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Monday, April 30, 2018

Back where I belong

Photo of my earth-sheltered home with my mountain in the background by Mac

Today is the first day of the busiest week of the year at CMO as far as number of birders in one week. I'm ready. Hope we get some more good birds. This week, besides the VENT (Victor Emanuel) tour tomorrow, there'll be 3 days of tours from this year's TOS (Texas Ornithological Society) meeting in Alpine.

Here's a couple of enviable bird shots taken by Mac yesterday and today at the oasis.

Bell's Vireo in Catclaw Acacia

Female Varied Bunting in Horsetails.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Yesterday's Big Sit update

Seems Michael Gray photographed a bird seen from the sit circle (a requirement) that may be a new oasis species and another species to our sit list, making the total 51. But to count it we need a positive ID. The consensus is that it's a Great-crested Flycatcher. Here's Michael's photo.

And toward the end of the day Cecilia [Riley] thought to take a photo of me and her. It was a great day and such great birders. I'm ready to do another big sit with them tomorrow.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

BIG SIT 2018

Decided to see if I could start the "sit" at 2 AM by getting an owl. I heard what I believe is one of the Elf Owl calls, kind of a repeated, descending "eow." Temperature was 52° Then I went back at 5:30 and heard not only the Elf Owls doing their regular singing, but a Great Horned Owl also. Temperature was a chilly 42° and falling.

Besides the BIG SIT's four participants, three other parties of birders showed up so I had to put one vehicle in the overflow parking lot.

I had hoped to get more species on the sit. It was too cold this morning for poorwills and nighthawks, so I got them tonight, for a total of 50 species. that's two more than last year's Big Sit. The Cassin's Finch was still around.

Pretty tired so off to bed. Been a long day.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Common and uncommon CMO birds

This time of year even the common species are quite impressive in their fresh breeding plumages. The White-crowned Sparrows winter here and will be leaving soon.

The Clay-colored Sparrows are just migrating through.

The House Finches are here year-round. We have the redder subspecies, San Luis House Finch (carpodacus mexicanus potosinus), here.

And today another Cassin's Finch showed up. First year ever at the oasis! Hope it'll stick around for the Big Sit tomorrow.

Just think, without modern technology and the internet, I'd have no way of sharing the oasis with so many appreciative birders.

For you die-hard followers of my blog you might remember that last year I photographed several potential Mexican Amberwing dragonflies at the oasis, as well as at Lajitas. Well, finally the experts vetted my (4) submissions and they were all accepted as Mexican Amberwings, so I'm pleased about that. (Here's two of them.) I think I'm still the only person that has documented that species in Texas.

Verbena patch today

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The oasis today

Came down early this morning from Alpine. With Mac's help I got the feeders back better than ever. I hadn't done a very good job on them when I first hung them, but they were functional--- until whatever it was got ahold of them. We bolted and reinforced the, previously screwed-on, pad to the bucket feeder and hung the thistle feeder higher.

The oasis looks like an oasis in the desert what with this continuing drought. When we get good rains the whole area looks like an oasis, so birds aren't concentrated at the oasis as much as they are now. Still I'd prefer it to rain.

The next ten days will be the busiest of the year, other than mid-August during the hummingbird festival. Hoping any day bunches of good warblers come through. So far, it's just been mostly Yellow-rumped and Wilson's, with an occasional different species. I always say when the acacia bloom the MacGillivray's, Townsend's, and other warblers descend on the oasis. Maybe the strong south winds of last week pushed them on through, or maybe they'll arrive any day. All my breeding species are here except the Yellow-breasted Chat. Not sure they'll nest here when it's this dry.

Catclaw Acacia in bloom

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Yo-yo weather

It seems all spring the weather has gone from hot to cold almost every other day. Yesterday it got up to 97° at the oasis. Since today was predicted to be cold and windy, I came to town. But tomorrow it'll be up into the 80s, so heading back down there to get some work done before the groups come Friday and Saturday.

Specifically need to do something about the feeders. A critter got up the pole and tore the bottom off the thistle feeder, as well as the pad base I had on the seed bucket. Don't think it was a bear since the hummingbird feeders weren't bothered. I have plans to make the feeders coon proof, if that's what it was. Since I'm not there today, photo courtesy of Mac.

Here's a nice photo he took of an Orchard Oriole at the oasis 3 days ago.

No one can have any idea of what a challenge it is to maintain feeders and vegetation for birds at the oasis.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Rattlesnake story

Remember how the bear mashed my lovely horsetails? Well, today I decided to try to tie them in a more upright position. For about 20 minutes I struggled with them on the north side (left on photo) of the water feature, stooping, kneeling, grabbing and tying bundles of the reeds, etc. After I figured I had done all I could do on that side, I decided to step around to the south side to do some more. I looked down for a rock to step onto so I wouldn't get my feet wet and about the same instant that I decided which rock to step onto, I realized that rock was actually a coiled Diamondback.

Here's the closeup.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

New Alpine species

"The earth, like the sun, like the air, belongs to everyone and to no one." - Edward Abbey

Happy Earth Day!

Mac shot this lovely sunrise at the oasis this morning.

Yesterday, while I was busy photographing the Cassin's Finch my husband called me about a strange duck being on the ponds in Alpine. From his description I determined it was a merganser, but couldn't know what kind. So this morning I rushed to town. Luckily, it was still here. It turned out to be a Common Merganser. Not a lifer for me, but my first decent photo of one.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Cassin's Finch new for CMO

There's been at least one female Cassin's Finch at CMO, possibly for most of April. Unfortunately, I had never seen a female Cassin's before, and hadn't gotten good looks, so had called it a funky Lark Bunting. Then several days ago, while I had been in Alpine, a couple of birders reported that species on their ebird reports for here. I was skeptical, since I had been watching male finches closely, looking for a Cassin's, to no avail.

Today I looked again without finding one. Then I checked the ebird reports again and noticed it said "female" Cassin's. Finally, it hit me.  I had no idea what a female Cassin's should look like.
A photo of an unidentified bird shown to me by Mac was the Cassin's. (I had told him it was a female Red-winged Blackbird.)   I find it hard to believe that with all the birders I've had visit this month that if it had been here it wouldn't have been seen and reported by someone sooner, so maybe it wasn't here. Don't know.  It'll remain a mystery, I guess.

Cassin's Finch in Golden Leadball tree
So today I focused on finding and photographing that species. By now, only one is still here. This isn't the first time I've had an unusual bird and didn't identify it for many days. (My last Costa's Hummingbird comes to mind.) Good thing for visitors.

And here's a Northern Cloudywing in my verbena patch.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Couldn't stand it anymore

Sitting in town thinking about the oasis, I had my work caught up, so didn't see why I needed to wait until morning to come down. In a few minutes I had my ice chest packed and was headed south. Had to make a quick stop halfway to photograph the sunset. So all is well with the world.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Be careful what you ask for

Mac is always hoping to see wildlife at the oasis, such as bears, mountain lions....  Well, early this AM as he was sitting quietly near the back water feature, the old collared mountain lion showed up to drink. The lion apparently never knew Mac was there. That lion is in sad shape, and I think the people that collared it should put it down. (Photo courtesy of Mac) He shot this with his cell phone since the lion was too close to him (about 7 feet) to use the big lens he had on his big camera.  The close encounter left Mac, understandably, a little shaken. You never know what a lion that's not strong enough to catch its normal prey (javelina) will do. (I posted a video clip of this lion May 4, 2017)

Here's all of it he could get with his big lens.

Left side of face
Right side of face
Yesterday my sister joined me in giving tours to the Alpine Garden Club. Here are a few of the photos taken by Lois Leofsky. Thanks for these, Lois!

Mac sitting in his mountain lion viewing spot

Ann even gave them a tour of her house

You can view all her photos from yesterday here:!Aspq8yejVO-4nl8YV07dJdDVcjNz

UPDATE: We contacted TX Parks & Wildlife and they said the lion is 7-8 yrs old and probably has a kill nearby and will leave after it's eaten. Since we haven't seen it since those couple of days, I figure it's either moved on, or dead, so will wait and see if it comes back again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Busy time of year

It's non-stop birders these days but at least the birds are showing up in good numbers. No place else to go in the drought. Didn't have time to take many pics today, and nothing real interesting to photograph.

Here's something interesting though. The pond in the courtyard has water lilies that make huge root masses that, in turn, collect dirt. Things grow in that mass. Here's a photo of two oleander bushes that sprouted in the pond. I have pink varieties growing nearby, but I've no idea where the white one came from.

American Robin visited.

And here's that Prickly Pear blooming over the septic tank leech-field.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Migration moving along

The hummers are back at the feeders. Quite a few migrants coming through. And the first Varied Bunting for the year arrived right on time. Some professional photographers visited this morning and one of their target birds was that bunting. I checked my records and told them it should arrive today. Finally, after they had their cameras packed up and were ready to leave the bunting arrived. So they didn't get a photo, although they unpacked and waited, but it was a lifer for one of them.

And Mac is back! It was 7 PM and I still hadn't taken a photo today. I just couldn't find anything to justify the effort. Not feeling well, but not sick either. Gonna try vitamins for sure. Mac spotted Aoudads way up on top of my mountain in the sun's afterglow. Here's his shot of it.

by Mac Womack

In this dry spell the trees are sparsely leafed out, but at least they're alive until better times come.

Entering the courtyard after dark I heard an Elf Owl calling near me. Managed a photo of it by using flash on my Lumix, but had no way to focus the lens in the dark. Here's the little bugger barking at me. Cameras always will be a mystery to me, I suppose.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Glad to get to CMO

I think I saw my first ever Hog-nosed Skunk this evening. I was hanging out at the oasis right at dusk. No camera, so I ran for my Canon in my pickup. Since there was such low light I should have grabbed the Lumix instead. By the time I got back to where it was, it was disappearing. And I didn't want to get close, even if I could have. So all I got are a couple of blurry shots as it ambled off. (If you want to see a better shot of it, I posted Mac's shot on September 18, 2017.)

And here's a West Texas Northern Cloudywing. (Is that an oxymoron?)

I didn't arrive at the oasis until after 5 PM due to a late dentist appointment in town, but tomorrow I'll have the whole day to water and take pictures. Feeling puny. Thinking I need to take vitamins.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Challenging weather for tomatoes

Wind raged all day yesterday, then last night it got down to 34° again.  But most days are hot. The poor tomatoes don't know if they're coming or going. I think some of the blooms were lost, but the tomatoes are OK. I know all this adverse weather slows them down.

The third of my four Buttonbush plants is putting on leaves, so I expect all four will survive. Can't wait for them to get big and bloom. 

Lots of Black-chinned Hummingbirds at my feeders here in town but haven't seen one at CMO for days. Just seeing an occasional Lucifer there.

I'm feeling pretty good these days. No ill effects from the canyon walk with my sister the other day.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Down the canyon

My sister and I walked down the canyon between the oasis and her place. It was grueling. Can't decide if it's harder than climbing the mountain or not. Nothing blooming but we saw a few butterflies and some Northern Cloudywing eggs on Texas Snoutbean. If not for Brian, I wouldn't have known to look or what species eggs they are.

Also saw quite a few Sheep Skippers. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

First oasis Black-necked Stilt

I always figure the oasis has had about all the new species it's going to get, so it's fun when I get one I haven't had here before.

A few migrants show up every day, but no fallouts, or such. Fallouts aren't really desirable because they could indicate the birds are under stress, desperately seeking food, shelter, or water. Hopefully, having the oasis here for them will prevent them from being stressed when migrating. 

Here's a Prickly Pear cactus that will look awesome in a few days when it's all bloomed. It's so lush because it's tapped into the leach-field at the edge of my septic tank.