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Friday, September 30, 2016

Packed and ready

Woke up this AM with my back in terrible pain with any least movement, but I soldiered through. Figured I had slept too soundly, and without tossing and turning, fluid or something built up. Can't imagine though since the nurse practitioner told me that all the steroids in my system should actually help with my other pains. Sure hasn't. Did a full day's work, so that's the important thing. I thought the pain would subside with activity like it usually does, but today it hung in there. Only slightly better tonight. I'll take Ibuprofen this weekend if necessary.

About the time I got caught up enough to play with my new camera, it clouded up and rained.  But I'm slowly learning. I do need to stay on top of using it though so I don't forget what I learn. Here's the only decent shot from today. Was able to get pretty close to a Flame Skimmer. Forgot to set the lighting. Did what I could in photoshop, but otherwise I was faster. Partly because I'm using some better settings and partly because I'm getting more familiar with all the bells and whistles. I see potential to take good shots. I would have been happy with this one if it hadn't been over-exposed. So far it seems I need to be really close to get shots this good. Not always doable.

If I can manage it, without getting sick, instead of heading home Sunday morning I'm going to go 2½ hours farther, to Gonzales, and photograph the somewhat rare Blue-faced Ringtail that's been pretty reliably seen there. Desha went yesterday with a group and she's going to meet me there Sunday and help me find it. The Blue-faced Ringtail is the smallest ringtail and at a casual glance, to me, it looks much like the Serpent Ringtail, which I love so much. The Blue-faced is much rarer nationwide.  Apparently, it only occurs in the US in South Central Texas and hadn't been seen there for four years. There are several there, so chances are good. And the weather should be good too. All systems go.

Brian's Question Mark caterpillars are now nearly fully grown and ready to pupate soon.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Crazy day

No wonder I choked on that mean inhaler yesterday. It sprays powder! Can't imagine subjecting my lungs to fine powder. No wonder I was warned only once a day, no exceptions. I must have inhaled some of it yesterday because I did feel a powdery feeling in my mouth afterwards, and again today. No cramps today though, and I'm functioning normally. My husband must think I'm well. He's opened all the windows and let the pollen in. Closing windows is a lost cause around here, unless I'm actually gasping for each breath. Which I'm not. I'm breathing normally.

And a good thing too. Cleaned out and packed the car, then my new camera came a day early. I had promised my old one to my great-grandson, who was elected photographer of the school yearbook. All he has is a cheapie point and shoot, so I wanted to get this one in the mail. A real fiasco and long story, but I'll tell it anyway. Feel free to skip.

First, I thought the outer box my new camera came in would be perfect for mailing the old one in. So I blacked out all 3 bar codes on it, address, etc. BUT, I left the label that said Lithium battery inside. Figured if it was needed coming, it would be good going. Then I packed the camera in its case. I probably would have kept the case but it didn't fit my new camera. I decided to keep the extra battery since it looked just like my new one. After I got everything sealed in the box with multiple layers of packaging tape, I discovered I'd forgotten to include the USB cord. So I cut a hole in the box and added it, then lots more packaging tape.

Before heading to the mailbox I read the rules on the application for the free 3 year warranty on my new camera (planning to mail it in at the same time). Otherwise, I would have only gotten one year, but the 3 yr. deal was a temporary promotion or something and is what propelled me to make up my mind to buy it. Well, the rules state that you have to send the barcode label on the box. So I got my box cutter out and sliced a hole into the ready-to-mail package... again. Patched the hole and applied lots more tape. Then I wiped the blacked out barcode with lighter fluid and it took off the barcode as well as the felt pen marks. I had thought I had put the clear tape on before blacking it out. Guess not. What to do?

I wrote a long explanatory letter to send with the application, explaining what happened and asked that if they couldn't accept it, could they please tell me what I needed to do to receive the extended warranty. Making sure to leave no stone unturned, I read all the long detailed rules again (3 pages). I had already had to get the camera store to email me an invoice, etc., as none came in the box. Filled out the long form and questionnaire. And then I spied another section that said the barcode label had to have the model and serial number on it. Must have cut out the wrong one. Checked the package again. Two other barcodes but none with model and serial number. Next I located the inner box the camera had come in (a smaller black box), and lo and behold, it had a small label on it that had a little barcode and the requisite numbers. Of course it was a tremendous relief, but I hated how I'd mangled the package to the kids. (Wish I had thought to take a photo of it.) Ah, if only that could be the end of it. Good thing my fingers aren't cramping, huh?

Ready once again to head for the post office, I first went to put the new battery into the new charger so it would be ready to use when I returned, only to discover it was different than my old one. So may as well give the old spare to the grandkid since I won't have any use for it. Out with the box cutters again. They're old and dull but I managed to cut out the hole again, shove the battery through it, patch, retape, you know the drill. 

While I was out I went to Radio Shack for an SD card since my camera didn't come with one. Cost twice what it would have online, but oh well, I needed it now. I got a big 64GB so I won't need to ever buy a backup. A one-time purchase. 

At the post office, alarms I didn't know existed went off when I walked through the door. I looked around perplexed and asked if I had come through a wrong door or something. The man at the counter asked what I had in the box. I walked up to him, apparently not noticing a woman in line. At our post office they don't line up at the counter, but at an island-counter a ways away and whatever window is open, the next person in line goes to it. It's nothing formal, just the way it's done. I was trying to show the man the label on the box that said Lithium battery inside. I didn't want him to think I had a bomb or something. He just told me to get in line, and the other woman, by then, had approached him. So shortly, I was at the window and explaining that after the alarm I didn't even know if I could send the package, so hadn't really gotten to the line part yet. Anyway, he said if I sent it ground mail and it was securely inside the camera, I could send it. But then I had to confess there was another battery floating around in there somewhere. He grabbed a box cutter and started slashing into the box, but I prevailed on him to let me do it because I knew exactly the little hole it was inside. (This has never been the friendliest post office.) So I took the package, cutter, and removed myself to the island-counter and did my thing. He retaped it after his next customer. I paid the $12.40, then asked how I could send the extra battery. Bought a padded package he approved and after another nearly $4.00, the deed was done. I hope it all arrives safely. (My son had mailed me my remote mouse that I had left in Austin last Christmas and the battery was ruined in the process.)

Finally, I dropped by the thrift store, which was having a half-price sale, and bought a padded "case" (I use that term loosely) for the camera. But it suits me. I think it was for soccer balls or something soccer related. But at $1.50, it'll be fine unless I find something I like better.

Never used, and came with a lovely "Puma" water bottle. I never drink enough when out oding, so that's good to have handy. Also the front pocket for snacks and on the other side, a pocket for the battery charger. The charger weighs nothing so I might as well keep it handy rather than alway having to track it down. I have a converter so I can use it in the car, at the oasis, or here in town. But only if I know where it's at. The camera will be safe in the well-padded bag. I leave the camera hood on it, which saves time, and helps protect it in the "case."

Finally, after supper I  read the manual's pertinent parts and went out back to photograph any ode that would sit still. I struggled and experimented, very frustrating. After a long day of frustration. Had to come back in to check the manual several times, and get my monopod. No way can I hold it still while focusing and all. My next purchase will be a fancy lightweight, quick to use tripod. It was late in the day before I got a photo, that after photoshopping, is acceptable. But, heck, this is just the first try. I have all day tomorrow. As things stand now, an ode has to sit motionless for at least 10 minutes before I can get it. But I'll get faster. Here's the only still one I could find. It seemed every time I was just on the verge of pressing the shutter button, it departed. But it came back, or one like it, and I finally got a shot. I'm going to master this. I already knew this model is a focusing challenge, but others do it, so can I. So here's my first, and hopefully last, Familiar Bluet with my new camera. I know it's no better than the old camera or my big Canon could do, but I plan to improve.

Tomorrow I have to work on the lighting as well as the focusing. I don't think I'll be comfortable using it Saturday. I'm so comfortable and quick with my Canon, that rather than miss shots hoping for a better one, I'll take the sure thing. Maybe for as long as I can physically lug it around. But I won't give up practicing with the Lumix. And it'll be great for scenery and people shots.

CHIGGERS: I had totally forgotten that such things exist. When someone mentioned chiggers in a birding post somewhere, it registered on me. I'm real sensitive to chiggers... they bedevil me with horrible itchiness for nearly a month. Maybe as full as I am with steroids it wouldn't be so bad, but no dragonfly photos are worth a case of chiggers to me. Years ago I got nailed by about 50 of them near Christoval, TX. So I went online last night and read up on what to do. Everything necessary I already have on hand. Didn't have to buy a thing. I'm going to wear pantyhose, then spray my jeans and socks lavishly with Permethrin and Deet. As soon as we finish for the day I'm taking a hot shower with my Tea Tree Oil Shampoo. Changing every stitch of clothing, even shoes. Taking no chances. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Doctor's office visit today

I wasn't improving, had a bad night, and worried I wouldn't be up to speed for my jaunt this weekend, so reluctantly, as always, I went to see one of my nurse practitioners. She seems to think that because I didn't have a fever, and because I have a long history* of asthma from pollen, smoke, etc., that explains my problem. And she stressed that it's a very serious condition. (You think? What's serious about thinking every breath is your last?)

So anyway, they gave me a steroid shot, some kind of inhaling therapy there in the office for about 30 minutes, and a prescription for some stuff I have to start taking tomorrow. Also sent me home with an inhaler that she cautioned me was long-acting and under no conditions dare I use it more than once a day. She said to use it today one hour after leaving the office treatment. So one hour later as I was heading down Snake Road I stopped and did as I had been instructed. But when I inhaled into it, I immediately began a violent coughing spasm. Doubt any of it made it into my lungs, much less got held there for 10 seconds. But no way dare I try it again. What was, was.

She had also wanted to give me antibiotics, but I declined. I said if there was a specific pathogen that I was confirmed to have, I would, but not just a general blanket shot. She knows me pretty well, didn't argue a bit. In fact, I sensed that when she asked, she already knew what my answer would be, but felt to cover all bases, she should offer. And she did elicit a promise from me that if I got bad again I'd go to the ER. I'm not so bad off I guess. It's been two years since I needed my inhaler.

Tons of butterflies along Snake Rd. Saw this gorgeous Black Swallowtail amid waves of them. This one lay in the road unable to fly. I couldn't resist collecting it. For what purpose I have no idea.

Hummer activity was way up from last time. It took me a long, long time to service and clean my feeders. Seems the steroid shot or something caused my fingers to seize up when I tried to use them. They would just freeze in some cramped position and refuse to do anything. Hence almost no photos. Finally managed to get the feeders done, but wasn't able to pull weeds. Can only type sporadically with a few fingers even now. Sure hope it's gone tomorrow. But my breathing is good now, and my energy has moved slightly up the scale from zero. 

The javelina must have taken pity on me. They tried to help clean the weeds from the walkways.


* My first asthma attack was from pollen and/or pollution in Phoenix around 1960. In those days before unleaded gasoline the air made your eyes burn... literally. I've never smoked a cigarette, but inhaled my share of second-hand smoke.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

More than allergies

 I suspected that after staying indoors for three days while it rained outside there couldn't be enough pollen floating around to give me this much grief. Had to be more going on, so I went online and researched. Here's something I came across. "Cases of walking pneumonia are most common in the late summer and fall..... there are widespread outbreaks every four to eight years. When those outbreaks occur, walking pneumonia can account for as many as one out of every two cases of pneumonia." It says lots of things can cause it, such as resulting from lung infections caused by microorganisms and fungi. I'm convinced that when I get a lot of pollen irritating my lungs, they become susceptible to pneumonia bacteria or bronchitis. Bronchitis is also caused by pollution or dust, so it could be that. My only real symptom is just asthma. Can't breathe.

Looking back on my blog, I think the problem started around the 16th of September when I went to Cibolo Creek and couldn't get my energies up. Wading for hours in the cold water probably didn't help. So it's only really been 10 days. Seems like much longer. October of 2014 was the last time I had this problem. Glad it's not every year anyway. Hopefully, I'll figure out how to prevent these episodes from developing to begin with.

When Brian was here a week ago he collected four teensy Question Mark caterpillars to raise. On my post of Sep 21st I showed one of them. The others were hidden behind leaves. Now, here they are today. Incredible how they've grown. The fourth one is hidden behind the stem between the bottom one and middle one. You'll have to look hard to see it.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Making plans

The last few days have been cold and rainy. The oasis probably got about an inch, but long and slow, with no runoff. Still good though. It keeps me from having to water for at least a week.

I ordered a new Lumix that has a sensor four times larger than my old one. It's a camera like Desha's, a FZ1000, versus my old FZ70. Desha takes great photos with that model, so I'm determined to learn how, too. I refuse to accept failure. And it's time for me get a lighter camera. My big Canon is a killer for me to haul around. And it isn't going to get easier, unfortunately. The new camera will arrive Friday. It's going to be a huge challenge for me since I'm still not taking good photos with my old Lumix. But "can't" isn't a word I use very often. I usually say "the difficult I do right away and the impossible takes a little longer."

Then Saturday I plan to go oding with both my Canon (sort of my security blanket) and my new Lumix. The plan is to go to an area between Rocksprings and Uvalde (along the Nueces River) for some highly desired lifers. Likely, I'll spend the night with good friends. Ode season is almost over and it'll be my last decent chance for the year. One of my New Year's resolutions was to do an oding trip this year. I had the Lower Rio Grande Valley in mind, but feel that's a little too ambitious for me to deal with at this time. I've been sickly with allergies, or something, for a couple of weeks now. Without my inhaler I'd be in the ER as I write this. So I've toned down my current ambitions.

When Brian was here he found lots of Tawny Emperor eggs and caterpillars. Because normally most would be parasitized by wasps, he put a net around an egg cluster. At some point, I'll have to remove the bag, but for now they're safe.

So hopefully I'll get some good Tawny Emperor photos in the spring, or whenever, if some survive. The first Tawny I photographed was old and worn, and the others were inside a net feeding station. I want the Tawnys to be fresh, and hopefully, in sunshine when I photograph them.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Boys at it again

My son came from Austin to do some more sign work at the Triangle. This evening they worked on the canopy over the pumps and added to the big sign they put up last time. On this first photo he's putting the blue stripe around the canopy. It had been red.

Tomorrow they're going to put stuff (sorry I can't be more technical) on the pumps themselves.

I've been staying indoors as much as possible, but still my allergies are miserable. Cooler and rain forecast. Maybe that will help.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Truckin' and pluckin'

The oasis is really weedy, which isn't unusual after monsoon rains. Sometimes it takes me until spring to get things back under control. One year rains came in early spring and by the time my birding groups arrived they could hardly walk anywhere without wading knee-deep in wildflowers/weeds. But I'm sure I'll get it under control. Just keep pluckin.' My allergies and bad back slow me down. Here is how many areas of my pathways look.

A nice fresh Common Buckeye...

Still lots of Spot-winged Gliders...

And here are some caterpillars that are up to no good. I forget what kind they are, but they denude things of leaves.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Butterflying with Brian

Brian visited recently and gave me glimpses into a world I wouldn't otherwise see. For example, here are some Tawny Emperor eggs he found in the vicinity of where I saw my lifer Tawny a couple of months ago.

And some Tawny caterpillars...

Next is a pupa hull (exuvia) from one that successfully hatched (eclosed).

And here's a Tawny pupa (chrysalis) that was parasitized and failed to eclose. Apparently that's very common. 

And here are photos I took of Tawnys at his feeding station. When I shooed them away from the net for a better photo they shot straight to the top of the highest tree. So much for that.



Here's Brian looking for Question Mark caterpillars in a neighbor's hackberry tree. (With neighbor's approval.)

And here is a Question Mark caterpillar on a small hackberry leaf. It's that tiny dark spot on the leaf. I measured it. It's less than 1/8" long.

While I was waiting on Brian to find whatever he was looking for yesterday I shot my best in-flight shot of a Red-Tailed Hawk.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Oasis today

I used to post a lot of pictures of the oasis as seen looking down the paths but haven't done that in a long time. Or if I did, I forgot. So here it is today.

East side of wildlife pond

West side of wildlife pond
Lots of White-lined Sphinx Moth larva around. (ID per Brian.)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Still puny

The friend with cancer passed away yesterday. I came to CMO to surely recharge myself. I think it's my terrible allergies that are keeping me down. I suppose they'll linger until it freezes. Using loratadine in the daytime, benadryl at night, and albuterol inhaler whenever I have trouble breathing. Pollen wasn't so bad last year and I got through that fall just fine. The year before I ended up in the ER. But they gave me the inhaler so I don't expect to end up there again.

CMO is not very birdy; no interesting odes; and too impossible to look for butterflies with everything covered with American Snouts. This lovely female Question Mark did stand out though.

As did this Common Buckeye.

First of season Monarchs.

And something built a nest in my cholla patch. Probably a Cactus Wren. Maybe the Lucifer Hummingbirds will nest there next spring.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cibolo Creek therapy

After spending the last two nights on a hospital cot, keeping vigil over a friend dying of cancer, I needed to get my batteries charged. So I decided to take the hour drive to Shafter where I planned to wade up and down Cibolo Creek. As I did that, it seemed that my batteries just would not charge, and the gloom wouldn't lift. An hour passed before I even shot one photo. Nevertheless, I sloshed on for another hour or so before I opted to head back to town.

When I arrived at the house, my husband asked if I had found the dragonfly I was looking for. I told him, "no, I should have just stayed home." Actually, I wasn't really looking for anything specific, just interesting species. A lifer would have been great. Anything uncommon would have been good. Downloading my pictures, I was amazed that I had photographed a Serpent Ringtail. It was the only ringtail I had managed to get a photo of, and I just assumed it would turn out to be an Eastern.

And it was pleasant to see an abundance of Filigree Skimmers, Giant Darners, and Viceroy Butterflies.

Male Viceroy

Additionally, this is the best photo I've taken of mating Lavender Dancers.

So, I'm glad I went, just wish I hadn't been too exhausted to enjoy it more. Now for a long nap.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Oasis good - me bad

I'm so very disgusted with myself. Monday after banding I came to town and left a water hose on. I had checked that everything was off, then decided to quickly add water to the water feature so turned the hose on full blast to make it go fast so I couldn't forget. But forget, I did. It cost over one foot of water from the stucco tank. That equals one month's watering, or 2 weeks of leakage, however you want to look at it. Sure hope it rains one more time this fall, enough to top the tanks off. Thank goodness I was only in town two days. It could have been much worse. A few trees should be very happy. I've had a lot going on lately, but that's no excuse. Even though I have a ton of things to remember when I'm packing up to leave, those 3 faucets must have priority over everything else. Of course, I turned off the faucet before snapping this photo, so the waterfall that was going over the rocks can't be seen on it.

I wasn't able to spend much time at CMO today, but there was good bird activity. I finally got a photo of the Virginia's Warbler that's been hanging around. I guess they all loved the running stream I accidentally created for two days. The Virginia's Warbler was flitting around in the trees. I knew I couldn't get it in my viewfinder and focus before it would have moved, so I decided to just find it and click and hope for the best. Imagine my surprise when one of the resulting shots was halfway decent.

I'm amazed how things are blooming as if it's spring. Goldenball Leadtree, Mexican Redbud, etc.

And along Highway 118 there are lovely stands of Standing Cypress. I don't remember seeing that before.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Photography at CMO

Recently CMO has been honored to host quite a few top notch photographers. They share some of their photos with me with permission to post them on my blog. So much has been happening so fast that I think I forgot to post some lovely ones taken by Mac Womack last week. Here is a great one of two juvenile male Lucifer Hummingbirds. The one is practicing his courtship displaying abilities on the other.

And I sure wish my dragonfly photos could compare to Mac's. Thanks, Mac. This one, I believe, is of a female Blue-eyed Darner.

CMO had a new yard bird Monday, spotted by Kelly Bryan, but no photos that I know of. It was a Zone-tailed Hawk flying in the sky overhead.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Alan Murphy at CMO

Here are a couple of Alan Murphy's shots from last week. The first one is a Gray Vireo, a lifer for him. Followed by Lucifer Hummingbird (took him 3 days of patience to get that one), Scaled Quail, and Elf Owls. Posted with his generous permission.

Must be nice to be so talented. And patient. Sigh!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

An intense day at Balmorhea

We saw many wonders today. Check out this Ambush bug eating an Orange Sulphur butterfly.

And this oversized fly, whatever it is, loved Desha's car.

No idea what this Rambur's Forktail damselfly is eating, other than it's not the above fly.

And a lovely pair of Phaon Crescents.

Here are three damselflies in one shot. Seldom do I get that many in focus at one time, but they were lined up just right. Familiar Bluet below mating Powdered Dancers.

And here's a swarm or hive of bees, not sure which, in a Retama tree right beside Lake Balmorhea.

Those of you that know me, know how I live life at full speed, so you might be surprised to see me patiently waiting at Desha's car for her to get done photographing whatever she was photographing. She took this in Shafter yesterday. Of course, I didn't really have much choice. LOL

More stuff, but too tired once again. Tomorrow is banding at CMO.