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Friday, August 31, 2018

Rare stray Alpine butterfly

My butterfly guru, Brian, saw at least two Orange-barred Sulphurs floating around Alpine today. He captured one for me to photograph. It's a lifer for me. Since I went with him and watched them flying, I can count it. I wish one would have perched so I could have gotten a natural photo of it, but this is better than nothing. A gorgeous butterfly!

He had a hard time catching it. They fly higher than butterflies usually do and stayed out of reach for the most part. But he persevered.

Other than that, I made a quick trip to CMO to service feeders early this morning. They were fine. Hardly any hummer activity there. Things needed watering but I'm hoping it'll rain this week. I really needed to be in town today, so didn't water.

Still working on son's mobile home. It's coming together.

Not sure if I posted this before, but my husband had a dark patch on his face that didn't look good to me. He said it had been there a long time and was nothing. His local doctor wasn't concerned, but when he went to the dermatologist in Odessa they wanted to biopsy it. Turns out it's early stage melanoma "in situ." That apparently means it hasn't spread. But with cancers on his skin where he can see them, I wonder what's hiding inside his body.

I didn't see the Costa's Hummingbird today, but I only watched for about an hour during the slow time of the afternoon. Here's my favorite photo of it taken by Amanda Brochu last Sunday not long after I identified it and posted it online. Shared here with her permission.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Breakneck speed

Everything at once. Visitors chasing the rare Costa's here, my son staying here while working on his mobile home, and my butterfly guru, Brian, chasing butterflies here for a week. Feast or famine!

Notice on this photo of the Costa's today how it looks smaller than the Black-chinned behind it. Normally, the bird in the foreground would look larger.

Here's the porch railings I painted yesterday.

More pics when I have time. Gotta go to CMO in the morning to service feeders. Should water trees too but don't have time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Still here

The Costa's Hummingbird is still here today, so a chance it might still get measured. I got an email from someone who saw it here on the 23rd. That's one day earlier than we had previously documented. So it was here during the whole festival, but not identified in time for festival participants to all come see it. Too bad.

Also a Ruby-throated that wasn't here yesterday. It's a young male sporting a few gorget feathers.

Been helping my son fix up a mobile home he bought as rental property. He tore out the bad bathroom floor and replaced it with plywood. Now he's putting the linoleum down. I wore myself out painting the porch railing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Costa's still present

Kelly arrived to catch and measure it at 3 PM, but he had guests with him that he wanted to get to observe the bird before he trapped it. It's not real active in the heat of the day and by the time everyone got satisfactory looks at it, and he set up his trap, it started to rain. Also they had dinner reservations, so the bird didn't get trapped. Kelly said he'll try again if it sticks around. Here's hoping!

Here are a couple of Michael Gray's shots of it from yesterday.

This last shot of his is to show the size of the Costa's compared to a Black-chinned male. And keep in mind that Black-chinned males are smaller than the females.

Some of today's group
And here's a Vinegaroon. They're harmless.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Calypte ID still not confirmed

I think the only way to resolve the question is for Kelly Bryan to come catch it and measure it. He plans on doing that tomorrow afternoon. The question is if it's a pure Costa's or a Anna's X Costa's hybrid. Here are a few photos I shot today.

Michael Gray and his lovely wife, Cecilia, visited the feeders late this afternoon and he got killer shots of the calypte. Will post when they're available.

Sorting laundry this morning I found a Tawny Emperor in the clothes hamper. Didn't seem that healthy but I released it anyway.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Third and final field trip

Whew! It was so fun, except for the lack of migrants. At least everyone was happy with the Lucifer show. One participant today even said that he'd been in the area for six days with the hummingbird celebration and visiting CMO was the highlight of his trip. That was very nice to hear after having so few birds around.

And guess what? Mac Womack entered a photo of the Lucifer display in the festival's art contest and won 1st place. Remember him? He's from Houston and tries to stay at CMO for a month every year. Hopefully, he'll be able to come again next spring. I'm not sure if this is the exact version of the winning photo but close to it. He's gifting me with the photo that won, but I don't have it yet. Will hang it at CMO when I get it. Thanks Mac, for enhancing my world!

Here's a photo I took this morning of a Black Saddlebag that I rather like.

ALERT! As I was blogging, some birders came to our habitat here in Alpine and while I was watching the feeders with them I spotted a juvenile male Costa's Hummingbird. My pictures didn't turn out good, but Amy Richards shared hers with me, so I'll post hers instead of mine. Hopefully it'll be here tomorrow and I'll get a better photo.

Come to find out that while I was busy with field trips at the oasis for the last 3 days, 2 visiting birders to our place in town had photographed the Costa's, but hadn't ID'd it. So that means the bird was here on the 24th.  Here is Mike Petrick's photo posted with his permission. It's my favorite so far. Thanks, Mike.

Tomorrow will be exciting if it's here still. I'm not 100% convinced it's not a hybrid Costa's/Anna's based on other photos I've seen of it.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Second field trip

Another lovely group to enjoy a sweltering, slow day at CMO. Of course, they arrived early in the morning, and left before the worst heat of the day. At least some things are still blooming and Lucifer Hummingbirds are reliable at the feeders. The hills are alive with Big Bend Silverleaf blooms.

And no matter how much I water this Senna Wislizeni, it won't bloom until it rains. That soaker a week ago did the trick. I think it has to do with ions in the water.

Here's what a Black-headed Grosbeak looks like when the thermometer says 102°

Friday, August 24, 2018

First Davis Mountains Hummingbird Celebration CMO field trip

 As usual with these kinds of field trips, they were a lovely bunch of people. They car-pooled to the oasis all the way into the parking lot, following the lead car until it stopped. Even the parking lot didn't cause them to break formation. This is how they parked. I was amused by it.

Not much bird activity. I think until a serious cold front hits up north, why would the birds want to head south into this daily triple-digit heat? This swaggering Ruby-throated Hummingbird showed up today though.

Tomorrow will be the second field trip of three.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Slow oasis day

I arrived at the oasis before 8 AM and even though the temperature was 67,° cool enough that I wasn't watching for snakes, I came dangerously close to this Diamondback before I spotted it coiled below the seed feeder as I was filling it. It could be a Mojave, I'm not sure.

The weather is so hot that migrants aren't rushing south, so birding is real slow. Too bad, too, with groups due to arrive daily with the Davis Mountains Hummingbird Celebration. Good thing the field trip to CMO is called "Lucifer Madness," because they're the most abundant species here right now. I don't know who ever came up with that name, but I like it.

After that slow soaking rain the other day things are blooming and more butterflies are around. Not many odes though. No amberwings all month, which is strange. All I can think of is that the tank water is stagnant with that red scum on it and no pondweed. Hope it recovers soon. 

Here are the only pics I took today, other than the snake --- a Spot-winged Glider dragonfly and an Western Wood-Pewee. Neither are particularly interesting.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Different odes daily

While I don't have a large number of odes in Alpine, I do notice there's usually a different one from what was there the day before. Today I noticed fewer amberwings, so have given up on refinding the Mexican. But I saw a Plateau Dragonlet today for the first time this year and don't see the Commanche Skimmer here anymore that I saw a couple of days ago. Change is good but I had hoped the Mexican Amberwing would stay around at least long enough for a professional to photograph it.

Plateau Dragonlet

I'm convinced the amberwings do change feeding "territories" though, because yesterday I saw one with a round hole on one wing and today I saw the same one at the other pond.

Tomorrow to CMO for four days!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What's for lunch?

I only photographed one ode today, an ovipositing female Common Whitetail. I can just imagine those gambusias swarming around as she lays eggs, waiting for their lunch.

I saw what I thought was an adult male Allen's Hummingbird, but couldn't get a diagnostic photo of it. Not even sure this is the same green-backed individual that I had seen.

So later I positioned my camera in the window to try again when I spotted a red bird foraging in the grape arbor some distance away. Thinking a leucistic Summer Tanager procuring his lunch. The blur on the photo is from a hummingbird feeder near me. I had to shoot past it out the window.

My friend, Bonnie Wunderlich, snapped this photo of a rattlesnake savoring its lunch of a Black-throated Sparrow. Taken at her home near Big Bend National Park.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Amberwings on my mind

Yesterday evening my pickup started making a loud high-pitched squeal when it was moving. I vaguely remember the mechanic telling me some months ago that it needed a brake job. But I had forgotten all about it. So I figured that was the problem, like metal on metal.

So rather than finish the guesthouse, I came to town early this morning. Before I'd gone a mile I heard an ominous clunking sound, then no squeal, all was normal from then on. Took it to the mechanic in town and they checked it over and couldn't find anything wrong with it. Go figure! Why can't my life be simple and stress-free?

Determined to make the best of the day, I searched for the Mexican Amberwing. No luck, but dozens of Eastern Amberwings, which made it difficult to be sure the Mexican wasn't in there somewhere. The other day when I found it, it was the only amberwing on the west side of the west pond. Then the next day, if you recall, I took pictures in that "territory," and ended up with an Eastern and the Mexican. Today in that territory there was only an Eastern. So I figure it won the turf war. The other pond is larger, with no perches in the water. Amberwings were swarming all over it and it was just too impossible. On the rare occasion one landed within range of me, it turned out to be an Eastern. Bummer!

Since I was spending so much time sitting by the pond I brought out my old Canon Rebel and the Mark II. Comparing shots, I much preferred the Lumix so those cameras are retired forever.

Here's a male Pearl Crescent.

And here is a photo I took today of the wing of an Eastern so you can compare it to the wing of the Mexican I shot here the other day. (I know you're dying to!)

The Mexican has cross-veins further dividing those particular cells.  I think that diagnostic feature is only on the forewing though. Devil's in the details. There are other ways to tell them apart too.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Not according to plan

I left Alpine at 6:30 AM to get done all I had planned to do. Unbeknownst to me, it had started drizzling at CMO around 6 AM. Even though it was pretty much over by the time I arrived, the big hill was too muddy for me to get up.

Since I almost made it up, had I thought to put some rocks in the bed of the pickup, I'm sure I would have made it. But I walked in. And walked to check the upper dirt tank. It had a little puddle in the deep part so I walked to get gas and start the pump. I don't do walking as good as I used to. Bad back.


After I pumped out the water, I walked back to my pickup and put rocks in the back. Drove it out, but was worn out, and hadn't even started on the guesthouse yet.

So I worked on it until around 2 PM when my shoulder wouldn't lift the paint brush anymore. Went up to the house and fixed some lunch and took an hour long nap. Then went and serviced my hummingbird feeders and washed the dirty ones.

Still have half the siding coating to do. I plan to do it in the morning before heading to town to photograph the Mexican Amberwing. That stuff I bought seems like water with Elmer's Glue added. Don't know how good it'll be, but surely better than without it.

Finished concrete window ledge
Somewhere during my day I got it into my head that there were a couple of bad rocks in the road that would come out now that it was wet. So I took the pick and did the deed. Hurt my back of course, so hobbling around worse than usual. Didn't have time to sort out the hummers. If there are any real interesting species here I'm sure the groups that are coming Thursday through Sunday will find them.

I had planned to water the oasis while I was here but with that over half an inch of soaking this morning, I'm going to let it go until I get back down here.

Hardly have any odonates here. Disappointing, but with a Mexican Amberwing in town, I'm not complaining. Hope it hangs around.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A small disappointment

I was excited about trying for a closer photo of the Mexican Amberwing and had carefully planned how to do it. They don't fly in the mornings but I kept checking, just in case. Finally, shortly before noon the amberwings were out. I snapped several shots as they did their thing, but when I entered the water they kept moving deeper into the lotuses. I waded after them but lost track of which was which. When I downloaded my photos I had shots of one Mexican and one Eastern. And not close ones.

Mexican Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing
So my plan was to sit real still in a chair in the water and wait for them to approach close. Except Mother Nature had other plans. It clouded up and stayed dark and dismal for the rest of the afternoon, interspersed with bouts of rain. Here I am sitting, but nothing was moving. It was sprinkling when my husband shot this photo.

And tomorrow morning I have to go get work done at the oasis. No rain there. Need to water and service feeders besides coat the guesthouse siding. Bummer! Hope I can keep my energy going that long. My next chance to try for closer shots of the Mexican Amberwing will be Monday afternoon if I can get my work done and get back to town in time.

Today in Alpine I saw some lovely Texas Skeleton Plant flowers  growing in the fence row where they escaped my husband's mower blades.