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Monday, September 28, 2015

Long hard day

I needed to water the oasis but neither of my tank pumps would work. They go into the pressure tank so watering is fast. So it took me all day to rig up another old broken pump, that ever so slowly produced water, to get things even sparsely watered. Then to town. I need to get a new fuse for the one pump switch box. If that isn't the problem then I'll have to get my son to go down and install a new pump.

At least while water was slowly trickling, in between moving the hose I got to watch birds. There were lots of warblers. And also I used less water than I otherwise would have, which might become an issue in six months if it doesn't rain in the meantime.

The few hummers remaining are really fat. Obviously getting ready for their big migration. Here's Black-chinned Hummingbird with fat reserves.


The only overwintering species to arrive so far are the Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  It didn't take long after I filled the sunflower seed feeder before a squirrel was trying to get to the seeds.


The moon was still awesome tonight so I stopped along the highway and snapped a couple shots of it in all its golden glory.




Sunday, September 27, 2015

Day of the Moon

The prehistoric people of the Big Bend, ancestors to today's Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, called night "the day of the moon." Seemed fitting this evening with the spectacular eclipse. I did my darnedest to get decent photos. There are great ones online so with my first hand sighting and their photos I have a pretty lasting impression of it. The evening started with a lovely sunset...


Soon followed by the moonrise....


And then the real show began..




I keep forgetting to post a photo of my newly made concrete pad in the viewing area, so I snapped a quick shot of it before dark today. It works better for banding now.



Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bloom of damselfies

For whatever reason there's a huge increase in damselfly numbers at the ponds in Alpine.


Yesterday at the oasis there were only a couple of hummers left. The previous week it was obvious by their revved up all day activity at the feeders that they were tanking up for departure.

Here's a Canyonland Satyr that I photographed in the Davis Mountains a few days ago. Not a lifer but still enjoyable to see.


Tomorrow evening I'm gonna try to photograph the eclipse with my mountain below it. And by the way, my binoculars dried out and are none the worse for the wetting.



Friday, September 25, 2015

A little peek at sister's house

I bought my property in 1977 and finished my house in 1979. In the early 1990s I sold pieces of my land to two of my four sisters. I'm the oldest. My late husband and I built a rock house for the second sister. She lives in Iowa where we were all born, but usually spends the winters here. (About 5 years ago the third sister, along with her daughter, started a house of their own near my first sister's house.)

This first sister built her house without any outside help (unlike me), all while working as an archaeologist for the Center for Big Bend Studies in Alpine. I dropped by today to take her some tomatoes from our garden and snapped a few quick pics. Didn't give her a chance to straighten up cords, hoses, or anything. She said it's OK to post the photos I took. One can sure dream up a lot of innovative creations given enough time. By comparison, I hired help and rushed through getting mine down. Didn't enjoy the process.

Here is a little of the rock and fortified adobe house that has been 22 years in the making.


That isn't a crack in the walkway, it's an artistic conduit for water to cross the walkway and not puddle there. In the background is the first "module" she built, which is now guest quarters, that she lived in while building the main part of the house.


Above is the doorway into the first module. The main house is off the picture to the right. All this overlooks the arroyo that brings water to my tanks a mile upstream.

Below in the main house is the stairway between dining area and sitting room. Bathroom and kitchen off photo to right.



Above is an interesting section of hallway between the sitting room (which doubles as an extra guest room) and her bedroom. The doorway leads to a patio above the arroyo.


This is the outside of one of the sitting room windows beside that patio. Background is the first module. Notice the arroyo, barely visible on the right, and that far mountain way in the background. My place is on this side of that mountain. You've undoubtedly seen it in the background of many of my photos from the oasis.

And last, for now, here is the bathtub in the main bathroom. She is just finishing it. Temporarily, she had a fiberglass tub there, but finally is doing the finishing up projects. It was very difficult for her to cut out the fiberglass tub so she could tile it. 


There are so many more awesome areas and things in her house that this is just a tiny sample. One of these days I'll take more photos of it. 


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Disappointed in myself

It's bad enough to live a life with mild prosopagnosia (face blindness), but lately I've been so absent-minded. The other day I came to town and left my binoculars laying outdoors by the stucco tank. The one time I do that and it's the one time in over 10 weeks we get a little rain. It pretty much ruined them. Lately, every trip to town I forget something at CMO and vice versa.

So today I left my borrowed binoculars in my car from the meeting place with Kelly, then came back to Alpine having left stuff in his vehicle, even after he reminded me. It stresses me out.

Several of us were photographing White-eared Hummingbirds at Kelly's place. I took lots of photos with ample opportunities, yet none are decent shots, my only WEHU pics ever. Frustrating. The bird stayed a distance in the shade and my camera just doesn't take good pics that way. This is the best I got.


I did somewhat better on this AZ Sisters butterfly that was closer to me in the sunshine.


I never cease to be amazed at how drab a hummer's gorget can look one second and totally awesome the next, as this male Rivoli's Hummingbird so nicely illustrates.


As I recall, this hummer had less sunlight reflecting on his throat in the second photo than the first. I believe they somehow adjust their gorget feathers to maximize the reflective and absorptive quality of the feathers.* Here's a description I found online:

The colors do not directly depend on selective pigment absorption and reflection, as do brown and blacks produced by the melanin pigments of non-iridescent feathers. Rather, they depend on interference coloration, such as that resulting from the colors seen in an oil film or soap-bubble

If you haven't already checked out this live cam at a hummingbird feeder at an undisclosed location in the Davis Mountains, be sure to do so.

http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/50/West_Texas_Hummingbirds/

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* I've repeatedly observed this is other instances and species. For example, I watched a motionless Eastern Amberwing dragonfly, which has a couple deep yellowish patches on the sides of his thorax, when being threatened by another male dragonfly, instantly make those patches turn a bright iridescent yellow-green. Then when the territorial invader moves on, the color turns drab again. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Davis Mountains Preserve morning


Helped Kelly band hummingbirds at the preserve this morning. Afterwards we walked down to the intermittent creek to check for odes. Storm clouds threatened, so not much flying. The most memorable part of the morning was when I almost stepped on a Black-tailed Rattlesnake as I was walking through the tall grass. It was the largest Black-tailed I've ever seen, and could certainly have bitten me if it had been so inclined.

Well hidden, even while rattling
Side view, still rattling
                         
Front view, still rattling
Here is a Tropical Least Skipper. Not a lifer for me. (See post of Nov 10, 2013)



This next one is an Acmon Blue.


I did get a nice shower at CMO night before last. Not enough to put any in the tanks but good for the parched ground nonetheless. 

Tomorrow I'm going to try again for a photo of the Mexican Violetear.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Routine day maintaining oasis

Daylight today found me on Terlingua Ranch road almost to the oasis.


Upon arriving there I rushed around filling feeders and watering. A Belted Kingfisher is still hanging around but won't ever let me get close for better photos.


Got back to town really late so this is a brief blog post.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Davis Mountains morning

Daylight found us driving into the mountains to refill Kelly's feeders. (He's at the hummingbird festival in Rockport.) Rain spattered on the windshield but the sunrise was gorgeous.


After I finished the feeders I sat with my camera focused on the feeder the Green Violetear had been seen at previously. I only got a real quick glimpse of it at a different feeder, and no photo. I did get lots of photos of Rivoli's Hummingbirds and a few of the Blue-throated. Oh, well, one of these... years.


Notice the size difference between the Blue-throated Hummingbird above and the Rufous sharing the feeder with it.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Survived the concreting

Here's how it looked when I started this morning.


All the while I worked I kept thinking, did I really say yesterday that I could "easily" finish this morning. I finished, all right, but there wasn't anything easy about it. I ran out of cement on the last pour so it's a little lean. I can fix it if necessary at some point. It may set up fine.


I could use floor leveler but I think it would make the surface too slick. Need a little grit so no one slips and hurts themselves. As soon as I dampened the surface I covered it all with plastic. And I sloped the edges a bit so they would be harder to trip over. Since it's a thin slab I haven't set foot on it yet and hope to leave it cure until next banding in a week or two. No cracks developed so that's a good sign.

I had a pleasant surprise waiting for me when I got to town. In the mail I had received a thank you card from Sheri Williamson, author of Hummingbirds of North America (see post of Aug 25). The artwork on the card was by her. I had no idea her prodigious talent included being an artist.



Saturday I'm going to refill Kelly's feeders and look for the Mexican Violetear while I'm there. That would be an awesome lifer for me. Getting excited. If I get a photo of it I'll be ecstatic.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Concrete day

Whew! I hadn't realized how weak I've become since my former concrete days. The floor isn't level. I shoveled the cement in, troweled it to what I thought were my marks on the sides, but I'm old and slow and by the time I got a level on it, it was too set up to work with. I may buy some of that floor-leveler stuff, or put a flat rock under a table leg, not sure yet. At least the chair should roll back and forth to the table when I'm done. It was just really a hot 96° this afternoon. Heat doesn't bother me if I'm not doing hard labor in it. Here's the floor about one/third done at noon, at which time I went to the house to eat lunch and take a nap. Without a nap, I knew I couldn't do any more work today.


At the end of the day I have it two/thirds done. Will finish it easily in the morning because the thickest part is done.


Putting plastic on it should help to keep it from drying out. I hauled between 50 and 80 gallons of sand up out of the arroyo to get this much done. I think I can finish with another 20-25 gallons. I carry half a 5-gallon bucket out at a time, then dump it into the wheelbarrow and roll it to the site. I don't keep a tally of the gallons, but usually use 15 to 20 gallons per batch mixed. So I not only don't remember how many gallons, but I don't remember how many batches I mixed either. That's why my estimate spans such a large gap.

Wanted to take some pictures of something else, anything else, today but the one time I saw a Two-tailed Swallowtail on a hummingbird feeder it was gone by the time I got to my camera. Some days it's hard to mix work and pleasure. Today the only mixing that got done was cement.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Another intense day

I usually can't sleep the morning before it's time to get up and go banding. About 3 or 4 AM and I'm up. I hate that. Gonna start taking a little Benadryl or something I guess. It's not good to get so little sleep followed by such a long strenuous day. As it was, I gave out before dark. I try to work until dark and not "waste daylight." Tomorrow I'll get an early start and get a lot done.

I'm planning on making a concrete pad in the viewing area here so the table will stay level and the banding chair will roll in and out from the table. Should have done it years ago. I didn't think to take a photo before I moved the table and chairs out of the area to be concreted.


I'm going to divide it into quarters since I probably won't be able to do it all in one day. That's a lot of sand to haul out of the arroyo, and a lot of cement to mix in the wheelbarrow. And I don't expect  it to be cool. In the 90s before I know it, would be my educated guess.


Today the steps brushed against me as I was maneuvering them through the guesthouse door. It caused a big swath of the fragile skin on my arm to peel back almost all the way down to my wrist. I patted it back down where it belonged, but I usually end up losing the skin and having a big sore that takes a long time to heal. I had just healed from my last booboo. It's hopeless. Always going to have scabs on my arms. Getting old sucks.


Late this afternoon a pitiful hummer migrant arrived. It's in dire condition, having gotten it's bill into something bad, maybe spray foam, chewing gum, or something. I have no idea, but if it doesn't get it rubbed off, it won't survive. In desperation I tried to capture it, but couldn't. Maybe tomorrow. You see why I didn't get my work done today.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
It spent hours trying to force it's bill into the feeder port. Here it is in the last waning daylight. That glob on the end of the bill prevents it from fitting into the ports but maybe it can extend its long tongue and feed. I sure hope so.


But even if it does get sugar water, it needs protein to survive and there's no way it can catch insects in this condition.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Marathon day

As I posted yesterday, us girls birded Marathon as planned. Since I was with two avid birders, I photographed more birds than odes. Here is a Great Horned Owl they found, perhaps the pale western form.


Yellow Warbers were the most numerous warblers we saw.


There were Scissor-tailed Flycatchers everywhere. I don't know why I didn't take any pictures of them. I guess because there were so many of them. It just never occurred to me. If ever I could have gotten a suitable shot of that species, today should have been the day. A real missed opportunity.

I did try to photograph an American Redstart but it was too fast for me. This was the best I could do.


There were literally hundreds of Blue-eyed Darners. I got to wondering if they ate all the other odes, so few in number were the others in comparison.




Tomorrow is a banding day.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A blah day

Had a mild headache all day. It's been so long since I've had a headache that it felt really strange to have one. Better be gone by tomorrow because I'm going to the Post Park in Marathon with a friend and my sister-in-law.

Today I mostly languished and made plans for projects at CMO next week. Gonna water the soapberry one time, I decided. And pour a small concrete pad in the viewing area, paint and install the steps in the guesthouse that Hugh and I built today. Always more stuff planned than I can ever get done. Such is my life.

My seven ducks are all grown up. They fly between the ponds like pros. Wonder if they'll leave ever. I doubt it.


I'm always hoping for good photos of female amberwings, but almost never see one, even though Kelly got awesome pics of one recently at CMO that I posted here Sep 7. So when I saw one ovipositing (laying eggs) in a puddle of water inside a lotus leaf I started snapping, knowing I wouldn't be fast enough to stop the action but just possibly I'd get something halfway decent. Turned out about as expected.



Friday, September 11, 2015

Life goes on

Well, the leak still isn't fixed. When the tank is dry I'll fix it properly, meanwhile, it's not spraying mist, just running down the pipe. What I did yesterday must have patched the wrong spot and today I didn't have time to let it sit and dry. I had to water trees and come to town. In the top photo you can see a tiny jet of water squirting out just below the tape. I don't think that's where the leak was yesterday.







































The highlight of my day was observing my first female Blue-eyed Darner ovipositing (laying eggs).



I thought it rather strange that the male was no where to be seen, then when she finally finished, she disappeared, and the male showed up and hovered in the area territorially for hours afterwards. He even chased away another male Blue-eyed Darner.


I'm worried that my cherished soapberry thicket in the arroyo is dying, not having had moisture since July 8th. Hope it's just shedding some leaves and will survive.


Female Common Whitetail
 The only thing blooming at the oasis is this Ruellia that I have sitting in a basin of water.