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Monday, February 29, 2016

Giant leap into spring!

YES! A great day! But I worked hard for every bit of it! I got to the oasis around 10 AM and immediately took the SD card out of the critter cam to see if a Lucifer Hummingbird had arrived yet. Nothing on the card. Since I was planning to be at the oasis watering and playing all day, I turned off the cam. If I didn't turn it off, running around the place trips the shutter. All day I was rushing to and fro, trying to watch the Mexican Redbud for butterflies, while being in the hummingbird garden to look for hummers, and at the back water feature to get a photo of a thrush I had seen earlier. And tending the water hoses. I thought the thrush might be a Swainson's.  By 5 PM, I had gotten one bad photo of the thrush, probably not diagnostic, and heard a male Lucifer for about 5 seconds. Off and on I saw a butterfly at the redbud but it wouldn't land, and I couldn't ID it without a photo.

In the last hour left to accomplish any of those goals, the butterfly finally started perching and I got photos. Like I thought, it was a Henry's Elfin, and it gets to go on my Feb list, thanks to leap year.

Another butterfly species I was able to photograph was AZ Powdered-Skipper. There were two of them.

My theory on the hummer is that it arrived sometime during the day and when I heard it around 5 PM it was not just arriving. I think it just moved from one perch to another in the bushes adjacent to the oasis. Perhaps, it arrived tired and was resting and had been forced to move by a bird of some kind. Then around 6 PM (I was determined to wait it out since I couldn't flush it) it headed to the cam feeder where I snapped these photos. So before I left the oasis for the house I turned on the cam. That way if it doesn't have anything on it tomorrow, I'll know the hummer isn't big enough to trip the shutter. If the hummer is on it, then I'll know I got it when it first arrived.

The weights helped some but the cam still caught enough wind to take about 25 photos. I'll take off the weights tomorrow when I take down the cam.

While watching the redbud tree it looked lovely to see so many green trees looming above it.

And back to the west for the last three times I've been at the oasis I've heard a Crissal Thrasher calling. Today I was finally able to locate it. Another was answering so I think that's their nesting territory. This photo was taken from a distance farther than my lens can take decent shots, but it's better than nothing.

Finally, there was this cute little insect on the blooming agarita bush. Don't know what it is.

And the thrush photo was barely good enough that I could say for sure it was a Hermit Thrush.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Enthusiasm rising

After servicing me feeders at CMO and already in the car ready to head to town I spied a dragonfly perched on a nearby bare bush. My first real one for the year, so I was very excited. I assumed it would be a Variegated Meadowhawk and was surprised it turned out to be a Red Saddlebags. That's the most I've ever enjoyed that species.

I heard a peregrine call yesterday and told my sister. She said, "YAY, spring has arrived." But to me it won't be spring until the Lucifer Hummingbirds arrive. Any day now, and I'm ready for them. Just so I won't miss the moment, I put up my critter cam.

That is not a giant mantis under the feeder. I was worried wind would trigger the camera to take unwanted photos so I tied some heavy bolts to the bottom of the feeder. Just until I get the first Lucifer, then I'll remove them. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Not much enthusiasm here

At least it seems like spring in Alpine. The new apricot tree we planted last year is blooming already. I would have sworn we bought a late-blooming variety so this wouldn't happen. There are bound to be more killer freezes yet this winter.

So I looked up the Gold Kist variety we bought and it is the earliest blooming and very susceptible to late spring freezes.  Woe is me! I have no idea what we were thinking. But I'm certainly disappointed to put it mildly.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

First 2016 dragonfly sighting

It wasn't real but compensated for that technicality by being the largest ode I've ever seen. Even the prehistoric ones weren't this big (they had about a two foot wingspan).

Curious to see if Uhaul had other species of dragonfly on their trucks I googled it. Seems this is the only one. Still haven't ID'd it though. Maybe it's a Canadian species.

This truck is headed for Michigan this week.

Turkey Vultures have arrived. Dragonflies can't be far behind.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Lajitas sapsucker

I guess this is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, although I'm not positive.

Update: Kelly Bryan thinks it's a Red-naped Sapsucker, so I'll go with that. Thanks, Kelly.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lajitas stuff

I had high hopes of seeing an odonate at Lajitas. I haven't had one at CMO all year, and saw none at Lajitas either. No butterflies at Lajitas either. So far this year I've had four butterflies at CMO (Reakirt's Blue, Checkered White, A Snout, and Sleepy Orange). All boring species, At this point I'd be thrilled to see a boring dragonfly species. Feeling a pull to the Lower Rio Grande Valley.... just sayin'

Stuff sure gets pruned heavily at Lajitas. Here's my favorite lantana patch whacked to the ground.

What man doesn't prune, it seems nature does. By now I shouldn't be surprised by the radical pruning that goes on there, but I was definitely surprised to see that beavers are giving the cottonwood trees a serious pruning. Giving the management there a taste of their own medicine. 


Lajitas was pretty birdy, even saw at least four hummingbirds. The oasis has none, so score that one to Lajitas.  Here's a Gray Catbird that I was surprised to see there although it's not rare for there.  Just my first one there. And I probably wouldn't have seen it if crews hadn't been blasting the area with obscenely loud leaf-blowers.

And an Ash-throated Flycatcher. I probably won't get that species at CMO for another month or more.

I thought the bill was too dark for this to be a Ruddy Duck, but I don't think there's anything else it can be.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Pinyons and stuff

The first trees I planted at the oasis were four Mexican Pinyons. At the time I understood Remote (Papershell) Pinyons would be the most suitable for my elevation and climate but I couldn't find any. I was told the surest way to kill Mex. Pinyons was to give them too much water. This was 20 years ago. So I watered them a little, and figured when they looked like they were dying that I was watering them too much. Only when it became obvious they were dying and I had nothing to lose, did I water them heavily. They perked up and all survived and now are doing good, although during the drought a couple looked really bad. They get the little pinyon nuts on them every year.

My favorite trees are always the evergreens, and since I originally set out to get only pinyons, I guess they were my favorite choice. I love palm trees but have had no luck with them.

About ten years ago I found some Remote Pinyons for sale and purchased four of them. I was surprised when they didn't seem to do as good as the less suitable Mexican Pinyons, but they are trucking along, slowly but surely. This winter is the first time I've had any pinyon nuts on any of them, so that's exciting for me.

My habitat is just as important to me as the wildlife it attracts. Lovely that I can have both, although water is a determining factor in both, and I'm not comfortable with the water situation right now. I'm rationing big time and hoping for the tanks to fill up sooner rather than later. I'll always have enough habitat for Lucifer Hummingbirds and dragonflies, etc., just maybe not as lush a habitat as I would want. And of course, I can always attract birds with seed feeders like this American Goldfinch from yesterday.

And I'll believe this when I see it....

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Clues to spring

Heading to CMO from Alpine today the air had remnants of smoke from last week's Big Bend National Park grass fire. The fire is out but I noticed smoke settled in low areas.

I had hoped since we hadn't had much spring weather maybe things wouldn't leaf out too soon only to freeze in March (or even April). But no such luck. The Fantex Ash in the courtyard is a slow learner.

I've long ago stopped worrying about it. If it dies, I'm smarter now and will replace it with something more suitable. Half the tree is dead but not from frost. Drought. I wish I would have planted something else there 20 yrs ago. Now it's going to take longer than I have to get a good-sized tree there.

This seems to be the time of year the Arizona Cypress put on their golden blooms.

And House Finches are in their brightest breeding plumage.

My cholla patch is getting big. One of these days - years - maybe a Lucifer Hummingbird will build a nest in it. Here's a fruit, left over from last year, I guess.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Through a window

Lucifers will arrive in a couple of weeks; how bad can it be? Meanwhile, I'm in town watching out the window. And just to be sure I still remember how to take a photo, I took a couple of practice shots through double panes of glass. Bad I know, but better to come soon.

White-crowned Sparrow at suet tray

Yellow-rumped Warbler leaving suet tray