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Monday, December 25, 2017

2017 in review

There was nothing to enjoy in January and February. They were just two months to get through as best I could. At least we didn't have record cold and there was enough water in the tanks to make it  through until summer's rainy season (July through September).

In March it didn't take much to get me excited, just about anything would suffice. So when I heard about Big Bend Scrub-Hairstreaks being found in BBNP, I directed my energies into adding that species to my life list. On the third attempt I succeeded. By then April was at the doorstep.

What really saved me in April was a lovely patch of Verbena (Glandularia wrightii) that grew at the oasis due to mild winter weather and frequent enough showers to keep it going. Once in a while I watered it a bit. I was rewarded with several lifers, Pahaska Skipper, Zilpa Longtail and Arizona Skipper.

Had the first documented oasis Burrowing Owl in April too. And in late April Bill Sain organized a Big Sit that was a lot of fun. I look forward to doing another in 2018.

The older I get the faster time flies and in no time at all it was May, always a busy month with birders. Most come to see Lucifer Hummingbirds and they were abundant this year. My sister and I took advantage of all the hard work we had put into making trails up our mountain and together, and individually, we made quite a few trips up. She was looking for plants. We're both trying to learn our plants, besides she's helping Sul Ross with specimens for their herbarium. The result was that I got two lifer butterflies up on the mountain that I couldn't have gotten below at the oasis, Ursine Giant-Skipper and Sandia Hairstreak. Very exciting. More exciting to get lifers at home, although I'll take them wherever.

May also scored a couple of Broad-billed Hummingbirds, always a treat.

By June it seemed that there wouldn't be much butterfly activity and no dragonfly activity. Rains were missing me almost totally. Just caught enough runoff in the upper dirt tank to pump down to the stucco tank and eke by on water. Things seemed to be going better in the park so I made a trip to Pine Canyon. There I got my lifer Golden Banded-Skipper.

July popped up and still no monsoons. I did get a lifer Four-striped Leaftail at Balmorhea in the last week of  that dry month.

August was halfway over before I finally got a monsoonal rain. Way more than I wanted or needed. And then a week later another dumped on the oasis. A ten year supply of water all in a week's time. How I wished it could have been spread out more. And what I was able to harvest during that week would have to last me until next year's rainy season. Hoping it comes earlier next year and lasts longer. 

After the mid-August rains a few nice dragonflies showed up, but by then I think it was too late for it to be a good ode year. No lifers, but a first oasis Carmine Skimmer. My photo wasn't very satisfactory so I'm relieved Odonata Central accepted it. (A face shot, which I didn't get, is best for ID of that species.)

I also got Mexican Amberwing photos, at both Lajitas and CMO. I'm still the only person to have documented that species in Texas.

And in late Aug. PBS interviewed me for an upcoming segment of their Texas Parks and Wildlife series. Probably the most interesting human visitor of the year was Victor Emanuel, also in late Aug.

In September I managed to finally get my lifer Fulvia Checkerspot up on the summit of our mountain, as well as the first Erichson's White-Skipper for the oasis. 

October was BEAR month. Really plagued by a huge male Black Bear for most of the month. He did an incredible amount of damage. The whole area was so ravaged by the bear that Texas Parks & Wildlife finally trapped and relocated it.

By November things were really dry. The weather map showed Brewster County in drought conditions. To make it worse, we hadn't had a freeze yet so I had to expend more water than I normally do that time of year. But I was thrilled to get a Costa's Hummingbird, even if I didn't get it documented until its last day here. Unfortunately, that meant other people weren't able to come see it. A real bummer! My only excuse was a death in the family (hubby's brother), and then the hummer didn't come to the feeders, so I couldn't get an IDable shot of it sooner. But I should have tried harder.

Other good species for the oasis showed up too, but I just mentioned the highlights. Health-wise, I started the year off with a bad sinus infection that didn't leave until fall. The myxoid cyst on my toe took about that long to finally go away with no more recurrences. The spot I had removed from my ear turned out to be benign. Alas, right around Thanksgiving-with-the-family time I got a bad cold and conjunctivitis (pink-eye). The cold persisted well into December. Very miserable. Seems I was sick in 2017 more than not. (Still have the chronic bad back, shoulder, and knee, of course.)

Then, about the time my cold was pretty much over we got a lovely rain (over an inch) ...... priceless in terms of helping the oasis through winter and into spring. Especially if we get another good soaking in January. But with that rain came snow and ice and somehow my back went out. I don't think I did anything to cause it. Feared that it might be permanent spine collapse or pinched nerves from my three worn out discs, but it gradually improved to where I can function again. That was a scare! A blatant reminder of how I need to pamper my back more so I don't end up in a wheel chair.

I generally make a few New Year's resolutions. One is to take care of my back, of course. Another is to take less photos. I have about 30,000 of them and it's just like clutter. Takes lots of time processing, organizing, and storing them. And of course, to eat better. Less sugar and carbs. I do pretty good in that department but can always improve. I also intend to make a lovely verbena patch next spring. Don't imagine I'll be able to go up the mountain anymore. Saving my back is more important.

I'm big into and this year I acquired a photo of my beloved great-grandmother's parents (paternal side) that I had never seen before. It pre-dates the only other one I had of them, but I don't have a date for this one, other than it had to be sometime between 1863 and 1880. I got the photo via a distant cousin who I "met" through ancestry, but never in person. I'm most grateful for all the work she's helped with pertaining to our common ancestors, not to mention this large print she had made for me. 

And finally, I feel so much gratitude for family and friends, a good oasis year, and as I'm pushing 80 (I'm 77½), grateful to be alive and as healthy as I am. Never had a broken bone or cancer, and my organs are all reasonably healthy. I just have to deal with well-earned osteoarthritis. So grateful for technology, including dental implants and cataract surgery. (I often think what it was like for my ancestors not having it.) How lucky to be alive in 2017. The days are getting longer. Hope all of you readers had a great year! And let's make sure to make 2018 a better year yet.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Almost well feeling

Finally, I'm starting to feel almost my normal self. It's been over a month on the cold, and at least two weeks on the back. Maybe my cold wouldn't have lasted so long without the stress of back pain. Of course, I'm mostly sitting around, but even when I went and watered at the oasis day before yesterday I bounced back quickly.

Working crosswords by the fire

Spring can't get here fast enough for me.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Quick CMO check

I'm afraid to stay down there too long because when I'm there I can't just sit around like I'm so good at doing in town. As it was, I watered for a few hours, not the six hour watering that I do in the hot dry weather. Nothing of interest to watch. Still 3 Anna's Hummers. They usually leave sometime in January. The orange tree inside the house has a record number of ripening oranges on it.... 16.

By the time I got to back to town my back was worse than before I left this morning, but not as bad as it was two weeks ago so I'm still optimistic. Most of the time I can stand up straight and walking isn't as painful as before. I can function if I just don't get worse. Was hoping to live another 15 yrs or more. I'm sure a lot more deterioration will occur in that time frame, assuming I can make it that long. So I can't complain how I am now. It's tolerable. My cold is hanging on too. I do pretty good during the day, but then in the evening I have trouble breathing. I hate to take medication unless it's absolutely imperative, so I've been toughing it out. And maybe when spring comes I'll get my adrenaline going and feel much better.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Food for thought

My husband gets free veggies that can't be sold from the store for his feral hog trap. Since I abhor waste I usually find stuff that's usable, if one knows how to do it. Few people nowadays know or care. Today I rescued a big pile of green beans.

I cooked up half of them. First I cut off the ends of the beans and culled any really gross ones. But I left those that looked a bit wilted or had rust spots on them. I know that with proper cooking, they'll turn out lovely. After frying some chopped up bacon and adding a chopped yellow bell pepper (got a ton of them that I didn't want to waste either), I put some sesame oil and spice with the bean mixture and simmered for 3 or 4 hours. Here's how they looked after an hour or so.

You can still see a little of the rust on some of them and they're not real tender yet. But eventually they got yummy. Forgot to take an after photo, but here's some that are cold in a leftovers container tonight. Plump and green and tender. And tasty. Not a rust spot anywhere but some of the more shriveled ones still aren't plump. They taste great though, so it doesn't bother me.

Imagine what a treat that would be to starving people somewhere in the world! I read somewhere that 40% of all food grown in The US ends up in the garbage. Tomorrow off to CMO.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Trying to get well

I'm still not totally over my cold. What a bummer! I'm functional with my back but still can't walk without pain. Sitting around town trying to get my health back. I'm sure you all see awesome Christmas decorations but the only ones I've seen are at our neighbor's across the street. I was impressed.

2017 12-17

Friday, December 15, 2017

Sharing a few pics

I didn't take any photos today but here are a couple I want to share. The first one is of the Sanderson Violet-crowned Hummingbird taken by Lee Hoy, whose place the bird is at. When I was there the sun wasn't shining and I couldn't capture the colors like he did.

Photo courtesy Lee Hoy
 This next photo was taken by Charity Peña, an Alpine photo contest finalist.

Here's a link to the site if you want to see more.

Also decided to add a photo of a painting Dennis Shepler did of my CMO Violet-crowned Hummingbird that I had in Dec of 2011. Got it in time for Christmas that year. (See post of Dec 24, 2011)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Not over til it's over

I knew there had been a Violet-crowned Hummingbird being seen recently at a home in Sanderson, but had no intention of going to see it.  BUT, when there was mention of a possibility that it might be a first US record of an Azure-crowned Hummingbird I had to chase it just in case. Sanderson is less than 100 miles from here in Alpine. The weather was nice in Alpine so I didn't take anything except a light jacket. But a cold front had blown in at Sanderson and it was not only cold, but no sunshine, which meant I couldn't get satisfactory pics. By the time I got back to Alpine it was a confirmed Violet-crowned though. I've seen that species quite often before, even had one at the oasis in Dec of 2011. Mine was the 19th Texas record and this one is #20.

On the way home, 20 miles east of Marathon, I saw a large flock of Wild Turkeys crossing the road. Accidentally had my camera set on video, so here it is.

2017 12-14 (1)

Then between Marathon and Alpine I ran into a small rain storm. I didn't want to stop for a photo so just held my camera at the window at 70 MPH. First time I tried doing that. Not too bad. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Quick CMO visit

I ran down this afternoon to check feeders and things. All dead there. Nothing enjoying the oasis except four Ring-necked Ducks. I probably won't blog much anymore for a few weeks. The purpose is to share the wonderful stuff at the oasis, but this time of year, nothing happening. Didn't even see a hummer in the short time I was there.

However, I'm almost finished with a long post recapping 2017, so don't give up on me totally. I'll wait for a week or so to post it, just in case something exciting happens in the meantime.

If my back is improving it's not really noticeable.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

It's always something

No sooner did I get over my cold than my back went out. I'm just hoping it's a pulled muscle and not disk deterioration. Nothing I did to cause anything to happen. So disgusting.  Gonna sit around in town for awhile. I know if I go south I won't rest. The pain pretty much prevents me from doing anything else, anyway. Watched a Rufous Hummingbird foraging outside the window today.

I went out to photograph it but couldn't carry my Canon, so used my Lumix. Can't stand up straight either.

Found some cool pics online of Alpine after the recent winter storm.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Another ordealic adventure

You're probably thinking I do this stuff so I'll have something to blog about. But I'm perfectly content to go days without blogging. 😆

This morning it occurred to me that I totally forgot to turn the valve off that feeds the semi-outdoor shower in the mudroom at CMO. If that pipe froze it would cost me 3000 gallons of water. Best I can figure, it got down to around 10-15° last night. Couldn't take the chance, even knowing I'd have to walk the last mile. Heading south from town the roads were icy but I didn't have any problem. Maybe the ice/snow was starting to get moisture on it because it was gone when I came back to town later today.

When my pickup wouldn't go anymore, I started the walk. 

Hadn't gone 200 hundred yards uphill when I realized the cold air was closing my bronchial tubes. Somehow forget about that. So daring not to take a chance I went back down to my pickup and got my inhaler. I managed to get halfway up the last hill to the house before I used it. Before then I remembered to cover my face to prevent breathing the cold air. That helped.

After I melted the snow in my rain gauge I ended up with over an inch total from the two-day event. Then I found a House Wren trapped in the Potty Shed. Finally got it out safely. The Ring-necked ducks are still enjoying the tank.

I put seed out for the birds and soon a covey of about 20 quail showed up, but when I got closer to take a photo most of them flushed. Too cold to wait them out.

By the time I headed back to my pickup things were melting and the cold didn't affect my breathing. Melting so fast that it was running down the road.

Took a few shots of the snow-covered mountains on the way back to town. 

Nine Point Mesa

Santiago Peak

Elephant Mountain

Thursday, December 7, 2017

More than I bargained for

Woke up to a snowy world, as predicted, but after taking my anticipated photos I discovered I couldn't leave here afterwards. The ground is wet and slushy under a blanket of snow and I didn't make it up the first little hill. Almost didn't make it back up the driveway to the house. First time in 40 years I've been stranded here. Might try to put some rocks in the bed of the pickup and try again later.

There are a couple of Ring-necked Ducks on the big tank.

Indoors oranges are ripening on the tree, and a warm fire is burning in the kitchen.


But outside the wind is howling and it's cold. I'm afraid to do too much for fear of pneumonia.

UPDATE: Finally got out and back to town. It was sure touch and go a couple of times. Got stuck on my road twice and the highway was real slick. I think they closed the big hill south of Alpine right after I got through.