Saturday, December 17, 2016

Back to Balmorhea for Christmas

Here are some album links for locations we birded over Christmas near Balmorhea and Davis Mountains State Parks (cannot figure out how to get slide shows to work anymore with Google's deprecating of Picasaweb) along with some highlighted birds.

South Llano River SP

Chihuahua Desert Nature Center

Limpia Creek Primitive Area

Rio Grande River, Las Cruces

Bosque del Apache NWR

County Road 315, Balmorhea

Lawrence Picnic Area, Davis Mountains

Organ Mountains, Las Cruces

Lake Balmorhea

Friday, December 16, 2016

First Volkswagen Gone

Today was the big day. Volkswagen bought back the first of our two TDI smog-mobiles. This was my car, the 2012 Golf. Here waiting at home to go meet its maker and a souvenir shot at the VW service department. We will miss the quality service at Hewlett VW in Georgetown but I can't say that I will miss the car.

The older Jetta Sportswagen, Danielle's car, is scheduled for Jan 7, 2017. This was the car for which we had so many problems with the VW on-line portal that delayed completion of the paperwork.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Red-Shouldered Hawk Watches Feeders

We have had a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks living near the house for a couple of years. This morning, it landed in the trees at the border of our back lawn and watched the bird feeders. This shot taken with an iPhone through a spotting scope so the detail is poor.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Comparison of Volt Leather

On Danielle's white Volt, we were able to get the factory leather in black. When we purchased my blue Volt, we were only able to find cloth in black. We had the cloth replaced by after-market Katzkin leather installed by Dealer Source. To add a little pizzazz, I selected one of the pre-designed patterns with contrasting colors. Specifically, I got the one with Code K725-100 described as having Black wrap, Ice Grey center, perf insert, perf wings, Cobalt contrast all stitch.

In the images below, I show a comparison of some of the details of front and rear seats. The factory interior is on the left and the Katzkin on the right. Strangely, the two materials reacted differently to the camera flash. In reality, the wrap color of the Katzkin and the factory leather look very similar.

You may notice subtle difference in how the pieces are cut. Also, note that the factory interior has perforated leather only in the centers whereas this Katzkin pattern has perforation in the wings as well. There is also a noticeable difference in the addition of double stitching in the Katzkin which emphasizes the contrasting blue stitching color. Katzkin provides options for changing some of these construction details. As I mentioned in my last post, the most noticeable difference is that the Katzkin feels softer to the hand and puckers more in the seat wells. When sitting in them, they feel the same. I was disappointed that installation of the after-market leather did not give the car a nice new-leather smell but a more acrid new-vinyl smell. Not sure what is up with that.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Multi-Voltage Family

Today, we acquired the second of the two Chevy Volts that will replace our Volkswagen TDI Jetta and Golf.  In the picture below taken at the dealer, the "Summit White" one is Danielle's which we bought a month ago and the "Kinetic Blue" one is Edward's which we bought this morning.

We got both of these at AutoNation Chevrolet West Austin. I highly recommend this dealership. On all of our reconnaissance forays, we had our questions courteously answered and were left alone when we didn't need help. Our actual purchases were also low pressure without all of the stupid "four square" trips back and forth to the "mystery manager" in the back room. We had done our pricing homework and were shown respect rather than derision for having done so. On both occasions, from the time we came in with our offer until we left with keys in hand was less than two hours. Most of that was waiting for the car to have its detailing done. Actual price negotiations took about 15 minutes.

Back at home, we have both vehicles plugged in and posing for their group photo. The charger for the blue Volt is on the wall behind the car.

Meanwhile, the buy-back process progresses. We have the final purchase offer completed on the Golf and should receive one for the Jetta in a few days. We are awaiting scheduling of the actual transfer which is likely to happen after the holidays. As we are concerned that the new administration will cancel the EV tax credit, we decided to complete the purchase of both Volts in this calendar year, even without the Volkswagen cash in hand. Here are the two Volkswagens in the back yard with the rest of the junk waiting to be carted off to the dump.

Update Dec 3 - Yesterday, we had the after-market Katzkin leather installed by Dealer Source in Austin. They did a great job and the service was excellent. I opted for a contrasting center panel in the seats. I had not been able to find a vehicle with factory leather in stock so took this approach. I think that the factory leather feels firmer and stretches tighter on the seat. The Katzkin is more supple and puckers a bit around the seat well. Both look good but are different in style.The photo shows first the original cloth and then the leather replacement.

We also had the windows tinted at Sunbusters in Austin. As with the white Volt, we selected the Formula One Pinnacle ceramic film, 30% on the sides and 15% on the rear hatch.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Goodwater Loop

The Goodwater Loop is an epic mountain bike trail that circles all of Lake Georgetown. I have ridden various segments of it many times over the last ten years but had never tried the whole thing in one go. I gave it a shot today and completed in just over 6 hours. Including the segment of the San Gabriel River Trail from River Road, the whole circuit was just under 36 miles. Without that segment, the loop itself was about 31 miles.

Trail record logged by iSmoothRun
I logged the trail with iSmoothRun on my iPhone. The map above is a screen capture from that app. The colors represent speed with hotter colors indicating faster progress. I rode the loop counter-clockwise, starting from Overlook Park, the segment I am most familiar with. The section from Russell Park to Camp Tejas is primarily a jeep road and goes very quickly. The southern part of the loop, especially in the middle part, I found to be the most challenging with regard to longer technical climbs. The trail is described as alternating between dirt and rocks and rock and rocks. Except for the stretch on the jeep road, that is pretty accurate. Much of the rest of the trail is riddled with repeated outcrops of eroded limestone that add to the technical challenge. 

Lunch at Russell Park
Many spots offer great panoramic views of the lake and its various alcoves. I also saw a myriad of butterflies on the trail. I almost wish I had had a camera with me ... of course, the loop would then have taken a lot longer. These longhorns were at Crockett Gardens

I got through with only one mechanical problem. The bolt through the lower eyelet of the rear shock sheered in half. I did not take any big drops, so not sure how that happened. Fortunately, the remaining pieces held the shock on until I finished the ride.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Double Rainbow

After a day of rain, the sun came out low in the west giving a great double rainbow against the gray eastern sky of the receding storm.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Butterflies at Hornsby Bend

We went down to Hornsby Bend to look for some reported rare birds sightings. No luck with those but we did see a dozen immature White Faced Ibis, something we have never seen there before. They were feeding far out on the mud flats.

In addition to the ever-present Least Sandpipers, we also saw quite a few Killdeer. Here is a pair that were posturing at each other, something new for me. There were also many hundred European Starlings lining the power lines like a Hitchcock movie.

At the observatory shelter along the south road, we stopped and looked at butterflies foraging in the native flower garden. I had not paid much attention to these before but as we began taking pictures we realized just how many different types there were. I found a checklist of butterflies posted at the shelter and took a picture of it for reference. It includes an expectation of how rare each is at Hornsby. Once home, we got out our copy of Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America and identified 18 different species. I also went back over my image archive and found others to identify.

Giant Swallowtail - Listed as (A) abundant. These are truly monsters, even bigger than the Tiger Swallowtail I have seen at home (see next images). We only saw two of these.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - For comparison, this is one we saw at home in August 2014.

Pipevine Swallowtail - Also listed as (A) abundant. We only saw one. This was a very spastic butterfly. It never stopped fluttering, even when feeding. This one was particularly ragged with most of its hind-wing damaged. The metallic blue marks this as a male.

Julia Heliconian - Listed as (U) uncommon. These images are of females as noted by the black band across the middle of the fore-wing and the browner tones on the underside. We saw perhaps perhaps a half dozen of these.

Dusky-blue Groundstreak - A type of Hairstreak, these are marked as (C) common at Hornsby. We only got this quick view of the one individual.

Tailed Orange -  A type of Sulfur, this one is mark as (R) rare for Hornsby. I found this surprising since they were numerous today - we saw perhaps a dozen. This one is in its "winter form". Both forms have the distinctive tail spike.

Queen - This one is listed as (A) abundant, though we only saw a couple. From the underside, easily confused with a Monarch. However the upperside lacks the black veining. The black spots on the inner hind-wing mark this as a male.

White-striped Longtail - This one was marked as (U) uncommon. Kaufman shows it as common in Mexico and straying up into southern Texas, similar to the Tailed Orange. The markings are very distinct. We only saw one.

Tropical Checkered Skipper - Whereas the Common/White Checkered Skipper is listed as (A) abundant, the Tropical is listed as (O) occasional. Identification based on the merged black bands on the fore wing fringe near tip, the more pronounced white spot on the fore wing cell. These marks are evident on the first image but less obvious on the second image. We saw several of these.

Cloudless Sulfur - Listed as (A) abundant. I was never able to get a photo of the upperside but observed it as being pure yellow with little or no markings. That coupled with the wing shape, double spot on hind wing, and range lead me to conclude the Cloudless. We saw many of these; in combination with the Tailed Orange were the most prevalent species.

Common Mestra - This Brushfoot variety is listed as (C) common but only in the Fall.  We saw a few of these.

Bordered Patch - Listed as (A) abundant.

Texan Crescent - Listed as (A) abundant.

Pearl Crescent - Listed as (A) abundant.

Phaon Crescent - Listed as (A) abundant.

Tawny Emperor -Listed as (U) uncommon.The emperor butterflies were very interesting. They were not feeding on the flowers but rather lapping up sap from a small branch of wood. This more uncommon Tawny has two complete bars on the leading edge of the fore wing and no  dark spot on the outer edge.

Hackberry Emperor - Listed as (C) common. Similar to the Tawny but note the extra spot on the edge of the fore wing.

Question Mark Comma - Listed as (C) common. In this mixed image, it is the lower-most butterfly with the pointed hind edge. The others are more Tawny Emperors. The butterflies were tangling with several species of wasps for the sap.

American Snout - Listed as (A) abundant. A fairly drab moth-like butterfly with a long proboscis sticking out from the front of the head.

Great Purple Hairstreak - This is one we actually saw at Hornsby last March but I had not tried to identify it. It is listed as (U) uncommon.

More at Home - This was quite interesting. Over the next week at home, I had a more careful look at the denizens of our own native flower patch. On the milkweed, we found both Queen and Monarchs in droves. We also found a number of the same butterflies as at Hornsby plus some little skippers.

Monarch - Listed as (C) common at Hornsby. I was pleased to see a Monarch on our patch of Tropical Milkweed. The first one, lacking the black spots on the inner hind wing, is a female.

Queen - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. We have a number of Queens visiting the milkweed and there are currently several Queen caterpillars. Here this one is on the Gregg's Mist flower.

American Snout - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. Here is another American Snout. This side veiw shows the proboscis more clearly.

Common Mestra - We saw a half dozen of these at home as well.

Dusky-Blue Groundstreak - I found another one of these on the Apache Plume and got a better view.

Gray Hairstreak - Listed as (C) common at Hornsby. Found this one on the Apache Plume, right next to the dusky-blue. These are subtle differences in the patterning of the hindwing.

Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak (Texas) - Listed as (O) Occasional at Hornsby. This one was much smaller than the other Hairstreaks. The two spots towards the front of the hind wing are field marks.

Fiery Skipper - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. One of two Skippers I identified. They are very small and I would have previously guessed they were drab moths. These first two are females.

This one with more orange in the wings and the black "stigmata" on the fore wing is a male.

Sachem Skipper - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. This one, with the large glassy spot on the upper forewing is a female.

Clouded Skipper - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. Note the dark band on the hind wing.

Julia Skipper - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. This is a very drab butterfly. Other candidate identification is Swarthy Skipper. I am going with this choice based on range, warmer hue, and less pronounce paleness of veins.

Southern Skipperling - Listed as (C) common at Hornsby. These were noticeably smaller than the other skippers. The white band is a field mark.

This last one was from Nov 6

Phaon Crescent - Another one of these at home. I saw several low in the grass but this one photo-bombed my movie of Queens on the Tropical Milkweed.

Pearl Crescent - On the milkweed, a single Pearl made an appearance, repeatedly mixing it up with the Queens.

Tailed Orange - A couple of these made an appearance. I tried very hard to get a picture of the upper side as it was flying but the light was too dim to stop the motion. It is bright tangerine colored with a bit of black on the leading edge.

Little Yellow - Listed as (A) abundant at Hornsby. At first I thought this was another Cloudless Sulfur but the patterning is different. This was distinguished from similar yellows by the spots a the base of the wings