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Monday, February 27, 2017

Did the mountain in spite of myself

I woke up feeling puny. The weather was cool and windy, but not to be cheated, I climbed the mountain. Even carried the Canon. Was not worth the considerable effort. Might be a long time before I do that again. Maybe if Brian goes up and assures me there are lifers up there for me, then I guess I would do it. I took some photos just so my burdensome camera wouldn't go up the mountain for naught. First is a big oak tree growing in a gully up on top.

And here's some leaves from some smaller thickets of oaks. I think oaks hybridize so much that they're a nightmare to ID. If I was to guess, I'd say the big tree above is a Gray or Mexican Blue Oak hybrid, and the thickets might be Emory Oaks. All expertise welcome.

Soaring above the mountain top was this Peregrine Falcon.

It's not unusual this time of year to see a Greater Roadrunner running around with a lizard in its beak, hoping to attract a mate. But this roadrunner seems a bit embarrassed about the size of his "lizard," and just skulks inside a tree, perhaps hoping a female will take pity on him.

Flowers from the mountain, but I forgot what species.

This purple one is teensy. I have since gotten an ID on it, Glandleaf Milkwort (polygama macradenia). That's a new species for me.

I was so intent on photographing this metalmark (Apodemia duryi) that I didn't even see the flowers. Wish I had noticed them. I might have been able to ID them.

Here's a picture of my husband from his fishing trip Feb 16-19 at Black Gap WMA.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lucifer Hummingbirds are back

Around noon today I had a sprinkler going when I heard a hummingbird. Got all excited thinking it was a record early Lucifer. Then when, through binoculars, I located it preening deep inside some bushes, I didn't see a curve to the bill and saw lots of rufous on what I took to be the wing or tail. Before I could really study it (as in still and dry), it flew way up to the top of a distant tree. Nevertheless, I figured any picture I could get would be better than none so I shot away. And as fast as it arrived, it departed. By then, I had dejectedly decided it was a female Rufous.

Then, after downloading the photos, poor as they were, I could tell it was a Lucifer. Got re-excited. I believed it was an early record by two days. But Kelly Bryan, (what would I do without him?) informed me that it isn't an early record. I had observed a male and female on February 23, 2013, and on the 26th he caught the previously-banded male.

At any rate, for me, spring is officially here! I'm almost totally recovered from my flu. Gonna go up the mountain tomorrow, as it's supposed to be another lovely day.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Finally went up the mountain

It was difficult, and I'm on the verge of collapsing into bed now, but wanted to blog while things are fresh in my mind. My sister and I went up with Patricia Manning and a couple of her colleagues. Knowing I would be real slow, and knowing I have my best energy early morning, I went up ahead of them. Timing was off a bit because Patty's group was running late. I sat up there and waited for them for about an hour, then spent about half an hour with them, came back down, and to town. I think I'll be OK after a nap. But it was fun and I'm glad I did it.

It wasn't as windy as I expected. I think the worst of the wind was in the afternoon. (There's a wildfire in Presidio County this evening.) The best flower of the day was a Fringed Puccoon. I probably had seen it before but never knew what it was.

 Most interesting insect of the day was this unknown grasshopper. Wish I had gotten a better photo of it, but I wasn't up to carrying my big Canon. Maybe some kind of dactylotum.

Here's another little flower, probably a nama or something common. Too tired to ID it today.

The Ocotillo are budding out so that means they'll bloom soon, and be done by the time all the Lucifer Hummingbird seeking birders and photographers will be arriving. That means hummers will be plentiful at feeders.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A nice little rain at CMO

Just one-third inch but enough to make glorious wildflowers and lots of butterflies.

Got to town today and did a little research. I just couldn't believe I would get the flu. I never get it. I've been taking such good care of myself.

My husband's hot sauce recipe calls for 12 tablespoons of Accent (MSG). Then when I googled online to see if MSG could weaken the immune system, bingo!

This popular additive can be found in…well, pretty much everything. It “enhances flavor” to make the cheapest ingredients seem delicious.  MSG can increase the production of histamines (an allergic/immune response) and also increases inflammation. Not everyone is allergic to MSG, but on varying levels, most people are sensitive to it. There’s a direct link between histamine production, inflammation, and a weakened immune system.

Gotta stay vigilant. The day before I ate that hot sauce I was feeling super wonderful. Couldn't wait to climb the mountain. And I'll never know for sure that the hot sauce was the culprit, but I know for sure it was loaded with MSG. And MSG weakens the immune system.

Just hoping now that I'll be better in a day or so. With no pneumonia. Spring is calling to me!


My husband returned from his fishing jaunt and said he didn't put Accent in his last batch of salsa. So I'll just assume I came down with the flu for no reason.

Today I felt  almost normal after taking some aspirin for a headache, but by 6 PM all symptoms had returned. Hopefully, tomorrow I'll be good all the way through. Today is day 5 and flu is supposed to last 5-7 days. Probably won't climb the mountain this week though. Bummer.

Still sickly

Guess I've got a mild case of flu. Maybe not bad because I get flu shots, but not well enough to tackle the mountain for sure. Determined to do it Wednesday and Thursday though. On Thursday a group from the West Texas Native Seed initiative is coming to scout out the mountain and I'd like to be well enough to join them.

Yesterday I forced myself to water the oasis. It set me back, but needed to be done. I felt I had a little discretionary water so lavished a bit on this patch of wildflowers (Verbena & Havard Penstemmon).


Friday, February 17, 2017

A few puny days

I had to cancel my climb up the mountain yesterday morning due to what I believed was an MSG headache. It's been a couple years since I had one, as I'm very careful what I eat. However, my husband buys Accent spice (MSG), as well as various processed foods containing MSG (which I easily avoid eating). Last year he made some homemade hot sauce which is usually too spicy for me, so I don't eat it. A couple of days ago I ran out of my hot sauce and he assured me his wasn't hot, so I tried it. After years of no headaches it's easy to let down my guard. The sauce wasn't too hot, so I ate it, totally without thinking that he may have put Accent in it. I probably observed him doing that at the time but forgot after a year, and he didn't think to mention it. So, I got a headache night before last. Since I didn't eat a lot of the sauce it wasn't a killer headache, but definitely not up to hiking yesterday. Then last night I got feverish and achy, so not sure if an MSG headache ran down my resistance, making me susceptible to a virus, or if there was no MSG in the sauce, and I just got a virus. Hubby's on a fishing trip so I can't ask him. Either way, I took it easy today. Since it was cool and windy I didn't mind too much. Probably won't go up the mountain this trip. For sure will when the weather gets warmer. I puttered around doing some overdue jobs. Here's a female Black Swallowtail.

The Mexican Redbud buds are coming along at the same time they do every year.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

No hummers

While I have hummingbirds twelve months of the year, there are occasionally a couple of weeks in February where I have none, and this is one of those times. Not to worry, they'll be here in a week or two.

Ann and I are going up her trail tomorrow looking for more flowers in bloom. I was trying to decide which camera to take, so did a little practicing this afternoon along the road to see if I can take acceptable photos without my Canon because it's soooo heavy. I think I'll give it a try with the Lumix one more time. Then Friday I'm going to go up my trail with the Canon in case I find good butterflies up on the very top of the mountain.

Rough Nama (Nama hispidum)
Also, I check the Mexican Redbud every time I'm at the oasis to see if it's starting to bud. Bryan wants to come when it's blooming to look for Henry Elfin butterflies. Today when I checked it I saw the first start of budding. It's always the first thing at the oasis to bloom.

Checking my records, the earliest I have a photo of Henry's Elfin is Feb 18. That was two years ago.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

More flowers from yesterday

Amazingly neither my sister, Andrea (Ann to me), nor I are any worse off for the wear after our five hour mountain climb yesterday. Can't wait to do it again. And I even had one minor fall. We were walking on a rather steep area of her trail where there were steep switchbacks. The soil on the edge of the narrow trail (better than no trail like before) was loose and when I planted my walking stick and weight on the stick (probably simultaneously) I tumbled down the slope to where Ann was on the switchback below me. I was in fear that I would knock her down, while she was afraid that I'd fall all the way down the slope. I knew I could stop myself. Wasn't worried about that. As it was, I ended up against her legs. We didn't laugh at the time, but I laugh now every time I think about it. What I wouldn't give to have a video of it! Two old ladies (75 and 76 yrs. old) who aren't giving up.*

Still working on identifying my photos. And filing them in the right family folders. Doing that is supposed to be a learning experience for me, but if I'm learning, it sure is taking a long time! This first one we think is Wedgeleaf Draba (Draba cuneifolia). Ann calls it Whitlow-wort. Name variations only add to our confusion, but we soldier on. (See post of Jan 22) There was a lot of this blooming on the mountain slopes.

Next is a Cerastium, which is my first flower of the Carnation family. Not sure which species of Cerastium. Will try for a better photo next time. For now, I'm leaning toward C. brachypodium.

I've been photographing ferns a lot, but haven't yet tried to sort them out. For now they just go into a fern folder. Same for a bunch of generic looking yellow flowers. Here's a common one I shot yesterday and gonna leave it go for now.


*The composition of the terrain is totally different between our trails. So is the vegetation. That couldn't have happened on my trail as the ground is rockier and more stable, with no switchbacks along steep slopes. Furthermore, the tumble happened as we were descending and were both exhausted. That's when it's easier for missteps to happen. It probably won't be the last one. I was also focused on protecting my camera and binoculars, which slows down one's ability to catch oneself. Happy to report no harm to them. Only damage to me was a slightly scraped elbow and some thorns in one hand.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

First of many

My sister and I are determined to climb our mountain every week to inventory the plants and flowers. And for me, butterflies too. So today was our first trip for the year. We spent five hours in our efforts. Now we're pretty crippled, but plan to go back up as soon as this upcoming cold front passes, in other words, Wednesday or Thursday. Very little is blooming yet, but there are some interesting plants ready to bloom any day. It's amazing how many interesting plants are up there. There are lots of patches of scrubby oaks that I had never seen before. None are much over four feet tall. I hope to get an ID on them soon. I guess I should have collected a leaf. My sister collected one, and she thinks it most closely resembles Emory Oak. That would be cool.

I really liked this little flower. It's been identified as Desert Anemone (Anemone tuberosa).

And here is a Cholla infested with parasitic Cochineal.

Lots of Desert Olive blooming too.

I'm totally overwhelmed right now with plants and flowers to ID, and it's only going to get worse as spring progresses. And next time I'm taking my Canon. Too hard to photograph butterflies with my Lumix, although the weight of the Canon is a difficult decision to make. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Near instant gratification

Yesterday I arrived at CMO intent upon repairing and hanging two bird houses that had fallen down and broken during horrible winds this past winter. It took a long hard time to affix the one that had hung about 10 feet or more above the ground. I needed someone to either hold the ladder, the heavy birdhouse, or operate the heavy drill.  But I had no one.

Just before dark, with the sun already set behind the mountains, I finally managed to figure out how to do it alone.  My day ended with a satisfied feeling. Since it is now all screwed together instead of stapled, I'm hoping it won't fall down again.

Didn't have long to wait. The first thing this morning there was a pair of Curve-billed Thrashers at the nest box. Pretty sure they'll be the next tenants.  Unfortunately the photos turned out way dark because a setting on my camera had been accidentally bumped from A to M (manual). But with the help of Photoshop I was able to pull at least something from it.

The quarters must have passed inspection because I definitely see nesting material in the beak on the next two shots.

While on the subject of nesting and Photoshop, not only will Lucifers be arriving (and nesting) soon, but so will Elf Owls. My friend, Mac Womack, created a composite from two Elf Owl photos he took at CMO last year. I love it! Gives the resulting image more personality than if it was two separate shots.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Spring-like day at CMO

Couldn't stand sitting in town again on such a lovely day so I headed south mid-morning. Upon arriving I immediately saw a fresh Black Swallowtail. Not surprising since I had so many Black Swallowtail caterpillars on my rue a few months ago.

Also saw two Anna's Hummingbirds. They were fighting and whacking one another like crazy for a while even though I have out five feeders and only those two hummers. Surely the last Anna's I'll see until late fall.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Search for Zuzu is over

Yesterday Zuzu Verck's remains were found near Alpine. Not in a location where my daughter-in-law and I had yet searched. (For more on that see post of Jan.1) Just relieved she's found and the boyfriend was arrested this morning. I attended a candlelight vigil this evening.

Zuzu's parents at the vigil

Here's the "shallow grave" location during processing. Notice yellow crime scene tape.

Gonna go to CMO in a day or two and recharge my batteries.

FEB 5 update

Just had to go to the site of the burial. Glad I did. It was very remote. I doubt we would have ever found it. It irked me that they chopped off all the junipers in the vicinity and made lots of huge brush piles. I could maybe see pruning the trees up to make scouring the area easier, but there was no reason to destroy them. Must have been to make it impossible for anyone to search the area again and maybe find a bone or something (animals had dug up and scattered them), but seems rather counter-productive to me to totally demolish the area in one day. There were at least three huge brush piles. Oh well, it's over and there can be closure.

I would have taken better photos but there was a news photographer there and I didn't want to interfere with his shots or be on any of them.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Yay, February has arrived

February is almost spring. Lucifers will be here before the month is over. Today I only saw one hummer, a female (or juvenile) Anna's. And I started my February butterfly list today. Here are a couple I added. The only new ones that weren't on January's list were a fresh new Vesta Crescent, and a fresh Common Buckeye. No pics of them though.

Checkered White

Southern Dogface