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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Davis Mountains Preserve (continuation)

There were hundreds, probably thousands, of AZ Sisters butterflies at the preserve yesterday.

And Two-tailed Swallowtails were easy to locate and photograph there, although not quite as abundant as the sisters were.

I attribute a great deal of the butterfly activity to the profusely blooming horsemint. It was everywhere.

Queen on horsemint

Devil's Claw was abundant but I didn't notice butterflies at it. Not sure what this next plant is, maybe some kind of blue dayflower.

And finally, here's an enigmatic butterfly. Brian thinks it's an intergrade between a Common and a Tropical Buckeye.

And I think, "once an artist, always an artist." So I photo-shopped the above photo just for the fun of it. Maybe I have too much time on my hands. LOL

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Davis Mountains Preserve day

And what a day! Wow, overwhelming. I can't thank Kelly enough for arranging to take me there. It was threatening rain or we might have even tallied more species, but I would have been even more overwhelmed than I was. He and his helpers at the preserve banded while I entertained myself looking for odes and stuff. They banded at least four Calliope's among the nearly 70 hummers banded, so migration is underway.

Then we headed way back into the preserve to Richmond Crossing.

Immediately there were hundreds of Painted Damsels. Lifer number one for the day. I took 385 photos today, mostly of that species in all their various "plumages."

Before I recovered from that experience Kelly spotted an Amethyst Dancer, lifer number 2.

That dancer wouldn't leave that rock where he blended in so well I wouldn't have seen him if Kelly hadn't pointed him out.

And if that wasn't joy enough, I got 3 lifer butterflies. Here they are.

Mead's Wood-Nymph
Russet Skipperling
Slaty Roadside-Skipper
 That last one I shot out the car window when we were driving out. Kelly stopped at a place where water was crossing the road to scan for odes when I spotted it. Got off one frame before it disappeared so was relieved the only shot I had wasn't a blur, like usually happens when I don't take a bunch.

To be continued tomorrow. Meanwhile, here's a juvenile Western Bluebird perched on a bench near the hummingbird feeders.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Amberwings dilemma

Male  Eastern Amberwing. (Alpine this year)

Male Mexican Amberwing. (Oasis last year, first Texas record, if you recall. Subsequently I documented it at Lajitas also)

Male Mexican Amberwing. (Oasis this year) The interesting thing is that this individual has the same diagnostic pattern on the top of the abdomen as the Eastern. Since I've had both species at the oasis last year, I'm thinking hybrid. I don't know what the experts would say to that theory.

Odonata Central, the online database, which I consider the last word, accepted it as a Mexican, so it's official.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Got my Lajitas fix

Didn't take long in this heat. I got there shortly after 8 AM and left around 10:30 AM, but not before I snapped nearly 300 pics. Nothing new to me I don't think. Still working on IDs. But it was great getting familiar again with the species there, which are different than what I'm used to at CMO.

Here's a selfie (I really do need a selfie stick) to show you how tall the tumbleweeds are along the water at Lajitas. And of course all the salt cedar was blooming, which I'm allergic to. And of course I didn't think to take an allergy pill along. I'm dutifully wearing my UV glasses like the eye doctor ordered. I sure lose a lot of odes with my lack of peripheral vision though.

Those tumbleweeds came up to my shoulders as I slogged through them. Saw a Buckeye that by some experts is called the "dark form" Tropical Buckeye, although my personal expert, Brian, doesn't recognize that distinction.

Photographed some cool dragonflies. Here's a sampling.

Male Eastern Ringtail
Checkered Setwing
Four-spotted Pennant

Usually I'm lucky to see one or two Four-spotted Pennants at Lajitas, but today there were hundreds of them. I think Kelly once told me this flower is a bluebell. There's a lovely patch of that at Lajitas.

And here's a common one at Lajitas but I forgot what it was and had to ask Kelly. It's a Red-tailed Pennant.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A special day

I got to the oasis at 8 AM, checked the stucco tank level, and it had gone down less than 3 inches in exactly 3 days. Considering I left a drip on the cottonwood while I was gone and the weather has been brutally hot (evaporation), that's great news. A happy way to start my 75th birthday.

Finally re-plumbed the line inside the lower dirt tank. I had gotten the stuff to do it a long time ago, but one thing and another. However, this last fiasco with pumping the water back into the stucco tank was the last straw. It leaked about a third of the water out when it hadn't come apart totally and leaked all the water out. Not going to deal with that again. As usual, I forgot to take a before photo.

In the far background of the above photo is the line from the water (still a small puddle left) to the pump. From the pump the water goes through the 3" black fast line (or whatever it's called. It's heavy industrial stuff given to my late husband by a construction company) underground to the stucco tank. The pipe in the front center is coming from the upper dirt tank, which means water from that tank got double-pumped unless I went through the hassle of connecting a temporary line across the road. Now I've installed a T (open end capped at the moment) that I can hook to in a jiffy to go straight to the stucco tank and bypass the lower dirt tank. 

But that wasn't the main issue here. It was that the bend in the line was plumbed with white PVC that wouldn't fasten securely to the fast line, even with pipe cement and screws. I cut a piece of fast line to replace the PVC, and replaced the PVC elbows with a rubber elbow and rubber T that are clamped and screwed securely. I know that method works because it's in use other places at the oasis, though never with back-to-back elbows. That gas pump puts out a tremendous amount of pressure (think fire hydrant). Often the black pipe is under a foot of water when I need to do the bypass and very difficult to work with. Definitely could have been plumbed better in hindsight. The whole oasis just evolved as we went along without a blueprint or plan. The lower dirt tank was a later addition after the plumbing from the upper dirt tank was already buried underground.

Anyway, got that done by noon. It got beastly hot this afternoon (100° but humidity made it feel hotter). No mosquitoes, and very few odes or butterflies. Pretty boring, but I got some watering done, pulled some of the weeds, serviced the hummingbird feeders, and many other chores. Days are always gone too fast. Tomorrow it's Lajitas or bust. Next day banding. After banding I have to go pick more apples, but will put them in the refrigerator until I can get to them Thursday. Wednesday going with Kelly to Madera Canyon to look for odes. That's at the Lawrence Woods Picnic Area. He photographed a Painted Damsel there the other day. I have never gotten a good enough look at one, or a photo, so looking forward to that.

Today I took a bunch of photos of an amberwing but don't know yet if it's a Mexican or an Eastern Amberwing. I sent it to an expert. Will update this when I find out.

July 28: Some experts say it's an Eastern, but a leading expert, who I won't name, said he'd call it a Mexican Amberwing. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mosquitoes gone!

The last couple of days the mosquitoes are gone from our ponds in town and the dragonfly numbers are way lower. Guess when they run out of mosquitoes they go elsewhere. Maybe I shouldn't hate mosquitoes... quite so much anyway. It's not as if I get welts from their bites either.

Here's a female Orange Sulphur that I tried unsuccessfully to make into a Clouded Sulphur, which would have been a lifer for me. The dark dots near the fringe of the forewing disabused me of that notion though.

I did find a pair of mating Variegated Meadowhawks. I'm not fast enough to get decent flight shots of it.


UPDATE: Odonata Central, an online database that I consider to be like a records committee, has accepted my submission of Striped Saddlebags. That makes it official! I can count it as a lifer.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Making plans

Life is what happens while you're making plans. Nevertheless, I'm planning on CMO on Sunday when I'll water and service the hummingbird feeders. And of course I'll inventory what birds, butterflies, and dragonflies are there as best I'm able. Then Monday I want to go to Lajitas to see what odes are there. Then Tuesday I'll be trapping hummer for Kelly. Plans....

Getting work caught up in town. As much as possible. Assessed the butterflies and odonates here too. Saw a nice Western Pygmy-Blue butterfly...

A gorgeous moth that my friend, Heidi Trudell, identified as a Clouded Crimson (Schinia guarae).

I usually don't even photograph moths, but that one was so pretty. I wish I had tried for a better photo.  

Last is a photo of mating bees of some species. I had never seen bees mating before. Actually, never even thought about bees mating before. 

UPDATE: These "bees" have been identified as robber flies that mimic bees (Laphria macquarti). I think it should be one word, like dragonflies, butterflies, robberflies.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Not sure yet

Exactly 8 hrs after marking the water line in the tank (in the dark leaning over the tank with a flashlight) I checked the level again. I had made two marks, one on the wall, and one on a gradual slope. It seemed like the water level had gone down half an inch on the slope and one inch on the wall. Multiplied by 3 to get a 24 hr reading.

When I did those measurements the water was still in motion from all the pumping activity. So I'm trying to think it couldn't be leaking that much. That would be about the same as before I patched it. I need to wait a few days and check again to get a better feel of it.

I've done all I can do to the tank this time of year. I risked a rain filling the tank before I got it patched. If it still leaks, I'll have to just live with it until it goes dry in the winter. Then I would need to totally empty it, clean it, and inspect it for possible leaks. I'm still optimistic that the water just hadn't settled down in the tank when I did the measurements. It was very late at night and I was exhausted, so didn't want to wait another 30 minutes or hour. No idea how long it would take, but this AM is was as calm as could be. Not so last night.

Today I just did catch-up in town. Dried another batch of apples and what was left of the peaches. Lots more apples to do yet.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Drying time not optional

The best I could determine, the patching should have 90 days to set but dries in a matter of minutes and the coating dries in 3-5 hours but should have up to 90 days to dry out. Not options for me. I patched and coated the leaky area early this AM, then let the coating dry for a couple of hours, then started slowly adding water to the end I didn't patch. My instinct tells me it'll be fine. Then about an hour later I started the big pump.

On this top photo you can see a small dark spot of patching on the bottom left of the white Drylok. It was too close to the water for me to coat but I'm confident that I patched it good and there can be no pinhole leaks in it.

My husband called while I was out working and left a message on the answering machine, "Are you winning?" He still doesn't get that not winning isn't an option for me.

I was excited taking this next photo until I realized it was a moth and not a Giant-Skipper butterfly. The bad news is that I took nearly 90 photos of it. The good news is that I realized it was a moth before I sent it to Brian. I've never seen a Giant-Skipper of any species but I keep hoping.

As I tended the pumps I kept watching for that Tramea dragonfly (Antillean or Striped Saddlebags) to return to the perch I saw it on yesterday so I could get better photos, and positive ID. Finally, at around 3 PM, I glanced at the perch and exultantly thought it was back. As I photographed it, it became apparent it was a different individual, maybe a different species. Not as much black on the tip of the tail, for one thing.

So I posted it to my odonate group and it's a Red Saddlebags. Boy, do I have a lot to learn. It so didn't look like one to me. Red Saddlebags are everywhere at the oasis. You'd think that would be one species I'd get right.

At least I ID'd this one by myself. It's a Blue-eyed Darner.

It was a good day in that I got all the water from the dirt tank transferred to the stucco tank. That project is done. I feel pretty certain it's not leaking. Last night I didn't want it to rain before I could get the leak totally coated today. Today I wish it would rain and fill up the tank so I didn't have to pump. There wasn't enough water left in the dirt tank by today to totally fill the stucco tank (lacks 18"), but I'm sure we'll get more rain this year. It's been two weeks since that big rain.

It was scary to watch the big pump surging water against my new patching work like a giant washing machine. I took video of it that I was going to post but it'll have to wait until tomorrow. This computer doesn't recognize video from my Lumix camera. Here's a still shot of it for now.

The next shot was taken shortly before dark.

I didn't finish pumping until 10:30 PM. For the last hour I sat out there to be sure the pump didn't pump dry. Mosquitoes were bad. Elf Owls and shooting stars were good though.

In the morning I'll check to see if the water went down overnight then head to town to catch up my work there. Plus I've got tons of apples and peaches waiting to be dried. Then life should relax a bit. It never does, but I need to hold on to that fantasy. I so bad want to go look for odes at Lajitas. Surely next week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Progress, or lack of, update

In the light of day the tank leaks looked worse. After the two banding sessions I took out all the water near the leak(s) until the floor was exposed. I patched it as best I could just in case it rains tonight and fills the tank. Water is still seeping through the back of the wall and the hydraulic patch I bought didn't stop it. So by tomorrow the seepage should be stopped and I can patch and coat it. Not sure how long I have to wait to put water back in. Need to check on that.

I was too tired last night to post all the photos I wanted to. Here's a cute bee foraging on kidneywood. I feel like I'm seeing a better variety of native pollinators this year.

Today after banding Kelly came back to CMO to look for yesterday's Red-faced Dragonlet. While he was distracted elsewhere I saw and photographed this saddlebags. At the time, seeing it only on my camera monitor, Kelly thought maybe it was a worn Red-Saddlebags, so when it didn't show up after a few minutes of searching, we eagerly headed to the pond where the dragonlet had last been seen. No luck relocating it so Kelly headed home. A while ago I posted the saddlebags photo to the facebook ode group and they said it's either an Antillean or Striped Saddlebags. Either would be a lifer for me. Tomorrow I hope to relocate it and get a photo of the thorax, which would be diagnostic.

A couple of common dashers and then I'm dashing off to bed. More accurately, dragging my exhausted body off to bed.

Thornbush Dasher
Blue Dasher