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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Time flies

I can't believe it's been 5 days since I blogged and tomorrow is July already. Since I have water in my tanks and theorize that when it rains big this summer the tanks will fill up in a few minutes and the rest will head for the ocean, I'm watering a lot (making room in the tanks for the next rain). So things are looking good. I have the biggest peach crop ever.

I love how close the unbanded hummingbirds let me get to them. Here's a newly fledged male Lucifer just starting to get a gorget. It may be just one shiny feather right now, but he seems plenty proud of it.

There are quite a few dragonflies around, including more Filligree Skimmers than I've had before.

If you're thinking I should ration water in case it doesn't rain this summer, the half full tanks wouldn't last me until next summer anyway, so I may as well enjoy using it and hope for more rain, which is sure to come.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fun hummingbird day

Today was a scheduled banding day at CMO. We took down or covered up all the feeders except the ones inside the traps. While the hummers generally ignore the flowers in favor of the feeders, most all have been previously trapped and banded, so they decided to favor the flowers today. I couldn't resist the photo op. Here are a couple that I snapped at the anisacanthus, male and female Lucifers.

But the highlight of the day was a hybrid Lucifer/Black-chinned. In July of 2011 the bird was first banded as a recently fledged bird. Kelly's notes read,  "Hybrid? slightly decurved bill and strong rufous on lower flanks.  Tail missing."  The missing tail  made it even harder to determine what species it was.  Well, when Kelly caught it today, as an adult male, he immediately noticed a black bib under the chin that a Lucifer never has, but otherwise it had a Lucifer gorget. The measurements produced other characteristics of both species. (Photos by Kelly Bryan with his permission.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Not just for the birds

Well, it seems the Western Kingbird nesting is no more. I think something got the female on the nest in the night, probably a Great Horned Owl. The male hung around morosely all day and finally departed late this afternoon.

Here are a few photos I took today. I'll start with a new damselfly species for the oasis, even though it's a very common species----- female American Rubyspot.

Next are a couple of dragonflies on a tether that goes to the pump in the tank (in case we have to get the pump out of 10' of water to replace or unclog it). They are an Eastern Amberwing and a Great Spreadwing male.

Then a small frog and the tiniest turtle I've ever seen in the wild. It's about 2" long. I don't know what species they are. I didn't install them, they just show up on their own.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Maybe a little senility here

I write the names of expected visitors in my pocket calendar. For today I had written "Kleggs." I watched and waited and no one showed up. Thinking I might have the wrong day, I did an email search for Kleggs, to confirm the date of the visit. Nothing came up. So I went back to the calendar and looked closer. Upon inspection I determined I had written, "KIeggs." The date I expected the kingbird eggs to hatch. (KI=WEKI=Western Kingbird). Boy, did I feel stupid. But, hey, a small "l" looks like a capital "I" in my way of writing (or even the number 1). I even had to change the font of this paragraph so you could see the difference.

She is still setting. No feeding activity.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Gorgeous gorgets

This morning I saw the female Lucifer Hummingbird with all the gorget feathers. She's the one who starred in Ron Cook's awesome courtship photos (see May 16 post).

This may or may not be the featured male.

The oasis is full of fledglings. Easy to see as many as five Ash-throated Flycatchers or Mockingbirds at one time. Here is a juvenile Black-throated Sparrow.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

No routine days at CMO

I found a pair of earrings I'd been searching for since late April. A visitor had lost them here, and was quite distraught to have lost them. Seems she thought she was tucking them into a little pocket in her cargo pants that was actually a tab of some sort, with no bottom. Anyway, they came back and searched the next day, and I've looked ever since. Today, while not looking, I was sitting on one of the benches, in the opposite side of the oasis than she thought she had lost them, and while looking at an insect on the ground that caught my attention, I saw part of one earring barely poking out of the ground. (They're silver and turquoise, and apparently had great sentimental value.) I spent quite a while looking in the same area for the second earring and finally gave up. Then I saw a little weed nearby and when I bent over to pluck it out, there was the other earring. I emailed the lady, asking for her address to send them to. She replied, almost immediately, FROM FRANCE. What a strange technological world. (I'll be sending them to her US address.)

So after not having posted photos for four days, I decided to take a few of whatever...

Here are anisacanthus blooming nicely. Other stuff must be blooming too because there are fewer hummers at the feeders.

I'm still delighted to have Western Kingbirds nesting here this year for the first time.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Misc photos

I was so overwhelmed with pumping water from my dirt tanks into the concrete tanks, working on the road, then having a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher show up (which turned out to be a one day event), that I got behind on posting some photos I had wanted to post. The oasis went from having less than a foot of water in the bottom of this tank to 7 feet of water.

Below I'm pumping the last out from the dirt tanks into this stucco tank, which ended up with 4 feet, so I'm good for this year anyway and rainy season hasn't officially started yet. There's plenty of room for more water in my two tanks. Besides, the wildlife pond (the one with the reeds in it) didn't get any water yet. It's not a tank that I store water in and use from so it doesn't get priority. All and all, I'm a happy camper. I may have to invent a word and say I'm a happy "oasiser."

Hundreds of these larva appeared in the big tank after the rain and I've no idea what they are. Does anyone know?

Here is a Great Spreadwing.

Mark Lockwood came to see the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher and discovered five baby Spotted Ground Squirrels at a hole in the road. Here is a photo by him. 

He also captured this shot of a Rusty-rumped Whiptail.  Thanks, Mark, for allowing me to post your photos.

He had planned to come see the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher today, but knew that species tended to be short term events, so if he wanted to photograph it, he needed to get here immediately. Good thing too. Those that couldn't get here until today missed seeing it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher

I was busy pumping water, cleaning out a ditch, etc., but sat down to chat with some visiting birders. As we were talking, a Western Wood-Pewee appeared, but flew off before David Hanson could get a photo of it. He expressed a desire to photograph that species, so I went looking for it. (That species usually hangs out along the arroyo adjacent to the oasis.) I failed to relocate it, but in the process I got a quick glimpse of a different flycatcher. I tried to think what it could be, and all I could come up with was a juvenile Vermilion Flycatcher. I didn't say that to David or his wife, Jan, because I was pretty certain it wasn't that.

Shortly thereafter we all saw it fly across one of the ponds, but still not a good enough look to ID. Then I saw it fly into the big cottonwood tree, but couldn't spot it. David spotted it, and immediately declared it a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. I still  hadn't located it but his announcement sent me scurrying for my camera. Meanwhile, he and Jan got great photos of it. I eventually got a few decent ones too.

I think it's about the 21st record for Texas. All but one of the sightings were in east Texas. The other Trans-Pecos record was in Pine Canyon in 1997.

Quite a few people have come to see it late this afternoon and more are coming tomorrow. We didn't get rain so the roads are good. And I saw the Western Wood-Pewee all afternoon after the Hanson's left (without a photo of it).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bona fida rain

It started to rain hard around 2:00 PM. Before it even stopped I rushed out to see if my tanks were filling up. The upper dirt tank filled up and I'm now pumping the water to the lower dirt tank. Tomorrow I'll pump it to the stucco tank, which should end up about half full. This photo was taken at the dirt tank as it was filling and is about half full here.

Next I rushed to the oasis to see if the concrete tank there was filling up, but no water was coming down the arroyo. I figured it would any minute (spillway on left behind yellow flower bush).

I turned to photograph a little stream of water running into the arroyo..

...and when I turned back to look up the arroyo the water was coming down.

Soon it was rushing. Ultimately, it filled the big concrete tank half full. I'm pumping out the "settling pond" now which will probably bring it up to 3/4 full.

My life revolves around rain

 Yesterday I had a long soaking rain that added up to nearly half an inch. 

Normally, I just get visitors during spring migration, and not during rainy season. However, since I had the overwintering Varied Thrush here for 5 month it seems like I got on the radar, and birders don't stop coming. This is fine, but you should know, if you come shortly after a big rain, like the next day or two afterwards, you may end up in a muddy mess. If the road is muddy, do not try to make it up the big hill. Sliding back down is dangerous. Better to park along the road and walk in. It will be a muddy walk. If I know what day you're planning to come, I will try to contact you and let you know if the road is bad. Of course, rain doesn't happen here very often so you're probably totally safe. I don't want to prohibit visiting during summer because it's a good time to see Lucifer Hummingbirds. 

Yesterday's rain took much of the urgency away on my low water situation. Not only do I not need to water for a week, but the tanks caught more than a thousand gallons. I'm good until some time in July now. Additionally, the rain cooled things off. More rain is expected today, which would be wonderful. I'm not optimistic about my tanks filling today because this rain is coming out of the Gulf of Mexico. I get my good monsoons from the Baja....normally. Anything is possible, I realize. As I've stated previously, it takes a half inch of rain or more falling down in torrents, faster than it can soak into the ground. Then a flash flood runs down the arroyo where my diversion dams are. In a good monsoonal flash flood, everything can be filled up in a matter of 10-15 minutes.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Almost rainy season

I'm holding on without buying water like I was doing a year ago. Just sparse watering weekly, not the normal watering twice weekly that I like to do in weather this hot. We'll see how things do. Rain is forecast later in the week.

I got recruited to go to the Fort Davis mountains to service Kelly's feeders while he's in East Texas, so I decided to try for photos of some species there that I don't have at CMO. Didn't really get the shots I dreamed about. This is what I got though. First, is a Painted Redstart. I heard the male singing from where I was sitting but never could get a clear shot at it.

Next, is a Grace's Warbler I spotted high in a dead Ponderosa Pine tree (compliments of the 2011 drought).

And finally, the bird I most wanted to photograph, a male Rivoli's Hummingbird. I had hoped to get it in sunlight, but all I could capture was a distant shot of one in the shade. Not quite its magnificent self.

And I did get photos of ordinary birds gathering nesting material. Here is a Lesser Goldfinch.

And a Black-chinned Hummingbird. 'Tis the season....

Saturday, June 8, 2013

CMO hot, no rain, berries

Have a good crop of native berries. Here's a native Desert Olive (Forestiera pubescens, I think).

And here is the native Littleleaf Sumac (Rhus microphylla).

Friday, June 7, 2013

Nests and fledglings galore

Bonnie Wunderlich is still monitoring her fledged Pyrrhuloxias (see post of May 15). This photo she took amuses me because the begging juvenile is still exhibiting begging behavior even as it's being fed. Notice the wings aquiver in a plea for food .

Here is a Bell's Vireo sitting on her nest today at CMO.

Monday, June 3, 2013


 Earlier this morning at the oasis I was surprised to see so much lechuguilla had survived the drought. Makes an interesting bloom. We got .34" of much needed rain last night. Nice to see a dab falling into the tank instead of being pumped out. Not to mention not having to water for a few days. More rain in the forecast for this week.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

First juvenile Lucifer Hummingbird this year

It's hard to believe I was buying and hauling water a year ago. Hope we get rain soon because I don't plan on hauling water ever again.

Kelly Bryan banded hummers here today and captured the first oasis juvenile Lucifer for the year. The following photo is one I took yesterday of a previously banded adult female Lucifer.