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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Oasis greening up

Everything is blooming and greening up nicely. The male Lucifer Hummingbirds are  really revved up to mate with the females. But the females are busy making nests and won't have anything to do with them.

photo by Mac Womack
Meanwhile, the impatient males are displaying to one another. It'll all work out, though, in the scheme of things.

I've struggled for years trying to raise a Woolly Butterfly bush (Buddleia marrubifolia). This one I've managed to keep alive so far. Here is my first butterfly photo on it, a Common Streaky-Skipper.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Third time is a charm. I went by myself  on March 11, then with Mac on the 24th, and again today, and finally got it. Wasn't even hard. Just got out of the vehicle carrying water, wearing hiking boots, prepared to give it my best effort and walk for hours if necessary. The terrain is rough but I was determined to stay the course, however difficult. Hadn't walked for more than two minutes when I saw a potential hairstreak land not far from me. Decided to photograph it just in case, and immediately could tell through my telephoto lens that it was the coveted Big Bend Scrub-Hairstreak (Strymon solitario). Snapped an obscene number of shots of course. Brian thinks it's a female.

It was perching on lechugilla amid a large area scattered with blooming False Agave (Hechtia texensis), near the first pullout after turning onto the Old Ore Road.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mac's photography

Mac Womack from Houston has been staying in the bunkhouse for the past week. He has many talents; photography being one of them. With his permission I've been posting a few of his photos. He was determined to get a photo of the Milky Way. This is the result, shot from the trail-head going up my mountain. If it's possible for a photo to take me back millions of eons in time, this one is it.

I can identify his bird photos but his flower shots, not so much. Here's a close-up of a Feather Dalea (Dalea formosa) that I was able to ID.

And here's a nice shot of an Elf Owl he got last evening.

Needless to say, his photos put mine to shame. Thank you, Mac, for allowing me to share these awesome photos.

Monday, March 27, 2017

My three kids' businesses

Here's a screen shot of my son from a youtube video about the metronome he built in Austin. He built it a year or more ago while employed by a company. Now he has his own business (

To see the full video, which lasts less than one minute, click on this link.

And my daughter in Austin started an online boutique. (Not my style of clothes.)

And I'm sure you already know about my son's (here in Alpine) furniture store, Triangle Market convenience store and U-haul business all at the same location.

Headed back to CMO here shortly. YAY!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Making the best of being in town

Today I planted tomatoes. They're inside those enclosures. The grape arbor is in the foreground and bluebonnets are all over the place.

Was surprised to see so many odonates this afternoon since there are almost zero at CMO. Some of these may be early spring records, not sure. Here's a Plateau Spreadwing...

And a Plains Forktail.

I have most of my normal energy back, but still don't feel like my sinuses are normal. At least I can function normally. 

I decided to try one last time for the Big Bend Scrub-Hairstreak next week. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Wore myself plum out!

Mac and I went to Big Bend National Park today. I was determined to find a Big Bend Scrub-Hairstreak butterfly. When I saw that acres and acres of its host plant Texas False Agave (Hechtia texensis) were blooming I figured it would be a sure thing. But after many hours of searching, nary a one.

I guess this Bee Assassin bug (Apiomerus spissipes) dining on a bee it assassinated will have to be my consolation prize. 

Loved the Red-spined Prickly-pears (Opuntia spinosabacca). 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

All systems go!

Background: My husband worried that such a prolonged sinus infection might cause other problems (like in the eyes, dental implants, or even brain), so I agreed to take antibiotics. When I went to the doctor Monday I asked for blood work, explaining that since I'd last had it done I had gone on a high protein/high fat diet and wanted to see how it was working. Of course the doctor was horrified and said that fat had to go somewhere and I'd get gallstones. Feeling new concern after hearing that, I asked if we should test for gallstones. She said let's wait and see what my cholesterol level is now.

Today: When I called this morning to find out, the first words out of her mouth were, "OK Smarty Pants." Seriously. All my levels that I've struggled with for years were now normal. No more borderline high cholesterol, or borderline high blood pressure, or borderline high blood sugar. All were perfect. Naturally she said I must be one of the rare people who genetically can handle that diet. Well, I didn't tell her that the book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the high protein, high fat, low carb diet was good for everyone. I let her save face by telling her everyone is a unique genetic experiment.😏

But, as you may recall, I was really sick yesterday. Figured that one out too. When I got the antibiotic prescription she insisted I also take Musinex "to help my sinus infection." I told her I wasn't congested at all, so wasn't sure what help it would be, but I acquiesced (I had just refused a steroid shot) and took it so I wouldn't come across as totally dismissive of everything she recommended. Over-the-counter so how much damage could it do? Well, yesterday I was feeling terrible and knowing it couldn't be the antibiotics since I took the same kind last year for my bronchitis, I suspected the Musinex. Googled it online and couldn't believe I'd been stupid enough to actually take the stuff. And it's expensive. Over a dollar per pill. I had all the "common side effects," except hadn't started vomiting yet. I say yet because I had only taken half the daily dose every day (for the past 3 days). Headache getting worse, starting to get nauseous, breaking out in a rash, drowsy to the point of just dragging around on sheer willpower. Ugh! Today I got all my work done and energy left over!

Here's the finished hummingbird stands.

Mac finally got time to set up his camera at the sprinkler. 

He got a good shot of a Varied Bunting that came in to bathe. That's an early record for the oasis. My previous early record was April 11, 2012. And that was after the horrible drought of 2011 where we didn't get rain until June 2012. So my oasis was the only wet spot in the area that April due to my buying and hauling water.

Photo courtesy Mac Womack

Also today I saw my first Giant Swallowtail for the year. Here it is being photobombed by a Black Swallowtail. Per Brian they're both males. Really getting a lot of mileage out of that verbena patch.

My sister and I even got two new flower species for our properties. Here's one of them, a Bushy Wild-Buckwheat (Eriogonum suffruticosum). This species is locally common, mostly in South Brewster County, but otherwise somewhat rare.

Ann identified it. She's so much better at that than I am. But, between us, I hold the title on bird, butterfly, and odonate IDs. If she can ID a new flower 50% of the time, I'd be lucky to do it 1% of the time. I have done it though. When Michael Powell's new flower book comes out both our skills will improve drastically. Like I didn't get a good handle on birds until Sibley came out with his bird guide.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Worse today

This is the third day of taking antibiotics for my sinus infection and now it's worse. Hadn't had a sinus headache for two weeks and now it's back. Dragging around here. If I'm not well by Monday I'm going back to the doctor. Bummer.

Considering it's still March, the oasis looks good. Hoping it doesn't get zapped by a late freeze. A little coolness would be welcome. Got up to 96° today. Mac and I were really hot working on the new feeder stands. Plan to finish tomorrow.

Yes, I helped. I dug one hole (two more to go) and painted the stands and attached the numbers and such stuff as to keep me busy most of the day. (I work very slowly these days.)

Mac hasn't had time to try his Lucifer decoy, but I took a photo of it anyway. 

I noticed today that one male Lucifer was displaying to a female hidden in the brush. He'd get tired out, rest, and then do it again. She never let him mate. Either the females are on nests or not ready to start nesting yet.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring now

Finally, after 5 weeks of a sinus infection I started taking antibiotics. The doctor said it wouldn't go away on its own. Feeling real puny. Watered everything at CMO as it had been a while since I had watered. The verbena are still looking great.

Sure doesn't seem as if we're going to get another freeze this spring. Fingers crossed. Found this cool moth. A master of camouflage. Only saw it because my water hose flushed it.

A photographer friend from Houston (Mac Womack) is staying in the guesthouse for a week. He's determined to get a good photo of a displaying male Lucifer Hummingbird so he carved (and painted)
 a very convincing looking female Lucifer. He hopes to get a male to display to the decoy while he's all set and ready for it. It might work. I'll post photos of the whole process later this week.

Right now, I'm wiped out.

Friday, March 17, 2017

So much to learn

When I blogged yesterday I didn't even know there was such a thing as bee flies. Learned thanks to Heidi Trudell's comment. Now I may have at least two species of them. The one I posted yesterday, and this one. Unless it's the same species, different sex.

Here's a picture of an Ash-throated Flycatcher that shows the rufous on the primary feathers in a way that I hadn't noticed before.

And another Henry's Elfin. Can't find new stuff so have to post the same old stuff. But this species flies just a short while in the spring so I can't resist.

Claret Cup bloom

American Lady butterfly
My family from Austin is here over spring break enjoying our wonderful weather and scenery.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Great butterfly year so far

By mid-March 2016 I had only documented 10 species at CMO. By March 8th of this year I've already documented 43 species. That's an incredible difference.  Even taking into consideration that Brian wasn't here until late April last year and this year he was here in early March, resulting in 10 of those documented by him that I wouldn't otherwise have seen up on top of the mountain, it's still a huge difference. Hope this year continues being a record butterfly year. Here's a Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia duryi) from today. I've posted this species several times before but not on a Desert Marigold flower. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

I couldn't figure out what this was but I'm thinking it has to be a robberfly of some sort. I guess I've seen them perched before but never nectaring.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


I'm excited waiting for this flower to bloom. Can't wait to get photos of the blooms. Like waiting on opening a Christmas present (in the Christmas Mountains). The flower has been identified from this photo as Porophyllum greggii. I'll definitely post photos of the blooms. Can't find any online but Patrick Alexander, who ID'd it, said it looks like the bloom of P. gracile. I found that online and it's lovely (  Here's my P. greggii getting ready to bloom.

Patrick said those dark spots on the leaves are like "translucent internal oil glands." How cool is that!

In other goings on, my kids are coming this weekend and I hope to be able to climb the mountain with them. My illness is for sure a sinus infection. Not sure if it started as flu or not. I'd never had a sinus infection before. They last around a month and I think it's been about that long. Seems longer. I still don't have much energy and feel like I do if I get water up my nose, but otherwise haven't had the "sinus headache" now for 3 days so think I'm getting well.

One of my sisters, who winters down here, but lives in Iowa, had to have emergency gall bladder surgery here in Alpine at Big Bend Regional Hospital. All went well, and she headed back to our family's properties this afternoon. So thankful for our excellent hospital!

My son who had the airplane crash has already purchased another plane. Oh, well....

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Overwhelmed by flowers

I think it's realistic to say I'll never learn the flowers. Unlike birds or butterflies, the Latin names need to be learned too. And whereas I've probably got about 250 bird species at CMO, and 100 butterfly species, there are probably way over 1000 plant species, with several common names and often changing Latin names for each. I'm not going to give up, but doubt I'll ever come close to mastering it.

Here's a new species ( I think) to our property. Best ID I received on it is Cryptantha mexicana.

Working on it. Just still so puny, but at least I didn't have a headache today. That's progress.

My place doesn't have bluebonnets along the road like in the park, but there are flowers everywhere. I can stand in one spot and photograph 6 species of yellow flowers alone.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Disappointing park visit

For some reason I get to thinking all the action is happening in the park (BBNP), then when I get there I'm disappointed. I should have given it a better effort as long as I was there, but so packed with people that all I could think of was getting away. Since the majority of the people are in vehicles on the roads and not tramping around I should just ignore them. I spent all of 30 minutes looking for the Groove-billed Ani that's been reported there before I decided mid-morning wasn't a good time to look for it and gave up that chase. It wouldn't have been a lifer. I just didn't have a photo of one.

So I headed for Boquillas Canyon to look for that scrub-hairstreak (see previous post). I found lots of their host plant, Texas False Agave (Hechtia texansis), but it was all half-dead looking and not any butterflies of any kind around. Here are a couple of the better looking specimens I saw today. (It's a bromeliad of the pineapple family.) Probably need to go back in a few weeks, or after summer rains.

On the drive back from Boquillas I stopped along the highway to photograph bluebonnets with the Chisos Mountains in the background. Required practically lying on the ground, but when did that ever stop me?

While I was thus engaged I actually saw a butterfly. It became the only butterfly that I photographed while in the park, Theona Checkerspot. Just had my scenery camera on me and rather than go back to my vehicle for the Canon, I just fired with the Lumix. Turned out good enough.

Driving back into the family land I saw my sisters along the road looking at flowers. Here's another one that's new to us. First one of the phlox family even. Thinking it's Gilia incisa or G. stewartii. Still working on it.

Finally back at the oasis, I saw this Fatal Metalmark just minding its own business when along came a  Vesta Crescent and harassed it from flower to flower. I took lots of pictures of the action, but these two will suffice. Most of them were blurry from all the movement.