Click any photo to enlarge

Friday, June 22, 2018

A roller coaster day

I hadn't heard from the electrician since my threat to take legal action if he didn't show up Friday (today), so I didn't even bother to show up at the oasis this morning. (I'm down) Shortly after 11 AM I got a call from my sister that the electrician was at CMO. (I'm up) I went tearing down there. Not really tearing since endless road work and following pilot cars for endless miles kind of put a damper on tearing. (That would be up and down repeatedly)

When I got here it was just the electrician's helper that was here. He had my electricity turned off, but hey, even that's progress. No AC and it was hot. (Down)

Nothing to do but watch odes at the oasis. Right quick I find what I think is the Five-striped Leaftail that I had seen here the other day. But fortunately I decided to photograph it anyway. Turns out to be a new oasis species, Gray Sanddragon. (I'm up)  I have seen them before at Shafter. 

Finally, just before 3 PM the electrician shows up. (I'm up) By then, his helper is suffering from heat exhaustion. They turn on the power and nothing at the oasis. (down) They went back to the guesthouse and did something at the new breaker box and got power. (up) It should have worked the first time if it had been done correctly, in my opinion, but hey, give the kid a break. Heat exhaustion.

So the helper leaves. The pump still isn't working. (really down) The electrician decides it's either the new control box or the new pump since 240 volts is getting to the control box. Sometimes the pump comes on, sometimes not. He also decides the new pressure switch isn't working right. He switches out the new switch for the old one that had been doing the same thing. But he thinks the old one is working better.

He was ready to leave and said he'd be back in the morning. I pretended to believe him. On my way to the house I decided to clean up the mess of old wires, breakers etc he had left behind at the guesthouse, thrown into a nearby bush making it twice as hard for me to clean up. But hey, heat exhaustion and all.

Since I have company coming to stay in the guesthouse tomorrow, I thought I had better check it just in case. And sure enough, no electricity to it or its water pressure pump. Now I've just gone from desperate to dire. (numb) I texted the electrician and he reassured me he'll be here tomorrow. (numb)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Losing the battle

The electrician, who said he'd "for sure" be here to do the work today, texted me this morning to say his pickup needed brake work done and he'd come Friday. At my husband's insistence, I texted him back that if he doesn't show up Friday I'll take legal action. Haven't heard back from him. If he had been honorable he would have texted right back something to the effect that he understands my frustration, but not to worry, he'll be there Friday. As it is, I doubt I'll ever see him or my money again. And still no working pump. On the bright side, I do have water to pump and by using the little slow pump, even though it's more onerous, it gives me more time to enjoy odes and butterflies.

I saw one dragonfly today that I really wanted a photo of but it didn't land. Got a few decent butterfly shots, though nothing that interesting. Here's a Question Mark.

And a female Funereal Duskywing in Beebrush. It's in bloom all over the place. The air is heavy with its perfume.

I finally got my blog settings so that I get an email when someone comments. I used to, but then google changed something and I had to dig into forums to figure out how to get it back. Sorry for any of your comments I missed. I value them all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Dragonfly season

Once the summer rains start and I get lots of water, then it's dragonfly season. I couldn't stand to sit in town all day when I spend so many months impatiently waiting for dragonfly season. I was determined to  photograph dragonflies somewhere. There are lots of places* to choose from, but it makes more sense to go to the oasis where I have all the comforts of home, plus getting a special dragonfly there is more meaningful to me.

Atop spillway of big tank

Down in "dragonfly pond"
I didn't actually see any especially interesting odes today, but for sure won't if I don't look. Had plenty of time to take some time lapse shots of myself. Odes seen today were: Desert Firetail, Familiar Bluet, Eastern Amberwing, Great Pondhawk, Common Pondhawk, Blue Dasher, Thornbush Dasher, Red Saddlebag, Wandering Glider, Spot-winged Glider, Flame Skimmer, Roseate Skimmer and Common Whitetail.

Red Saddlebag
Thornbush Dasher

Elada Checkerspot
Still not many butterflies and those I did see I wasn't able to get photos of. Lots is blooming so won't be long. Today the beebrush really kept the oasis heavily perfumed. Very few mosquitos so far. I'm thinking the more mosquitos, the more dragonflies.

Choices include: Balmorhea State Park and lake, Madera Canyon at Lawrence Woods Picnic Area, Sandia Wetlands near Balmorhea, Cibolo Creek in Shafter, Bishop Wetlands near Presidio, Lajitas and Post Park south of Marathon.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Alpine day

Hanging out in town catching up work here. I texted the electrician to confirm he'd be to CMO tomorrow (Tuesday) like he said he would. He texted me back saying he'd be there Wednesday. I'm so ready to get this done. If the new breaker box doesn't solve the pump problem then I think I'll go to a ll5v pump. Not going to dig up all the underground lines between the guesthouse and oasis.

Probably overdid yesterday. Had a headache all day, but managed to get the work caught up here. Hugh woke up with a swollen painful foot so had to do more for him than I normally do.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Can't keep up

Last night I intended to pump out the upper dirt tank, but once again the water stopped pumping before it was empty. So I just turned the pump off and also the electric pump in the big tank and went to bed. I'm thinking weeds must be messing with the suction. Gonna clean them out when it dries.

Meanwhile, I went to bed around 11 PM, my normal bedtime. Got up at midnight to put drops in my eyes. They get dry and painful. Can't open them until I get drops in. I think I turned on the light, but not sure. Half asleep, I remember reaching for the drops on my desk and feeling horrible pain in my right hand and left foot. Not sure which first. Had to have been a scorpion or centipede. Only an ice pack for an hour made the pain to my foot bearable. I've never been bothered by scorpion bites before. Sharp pain for a minute and that's the end of it. But centipedes leave 2 punctures and I can't find any, so I don't know. Right on the heels of my shingles vaccine I feel pretty battered. Strangely, my hand still hurts and is swollen, but my foot is normal. Maybe when I got bit in the foot I swung my hand and whacked it against the chair or something. Don't see how that would be possible considering where my hand was at the time.

This morning I struggled with pumps and got the stucco tank half full. The other big tank is brimful of course. Just about the time I had to leave for town it warmed up and odes started flying. So wanted to stay and watch them. I've discovered that the good or rare ones are never around for more than a couple of hours, so I wish I could be there more. I'll go back down in a couple of days. Meanwhile, my body is going to rest.

It really bothers me that I can't keep up with the work at the oasis. Now while the ground is wet weeds are easy to pull. Not happening. The road needs work, at least raking the rocks off. I picked up some on the way to town, as many as my aching body could manage. No pictures today.

My schedule is so hectic for awhile yet. Wish it could slow down. Maybe next month. Gotta get the pump working. The electrician is supposed to come Tuesday, but I'll believe that when I see it.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Determined to water

I had that tank full of water so felt like if I don't use it, the next big rain will send everything down to the ocean. But using it is a chore with my little slow pump and doing all the hoses. Spent the whole day at it until it started to rain at 7 PM. Got another lovely rain; enough to top off the big tank and enough in the upper dirt tank and settling pond to add a lot to the stucco tank, but not so much to do damage.

I got the pumps going and plan to pump into the night until the upper dirt tank is done. Then I'll turn off the other pump and start pumping the settling pond in the morning. My wildlife tank got more water too. After my wonderful dragonfly find there yesterday I'm calling it my dragonfly pond from now on.

I took this Eastern Amberwing photo today. I'm looking at amberwings closely so I don't miss the Mexican Amberwing when it shows up.

Friday, June 15, 2018

New oasis ode

I came down to CMO today but still too puny from my shingles vaccine* yesterday to do much of anything. I would have watered had I felt better. But the pump still isn't working so that would mean dragging hoses. Maybe tomorrow. Rain is forecast all week too.

Instead of napping like I had planned I couldn't resist sitting and watching dragonflies. Was really excited to find a species I hadn't seen at the oasis before. Experts ID'd it as a Five-striped Leaftail.

In 2014 I photographed my one and only leaftail sighting at Lajitas but the photo was too bad to tell if it was a Four-striped or Five-striped so I couldn't really count it. Very cool to get my lifer Five-striped at CMO.

The electrician said he'd be back today to put in a new breaker box at the guesthouse to see if that would fix the pump problem, but he didn't show up. I texted him eventually and he now says he'll be here Tuesday. 

*Got the new Shingrix vaccine. It's known to have these side effects, but it's way more effective than the old vaccine. I was hoping I'd escape the misery, but not to be. Have to get a second shot in 2 months. Dreading that. I'll definitely postpone it until after the hummingbird festival.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Something learned every day

I don't think I've ever seen our Alpine lotuses as tall as they are this year. Some of the taller ones in the middle appear to be at least three feet tall.

I learned something that's probably common knowledge but I didn't know. It's concerning parthenogenesis. I did not know that some stick insects reproduce only females if they reproduce asexually.

Some stick insect species have a very interesting way to produce offspring: the female can produce young without needing a male! The eggs she produces are unfertilized, but do develop properly and grow into an adult female stick insect. The production of a new individual out of an unfertilized egg is called parthenogenesis. The female that produces these eggs is called parthenogenic. Parthenogenesis is a form of asexual reproduction.
Stick insects (Phasmatodea) are not the only insects that can produce asexually. There are also aphids, water fleas (Daphnia sp.), nematodes, plants, snakes, the whiptail lizard Cnemidophorus neomexicanus and more species that reproduce through parthenogenesis. It is possible to produce males or females through parthenogenesis, depending on the species. In stick insects only females are produced through parthenogenesis. Not all stick insect species can reproduce without fertilization, many species do need a male to fertilize the eggs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


The electrician finally came out this afternoon in the 105° heat. Rewired the pump and put in two new breaker boxes at the oasis. The pump still works intermittently like it had before. He said he'll be back Friday to put a new breaker box at the guesthouse. If that doesn't fix the problem, then it's probably in the buried underground cable somewhere. I think, in that case, I'll go to a 115 volt pump rather than dig up the place. And I'll check with the electric company too. Sometimes they have phases that don't work right.

At least I have water to pump. Could be worse. Came to town and heading for bed. Exhausted.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Yesterday's perfect storm

Perfect for CMO anyway. Three miles south didn't get anything. Usually a monsoon fills everything and washes bad, plus ten years' worth of water goes away down the arroyo. Debris washes into the tanks, etc. But yesterday's rain was a long soaking rain that ran just enough to almost fill the big tank, with no negative effects. (Reflection is clouds.)


Of course, that's why I got stuck. If it had been a monsoonal gully washer the upper dirt tank would have filled and I could have seen that from a ways back. No reason to go close. Sometimes it fills when I hardly get anything here and the ground nearby is still firm. The runoff comes from the east. So when it was only half full, like yesterday, it didn't occur to me that the ground would be saturated, but the long soaking rain did the deed.

Tank in background
After I finished repairing the 3" line, which took me most of the morning, I took the rest of the day off.  Rested and watched dragonflies. A rare luxury when I don't need to be watering. 

I'm sure to get some Mexican Amberwings in a month or two. I'll definitely post it online because I know quite a few dragonfly chasers who want that species in Texas. I'm the only person who's documented it in Texas, so I'll be on top of that.

I thought having wet ground and water everywhere, it would be cooler today, but got up to 104° anyway. That's really unusual. And scary. We need relief from this heat.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Oh hail the rain gods!

The oasis got an inch of rain this afternoon so the pressure is off for awhile. I still need rain in Aug or September or later to make it through until next rainy season, but I can look forward to dragonflies and butterflies this summer. Last summer the rain didn't come until mid-August and by then it was too late for a good dragonfly showing.

I wasn't really expecting a good rain. Maybe a little shower if lucky. So my little pump was down in the big tank. It's a chore to take it in and out. But I knew once it started pouring there was a possibility the arroyo would run and the tank might fill up. But I couldn't go into the tank to retrieve the pump in the pouring rain and lightning. I sat there patiently waiting for the rain to end. When it did I hurried into the tank and grabbed the pump. There was a window of about 3 minutes to do it in, as water was already overflowing the spillway when I went in.

The Western Soapberry thicket has to be very happy.

It seems when the first big rain of the year comes everything that can go wrong does. For starters I got stuck in the mud and had to walk to the house to call my sisters to help get me out. Then a connection that I needed to hook up in the lower dirt tank was suddenly too long and no way could I curve the line into place.* With the help of a strong man it could've been done. I cut the pipe that had been the right length last year but wasn't strong enough to get it in place. Finally got it angled in enough that I could put screws in it to hopefully hold it. By then I was so sore and exhausted, going on sheer will-power. The connection held and about 30 minutes before I was through pumping no water was coming through the line. Too fatigued and sick feeling to deal with it. Just turned off the pump. I've never had that happen before. Couldn't find a break in the line or debris blocking the inlet. But since there's just a foot of water left in the dirt tank, it's probably not enough to get the pump primed again. Will have to wait until the next rain to deal with it. I'm not too concerned with losing the water since it'll surely rain again this summer and I have plenty of water in the meantime.

If you're wondering why I didn't already have the connection hooked up, it's because I don't know ahead of time which hook up I'll need. One I need if both dirt tanks fill up and the other I need if only the upper tank fills. Had we known we were going to build two dirt tanks in the beginning it could have been plumbed better. Too late now. Most of the line is buried deep under the dike. Just gotta persevere and work with what I have.

* That 3" fast line is great stuff but it's notorious for getting longer or shorter, and when you bury it, it invariably works itself out of the ground. Other than that I love it and have lots of it. It was given to my late husband.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Back at the oasis

Spent most of the day dragging hoses around trying to get things watered, but got distracted by dragonflies and stuff so didn't finish. A slow process without the pressure pump.

Here's a Black Witch Moth (Ascalapha odorata) that I flushed while watering. It was so big I thought it might be a bat.

And the first Great Pondhawk for the year.

This American Kestrel was so brown in the back that I wasn't sure what it was, but there's nothing else it could be.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Doing some Alpine time

It's not bad, I'm always happy wherever I'm at, but I do miss being at the oasis. Feeling like I might be missing out on good butterflies or dragonflies. In town I try to get more rest so I can do more when I get to the oasis.

The last couple of days I've been playing on my ancestry tree. It's like looking for butterflies or dragonflies..... a treasure hunt. New photos of ancestors or relatives are the treasure here. There's a blank on the tree when there's no photo, so like a bingo card, I'm always trying to fill in the blanks. Kind of like Jim Peterson does on his Texas Bird Images (

Here's an example from my tree (happens to be my great-grandparents). The descendants from my grandparents are pretty much filled in, but not so much from one of their other sons, my great-uncle, Adolph. Takes a lot of research to find photos of distant cousins etc. Facebook is helpful, but really time-consuming. So whenever I locate one it's like winning an online game, only better. Not very often do Facebook users post old photos of their ancestors, but once in a while it happens. Much more rewarding than crossword puzzles.

The tomatoes are doing fine. Taking long to ripen due to all the heat, but enough for us.

Here's a gorgeous Two-spotted Forester Moth photographed by Kelly Bryan yesterday in the Davis Mountains.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Electrician visited oasis today

The bottom line is I'm going to pay him $2000 to put in new breaker boxes all the way. Gotta have decent electricity if I'm going to have an oasis. He said 240 power is going through the control box, so the problem has to be in the wiring to the pump. So that's getting new wiring too. He said he'll do the work Monday.

On a more pleasant subject, saw my first Eastern Amberwing for the year at the oasis. Hoping Mexican Amberwings will show up soon.

And saw this Saltbush Sootywing...

Heading back to town I stopped at the thistle patch across from Elephant Mountain (less than a mile south of the picnic area there). Couldn't relocate the Desert Cloudywing, just this common Checkered-Skipper, but it was hot and I wasn't feeling too good. I think I got overheated yesterday without realizing it. I don't know how it happened either, but I wasn't very well last night. Still have a headache.

I thought I was taking it extremely easy yesterday. Only spent an hour outdoors in the morning and didn't go back out again until evening. Don't see how it happened, but it did.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Adversity galore!

While driving to CMO this morning I couldn't resist stopping at a huge long patch of thistles along Highway 118, approximately 30 miles south of Alpine. No interesting butterflies, I thought, but Brian corrected my ID on this one. Much more interesting than if it had been the Northern Cloudywing I thought it was.

Desert Cloudywing
Got to CMO eager to put in the new breaker and hopefully solve the electrical problem. By then it was 100.° The breaker didn't fix the problem. The electrician has promised to be here tomorrow. Until then I'm just going to water what I can with my little sump pump. I keep hearing about all the wonderful rain other people are getting. Still waiting my turn here.

But as horrible as things are here, it's not as bad as 2011 when I bought and hauled water for a whole year. The high today was 108.° When it cooled off to 103° around 7 PM I started watering.  Got in a couple of hours before too dark. Slow going with the little pump but better than nothing.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Alpine dove

Hanging around in Alpine today I was wondering if this dove is an African Collared-Dove or a Eurasian Collared-Dove. I don't know how to tell them apart.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Excessive heat

I believe this must be setting records. I don't remember any year where so many consecutive day were 110° or more. Today was 112.° I don't remember it ever getting that hot here. You'd think the tanks with water and the trees would make the oasis cooler than other places in the area, but even Lajitas only got up to 110° today. Weird.

Yesterday evening there was a small shower and today light sprinkles but no relief. Mac and I put a new pressure switch on the stucco tank line but it won't even come on intermittently now. So frustrated. Here he is taking a photo of the wiring so he'll be sure to get it on exactly like the old one was.

He did, but that wasn't the problem either. It could be worse. What if I was out of water? Then I'd be watching everything die. At least now I can manage to get it watered, just harder and slower.

Mac is packed and ready to head back to East Texas before daylight in the morning. We've had a lot of fun in the six weeks he was here.

Friday, June 1, 2018

A little shower is better than none

Photo by Tim McKenna

My sister called this evening that she got .08" of rain awhile ago. Hopefully, the oasis got as much or more. Going down early AM and will see. If nothing else it cooled things down. Last several days have been 110° every day.

My son thinks it's possible the pressure switch on the pump is bad so I'm going to replace that tomorrow. The electrician is scheduled to come Wednesday and the new breakers I ordered will arrive Tuesday. Something will get it fixed, surely. Meanwhile, at least I have water to water with, even if it is a very slow process.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Not winning!

Headed down to the oasis before daylight determined to put in the new pump. Mac and I toiled for hours as the temperatures climbed to 109.° I thought about taking a couple of photos but we were so overwhelmed that carrying a camera into the tank seemed like it would be the straw that broke the camel's back. Finally got the pump installed and it worked just like the old one, intermittently. Which means the problem wasn't the pump. Gonna start replacing breakers next. The local electrician I called never showed up and doesn't answer my messages. It's really hard to get help out here.

Here's a photo Mac shared with me that he took of West Corazon the other day. I really like it. It seems that mountain never looks the same twice.

When it's too hot for man or beast we still have the skies.

Here's some of the electrical mess I'm dealing with, just to give you the idea.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Another hot Mac day!

While the relentless triple-digit heat has me cowering in town, Mac is at CMO holding down the fort. But not to worry, I'll be there fighting to water trees and get the electrical problem fixed tomorrow. Hopefully, the electrician will show up and be helpful.

Mac captured this adorable cell phone shot (the subjects were too close to use his big lens) of a baby Javelina today. I didn't even know they could be reddish like this. Must be a younger one than I've ever seen. This little water feature is right in front of the viewing blind. No wonder it gets low on water so often!

It means a lot to me to have Mac here, not only being my eyes when I'm gone, but capturing these wonderful images. He's planning to go home to Houston this week, having stayed longer than originally intended. He'll be missed!

In the above photo the male Lucifer's gorget isn't fluorescing due to the lighting. And the female is definitely not interested. I guess she wants to be dazzled by flashing neon. Or maybe she's already on a nest.

Monday, May 28, 2018


Here's a nice photo by Tim McKenna, a photographer who lives in the area. Shows a distant storm and also the Milky Way.

Today Mac photographed a Lesser Goldfinch that I think is what Sibley calls a "bright" adult female versus the ones I usually see, which are the "pale" ones. Sibley shows Lesser Goldfinches as occurring year-round in my area, but the TOS Handbook says they're migratory and uncommon to rare here in the winter. Kelly's checklist shows them occasional in winter. I guess they're winter regulars at the oasis because of the water.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Electrical woes at CMO

Sunrise or sunset, I forgot which

Some days ago my pump stopped working so I had to drag hoses from a little portable pump that I stuck in the big tank. Then I took the well pump that I use in the stucco tank to town and had it tested and it works fine. But when Mac and I reinstalled it, it didn't work. We tried everything we could think of. Had my son come and he fiddled with some stuff and it started working so he left. He wasn't even out of sight when it stopped. Now sometimes I can get it to work for 5 minutes or so. When it quits I go flip a breaker (that hadn't tripped) and sometimes it starts again, sometimes not. I got a little watering done today before I couldn't continue. Over 100° and I was exhausted.

So I came to town and called an electrician. My son can't get away for long enough to go do what needs to be done, which is probably install new breaker panels, and who knows what else. It's going to be expensive but those old breaker boxes are at least 40 yrs old and no longer are suitable for things as they've evolved to in the last 40 yrs., such as creating the oasis and needing pumps. It might be a simple fix but I just need to have a decent electrical system.

No pics today. For one thing, I was too overwhelmed with the pump crisis, and for another, nothing of interest is going on. I got a brief look at a dragonfly that I hadn't seen yet this year, but no camera handy and no time to pursue it.

Watering takes priority over everything except family emergencies.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Big rain in Alpine

Yesterday, when the oasis got nearly half an inch of rain, our place in Alpine got only a quarter of an inch. But today it made up for it. Got one and a quarter inches, while nothing at the oasis. Nothing forecast for the next ten days either. As soon as the new pump arrives tomorrow I'm heading to the oasis.

After the rain there quit last evening Mac took a few photos. Here are a couple of them.

And the Bell's Vireos today...

Back in Alpine it seems the huge rain storm caused critters to seek refuge in the house. Here's a Bulia deducta moth and Mediterranean Gecko. (IDs thanks to Tripp Davenport.)