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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tank is leaking again

I was so sure it couldn't possibly leak after all the meticulous patching I did last winter. But it's leaking 3" per day. Must have sprung a new leak. I just can't drain it and go through all that again. I'll wait until it's empty and try to find the leak. The other tank isn't leaking a drop. One of these years I'm going to have to spend big bucks to get an acrylic liner sprayed on the tank I think. I'm trying to not get too depressed over it.

Everything is green and blooming and lovely. If the weather will stay cool and rainy, things might start to look nearly as good as they did pre-drought.

Here are a couple of photos. The first one is a Cape Honeysuckle that my friend, Bonnie, gave me last year. This is the first time it's bloomed since I planted it in the ground.

And this other photo is some plant that I don't know if is normal looking, or if the leaves have been attacked by some kind of mite or something. Does anyone know?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Never too much rain

I helped band hummers in Ft Davis today and arrived at CMO just barely ahead of a rain storm. When I arrived at 3 PM it was 97°. Within 30 minutes it rained nearly an inch and cooled down to 67°. And if that wasn't weird enough, my sister a mile away didn't even get a tenth of an inch. So all my tanks are full and I've no place to pump the water to that's in the dirt tanks. Tomorrow I'm going to have to catch a bunch of gambusias to put in the dirt tanks so I won't have unbearable mosquitoes in a couple of weeks, coincidentally when there'll be several big tour groups here to watch hummingbirds.

With careful management I should be able to make it through to next year's rainy season now. That's always a relief. Yes sir, yes sir, three tanks full!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

More rain for the tanks

It rained hard early this morning and put water in the upper dirt tank and filled the settling pond going into the big tank. I was able to pump it brimful. Usually, it rains late afternoon and I end up spending all night pumping so it was great to do it in the day time. I finished a little after 9 PM just as it was getting dark.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hummingbird migration in progress

Lots of hummers. I didn't get very inspired for photos because it sprinkled all day long and without sun my photos aren't that good. Here are a couple of migrating hummers.


A couple of shorebirds showed up. Here's a juvenile Great Blue Heron.

The high temperature here today was 65°. I had a little water to pump into a tank today from yesterday's rain. Still need to get the tanks full before the end of rainy season though. But this cool and well-watered ground is wonderful. Maybe the oasis will finally start getting back to its pre-drought lushness.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

CMO stuff

We were forecast for rain practically all week and haven't gotten any yet, but at least it's nice and cool. Kelly Bryan came for his scheduled hummingbird banding yesterday, but due to flooding in central Texas our electricity went out for over 8 hours and I couldn't post anything.

He got a new trap because lots of the hummers know the wire cage traps and won't go in. Therefore, we miss out on recapture data that is valuable. The new "bonnet" trap is open on all sides so catches them easier. It's a bit harder to set up and operate, but I really like it.

Above is a photo of our 3 trap types. The one on the left is a trainer trap to get them used to going fearlessly into a trap. We never actually trap with it. The blue covers will be removed when we finish our banding session. The trap in the center is the new bonnet trap, open on all sides, and the trap on the right is one we've used during the last 5 years of the project. It works well, but after being trapped repeatedly some of the hummers avoid it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A month ago today

That's when I got a rain big enough to end up with both tanks half full. I gambled on more rain and began watering adequately, instead of the usual rationing. Of course, only rain can be really sufficient. Well, rain is forecast for this week and I'm excitedly anticipating it. Good thing because I used up the water in one of the half-full tanks. Not scary.........   yet.

There's an online local newspaper that did an article about our hummingbird banding project and a little about the oasis. Here's the link if anyone is interested:

Gulf Fritillary from today

Here is a Kiowa Dancer damselfly photo taken yesterday that I was too tired to post last night.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

New butterfly species at CMO

I arrived here at 7 AM, anxious to water my trees after having been gone for 4 days. I finally gave up on the watering for now because I kept getting distracted by odonates and butterflies. I knew immediately I had never seen this one before. I photographed it and looked it up. It's a Ruddy Daggerwing (Marpesia petreus). Cool!

It has obviously lived a very hard life up until now. Here it is as seen from below.

Also, I photographed a W Checkered Garter Snake, totally unaware that it had a frog in its mouth. Yuck!

Too tired to post more photos from today, but I had 3 species of damselflies today; Kiowa Dancer, Blue-fronted Dancer, and Powdered Dancer. There's always tomorrow. An oasis in the desert is a fascinating place!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Another triple-digit day

My friend, Bonnie Wunderlich, photographed this cool lizard at her house some miles to the south of my oasis. I think it's a Round-tailed Horned Lizard, but could be wrong.

I'm always trying to photograph the Lesser Nighthawks that spend breeding seasons at the oasis. So far this is the best I've been able to do. They don't slow down for the camera.

Here's a better look at the thatching the Blue Grosbeak has incorporated into her nest (see yesterday's post). I've never seen such extensive use of what I believe is sotol in a nest. Below are a couple of photos of a sotol stalk  We had a good crop of them this year.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer doldrums

Waiting for rain, but at least I have plenty of water for now (as long as we get at least one good monsoonal rain this summer yet). It got over 100° here today.

I was delighted to see that the nest of Blue Grosbeaks in the courtyard still contains 3 healthy nestlings. They're about 4 days old now. I couldn't get a good photo because the nest is so hidden in a guayacan bush. That white looking stuff is some fibrous plant that she lined or decorated the nest with. Probably from a sotol stalk. It would be awesome to watch her carrying one of those large pieces she used.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Watering and thinking

I watered again today. Not many birds to watch like I usually do while watering so I was thinking about how the oasis hasn't progressed since 2010, before the big freeze and big drought. My goal is to have a canopy of shade over about 90% of the oasis, except for over the tanks, flower garden, and cholla patch. Currently, I'm at about half that goal. So when the weather is really hot, the place isn't self-cooling enough.

The last couple of days have been cooler, but I don't expect growth until we get the summer monsoon rains. I barely squeaked by in 2012 and it's been less than 13 months since I got the rain that enabled me to stop buying and hauling water. Since then, it's been either too hot to grow, too cold to grow, or rationing water. Only after the last rain a couple of weeks ago did I finally dare to quit rationing water. And even that would be a disaster if summer rains don't come. I'm optimistic that we'll have a good rainy season this year.

Sleepy Orange butterfly

Besides the trees that died, many others are much regressed since 2010. That includes the huisache, soapberries, and mulberries. Speaking of mulberries, a small one that came up under the dead cottonwood is fruiting for the second time this year. It's a volunteer, so not sure what kind it is, but don't think it's the native Mountain Mulberry (morus microphylla), as the leaves seem too big. Anyway, I have two of the native ones and they're not fruiting again.

Some things are doing really good, like the apricot and peach trees made huge crops. And the oak trees are loaded with tiny acorns. It'll be so fun to see what birds come and enjoy them. I had scrub-jays last year even though there were very few acorns. I guess there were more here than there were other places though.

Chinkapin Oak
Live Oak

Monday, July 1, 2013

Oasis today

Got as much work done by 11:00 AM as I plan to do today. Rain is in the forecast for this week. Hope it happens before I have to go back to Alpine. Everyone loves the blooming anisacanthus, including me.

I've been picking peaches off and on for a week as they ripen. Ours in Alpine only made a handful, what with May's hard freeze and June's devastating hail. The oasis escaped both catastrophes this time.

Here's a Gyp Phacelia (or Baby-curls). My sister identified it for me. I would never have been able to. This is not a very showy specimen, but it's the first I remember having at the oasis. Guess I need to keep a plant list too.