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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Got the Mexican Violetear

Kelly Bryan is a super special person. He did everything possible to see that I got the chance to photograph the Mexican Violetear (formerly Green Violetear) and went way out of his way doing it. Thanks again, Kelly.

My photos always leave much to be desired. On top of that, the bird doesn't stay still long and is in and out in a flash. Remember last year I only got one quick glimpse of it and no photos. So I appreciate anything I got. And as a bonus, some of my photos even show the violet ear. I love that.

After leaving there I stopped by a pond to look for odes. None there of any interest, but snapped these pics of ordinary, but nice, Common Checkered-Skipper and Mournful Duskywings

Here's a photo I found online of a Mexican Violetear from Costa Rica where they breed (taken by scottishdude). It would sure be cool to see them with their ears flared like that.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Alpine interlude

Kids left for Austin and I came to Alpine to catch up with work here. Tomorrow I'm going to the Davis Mountains to try to photograph the Mexican Violetear there. It's not going to be easy.

Here in Alpine we have lots of hummers. My favorite is this Calliope Hummingbird. I took this pic through several panes of glass so not too sharp.

Lots of activity at the feeders.

Friday, July 29, 2016

We did the trails loop

I got them up early, before sunrise, and we hit the trail at first light. Made it to the upper landing as the sun came up.

You can see the cell phone in the hip pocket of the one in the back.  No chance of a signal, of course. I'm not sure they enjoyed it much but someday it'll be a fun memory.

From the saddle we made our way across the mesa top to the pouroff. Saddle in background of this next shot.

Really treacherous going down the first part of the pouroff  without any trail there. In a couple of places all I could manage was to sit and slide down. They had to wait until I got down so when they came down they wouldn't send rocks down on me. One good size rock actually did hit me in my back as I was sliding down but no damage done. That section really was painful for my sciatica. But we all made it down with no injuries. We managed to be in shade most of the time. By the time the top was sunny we were around to the west side where the sun hadn't gotten to yet. The ravine below the pouroff is behind us in the next photo.

Then we passed the Mexican Blue Oaks and were down in no time at all, it seemed. Each trail took about 30 minutes, but the space in between took an hour or more.

Later this afternoon we got a small shower. Just one-tenth inch but it cooled things off nicely. Better than 100+ temperature and no shower. Maybe tomorrow will be the day the tanks fill. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

OK, I'm over it!

Finally made it down to Cottonwood Campground in BBNP. No flooded areas from irrigation like the last time, BUT just before I was leaving they started the pumps. So I hung around another hour. Didn't see the Clay-colored Thrush. I don't think it was there, but not certain. I'm over it. Especially since Kelly has a Mexican Violetear (hummingbird) at his place. I badly want to photograph one. But that will have to wait a few days. My son from Austin came back and is coming to the oasis with his 3 daughters to climb the mountain on the new trails for the first time. He has the kids for their summer visitation with dad. I'm planning to go up with them.

Here is the only species I photographed today, a Red Saddlebags. Bleak. Need rain.

Getting everyone up and to the trail at daylight will be a major undertaking but the only sensible way to do the hike in this heat. I'll post pics tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

YAY! CMO tomorrow!

Saw this Great Plains Skink on the patio today while watching the swarms of hummingbirds coming through during migration. Skink ID thanks to Diana Hews.

Not many lotus blooms, but the ones that are there are gorgeous.

Before heading back to Austin my son did a little caulking to the sign. He took his daughter up with him on a thrill park style ride.

When I saw her leaning over the side I was concerned that she was seasick, but not to worry, she loved every second of it, and was just looking down.

Monday, July 25, 2016

I owe lots of apologies

I just discovered my blog has a spam folder and there were lots of legitimate comments mixed in with the spam ones. Lots of questions I would have been happy to answer if I had received them. So to all of you that waited in vain for my response, my apologies.

Son's store sign is done. Took all day though. Here's when the first side was finished and he's starting on the other side.

I think it was clever to incorporate "twin peaks" into the triangle logo, since Alpine is known for having "twin peaks." Of course I'm his mother and I'm supposed to think he's clever.

Saw a butterfly today that I was hoping was something other than a Variegated Fritillary but after I took pictures of it and checked the field guide, it was a Variegated. Still a very lovely specimen.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Expectations exceeded

My son here in Alpine owns the Triangle Market on the west side of town and he needed a sign. My son from Austin has a sign business. So he made a quick weekend trip to install a sign. They had been planning for this a long time.

My plan was to hang around, take pictures, and make myself helpful. But then I checked my Facebook butterfly group and read that Maryann Eastman had seen two Crimson Patches in Marathon recently. I couldn't stand it so I made an excuse to slip away for a little while. Walking through the gate at Gage Gardens I immediately saw two Crimson Patches. Everywhere I looked I saw some. It was great, but I didn't have enough time to get good photos like I would have liked. They were constantly flying and when they landed, they would close their wings. If I would have had more time, I could have waited them out. But I'm thrilled to get this bonus lifer on a day I expected nothing.

I was surprised to see how much larger they are than Bordered Patches. Really gorgeous!

Tomorrow the sign will get finished and I'll post the after picture. This top photo was early this morning. After Lee worked all day in the bucket (welding and such), Eric got into the bucket to help him finish up wiring the LED lighting before dark.

And that juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, first seen July 11th, was still at our ponds this morning.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Lucky twos!

On this 22nd day of July, I finally got my lifer Hackberry Emperor. He's on page 222 of my Butterfly guide (by Jim Brock & Kenn Kaufman). Total surprise, too. I was rushing around watering some stuff in the garden here in Alpine and filling hummingbird feeders since I'll be at CMO for the next couple of days. Got a glimpse of a yellowish butterfly a couple of times but it didn't land. Around 7 PM, making my last trip outside I saw it land on the trunk of a mulberry tree. I ran inside for my camera just in case it wasn't an Empress Leilia and was able to relocate it perched on a nearby grapevine.

That makes a lifer two days in a row.

Earlier this morning I visited an elderly neighbor in the hospital. She used to be a nurse and after she told me she had a bad night due to hip pain, we got to talking about my hip pain yesterday. She told me I have sciatica, not arthritis, when I described it and showed her where the pain originated. Hip-hip-horray! So much better to have that. That's what my sister had her surgery for. It's a much easier surgery than hip replacement. So, if worst comes to worst, I'll get the surgery. Gonna try to agitate it less. For one thing, I'm always carrying my heavy camera on my left shoulder. Can't carry it on the right shoulder because it's drooped and the strap wouldn't stay on. I guess because of the damage I've wreaked upon the rotator cuff or whatever. No more trail building, and cleaning the tank ever so slowly. Sitting is the most painful thing, so gonna spend less time at the computer and try different cushions, etc. And I'll carry my camera in my right hand and just lay it down when I need to move a hose or something. I've had back pain for 35 yrs ever since my invinsible back was carrying a one inch sheet of plywood. A dust devil came along and whipped it around. I should have just let the plywood go. Bad decision to hang onto it. Ten years ago I was told my back is severely degenerated (MRI). So, at this point, I can't complain.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Adventurous day in Balmorhea

I hadn't gone oding in the Balmorhea area ever before, so wasn't sure what to expect. It was great fun and not disappointing other than I took a tiny misstep and hurt my hip.* The pain was unbearable. Just stepped slightly off-balance due to a small dirt berm alongside the road. I managed to get into my pickup since I was only a few feet away. Then I took ibuprofen and just sat there for a while. I'm still in pain but managing.

One other "incident," but it was in pursuit of a lifer (well before the hip incident). Totally justifiable. At the San Solomon Cienega in the state park near Balmorhea I was scoping out the canal behind the cienega. The canal is way down a steep bank and I was walking above looking down with binoculars. I saw a lifer ode that I just had to photograph so had to go down the steep bank. My plan was to hang onto a mesquite tree and ease my way down, but the bank was made up of loose rocks and my body just scooted down. The only thing the mesquite accomplished was to scratch my arms. A clump of grass at the edge of the water kept me from sliding into it. The water was about two feet deep, I guess. But I did get my lifer Four-striped Leaftail. Worth all the work!

Another ode that I saw a lot of, but read is supposed to be uncommon, is the Desert Whitetail. I checked with some experts and apparently it's not that uncommon around Balmorhea and other places in West Texas.

This next Eastern Amberwing is a common species. I have them here in Alpine right now, but I almost never see a female, and near Balmorhea Lake today females were abundant. Go figure!

And here's a damselfly that hasn't been identified yet. Possible, Dusky, Sooty, or even Tezpi.

A couple others besides the above one, I sent off to Greg Lasley for IDs. Will update when available. Gotta go rest my hip. Sitting is the most painful.

*What actually happened was I went to step up on the berm made by a road grader with my right foot and didn't put enough energy into the step up, which caused me to lose my balance backwards off the berm. To catch myself and not fall, I landed back with my weight jolting onto my left foot. (Something I have probably done normally since a toddler without ever feeling it.) That's the side with the bad hip. For a few moments I literally couldn't move.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hummingbird banding day

Kelly Bryan banded at the oasis today. We were hoping for more juvenile Lucifers but perhaps due to the 3½ months without rain, and constant triple digit temperatures, nesting may not have been very successful yet. If monsoonal moisture comes, there's still time for another nesting. Here's the only juvenile at my place today, as far as I know. A male with his first gorget feather.

Kelly caught several more at a banding site 3 miles south of the oasis. That location received several rains that just missed me. I don't know if that's the reason, but the thought did occur to me.

Thinking about going odeing somewhere tomorrow. If I keep going to the same places, I get the same species, so contemplating places around Balmorhea. Have never looked for odes there.

In town, our Red Bird-of-Paradise is slowing coming along. In a few years it might make a lovely bush.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Traumatic beginning at Lajitas today

All started out according to plan. At 7:30 AM I parked under a cottonwood tree at Lajitas. My favorite spot, and dragonflies were already abundant. What could go wrong?

A cuckoo, that's what. I heard a cuckoo in the tree above me as I was getting my gear in order and all. Thinking I have no cuckoo photos, I grabbed my camera and began scouting in the tree. Oops, better shut the car door so the interior light goes off. Slam. Oops, didn't remember pushing down the lock button. Must have done it automatically when I cracked the window and put my keys in my fanny pack. Except, the fanny pack was still laying on the car seat. Hadn't strapped it on yet. To make matters worse, I had forgotten to turn off the headlights. Stress! The one thing I'm so trying to avoid.

I placed my camera in the bed of the pickup. Normally there would be a wire in there somewhere. But not today. Next I rushed up the hill to the restaurant and explained my problem. A nice man, I think the manager but with my face blindness not sure, offered to get a wire hanger from somewhere. I waited for what seemed like a really long time, then decided to look around for a wire. Luckily I found some on an old ocotillo screen around some equipment and it wasn't even fastened on any longer. Grabbed it and ran back to my pickup.

It was surprisingly easy to hook the clasp on the fanny pack and drag it up to the crack in the window. Got the clasp out the crack with a little maneuvering and with 2 fingers (all I could get into the crack) I unzipped the bag. By then the man arrived with a hanger. I had him hold the strap while I intended to stick a wire into the pouch. But just then I saw a large tag on my keyring and managed to get ahold of it. That's because it was on the top near the zipper. And that's because when I made my trail I had stuffed the pocket full of flagging. It's not a large pocket anyway. So within 30 minutes I had my impossibly locked pickup open. I hugged the guy, whoever he was. He told me he'd leave the coat hanger with me in case I needed it. Huh! Not ever again in my lifetime!

Blue Dasher

I set out to calm myself down with odonates. Of course I promised myself extra time there. Which worked out well because I carried my little red folding stool with me, and sat in promising locations every chance I got. Kept me from getting tired and since I got there earlier than usual, it was nice and cool.

While I didn't get any lifers, I got a chance to get familiar with the species there. That was an important goal of mine. I need to learn at a quick glance what is worth a second look and what isn't. And I'm always carrying that stool from now on. It weighs practically nothing and by carrying it in the open position, when I want to take a picture (camera on shoulder strap), I just drop it in place. Handy to set something on if I need to put my camera down to dig into my fanny pack or something. I'm getting a good system going and even a favorite circuit to walk.

Swift Setwing

I would have loved to go on to Cottonwood Campground afterwards (to see if the Clay-colored Thrush is still there) but know that midday there is no bird activity. It has to be done early morning. Soon, though.

Checkered Setwing

Red-tailed Pennant

Monday, July 18, 2016

Bribing myself

Tomorrow I have a "free day" so I was trying to decide whether to work on cleaning out the tank or go odeing at Lajitas. I want to do both, but question my physical ability to. So I compromised. If I cleaned two loads from the tank today I could do Lajitas tomorrow. I did one after watering and servicing the feeders this morning, then took a long nap. When the temperature cooled to 98° I did the second load.

I dump the dirt in ruts on the road, which I'll do this second load on my way to Lajitas tomorrow. When I told my husband I hoped to do Lajitas tomorrow he said I shouldn't because I'd just run myself down too much. Are you kidding me! He works me 12 hours a day in town at least 4 days a week, knowing it's putting me behind on my work at the oasis (which he wants me to abandon so I can spend all week in town) and never says take it easy. Just don't forget to do this, or that. So I hear from that, that it's OK to wear myself out working, but not to wear myself out playing. That won't work for me. LOL  I should add, though, that I intend to arrive at Lajitas an hour earlier than I did last time and leave after 2 hrs there. (Last time I stayed there 2½ hrs.) So that should help me a lot.

I would also like to check out Cottonwood Campground in the park to see if the Clay-colored Thrush is still there, but will have to see how I feel after Lajitas. Then Wednesday Kelly will be banding here. Afterwards, I have to hurry to town. The list of things I have to do there is mounting.

Saw a Large Orange Sulphur today at the oasis. I get that species occasionally. See how big it looks beside that acanthus bloom?

Here's a young male Red Saddlebags. Had me going for a while thinking it might be a different species. I'm still hoping to see an Antillean Saddlebags. They occur in the Big Bend but I'm not sure I'd recognize one if I saw one.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Gotta love Buttonbush

I'm determined to get some to grow here at our Alpine habitat. I went to Post Park south of Marathon today to check out the butterflies on it. Hoping to find an Erichson's White-Skipper there like a did a couple of years ago, but so far no luck. Here are a few of the species I did find on the Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis).

Common  Buckeye
Question Mark
Sachem Skipper

Common Streaky-Skipper

Fiery Skipper
Lyside Sulphur

Orange Sulphur

The above are just a sample of the dozens of species on the buttonbush. Gotta get some.