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Saturday, August 31, 2013

A worm's eye view

The birds love to perch high in the dead cottonwood tree. Here's one of the [two] Crissal Thrashers preening after what I assume was a bath.

And Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are always looking for a snack.

A bunch of warblers stopped here during their trip south. Most were Yellow Warblers, but a few other species too. Even though there were Yellow Warblers everywhere, I couldn't get them to come out of the vegetation and sit still for a photo.

While I was watering some trees this morning I discovered this flower. I don't recognize it but it's really pretty. So wish I had a lens that took better closeups.

Here is a photo showing what the leaves look like. They're quite big, pointy ovals, and serrated. (There are also sunflower-type leaves on the photo that belong to something else.)

I refound that butterfly that I thought I had originally thought was a Little Metalmark. (The experts said it's a Fatal Metalmark.) I guess my identification skills are flawed. Not fatally though. :) It's obviously worse for the wear.

Friday, August 30, 2013

An oasis sort of day

Whenever I'm headed to the oasis after being away for a few days I catch myself singing as the first sight of the oasis comes into view. The road is rough so I force myself to go slow. Today I even forced myself to stop and snap a picture, so I could share the sight that makes me sing. (I only do it when I'm alone, of course. I can't carry a tune, at all.) This shot was taken at 8:00 AM and the light makes things look less green than they actually are, I think. I find it exhilarating to behold my little piece of paradise as the sun comes up over the mountain. As you can see on this photo, I'm driving inside the shadow of the mountain, but will enter the sunlight momentarily.

The early morning promise that met my eyes didn't deliver much. There was the lovely peace and quiet that recharges my batteries, of course, but very few migrants, and it soon got pretty hot. I didn't rush around working all day, like I usually do. I just sort of worked in spurts now and then. Mostly just soaking the place up as best I could. The most interesting sighting was observing the pair of Crissal Thrashers as they foraged most of the day, too hidden by a brush pile for photographing.

There were about 20 hummingbirds vying for the feeders. And I got a short glimpse of a Lazuil Bunting. Saw 3 common warbler species. Here's a juvenile male Allen's Hummingbird that's still hanging around after being banded the other day.

And here's a recently banded juvenile male Lucifer.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hybrid mystery solved

Kelly [Bryan] along with other banders came to band hummingbirds today. It was drizzly and we were barely able to do the banding. His banding locations after mine had to be cancelled due to rain. But he did catch the hybrid. It is, like we thought, a Black-chinned / Ruby-throated. He took lots of in-hand shots. Here are a couple of his excellent photos of it.

For those of you more technically curious, the gorget is a combination of both species. The tail is that of a Black-chinned. The P6 wing feather is that of a Ruby-throated, while the P10 is intermediate. (Thanks to Kelly for the photos and additional info.)

The photo I posted on the 25th is a Black-chinned, and the photo yesterday (26th) is the hybrid. With 3 male archilochus* zipping around, it's hard to tell them apart through the camera lens. That's what caused me so much angst. I was never positive I was seeing and photographing the same bird. But all is well that ends well.

Those of you that follow this blog probably know how I love Soapberry thickets. When we dug out the dirt tank (circa 1996) about a block east of the oasis I planted a couple of hackberry and soapberry trees. At the time, I don't think I knew the latter make thickets. I just knew they grow naturally in the arroyo and thought if I planted them at the edge of the dirt tank they'd get enough water from it to survive, because I wasn't going to haul water to them. They have survived nicely and the soapberry has made a lovely thicket. I don't see it often but it's nice knowing it's there. I saw several bird nests in it today. Can't wait for the one in the arroyo beside the oasis to look this good.

* Black-chinned, Ruby-throated, and hybrid of the two.

Monday, August 26, 2013

More "hybrid" photos

I don't know how variable Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are, so I guess I'll just wait and see if this hummer gets captured in the traps tomorrow and find out what it really is. Sometimes the gorget looks one hue and sometimes another. I'm beginning to question myself. Maybe I'm seeing two different hummers and thinking they're the same one. If that's the case, this would be the Ruby-throated and the one I posted yesterday would be the Black-chinned.

I love pretty flowers that do their own thing and don't depend on me to water them. These morning glories are in that category. They're growing beside the big concrete tank so probably get water from it somehow.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hummers and such

Even the gorgeous Lucifer Hummingbirds get a bit ugly when they molt.

Today I have a Louisiana Waterthrush at the oasis. I had one on Aug 9th also. I think that's unusual to have one in August, let alone two.

There's also an unusual hummingbird here, probably a hybrid. The gorget is lavender/purple, unlike a Ruby-throated, and the whole gorget is colored, unlike a Black-chinned that shows only a band of purple at the base of the gorget. So it may be a hybrid of those two [archilochus] species. Hopefully, it'll still be here Tuesday when Kelly Bryan comes to band. I tried to get a photo showing the whole gorget when it's flashing purple, but didn't succeed. Maybe tomorrow I'll do better. (You've heard that many times from me before, I'm sure.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

New species for CMO

Today started out routine. Up early, go meet Kelly Bryan at the highway for the purpose of riding to Lajitas to help with banding. The last several trips there we didn't even see a hummingbird so I had no expectations. Today we saw a Black-chinned but it didn't go into the trap. I yawned a lot. Couldn't get my adrenalin revved up.....yet.

Finally, we caught a few hummers at another banding site. By then it was hot (it's the middle of summer and all), so we decided to look for odonates at CMO. Arriving there at lunch time, we didn't see much activity so I went up to the house to make lunch. When Kelly arrived at the house an hour later, he thought he had found a new dragonfly species (new to us and the oasis).... a Great Blue Skimmer.  Here's a photo taken by Kelly. I never did get to see it. He only managed a couple of quick shots and it was gone, not to be relocated.  (We still don't have the identity confirmed by experts.)

Then, after lunch we went down to the oasis to try to refind it, and also photograph any interesting dragonflies or damselflies. We actually found several species of interest. While Kelly was photographing one of the interesting species, I got distracted by a tiny butterfly hiding under a bush. I was photographing it when Kelly asked what I had found. I apologetically said, "Oh, just a butterfly." After taking a mere 2 photos of it, I joined Kelly in photographing odonates. 

This photo is funny because before, during, and after I was snapping it, I did not notice the red damselfly (Desert Firetail) on the photo. Not until I downloaded it. There it was on every frame, but I had been so fascinated by the action I hadn't even seen it. So I went back down to try to relocate it, but was unable to. Would have liked a sharper image of it. I have photographed that species before, but not at the oasis.

Finally, when I got my photos downloaded after much consultation with experts, my butterfly turned out to be a Fatal Metalmark. It's not a new oasis species, but a new one for me personally.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A little success

I did get some Common Mestra photos today, but the plumage wasn't as pretty as yesterday. You can tell on the first photo where the coloration (mostly the black) has worn off or faded. Still pretty though.

On the vireo, I got photos of what I believe is the same individual and concur with expert, Mark Lockwood, who said it's a young Bell's Vireo, not a Red-eyed, as I had thought. Here's a photo of it from today. That black crown is what threw me off, I guess.

As for the Anna's Hummingbird, I haven't seen it yet today, but several new hummers have arrived. A male Rufous, and a male & juvenile Ruby-throated. Had a Yellow Warbler today, too.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Every day is different

Today seemed especially more different. I was nursing a rare headache so decided to just sit around photographing birds. Right away I got the first warbler of this fall, a Townsend's .....

Then before I could even get a sharp shot of it, I got distracted by a vireo......

I need to get better photos to confirm that it's a Red-eyed. Finally, after a couple of months of slow birding, things have picked up. I tallied nearly 40 species today and I'm sure I missed some.

But I'm devastated because I accidentally deleted some awesome Common Mestra butterfly photos. I'll try to duplicate them tomorrow. And I so seldom empty my recycle bin. Today had to be the day. Boo-hoo!

It never fails to impress me at how variable the color is on Lucifer Hummingbird gorgets. Here's one from today...

And here's one from two years ago...

I saw what I believe is a fledged unbanded male Lucifer taking his first drinks from the feeder. He kept trying to drink from the red ant guard, but he finally got it right.

Also saw an early Anna's Hummingbird which I hope to photograph tomorrow. Gonna be a busy day of shooting pictures tomorrow. If I just get 2 out of 3 of my goals (vireo, butterfly & Anna's), I'll be a happy camper. To be continued at first light tomorrow......

Monday, August 12, 2013

High of 85° today

I vowed to focus on photography today and not get involved in any projects, but as usual, it didn't happen. While I was taking pictures from the viewing blind I had the overwhelming urge to improve it. So I'm exhausted. Will post photos of it when I get it painted. Before I got sidetracked working, I did get a better photo of one of the Crissal Thrashers. Still at a long distance. They just won't let me get close.

And, as I was sitting admiring the fruits of my labors, I spotted a selasphorus hummingbird at the Cape Honeysuckle. (Kelly says it's probably a Rufous. I had thought it to be an Allen's) My camera, or me, doesn't take very good motion shots but here's one anyway....

Visitors ask me what kind of turtles these are, and I don't know. Anyone out there know?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Two Crissal Thrashers

As I listened to two Crissal Thrashers calling this afternoon, I realized that in the early years of my oasis, when I wasn't as good at bird identification, I had heard the same call quite often. And here I could never figure out why I didn't have that species at the oasis. My bad!

Here is a photo I took of one of them this afternoon. They're very secretive and hard to get a shot at. I'm challenging myself to do better tomorrow.

I read in a bird behavior book that Pyrrhuloxia nests are usually built entirely by the female. After watching a male's pitiful efforts today, I can see why. He came to the nest carrying a stick, whether the right kind or not, I don't know. But he spent a long time trying to affix it, would quit and look around, and then go back to it. Every time he popped back up, he still had the twig in his beak. Unfortunately, he was so far away from me that I didn't see the final outcome. I should have snapped more shots of it. Here're a few that I took. Any more will just show the same scenerio over again.

Up-down, down-up, you get the idea. Should've had a video camera.

I love how pondweed is growing in the tanks. Hope the roots don't mess up my pumps, but the odonates sure love it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Alpine sunset

Since I must be stuck in Alpine a lot it helps that we got some rain here this afternoon and a beautiful sunset.

I'd still rather be at the oasis.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Looking good!

Green and looking the best since 2010 when I had my last rain for 18 months.

And here are the luscious native grasses that so attracted me to the property when I bought it pre-oasis.

Hardly any bird activity. I didn't help Kelly band today since there were so few hummers. I watered the trees instead. The normal rains are the reason birds are out foraging and not confined to the oasis. That's good.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Greening up nicely

Things are looking greener every day. An early explorer across the region said the grasses up in the Christmas Mountains were the best he'd seen on his travels. I don't remember where I read that (somewhere in the stacks at the University of Texas library). I've looked and looked for that quote and never refound it. But the area below is near where I built my house just because of those grasses.

And seeing purple sage blooming everywhere is music for my eyes.

Here is an article I scanned from the Fort Davis newspaper. They're holding the hummingbird festival there next weekend. Tours will visit my oasis and I've even committed to doing a Power Point presentation on the creating of my oasis. Maybe if you click on it the words will be large enough to read.