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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.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A little rain!

The oasis got close to half an inch of rain. A much welcome relief from this parching drought. Watering had managed to keep things alive but the trees are very sparsely leafed out. The ground was too dry for any runoff, but that's OK. It's just May. Plenty of time for the tanks to fill yet this summer.

Mac didn't take any photos of the storm and I was in Alpine, but above is a shot Don Baucham posted of it on Facebook.

In other good news, I had a well company test the pump that didn't work in the stucco tank. It was fine. That means the problem was the control box. Since I ordered another pump, the new one, when it arrives Friday, will be my backup. Now I ordered another control box so I can replace the one that comes with the new pump since I'll be using it on the old pump. I don't want the backup pump to not have a backup control box.

Kelly's hummer cam is up and running for the hummingbird season now. Here's the link if you want it.

It still hasn't soaked in (no pun intended) that I won't have to water for nearly a week now. Won't know what to do with myself.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sheer adversity

Well, I managed to get my trees watered today. Sheer determination and sheer exhaustion. My new pump will arrive Friday so I'll be good on watering until then. Just hope when Mac and I get it hooked up it works.

I'm really excited about a new book coming out in November.

Here's Mac's contribution for the day. Every day is Christmas in the Christmas Mountains.

Common Ground-Dove
Birding has really slowed down now that migration is over. But nesting birds everywhere.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Triangle Market

I cane across this old photo of the Triangle Market (my son's store in Alpine) that is probably close to 100 years old. The sign reads "New Modern TRI-ANGLE CAMP."

For comparison, here's how it looks today.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pump went out

I think I screwed up and ruined the pump in the stucco tank. Not knowing that, I went down to water today and couldn't. So I rushed right back to town with the old pump (in case my son can get it working) and ordered a new pump. What happened is that when I fixed the leak in the line to the pump I cut out the part that leaked. That shortened the line to where the tank needed more water in it in order for the pump to stay submersed. I didn't want to keep that much water in the tank. So the other day, Mac and I added a section of pipe to the line. Then I dragged the pump out into the deeper water. Mistake. I should have waded into the muddy water and lifted the pump to the deeper water and then set it on a rock to keep it out of the mud. It seemed to work fine the next time I watered, but today it didn't. I pulled it out and it was full of mud, so I assume it burned up the motor.

I think I can go a couple more days without watering, but if I don't have a working pump by then, I'll have to stick one of my little sump pumps into the big tank. Then with enough length of hoses, I can manage to water everything. It'll be slow going and take days, but at least I shouldn't lose any trees.

On a more pleasant subject, Mac got a photo of a fox in the very top of the apricot tree. Mac uses a big lens so he couldn't get the whole tree in the picture. I'd say the fox is about 12 or more feet above the ground.

And I love these photos Mac took of a Bell's Vireo taking food to the nest. It's a big stick insect of some kind. Appears the vireo removed the legs and antennae. Took one of the nestlings a long time to eat the whole thing.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Electrical problems

All the Big Bend area had power outages this afternoon and Alpine again this evening, so my blog is late tonight. Not that there's much to blog about. I rushed to town to start drying apricots but with the power out they've been mostly languishing in the dryer thus far.

And I have a strange bush at the oasis. Years ago when I was in E TX I brought home seeds, or maybe a small plant, of a Coral-bean.  After watering it for years and never having it bloom, I gave up and quit watering it a week or so ago. Today I discovered it was blooming! Hidden down under acanthus that had overgrown it, but nevertheless, blooming. Go figure!

There's been a bunting at the oasis feeders that I can't quite ID. The wing bars made me think Indigo bunting female, but after Mac sent me these photos of it tonight, I'm thinking female Varied Bunting. To be sure I sent these pics to Kelly, but I don't see the throat as being white enough for an Indigo, or enough of an eye-line for an Indigo. 

Whatever she is, she seems to love the rope I installed for raising and lowering the bucket feeder.

UPDATE: Kelly confirmed it's a Varied Bunting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Courtyard in a new light

For nearly 40 yrs I've looked at my courtyard but have never seen it look like this. I don't know how Mac does it.

In town today I saw a fresh male Western Giant Swallowtail.

Migration is pretty much over. Just waiting for rain and flowers now.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Bell's Vireo activity at CMO

A couple of weeks ago, while watering my trees I accidentally flushed a Bell's Vireo off its nest, unaware the nest was there. I immediately backed away, it returned to the nest, and I roped off the area so that couldn't happen again. Since then either Mac or I have been monitoring the nest, hoping for a quick chance to check it for cowbird eggs. But the nest was never left alone for one second. One adult didn't leave until the other was there to slip into its place. I presume that's how they've adapted to the presence of cowbirds.

I'm in Alpine today, but Mac saw feeding activity in the nest today. Above photo courtesy of Mac.  The nest is in a Chisos Rosewood (vaquelinia angustifolia).

I don't know the status of the new vireo nest above the walkway. Will post more on that soon.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Tank cleaning

When I fixed the water line going into the stucco tank's pump awhile back, I cut out the part that was leaking. Now the line is too short when the water level is real low. So I thought I'd raise the level by adding water from the big concrete tank, but needed to clean some of the silt out of the stucco tank first. I don't want to add too much water because evaporation increases when I cover the whole stucco tank's floor. I just need to keep a puddle in there, which means I'll have to make the line longer. Meanwhile, I cleaned some of the silt out before adding a few inches of water. But when I get back to CMO I'm going to have to lengthen the line. I'm in this first picture somewhere.

Late yesterday afternoon I saw a Scaled Quail perched way high on the power line. I didn't even know they could fly that high.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mac's recent photos

Here are some of my favorite shots of Mac's from the last few days at the oasis. He so kindly lets me share them on this blog.

Two male Lucifer Hummingbirds

Bathing Varied Bunting
MacGillivray's Warbler
Blue Grosbeak

Birds and birders

The oasis is a beehive of activity. Birds are abundant due to the horrible heat and drought. 

When it's real hot the Bell's Vireo sits high in the nest and when it's cool you can barely see her head and tail peaking out of the nest.

I spent some time in the shade this afternoon (103°) practicing with my Canon. Here are a few of my best ones, but of course, not nearly as good as Mac's. The first two are of a gorgeous male Yellow Warbler.  It would not be still for one second!

Next is the Lazuli Bunting that's been hanging around for several days now. He's irresistible to photograph.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

San Luis House Finch with beak full of seeds

Friday, May 11, 2018

Blazing sandals

Another triple-digit scorcher today. Got a little watering done before it got too hot. I'll admit the oasis is very birdy and I got distracted a lot. Birds are probably desperate for water and shade. Here are a few shots I took today while practicing with my Lumix.

Lazuli Bunting

Northern Waterthrush
American Redstart

Remember the Bell's Vireo I posted yesterday showing the early stages of nest-building? Well, here's a short video clip of it today in the final stages. They don't waste time!