Click any photo to enlarge

Monday, November 30, 2020

Crazy birding!

 Yesterday a birder discovered a rare Clark's Nutcracker in Alpine not too far from our home here. Although I rushed over there to look for it, by the time I had learned about it, it was probably through feeding for the day.

So, at daylight this morning, as the moon was setting, I staked out where it had been reported. Other birders, including Dale, began showing up and looked elsewhere. The more eyes spread around, the better the chances. In 30 minutes to an hour, to my astonishment, it landed on a high wire not far from where I was sitting in my car. The temperature was freezing. I was so excited that I fumbled quite a bit with my esoterical phone before I got hold of Dale. By then the bird had hopped down along the fence where it had been seen yesterday. Dale spread the word and within a couple of minutes birders were photographing the object of our pursuit.

I went back to our house to warm up and eat something, then headed back. The observers said it had flown across the golf course, so I drove over there. Dale joined me. Soon she spotted the bird in the grass. Word spread and others arrived. (Cell phones and social media make birding so much more fun!)

Finally I went back to our house to get on with my daily tasks when one of the birders called me that there were Red Crossbills and Cassin's Finches at the cemetery. Not new species for me, or even new county ticks, but as many times as I've checked the cemetery for rare birds, in vain, I couldn't resist actually see what good birds there would look like. So I headed out again.

With help from a birder there I soon located both species. There were other good ones there, I later learned, that I missed. The miss I hated most was a Harris Hawk. When I get back to town after servicing feeders and watering tomorrow, I'll be in pursuit of it.

Female Red Crossbill

Male Cassin's Finch

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Time to blog

 I figure it's been nearly a week since I blogged so I better let everyone know I'm still alive. Birding has been nonexistent at the oasis, yet pretty good in Marathon, so been birding there a lot lately with Dale. And if that wasn't excitement enough, we just now learned of a sighting of a rare Clark's Nutcracker in Alpine not many blocks away from my house here. Tomorrow early a bunch of us are going to brave the cold and go look for it. Meanwhile, here are a few pics from Marathon. Besides the Wood Thrush that is still being seen at Gage Gardens, we saw a couple of [red] Fox Sparrows today.

A few days ago I got a slightly better photo of the Yellow-throated Warbler we discovered at Post Park.

Wilson's Snipes are still around at Gage Gardens too.

The place is really getting on birders' radar. Partly because its so lush and green, but also they are maintaining a bunch of seed feeders for the first time. Before it was done sporadically. With the drought it's an oasis for birds.

I thought it was really bizarre when I discovered there's a hummingbird (in Chile) called Oasis Hummingbird. And my oasis is the main breeding ground for a hummingbird that looks so similar.

There are obvious differences, of course, but they both have the same color gorget and a decurved bill. I think the Lucifer is much prettier with its green head and gorget "wings," some rufous on the flanks, and the lovely forked tail. And they'll be back in 3 months.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Where the birds might be

 I've been thinking and thinking about the paucity of birds at the oasis. Like my year-round birds that don't migrate, such as House Finches? I think the most likely explanation is something outside of the oasis went to seed that they love. Since that late June rain caused a bumper fall crop of persimmons and other berries, it makes sense that it helped the fall grasses as well. Just like when ocotillos bloom in the spring the hummers abandon the feeders. I don't see anything else it can be.

The revised feeder is working perfectly now. Next time I come down here I'm going to bring some paint and repaint it.

So bird-wise at the oasis, I tallied 22 species today, including a pair of Robins that were eating hackberries. But only one White-crowned Sparrow, when normally there would be too many too count. Some years I have hundreds of Lark Buntings. None this year. But I figure that's good for the birds.

Male Anna's Hummingbird

Sunday, November 22, 2020

One bucket at a time

The weather in Alpine was so lovely this morning, and I hadn't been to the oasis in five days, so I headed south. Not long after I got here it started getting cool and windy. But I persevered.

By now you must surely be thinking the bucket feeder can't be worth all the trouble it causes. But it is. And I think it's finally done and won't need any more tweaking. 

The other day I wasn't here and my son went to crafting some cups to put below the feeder ports. Too much seed was ending up on the ground.

In order to install the cups, he took the handle off the bucket. He didn't know that it has to be bent just right or it doesn't work right. The wire handle is extremely thick stiff wire. So he didn't see a reason to close the loops completely. Logic would tell you that would work just fine. Knowing what I know, I would have just moved a table underneath the bucket and worked on it there.

Anyway, when I got to the oasis midday today, the bucket was hanging by one handle. It seems funny to me now, but at the time I was stressed over all I had to do. Turned out it wasn't as hard to get it back functional as it had been the first time I had to do it years ago. I can't imagine how the handle got off the bucket. Must have been a pretty big animal yanking around on it.

My son is invaluable to the oasis. I feel like I could no longer maintain it without his help. It was getting too much for me. So good to know he'll be here when it rains and water needs to be pumped. Meanwhile, he's going to help me carry water to the courtyard. The house's rain barrels are empty and no well. I hate to lose the trees there when 100 gallons a week should be enough to keep them alive. Today I brought about 40 gallons from town but was frustrated that I couldn't get it out of the tank with a hose. My pickup is too low for it to gravity feed, so I ran it into a bucket and carried it to the trees the way our ancestors had to do it, a bucket at a time.

This is the first year at the oasis that I haven't fed hordes of White-crowned Sparrows at the feeder all winter. It's really weird. I didn't even see a House Finch today. And not because of the bucket. There was ample seed on the ground. 

Yet, I saw a Swamp Sparrow at the feeder... first time ever at the feeder. Usually they hang out around the edge of the tank, although I've probably only had a couple through the years.

What do the birds know that I don't know?

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Always tweaking

This time of year bees shovel seed from the feeder, and without the pad I had below the ports the seed is piling up on the ground. So Lee fashioned little cups to slow that down. Some on the ground is good for quail, etc., but I'm afraid too much will attract unwanted varmints. Got enough of those already.

I've been hanging around town, but going back to the oasis Monday. I overdo myself when I'm there, so trying not to get run down just in case I get the virus. But it's hard for me to slow myself down no matter where I'm at. Been birding some around the Alpine area. Nothing exciting since my lifer Wood Thrush. That's a hard act to follow. The more lifers I get, the fewer there are left to get, unless I travel extensively, which isn't going to happen.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Wild animals living among humans

 A lovely day where I hated to be stuck in Alpine, so when my husband said he was going to check his feral hog trap, I eagerly rode along. Turns out he had caught a bunch of Javelina in it, which, of course, we released.

Deer lounging around near our ponds.

There's a tree cage on the left side of the photo that they probably got antlers stuck in, pulling it off. Next they rubbed their antlers on the tree the cage had been protecting. The tree is a mulberry, so it'll survive, but not good.

Here's the bear with the missing paw, surely due to some not-so-bright person setting a trap for it. Photo taken last year by neighbors, Bruce & Stephanie, a couple of miles away from the oasis.

Please let me know if the videos in this post don't work for you. I'm having trouble seeing them. Don't know if it's my slow computer or not.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Fun Marathon day

 Dale (my sister-in-law) and I went birding to Marathon today. Our hope was to get a a couple more species for her Brewster County list. We ended up not only doing that, but I got a lifer Wood Thrush too.

At Post Park today I saw a young javelina. Last time I was there I photographed a very pregnant adult. She doesn't look so pregnant anymore.

I love this artistic skyscape Lee took of the house at the oasis. No photo can capture the magic of a calm cloudless night there. It permeates the soul and spirit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The mysteries of nature

 I totally wore myself out watering this morning. Since we haven't really had a hard freeze at the oasis I still feel the need to water weekly. Something I once thought of as relaxation and time to watch birds is now exhausting. Still good for birding though.

I found it strange that an Anna's Hummingbird just hovered in place way high above the oasis for what seemed like a very long time. Maybe getting its GPS bearings?

I think it's a female that just showed up today. Here's a closer look at her.

I was shocked to see how poorly the deer are looking lately. Water, but no food, I suspect. In 2011 they looked like that and many didn't make it through the winter.

The Least Grebe seems like it'll stay the winter.

I've had the best variety of Dark-eyed Juncos this year than ever before. This one is a Slate-colored.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Christmas lights

Male Anna's Hummingbirds can sure look like Christmas lights when the sun hits their heads just right. Here's one perched looking normal, then it turns its head back, then forth, looking like flashing lights.





Not much activity at the oasis but I didn't spend much time there. On my way to the oasis I stopped in at the Double Diamond and saw a couple of Williamson's Sapsuckers. Always a treat! Didn't get a decent shot at the handsomest one, but this one was pretty cooperative. Photos were taken at a distance, so not as sharp as I would have liked.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

CMO feeder update

 Here is the seed feeder before Lee put the new base on it.

And here it is with the new base. Clouds look good too. Means there's a little moisture in the air.

I'm in Alpine and not there but he says birds aren't going to it. Maybe they need to see a few seeds outside the ports. We may have to put small patches of floor beneath the ports. Will see.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020


Where in the whole world has there ever been a photo of a Hog-nosed Skunk with a Least Grebe in the same shot? Just shows how unique the oasis is. 

Here's a photo of how the seed feeder looks today. Lee fabricated a new base for it that he's going to install this weekend. I'm excited about it. Gonna be good! And the Ringtail won't be able to damage it. Should be maintenance free from now on.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Not summer

 It's said there are two seasons here, summer and not summer. Today was a lovely day so I don't really care which season it is. Seems autumn-like though with the leaves turning and falling. Here are the soapberry trees above the upper dam. They're doing good, probably because the soil is deeper there than it is above the middle dam.


The soapberries there are struggling. Their leaves died quite some time ago.

This next photo is the oasis path to the back water feature. I did a little watering today but didn't get much done. 

Throughout the years of the oasis's existence the non-native fruit trees I planted have all died, which is fine. I didn't expect them to live longer than they did. But it's really good that the native species have thrived because of my watering, and the dams, and provided berries for the birds this year. You recall the bumper crop of persimmons above the middle dam a month or so ago, for example. And now I see this large bush, Warnock's Snakewood (Condalia Warnockii) has lots of berries on it.

These are hard times. Hard to not let it get to me. Age-related health issues on top of the pandemic, drought, and all the normal family problems people have. Just because I don't blog all about the family's problems doesn't mean it doesn't weigh heavily on me. My bed time, I can tell....

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Computer day

 I spent the whole day organizing photos on my computer. It's an endless task. I have two backup thumb drives so when I get one organized there's another to do. But I didn't even get one half done. I just make improvements in the right direction. I probably should do one, then delete the other two, and copy the new one onto them. But I've had some bad experiences doing that. Like once I accidentally deleted the revised one and had to start all over. And sometimes, since there are like 30,000 photos, they don't all transfer, and I don't know which did and which didn't. So I play it safe. There's a reason I have two backups. LOL

I wasn't planning to blog today, since today was so nondescript, but then I got a funny photo from my artsy son. Thought you might get a kick out of it too.

I assure you, if there were two of me, they wouldn't both be doing the same thing in the same place. Lee also took a cool photo of a Belted Kingfisher with a big fish. These are from when we went to Balmorhea a couple of days ago.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Another Balmorhea fun day!

Is it wrong to "desire too much of a good thing?"* The weather is lovely and I've been wanting my son to experience Balmorhea Lake, so we did it today. He, of course, is the better photographer. For the time being, I'm the better birder, so it works out good.

White Pelicans by Lee

 My favorite photo by me today is this one of an American Pipit perched on a pile of fresh cow dung. 

Double-crested Cormorant


* Quoting Shakespeare in "As You Like It."

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Feeder vandal identified

 I guess I had the cam too far from the feeder and it didn't get enough light, but was able to identify a Ringtail. Couldn't see how he got onto the feeder. Seemed he leapt onto it from somewhere causing the feeder to spin around. The he hung from the feeder and apparently caused feed to fall to the ground where he then lapped it up.

 I'll experiment  until I figure more out. All I can see on the video clips on the feeder are his eyes. Meanwhile he shredded the pad that was at the base of the feeder so we're going to make a round metal grate instead. I don't mind him eating the seed. It's not a noticeable amount.

Today I saw a Slate-colored Junco at the feeder. That makes the fifth junco subspecies of Dark-eyed Junco I've had there this year. I already posted photos of the other four (Oregon, Gray-headed, Red-backed, and Pink-sided).

What a great fall migration it has been!