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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Citruseria and such

Trying to get caught up on projects here at CMO before the weather gets too hot. Also this is a good time to do it before I want to spend more time pursuing odes and butterflies. All the summer nesting bird species are here now except for the buntings and grosbeaks. Did a little spring revamping to the citruseria. Not really noticeable, especially with the stark shade on these photos. I had planted several citrus last year to see what would survive the winter. The trifoliate orange survived well so I set out 3 more that I had been raising in pots.


A couple other citrus that I had raised in pots from seeds of fruit from the store died back to the ground but are putting on new growth. I pruned back some catclaw and dug out some weeds, then added a chair so one person is able to take photographs from the shade there in the afternoons. There is no other shade on hot afternoons where the light isn't backlit on the hummingbird feeders. I figure a one-person blind is better than none.


So, whereas the citruseria is still in its infancy, it's not quite a lost cause... yet.  None of the trees are more than a foot tall. That kumquat tree in the middle doesn't seem to be growing. I think I should have put it in better soil. I added some potting soil when I set out the new orange trees. The ground was so hard I had to wet it to penetrate it with a shovel. Not good. Plus I have a really challenging micro-climate. I've learned to expect the coldest predicted low for the entire Big Bend region (Marfa Plateau) and the hottest predicted highs (along the Rio Grande River). So today the high's were predicted to get up to 80° along the river and only to the low 70's in the mountains. It got up to 85° here. You get the idea. Here I am, a 76 yr old woman trying to have an oasis in barren desert soil, with no underground water, and scant annual rainfall. But heck, anyone could do it in a lush tropical valley. There'd be no point in doing that.

Pretty much a day of drudgery. Drained the stucco tank down to mud. I need it dry and cleaned out asap so I can put water in it from what's left in the big concrete tank. Until that happens I have no way of watering. I watered everything today, frugally of course. That should keep it alive for another week. Since it takes the mud about a week to dry I'll probably not remove it all before I start pumping water. Then I'll have to start cleaning the big tank. It hasn't been cleaned for years because I had a pump in it and was afraid to put the water from it into the stucco tank since it has a tendency to leak. But I feel confident it won't leak this year anyway, and there's no longer a pump installed in the big tank. Not sure how much I'll get done, or if I'll get the energy to do any patching on it. It's so steep that it's treacherous to work on.

Reakirt's Blues

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Town today / Oasis tomorrow

Got the rest of the tomatoes planted....

Painted another sign for son's business...

Now tomorrow to the oasis to get work done there. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Strange photo effect

As I was leaving CMO today I decided to stop along the road and snap a couple of photos of the ocotillo. I took the first closeups with my 400mm lens set on manual.

 They looked OK, so I grabbed my Lumix camera and snapped a couple of distant shots. Forgot to check the settings or the results. Downloading them I saw they came out almost white. I was going to delete them, but just for kicks I thought I'd darken them with photoshop and see what happened. Weird sky effect. I have no idea why.

I'm a work in progress, that's for sure!

Friday, March 25, 2016

A little Lucifer cheer

Being so low on water, and knowing it may be three or more months before rain comes, is depressing. But I was cheered up when my sister showed me a photo she took of a female Lucifer Hummingbird gathering nesting material at her place a mile from the oasis. My sister isn't a birder, nor a photographer, but considering she took the photo through her kitchen window and screen is impressive.

The "material" is the ends of frayed yarn that my sister had tied to some branches for decoration for her grandkids a year or two ago.  Later she removed all she could get to, but didn't bother with the hard to reach areas. I have lots of more suitable nesting material at the oasis but my sisters' places are closer to where they are believed to nest. I have seen courtship displays recently but the ocotillo are in full glorious bloom so activity is light. Love the Lucifers!

After each successive trip the female disappeared toward their mountain "nursery." Another sister nearby videotaped the Lucifers gathering nesting material several years ago. I hope to get to see that video one of these days. I do have photos of the Lucifers gathering nesting material at CMO. (Posted 5-28-10.) We're definitely in the Lucifer's den.

Speaking of Lucifers, someone published their bucket list to the Alpine Avalanche newspaper. I have no idea who it is, but CMO is on the list (#9).

I finally managed a better Mexican Forktail shot yesterday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

March winds

The wind has been raging all day so I couldn't go out and practice photography using some tips my son gave me. Hope I remember them when the wind finally stops. The tomato cages kept blowing off so we finally weighed them down with some heavy rods.

When Alpine had a big freeze several nights ago the two center ones survived with an old quilt over their cages. The one on the right froze and had to be replaced. The one on the left is half frozen but should survive. If it was easy I guess anyone could do it.

Today I worked on painting two 4' x 4' signs for my son's upcoming furniture sale. I'm still puny with vertigo but if I lie around too much I get behind on commitments so I did my best.

One of my main mottos in life is if you're going to do something (whether it's something you like to do or not) do it to the best of your ability. I always try to make chores and projects fun. Sometimes that's very difficult to do. Cleaning out the tanks comes to mind, but that's coming up next week. I've already started it and since the stucco tank never filled up it doesn't have much sediment in it. Hopefully it'll rain before the big concrete tank dries out and needs cleaning. Once the stucco tank is clean I'll pump the other tank's water into it, but even doing that it'll take a couple weeks or more to dry out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

No progress on photography

I'm getting really frustrated. The extension tube I ordered arrived today. It did help me get closer to the subject damselflies, but the quality wasn't any better, so what difference does it make. I'm going to have to do something radical, like buy a camera with a larger sensor. Big bucks. Here are the results with the tube. Same old damselflies to practice on. Mexican Forktails, male and female.

I shot this of the Huisache Acacia at CMO yesterday.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring Lucifer celebration

Finally it's spring. Never mind that it's cold and windy, it's officially spring. The weather didn't stop me from celebrating, and what better way to celebrate than with Lucifer Hummingbirds? They are so splendid looking this time of year. The one I photographed here is banded. I don't remember seeing this gorget pattern last year so this may be his first spring adult plumage.

He seems really proud of his mantled collar. Unfortunately the overcast weather hindered me from getting a sharper photo.

First oasis Red Admiral for 2016.

Honeysuckle looking good.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Catching up

On my Austin trip I tallied nine ode lifers and five butterfly lifers. Very successful trip. Now I'm getting my other work caught up and planted two more tomato plants today.

I'm very anxious to improve my ode photography without spending thousands of dollars in the process. So I was out practicing on the only ones present in Alpine at the moment, which are three damselfly species. Here are Plateau Spreadwings taken with my Canon...

..a Familiar Bluet

....and a Mexican Forktail ovipositing taken with my Lumix.

I don't know how yet, but somehow I'm going to get sharper photos. I'm sure missing Austin oding right now.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Austin's ode whisperer

Eric Isley is incredible at locating odes. He's been hanging out doing that at Southeast Metropolitan Park for about 13 years. And it shows. Perched high in trees, flying, on the ground, hidden in brush, he's on it. Now if I could just take photos as good as he does, I'd be a happier camper. I wasn't satisfied with my photos from this trip. Gotta get better.

Here's a lifer Goatweed Leafwing from there.

And my last two ode lifers from the trip, I think. Still organizing photos.

Mantled Baskettail

Springtime Darner

Sunday, March 13, 2016

More Austin ODing

Went back out again today for one last time before heading back to Alpine tomorrow. Is it wrong to desire too much of a good thing? Here's a Twelve-spotted Forester moth that is a new moth for me. I'm not really into moths, but it's hard to ignore such a beautiful one.

This Dot-winged Baskettail was a lifer yesterday.

I was especially pleased to get the Falcate Orangetip because it only flies for a few short weeks every spring. At this time they're very plentiful but hardly ever perch, so great photos aren't easy. I'm just glad to have this documentary shot.

And here's my lifer Eastern Tiger Swallowtail from yesterday. It looks a lot like the Two-tailed Swallowtail that I'm familiar with in the Big Bend.

I love this photo of Desha. It captures her spirit totally. And that little damselfly must have brought her luck because she got the Blue Corporal that I got yesterday, that she had missed. I might have gotten better pics of it today if I hadn't wimped out and gone back to the car early. Not complaining though, just so thrilled she got it too.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

ODing on odes

I feel like today I finally hit the jackpot. I had been eagerly anticipating a trip to Austin to look for all the great dragonflies my Austin friends have been posting online. With rainy/cloudy weather for the last week I wasn't very optimistic about finding them, but as it turned out, I think I got every species I had hoped for. I took a record of over 600 photos today and have most of them identified, but not all, so may have more lifers ahead. So far my lifers for today are at 12. Too tired to post them all tonight and we're going out again tomorrow early, but here are a few. This Blue Corporal is the big prize. At the time I photographed it I didn't know what it was, but Eric Isley ID'd it from my photo. I'm hoping someone else in our group got photos of it too. Our group consisted of Eric, Desha Melton, Greg Lasley, Jim Miller and me. All better photographers than I am.

The next one is a Dusky-blue Groundstreak.

I'm fading fast, so here are a couple more lifers, and I'll post more in the next few days.

Swamp Darner

Stream Cruiser
Mating Plains Clubtail

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Greetings from Canton, TX

Wasn't as long a trip as anticipated. Hardly ran into any rain at all. No wifi at my sister's apartment, and she doesn't have photoshop on her computer so I'm writing this from Applebee's on my laptop. Took a few pics today just because I had never taken any this far east in TX before. I think this is the first Egyptian Goose I've ever seen.

And there were lots of little teneral damselflies but the light was so bad I don't think they're IDable. Here are a couple that might be though.  Who, knows, maybe lifers.

And this woodpecker, maybe a Downy. My camera doesn't do well without sunshine, but at least it wasn't raining. This weekend in Austin I should get several lifer dragonflies.

UPDATE: I'm told the damselflies are young Orange Bluets, which is a lifer for me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Nothing but blooms

The only hummer I have yet is that one male Lucifer. Was planning to leave in the morning for E TX but due to the bad weather there I may postpone one more day.

At the oasis today there are some awesome blooms.



Saturday, March 5, 2016

Looks like spring, acts like spring

I finally got the feeder close enough to the cam that it captured the Lucifer's scarce visits. In the last three days he made a total of three visits. He's still the only hummer around.

The courtyard is extremely fragrant with Mountain Laurel...

...and indoors is well-scented with orange blossoms. Sure wish I could post aromas.

Looking closer at the ocotillo blooms, I don't think they're fully mature yet, so I doubt the hummers are getting anything from them. I like that they're blooming early this year. That way they'll be done blooming by the time all the birders descend on the oasis in late April and early May, causing the hummers to be more dependent on feeders, which helps birders get better looks and photos.

Finally got a photo of the duskywings I've been seeing around the place lately. It is a Funereal Duskywing, as I suspected. Pictured here on Mountain Laurel blooms.

I also saw a gorgeous fresh Black Swallowtail and Two-tailed Swallowtail, but they didn't land so no photos. Seeing them this early in the year makes me hopeful that it'll be a good year for butterflies. Maybe I'll get Ornythion Swallowtails again this year.

Back in Alpine, the old Mexican train track near our house is busy hauling pipeline to the Trans-Pecos Pipeline project. Nothing's gonna stop those trains, day after day, as far as the eye can see.

It's a mystery to me how a private enterprise can claim eminent domain on so many rancher's property when there's no benefit to anyone in the Big Bend to the pipeline. No jobs, tax revenue, or oil from it. People here are fighting it, but it's a losing battle.