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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Lovely weather

I had a whole complete day to enjoy the oasis and the weather. Not counting watering and hauling dirt on the road. There are quite a few birds and butterflies, but nothing very interesting. This is one of the many Bordered Patch's present.

And unless Kelly tells me differently, I think this is a late Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

As far as I can ascertain, there are at least 6 Lucifers still around, 2 Rufous, at least 2 Anna's, and the above archilochus species (either Black-chinned or Ruby-throated). That's about it. But lovely weather! Can't have everything.

Monday, October 16, 2017

You know the ugly!

The good news is that the mulberry tree continues to progress even though I removed quite a few more of those nasty worms today.

The bad news is that when I arrived at the oasis after spending a few days in town there wasn't a leaf left on my precious Gray Oak tree. I picked the blasted worms off even though it was too late. Nothing left for them to ruin.

It's been a weird year. I didn't get my monsoons until August (two, one week apart), so the soapberry trees didn't make berries, I had hardly any mosquitoes this year and a puny showing of dragonflies. Butterflies did good though. The native flowers got enough scattered showers for them to bloom on schedule. Even had a bumper crop of verbena (glandularia wrightii), which attracted some nice butterfly lifers for me. Next year I plan to make a verbena patch by digging up any I find and transplanting them to a viewing area where I can water and watch them . 

One odonate species that I've seen more of this year than any previous year is Smoky Rubyspot, a lovely little damselfly.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

More from yesterday's jaunt

At Bishop Wetlands I saw a pair of American Avocets in winter plumage.

And at Shafter the gang was all there, including Giant Darner, Red Rock Skimmers, Filigree Skimmer, Painted Damsels and many others. Lots of Viceroy butterflies, too.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Final ode expedition for this year

I decided to make one last jaunt for odes. The season is winding down. I was sure there'd be Mexican Amberwings at the Bishop Wetlands by Presidio. Decided to make a quick stop at Shafter on my way to break up the trip. Upon arrival, I immediately knew it would be hard to pry myself away from the idyllic place. There was a lovely spot to park and the water was just right, not too swift, nor too slow.

I happily sloshed up and down the waterway. My only concern was not to lose my footing on the slippery uneven rocks under the water and get my camera wet. It is Friday the 13th, after all.

When I had visited earlier in the year, I was really disappointed. No water, "KEEP OUT" signs along the road, and no decent place to park. Today there were lots of cattails growing in the water where I had never seen them before. The signs were gone, maybe washed away by flooding, or maybe someone contested the right for them to be in the waterway. So I had great fun! Right away I photographed a Serpent Ringtail. Wanted better shots but never saw it again.

Got the first Presidio County record for Autumn Meadowhawk. There were quite a few of them there, so not knowing that was unusual, I almost didn't bother to photograph one.

And saw the cutest little Red-spotted Toad.

I dragged myself away long before I was ready, thinking there'd be Mexican Amberwings at the Bishop Wetlands. If  you're wondering why I''m so obsessed with that species, it's because I'm the only person who has documented them in Texas. so I feel they need more comprehensive documentation, a task that seems to fall upon me by default.

The wetlands, I soon discovered was almost dry. Very little water. And nary an amberwing. Not surprisingly, I didn't search for long before I headed back to Shafter. But by then it was late in the day and I didn't see any species I hadn't already seen earlier. I had waited until midday to start my trip. Otherwise, if I go in the morning, I'm tired and ready to leave by the time oding gets good.

My sister captured this bear image on one of her wildlife cams several days ago.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Busy day

After yesterday's road work I thought I'd be crippled for life, but today my energy lasted all day long. Maybe my sinus infection has finally been bested by my immune system.

The water line coming out of the stucco tank was leaking bad and spraying water across the tank. So I had to fix that before I could water my trees. Connie and Marlin Andrus visited and obligingly snapped this photo. I had to hang over the edge of the tank to reach the leak. It still leaks but I've managed to stifle it so it leaks into the tank only.

Then I spent until after 2 PM watering. While I was watering I noticed that one of my 3 mulberry trees was doing a good job at growing new leaves. It's a volunteer and may be a native Canyon Mulberry, unlike the other 2 that I planted. I also noticed that it was covered with worms again. Those darn worms are everywhere, on sumac, hackberry, and other stuff. So I got my ladder and picked off as many of them as I could reach on the mulberry tree.

Also while I was watering (I left a sprinkler going) I shoveled 3 tubs of dirt and put it in a hole in the road. The work yesterday was all about extending my curb to keep water from washing across the road and didn't improve the road, so I felt compelled to see some road improvement. Out of the 100 holes, there are now only 99.

By the time I got the feeders serviced and the work done, I still wasn't tired so I went to Lajitas to look for amberwings. Only saw one since I got there rather late and being able to see the water with all the cattails along the edge is almost impossible.

I found a place where beavers downed a tree into the water. It's all grown over with cattails and mesquite, but I managed to make a path along the log out to the edge of the water where I could see a little. I was sure I saw  a Persephone Darner, but couldn't get a photo.

Beginning of my path

I risked life on limb trying. I've never seen so many mosaic darners as at Lajitas today. If you look carefully at this next photo you can see the log and my path above it and the water peaking through in the background.

I made the path without my camera and then went back for it. Had to crawl only of course. Still got bloodied on those nasty mesquite thorns. At this location I only saw darners, but at a tiny opening somewhere else I saw that one amberwing. No idea if it's a Mexican Amberwing or not. I'm really confused on those.

From Lajitas I drove to Alpine. And now I feel dead, so I'm off to bed....

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cold and windy

My niece (Tanya Phillips) and her husband agreed to help me on the road this morning. Since it was their only chance, I didn't let the weather stop me. The work seems so hard with so little to show for it. Discouraging, but I have to keep at it. Today we worked on the curb to keep water off a bad spot of road. Once that is accomplished I hope to be able to fill in the ruts with dirt.

Tanya and Chuck are passionate about beekeeping. Tanya recently authored a lovely book on the subject. Very proud of her and Chuck! They live in Austin.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Amberwings on my mind

It's hard spending so much time in town, especially with winter imminent. My butterflying and oding days are almost over until next summer. I went outdoors today to photograph the Eastern Amberwings here for comparison with the Mexican Amberwings, hoping to get better at telling them apart.

Like, I'm wondering if the lighting and shadowing from the wings make them hard to tell apart. The above is an Eastern, but might the dark on the thorax be caused by the wing's shadow? Might direct light on the Mexican thorax make them look paler than the Eastern, etc.

While I was thus engaged, a Desert Firetail photobombed my picture.

So I photographed the damselfly too. That about wraps up my day.

Thursday, October 5, 2017


I meant to post a photo of the Black Swallowtail cats consuming the rue (ruta graveolens), but forgot. Here it is, taken several days ago. Looking more threadbare now.

I'm having a tough time trying to photograph and ID the amberwings. I think they're Mexican Amberwings, but need better photos. Didn't have enough sunlight today. Maybe tomorrow. IDs still not confirmed. Hoping the experts can do it.

Summer is technically over, but we'll still have a few more days of summer weather, though I doubt any significant rain. Too bad the two monsoonal downpours I got were a week apart and not spaced more, but I should make it through until next summer.

My sister and I have enjoyed finding plants and getting them identified. One I especially like is this Wavyleaf Twinevine (funastrum crispum) we found along my trail up the mountain (photo taken last November).

We've yet to see it bloom. Plants have multiple Latin names as well as numerous common names, so I'm not sure what the blooms will look like. Here are a couple of potential images from the internet of what we might expect the blooms to look like.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I'm a bust

I was going to title this "Lajitas a bust," but then realized it's me that's the bust. Knowing that amberwings only come out in the afternoon, I went to Lajitas looking for them this morning. By afternoon I felt headachy and left. I didn't even see an Eastern Amberwing, a species that I know for sure is there. I was looking for Mexican Amberwings. To make matters worse, I believe I had one at the oasis yesterday and dismissed it as an Eastern. I feel senile. No other excuse. Think my sinus infection is affecting my brain function. Gonna lay low for about a month and see if my body can get it under control. I was so accustomed to the infection that I forgot I had it and was blaming this headachyness on everything else. Here's the potential (unconfirmed) Mexican Amberwing at CMO.

Here's how Lajitas looked today. There used to be a row of bushes and trees beyond this lawn. They removed them all so people could enjoy the view. Standing at the building, looking out and down toward the golf course the lawn looks like an infinity lawn, as in green infinity pool.

In keeping with not blocking the view, they pruned this cottonwood tree way up. At least they left it.

There was a lot of activity on the golf course today too, which inhibits my enjoyment of it. This appeared to be one of the places set up for food and drinks. The other places were tents.

Back in Alpine I saw this fresh Question Mark butterfly. I think it's only the second I've seen this year. The other one was at the oasis last month, per my records. (I have no memory of that sighting.)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Another puny day

I'm wondering if getting my flu shot the day before I did all that strenuous concrete work on the road made me puny or if it's allergies. At first I thought I was just dehydrated, but that wouldn't explain 3 or 4 days of this dragging around feeling headache-y. A good excuse to chase butterflies and not mix cement. (And I'm sticking to it!)

Found a pair of mating Tropical Leafwings. They're uncommon at CMO, so always a treat. The action was so nonstop rapid that I feared my pics would be blurry, but I guess I accidentally had the shutter speed fast enough.

The Chinkapin Oak acorns are ripe and falling to the ground so the trees may have been spared bears this year.

A few more butterfly pics...

American Lady

Southern Dogfaces and Sleepy Oranges

Checkered White

Sunday, October 1, 2017

A puny day

I came down to CMO early this morning, still not recovered from patching the big hill last week. So I napped and wandered around the oasis. Only worked about an hour. I have all winter to get the road work done so I'll just pace myself.

There are lots of hummers around so I hung up one of the large feeders that Kelly Bryan so generously donated. Can't chance running out of sugar solution. I hung it where the feeder that gets empty the fastest usually hangs.

Since today is the start of a new month, I began working on my October lists of butterflies and odonates. The most interesting ode was this ovispositing female Blue-eyed Darner. I couldn't believe all the dragonfly-loving frogs within tongue's reach, or so it seemed to me.

As for the butterflies, the most impressive part of that was that I photographed 28 species today. I'm positive I missed many more. Put out the butterfly dope that I had made months ago. The only thing attracted to it are the Empress Leilias. One even ODd on it. Or drowned in it.

Here's a lovely female Eastern Black Swallowtail. Probably started its life gobbling up my rue (Ruta Graveolens) leaves. The plant is still covered with caterpillars, but hanging in there.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A smidgeon of sun

When the sun started to peak out today I ran out and photographed the Broad-billed Hummingbird that's been hanging around. Caught a little more color than on previous photos of it.