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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Much the same

There was less wind today, and this afternoon things finally melted. But this morning was miserable. Good thing I know the way to the oasis because I sure couldn't see much.

Which didn't matter much because there wasn't much to see.

No hummers, no butterflies, no dragonflies, and just the same wintering birds at the feeders, including the Gray Catbird.

Friday, February 27, 2015


After five miserable days in town I came to CMO for yet another miserable day. Windy, in the 20°s, and very little visibility. I HAD hoped for early hummers, but now I sure hope none tried to arrive yet. They wouldn't have survived.

The things I hate to see worst are the Mexican Elders and apricot tree that were looking so wonderful last week, and now are pitiful looking.

I'm hoping the apricots aren't blooming enough to kill the fruit.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shortest post ever

I wanted to go to CMO today but it's been cold and windy and my pickup is in the shop. Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Winter is back!

Good thing I got to enjoy last week at CMO because winter returned this week. Hope I don't lose the apricots there. I believe it got down to around 22° the last couple of nights there, but since they're not totally bloomed, maybe they'll survive. Meanwhile, here's an overload of Alpine for you like I'm getting. Nice of me to share the misery with you, huh?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Counting down the days

I'm stuck in Alpine counting the days until I can get back to the oasis. Here are a couple of pics of the potential apricot tree blooms that I took before I left there.

I watered everything good yesterday and so badly wanted to water the apricot tree but forced myself not to. It would bloom like crazy today and then freeze tomorrow. Been there, done that. Gotta slow it down.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A taste of spring

The last few days have been between 70-80° and very lovely. In a couple of days we're forecast for colder weather, but I'm sure enjoying this while it lasts. Last February I was so busy coating the stucco tank that I got behind on spring projects. Fall is busy with dragonflies, birds, butterflies, and banding. Summer is too hot, and winter is too cold, so spring is the best time for me to get things done. I never catch up, especially on road work, but I keep plugging away. Today I did some more pruning in the courtyard. There was a huge overgrown ugly Littleleaf Sumac blocking one area of the patio, so I severely pruned it.

It's always a hard call as to what to prune and what not to. Vegetation cools the courtyard and provides food and cover for the birds. That bush also sheltered the Mexican Elder from the north (stumps visible beneath center arch.) But other more desirable things are growing and it's nice to have the courtyard a little more manicured than the oasis. I did leave the erect trunk of the bush, although since it's not leafed out it'll be hard to see on this photo. The above view looks east. The below view looks west.

There are quite a few butterflies, which surprises me. Here are a few from today.

Top to bottom: American Snout, Common Sootywing, Painted Lady, and Checkered White. Also seen, but not photographed, were Sleepy Oranges, Pipevine Swallowtail, Reakirt's Blue, and some little yellow one that didn't land. Probably a Mexican Yellow. And Southern Dogface and Desert Checkered-Skipper. Probably others.

Very few flowers to be seen. These have been blooming for several weeks but I don't know what they are called.

Here is a photo of what's left of the courtyard Littleleaf Sumac. The vertical stems are about 9' tall so they should grow prolifically soon.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A bit of camouflage

Knowing I have a Henry's Elfin at CMO, and knowing that redbuds are one of their host plants, I keep looking at my redbud tree to see if I can find elfins in it. I haven't yet, but I noticed that the only cover in the tree are dried leaves still hanging from last year. And those leaves look so much like Henry's Elfins. Pretty cool. The more one enjoys nature, the more things in nature there are to enjoy!

So far the terrace I built to the south of the madrone tree (right), that wasn't looking as good as the others, doesn't seem to have helped, but I'm hoping it'll end up cooler and shadier this summer and start thriving. Meanwhile the Mexican Elder tree (center) is looking its best.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lajitas versus CMO

Some days I'm sure it's worth the trip to Lajitas but today it wasn't. Besides the long drive and long walk carrying camera and water, I saw 38 species of birds at Lajitas compared to 33 at CMO.

Not a single dragonfly at Lajitas either. As for butterflies, the only interesting one either place is the Henry's Elfin at CMO, which I saw again today.

There are acres of acres of Bicolor Mustard flowers blooming around Study Butte, besides lots of bluebonnets and a few other flowers. Not much blooming at CMO.

Chisos Mountains in background

As for the birding trail at Lajitas. It starts out on a wide sidewalk-like golf cart path with those wooden bird signs posted within sight of one another. Then shortly before the one large pond there are no more signs.

You're left on your own, which is fine with me, just saying....

There was, and usually is, a lot more noise than at CMO. Today a loud tractor was working near the pond, lots of golfers and maintenance workers buzzing along the golf roads. Not the silence I love at CMO.

Here's a photo I found on my camera that I took last Monday just before sunrise. That day we got light rain in the morning. Here the moon is peeking out from the dark clouds at CMO.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Herald of spring at CMO

I feel like I'm waking up after a long hibernation. Was very surprised to see a Henry's Elfin since my redbud, their host plant, hasn't really started blooming.

But with a name like "redbud," I'm not sure to what degree they actually bloom. Here are the potential blooms on the Mexican Redbud tree.

Since I found the Green-tailed Towhee feathers the other day I was worried that I didn't have that species present anymore, but I saw one today, so was glad about that.

Tomorrow I'm going to go to Lajitas and explore the newly discovered marked birding trail. My son, who plays golf there every week, told me they've installed a solar pump that's pumping water down a stream causing it to run twice as far as it used to. I already don't have the energy to lug my gear that far. It's way at the southeast end next to the national park, but sometime when Kelly and I ride a golf cart this summer it'll be so fun to look for dragonflies there. Speaking of dragonflies, I saw a Variegated Meadowhawk today but couldn't catch it for a try at scanning.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lajitas birding habitat

For many years I've been pushing for a decent birding habitat at Lajitas. Years ago the previous owner created one on a flood plain that was, obvious to us locals, destined to wash away in the next big flood. They put in fancy gravel walkways, irrigation systems, and basically what I called an unsustainable infrastructure. Predictably, it washed away in a huge flood not long afterwards. Then the owner sold the place, and that was that.

At a later time, after talking to CEOs and managers, I was encouraged that an improved, lesson-learned, habitat would happen again. I've always felt Lajitas the ideal place for a wetland habitat, located between the two parks. (It sits right on the western edge of Big Bend National Park and the eastern edge of Big Bend Ranch State Park.) But in spite of reassurances, nothing happened.

Recently I read an article about a wetland project going forward in Presidio that I had figured would never happen.

That article renewed my hope for such a thing at Lajitas. Since my last attempt there the management had changed. I contacted the new General Manager. He informed me they had marked a birding trail. That was great encouragement for me. I wrote him several long emails about the benefits of a birding center there and what specifically I envisioned for the place. I truly feel it's not a matter of if, but when. Hopefully, in my lifetime.

The trail starts below the restaurant as you head toward the golf course to the south.

It's a beginning. I'm hoping enough birders will bird there and find good enough species to cause many more birders. And maybe that will make the owner want to make it better for birders. Right now the trail is beside the golf course and I've discovered that makes golfers nervous that they might hit a birder with a ball. But at least birders are being welcomed at Lajitas. One small step forward.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

I tried my best

Determined to get my scanner set up and scan a dragonfly. Couldn't find a dragonfly, so I scanned some feathers I found. They belong to my Green-tailed Towhee, so was sad to see them.

There were a few glitches but nothing I can't live with as long as I can keep the potential ode still long enough to scan it. One problem is that the scanner light won't go off without unplugging the scanner and another is that I can't get it to download directly to photoshop. No big deal though.

Things have started to leaf and bud out. Hope they don't get zapped next month.

Only remaining cottonwood tree

Fantex Ash in courtyard always leafs out in Feb.                        

Yucca blooming was a surprise

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Violets blooming in Alpine

Actually the violets have been blooming here for a month or so. I don't know what species of violet they are. My husband said he dug them up in his father's yard in El Paso about 35 years ago. His father had them for countless years before that. They do good here in Alpine. Even come up in the lawn.

Tomorrow I'm going to go set up my scanner at CMO. My son spent hours getting it to work. I'm not sure what I did wrong, but maybe I didn't download an updated version of the software, driver, whatever. If I get lucky I'll find, catch, and scan a dragonfly. My only concern is that the scanner might be too slow. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What a difference a W TX day makes

After enjoying an 82° day yesterday, we're snowed in here in Alpine today. Yuck!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Valentine's week loveliness

I seldom have bluebonnets at CMO but they're lovely south near Study Butte/Terlingua.

Here's a lovely sunset as I was leaving the Terlingua area late this afternoon.

And here's a picture of my most lovely madrone tree at CMO.

Canyon Wrens

Canyon Wrens used to nest in the courtyard until the horrible year of 2011. But this year they're back building a nest above the kitchen door. I'd rather they build it somewhere else but I take what I can get. Now I'll have to avoid using the kitchen door and go in and out the front door.

After a good night's sleep, I felt motivated to do some pruning in the courtyard. Birds singing and building nests helps. Here's the cleaned up view from the kitchen doorway.