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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.


  1. Good read...enjoyed it very much. Looking forward to being back to the area soon.

    1. Thank you! I look forward to getting some good birds next year to share with people like you.

  2. An amazing year. Here's wishing you continued optimism and the wherewithal and physical well being to carry out your projects! You seem to have an astounding amount of energy!

    1. Thank you! Passion fuels energy. We all need passions but I know it's sometimes hard. My mother wanted a passion so bad but could never make it happen, so I feel great compassion for people that don't have it. I wish I had some magic words to help people like her, but I don't. One either has it or one doesn't, I think. Hope you have a passion in life, whatever it is.

  3. Ha. I'm 5 years younger than you, and can't imagine doing what you're doing physically. But then I don't have your passion for the Oasis. My passions don't currently include road work! Ha. Though I have done it in my time. But so far so good for both of us.

  4. I couldn't do it either without the motivation and even at that, I can do less and less. I'm finally feeling good after being unwell for a month or more, but then I haven't gotten out and put it to the test. Happy Holidays and wishing us both a great 2018