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Thursday, January 31, 2019

New oasis flower species

This Filaree (Erodium cicutarium) 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.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Another project completed

I was supposed to meet someone in Alpine this morning at 8 AM and bring him to the oasis to work for me and then take him back to town later. But when he hadn't shown up by 8:30 AM I just came to the oasis without him. Glad I did. Not only saved me money but a friend, Jennifer, that lives on Terlingua Ranch came and helped. She and I worked great together and got done what I wanted to get done.

The project was to mix cement and put it on top of some of that black pipe in the lower dirt tank to hold it in place. I also put bolts through the white PVC where it joins the black pipe, so I finally feel my struggles with them coming apart is over. Hopefully leakage will be minimal. It's impossible to seal the black 3" fast line to the PVC pipe, but I try. I'm still concerned how it'll do when the dirt tank is brimful and this pipe complex is submerged under about a foot of water. If it tries to float that'll stress the joints. Will just have to wait and see. More cement weight would be better, of course, but I don't see that happening. Before all this plumbing, the pipes were more open and water could fill them as it filled the tank. But that meant I had to wade out and connect them together while they were submerged. Hoping this will be the solution. Jennifer suggested I pile sandbags on the pipe. That seems doable to me. Maybe I'll order sandbags online.

Even though the project just involved mixing 3 wheelbarrow loads of concrete, and even though Jennifer did at least half the work, I still ended up wiped out. This old age is really annoying.

Driving past the oasis to the house I spotted about a dozen doves in a neat row along the edge of the new tank. But by the time I got my camera focused on them only two remained. You'll just have to visualize how it looked.

There's very little bird activity at the oasis lately. Coincides with a Sharp-shinned Hawk hanging around I think. At least one Rufous Hummingbird is still around. It'll probably leave about the time the Lucifers and Black-chinneds return. No Anna's seem to be here anymore.

Tomorrow I hope to walk around a lot looking to see what wildflowers are blooming. And hoping to get good photos of them. I need all the practice I can get.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Love the new shade

I finished the shade this morning. Already can't imagine not having it. Weather is warm and lovely. Our week of winter is but a dim memory. LOL


Took me a long time to get from the oasis to the highway headed for town today. Kept stopping to photograph wildflowers. Here are a few.

Verbena (Glandularia wrightii) blooming along blacktop (lower elevation than CMO)
Bicolor Fanmustard (Nerisyrenia camporum)
Texas Selenia (Selenia dissecta) I hope we can find this species at CMO

Friday, January 11, 2019

Nice oasis rain

The oasis enjoyed nearly half an inch of rain today. Some flowers just can't restrain themselves from blooming in the middle of winter. Here I practiced photographing a Slimleaf Plains Mustard (Hesperidanthus linearifolius) in between slaving away on a project.

The project was using some old fence boards to add some shade in the courtyard. Here are the boards I found by an Alpine dumpster. (You know how I hate waste.)

Here is where I intended to put them.

Because of the rain I got a late start, but eventually got most of them installed. Will finish in the morning. The courtyard can't ever get too much shade.

When I work up on a ladder, I climb and move very slowly. Safety is more important than speed.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Continuation from yesterday

There were lots of these Stemmy Fournerved Daisies around but I was unable to ID them without help.

I painted a few things on the tank to match the tank. I think it looks better now.

I love Phainopeplas so much that I seem unable to stop photographing them. This is a female.

The Torrey Yuccas have been blooming for several weeks now.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Spring at CMO

In my eagerness to get to CMO, I left Alpine way before dawn.

Arrived at the oasis just at daylight, as planned. First thing I did was check the feeders. Not because I thought any would be empty, I knew none would be, but because I knew a visitor had taken upon herself to supplement one or more. She didn't say how many. Her email began, "Of course I saw the sign but the feeders were low..."

The only prohibiting sign on my property
My first urge upon reading the message was to jump into my pickup and head down to fix it. But I talked myself into waiting until my regular scheduled trip. After all, how bad could it be this time of year when I have a maximum of two hummers?

It was worse than I expected. She had put sugar water into the hummers' favorite feeder, not screwed the reservoir on correctly, and all the solution leaked out onto the table. It was too cold for bees when I arrived, but as it warmed up they started swarming where the feeder had been. Of course I had already taken it down.

Screwed on at an angle
I scrubbed the mess off the table as best I could. And even if she had screwed the base on correctly, I'm confident the feeder wouldn't have been hung the proper way and the result would have been the same. My kind of feeders (DrJB) are bee-proof, but only if hung correctly.

Before cleaning but too cold for bees
Hours after cleaning and 75°
When bees can access one feeder, they think all feeders are accessible and swarm them all. In the process of taking down the bee-covered feeders I got stung in the face. I didn't even know bees would sting in the winter.

I keep the feeders low this time of year. No need wasting sugar. The bases hold enough for about two weeks supply in the winter. Since I come down every 3 or 4 days, there's no need filling them. For the record, I am a responsible feeder provider. (I'm the only person in the world who adjusts the feeding ports to accommodate the Lucifer's curved bills.) But I'm sure the person meant well and was trying to be helpful. I'm not upset, just venting. Birders are always welcome to visit anytime, whether I'm here or not.

Since our week of winter seems to be over, I thought I'd conduct myself as if it was spring. I walked up my trail a ways taking photos of every flower I saw. After my self-taught crash course in plant identification, I thought I'd test myself before it gets overwhelming in a month or two. So here are some of what I saw. What I hope are the correct IDs in captions.

Fendler's Bladderpod (physaria fendleri)
Fleabane (Erigeron modestus tracyi)
Bicolor Fanmustard (Nerisyrenia camporum)
Desert Zinnia (Zinnia acerosa)

Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium  leucanthum)
PS: I heard one hummer at the house courtyard where no bees were, but didn't see or hear any hummers at the oasis today. Still Phainopeplas around because of all the mistletoe berries.

To be continued tomorrow......