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: February 21, 2020
(prior updates: February 14, 7, January 31, 24, 17, 10, 3, December 27, 20, 13, 6)


February. The ground is turning green with sprouty things. The first Agarita flower showed on the 5th! Hard freeze the 6th at 22dF, and 25 on the 7th. Some good birds were reported around the Knippa area in January: Mountain Plover, White-tailed and Ferruginous Hawks. Then in Uvalde a Morelet's Seedeater, another of which was seen near Brackettville. We had a bat hanging out, literally, under the eaves over a week. My first actual returning breeder passerine showed about 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 13, a calling male Purple Martin soared around overhead! A local saw a small brown hummingbird, surely a Rufous, at blooming Agarita Feb. 13. An ad. fem. Rusty Blackbird was here at our place Feb. 15. My first fresh dragonfly of the year was a Green Darner Feb. 17. On Feb. 18 saw the first flock of Turkey Vulture, 23 of them came in a string low after the front hit. Very interesting was an apparent Red-breasted x Red-naped Sapsucker intergrade on Feb. 21 right across the road from house. Two weeks to Golden-cheeks!

January. We birded around Sabinal Jan. 5 and saw: 1 Prairie Falcon, 7 Green Jay, 12 Long-billed Thrasher, a couple Olive Sparrow, heard a Kiskadee or two, saw a Harlan's Hawk, a Swamp Sparrow, 5 Harris's Hawk, Verdins and Pyrrhuloxias. Great birding down there now. Up here, we got rain! Finally some precip Jan. 16 & 17, about 3"! Another half-inch overnight on Jan. 21-22, another .75" on the 28th. Enough to lift us out of D2 level (extreme) drought to D1. Jan. 24 at Utopia Park there was a nice bright male Pine Warbler and a male Ringed Kingfisher. An adult male Vermilion Flycatcher was at the golf course pond by Waresville Cmty. on Jan. 26.

Golden-cheeked Warbler

The light was bad, but the bird was good.



For some detailed 2019 Lost Maples reports see the dated entries for Jan. 5, March 17, 30, 31, April 21 & 28, May 12, June 2 and 29, July 28, September 15, Oct. 13, and Dec. 8.

For 2018 check the Old Bird News pages (#29 and #30 now) for reports from April 1, 9, 10, 15, 29, May 13, June 3 and 24, July 29, Aug. 26, Sept. 30 and Dec. 2. (Old Bird News pages link below)

Pro Tip: Ignore the ebird Chihuahuan Raven reports at Lost Maples, they are mis-ID'd Common Ravens which are common residents. You would think with so many reports, ONE could be proven. Guess again.

There is a page up now 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.

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 Hwys. 10 or 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 16+ (!) 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 (2018) with seasonal status and abundance for each species. It lists all 350 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.

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.

~ ~ ~ ~
***  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


The photos used for the weekly breaks are compiled in one place for each year (just for the last few years).
2015 pix
2016 pix
2017 pix
2018 pix
2019 pix

~ ~ ~ finally, current bird news from the greater and lesser Utopia area ~ ~ ~
BIRD & NATURE NEWS 2020


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!

Commonly used ABBREVIATIONS are:

To repeat since commonly used:
sps.=species; FOS=First of season (can be any 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:
Feb. 14, 7, Jan. 31, 24, 17, 10, 3, Dec. 27, 20, 13, 6
Each week's update break is marked with a bad bird 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 ~ ~ ~

 * OMG, ANOTHER page has been re-done! The BRUSH COUNTRY bird photo page has been buffed and polished with many new photos and much new text. It is the last of what I thought were the four worst pages needing updating. It will likely be the last of these for a bit now. I am too busy. We got HUMMERS, WARBLERS, and SPARROWS re-done in 2019, and now the BRUSH COUNTRY page is much improved. Get to these pages from the bird photo index page:
Bird Photos


Feb. 21 ~ Froze, 30dF for a low, warmed to about 55dF in the afternoon. Most of the morning the big blackbird flock was over in the corral or in our pecans. There were a dozen chorusing Red-winged Blackbird amongst the 150 Brewer's and 12 Brown-headed Cowbird. They sang lots of the morning, which was great to hear. First time this year there has been a real chorus of them going this spring. I can't believe how green the ground has gotten in the last week or two.

Town run day. Right after I pulled out of the driveway onto the dirt road I caught a bird flying, close, out of the corner of my eye, just at the far corner of the yard. Saw it was a sapsucker, hit the brakes, so did it, landing in a bare pecan right by the road. I slouched down in my seat and got a couple poor docushots of it. It was a male, apparent Red-BREASTED x Red-naped Sapsucker intergrade, hybrid, or backcross. It could be that the Red-nape parent was impure, maybe a cross with a Yellow-bellied. I can't rule that out. But mainly, it was significantly a Red-breasted, and anything with Red-BREASTED Sap genes in it is a very rare bird in Texas. But which you don't get to count as anything unless pure since hybrids or intergrades are not any whole species. It is the first Sap with Red-breasted genes I have ever seen in Texas. Was very lucky to have gotten a shot of the head! It flushed and was flying toward our yard last I saw it, probably landed in the pecans. But I was late already and had a docushot so headed to town to do my errands. I suspect it is the first half of a Red-breasted Sapsucker ever reported in Uvalde County. There have been a few of this type of hybrid reported in Texas in the last decade or two. There are only a very few pure Red-breasted records in the state.

The park had one Pied-billed Grebe, the 5 Whistling-Ducks, 2 Gadwall, and one American Wigeon, which flushed away alone. Up in woods was one male Ringed Kingfisher at the top of the slough. Otherwise, a couple each Blue Jay, Eastern Bluebird, and Myrtle Warbler, a Kinglet (Ruby), and a few Chipping Sparrow was it. In town a couple Redbud trees had some open flowers! Pink trees! At the library a couple Mountain Laurel flowers were open! I walked over and took a big hit off some buds. It was awesome man. It had been a year since I got that groove on. When I saw them it was like a Pavlovian response, the sirens sweetly singing. Don't tell me there is nothing to aroma therapy. I took two more big hits before I left the bush muy tranquillo. Laurels before the last week of Feb.! I used to think of them as a March to April thing. Gadzooks! Some major signs of spring knocking at the door out there!

Feb. 20 ~ Still flatlining in the 40's dF, but now with a 10-20 mph north wind on it, so chilly. As of the afternoon we are at 48 hours in the 40's and gray. Looks like we are missing all the rain, just a little mist was all we got. Was about 150 Brewer's Blackbird and 10 Brown-headed Cowbird with them over in the corral. They are real ginchy and hard to work, I never got them all in bins, again. New in with them was about 10 Red-winged Blackbird, mostly females. At one point the Red-wings landed on the patio and were eating white millet! Some Cowbirds too (yech). The Brewer's never land on the patio. Clouds finally cleared right before sundown. Now it will get cold soon as the wind stops.

Feb. 19 ~ Spent the day in the 40's dF flatlining, supposed to be that way through tomorrow until the front passes and it gets cold. A little mist, but mostly just overcast and a light north wind. An adult Cooper's Hawk took a Cardinal in the morning. Was about a hundred Brewer's Blackbird and 10 Brown-headed Cowbird but I only got parts of the group in bins and never could see them all. Lots of Field Sparrow out there, maybe very near a couple dozen. About 85 Chipping Sparrow today. No bat.

Feb. 18 ~ Another foggy morn about 64dF or so. Where it stayed until the front began arriving mid-day, and started dropping. Late afternoon after the front hit about 5:40 a low train of 23 Turkey Vulture went by. Amazing to watch them tach northward with good progress into a north wind without flapping. My first spring migrant flock of them this year. We have had a very few around already. Usually these first arrivals are our local breeders. Shortly after everything was tanking up on seeds with the front bearing down. I counted 21 Field Sparrow at once! Biggest flock I have ever had here. They must be building up as 8 was my high count recently. So again a couple 'common' birds provide a couple great data points today. No bat. At the park advisory board meeting I saw Judy Schaffer and she said she had one Rufous Hummingbird over-winter at their place in town this winter.

Feb. 17 ~ Warmed from the 40's after midnight to 60dF at sunup. Fog, mist, and wet out. Good for ground moisture which is critical right now during sprouting season. Finally in the afternoon it burned off, cleared up, and got warm, to about 78dF or so! As is customary the day before a front arrives. In the fog noonish a couple Killdeer flew over calling, shapes just barely seeable. Later afternoon I snuck up the hill to see how the Agarita bloom was. Not even 10% is blooming, a couple bushes very well though, lots of bees on them. One American Lady was an old worn leftover, a Red Admiral was brand spanking new, you could tell by the fresh paint. No Elfin or Juniper Hairstreak yet. Better was my first new dragonfly of the year, a male Green Darner, with still shiny wings, so just emerged, likely today. Nearest water (river) about 3/4 of a mile or more away from where I was. Usually Dot-winged Baskettail is first dragon of the year. There were the smallest buds just barely breaking stem on the Buckley (Spanish or Red) Oaks. The magic Golden-cheek trees. When their new leaves unfurl, Golden-cheeks appear. Did not see the bat under the eaves today after his event on the porch yesterday. Methinks that was it for that.

Feb. 16 ~ Very foggy for a few hours early, about 47dF for a low. Slowly burned off to overcast in afternoon and warmed into 70's! Had too much work to do here to get out. Was the same gang around the yard. Maybe 10 Am. Goldfinch, only a few Cedar Waxwing today. The bat was on the ground on the back porch, it doesn't look well. Mighta got a better shot of it. Tried to give it a fly I swatted. Stop laughing please, I said 'num nums?' with my offering. After lunch it was gone, so it must have flown off. To get away from that dead fly maybe. Been too cold with no bugs at night for a long time now. Not normal behavior, something must be wrong. Maybe due to the dearth of bugs in the fall it was not able to fatten up enough to make it through winter?

Feb. 15 ~ We ran about 38-58dF for a temp spread. Was 25 Waxwings here today, and the Brewer's Blackbirds were up to just over 50. Mostly over in the corral but sometimes up in the big pecan. There was one female Brown-headed Cowbird in with them. In the afternoon I heard a weird call out of the flock so grabbed bins and walked over into corral. An ad. fem. Rusty Blackbird was in with them. First time I have binned one all winter. I thought I heard one in Nov. or early Dec., but have not seen one. There was an ad. fem. that wintered here for the last 5 prior years. Maybe this is it? I have not been serious about working them this winter when they are in the corral as they mostly show after rains when it is muddy and cold, and there are not the usual hundreds. Every time I did work the flock I got nuthin' but Brewer's.

commongrackle
Here is the mystery bird I posted at the end of last year.
It saw a Cooper's Hawk and dropped like a rock off
the snag into thick willows below. It is just growing out
a new tail, so does not have the full tail we expect on
an adult male Common Grackle. Taken Sept. 20, 2019
The cropped blowup of the bird is right above Dec. 27 entry.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 14 ~ Happy Valentine's Day lovers. We had a chilly 29dF low, a minor freeze. I see the bat under the eaves this morning. Town run day. Saw Little Creek Larry, who said he saw a small brown hummingbird yesterday. Which is surely a Rufous and likely a migrant as they move very early, starting in February. It was at wild Agarita flowers. Several folks mentioned to me they have Agarita in bloom now. The park was slow, a couple Myrtle Warbler, a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet, no ducks, no Coot. Heard Blue Jays in town. Turkey Vulture over house here. A big imm. female Cooper's Hawk was flushing the seedeaters here, besides the Sharpy or two. Probably a few dozen Agarita flowers now on the bush out back. Forgot to check the Redbuds at the library.

Feb. 13 ~ Low was about 36dF or so, chilly but bearable. Sunny, and warmed to about 60dF later afternoon, very nice thank you. Too busy to look much but at a 5:30 p.m. break for my lizard brain to soak a few last rays of sun, a male Purple Martin burst into call right overhead. Soared around a bit calling in its full awesomeness. This is usually the first neotropical migrant passerine that breeds here to return from winter in the tropics. They get them down on the coast in January! A sign of spring if I ever saw one. There were about 30 Brewer's Blackbird over in the corral since it is nice and muddy. The American Goldfinch flock was at least 20 birds. A couple Robin were out there early morn. The bat is roosting a couple eaves over from where it was when Kathy first found it. Away from our in-and-out traffic at the back porch door.

Feb. 12 ~ A chilly day was still at 41dF in the morning. But we got a half-inch of rain overnight! So very mucky out there, but wet. Had a quick town run early, at the park there were the 3 Gadwall and the 5 Whistling-Duck, but not seeing the Coot lately. Methinks it either left or got picked off. Since I was there, ya know, I grabbed a couple egg, cheese, and chorizo breakfast tacos from Rosie to bring home. Oh my. Then I didn't care if I didn't see any birds. In the afternoon all of a sudden a bat seemed to fly out from under the eaves and was flying around the patio. Then out over the yard and across the road. We must have not seen it and it was up there. Hated that we flushed it in the day. Maybe it got a bug or two. Now I know to check up there real good.

Feb. 11 ~ Was clear for a while last night but more fog-mist-drizzle in morning. Light north winds and a low of 42dF, chills in 30's. Damp and wet, good day for the desk. Keeps the dust and juniper pollen down anyway. Temps did not increase all day. It flatlined at 42 all day, with some wind and wet on it. Feels like winter. It's lovely out, come on down. The male White-winged Dove are showing beautiful mauve napes and rear-necks now. Breeding season is on the way. There are at least 35 White-winged Dove here now, Kathy thought 10 more than that. That was just one good flush event count I got. I probably didn't see them all.

Feb. 10 ~ The sorta low was 66dF with fog and mist. Front is inbound shortly, streamer showers by mid-morn. Cooler northerlies arrived in the afternoon, a few spits and spritzes. About 50dF by 5 p.m. and dropping, but no freeze behind it. Only saw the same stuff in my peeks about as I tossed seed. Was 19 Waxwing in the flock today. Some of the Chipping Sparrow are showing lots of rusty on their crowns now, I presume the older males get it first. One of the Am. Goldfinch here is showing the first bits of yellow as well.

Feb. 9 ~ Warmed overnight from mid-50's to 60dF or so by dawn, with fog, mist and drizzle. Keeps the dust down anyway. A dozen open Agarita flower clusters now on the scraggly one growing out of limestone rock out back. Worked on things here since 40 pct. chance of rain and very breezy. Then sorta cleared in afternoon and got up to at least 75dF! Hondo and Uvalde had 80! It is the warmup before the next front.

Birds were the same gang, but with more singing. Was 14 Cedar Waxwing in the flock today. The number seems to be different every day. Which when considering how few are around this winter is interesting. Saw the Turkey Vulture again. Saw a newly minted fresh and shiny Pipevine Swallowtail that was not the dull old beat up one I saw a couple times in January. As in a new emergence. Just a reminder at the risk of being redundant, get yer bird boxes ready!

Feb. 8 ~ Ran about 35 to 60dF, fog, drizzle, mist in morn, but no precip of consequence, but you would be soaked if out in it. Nice and sunny in late afternoon. In the morning saw my first Turkey Vulture of the year from the yard, which is likely a new spring arrival. It or another was out there again in the afternoon. There are over a half-dozen Agarita flower clusters open now on the scraggly bush out back. At least a hundred Chipping Sparrow, 6 or so Field. Caracara and Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Will mention a couple good birds down in the brush country in January which I saw in ebird. Two Morelet's Seedeaters north to near Hwy. 90 is great, one near Brackettville, another in Uvalde! I think both photo'd and likely new county records. Though I have encountered Seedeater twice in UvCo prior, I never got pix to prove it. Then near Knippa there were Mountain Plover, White-tailed and Ferruginous Hawk. That brush country is great in winter.

redbat
Here is the bat that is hanging around. It looks pretty
rusty-toned in person, methinks it is a Red Bat.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 7 ~ Another chilly morn at 25dF. Gotta longjohn. Had to throw hot water on the iced birdbath. Warmed up incredibly though, way more than they said, to an amazing 73dF! No one complained. One Utopia station showed 75. 50dF diurnals. At 6 p.m. it was still 70 or above! Reminds me we could have White-eyed Vireo here in a week, and we will have Golden-cheeked Warblers back in a month!

There was an ad. male Lesser Goldfinch here this morning. It could well be a spring migrant returning. In the old days before thistle seed feeding, they did not winter here. Most still don't. They return in Feb., formerly about the 22nd. Like many things they have been returning sooner (only a very very few stay the winter) each year. Since we have not have one around, I would not be surprised if this were a spring arrival of a returning bird. The House Finch are really getting going singing, always great to hear their enthusiasm.

Town errand run. Mostly just errands. And Rosie is gone so no Tacos today. How will I live? A park check saw the 5 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck continuing, a dozen Myrtle and one Audubon's Warbler, a couple Kinglet (Ruby), and one male Green Kingfisher. Which I couldn't spot across the river as it called from low in thick Cypress branches. Then when the male Egyptian Goose mounted the female and began bellowing this obnoxious sonorous honking I wasn't sure if it was just the decibels, or the force of the honk that hit it, which flushed said GreenKing to a new now visible perch, at a safer distance from those damned introduced non-native feral geese.

The bird of the day Kathy found, a bat! The FOY bat. Whilst I was in town, about noon-thirty she was on back porch coming inside when it flew in over her head and hung up under the eaves! It was still here when I got back and got some hopefully usable shots. It was in dark shade with bright sun out and so color was hard to tell. Seemed too big for Brazillian Freetailed. Great close views though, it was there all afternoon. It disappeared some time around dusk. We missed it flying off, musta been during dinner. Edit add-on: OK whaddyaknow, in the pix it looks fairly rusty toned and I suspect it was a Red Bat.

Feb. 6 ~ The wind finally stopped after midnight, so it got cold. Low was about 22dF! There's yer winter, right there. I see so far for Dec. and Jan., the first two months of climatalogical winter, the U.S. ran 4.5 dF above normal. It is not your imagination. The birds went through that first round of seed pretty quickly. By noon it was mid-40's and bearable in sun out of the wind, but breezy, and that air is cold. Stayed windy until late in the afternoon. Not so bad being stuck at the desk. Late in the day an adult female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker went through the yard, achieving bird-of-the-day status by doing so. Was in the big dying Hackberry and went to a pecan before crossing road toward river. First sap I got to study well in my bins this year. Finally. Saw a second Agarita flower cluster open today on the same bush along fenceline on slope out back where I toss seed.

Feb. 5 ~ The front hit before midnight last night, we did not get any precip from it here. The winds are 20 gusting to 30 mph, and the low was 34dF. Chill factors in low 20's! Warmed to almost 40 at peak afternoon heat when sun came out, and bearable if out of the wind, but it blew hard all day. A great day to be stuck at desk in office. Shoveled extra seed rations. It was 33dF at dark, chills below 25, feels like winter. Can't wait to see what we have tomorrow morning! So winter hit on a Wednesday this year. Saw two dozen waxwing in the flock today. The big event of the day was an open Agarita flower! First spring flower of the year. On the early side, which is not really probably as good as it sounds.

Feb. 4 ~ The warm day before the front. Low was about 52dF, got up to about 75! Foggy early but sunny in the afternoon. The birds were the same gang. Saw a Caracara, the local nester Red-tailed Hawk, a Sharp-shinned Hawk or two, heard a Kinglet (Ruby). Had to run to town quickly later p.m., saw the Whistling-Ducks at the park, and on way home along 187 a Turkey Vulture. This is probably the one I saw in the park 10 days ago and the one early returnee. Valentine's Day was average former return date for them. Heard the Screech-Owl right over back fence at dusk.

Feb. 3 ~ Cool and gray, maybe 52dF for a low. Stayed overcast but warmed to about 64dF. Some sprinkles on and off over the day might have totalled a tenth of an inch. In a.m. saw a Long-billed Thrasher eating Hackberries over in the corral which flew into the big dying one in the yard. Mid-morn counted 18 American Goldfinch on the ground eating sunflower seeds, biggest single flock I have seen this winter. A dozen Cedar Waxwing and as many House Finch. The rest was the same gang.

Feb. 2 ~ Happy Groundhog Day! In some areas aka as the Woodchuck. When Kathy and I lived in New Jersey we shared a yard with one, it was awesome. Very neat beast. Here it froze again, another 31dF barely, but chilly. The birds were the same. We are probably right about at peak of what could be called the winter minimus, diversity-wise. In Feb. we see the first of spring passage migrants and local breeder returns.

This winter without the usual bug crop, few hackberries, no pecans left, and fewer seeds due to no fall bloom from drought, birds are fairly down overall. Even the seedeaters are low in numbers. Worked on stuff here and didn't get out. When it is a little slow get yer other stuff done. Put that time in the birding bank. Spend it going off on a tangent on the intertubes. It is certain if you went out and beat the dickens out of the bushes a couple days a week you could turn great things up closer than you want to know. There are virtually always good birds out there, undiscovered. No matter where you are. One way to find them is to look where others have not. Where they have been, look harder, e.g., more thorough coverage.

Feb. 1 ~ We froze, but barely, about 31dF for a low. Might have hit 70 at peak heat, pretty nice out. Had to do some yard work I have been way behind on before everything starts growing again. The sparrows and a Mockingbird sure like the fallow look and habitat. Lots of grass is sprouting and the base ground color is now more green than brown. There were at least 21 Cedar Waxwing in the big Pecan, the flock is slowly growing. A few American Goldfinch were at the sunflower feeder. The pair of Bluebirds were in the yard lots early, surely our box breeders. It is great to hear some birdsong again! Cardinal, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Bewick's Wren, Eastern Phoebe and Bluebird, Field Sparrow, White-winged and Mourning Dove, and House Finch are all singing daily. Ten species singing now.

americanredstartfieldsparrow
This is a flashback from last fall. Field Sparrow
on the bath, American Resdart on rock.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~

It was a wet one with 3-4" of rain depending where you were locally. We were at four here. Above average Jan. precip. We are still way behind but likely moved from D2 to D1, so major major improvement. It was getting dire again. Temps were above average, some locals asking where is winter. There was that Tuesday, and then that Wed. was sorta...    There was more cold in Nov. and December. Averaging 4-5dF above normal nationwide.

Butterflies were 6 species locally, which is at the low end of the range for the month. These are old individuals still hanging on through the winter. Dragonflies were 2 species, Variegated and Autumnal Meadowhawks, as expected. Did see a couple Cucumber Beetle and a Syrphid (nectar or bee fly) over the month. Heard Field Cricket one warm evening.

Most food crops seem mostly depleted and bird numbers are down overall. The family of 5 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks wintering at Utopia Park is a first here in my 16 winters. The Coot there is likely its 3rd winter. Not being seen much this winter are: very few Robin and waxwing, almost no Siskin, no Flicker or Junco, only 2 Saps so far, and on and on. A male Vermilion Flyc. showing up Jan. 26 is likely a record early returnee. Small but fair numbers of Verdin and Pyrrhuloxia are in the valley this winter. Only saw one ad. ma. Pine Warbler all January.

I only count 70 sps. of birds I saw locally over the month. We did not get up to Lost Maples, and besides weekly park checks once or twice, only cruised the local roads and hole-in-walls a few hours one day a week. I am sure another 10-20 sps. are around if you dug in all the nooks and crannies. Too busy with work. We saw another ten or so species Jan. 5 down in the brush-country around Sabinal. The exciting stuff was a Prairie Falcon, 7 Green Jay, a Harlan's Hawk, Kiskadee, Swamp and Olive Sparrow and others. A few dF warmer down there makes a big difference in birds.

~ ~ ~ end January summary ~ ~ ~

Jan. 31 ~ Low of 42dF and overcast, mostly cloudy but slowly warmed to 60 in the late afternoon. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at the river early in morning, first in months from yard, they have not been around. Maybe they are returning to breed. Heard the Verdin as well. Town errand run and so a park check. Lucky me. It is a dirty thankless job, but someone has to do it.

One male American Wigeon was nice, but no Gadwall, Coot, or Whistling-Ducks. Up near island eating Mayflies were at least a dozen Myrtle Warbler and a few Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Some Titmouse and Chickadee in the woods. Picnic area had a couple Blue Jay, and a small flock of Chipping Sparrow with a few Bluebird and more Myrtles, but they were moving quickly through the trees. I did not see the Pine Warbler but was late so didn't have time to work them. Was one Audubon's Warbler. After the P.O., gas, Ranch Outpost and grocery store I did squeeze in a final stop at Rosie's for chicken fajita tacos to bring home. Just know if I die on a Friday afternoon, I was very very happy.

Jan. 30 ~ About 38dF for a low and overcast. Might have hit 50 at peak heat. About a hundred Chipping and a half-dozen Field Sparrow on the seed. Two Ground Dove, 3 dozen Cardinal. Still can't believe I have yet to see a Flicker or Junco this 'winter', and just a couple fly-bye Sapsuckers. We do need some more cold. I already know that I will regret saying that. Thursdays are desk, phone, and computer days inside here.

Jan. 29 ~ Happy Curmudgeon's Day, finally one I can get behind. Was about 38dF for a low, light northerly breeze. Coolish. Saw an Am. Goldfinch on the sunflower feeder. Heard a Robin early. Wed. desk day for me. Afternoon warmed to 64 or so. The KSAT Hi-Lo records for this date are 5 and 89dF! Otherwise it was a dull day at the desk. I have to make sure all the bird boxes are in order quickly, it is that time folks. These residents get to making a choice for the first round in February. They have already had Purple Martin down on the coast.

Jan. 28 ~ Had some rain overnight, looked about .75"! Turned out to be a wet January, we are at about 4.25" for the month. Great news, we needed it badly. Low was about 50dF, got up to 65 or so. Strong winds from noon on, 20 mph gusting to 30. I did have the Verdin out front by the gate again today. Spiffy little bird, love being able to see one in the yard.

Mid-morn I had to run around town to help a buddy get to the med. ctr. so a quick look at the park while waiting. Going up to B & R (north of town a few miles) and back I saw 4 Kestrel and 4 Red-tailed Hawk along the roads, and meadowlarks but no time to stop and work those. At the park were the 5 Whistling-Duck, 3 Gadwall, an adult male Ringed Kingfisher, a few Myrtle Warbler, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and a Kinglet (Ruby).

I dropped my friend off at a ranch south of town. There was a real nice looking Bulldog there, surely AKC, a beauty. And took to me real well, very nice dog. It got kinda excited about getting scritches and ran a big loop around the yard, came back and jumped up on my leg. It was then the odor hit. It had stepped in a big pile of itself, apparently the step before it jumped up on me, because my leg was now covered in freshly spent Bulldog. AKC no doubt. Proving once again, no good deed goes unpunished. At least it was a quick dash home and into other pants, and there were no important meetings I was on my way to. I hate when I get home and have to call my wife out to hose me off before I can enter the house.

Jan. 27 ~ Was about 40 for a low and got up to a toasty 75dF. The warmup before the next front. Counted 14 Cedar Waxwing in the flocklet today. Heard a Verdin out front toward road. The rest was the same gang. A few of what looked the same butterflies were out too. Saw the worn Pipevine Swallowtail, the American Lady, the Orange Sulphur, and a Sleepy Orange. The four wintering butterflies visiting the yard this year. Otherwise the same stuff.

Jan. 26 ~ We ran 50-80dF for a temp spread and mostly sunny, pretty darn nice except the part about it supposed to being winter now. I saw an American Lady (butterfly) here in the yard as it warmed. We took a couple hour spin-about mid day. Pulling out on 187 there was a Gulf Fritillary. The park is empty long as you are there before church gets out on Sunday. Nearing noon there were two Barred Owl countersinging there, one right over main picnic area, the other across and below spillway. A Robin and a couple Blue Jay were alarming on the one in the park. We had maybe a half-dozen Myrtle Warbler, a Kinglet (Ruby), a couple Gadwall, heard the Whistling-Ducks but didn't see them.

We went out UvCoRd 355 aka Lee St. to Little Creek. There, right where that road meets the creek and turns left there were some ducks (besides the barnyard menagerie). It was over a dozen American Wigeon, twice that many Gadwall, and 45 or so more un-ID'd ducks at the further south pond that looked mostly Gads. Durnit, did not bring scope. Heard Verdin and Pyrrhuloxia in that area again as well. On the way back into town, along the closer straight section nearest town, east of the jog at edge of town, there was a flock of at least 6 White-crowned Sparrow, plus 2 Cardinal and 1 Long-billed Thrasher working the hedgerow.

Then we checked the golf course pond by the Waresville Cmty. Amazingly there was an adult male Vermilion Flycatcher there, acting like it was the one that owns the joint all spring to fall. It has not been there prior this winter. Last year set my record early date at Feb. 16, prior to last year my earliest was Feb. 24. Most years most arrive the first week of March. This is over two weeks earlier than my anomolous earliest. Holy cow! Late Jan.!?!?!?!? The Red-winged Blackbird flock in the dead cattails around the pond is now 75-80 birds, overwhelmingly males but a few females. Nothing else there this time but one Eastern Phoebe. Did have an Orange Sulphur there.

Jan. 25 ~ Ran about 51-59dF for a temp spread, overcast, misting from shortly after noon on. It's a 'wet out'. Too wet to be out. So worked on stuff inside. The 13 waxwings were around a couple times. I heard the first Field Sparrow song of the year, which was great. In the summer they sound mournful, but now it sounds cheerful. Or is it me? Late in p.m., there were at least 8 at once on the seed out back, through the office window. Here anyway, you never see big flocks of them like many other sparrows. A Sharpy was diving around as usual off and on.

vermilionflycatcher
This is the male Vermilion Flycatcher at the golf
course pond by the Waresville Cmty., Jan. 26.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 24 ~ About 36dF for a low, a bit chilly. Mostly sunny and got up to the mid-to-upper 60's dF. Saw two Robin up in the big Pecan early. About 8 waxwing were around too. Town run for errands. At the park there was the Coot, 3 Gadwall, a Ringed Kingfisher, and best was a super bright male Pine Warbler. In fresh plumage they can really light up in the right sunlight. There have not been many around this winter, so a treat. Maybe a half-dozen Myrtle Warbler, 45 Chipping Sparrow, a Kinglet (Ruby), missed the P-b Grebes. There was one Belted Kingfisher below the spillway.

Jan. 23 ~ About 50dF for a low and sunny, calm, so a very pleasant break between winter systems. No freeze showing on the 10-day, which takes us to February. I see the first little reddish budlets of new growing Agarita flower clusters breaking stem. One of the first earliest signs of spring being on the horizon. Some parts of it happen very early a way down south. There are some green leaves poking up out of the ground, and I have seen a few open Straggler Daisy flowers here and there. But they can pop a flower any week of the year with a few warm days and a little bit of water. Heard a wee bit of Cardinal song, a couple White-winged Dove sang, several Carolina Wren and a Bewick's Wren were singing, and Chickadee and Titmouse both gave snippets of song. I heard six species sing today. Very nice.

Jan. 22 ~ Held steady around 50 all night, with drizzle and eventually a few showers pre-dawn. Foggy after that. We got another .6 of an inch of rain all told. Fantastic. We need it badly. Winter rains are critical for spring sprouting. Stayed in the 50's all day. I saw a small group of 13 Cedar Waxwing in the big pecan. Later one imm. Sharp-shinned Hawk dive-bombed another imm. sitting in top of the tree. This is why the seedeaters keep flushing. The rest was the regulars.

Jan. 21 ~ About 35dF for a low, mostly cloudy, light breeze and chilly early, stronger southerlies most of the day as something approaches that might give rain overnight. Got up to low-mid 50's but with the wind was still chilly. The ground is still wet from all the rain a few days ago. We were at D2 per the U.S. Drought Monitor, which is severe drought. We likely improved a level to D1 with the 3" rain event. Just south of us along and below Hwy. 90 and toward Mexico is some D3 which is extreme drought. I did not see anything but the regular cast today, hence the drought news. LOL

Jan. 20 ~ A brief freeze, about 30dF for a low. Mostly sunny, got up to about 60dF at peak heat. A quick look at park in town since I had to run up there. Little Creek Larry said he had a small flock of Robin and a flock of 50 or so Cedar Waxwing around town earlier. I asked and he said he too has not seen one flicker all fall and winter yet. There were 3 Gadwall and the Pied-billed Grebe on the park pond, one Great Blue Heron, and a Green Kingfisher up in the slough by the island. One Myrtle Warbler. Slowsville. Best thing today was hearing White-winged Doves singing, a couple at least, maybe three, giving full 'who-cooks-for-you' song. Great to hear again after months of not. One month since the solstice and they are triggered.

Jan. 19 ~ About 35dF for a low and sunny, but with a northerly breeze on it, so chilly. Actually was 10-20 mph until later afternoon. Got up to about 58dF or so, nice when the wind finally stopped. Same stuff around the yard, but there were 7 Cedar Waxwing in a small group in a Hackberry. I walked around up the hill behind us a bit. Glimpsed a Spotted Towhee tail, saw some Titmice and Cardinal, flushed a pig. At least got a mile in for the legs. Only a month until blooming Redbuds, Agarita flowers and Elfins. In two months Golden-cheeked Warblers will be arriving back in numbers.

Jan. 18 ~ Was in the 40's early a.m. as the last few drizzles finally cleared. It was over 3" of rain total here for the event. Probably 3.25 or so. The ground needed that, though it is a bit mucky out there now. A second front overtook the first and cleared us out noonish, bringing with it the post-frontal blow. Was 10-20 mph gusting higher the rest of the day until dusk when it finally laid down. So worked on stuff inside. The Bewick's Wren was singing a bit, and heard a Cardinal doing 'quiet song', that under-the-breath gibberish they do especially early in the singing season.

harlanshawk
I specialize in bad pix of good birds. This is the
Harlan's Hawk we had south of Sabinal a few
weeks ago. We saw it much better than this, close.
And it was awesome.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 17 ~ Stayed in 50's all day and rained, and no one complained. There was about 1.5" from the event as of early morning. Then by 3 p.m. we were at 3" here! Most of it a good slow-soaker as they call them, so just what the aquifer needed. It was getting grim, this is more than welcome relief, at last! Especially for the early sprouting stuff, these winter rains are critical. Some gets going in a few weeks. Only thing in the yard was a heard White-crowned Sparrow singing in the rain, which was nice.

Town errand run. Checked the park briefly in the rain. Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk that had adult tail feathers with white bands. Wondering if it is a different bird than the imm. that has been around, or is that one getting adult tail feathers now. Also saw one Green Kingfisher, the 5 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and the Coot. One Turkey Vulture was in with the Black Vultures. It has not been with them all winter so far and I suspect just showed up recently. They are very rare here in winter. Most winters they are (or were) absent mid-November to mid-February. The last couple or few winters I have seen a very few in that period.

Jan. 16 ~ It was about 65dF just before dawn, and by mid-morn 55 as the cold air arrived. But we got rain! Supposed to be a couple days of it as the front moves over us southward, stalls, and returns tomorrow moving north. It was off and on drizzle and showers all day. We were nearing an inch by dusk. We were so parched it is great. Heard a Robin. Kathy heard some Waxwings. Had a good flock of Chipping Sparrow come in for the seed, about 120, surely my highest count so far this winter. If I tried to chase the flock around the weeds and brush down the road, I would not likely see half of them. But with bait, I can scrutinize them at a level simply not possible in the field chasing them around. Still no Clay-colored Sparrow in with them, never saw it again after Thanksgiving weekend. Had hopes for it wintering.

Jan. 15 ~ Wow a 65dF low is a bit balmy for this time of year. Muggy, in January. Too busy to lookabout. Will mention a report I saw from early Jan. of a Rufous-backed Robin seen at the same spot as last winter just west of Uvalde. This seems very likely a returning bird, where UvCoRd 202 hits the Nueces River. Was the same gang around the yard. I drove through the park early in the drizzle, saw four Gadwall, that was it.

Jan. 14 ~ Low of about 55dF and low overcast. At least it is not cold. Heard a few measures of Cardinal song this morning, the first wisps of that this year. Great to hear again for the first time in months. Clouds finally cleared in afternoon, about 3 p.m. it was 74dF on the cool shady front porch, hotter in the sun. I saw an 80 reading at KRVL and at least one Utopia station was 79dF! So this is Jan.? Did not see anything but the usual suspects today.

Jan. 13 ~ Was upper 30's dF at midnight last night, lower 50's by sunup, with a dense fog advisory. Might have hit lowest 60's dF for a high. The lone waxwing continues to whistle for friends, to no avail so far. As in birding, the key is perserverance. At least I am getting to hear one a little bit this winter. The rest was the usual gang. Heard a Kinglet (Ruby), the Myrtle Warbler was out there, Caracara cruising over, some Field Sparrow among the Chippies. Too busy at work to bird.

Jan. 12 ~ Barely froze, maybe 30dF and overcast with low clouds early. Most of the day was breezy and slowly warmed back to about 60 barely, briefly. The birds were the same gang. Same as it ever was, it is the winter doldrums here. Too much work to do here. Carolina Wrens are getting a lot more vociferous. Nothing else is really going yet like they are.

Jan. 11 ~ It was the post-frontal blow today, 10-20 mph gusting higher northerlies. Too windy to bird. Low was 40dF so chills were around freezing early. Got up to 64 or so. Heard that single Waxwing up in the Hackberry again. Were about 15 House Finch in the big Pecan, they are increasing in the yard lately after being scarce for a couple months. A few each American Goldfinch and Field Sparrow. One Caracara flew over and some buteo I wish I would have seen before it was the north end of a southbound bird. Saw the Lo-Hi record temps for this date at SAT are 10 and 80dF. So you only have to be prepared for a 70dF temp spread. Great Horned and Barred Owl were calling at the same time out front after dark.

longbilledthrasher
This is a Long-billed Thrasher wondering what I am looking at.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 10 ~ Low was about 64dF (!) with heavy overcast and southerly gulf flow. Winds picked up to 10-20 mph gusting 25 and higher. Got up to about 80dF in the afternoon! A few dF short of a record methinks, which at SAT for this date is 84dF. Weird when it is this warm and all the trees are leafless. Save the Junipers, which are really spewing pollen now, you can see the rust color on the males. Park had the Coot and 5 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, but that was it. The woods are dead this winter, no bugs. Saw a very few Mayflies. Heard one Cedar Waxwing in yard. The rest was the same gang. A line of thunderstorms went by around dark from a front passing central Texas. The Utopia rain kryptonite held and we got a half a tracelet of rain. Just 15-20 miles east they had 2-3 inches.

Jan. 9 ~ A low of 58dF with some fog was balmy, high was about 72. A few American Goldfinch were around but the rest seemed the same. Heard the Ground Doves. Which are no longer hyphenated (was Ground-Dove). It is official, lose the hyphen. When can we lose the 'Common' part? I already did. Either the Sharpy or the Coop flushed all the seedeaters a couple times. A Caracara went by.

Jan. 8 ~ We were 26dF again, chilly with iced birdbath. NOAA had KRVL for a 34 low, they had 25! Then zonal flow returned, gusty southerlies, warmer moist air, near 60dF by noon. Heard one Cedar Waxwing in a Hackberry mid-morn. The rest looked the same out the office window. It is back to the salt mine time for me. Heard Chickadee singing song briefly. Late afternoon I had a quick zip through town and at the park pond saw the Coot and 5 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, my first water birds of the year.

Jan. 7 ~ Was about 32-70dF temp spread, sunny after some clouds in a.m. Was all the same gang around the yard. It is back at the desk and computer for me. Ready to go back to bird around Sabinal again, took two days. I really would like to see that pale small hawk north of town, and more better looks at that big female Harlan's would be nice too. No way can I get down there this weekend. Maybe the one after?

Jan. 6 ~ Ran about 30-75dF for a temp spread today. Nice. But it is back to the salt mine Monday after the holiday break. I heard a White-throated Sparrow out there a couple times, surely the tan-striped bird I saw yesterday morning. A few Field and about 75 Chipping Sparrow as usual. Other than hearing a Verdin over in the draw, there was nothing different. Same yard gang. That's OK, I am still fairly drunk on all of yesterday's great birds.

Jan. 5 ~ A 26dF low! NOAA had KRVL for 38, they were 29, off by a category again. We rolled down the hill to bird the Sabinal area about 9:30, in no hurry for that cold. As I threw out the noon batch of seed right before we left I saw a tan-striped White-throated Sparrow out back. The one here in Nov. and Dec. was a white-striped type, so this is a new one.

The short version around Sabinal: Prairie Falcon, Kiskadee, Green Jay, Olive Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, Harris's Hawk, an awesome female Harlan's Hawk, Verdin, Pyrrhuloxia, etc. It was a great half-day of barely scratching the surface down there in the sticks of the flatlands. Could not find any Geese, only had a couple Cranes fly over, no Mountain Plover. Due to the drought and much of the farming being rain-fed, there was little corn this year. I did not see one good fallow corn field. Lots of cotton, some sorghum or somesuch. Lots of fields were left fallow.

As we approached the high spot a few mi. north of Sabinal I said "this is Harris's Hill" to Kathy. By time we got over it we had two Harris's Hawks on tele poles. Stopping to view one an orange-billed, black-lored White-crowned Sparrow popped up, as in the Rocky Mtn. oriantha type. Always nice here. The big Russian Sunflower field just north of Sabinal that had the 500 Am. Goldfinch last year is not yet harvested, still dried seedheads intact, so the clouds of birds are not there yet. Should be by the end of January. There were birds there but not like after they harvest the seed heads. Some Cardinal and a couple Pyrrhuloxia were hitting them at SE corner of field.

We heard an Audubon's Oriole as we drove around the NE quadrant of residential Sabinal. Nothing at the city park. At the dry Sabinal River crossing just southwest of the school where the Western and Couch's Kingbirds and Rusty Blackbird were last Jan., we saw none of that. It was bone dry, no water. There was a very tame Roadrunner there, a flock of at least 160 White-winged Dove, one Myrtle Warbler, a Verdin, couple Titmouse and a Kinglet (Ruby). Might have heard a Pine Warbler there.

Further east on that road past the water treatment plant out in the pastures there was a flock of over 100 American Pipit, and a few Killdeer. Kathy looked up to look for the Cranes calling overhead and spotted what was the rarity of the day, a Prairie Falcon up high moving fast. Always a great bird to see. It moved west too quickly for a pic. Appeared to go down somewhere west of 2730. Saw some Savannah Sparrow. Couldn't pick anything out of the pipits but you could mostly only see them when they flushed. Thought I heard a Sprague's. Another Harris's Hawk was soaring way high with a couple Black Vulture there.

We then went out Lower Sabinal Rd., the one that goes to Uvalde south of Hwy. 90. Saw more major brush clearing and loss of habitat. It is like they are at war against habitat. Only had a couple tiny small groups of White-crowned Sparrow which was odd. Very few sparrows everywhere we went. Lots of Red-tailed Hawk, mostly fuertesi, but a couple belly-banded eastern types. Tallied a dozen Red-tails over the half-day. Couple more Harris's Hawk, one a sub-adult, and now at 5 in a couple hours. Some Kestrel. About 8-9 Bobwhite were nice. Some Long-billed Thrasher, but best was some Green Jay. A house (with martin houses) on the road about half-way between Sabinal and Knippa has some planted ornamental oaks in the front yard. The Green Jays were harvesting the acorns. There were at least 4 and probably 5 right at once in the group. They were crossing the road, grabbing acorns, and heading back over into the brush. They were doing their hawk call imitation too. What species of hawk is that they imitate? There was one imm. male Vermilion Flycatcher in the corral across the road from the house. Heard a few more Verdin along the road. Did more fields, nothing.

Then we went to UvCo 309 which is about 3 miles south of Sabinal. A couple hundred yards west of 187 it crosses the Sabinal River, which is a creeklet there. You can walk some dirt tracks upriver a bit, south side is better, you can get further. As last January here, we had Great Kiskadee (heard 2) and I saw a Swamp Sparrow, my first this winter. There were at least 6 Long-billed Thrasher in the area, and I might have had a Brown. It was rufous to and over the crown. There were at least a couple Olive Sparrow in the area, (easiest ones to see ever) as well. Perfect place for a rare Robin or somesuch. At least a couple more Green Jays were nice too. Another couple Myrtle Warbler and Kinglet (Ruby), at least two Common Yellowthroat also there. Someone dumps poached deer carcass remains just south of the crossing at the start of the track on that side of creeklet, and I suspect the jays and thrashers are working on them. Also there we saw one Variegated Fritillary, one Reakirt's Blue, two Dainty Sulphur for butterflies, and two 2 Autumnal Meadowhawk for dragonflies.

Then we checked almost a mile south on 187 around the Ranchero Crk. crossing but it was dry. It can be good when water. Another half mile south is UvCo 312a running east off 187. It is farly well vegetated on both sides for much of the public mile and change. More Long-billed Thrasher, over a hundred Meadowlark, most looked Western, 5-6 more Bobwhite in the road, more Verdin and White-crowned Sparrow, lots of Cardinal. A half-mile or so out this road is where the female Harlan's Hawk was. It first came up from low, and later in the poor blurry pix you can see its crop is well distended so it must have just finished eating something.

Along the various roads over the day we saw 5 Roadrunner, heard at least 7-8 Verdin, only saw a half-dozen Pyrrhuloxia, 2-3 Say's Phoebe, only a couple Vesper and no Lark Sparrow, maybe a couple dozen Savannah Sparrow, 8 Kestrel, a couple N. Harrier, 7 Caracara, about a dozen Long-billed Thrasher, 3 Olive Sparrow, 7 Green Jay, 2 heard Kiskadee, 75-100 each of Mockingbird and Cardinal, 8 L. Shrike, 15+ Bobwhite, and some lesser things. Did not see any Cactus Wren or Curve-billed Thrasher, did not hear an Orange-crowned Warbler or a White-eyed Vireo. Somewhere had a quick view Cooper's Hawk. Lots of Mourning Dove, a few Collared-Dove, cowbirds and blackbirds, prolly some other stuff I didn't pay attention to. Like some Titmice, a Lincoln's Sparrow, a couple Ladder-backed Woodpecker, etc..

Amazing what an entirely different environment it is just 20 miles away down off the plateau and into the brush country. On the way back we had cold stuff in an icechest so could not stop for a compact buteo on 187 north of Sabinal. It looked like a pale morph Harlan's Hawk, in fact very like the one I saw in Utopia 5 years ago. It was where a UvCo county road crosses 187 in both directions, about 3 miles north of Sabinal. Lots of hawks down there this winter, which was great to see.

Jan. 4 ~ A chilly one here, about 28dF briefly just after sunup. Birdbath iced over. NOAA had KRVL for 36dF low, it was 26! Off by a category again. About the fifth time so far this cold season. Keep it in mind if headed out thisaway in winter. Long johns, check. It warmed up though, above average to about 74dF or so here, so 50dF diurnals again. Great to be able to open everything up and air it out. Kathy heard a chickadee whistle a short bit of song notes. FOY for that. Worked on stuff here since planning on skipping out for a half-day birding tomorrow.

greenjay
Whaddabird! Green Jay, near Sabinal Jan. 5.
This is how you see everything in south Texas
brush-country, through branches and twigs in the brush.
What this shows well is how bright plumage in dappled
light becomes a type of camo.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 3 ~ We ran about 44-64dF for a temp spread today. The post-frontal blow got here about 10 a.m. and it was 15-25 mph all day, gusting to 30. Sunny, but blown out. Town run and park check. A flock of 50+ meadowlark on UvCo 360 east of the river looked like Eastern. At the park did not see the Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Whistling-Ducks, any kingfisher, or Great Blue Heron. The new year list remains waterbird free. There was a winter flock in the park, a few Robin, some E. Bluebird, a couple dozen Chipping Sparrow, 6+ Myrtle Warbler, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Heard a Pine Warbler. Didn't see anything different in the yard, Kathy saw a Hermit Thrush at the bath. Planning to bird the flatlands of the Sabinal area down in the brush country on Sunday.

Jan. 2 ~ Still hovering around 50dF, won't go up or down, overcast and foggy early. It is Thursdays back at the salt mine here anyway. Just the regular cast outside. The main yard inhabitants are Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Chipping and Field Sparrow, Cardinal, Eastern Phoebe and Bluebird, Mockingbird, House Finch (just 1 pr.), American Goldfinch (2 or so) plus Ground, White-winged and Mourning Dove. Then daily a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Myrtle Warbler or two pass through, and Common Raven and Black Vulture fly over. Either a Sharp-shinned or the Cooper's Hawk flushes all the seedeaters a couple times per day. Both are regular. Those are the basic winter gang here. Seeming like we lost our Rufous Hummers that were here. Every couple or few days we see Red-tailed Hawk, Caracara, and an Orange-crowned Warbler. Most nights we hear Great Horned, Screech-, and often Barred Owl. Some years we are covered in Robin, Waxwing, Siskin, and American Goldfinch, but not this year. Barely any of any of them.

January 1 ~ Happy New Year! Here we go again! Sure that was so fun, heck ya, let's do that again. But can we take a different route this time? Did not cool down much last night, was about 48dF for a low, cloudy, misted a couple hundredths over the day, might have gotten into low 50's dF for a high. Still not seeing the Rufous Hummingbirds, about two weeks for the female and four days now for the male. Did work about 80 Chipping Sparrow and had only a few Field among them, no Lark, no Clay-colored. The rest was the same gang. Since coolish and wettish worked inside on things. So far it looks very birdable next weekend though. Finally.

~ ~ ~ above is 2020 ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ below is 2019 ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ 2019 summary ~ ~ ~

Well there went another one. It was very dry overall with a brief very wet period in spring. Drought has reared its ugly head again. Much of the year much of the river between Lost Maples and Utopia existed only below ground. We remain unrecovered from the prior exceptional event despite a respite of a few years with some rain. Trees are still dropping like flies at Lost Maples for example. It looks to me like desertification in slow motion. Of course natural history study is fascinating no matter what is going on. As long as you keep looking you will keep seeing interesting things. Then record and document.

Butterflies were about 83 species for the entire year, we have had better months. Last year was worst ever with only 80 species, so this year is barely better. Most of the regular expected types, but not all. No vagrants, no fall invasion from the south. It was over and pitiful by October. It was weird in fall seeing all the flowers without any hairstreaks, blues, crescents, and skippers on them. Drought kills it for butterflies here. Still a few things missing since the epic exceptional drought that sorta ended a few years ago but we never yet recovered from. Still no sign of Common Wood-Nymph, Silvery Checkerspot, or Carolina Satyr for isntance. They all remain MIA. Only saw a few Arizona Sister early in season. No Soldier, Zebra, or Mourning Cloaks this year. There were several Laviana White-Skipper, which was the only LTA - less than annual - thing to show up from southward. The fall Monarch movement missed us this fall. Snouts never got bad, we had no rain for them to chase. Found a huge wild patch of Flame Acanthus at Garner S.P., likely explaining the Crimson Patch population there.

First a single one day, then an emerging another day, then finally a pair, of mating Luna Moth on Pecan right off front porch were a major highlight of the year, and my life. It was like a dream come true to be able to watch them more than just fly by. And get pix. A Vine Sphinx was nice too, found dying on the front porch! Saw two, photo'd one of the Aellopos sphinx moths, probably clavipes. A couple Black Witch were seen in summer, always a treat here. Saw an Imperial Moth somewhere. So some great moths made up for the lack of any unusual butterflies.

It should be noted, night lighting for insects was nearly pitiful the several times I tried over the summer (monthly). So few insects I could not believe it. Scary. It is nothing like it was, that is for sure. What is disappearing all the bugs? Is it just drought? Not at the lights, I did photo a couple Neoclytus sps. Cerambycids in the yard this year, and a Mesquite Borer (Placosternus) in town. A couple 'bycids to ease the pain, but saw no gigas 'bycid this year. Saw several of the gold Dicerca sps. Buprestids, and good numbers of Eyed Elaterid. A live female Dobsonfly at the gas station was awesome.

Odes were barely OK and are still very low in numbers like butterflies. They too have never yet recovered from the major epic drought of 2008-15 or so. It looks like 53 species: 20 damsels, 33 dragons. There were only a few items of interest. A Cyrano Darner at Lost Maples was nice. Lots of Plateau Spreadwing and Band-winged Dragonlet at the usual ephemeral floodpond spots on S. Little Creek Rd. (BanCo) when late April or early May rains hit. A Great Spreadwing in the yard was er, great, the first. Another Twelve-spotted Skimmer here too. Did see a few Black-shouldered Spinyleg which have been scarce. Barely any Smoky Rubyspot. The Orange-striped Threadtail continue at Utopia Park, but their numbers are far lower than before. As are most species.

Birds for me were about 195 species locally in the upper Sabinal River drainage (USRD). That is to say no brush-country off-the-plateau flatlands stuff is included in that total. Just strictly up here in the valley, Lost Maples to Clayton Grade, and mostly just around Utopia. Last year ('18) was 210 species, so it was down a fair bit. Lots more rain last year. I think Little Creek Larry saw at least 5 sps. I did not see this year. I do not think I added any species to the local USRD area list this year. It took 16 years to get to that point. I was still getting one or two a year the last five years. The USRD list is about 359 currently. One big lake with a little marsh, an island, and some mudflat and we'd have 400 here. The Utopia Park list is stuck at about 269. Our (2 acre) yard list is stuck at about 220 NIB. No introduced birds. Here are the best 2019 bird highlights.

In Jan. a Western Kingbird with a couple Couch's not in the USRD, but down in the flatlands at Sabinal, plus 500 Am.Go in one flock there were both outstanding. Also in Jan. a Black-n-White Warbler at Lost Maples is very rare on plateau in winter. A Brown Creeper wintered at Utopia Park, my first to stick for the winter locally. Same goes for the three Red-breasted Nuthatch that spent the winter visiting our yard. April 15 was the last date for the last one. May 2 saw a Northern Goshawk northbound over the house. A Wilson's Phalarope at the SLC ponds May 11 was outstanding in BanCo. Another pair of Cassin's Kingbird were here, May 9, after a single in April. The June highlight was nesting Grasshopper Sparrow in Bandera Co. on W. Sabinal Rd. Others were suspected in a few other places. Pretty clear Olive Sparrow and White-tipped Dove are now breeding if not resident at Lost Maples, for probably their 4th years or so each now, at least if not more. Several pairs of each are there. Some still there in December.

The second half of the year... Over the whole fall we probably had 10 Rufous Hummingbird at our place alone. Which is a much higher than average number (double or more). On July 7 Leslie Calvert had a Roseate spoonbill sw of town a few miles at their pond. August 15 we had a Common Pauraque at our place, which stayed to Sept. 15. A juvenile Acadian Flycatcher Aug. 25 was great in the yard as a passage migrant off breeding territory whence very rare. Seven Mourning Warbler around Utopia Sept. 22 was great, as was the dozen count for the month. A Wood Thrush on Oct. 25 at the park that let me have pix was awesome. A heard only Long-eared Owl the night of Oct. 21st was also great, not my first here. A Clay-colored Sparrow seen to late Nov. is my latest ever here. A second-of-the-fall Broad-tailed Hummer was around a few days in November. The American Woodcock at the park Dec. 4 was a major highlight of the year, thankfully letting me get a few docushots. Seems a nice wave of Pyrrhuloxia and Verdin have moved in for the winter. Warblers were weak spring and fall. None of the scarcer eastern or western types showed. However the five Black-throated Green over the fall was a good fall total for here.

Like most journeys of a million steps, nature data collecting is one point at a time. It never ceases to amaze me how it all adds up. Currently the overall biodiveristy and output here are obviously severely drought-reduced. Whence it seems slow going at times. Still when you add it all up at the end of the year, we got a bunch of awesome data points. Lots of new earliest ever and latest ever dates, peak numbers for a passage, etc. All kinds of great stuff was seen, much to most photographed, and we filled in a bunch of blanks, some we didn't even know we had. The key is to be looking, you will find and see. Then document.

~ ~ ~ end 2019 summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ oh no, not another summary!?!? ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ December summary ~ ~ ~

It was a dry month, with record heat and cold within a few days of each other mid-month. We did not get an inch of rain, probably about a half-inch at our place, should be two inches. The drought continues, it is parched out there. The river is running very slow and low (dry - only underground - in many areas).

Butterflies were 9 species, the lowest diversity of any of my 17 Decembers here now. After a very poor fall more weakness was expected, this though being exceptional. It was all only and just the expected last flyers. Dragonflies were the two usual December species, Variegated and Autumnal Meadowhawk, plus one Green Darner, and a couple damsels that got away before I could ID them. The winter Mayfly hatch seems fairly weak so far.

Weird out there for birds. Numbers are down. Still barely any Waxwing, Robin, or Siskin. A few American Goldfinch, no nuthatch, and no flicker yet for me, only a couple Sapsucker sps. flying away. A few Golden-crowned Kinglet, no Junco, very very few waterfowl. There seem to be very few bugs compared to usual too. The male Wilson's Warbler that returned for a second winter at Utopia Park in September left after mid-November, after a couple months. Not enough bugs to stick. The American Woodcock was the bird of the month, at the park on the 4th only. Always good to get in December, Olive Sparrow and White-tipped Dove were still at Lost Maples. I count about 81 species of birds locally for the month that I saw. But did not get out much. I am sure over 90 are around the area, and nearer a hundred would not surprise me.

~ ~ ~ end December summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ December update header ~ ~ ~

December started with a Verdin at Little Creek on the 1st. Then on the 4th at the park, a WOODCOCK! But I have not reseen it in ten attempts. A Sora on the 7th is a great bird locally. Green Kingfisher, White-tipped Dove, two Olive Sparrow and a couple Golden-crowned Kinglet were seen at Lost Maples Dec. 8. We had record heat in the mid-80's the 14th-15th, and record cold (16dF) on the 18th and 19th! Finally saw my FOS Sapsucker on the 19th. There is some Cedar (Juniper) pollen starting to get going. From perusing ebird I see the 18th was the Love Creek Christmas Bird Count which covers parts of Lost Maples. A Louisiana Waterthrush was found on a private ranch NE of Vanderpool, a very rare winter record on the Edwards Plateau. A couple Winter Wren and Verdin were also turned up in Bandera Co. Fair numbers of Pyrrhuloxia and Verdin are around this winter. Finally had a Pine Warbler, at the park on Dec. 27th.

~ ~ ~ end Dec. update header copy ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~

Dec. 31 ~ Holy smokes, another year gone by! They just keep getting faster and faster as I get older and slower. Another cold morn with 25dF at 7 a.m., it often drops another dF by 7:30 but I don't hang around out there to watch it. Tossing the bird seed before sunup is enough wakeup chill for me. These late sunups are nice though. I'm gonna miss them. A Carolina Wren was 25' up in the pecan belting out song, just to make sure the others around knew it was serious about it. Saw an Eastern Bluebird at the box hole at the far corner of the front yard.

Dec. 30 ~ A chilly 26dF low with ice on the birdbath. Did not see any hummer today, for the second day, but it sometimes goes in and out quickly and does not hang around long. Worked on stuff in the office, but nice it warmed to about 62 or so at peak heat. Very low humidity, great blue skies, of a sort we just do not see in summer when always very humid. Night sky is great too for the same reason. Mocker and Kinglet (Ruby) came into the bath. Heard some cranes southbound late afternoon, and heard the Barred Owl after dark.

Dec. 29 ~ Low 40's dF for a low, calm early but by 9-10 a.m. the northerlies began to blow. Will be a blowout today, so will work on stuff here. Next weeked looks more birdable. Have been dyin' get down to the brush country around Sabinal. Maybe cranes, geese, Sprague's and sparrows, even Mountain Plover if real lucky... plus all the south Texas stuff. It is great down there in the winter. Lots more activity and numbers down in those flatlands where just a few dF warmer, than up here in the colder hills. By 11 a.m. it was about 55dF and wind was 20 mph gusting to 30. Got up to 62 or so, but howlin'.

Dec. 28 ~ About 60dF for a low, which means fog, mist, and wet. We might have gotten a tenth of an inch of precip as the thickest part of it went by over a couple hours. Knocks the dust and cedar (Juniper) pollen down anyway. Saw the male Rufous Hummer out there early. Was low 60's about 1:30 when the leading edge of the front hit with northerlies and a 10dF temp drop in 15 minutes. But the real wind, the post-frontal blow, is not arriving until tomorrow. Checked the park in the afternoon. Sure neat now to often be the only one there again. There was a flock of at least 50 Robin there moving fast through the live oaks. They were not there yesterday and is the first double-digit flock I have seen this winter. It's movement. The imm. Zone-tailed Hawk was in the live-oaks hunting a very nervous squirrel. Saw the Coot, the 5 Whistling-Duck, a few Myrtle Warbler, couple Kinglet (Ruby), Hermit Thrush, and one Sapsucker sps. flew off, my second of the season, again unidentified as to species.

~ ~ ~

Howsabout we finish the last mystery bird and start a new one? The prior mystery bird of which there have been three pix posted now, is an immature Audubon's Oriole. That is, a hatch-year, bird-of-the-year, maybe three months old. It was taken September 18 so could be 4 months old maybe. It is just getting the first few scattered black feathers. Note the stepped, graduated tail, e.g., the graduacauda. Especially on the closed undertail shot this shows well.

Wasn't that fun? So let's do another. This one is another example of one of my favorite types of bird poses, what I call the 'Audubon pose'. Positions that seem 'not natural'. Audubon painted lots of birds in poses people called odd and weird and said things like 'they don't really do that'. Those folks just have not watched as long and hard as John James did. If you painted this frame those same folks would ask what the heck you were thinking making it like this. Yet this is a photograph of a real bird in action.
mysterybird3
This one might be a bit deceptive. It is a crop out of a frame that had no other birds in it. But otherwise not adjusted. The ground is parallel to the bottom of the frame. The bird is alive and well, operating as intended. Taken here in September.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 27 ~ Stayed about 60 overnight, still gray, was some fog early, they keep backing up, down, and off on the rain forecast. We need some badly, it is parched out there. Town run, e.g., park check. On way at the corrals on 360 east of the river there was a flock of 350 to 400 Brewer's Blackbird, at least 75 Red-winged in with them, which is the biggest number of Red-wings I have seen at once ever here in winter. About 4 Eurasian Starling there too. At the park, the family of 5 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck continue, missed the Coot, saw the Pied-billed Grebe, three ginchy Gadwall were there briefly. Great was a Pine Warbler, finally, above the screen shelters. My FOS but a NMD - not meaningful date, save for its lateness. Heard one Robin singing, nice since there have not been many around, this my first in a couple weeks. Nothing was up in the woods save a Green Kingfisher at the island. On way home another GreenKing was fishing at the 360 crossing.

Dec. 26 ~ Happy Boxing Day! At 11 p.m. last night it was 50dF, at 7 a.m. this morning it was 60! It seems backwards to my hardwired programming. Some fog and overcast, those nice sunny days are gone for a few now. Saw the male Rufous Hummer early-thirty. The Carolina Wrens seem to be getting much noisier, three were seriously counter-singing at once this morning. Photo-period is increasing, not even a minute per day yet so far, but several of our resident species will commence singing very shortly. Was a bout of mist once or twice over the day, got up to mid-60's maybe. Saw a couple Field Sparrow. The rest was the same gang. Some Eastern Bluebirds messing around along front fence in area of the box a pair uses, probably the pair. A pair of Black Vulture were in love, er, pair-bond, flight. They are great graceful flyers, ungainly as they may appear on the ground at roadkill.

Dec. 25 ~ Merry Christmas! Or as proper birders might greet this time of year: Merry Vagrants! Hope you got some good birds for presents. Was foggy and about 52dF for a low. We took a couple hour spinaround in the peak heat of afternoon, the low 70's, and sunny, nice. At the park were the 5 or so Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, the Coot, a few Myrtle Warbler, a couple Kinglet, and a few Blue Jay. The jays had just bathed and were preening it out, up in sunny holes up in the live-oak canopy. A few Mayfly were out in the heat. No birds on them though.

On 359 at the first corner south of 1050 there was a small group of birds. Kathy saw an imm. White-crowned Sparrow, there were Field and Chipping there too, some Cardinal, and a Long-billed Thrasher stopped for a photo in the open, in the shade of course, but close. We then drove around up on the knoll behind us and saw some of the common species, but nothing different. One close Hutton's Vireo. Had a quick look at what was likely a Spotted Towhee shooting between bushes. By then it was peak heat and getting quiet. Lots of Eastern Phoebe and Cardinal, everywhere you go. As we returned a couple hundred yards down road had a short binoc look at a sparrow along the corral that may well have been the missing from the yard a month now Clay-colored Sparrow.

Dec. 24 ~ A dF warmer at 25 this morning, and again got to about 75 on the sunny south side of the house. Third day straight with mid-20's lows and mid-70's highs. Weewow. At least we can open, air, and warm up house in the afternoons. Only seeing the male Rufous Hummingbird now for over a week, nearing two. The female probably moved to a neighbors, if it didn't leave. Couple Field Sparrow among the 75 or so Chipping on the seed. One Red-tailed Hawk. Too busy working on stuff here, maybe tomorrow we'll sneak a peek in.

Dec. 23 ~ Another cold one, we had 24dF this a.m. here. I saw a flock of 15 American Goldfinch nearing the feeder, most I have seen at once so far this winter. Only a couple came in before they left. About noon a Verdin was in the Mesquite-Hackberry combo tree out by the gate. Love seeing them in the yard. Otherwise the same, trying to get work stuff wrapped up. Never saw the sapsucker again after the initial sighting on the 19th. Have not seen the Clay-colored Sparrow all month. Got up to about 74dF, another 50dF diurnals day. Incredible.

Dec. 22 ~ A 23dF low, I saw KRVL hit 24, they were predicted at 29 for a low. Nice frozen bird bath. We took an hour walk upslope behind us into the Live-oak, Juniper, and Agarita. Got a mile of motion for the muscles in anyway. One Rufous-crowned and two Field Sparrow, a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet, heard a Bewick's Wren and Black-crested Titmouse. No Spotted Towhee. Very few birds. In bugs only saw two of the 1.5-inch light green-winged Acridid Grasshopper. More birds in the yard. Afternoon got up to 74dF or so, for some 50dF diurnals!

Dec. 21 ~ A chilly 29dF low, but sunny, and afternoon got up to about 65dF and pretty nice. All seemed the same here in a.m. We took a spin around about noon. Kathy spotted some Turkey just down the road a bit. At the pond on golf course next to Waresville Cmty. was one Wilson's Snipe and about 40 some Red-winged Blackbird. Along UvCo 363 a hundred yards W. off 187 there were a couple male Pyrrhuloxia and a Verdin. Park in town had 9 Egyptian Goose, 1 Coot, a Great Blue Heron, couple Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, slow. There were some mayflies though, and one Autumnal Meadowhawk. It was Rosie's last day before her couple or few week holiday shutdown and vacation so I grabbed some stuff to freeze for while she is gone. Nice to have an extra dozen of those tamales and some tacos stashed. Best tamales this side of Durango. A small winter flocklet right out front of the former Utopia on the River had some Chipping Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, a few Myrtle Warbler, and at least a half-dozen American Goldfinch, all eating crushed pecans on the road.

here is a big end-of-year bonus break

First a couple of our winter visitors. We can suppose they are from nearest or nearer-by populations, but that of course is pure speculation. We don't know. Both are remarkably seasonal here and do not breed locally in the upper Sabinal River drainage. But both, varying in numbers annually, move into the area in fall, spend the winter, and leave early in spring.

Verdin

Verdin is a common widespread resident of the brush country, but is absent from the Sabinal River valley in summer. Some that winter appear to be returning individuals to the same site, such as one around our yard (this not that bird).



Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia is a breeding resident in the brush country, but does not summer or breed in the Sabinal River valley. In winter it can be common, as singles, small groups, and some years in flocks of 10 to 20 at once. Some years it is scarcer though. Note rounded horn yellow bill. Structure rules. I will get a good pic of a male in the sun one day.



Here is a final shot of the mystery bird.
mysterybird3
I will tell you what it is next year, er, next week.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 20 ~ Before midnight last night it was in the upper 30's dF, whence the southerly flow began and by morning it was upper 40's, and misting. Gray and damp all day, no real rain as of 3 p.m. and it does not look like we will get any. Maybe got up to about 52dF. Town run and park check where nothing new. Six each Egyptian Goose and Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, the one, our, Coot continues. The Whistling-Duck were 3 adult and 3 immature. One Myrtle Warbler and two Ruby-crowned Kinglet in the woods. Left town with some of Rosie's tacos and a dozen tamales, man it's like Christmas. Kathy saw the male Rufous Hummingbird. Chipping Sparrow flock was 75 plus.

Dec. 19 ~ Weewow another 16dF low this morning, has to be another record. Two days in a row! Way colder than forecast, as so often here. Saw the male Rufous Hummer out there just after 9 a.m. whence in the 20's. Better was finally seeing a FOS Sapsucker! Better late than never. Not sure what type it was though. It flew out of the big dying Hackberry over into the corral. If it was over 25dF I might have chased it, but hoping it hangs a bit until it gets warmer out there. Mid-morn I heard a single Cedar Waxwing, a single American Goldfinch, and about noon a Long-billed Thrasher over in the corral. Sure was nice to hit that 50dF mark in the sun, might have made 56dF at peak heat, for some 40dF diurnals again. Counted four Common Ground-Dove at one flushing. Never saw the Sapsucker again dang it. In my binoc view it looked most like a first winter Red-naped. The years they occur, December is usually when they show up. Will have to go down as Sap sp. though for now, which stinks on a FOS. A great Cardinal count was had at last light when they all show up for last seed, 40! Gotta be my highest single flock count here. I presume we get additional birds from northward for the winter.

Dec. 18 ~ It was record-range low of 16dF this morning here. I saw 17 at KRVL (where 22 was forecast). Being south of the 30N line, this is cold, it will freeze yer fern. Extra seed rations and a dose of 'scrap' Pecans. Afternoon was about 58dF or so, and humidity was about 15%! Just the same gang for birds in the little bit o' peekin' I did. It was another work-the-day-away Wednesday here. One single lone White-winged Dove was around the seed. That flock seemed to depart when the accipiters were being relentless. Eastern Screech-Owl (Tex-Mex mccallii) was calling at first dark. There is some Cedar (Juniper) pollen starting to flow. Kathy's nose knows. Some male flower buds have been visible ten days now.

Dec. 17 ~ About 32dF for a low, got up to about 52dF at peak heat. The wind still has not stopped since the front arrived yesterday morning. Now you can feel the cold air advection, with next two mornings forecast in low 20's. Saw the male Rufous Hummer, heard some Cranes haulin' donkey south with the tailwind. Orange-crowned Warbler and Field Sparrow both out there. Saw the Ground-Doves but they have gotten real ginchy, must be the accipiters. Only saw about 75 Chipping Sparrow, and have not seen the Clay-colored since late November.

Dec. 16 ~ Front was coming through as day broke. A bit of mist fell, just a trace or two. Northerlies cleared it out quickly, not cold yet but will be the next few mornings. Wind blew all day, but had lots of work to do at the desk anyway. Saw the ad.ma. Rufous Hummingbird. Over 70 Chippy and over 30 Cardinal are the bulk of the seedeaters here. Titmice (Black-crested) and Chickadees (Carolina) work the pecans and hit the sunflower feeder daily. Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker are also in the yard pecans daily.

At last sun I go out on back porch to catch a few rays as we used to say in socal. Looked up in the pecan and there are a couple Chipping Sparrow, eyes closed, doing the same thing. And I think about that teeny reptilian part of their brain, which is apparently shared with me, and us, and with those few shared cells, we do the same thing at the same time. And I feel more connected. To them, earth, and the dinosaurs.

Dec. 15 ~ Low about 40dF, the story was the highs, record or near-record for many areas locally, for second day in a row. The record at SAT for this date was 81dF. I saw Del Rio and Junction were at 87 about 3 p.m., we were 84-85 (81 on cool shady front porch), KRVL and Uvalde were 84dF. Amazing for the date. Humidity was only 20%, so nice and dry anyway. Saw the male Rufous Hummer, and thought I saw the female too. So they are visiting neighbors places, cheatin' on us. Otherwise seemed the same gang. In butterflies saw singles of Gulf Fritillary, male Little Yellow, and a Lyside Sulphur, which was first of the month, Had a bunch of biz to do, Sunday afternoons are the Monday morning of the work week here, and it started early this week.

Dec. 14 ~ A low of 35 and a high of 85dF making for a 50dF diurnal spread is amazing. Was right around record high for the date. Amazing. We did not see any hummingbirds today. Presume they are at neighbors. Before noon I checked the park again in town, and had nothing different. The imm. fem. Green Kingfisher was at the boatramp and caught a fish in the shallows there. Looked a little Lepomis sunfish. They dive full throtle into less than a foot of water. They have to keep going full speed ahead until strike point. They must be able to stop on a dime and give 9.9 cents change underwater. Whaddabird. A few Myrtle and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the Chipping Sparrow flock in the live-oaks. There were some Meadowlarks on 359, I got some pics, so we'll see, might maybe be able to tell what one of them was anyway. They didn't call, which I am fairly sure is a conspiracy amongst them. Kathy saw a Hermit Thrush at the bird bath. I saw a Snout fly by the porch, first of the month. It was so warm a bunch of crickets were singing at dusk.

A couple more pics of two of the best birds of the fall...

Woodcock
American Woodcock, Utopia Park Dec. 4, 2019.

Wood Thrush
Wood Thrush, Utopia Park Oct. 25, 2019.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 13 ~ Hope it was a lucky Friday the 13th to all. Started chilly at 29dF here. NOAA had KRVL progged for a low of 40, they froze. A category off, again. We have 3 nice sunny warm days lined up though, which is great. But which decreases activity around the yard and feeders. Town run and park check. Nothing there but 3 great chicken tacos to bring home for lunch. The Coot at the park was maybe the highlight. Not many places you can say that. The least seen kingfisher locally was on the spillway, a Belted. Oh, and an Orange-crowned Warbler. I think the Wilson's bugged out due to lack of bugs. Can't believe I have not yet seen any Flicker or Sapsucker this fall. It was a dry breezy 75dF in the afternoon.

Dec. 12 ~ Another 29dF low and an iced-over birdbath. Fog rolled in after sunup and didn't burn off until nearly noon. But that 62dF felt nice in the afternoon. Kathy saw the male Rufous Hummer today. The female could be at neighbors' places. Nothing different in birds today, and Thursday is hectic at the desk day. Sorry to see the news that the ABA blog is ending and being archived. Sad to see methinks. Well, we have outlasted the ABA blog (among many others), which started in 2010. These Utopia nature notes go back 16 years to 2004! Dare I say they contain the most detailed record ever recorded of the natural history of the area.

Dec. 11 ~ A chilly morning at 29dF here, and we were the coldest reading I saw locally. I had to run to town early, the windsheild and windows were coated solid in ice from the condensation freezing. Took five minutes of defrost to get drivable. Was hoping an early look at the park would give me a better shot for the Woodcock, nope, guess again. So far it remains a 5 minute miracle. The 6 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck continue, as does the Coot. There was a Green Kingfisher in the slough by the island. The immature Zone-tailed Hawk was also there again, presumedly it is roosting in the area. It was calling a fair bit, which you hardly ever hear, especially in winter. Compared to Red-tailed or Red-shouldered, Zoneys are quite quiet. Any day you get to hear one is a good day. Was able to get over the Woodcock miss by stopping at the taco trailer and hitting Rosie up for a couple breakfast tacos to bring home. The egg, chorizo, and cheese are awesome.

Dec. 10 ~ Temps dropped from about 60dF at midnight to lowest 40's by dawn. A little bit of drizzle, by noon was maybe a tenth of an inch. Holding fairly steady all day with temps, don't think we hit 50dF. The birds were the same gang, nothing different here at the hovelita. Saw the two Rufous Hummingbirds. Too busy with work though. Dec. is a messed-up month for our biz, we have a couple weeks of hectic prior to a couple wondering where they all went. Moving perishable aircargo (live fish and corals) out of LAX is not recommended during the Christmas shipping rush. But which is great for giving some breathing room to try to finish anything undone before the end of the year.

Dec. 9 ~ Low was about 52 dF. Today is the warmup before the next front. Scheduled arrival is overnight tonight, with some rain advertised, windy with a cool day tomorrow probably not reaching this morning's low. So this 81dF afternoon is quite nice. That imm. male Sharpy was out there first thing diving on the seed-eaters. Kathy saw a Field Sparrow at the bath. So warm the Anoles were sticking their heads out of the cracks in the stone wall of the house outside. One was heavilly shedding. I saw a young female Eastern Fence Lizard run up to a bee on the ground, mouth it, and release it. It was not stung, just decided against it, perhaps from experience. The northerlies from the front hit in the evening after dark, just light winds and no rain yet.

Dec. 8 ~ Ran about the same as yesterday, about 37-72dF. We went up to Lost Maples for a walk, about 9 to 1:30. Did maybe 1.5 miles each way up Can Creek to past the second pond a bit. Saw a few Kestrel and a couple Red-tailed Hawk on the way up the valley. Not many sparrows along road. At the trailhead parking lot feeding station one White-tipped Dove flew off. A fair number of little flocks with a few Titmouse and often a couple Chickadee were encountered. Ruby-crowned Kinglets with most of those flocklets, at least four Hutton's Vireo seen with the flocks, heard a couple Orange-crowned Warbler but not a Myrtle. The flocklet at the second pond had at least two Golden-crowned Kinglet chasing around together. A Green Kingfisher was at the second pond, looked a hatch-year (imm.) female to me. Had great looks at Olive Sparrow at the brushy (lower) end of the main big (first) pond, there were two together, at times on the mud and one went into the cattails. Heard Scrub-Jay and Canyon Wren, couple Ladder-backed Woodpecker, saw one Black Vulture and 2 Common Raven. saw two and heard another Hermit Thrush.

Weird walking through the place and seeing no flowers, butterflies, dragonflies, or herps (reptiles and amphibians). Actually did manage to muster one Sleepy Orange butterfly, and one Autumnal Meadowhawk dragonfly. Mayflies were very few and far between. Still some color on a few of the Buckley Oaks, but it is mostly over and out. Maples are done, only a few Lacey Oaks with a little yellow left. The Buckley are often great to late Dec., I think the drought did them in early this year. Heard a couple different chip notes that got away. One sounded like a Pine Warbler. It is amazing how loud people are on the trail. You would think they are trying to be heard in a high school hallway. You can watch your flocklets melt into the background away from the trail as the noise bubble goes by. The one time I said something (humorously of course) Mr. Muscles got louder and made more noise, of course. Citiots.

Dec. 7 ~ We ran about 37-72dF for a temp spread, sunny and nice. Took a couple hour spinaround noonish, primarily to look for the Woodcock at the park. No love there, came up empty. In the woods, heard an Orange-crowned Warbler, saw a few Myrtle and one Audubon's Warbler, one Hermit Thrush. On way out of park there was a Pyrrhuloxia in the deco garden under the entrance sign. Then over by the Methodist Church there was another one right in town. Looks a good winter for them here this year. Though they are resident in the brush country just south of us, they are only a winter visitor here. My question is are these wintering birds that invade most winters from close, or far?

Then we checked the pond on the golf course by Waresville. I had a quick look at a Sora, which is a great bird locally, I have only seen a few here. It flushed and plopped down in the water momentarily before disappearing into the reeds. I would presume it is the one we glimpsed a couple weeks ago since they are so scarce here. Other things there were an Eastern Meadowlark, the 45 or so Red-winged Blackbird continue, one Wilson's Snipe. Plus about 6 Autumnal Meadowhawk dragonflies.

zonetailedhawk
This is the imm. Zone-tailed Hawk wintering locally,
apparently roosting at the park (Dec. 11, 2019). I would
not be surprised if this is a locally hatched bird.


And now for just a little more squirming I wish I could see...  ;)
mysterybird2
This is a whole bird shot of the mystery bird posted three weeks ago.
Not the greatest on the head, but, the pic shows a definitive character
which absolutely proves the ID. Hint: the key definitive character
shown is the species specific epitaph.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 6 ~ A front came through at daybreak with northlies but dry and not cold. Low was 50dF and it got up to 75 or so. Pretty breezy. Did not see anything different around yard. Town run and park check did not turn up the Woodcock. It could be on the island where unless at near edge (like when I spotted it the other day) we can't see much. There was a pair of Gadwall on the pond, the FOS I have seen this fall. One Coot and 1 or 2 Pied-billed Grebe was it. Not much moving. A few Myrtle Warbler, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Guess I need to get out and look somewhere else. I see some color on some Red Oaks now, the last big hurrah of fall color. Out west at dusk that is Venus shining bright, with Saturn up above it.

Dec. 5 ~ It was light northerly flow and mid-40's dF about 2 a.m., whence southerly flow got here warming to low 50's by sunup, and fog followed shortly after. The gulf flow. Today will be excruciating knowing there is a Woodcock at the park and I have to be here at desk in office. Town run tomorrow so will just have to bear the pain. I hope I make it. Saw the two Rufous Hummers, the 2 Myrtle Warbler, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, no doubt the same one each Robin and Am. Goldfinch. Heard the Robin squawking over in the corral at dusk so it is roosting there, then hits the top of the big pecan to squawk at first sun every morning. Saw a Checkered White and a Variegated Fritillary fly across the yard.

Dec. 4 ~ Another nice sunny one, about 38-74 for a temp spread. It was the same gang around the house save one orange-billed immature White-crowned Sparrow. Probably a western Gambell's type. We get a few regularly. I had to run to town to get Sunflower seed, so a look at the park. Not seeing the Wilson's Warbler, it may have bugged out due to the lack of bugs. It was here mid-Sept. to mid-November or so. The returning Black-and-white Warbler we had several years there did that the last year it was there. Returned again for a couple months in fall, but the extreme drought meant no bugs and it left, it did not stick for the winter. You have to be flexible.

However up on the island in the woods there was one rather rotund bit of excitement. A WOODCOCK! Timberdoodle! Best hunter's name ever for a bird. It was shady and I had to jack ISO up to grainy but got a couple fuzzy docushots anyway. It was doodling about the timber. Once it jumped up on a log upslope from where it was, at least 16" of upward motion, which it did by hopping with both legs at once, wings remaining closed. It doodled right over that fallen timber. Whaddabird. This is the fifth one I have had here. Now three of my sightings form a date cluster of Dec. 4, Dec. 5, and Dec. 9, giving a clear signal of arrival timing. Considering detection rates of Woodcock, certainly having seen 5 here, many more have occurred. Most folks would say we don't see 10% of them. It is one of the most easily overlooked birds in America. You can look straight at one and not see it.

A funny thing is that on the way into the park Little Creek Larry was at the spillway, I told him I was going into the woods to look for a Woodcock. Darn if he wasn't gone when I came back out. When Kathy and I checked it Sunday a few days ago, I said to her, watch out for Woodcock. Ya see, my Birdinator ™ software had been pinging me. Which then gives me bird pangs. It is the most amazing app, it called the bird days before it got there when it was still on its way!

A fresh Texan Crescent butterfly was in the woods. A genetic dead-end due to mis-timed emergence due to the warmth. One Green Darner dragonfly flew by over the pond. Later afternoon at the house I heard Cranes going south.

Dec. 3 ~ We were 28dF this morn, NOAA had forecast 37 for KRVL, where they were 30, most of a category off, again. Single Robin, American Goldfinch, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, plus the same two (daily) Myrtle Warbler were it early. Mid-morn an Orange-crowned Warbler was around, surely the one Kathy saw last week, our one winterer apparently. Hit the mid-70's in the afternoon, I saw KRVL at 77dF! Which means about a 45dF diurnal temp spread. The seed eaters are not as tied to our place when it is nice out, they seem to forage in the natural habitats all around more. Which are mostly pretty weedy and seedy. Plus the imm. Sharpy and Cooper's Hawks were about as usual.

Dec. 2 ~ About 7 a.m. it was 31dF, I saw an hour earlier KRVL had a 28dF. So a sunny chilly morning. One Robin was squawking from up top of the big pecan at first sun. Mid-morn I had one lone blackbird fly over that looked like a Rusty (bare-eyed). Always key in on lone blackbirds. Otherwise it seemed the usual cast. Got up to about 66dF in the afternoon, dry, sunny, nice. I was of course inside stuck on the computer at the desk working. A whopping 3 species of butterflies visited the one Lantana that still has a few flowers: Gulf Fritillary, American Lady, and Sleepy Orange. Saw both Rufous Hummingbird, and the big herd of Cardinal (30+).

December 1 ~ Meteorological winter starts today, though climatological starts the 21st on the solstice. December through February are meteorological winter. The cool air from the front finally arrived, 45dF for a low with breezy north winds on it. Sunny and nice though, warmed up to mid-60's dF in the afternoon. Was all the same gang around the casita. We took a couple hour spinabout in the afternoon.

Just down the road a hundred yards we had a Long-billed Thrasher fly across in front of us. Nothing at Utopia Pk., it is dead a lot lately, methinks no bugs. There was one Audubon's Warbler and that was it for passerines. We went out UvCo 355 to look at Little Creek. Right where 355 hits the creek is always good for some reason. A dozen Black-bellied Whistling-Duck were there. By the ranch gate there we had a flock of at least 45 American (Water) Pipit. Also there was a Verdin, always nice to see. It was not a half-mile from Bandera County where rare. One Towhee got away that was a male Rufous-sided type, but I can't tell you if it was Eastern or Spotted, though did not see any spots. A Belted Kingfisher was on the powerline that crosses the creek. I heard a couple and saw one Pyrrhuloxia just south of Little Creek Larry's place. There were some Field Sparrow around, an adult Red-shouldered Hawk, heard a White-crowned Sparrow. Lots of Cardinal and Mockingbird, seemingly everywhere all along all the roads. Did see one Autumnal and two Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies, a few Sleepy Orange butterfly, and one Blanchard's Cricket-Frog.

~ ~ ~ November summary ~ ~ ~

November was fairly dry with a couple inches of precip if you were lucky when the few cells went by. The river is way down, dry in many sections up-valley. After the early freeze in October, there were a few days of freeze in first half of Nov., the last half was fairly mild. As for two main key winter wildlife forage items, it is not a robust Pecan or Hackberry crop year here. Some trees are good, but many more are not very. Juniper berry crop looks good though. So, gin it is.

Butterflies were 20 species, and nothing unusual, all just the last stragglers of the most likely common expected types. There was no southern invasion this fall. Likely due to the drought. Odes were 3 species: Green Darner, plus Autumnal and Variegated Meadowhawk. That was it. Turn out the bug lights, that party is over for the year.

Birds were fair, probably better than what I saw as there was not much time for looking. We again skipped Lost Maples in Nov. due to leaf-peepers. The trails are so loud the birds move away from them. Mostly Nov. here is about the returning of the winter species. Everything showing up hasn't been here since last winter, so a treat to see again. It was about 16 FOS species I saw over the month, so about every other day on average, there is a new arrival. Not much for Robins or Waxwings yet, just a very very few, same for American Goldfinch and Pine Siskin. Looks like they sent scouts and since they haven't returned with good food news they went somewhere else. We have two Rufous Hummingbird apparently wintering at our feeders.

The only thing really unusual was the Clay-colored Sparrow that has stayed with the Chipping flock around our place into late in the month. Don't think I ever had a November record before, and certainly have no winter record, so of interest. A second Broad-tailed Hummingbird for the fall was good Nov. 9-12. A Grasshopper Sparrow late in month was nice, easy to miss most falls. A flyover calling Sprague's Pipit is always great from the house. An Indigo Bunting (1st yr. male) stayed to mid-month, much later than usual. My FIFTH Black-throated Green Warbler of the fall here was tardy on Nov. 6. Little Creek Larry had a male Bufflehead with Ring-necked Ducks at the park after the big feeze and ice day mid-month. Looks like I saw about 86 species of birds locally for the month, and a few others were reported locally. Bird were 108 sps. at peak passage in September, dialed back to 97 sps. for October, and now have calmed to 86 sps. in November. See why I like September?

~ ~ ~ end November summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ November update header archive ~ ~ ~

November is when wintering stuff really starts to fill in. We started with a 26dF low, and the first rare bird of the month was... a Coot, at the park, on the 1st. Which might be a bird returning for its third winter there. There was also a FOS (first of season) Wood Duck there the 1st. Another FOS on the 1st were 2 Northern Harrier. FOS on Nov. 2 was Eastern Meadowlark, American Robin, and White-throated Sparrow. Nov. 4 saw my FOS Rufous-sided, oops, Spotted Towhee and American Pipit. Nov. 6 there was another Black-throated Green Warbler here at the bath. Better yet, late afternoon on the 6th a FOS Sprague's Pipit flew over giving a few calls. The 9th was my FOS Merlin. The second Broad-tailed Hummingbird of the fall here was present Nov. 9-12. We had hard freezes the 12th (chill was 13dF!) and 13th, windy with highs barely 40dF, so cold season is here, be prepared (long johns). An FOS Song Sparrow showed on the 14th. Saw my first Shoveler on the 15th. A male Wilson's Warbler at Utopia Park a month or two now is surely a returning winterer, often up in woods or on island. Saw my FOS Wilson's Snipe on Nov. 16. My FOS Brewer's Blackbird was Nov. 17. FOS American Goldfinch was the 22nd. A Grasshopper Sparrow on Nov. 24 is only I have seen this fall.

~ ~ ~ end Nov. header update archive copy ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~


Nov. 30 ~ Another month shot by. We barely knew thee. It was in the upper 60's dF all night with heavy fog-mist. The couple day heavy mist total is about .25 of an inch of precip. The approaching front cleared skies about noon, rather passively but dry air finally. Got up to an amazing lower-to-mid 80's dF in the afternoon! The cold air stalled northward and the temp drop won't happen until after dark, a roughly 40dF drop overnight to morning tomorrow. Saw the two Rufous Hummers. Heard a Long-billed Thrasher over in the corral which is my first detection here in five weeks. Have to wonder if related to the prior two that were here a month until about 24 October, and unseen or heard since.

americanwoodcock
American Woodcock at Utopia Park Dec 4, 2019.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 29 ~ That was a fast week, eh? Today we spent in the 60's with drizzle. Pretty soppy out there. Along 360 saw a small group of Meadowlark which flushed before I could ID them, and a group of 7 Killdeer, which are surely migrants from the north that winter hereabouts. At the park the continuing Coot, and Black-bellied Whistling-Duck family of 6, and one Green Kingfisher was it. Woods were dead. Around the yard it all looked the same. Supposed to stay soppy until tomorrow afternoon when the front is supposed to pass and clear it out. By dark it was heavy mist, like about 120% humidity.

Nov. 28 ~ Happy Turkey Day! Hope you had a nice tryptophan. We ran about 45-58dF for a temp spread, 3 days now mostly in the 50's. Overcast and humid, on the chilly side, no rain yet. A Merlin shot over early. The two Rufous Hummers were here. Saw an adult White-crowned, and had a quick look at the Clay-colored Sparrow! Amazing it is still here. Thought I heard a Pine Warbler but didn't go looking for it. Saw one was reported over near Bandera over a week ago. It is time for them to show. Heard some Brewer's Blackbird over in the corral. Otherwise was the regulars. Couple dozen Cardinal at minimum, a Caracara, a couple Ground-Dove... sure couldn't get much stuffing in one of those.

Nov. 27 ~ A weak front came in late yesterday with no precip but light northerlies. About 49dF this a.m. and might have made 58dF under the cloud cover. Rain is said to be inbound Thursday and Friday. I worked about 70 or so Chipping Sparrow when they were down on the seed, and did not see the Clay-colored Sparrow, just one adult White-crowned and a Field for other types.

Nov. 26 ~ A low of 60dF, and some sprinkles first half of morning. A tracelet of precip. I heard the White-throated Sparrow again, so it is around but not up for photos apparently. Saw the two Rufous Hummers. Too busy with work to look much today. Short week so swamped trying to cram it all in.

Nov. 25 ~ A low of 45dF, and by noon it was 80dF! Saw humidity at KRVL was 11%! Amazing. Great flaming pink sunrise. Saw one American Goldfinch at the sunflower feeder, first one ON the feeder so far this fall. Have lots to do in this short week, and now there is rain forecast Thursday when I hoped to sneak in a lookabout. The two Rufous Hummingbird were here, the rest was the regular repeat offenders. Looking like late fall out there, lots of sticks (bare trees). We can see the Cypress along the river from the living room sofa again now that the pecans are bare.

Nov. 24 ~ Saw 35dF around sunup. That birdbath water is cold first thing. When ya get back in from it and the 7 a.m. (ya gotta love these late sunrises) seed toss, you do not need a handle on the coffee mug. Mostly the same gang around the house, but Kathy saw an Orange-crowned Warbler at the bath, I have not seen one in at least a couple weeks. A small group of about 10 American Goldfinch came by briefly. Thought I heard the White-throated Sparrow. Saw both Rufous Hummingbird, the adult male and ad. female are both still here.

We took a spin around for a couple hours mid-day. At UP there was the family of 6 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (I must have missed one young a couple times) that has been there a couple weeks. Saw the Pied-billed Grebe, missed the Coot. Below spillway were two Lesser Goldfinch, most of which are gone a few weeks now, they have become very scarce as usual once it gets cold and starts freezing. A few stay around feeders. Seems like there are very few bugs around, both in the woods, and along the riveredge. It's the drought. The Buckley (aka Spanish or Red) Oaks are getting some color on the ridges now, mostly yellows to oranges, but they will turn real red in a week or two.

We checked the cattail pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cmty. Great was a Grasshopper Sparrow we had great views of, only one I have seen this fall. A male Pyrrhuloxia also flew in to one of the little hackberries and offered views. About 45 Red-winged Blackbird is a big uptick in their numbers here now. I had a glimpse of a white butt disappearing into the reeds that looked like a Sora's arse to me. It got away. We saw a few Autumnal and Variegated Meadowhawk. Then we cruised UvCo 361 south of our place a couple miles. No hawks, no water, hardly any sparrows, no Say's Phoebe. Saw a couple Kestrel, a couple Shrike, at least 20 Common Raven in a big tight flock, some Field Sparrow, 50 Brewer's Blackbird, and at end of road one Spotted Towhee and a Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

There were a few butterflies along 361 in the warm low to mid 70's dF warmth. At least a half-dozen Orange Sulphur were the first I have seen all month. Kathy thought she had a Mestra. There were Gulf and Variegated Fritillary, a few Sleepy Orange, a couple American Lady, and a Comm. Checkered-Skipper. One Dogface flew across the yard later. The butterflies and odes are all but over for the year. It is a long wait until they get good again. March and April for butterflies, April and May for odes. Winter is for working on the pix you took of them from spring to fall.

Nov. 23 ~ Low was 38dF in wake of the dry for us cold front. Sunny and got up to 73dF or so in afternoon. Pretty darn nice, and dry air too. Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks are harrassing everything. Heard American Goldfinch again overhead, saw 30 some Brewer's Blackbird. Only saw the male Rufous Hummingbird today. Trees are sure getting leafless. Got a chigger, sure was nice to go without any for over a month. These winter ones always seem like they must be pissed off. They irritate right away when they go in. Must have been waiting forever for an idiot to walk by. Always get a few in winter from walking in dry grass. Had a distant view of a Zone-tailed Hawk moving along the ridge behind us. Had one of the small sphinx moths buzz me when I was smoking pipe just at dark.

Hey Imma let you squirm another week on the mystery bird. Hope you don't mind.

indigobunting
This is a male Indigo Bunting, presumably a first fall bird. I never got to study these over a winter and watch them change into blue. This is a pretty spiffy plumage, a blue-spotted bunting. The earliest young we get out of the nest are in mid-late May. So this bird (photo Oct. 15) could be about 5 months old.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 22 ~ Was about 67dF all night until about 6 a.m. when the cold front arrived. Was about 52dF by 8 a.m. with breezy north winds, but not a real strong blow. In the morning I had 5 calling American Goldfinch fly over, my FOS for them. In town at the park I flushed about 10 Wood Duck out of the slough in the woods, and a couple Blue Jay were there. Saw Little Creek Larry. He said the day after the ice (would be 13th) there was a small flock of Ring-necked Duck at the park with one Bufflehead amongst them! The buffle is a great fall bird here. He also mentioned he was still seeing a White-tailed Kite out 355 toward Little Creek. Heard a Barn Owl right after dark. At dusk there is a great conjunction of Venus and Jupiter very close together, low to the southwest, with Saturn higher over them a little southward. Nice.

Nov. 21 ~ A low if you can call it that of 66dF, in strong southerly flow ahead of the next front to hit tomorrow morning. Cloudy, breezy, might sprinkle, and not hot or cold. Saw the imm. fem. Cooper's Hawk out there, the seed eaters are nervous. The White-winged Dove have barely been around. Too many attempts, they departed for safer grounds. I see some in town. Otherwise the same gang. Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker are working the pecans. Not much for a crop this year, some for wildlife, but in our yard with 7 decent trees we got about zip. Some trees around town seem to have done well though.

Nov. 20 ~ Low was about 62dF! Maybe a little mist, very damp. But not cold. We have low-end chances for rain for a couple days, which usually means we don't get much but drizzle-mist, but so, it is wettish out. Stuck at the desk in office anyway. No matter. Still raining leaves, it was 20 mph winds with gusts to 30 from the south for a few hours. All the birds I saw were the same gang. Sharpy was floating around.

Few things make birding harder than falling leaves. We are so keyed in on picking up motion, and this just totally screws that. We also key on color, and that is shot too. You have to mentally re-calibrate to just key on motion other than the leaf motion. More easily said than done. It would be easier if the falling leaves didn't look so darn pretty. The leaves generally have a certain pattern of motion, so you dial that in as the standard, and then run your search pattern app for non-standard movements.

Nov. 19 ~ About 40dF and foggy at sunup, but burned off mostly by 10 or so, making for a nice sunny day. We were around 75 by noon. It was a work day, as they all are, so didn't see but the usual gang outside. Saw only Chipping, Lincoln's, and Field Sparrow, but did not work the flock hard. The two Rufous Hummers were around. Too busy to bird. There ought to be a law...  ;)    It is raining leaves as it turns to sticks out there. Hackberries, and even the Maples for that matter, vary tremendously as to what colors they turn as they change in fall. Some of our hackberries turn brown, some nearly black, others a great yellow. A guy here that knows things told me there is a genetic reason certain maples are always red no matter what every fall, while others are not. Seems the same with Hackberries. It is more than just environmental as seen by different trees in different colors, side by side, repeatedly year after year. There is a Maple at Lost Maples they call 'old faithful' because it turns flaming red no matter what every year. Drought or floods, or how it gets cold (fast or slow, wet or dry), doesn't matter, it is the same color every year.

Nov. 18 ~ A 36dF low was nearly chilly. Got up to an outstanding 75 or so! Sunny, skies bluer than you ever see spring to fall when humidity in the air. After the FOS at last light yesterday, a flock of 20+ Brewer's Blackbird flew by southbound. They are back. A couple Robin were at the bath. Heard the Lark, and saw one ad. White-crowned Sparrow. Have not been seeing the Inca Dove lately but still a couple Ground-Dove around. Besides office work, got some more outside and yard stuff done whilst not too hot or cold. Harder to do now that we go straight from summer to winter with just a wee bit o' fall between.

Nov. 17 ~ A 42dF low was a big warmup. Overcast early. In the morning saw two adult and one imm. White-crowned, and a couple ea. Lincoln's and some Field Sparrow amongst the Chippies. Some dang House Sparrow too. The two Rufous Hummingbird continue. Had a flock of Meadowlark fly over, but no calls for any IDs. A N. Harrier went by too. They might have been connected. Couple Myrtle Warbler, a Kinglet or two, 3-4 Pine Siskin flew over calling. Must be a non-local Golden-fronted Woodpecker out there because the male was chasing the dickens out of one to get it out of the yard pecans. Worked on stuff here all day, it got up to a wonderful 70dF late in day when sun finally showed. Last light I heard then saw my FOS Brewer's Blackbird fly over (two) heading west toward wherever they roost is.

Nov. 16 ~ A chilly 26dF low. This second front was so weak of wind or rain as to be barely noticeable, but it packed a cold punch. I took a couple hour spin-around mid-day. At the golf course pond by Waresville I saw my FOS Wilson's Snipe, a Savannah Sparrow, about 10 Red-winged Blackbird, and one male Common Grackle which departed alone. I had several random Myrtle Warbler flocks, one at the county-line crossing just NW of town, another near the Utopia Hill Ranch cattleguard, another at the Spring Branch crossing, totalling about 40 Myrtles, plus two Audubon's. No Orange-crowned around, the cold may have pushed them out. A big influx of Myrtles. As were the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, about a dozen were seen in the same three flocks. No Pine Warbler yet. At least a dozen Eastern Bluebird were at the Spring Branch crossing. Water sure is low, just wet holes. A mile past that crossing a Canyon Towhee was in an area of big brush piles. A couple flyover flocks of Meadowlark were seen, out of one group I heard only Eastern and out of the other only several Western called. Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk just south of town which looked like the one I got a grabshot of at the park a week or so ago. It is an immature. Wonder if it was locally hatched, so then one that is still here hanging? Probably. Most if not all of my prior wintering birds are adults. We'll see if it sticks. The local breeding birds seem to depart in fall as the regular near-daily sightings over the town or yard cease, in October.

mysterybird
Here is a quiz bird. It jumped when I shot and the head was cut off,
This was not intentional. Prior, got a couple shots of the whole bird.
It is a scarcely seen plumage so I thought maybe fun or interesting.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 15 ~ A weak front went through yesterday late which cleared it out finally, and we had a 28dF low. Was 45 by 10 a.m., which feels great. The whole few days event precip might have been .25 of an inch. But lots of real cold. Finally broke not just 50dF but 60dF this afternoon! Local stations were reading 61, 63, and 65dF about 3 p.m., the thrill of it all. Opened up, warmed and dried out the house and cottage. Town run fer errands. One female Shoveler was the excitement at the park, first I have seen this fall, though Little Creek Larry said he had a few a month or so ago. The Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, and male Wilson's Warbler continue. Here at the hovelita the Song Sparrow was heard a few times, finally seen again late, so still about. Heard the White-throated Sparrow a couple times, saw the one remaining Lark Sparrow, one adult White-crowned and the Clay-colored Sparrow, a hundred Chipping, couple Field, and late one Lincoln's Sparrow showed. Eight species of sparrow in the yard today here at sparrowtopia. There are Vesper, Savannah, and Rufous-crowned within a mile or less. And surely others around as well. The two Rufous Hummers are only hummers here now. Had a couple Myrtle Warbler and a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Hermit Thrush, and Kathy had a few Robin at the bath while I was in town.

Nov. 14 ~ About 40dF for a low was nice, to not be freezing. A bit of drizzle in morn. Outstanding was a FOS Song Sparrow on the seed out the office window. It is the first I have seen in the yard in 6 years here, only had one in yard before, Nov. of '13. They are so strictly of riverside (or pondedge) habitat here, they are absent 500 yards away. Heard my second Golden-crowned Kinglet of the fall. Saw one adult White-crowned and the Clay-colored Sparrow today. Hear the Rufous Hummers, the big green one seems to have departed. It was a Broad-tailed. Smart to keep going. We have been at or below 40dF for most of 3 days now. This is way early in season for this cold of an event (mid-20's with chills below 15dF) for this duration. Hope it is not a sign. Average for now is low 70's for highs. I saw a good solid 47dF in the afternoon today. Great to be out of the 30's!

Nov. 13 ~ About 31dF for a low, and the winds were fairly calm to very light, so not as bad as yesterday morn. Overcast and chilly. Saw the imm. Sharpy out there. Heard the hummers. Fortunately it is a desk day, near a heater. It might have gotten up to 38dF or so peak heat, but supposed to hold fairly steady and not freeze in the morning. Two days of 30's! I think it did break some earliest ever cold records in central Texas. Over a hundred cold records were broken over east half of U.S.

No Lincoln's Sparrow again today, amazing, they must have left. There were three for several days up to Sunday. In the afternoon I did see two adult and one imm. White-crowned Sparrow at once. After 4 p.m. I picked the Clay-colored Sparrow out of the Chippies, so it is still here, but no Indigo Bunting. This is my latest staying Clay-colored here ever (n~16 falls). The Rufous Hummers were around, not sure I had the apparent Broad-tailed though besides thinking I heard it in the morning. Wasn't outside much though, was not a day for lollygagging about out there.

Nov. 12 ~ Low was about 26dF, I saw at 8:30 KRVL was 25dF with a chill factor of 13! It's lovely out, come on down. Saw the hummers out there early after checking feeders, bird bath was iced over, wind still blowing but we seemed to have missed most of the precip. It was about .2 here. But a little ice on the porch where roof dripped. Windows are fogged, gonna be hard to see stuff out there. Icicles got about 3" long from the mist-drizzle along the eaves. It really warmed up, just after noon it was a sizzling 28dF. Arctic air. Extra bird seed rations today. The Chipping Sparrow count I would put at a hundred now. They really thickened up in the last couple days. Late afternoon saw an adult White-crowned Sparrow, briefly bare-eyed, it seemed to have an orange bill. Did not see the Indigo Bunting or the Clay-colored Sparrow. It allegedly got up to about 40dF, but was below freezing again by 7 p.m., gonna be a long cold night.

Nov. 11 ~ Low was about 65dF, warm moist southerly flow being sucked up in front of the cold front inbound. I saw 5 Robin early, then a bit later Kathy had 11 birds fly over high she thought were Robins. Saw the big hummer again, still looks Broad-tailed, still no good looks or pix, again I heard soft Broadie chips though. Mid-morn I first heard, then saw the adult White-throated Sparrow (white-striped morph), which is surely the one that showed up here Nov. 2 and I have thought I heard a few times since then. Sure love to have one stick for a winter, or at least a picture. These white-striped adults are one of the prettiest birds in America. That head is spectacular.

The front hit after 1 p.m. and when the first major gusts arrived it was a blizzard of yellow leaves. Thousands of them at once from the Pecans, Hackberry, and Mulberry, it was incredible. By 3 p.m. KRVL was 39dF with a chill of 30 with light rain. Supposed to blow all night until the morning. Will look a different place out there tomorrow. At midnight it was 29dF or so, and some of that 'unknown winter precip' was falling. Some seemed like ice pellets, some was sleet, some seemed pretty close to flaky.

Nov. 10 ~ Was 45-65dF for a temp spread, cloudy all day, front coming in tomorrow. Worked on stuff here mostly, supposed to get real windy and real cold. Also spent an inordinate amount of time watching hummer feeders. We saw the big green one a few times, and I got some shots, far and high against a white-gray sky, am not sure of any ID help, unless you do shape and structure. I still think it is a Broad-tailed, especially because I heard some soft Broad-tail chips. It is too white below for an Anna's, has a big bill, and a big long rear-body, tail, and big wings. Kathy saw it near last light so another chance for study tomorrow. I saw the rusty Indigo Bunting again. Great was a FOS Golden-crowned Kinglet, a couple Ruby-crowned were around, one Orange-crowned Warbler and a male Yellow-rumped Warbler that was an intergrade. Was at the park briefly to 'free Willie' and saw the 5 Whistling-Ducks still there. I acclimated and returned a Red-breasted Sunfish I had raised from under 2" to about 6", back into the pond below the dam from whence he came.

Nov. 9 ~ Low about 45dF, high was maybe 71 or so, sunny, pretty darn nice out. In the a.m. there were at least 3 Robins here in the yard, first day with more than one. An imm. fem. Cooper's Hawk was sitting on the power pole over in corral. When it left, it was about 60 yards out, just past the road out front, a FOS Merlin buzzed it! Kathy had seen something shoot by earlier, very near the Coop, surely this was it. It must have been soaring around with an eye peeled, and when the Coop left, it strafed it! Ya gotta love a Merlin! I could hear the wind in the Merlins wings as it stooped, it was doin' a hundred when it buzzed by the Coop. Too cool. The Coop thinks it is all that, Mr. Bad, and owns the place, and here comes a bullet by so fast, it could only dream of achieving such speeds.

Went to town and checked park again. The Coot remains. Nothing in the woods. A few Myrtle Warbler and Chipping Sparrow up by entrance live-oaks. Butterfly garden was dead, a few Gray Hairstreak, one Pipevine, one Sleepy Orange, one Am. Lady. Pitiful. But Big Ern was in town so I left happy, with a pound of BBQ pork. Talk to ya after the siesta. It is really looking fall out there, lots of stuff is yellow and the Cypresses are really getting really rusty now. Not seeing anything on the Red Oaks yet, the real sure thing annual color show here. Some of the deco Maples around town and along 187 are looking good. I hear so-so for color at Lost Maples. As you read here first back in mid-October.   ;)

The two Rufous Hummers were here, and are the only species here the last few weeks. Until... nearing last light a big hummingbird was on the feeder out office window. Too little light to ID it! I hate when that happens. Green above, and big. It was either Broad-tailed or Anna's. Obviously way bigger than a Ruby-throat or Black-chinned. Hope to nail it down in the morning. Looked like a Broad-tailed.

mockingbird
Behold! The great Mockerdini! Able to mimic other birds at a level fooling expert birders so well as to have had some bolt out of the house in just skivies and bins. This of course is the state bird of Texas, and several other states, a Northern Mockingbird. This might be what keeps you up at night singing in summer, those are mostly unmated males. Sometimes they will do this wing-flash to flush insects up out of the grass. This one was at the bird bath, so perhaps narcissistic. Actually I think this was likely a method of checking the water for hidden predators. Wing-flash it. Ten times. Finally it actually went to bath edge and drank.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 8 ~ About 40dF for a low, drizzly, light showers, at least the wind laid down. By 10 a.m. there was a little less than a centimeter of new precip, from the overnight and early morn. We are a bit under an inch then since yesterday, about .8. NOAA radar shows under .2 for here. Sometimes it is close, other times way way off, due to the hills, and somewhat, the nature of the rain. I would go .85 by the afternoon for precip total here since yesterday.

Heard the two Rufous Hummers out there early. Amazing was seeing a Clay-colored Sparrow and an Indigo Bunting. It is surely the latest Clay-colored date I have here, and the one here the last couple days of October. Never had one winter here yet so far (n~16). The Bunting is surely the rusty one of the two here a couple days ago. Both are great late dates. Town run in the drizzle, so a park check. A great late date was a family group of five Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, 2 adults, 3 juveniles. I have not seen any here for months. The Coot continues. A Zone-tailed Hawk was sitting in the Cypress trees across the pond at the park. Must have been a hawk through the woods, they were dead. At the south end of the island in the tangle was the male Wilson's Warbler, amazingly back wintering for its second winter here.

Nov. 7 ~ Some drizzle and about 67dF for a low, a front is inbound. Thought I heard the White-throated Sparrow out there early at first seed toss. Heard an Audubon's Oriole whistling out there early morning. Front got here before noon with a little bit of rain and wind. There went the high temp for the day. The first blast of wind rained yellow leaves off the pecans. By the afternoon the rain seemed to have mostly passed, we got a half-inch, which is great. About 3 p.m. temps were upper 40's, chills in lower 40's, and dropping. The two adult Rufous Hummers were around, male and female. The rest was the same gang. Saw one Queen early before the front hit. The Mulberry is really yellow and dropping leaves now, and so are many of the pecans, and some of the hackberries. Some of the Cypress along river are going rusty, others still greenish but yellowing.

Nov. 6 ~ Low was 69dF, was cooler at 11 p.m. last night. A moist tropical airmass is over us, again. Sure could use some rain. Front due in tomorrow morning. Saw a N. Harrier go over low again about 9 a.m. A Kinglet (Ruby) was trying to go to the bath but the crowd of Cards made it too nervous. Just after 11:30 Kathy spotted a Black-throated Green Warbler coming into the bath! This is the FIFTH one I have seen locally this fall, surely the best showing in 16 falls. It was the start of a bathing frenzy which lasted 10 minutes. Amazing was two Indigo Buntings coming in, females methinks an adult and an immature which were interacting, well sorta fighting. Kathy asked if that suggested they were related. I reminded her we must not be anthropomorphic in our animal behavior interpatations. Those were the first two Indigos in a week, and running on the tardy side for them here. Got pix of the buntings and the warbler. Otherwise slow until just before 5 p.m. when I was outside and heard first, then looked up to see a Sprague's Pipit right overhead, which continued calling a couple more times as it flew off. Probably came up off the grass airstrip. Always a great bird from the yard. I have worked hard for them many a time before. So I would say the day ahead of the front was very good. I bet there was more good stuff out there, like at the park. Stuck at the desk on Wednesdays and Thursdays here.

Nov. 5 ~ It was about 60dF at midnight, and 65 by dawn. Mostly cloudy, got up to about 76dF. There was nothing goin' on around the yard most of the day. A pile of plucked White-winged Dove feathers over under the big Mulberry tree indicated why. One of the accipters was here. It should be gone a couple days now anyway. It was the deadest day here for birds in months. Saw a couple Queens on the Blue Mist Eupatorium. Counted at least 45 Chipping Sparrow, only saw one imm. White-crowned Sparrow, no adults, no White-throated, one Lark Sparrow, a few Field. Heard Screech-Owls and Barred Owl after dark.

Nov. 4 ~ About 47dF for a low is fine. Mostly sunny is nice too. When tossing seed first thing I heard a FOS Rufous-sided Towhee upslope behind us from the Agarita under the live-oaks. Saw one imm. White-crowned Sparrow and neither adult White-crowned or White-throated. About 10:30 or so at least a couple FOS American (was called Water) Pipit flew over. I missed a hawk heading south fast. Heard a Kestrel out there. Noonish there was one of the Aellopos Sphinx moths (Hummingbird Hawkmoth) on the Blue Mist Eup but when I got back with camera it was gone and never came back. Other things on the Blue Mist were a Monarch, a Gray Hairstreak, an American Lady, a Sachem and a Clouded Skipper. One Cloudless Sulphur was bouncing around yard again, a Little Yellow went by. Heard a Kinglet (Ruby), an Orange-crowned Warbler and a Myrtle Warbler. Since warm out I caught the Anole inside the cottage the last week since it got cold, and put it outside. Both adult Rufous Hummer still here, male and female. Saw 3 Lincoln's Sparrow at once out the office window, within 8' of each other.

Nov. 3 ~ Another 35dF low, clear and sunny. Heard the Robin early morn, it must have roosted in the corral Hackberries. I did not see the White-throated or the adult White-crowned Sparrow. I did see TWO imm. White-crowned Sparrow. Turnover. I'll have the passerine turnover please. The Chipping Sparrow flock is 40+ birds now, and there are at least 3 Lincoln's Sparrow around the yard. Saw a Field Sparrow with the Chippies, no Clay-colored, one Lark Sparrow, a couple each Ground-Dove, and Inca Dove. One Myrtle Warbler was at the bath briefly, heard another later. Still the two adult Rufous Hummers here, male and female. Butterflies on the Blue Mist Eup were a Clouded Skipper, a Queen, an American Lady, and a Gray Hairstreak. One Cloudless Sulphur blasted past. One Swift Setwing dragonfly still out there. Got up to low 70's dF briefly at peak heat around 4 p.m. Worked on things around here that need doing before it gets too cold out.

Nov. 2 ~ A 35dF low is chilly but warm compared to yesterday. Around 9:30 my FOS Meadowlarks flew low over the patio and house, a couple dozen at least. The only flight notes I heard were Eastern Meadowlark. The biggest ID problem is back. In muted fresh plumage they can be tough when silent. Mid-morn a lone Robin called from the front yard, my FOS. Four Pine Siskin were on the seed out back, first in yard this fall, though our FOS were two at Garner last Sunday, Oct. 27th. There were TWO White-crowned Sparrow out back. I presume the first adult from a couple days ago stuck and another showed up. The second bird is an immature, both are the default type here, eastern nominate leucophrys.

Then shortly before noon there was an adult White-throated Sparrow, FOS, which was the much sharper looking IMHO white-striped morph with a big yellow lore, such a striking head. Audubon's Oriole went through the yard a couple times. We walked out on the road for an hour noonish. Lots of Chipping Sparrow, some Field, several Lincoln's, one Vesper, lots of Cardinals, a few Mockingbird, some Lesser Goldfinch, Carolina Wren and Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, the usual gang. Thought I heard a Long-billed Thrasher. After we got back I heard the Pyrrhuloxia across the road.

I ran to town late in the afternoon, today was the annual craft fair so it was packed, and surely way worse earlier. Got some of granny's jellies: Agarita, Mesquite Bean, Dewberry, and Wild (Escarpment) Cherry. Just drive down the road and spot granny, it's like utopia. I felt like I robbed the jelly bank. Checked the park, it was dead at 4 p.m. but for a few residents and six stinkin' Egyptian Goose. One Monarch though. Went to the library butterfly garden and a few butterflies were there. A Queen, a Buckeye, a few Pipevine Swallowtail, a Sachem and a Whirlabout, a Dusky-blue Groundstreak, one Painted and 6 American Lady, a Sleepy Orange, man it is a bad butterfly fall.

Saving the day was a Cerambycid (Longhorn) Beetle, apparently a Mesquite Borer (Placosternus erythropus). Got pix, was on Thoroughwort Eupatorium. Have not seen one in a number of years locally, probably a decade or so. My only photos were at Big Springs Ranch above Leakey, and low res, so this was great to have one drunk on Eupatorium and not care about my lens 2" away. It appeared to be raking the flowers with its front legs and then wiping them off on mouth. There were also a few Ailanthus webworm moths on the Eup.

mesquiteborer
This is a Mesquite Borer (Placosternus erythropus), one of the
Longhorn (Cerambycid) beetles. Methinks we are safe calling this
a bee mimic. I have seen them with bright red-orange legs.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 1 ~ We were welcomed to November with ice on the birdbath. It was about 26.5dF at 8 a.m.! One local in town said they had 26 as well. KRVL showed a 25 briefly! Cold all morn. At least it did warm into lowest 60's later afternoon. Did not see anything unusual around the yard, but two FOS Northern Harrier flew over low at treetop level, both immatures. Town run day. At the post office when I got out of car there was an Audubon's Oriole singing and calling up top in the sun on the big live-oak at NE corner of parking lot. Man it is like utopia here. Checked the park and it was slow but for a couple low-end FOS's. The FOS Coot there may well be the bird that wintered the last two years, and as such significant. If so it is a Maverick Coot, a loner choosing to winter hanging out with a Pied-billed Grebe. What if the other Coots knew? They all probably wonder what happens to Fred in the winter. He is hanging out with a grebe! Their lobed toes match anyway. The other FOS was Wood Duck calling as it flushed out of the swampy slough as I walked back into the woods. I heard the Wilson's Warbler over on the island. There was a small winter flock of E. Bluebird, Chipping Sparrow, and Myrtle Warbler up at the live-oaks by the entrance, one Audubon's Warbler with them. Some Cypress and Pecan trees are still green, others turning yellow or brown, a few fairly leafless already. Maxmillian Sunflower is the yellow flower blooming along riversedge, showing quite well now.



July through October 2019 is now at Bird News Archives 32.
Bird News Archive XXXII
July 1 - through October so far, 2019

January through June 2019 is now at Bird News Archives 31.
Bird News Archive XXXI
January 1 - June 30, 2019


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.



The older weekly break bird photos are now at the 2019 photos page. 2019 pix


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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 XXXII
July 1 - Dec. 31, 2019 (through Sept.so far)

Bird News Archive XXXI
January 1 - June 30, 2019

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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