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Friday, January 30, 2015

Waiting impatiently

CMO is getting a little moisture tonight. My sister will call me in the morning and let me know how much we got. Here's hoping we get a good soaking rain. Meanwhile, my seedlings are growing in town in readiness for being planted after danger of frost is past.

Above are three little Trifolate Orange trees, and below are the pomegranate cuttings. I planted more orange and pomegranate seeds later that should sprout soon.

At least three of the cutting are leafing out. It'll be fun to see which do best, those from cuttings or those from seeds.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Learning in progress

I didn't know mistletoe berries ripened in the winter time.  That's pretty awesome.

With all the mistletoe covered with berries, I expect soon the oasis will host Phainopeplas enjoying the feast. I hope I can get a photo of a Phainopepla eating mistletoe berries. I never have done that before.

I took a load of mulch to CMO and unloaded it today. Wore me out.

On October 10 of last year I posted about my Mexican Amberwing dragonfly that was a first Texas record. I collected a specimen for the experts. Yesterday Kelly delivered it to them in Austin and they confirmed it is indeed a Mexican Amberwing. I was a little unsure since my photos were not that good.

Now I've learned something else. You can catch a dragonfly, scan it, and release it. I saw some examples and they're awesome. I'm going to buy a new scanner and practice doing that this summer. So much to learn and experience and enjoy.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Lajitas again

Our winter banding is winding down. We only got 3 hummers today. One of them had the measurements of an Anna's but Kelly has never seen rufous coloration on an Anna's so he thinks this one is a hybrid with a Rufous. Very interesting!

Here's what the throat looks like.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Itching to take photos

I had to photograph something (that's how I "self-soothe," or on a bad day, destress) so I shot tons of pics of my over-wintering Gray Catbird that was being very cooperative today.

Also vying for attention was this cute little Lincoln's Sparrow. Down the hatch with the bird corn.

Of course the oasis will always be a work-in-progress. That's just the nature of a man-made habitat. I'm trying a larger seed feeder in front by the viewing area. It holds 55 gallons. The one way up in the air required a ladder for me to fill and attracted more doves than anything else. I'll see how this one does. It was up by the house for years and didn't seem to attract doves, so I'm ever hopeful.

The Brown Thrasher is still present but not cooperative. The feeder below is the one at the shaded water feature. It just holds 5 gallons, and only lasts 4 days.

Tomorrow banding at Lajitas.

Friday, January 23, 2015

More and more of the same

On the bright side, the snow contains much welcomed moisture. And the cold helps protect us from tropical parasites and such. If I was at CMO today I could have taken lovely snowscapes.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Difference a day makes

Yesterday morning I was enjoying great weather while working at CMO. Now today I'm stuck in town by a fire as it snows outside, but it's no nicer at CMO, just drier. Yuck!

A hummer visited that feeder in the above photo shortly before I took the picture.

Probably a Rufous female or juvenile. Photo was taken through two panes of glass.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Lovely Lajitas banding day

As usual, we had an enthusiastic audience. Kelly is really good with the kids. I was telling him that of all the kids he's worked with he's bound to have helped create future scientists (or at the very least, naturalists).

Red-headed girl holding red-headed hummingbird (Anna's)           

Here's the spread tail of an Allen's Hummingbird that Kelly recaptured today. It was originally banded at Lajitas a year ago.

And here is a newly placed band on a male Anna's Hummingbird.

There was an Orange-crowned Warbler present that had apparently developed a sweet tooth (bill?). He kept going in and out of the trap until he finally forgot how to get out. Kelly had to assist. Never a dull minute.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Counting the days til spring

Finally got a couple of decent days. I watered my trees (after the hoses thawed out). Nothing interesting to photograph, but when I got back to Alpine I thought this Great Blue Heron worthy of a few shots as it perched at the top of the tallest tree around.

Spring is just around the corner. Getting ready planting various seeds and these cuttings from a Pomegranate tree. That would be great if I could grow them and I don't know why I couldn't. As you can see I'm running out of indoor space to keep the pots. I'll take these to CMO in a couple of days where I have more room.

Friday, January 16, 2015

CMO's tiny pleasures

Finally had a decent day, so I came to the oasis. I was afraid after sitting around for so long I'd be too out of shape to work, but once I got my adrenalin going, I was good to go.

Discovered about 10 tiny Standing Cypress sprouts coming up in my flower beds, to my delight. I'll refrain from posting pics of all of them. Standing Cypress flowers make lovely red blooms, but only bloom the second year. So these won't bloom until next year.

I felt like I have enough water stored that I can water the reeds in the wildlife pond occasionally. A real luxury.

Here's some mistletoe that seem to have grown on catclaw acacia. I don't think it normally does, but this bush is next to a water feature. I imagine birds perch on the acacia bush while coming in to water, thus spreading the seeds. Especially Phainopeplas. Exciting to me. For the record, mistletoe has never killed any of my trees, even during the drought of 2011, and it is evergreen. And I do love Phainopeplas.

Here's how I usually observe mistletoe. This one is on Netleaf Hackberry.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A little outdoor time

I left Alpine this morning for the oasis. By the size of just one of the brush piles at just one of the drop-off sites in town it would appear that there won't be much greenery left in town this year. But I suspect it won't be that noticeable even though there's probably way more brush still in yards that hasn't been cleaned up yet (from the ice storm a week ago).

It wasn't comfortable outdoors at the oasis, but with my big lens back in my possession, I finally managed to snap a couple of quick documentary shots of the overwintering Brown Thrasher and Gray Catbird. Couldn't catch them out in the open so there are branches in front of them. Sometimes  you just have to take what you can get.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

View from indoors

Cold outside but at least the wind stopped. Yesterday the wind raged as I was at the oasis unloading mulch and filling my feeders. Internet finally got restored there, but I had already left for Alpine when it happened.  It's unusual to see a Ladder-backed Woodpecker at the hummingbird feeders, but it does happen. I guess if they get desperate enough.

There are probably very few species that don't have a sweet tooth if they're hungry enough. Here's a House Finch partaking.

Some days I see this selasphorus species of hummingbird in Alpine. Maybe it's a potential Allen's too. I keep trying to get photos of the spread tail feathers to tell, but haven't been able to so far.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Today was..........different

We went banding at Lajitas expecting lots of Anna's Hummingbirds since I'd seen a bunch when I checked last week. But most of them had moved on. We did get a couple of unexpected Allen's to salvage the day.

Fourth trailer load hauled to dumping site

Back in town we hauled off the rest of our tree limbs from the ice storm, then I tried to photograph a hummer here that may also be an Allen's. But without a near perfect photo, or trapping it, can't be sure. Maybe Kelly will come try to catch it.

While I was camped in a chair outside trying to photograph it better, I heard a Western Scrub-Jay, which was a surprise. It perched briefly on top of a pine tree in the distance, and then was gone, so I didn't get good shots of it. At least enough to tell what it is.

After not having electricity since last Friday morning at the oasis, my sister called to tell me it's finally on at nearly 7 PM this evening. And my lens filter arrived in the mail today, so I'm back in business.

Monday, January 5, 2015


I forgot I had this picture on my other camera. It was taken right after that mesquite tree on the center right split in half. The big tree in front is that Elm tree.

Yesterday and today we spent the whole mornings cutting up the brush and hauling it off. Here's a closeup of that mesquite tree taken today just before dark.

I got some fresh Trifoliate Orange tree (Poncirus trifoliata) seeds and planted a few to see if they'd grow. Here's one that came up, so I need to plant some more. Just too tired after hauling all that brush. (I had to load and unload the trailer myself because my husband didn't feel good.) It remains to be seen if the Trifoliate Orange trees will survive our winters.

Tomorrow we're going to band hummingbirds at Lajitas. It should be fun. I think they are all Anna's, but we might get a surprise.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Major ice storm

Tree limbs are overloaded with ice and crashing everywhere, causing power outages. We went to CMO midday. No electricity there. Barely got back to Alpine before they closed the highway at the big hill.

We're losing some big limbs too. As I was walking out to feed the ducks this big limb crashed from the Elm tree near me. I screamed and jumped. Thought I had been shot.

Moments later the limb you see at the very right edge of the above photo crashed to the ground. It's from this mesquite tree (below). The new year is literally starting off with a bang!

There's a Bufflehead duck in this next photo (taken on our ponds in Alpine) if you can find it. The others are Mexican Ducks with our two domestic ducks.

Ducks on ice
The short while we were at the oasis to fill feeders I photographed my tanks. Traditionally I do it every January 1st but am a day late (but not water-short) this year.

UPDATE: Now it seems the electricity won't be restored before Tuesday, Jan 6, at the earliest. Lines down everywhere and a utility truck hit a pole between Alpine and Ft Stockton causing 30 poles to go down. I'm worried about the Mexican Amberwing dragonfly in my freezer at CMO. So far, we have power here in Alpine. Motorists are stranded all over the place.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hummer confusion

The selasphorus photo I posted yesterday is either a Rufous female or an Allen's female, if I understood Kelly correctly. And the one today is a different selasphorus, also either Rufous or Allen's female. Kelly would need to take measurements or have better photos of the tail feathers than my photos are. I tried but it was cold outside.