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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Bear aftermath

I spent several hours at the oasis this morning before heading to town. Sometime between when I was there at dusk last night and this morning he had ravaged one of the Live Oaks. It was one that was too big for me to make much headway in flailing the acorns, and by the time I got to it, I was exhausted. He climbed up high in that oak and broke a lot of limbs. I pruned as best I could but was unable to get high enough in the tree for one broken limb, so it's still dangling there. The two smaller oak trees that I knocked most of the acorns off, he left alone. But I came to town late morning. Not sure he won't be back, but I hope not. Another feeder had been broken too.

I cleaned and repaired the feeders, then hung some more. Hoping he won't be back, or if he is, he'll not pull them all down. My hummers depend on the feeders. Here's a video I took of him eating acorns off the ground yesterday after I flailed down what I could.

2017 10-21 CMO

Back in town we had a Gray Fox in the street eating scraps my husband had thrown out.

Still in recovery mode. Gonna take a long soaking bath tonight.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Bearification continuation

It has been a weird crazy day. If someone would have told me I'd be watering trees this afternoon while a bear was roaming all over the place, I wouldn't have believed them. But after he left this morning I flailed as many of the acorns from the Live Oak trees as I was able. He (confirmed male, big male) returned around 5 PM, got a drink of water, then started foraging on the acorns on the ground. Since I only got about a third of them, or less, it remains to be seen whether he'll climb the trees.

I was beary nervous and truly saw a bear behind every tree, whether he was there or not. These photos make him look little, even cuddly, but he was huge.

As with any natural disaster, damage reports began trickling in. I found a thistle feeder ripped down that I had forgotten to remove. And a hummingbird feeder pulled down.

The feeder was all muddy with dirt and saliva. When I was washing it I noticed this tooth mark in it.

Here's how it would normally look.

I dread what I'll find when I get down there in the morning. Here's the Chinkapin Oak after I finally was able to clean it up. That's a huge Live Oak in the background. It didn't make acorns this year, thankfully.

UPDATE: Just at dusk I went down to the oasis to see the situation. Two feeders that I had hung 7 and 8 foot above the ground were pulled down and apart. I can glue them back together, but this means I have no feeder out of his reach. Hmmm.

Bear-ifying experience

A very educational experience too. From the beginning:

Headed for CMO before daylight and nearly hit a deer south of Alpine. I braked and swerved as it darted right in front of my pickup, knowing as I did, that I would still hit it unless it braked. Thankfully, the deer braked and jerked back, barely missing getting hit. Whew!

Daylight was just dawning as I turned off highway 118 onto Terlingua Ranch Road.

At CMO I stopped to unload the ten bags of birdseed I had brought with me. Then I went and filled seed feeders. Normally I go unload the pickup at the house first. But today was cool and I had extra ice in my ice chest, so I tarried at the oasis. I noticed the chair cushions in the back viewing area were tossed around in a way that the wind couldn't do, so must have been a bear. Then I heard crunching across the wildlife pond that I was sure was a bear. I ran to check, and sure enough, a Black Bear was working on my smallest Chinkapin Oak. I figured I'd take photos first real quick and then try to chase it away with mace and maybe save the tree.

2017 10-21 CMO (1)

2017 10-21 CMO (2)

After a few minutes photography, and hearing the limbs on the oak tree snapping, I ran for the mace. As I approached the bear, I sprayed lavishly. A cloud of orange mist appeared between me and the bear, and it continued foraging. So I moved closer and sprayed the tree he was casually pulling down around him. Oops! I had walked into the fog of mace and immediately my bronchial tubes began closing. Minutes left to live unless I could save myself. I ran for the pickup, where luckily I hadn't unloaded anything from (at the house) yet. Grabbed my purse for the Albuterol inhaler I keep there and couldn't find it. Knew there had to be one in the little plastic tote that I carry from home to home. It hadn't been unloaded at the house yet either. By then, I couldn't get any air into my lungs. So I couldn't inhale the inhaler when I did locate one. Sprayed it into my mouth and tried the best I could. Frantically, over and over. Simultaneously, I began driving to my sister's house. Nothing she would be able to do, but it seemed like what I should do. Nearly halfway there I was starting to take some wheezy breathes. So I sat there a bit, then turned around and went back to the oasis. Squirted some Futicasone in my nose, plus a dose from my Futicasone inhaler. When I was back to normal breathing I wanted to survey the damage.

It was bad. When I tried to clean up the mess, the mace residue on the leaves again gave me trouble breathing. So I'm forced to wait on trimming the broken limbs.

The bear? After the second spraying of mace he ambled a few feet away, then came back and finished up the acorn feast. A while later, I went to remove the seed feeders so that if he came back he couldn't ravage them, when suddenly he popped up beside me, seemingly out of nowhere. I yelled and waved my arms and he slowly ambled away. Haven't seen him since. He couldn't have enjoyed those mace-covered acorns.

Lessons learned? First, never use mace. Ever. Second, never be without Albuterol. I'm horrified to discover that the one from my purse is missing, as well as the one from the house here. Wonder if I even have one in town. Going to remedy that situation. And the third lesson is not to fear a bear unless maybe it's a mother with cubs. Here are a couple of stills I shot.

UPDATE: He's baaack! (to be continued)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Remembering Ruidosa Church

 Most anything about the Big Bend area is fascinating to me. A year ago this week I visited Ruidosa (post of Oct 16, 2016). Today I came across some photos of the church that are older than the ones I posted then. Since I'm stuck in town today, I do my exploring via the internet. And going back in time is the best! Here's what I came up with. This is the oldest photo I've been able to find of the church. It was built in 1914, so this circa 1918 shot gives one a really good idea of what it originally looked like.

It was still looking good in 1931.

And not too bad in 1963.

But by 1989 it was in serious decline.

I think it was about at its worst when this 2004 photo by Tom Rinard was taken.

Then around 2006, a poorly-funded, short-lived, restoration project took place.

And here's the photo I posted of it a year ago.

Wish it wasn't so far down there. Would love to go back this week. I hope it gets restored before it's too late.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Lovely weather

I had a whole complete day to enjoy the oasis and the weather. Not counting watering and hauling dirt on the road. There are quite a few birds and butterflies, but nothing very interesting. This is one of the many Bordered Patch's present.

And unless Kelly tells me differently, I think this is a late Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

As far as I can ascertain, there are at least 6 Lucifers still around, 2 Rufous, at least 2 Anna's, and the above archilochus species (either Black-chinned or Ruby-throated). That's about it. But lovely weather! Can't have everything.

Monday, October 16, 2017

You know the ugly!

The good news is that the mulberry tree continues to progress even though I removed quite a few more of those nasty worms today.

The bad news is that when I arrived at the oasis after spending a few days in town there wasn't a leaf left on my precious Gray Oak tree. I picked the blasted worms off even though it was too late. Nothing left for them to ruin.

It's been a weird year. I didn't get my monsoons until August (two, one week apart), so the soapberry trees didn't make berries, I had hardly any mosquitoes this year and a puny showing of dragonflies. Butterflies did good though. The native flowers got enough scattered showers for them to bloom on schedule. Even had a bumper crop of verbena (glandularia wrightii), which attracted some nice butterfly lifers for me. Next year I plan to make a verbena patch by digging up any I find and transplanting them to a viewing area where I can water and watch them . 

One odonate species that I've seen more of this year than any previous year is Smoky Rubyspot, a lovely little damselfly.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

More from yesterday's jaunt

At Bishop Wetlands I saw a pair of American Avocets in winter plumage.

And at Shafter the gang was all there, including Giant Darner, Red Rock Skimmers, Filigree Skimmer, Painted Damsels and many others. Lots of Viceroy butterflies, too.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Final ode expedition for this year

I decided to make one last jaunt for odes. The season is winding down. I was sure there'd be Mexican Amberwings at the Bishop Wetlands by Presidio. Decided to make a quick stop at Shafter on my way to break up the trip. Upon arrival, I immediately knew it would be hard to pry myself away from the idyllic place. There was a lovely spot to park and the water was just right, not too swift, nor too slow.

I happily sloshed up and down the waterway. My only concern was not to lose my footing on the slippery uneven rocks under the water and get my camera wet. It is Friday the 13th, after all.

When I had visited earlier in the year, I was really disappointed. No water, "KEEP OUT" signs along the road, and no decent place to park. Today there were lots of cattails growing in the water where I had never seen them before. The signs were gone, maybe washed away by flooding, or maybe someone contested the right for them to be in the waterway. So I had great fun! Right away I photographed a Serpent Ringtail. Wanted better shots but never saw it again.

Got the first Presidio County record for Autumn Meadowhawk. There were quite a few of them there, so not knowing that was unusual, I almost didn't bother to photograph one.

And saw the cutest little Red-spotted Toad.

I dragged myself away long before I was ready, thinking there'd be Mexican Amberwings at the Bishop Wetlands. If  you're wondering why I''m so obsessed with that species, it's because I'm the only person who has documented them in Texas. so I feel they need more comprehensive documentation, a task that seems to fall upon me by default.

The wetlands, I soon discovered was almost dry. Very little water. And nary an amberwing. Not surprisingly, I didn't search for long before I headed back to Shafter. But by then it was late in the day and I didn't see any species I hadn't already seen earlier. I had waited until midday to start my trip. Otherwise, if I go in the morning, I'm tired and ready to leave by the time oding gets good.

My sister captured this bear image on one of her wildlife cams several days ago.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Busy day

After yesterday's road work I thought I'd be crippled for life, but today my energy lasted all day long. Maybe my sinus infection has finally been bested by my immune system.

The water line coming out of the stucco tank was leaking bad and spraying water across the tank. So I had to fix that before I could water my trees. Connie and Marlin Andrus visited and obligingly snapped this photo. I had to hang over the edge of the tank to reach the leak. It still leaks but I've managed to stifle it so it leaks into the tank only.

Then I spent until after 2 PM watering. While I was watering I noticed that one of my 3 mulberry trees was doing a good job at growing new leaves. It's a volunteer and may be a native Canyon Mulberry, unlike the other 2 that I planted. I also noticed that it was covered with worms again. Those darn worms are everywhere, on sumac, hackberry, and other stuff. So I got my ladder and picked off as many of them as I could reach on the mulberry tree.

Also while I was watering (I left a sprinkler going) I shoveled 3 tubs of dirt and put it in a hole in the road. The work yesterday was all about extending my curb to keep water from washing across the road and didn't improve the road, so I felt compelled to see some road improvement. Out of the 100 holes, there are now only 99.

By the time I got the feeders serviced and the work done, I still wasn't tired so I went to Lajitas to look for amberwings. Only saw one since I got there rather late and being able to see the water with all the cattails along the edge is almost impossible.

I found a place where beavers downed a tree into the water. It's all grown over with cattails and mesquite, but I managed to make a path along the log out to the edge of the water where I could see a little. I was sure I saw  a Persephone Darner, but couldn't get a photo.

Beginning of my path

I risked life on limb trying. I've never seen so many mosaic darners as at Lajitas today. If you look carefully at this next photo you can see the log and my path above it and the water peaking through in the background.

I made the path without my camera and then went back for it. Had to crawl only of course. Still got bloodied on those nasty mesquite thorns. At this location I only saw darners, but at a tiny opening somewhere else I saw that one amberwing. No idea if it's a Mexican Amberwing or not. I'm really confused on those.

From Lajitas I drove to Alpine. And now I feel dead, so I'm off to bed....

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cold and windy

My niece (Tanya Phillips) and her husband agreed to help me on the road this morning. Since it was their only chance, I didn't let the weather stop me. The work seems so hard with so little to show for it. Discouraging, but I have to keep at it. Today we worked on the curb to keep water off a bad spot of road. Once that is accomplished I hope to be able to fill in the ruts with dirt.

Tanya and Chuck are passionate about beekeeping. Tanya recently authored a lovely book on the subject. Very proud of her and Chuck! They live in Austin.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Amberwings on my mind

It's hard spending so much time in town, especially with winter imminent. My butterflying and oding days are almost over until next summer. I went outdoors today to photograph the Eastern Amberwings here for comparison with the Mexican Amberwings, hoping to get better at telling them apart.

Like, I'm wondering if the lighting and shadowing from the wings make them hard to tell apart. The above is an Eastern, but might the dark on the thorax be caused by the wing's shadow? Might direct light on the Mexican thorax make them look paler than the Eastern, etc.

While I was thus engaged, a Desert Firetail photobombed my picture.

So I photographed the damselfly too. That about wraps up my day.