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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Very depressing

It seemed to take longer than usual to fill the stucco tank so I decided to monitor the level to see if it leaks. It must have sprung a big leak. It's going down fast. I'm estimating about 500-1000 gallons an hour, or half an inch an hour. About the equivalent of two garden hoses going full blast all the time. Seems to be increasing too. So discouraging when I finally get the water I need, slave away for two days to get it pumped and then watch it go down the drain, literally.

This happened once before years ago and we pumped the water out into the dirt tank, repaired the leak and put the water back in. But I had help then. Don't now. And no time. For the next three days I'm committed to help band hummers and the following day is my dental checkup in Odessa. I guess Thursday I can come with lots of gas and spark plugs and salvage what I can. Just moving one of the gas pumps into place is a physical killer for me, for starters. Then there's the priming, gassing the pumps by lifting a heavy gas can, dealing with heavy hoses, and on and on. Somehow, I have to get through this. I'll still have the big tank, which is more than I had last year. Hauling water seems to me a worst form of torture. I couldn't endure it again. Took a lot out of me.

The stucco tank was never constructed properly on the low end (far side on above photo). The other sides were all dug out of hard caliche, then stuccoed, by me, by hand. But the far end was an arroyo my late husband blocked up with fill dirt, which I also stuccoed. As far as I know that's the only place that it's ever leaked. It's always leaked at least half an inch a day at best, in spite of my obsessive patching whenever it's dry. The tank's concrete is bonded to the surrounding earth and it shrinks and expands with the weather. Not good. The older it gets the worse, I suppose. I know at some point I'll have to give up, but that would be heartbreaking to do. When we built that tank we didn't realize we'd actually depend on the water to keep the oasis alive. We thought it would be surplus water. Not. I sure wish we would have constructed it better.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

More water added

I now have plenty of water to top off the stucco tank. The big "concrete" tank, which only lacked a few inches of being full, got topped off last night by a small spate of hard rain.

My plan was to finish pumping the water from the upper dirt tank to the lower dirt tank, then from there to the stucco tank, as I posted yesterday. However, the rain replaced what I had pumped out of the upper tank yesterday, giving me a bigger water supply. All day today I've been pumping out that tank and it should be done by dark. The glitch came when the pump moving the water from the lower dirt tank to the stucco tank quit pumping. The lower tank will hold all the water from the upper tank but it was already half full from yesterday's pumping so I needed to get it moving. Finally, at 5 PM, as the lower tank was getting brimful, I found a spark plug and replaced the one on the pump and got it started. I'm so exhausted from working on pumps today. The one in the settling pond quit too. I took the plug out of it and put it into a spare pump that wouldn't run either and like a miracle it took off on the first pull of the rope.

When I'm done, sometime tomorrow, I'll still have water left in the lower dirt tank that the stucco tank won't hold. Since that dirt tank holds water really well, unlike the others, I'll still be able to top off the stucco tank again in a few weeks. So things are looking good. Of course, if it rains tonight and fills everything up, my day's slavery will have been for naught. A chance I have to take. I even had to go to Study Butte and spend $50 on gas for the pumps. Water isn't cheap no matter how you get it. But I love gas pumps when they work like they're supposed to. They move water ten times faster than the electric pumps. Just in case, though, I set up my biggest electric pump today. Moving any water is better than moving no water. This pipe is 1-1/2" in diameter. The gas pump puts out  a 3" diameter stream of water, and with a lot more pressure.

The good thing about the electric pumps is that I can leave them run all night long, whereas the gas pumps need refueling every 2 hours. Also the electric pumps are blessedly quiet.

That darned sapsucker is destroying all the bark from the locust tree. In desperation, I wrapped cloth around the trunk. Hope it helps.

Tank almost topped off finally...

I manage to squeeze the last bit of daylight out of every day. Actually, I'll be topping this tank off by flashlight tonight. If I didn't have loss to evaporation or leakage I would have an awesome abundance of water at my disposal. Still this tank hopefully won't get empty before next May. Then I'll start pumping out of the other bigger tank.

It'll all be worth it when I get photos of wonderful birds. Like maybe a Worm-eating Warbler, or a Black-capped Vireo building a nest..... well, I can dream, can't I!

Friday, September 28, 2012

A little added water

The oasis got nearly an inch of rain but the only place that caught runoff was the upper dirt tank to the east.

So I'm pumping that water down to the lower dirt tank. From there I'll pump it into the concreted "stucco" tank, which I want topped off (see previous post). It'll come close.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hoping for rain

The oasis was quite birdy this morning, probably migrants ahead of the impending front. I sure hope it brings some rain to the oasis. Here's the tank I need topped off, but the other tank needs a few inches too that were lost to evaporation.

Yesterday Kelly located a Cassin's Vireo that I would have liked to photograph. Although I relocated it this morning, it was too elusive for me to photograph. I got a few warblers for my efforts though.

Townsend's Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Saw this cute lizard on a lily pad. Don't know what kind it is though. Maybe a Trans-Pecos Striped Whiptail.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Those darn sapsuckers

.Here's a Twelve-spotted Skimmer...

Also got better shots of a sapsucker than I had previously. I wasn't sure if this is a Red-naped or a Yellow-bellied, but Kelly Bryan says it's a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Both frequent the oasis. 

 I hate the damage they do to my trees though. This tree is a Honey Locust. It doesn't appear that there's much sap for it to suck from this tree. It's "sap wells" are dry, I think.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A watering day

My definition of a lovely day is a day that's not too hot, not too cold, and not too windy. My definition of a perfect day is all of the above plus not too sunny, and water in my tanks to water with. I love overcast days. Today was another lovely day.(Perfect days only come a couple of times a year.)

Some migrants are moving through, although I didn't take time to photograph them since I can only be here one day, then other obligations need attending to. I spent my time watering the trees, ever mindful that trees grow on water, but water doesn't grow on trees. I'm going to just water once weekly now that the weather is cooler and the trees need to get ready for winter dormancy.

Here's a little Ruby-throated Hummingbird that seems to have damage to the bill.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Oasis lovely but not birdy

The overcast windy weather finally went away and the oasis looks moist and lovely.

Very few birds though.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hummers swarming in Alpine

I never had this many hummers here at one time before. Cannot keep the feeders full. I believe these are all migrating Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

I have 12 feeders out and wish I'd brought some more feeders to town from the oasis because I don't have many hummers there. I hear they're swarming like locusts in the Davis Mountains too. I hope the oasis swarms with them next. I'm ready.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Damsels in distress?

It was so windy today I finished the watering I needed to do and headed for cover. Even the damselflies seemed to be clinging for dear life.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

All systems up and running

I was a happy camper watering my trees today. My favorite thing to do. My interest in birds, butterflies, odonates, and other life forms comes and goes depending on what's in abundance at the time, but my trees (ie. oasis) is always my top priority. The above photo is not what I would have liked but I took it myself and after several attempts that cut my head off, I settled on this one. Only just now it occurred to me I could have put the camera on a tripod. Duh! 

The new pressure switch works great and has more pressure than the old one, which will be better as long as no leaks appear in the lines.

Husband on a two-week fishing trip to Colorado so I can just indulge myself to my heart's content. Hopefully, it'll rain tomorrow. There's a good chance of it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A better day today

My son came down from Alpine and checked everything and concluded that a "phase" of my electricity was out, so I called the electric company. Therefore, I went to Alpine without it getting fixed because I didn't know when they would make it out and I couldn't do any watering. Tomorrow we have to leave at 6 AM for Odessa. (I'm getting some teeth pulled and implants put in. The worst part is that I'll have to eat mush for 4 months. Seems excessively long to me.)

Anyway, I was most anxious about the electricity. I MUST water my trees Wed or Thurs. At 5 PM I couldn't stand not knowing any longer so I called Rio Grande Electric. They had gone out there and apparently found a bad wire and fixed it and I'm good to go. Now I just hope my newly installed pump switch works. I think it will, but it should be fixable, if not. And I think the old one would have worked fine too.

There are lots of juvenile birds everywhere. I love the newborn quail best but they're gone too fast to photograph. This young Northern Mockingbird hung around just fine, though. (Photo taken at CMO)

I want to photograph butterflies on these flowers in Alpine, but when I go outside my hay fever goes bonkers.

There are weeds in Alpine that I call Ragweed (I'm a yankee) and my husband calls Careless Weed, but whatever it is, I'm allergic to it. At the oasis I'm allergic to Golden Crownbeard but don't have a problem when I keep it all pulled from there.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A challenging day

It's so glib to lecture my kids as to how they should consider their problems as challenges, but almost impossible to do it myself. I just get so overwhelmed with "challenges."

Since I have to have major dental surgery Tuesday, I got my chores done in Alpine yesterday and came down to the oasis early today to get things caught up here. The first thing I noticed was that the drip I left dripping under the cottonwood tree was not dripping. Sometimes the pressure switch gets stuck and I have to fiddle with it to get it going. Well, I fiddled ad nauseam, then decided it was time to install the new switch I'd purchase some time back. So after all morning and my son in Alpine advising me along the way I  completed my first pump switch installation and still the pump didn't come on. Son walked me through testing with an amp meter thing and somewhere along the line I discovered the breakers at the pole weren't hot, although they had been hot earlier. (I did not touch 2 hot wires together) Anyway, to make a long story shorter, I finally gave up and my son is reluctantly coming down in the morning to, hopefully, fix it.

On the bright side I didn't get electrocuted or snake-bit although I had close encounters with both today.

Took a few photos late this afternoon in an attempt to de-stress. Here's my lovely tank full of water. Trying to enjoy seeing it because I never know how many months, or years, before I'll see it full again.

Finally got one of the turtles with it's neck stuck out.

 And the first roadrunner I've seen here since early last year.Of all the species that abandoned the oasis last year, it was the last one to return.

Lots of frogs around the ponds. I think they're Leopard Frogs.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lovely surprise

I rode down to the oasis this AM with my husband to drop off some benches he had restored for me. Plan was to stay about an hour. As we were unloading the benches I noticed the big concrete tank was brimful. I actually screamed! Somewhere upstream it had rained last night and run enough to top off that tank. It didn't make it to the other tanks, but the settling pond was full and needed to be pumped so as not to lose that water. My new rain gauge registered slightly over one-tenth of an inch; not enough to run here. So I sent Hugh back to town without me. My sister will give me a ride in the morning. Tank is on left side of spillway; settling pond on right side.

It took me 8 hours to pump out the water.

Destination is the tank that was down about 4 feet because I've been using it for watering all summer. This means that I'll have at least another month's supply next spring. May be the difference between having to haul water an extra month or not having to haul water at all, depending on when it rains next summer.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Alpine red stuff

I'm still struggling to learn the dragonflies and damselflies. I bought 2 new books about them besides the one I already had. The new books are very helpful. Our ponds here were quite active this afternoon and I took many photos. Still working on IDing them but here is my favorite. It's a Desert Firetail (damselfly).

For the last three years or so I've been trying to grow Tran-Pecos Morning Glory. Finally, this year we have a nice vine of the lovely red tubulars flowers. Eventually, I hope to get it growing at the oasis. I tried last year but with the record heat and record drought it only made a couple of blooms, then died. I also might try the Coral Vine again.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A full day

Whew! I can hardly catch my breath. We started early this morning banding near Terlingua where Kelly Bryan (the master bander) spotted a lovely snake, a Texas Longnose Snake. That's a new snake species for me. Kelly tried to keep it from disappearing long enough for me to snap a photo of it.

After banding we went in search of odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) at Lajitas. It was scorching hot and we OD'd on dragonflies. I took 230 photos and I'm sure Kelly took more. I haven't had a chance to ID all my photos yet but here's one of my favorites, a Widow Skimmer.

On the way back to the oasis around 5-6 PM, we came upon the Terlingua Ranch Road totally flooded. For miles we drove through scary water rushing over the road. Low cars were waiting for the water to subside but our pickups made it ever so slowly through. Got a couple of miles from the oasis and bone dry. Not a drop. How disappointing! It would have topped off my tanks and given everything a good soaking.

I'll try to post more odonate photos when I get rested up and get them ID'd.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Oasis turtles

Turtles just seem to show up at the oasis whenever there's water. I guess they're just plain old mud turtles.

This turtle likes to sit atop a dead yucca that the June rain washed into the pond.

Now he can survey his shrinking kingdom. Hope we get another big rain soon so the pond won't dry up quite as fast.