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Saturday, December 31, 2016

CMO on New Year's Eve

I think everyone is ready for 2016 to be over, but there are a few things I'm grateful for from the year, especially no leaking tanks and enough water. We're all alive and reasonably healthy, all things considered. I'm not getting too enthusiastic about New Year's resolutions, even though I always make some. This year I'm going to go half way. Five resolutions instead of ten, and nothing radical that I wouldn't keep anyway. I resolve to eat 50% more protein/fat and 50% less carbs. Work my body 50% less. Also resolve to make it to Rio Grande Valley in 2017. That was a resolution I had last year and kept.

Also resolve not to waste water by leaving a faucet on. I did that last summer to my dismay. The oasis is looking pretty good for the time of year it is. The Huisache and a few other deciduous things are still green.

There are at least five Anna's Hummingbirds still around. Can't ever be too bleak when hummers are frolicking around. And in less than 8 weeks Lucifers will start showing up. It wouldn't surprise me if they start in 7 weeks. The Peregrines seem to be getting an early start on their breeding season. They are definitely defending territory, a behavior I wouldn't normally expect for another month or more.

Every January 1st I take a photo of my big tank, as the stucco tank is usually dry or almost dry at that time. I took the photos today since I won't be there tomorrow. They're looking good.

Big tank with around 6-7 foot of water

Stucco tank with 5 foot far end; 8 foot close end
Still don't have the house well up and running but I can't complain what with that being my only problem. My niece and her husband helped me work on it. They fixed the coupling but now something else is wrong. We're trouble shooting it bit by bit. Either the pump is too weak (not likely) or there's another break between the coupling and the well. It pumped just fine out the separated coupling the other day, so I can't imagine why it's not working now. We're going to have to pull the pipe at some point, I think, but we quit today because the pump cycled off, so no more testing could be done until the well builds up more water. I greatly appreciate their help. They're a fun couple.

Yesterday they helped me put a couple of patches on the road where it was bothering me. This is below the big hill where water crosses the road. 

The highlight of the year for me wasn't even a close call. It was seeing the Amethyst-throated Mountain-Gem on October 14th.

I'll be so glad to be in 2017. It'll seem like spring is imminent then. So, without further ado, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Surviving as best I can

The small flock of meadowlarks, or a different small flock, showed up again today. They're so skittish that I just settled for a few photos out the window. Since their identity had already been established, I wanted frontal shots this time. Not only did I have to contend with the window, but even worse was the grape arbor wire. I'm assuming these are Lillian's (Eastern) Meadowlarks

My daughter and granddaughter started an online boutique. I just found out about it from someone else. They hadn't told me because they knew I'd try to talk them out of it. That would be me. I guess they know me well. Here's the link. Even if you don't want to shop there (I don't), if you at least click on the link, I think it'll help them climb up the google search ladder or whatever it's called. I wish them all the prosperity in the world, of course.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Needed a fix

It felt like I hadn't taken any bird, butterfly, or dragonfly photos in ages, so feeling a bit of desperation when I spied a small flock of meadowlarks foraging in the yard in Alpine.  I figured I'd challenge myself to take better shots of them than I already had, and also to see if I could get photos good enough for positive identification. Like shots of the tails spread. I couldn't get the latter except when they flew, and then only blurry in-flight shots.

Meadowlarks never let me get close enough for good shots, but Kelly was able to definitively ID them as Lillian's subspecies of Eastern Meadowlark. I didn't even notice until he pointed it out to me that this one has an abnormally long bill. In the back of my mind, when I first downloaded the photos, I thought to myself that I had never before realized how long the bills are on meadowlarks. Duh! I might be hopeless. I wonder if my prosopagnosia (face blindness) has anything to do with it.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day

Spent the day in town. We had my son and his wife over for dinner. She made a to-die-for Caramel Pecan Cheesecake. It was perfect. My high protein/low carb diet is on hold.

I think it was giving me insomnia anyway. Didn't sleep at all last night. Feel fine though.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Could be worse

Didn't post last night but I didn't get the pipe fixed. Gonna have to have help. Meanwhile, can't use the well. So I went to water the courtyard from the rain barrel and the pump in it wouldn't go on. Had to take forever doing it with gravity. Time for my son to come down and help. It is frustrating that things constantly break down. But at least I have plenty of water at this time.

I got a better photo of that Anna's Hummingbird I posted in my previous post. One thing that made him look different is that he has a sore on his right shoulder. At first that made him look like a different species, but I finally got a handle on it. Poor thing!

Considering it's winter now, there were a fair number of bird species at CMO. I tallied over 30 and I'm sure I missed some since I didn't spend much time looking. Still an American Robin hanging around, and three species of towhees (Spotted, Green-tailed, and Canyon). I didn't see any other hummers other than 5 or 6 Anna's. Did see two Yellow-rumped Warblers. Warblers in winter are always a pleasure.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Wintry oasis day

It seems like every time I get down to the oasis I have to fix something that broke. Today it was the water line from the house to the well, which is nearly a block long. I didn't get it fixed, but will work on it again tomorrow. A dresser coupling separated and the PVC pipe buried underground has somehow bent so the pipe isn't long enough by about an inch. I tried to put clamps around the pipe with a wire between them and then like a tourniquet pull them together, but the work area is underground (kills my back) and tight.

Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer...  and not so windy I hope. Even if I can pull the pipe together I can't tighten it by myself. Someone has to hold the middle of the coupling steady with a wrench while I tighten the fitting, but at least I hope to get it together tomorrow. Can't pump from the well until it's repaired.

I worked so hard to get those clamps on there, but they wouldn't tighten down on the pipe (ran out of slots), so had to take them off. Tomorrow I'll try to get smaller clamps on there. The hard part is getting the clamps to thread back together once they're totally opened up to go around the pipe. Can do it easily outside that hole, but can't line it up right on the pipe. Wasted most of the day on this project and didn't get to enjoy the oasis or water anything. Just serviced the feeders.

There was one hummer among the Anna's that looked strange. I wanted to get better photos of it, like close with the sun to my back, but wasn't able to. Maybe tomorrow. Here's the best I could do. Kelly thinks it's a juvenile male Anna's and I'm sure he's correct. I was just struck by the amount of brown on it.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Oasis day

I went down and watered before the arctic front arrives tomorrow night. While I was there I put larger covers over two of the feeders. (I got a bunch of satellite dishes.) They should work fine if the wind doesn't bother them.

Have a nice crop of mistletoe. Soon the Phainopeplas should discover it.

This year I had quite a few volunteer conifers. Don't know what species, but hoping not Salt Cedar. I pulled up the ones that were growing too close to trees or walkways, but left a couple. This one is over a foot tall. Maybe Arizona Cypress?

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Trying to get outdoors a little bit each day to soak up a little Vitamin D. Not much flying. Here are a couple of yellow butterflies on Henbit in the garden.

Sleepy Orange

Mexican Yellow

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Back to my back

We left before daylight this morning for my El Paso appointment. Facing a gorgeous full moon, I wanted to stop and take a photo of it, but my husband refused, so this is all I got in the swiftly moving car.

We liked the doctor. He seemed to really know his business. However, the only relief he could offer me was spinal fusion of my L5/S1 vertebrae. That disc is totally gone. I decided it was too drastic a step. Major surgery with scary complication possibilities, and a long recovery time. Besides, I have four badly degenerated adjacent discs, so we don't know which disc is actually causing the pain. I'm thinking that if I evermore don't lift anything over 20 lbs. and do a high protein diet, things will improve. That's my plan. My family doesn't think I should get the fusion either. So I'm glad that chapter is closed. And only 70 plus days until my spring will begin....

During our long car ride today, I finally got my husband to tell me what had been wrong with the car on my trip to Lower Rio Grande Valley in late October. (He thinks I should leave car stuff to him and not question anything. But that's not who I can ever be.) It was the coil. Makes total sense too.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Those pesky bees

Got to CMO this morning to find my feeders covered with bees. Since we hadn't gotten rain since I last serviced them, I guess it must have been high winds, or something. So I put out fresh feeders and in no time at all they were covered with bees again.

I knew I had done everything correctly, so I just hoped they'd soon discover they could no longer reach the sugar water. I went up to the house since nothing more could be done. When I came back in half an hour the bees were all gone. What a relief!

Only 79 days until Lucifers return. To me, that's the same as it being 79 days until spring. Stucco tank is not leaking so it's going to be an awesome spring. Just hope I'll be able to keep up with myself. All I did today was service feeders and I got back to town exhausted.

Threadleaf Ragwort (Senecio flaccidus)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Warming up a bit

At around 9:00 AM this morning three selasphorus hummers (probably Rufous) came out of torpor and perched on this fencing together. I ran for my camera but by the time I got back to the window one had gone. Here are the other two.

Here's a map of our rainfall so far this year. Can't believe how much more Mexico gets just across the river.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Wintery weather

Trying to stay upbeat during our first norther of the season. Not easy. Especially when my back is so bad. The doctor called me yesterday with the results of my MRI, but it's not the specialist I'm going to in El Paso. The local doctor said I have "advanced degenerative disc changes." I did a little online research:

"After a patient reaches 60, some level of disc degeneration is a normal finding on an MRI scan, rather than the exception."

I also gathered that discs degenerate worse with dehydration. It's probably safe to say that in the past 40 years that I've lived in the Big Bend, I've been moderately to severely dehydrated half of the time. Oh, well, hindsight and all...

The bottom line is I'll probably just have to manage the pain with medication. Also possible that when I get bad enough the proteins that cause the pain will be used up and my pain will decrease. But the doctor in El Paso probably won't consider surgery an option (as there doesn't appear to be any herniated disc, and probably not a pinched nerve). I'm OK with that. I change what I can, and accept what I can't. It's hard to accept winter though.

I recklessly joined a Lower Rio Grande Valley butterfly group on facebook and now I'm subjected to the torture of seeing daily photos of all the great butterflies showing up there. But in fewer than three months (about 80 days) Lucifers will be buzzing around the oasis feeders. Meanwhile, I have a couple of cold hummers hanging around. This selasphorus in Alpine is probably a Rufous. There are a few Anna's around too but the selasphorus won't let them near the feeders. I don't know how they survive.

Here in Alpine my genius son made a koozie for a feeder. We've been changing out our frozen feeders frequently today. The koozie might help. Can't hurt.

At CMO there are several Anna's besides an Allen's.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Time to blog

Our Alpine ponds this morning

I spend most of my time in Alpine this time of year. Especially since CMO got over an inch of rain (no runoff) a few days ago and I don't need to water.

The doctor in El Paso had to cancel my appointment for yesterday so I went to CMO to check things. Good thing too because the feeders were covered with bees. I think I need to put larger covers on them for better protection from rain. The rain must have come in sideways because even the feeders under the roof had bees. However, I've noticed that when some feeders' internal baffles get overrun with rainwater, bees think all feeders are fair game and swarm them all. So I redid the feeders and came back to town.

My appointment in El Paso is rescheduled for next Tuesday.

Friday, December 2, 2016

About my CMO journals

As you probably know, blogging isn't the only record I keep. I also keep journals. This year I tried a different method of documenting my butterflies and dragonflies. Daily wasn't doable for me, so I tried monthly. That worked out well, although I think weekly would be better. But that would be more than I can handle. So next year I'm going to do the monthly thing again with a few minor tweaks. Here is this year's dragonfly page. They all fit on one page, but it was a bad ode year, and I'm hoping for better next year. So I made the grids closer in order to fit more on a page.

(Yup, forgot the J for January, but added it after this photo was taken)

The butterfly records filled two pages. Toward the middle of the year I realized that page 2 didn't need the first three month of the year because, by the time I get to that page it'll be later in the year. If I haven't seen a species, say until May, I won't need to record it in previous months. So I left those months off on page 2.

Butterflies, 2016, page 1

Butterflies, 2016, page 2

Butterflies 2017, page 1

Butterflies, 2017, page 2

The rest of the journal is full of birds, temperatures, rainfall, tank levels, 
the names of visitors, etc.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Quick visit to CMO

I've been hanging around town doing what I need to do to arrange for a consultation with a back surgeon to see if my back can be fixed. So Monday I'll be getting an MRI and then Tuesday I'll be seeing the surgeon in El Paso. But today I ran down to CMO to water some things and service feeders. I was surprised at how many butterflies were there, but stuff is still blooming and, other than a few trees that have turned gold, everything is still green. Wish I could have stayed longer, but as it was I missed a call from the doctor. Got it straightened out though.

I've known for a long time I have severe degeneration in my back. I think that's pretty normal for my age. But I want to see if I have a herniated disc or pinched nerve that could be fixed. Like my sister did. It's getting so bad I can't put my socks on, or turn over in bed without excruciating pain, etc. I hate to live on pain meds. Ibuprophen helps, but I don't want to have to rely on that unless there's no other options.

The stucco tank was down 2" from when I measured it 6 days ago, so that means it's not leaking. That much is accounted for by evaporation. The previous time when it didn't go down at all for 3 days we probably had cooler, cloudy weather. Supposed to get cold and maybe rain this weekend.

Still quite a few Anna's Hummingbirds and the one Allen's. Soon I'll be getting the place ready for spring migration. Except not sure if I can do anything about the road.

On the way to CMO I listened to NPR (radio) and Michael Powell, the retired biology professor at Sul Ross said the native grasses are the best this year he's seen in the 50 years he's been here. He has a book out on the grasses, one on the cacti, one on the trees and shrubs, and soon his book on the flowers will be out. I can't wait! He also said that Love grass, Buffelgrass, and Bluestem grass are all invasive species here, brought in about a century ago when this land was overgrazed. It helped with erosion, as was the intention, but competes unfavorably with native grasses, which is not good.

I'll keep you updated on my back and all.

Cloudless Sulphur male

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Alpine ducks

As I mentioned a while back, our seven ducks returned after spending the summer somewhere else. A few days ago they were joined by four more Mexican Ducks. Now today we had a Canvasback show up.

Other than that, not much going on. I was going through flower photos hoping to get some unknowns ID'd with the help of online research, my sister, and a local plant Facebook group. It's tough going though. So many different species. Way worse than birds, butterflies, or dragonflies. And, of course, my photos aren't very adequate for the fine distinctions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Christmas Mountains miracle

When I left the oasis 3 days ago, I measured how far down the water in the stucco tank was from the water inlet pipe. I measured carefully twice so I wouldn't get down here today and be disappointed thinking it had lost more water than it actually had, due to not measuring carefully. Immediately wrote it down. 25½" exactly. No wind moving the water. So today, after being gone exactly 3 days, I measured carefully again. Twice. Then a third time. No wind. 25½" down. It's truly unbelievable!

I had to take lots of pictures of the oasis to remind me how good it can look this time of year. Spring is just around the corner.

I got another happy surprise today. Among the weeds that grow all over the oasis are some weeds that look like poinsettias, except they're always green, called Toothed Spurge, sometimes with tiny splotches of red in them. I never pull them up because they're related to poinsettias, which I love. Well, today my sister and I were walking around and discovered bunches of them and they were red. We'd never seen them red before. Sure feels like Christmas in the Christmas Mountains today.

So I researched it, Euphorbia dentata. I've since been told that the poinsettia relatives do turn red when the weather gets cold. 

Today I hung one of the feeder covers. Tomorrow I'll hang the other. This one is fastened to the top of the pipe so it can't interfere with the banding trap.

A couple of weeks ago I did my annual housecleaning, thinking I'd have company for Thanksgiving, but the kids from Austin had to cancel their visit. The house needed cleaning anyway, but the kids coming always motivates me. Previously, I posted photos of the bedroom area of the living room. Here's the sitting area. Now I can be on my computer and visit at the same time.

I plan to either raise the bed, or get a taller bed frame so I can fit a twin mattress under this double bed. That way when the kids visit, with their growing families, and it's too cold or too hot to sleep upstairs, we can pull out the twin mattress for extra sleeping space. I know, they could sleep at the bunkhouse where there's bunks and all, but they like to stay in the house. More together time. Plus there's no wifi at the bunkhouse.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Feeder protection

Got my covers in the mail today. I think they'll work fine. Can't wait to get them installed.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Freeze not too bad

It only got down to 30° last night. Shouldn't kill all the greenery. Here's an early morning look at my beloved Soapberry patch in the arroyo. Mostly in shadow.

I have been working on a place to post pictures of every species of butterfly I've photographed in Texas, which is basically every species I've seen. I did it in blog format, but I'll only add to it when I  photograph a new species.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Robins galore at CMO

I never saw so many American Robins at CMO as there were today. Must have been well over a dozen.

Mockingbirds do not like thrushes. Several of them ran themselves ragged chasing robins.

Tonight there's supposed to be a hard freeze, so I felt compelled to document my last day of enjoying the lovely greenery and flowers.

The Cape Honeysuckle looks the best it's looked all year.

 A lone fox shared the cold, fading daylight with me as it perched atop the courtyard wall.