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Monday, October 31, 2016

Limping on home

Left Mission at 5:30 AM and got to Alpine at 5:30 PM. Didn't make two of the stops I had planned because it was still dark when I went through. But I got to Laredo shortly after daylight, sure I'd get to see the Amazon Kingfisher. However, I got endlessly lost trying to get to the site. After nearly two hours of that, I called Robin and asked her to get someone on the phone that could help me get there. (Robin's was the only number I had on my phone that could possibly help me.) A minute later Mary Gustafson called me and stayed on the phone with me street after street until I got there. Big thanks to Robin and Mary!  If you ever want an authentic Mexico experience, just drive around downtown Laredo. Truly!

So I waited for an hour for the kingfisher. Saw 3 species of kingfishers (Ringed, Green, and Belted) while waiting, plus Colette Micallef's excellent video of the Amazon. And, I got to see the Amazon's haunts (on halloween) ...

I photographed a Ringed Kingfisher from quite a distance away.

I may have waited longer for the Amazon (it showed 1½ hours after I left) but my car's engine was missing and at some point the stress of delaying my trip longer canceled out my desire to see the bird.

Safely home after a wonderful trip. Hindsight is always better because the stress is gone. Car headed to the shop early AM.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ready to head toward home

Today was a slow day with lots of freeway driving. I got talked into following Tripp all the way to Resaca de la Palma by Brownsville. Of course, I'm easy to convince. A casual hint will do the trick. It was worth it, though, just to see and photograph the iridescently gorgeous Blue Metalmark.

Before that I had already located a lifer Red-bordered Pixie at the butterfly center.

And I got a lifer damselfly at the resaca, a Blue-striped Spreadwing.

This next critter, Tripp told me, is a Cane Toad. It's a giant neotropical toad, not a native species. It's also an ancient and poisonous species. They like to sit at the butterfly feeding stations and pick off butterflies at the butterfly center. 

I was planning to stop at two places, that were recommended to me, on my way home tomorrow, and then I hear about an Amazon Kingfisher at Laredo. So make that three stops. Gonna be a really long day tomorrow. I want to get an early start.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Getting my fill

Feeling it's about time to head home. Tomorrow is going to be my last day here.

Today I finally left the area where I'm staying and braved the freeways. Went to Edinburgh Wetlands first. Disappointing. First of all, there was a Down's Syndrome festival going on next door and loudspeakers were broadcasting from there at full volume, not to mention the traffic backed up for miles getting there.

Initially, I was very impressed at how it went from barren to a jungle in the thirteen years since I'd been there. But it was mandatory to stay on the trails, which didn't go near water, except in one little pond called the "dragonfly pond." So I could lug my heavy camera down the trails and look at water in the distance. I already know what water looks like. At the dragonfly pond I saw two dragonflies, both very common ones. So I decided to go back down some more freeways to Estero Llano Grande in order for my day not to be a total loss.

At Estero, it was more hot walking, and not only saying to stay on the trails, but warning repeatedly of alligators. By then, I was mostly in the mood to just go home. But back at camp I was finally able to connect with Tripp. We oded for a little while late in the afternoon at a place near camp, and made plans to go to the butterfly center in the morning. So with his help, I'll get me more lifers plus I'll learn a lot. But then Monday morning I'm going to head home. It'll make five days here. I had paid for a week, but it's too hard to know in advance how long I would feel like staying. I know when I'm ready to leave, but can't know ahead of time when that'll be. My first solo camping trip and all.

Here are a a few pics from today. This first one is a Carmine Skimmer, which is fairly common here. I got my first one in Uvalde last week.

Next is a better photo of the Mexican Bluewing, finally. Such a gorgeous butterfly!

This next species is one that showed up briefly at CMO several years ago. Kelly saw and got photos of it, but I didn't. So it's a lifer for me, even though it's been documented at my place. Pin-tailed Pondhawk.

And finally, for now, a little Cassius Blue that's a lifer for me on this trip.

Friday, October 28, 2016

More lifers, more exhaustion

I'm trying to pace myself and come back to camp when I'm exhausted. Today early AM after a run for groceries I went to the National Butterfly Center. Quite a few people wandering around looking for butterflies. Not far from me a man asked if I'd like to see a Glazed Pellicia. I rushed over and got another lifer.

Turns out it was Martin Reid. It's difficult having prosopagnosia (face blindness) and not recognizing people I should. So I hung around him getting more lifers until he had to leave and go to a meeting. The butterfly festival starts tomorrow and he's going to lead field trips for it. 

Someone found a Caribbean Yellowface Dancer at the little pond at the visitor's center, so I rushed over there and got that lifer. Without help I wouldn't find these things on my own.

So many great butterflies today that I can't possible post them all. Enjoyed getting a lifer White-striped Longtail on my way to see the dancer.

There's an Eastern Screech-Owl at the butterfly center that is quite popular.

Too tired to post more. One of these days I'll catch up.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pushing my limits

Saw lots more lifer butterflies today and at least one lifer dragonfly. But sure have worn myself down. Took the afternoon off to rest except for an hour in mid-afternoon when I visited a nearby butterfly hotspot, where I racked up this lifer Brown-banded Skipper. I even ID'd it myself. I like those that are easy to tell apart from others.

This resort treats me so wonderfully. That's worth a lot. The manager brought me fresh picked grapefruit and banana today, grown right here on the property. And he brought me a lovely picnic table. I bought a little clip-on LED light so I'm settling in better and better.

And as IDs are coming in from various experts, I keep discovering more lifers. On my trip I made a quick stop at a little park near the San Felipe Springs in Del Rio and picked up a Golden-winged Dancer, which is pretty rare. One I never expected I'd get.

 Getting sleepy but must include a pic of my lifer Mexican Scarlettail.

And I love this Red-bordered Metalmark, also a lifer.

More goodies to come.....

Valley camping

I survived my first night camping. It cooled off enough that I could sleep decently in spite of the endless drone of freeway traffic nearby. Can't stand up in the tent, which makes my back worse. No mosquito problem so far. The campground is very safe and friendly (Americana Resort in Mission)

Saw good butterflies yesterday at the National Butterfly Center. Several lifers. Here's my favorite, a Mexican Bluewing.

They put out food for the butterflies there on logs and stumps, which attracts tons of butterflies.

Here's another lifer for me, a Lantana Scrub-Hairstreak.  I only saw this one.

But saw many of my lifer White Peacock. This photo is as busy as a fruitcake (no bokeh), but it's the best one I got.

This next lifer is a Brown Longtail. So fun!

I have more lifers too, but can't waste time blogging when there's lifers to be had!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Lots of winter birds at CMO

Got up early and set up a sprinkler and couldn't believe all the birds it attracted. Three species of spizella sparrows: Clay-colored, Brewer's, and Chipping.

Didn't get a shot of the Brewer's. Only saw one Lucifer Hummingbird still around today, this juvenile male. Couldn't get all his gorget feathers, such as they are, to fluoresce on the same shot. He's a cutie.


A couple unexpected species were an Oregon Junco and Gray-headed Junco. Last year I didn't have any juncos, and other years I usually have mostly the Pink-sided subspecies.

Only saw the Oregon Junco at a distance, so not a good shot.

 Hoping that some of the good species will stay the winter. Like a Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, and Spotted Towhee. I know the Green-tailed Towhee will stay. They do every year.

Tomorrow I intend to head for the valley. I stress a little about the trip. I don't like to travel, but it beats sitting here for the next five months without any decent oding, or butterflying.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hard days lately

Yesterday my husband needed a refrigerator moved out of a rent house to be replaced with a different one. At the last minute the guy he had hired to help couldn't make it. The tenant had already stayed home from work and emptied the refrigerator. So I volunteered my services. The new refrigerator wasn't a problem to handle but coming down the steps with the old one, I was supposed to prevent it from going down too fast. Well, it went down real fast and ripped a bunch of skin off my husband's arm. That refrigerator must have weighed twice what the new one did.

I bandaged his arm good (as in, won't get blood on the sheets). So I wanted to water at CMO and get back to town to change the bandage after his shower tonight. However, when I got here there was a bad leak in the line going out of the stucco tank. Thankfully, all the leakage went into the tank but without fixing it, the pump would either have to be turned off while I'm gone, or it would run all the time. I really want to keep the water drip going on the cottonwood tree, so I got my long-suffering son to come fix it. I still had this afternoon to water. I tried. For 3 hours I drug and forced my weary body to water, but I just couldn't finish. So I have to stay overnight and finish tomorrow. I think I'm over my bronchitis but it sure has left me weakened. Hope it's just temporary.

My plan is to head to the Rio Grande Valley in a couple of days. Once everything is watered I need to get going so I'll be back when it needs watering again. A week is about all the time I can spare so however long I hang around cuts days off my week.

The Flame Acanthus at the oasis are covered with yellow butterflies. Most, if not all, are Sleepy Oranges, Southern Dogfaces, and Cloudless Sulphurs.

I'm still fixated on amberwings. I've always been intrigued by interesting rocks, especially rocks like agates and amber, plus had a passion for stained glass. Even took classes and learned how to do it years ago. And since my place had the first documented Mexican Amberwing in Texas, that adds a level of interest. However, this year my pondweed died and amberwings love the pondweed. They land on little stems of it and forage over it. The only thing I can think of is that for a while we had back to back rains and the pondweed must have stayed submerged too long. There are a few tiny patches of it surviving but no landing stems. Today an Eastern Amberwing perched on a twig along the sides of the tank ...

...and kept making forays out over a tiny patch of pondweed. A frog lurking there looked like a good landing spot but something told the dragonfly not to do that. It came so close a few times, but realized the danger and rocketed off. It happened so fast that this is the closest to the frog that I could capture an image of it.

Different mix of hummers these day. Quite a few Anna's, a couple of Rufous, a Black-chinned, and two male Lucifers (one a juvenile).

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Getting ready

Going to water things at CMO tomorrow and then pack for my trip to the Rio Grande Valley. Hope I'm well enough. Meanwhile, I wander around looking for butterflies. There aren't any dragonflies to speak of. Here's a good pic (for me) of a Sachem Skipper.

And this next one is a Cloudless Sulphur. Ordinary stuff for me, but soon I'll be enjoying exciting new species.

Here's a moth that is likely a new species for me. No idea what it is though. I just can't get "into" moths. To me, they're the insects that ate all our woolens when I was growing up in Iowa.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

CMO gorgeous today

I didn't have long to spend or I'm sure I would have tallied some awesome birds and butterflies. Amazingly, for the first time ever, the mulberry trees put on a fall crop. Not as large as the spring crop, but quite amazing. I hate that the oasis is at its best in the fall when visitors almost never visit.

I saw a couple of really interesting warblers at the mulberry trees. Unfortunately, couldn't get good enough looks or photos for ID.

I know I'm observing some of the last Lucifer Hummingbird visits for the year, but spring comes soon.

The ruta graveolens has an ever increasing number of cats munching away on it. I've lost track of how many. And look at the lovely results. Black Swallowtails galore.

I'm still trying to get all my butterfly pics ID'd. If there turn out to be any interesting species, I'll update.

UPDATE: Brian ID'd my pics and one was a new species for CMO, although I've had it in town. It's a Tawny Emperor, as I suspected. I only got one chance to photograph it while it was landed high in a tree and my photos were not good, possibly because the butterfly was fluttering and not still, plus the dappled shade. I was just glad it was IDable. Their host plant is the hackberry tree. It's great that my numerous hackberries have finally attracted their attention.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My long Sunday drive

In my usual enthusiasm I left the house before daylight. Driving on RM2810 south of Marfa I watched the sun rise in my rear view mirror while heading toward the full moon. Moments too fleeting!

So when I arrived at the water in Pinto Canyon, it was still too early for odes or butterflies to fly. On to the next destination. (I won't voluntarily drive that awful dirt road again.)

I never saw a single vehicle driving from Marfa to Candelaria. Going through Ruidosa, I stopped to photograph the church. 

In the 1800s the town of Ruidosa was pretty much all owned and operated by the Nunez family consisting of four brothers, Tierso, Rejino, Santiago, and Inez, and their descendants. The story has it that Rejino was the one most instrumental in the construction of the Catholic church around 1914. At that time there were some 1700 residents living in the cotton farming community, but when the Rio Grande was dammed upstream, the town dwindled to the handful of residents there today. The Nunez family seemed to be very committed to their church and celebrated many wedding and baptisms there. I'm sure many funerals as well.

 Lupe Nunez


In 2006, through grants from the Texas Historical Commission and others, the church was stabilized and part of the left front tower was rebuilt. However, due to funding shortages, the project was abandoned and the church was, once again, left to the forces of nature.

And here's my photograph from today.

A few miles before Candelaria the land on the south side of the road was flooded for miles, creating a seasonal wetlands.

Candelaria is a quaint little Mexican village, seemingly suspended in time and space...a mosaic of trailers and adobes, with no stores or businesses, unless you count the tiny church there.  As the Texas Monthly author, Joe Patoski, wrote in 1997, "Mexico is just across the river, but notions like borders and sovereignty have little meaning here. This is as remote as a town on a highway can get." Nothing has changed in the nearly 20 years since then. Here's the historical "oxbow" just outside town.


No lifers, but fun (and tiring) anyway.