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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.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Another perfect work day

 Got in another four hour day. The big hill is patched now, so will see how it  holds up.

It misted all day, which is good for the cement. I knew if I stayed at the oasis I'd do it all again tomorrow, and my body very much needs to rest. So I came to town. Also wanted to try for better pics of the lovely male Broad-billed Hummingbird in town. But no sun ever came out this afternoon, so hopefully, it'll still be around when the sun does come out. Meanwhile, I got a little better pics than I did the other day when I was eager to head south.

At the oasis I refilled my feeders before heading to town. There are lots of hummers there. Since I hadn't yet reunited with my binoculars, I didn't inventory the hummers. I think they're all Rufous, Black-chinned, and Ruby-throateds though. While servicing feeders I flushed this Giant Swallowtail. It was too wet to fly I think. Can't wait to get back down there.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Big hill patch #1

Today was perfect weather for doing concrete. It misted all morning, which keeps the cement from setting up too fast. I started on the second worst spot on the big hill. Will do the worst one tomorrow if I can. I did a lot of pick-axing today and my back hurts a lot, but with some aspirin and ibuprofen and rest, I should be good to go in the morning. It's hard to get a perspective on photos. On the first one I'm getting set up to mix. The pictures don't show how steep it is there. Driving up those rocks was like driving up stair steps. The first two shots are looking downhill.


On this next "after" shot you can just barely make out the worst spot up near the top of the hill. It's worse because that's where the road is the steepest. Hopefully, the hill won't wash out anymore since it's pretty much down to bare rock. And hopefully, these cement patches will hold up. It's that or dirt. Filling holes with cement is definitely better than filling them with dirt.

I'm good for no more than four morning hours of work. Then I eat and nap. Then I go putter at the oasis.  Not so fun without binoculars, but I got by. (Hugh found them in the house so they're not lost.)

Enjoying the last couple of weeks of Lucifer Hummingbirds. Here's a feisty juvenile male in as much glory as he can muster. 

The cooler weather and moisture have brought out the best in the Flame Acanthus  flowers too.

I promised Brian I'd post butterfly pictures, so here are a couple of mating Texan Crescents....

And a Monarch butterfly...

The Heartleaf Goldeneye (Viguiera cordifolia) is blooming everywhere and attracts lots of butterflies.

I'm so disgusted with those caterpillars that ate every leaf off every mulberry tree (and lots of leaves off other trees). The poor mulberry trees started putting out new leaves and those dang worms eat them as fast as they appear.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Literally can't keep up with myself!

Went to Odessa with Hugh today so he could get a skin tag removed from his eyelid. He wanted me to go along to drive home. It rained all the way home and the driver's side windshield wiper doesn't work right. And Hugh is the world's worst passenger.  (I've never had a wreck. He has. In Odessa too.) But we made it safely home. He has cataracts also so I have those trips to look forward to.😬

I was anxious to get to CMO. Packed and ready to go when I heard a Broad-billed Hummingbird. Had to grab my camera and document that. It was getting dark and the light was bad for a photo. And it was raining. I just did the best I could under the circumstances and headed south.


Driving south I sometimes see good birds but usually don't turn around because I'm either in a hurry or the bird disappears. Then I agonize over what it might have been. So today I turned around and the bird was still there. I believe it's a young Swainson's Hawk.

Then, when I got to CMO I discovered I didn't have my binoculars. I guess I must have taken them out of my pickup in my hummer excitement and laid them down somewhere. I'll call Hugh in the morning and have him look. In hindsight, I realize that hummer had been around yesterday too. I very tentatively heard it once or twice while I was at the computer working a crossword puzzle. I remember thinking I needed to go look to see if it was a Broad-billed, and then forgot. After I told Hugh about it today, he said he had seen a hummer yesterday with a green belly. So I missed perfect photo ops. I still don't have a satisfactory shot of that species.😬

I had been debating about going to Lajitas looking for odes tomorrow, but without binoculars, I don't want to. Plan to make some concrete patches on the big hill instead.😬

Monday, September 25, 2017

What a day!

It's always an ordeal having Hugh go to the oasis with his loader. Since Snake Road had washed out a couple of days ago, he had to unload his loader from the trailer two miles before where we intended to work on my road. He had to fill in Snake Road to even get his pickup and trailer through.

I'll spare you the gory details, but I have a lot of work ahead of me. For now, the rocks are away from the bluff so the road is a little friendlier to drive.

Since he refused to move the rocks far, I had him shove them against the bank by the turnaround, now an improved turnaround.

Headed back to town with the loader. Now I'm going to start patching bad spots in the road with concrete. Even if I don't get a lot done, I will get improvement.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

One step at a time

Trying to work on the road without thinking about the enormity of the task, just taking it one foot at a time. Today I did two wheelbarrows of cement, which wore me out totally. As you can see from these photos, I had to prune the bushes to get to the work area. Raised that wall a couple of inches in hopes that runoff won't overflow there and wash out the road any more.




Then, thinking I could rest on the way to town, I no sooner left CMO than the road was washed out down on Snake Road where it always washes out. Had been assured they were filling it with humongous rocks and it wouldn't wash out again. But one little rain and it was gone. The ranch hadn't put big rocks in it like they had promised. Forgot to photograph it, but will in the morning. Meanwhile, I couldn't get out without doing some shoveling. Hoping Hugh and I will make some good progress on the big hill tomorrow.

Practicing my photography for a few minutes today. Think this is a Kiowa Dancer.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A little progress on the road.

I talked Hugh into coming down this AM to "discuss" the road. We tied chains to some of the precarious rocks on the big hill and pulled them down. He agreed to come back Monday with his bobcat and see if he can get them off the road. Some are pretty big. So we'll see. Maybe I can get him to work on a few other rough spots in the road while he's here. Worth a try.

You can see by the above photo that a few more need to be pulled down. But I can only push Hugh so far. Leading him works best. So I try to have patience.

For 40 years I've attempted to keep the road padded with dirt. Dirt makes dust and then washes away. So now I'm going to focus on putting concrete patches in the bad spots and see how that works. There are only 4 or 5 problem areas, all on slopes. Flat places are fine generally, unless they're low and water washes over. But I can fix that with a little concrete too. It's doable and even if it wasn't, I'd eventually do it. LOL

Here's a lovely female Cloudless Sulphur.

Mac is back in Houston but he sent me some nice shots he took while here. I have his standing permission to share them on my blog, for which I'm grateful.

Gulf Fritillary and Gray Hairstreak

My favorite of his American Redstart shots from CMO (9/12)
My favorite of his Black-throated Gray Warbler shots from CMO (9/14)
Last, but not least by any means, Aoudad atop our mountain, taken from the oasis by Mac. I lost count and you will likely too. (9/18)

My black ant pain didn't subside until the middle of the night last night. It took me one minute to get rid of the ants. Never going to allow black ants at the oasis again.

Friday, September 22, 2017

No country for carelessness

Would you believe I saw a Regal Ringneck Snake and didn't have my camera on me. Grrr!

Today I was chasing a butterfly and forgot about the big ant hill of black ants in an area where I walk frequently. I must have stood on the hill because in an instant I was being stung simultaneously by the demons. They were all over my jeans and feet. I laid my camera down and came out of my jeans in record time. But the damage was done. I was on fire, beside myself in pain. Only after an hour was I able to stand the pain without four ice packs.Way worse than anything I'd been bitten by before. And that includes scorpions and a brown recluse. I had thought about putting Amdro on that ant den for some time, just never bothered. Always stepped over or around it before. Lesson learned.

Here's a pair of bugs.

And a caterpillar

And I think a different species of katydid than I've seen before, but not sure.

My plans for road work have hit a snag. I had wanted the road wider on top of the hill and the resulting dirt moved to the road at the bottom of the hill. The contractor can't move it down with a dozer and my husband said it would be too much dirt for him to carry down the hill with his bobcat. So back to the drawing board. Hugh had previously told me he'd move the dirt down, but he apparently didn't understand how much dirt would be involved. I don't dare hire the contractor to dig up the dirt if I don't have a way to put it where I want it. A huge pile of dirt left on the road, or beside the road, would be worse than what I have now. May just have Hugh clean the fallen rocks off the hill and patch the holes in the road with cement. That's not how I want it, but seems the only option at this time. If I spend big money on the road I expect to end up with more than a pile of dirt to show for it. Hugh's going to come down in the morning and look at it. (And tell me what he'll do and what he won't do and how he'll do it and how he won't do it, etc.)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Happy to be back at the oasis

I came down just before dusk today. The air looked cleaner than I had seen it in a long time so I couldn't resist taking a photo of our mountain coming in.

 Managed to fill a couple of feeders before dark, then with the light from the courtyard I unloaded a load of firewood that I had put in my pickup this morning.

That should last me through the winter because when the weather is cold here I generally stay by the fire in town. But I plan to bring down another load anyway. Might as well stock up while I can. One never knows what the future holds. Hoping for good photo ops tomorrow.

Feeling good. Weather nice, rain forecast, tanks full, everything working, potential for roadwork soon. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How much should I water?

I planned on watering this morning before heading back to town, but it sprinkled lightly most of the morning. That didn't motivate me to do much watering. And more rain is forecast. So I watered enough to get by for a few days.

This afternoon the sun came out and there were butterflies everywhere. I couldn't find any new species, but did see my first Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak of this year.

On Friday I'm looking forward to meeting up with the contractor who I've been talking to about working on my road. The big hill, in particular. I don't think there's any way to lower it without dynamite, but it needs to be wider on top so cars can get by one another there, and also so that when rocks fall off the bank into the road they won't hit a car. I'll post some before and after shots when the work gets going.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nature is winning!

Got to the oasis late this afternoon to discover worms had eaten every leaf off all 3 mulberry trees! 😣

Here are a few of the culprits. See them dangling from the tree? I suspect they've run out of leaves on the tree so they're lowering themselves to either pupate or find a new food source.

Here's a butterfly I shot late this afternoon as activity was winding down for the day. It's either a Dotted Roadside-Skipper, or a Toltec Roadside-Skipper. The latter would be very unlikely, and a lifer.

Mac is leaving in the morning. Sad to have him go. After encountering the business end of a skunk this morning at the oasis, can't say I blame him. Kidding!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Alpine time

Have to be in town for a few days. Yesterday I spent half the day trying to get my sewing machine to sew, and the other half sewing cushions and trim for an old Mission Oak rocker that my husband refinished for his pregnant granddaughter to rock her baby in. My sewing machine has something wrong with it and there's no one in Alpine that works on them. I need to get a different one.

Tomorrow I have to accompany my husband to Odessa in case he needs me to drive home after he sees the doctor. He never does, but it's my "duty." And then, to CMO! Hooray!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Getting excited about the road

I'm finally going to be able to do some improvements to the road. Really exciting for me. In a few weeks someone is going to come with a big dozer and work on the big hill. After that, I'm going to get at least one of the other 4 bad places fixed with cement patches. That's the plan, anyway. Any plan is better than none. And any improvement is better than none. That road has been a passion of mine for 40 yrs. I've gone way too long without getting it back into shape since my late husband passed away 14 yrs ago. If I can just get the big hill improved and widened this year, then next year I can start plotting other improvements. It's only a mile of road, how bad can it be? And much of it is fine. It's just the slopes that erode. 

Lots of this cute Shaggy Portulaca (portulaca pilosa) blooming.

My sister and I went up the mountain today. We agreed it was our last time for this year. Things are winding down for the year up there. Blooms drying up and very few butterflies. We plan to go up more often next spring than we did this spring. We'll see. Chinati Checkerspots were the most numerous butterfly up there.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Good migration day

Saw the most Clay-colored Sparrows and Dickcissels I've ever seen at one time. However, they were always way across the pond from me so didn't get decent photos. Probably many dozens of them.

So many sparrows I had a hard time sorting them all out. I'm thinking this next one is a juvenile Clay-colored.

Mac and another photographer, Steve Suchy,  got good photos of a Black-throated Gray Warbler. That's always a nice migrant. Here's Steve's photo. Thanks for sharing!