny that I put my hand in the photo so you could see how small it really is. I don't remember what it's called. Maybe someone can help me out there. It's a vine-like plant if that helps.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New rain gauge

I'm all ready for rain now. Can't wait to measure it on my new gauge, a birthday gift from Kelly and Donna Bryan. ( I turned 72 last month.)

This morning there was what appeared to be an  influx of warblers, but this afternoon I couldn't find a one. Here is the only one I got photos of, a Northern Waterthrush.

The others, from what I saw, were all female Wilson's and Yellow Warblers.

While I was watering trees and pulling grass I saw a big patch of what I think are more of those Orange Flameflowers, like the ones I posted on July 9th. So lovely. Other flowers too that I plan to photograph tomorrow.

I got chased by this javelina. Took this photo from the safety of my pickup.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More dragonflies

Here are a couple of dragonfly shots I like. I'm stuck with dragonflies until more birds of interest show up.The first one is of a male Pin-tailed Pondhawk. (I posted a different photo of one on July 5th). This male was perched out in the middle of the pond. In order to get a better photo of it I put on wading boots and placed a stick closer to shore. The stick was crooked and slumped sideways in the mud from the vertical position I had it, but whatever! It worked.

Next is a pair of what are probably Plateau Spreadwings. They're the bottom two on the stick. (The top one is a Blue Dasher) All my IDs, of  course, are per Kelly. I'd be lost without his help.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Challenging plants

Mark Klym of Austin brought a lovely group of birders to the oasis this morning.

I'm always surprised that birders are interested in coming here other than during spring migration. Today the oasis looks lovely and the weather was great, but very few birds.

Here is a weed that I'm allergic to, so I endeavor to pull every one of them I see. They smell nasty too. I hate to even get close enough to them to pull, but before I discovered what was causing my allergy I couldn't go to my oasis this time of year without having to take medication. Now I can enjoy it allergy free, except when I pull one of these. My eyes itch and my nose runs when I get near them, but I don't have to take meds to breathe now that there are only one or two around. The other day I pulled a bunch of them (all I could locate) and had to take an allergy pill. Today I located 2 more.

This next plant I like because it's of the poinsettia family. I don't know of anything it's useful for though.

And these next ones have seed pods that are like velcro. I call them cockle-burs.

I don't pull stuff unless I know for sure what it is I'm pulling. You never know, it might turn out to be something wonderful. Some do; some not so much.

UPDATE: A sharp reader of this blog informed me that the noxious weed I'm allergic to is probably Golden Crownbeard (Veresina encelioides), known locally as Cowpen Daisy. So I did some research and discovered that weed, which I'm sure it is, is poisonous to cattle, sheep and goats. It contains toxic galegine. Not good for birds either, apparently. I'll be even more diligent against it now, although it's so invasive nearly worldwide, that it'll be an ongoing battle. Just one more ongoing battle to add to my list.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Oasis state of mind

I woke up at 5 AM to the sound of thunder. It rained for the next two hours, but just a slow drizzle. Nothing ran, so the tanks didn't get topped off. Maybe tomorrow. I ended up getting over half an inch.

So, since I didn't have to water today I finished up a bunch of miscellaneous chores. Also found time to sit for a while and watch dragonflies. It was a bit cool and cloudy for much dragonfly activity. I'm determined to learn them. What works best for me is to photograph them, then try to ID them from the photos. I'm getting more proficient at it. It eventually soaks in that I've taken enough photos of a certain species. I know what it is before I take the photo, so I don't need to take anymore of that one. Here's my favorite from today's efforts. It's a Common Green Darner. Hopefully, I won't need to take any more photos of that species.

Monday, August 13, 2012

An oasis sort of day

After we banded at sites to the south, Kelly Bryan and I hung out at the oasis. Near triple-digit heat didn't deter us. An approaching cool front brought a few migrants ahead of it. I see more when Kelly's present, plus he IDs the stuff I can't. For example, we saw a contopus flycatcher, and I took one look and called it a Western Wood-Pewee. But Kelly set me straight real quick. It was an Olive-sided Flycatcher. A pretty distant shot... not one of my better ones.

I did better on dragonflies, photography-wise, not in identifying them. This one is a Common Whitetail.

And below is a Flame Skimmer.

And a lovely Roseate Skimmer

But enough of dragonflies. Here's an interesting bug that neither of us could ID, although Kelly said it's a wood eating bug. So pretty though. I guess it loves my mulch. Maybe even arrived with it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Always interesting

After lunch and a short nap I went back outside but it was too hot to work so I finished the watering and taking pictures in between moving the hose. It seems there's always interesting stuff to see and photograph. I almost missed noticing this Black-chinned Hummingbird female at a sunflower that volunteered to grow, probably because of the fortune I spend on sunflower seeds.

Here's a Familiar Bluet dragonfly.

There's no hurry on cleaning out that ditch. It'll probably be months or years before we get another big gully-washer..... or tomorrow. I'll wait until the weather cools off. At 7:00 PM it was still 95° at the oasis.

Oasis maintenance

Most people probably "get" how difficult it is to haul water for a year to keep the oasis alive, but probably people don't realize how much work is required even when it rains. Of course, rain is sporadic so I get a one year supply (ten year supply if I had enough storage) in a few minutes and then no more for weeks or months. So watering is pretty much a constant except for a week or so after a big rain. During winter I water weekly or twice monthly depending on the weather. In hot weather often twice-weekly.

The torrential rain I got in June filled the tanks in short order and the deluge kept going. After the dirt tanks in one arroyo were filled the water ran over the spillway and into a ditch along side the road that goes to the oasis from the outside world. There is no other possible place for the road. The ditch empties into a culvert that takes the water under the road and back into the arroyo. But every few years or so the deluge is so immense that the ditch overflows across the road. The recent rains after 18 months without any rain carried so much debris with it that the ditch totally plugged up like a blocked artery. All that water ran across the road. Eventually, if the ditch isn't cleaned out, the road will wash away. So I worked some on that this morning. Here is the ditch after I had already dragged off a couple of dead yuccas out of it. This view is looking downstream from the spillway.

Here it is looking the other way, toward the spillway and the part that isn't blocked. While I was working down along the road I pruned brush away so vehicles can get through. That's an ongoing chore, too. Filled the pickup twice and not done yet. Had to take a lunch break and hopefully a much needed siesta.

 During a rest break, in which I watered and pulled weeds, I relocated a Powdered Dancer dragonfly that a recent visitor, Melody Lytle, had discovered here. That's a new one for the oasis list. Thanks, Melody!

Saw this neat bug. No idea what it is.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Another dragonfly day

Kelly Bryan came to the area to do some hummingbird banding and while he was here he inventoried the dragonflies. He located a couple of species new to the oasis. I think this one is a Plateau Dragonlet.

And this one is a Spot-winged Glider.

Another new one is this Blue-eyed Darner.

He also discovered mating activity of the previously observed Eastern Amberwings (see post of July 20, 2012)

Friday, August 3, 2012

New viewing area done

I was so anxious to see it done that I slaved away yesterday even when the temperature reached 100.° I don't seem to be suffering any ill effects. It helped that after every wheelbarrow load of gravel I hauled up out of the arroyo I sat in the shade and watched birds for a while and drank lots of water. I can just handle a load half full so had to take lots of trips. That's OK. It's done and I love it.

Here's a photo I took of the Brown-crested Flycatcher during one of my numerous rests.

I tried to find the Louisiana Waterthrush that had been photographed the previous day (Aug 1) by a visiting bird photographer, but only got one half-second glimpse of it. I imagine it's the same one seen here on July 22-25, but is sure much more secretive and quiet now, if it is the same one.