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Friday, February 15, 2019

So far, so good

Last week when freezes were forecast we sprinkled the apricot tree all night both times it was supposed to freeze. Then a couple of nights later, with no freeze forecast we didn't leave the sprinkler on. When we heard the next day it had gotten down to 25° I was pretty bummed. But it looks like the fruit will be OK this time. Tuesday another freeze is forecast so I'll stay on top of it. The whole family loves dried apricots, and you can't buy good ones at the store. The sulfured ones are yucky.

I photographed this plant at the oasis yesterday. I'm pretty sure it's Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). We have lots of Henbit in town, but this is the first I've seen at the oasis. However, I've taken so much mulch from town to the oasis through the years, that I can't know if it's truly native there. I'm counting it anyway.

Oasis 2019

Alpine 2015

Thursday, February 14, 2019

My valentine to you

A local birder visited today and discovered two Rufous Hummingbirds visiting the feeders. I hadn't seen any for a couple of weeks so I think these are early migrants headed toward Alaska. One had a partially leucistic gorget.

Here's what Kelly Bryan said about the gorget.

 "The abnormal chin feathers is a feature that we have seen in several species & some hybrids. It is a rare feature and one that may point to a genetic problem."

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


Remember the horses I saw near the oasis on Feb 9? Well, turns out there were 10 in all that escaped from the Lajitas Stables on Feb 8th. Two caballeros have been tracking them ever since. They found the tracks across the fence from the oasis and hollered over at me. I made my way toward them through my arroyo and brush and they told me about it. Seems they recovered 6 of the horses but not the 4 that I saw. No telling where they are now. I did think it strange since everyone knows the fence won't keep anything in or out. Sorry, now that I didn't alert someone. It would have saved many days of tracking. Even as the crow flies Lajitas is a good 20 miles from the oasis.

After they left following the horses' track, I planted the Tree Tobacco around the tank. I have a few plants left over that I might add in later. I'll see how these do first. I tried removing the wind shields from them but put them back on. It's forecast to be real windy the next several days.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Countdown to spring

In approximately two weeks the Lucifer Hummingbirds will be back. And for me, that's officially spring. Meanwhile flowers are blooming in spite of quite cold weather. Here's a photo taken in the Terlingua Ranch area by a resident, Tim McKenna, that illustrates the way it looks in some places.

And about 20 miles farther south at Study Butte, Big Bend Bluebonnets are putting on a show.

Photo by Eddie Sanchez
In the morning I'm going to CMO and take my own flower photos, though mine will probably be closeups of some I want to ID. 

I guess as winters go this one hasn't been so bad. I didn't get sick and had plenty to keep me busy, but it feels like every winter I'm punier than the winter before and that bothers me. Like will I ever be able to go up my mountain again?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Wintery weather

Arrived at the oasis yesterday evening after dark, worried that my potted Tree Tobacco plants would freeze where I had left them outdoors. Luckily, they were OK but last night got way colder, so good thing I put them inside last night. The one I had planted by the new tank was the best looking one, so I planted five more today.

Got up this morning to a bad bout of vertigo. Had to take medication to function, but got done what I needed to. Tree Tobacco not making much of a showing by the tank but I hope it'll look awesome in a couple of months.

I saw some horses grazing on the ranch across the fence from the oasis. Since the rickety fence is pretty useless, I can easily imagine my next battle to preserve my habitat will be with that rich rancher. And it won't be the first time.

Friday, February 8, 2019

That time of year

It seems every February and/or March we fight to save our apricots. Yesterday, knowing the forecast was for a freeze last night, we set up a sprinkler under the apricot tree.

Here's what  it looks like this morning. Hope we saved the fruit.

Gonna have to do it again tonight. And probably more times.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Tree Tobacco

Ever since I got the tank project done I've yearned to have the tank ringed with Tree Tobacco. Today I planted my first of nearly two dozen sprouts I've been nurturing. I'm afraid to plant too many in case we get some really frigid weather yet this winter.

I'm hoping that by planting it up against the tank the warmth from the tank water will keep it from freezing. I put a little windbreaker around it that I'll remove once it gets well established. Yes, that's a caterpillar on the above photo. They're everywhere. Going to be a good butterfly spring I think.

Enjoying more flowers every time I go to the oasis. Not so many birds with this furtive Sharp-shinned Hawk lurking around.

Lyreleaf Jewelflower (Streptanthus carinatus)

Bristly Nama (Nama hispada)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

New oasis flower species

This Filaree (Erodium cicatarium) is considered a common weed throughout the Trans-Pecos, but I was delighted to see my first one today.

I was having a devil of a time sorting it out from all the other weeds coming up. Of course, once they bloom it'll be easy. I think. So I picked a leaf of the Filaree and a leaf of something else that was everywhere to compare. As far as I can determine, only one other nearby plant is also Filaree.

Filaree on the left; Bipinnate Tansy-mustard on the right
Otherwise pretty dead, but a lovely day. I puttered around getting some things watered and pruned, etc. Saw my first oasis swallowtail for 2019.

Pipevine Swallowtail
It barely made it onto my January list. Eighth butterfly species for the month.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Fight to save a tree

It's a never-ending battle to save habitat. Today a company employed by the city of Alpine came to cut down an elm tree in the alley. The tree came up about 15 years ago right at our fence-line, about a foot into the alley. So we left it, figuring it wouldn't hurt anything. When birders visit in the hot weather and bird from the alley it provides the only shade plus usually has good birds in it.

When a serviceman came to our door and, in broken English, said we needed to sign for the tree removal, my husband resignedly took the pad and asked where he had to sign. I jumped in like a mama bear protecting a cub and asked, hey, wait, "what happens if we won't sign?" He said we should write "refused" by our signature and then the supervisor would visit us. "Good," we said. I was so relieved my husband backed me up on this. That doesn't happen often.

A short while later the man came back and said he'd talked to the supervisor and if they could cut everything hanging into the alley, they'd leave the tree. So they pruned our whole alley vigorously, but the tree is still there. They did remove a mesquite tree farther down our alley but that one wasn't as valuable. Here is the elm tree after they left.

We shudder to think what would have happened if we hadn't been home.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

All play and no work

I went to the oasis today, but didn't do a lick of work. Just photographed a new flower at my sister's and checked out what birds and flowers were at the oasis. Weather was perfect. I can't remember when I ever went there with no other purpose than to enjoy the place like a visitor. The Texas Selenia (Selenia dissecta) is really blooming profusely along Terlingua Ranch road, but none at the oasis. We keep hoping to find some at our places, but so far none.

A great consolation is the Uinta Ragwort (Packera Millelobata) that my sister discovered blooming yesterday. I love its fern-like leaves.

Lots of Lark Buntings over-wintering at the oasis. Some years they do and some years they don't. I've seen large flocks here all winter.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Winter woe

Lately I've been feeling nervous and irritable, like my blood pressure may be high. So I checked it on our home kit and it was higher than normal - 138/97. Then I decided to go for a walk and take it again. After my 20 minute walk it was 122/85. That tells me that my cabin fever is slowly getting to me. I guess tomorrow I'll force myself to go somewhere, maybe Marathon. Lajitas would be better but that's a long drive to do in the winter when hardly anything interesting will be happening.

Here's a fresh looking female Checkered White I photographed during my little walk.

Here are a couple of photos I found online that I really like. Every time I see a photo of the Window in Big Bend National Park it reminds me of my daughter's wedding there some years ago.

The Window by Rick Turner, date unknown, but obviously not recent

Lost Mine Trail at midnight by Mike Rice, June 2018
This mustard weed is about the only native flower species I could find to photograph today at our home in Alpine, London-Rocket (Sisymbrium irio). Normally, I would pull them up but I didn't even bother to do that. It's one of our most common weeds. Brian tells me this weed is a host for Checkered Whites. Good to know it's not totally worthless.

Hugh is selling his rent houses so that'll be a burden lifted from us both.

On my previous post someone commented a link to more info on that Calera church. I found the site fascinating. If you're interested, here it is:

When you get to the site, cliick on "Mission Mary."

Mission Mary is not quite as intriguing as the Ruidosa church nestled in the mountains along the Rio Grande River, but interesting nevertheless. Below is a recent photo of the Ruidosa "Sacred Heart of Jesus" church.

UPDATE: After I already posted this blog my husband called me out to the patio, where he grows pansies in the winter, to see a pretty butterfly on them. Indeed it was a pretty one, a female American Lady. Sure made that pansy look pretty too!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Aster angst

I've spent many hours during the last couple of weeks trying to identify a lovely aster growing in the courtyard. At first I decided it was Plains Fleabane (Erigeron tracyi), then Big Bend Woodyaster (Xylorhiza wrightii), and now I've decided it's neither. I'm thinking some kind of Symphyotrichum. I posted it to a Facebook plant group so will update this post when I find out what they decide. Here is a photo of it (left) beside Fleabane (right).

Here is a photo of it's basal leaves.

My sister sent me a photo of a chapel in West Texas that I had never heard of. You'll need to click on this image if you want to read about it. I'm always surprised when I learn of an historic building in the Big Bend area that I hadn't known about.

And here's my son working in Austin today putting up a billboard.

And a couple of white flower species blooming at the oasis today. I know they're common ones, but I forgot their names. I'll look them up and add them later.

Wedge-leaf Tomostima (Tomostima cuneifolia)

Some kind of phacelia in the Borage Family

The ground is carpeted with blooms-to-be, and verbena is everywhere. It's gonna get good, and oh so overwhelming.

Jan 26 update: That first flower still hasn't been ID'd but my sister took a specimen to Dr. Powell so we'll eventually get it nailed down. The only suggestion I got from Facebook so far is that maybe it's Trans-Pecos Astranthium (Astranthium robustum).  

Sunday, January 20, 2019


Somehow I didn't hear about the eclipse tonight until I saw photos posted online. Here's a nice photo of the eclipse taken by a friend of mine, Tim McKenna.

Just hanging out in town waiting for spring. I saw where a rare flower species was seen today somewhere in the Big Bend area. I'm trying to find out where, and if it's not too hard a hike for me, I'd like to go see it. The Mexican Tulip Poppy (Hunnemannia fumarifolia) is a yellow poppy that's rare in Texas, only occurring in the Trans-Pecos region, and in Mexico. (Photo found online.)

UPDATE: The finders of the plant won't disclose the location because it's such a rare plant. But they did say it's a 6 mile round-trip hike. A bit too much for me. Just for the record, I'm probably the last person that would ever accidentally step on the plant, not to mention touch it. You should see the antics I go through to avoid stepping on my verbena, which are literally coming up everywhere. I know visitors to CMO will step on them, but it can't be helped.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dead at the oasis

There is nothing interesting going on at the oasis even though the weather is lovely. I walked around outside the oasis looking for flowers. There's huge potential but hardly anything blooming yet. The Texas Desert-rue is on the verge of blooming.

You can see all the wildflowers that are sprouting on the background of this photo of a Painted Lady. Unusual to see one in the middle of winter.

As if identifying flowers isn't hard enough, some of the flowers hide inside other vegetation so that if one didn't know better one would think the leaves belonged to the flower. Here's an example of what I mean. This Bicolor Fanmustard (Nerisyrenia camporum) bloom has grown up through a bush, and no leaves in sight. If I hadn't known what it was, I would have thought the bush was blooming.

This weekend is supposed to get wintry again so it's just as well that flowers and butterflies aren't doing much yet.