Click any photo to enlarge

Monday, April 24, 2017

More Burrowing Owls

Migration hasn't produced any big fallout, but they're trickling in. Got the first migrating MacGillivray's Warbler today.

Yesterday when Michael Gray and Cecelia Riley left CMO for their home in Ft, Davis he discovered a Burrowing Owl nesting site around halfway to Alpine, not the same area as I had seen one. So now I'm gung-ho to locate it and photograph it myself. Meanwhile, Michael generously gave me permission to post his photos. His are better than mine will ever be, of course.

I'll try to go down Wednesday about the same time of day as he came by there and hopefully will locate them. Here's a photo of a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher he took at CMO yesterday.

And finally, a fascinating panorama Michael shot by stitching four photos together.

Left is my mountain, then W Corazone Peak toward the center, then on the far right is Williams Mountain. I think the photo is a bit deceptive in that it makes the mountains look like islands standing out in a desolate area when it isn't like that at all. It's actually cozy with no expanse of desert. The oasis is tucked inside a high basin surrounded by mountains on all sides. That's how it seems to me anyway.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Left to right: Bill Sain, Madge Lindsay, me, Cecelia Riley & Michael Gray
I think the Big Sit went well. It was the first one for the oasis.  Forty-eight species were tallied from inside the 17 foot circle during the 24 hr period. The day started out at a cold windy 48° but became decent in the afternoon. Highlight of the day was a Wilson's Snipe. Here it is in the bottom of the stucco tank. Photos by Michael Gray posted with his permission.

It was a fun day and I think everyone had a good time.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

CMO filled to capacity

This morning approximately 25 birders were here at one time. More are due later this afternoon. It's cool and windy and no good warbler migrants. I always feel apologetic when there aren't good migrants since people come during peak migration. But they seem happy with my nesting species. Especially Varied Buntings and Lucifer Hummingbirds.

The juvenile Black-throated Sparrows that were being fed by the adults a couple of days ago are now on their own. Persevering. They feed from the seed feeder just fine.

I took a little time to go inspect the Burrowing Owl tunnels for any signs of activity. As I suspected, none. Some of the twelve tunnels have been eroded so badly that big sections of tubing are exposed. Oh, well, guess it doesn't matter. 

My sister has an interesting plant at her house. We haven't ID'd it yet. Maybe it's some species of Broom-rape Weed. That plant is considered an unwanted pest, as it's a parasitic orobanche species that feeds on other plants' roots.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Another Burrowing Owl sighting

I had heard a report from a visitor to CMO that he had seen a Burrowing Owl along Highway 118 coming south of Alpine. I hadn't seen any there since the horrible record drought, heat, and cold of 2011, but I looked on my way down from Alpine early this evening in the place they used to be and actually saw one. That tells me they're back nesting there. That's great!

I was past the owl before I could get stopped. Didn't want to back up and chance flushing it, so just took this long distance documentary shot, looking into the setting sun of course.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Exciting new oasis species

Visiting the oasis is like opening a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. Today I impulsively decided to go down the main arroyo to where a male Lucifer Hummingbird has defended a feeding territory in previous years to see if he was there this year. (He wasn't.) As I turned to go back my peripheral vision caught a glimpse of an owl diving into a bush in the arroyo below the trail I was on. I figured the odds of me getting a photo were zero, but I was carrying my Canon, so scrambled down the steep bank to flush it from the bush. I knew it was larger than an Elf Owl and smaller than a Great Horned. That was it. I'm not able to ID owls without a photo. Burrowing Owl crossed my mind as a possibility. And after having built a complex array of underground nests and tunnels ten years ago, you would think I had been expecting that species to show up. But I built it just in case, not expecting it. Here's a photo taken ten year ago of the "owl hill" with its dozen tunnels.

After so many years I was convinced by what I had learned that my place isn't a place they would nest. And I still believe that. However, today I added the species to the oasis list. Probably a migrant passing through, but at least it's more likely they know the nesting tunnels are there... just in case. Today the hill is overgrown and somewhat damaged by animals and nature, but still usable.

When I flushed the unknown owl from the bush it flew a short ways down the arroyo. Certain it was hopeless, I, nevertheless, made my way to the spot where I had last seen it and this is what I spied.

A Burrowing Owl perched on a rock in the middle of the dry stream bed. What a lucky fluke! Even that I went down the arroyo in the first place. And carried my heavy Canon besides. And that the owl and I were there at the same time. And the biggest fluke of all was that the owl paused briefly on that rock before continuing down the arroyo. No photo, no ID. I wasted no time in zooming the telephoto lens and capturing this shot before he disappeared again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Migration finally ramping up

Getting ready for the Texas Birding Classic's Big Sit to be participated in by a small team of birders Sunday. They make a 17 foot circle and sit in it one whole day and tally how many species they see or hear from that circle. Never did it here before so should be interesting.

My sister and I were half way up the mountain before I realized I had left my Canon in the car. Probably just as well since I didn't see any butterflies. Would have liked to have my little Lumix though for some flower pictures.

I saw a most fascinating bug today. Yesterday there were none of these anywhere and today a Four-wing Saltbush is loaded with them.

The bush looked like a British humbug candy bush, if there is such a thing.

For a couple of years there's been a Bell's Vireo that has white on the head. I never can get a decent photo of it, but I keep trying. Today's photos are a bit better than those I got last April (see post of April 5, 2016) I guess it's a leucistic bird.

I was surprised to see Black-throated Sparrow fledglings today. Seems a bit early. They were begging and being fed, but I wasn't quick enough to capture the action.

UPDATE: Humbug ID'd as a Blister Beetle.