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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Unexpected Alpine bird

Stuck in town I was wandering around the ponds when I heard a double call note that I had never heard before. It was coming from a walnut tree at the edge of a pond. It continued quite a while until I finally located the bird and saw that it was either a Winter or Pacific Wren. To tell them apart I would need a recording. That's one area I'm really weak in. I went to the house and fetched my Lumix. Relocated the bird in a willow tree overhanging the other pond.

But, as luck would have it, I couldn't get it to vocalize. Will try again tomorrow. I caught one faint chip note from it but not audible enough to really hear good on the video.

European Starlings are junk/trash birds but are still rather pretty. I see that I've never posted a photo of one before, so here is one I photographed today. Probably a non-breeding male.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Lajitas time

Went to Lajitas today just because I felt like it. Didn't end up being the treat I had hoped, but no tricks either. Just a rather strenuous day. Quite a few odes but all the same old ones. Gorgeous drive down there though, as usual. These were taken on Highway 118 several miles north of Study Butte.

Willow Mountain on left
Bee Mountain on right

The Texas Rangers was in full bloom and had lots of  Theona checkerspots on them.

And here's a Fiery Skipper from Lajitas.

Back at CMO I nearly ran over a gray and pink snake as I was leaving. It was disappearing fast so I grabbed the handiest camera, my little Lumix. Not the best but better than nothing. I haven't ID'd the snake yet. Probably a Big Bend Patchnose.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mistaken identity

Hurricane Patricia left CMO overcast all day yesterday with less than two-tenths of an inch of rain. Didn't see the sun all day. Today didn't see one cloud all day. Finally got done all the work on my list. That state won't last long so I'm trying to enjoy it without finding other work I need to do. Only one orange on the orange tree this year as far as I can tell. House is as clean as it's going to get. Way more work than it's worth.

This morning I heard a calypte hummingbird. I couldn't get a good look at it, but assumed it was an Anna's. Then late this afternoon I saw it perched, got my binoculars on it, and swore I saw a hint of purple among the gorget feathers. I also thought I saw a couple of gorget feathers on top of the head, although those weren't showing any color. So I got my camera set up in view of the perch and when it came back to that perch I snapped lots of pics of it. (Not confessing how many) Didn't see any gorget color through the camera lens, but hoped when I downloaded the pics at least one would show a hint of purple.

Well, one photo, and one only, showed color and it wasn't purple. I would have sworn that pot-bellied hummer was a Costa's. Nope. Anna's Hummingbird.

The only shot with color showing wasn't a sharp shot, but it made its point.

Lots of stuff is blooming, including beebrush and this Texas Kidneywood (Gray Hairstreak butterfly).

Both the Texas Ranger and this Big Bend Silverleaf  are blooming but I didn't see any butterflies on the latter.

And there are berries on both of the biggest Texas Madrone trees. 

This next hummer is a selasphorus. I think it's an Allen's but I would probably be wrong. It was doing a courtship display to a male Lucifer, which I think is very unusual. I looked in the book and the display was that of an Allen's. But I don't know if this is the same hummer that displayed. You know how that goes.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The worst is over

Nothing to blog about today. Going to CMO tomorrow for a few days. Hopefully, there'll be interesting stuff there.

I'm over the traumatic fear with the new laptop. Not saying I like Windows 10. I liked Windows XP just fine, and I'm good with Windows 7, but gotta move forward.

Watched a couple short YouTube videos and managed to do a couple of things without once running to my son. Got my backup photos all downloaded. Over 12,000 of them. Yikes!

I really like the top cover to the laptop. It's a shiny, mirror-finish black plastic. Kind of reminds me of the old-time Bakelite. (You all are probably too young to remember that.) I try not to touch the cover so it doesn't get fingerprints on it, but when I do, I polish it right away. LOL

That's the reflection of my camera on the bottom edge. The emblem is upside down so I guess it's the top, but it's the edge that opens to the keyboard. Taking it to CMO tomorrow will give it a good test. And me a good test too. Well, upon reflection, I guess it's only me that will really get tested.

OK, just for you younguns out there, I located a photo of a Bakelite radio online so you might know what I'm talking about.

I may have spells of nostalgia for those days, but no way would I want to go back to that technology.

Sure hoping this Hurricane Patricia fills my tanks. I've always said I get my best rain events from Pacific hurricanes. If this one doesn't do it, I don't know what will.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The pain of gain

Gained a new laptop today. How I dreaded the learning curve.  I couldn't even bring myself to unseal it from its wrapper. (At least I did remove it from the box it was delivered in.) Then I went straight to the thrift shop and picked out a case for it, stuck it in, and paid for the case while the computer was still in it. Not taking any chances. Took it to my son to deal with. After about an hour of help, he had to continue with his day's responsibilities and I'm on my own.

I managed to get my desktop photo on it but for the life of me I can't figure out how to download the photos on my backup thumb drive. Gonna look it up online I guess. And I ordered a wireless mouse for it. I can deal with the touch pad but think it'll be faster for me with a mouse. Then I'll have my son download photoshop on it. By that time I should be able to manage it. Little things throw me off. Like I went to do an email and am used to typing the first letter of the recipient and a drop-down window gives me the options from my contact list. Didn't happen. Had to go look up the email address and type it in. I have to get used to this computer though because it's likely the last one I'll be getting for the next ten years. The one at CMO is nearly 12 years old, a Windows XP and feature by feature quits working. What does work is slow. And I mean really, really slow. So when I get this one figured out to where I can function on it, that should be a great thing.

Haven't gotten any rain yet, but it's in the forecast. Would love to get my tanks topped off, but at least a good soaking rain would be nice so I don't have to water so much. With cooler weather now I plan to just water once a week. And if it rains, even less. Then after the first freeze I can cut back to twice a month.

I must be getting old because a lot annoys me that is changing in life. Like I can't stand "up-talking." And while I was typing this I heard the TV advertising whooping cough vaccine. In my day it was pronounced "hooping" cough. Now they say "wooping"cough. Just all kinds of stuff like that. Very annoying. Computer changes don't bother me as much. Like now I'm having to learn Windows 10. My town computer is Windows 7. I'm happy with it. Bought it 5 years ago. OK, back to my self-education.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

More Monarchs

Alpine is loaded with Monarchs too. We went from hardly any butterflies all summer to the most Monarchs I've ever seen. Wild!

Monday, October 19, 2015

A day in the park

I should probably have cleaned house today but I'll get it done before Thanksgiving. I had never oded at Rio Grande Village so had the overwhelming urge to get a lifer there before winter arrives. How hard could that be? (If I saw one there, I didn't know it or get a photo.) My hopes were good starting out. It's a two hour drive what with the 45 MPH speed limit in the park. I drove even slower in parts of it because it was impossible not to run over Monarchs.

Finally arrived at my destination around noon. RGV had always been one of my favorite birding places. Got many a life bird there. I figured odes would be best at the boardwalk so went there straight away. And straight away it was disappointing.

For starters I had to look hard to even find any water, never mind odes. This above dead tree used to be out in the middle of a lovely pond. Yuck!  Finally, found little puddles here and there. No odes at the spring, but at least it had water in it.

When I left the boardwalk I was thinking, "at least I got it out of my system. That should be worth something." And it made me appreciate the oasis more, where it's quiet and not people-ridden (most of the time). A quick visit to the gambusia pond had the same results. But I thought, "it's a shame to do that long drive and not at least check out the Daniel's Ranch area. Who knows, maybe they're irrigating and all the odes are there." Lo and behold, when I headed that way they actually were irrigating. Things began looking up. I soon was sloshing around in the water seeking odes. There were lots of them. All Variegated Meadowhawks, with an occasional Common Green Darner, and one Band-winged Dragonlet. People driving by stopped in the road to see what I was doing, then moved on.

Above is the exact place were I got my lifer Tufted Flycatcher some years back. The only flycatcher I could find there today was this Vermilion Flycatcher.

To make a long story short, the most interesting find of the day was a group of Wood Ducks. I thought I counted 9, but I see only 6 on this photo. I know there were a couple that didn't fit on the photo but I see one of the ducks isn't a Wood Duck, so I guess that makes 8. I've never seen that many at one time before.

Enjoyed watching this Great Egret along the irrigation canal.

I think this dragonfly is an Eastern Ringtail, not positive. Also photographed along the irrigation canal. Saw tons of damselflies along the canal but think they'll turn out to be common stuff.

After leaving RGV I was tired and ready to go home but forced myself to check out the river at the Hot Springs. I saw some interesting odes there but they wouldn't land. I think they may have been Pale-faced Clubskimmers, but don't know. At any rate, the park is out of my system for this year, maybe longer.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Quantity AND Quality

One would think with only two dragonflies at CMO today it would be easy to keep track. But there were hundreds of Monarchs fluttering all over the place. Add to that their shadows, and a slight breeze. The whole oasis appeared to be in motion.

Somehow I managed to locate two odes among the melee (may have been more). One of them turned out to be a Turquoise-tipped Darner. That's the second one I've seen here this year, in spite of them being out-of-range here. (See post of Aug 7)

As far as birds were concerned, there was one too many of those. That one being a sapsucker. It seems to be molting but I think it's a Red-naped Sapsucker.

Another butterfly I saw today was this one that I guess must be a Golden-headed Scallopwing.

The berries on the Chinese Pistachio tree are red now. Hope they attract some interesting birds. I feel overdue for that.

Tomorrow I plan to go to Lajitas.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Still practicing closeups

They say "no pain, no gain," but I don't see progress for all the pain here. Crawling in the wet ground on the edge of the water, just for starters. I just can't get enough depth of field without sacrificing light, but I'll keep trying. Even when I'm perpendicular to the odes either the tail or the thorax is blurry.

Desert Firetail

Mexican Forktail

Flowers are easier.

Turk's cap


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Taking a breather

Body needs a rest. Played with my new closeup lens a bit today but nothing would let me close enough except some Familiar Bluets. But they're OK for practicing on. There is just such a small range of focus putting the lens on the end of my 100-400mm zoom. I can see it might be fine for bugs and maybe some little butterflies if they let me get close enough. But precious time gets lost changing lenses. Oh well, it wasn't expensive.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lajitas banding, then CMO work

Kelly couldn't make his banding this week so he had substitutes fill in. There was a photo shoot going on at Lajitas while we were there, but it didn't distract us too much. One guy who was enthralled watching the banding, and getting his picture taken holding a hummer, said the photo ops at the banding table were more interesting than the other. Here's the "other," a bird of few feathers.

Too bad we didn't have bigger bands, like 36DD. I was impressed because I didn't see any tattoos on her...none visible anyway. But those shoes gotta go.

Back at CMO we are still catching a few Lucifer Hummingbirds. After banding I worked as hard as I could at catching up. In the morning I'll caulk the roof and service my feeders before heading back to catch up in town. I don't feel as stressed now, though. That's the main thing.

I played a little with my new close-up lens but not enjoying it yet. Someone suggested I zoom my lens back to 100mm on manual focus, and use the zoom to focus. I haven't mastered that. Here's a photo I took doing that, and my depth of field is like zero. Couldn't even get a flat butterfly sharp in both wings. So I have to play with it more. Just no butterflies or odes to practice on. On this Fatal Metalmark I could have done as good, or better, without the closeup lens I think.

I saw a tree abloom with Cattle Egrets at Lajitas and quite a few Clay-colored Sparrows, but migration is definitely winding down.

Monday, October 12, 2015

New lens

I ordered a closeup lens in hopes of getting better ode photos. However, I don't think I'll be happy with it. At least it wasn't expensive. You have to be closer to the ode than the ode will let you get and when I'm that close I can't get the whole ode in the frame. But I've just tried it briefly. Maybe I'll learn how to do it all better.

Banding tomorrow at Lajitas.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

More work than expected

My son, Eric, and I arrived at CMO at daybreak to a lovely sunrise. No pics. We were in a hurry to get to the project of getting me a working pump. Spent a couple of hours removing the nonworking pumps and trying to fix them. Didn't seem fixable so we found a new pump in my plumbing shed that hadn't been used because my setup isn't wired for 4-wire pumps, only 3-wire pumps. To make a long story short, he rewired things. Hard to do when you don't have the luxury of going to the local hardware store. Had to make do with what was available. The new pump came with a Flotec or Pumptec, or something additional, in order to work, which required a bunch more electrical work and expertise. I simply cannot understand electric wiring. (Plumbing I can understand.) Anyway, we worked from 8 AM until 3 PM without a break, but ended up with a new working pump.

I guess my part in it was a facilitator. I held stuff and searched through sheds for things he needed. Running back and forth all day. I snapped this photo with my basic cell phone and then couldn't download it. Could only text it. So I texted it to my daughter and asked her to email it to me. Whew! Not doing that again.

I'm getting so behind on projects now that it's stressing me. I need to get back down there and get started. Thanksgiving will be here in a few short weeks and I need to clean the house before the kids and grand-kids arrive. Yes, I actually clean it once a year. Over the course of a year it gets some dust and spiders and cobwebs.

Other pressing projects include pruning the bushes growing out into the road. People hate getting their vehicles scratched. And more gravel in the second viewing area. The kitchen roof leaked around the stovepipe during this recent rain. Gotta caulk that. The mud room and pump shed have to be mouse-proofed and cleaned. Stuff like that. But projects keep getting added to the list so I need to keep plugging away. Not being able to water with hose pressure got me behind, not to mention all the dirt tank pumping. But water always takes priority. Tanks aren't leaking. YAY!

I'm finally able to put the drip back under the cottonwood tree. Maybe too late. It lost most of its leaves the past two weeks or so when I didn't have the water system up and running. I don't think it'll die, though.

Another thing I really want to do is look for odes at Lajitas before the weather gets cold, and also I'm supposed to see a CEO there about the birding habitat I've been pushing for, for years. I think it's really going to happen this time. That's such an important project for birders and oders that I have to find the time. At this time, if I don't do it no one will. Maybe in the future someone else will come along, but for now, I'm it.

I'd like to go oding to Austin and the Lower Rio Grande Valley but that will have to wait until next summer. If I get enough rain to where I can get away for a few days without needing to water. Didn't happen this year. But water takes priority.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

State of CMO water

Well, the night of the rain I stayed up all night pumping out that dirt tank. Got more water out of it that way (It soaks into the ground a bunch). Here's the state of my water reserves, as of today. I think, by being frugal with watering, and with the cold, rainy winter we're predicted to have, I should be able to squeak by without buying and hauling water. Takes a lot of pressure off.

Look at this map, a screen shot from around the time water was filling that tank. You'll see there's always that finger of no green on the map north of Terlingua where my place is. So frustrating. The rain just seems to go around me every time. I'm lucky I got what little I got.

My son is coming down tomorrow to see why neither tank's pump works.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Rain update

After I already posted it started raining. Rained light to heavy for about an hour. Over .6" so far. The upper dirt tank nearly filled up and since it doesn't hold water for long I started pumping it. May have to stay up all night to keep it gassed up but better than losing a bunch. Then tomorrow I'll pump it from the lower dirt tank to the stucco tank. Should be a month's supply and may mean the difference between hauling water for a month in the spring. Rather lose a night's sleep. If we get a deluge in the night I'll quit pumping, of course.

To be updated later......

Change of plans

At sunrise I assessed the situation. It looked like it might rain, at least at Lajitas, and I sure didn't want to go all that way and get rained out. Even with overcast skies it wouldn't be good for odes. But cool overcast weather is perfect for hard work at CMO. So I bit the bullet.

Really needed to do something about the second viewing area (not the one we band at, and I poured a concrete slab at, recently). I built the second one in late July of 2012 (see post of Aug 3, 2012), and  before long a rare Varied Thrush showed up. It soon became obvious that the viewing area was inadequate. Here it is before I started the project this morning.

As  you can see from the above photo, the view is blocked and there's not much seating space. That white bench is actually blocking a pathway. While I wasn't able to finish the project today, all I lack is bringing the ground level up where it's too low. I worked from 8 AM until 5PM and simply could not move anymore. Here is where it's at now. When I get large groups I can bring out more chairs.

And here's a list of my tool arsenal, required to do the job.

Skill saw (chain saw would have been better)
Extension cord
Hand saw
Hammer (to pound the hatchet)
Screwdriver (remove a chunk of wood stuck in the saw)
Grubbing hoe
Hand trowel

I actually protected my arms before I started, instead of after they got all torn up. All healed from the last time and don't want to repeat that, knowing most of my effort would be removing the huge almost dead catclaw acacia.

Match my socks. Oh never mind, they are my socks.
I had to grab my camera once today, as whenever I entered the arroyo for another bucket of sand I saw a busy wasp going in and out of a little hole in the ground. When she came out she was carrying, or dragging, balls of dirt. Really fascinating to observe. I didn't see the balls piled up around the hole so I guess she carried them away somewhere. She took off after every exit but I couldn't determine if she was carrying anything. Must have been. Too fast for me.