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Monday, July 30, 2018

Depressing heat

This must be the hottest summer on record. I'll be surprised if it isn't. Not much of an exaggeration to say that about the only butterfly I saw today was this Texas Powdered-Skipper floating dead in the tank scum.

I managed to get the trees watered before it reached 107° today. And I also managed to find a couple more common butterflies. Here's an Elada Checkerspot.

I was hating to see the reeds in my dragonfly pond start to die, so I rigged up a little drip in there to help them out. I have enough water as long as I get at least one good monsoonal rain this summer, and if I don't, the water I have won't last until next rainy season anyway, so I may as well enjoy what I have, judiciously, of course. 

July, August, and September are monsoon season. It's one-third over and I've had less than seven-tenths of an inch of rain so far this July. The only year I've had less than that in July was during the drought of 2011. I'm not too worried. I didn't get my monsoonal rain last year until August. And thankfully I caught some runoff this June to tide me over.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Internet down

While at CMO yesterday afternoon I got a message saying our internet and phone are down in town. That made me want to stay at CMO, but I knew my husband would be upset without a phone. (When I'm in town I can help him make calls from my cell phone.) Also I called AT&T and they said they couldn't fix it unless I was at the computer. So late last night I came to town. Turns out they don't take calls late at night, but I called again early this AM. They tried to fix it online but said the modem was bad. It's a modem we've had less than two months. Very aggravating. They're sending a new modem that should arrive in a few days. Meanwhile, I use my son's computer at his house. Things break faster than we can fix them. Got a water heater out in a rent house and lawn mower broken. Also both relatively new items. And of course, my pump still isn't working right.

While we were at Balmorhea this past Wednesday we saw what may be my first Owl Fly. I don't recall ever seeing one before. I wouldn't have seen this one if Jeanne hadn't pointed it out to me. I was busy photographing the Halloween Pennant. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.)

Last night driving to town the moon was awesome. Never saw it so golden before. I stopped and took a photo, but I don't take good moon shots. Here's what I got.

Not to worry, I found a shot by Tim MeKenna on Facebook today that shows how it was last night much better.

Tomorrow I'm going to be real restless. May have to find somewhere to go oding. Not sure. Should probably let my body rest.

Friday, July 27, 2018

A couple of firsts for the year

A few migrants starting to show up at the oasis, including this male Rufous Hummingbird. He wasn't cooperative and I didn't have time to wait around for a better photo. Had to go to Alpine.

Also first Widow Skimmer for the year at the oasis.

I thought I saw a juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird too but my Lumix was too slow to get a photo. I brought out my Canon but didn't see it again after that.

Couldn't resist photographing this lovely male Queen.

And photographed this turtle so I can get it ID'd. Someone asked me yesterday what kind I have here and I didn't know. Gotta remedy that.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Hanging on

Another blistering hot day at the oasis, but I managed to get things watered. Really wiped me out though. Not much going on in this unrelenting heat.

Saw this cute cuddly looking Robber Fly (Mallophora fautrix) enjoying a snack.

Golden-headed Scallopwing

Lots of the white pellets under a cypress tree. No idea what from. Glasses for size comparison.

I had hoped to be spared worm infestations this year with the heat and drought, but I guess, not to be. They were so bad last year. This poor Evergreen Sumac is getting hammered by them.

In really hot weather the big tank sometimes gets a reddish scum on it which butterflies and dragonflies are able to land on.


UPDATE: Scat ID'd as Mountain Lion.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A ball at Balmorhea

Went oding with Jeanne Tinsman, who is an expert Nevada odonate vetter. So much fun, but not enough time. I think the last time I went oding with someone in the Big Bend was with Kelly two or three years ago and I forgot how fun it is to go with a dragonfly aficionado. Incredibly we found several Halloween Pennants. I had only seen that species once before in Lajitas with Kelly. The Odonata Central database has just one record for Reeves County, where we were. That was in 2013. We saw at least two at Balmorhea State Park and another at the lake there. And we didn't cover all that much area looking either, so there were surely more of them around.

While Jeanne is an expert at Nevada odes, many of our W TX odes are unfamiliar to her. Neither of us knew what this one was until looking it up in the book. I'm familiar with male Commanche Skimmers but this is my first female photo.

Gotta go to CMO and water tomorrow. I know I'm going to be dragging after today, so it's off to bed with me.

Monday, July 23, 2018

More of the same

Had to go to Odessa to get my dental appliance repaired, then back to the peach pits.

My hope is to pick the remainder of them tomorrow, then dry as many as I can before Wednesday. Then Wednesday I'm going oding with some bird bander friends of Kelly Bryan's. They're into dragonflies too. I'm really looking forward to it. We're going to Balmorhea. That's the plan anyway. Then Thursday I have to go water CMO. And maybe find something exciting there. As I mentioned in a previous post, I plan to stay a few days this time.

Meanwhile, since I got a late start on the dryers today I'll have to get up in the night to empty them. That shouldn't be too difficult since I napped some in the car today.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Back to peach drying

Had to get to town this AM and pick and dry more peaches. Making progress.

My cholla patch at the oasis is way above my head now. Sure hope a Lucifer Hummingbird builds a nest in it sometime.

The little Chinkapin Oak that got ravaged by that big bear last October is growing new branches. Not that it'll do it any good once it gets acorns on it. If I had it to do over I wouldn't plant a single oak tree.

I only spent one day at CMO watering and saw a new oasis butterfly species (Zebra Heliconian). Imagine what I'd see if I was there longer. Once I get the peaches done and a few other obligations, I hope to spend 3 or 4 days down there. My plan is to start those days Thursday, when I have to go water and service feeders again.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

New oasis butterfly species

And I just barely got one quick shot of it. I would have been so distressed to not have gotten so much as this one shot.

There were a couple of birders at the oasis this morning and I led them into the arroyo to show them where I had seen an Elf Owl roosting once, hoping they might locate one. As we approached the soapberry thicket I immediately saw this Zebra Heliconian, then lost sight of it. Their sharp eyes followed it and pointed it out. Every time I got my camera aimed at it, it took off. Finally, it stayed perched a whole five seconds and I got this one and only shot. I wanted a better one, without the stick in front, but not to be. 

A short time later the birders were back sitting in the hummingbird viewing area when it showed up for a few seconds at the blooming acanthus. That was it. I had checked the soapberries for butterflies earlier today, and have gone back several times since. No luck. At 106° I quit looking.

Next is a very cooperative female Black Setwing

I tried to close the MF assist on my Lumix today and it seems to me that when I press the shutter button halfway it locks in the focus and messes me up further. Gotta research more.

10 PM: I was getting ready for bed and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth when I spied this scorpion in the sink. Now I'm wondering if that's what stung me some weeks ago that was so painful. I've never been bitten by a black one unless it was that time. I hadn't ever seen a black one in the house until tonight so couldn't figure out what had stung me. I had heard the black ones hurt worse. The little bark scorpions that I've been stung by many times don't bother me, so I knew it hadn't been one of them. I'm surprised to have this one in the house since I sprayed the house after that incident. I don't know what species this is.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Drying peaches

I just can't keep up with the ripening fruit. The apple tree is being left to the birds and the peaches are getting eaten on by birds too. I gave most of the apples away but no one brought an 8' ladder and can't reach the top. We have an 8' ladder but my husband won't let them use it. He feels if we furnish the apples they should furnish their own ladder. Consequently, the high apples didn't get picked.

I'm working as fast as this old body will let me. This evening after loading a dryer I put a bunch of peaches in the refrigerator hoping to buy some much needed time. I have to go to the oasis and water for the next couple of days.

While walking out toward the peach tree this afternoon I saw a Crimson Patch butterfly, the first one I've seen outside of Marathon. I should have set my camera on automatic and gotten a picture, but I had it in my head to try closing the manual focus assist and never could get focused before it departed, not to be seen again. Tomorrow while watering I'll practice that feature but not on something I really want a photo of.

Now that my Mexican Amberwing report of July 17th has been accepted I'm going to try hard this weekend to photograph one again since my photo of that one is so bad. (post of July 17)

I'll find something wonderful to post pictures of tomorrow, but I'm exhausted tonight.

My son here in Alpine is in the process of a messy divorce which is why I haven't insisted he go to CMO and fix the pump. I'll be glad when that's over. It just adds to my stress no matter how much he tells me not to stress over it. Two things aren't for the weak-- parenthood and old age.

Thursday, July 19, 2018


I just up and went late this morning after I filled a dryer with peaches. Didn't see anything that I hadn't seen during my last visit, but had fun photographing one, or more, Four-striped Leaftails.

The tail of the leaftail looks pretty cool photographed from a frontal angle.

And I think I've figured out something about my Lumix camera that will help me get faster with my focusing. There's a "Manual Focus assist screen" feature that greatly magnifies an area on the screen. That messes me up in several ways. All I see is a blur obscuring the ode I'm trying to photograph. It also tricks me into thinking I'm zoomed in farther than I really am. And no way can I hold the camera still enough. It's like hand holding a telescope while looking at the stars. Checking the manual, it seems I can close the magnifier by pressing the shutter button halfway. Can't wait to try it and get fluent doing it. That should make a lot of difference.

Also got an adult male Sulphur-tipped Clubtail this time. July 1st I photographed an immature male (or female). Maybe this is the same one all grown up.

I had always intended to just save my better shots and delete the others but I realize that even though some aren't so good, they're documentation for a time and place. So I guess I'm stuck with the majority of my 30,000 photos. Sigh!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Got my pickup back today. The rebuilt transmission has a 3 year warranty on it. That really gives me peace of mind. (Cost was $3000)

Planned to go to Marathon today to look for odes but by the time I got my work done I was too tired. Tomorrow I will for sure. The rains have quit, hopefully, temporarily. But it's going to be real hot for the next week or so. Dragonflies don't mind at all though. It won't bother me much for the amount of time I'll be out in it, with little exertion.

I think it's been about a month or so since I retired my Canon. As a result, my shoulder barely hurts anymore. So it's worth it. I miss a few shots, but those I do get are better for my purposes. Here are a couple of butterflies I took a couple of days ago. (Question Mark & Fiery Skipper)

And I think chronic pain is hard on the body's immune system, so my constant infections might improve too. I feel better than I had been for quite a while anyway. If I can't get younger, it's the next best thing, I guess.

Here's something interesting I found in one of my ancestry searches. (I was born in Iowa)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Another busy day

Watered the oasis, then came to town and picked and dried peaches. Did laundry and also washed my son's pickup and took it back to him. Finally got a few minutes to look at the photos I had snapped at the oasis while watering.

There had been a female amberwing foraging from a perch high in my lovely soapberry thicket. Just because I don't see female amberwings at the oasis very often and with nothing else interesting to shoot, and just maybe it might be a Mexican Amberwing, I took a couple of shots of it.

Well, now I do believe it actually was a Mexican Amberwing. The arroyo that the soapberry patch is in is infested with mosquitoes. I was getting devoured by them. Now I wish I had gotten a ladder and repellent and at least tried for better shots. It was foraging but came back to the same perch while I watched. Seems I never learn. Hope the two shots that I got are good enough for ID. If it is a Mexican Amberwing, it would be an earlier record for the year than before, by a little more than one week.

Yesterday I missed perfect shots at  that  Eastern Ringtail dragonfly, and today I missed doing better with the amberwing. In both instances I had great trouble focusing the camera. I can't hold it steady enough either. It takes me a long time to focus, unlike the Canon. Yesterday, I missed a perfect shot because the camera was trying to focus on the vegetation and today I gave up over the mosquitoes. And I don't even react to the bites, but they're still unendurable in swarms.

Other than soapberry, not much blooming and no great butterfly activity. The forecast is for a hot dry next ten days or more. Sure gotta get more rain this summer.

Remember last year in late October when I was plagued by the bear and it smashed down my wonderful horsetails? 

Well, earlier this spring Mac and I tied them upright as best we could and now new ones have grown up among them, holding most of them in place, so it's not looking quite as pitiful anymore.

UPDATE: The Mexican Amberwing was accepted by the experts!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Vacation's almost over

My husband is coming back from his family's Colorado vacation today. He didn't feel able to go trout fishing, and not permitted to build a campfire, so hope he enjoyed the antics of his grandkids and great-grandson.

And I should get my pickup back later this week, so life should settle back down to normal, whatever "normal" is.

I didn't know he was coming back today and I came down to CMO to water. Not going to go back to town until I do, so won't be back until some time tomorrow afternoon.

I lucked onto a new ode for the oasis, a Southwestern form of Eastern Ringtail. This is a female. They're fairly common, just haven't had one at the oasis before.

All along the arroyo the soapberries are blooming. I love them because they planted themselves and I don't water them.

And I also love these acacias that don't have thorns. I think they're Schott's Acacia, but not positive. Maybe it's Huisache. Whatever it is, I didn't have to plant or water it.

Saturday, July 14, 2018


Today I just puttered around the place in town, giving away apples and grapes, and picking and drying peaches. Made a little grape juice too. You can see by this tree that I've got a long way to go.

So tomorrow, more of the same I reckon.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Wore myself out

Yesterday I did Lajitas and today I watered and serviced feeders at CMO. There are a lot more hummingbirds at CMO than there were a week or two ago. Migration starts mid-July so I guess it's normal for this time of year. Going through sugar water fast.

I don't remember if the ratios are normal.  Black-chinned numbers have surged significantly, and  Lucifers are almost non-existent. I saw only 3 or 4 today, but admittedly, I didn't sit and watch. Too busy watering and sorting through butterflies. The reason for so few Lucifers, I'm sure, is because there's good stuff blooming out on the mountains. Otherwise, they'd probably outnumber the Black-chinneds. Not worried. They'll descend on the feeders soon enough.

Lyside Sulphurs and American Snouts are literally swarming the beebrush and soapberry blooms. 
Lyside Sulphur on Western Soapberry
I squandered my nap-time this afternoon playing on my ancestry tree. So fun and addicting. I needed to come to town  and didn't arrive until nearly 10 PM. Gotta pick peaches and apples tomorrow.

Grapes are ripe but I'm just going to let the birds have them. There's just so far I can push myself.

Thursday, July 12, 2018


My husband left this morning for Colorado to spend a few days with his kids, grandkids, and a great-grandson, so I feel less pressure, with more discretionary time. Therefore, I decided to see if odes were more plentiful at Lajitas.

No sooner did I walk over to the edge of a pond than I was assaulted by fire ants. In just a few seconds my body was covered with them. Had to take my jeans off, but fortunately no one was in sight. Once again, no mosquitoes or insects (other than fire ants). I do watch carefully for them but where I stepped was in deep grass and couldn't see the mound. Also, always on the lookout for golfers and their stray balls, besides trying to be alert for birds, odes, and butterflies.

I wandered farther than I usually do to this device that seems to be putting sulphur in the water. White fumes are coming out that taller pipe, but didn't affect my breathing.

I'm pleased that my photos are better without carrying that formidable Canon. Here are a few from today... juvenile and adult Rambur's Fortktail.

Common Green Darner

And my Lumix takes video. Here's me sitting beside an odeless stream, but lovely nonetheless.

2018 7-12 LJ (1)

Back at CMO I shot a couple of ordinary butterflies. Here's an American Snout, which is fairly abundant these days. It's in a relatively new stand of soapberries that have come up along the settling pond. This year it's blooming and making a good showing.

And no lack of insects. They're annoyingly abundant.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Taking what comes

My pickup's transmission is shot. They're going to put a rebuilt one in with a good warranty so I should be good to go for a year or two. Gonna cost $4000, but my husband is paying for it. Meanwhile, I'm driving a pickup belonging to my son, so I'm managing.

The pump still isn't fixed and haven't heard from the electrician. Hope I never do. I'm getting by. Getting a few small rain showers but hoping a big one will happen before monsoon season is over and fill my tanks.

Saw a couple of lovely Palmer's Metalmarks on Western Soapberry blooms. Love that soapberry!

And this moth caterpillar is like none I've seen before. Will update when I get an ID.

UPDATE: I joined a moth identification group on Facebook and got it ID'd as a Wilson's Wood-Nymph (Xerociris wilsonii). Here's what it will look like as a moth. I don't think I've ever seen one.