Current Bird (and nature) News
Rufous-capped Warbler

Rufous-capped Warbler - Basileuterus rufifrons jouyi
at Neal's Lodge, Concan TX, March '06


MOST RECENT UPDATE: April 19, 2019
(prior updates: April 12, 5, March 29, 15, 8, 1, Feb. 22, 15, 8, 1


We had hard freezes early in March on March 3rd, 4th, and 5th. Lost Maples froze the 17th. Wind chills were in the 30's on the 31st! We froze again here at Utopia the morning of April 2! I have seen freezes in latest April and earliest May, but we are likely out of the woods for that now. Average last freeze is March 20-21.

I heard a Golden-cheeked Warbler sing in our yard the afternoon of March 8, my first this year. One was reported at Lost Maples the 6th or 7th. Kathy and I had a dozen+ Golden-cheeks at Lost Maples the 17th plus Louisiana Waterthrush was back singing, a migrant Nashville was very early, and near Vanderpool on way, my first Scissor-tailed Flycatcher this spring was early.

We have entered that time of year when FOS - first-of-season birds might show up any day for the next almost 2 months. Our first arrivals are returning local breeders that migrate away for the winter. Passage migrants that breed far to the north don't show until much later. Since the Turkey Vultures on Feb. 14th, that week two other new returnee arrivals included my earliest ever Vermilion Flycatcher by 8 days, and White-eyed Vireo returned, they have been showing up much earlier than they used to for a few years now. Black-chinned Hummingbird is another arriving almost a couple weeks earlier than it used to, and was back on Feb. 24th.

Some March arrivals were: Barn Swallow and Purple Martin March 1, both in town. Northern Rough-winged Swallow March 5. March 7 two Long-billed Curlew flew over calling after 11 p.m. March 8 besides a yard Golden-cheek, I had my first spring migrant Monarch butterfly from Mexico! Two Yellow-throated Warbler arrived March 10, three Blue-gray Gnatcatcher were my FOS March 13, Ash-throated Flycacher arrived March 14. March 22 I saw my first Hooded Oriole, Bell's Vireo, Cave Swallow, and Great-tailed Grackle. Its a near-daily parade of new first of season migrant birds for 60-90 days. Northern Parula sang in our yard the 23rd. March 24 we saw our FOS Grasshopper (6!) and Clay-colored Sparrow at the north end of town. A male Lazuli Bunting was at the trailhead parking lot feeding station at Lost Maples March 30-31 at least.

My FOS April arrivals so far include Firefly (4th), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (6th), Cassin's Sparrow (7th), Yellow-breasted Chat (8th), Red-eyed Vireo and Bronzed Cowbird on the 11th, and an early Great Crested Flycatcher on the 12th. Good thing I waited until dusk before posting the update (12th), a Chuck-wills-widow is calling out there, my FOS. Western Kingbird and Solitary Sandpiper showed on the 13th, Bullock's Oriole on the 15th, it is poppin' now. My FOS Painted Bunting was on our patio the 18th, another down the road. A Cassin's Kingbird was in our yard on the 18th as well, which is a minor rary here, I have had it about 5 springs of 16 now.

A YELLOW GROSBEAK was being seen in Concan on private property, see notes just below. A RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN was in Uvalde, but seemingly is gone. A few various Texbirds groups on Zuckerbook is where much current info is nowadays. So if you do that, look there. I remain fairly blissfully clueless save in my microcosm. For example I just found out there was a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron in Uvalde Co. last year, on private property and not chaseable as I understand it.

A couple recent bird reporting rantlets follow:

UPDATED: There was a HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER at Lost Maples from mid-December per reports in ebird. Laura Levy saw it again mid-February. She also kindly sent me some information about the location of the bird. From the trailhead where the bird feeding station is, head toward the pond. At the second crossing, before crossing you turn right to stay along Can Creek toward the pond. In a very short distance, maybe a hundred yards there is a concrete dam across the stream with a steel drain pipe in it. Above, around, and below this dam is where the bird has been seen. This is across the creek from the ranger residence with the tall Ham-CB radio antenna tower.

The following I think makes a good point or two about reporting birds. It was written before I found out where the bird was... about 7 weeks after first reported. So I am leaving it up for a bit...

Reading them (ebird Hammond's reports) trying to figure out where the flycatcher was gives me a headache and no sense of where exactly to look since locations are conflicting. Likewise a LECONTE'S SPARROW in ebird for Garner St. Pk. gives no directions of where in 2000 acres to look. As often the pin dots placed on the maps are generic one never can tell if any given pin placement was intended if not specified as such. All the Hammond's pins are for the same place (generic), which does not match the locations described for instance. This is new bird reporting. Done in a way that a local can not use the report to go look for the bird. It is a great technological advancement. A couple just give east-west trail which narrows it down to a mile. One of the others more specific is probably correct but they are a half mile or more apart by description. The data is for other purposes obviously, not for a local to use to know where to find the bird. Weird.

I am pretty certain ebird has the capability for people to put a pin in the correct place for an unusual bird, but few use it that way. These birds were not on the sites ebird lists prior, so locations should be denoted succinctly. What about other people showing up after you knowing where to look? When we were at Lost Maples in early Jan. none had put it in the bird notebook at HQ either. Like we did for the Townsend's Warbler in Dec., or the Rufous-capped Warbler a few years ago, or anything unusual we see.

This very old-school method is so anyone walking in as you leave (without internet maybe?) can know where to look for something unusual just seen. Whereas waiting until you get connected and uploaded say that evening, people may be right where you just were and have no way to know something was there. Old school, I know, it works better for some things sometimes. Grab a map at the counter, put a dot on it at the spot with the bird and date and put that in the bird notebook. "Here is where to look for the rary" used to be a big important part of bird reporting. So others stumbling around might see it, perhaps extending the date range, and adding to the record and science.

UPDATED: There is a YELLOW GROSBEAK at a feeder in Concan, which is private and open by special arrangement to the general public. All I know is Texbirds at Zuckerbook has info, so I don't know anything. I hear some few folks are getting to see the bird, so it continues apparently. Probably a secret password and handshake involved, I don't know. I am not much on chasing birds, least of all for a feeder vigil.

Of course the 'questionable origin' issue is being tossed around by professional naysayers as quickly as the report is made. There is no reason a Yellow Grosbeak can't occur here. Lots of Mexican birds do. Factors more than most think. I had a Roadside Hawk return to winter around Utopia multiple years. If there are no outward obvious signs of it having been captive, the naysayers should have to prove their extraordinary claim with legitimate actual evidence, not unsupported speculation, just like they require of any bird ID claim.

Think about it, the escaped cagebird people are claiming the first escaped passerine ever recorded in a hundred years in Concan, with no evidence. Meanwhile the list of Mexican origin wild birds that have occurred around Concan includes Tropical Parula, Rufous-capped Warbler, Painted Redstart, Green Jay, Audubon's Oriole, White-tipped Dove, Short-tailed Hawk, and within 20 miles are records of a couple Rufous-backed Robin, a few Clay-colored Thrush, Collared Plover, Tropical Kingbird, Broad-billed, Lucifer and White-eared Hummingbird, Red-billed Pigeon, plus sight reports of White-collared Seedeater, Gray Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Yellow-green Vireo and other Mexican species. None of which were escaped cagebirds. The naysayers are the ones making the extraordinary claim. They are the same people that say 'wheres the pattern, wheres the pattern'. As if there has to be a known pattern. Where is the pattern of escaped Yellow Grosbeaks? Extraordinary claim? NO pattern? NO evidence? NO sale. Extraordinary claim of escape denied. Wild until PROVEN otherwise. Speculation should not be considered for provenance anymore than it would be for an identification.

The only reason to think it is unusual is because the people saying that did not spend the last 20 years birding the area or region. They know nothing about what is going on here with Mexican vagrants. They are clueless. For the west half of the southern part of Texas north into the southern edge of the plateau, 99.9% of it is NEVER looked at 99.9% of the time. And lots of time when someone does, they find something good, from Mexico. Yet the people that virtually never even poke around and look, suggest a mexican vagrant is so impossible it must be an escaped cagebird, with no evidence. The naysayers are hypocrites that don't hold themselves to the same standards of evidence for their unsubstantiated wild claims as they do your bird report.

Golden-cheeked Warbler

The light was bad, but the bird was good.



For some detailed 2018 Lost Maples reports see the dated entries below (or at Old Bird News #29 and #30 now) for April 1, 9, 10, 15, 29, May 13, June 3 and 24, July 29, Aug. 26, Sept. 30 and Dec. 2. Tip: Ignore the ebird Chihuahuan Raven reports at Lost Maples, they are mis-ID'd Common Ravens which are common residents. In birdnews between May and June entries, there is a chronological list of my local arrival dates for the entire spring from the first arrivals in January. For those that like to see when what arrives roughly.

There is a new page up with a long discussion, called "The Birds of Utopia Park," which includes the park bird list. If you can't sleep it may be just the ticket. It will be getting some fixes and changes still, but the basic is up. I have been making corrections here and there, and will likely add to it as time goes on, but for now it gets some info out there.
The Birds of Utopia Park

A quick note about Utopia Park. There have been some changes in management and rules. It is now $5 per person to enter, during the off-season. Peak, from spring break until Labor Day it will be $10 per person to enter. No charge for Utopia or Vanderpool residents.

Note we also have a fairly new 'where to stay' page, with contact info, links and names of many of the local lodging options. It is linked at top above in the NavBar under the Sites and Misc. section, and below in the link section just above the current bird news.

Of expected but scarcer or local things around, there are the usual: Zone-tailed Hawk, Canyon Towhee and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, Ringed and Green Kingfisher. Some few Audubon's Oriole are around, like Bushtit, you could see one anywhere anytime, or nowhere at no time. It's birding!%^*@%! Again some White-tipped Dove and Olive Sparrow have been at Lost Maples, and around Utopia, the new normal. Both nested at Lost Maples probably at least the last two years (begging juveniles seen and heard).

You may want to scroll down to the date of the last update you read, and scroll or read UP day-to-day to read in chronological sequence, some references might make more sense that way. For repeat offenders there is a link just below to jump straight to newest update. There is a broken line of tildes (~) to denote prior update breaks, if you are lucky with a photo. Sometimes this header is archived within body of news as well since it changes. Seperated by tildes as well, as are monthly summaries.

For visiting cell phone users, often only AT&T works here, or Concan, and many local areas Sabinal to Leakey, etc. Often around Hwy 90 (Hondo, Uvalde) you can get other signals. Then wi-fi is available at the Utopia Library, the store in Vanderpool had a sign saying they have it there too. State Park headquarters may have it? Don't tell them I told you.   ;)

Please holler if you see something good locally! THANKS!  :)  (local 830 Utopia landline WON~2349)
E-dress clickably linked at bottom of most pages: mitchATutopianatureDOTcom

Note on navbar at top of this page and the home page, and somewhere around the chat picture below is a link to a new LINKS page that is a quick handy way outta here. Who loves ya baby? It is a collection of some of the links I will publicly admit to using, though a couple with no small amount of trepidation. Space, weather, bugs, birds, blogs, bird cams, and other stuff...   Enjoy!

This page has the current bird and nature news from the area around Utopia, the Sabinal River Valley (SRV), and occasionally elsewhere in the area, such as Uvalde, Concan, Lost Maples, etc. Often very unusual sightings will be in CAPS. There will also be occasional mention of butterfly (lep) or dragonfly (ode) sightings when they are out and about. Or anything natural history of interest.

If you are a frequent flier scroll down past the Rufous-backed Robin sketch and a few 'recent' highlight photos below that, and you'll quickly be at the most recent news. Or hit the " jump to bird news " link just above. Entries are in reverse chronological order, with most recent day, date, and weekly post at top.

I have been fairly good for a few years now about posting a weekly update Friday evenings. Since weekend night life is so exciting here. Usually it is minor local (often yard) notes from nearly every day. Some daily or near-daily notes of what is going on with birds, or butterflies, dragonflies, fish, flowers, reptiles, triops, cerambycids, buprestids, bombyliads, and so on. Anything might get mentioned. Usually just yard notes. Unless you got to be stationed at the park all day, one site of observation locally is about as good as another. The big picture only becomes amazingly fascinating by filling all the little details in, one tiny bit at a time.

If you're in the area and see something, please don't hesitate to let us know. For instance, we would be happy to post Lost Maples SNA bird news, if it were reported to us. Perhaps other visitors might better know where to look for something of interest. E-mail link in next (pale yellow) box, and at bottom of most pages. Local (eight-three-zero) landline WON~2349. I can be at the park in 10 minutes, 8 if I was dressed with shoes on, 5 if it is a Sabine's Gull, but I might not be fully dressed.

Thanks and enjoy! Some rudimentary maps of the area are at the bottom of the "site guide" page, if you need help locating any of the places mentioned.

Anyone birding the area should get a copy of June Osborne's neat local birding guide, "Birding the Concan Area." It is an invaluable reference for birding the local area. It covers Uvalde to Concan, Sabinal, and the Utopia area. If you're not familiar with the area, it will show you lots of the productive local roads and spots to check. Neal's Lodges has it, as well as lots of birding stuff at their store. We do have some informational stuff on the local birding sites page.

There are now 15+ (!) years and growing worth of nature notes here, mostly in the bird news archives pages linked at the bottom of this page in 6 month segments. You can fairly easily check, 10 fall or spring periods, etc., and get a good idea of what goes on when, where, or how weak migration is here.   :) If you're coming in April, you can check several years out and see when different species arrive.  For instance for Painted Buntings not till later April, earliest numbers about the 18-20th, later is better, some years not till the 21-22 are the first back locally.  Often a few days earlier down in lower altitude brush country (earlier still down on the coast) etc. Adult males mostly depart territories and the area the first week of August.

Be sure to check out the Bird List page, which is updated (2016) with seasonal status and abundance for each species. It lists all 340 plus species (!) known from the upper Sabinal River drainage.

The 10th (!) winter bird count totals are up on the Bird Count Page

A newer page is the butterfly rarity photos: Rare Butterflies

NOTE: The FOS (First of Season) dates given are for the Utopia area. That may be the first of spring, first of fall, or first of winter, etc. In spring for example, for many species (birds, butterflies, flowers, etc.) Concan may run a week or more earlier, and Uvalde 1 to 2 weeks or so, earlier than the Utopia area does for some spring arrivals sometimes. In any given year some species will be "early" and others will be "late," compared to averages.

And here's something else.......
Sometimes I may be available as eyes and ears for hire. Send an E-mail if you desire professional expert level birding guide services while in the area. Take out the spaces around the at if you copy this instead of clicking it: mitch @ utopianature.com

Or check out the Bird Guide page.

The BIRDING SITES, HUMMINGBIRDS, BIRD LIST, and LM REPORTS, and RARITIES pages have all been recently updated!

With apologies, I am not interested in photos from other areas for identification. Please please please do not send unsolicited out of area photos. Contact your local Audubon Society if you have pictures of a bird that you would like identified, every area has one. From Houston to Travis to Ft. Worth, Big Sky, Llano Estacado, no matter where you are there are other local folks interested in your local birds, and since you are (to have a pic that you want ID'd) you should want to know them.  :)  Thank you in advance.

Commonly used ABBREVIATIONS are:

"in or around town" - refers to Utopia
UP - Utopia Park off 1050 just west of 187
UR - Utopia on the River grounds (2 mi. S. of town)
LM - Lost Maples SNA
SRV - Sabinal River Valley (Clayton Grade to Lost Maples)
  the upper Sabinal River drainage biogeographic area.
FOS - "First of Season" (usually used for the first
   spring or fall migrant of that species locally)
FOY - First of Year, usually used in winter and spring.
Odes - Odonata - a dragonfly or damselfly
Leps - Lepidoptera - usually butterflies
UvCo - Uvalde County
BanCo - Bandera County


First a 2011 highlight ...

Rufous-backed Robin

This is a sketch of the Rufous-backed Robin that Kathy and I saw at Ft. Inge Uvalde on Feb. 19, 2011.




Broad-winged Hawk   Broad-winged Hawk

This is a begging juvenile Broadwinged Hawk at Lost Maples SNA
the first nesting in Bandera Co. and likely the furthest southwest
nesting ever for the species. Taken August 1, 2015 through binocs.



Some things from 2012 ...

albino House Finch

This albino House Finch complete with red eyes was in our yard in July and August, 2012.



Cerambycid

This Cerambycid (Long-horned Beetle) on Sept. 9, 2012 was
a beauty, and the first of this type I've seen,
Tragidion coquus, thanks to Mike Quinn for the ID!
It seems this is kind of a mega rary here in Texas.
The blind acorn occasionally finds the squirrel.



Finally..... a good (and favorite) bird.....
American Woodcock

American Woodcock (Timberdoodle) at Utopia Dec. 15, 2012



Something from 2013 ...
Texas Coral Snake

Texas Coral Snake ~ Do not handle! Thanks to Nancy Walling for her photo.
Red next to black is a friend of Jack,
Red next to yellow will kill a poor fellow.
This was at Lost Maples, April 26, 2013.



Ringed Kingfisher

Ringed Kingfisher is surely breeding locally now, this a male at Utopia Park on January 23, 2015.





Two-tailed Swallowtail

Two-tailed Swallowtail at Lost Maples April 27, 2014.



Texas Blind Snake

Texas Blind Snake was the longtime common name for Leptotyphlops dulcis,
aka Worm Snake, but now is called Plains Threadsnake. They only have
vestigal (mostly non-functioning) eyes, you can see it is wormish, but
is scaled. They eat ant and termite larvae in particular and come to
the surface mostly in spring, often after rains. May 12, 2014.


Zebra Heliconian

Zebra Longwing (or Heliconian) on Texas Thistle, in yard June 2014



Louisiana Waterthrush

Apparently the first ever documented over-wintering Louisiana Waterthrush on the Edwards Plateau, present at Utopia Park from early December (at least) to March 11 at least, this pic taken Jan. 25, 2015. The bird returned for a second winter Nov. 2015 remaining present at least to Feb. 27, 2016. It has returned again for a third winter so far, this in Sept. of 2016 and was seen to latest December.



Rusty Blackbird

A Rusty Blackbird, adult female, which is a returnee wintering for its second year around UvCo 360 south of town. This photo taken in our yard December 24, 2014, the bird continued to early March. This bird returned Nov. 2015 for its THIRD winter (we know of) so far, and was still present March 9, 2016. It returned again Oct. 2016 and was present through Feb. 2017, for her fourth winter here.



Cedar Waxwing

See der waxwing? OK, Cedar Waxwing. See anything? Let us know! :)
(e-dress above the photos)



Back to Top
Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat

Here are links to some new pages added in the last couple years:

Here is a master index page of 'Old Bird News' links:
Bird News Archives INDEX
It has links to all the 'Bird News' pages, in 6 month increments.

And now for something completely different... I will probably make some changes yet, I was looking for some more pix, but anyway meanwhile at least the basics are up... Here is a new page with some photos and discussion of hybrid Cliff x Cave Swallows: Clave Swallows
~ ~ ~ ~
***  Here is a new page for visitors with ideas, links, phones, contacts, etc., about where to stay locally.
Where to Stay
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
***  Here is a major new page I have been working on for half of last year, and which compiles over a decade of my study at the site. It is a long discussion about the how and why of birds at Utopia Park, and the park bird list.
The Birds of Utopia Park
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Here are assorted links of all manner, and a handy way outta here.
Mitch's Links


There is now a page of photos from 2017: 2017 pix
The pix used for weekly breaks for whole year.

There is also a page of the birdnews photos from 2018: 2018 pix
The pix used for weekly breaks for whole year.

~ ~ ~ finally, current bird news from the greater and lesser Utopia area ~ ~ ~
BIRD & NATURE NEWS 2019


Notes without location cited are in or from yard which is a couple miles south of town at edge of the river habitat corridor. If it doesn't say where it was, it was in or from the yard. Usually a few daily yard notes is all the drivel you get. But you never know what that can lead to. Ready, steady, go!

To repeat since commonly used:
sps.=species; FOS=First of season; FOY=First of Year; FOF=First of fall; LTA=Less than Annual; UP=Utopia Park; SLC=So. Little Creek Rd.; dF=degrees Farenheit; (ph.)=photo obtained; ad.=adult; imm.=immature.; ma.=male; fem.=female; juv.=juvenile; odes=Odonata = dragonflies and damselflies; leps=Lepidoptera (butterflies), town=Utopia; the park= Utopia Park at SW corner of town. WU = Weather Underground (sometimes local station readings referenced) BanCo = Bandera Co.; UvCo = Uvalde Co.



Black-capped Vireo
Black-capped Vireo at Lost Maples


Just to have this handy again for reference, recent prior updates:
April 5, March 29, 22, 15, 8, 1, Feb. 22, 15, 8, 1, Jan. 25, 18, 11, 4
Usually each week's update break is marked with a photo.

You may want to scroll down to last prior update and scroll
up to read in chrono order day to day.
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ and now for the news ~ ~ ~

Apr. 19 ~ Nice brisk 46dF low, clear and sunny, wonderful weather. But I think the northerly flow kept migration motion minimal. A couple Nashville Warbler in the yard was it. Heard another Bullock's Oriole. The park in town had about 15 Myrtle, 1 Audubon's, 6 Nashville, and an Orange-crowned Warbler, plus a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Which I think has been stacked up a couple days now, not newly grounded stuff. One glimpsed bird looked like a Tennessee Warbler but it shot off before I could be sure. The rest was the local breeders. Still a bunch of Common Grackle there in the live-oaks, which is where the warblers are now, they must have bugs or worms. Bell's Vireo still singing by the sign at park entrance, and the one at the NE corner of the Post Office parking lot is also still going strong, hopefully they attracted mates. Saw a Monarch in town (51), the one in the yard here early was likely the one yesterday late and already counted. Late afternoon I saw my FOS female Blue Grosbeak on the patio.

Apr. 18 ~ About 55dF for a rain-cooled low, clear, calm and sunny early but it didn't last. The post-frontal blow set in by 9 a.m. and 15-20 mph gusting higher was the program. We got just a hair under an inch, so are at about 4" for April so far. Which is a good whole month total, and great for the greening of spring, not to mention May flowers. About noon I heard some weird tyrant type squeaking outside, went out and saw a Kingbird fly out of the top of the big pecan, loop all around the yard and then lost it over the corral. It was a CASSIN'S KINGBIRD. There was a Scissor-tail up in the pecan as well, I presume they were having a talk. I had a pair of Cassin's together in the same tree in 2014, a single just down the road in 2015, and a pair in 2016 a half mile from here at the crossing! Some sort of alley for them here.

About 2:30 p.m. I looked out onto the patio and next to a male Blue Grosbeak was my FOS male Painted Bunting! Yeah baby, eat that white millet, I have enough to last until August. Ran down to the crossing and a second male Painted Bunting was there. A 5 min. check of the woods at the park had a Myrtle and 5-6 Nashville Warbler, but wind was howling still. A couple Chimney Swift and Purple Martin there too. Another Monarch in yard is number 50 for the spring so far. Later, about 11 p.m. at least a couple Chuck-wills-widow were calling, a Barn Owl flew over calling, and a Barred Owl called from over at the river.

Apr. 17 ~ Low only in 60's, we are on the warm side of an approaching low, so breezy southerlies too. Got up into the mid-70's. Early a good warbler landed in the pecans and chipped several times before I watched it fly over the house and uphill behind us. Looked and sounded like a Kentucky Warbler, but cannot claim an absolute positive ID. The chip note is a weird loud flat note very unlike any other warbler to my ear. Bird of the day always gets away. One male Indigo Bunting chased another away, so likely one that was territorial here last year. Saw one more Monarch (49). The big line of thunderstroms got here about 10:30 p.m., it rained a couple hours.

Apr. 16 ~ About 62dF for a low, cloudy, southerly flow and breezy, the usual. Heard a Nashville Warbler early. Thought I heard a Yellow Warbler again too, but didn't see it. Outstanding was a Little Wood Satyr butterfly, of which I can only recall one prior sighting in the yard, Apr. of 2014. Saw a male Indigo Bunting on the seed out back, and a male Blue Grosbeak took a bath, which we virtually never seen them do here. A Scissor-tail was out front late morning. I see some Mourning Dove feathers, one got taken. Saw a Ground-Dove. At the bath late p.m. there were 2 Lark Sparrow, a Nashville and 2 Orange-crowned Warbler, a female Summer Tanager which is first female in the yard this spring, probably our returning breeder, and a Lincoln's Sparrow. Saw another 3-inch baby bunnylet (Cottontail) whilst weed-whacking in yard (had one yesterday too).

Apr. 15 ~ Low about 45dF, clear and crisp, wonderful out. After 9 p.m. a FOS male Bullock's Oriole flew into the big pecan whilst I was out in driveway. Then a male Blue Grosbeak flew in very close and sang. Bullock's run a week-to-two ahead of Baltimore here. Of course these Bullock's are arriving in a breeding area, whereas the Baltimore are on their way much further north (where still snowing!). Thought I heard a Yellow Warbler sing. Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk fly by, glimpsed an Indigo Bunting, a couple Nashville Warbler went through, one Myrtle, saw the Red-breasted Nuthatch, and an imm. Sharp-shinned Hawk is still here terrorizing.

Saw two more Monarch (48 now). Great was one of those metallic forest green bees, big as a honey bee, dark oily greenish, beautiful bee, was on the Mealy Sage, which put out its first flowers a couple days ago. A few Coreopsis are open now, saw my first one yesterday. Some Rain Lily, and lots of what I think is Lazy Daisy is going well. Had a bad tire so ran to town to get a couple new tires put on the front of the trucklet. Stopped at park, heard a Green Kingfisher, saw a couple Nashville and Myrtle Warblers, and my FOS female Summer Tanager, but was heat of the day. Nice to hear Chimney Swifts over town. Saw a Western Kingbird on a fenceline on the way back.

Apr. 14 ~ Wind finally stopped, was clear, dry, and ran 42-72dF for a temp spread, Chamber of Commerce weather. As guessed, no migrant motion. Did hear two Blue Grosbeak singing, one from yard pecans sometimes. Saw a Texan Crescent butterfly. Worked on stuff here including spring yard and garden fun. Barred Owl called after dark from over at the river again. The real excitement of the day was at 8:30 p.m. when the power went out. A while later when Bandera Electric called they said 34 places were out, but not up in town. A couple hours later the guys were going pole to pole in the dark looking for the problem. I hear it went back on about 1:30 a.m. or so. Five hours, clear and calm out, never heard any sirens.

Apr. 13 ~ Low about 62dF or so. A couple bands of rain went through just after dawn as the low moved over and NE. About a third of an inch was it for us. Keep the dust down. But the wind turned overnight and was northerly after being southerly at dark, just what you want to knock nocturnal migrants down. A couple Nashville and a couple Myrtle Warbler were in the yard early. Great was a male Indigo Bunting on the patio, and a Blue Grosbeak singing across the road where one nests. Both were my FOS.

Had a dump run so noonish checked the park. A half-dozen each Nashville and Myrtle Warbler, and what was likley the same Great Crested Flycatcher as yesterday. The wind was blowing hard by noon on the backside of the low. About 20 Common Grackle were in the live-oaks and two Green Kingfisher were around the island. On UvCo 363 there was my FOS Western Kingbird on a barbed wire fenceline staying low. Adjacent was a Vermilion and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Then down at the pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cemetery besides a couple Common Grackle was my FOS Solitary Sandpiper. Great bird. Wind blew all day. Northerlies way to the south will likely shut progress down long before it can get here, so I don't look for a big movement tonight.

goldencheekedwarbler
Golden-cheeked Warbler, male.

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Apr. 12 ~ About 41dF for a low felt great, we will be missing that all too soon. Heard the Audubon's Oriole here again this morning. Town run day so a look at the park. The northerlies must have impeded movement as there were a few migrants at the park. Mostly Myrtle (15+) and Nashville Warblers (12+), but one Orange-crowned and a mostly Audubon's amongst them. Technically it was an intergrade, or if you prefer, showed signs of introgression. A sprinkler by the house had a great bathing show going on. I heard a Parula Warbler sing but never saw it, sounded Northern to my ear.

Great was an early Great Crested Flycatcher (3rd earliest in 16 springs), and one Ruby-crowned Kinglet was there. Of course all the already-here breeders were there like Summer Tanager, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler, so an amusing assortment of birds. A half-dozen Common Grackle were there as well. The Bell's Vireo was still singing by the park entrance sign, another was still singing at the post office (N. side by the Huisache and big Live-Oak). The Great-tailed Grackle are by the gas station but appear to be nesting in the trees in the bank parking lot across the street. Looks like one male and a couple females, which doubles the number of breeding females here now, a tremendous expansion, from one, to two. Add one more Monarch (46 now) today. Had the Red-breasted Nuthatch late, almost 6 p.m., then at last light my FOS Chuck-wills-widow called! Finally, great to hear that again.

Apr. 11 ~ Yesterday was 15-20 mph warm southerlies all day, this a.m. it is a cool NW wind as the low way up north moves east and we get the backside winds. Low was about 62dF. Looks like the female bluebird is working on a nest in the box, finally, yahoo! Repeated trips with some grasses. Eastern Phoebe are making repeated trips feeding young in their nest over the bathroom window. Saw the big ad. fem. Cooper's Hawk that is the local breeder and bird terrorist. One male American Goldfinch was about half yellow, so looking funky but better anyway. There were two FOS birds in the yard today, mid-morn a Red-eyed Vireo sang in the Mulberry over the cottage, and in contrast not much of a thrill, in the afternoon a Bronzed Cowbird was out on the patio. Two more Monarch makes 45 for the spring. The Red-eyed Vireo was 3rd earliest in 16 springs.

Apr. 10 ~ About 52dF for a low, nice a crisp, clear. The big system snowing in Rockies to plains is sucking hot air up and we got up to 92dF in the afternoon. The warmest day so far this year. A Red-breasted Nuthatch calling in yard as sun came up. Kinda seemed like it musta slept here. Some great dawn chorus going now.

Ran to town early so my battery could die at the park. I have sure been stuck in worse places. Ever been to Tahoka, TX or Tacna, AZ? One thing about Utopia is that if you just hang around a bit someone you know will come by and help you. So after the jump, I went to the Ranch Outpost hoping they had my size in stock. Don'tcha hate having to ask for a quote on a battery whilst having to leave the engine running outside? Glad at I was here among friends. Anyway now I am the proud owner of the most expensive battery I ever bought. And they gave me a deal! Thought I heard a sign of weakness a recent freezing morning, so not really a surprise, just a pain.

There were about 4 Nashville Warbler singing in the live-oaks at the park. First thing early the east (sunny) side of the big patch of trees is best, it gets first sun. Nothing in the woods this time. Back here at the hovel I had a singing Audubon's Oriole, which came in to my whistle-back. What a great combo for the yard in a couple hours, Audubon's Oriole and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Not an easy pair to get in the same tree in a few hours, it's almost like, well, Utopia. Had two more Monarchs (up to 43 for the spring now). Half-a-dozen Brewer's Blackbird flew over at last sun. At 11 p.m. I finally saw a blinking Firefly, my FOY blinker, though I have seen a few in the day (not blinking yet) already.

Apr. 9 ~ Another clear dry cool morning at about 52dF and went up to about 88dF in the afternoon. The 90's, coming soon. Heard a Nashville Warbler sing a see-bit or few. I see the bluebirds back at the box after not being around much a couple weeks. I think they were prospecting the area, and maybe didn't find a better spot, I hope. They have raised multiple broods in it before. There are even a couple other unused boxes around the yard too.

The male has a neat flight display it does. From 150' away from the box, while the female is in it trying to decide, at the entrance hole looking out, the male flies at the box banking the plane of both wings and body 45 degrees to the left, and then the right, repeatedly going from one to the other like a warbird pilot at an airshow (or the immediate post-boom portion of display flight of a Common Nighthawk), while in direct flight toward the hole. Most obvious and impressive when viewed from directly behind the bird as it flies toward the nest. He really wants her to settle on something and to get things going. I know just how he feels.

Saw at least 3 Ground-Dove on the seed. One might have been a juvie. One Pine Siskin flew over calling. A few bugs included a Pronghorn Clubtail dragonfly, and in butterflies a Goatweed Leafwing, 2 more Monarch (41 now) and a Two-tailed Swallowtail. Lots of the more common now usual stuff. One Orange Sulphur, at least 6 Julia's Skipper in the close part of the front yard. At dusk 6 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew downriver low. About 10 p.m. had a calling Barn Owl flying north way up high (a migrant).

Apr. 8 ~ About 50-84 or so for a temp spread, clear and dry, chamber of commerce weather. Great was my FOS Yellow-breasted Chat, our breeder across the road is back. A dozen Waxwing were around a bit. The Nuthatch came by again, actually got a docu grabshot for April. Does not appear it was the ad. male that was around. Looks like a dove got taken out back. Lots of butterflies moving in the warmth. Dozens of Lyside Sulphur, a couple dozen Bordered Patch, many dozens Vesta Crescent, three more Monarch over the day makes 39 for the spring so far.

April 7 ~ We were awakened around 5 a.m. to the sound of thunder. A well-predicted MCS associated with a low moved out of northern Mexico and marched across Texas. I think we got about 2" of rain, will have to check with neighbors, but it poured, lots of lightning, some very close. Got down to a rain-cooled 60dF. No dust for a week if we are lucky. Was all the same in the yard, a Myrtle Warbler stopped and sang me a couple bars though.

I took a spin around about noon to 2 p.m. to have a lookabout. Kathy skipped the mud birding. The park had a female Green Kingfisher, and 7-8 Blue-winged Teal up by the island in the woods. Saw a couple small flocks of Yellow-rumped Warbler, almost all Myrtle as usual, but one very nice male Audubon's type that looked pure and clean. One Orange-crowned and 1 Nashville Warbler, better was a getting tardyish Hermit Thrush. This is a passage migrant, the local winterers are long gone. At the north end of town more Savannah Sparrow, a Clay-colored or two, and a Grasshopper Sparrow just north of the Med. Ctr. Couple Bell's Vireo singing in the hackberry and mesquite in the area too.

Went out Jones Cmty. Rd. and sparrows were all along it in small groups. A few dozen Lark, a couple dozen Vesper, Chipping, Clay-colored, Lincoln's, a couple dozen Savannah, couple more Grasshopper, and best a FOS Cassin's Sparrow. Which was 15' away on the fence. I was foiled by autofocus again, it wanted the field behind it. A bunch of the sparrows were bathing in the rain puddles. At the Cmty. more Lark, Vesper, and another Grasshopper. Nice sparrow showing, no doubt some knocked down migrants. The wet spot at Haby's on W. Sab. Rd. was a puddle, but it is a start. Saw a few Scissor-tails, including a couple females, some Cave Swallow and Purple Martin, Chimney Swift, and all around town you hear singing Summer Tanager and Yellow-throated Vireo. Two Monarch make 36 for the spring now.

April 6 ~ Threatened to rain all day but maybe a half inch was it all day, cleared and warmed to nice in the afternoon. Worked on stuff here. Heard the Nuthatch again (Red-br.) The big thing was finally my FOS Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and likely a couple at least. Must be nearing a couple hundred Black-chinned around now. About 20 Chippies and near 10 Lark Sparrow. Did not seem to be any migrant motion.

goldencheekedwarbler
A female Golden-cheeked Warbler, note green back.

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April 5 ~ Upper 40's dF for a low ended up in mid-80's for a high in the afternoon. No migrant motion I could detect here, none at the park either save one Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Only prize at the park was a Green Kingfisher at the island. Heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch again in the yard this morning, one still around. Great-tailed Grackle and Cave Swallow at the north end of town. Saw a few Dot-winged Baskettail dragonflies at park, but they were only type flying yet. Odes should start to pop pretty quickly with some heat. Saw my FOY Red Bat circling the pecan tree at dusk as usual.

April 4 ~ More fog mist until afternoon whence cleared at bit, ran about 60-86 for a temp spread, getting warm. Hearing Turkey gobbling at dawn each morning last few days. One Gnatcatcher went through. No other migrants but one Myrtle Warbler. Saw a Firefly whilst still sunny so not blinking that I could tell. Looked at dusk and didn't see any then. Another Monarch late in day, 34 for spring. Summer Tanager and Yellow-throated Vireo singing outside seem to be our local yardish breeders. We get five months at least, six if lucky, of that. Yellow-throated Warbler out there singing too. A pair of N. Rough-winged Swallow were over yard, likely the ones that nest over at the river in Green King holes. Saw my FOY False Duskywing butterfly as well as a female Fiery Skipper, plus a Giant Swallowtail and Reakirt's Blue. At dusk there were a number of Brazillian Freetail Bats which are the first of them I have here seen this year.

April 3 ~ Another gray misty drizzly day, ran about 52-62dF for a temp range. Haven't heard much moving the last couple days, there should be a decent push after this passes and before the next one. Did hear a Gnatcatcher out there, the imm. Sharp-shinned Hawk is still here diving on the seedeaters. Heard a Myrtle Warbler go by. Too many Black-chinned Hummers already, waiting for a Ruby-throat still. Gotta wonder what those 3 Martins were gettin' up there in the drizzle, besides wet. Two Monarch makes 33 this spring.

April 2 ~ Holy cow, a freeze! NOAA for Kerrville said a 39dF low, it hit 32dF there, we had 30dF on the front porch at dawn! Another (!) NOAA swing and a miss by a category here, and an early April freeze. Might have been upper 20's at Lost Maples. Wow. Cold air really sinks into these canyons and valley floors. Great was hearing a Summer Tanager singing up in the big pecan, prolly our yardish breeder back that was at the bath the other day. Heard a Ground-Dove out back, saw maybe a dozen Cedar Waxwing, they have really thinned out, had a couple American Goldfinch and that was it, but maybe 8 Lark Sparrow now back on the patio, likely our local breeders. Heard a Myrtle Warbler go through. Two Monarch went through yard puts us at 31 for the spring. I saw what surely was a Firefly while still sunny out, orange head, black body, but lost it in the tall grass. Then at early dusk I forgot to look until too late and so saw no blinking out there later by time I got out to look.

April 1 ~ Wow it feels like vacation here at the desk working. Slept in to 6:30. Nine miles in the last two days, and my calves wonder what I was thinkin'. It was a long winter with a lot of cookies, but in a feat of amazing discipline only a half gallon of egg nog this year. Obviously not enough hiking though. It was lowest 40's dF for a low at daybreak. NOAA for Kerrville showed it was 36dF at 2 a.m., then warmed to 41 or so by daybreak. So it got cold briefly last night. Cloudy, chilly and gray.

Being April Fool's day, this is the day each year I think about reporting a Great Auk seen flying by a seawatch, sorry no photos. See if anyone goes after it...   Maybe generate some posts about poor directions, delayed report, the special access issues, no gps plot, it probably being an escape, and a couple 'wheresthepatterns?'.   ;)

Kathy heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch in the yard in the a.m. So one is still around. Several years ago when there was a good passage of them one fall, I had an April one here, but this is likely one of the three winterers is my guess. Saw another Vesper Sparrow on the patio with the Chippies and Larks. Chippies are down to about 20 left now.

March 31 ~ Ran about 42dF to 64 or so, early in the a.m. chills were in the 30's. Wind calmed down a bit compared to overnight. Back to Lost maples early to try to help Peter Tamas get a Golden-cheek photo. Cold and breezy made them quieter than I have ever heard them on a spring morning. We saw a fair number of them, and some fairly well. Heard a Black-capped Vireo right by the bench at the start of the first big pond. In general all the usual residents or migrant breeders that are back so far, were seen or heard.

Having been there yesterday it was especially amazing for the species I recorded today but not yesterday. A male Lazuli Bunting at the feeding station was nice (it was reported yesterday), a Broad-winged Hawk over the pond area was my FOS (and my first March date). At the trailhead parking lot feeding station early I heard Audubon's and Scott's Orioles. Not far up the trail were a couple Olive Sparrow, and saw both Nashville and Orange-crowned warbler. Most excellent was a male Slate-colored Junco, which I have not seen in months locally, clearly a migrant from elsewhere. Near the pond. A female Vermilion Flycatcher at the pond was very unusual there. That pond can attract migrant birds. Saw White-tipped Dove and a Zone-tailed Hawk too. So TEN species I did not see yesterday. Considering it was not normal birding and there was surely more around than we saw, the difference was significant to amazing. Today was much worse for the weather, but as often is the case, bad weather is good for us seeing birds.

Back here at the hovel late in the afternoon there was a male Summer Tanager which took a bath. We missed the one Catherine and I saw at Lost Maples yesterday, this only my second of the year. Again saw several Little Wood Satyr, but due to the chill insects were few, and reptiles out of the question.

March 30 ~ Oh whaddaday. Long, and like most long birding days, great. I was guiding Catherine Paris from Cape Cod, and we birded a bit in town here, then did Lost Maples, and in the afternoon a bit around the Sabinal area. Here in town first at the park I had my FOS Chimney Swift. Little Creek Larry said he had some a week ago, but I had not seen any yet. I heard a Green King at the park but it was on the other side of the island so not seeable. A couple Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flew over. A falcon flew over that the Purple Martins were mobbing, which was not a Kestrel, and was likely a male Peregrine.

At the senior center we stopped to check a couple Cave Swallows out, they are nesting under the overhang out front. A male Hooded Oriole was briefly there, and better a bird that flushed off the ground on the south side of the building into that little tree was a 1st spring male Lark Bunting! My FOS. Some Savannah Sparrow at north end of town, heard a couple Bell's Vireo.

At Lost Maples we had an Inca Dove at HQ, saw a couple and heard more White-tipped Dove up the Can Creek trail on way to ponds. Heard probably a dozen to 15 Golden-cheeked Warbler, saw one fantastically, a couple Black-and-white Warbler, a few Yellow-throated Warbler, and maybe 3 Louisiana Waterthrush around the upper pond. No migrant warblers as a couple weeks ago, heard maybe one Myrtle, and no Orange-crowned. Great was an FOS male Summer Tanager. Heard about 3 Yellow-throated Vireo, bunches of White-eyed, maybe two Hutton's Vireo. We went up on top of the bluffs and had a few Black-capped Vireo, saw one male great, and Catherine had a female. Heard Canyon Wren, glimpsed a Scrub-Jay, heard Rufous-crowned Sparrow, heard about three Olive Sparrow sing.

The flowers are getting going much better, but it was coolish so bugs were only on the way back down for the most part. A female Common whitetail dragonfly was my first of the year. Swallowtails were E. Tiger, Two-tailed, Spicebush and Pipevine. Over the day it was maybe 3 worn migrant Monarch. A couple Little Wood Satyr were my FOY. Lots of Duskywings were out, I saw Horace's, Funereal, and Mournful (FOS) for sure, and over a dozen were un-ID'd. Several Northern Cloudywing were about as well.

Then down around Sabinal for a quick look. Leaving the last uplands of the plateau, at that last high hill before the flats, I mentioned to keep an eye out for Harris's Hawk, and one flew over right as we crested it. Just like I planned. It would be the first big hill coming north a few miles out of Sabinal. We had Loggerhead Shrike, Catherine got a Verdin photo, heard an Olive Sparrow, saw a Swainson's Hawk, and a bunch more flowers are going very well down in the warmer lower elevation. I saw a couple odes that are not flying up at Utopia yet, a Prince Baskettail and a couple American Rubyspot, both at the UvCo 309 Sabinal River rivulet crossing a few miles south of Sabinal and a couple hundred yards west of Hwy. 187. A few Caracara, but was kinda windy. Back here there were about 3 dozen Brewer's Blackbird in the corral just east of the river on 360 still. After dark here at the casita I heard a Barn Owl.

blackcappedvireo
Black-capped Vireo. Note gray nape, not completely black.
This is another third year male, still without fully black head.
Second year male head is mostly gray like females, but have a
few black flecks and small patches of a few black feathers
here and there when return the first time. Definitive
(fully mature) adults have fully black heads with no gray.

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Although moving around and not always there, the Wilson's Warbler was back again on the island at the park, now present Dec. 14 - Mar. 15! We had THREE Red-breasted Nuthatch visiting our yard Dec. 2 which were all 3 seen at once still on Jan. 11, 2 still here mid-February, three again Feb. 26, one to March 19 and April 1 so far. A Brown Creeper at the park since late Nov. continued to Jan. 28. An adult female Black-and-white Warbler was at Lost Maples Jan. 5, accidental on the plateau in winter. Good numbers (for here) of Golden-crowned Kinglet are there as well. A number of male Vermilion Flycatcher wintered, along some of the county roads mostly south of town, usually near water, probably 4 at least. One was at the park Jan. 18 & Feb. 8.

The best bird I found all winter was a WESTERN KINGBIRD in Sabinal on Jan. 27, see notes that date for locale. They are accidental at best in winter here. The Hammond's Flycacher at Lost Maples continued at least to mid-Feb., by the concrete dam across from the ranger residence and big radio antenna along Can Creek on way to ponds. I do not think it has been seen the last few weeks, we missed it Mar. 17th. Leslie Calvert had a migrant male Rufous Hummer at her feeders about 5 mi. SSW of town on the 18th.

Further back in Dec., on Dec. 2 an adult male TOWNSEND'S WARBLER was near the HQ building at Lost Maples SNA, a Grasshopper Sparrow was across the road from the rest area a couple miles north of Lost Maples on 187, and a dark chocolate Red-tailed Hawk was on 187 between the first river crossing (Fisher) north of town (Utopia) and the W. Sabinal Rd. turnoff, they are very scarce here. There was a first-winter Red-naped Sapsucker in Cypresses at 3-mile bridge on Dec. 9. A Pine Warbler was at the park Dec. 15th. I saw a female Rusty Blackbird on UvCo 360 Dec. 9 which is surely a returnee for her 6th winter hereabouts. Another Rusty was down in Sabinal Jan. 27. Four Turkey Vulture south of town Dec. 26 is remarkable here, at least one is wintering, roosting at the park with the Blacks. There is no longer a chaseable Coot at the park, haven't seen it in a few weeks.

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Mar. 29 ~ More 60dF clouds and overcast for the morning. Front supposed to come through over the weekend. We could use a little rain, and they are great for knocking migrant birds down here. Gnatcatcher and a Myrtle Warbler in the yard in the a.m., couple more Gnatcats in p.m. Town run. Still not seeing Scissor-tails along the road despite a few so far. Some Bluebonnets are going great now. No Chimney Swifts over town yet. The live-oaks are in bloom so the birds are in them now. The patch at the entrance of the park had 2 dozen male Myrtle Warbler in it, no other warblers, no females. Amazing. There was a pair of Wood Duck up by the island, heard a Belted Kingfisher.

Little Creek Larry said he had two drake and a hen Shoveler at the park about Tuesday. Been scarce here lately. Saw three Monarchs over the day, so up to 26 since the 8th. There is a minor Utopiafest this weekend a few miles NW out of town. A music festival like the ones they were having in the fall. This time only 500 people allowed, not the 2000 the fall fests were, but still, watch out for bewildered or confused tourists.

Mar. 28 ~ Today was breezy southerlies and overcast all day, ran 60-75dF for a temp spread. A rain cell ran by Lost Maples and west across BanCo toward Tarpley. Low end chances, which usually means not. Best all at once Chipping Sparrow count I had was 40 birds or so. They are blowing out. Nice to hear some singing, simple as it is. Field Sparrow still singing across the road. Nice to have that Yellow-throated Vireo back in earshot daily. Ruby-throated Hummer should show up any day now. Surely well over a hundred Black-chinned here now. Saw at least two more Monarchs over the day. 23 now. Heard Wigeon going over northbound right at last twilight.

Mar. 27 ~ Ran another 50-70dF temp spread, breezy and overcast all day. I heard a begging baby Carolina Chickadees so methinks the pair got young out of the nest. It was built into the end of a broken off branch that maybe was 5-6" in diameter tops. Didn't seem like it was hidded or protected much. Four not being used bird houses around the yard. The bluebird pair seems to have moved elsewhere after nesting here every year the last 5, though switching boxes in the middle of the run. Major bummer not hearing and seeing them in the yard much of every day. Maybe I should move some of the boxes. They had been very successful in them raising multiple broods each year, each with two or three young fledged. One Monarch, #21.

Mar. 26 ~ I think it was about 52-72dF for a temp spread, mostly cloudy, breezy, springy. Singing Yellow-throated Vireo and Warbler out there are likely our local nearby breeders. A couple Myrtle Warbler went through northbound. Over the day had four more Monarch, now at 20 for spring! All big worn pale ones. Eastern Screech-Owl calling just after dark. Chipping Sparrow might be down to about 75 or less now. Hummers are up though. Females are gathering the fuzzy seeds of the Anemone to line their nests with. Four Monarch went by over the day, all big worn ones, all heading NNE as always. That makes 20 for the spring migration, having a great showing this year.

Mar. 25 ~ Overcast a.m., some sun in afternoon, ran ca. 60-80dF for a temp spread. At least three more Gnatcats went through yard over the day. Yellow-throated Vireo and Warbler singing are likely our local adjacent nesters. A couple Myrtle Warbler passed by. Chippy numbers are decreasing. Caracara landed over in the corral. An hour before dusk 9 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over, the first from the yard this year. Saw another Monarch, #16 big worn pale one for the spring so far. Great was an Inca Dove that flushed from out back in the afternoon, have not had one around yard lately. After dark there was a Barred Owl calling from over at the river. At least one Monarch, 16 now so far.

March 24 ~ More balmy fog and mist most of the day, some sun in the later afternoon. Heard a Yellow-throated Vireo singing over in the corral. Nearing noon we took a spin around town. At the park were the first two Black-bellied Whistling-Duck I have seen there this spring. Up at the north end of town in a field near the curve at the co. line was a group of a half-dozen each Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrow. It is the most closest-together flocklet of Grasshoppers I have had here. It is prime time for their passage. I mentioned them to Kathy just before we saw them.

Down county line road a block west just past the Prickly Pear patch there was another sparrow flock in the grass. It had 6 Savannah, 5 Vesper, a few Lincoln's, a few Chipping, and my FOS Clay-colored Sparrow. Another half- dozen Savannah were near the med. ctr. Heard the grackle (Great-tailed) by the gas station, saw a few Cave Swallows around the northmost houses in town. Behind the post office there were a dozen American Goldfinch eating Huisache flowers, and I spotted a FOS Swainson's Hawk way up high. Saw two male Scissor-tails at the north end of town, just my 2nd and 3rd, after the early one last Sunday at V'pool.

At the old Preston Place there were not any different birds, but FOS Dun Skipper, FOS Phaon Crescent, a Gray Hairstreak, a worn Monarch, and some little flowers I didn't know. Did see Drummond's Skullcap and Texas Verbena. Then we checked the knoll a mile south of our place on private property. None of the specialties were about (Golden-cheek Warbler, Black-capped Vireo, and Olive Sparrow). There were several Gnatcatcher which I think nest there, a Hutton's Vireo, some Titmice and Bewick's Wren. Saw one flower open each of White Rock Lettuce and Limestone Guara. Kathy spotted the FOS Pronghorn Clubtail dragonfly. Saw a blue-black moth that was surely a Ctenucha. Haven't seen one in years locally, essentially since the year we had the biggest numbers ever of them. That was it. I saw a FOS Streaky Skipper, a Funereal Duskywing, and we had a couple more pale worn Monarch, making three for the day, now 15 for the spring.

Very neat is a cluster of Blue-eyed Grass, the dwarf Iris, blooming in the front yard. Somehow hanging on in a patch of evil crabgrass. After dark here there was my FOS Barking Frog, barking. Cricket-Frogs have been going a couple weeks now. The Eastern Screech-Owl was calling upslope out back. The Canyon Towhee remains MIA and I suspect it has departed for the breeding season again. Last Wednesday was the last day I noted it singing. I think it was late Aug. or Sept. when it arrived here for its 2nd winter. It lost its mate to a Sharpy early in the winter, and did not snag a replacement yet. Off to go sing one up no doubt. There is a pair just north a half mile on the north knoll near the west end of 360.

March 23 ~ Mostly overcast and some fog mist drizzle, kinda soppy, a little bit of sun in afternoon, 55-70dF temp range. A great thrill was mid-morn when a Northern Parula sang in the yard. Grabbed bins from inside as I told Kathy, and we got to watch it and hear some occasional singing. Bam! It was a good clean male Northern on all points. It is my earliest record here too, April 2 was my prior early date. A female Hooded Oriole was with the male that only showed up yesterday. Heard a nuthatch (R-b) , and a Ringed Kingfisher flew downriver in the afternoon. Several Yellow-throated Warbler singing along the river corridor now.

moth
There were a bunch of these moths on the ground at the P.O. today.

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March 22 ~ Low 50's dF to low 70's and mostly sunny. Wonderful. Great was a male Hooded Oriole at one of the hummer feeders mid-morning. That is some spring color if I ever saw any. Should be a Scott's around any day now too. First few hours at least a couple Gnatcats went through yard. Supply run to town. At the typical habitat, the gas station, was the male and two female Great-tailed Grackle, my FOS and likely THE pair that breeds here, with an extra female. A few Cave Swallows were up at the north end of town, my FOS, and a Bell's Vireo was singing at the mesquite patch on county-line Rd. just west of 187. A second male Hooded Oriole was in the Hackberry row on county-line road as well.

A pair of Yellow-throated Vireo were nest-site prospecting at the park, the female lowering and trembling wings, etc. The bird of the day got away though. What was surely a Neotropic Cormorant was on the other side of the island. I heard it plop off a branch into the river and then caught glimpses through the trees on the island as it flew. It was black and clearly way too small for a Double-crested. I have one later Jan. record here. Saw a couple Ischnura Forktail damselflys that looked like Fragile Forktail but they got away. Saw a couple more big pale worn Monarch, up to 12 now for the spring.

Little Creek Larry said he still has about 20 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck over at Little Creek. This morning he saw two pair of Wood Duck in with them. He also mentioned that last week he had a Rufous Hummer at his feeders briefly, so TWO migrant Rufous last week with Leslie Calvert's. Out on the back west end of 360 there was lots of Slender-stem Bitterweed and Blackfoot Daisy in bloom.

March 21 ~ Ran about 55-75dF for a temp spread, pretty nice. Over the day I had three Gnatcatcher go through the yard. Ash-throated Flycatcher was out there, an Orange-crowned Warbler went through. Found a few Lark Sparrow tail feathers on the patio, I suspect the Sharpy must have gotten one. Caracara circled low over the yard a couple times. Besides Sharp-shinned, saw Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, and Zone-tailed Hawks. Mostly it was too busy Thursdays as usual. Heard a Gound-Dove. There was a pale form female Orange Sulphur in the yard briefly puddling.

Mar. 20 ~ Happy Equinox! Wow, official spring! Ran 55-70dF for a temp spread, partly cloudy, but some sun, and quite nice out. Gnatcatcher went through yard in the morning, another noonish, another late late afternoon. About 2:30 I had another big worn pale Monarch, #10 for the spring so far. Which was followed by a singing Golden-cheeked Warbler. Nice in the yard. Ash-throated Flycatcher was calling from up top of the big Pecan. Still some Brewer's Blackbird around but they have largely departed. A couple dozen instead of a couple or few hundred. Chipping Sparrow numbers are also decreasing, they are bugging out too. Where is that first Clay-colored? We had a few spits of rain over the day, and after dark about .15", so about .2 total.

Mar. 19 ~ Low was 38dF, and another mostly sunny day is great. I think we hit 70dF at peak afternoon heat, very nice thank you. A nuthatch was around the yard mid-morning. Field Sparrow singing across the road. Gnatcatcher went through. Still 18 or so American Goldfinch visiting the sunflower feeder. Did not see or hear the Canyon Towhee, it was here yesterday. Saw a Painted Lady butterfly on the blooming Mountain Laurel. Also a Bordered Patch was on Yellow Wood-sorrel, a Texan Crescent flew by, and my FOY Julia's Skipper was about. Kathy thought she had a Monarch go by. Saw the Black Rock Squirrel up in the Hackberry eating fresh flower buds again.

Mar. 18 ~ Low about 40dF, got up to 67 or so, mostly sunny and nice. Great Horned Owl calling at dawn. At least three Blue-gray Gnatcatchers went through the yard. Kathy heard cranes going over. Best was a silent Scrub-Jay sitting in the top of the big pecan right off front porch for five minutes. Good thing I looked, never would have known it was there. We miss way more than we see. Been a while since there was one in the yard. Saw another big worn pale Monarch, #9 now for the spring and in 11 days since first one. Leslie Calvert sent a note, she had a male Rufous Hummingbird at her feeders today! A rare spring migrant to snag here, this about 4 or 5- mi. SSW of town. She also had cranes over her place, so they were on the move today. Lots more Crow-poison popping up here in the yard. Mountain Laurel is still blooming.

Mar. 17 ~ Happy St. Patrick's Day! Plenty o' spring green as buds break stems everywhere. Yesterday was way warmer of low temp than predicted, this morning way colder. It was 34dF here. Finally we stole away and went to Lost Maples for the first time since early January. We mostly missed winter there this year save two walks, in early Dec. and early January. Needed to move some way underused of late muscles and bones, and man it felt great. Heard an Ash-throated Flycatcher from the yard when loading up. We left latish, after 8:30, since it was so cold early and not light early either.

On the way up 187 about a mile and change south of Vanderpool there was a FOS male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on a fenceline. The old saying goes, once you see one, it won't freeze again. We will see. It is my earliest ever here, prior, March 21 and 24 were my two earliest dates. One of the gals in the office at LM HQ said she too had 34 in Utopia this a.m., and so it had to have frozen there at Lost Maples. It felt like it, the air was cold. And the birds were active.

We did not see the Hammond's Flycatcher, this time knowing where to spend extra time looking, but to no avail. We heard a few over a dozen, and saw about 8 Golden-cheeked Warbler, saw one female. Lots of great close views and singing. It was wonderful. I needed that. At least 10 Black-and-white Warbler. Saw one female. We had our FOS Louisiana Waterthrush singing near the upper pond, for a few minutes about 40' above the ground in the top of the tallest bare Sycamore. Heard three Yellow-throated Warbler, saw a couple of them. Those four are all presumed breeders back on territory.

For migrant warblers a couple were obvious with about 10 Orange-crowned indicating major movement for them right now, and a dozen Myrtle Warbler, obviously also on the move now. Best of all was a FOS Nashville Warbler, my earliest ever, Mar. 23 was my prior earliest date. Seven species of warblers in a walk is pretty springy here. It was outstanding warbler watching. A pair of chasing fighting Black-n-whites split when they came to Kathy. Lots of territorial disputes now, we also had toe-to-toe fighting fluttering B-n-whites right in front of us. The flowering trees, the Maples in particular, was where all the action was.

Another good FOS was Yellow-throated Vireo, not my earliest but only by a few days. Heard an Ash-throated Flycatcher, had a quick look at a Zone-tailed Hawk flying away. Heard an Olive Sparrow, heard a couple or few White-tipped Dove, heard about 3 Canyon Wren. Saw a female Scott's Oriole, texana Scrub-Jay, Rufous-crowned and Lincoln's Sparrow, Bewick's and Carolina Wren, maybe 5 Hutton's and a bunch of White-eyed Vireo, a few Ruby-crowned and at least 2 Golden-crowned Kinglet, a couple Common Raven, an Inca Dove, lots of Chipping Sparrow, Black-crested Titmouse and Carolina Chickadee, a dozen Cardinal, couple Ladder-backed Woodpecker, one of the cliff-nesting pair of Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawks. One Hermit Thrush, no Spotted Towhee.

In butterflies we saw several Two-tailed, at least one Eastern Tiger (over a half-dozen big yeller ones), at least a couple Spicebush Swallowtail, besides a few Pipevine. A Clouded Skipper was an early date, mint, and clearly a local emergence. We had three big worn pale Monarchs on the trail, and one on the way home, so four today, which makes 8 so far this spring, in the last 10 days. Over a dozen each Red Admiral and American Lady, a couple Variegated Fritillary and Sleepy Orange, one female Reakirt's Blue, a couple Elfin, Olive-juniper Hairstreak, but still slow, especially for small stuff. Still early. There were a dozen Duskywing, most not ID'd, but a couple were Horace's and a couple were Juvenal's. Only odes were a couple Springtime Darner and three Dot-winged Baskettail. Was coolish fer bugs.

There were a couple Madrone trees in bloom, and the Redbuds were going great, especially by the upper pond where more than a dozen were flamin' pink. Very few flowers out yet. A few Prarie Fleabane, a very few Mountain Laurel and it seems maybe they are yet to go off, one Agarita had some flowers, saw a few Primrose, one Spanish Buckeye had a few flowers, the Red Buckeye (yellow form here) is a week away or so from first opening. You could tell it was getting more wintry as you climbed the canyon with the trees behind the ponds noticeably behind the ones in the lower canyon. The major gully washers over winter did a great job of clearing the cattails out of the ponds. Maybe the Green Kings will start nesting again.

March 16 ~ We worked around here all day, since thinking of playing hooky tomorrow. Saw my FOS yard migrant Lincoln's Sparrow and a Vesper was on the patio again. Ran about 40-60dF for a temp spread but was breezy. Lots of hummers hitting the feeders hard. Thought I heard a nuthatch. The rest was the same gang, Canyon Towhee still singing out there.

couchskingbird
This is the Couch's Kingbird, that the Western KB was with
down in Sabinal in January. Note how saturated the yellow is
and how it reaches up the breast to the green upper breast.
Nicely notched tail, a bit of the dark mask is visible behind eye.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 15 ~ Wind picked back up, 15-20mph from NE with about 48dF for a low, overcast and gray, fairly wintry still. Mighta hit 58 briefly at peak heat in the afternoon. Vesper Sparrow was out in the yard, I always like that. Four Lark Sparrow means another pair of breeders has returned. Town errand run. The annual Porsche club drive came through and over a dozen show grade specimens were outside the cafe around lunch time. A check of the park was slow except that I again saw the wintering male Wilson's Warbler! WeeWow! That makes it a 3 month stay! Awesome over-wintering record on the plateau. One Pied-billed Grebe continues, one Myrtle Warbler. A few Yellow-throated Warbler included a pair together, early for a female to be here already. Saw a Cardinal gathering nesting material, and Black-chinned Hummingbird as well, gathering the dandelion-like remains of the Anemones (Wind-flower). The Chickadees in our yard are already at it a couple weeks going into a tree hole. The Texas Persimmon have leaves breaking stems now. Lots of Black-chinned Hummers here now, probably over a hundred already. Gadzooks! They went nuts quickly.

March 14 ~ A second front is blowing through this morning, so now northerlies and about 50dF, wind is 20 gusting to 25 mph. I see buds just barely breaking stem on Pecans and Mesquite now. Lots of Hackberry in full bloom, the flower is a hack just like the berry. Figures. Poorest excuse of a flower this side of Cedar Elm. A pair of Lark Sparrow on the patio is likely returning breeders. Canyon Towhee singing still. The 3 Pine Siskin were around the sunflower feeder again, and 18 American Goldfinch.

Amazing was a mint fresh Theona Checkerspot (butterfly), surely the earliest one I ever had and surely was a local emergence. Also great was a winter form Questionmark, which was beat, and I did not see one all winter here! It went to a Hackberry flower! There are a couple dozen Vesta Crescent around the yard. Monarch #4 went by, another big pale worn female it appeared. Lots of Yellow Wood-sorrel blooming, more Crow-poison opening. Kathy saw a damselfly briefly. Late in the afternoon I heard a definite positive FOS Ash-throated Flycatcher calling over by the draw. The White-eyed Vireo had been imitating it the last few days.

Mar. 13 ~ Rained overnight, a strong line came through about 4-5 a.m., winds were 35-40+mph, we got about .80 of precip, and it was clear and sunny at dawn. Right when we needed it for a spring sprout. I see a bunch of Bluebonnets (Lupine) have opened at the 187 x 360 intersection. Gonna get real pretty real quick now. I was in town early so a quick check of the park. Little Creek Larry said he had Whistling-Ducks Sunday (10th), about 15, which is the FOS I have heard of.

Great was a FOS Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and fantastic was a calling White-tipped Dove from north of the park, where one often calls from in spring (probably breeds). A pair of Wood Duck were in the slough in the woods by the island. Then back at the house I heard a Ringed Kingfisher fly downriver. Before 10 a.m. TWO Blue-gray Gnatcatcher were in the yard, so 3 so far by mid-morn, this FOS day for them. A Myrtle Warbler went through, a migrant no doubt, have not seen the local winterers in a few weeks. I hear Yellow-throated Warbler singing across the road. Makes me think yesterday's bird in the yard was indeed our returning breeder. Kathy had a Nuthatch still. Got about 75dF in peak afternoon heat, this front was Pacific and not cold. Three Pine Siskin were around in the later afternoon. Heard Barn Owl high and northbound late.

Mar. 12 ~ Cloudy and very breezy, about 62-72dF for a temp spread, a few spritzes here and there, waiting for rain. Great was a Yellow-throated Warbler in the yard early, which is likely our returning breeder. Had a flock of about 120 Cranes thermalling over calling mid-day. I will always stop what I am doing to watch and listen to that. Otherwise was the same gang. Lesser Goldfinch pairs around, the Canyon Towhee still singing, Hutton's and White-eyed Vireo singing. The Carolina Wrens were carrying nesting material. Cardinal and Titmice are singing up a storm, as are Chickadee. Heard a Barn Owl, high and northbound late.

Mar. 11 ~ Was balmy about 63 and foggy first thing early, then it dropped to 54dF or so as some cold air from the front got here. Mist and showers over the morning, maybe a tenth or two. Soppy mess out there. Had a pair of Hutton's Vireo together right out back. There were a couple males singing up the slope, looks like the closest one might have a mate. I heard a call of an Ash-throated Flycatcher up the hill, but, since our local breeder (and many other) White-eyed Vireo imitate it well, I am a wee bit hesitant to call it FOS, though the date is good, right on time. Hoping to hear it some more. In the later afternoon there were 75 Cedar Waxwing up in the big pecan preening, flycatching a little, and seeming to be eating the fresh Hackberry flowers. Then two Golden-crowned Kinglet went through, first in a bit in the yard and surely spring migrants. At dusk, 8 p.m. now, two calling flocks of Am. Wigeon flew over, 35 right over the house, and about 18-20 in the 2nd flock a minute later. More spring migrants heading north.

Mar. 10 ~ About 60dF and foggy in the a.m., got up to about 76dF in the afternoon, there was a peek or two of sun, but mostly it stayed overcast. We are on the warm side of a front on its way. It is still overall brown, except the ground. The live-oaks are more than half, leafless now. The Mesquite, Pecan, cypress, and Hackberry are yet to leaf out, so besides Junipers (Cedar) it is brown still. Won't last long though. Another N. Rough-winged Swallow over the yard this morn. White-eyed Vireo out there too. I took a spin to the park to avoid any gates with cows today.

On the way at the 360 crossing there were 2 drake and a hen Wood Duck. If I would have had camera ready coulda had a great shot when they were close. By time I got it out and going had to use high mag and so a bit fuzzy. Great was a FOS singing Yellow-throated Warbler along the pond at the park. Then on Jones Cmty. Rd. there was another singing just into Bandera Co. past the county line bridge. Third earliest return date for me, the other two earlier are March 2, and Feb. 25, otherwise 13 springs they were later to arrive.

I heard a Bell's Vireo song from a thicket at the north end of town where they nest but did not see it. There was a Mocker nearby (isn't there always here) but the sound was not coming from it. Since it would be a couple weeks early, without seeing it I am letting it go. If when I check it in a few days I have it, then I will use this date as my FOS. Sounded like the real deal to me. There was a male Purple Martin at the Waresville Cmty. house by the golf course pond. The Marsh Wren was still there in the reeds, I presume the one seen all winter. There was a flock of a dozen Savannah Sparrow by the pond which were likely migrants. Saw a bunch of Bladderpod of some sort blooming in a field.

When I got back Kathy said she had a flock of Cranes going north about 20 minutes after I left, wondering if I got them at the park, and sure enough I did, counted 35 at least. It is one of those birds you only see flying over at the park. Later the Black Rock Squirrel was in the Hackberry eating flowers. About 11 p.m. another Barn Owl flew over northbound, calling.

Mar. 9 ~ I am itchin' to get up to Lost Maples, been two dang months we have been too busy, or the weather was bad on weekends. They waffled back and forth on which day was rain this weekend, it was Sat., and now it is Sunday, pretty breezy today. Think it will be next weekend now, both days are good if not coolish, but sunny. I think the 3 days of hard freeze set things back a bit and it is 500' higher than we are here a couple miles south of town so botanically a few days to a week behind anyway. Am trying to hit the Laurel bloom so when you walk up the canyon it is like aroma therapy. And of course to see some Golden-cheeks but since the first just got back, it will be better in another week. Can be great for photos, before all the trees leaf out.

This morning a bunch of the horses from the corral were out on the road out front. Someone didn't close a gate right or something. Maybe 10 mares, 3 with brand new foals, hope no one comes flyin' down the road. When one of the caballeros got here they quickly came in to his honking with feed bags and the gate was secured. That was just the start of loose livestock today...

I thought I would go to the knoll a mile or so from us on private property where Black-capped Vireo and Olive Sparrow nest, and have had Golden-cheek on territory to have check about 11 a.m. I punch a gate code in and two gates open, and you drive across the grass airstrip, the gates close and it is a 900 acre nice piece of live-oak, juniper grassland with a couple knolls with Buckley Oaks. As I got to the second gate almost a hundred yards, some of the Longhorn cows were getting out, and into the airstrip!$%! I herded them back in with the truck, and used the manual button to close the gate. Whew, dodged that bullet. So I thought.

I turned around and went back across the runway. But now to hit the button and leave, again, both gates are going to open for a minute. It looked pretty clear, what could I do but try. I figured I would go around the long way and come in on the back side, where no cows waiting at the other gates. I hit the button over at the first gate and bolt through before it closes. The whole damn herd bolted through the far gate because the button opens both. All but a couple are now out on the grass airstrip thinking they died and went to heaven because it is the greenest place in sight. Good job the cows thought of me! I hoped a dang plane doesn't show up looking for a place to land!

Called the rancher, one of the biggest landowners around, and told him what I did with his cows. Said they looked real happy about it. I drove a mile or so looking for one of his caballeros, found one on the other side of Hwy. 187. Manuel got some feed bags, and a couple hours later we had them all back in that section and off the grass airstrip. At which they looked longingly. It was playing cowboy with his truck and our little trucklet, herding them. Let me tell you, it was a freakin' rodeo. Good thing Kathy was not there, especially in the trucklet. I was doin' brodies with tires spinning cuttin' them off, wish I had some footage of it, no one would believe me. Sometimes one would look at you over the hood seeming to let me know it didn't want to move, and good thing they are not smart enough to know they could take the radiator out just like that with its 4' spread. It was forward, reverse, forward, reverse, oh no they are making an end run, haul ass in reverse and cut them off. Repeat a hundred times over a half mile. That year-old with the little black dots is their evil leader on the end-runs. Thankfully the runway is only about 150' wide most of its length, so with two trucks we were able to get them where we wanted. Then honk the horn with feed bags hanging off the tailgate and most followed us through the gate first try. They were real scared of the gate they came through to get out. The last dozen took me an hour. Two hours after it started I called and let 'em know all the cows were back where they belonged and they could land a cessna again. Seems like I shoulda won a cowboy hat or something... That rodeo stuff is hard work.

By time I got to the knoll it was hot and 1 p.m., almost dead quiet. Only thing of interest was my FOY Springtime Darner dragonfly. A second female Vermilion Flycatcher was back where a pair nests. So since having to use the back side in and out now, I went up to the north knoll on the way out. There had Canyon Towhee and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, but that was it. The heat of day slows had set in. It was nearly 80dF! There was lots of Paralena blooming, a few Slender-stem Bitterweed, a few Prairie Fleabane, and the Rabbit-tobacco is coming up. We could use a rain.

As if all that was not enough, at the crossing I was kneeling down to grab a couple buckets of water for the fish tanks at the river and cracked my kneecap against the edge of the bridge. Over the afternoon it has stiffened and I am sorta limping. That is how hard it hit. I am going to stick with keyboard warrior for the rest of the day. Saw my FOS female Black-chinned Hummingbird, and seemingly at least a dozen males here now. Also my FOS Giant Swallowtail was in the yard over the afternoon. Heard Hutton's Vireo singing upslope out back, and somewhere I heard a White-eyed Vireo today. Great hearing Martins overhead.

woodduck
Here is a pair of Wood Duck, sorry for the wee bit fuzzy.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Mar. 8 ~ Foggy and mostly overcast all day, a low of 60dF (nearly twice what the high was on Monday) and it the afternoon it got up to 80dF! Holy spring! We had low 20's three days ago. Two dozen American Goldfinch were at the sunflower tube. I heard Purple Martin and White-eyed Vireo outside as I was saddling up for the town run. Great to hear that here again now, the sounds of summer. At the park there was another White-eyed Vireo, a couple Myrtle Warbler, no Orange-crowned, heard more Martins. Some Barn Swallows back on Main St., and the Redbuds at the library are flaming pink and awesome. Another Wide-eyed Vireo late in day made for 3 today. Forgot until after update: FOS Common Grackle were in town and at the park today. A Yellow-shafted Flicker was along 360.

Right when we were unloading the trucklet, Kathy heard and then I spotted a single Red-breasted Nuthatch in the pecans, first in a week. At least one is still around. Very cool. Then after Rosie's tacos I was outside and heard three partial Golden-cheeked Warbler songs, just the end bit it gave each time. Came inside for bins, and then could not find it. Oh well, at least I heard it, and in the yard for my FOS is nice. About 3:30 I had my FOS MONARCH, tying my earliest date here. A nice big worn pale female, clearly a migrant from Mexico, it was beatin' tracks NE. My FOS female Vermilion Flycatcher has shown up and boy is the male happy to see her. Kinda seems like he might have been waiting, and looking forward to this. Probably our local yard or corral breeder. Heard a Barn Owl after I posted the update.

Mar. 7 ~ Wow, zonal flow, a low of about 50dF, and it might have kissed 70dF on the cheek quickly in the afternoon. Oh to thaw and air the place out. Birds were the same gang best I could tell, nothing different. The Canyon Towhee is still here and singing. A Red-shouldered Hawk is calling from way up high as their territorial proclamations are made. Sharpy appeared to nab a Chippy early in the morning. There were at least 6 ad.ma. Black-chinned Hummingbird here today, that was an at once count. I got an email from Laura Levy saying she had her first Golden-cheeked Warbler of the year at Lost Maples today, up near the pond. Thanks for the great news Laura!

The live-oaks are really getting devoid of leaves upslope behind us. They are in full fall. Not seeing any Myrtle Warbler, or the Orange-crowned Warbler, I suspect they have departed northward. Bird of the day was a Two-tailed Swallowtail (butterfly) Kathy spotted, first of the year. Saw the Black Rock Squirrel again, still going up into the Hackberry to eat flower buds. About 11:15 p.m. I was outside and two Long-billed Curlew flew over calling, heading north. Spring migrants. An early date methinks off the top of my head.

Mar. 6 ~ Third one in a row, hard freeze, 27dF for a low, and mighty chilly. Partly sunny though and afternoon warmed into mid-50's dF. Thawed out at least. Sharpy was diving on things a lot today. Another good 150 count on the Chipping Sparrows here. Heard a Lark Sparrow singing a bit, first of that this spring here. Heard a Hutton's Vireo upslope behind us. Was too busy with work to lookabout much, Wed. and Thursdays are shot before they get here. Seems like at least three Black-chinned Hummingbird here, likely more. Saw the Black Rock Squirrel again.

March 5 ~ Another 12 hour hard freeze, we were 22dF at sunup. Chilly for here. At least the temp is supposed to double today. There were a couple dozen American Goldfinch at the feeder, most I have seen in a couple weeks. It doesn't bother me at all if they eat at my neighbors. If it was a rare bird I might feel differently.   ;)    Extra seed rations again today but it did get up into the upper 40's dF briefly at peak heat. One more freeze tomorrow morning. Saw the sun a few times. One FOS in the afternoon was my first Northern Rough-winged Swallow of the year over the yard, probably one of the ones that nest close by over at the river in the old Green Kingfisher holes. Otherwise the birds were the same gang, though at least there was some singing today.

March 4 ~ A hard freeze with 26dF at 7 a.m., it hit 32dF about midnight and stayed below that until near noon. Twelve hours, and tonight to tomorrow morning will be at least as long, and colder. At 1 p.m. NOAA Kerrville was showing 31dF with a high of 29 progged for the afternoon. I did not think that was how that was supposed to work. We had 34 or so, so I am not complaining, we actually broke freezing at peak heat. Double seed rations all day for the sunflower and millet burners. Hummers are on the feeders or near them. At least the wind mostly backed off. There were some chills in the teens around the hill country in the morning. Will freeze earlier this eve since starting at 35 at best in afternoon. Heard the Canyon Towhee out there. The rest all seemed the same gang, and I was not about to go hunting something up in this. So glad to have so much to do, inside at a desk. Kathy saw a Gray Fox outside late in the day.

March 3 ~ Early it was still in 50's dF with fog, drizzle, mist all night into early a.m. when the winds and front started arriving. It was warmer at 7 a.m. than 8 a.m., and by 9 was in the low 40's dF with chills in the upper 30's. There seem to be at least 3 ad. ma. Black-chinned Hummingbird here now, put a third feeder out. Not going to be a pleasant day out there. Glad to always have work to do inside. Nothing for bird song today, they aren't wasting their energy. Doubled seed rations all day so they could stock up for the overnight energy burn. Wind finally laid down to a bearable breeze about sundown. Did not see anything different in my peekabouts whilst throwing seed. We have a few Mountain Laurel flowers on one the best bushes, which I can smell when I get near it. Absolutely wonderful.

March 2 ~ More gray drizzle and mist all day, temps in the 50's dF. Worked inside, always biz to do when too soppy out there. A Ringed Kingfisher circled right over the house and yard early morning that looked like it was carrying a small fish. They are likely underway nesting already. I heard a Belted later over toward the river. There must be two hummers here now, as one male was doing some display type flight, the shallow U's, but so a 2nd bird is around. About a dozen American Goldfinch still visiting the sunflower tube. A few Robin and Waxwing around, about 10 Turkey Vulture at once. Spring is coming. But not until after a big freeze coming the 4th.

Canyon Towhee had an extended bout of song from 35' up in the top of the big Pecan right off the front porch. Field Sparrow also sang quite a bit. That Vermilion Flycatcher singing is really great to hear again. The plaintive Field Sparrow sounds so sad and lonely, almost forelorn. The Towhee is neutral, it sounds like it realizes that it not only did not get a very fancy suit, but that it did not get a great song like all the other birds, but this is my song and I will do it well. The Vermilion Flycatcher seems so positive, it sings like it is so exhuberantly happy and excited to be singing it can hardly contain itself.

americangoldfinch
This is maybe 20% of the mega flock of Amercian Goldfinch we saw just north of Sabinal Jan. 27. There are a hundred birds in this frame. At times the flock stretched a quarter mile, all like this. It was a cloud of them, working a ploughed field that had a giant sunflower crop this year.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 1 ~ Wow, it's a whole new month out there. What a surprise, gray, fog, mist, and drizzle. Low in the low 50's dF, got into low 60's. There are a couple male Eastern Bluebird singing out front all day, and I am lovin' it. Field Sparrow singing is nice too. Town run fer shtuff. Saw my FOS Barn Swallow, and Purple Martin in town today! We have freezes progged for Monday and Tuesday mornings, highs just in 40's dF those days. Yikes for them. These early returns are risky business for insectivores.

Saw a Mountail Laurel covered in flowers in town, if it wasn't in someones yard I would have visited it for some aroma therapy. The library Redbud trees are now roaring pink. The Agarita at park entrance are in full yellow glory now too. Lots of Silver Puff is sprouting, some just opening flowers. Englemann's Daisy have leaf rosettes that have sprouted. It is about to explode green out there, but is still very wintry looking, and mostly brown. The Black Willows at the park are sprouting leaves, some a week ago I forgot to mention, but now really going. Some Poverty Weed (Baccharis) also is sprouting leaves.

At the park I did not see the Wilson's Warbler, and only a couple Myrtle were there. I think wintering stuff is buggin' out, just like spring stuff is showing up. A female Green Kingfisher was up at the island, a couple Kinglets (Ruby), was still misting at noon, so quiet. I saw Little Creek Larry and he said he had Barn Swallow yesterday at Little Creek. And that the last few days Poor-will were calling. We hardly get Poor-will down on the flat valley floor where we are now, but when we were on Seco Ridge late Feb. was usually when the earliest ones started calling.

About 3 p.m. a Zone-tailed Hawk worked up the river habitat corridor. I suspect a returning spring migrant since over winter I did not have one around the yard, only up at the park and town. Heard a Belted Kingfisher over at the river. This morning I heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch out front. Little Creek Larry also said all his American Goldfinch have left (so have most of ours), as did his Hermit Thrush and White-crowned Sparrows he had wintering around his place.

~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~

There was no singular rain event, but lots of fog-mist and drizzle with occasional light showers and we probably had 1.5" or so of precip for the month. Good for the ground and spring sprout in an often dry month. The river is still high, roughly at bankful, so that is good. The first Agarita and Redbud flowers were out mid-month which is about on schedule.

Dragonflies were easy to track, I saw one species, a couple Dot-winged Baskettail, which many years is the only species one sees in February. Some years the first damsel shows in Feb., but not this year for me. The baskettail would have been the first dragon of the year as they usually are, were it not for the freak Springwater Dancer Jan. 4, and the anomolous just emerged Green Darner later in January, both at Utopia Park.

Butterflies were high in diversity at 29 species for the month, which is my second best Feb. ever (n~16). Record was 31 sps. in 2017. All of my 4 Febs. with more than 20 species were in the last 7 years. The 9 years prior to last 7 never did I break 20 species in February. Things are changing. Climate related things. Flowers are opening sooner, Juniper pollen gets going sooner, many more butterflies species are out flying sooner, a number of birds are returning sooner. Wintering is shortening. The climate is changing very obviously if you watch nature closely. Best lep was a Great Purple Hairstreak late in month as they sometimes do. A few Henry's Elfin were always treat as usual but of course expected.

Birds were about 76 species over the month locally, low, but we were too busy with work to get out much or up to Lost Maples. On Feb. 1 a big influx of Robin and Waxwing showed up, hundreds were all over the area. I had over 500 waxwing at once in the yard one day, and an evening flight of Robin heading to roost peaked at 2000 on the 15th. The Wilson's Warbler wintering at Utopia Park was still present the 15th which is a great overwinering record on the plateau. The THREE Red-breasted Nuthatch continued through to late in month so spent the whole winter in the area, once since late Oct., two since Nov. and three since early Dec. at latest.

Some of the first migrants show in Feb., returning breeders primarily. Vermilion Flycatcher and White-eyed Vireo were the first passerines back, but as usual the first migratory breeder to return was Turkey Vulture on the 14th. A few of the ad. ma. Vermilions that seemed to be wintering seemed to make it through the month. No telling if the one back in our yard singing the 16th (record early by 8 days) was one of those or not, the early date might suggest it was. Black-chinned Hummingbird returned to our feeders the 24th, fourth earliest, the 3 earlier returns in the 16 years prior were on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd.

~ ~ ~ end February summary ~ ~ ~

Feb. 28 ~ It is fitting we leave Feb. with a cool gray drizzly day, as much of the month was. Thursday so I am stuck at the desk, phone, and computer. Did not see anything different in my outside lookarounds. The earlybird male Black-chinned Hummingbird remains, still no second bird best I can tell. Heard the Hutton's Vireo singing again, as well as the Field Sparrow. I am not seeing the couple or few Myrtle Warbler that wintered in the area though, for a week now, maybe they have departed. The Black Rock Squirrel was out there again, climbing on top of old wellhouse and into hackberry to eat the fresh buds. Sure is a neat beast. Canyon Towhee still here.

Feb. 27 ~ Low was only about 60dF, and it got up to about 77dF in peak afternoon heat. Pretty springy. Birds were the same gang. I saw a Cloudless Sulphur which was my first sure one this year, thought I had a couple fly by earlier in month. Neatest thing was a Black Rock Squirrel over by the little original (offline) well house. Has some holes under it just as they like. It went up into a Hackberry that was just sprouting buds and ate a bunch of them. I forgot to write it down, but I saw one about a week ago as I was coming back from town, at the other far end of the corral a quarter mile away. Being a ground squirrel, it was obviously a bit clumsy in the tree compared to actual tree type (as Fox - the common squirrel here) squirrels. Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver calling shortly before sundown. FOS Skink today (Four-lined).

Feb 26 ~ Only 50dF or so for a low, mixed clouds and sun. There were two Red-breasted Nuthatch together in one pecan whilst I heard another in another part of yard at the same time, so all three are still here! Incredible. There are two male Vermilion Flycatcher out front already fighting over the yard. Hutton's vireo singing, Black-chin Hummer at the feeders, feels like spring is coming. Must be a few hundred white Anemone flowers open today, and I see one little pink one. At a flush event today there had to be 75 Chippies here in the yard, and 75 in the corral. They flush in waves so I got what I thought a very good count. It is 150 now. Bewick's Wren are really getting singing.

Feb. 25 ~ Gray and upper 30's dF for a low. A or the male Black-chinned Hummer was on a feeder at 8 a.m., probably earlier too. A Painted Lady (lep), the first I have seen this month and year, was a worn migrant. Has to be over 125 Chipping Sparrow now. Weird how the flock was slow to collect this winter. Canyon Towhee singing more and House Finch is getting going well now at times too. The American Goldfinch have sure thinned out compared to what they were a few weeks ago, most of the time a dozen or so now is it. Sharpy was around diving on things quite a bit, flushed him away a couple times. It will let me get quite close if I am not carrying the camera. About 10 p.m. I realized there was another not so auspicous FOY, a chigger. Grass just started growing, and bam! Itchy, itchy, scratchy, scratchy. Late p.m. I heard a FOS Barn Owl fly over.

Feb. 24 ~ Clear and coolish in upper 30's dF early, nice since the wind stopped. Later morning my FOS Black-chinned Hummingbird stopped briefly at a feeder! Good thing we just freshened a couple up for them. It did not seem to stick. I heard one was seen a day or two ago just north of San Antonio. Another bird that used to show up later in the first week of March up to a decade ago, and is now showing up in the last week of February.

A great thrill was a Great Purple Hairstreak, which stopped on the garden fence and let me get a shot. Was a female, probably just emerged from one of the Mistletoe clumps in the biggest Hackberry which has several. I have a number of these late February fresh emergence records for them. Couple warm days and pop goes the butterfly. A fair number of Hackberry have buds breaking stem now, not half yet, but some are starting.

Noonish we walked up into Agaritaville upslope behind us into the live-oak and juniper habitat. I got a look at a Spotted Towhee this time, a female with lots of spots above, small ones on tail, and a very brown head (not gray or charcol). A couple Hutton's Vireo were singing. Titmouse, Chippy, Bewick's Wren, singing Field Sparrow, the usual expected. Lots of butterflies on the Agarita which was still going well, but perhaps now is passing peak. Did not see an Elfin though. Several Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, great were a couple FOY Dusky-blue Groundstreak. Saw one Buckeye, a couple dozen each Red Admiral and American Lady, a few Checkered white, Black and Pipevine Swallowtail, Sleepy Orange, some Dogface, a fresh Gulf Fritillary, a worn Variegated Frit, some Vesta Crescent, a Common Checkered-Skipper. So fourteen sps. in an 45 minutes in the Agarita, and the Great Purple here makes 15 sps. for the day. Probably the high daily sps. total so far for the year.

Mid-afternoon we went over to the pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cemetery to see if the Purple Martins were back at that house yet, we did not see or hear any yet. The single Red-winged Blackbird and ad.ma. Vermilion Flycatcher that have been there all winter were both there. There were three Eastern Phoebe some in a tussle. Three together at once likely indicates passage birds are moving through heading back north. Along 363 on the way in off 187 there was Vesper, Savannah, and Chipping Sparrow.

Feb. 23 ~ Started out calm, gray, and overcast, was near 60dF before sunup. Shortly after the front hit, it dropped 10dF and winds were 15-20 mph almost all day. Cleared the skies by noonish. Heard Hutton's Vireo singing out back up the slope in the live-oaks. Canyon Towhee singing out front from a pecan tree. A flock of a hundred Meadowlark flew over the house early, the only one to call sounded standard Eastern to me. But one can't suggest the flock was such based on one bird calling. Most big flocks here are Western. The wind was too much so worked on stuff here. Saw FOY Dun Skipper (butterfly), a couple fresh Vesta Crescent, plus a few of the regular things already flying.

A classic sign of spring is migrating geese heading north.
We virtually never see White-fronted Goose on the ground here,
but they are regular spring migrants overhead a thousand feet up.
Often at night, which tends to make photographing them tricky.  :)
Early to mid-morning you can catch them if lucky. This is how we
usually see them here, flying high overhead. I have a genetic defect
which allows me to hear them when I look at pictures of them.

whitefrontedgooose

whitefrontedgooose

whitefrontedgooose

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 22 ~ Fog and drizzly much of the overnight and morning, about 52dF for a low, and gray. Lots of Cardinal and Carolina Wren song out there early. As far as I can hear in any direction I can hear both singing, must be a dozen of each, and when all going at once, wow. Awesome chorus. Sure have missed this. Pine Siskin was out there, and a couple dozen American Goldfinch. The lone Lark Sparrow that wintered is still here on the seed. Saw my first Crow-Poison flowers.

The Canyon Towhee is singing a bit more too, it will likely leave in a month or so. When it starts singing, that means it is getting motivated to depart. At least for this one that winters at a territory it does not breed at. Ours certainly is not a resident. It leaves in spring and comes back in fall. It lost the mate it returned with last fall, early this winter, to an accipiter. I am surprised another did not show up over the whole winter.

At the park there was a Green Kingfisher. Better a female Ring-necked Duck, first of that I have seen all winter, maybe a migrant. One Pied-billed Grebe, no Coot though, heard a Flicker, a dozen Myrtle Warbler but no Wilson's, only 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 10 Turkey Vulture amongst the Blacks at the roost. Did not hear any Martins in town. Warmed into 60's dF later in afternoon. Just before sundown I was at the 360 crossing briefly and saw my FOY Blanchard's Cricket-frog.

Feb. 21 ~ Another gray day in the 50's dF. Just after tossing noon seed, I had my FOS White-fronted Goose flock of the spring heading north upvalley, a thousand feet up. Three V's totalling over 500 birds. Love that call. Right after I turned the camera off after grabbing a couple shots I turned around and a Merlin shot right over the house, mighta coulda hadda shot if I had left the camera on a few seconds longer to spot it inbound. Don't know if was a locally wintering bird, or at this time, it could be a migrant heading north too. Their speed never ceases to amaze me. Some Robins and Waxwings, the usual regular gang of birds was it. Too busy to look.

Feb. 20 ~ Low 30's dF this morning, just above freezing, about 33-65dF was our temp spread for the day. Seco Creek WU station showed 30dF for a low. It was chilly. I had too much work to do at the box o'bolts and desk to see anything. There were THREE Pine Siskin out there briefly early, which after yesterday's single is interesting. Sure love those calls. There was a pair of Canyon Towhee out at the gate at the west end of 360, and ours was here around the yard today. Several Black Swallowtail around, one Orange Sulphur was worn and seemed likely a leftover but was my first this month. An Elfin (only Henry's here) flew by quickly as they do. Lots of live-oaks are turning yellow, some very yellow, and some have already dropped or are heavilly dropping leaves in their annual replacement cycle. It is early actually for so many to be so advanced right now, normally it is more a March thing.

Feb. 19 ~ Ran about 37-48dF for a temp spread, cool and breezy, occasional mist in a.m. and again late in day and evening. Probably got a tenth of an inch out of it all told. Heard the Hutton's Vireo singing again. There was one Pine Siskin around, the first I have seen maybe since December or early Jan. at latest. Probably the same one that was here then. They just didn't show this year, which means there were likely great food sources for them between where they breed and here. Otherwise the same gang. Chipping Sparrows might be near 120 in the flock now. Heard a nuthatch. Again hundreds of Robin going over 500' up at dusk heading north upvalley.

Feb. 18 ~ About 41dF for a low. Canyon Towhee singing a bit outside is nice to hear. A FOS White-eyed Vireo was outside in the morning, calling to let me know. The last few years they are much earlier to return than they were 10-15 years ago, by over a week, nearly two on average. In biological terms this is major major rapid change folks. The sort of change that would have taken decades when I was young has occurred in less than half of one. And that was not THAT long ago despite what you may hear. Heard two Red-breasted Nuthatch so they are still here, I still can't believe they stuck all winter, a real treat for us normally nuthatch-free folk. Sure nice to have that male Vermilion Flycatcher working the yard from the low Pecan branches again. What a bright spot of spring!

Feb. 17 ~ A dry but windy front arriving in morning. Ran mid-50's to mid-70's dF for a temp spread. Was a bit of fog and mist overnight, but northerlies have cleared and dried it. Kinda windy for birding though. Noonish here I saw a mint fresh Texan Crescent and a pair of Vesta Crescent butterfly. Also saw my FOY female Black Swallowtail. There was a nice big bright green Anole (lizard) displaying its pink pouch right off the back porch, first of that I have seen this year. Some overwinter in the cracks in this stone house.

At peak heat 3-4 p.m. we took a walk up the hill behind us through the juniper and live-oaks where good Agarita patches. Agaritaville. Some were in full bloom roaring in yellow dense enough to smell. Good numbers of bees on them. Great were two new butterflies for the year, my first Henry's Elfin and Olive Juniper Hairstreak! Right on time. An Elfin pic is below. They are so fresh right now they show a nice maroonish purple sheen in good light, which doesn't last long. Also great was a Dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly, which is at the early side of average FOY dates. Almost always the first dragon of the year, I am always amazed how they show up seemingly out of nowhere in dry areas among the live-oaks and junipers. The cycle begins again, new butterflies and dragonflies are emerging.

There were lots of other butterflies on the Agarita, or around it, the only heavily blooming nectar source now, unless you find a Redbud tree going. Over a dozen American Lady, 6 Red Admiral, 12 Snout, 5 Checkered White, a couple Dainty Sulphur, Black and Pipevine Swallowtails, a Sleepy Orange. Also one Ailanthus Webworm moth, unusual for 'spring', I usually just see them in fall. Kicked out a few pigs, that'll jump-start ya. Heard a couple things shoot away in the thickets that sounded just like a Spotted Towhee shooting away, but never saw one. Saw a couple Orange-crowned Warbler, Bewick's Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, Cardinal, and Chipping Sparrow.

There were a couple of the purple form of the Anemone (Wind-flower) which are gorgeous. Saw some Dutchman's Breeches in bloom, another of the earliest to go, and a Nipple Cactus had a couple fruit so must have bloomed not too long ago. Those fruit are so well protected inside that layer of spines nothing can get at them. The Buckley (aka Spanish) Oaks have some buds just barely starting to break stem. This a favorite tree of the Golden-cheeked Warbler. When the first fresh new leaves unfurl with the pink fuzzy look, there are warblers. Usually in first week of March for numbers of them.

Feb. 16 ~ We ran about 45-76dF for a temp spread, sunny and wonderful. Got a birdbox fixed and back up amongst stuff here today. Time to get those ready if you have maintenence to do on them. Heard a nuthatch, at least one still around. Birdsong is really increasing lots quickly. The male Carolina Wren is displaying to the female. A small dark butterfly flew by and around me that was surely an Elfin. Saw my FOY Buckeye. Quite a few So. Dogface flying today. One Shining Flea-beetle. Best was a FOS adult male Vermilion Flycatcher that is surely our yardish breeder returning, singing and foraging around the yard and corral much of the day. Oh to hear that song again! It is my earliest ever spring return record, Feb. 24th was the prior record early bird, so this is 8 days earlier than my earliest! Two weeks ahead of average. Usually you beat the earliest by a day or two, maybe a few, eight days earlier than earliest is off the charts exceptional.

henryselfin
Henry's Elfin, is a nickel-sized little beauty and one of the first new
butterflies to fly in spring. Elfins are an odd group in the Hairstreak
family. I could not catch the extent of the purple haze (overscaling) in the
photo, they are really maroonish in areas when fresh. Their flight season is
over and they are done flying for the year by mid-April here, only about eight
weeks total as a flying adult. Larval foodplants are Spanish Buckeye and Redbud,
and maybe Agarita. They are usually found on one of those, as on this Agarita.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 15 ~ About 44dF for a low, and got up to mid-80's dF for a high! Wow, hottest day so far this year, a warmup before a front. Hutton's Vireo singing is my first of that so far this year. Had a town run, where I saw an Agarita with flowers, and a Redbud tree with flowers! Spring! You would think it was mid-February. They are both right on time and normal schedule. Lots of honeybees on both but no butterflies. Should be some Elfin out now. Saw the male Wilson's Warbler at the park again, too cool it made it the whole winter more or less. Did not see the Coot or Pied-billed Grebe. Heard a few Blue Jay around town. Saw about TEN Turkey Vulture, so a bunch must have showed up yesterday, other than the couple here over the house. They are back!

The big thing by the heat of the afternoon was some butterflies moving, probably a fair number fresh emergences. It was the first day of the year I have seen 10 species of butterfly. Pipevine and Black Swallowtail, Checkered white, Lyside Sulphur, Southern Dogface, Variegated Fritillary, Red Admiral, American Lady, Snout, and my first Funereal Duskywing of the year. Wow. Amazing was the flight of Robin at dusk. At least 2000 flew over northbound, wow. I only saw the start and finish of the flight, was busy doing things before dark, but if it continued the 15 minutes I was not out there there were many thousand more. It was a great show. Almost all dead silent, but so many you could hear their wings despite them being 500' up.

Feb. 14 ~ About 20dF warmer with 47 for a low, still low clouds and overcast. Two Turkey Vulture soaring around right over the yard and corral for some time quite low is surely a couple of the returning breeders, and a FOS date for our migratory breeders. Valentine's Day is the most common return date I have for them. Of the few that seemed to winter locally this year, which was unprecedented, none were ever here. So as often, 'TV' is the first bird back, amongst local breeders that are migratory and depart for the winter. The rest was the usual gang around the yard. Still a hundred plus Chipping Sparrow, but fewer American Goldfinch today.

Feb. 13 ~ A 27dF low was chilly. Car was frosted over pretty thick. Heard two Nuthatch across the road in the morning. I saw Carla Nuckles and she said she had a hundred American Goldfinch at her feeders at the north end of town. This is the biggest influx of them here in the last 16 winters. Got warmish into 50's dF and some butterflies were out, peaked at 61 or so. Saw Checkered White, Checkered-Skipper, Snout, Red Admiral, and Black Swallowtail, a whopping five species. The birds were the regular gang.

Feb. 12 ~ Chilly at 36dF or so but sunny, finally! Only had a few glimpses of it the last 10 days or so. By noon was in 50's, and saw American Lady and Checkered White butterflies, plus an Anole and an E. Fence Lizard (fem.) were out. A bit later it was 60dF and I saw a Snout butterfly, and a Common Checkered-Skipper. The Robins went through the yard for an hour or so again in the morning, working south downriver. And again at last sun a few hundred are up about 500' flying north back up-valley to wherever they roost. Presumedly up on the divides or ridges where warmer and junipers. Saw the one Lark Sparrow again, stuck it out slummin' with the Chippies all winter. Makes it feel bigger. Saw 6 Anemone (Wind-flower) open today.

Feb. 11 ~ Surprise, gray fog-mist and drizzle, stayed about 50dF all night so not cold at least but still wet and soppy. At least 60 American Goldfinch counted this morning, the flock is still growing. A couple hundred Robin were out there, a bunch caroling, I could stand to hear that every day all year. At high noon must have been an accipiter strike, when that herd of doves bolts all at once in full acceleration mode, it is a mild roar. Some heavier light showers later in day, we probably got a quarter-inch today. And now at about 1.5" for the month already, amazing since Feb. is often a dry month. Bodes well for a spring sprout.

Feb. 10 ~ A slightly warmer 37dF or so wet gray fog-misty day to start. We have probably had a quarter inch to .3 in the last 48 hrs. of 30's dF. The ground is turning green. I saw some buds breaking stem on some trees in town the other day. We need the cold to stick around for a while yet so everything doesn't go off too early, and then a late freeze kills that round. Birds were the same gang o' seed theives. They are going through it in this chill. Sharpy diving on things again. Slowly warmed to about 50dF by end of day, whence still mist and drizzle.

Leslie Calvert e-mailed and said the male Vermilion Flyc. on UvCo361 is still there, and we know the park and golf course pond birds are still at those sites too, so at least 3 males made it through the winter here so far. We are only 3 weeks from average early returns. Are these winterers the same ones that breed here, or did those depart and these are from somewhere else? Too bad they are not marked so we could tell if they set up shop for breeding territory where they wintered. Or will these depart, and our local breeding birds return from wintering elsewhere. Speculation is sooooo dangerous. We are just guessing either way.

Feb. 9 ~ Another cold wet gray day. Stayed in the 30's dF all day, felt like frozen fog-mist on the face early morning. It was not a pleasant time out there. Luckily no wind on it. I must have shoveled seed 5 times today, they were puttin' it away. It was at least 120 Chipping Sparrow and at least 55 American Goldfinch. There were at least 30 Mourning Dove, and 3 Eur. Collared-Dove which I would rather not see. One has some kind of woundish looking area on back and side, maybe I should see if I can help it along...  

Saw the one Lark Sparrow that has stuck it out here for the winter. The couple hundred blackbirds were around again, at times all sitting in the pecans out front. There were 20 Red-wings, mostly female, and about 5 Starling. At least one Nuthatch was out there. It was so cold...   how cold was it you ask? It was so cold the Orange-cronwed Warbler was eating white millet seed with the Chippies on the ground. It sat tight whilst I was threw seed that was nearly landing on it! I came back out with camera and it remained for a few photos. An hour plus later did it again, and finally got a bearable shot. It only took two tries and 2 dozen images.

orangecrownedwarbler
Orange-crowned Warbler foraging for millet during a freeze.
Some birds are named after a part you are least likely to see.
Primarily these are dead leaf cluster specialists, masters at picking
out bugs or whatnot that was trying to over-winter wrapped in a dead leaf.
General color scheme recalls female or imm. Painted Bunting.
Bill structure is key to placing birds in right family group. Note the longer
thinner spiky warbler type bill, not a thick short deep-based seed cracking beak.

~ ~ ~ last update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 8 ~ Sleet! Lovely wonderful sleet, said no one! It was just above freezing this morning, with off and on bouts of sleet into early afternoon. Supposed to stay in 30's from this morning until Sunday. It might hit 40 Sat. afternoon briefly, but overall think cold. So the week of balmy and gray finally broke, things have completely changed, now it is freezing and gray. Birds were hitting seed hard today here. You'd have hardly known there were extra rations being put out it disappeared so fast, four times. Heard a nuthatch out there. The blackbird flock was in our front yard for a bit, at least 6 Starling in it might be the first ON the ground IN the yard here. There were about 20 Red-winged, and 200 Brewer's Blackbird.

Town run fer shtuff, I guess the cold had everyone inside, it was quiet for Friday and high noon. At the park I was getting sleeted on (Postman got nuthin' on birders - they are gettin' paid to be out there - we do it for fun!) at about 1 p.m. watching a Green Kingfisher for a rare combo. A Hermit Thrush was there but no Wilson's Warbler. Again an ad. male Vermilion Flycatcher was there, this time in the Lillies. As in Yellow Cow (Water) Lily. The rest was the usual gang, one Hutton's Vireo in live-oaks near the screen shelters. There was one Turkey Vulture at roost there, another on some roadkill near the Waresville turn off 187, and another where 360 takes off of 187. So at least three different TV's today, and I suspect all wintering birds. Typical first return of migrant breeders from the south is Valentine's Day, in a week.

There have been reports of Martins coastward and down in lower (altitude) country. If you have any nest box or other of that sort of maintenance to do, now is the time. Our local cavity nesters will start choosing soon and Martins will be back in the next couple weeks. Hummingbirds will be back in 3-4 weeks as well, a few maybe sooner depending weather. We actually need the cold late in season as possible, it really helps keeping pest bugs in check.

Feb. 7 ~ Wow what a frontal passage. At Kerrville 6:55 a.m. it was calm, 66dF, and 91% humidity, 20 minutes later at 7:15 it 20-25mph out of north, 64dF, and 49% humidity. 40% drop in humidity in 20 minutes. Boom! Won't get cold until overnight. Heard a Nuthatch, Orange-crowned warbler, Canyon Towhee, Field Sparrow. Something shot across the open part of front yard that looked like a Merlin but it was too fast. Which is a character of Merlin. My eyes kept trying to catch up with it. It was like trying to see a bullet. The blackbird flock was out there in the corral. Some Robin and Waxwing, not as many as it was last weekend, they have thinned or dispersed, or moved on due to lack of hackberries.

Feb. 6 ~ More gray fog mist and drizzle, still balmy. Both San Antonio and Austin tied or broke records this a.m. for warmest low temps on the date, at about 68-69dF. Pretty drippy, for a week plus now. We are probably very near an inch of precip from it all, over the last 8 days or so. Mostly a tenth at a time, or less, but it does add up. The ground needs it badly now, stuff is and will be sprouting soon. Just add water. Heard my first Canyon Towhee and Field Sparrow song of the year today. The crown patch on the towhee is seeming brighter nowadays. Neither sang much, just a bit, but song. At least one Nuthatch was around awhile. Has to be a hundred Chipping Sparrow here now, and 50 American Goldfinch. No siskin here though, had a few early in winter, but they are not around the last 5-6 weeks or so. Some of the Robins and waxwings were around a while.

Feb. 5 ~ What a surprise, gray and wet. Still running warm for lows, about 60dF, with fog, mist, and occasional drizzling. Fog was dense early. Another tenth or so of precip. A couple hundred Robin were around for a bit, a hundred waxwings, a couple hundred Brewer's Blackbird over in the corral. Heard one early, and saw the male Nuthatch later in the big pecan. At least 50 American Goldfinch hitting the sunflower seed, patio is covered with them. One male showing yellow now. Not full blown, just starting, but clearly progressing towards breeding plumage, ahead of all the rest. The Orange-crowned Warbler was out there, looked like it may have been taking some white millet from the ground. Saw a female Checkered White butterfly. The Anemone flower finished blooming today.

Feb. 4 ~ Stayed in upper 50's dF for a low and very foggy, less than a hundred yards visibility early. A shower later morning. After 10 a.m. I had three Red-breasted Nuthatch in the big pecan again, and still. In five minutes they never gave a full volume normal location-contact call, only the two closely connected ones did some quiet chatter between themselves when close to each other, it was something about the bark... Might have hit 70dF when the sun popped out between clouds for a few minutes latest afternoon. Was probably nearly a quarter inch for precip in the last 24 hours. Robins and waxwings still around but not as many. Still a good hour or two of very nice caroling outside over the day. Canyon Towhee was around. Saw a, maybe the, male Black Swallowtail again. Late in afternoon the first Anemone (aka Wind-flower) I have seen this year opened up.

Feb. 3 ~ Foggy but warmish, about 58 for a low. A bit wet out. Probably another tenth of precip. Had a couple Nuthatch go through the yard in the a.m. Lots of Robins again, fewer waxwings. We took a walk down to crossing to stretch some muscles before noon. Not enough out and about in winter. Maybe about 1.5 miles total, and I was glad to get back to the gate. It was the same gang along the road, Chickadees, Titmice, Cardinals, Bewick's Wren. Some Field Sparrow in with the Chippies along the corral.

Butterflies were best, two Black Swallowtail over the grass airstrip were my first two of the year, and a third was back at the house when we returned. Also had 3 Pipevine Swallowtail and a fresh Dainty Sulphur. The Swallowtails were mostly on what looked like some Henbit (non-native intro) flowers out on the airstrip. About 3 p.m. in yard a Lyside Sulphur flew by, my first of the year. Elfin could be flying any day now. Find the first blooming Redbud and you will likely find the first Elfin. As soon as the Agarita blooms it too is a good magnet for them and Olive Juniper Hairstreak, often about the 2nd week of Feb. the first earliest Agarita and Redbud can start blooming, pending temps.

Laura Levy in Vanderpool sent an email, she had a Blue-headed Vireo at Lost Maples today, Sunday the 3rd. It was bathing in the stream, near where the turn to the trailhead parking lot is. Kathy and I had one by HQ in early December. It could be that same bird and it wintered in the lower canyon. Or it could be another. They are pretty scarce here in the winter, so always a good record.

Feb. 2 ~ Some light showers overnight, fog, mist, and drizzle much of the morning, maybe a quarter inch all told and soppy. The yard was full of Robins and Waxwings most of the day. Once the waxwings flushed in the afternoon at it was over 500, most I have seen all winter. Robins were at least 500 in and around yard as well. They were caroling endlessly, by the hundreds, all day, it is was an ethereal acoustical heaven. Otherwise the birds were the same. For an interesting climate note, the record high and low temps for Feb. 2 for KHDO, Hondo, Texas are 96dF and 6dF. So just be ready for anything in that range and you will be fine. Maybe it is me but a 90dF range for record high-low on a given date seems kinda radical.

wilsonswarbler
Here is another pic of the Wilson's Warbler wintering at Utopia Park
(and somewhere closeby in the vicinity), Dec. 14 through Jan. 26 (this pic).
Note orange lores and forehead.



~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

February 1 ~ A warmer gray drizzly fog in the mid-50's dF this morning. There was a yard full of birds until that imm. ma. Sharpy shot through. The Ladder-backed Woodpecker on the sunflower feeder was the first to see, alarm call, and bolt, out of all the birds out there. They have darn good eyes. She was flying away giving alarm note before anything else knew what was up. The Sharpy missed though, and it did make a swerve in the stoop right at the feeder right where Mrs. Ladderback was. No wonder she doesn't trust that little bugger, he has done that before. A flock flew over with 35 Robin and 50 Cedar Waxwing.

Town run for supplies. On the way past the corral to the crossing there were loads of Robin and waxwing. Then in town more Robins and waxwings, at the park, Robins and waxwings. A huge influx has just occurred, a wave has moved in. Not much food on the hackberries. I saw at least 300 Waxwings and over 400 Robin, both factors above what has been around. Could it be a result of the big snows and polar vortex finally pushing more birds southward? Otherwise at the park I saw one Turkey Vulture, one Belted Kingfisher, heard the Wilson's Warbler, and new was one male Ring-necked Duck upriver of the island, first I have seen there this winter.

~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~

Some decent freezes, with 20dF, 23, 26, etc. lows some mornings. Some serious fronts for wind, but they were all mostly dry. A lot of fog-mist-drizzle but not a lot of precipitation, less than an inch total here for us. The river is still high from Sept. and Oct. though. Fruit and nut crops were weak so fairly depleted by late in the month, many birds seemed to move on. Then interestingly Feb. 1 a new big wave of waxwings and Robins arrived. We will see if they stick.

Bugs are easy in winter. In Odes there were a whopping two species, one dragonfly and one damselfly. The dragon was a Green Darner, a fresh emergence at that, likely my first Jan. emergence of one here. The damselfly was an incredible Jan. 4 Springwater Dancer, which is likely unprecedented in January. I had seen the same beast a week earlier in latest December. Luckily the second time I saw it I got an ID shot of it, Jan. 4. Butterflies were ok for all the fog-mist-drizzle and cold. It was 15 species, all the statistically most probable, a hair above average for the month which usually runs anywhere from 5 to 20 species. All were worn last years leftovers, until the last few days of the month when freshly minted Common Checkered-Skippers were seen.

Birds were great for the little bit we got to get out. The best birds reported in the area were a little far afield so I did not see them. I mention to keep your mind open, the same things or others equally rare are likely around here too, if you could find them. The Hammond's Flycatcher at Lost Maples is great, as was the LeConte's Sparrow at Garner, not to mention a Yellow Grosbeak in Concan and Rufous-backed Robin in Uvalde. My best bird was the Western Kingbird in Sabinal, probably rarer than all above but the grosbeak in winter in Texas.

The Wilson's Warbler wintering at the park might be a first up on the plateau, and is not the nominate eastern race, but one of the western types, so pretty radical. The Black-and-white Warbler at Lost Maples is only the second to winter up in the hills here, so also very good. At least two Red-breasted Nuthatch have stayed the winter often going through our yard, which is the first ones to stick here for me in 15 years. Same for the Brown Creeper wintering at the park, 1st to stick for the winter. Fair numbers of Golden-crowned Kinglet are around compared to the last few years.

The number of adult male Vermilion Flycatcher wintering this year is 4-5, normal is zero, so significant. The big question is, is the Coot at the park the one that wintered last year? I think so. A Marsh Wren wintering at the Waresville golf course pond is my first local winterer. A single flock of 14 Wood Duck south of town a couple miles on the river is my biggest flock ever locally. Birds were 84 species locally for me, with one trip to Maples and the rest within a few miles of town. Another dozen species were seen the half-day down at Sabinal in the brush country.

~ ~ ~ end monthly summary ~ ~ ~

Jan. 31 ~ Wow man, last day of the first month, already!?! Someone slow this train down! I suppose it is the nature of the age-time continuum. The older you get the faster time goes by, whilst when you were young it took forever. We were never going to get there. Another gray day, 45dF for a low, fog and drizzle. Keeps the dust down. Got up past 55dF though, getting foggy drizzling again by dark. Two nuthatch were in the pecan again, so still here bein' cool. It had to have been a hundred Chipping Sparrow out there today.

Jan. 30 ~ SOS, groundhog day, feels like deja vu all over again. Mid-30's and low overcast, gray and chilly. It was about 50 American Goldfinch here today. I got a note from Diana Gotcher and she has had as many at her feeders upriver a mile. Seems a good crowd of them this winter. These fat little guys can put away some sunflower seed. The blackbird flock of a couple hundred plus was over in the corral and on our powerline, over a dozen Red-winged, some of which were singing in the big pecan, great to hear that outside. Chippies are pushin' a hundred now. The Myrtle Warbler was out there quite a bit today, the Canyon Towhee was around.

Jan. 29 ~ The wind finally stopped, mid-30's dF for a low. Sunny morning, but not getting warm from all the cold air advection. Clouded up in afternoon. Got to about 55 or so at peak heat. Over 80 Chipping Sparrow on the seed, maybe 90 now. Still way down from big years, when 2-300 can collect into our flock. I presume it is good seed crops has them dispersed, or, concentrated, somewhere else. Without lots of thorough coverage it is hard to even guess. I think Savannah Sparrows are thinnish here this winter, but barely 20 miles south down at Sabinal they are incredibly abundant. It was the same bird gang here otherwise. In yard butterflies today I saw my FOY Gulf Fritillary, a Little Yellow, and another Pipevine Swallowtail, about my fifth for the month.

Jan. 28 ~ About 36dF for a low, chilly for us way down south sissies. Sunny, no wind, and birdsong in the morning. Perfect. Cardinal, Carolina Wren and Chickadee, Eastern Bluebird, Titmouse, and Bewick's Wren all sang early. Awesome to hear that again. A White-winged Dove sang later morn as it warmed up. Had a nuthatch or two go through the yard. Right around dark the front hit and shortly after it was 20-30 mph gusting to nearly 40.

Had a town run late afternoon, so hit the park for a quickie, was nice and calm before the front. No Wilson's Warbler, heard the Brown Creeper and a Green Kingfisher, saw the Coot. Saw at least two Turkey Vulture come in to roost with the crowd of Blacks in the trees on the island. Best was while standing there in the woods, a Zone-tailed Hawk flew in to roost way up in a Cypress pretty close. That is what you get for standing still for a bit. Especially in the shade near a tree trunk becoming less than obvious.

I got some obscured by limbs shots. There was no way to move without flushing it. Which it did moving to the island Cypresses, a little more in open, but light was horrible the whole time, looking into the sun. Of course when it comes to this I have no shame and shoot anyway. I was hoping to be able to sex it but did not get the undertail unobscured enough to tell for sure if male or female. It kept a wary eye on me every step as I went further down the trail into the woods, and again when I came back. But was fine with watching me walk from about 50 yards. It has probably watched me do it a bunch of times. As long as the light was bad for me, he was good. Hey did you notice the Cypresses have put out flower clusters? Classsss, yer not payin' attention!  ;)    just teasin'  LOL  Saw a Pipevine Swallowtail as I was leaving park.

Jan. 27 ~ A little rain as the system passed overnight, maybe between a tenth and .2 total. Heard some thunder about 3 a.m. We really stepped outside the box today, late morn we drove down out of the hills to Sabinal to look around some brush country and ag fields for a change of pace, ok, species. Was hoping to find Sandhill Cranes and White-fronted Geese but did not see or hear any. Lots of the dry-farmed corn failed this year down there as up here so they are not in a few usual areas. Also thought maybe Mountain Plover or Longspurs, none of those either. A guy can dream. But always some good stuff to see if you poke around a bit. Heard a couple Green Jay, saw a couple Long-billed Thrasher, one was singing nicely, a bunch of Pyrrhuloxia, and several Verdin. Heard and saw Kiskadee, Couch's, and WESTERN Kingbird, plus watched a calling Rusty Blackbird for a bit! So plenty o'fun. It is almost like going to south Texas.

The first stop was just north of the Hwy. 127 x 187 split a mile north of Sabinal when I saw a bunch of small plump fat things out in an ag field. They had white towards rear end and kept going up and down in the field, thought it might have been longspurs but the flock wasn't flying and acting like them. Turned out it was a homogenous flock of 400-500 American Goldfinch feeding out in the stubble field. I have never seen a single flock of American Goldfinch like that, it was amazing. Was glad I had the scope to make the ID. Took some distant flight flock shots and everything I can make out is an American Goldfinch. It dawned on me a couple days later that this dirt and stubble field had big SUNFLOWERS growing in it when we drove by it in late June. Doh!

In that area on a side dirt county road in a mile we had 200 Savannah Sparrow and 500 Mourning Dove, 150 W. Meadowlark, plus a bunch of Vesper and some Lark Sparrow. So this explains why I am only seeing a few up around Utopia, they are all down south off the hill. Where a few dF warmer. Heard one Sprague's Pipit fly over in that area too. Then off the northwest side of Sabinal on the road that goes along the south side of the school (Cullin?) where it drops down into the Sabinal River bed is where the three kingbirds and Rusty Blackbird were. There was one WESTERN KINGBIRD, which is accidental in Texas in winter, one Couch's, and one un-identified kingbird (yellow bellied) type that got away. We were standing there and the Rusty Blackbird flew into a tree not 100' away and began calling repeatedly. White-eyed Vireo and a couple Verdin there too, some Myrtles and a Kinglet (Ruby).

We crossed 90 just west of Sabinal on 2730 and jogged over to Lower Sabinal Rd. (sometimes called "Old 90" locally) just south of 90, and did a five miles of it. That was where in two different spots we heard Green Jay just off the road, and saw the two Long-billed Thrasher. Lots more Vesper Sparrow along the road, and Savannah, a few White-crowned here and there. Checked a number of ag fields for dirt birds but only saw dirt clods. A couple White-eyed Vireo were nice, since we don't usually have them wintering up in the hills. A couple N.Harrier, Caracara, a Sharpy, some Kestrel, some Red-tails (Fuertes'). A couple of the former plover fields were too tall with some winter grass crop.

Then we went south of Sabinal on 187, first checking what I think is UvCo 309 about 3 miles S. of 90, which quickly jogs down to a river crossing area you can look around at. Just off 187 in the first hundred yards there was a homogeneous flock of two dozen Pyrrhuloxia. What a beauty. But they were quite nervous and furtive. A dozen Ground-Dove were right there too, heard a Cactus Wren. At the crossing you can walk a hundred yards upriver and sorta check a pond. That is where the Kiskadee was, plus one Blue-winged Teal, best there was a Swamp Sparrow, nice too were two White-throated Sparrow, and a few Lincoln's Sparrow, plus 6 Myrtle Warbler, and heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher there too, which we don't get in winter up in the hills. Couple more Verdin too. It was birdy. Further out 309 I had a quick look through trees of what surely was a White-tailed Hawk but by time I got out from behind the trees it was gone.

Further south down 187 Saw another hundred Savannah Sparrow, bunch more Vesper, one Say's Phoebe. At the Ranchero Creek crossing there were a couple Inca Dove. Strange place for them, all wild and natural. Sure would be neat to be able to bird up and down the creek there. Interesting was a pair of Common Raven about 8 miles south of Hwy. 90 near some roadkill. Way out in the flatlands brush country. They hunt the roads.

Totalled over 100 Vesper Sparrow, 4 L. Shrike, 6 Red-tailed Hawk, 4 Caracara, five Kestrel, half-dozen each Eastern Phoebe and Verdin, at least 5 Turkey Vulture, about 300+ Meadowlark of which all I could see or hear were Western (including calls and singing), a couple dozen Cardinal, dozen Mockers, six Eastern Bluebird. One spot in some mesquites there were some blackbirds and stuff and I heard a perfect Black-bellied Whistling-Duck call, from a Starling.

Saw one Green Darner dragonfly somewhere along the way. At least 3 Checkered White flying down there, a few Dainty Sulphur and Sleepy Orange. The hackberries down there seemed to have very few fruit, I presume a poor crop as we had this year. It got up to 72 or so down there, it was 70dF back here at the casita at 4 p.m. It was wonderful outside. On the way back up here a mile or south of 3 mile bridge was a herd of 10 or so Zebra along the fence. Needed those for my year list.

Jan. 26 ~ More gray, less cold, mid-30's to low 60's dF for a spread, a few passing spritzes. Heard a nuthatch out there, and a Ringed Kingfisher heading downriver. A flock of a couple dozen Robin hit the birdbath. Accipiters must have been around all afternoon, no birds. I went to town about 1:30 to check P.O. and park. Half-dozen Field Sparrow along corral fence.

What could be at the park, I was just there yesterday? The male Wilson's Warbler is back in its favorite bush as if it never left. Obviously the same bird with orange in forehead and lores as in the western chryseola subspecies. So it moved off somewhere nearish-by, for just a couple days short of 4 weeks, and is back. Calling very regularly for extended periods as it usually was prior encounters. Prior date range was Dec. 14-31, now extends to Jan. 26 and it can be called an overwintering bird, not a late lingerer. Pretty radical for up here in the hills. Down off the plateau, fine, rarely in a winter passerine flock, up here in the hills, like Gnatcatchers, none.

Did not encounter the Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, or Hutton's Vireo of yesterday. Did have a Ringed Kingfisher calling just upriver of the park. And amazingly my first dragonfly of the year (in the strict sense, I had the Springwater Dancer damselfly Jan. 4), was a mint fresh Green Darner with nary a ding in the clear wings, so surely a newly emerged beast. Wow. Might be my first Jan. emergence for them. So three things I saw yesterday were absent, and two things were present that I did not see yesterday, not counting that I did not see the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe either.

Checked the pond on the golf course near the Waresville Cmty. where the ad. ma. Vermilion Flycatcher continues, as does one male Red-winged Blackbird, which sang a bit. Some Western Meadowlarks were around the golf course. Here at the house I heard Mourning Dove sing for the first time this year, and the Eastern Bluebirds are going now too. They have great voices, being in the thrush family.

westernkingbird
This is the Western Kingbird in Sabinal, Jan. 27. The snow white
outer webs on the outer tail feathers are diagnostic. This is a
supermega rarity in winter in Texas.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 25 ~ About 34dF for a low, overcast and gray. Sun did break out late afternoon whence into the mid-50's dF. What looked the male Red-breasted Nuthatch sat crosswise like any songbird on a thin branch in the big pecan, and broadcast calls for three minutes before the second bird flew into the tree, as when they sing. The second bird was a female and when she got there made that rolling trill of cooo notes, like a pair does. They were certainly not paired when they got here. A couple Robins were in the corral and 20 seconds after they called and took off a high flock of 50 went over heading downriver. They must have seen them coming a mile out. Seems kinda like the flock took my last two Robins with them.

Town run so a park check. Yes the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe are still there and chasable. Heard Blue Jay and Green Kingfisher. Best was seeing the Brown Creeper again, and finally after seeing it three times, hearing it three times, and missing it 6 times, I acquired a docushot of it. A dozen visits since it showed up in late November, before finally a docushot. Same thing happened the first year the Louisiana Waterthrush wintered there a few years ago. It took 10 trips to get a pic. It is easy to see or hear something. Lots of things are comparatively factors harder to get a pic of. The "pics or it didn't happen" people are projecting, wannabe bird record cops, but I thank them for letting me know how I should view their reports.

Had two little flocks at the park each with a number of Titmouse, Chickadee, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The picnic area flock had a Hutton's Vireo, the woods flock a Golden-crowned Kinglet, an Orange-crowned Warbler, and the creeper. Probably about 8 Myrtle Warbler total.

It was 40 American Goldfinch at once in the yard in the morning. The female Ladder-backed Woodpecker was on the sunflower feeder when the female Golden-fronted came in. The Ladder-back departed just as the GF was in the air setting up to land on the feeder. Great displacement. It seemed fairly obvious that at least in woodpeckers, size does indeed matter.

Jan. 24 ~ A chilly 23dF for a low here, I saw KRVL had 24, and the Seco Creek WU station had 20dF! Birdbath was good and frozen. Good time to drive around the yard anywhere the grass and weeds are too long, quick before they thaw. We hit about 63 or so at peak afternoon heat, not too bad, forty dF diurnals! It brought a few butterflies out. I saw my first Checkered-Skippers of the year, two of them, presumed Common, and which were fresh emergences, probably the first butterflies I have seen this year that were not last years beat, worn, torn and frayed leftovers. Then there was a fresh Dainty Sulphur, which was also a FOY. Snout and Red Admiral came by as well. So four species, two of which are new for the month and year, and the first new fresh emergences of the year. Saw a female Eastern Fence Lizard with an Earwig mostly down the hatch. It was just working on breaking the pincers off the back end it seemed. Woulda made a neat shot of a lizard with pincers projecting forward out of the mouth.

Heard a Nuthatch out there briefly. The imm. ma. Sharpy was diving on everything lots. A Cardinal used the Arundo patch (that I hate, cut all seed heads off, but keep for this purpose) deftly to avoid it. Too many vertical stems for the Sharpy to get through. The Card just keep dodging around in it until the Sharpy gets tired and flies off. I have seen Cards use a fence out back the same way. Staying totally cool, calm, and collected, just jumping through a fence back and forth that the accipiters can't get through and have to go up 3' and over and by time they do the Card is on the other side again. Sticking its tongue out, thumbs in ears waving its wings at the Sharpy. Saw an ad.ma. Lesser Goldfinch again coming in to the feeder. Amazing to have those wintering (in very small numbers) here now.

Jan. 23 ~ Blew hard all night, the front passed and it was just over freezing, about 34dF early, with strong northerlies of 20-25 mph, and a chill factor in the low 20's. Lovely, glad to be stuck inside at the computer working. Did warm into the 50's by late afternoon when the wind calmed down. Nothing different around the yard, another groundhog day here for birds. I see the female Golden-front is coming into the sunflower feeder again now too. Heard Ground-Dove again. Two dozen each White-winged and Mourning Dove, Cardinal and American Goldfinch.

Jan. 22 ~ Only about 54dF for a low with the southerly flow going strong for 24 hours or so now, and overcast, a couple sprinkles later in day. Heard a Ground-Dove, which I haven't been seeing lately. About 35 Cedar Waxwing were around a bit. Late in afternoon I heard and glimpsed one of the Nuthatches, it had been 6 days or so since I last detected one. At least two of them have been here two months already. Otherwise just the repeat offenders. There are lots of green things sprouting leaves down low at ground level, I think they are plants. Another front coming in tonight.

Jan. 21 ~ We froze, barely, about 32dF and nearly doubled itself over the day, got to about 63dF. Strong southerlies though, very windy. It is a work day for me though, so no matter. Still not seeing the nuthatches, for nearing a week now. At least 20 Cardinal here, a dozen males at once counted out office window. White-winged Doves are a couple dozen. Great to hear Carolina Chickadee singing "sweet ba-by", those high pitched thin whistled notes that are so clean and pure, just like me.

Jan. 20 ~ The wind finally stopped, so it got cold, about 27dF for a low was chilly. Birdbath frozen. Was all the same here in the yard, another groundhog day. Have not had a nuthatch in a few days now. Did a bit of yard work in the warmup, it hit about 60dF. Boy am I stiff, too much sitting indoors hiding from cold or wind already this winter. Mid-afternoon we checked the park, was the same gang there too. Pretty sure I had a Dollar Sunfish (in bins close), just not used to seeing them in dullest non-breeding color. Structurally it could not have been any other Lepomis sunfish. A mile south of town in a field of just sprouting greens of some sort there were 150 Mourning Dove in a single flock eating them, nary a White-winged. Wonder if it was all the locals, or a flock of wintering migrants from northward (probably the latter - since they looked bigger than ours). Behind the golf course entrance sign there was a male Vermilion Flycatcher. About noonish I saw a couple butterflies: a Pipevine Swallowtail and an American Lady.

Jan. 19 ~ The front passed overnight. Strong northerlies blowing since about 3 a.m. and all day at 15-20-25 mph, gusting to 35-40 mph. Mid 40's to mid 50's dF for a temp spread. There were about 35 American Goldfinch hitting the sunflowers today, they are still increasing. Saw the Canyon Towhee. Heard my first 'who cooks for you' song from a White-winged Dove of the year in the afternoon. There are a couple dozen here hitting the seed. Will save trying to look for birds when my hat will stay on. Which is probably a pretty good measuring stick for whether or not you ought to be out there. If your hat is leaving you, you might consider something else. Unless I am on a boat trip, if I have to tie my hat on, is bird searching really the best option?

browncreeper
This is the Brown Creeper that has been wintering at the park,
finally a docushot after two months of visits. My what big
strong feet you have.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 18 ~ Pea soup for fog this morning... not quite but for here it was thick, maybe barely a couple hundred yards visibility. Didn't clear until after 1 p.m. and still the low clouds and overcast never broke. There was a little mist occasionally. The front passes overnight tonight, mostly dry mehthinks, the wind blows tomorrow. Ran about 50-64dF for a temp spread.

Town run so oh boy a peek at the park. The one Turkey Vulture that I have seen off and on since early December continues, now we can say it is over-wintering, quite a rare event here. They virtually never do. As a rule you have to get along Hwy. 90 or I-10 to see them in winter, where there is a good steady guaranteed supply of their preferred A-list cuisine, roadkill. There was a male Vermilion Flycatcher on the far side of the park pond, my first winter record at the park, and another in this bumper crop year of wintering adult males. Has to be at least the fourth, maybe the fifth I know of around this winter, whilst there are usually zero.

I heard the Brown Creeper call several times over several minutes but again could not find it to save my soul. I have never had trouble finding a calling creeper until this bird. Apparently it relishes taunting me, knowing I want a photo. Had one Hermit Thrush there as well. In town behind the Ranch Outpost and the old Canyon Services shop there were 50 Cedar Waxwing and a dozen Eastern Bluebird, all going nuts on the Mistletoe berries, which we seem to have a very good crop of this year, best in several years. Also there were 2 ad. ma. Lesser Goldfinch there with a few Vesper and a Lincoln's Sparrow. Heard Titmouse and Bewick's Wren singing in town. Birdsong! I thought I was gonna die but finally Rosie is back, so after groceries, it was Chicken Fajita tacos to take home for lunch. I told Rosie how much we missed her... the whole town is glad she's back!

Jan. 17 ~ Still gray and foggish in the a.m., but warmer at nearly 50dF, as when a front is on the way. Saturday will be the post-frontal blow with 20 mph northerlies. Great was a bit of Robin singing, one bird, but first I have heard this winter. Ahhhh birdsong. Sunny out by 11 a.m. and warmed up in afternoon to about 70dF. Birds were the same repeat offenders. The male Golden-fronted Woodpecker is hitting the sunflower seed feeder daily again, the pecan stash must be at minimum. The female Ladder-backed is on it regularly daily as well. Best bird was a butterfly, a skipper, any sort of which is very rare in January. It was a female Sachem and I saw it flying around me on the patio twice, an hour apart, it has to be my first January Sachem sighting.

Jan. 16 ~ More of the same, it is like the movie Groundhog Day this time of year. Unless you have time to go kicking bushes in a bunch of different places, which can be very productive. I have to work every day. The good news is we are probably only about 45 days from Golden-cheeks, just 6-7 weeks or so and they will be arriving on territory. That is what I keep thinking. A little Cardinal and Carolina Wren song helps keeps hope alive for spring coming too. Twenty waxwing were around the yard. A Bohemian is in with some Cedars up north, west of Ft. Worth. I still keep hearing something that sounds like a White-throated Sparrow out back, and had a glimpse of something that could have been one fly off when I was out tossing seed in the morning.

Jan. 15 ~ Nothing has changed. Gray, fog, mist, drizzle, cool 40-50dF temp spread. I should mention people are seeing a Rufous-backed Robin at Uvalde along the Nueces river, and a Catbird there too, where UvCo 202 meets the river. Kathy and I had the first UvCo Rufous-backed at Ft. Inge Feb. 19, 2011. Sure would like to get one up here in the hills. Keep your eyes peeled and mind open. Anything could be anywhere, anytime. Except in the yard today where there was nothing nowhere at no time. The Sharpies were around a lot though. Saw the imm. fem. again, besides an imm. male.

Jan. 14 ~ A 40-50dF spread, gray, cool, fog, mist and drizzle, good to be stuck working inside. It was the same gang in the yard. Maybe 80 Chipping Sparrow now. One Lark, one Field, one Vesper out front by gate. Our local nesting (400 yards) Red-tailed Hawk are calling a bit now, so I think about ready to get another cycle underway. Ravens are paired up, as are some Black Vultures. A few bars of song from Cardinal and Carolina Wren at dawn. Saw the Orange-crowned Warbler go through yard again, Canyon Towhee was around. Seeing the stray Straggler Daisy flower here and there.

One other thing I updated below on that date's entry, but will mention here... about the damselfly I photographed Jan. 4 at the park. Ode expert in Hunt, Tony Gallucci, agreed with my proposed ID of it being a female Springwater Dancer (Argia plana). Which is somewhere between crazy and ridiculous in January. If you study nature you are seeing all kinds of things you never saw before. Like a bunch of wintering male Vermilion Flycatchers, or summer night-lighting with hardly any insects coming in, driving to Sabinal and not seeing any Western Kingbird or Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in June, and a January Springwater Dancer. It is as if things are all topsy-turvy out there. If only we could get a clue, some kind of clue, any kind of clue, as to what it might be...

Jan. 13 ~ A chilly 32dF or so for a low. Flushed a Sharpy when I was tossing seed out back before sunup. At least 75 Chipping Sparrow were here at once mid-morn, one Lark mixed in. Two Vesper were out at the gate when I opened it. Saw an imm. male Sharpy, and an imm. female, so there are 3 imm. Sharpies around hunting the seedeaters here, since 2 imm. males are here. Sheezzz. Saw two Nuthatches mid-afternoon, they sure act paired up. Bewick's Wren gave its first songs of the year today. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at the river about 4 p.m.

We took a quick spin to the other side of the river and to town. A third mile down the road from our gate (right where I saw a few a week or two ago) where the river comes closest to the road at an overflow channel, it breaks away from main channel creating an area of very light flow, a flock of 14 WOOD DUCK flushed. Most I have ever seen at once here, amazing. Maybe 4 or 6 if you are lucky is about it at once here. There were only a few females in the group, it was mostly males. Weewow!

At the golf course pond by Waresville Cmty. there was a Marsh Wren, which is very rare to accidental here in winter. Might be my first known over-winterer locally. Surely it is the one I had there a few weeks ago. Also a male Vermilion Flycatcher continues in the vicinity, only one male Red-winged Blackbird, nothing else but a few River Cooters. Along 363 there were 40 waxwings stripping Mistletoe berries off the clusters. There was a fem. Belted Kingfisher by the Preston Place where a Zone-tailed Hawk flew over going upriver. The park was dead but a pair of Wood Duck flushed from the top of the island. Great day for Wood Ducks! Saw one Dakota Verbena flower, and one Dandelion.

Jan. 12 ~ Sunny and calm early, about 48dF, but the winds from the front arrived and after mid-morning it was 15 gusting to 20+, so fairly blown out. Got up to about 60 at peak heat. Saw my FOY American Lady butterfly, looked a fresh emergence too. Watched a male Cardinal get taken by one of the imm. male Sharp-shinned Hawks. That hurt. It almost got away, those Sharpies are relentless and fast. In the afternoon saw about 17 Cedar Waxwing in a Hackberry. Worked on stuff here since so windy. Heard my first Carolina Wren song of the year. They have been pretty quiet just with regular calls, but this was clearly an outburst of song.

springwaterdancer
This is the female Springwater Dancer (Argia plana) damselfly that
was at Utopia Pk. latest Dec. and early Jan., this pic Jan. 4, 2019.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 11 ~ A gray soppy mushy day in the 50's. Light drizzle and sprinkles, some showers, about .3 by afternoon and .2 more after dark. A pre-frontal trough, the front is supposed to pass tomorrow a.m. Here at the hovel saw the repeat offenders. Checked the park in the rain, saw about nothing but the Coot, and heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet. Heard my first Titmouse song of the year in town. So that is three of the resident songbirds I heard first wisps of song from this week: Carolina Chickadee, No. Cardinal, and Black-crested Titmouse. Late afternoon I saw three Red-breasted Nuthatch at once in the big pecan right out front again, and thought I was hearing a fourth one over in the corral. At least three are still here anyway. Amazing as all my prior sightings over 15 years were single birds that just passed through and did not stick around. Also interesting that seemingly lusher places like Utopia Park or Lost Maples do not seem to have any. Yet a rather random strip of river habitat corridor is holding a small flock for a couple months (the first one showed up Oct. 30, second in Nov.).

Jan. 10 ~ About 42dF for a low and a few sprinkles early. Another email from Leslie Calvert mentioned her husband had an Audubon's Oriole recently at their place. They seem down a bit since the drought, but are still around in low numbers, mostly in foothills (areas with gradient of substrate), not so much out on flat valley floors. Scrub-Jay, Poor-will, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, and Golden-cheeked Warbler are a few other of the species here that want, or require, a gradient of substrate situation. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher going off a few times over at the river. They get to nesting very early here and are probably already getting ready to get it going.

Jan. 9 ~ Lower 40's dF and overcast, coolish with a light north wind on it. Got up to upper 50's peak heat. Was the same gangstas here today. Had two nuthatches and at least 200 Brewer's Blackbird but did not have time to go work them. Too much salt mining to do. Leslie Calvert reported a couple male Vermilion Flycatcher along 361. Which is amazing as we have one or two ad.ma. here on 360 and at the golf course pond at Waresville. Most years we have none, there are at least three and probably four ad. ma. Vermilion here now. Plus Kathy and I had the imm. on 361 a few weeks ago. What do they know that we don't?

Jan. 8 ~ About 44dF for a low and very foggy. I heard a Cardinal give a few measures of song this morning, first time this year. We are at about 20 days after the solistice, with less than 10 minutes increase in photoperiod since it. And bam! Birdsong. It got up to an amazing 75dF. Weewow! That was nice. The only thing different was a high migrating NORTH flock of 20 Sandhill Crane. As if it were late February or March. White-fronted Geese can get going in late Jan., but most wait for Feb. at the earliest. Cranes are later than the geese, and going north the first third of January I have never seen. One dummy convinced 19 others it was time to go. Likely the fourth day of 70dF temps and south winds triggered it despite the calendar. Wayyyy too early, they will regret this move. They will be choosing a new leader in about a week. A Dogface (butterfly) was the first one I have seen this year. The leaf cutter ants butchered a few maybe Ligustrums the waxwings had planted.

Jan. 7 ~ Warm low of about 60dF and fog. Got up to 74 or so after noon when it burned off. Wow. Nice for the date. Had two of the Red-breasted Nuthatch again, amazing was seeing one finally go to the birdbath for a drink! It likely saw the Mocker bathing while it was in the tree overhead so noticed at last. Very cool. There were a couple Robin, a dozen Waxwing, and the rest was the same. In butterflies a N. Mestra and 1 or 2 Little Yellow were the first of those for the year. Also saw a beat worn Variegated Fritilary and a couple Sleepy Orange out in the heat. The best beast of the day was hearing our 'spring peeper', Strecker's Chorus Frogs, chorusing. Outstanding! I thought I heard one a week ago at the golf course. This was several going at it after dark. I also heard a Chickadee give its first song of the year, just once.

Jan. 6 ~ About 37dF this morning and cloudy, a bit coolish. Sun found its way out in the afternoon and got up to about 70dF for a high. Not bad, but breezy after morning. We worked on stuff here. Didn't see anything different for birds, except there are two imm. male Sharp-shinned Hawks, fighting over whose seedeaters they are that we are feeding in the yard. I had only seen one at a time so thought it was just one that wanted to be 6' tall that was doing all the attacking. I heard a Belted Kingfisher going off over at the river. At dusk I saw a spider building its orb web at the corner of the back porch overhang, the web maybe a foot across but a decent sized spider, big for the small web. Right after dark I used flashlight to see if it was the spider I photo'd a few weeks ago, and it wasn't. It already had a nice moth it was working on dead center of the web. Did not take it an hour. Impressive.

Jan. 5 ~ Another 27dF low, 5 colder than they said. Late afternoon it was 75dF at least on the sunny south side of the house! Almost 50dF diurnals again! The usual stuff was in the yard, and two Red-breasted Nuthatch were in the big pecan early morning. We went to Lost Maples mid-morning, to miss some of the chill. In the corrals on 360 east of the river were 150 Brewer's Blackbird, some Red-wings, and Brown-headed Cowbird with them. There were as many Brewer's in the corral by our place when we left, so at least 300 are around 360. The only thing on the road on the way up was a a couple DOR (dead on road) birds, a Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk and a Black Vulture.

We were at the park before 10 a.m. to mid-afternoon and did the mile along Can Creek up to the ponds. Early when the wind started the Juniper (cedar) pollen was so thick it looked like smoke or fog. With a slight yellowish tint. For a half hour or so until all of what has stacked up is released, they were smoky with pollen. It must have been billions and billions of parts per million. There is seed now in the feeders at the feeding station by the trailhead parking lot. Our best bird was an adult female Black-and-white Warbler (ph.), which is roughly accidental on the plateau in winter. The ad. fem. that wintered four of five years at Utopia Park about 2008-12 or so, was the first overwintering record for the plateau. This one was in the big woods just after the third crossing up from parking lot. Or, the woodland below the ponds and the waterfall below them.

Second best thing was five Golden-crowned Kinglet, which is a high number here. We can miss them some years in winter, often we see just a couple or few all winter, many years we are lucky to see five all winter locally. So 5 in a mile or so of canyon is a great showing. Ruby-crowned Kinglet were thick too, a least couple dozen were seen. At least a couple Hutton's Vireo tried to sneak by among the Kinglets.

In the 'bird of the day always gets away' department, there was one in this category. When some citiots started yelling at the top of their volume knobs from the cliffs over the pond, it flushed from the woods along the big main pond (we were just entering them and would have likely found it) across the trail in front of us and upslope and disappeared into the woods way up there somewhere. I saw it five seconds in flight, and in bins the last three. It was a sapsucker, without any white on the completely uniform upper wing. In other words it looked like a female Williamson's. A Willy. That was what I got from it. I have spent a fair amount of time around them, they are absolutely unique, nothing like them. I don't know what else it could have been, but it just wasn't enough of a look, and I have to say, it got away. There is an old Uvalde Co. record and I think a couple Travis Co. records.

We saw a couple and heard a couple more texana Scrub-Jay, heard Canyon Wren, saw 6 Myrtle and 2 Orange-crowned Warbler, at least 5 Common Raven (at once together playing on the updrafts, at least one was flipping upside-down), 1 Red-tailed Hawk, 1 Kestrel, 15+ Cardinal, 15+ Chickadee (Car.), 24+ Titmouse (Black-crested), Carolina and Bewick's Wren, 20 some Chipping Sparrow, a couple Lincoln's Sparrow, White-winged Dove, a few Eastern Phoebe, Mockingbird. Amazingly I did not even hear a Hermit Thrush. Did not see or hear Olive Sparrow, White-tipped Dove, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, or Green Kingfisher. Heard a Spotted Towhee.

There were lots of people, the trail was heavy with hominids, very busy compared to what I expected and am used to. I guess the end of the holidays break weekend? I never saw so many yoga pants. This is the new hiking attire? Were they all from Austin? Many seemed to only have one item with them for safety and protection, a phone, which is of almost no use there unless you hike up top and get out of the canyons, and have eh-tee&tee.

More big trees down, I mean 100+ year old or more big big trees. A Chinkapin Oak, a Buckley Oak, a Maple, they are still dropping like flies there. It is a changing landscape. The bunches of big gully-washers were intense enough to wash lots of the cattails out of the two ponds, which is great and was much needed. There are still too many, and they will sprout back right away, but at least several years of overgrowth got cleared out along with some of the silt as well. It is still very silted in from the drought and all the years without big strong gully-washer rains, just enough to silt in the ponds. Maybe the Green Kings will start nesting around them again like they did before the cattails clogged them.

goldencrownedkinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet, just hangin' around.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 4 ~ It was a chilly one with 27dF for a low here. But sunny. For the second day I thought I heard a White-throated Sparrow out back when I was tossing seed before sunup, the hissy sssseet note. Town run fer stuff. At the park I saw the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe, a Green Kingfisher, and the Great Blue Heron, but no sign of the Wilson's Warbler. Maybe it was smart enough to move on southward. This last cold spell might have convinced it to go. Sure glad I made a trip there Monday and got a couple decent shots (see below) before it left. Otherwise just the dozen Myrtles, several Kinglets (Ruby), and the residents. Saw my first two butterflies of the year, a Sleepy Orange in town, and at the park a Vesta Crescent. Also saw my first ode (dragonfly) of the year, which surprisingly was a damselfly. Not sure of type, but it was Argia sps. Dancer of some sort, and since I got OK pix should be able to make an ID later. Pretty sure it was the same type, probably the same one, that I saw flush away and disappear a couple times a week ago. One Blue Jay in town in a Ligustrum.

UPDATE: I sent the best photo to Tony Gallucci whom is a dragon and damselfly expert extraordinaire (besides being what I consider the most knowledgable natural history expert on the Edwards Plateau) up in Hunt. He agreed with my proposed identification, it is an Argia plana, Springwater Dancer. Which is ridiculous in early January. Again, I saw this beast in late December a week before the second encounter when I got the photo. So actually it was probably a record late date and a record early date, the same beast, had I got a pic of it when I saw it in latest December.

An adult male Vermilion was by the corral as I drove by on way home. Wonder if it is the same one over at the golf course, or another? A Field Sparrow was in the tangle at the gate post as I pulled back in driveway. Finally at 4 p.m. two Red-breasted Nuthatch spent a minute in the big pecan as they moved through the yard. So two are still here. Had a Red Admiral late afternoon, for butterfly species number three this year, and today. At peak heat it was about 72dF on the sunny south side of the house (from 27 this a.m.!), the cool front porch was 68dF. Man that felt great to warm up.

Jan. 3 ~ About 35dF for a low with a cold north wind. Wonderful. At least it is sunny. Fortunately I am stuck inside working. After a cold morning it warmed up later in afternoon, probably hit 60dF for a moment or two. That was nice. More of the same gang here in the yard, except I heard a Junco, did not see it. Still no nuthatch yet this year. Weird. Had a run to town late afternoon, ran through the park and woods, saw nothing but the Black Vultures roosting in the trees. The 150 or so Brewer's Blackbird flock at the corrals on 360 east of the river had a half-dozen female Red-winged in with them, one male, plus 3 Starling and a female Brown-headed Cowbird. Another lone female cowbird was here below a feeder late in the day. Saw my FOY 2 Raven and some Black Vultures out moving around again after being grounded a couple days.

Jan. 2 ~ Another cold gray one, in the 30's dF all day, drizzled a bit, maybe a couple tenths of an inch of precip, light north winds to make it cold to the bone. Same gang outside but was about a hundred Brewer's Blackbird over in the corral and sometimes in our pecans. I didn't bother working them for the Rusty, but I heard a Starling in with them. Still have not heard a nuthatch this year they have been MIA so far. Saw one Robin, which I missed yesterday, a few waxwing. Not seeing the Ground-Dove pair, hope the Sharpy didn't get them. Saw a post on the inter-tubes about a Rufous-backed Robin near Uvalde, a nice Mexican vagrant with maybe only one prior Uvalde County record (the Feb. 19, 2011 bird Kathy and I found at Ft. Inge near Uvalde).

January 1 ~ Happy New Year! We started out cold at about 34dF, gray, and a light northerly wind. I saw about 44dF maybe at peak heat. Mostly 5-10 mph northerlies, so pretty chilly. Birds were the same gang but I only glanced around once an hour for a few minutes at a time. Did not hear a nuthatch, saw the Canyon Towhee, several House Finch, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Chipping and Lark Sparrow, over a dozen Cardinal, two dozen American Goldfinch, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, Mockingbird, Bewick's Wren, two dozen Brewer's Blackbird, Eastern Phoebe, a few Cedar Waxwing, and about 20 each of White-winged and Mourning Dove. It was about as weak as it gets here in the yard. Missed several regulars like Black Vulture, Caracara, Red-tailed Hawk, Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, did not even have a Raven (Common) or Robin, even missed the Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks. All are expected daily on any half-decent day. If I walk out to far front corner of yard I can usually get Field and Vesper Sparrow, didn't bother today.

~ ~ ~ above is 2019 ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ below is 2018 ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ 2018 annual summary ~ ~ ~

These are brutal, I know, and you don't have to read it. It is as much for my purposes as any, to have a quick easy reference of the highlight sightings in the upper Sabinal River drainage for the year. It was a very wet year with nearly four feet of rain locally for many. Two feet just in September, and a half to a foot in October alone. This helped knock down migrants, and provided flood ponds for some of them. Overall bird and bug numbers remain low, suppressed since the 7 year drought. We have gotten rain for 3 years now, but the animals are yet to recover. Especially migratory breeding birds are thinner than they used to be, such as at Lost Maples. Which by the way continues to lose trees at a frightening rate. Large flying insects in general seem way down.

Odes were 60 species so great for diversity. However the individual numbers were down. Places like the pond at the park, or the Lost Maples ponds, never got covered in them they way they did pre-drought. As always a few neat things though. There was a great Band-winged Dragonlet invasion after the May rains with a hundred at two Bandera Co. ephemeral ponds. A Twelve-spotted Skimmer was photo'd in BanCo again, in Oct. at the S. Little Crk. Rd. pond. A few Pronghorn Clubtail were seen in April. An Eastern Amberwing in May at the park was likely an emergence, not an immigrant, and the first of that I have seen here. A Rivercruiser in May was nice to see, they have been scarce. A great highlight of the year was a Slaty Skimmer photographed at Utopia Park, probably the second UvCo record. A probable Blue-faced Darner was at Lost Maples, I have yet to pull frames out of a few second vid to get a positive ID. A few Flame Skimmer were at Lost Maples as usual. Saw Ivory-striped Sylph and Orange-striped Threadtail also as usual.

Butterflies were 80 species, which is very low. Way more flowers than butterflies. Actually lower diversity this year than all but one (the most severe peak) of the recent seven year exceptional drought we just got through. The water is back since then, but the butterflies have yet to recover. Same goes for moths and many other insects, as well as the birds that depend on them. There was only a very limited fall invasion from the south this year, which is when and where our rarities come from, so there was none of that. June and July had apparent Rawson's Metalmark.

The biggest fall invader was Vesta Crescent, numbers were off the charts, 400+ in a day. There was a major Snout flight of millions over a week in late Sept. after the two feet of rain. The Monarch migration was mostly west of us this year, only small numbers were seen, no big flights. The last new butterfly species of the year was my only Crimson Patch of the year, on Nov. 17, in mint condition. There were virtually no Hackberry or Tawny Emperors locally this year. Beat up worn ones from somehwere else were seen one time each in fall. No Mourning Cloak this year, they seem biannual here. Carolina Satyr remains absent since the drought, though finally this year Arizona Sister and Dusky-blue Groundstreak both seemed to be slowly making a comeback.

An Imperial Moth was seen in June, a caterpillar of one was seen in October. A Lassaux's Sphinx (moth) was photographed at our porch light Aug. 30. It came into my pipe tobacco, and fluttered against the back of my head. It was a lovely light cavendish blend with just a light wisp of maple-vanilla. Only saw one Texas Wasp Moth and one White-tipped Black all fall. In beetles Eyed Elaterid made a decent showing, and in Cerambycids saw a few of the Stenelytrana gigas and only one of the Stenapsis vertailcalis insignis. Night lighting was absolutley pitiful the response was so bad. Tepid would have been exciting. I have never seen anything like it. It used to be that when you turn on a dang light at night, you got bugs and lots of them.

Birds were great this year, if they weren't it is because you did not get out and bird enough. Probably in large part because I drove around quite a bit more this year checking more bushes and trees more often. Whereas the last six years my total driving (all - personal, biz, and pleasure) has been about a thousand miles per year, this year it was probably more like 1600. When you just bird local though, that is a lot more pokin' around, or standing around doing nothing with binoculars and camera, gazing about like a bewildered lost tourist.

For the upper Sabinal River drainage, I saw about 210 species this year. That is Lost Maples to Clayton Grade. But actually only south to UvCo 360 a couple miles south of Utopia, nothing different down-valley. Very close to the last two years totals for a local only number (207 in 17, 212 in 16). I am sure if one was retired and could bird every day they could see 225 or maybe even 250 species locally (upper Sab. Riv. drainage) in a year. But I am a workin' stiff. I get a couple or few hours a day boldly looking and listening where few have gone. Plus actually birding a little here and there.

The highlight of last winter was a Great Kiskadee at Utopia Pk. in February for a couple days. In late April I had a brief four second look at 2 Black Swift flying north low as a strong western weather system cleared. In May we had some rain and grounded shorebirds in the resulting flood ponds. Probably the first documented Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Phalarope, and Pectoral Sandpiper (all 3) in Bandera County. Plus a couple Baird's Sandpipers in UvCo on a flooded golf course fairway.

The breeding season highlight was Eastern Wood-Pewee feeding young at Utopia Park, a first for me there in 15 years. In June Kathy had an adult and juv. Golden-cheeked Warbler at our bird bath. Still together they could not have nested too far away (Kathy's docu grabshots were enough for me to age them). In fall the Sept. American Bittern in Bandera Co. was the best bird probably, seemingly another BanCo first. A Sept. Least Sandpiper on the golf course (again a flooded fairway) was only the second I have seen here, the first juvenile. Late October a Red-breasted Nuthatch showed up which was joined by 2 more over November to late December. December had adult males of Wilson's Warbler at Utopia Park and Townsend's Warbler at Lost Maples, both are very rare winter records. The Wilson's appeared to be a western chryseola type, which is accidental at best, IF recorded, in Texas.

It was a great year overall with lots of fascinating observations, and lots more great documentation. Still have tons of pix to go through of all kinds of stuff. What cold, wet, windy days are for. It is always especially interesting once you have made all your notes to step back and see how they fit in the big picture over time. It is great to have notes. Remember you can never take or make too many notes. Take more notes.     ;)

~ ~ ~ end of 2018 annual summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

To Top of Recent Bird News
Back to Top
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Always read UP from bottom to go in chronological sequence. Weekly or so updates are generally noted with a break.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Links to all 15+ years of archived bird news pages below. Broken into 6 month increments. One day I'll quarter it out by season as well, so all 10 years of each season are together, perhaps making say, searching springs easier.

Odd numbered archives are January through June.
Even numbered archives are July through December.
(except a couple when the split missed, prolly due
to excessive amount of drivel in spring)


Here is a master index page of them:
Bird News Archives INDEX
Index page with links to all 'Old Bird News' pages.

Bird News Archive XXX
July 1 - December 31, 2018

Bird News Archive XXIX
January 1, 2018 - June 30, 2018

Bird News Archive XXVIII
July 1, 2017 - December 31, 2017

Bird News Archive XXVII
January 1, 2017 - June 30, 2017

Bird News Archive XXVI
July 1, 2016 - December 31, 2016

Bird News Archive XXV
January 1, 2016 - June 30, 2016

Bird News Archive XXIV
July 1, 2015 - Dec. 31, 2015

Bird News Archive XXIII
January 1, 2015 - June 30, 2015

Bird News Archive XXII
July 1, 2014 - December 31, 2014

Bird News Archive XXI
January 1, 2014 - June 30, 2014

Bird News Archive XX
July 1, 2013 - December 31, 2013

Bird News Archive XIX
January 1, 2013 - June 30, 2013

Bird News Archive XVIII
July 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012

Bird News Archive XVII
January 1, 2012 - June 30, 2012

Bird News Archive XVI
July 1, 2011 - December 31, 2011

Bird News Archive XV
January 1, 2011 - June 30, 2011

Bird News Archive XIV
July 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010

Bird News Archive XIII
January 1, 2010 - June 30, 2010

Bird News Archive XII
June 1, 2009 - December 31, 2009

Bird News Archive XI
January 1, 2009 - May 31, 2009

Bird News Archive X
July 1, 2008 - Dec. 31, 2008

Bird News Archive IX
January 1, 2008 - June 30, 2008

Bird News Archive VIII
July 1, 2007 - Dec. 31, 2007

Bird News Archive VII
January 1, 2007 - June 30, 2007

Bird News Archive VI
July 1, 2006 - Dec. 31, 2006

Bird News Archive V
January 1, 2006 - June 30, 2006

Bird News Archive IV
July 1, 2005 - Dec. 31, 2005

Bird News Archive III
January 1, 2005 - June 30, 2005

Bird News Archive II
June 1, 2004 - Dec. 31, 2004

Bird News Archive I
Winter 2003-04 Summary Notes
and Mar. 31 - May 30, 2004
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