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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Half my trail

I wanted to see how my trail up the mountain had fared from the monsoons. There is no dirt left on it anywhere and it has so much vegetation on it that I'm probably the only person that can manage to find and stay on it. However, it still works fine, serves the purpose, and hasn't washed out any more on the part I was able to traverse. I could have forced myself to go to the top, but knew I shouldn't. For those of you who doubt I actually go up in Crocs, here's the proof. That's all I wore building the trail too. Anything else makes my feet sore.

Here's an area of the ascent that would make it impossible for me to go up without the trail. It's so steep here that I couldn't do it, but angling up the switchbacks makes it doable for me.

Back at the oasis, a butterfly finally went to my butterfly nectar dish.

Red Admiral

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

CMO birds today

There are some Townsend's Warblers here among a few other common species. A visitor from Houston, who came for the festival and now can't get back home because of Hurricane Harvey, passed most of the day here. In the process she got at least two lifers... the Lucifer Hummingbird and Olive-sided Flycatcher that I know of. Here's the flycatcher.

For the past week I kept hearing a Common Ground-Dove, but didn't see it well enough to photograph before today. This one seemed to spend more time in trees and bushes than on the ground.

Still only 3 hummer species here, Lucifer, Black-chinned, and Ruby-throated.

The other day Mac Womack caught an interesting scene. A juvenile male Lucifer Hummingbird was displaying to an adult male. It is so cute to see that behavior in animals (not so much in the human animal). What a bully!

Monday, August 28, 2017


 Everything is looking good.

Wildlife pond

No matter how much water I give this Scarlet Bouvardia that I planted
 in the courtyard years ago, it doesn't bloom until the monsoons.

I call this Pigeonberry. Sometimes called Indian Rouge Plant (Rivina humilis).
 It grows voluntarily all over the place. What's not to love? Photo from courtyard.

This last photo from today is some kind of morning glory. Remember last winter when I ordered some passionvine (passiflora tenuiloba) seeds? Well, when the seeds came I planted and mothered them. They grew great, but alas, they were morning glories, not passionvines. So I complained to the company and they refunded my money. I planted the morning glories here and there but they just withered and died. However, after the monsoonal rains, this one either revived or it had managed to make a flower before it died that went to seed. Also in the courtyard.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


For quite a few years Barry & Kevin Zimmer have brought Victor Emanuel Nature Tours (VENT) to the oasis around May 1st. Today Victor Emanuel brought a group here himself. I asked a lady in the group to take a photo of me with Victor using my Lumix point and shoot. For some unknown reason the photo she took is in black and white. Fortunately, others in the group took the same shot so I'll eventually get one in color. I wouldn't know how to take a black & white photo if I tried. As for my Lumix. I only told her to point and shoot. Didn't mention anything about not cutting off heads and feet. LOL  Good thing I was assured she was the best photographer in the group. I hate to think.....

He gave me a signed copy of his new memoirs that was just published, "One More Warbler." Can't wait to read it. Victor and I are the same age.

I saw a lovely Smoky Rubyspot today. It was up in a tree but I hadn't seen one with the wings banded like that before that I recall. Wish I could have gotten a closer shot.

The young male Lucifers are so cute, but I've been unsuccessful in getting good shots of them. Got a decent shot at one's head anyway.

There are still a lot of older banded Lucifers around too. Next year Kelly plans to do some banding session here to see how old some of them are. Not only will it help us learn how long they can live, but we might even get a longevity record. This banded male has an aged look, to my eyes anyway. Maybe he'll look younger when he comes back in the spring in new plumage. Must be nice. Ill be stuck with my same old plumage.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Festival winding down

The group today was smaller than yesterday so it worked out great. I think we all had a good time even though there are very few birds around with everything lush and blooming.

Went to the festival this evening to see everyone, and Greg Lasley's presentation on Big Bend birds. Had a great time.

Greg, left.  Kelly Bryan, right

Friday, August 25, 2017

Couple of firsts

Today was the first time to my recollection that a group consisted of 30, maybe more, participants, and I'm told tomorrow's festival group may be larger.

And a real cool first was Abe Moore, the TX Parks & Wildlife interviewer, flying a drone over the oasis. It took such awesome shots. He's going to send me some and I'll post them. 

Meanwhile, here's a short clip I shot of the drone.

2017 8-25 CMO (1)

I didn't realize so many people were coming today and I didn't manage the parking area well. Tomorrow I'll be better prepared. Today had to put a couple cars in the "overflow" area.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Moving right along at a fast pace

Naturalist group visited this morning and then while Texas Parks & Wildlife were here later in the afternoon to interview me for their PBS series it started raining, so we quit and will continue tomorrow morning. Got a lovely shower, not too much to mess up the road but enough to where I won't need to water tomorrow (.4").

Was surprised that Curve-billed Thrashers are nesting again. Here's one carrying food to their nestlings. Not many people know that Curve-billeds nest in man-made boxes but they've been doing it at CMO for many years.

The insect is a not a true spider, nor a scorpion, but more related to scorpions. One of its names is Wind Scorpion (solfugidae). 

Photo from Wikipedia

Still haven't got the toilet fixed at the guesthouse but I think I'll get it right tomorrow. I keep adjusting it, flushing it, wasting all that water, then have to adjust it again, which means taking the float assembly out, wasting more water, over and over. I'll eventually get it, just hate wasting the water.

Festival group tomorrow. That's always fun.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Festival week

A busy week for CMO. Today was Larry Ditto's hummingbird workshop. It went well in that the weather wasn't real hot (around 80°), the mosquitoes weren't too bad, and they didn't get rained out. On the other hand, it seems the male Lucifer Hummingbirds have mostly headed south already, leaving the females to finish the last nesting.  Or maybe the males forage far and wide and leave the feeder resources for the females that don't want to stray far from the nests. At any rate, the males have wrapped up their part in the process. So, while females were plentiful at the feeders, males not so much.

Glad I enlarged the parking area. And this isn't by any means a large group. Don't know how I managed before, but I can say, it was really difficult at times. Later this week vehicles will be crammed in everywhere, but at least now it won't be as bad.

Here's a female Lucifer checking out one of the photo setups.

I haven't posted any photos in the last couple of days because there's nothing interesting to me at the oasis lately. I've begun to realize that when I get the interesting OOPS (Out-Of-Place Species) they arrive after a big storm has blown them in. Then they hang around, rest and refuel, and are gone in an hour or so. Once in a while they stay longer, especially birds. Like the Varied Thrush that came in with a storm and stayed all winter. So I need to be sure and be here after big storms if I want to find OOPS.

My allergies are getting bad and I only have Zyrtec here. It makes me sleepy. Going to town for a couple of days and restock my Claritin. Also going to get new toilet parts for the guest house. The toilet malfunctioned and I lost 3000 gallons of water. That's at least the third time that's happened in the last 20 years. It never happens at the house. Surely by now I've learned to either turn it off when it's not in use or check it every day if it is in use. I'm not hurting for water now, but it could have just as well happened at a time when I was short.

Today's eclipse was disappointing. I tried to photograph it with my iphone but the photos didn't show the moon. Just the sun as normal, even though when I looked at it through eclipse glasses, I could see it clearly. I used the same glasses in front of my iphone lens. The sky never darkened like I expected. Just looked as if a cloud had gotten in front of the sun, a normal everyday occurrence. Had I not know there was an eclipse in progress, it would never have occurred to me. Here in the Big Bend it never covered half the sun. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tension building

Compare my photo yesterday of the Blue-eyed Darner to Michael Gray's and you'll see why I'm so dissatisfied with my shots. Here's Michael's.

And his flight shot to die for.

I think one of these days there'll be good affordable mirror-less cameras on the market and all anyone will have to do is aim the camera toward the subject. The camera will automatically do all the thinking. My kind of camera. And they'll be lighter than my heavy Canon (aptly named).

Found out that interview I've been scheduled to do (next Friday) about creating a habitat in the desert is going to be shown on PBS on the Texas Parks & Wildlife program. That's enough to make me nervous. About as nervous as if a monsoon comes in the next week and washes out the road. On pins and needles here.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Yay, no rain today!

It rained hard all around the oasis and I feared another monsoon would come and wash out the road again. But it missed me. This time.

Kind of a bummer today because I talked a good photographer, Michael Gray, into coming all the way from Ft Davis to help me document the possible new ode species at CMO. But most of the day was overcast and little was flying. We never saw the potential Carmine Skipper and there were quite a few either Blue-eyed Darners or Arroyo, and we couldn't get good shots of the appendages to confirm that there was an Arroyo there. They could all be the Blue-eyed.

I enlarged the appendage on the above photo, hoping to see what it is, but I can't tell. Wrong angle. Needed a side shot. Tried but he flew away when I maneuvered to his side. He's the only one we saw perched alone today. The other (s) was/were joined in mating, or in flight. Maybe Michael got a more diagnostic shot.

Here's is a Roseate Skimmer I shot today to compare to the potential Carmine Skimmer from yesterday. You can see it's a hard call.

Today I remembered to photograph the new Snake Road sign as I exited the black top. There's hope for me yet!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Possible new oasis species

Made a day trip to CMO with a couple of helpers to work on the road some. I feel more comfortable about the upcoming festival groups visiting now. And the ranch fixed Snake Road nicely. Someone even put up a street sign designating Snake Rd. Hope it lasts longer than the previous ones did. Forgot to take a photo of it (some blogger I am!). Next time.

The help could only work a couple of hours so I made sure to wear them out in that time. Got some bad rocks removed from the road. Every little bit helps. After they left I wandered around looking for butterflies and odonates. Thinking I got a species not documented at the oasis before and maybe in the whole Trans-Pecos. Checking with experts now. Here's what I feel certain is a Carmine Skimmer. A front face shot would confirm the ID, but it was way out across water whenever it perched. But in flight I saw the bright red face, so I'm sure that's what it is. Just may have to go back tomorrow and try for better shots of it and this next ode, same situation. Only perched way out in the little reed (all dead I fear) island. The water is deep going out there. Wasn't up to it today because if I slip in with my camera it's a bad deal. And it's a pretty steep slope going to the island.

And here's a lovely little moth. I think it's a Lichen Moth (Eudesmia arida)

Coming out from the oasis this afternoon from my big hill I saw this in the distance. I guess it was the edge of a rain storm. (My two sisters' places in the foreground.)

My road in lower right corner
Nine Point Mesa barely visible in the background
This country has new delights to see every day.

Update: The odonate record committee accepted the Carmine Skimmer sighting.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Getting things back under control

Early this AM my sister and I went out to check the damage on Snake Rd., particularly the place where 2 vehicles from the Fort Davis Hummingbird Festival had to be towed out of last August  It was really bad. We worked on it for an hour or two, along with another sister and her daughter. Got it where we could get out. When I came back to the oasis the cliff side at the top of the big hill had sloughed off  during my absence. Had to hook a chain to some of them and drag them closer to the road edge to where we could roll them down the slope.

Tomorrow the Property Owners' Association, to which I pay annual maintenance fees, is going to fix the bad spot on Snake Rd. My own mile of road I have to maintain. It's rough but usable. I would not recommend coming in a low clearance vehicle at this time. Eventually my husband will bring his bobcat down and clean up the landslide area. I removed everything to the right of that big squarish white rock.

Lots of common odes and butterflies around. I was just too busy getting the oasis  back under control. When the ground is wet is the best time to pull weeds out of the paths, etc. 

The mulch at the oasis had been washed into random drifts here and there and I spent hours salvaging what I could of it. Then I came to town and did a final rinse to half of the rent house floors prior to waxing. Tomorrow I'll do the other half and then my husband is going to wax them. That's the final step and he's eager to get done with it. Normally I wouldn't do a final wipe up but the cleaning with oven cleaner had created so much muck that I wasn't sure I'd gotten it clean enough. But the first half was cleaner than I had expected it to be so it's no big deal. A total of two hours labor to be sure wax isn't applied over any residue of grime.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

What a day!!!

I knew several groups of birders were going to be at the oasis today and I really wanted to be there. I hurried and finished the rent house floors and rushed down. By the time I arrived only one birder was still there. Glad I got to meet him anyway. Then after he left I rushed around filling feeders, and other chores. I noticed it was really raining to the southeast of the oasis in the park. And thought it'd be nice to get another little shower. We had gotten a nice one yesterday when I wasn't here, so I wasn't planning on watering anything anyway.

It started sprinkling at 4 PM and I thought, oh I hope we get a few tenths. It'd be nice. I didn't get to see the tanks fill a week ago today and missed the shower yesterday. The loud AC was going in the house and I was playing on the computer. Lots of close lightning, lights flickered on and off.

I went to look out the window and the courtyard was flooded. Water was seeping in the kitchen door so I ran out in the rain and took the overflow drain off the pond. It's designed to drain the courtyard should it be necessary. But it's never been necessary before. My camera was in my pickup and I didn't dare go get it, so I snapped a couple of poor shots with my cell phone. This first one, taken looking out the window, shows water pouring off the roof into the courtyard.

When I was finally able to go out water was everywhere. The oasis was under water, the road going to the oasis was underwater. I took some video clips to share the event. Hope they're viewable. The first one is the water running across the road after both dirt tanks are full.

2017 8-13 (1) road

This next one is me going to the Lower Dam. From there the water goes to the ocean as CMO can hold no more. A shame too.

2017 8-13 CMO to L.dam

Next is a short clip taken below the dam.

2017 8-13 CMO L.dam clip (2)

Here's the wildlife pond.

2017 8-13 CMO (4) wildlife pond

And the pine forest taken by the flooded cottonwood tree.

2017 8-13 (3) cottonwood

Those should give you an idea of what it was like. Water roaring in stereo from all directions.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

One tile at a time

My shirt is hanging down. I'm not fat! (I weigh 135 lbs.)

Got over half the house done. It's 600 square feet. Only 200 or so to go. 😓 My husband doesn't know how to take photos so this photo isn't what I would have taken. Upper left corner is his finger of course. Behind me is the dirty floor. Can is oven cleaner. Yup, it's saving my life. First I spray a section of six or so tiles with oven cleaner, then scour them with a steel pad. Then I take a wet rag and scrub up the mud, which is what I'm doing on the above photo. This photo doesn't give even a clue as to how filthy the floors are before I scrub them. A lot of what I'm removing is old wax buildup. My husband waxes the floors before he rents them out. I can't dissuade him from doing it. Did the shower with oven cleaner too. Try it. You'll like it.

I wish I had known about using oven cleaner while cleaning that last rent house less than a month ago. Before that it had been at least 2 yrs. since we had a vacancy. Hopefully, it'll be a real long time again. And sometimes people actually leave the house clean. We love it when we can give them their deposits back. Meanwhile, two trashed houses within a month is pretty traumatic. (Total of 4 rentals.)

No later than Monday morning I'm going to CMO and for the most part I plan to stay there for the next 4 weeks with short visits to town. Summers there with plenty of water are my favorite times and I don't want to miss out.  I'll have the floors done tomorrow, then the house will be done except for things I can't do. A new refrigerator is being delivered Monday, and a plumber is coming Wednesday, etc.

Dreaming of odes and butterflies that I'm going to be photographing soon!