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Monday, August 29, 2022

Feeder back in business

We used locktite and a vise to tighten the pipe. And I greased the pole for good measure. We'll see if it's bear proof now. I have a mental image in my mind. It looks something like this:

Birds wasted no time rushing back to the feeder.

When I got back to Alpine I got better photos of a Tropical Kingbird that has been eating Chinese Pistachio berries for the last several days. Not rare, but I didn't have photos of that species before.

Hopefully, I can get a sharper shot tomorrow. It was late and overcast this afternoon.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

This round goes to the bear!


When I arrived at the oasis it appeared a bear had pulled the feeder down and broken the top crossarm off. The hoist wire was still bolted in place. Birders present today said they saw fresh bear scat. When I examined the pole it appeared that the crossarm wasn't broken, but had come off by being unscrewed. So I can't swear a bear did it; possibly wind action over time unscrewed the pipe. I think it was a bear, but...

I didn't have a replacement pipe, as the one that came off went down inside the pole. So I brought the crossarm to town to get what I need here so that can't happen again. Clearly, I'm winning!

My big strong grandson did some pickaxing on the big hill. I'm feeling optimistic that the steep part can be fixed to one degree or another. This photo doesn't show how rough it is.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Alpine Allen's Hummingbird

For several weeks now there has been a male Allen's Hummingbird at our home here in Alpine. That's not unusual for this time of year. Have even had them stay the winter on occasion (at the oasis, as well). 

I'm surprised how many birders need that species for their life list, or Texas list, or county list. So it's been fun having them come by and see and photograph the bird. Yesterday, Mike Williams got a great photo of it that he generously allowed me to share here. Thanks, Mike!

Although the Allen's is very similar to a Rufous, it has a much smaller range, basically just along the west coast of North America. So always a nice bird to have. I hope it hangs around all winter. That makes being stuck in town so much not as unpleasant.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

No margin for error

When I arrived at the oasis early this morning, the first thing I noticed was the seed bucket was lowered and empty. To make matters worse, I had forgotten to bring bird seed from town. That was my second mistake. The first one was not bolting the seed bucket hoist like I should have. Lessons learned. Only a bear would be able to pull it down like that, of course.

I finished pumping out the dirt tank into the stucco tank. It is losing 3" per day, so kind of an exercise in futility. I also did some pick-axing on the big hill. I finally have a plan of action for concreting the steepest part. Now I just have to find out if it's doable, and if someone will do it.

Birds were carrying on back near the water drip. It didn't take me long to assess the situation. They were mobbing a Western Coachwhip snake high in a tree. 


Never a dull moment!

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Another killer day

Glad to get nearly an inch of rain, even though it meant a grueling day of pumping. And my internet was down all day which is always traumatic, well stressful, for me. But I soldiered through, wrestling with hoses and gas pumps. There would have been enough water to top everything off but it was getting dark and rainy. Needed to take a town break.

There's enough water left in the lower dirt tank to top things off next time I'm down there... unless the above stucco tank springs a new leak. Speaking of leaks, the reserve tank (gofundme tank) seems to be leaking minimally. Less than my other tanks, so it made sense to top it off today too. Put the water where it lasts the longest. Logistically, I'm going to wait until there's room in the stucco tank to empty and patch the reserve tank. Can't justify wasting any water, much less that much. It will have to be patched, but not urgently. 

Here's a picture I found online, taken by someone who lives several miles to the east of the oasis, looking west as the oasis got that good monsoon yesterday.

You probably recognize West Corazone Peak, as it appears in the background of my oasis photos looking east. To the right of it is East Corazone Peak, which isn't visible from the oasis, being blocked by my mountain. My mountain therefore isn't visible on this photo.

Not much dragonfly or bird activity although I didn't really have time to look today. Everywhere is an oasis right now, so things are dispersed, I think.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Life goes on

I'm staying on top of the tank leak. Gonna go down tomorrow and measure how much it's leaking per day so I can have a better idea of urgency. Meanwhile, I started a gofundme to cover the cost of the repair, as well as hiring some concrete poured on the big hill. Today I got an email from nice visitors who ruined a tire going up the big hill. It's past time to address the problem. Figured now is a good time with the tank expense coming up too. Here's a cell phone panorama from the viewing blind that I took yesterday just for fun.

Today in Alpine I discovered a new fawn out by our ponds. Second one this year. Turning into quite the nursery.

The Allen's Hummingbird is still at the feeders here if anyone wants it for their county list or whatever.

UPDATE: 4 PM. The oasis just got a huge monsoon. That's awesome! Can't wait to get down there tomorrow!

UPDATE on UPDATE: Couldn't stand not knowing so went down to the oasis after eating supper. Arrived at 7:30 PM. Even though it got nearly an inch of rain, none ran into the tanks. So I'm pumping water tonight and all day tomorrow. That should come close to topping things off. The reserve tank didn't seem to have lost water. Not good light so I'll check more closely tomorrow.... and ever after!

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Very discouraged!

View across big tank looking SW early this morning

Today as I was watering the oasis, I climbed the ladder to the new tank to satisfy myself that it's still brimful. I do that about twice a year, or more. To my horror, it was down 5". A little investigation showed me the valve near the bottom was covered with sand from under the tank. Only a gopher could have done that. I removed the sand, in my panic, before I took this photo.

The sand I removed filled a five gallon bucket. I contacted the seller. Earthquakes and gophers aren't covered in the 20 year warranty. Only installation flaws or errors are covered. When I was purchasing the tank, I asked about burrowers. My concerns were glossed over like I was being ridiculous.

For the past year or so I saw gopher holes near the tank and it made me uncomfortable. Now I wish I had put poison into every gopher hole. I did make sure we put up an underground barrier while we were installing the new water feature. If Mike thought I was being paranoid, he didn't say so.  I've since learned that gophers will dig as deep as five feet. Our barrier doesn't protect the bottom floor of the reservoir liner, so I'm declaring war on gophers.

The company that sold me the tank also installed a huge commercial tank for the water supply of Study Butte. That tank is leaking. They're in the process of negotiating repair costs. I wonder if the cause of their leak is gophers. Their liner is better than mine since they have to treat the water with chemicals, but the pad underneath is the same. It has a three foot concrete footing around the tank perimeter, a requirement for commercial tanks. But gophers dig deeper than 3 feet. I found this online when I googled. "Feeding burrows are usually 6 to 12 inches below ground, and the nest and food storage chamber can be as deep as 6 feet, depending on soil type." 

So I figure the gophers thought that was a good place to put their nest. Perhaps the claws of the juveniles scratched a hole in the liner. With so much sand, and then gravel, beneath the tank, the water could seep away without ever showing up at the surface outside the tank. I've often seen leaks that go straight into the ground without any evidence nearby. When I had a line from the well to the house it used to leak and do that all the time. Got too expensive to maintain the well for what little water it produced and I let it go. 

Some birders showed up today, happily getting their lifer Lucifer Hummingbird. I didn't mention the calamity to them. Didn't want to spoil their fun. But I did a very half-hearted watering today. I think the only thing that could be worse is feral hogs. 

Anyway, the tank liner can be patched. It'll be expensive, possibly as much as two thousand dollars. A crew will have to come out from Austin. If the stucco tank is already full, like if we get a good monsoonal rain, then I'll have to lose the water, or maybe find a way to put it into the lower dirt tank. Will have to see. First, I want to check the water level in a day or two to see how fast it's leaking. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Oasis is great!

Got to the oasis early this morning. Perfect weather and everything damp and lovely. Over the last couple days it got a total of nearly half an inch of rain. Need more, but it's a start. Rainy season is half over -- at it's peak now. Here's another picture of the water drip I repaired last time I was here. Not crazy about it, but we'll see. I wish the middle basin held more water. I'll put some putty around it one of these days so it will. It had some on it, but fell off.

Below is a Mexican horno, that it reminds me somewhat of.


The weather was really great this morning, so I got some work out of myself, even though I didn't feel the urge to water things.... yet.

Got nice photos of a California Spreadwing female and Rambur's Forktail. Otherwise, not much activity. Maybe because everywhere is an oasis now and things disperse.

I'm so remorseful that I had my son cut down the dying madrone tree. The poor thing is coming back from the roots. I had no idea. Hard lesson learned.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Rain is forecast

 At least it's cooled off from the seemingly endless triple digit heat. Some good soaking rains would be wonderful! The Allen's Hummingbird is still at the feeders in Alpine. Hope it spends the winter.

Here are my great-grandsons on their first day of school this month. Hard to believe I have such old great-grandkids. They're in their junior and senior years of high school.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

My obsessive/compulsive

Woke up today with the urge to go to the oasis and fix the water drip. So not an early start like I do when I plan ahead. Here's the lovely drip in 2020 before the critters broke off the top tier.

Then here it is with the top rock broken off. I can't use it that way because the water puddles in the top and runs down the side, plus no way to secure the inlet hose.

So, even though it doesn't look pretty (birds don't care), I piled lots of cement on top to secure the hose and channel the water. Kind of reminds me of a Mexican horno (oven), but I can always stack rocks up along the side to make it look better. I worked in 105° heat today, so was mainly focused on getting it operational. It'll blend in when it dries. Can always beautify when it cools off.... if the urge strikes me. I sure hope the middle basin doesn't get knocked off. I don't think it will. It's much more secure than the top one was.

I'll try to take better photos of it too. I was in survival mode. Didn't even watch birds or odes today. I just hope the cement doesn't set up too fast and crack. I wet it while I was there, but that wasn't for very long after I finished. Good thing I don't have the compulsion YET, or I'd concrete some of the rocks in on the new water feature by the viewing blind. Maybe with some help I will. At the moment it functions and looks fine.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Tired again

I didn't even work today. Just wore myself out playing (admittedly a blurred line), and no nap. First thing this morning I processed the damselfly and mailed it, doing other errands while I was out.

Then I went odeing with some ode seekers from Europe. That was all fun! I enjoyed watching them as much as looking for odes. Knowing that if they found anything exciting, I'd hear about it. In Latin, of course. "ARGIA LUGEN!!!"

A bit of a language barrier. One spoke German, one Swedish, and one English. Since the English one interpreted, it wouldn't have been difficult except that they all only knew the Latin names for the odes. 

Then a couple of birders dropped by and before I knew it, the day was pretty much finished. I guess my passion for life keeps me going. The specimen was my priority today. Now I anxiously await DNA results. And migration has barely begun. Hope I can keep up! I've got to carve out a day to repair the water drip at the oasis.  Javelinas or bears broke the basin off it. Sigh!  


Thursday, August 11, 2022

Catchup time! Whew!

When I got to town this afternoon I was so exhausted I went straight to bed, well almost straight. Here's my story...

Yesterday morning I went to the oasis to water and service feeders. A birder was there when I arrived. We looked for birds and odes and I did the feeders.  While thus working/playing, I heard a bear in some brush near the big tank, and saw its water trail and footprints from the tank. Unable to see it visually, although I knew right where it was. Not a large bear from the prints.

Not having gotten an early start from Alpine, I was soon too worn out to start watering. By then the thermometer said 105° and I was ready for brunch and a nap. By the time it cooled down to the upper 90s, it was 6 PM, so I only watered for less than 2 hours.

Deer are in velvet

Bright and early this morning I got busy, determined to finish before it got too warm. Birders and dragonfly seekers showed up, so I divided my time with them while watering. When I finally finished watering, I spent a couple hours looking for odes. Got my best photo so far of a Tawny Pennant.

But the big highlight of the day was when Petra Hockey was able to net a specimen California Spreadwing. There is no specimen documentation of that species in Texas, so for years I've been trying to get someone to get one. (Hadn't had any show up the last couple years due to drought) I didn't feel competent to do it myself. Some years ago I netted a Mexican Amberwing, also new to Texas, but that was beginner's luck, and easy to get to. Petra had never netted an ode before (but she did stay at a Holiday Inn. LOL) She had watched odes being netted often and felt she could do it. I brought her the net and when I saw she was seriously going to attempt it, I rushed back to the cabin to get an envelope for it. 

I wish instead I had photographed her netting it. She was in some dense brush hanging over 8' of water. She said her husband helped steady her. Hate that I missed the action. As it turned out, we didn't use the envelope. Too afraid to try to take it out of the net outdoors. Then I took it to Alpine, bought some acetone, immediately googled how to preserve it, and did my best. It's soaking overnight. Tomorrow I'll dry it and mail it to wherever it's to go. It'll eventually end up in a museum archives, in Louisiana maybe. I think that's where my amberwing specimen is.

Birding is picking up. There are ripe persimmons and other food for migrants. Even had two Olive-sided Flycatchers at the same time. They're not common at the oasis. Literally never a dull moment at the oasis. Drought concentrates wildlife there all the more.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

A quick visit

My daughter from Austin come to visit yesterday, spent the night, then went back home today. First I've seen her since her brain surgery. She's back to her younger self. It's amazing! We took a family photo. It's the only time I've been together with both my grandsons since the youngest was a baby.

Me with my 3 children and my 2 grandsons

In Alpine I have very few hummingbird migrants, but one of them is a male Allen's.

I'm hoping it hangs around for awhile. Also got a nice photo of a male Hackberry Emperor butterfly.

Can't wait to see what awaits me at the oasis tomorrow.....

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Son took my place today

Lee wanted to go in my place to water and service feeders today. He found the deer, providing nourishment for vultures, and dragged it farther from the oasis.

The cycle of life! While one birth failed, another made it. My sister captured this video on her game cam on July 27th.

Back in Alpine, there's an interesting flower given to me by a birder friend (Cecilia Riley) from the Ft. Davis area. It a Darcy Sage (Salvia darcyi), native to the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico, and only discovered in 1991, growing at an elevation of 9,000 feet. It is thriving at Cecilia's, and seems like it'll do good here in Alpine too. It's also available from nurseries now. Here's my specimen.

It's purported to be quite evergreen and deer resistant. We'll see. I planted it inside our fence this spring just to be sure nothing eats it. Since planting it, it's grown a lot and now blooming.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Hard at play!

For years people have been thanking me for all the hard work I do to maintain the oasis. It's not work to me. It's fun. The hardest part is stressing about water. That's not fun! This meme really sums it up. Nowhere is it truer than at CMO.

But it's always been worth it to me. Today I was delighted to see the doe still alive. She was in an impenetrable thicket near the tank. 

When I finished watering, before heading to town, she was lying down. I probably won't know if she survives. Vultures were still circling when I left.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

A rather wrenching day

When I leave Alpine for the oasis in hot weather I try to get on the road around 6 AM so I can get some work done before it gets too hot. This morning I overslept and didn't head south until around 6:30. No big deal. As always, I stop at the mailboxes to check my box at Hwy 118 and Terlingua Ranch Road. When I got out of my pickup I thought I heard something fall out of it. I looked down on the ground and even underneath the vehicle and couldn't see anything so went on my way.

On my road, I stopped along the way to prune bushes that were growing into the road, so at least an hour had passed. When I went into my cabin I went to check me messages and no phone. I was in full panic mode! I realized what had to have happened. So I went tearing back to the mailboxes, assuring myself that no way would it still be there. The last time I lost a phone like that, I got back in 10 minutes and it was gone forever. But I had to at least check before calling the phone company and going through that whole nightmare. When I got to the mailboxes (about 7 miles from the oasis), I looked and saw nothing, just as I had fully expected. As I went to get into my pickup and leave, I spotted my phone at the base of a mailbox, partly hidden by grasses. I could not believe the luck! Since I was already getting into my pickup, I don't know how I even saw it!

I was ecstatic! Boy will I keep better track of that phone! The minute I thought I heard something fall out of my pickup, I should have looked to locate my phone. The phone never crossed my mind. Duh!

So when I got back to the oasis and unpacked it was after 11 AM and hot. But what put a damper on my exceptionally high spirits, was seeing a doe in trouble and nothing I could do. At first I figured she was just in labor and all would be fine. I saw her lying under a tree and she didn't seem to be in distress.

When I got too close she moved to some nearby bushes. I monitored her often as I went about servicing the mostly empty feeders. She just stood in the bushes pretty motionless for several hours.

By mid-afternoon my thermometer said 112° I had a late lunch and when I got back to the oasis, I didn't see the doe. Felt relief. Went to look for odes in the tank and there was the doe, submerged in water nearly up to her neck. She stayed like that for over two hours.

Later, around 6 PM I heard weird noises coming from some bushes near the feeders but didn't see anything. Then the doe came out of the bushes and stood against a fence like she was biting the fence wire. She was breathing loud and fast. Drooling from the mouth (open and tongue hanging out), and a discharge from her rear.

I sensed that she wanted me to help her, but there was nothing I could do. Her leg was bloody.

She stayed that way until I left at 9 PM. Vultures were perching nearby.

On a brighter note, I saw baby Scaled Quail. I just adore baby chicks.

And I saw five California Spreadwings all together, but could only get four in the photo. 

Tomorrow early I'll finish watering and see what other good stuff is there before I head back to town.