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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A most unusual day

When I first arrived at CMO this morning, I immediately noticed the water level in the stucco pond had only gone down one half inch per day. Expecting the normal 2" per day, eliminating divine intervention, I finally realized water from the lower dirt tank had siphoned into it. All good, I guess.

Then I noticed the storage tank at the guest house was empty. Finally figured out the new toilet float-less thingee wasn't set right and the water was leaking out. Not good.

I loaded my pickup, revved to go concrete a wash in the road, but uncharacteristically, talked myself into postponing it until tomorrow. I reasoned that even though I felt up to it, I had shoveled a lot of sand, and it would be best to space out the hard labor. You can look forward to pictures of that project tomorrow.

With nothing to do but look for birds and butterflies, I soon discovered a deformed Black-chinned Hummingbird. So sad. I think its beak and both feet are deformed. I would be one of the last persons to condone collecting bird specimens, but I think if it would help us learn what in the environment is causing this, it would be worth it. The poor thing surely can't survive anyway. It can't retract its tongue, which must be painful.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Earned my lifer today

Even though I took another allergy pill before venturing out around Alpine looking for butterflies, it wasn't long before breathing was getting difficult. Weeds everywhere, or at least everywhere butterflies were to be found. I did find a few gorgeous butterflies, including this lifer Painted Crescent. When I downloaded my photos, and discovered it was a lifer, I wanted a better photo, one that didn't have a shadow on it. So after my allergies calmed down, I went back for a retake.

After wading through a plethora of weeds, I finally got this shot, but wanted one with wings spread.

More weeds. And if that wasn't bad enough, I was hobbling, due to the ground being carpeted with goat-heads. My sandals offered little resistance to them.

Finally, when I was about to give up, I got a bead on one. Took some photos and headed home, sneezing like crazy, only to discover the individual I had photographed was damaged. I've done all I can for today though.

Earlier I saw this lovely male Black Swallowtail.

And a pair of Fiery Skippers mating...  among the goat-heads, I believe.

And here's another Vesta Crescent from today, added at Brian's urging. With all the ID help he gives me, he earned it.

Once in a while a person just happens to be in the right place at the right time. Couldn't resist photographing this juvenile male* Black-chinned Hummingbird  when it showed up while I was butterflying beneath it.


* Age and and sex courtesy Kelly Bryan

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Went to Marathon for a fix

On my way to Marathon today I stopped at Alco and got some snacks. In line in front of me a young man was buying video games. The clerk, rather impertinently, I thought, but jovial, nonetheless, asked him if he was addicted to video games. He denied it, with perhaps a flair of overkill. Then, when my turn came and she commented on my hummingbird T-shirt, I was mentally scrambling for what I could reply if she asked if I was addicted to hummingbirds. But she didn't ask.

That got me to thinking. No way could she tell by my purchase of snacks, that I was the addict, pursuing my addiction, photographing butterflies and odonates, at present.

I did photograph one bird today. Just a Lark Sparrow, now my second fall/winter sparrow. (I posted the first yesterday.) Normally, I avoid photographing common species on man-made perches, but this bird posed so up-in-my-face, how could I resist?

I had forgotten it was Sunday until I approached Marathon, so felt it was too late to turn back. But it didn't take long for me to weary of all the people, kids, and dogs wherever I went, and head back to Alpine. It's good to see that people do enjoy nature and the outdoors, though. Too bad more effort isn't expended into creating more and better places. Did you ever wonder what the country would look like if all our youth was out watering, pruning and planting in vast tracts during the same amount of time they spend on sports? Not to mention video games?

When I saw this bright orange damselfly, I immediately thought Orange Bluet. But at home, looking in the book, I pretty much concluded it was just a Rambur's Forktail, which Kelly confirmed.

So, while I saw lots of damselflies, I don't think any were new ones. I even accidentally photographed another Variable Dancer. My problem is, until I examine my photos and see the differences, for the most part, they all look alike. And even after I scrutinize them, I more often than not, can't identify them. Odes are difficult!

And I don't do much better with butterflies. I saw this species everywhere, and finally decided to snap a photo just to refresh my memory on what it was. Well, turns out it's a Pearl Crescent, and while that's not a new species for me, I would have really liked a better photo of the species. And I missed the perfect opportunity.

The most exciting thing today was as a result of yesterday's post of a mystery bug. Some follower identified it as a Mountain Dwelling Short-winged Katydid. I not only didn't know it was a katydid, but it seems that particular species of katydid has a very limited range in the United States, just basically, West Texas. A really cool bug!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Doing my thing

Everywhere I walk at the oasis I encounter the yellow flowers doing their thing. Not sure if they're asters, daisies, or sunflowers. After they stop blooming I'll at the least prune them out of the walkways.


 Saw my first fall/winter sparrow today, a Savannah. (Not including year-round species.)

A Belted Kingfisher and Red-naped Sapsucker have been hanging around lately, too. That time of year. I do my thing; nature does its thing. But such a weird thing this bug is. The antennae are so long I couldn't get them all in the frame. I wonder what its thing is.

Friday, September 26, 2014

One heck of a day!

Even though I got up in plenty of time, I was late for meeting up with Kelly to go band hummingbirds in Lajitas. In my dither over that, I couldn't find my car keys, and dare not lock my vehicle until I found them. Luckily Kelly suggested I look in the ignition.

Then at Lajitas we only saw, and trapped, one hummer. A group of golfers stopped by to observe the banding process. Heck, it was probably the only birdie they saw all day.

Back at CMO, it was overcast and drizzly, but I determined to pump the remaining water from the upper dirt tank. Half of it had already seeped into the ground. The water in the settling pond had all disappeared, so I was keen to save as much of what water was left as possible. The lower dirt tank had lost enough water to make room for part of the water and the wildlife pond had gone way down, so I had places to put the water.

First off, the coupling my son had replaced the last time he was out here came apart. He didn't know that the rubber couplings have to be screwed to the line or they come off. I wasn't here when he did that, and later, it didn't occur to me to go check the line. When this one separated, it was no big deal. The water still ended up in the lower dirt tank, which was backed up to where the joint was anyway.

But he had also replaced an elbow that carries the water from the lower dirt tank to the stucco tank. That fitting was now under two feet of water, and it blew out the instant I started up that gas pump. Only thing to do was hook up my little electric pump and use that until the water goes down, but that meant turning off the three inch pump in the upper dirt tank and losing that water while making room in the lower dirt tank. Good thing I have lots of water to spare these days.

The mosquitoes were the hardest part of fixing the coupling. You might be able to see the screw I put in the right side. The screw on the other side is hidden from sight. (I have to put the screws in the slotted sides.)

This place is extremely tricky to maintain and only I know all its idiosyncrasies. Well, most of them. But I have to be ever vigilant.

When I cranked up the three-inch pump it forced enough water through the line before it blew out the elbow that even though I turned off the pump, some water is siphoning into the stucco tank. It's in danger of overflowing so I'm pumping out of it into the wildlife pond what I hope is at least an amount equal to that which is coming in. 

Dark clouds all around, and it turned cool and windy. Heck, maybe Odile isn't through here yet. 

The tower at Lajitas sure looked pretty against the sunrise this morning.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Exciting two-lifer day!

Today Kelly treated me to an ode search on a private ranch near Ft Davis. We wore ourselves out, for sure. The owners have some pet Pot-bellied Pigs, which I hadn't seen since I was growing up in Iowa, so that was cool.

Down along Limpia Creek we pursued odonates in earnest.

Before long Kelly found one we couldn't identify. He later determined it was an Autumn Meadowhawk (formerly Yellow-legged). Pretty awesome! Lifer one for the day.

This photo shows the yellow legs better

After sloshing in and out of the creek for another hour or two (who keeps track?), we found Variable Dancers, which was a lifer for me. I can tell them by the two-tone tail tip, which I had never seen before.

A pet calf wanted to play. Its definition of play diverged from ours.

All things have to end and we eventually made our way back to Kelly's vehicle, still enjoying the sights.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shades of green

My oldest great-grandson turned 9 today. Happy Birthday, Logan! Whenever I tell people how old my great-grandkids are they say I must have started young. Actually, my daughter was born when I was 24 (1964) and her daughter was born when she was 20 (1984). Then my granddaughter had my great-grandson when she was 21 (2005).  He's got some awesome green eyes...

Photo by my granddaughter, Desiree, (                        does this Palmer's Metalmark.

Courtyard greenery                                              

Monday, September 22, 2014

Perfect day in some ways

Temperature wonderful, blooms everywhere. Morning was overcast and no butterflies so I worked on my madrone project. With that and working on the road yesterday, I ended up too exhausted to enjoy this afternoon  when the sun finally made sporadic appearances. Good snake weather so I stayed real vigilant. Didn't see or hear any rattlers unless you count this coil track of a rattler.

The stucco tank is holding the same. Didn't spring any more leaks from the added pressure during Odile.

The reason water ran across the road during the Odile event was because the ditch below the lower dam spillway is pretty much silted full. I need to get it cleaned out. Thinking about hiring someone to do it instead of trying to do it myself. My shoulder just refuses to function since I coated the tank last winter. Maybe if I do a little bit every day. That approach doesn't seem to be getting me anywhere on the madrone project. No progress detected lately.

Saw an 
today, the first one for this year, I think.

You can't go anywhere at the oasis without encountering flowers and water. It's wonderful!

I'm thinking the reason the above soapberry thicket isn't doing better is because the rhyolite bedrock is so close to the surface in this area. The other soapberry thicket is doing much better.

Soapberry thicket by upper dirt tank

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Good ole Odile

Got to CMO late this afternoon to discover I'd gotten another rain yesterday of .66" But if it ran, it didn't run much because it didn't cause the arroyo to run at my sister's house a mile downstream. Everything was brimful here, of course. I had to catch gambusias to put in the lower dirt tank in hopes of not having too many mosquitoes in a week. Should do it in the upper dirt tank too, but not enough energy. Gonna enjoy a mosquito-less day tomorrow though.

Not much time after doing what I had to do to take photos. Just snapped one of a female Black Swallowtail and a Monarch. That's about it. Everything is lush and green.

I had worn myself out before I ever got here from working on the road as I came in. My assessment of the road is that if it was decent before Hurricane Odile, except for about 10% that was rough, but not terrible, it is now about the same except 20% rough, but not terrible. I'll work on it more this winter, bit by bit.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Continuation of rain photos

The videos weren't playing right on the blog so I changed it to links. I think you'll enjoy them better played properly with sound, so check it out.

Here is the wildlife pond a couple hours before the rain.

And here it is right after the rain.

It seems neighbors to the south and west didn't get any of the rain and I don't think the other directions got very much. Dumped all on me. That happened once before, I think it was around the year 2000. Mixed in with the rain was hail, so it seemed appropriate to do an ice bucket challenge.

I stuck my head under the hail-laden water pouring off the eaves, but with no one there to take my photo after I did that, I had to move away from the deluge to keep my cell phone dry while I took my selfie. Oh, well....

What could be a more appropriate "ice bucket challenge" for CMO!