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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cabin fever building up

Kids made it safely back to Austin. Still no electricity for my granddaughter in Yukon, OK. In a few hours they'll be starting day 3.

My last Lucifer Hummingbird at CMO was on Nov. 16. At a site three miles south of me the last one was Nov. 24. At a site about 5 miles further south of there a Lucifer is still there today. We'll see how long it stays but so far it's the second from the latest record. (We had one in Terlingua/Study Butte in Dec a few years ago.) Here is the one from today. Photo courtesy Bonnie Wunderlich.

At first I thought it was "old man Lucifer" making his way south, but Kelly disabused me of that notion by reminding me that old man has a slightly deformed bill. (See post of Nov 16.)

Otherwise things are slow and boring. Doesn't take long for me to get cabin fever.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Annual family time

We were never all together at once until they were heading back to Austin today and we got together at Magoo's Restaurant in Alpine. So I got a customer to take a family photo.

Clockwise, left to right: Myla, Leonardo (son), Eric (son), Annie (Eric's wife) John, Jr, me, Isabel (daughter) John (Isabel's husband), Kaliya, and Erynya. The 3 girls are Leonardo's (he's divorced), and John Jr is Isabel's son. She has a daughter that lives in Oklahoma that can't be here. Wish she could. They're out of electricity today, as are 92,000 other people there, due to a huge ice storm. She sent me this photo of a limb on their roof. May be without for 2 more days.

Here in Alpine it's not so bad. Our biggest pecan tree is hurting. Already loaded with pecans before it got burdened with ice, but it's melting now.

This selasphorus hummingbird (Allen's or Rufous) is sure tough. Ice doesn't seem to faze it.

Photo taken through double-pane window from a nice warm room

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

CMO day

I hung around the place today. My son-in-law (John Jankowski) generously donated some of his precious vacation time to help with chores around the place.  Here he is installing rain gutters on a rock storage building. My 15 yr old grandson (6ft 4in) hopefully learning here. He adores his step-father.

And five Cedar Waxwings visited early this morning. Couldn't get them all on one photo.

And I saw an American Pipit briefly. 

Not much interesting but glad to get some work done. Supposed to rain the next few days. Sure hope so. And just so everyone knows, Black Friday started on Wednesday this year. That's today.

Tonight there's a beautiful full moon. Looks different than I can remember seeing it. Of course this picture doesn't begin to do it justice with all the awesome detail on the surface of the moon, etc. Such is life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fun Lajitas afternoon

This morning I inventoried odes and butterflies at CMO. I've posted lots of photos of Great Spreadwings but I thought this one was really nice. 

The only butterflies I saw at CMO this AM were a Common Mestra, Sleepy Orange, Fatal Metalmark, and Checkered Skipper. Pretty boring.

In the afternoon I went to Lajitas to visit my daughter and her husband who are staying there for a few days in their motorhome.

I made sure to get there early so I had time to play while I was waiting for them to get there from Austin. (White pickup is mine.) And even though I didn't allow enough prime afternoon time, I still had fun. Flushed an American Bittern, the first I've seen in Lajitas.

And finally the male Anna's Hummingbirds are beginning to arrive. I was starting to wonder if they would. I expect within a month they'll be swarming like bees at the feeders. I didn't get any good photos of a gorgeous male, just a documentary silhouette, unfortunately.

And not very good one of this juvenile male either.

I guess this is a flock of Coots foraging on the golf greens. I don't remember seeing that before.

No way was I going to be able to get to CMO before dark. (Chisos Mountains in below photo.)

By the time I got back it was dark and Common Poorwills were warming themselves in the road. I tried hard to get a decent photo of one. With my Lumix this was the best I could do.

So I tried with my Canon and this was the best I could do with it. Night shots are really challenging for me.

I took a bunch of ode pics today but don't know what they are and too tired to sort them out. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tomatoes finally froze

I got tired of picking all the small green tomatoes expecting a freeze and then it not freezing, but last night it finally froze. (Tiny green tomato in upper right corner.)

It's been my hope to take a photo of a meadowlark that's good enough to definitively say it's an Eastern, Western, or Lillian's. But don't seem to be able to do that. Today I saw the first one of those that overwinter here in Alpine. It was flicking its tail so I thought just maybe. No luck, though.

Since it's really boring here in town, I'll keep trying. One problem is that I can't get close enough. They stay way far away. The only way I know them apart is by song, but they don't sing here in the winter time.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Time to winterize

For nearly two weeks we've been promised a freeze but it hasn't happened yet. I'm sure it'll be tonight or tomorrow night though, so I went and did what winterizing needed to be done at CMO. Nothing going on there and until the tanks fill up, maybe not before next summer, I'm on strict water rationing.

The biggest madrone tree has the most berries on that it's ever had. Can't see them much on this photo, but they're there. Birds are noticing.

And the most amazing thing! When I went up to winterize my sister's guesthouse her Indian Paintbrush patch was blooming like crazy. Never saw anything like it.

Brian, I did look for caterpillars on it. None. Speaking of Brian and caterpillars, his Ornythion Swallowtail cat is adorable. It's pupating and will be a pupa in a few hours.

I'm going to be devastated if it doesn't survive.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Windy weather here

I hate windy weather so am hanging out indoors the last couple of days. Brian, my butterfly guru, sent me a recent baby pic of his baby Ornythion Swallowtail along with a comparable Western Giant Swallowtail that he collected in Fronton, TX on his recent trip to the valley. I'm determined to get there next summer at some point to photograph odes and butterflies.

Ornythion Swallowtail

Western Giant Swallowtail

In six days they grew a lot. The Western Giant has now been separated into a separate species from the Giant Swallowtail. I hope they turn into beautiful butterflies but there's still a lot of time left for things to go wrong.

Yesterday Kelly and I went on our hummingbird banding route. We didn't see one hummer at Lajitas. At our site three miles south of CMO we saw three Lucifers but none would go into the trap. I'm sure they had previously been banded and knew better. At CMO we only saw two Anna's and "old man Lucifer." Caught one of the Anna's, a recapture from last year. We will probably only attempt to band one or two more time this year. Hopefully, some calypte species (Anna's & Costa's) will show up next month. This will conclude the 8th year of the 10 year project. Be sure and check out Kelly's website if you haven't yet. On the drop down Activities menu are the annual reports. This year's report won't be added until January.

This weekend we plan to go to Black Gap and I plan to go to Austin a couple of days at Christmas time. But of course, life is what happens when you're making plans.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Black Gap trip postponed

We had to choose between Black Gap or getting a year's supply of hog meat and we chose the latter. The plan is to go to Black Gap this weekend.

Meanwhile, "old man" Lucifer Hummingbird is still at CMO. I was concerned that he may not be up to migrating this year. It seems too much a coincidence that the oldest one is the only one that stayed into November. It's supposed to be a really cold winter this year, although we haven't had our first freeze yet. But Kelly said "old man" is molting, which makes him more prone to stick around a little longer. I learn something everyday (mostly thanks to Kelly). His wing does look a little ragged to me.

The look of fall today.

Velvet Ash tree (Fraxinus Velutina)

Chinese Pistachio (pistacia chinensis)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hog processing time (not for the squeamish)

The bounty continues. A local rancher trapped a bunch of feral hogs and I can't stand waste so my husband salvaged about five of the 13 or so. Son helped. It's great healthy meat.

My butterfly guru friend, Brian (I call him my adopted grandson), came through Alpine on his way home (to CA) from a butterflying trip to Lower Rio Grande Valley. He was hoping to find an Ornythion Swallowtail, but didn't see one. However, he got this little caterpillar at Fronton, TX that appears to be that species, so he's going to try to raise it into an adult. That will be very challenging.  Some of you may recall that a couple of years ago I got that species at CMO. Brian got there as quick as he could and managed to find an old dying female. He even managed to nurse her back to enough health, and fortunately she had a few eggs left in her, which he got her to lay. Of those only one survived. But shortly before it could turn into a butterfly, it too died. See posts from 9/11/13 to 10/27/13. So here's wishing him success. He thinks he learned more about raising that species since then.

Update: This is a confirmed Ornythion caterpillar. Now if Brian just has enough expertise to keep it alive. And if it wasn't diseased or parasitized before he even got it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

First freeze imminent

I took a couple other photos yesterday that I didn't get posted. One is of this Cardinal at CMO.  There's been a pair of them hanging around. I'm thinking they may try nesting there again next spring. They tried in 2011 but didn't fledge anything that I know about. That was a horrible year. Maybe next year will be better.

There are tons of yellow flowers blooming. I recognize these as Desert Marigold. I think the others might be broomweed but I didn't get photos.

Had to pick the tomatoes because it's sure to freeze tonight. Kept in a cold dark place we should have tomatoes to enjoy for at least another month, maybe longer. Here is preparation to doing the dastardly deed. The only thing I hate worse than picking them is losing them to frost.

Above is afterward. Notice that huge bell pepper. It's the biggest I've ever seen.

Moved the tomatoes into a guest room. I keep the door shut and the window covered so they'll be in a cool dark place. Tomorrow I'll dice and freeze the peppers. Too tired to do it today. Beside these tomatoes and peppers we've given truckloads away. Quite a few people have no more room in their freezers for more. It's been a most bountiful year. All that dried fruit too. And pecans are dropping all over the place. We'll have to give a bunch of these tomatoes away because they'll ripen faster than we can eat them.

Here's an interesting pair of mating insects. I've no idea what they are.

UPDATE: Kelly says they're Crane Flies, aka "Daddy-long-legs." Pretty cool. Thanks, Kelly.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The blog must go on

I came to town to find that the AT&T fiber optic cable had been cut and internet is down. Mine is AT&T. My son has Big Bend Telephone, which is the same as I have at CMO. Should've stayed there, but it's going to freeze tomorrow night and I have to pick all the tomatoes before then. So I'm at my son's house on my new laptop. I was determined to blog.

Going down to CMO this morning I could see enticing fog in the Christmas Mountains. It was real foggy there for a short while.

As I watered I watched for "Old Man Lucifer," but only saw two Anna's all day long. Watering was a real pain today. I had purchased a cheap Walmart hose and couldn't endure the constant kinking. So I bought a good quality non-kinking hose with lifetime warranty. Those are like trying to break a wild horse when you first get them.  

It kept getting snagged on every rock. It kept whipping around and spraying me and tripping me every time I tried to move it to a different tree. I got soaked, not to mention it flogged me from time to time. When water pressure goes through those coils, anything can happen. Ironically, it had a flaw in it when I bought it. A bad kink. Not wanting to hassle with taking it back and breaking in another one, I just put vice grips on the kink and left them there to keep it open. Needless to say, I didn't water the full regimen.

The sky was so clear at the oasis today that it looked like Nine Point Mesa was right behind it, whereas actually it's at least 5 miles away.

I saw a yellow butterfly but couldn't get a photo of it. It wouldn't land. Sleepy Oranges are plentiful and this one landed on a matching leaf. Made me realize they probably do that on purpose. Surely, they find mates partly by color so they must realize what color they are.

Finally, just about sundown old man Lucifer came in and tanked up. I had to stay way back or he left. But today is the latest date I've had a Lucifer Hummingbird. We got a male in Study Butte in December one year. I'm beginning to wonder if mine is just too old and tired to migrate. He acts totally normal so he probably will. It was in the 80s today, so no urgency, I guess. I worry about habitat loss in Mexico too. Anyway, here's the best I could get of him today, just to have a record for today.

Headed back to town in time to enjoy awesome sunsets. This first one is Agua Fria Mountain.

This weekend I'm going along with my husband to Black Gap WMA where he fishes. I'm going to photograph odes, butterflies, or anything interesting. Should have lots to blog about.