Click any photo to enlarge

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve day

Checked out the hummer situation at Lajitas and then to CMO and back to Alpine. During my peregrination I was speeding (not literally) down Highway 118 when I had to brake for a family of javelina crossing the road. They were moving fast so all I got was this one shot with the closest camera I could grab as the momma screeched to a halt for a split second before catapulting away, baby practically underfoot. Such a cute baby!

National Geographic Channel is showing a series called Badlands, TX. I've enjoyed watching it so far. It moves a little slow but it captures the spirit and ambiance of S Brewster Co perfectly. It's based on the murder of La Kiva's owner, Glen Felts by Tony Flint. I think it's egregious that Flint wasn't even found guilty of so much as aggravated assault.

So when I drove past La Kiva today I stopped and took a couple of pictures. New owners have totally remodeled. It has reopened but doesn't serve food yet.

At CMO there was still a trace of snow on the mountain.

I usually don't post photos of this mountain (Williams, by name) because when I bought land here it was pristine. Shortly thereafter, before I could get a surveyor out, a fly-by-night mining company bulldozed that road across it. I got it stopped, but not in time to save the beauty of that mountain. My land goes a ways above that road. I've fought to protect my land for nearly 40 yrs. It can be a constant battle from poachers, loose cattle, cactus collectors, hunters, and more. Just because you own land doesn't mean it's protected.

Until next year!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 in review

2015 has been a strange year that started out promising. Not too cold, and plenty wet. It had been a long time since we've had such a wet spring. By April and May everything was blooming although it was still a little too cold for butterflies and odonates.

Weeds and vegetation overtook my pathways and I didn't manage to get them cleaned up until after my spring birding tours were over, unfortunately. (Keep in mind that a cool wet spring doesn't mean water running into my tanks. That happens from summer monsoonal flash-flooding.)

Spring birding was not worth mentioning, although all Lucifer Hummingbird seekers had no trouble adding that species to their list, including birders doing a Big Year.

The reason for slow birding, I believe, was because with all the moisture my oasis was an oasis amid endless oases. The birds were able to disperse. That dispersal did provide one species previously undocumented at the oasis; Gambel's Quail. Also had a brief visit from a Broad-billed Hummingbird.

Following spring, the oasis was plunged into a horrible hot, dry summer. Three months of over 100° temperatures almost daily, and no rain other than a puny one early in July that didn't run enough to fill up my tanks. And a lot of that water was lost due to the stucco tank springing a leak. Got the leak patched but the tanks never did fill up. In October the upper dirt tank caught water that I immediately pumped out, even though it meant pumping all night long. I didn't want to lose the many hundreds of gallons that would have soaked into the ground during the night. In my haste, I forgot that I had rigged up a fitting I could install and run the water directly into the stucco tank. Instead, I pumped the water into the lower dirt tank. So I ended up having to double-pump it all, which probably lost as much water as the all-night pumping had gained.

Butterflies were not abundant and I didn't add one new species to my CMO list this year. The best butterfly of the year is the Zebra Longwing at Austin a few days ago.

Odonates were much better. Six new species were added to the CMO list. Plus I drove to several other locations in the Big Bend and added more lifers. Of course the more lifers one gets, the less remaining ones there are to get.  Just trying to salvage what I could of summertime. Next year I'm determined to go farther afield, like the Lower Rio Grande Valley. I couldn't this year because my tanks weren't full. I had to be here in case it rained and I needed to pump water to fill them.

Clockwise: Striped Saddlebags, Turquooise-tipped Darner, Smoky Rubyspot, Pale-faced Clubskimmer, Red-faced Dragonlet, and Three-striped Dasher.
So the year ended with my tanks not having been filled, not to mention all the water I had to spend watering the trees during the extremely hot months. By comparison, I've had years where it never got above 100° once all summer. Rain cools things off. Without it you can be sure the summer will be hot. I'll have to ration water severely unless we get a wetter than average spring again in 2016. It's nerve-wracking.

Ultimately, I feel like I lost one precious oasis summer of my life. And with probably less than twenty remaining, that loss is significant. Finding great dragonflies helped redeem the summer for me personally though.

My life hit the three-quarters of a century mark this year. Healthwise, my eyes are the best they're going to get. I'm getting by. My dental implants are doing good. I need to get my cholesterol and blood sugar lowered. They're borderline high. Gonna work harder at that.

The new-to-me pickup I got this year should last me another 10 years (I hope), and my almost new camera and new laptop, likewise. With my family all healthy I have a lot to be thankful for. Not every upcoming year is going to be this good. I won't complain if I can just eke by on water until my tanks fill up. My life revolves around the oasis. And the life of the oasis revolves around water. Therefore, my life revolves around water.

Early July 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

Winter is hard

I have a hard time dealing with winter every year. I need to figure out a way to spend more time in a tropical place. We used to go to Mexico before it became so unsafe.

Here's a photo my sister took today of my mountain. I think it's really beautiful. As always, I'm there in spirit.

And next is a photo I like of my son, Leonardo, taken Christmas Eve by my daughter's father-in-law. Leonardo is a photographer and took the family photos at our get-together. 

We hope to get together more often. It would be nice if my other son, who lives in Alpine, could be there, but he wasn't able to. He bought a business in town and it really keeps him tied down. Leonardo had planned to spend the last few days in Colorado with his girlfriend's family but the road closures have slowed him down. He's in Amarillo tonight. If travel conditions permit, he and his three daughters will be in Colorado tomorrow. They had planned the trip for a long time. Christmas vacation is the only time he gets enough days off work.

Too stressed to blog

Day before yesterday I left CMO. It was almost 80° there. Not knowing if we'd get any moisture, I left the drip on under the cottonwood tree. Then yesterday, while in town, I heard on the radio that it was going to get down to 14° last night. I worried that with the drip on, meaning the pump electricity was on, the pressure in the line might cause a pipe to break. Not likely, but what if??? With a pipe broken the pump would pump until the tank was empty. So I braved the blizzard and icy roads to drive down there just to turn off the power to the pump.

My pickup wouldn't make it up the big hill, so I walked the last half mile. I think, in hindsight, I should have loaded the bed with rocks and it might have made it. The north wind was brisk and the air cold. I can't stay in cold water or cold air for long or my bronchial tubes spasm shut. So I was soon gasping for air as I approached the oasis. I just turned off the power breaker and headed back to my pickup. Facing into the wind I took off my warm jacket and covered my head with it, hoping to get some warm air into my lungs.

I would have liked to top off the seed feeder and brushed the snow off the hummingbird feeders while I was there, but didn't dare chance it. By the time I got back toward Alpine the border patrol checkpoint had closed down. Soon the area highways were closed as well. It was another hour before I could breathe normally. I took a few photos to share here but was still too stressed to blog last night.


Turns out it didn't get near that cold last night either. I checked the bubble-wrap blanket in the rock tank. Even way at the bottom of the tank the wind messed it up so I'm going to have to do something if I intend to fill the tank with water. Haven't figured out what though. When I try to weigh the cover down it sinks underwater. If it doesn't float it's not preventing evaporation. I had tried to stabilize the cover with plastic bottles with a little water inside them. Not very effective as you can see. I wouldn't have bought the cover but someone whose opinion I trust thought it would work for me. I usually am more qualified to know what will work for me, and what won't. I'll eventually get the problem solved. I had just hoped to do it inexpensively. That's probably not an option.

Big Bend would be so agreeable if it wasn't for these bad northers.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The weather outside is frightful

Someone posted a photo taken on Terlingua Ranch, adjacent to CMO, and said it was all "fluffy outside." Well, that's an interesting way of putting it. Here's a photo my sister took from her place. It's part of my property overlooking the oasis.

And here's a Scott's Oriole that decided to overwinter in Terlingua at a friend's house. There are lots of ocotillos blooming there which is probably why it hung around. It's very unusual to see a Scott's here in the winter. Photo courtesy Bonnie Wunderlich. 

And here is one of my feeders in town before I rehung warm ones.

Also here in Alpine are Meadowlarks foraging as best they can under our biggest pecan tree.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

CMO for a day

Early morning driving at sunrise with the Christmas Mountains in shadow in front of the Chisos.

Trying to catch up with work in town but made a quick trip to CMO to water and service feeders. Many of my blog followers are asking if I'll have enough water. Well, technically, there's never enough, but I'm determined to get by until the tanks fill up. Hauling water is not an option. Tanks aren't leaking so maybe that'll help. I normally try not to use water from this big tank until April, or preferably May. What is gone from here is from evaporation. Still should have five feet left though.

The stucco tank supply has to be severely rationed to make it through until mid-spring. I'm being very frugal with water. Winter won't use much, but when the weather heats up in the spring evaporation becomes more intense. Hopefully, we'll get lots of rain this winter and next spring.

Also I put a bubbly wrap floating cover on the round rock tank. It holds a month supply. I'm going to pump it full one of these days soon and see if that won't make a difference (photos when I do.)

I just have Anna's Hummingbirds now but in eight weeks Lucifers will be back.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas day in Alpine

I left my daughter's in Dripping Springs around 3 AM. No traffic and I didn't get lost (I did get lost getting there from Austin). When I passed through Fredericksburg an hour later the display of lights in an empty street under a full moon was so striking that I stopped and took some photos. Didn't think to get the moon in them at the time.

This spectacle is probably nothing unusual for city people, but it's like Las Vegas to me.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas with family

Busy with family so will skip the stories and post some photos.

Me in the center on this one
My favorite Christmas card

Desha's Christmas lights

Daughter's Christmas tree decoration

Daughter's Christmas tree decoration

Daughter's Christmas tree decoration

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Southeast Metropolitan Travis County Park

Desha and I were dragging a bit today. Not recovered from yesterday yet. But we gave it our all. The best species of the day was a photo of the Neotropical Bluet that shows the diagnostic markings better than the individual did yesterday. Again, gratitude to Eric Isley for this find.

Yesterday I struggled with manual focus because I couldn't get autofocus to work. Finally, today I figured out that I had accidentally switched the close focus switch . Duh! So I missed a lot of good stuff because my eyes aren't that good and I'm slow on focusing. But I finally got my groove back today. And it's not the first time I've done that. Maybe not even the second time. I sure hope I realize what the problem is promptly if/when that happens again.

I think these are the first photos I've taken of Carolina Chickadees, so that's nice, even though not a lifer.

And my best Field Sparrow pics to date, which isn't saying much. I was still stuck in manual focus when I took them.

And a nice Christmasy bug. I've no idea what kind.

And a grasshopper I can't ID either.

Fun while it lasted and thanks beyond words to Eric and Desha.

Photo courtesy Eric Isley

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Austin day

My first ever time to ode in Austin. I had no expectations for this time of year. Just hoped I'd get lucky and get a lifer or two. I got two lifer damselflies, a lifer moth, and a lifer butterfly, so I did good. Thanks entirely to Eric Isley on the damsels. Let me tell you these damsels are distressing. I would never have seen one without his expert help. He's been frequenting Hornsby Bend, where we went today, for about 16 years and it shows.

The first species is a Rainpool Spreadwing, male and female.

Then this next one Eric is almost positive it's a Neotropical Bluet.

It took to swinging it's tail. I don't remember seeing an ode doing that before.

I can't thank Desha Melton enough for sharing her day with me and doing the driving so I didn't have to deal with Austin traffic.

I added a few bird species to my Travis County list including Pine Warbler.

The biggest surprise of the day was this lifer Zebra Heliconian. I even spotted it and ID'd it without assistance.

The lifer moth I could not get a good photo of. It simply moved too fast. I'm pretty sure it's a Titan Sphinx (aellopos titan).

Can't wait until tomorrow when we're going to do it all over again.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Bird Count

I guess for the record I should document my day. It started out where I couldn't sleep at all the whole night. I went to bed last night at my usual time, 11 PM. By midnight I took some benadryl in hopes of sleeping. Didn't help, so at 1 AM I took some aspirin, thinking my arthritis was keeping me awake. Didn't help. I probably slept a couple of hours at best. I hate it when I get my adrenaline going prior to an early morning event. I have that problem when we're scheduled to band too, but not usually that bad.

The birder I did the count with was a good birder so that helped a lot. We started at the Fort Davis Historic Site. Very few birds.

I lugged my heavy camera during the whole time. Then when my teammate found a cluster of birds that included a Black-chinned Sparrow, I eventually caught up with him, but the sparrow didn't show again. That's one species I would have liked a better photo of. But we had a fun time anyway.

We met up with Kelly for lunch. I ate too much. When I got back to Alpine I crashed for a 3-hour nap. 

Tomorrow I need to wash the car and pack for Austin. I really look forward to oding there with Desha Melton and Eric Isley.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Alpine day

The oriole seems to be gone. It didn't visit the oriole feeder all day.

The only bird at the hummingbird feeders, besides the over-wintering Rufous Hummingbird, was this female House Finch. Somehow birds are getting sugar water from that screw-on seam. Since there has never been a bee problem with them, I didn't expect that.

Here's a Starling. The early morning light is coaxing a little beauty from a pest species that I'm reluctant to find beauty in.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to help with the Christmas Bird Count in Ft Davis. I'll try to get a couple of pictures to share in the process.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Santa's Anna's

Looks like that's all I'm getting for Christmas at CMO this year. I was really hoping for at least one Costa's. Here's the only Anna's that would sit for a photo today. That means it's probably the only one not banded.

The Chinese Pistachio tree has lost its leaves so the red berries really stand out. Unfortunately, I never see birds eating them.

I was watching a butterfly so I could see where it would land in order to get a photo of it. Well, it landed way up inside the top of a big AZ Cypress tree. Not the photo I had anticipated. I guess it's an American Lady. Only saw two butterflies all day. (The other was a Common Checkered-Skipper.)

It was pretty cold. The hummingbird feeders were still frozen solid at 9 AM. I'll be leaving for Austin in a few days. Sure hoping to get some new species to photograph there.