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: January 12, 2018
(prior updates: January 5, December 29, 22, 15, 8, 1, November 24, 17, 10, 3, October 27, 20, 13, 6)



Merry Solstice and Happy New Year!

It has been very cold including days not or just barely breaking the freezing point, so be prepared if birding in it. As of late December the male Junipers are again dispensing pollen if you like that. The Crossbills seem to be gone now, haven't seen the Goshawk again, and I missed the Solitaire at the park last visit, not sure about it. Kinda busy working this week so not out much. Lots of windy fronts passing making birding tough.

There was a flock of RED CROSSBILL moving up and down the river habitat corridor south of town (at least) since Nov. 11. There are a half-dozen pines scattered around town and near the golf course which should be watched closely. Nov. 11 I heard more than a dozen, the 17th I heard fewer than that. Kathy thought she saw the flock Nov. 21. I saw one male Nov. 25. On Dec. 13 I saw the flock and counted 18 individuals, twice. On Dec. 18 I counted 24 and 25 (two counts) in the flock as it flew up the river habitat corridor toward the golf course. Saw and heard the flock again Dec. 20 and Friday the 22nd again it appeared 24 birds in the flock. They call all the time in flight, virtually all detections were first hearing them. Go to xeno-canto (google it) and type Red Crossbill in the search window to hear flight calls if you don't know them, and keep yer ears out. Some few were heard again Dec. 29 which as of Jan. 10 is the last encounter.

Friday Dec. 15 there was a N. GOSHAWK climbing up and soaring high over town right behind the Ranch Outpost. A local that knows birds described what was likely it later, NE of town along Little Creek. TWO Townsend's Solitaire were seen at Lost Maples (Bill Wright) Friday Dec. 15th in the picnic area. An adult Harris's Sparrow was in our yard Dec. 24. ANOTHER Townsend's Solitaire was hearable from Utopia Park Dec. 29 through Jan. 5. Judy Schaffer reports Rufous Hummingbird wintering again.

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. We have a park bird list page just about ready to go up, it is just short a couple details and pictures I wanted to add before uploading. So watch for that. Note we also have a 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 at top of bird news.

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

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

For visiting cell phone users, often only AT&T works here, or Concan, and many local areas Sabinal to Leakey, etc.; 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.   ;) I think along Hwy. 90 like at Hondo and Uvalde you can get connected with other than AT&T carrier now.

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

Holy cow, something NEW!!
Note on navbar at top of this page and the home page, and just above 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 is 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 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.

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. It is in reverse chronological order, with most recent day, date, or post at top.

During migration periods or when things are "jumpin," I might post updates weekly, or less, with my local (often yard) notes from nearly every day....since there has never been a birder here daily it might be interesting when we get a bit of data??? Normally every week or so (been Friday eves) I'll update with 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. Often just yard notes, but unless you got to be stationed at the park all day, one site of observation locally is about as good as another.

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 14+ (!) 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 or down on the coast, etc. Adult males mostly depart territories and the area the first week of August.

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

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

A newer page is the butterfly rarity photos: Rare Butterflies

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

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

Or check out the Bird Guide page.

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

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

Commonly used ABBREVIATIONS are:

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


First a 2011 highlight ...

Rufous-backed Robin

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




Broad-winged Hawk   Broad-winged Hawk

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



Some things from 2012 ...

albino House Finch

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



Cerambycid

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



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

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



Something from 2013 ...
Texas Coral Snake

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



Ringed Kingfisher

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





Two-tailed Swallowtail

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



Texas Blind Snake

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


Zebra Heliconian

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



Louisiana Waterthrush

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



Rusty Blackbird

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



Cedar Waxwing

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



Back to Top


Rant warning!

I wrote this a few years ago, however it remains pertinent, as winter of 2013-4 TPWD continues this environmentally ignorant practice, out of greed, ignorance, and a complete lack of basic respect or understanding of the ecosystem they manage.

Following 10 paragraphs are about Lost Maples State NATURAL AREA. I have really tried hard 8 years to keep anything remotely political off the website, with only the rare outburst about usually an injustice against nature, or some of the citiots that come visit.  Sometimes we must say something.

Lost Maples is a State Natural Area (SNA), which would seem to infer it's intrinsic natural history values are the priority, since it is not a PARK, but a NATURAL AREA. Per their website, non-native channel catfish have been introduced into the pond up Can Creek. I can't take a leaf out of the park, but the state can introduce non-native species that eat the native aquatic fauna? I understand prior owners originally introduced them, however that doesn't mean it is OK to continue to do so.

Could this happen if it were a predatory mammal, bird or reptile? But a non-native fish is OK? What's the difference? Non-natives have no place in a natural area. If I can't take a leaf out because the nutrients in it are considered vital to the ecosystem, why is it OK to remove literally tens of thousands of aquatic invertebrates from the ecosystem by introducing non-native fish to the natural area?

All the native animals matter and are part of the ecosystem. It takes all of them to make it work for some reason. Not just the ones we eat. Wasn't there a good book that implored us to take care of all creatures no matter how small? Because they are all there for a reason? They all play a role in making it work and whether we dummies know or understand how and why which puzzle piece does what, is not what matters. Intelligent tinkering requires saving all the parts. It's our job to at the least save all the puzzle pieces. Introducing non-natives into the NATURAL AREA is not saving all the parts, it is destroying some of them, willfully and intentionally for some (mis-) perceived gain. There have been various programs over the years to remove many of the non-natives with much success. Currently the feral hogs are out of control destroying the canyon bottoms natural habitat. The understory is being ransacked. And that is what trout and catfish do to native invertebrates in the waterways. We have to remove all non-natives all of the time if we want a natural area beyond something in name.

There were non-native trout introduced there for a year or two, a couple years prior to this. This is ridiculous to have as pristine a natural waterhole as we have left that is publicly available, that is IN an official State NATURAL Area, and be constantly introducing non-native (some high-end predator) species in it. Aren't there a million waterholes in Texas full of introduced fish already? Can't we have one without more non-native introduced species? Wasn't Lost Maples saved to be preserved in its natural state? Why does the aquatic invertebrate fauna not matter, but a fallen leaf does? Seems more than a little bit hypocritical to me.

This is simply more human folly that causes destruction of the environment and ecosystems, a little piece at a time, the damage is insidious and no one notices, save perhaps a nature nerd studying it, whom then are labelled as radical environmentalists. If this is a natural area to be preserved as such, why is it up to someone's whim and fancy whether or not non-native predators are introduced that will absolutely positively have detrimental effects on the ecosystem and animals that are native in the SNA? We haven't cataloged the insects dependent on this hill country aquatic ecosystem, and are introducing things that will absolutlely positively exterminate some of it.

I have little doubt why native dragonfly populations have crashed at the ponds since non-native fish introductions began at the State Natural Area. Odonata are the only group I've looked at hard enough to see the *catostrophic* drop in their numbers at the ponds up Can Creek. The pond has stayed at the same level, but odonata populations haven't. Mayfly populations at the ponds have crashed as well, quite obviously when compared to stream areas in the natural area.

Surely all the aquatic invertebrates have taken the beating as well. That pond ecosystem is a unique habitat, and is being destroyed from the inside out, with public money, because TPWD is soooo flush with bucks they buy non-native fish for the natural area, or do they just want entrance fees more than anything? We just can't see the damage for the most part so it's OK? The negative impacts of non-native fish introduction are just as sure as a goat's or cat's is.

While yes the ponds as we see them today have been man altered, with rockwall dams put in long ago to store water, there were always natural ponds along the creek. The stone age implements known from the site indicate there was likely a natural pond there which the modern one was expanded upon. Most of the native fishes only live in areas that the non-natives can't get to. Much like Canyon Mock-Orange or Chatterbox Orchids only now growing where the goats couldn't get. Same thing, but with fish. The ponds are over-run with non-native introduced perch, catfish, sometimes trout, all of which are high-end aquatic predators.

For some entrance fee money TPWD takes the natural history OUT of the State NATURAL Area? They don't seem to know or care about what natually lives in the ponds. I thought mistakenly apparently, the site was one where being conservative, saving what we have, the conservation of our natural history resources, was the prime directive.

Aquatic ecosystems get no respect despite them being the huge part of what makes the terrestrial ones work. Lost Maples is only a natural area in name apparently. Write or call TPWD and tell them to stop introducing non-native species that upset the balance of nature, in the State Natural Area.

You'd have thought after TPWD in the not too distant past recently nearly caused the extinction of our endemic Guadalupe Bass by introducing Largemouth Bass into every wet hoofprint in the state, that they'd have learned something. Can't we have just one REALLY natural as possible waterhole hidden in the hill country, in the SNA without introduced non-native predators and study what is there, and what goes on, naturally? Seems too much to ask? They couldn't begin to tell me what lives there, and are systematically removing it with non-native fish introductions.

Natural means WITHOUT Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish or Rainbow Trout or even the perch in the case of the ponds up Can Creek. None are natural. Those are not native species in the headwaters streams here. I have seen Golden-cheeked Warblers take teneral (just emerged) damselflies sometimes there. Well they used to, when they were there, that food source at the pond has been mostly eliminated, by man's folly. You'd think it was someone's private play pond, not a State Natural Area. To me it goes against the the very reason it was given to the state, to save and protect it, in its natural state, and to NOT treat it like any game ranch endlessly introducing non-natives, upsetting the balance of nature.

One of the reasons we moved here was to study the natural area, so it is extremely painful to watch the natural be removed. It is a shame man can't watch and appreciate nature, without having to play God and have a hand at being mother nature, which seems invariably to result in an epic fail.

End of Rant. I feel much better now. If you agree, please do call or write TPWD and tell them you don't agree with them introducing non-native fish at the pond in the natural area. And that you don't agree with them introducing exotic animals that are food competitors with endangered warblers.

BIRD & NATURE NEWS 2017


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. Often a few daily yard notes is all the drivel you get. Ready, steady, go!

To repeat since commonly used:
sps.=species; FOS=First of season; FOY=First of Year; FOF=First of fall; LTA=Less than Annual; UP=Utopia Park; UR=Utopia on the River; (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)

Here are assorted links of all manner, and a handy way outta here.
Mitch's Links

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat, a bird that perhaps has defied taxonomic understanding
as well as any breeding North American species. Classified with warblers
for the last half-century, but it is not one. I wondered why it was in
with them when I was 5 years old in 1960. As of summer 2017 the AOS
(formerly AOU - American Ornithological Union) has given it its own
family, allegedly nearest blackbirds. A fairly common breeder locally,
heard more easily than seen, and often sings (or makes loud chattering
noises and whistles) at night, for which more often than not the Mockingbird
takes the heat.



Just to have this handy again for reference, recent prior updates:
Jan. 5, Dec. 29, 22, 15, 8, 1, November 24, 17, 10, 3, October 27, 20, 13, 6

You may want to scroll down to last prior update (marked) and scroll
up to read in chrono order day to day.


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.

There is a page of photos from 2016: 2016 pix

And now for something completely different... I will probably make some changes yet, I was looking for some more pix, but anyway meanwhile at least the basics are up... Here is a new page with some photos and discussion of hybrid Cliff x Cave Swallows: Clave Swallows

***  Here is a new page for visitors with ideas, links, phones, contacts, etc., about where to stay locally.
Where to Stay

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ finally, current bird news from the greater and lesser Utopia area ~ ~ ~

Jan. 12 ~ A chilly 29dF for a low, KRVL hit that too. Will be colder the next couple mornings. Wind still blowing 10+ and enough to feel some chill. Warmed up to lowest 60's dF which felt great. Nice waxwing show at the bath mid-morn. Two Mockers out on the front fence line jumping back and forth with each other, switching which way they face over and over while flashing and cocking tails, not aggressively whatsoever. Either friends or just meeting, it went on for minutes. One of the big bearded Toms came into yard heading for feeders a couple times.

Town run day so a look at the park. No Solitaire again, I think the cold blew it out. The Coot is still there! Our first overwintering Coot. Stop the presses! Had a Ring King, the same 1st winter female that has been there months. There were at least a dozen Ruby-crowned Kinglet, most I have seen all winter. They were going nuts on the winter mayfly hatch at rivers edge, and at arms-length at times. Saw the male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker up in the woods, and a female Yellow-shafted Flicker that looked good and clean of genes. At least 4 Blue Jay, one Hutton's Vireo, a number of Titmouse and Chickadee, might as well mention Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Bewick's Wren was singing. At one point the male Golden-front and the Sapsucker were less than 2 feet apart on a live-oak trunk. I went for a pic and one flew off before I could get it.

Jan. 11 ~ Low in 40's and got up to 60's before the front hit. First puffs were before 10 a.m., by 11 it was blowing 15-25, and gusting higher. There were 7 bearded Toms on the patio about 9:30. In the afternoon it was howling monkeys. Gusts over 40 mph and sustained at 25-30+. Finally laid down a bit late in the evening. Didn't see anything different, was Thursday at the phone and computer day, and swamped. Will have some new reading material up here for you very shortly though. Watch what you wish for.

Jan. 10 ~ Was 40dF and very foggy first thing. Had an early town run, only thing at the park besides a few of the residents was a single first year male American Wigeon. Did not see the Coot. Little Creek Larry said right after the cold he saw lots of Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler and Ring-necked Duck at the park early one morning, and he has had bigger flocks of Waxwings. Kathy spotted a Little Yellow (lep), species #4 for the year. About 32 White-fronted Goose headed over southbound. Late afternoon sun finally came out and it warmed a little, into the 60's, so pretty nice. Yard birds were the same gang. The Mockingbird loves the brushpile, it is wintering on hackberries and juniper berries here. Must be over 125 Chippy and 45 White-winged Dove on the seed, maybe about 10 Cardinal.

Jan. 9 ~ A 27dF low was 7-8dF and more lower than predicted. They did not call for a freeze! Missed by a mile, wankers. Great Horned Owls really going strong now. Nesting probably getting underway. Saw a female Eastern Fence Lizard, first one this year. Saw what was likely the same So. Dogface (butterfly) as a few days ago.

I had a Spizella sparrow fly into a hackberry where I couldn't see it and proceed to give call notes for a bit. It sounded like a Tree Sparrow. There were a few of the drawn-out more slurred or squeezed-out squished note (flatter than the usual thin metallic sharp standard call note) that I have only ever heard from a Tree Sparrow. I did not recognize the calls as anything I have ever heard from Chipping, Field, Clay-colored or Brewer's. Of course I hear Chippy and Field every day. I stepped inside for bins and when I came back out it was gone. Worked the Chipsters hard and nothing.

Jan. 8 ~ About 42-70dF spread for the day was amazing. The heat busted a few things out: saw an Anole, a Cucumber Beetle, a wasp of some sort went by, and the 2nd and 3rd butterflies of the year: Kathy saw a Sleepy Orange and I saw a Red Admiral. Birds were almost the same gang. Had about 125 Chipping Sparrow which were checked but you just can't get them all.

Jan. 7 ~ Heard my first duelling Titmouse song of the year today. Was the same gang though and worked inside on all the too much stuff to do here. Trying to finish the Utopia Park bird list page among other things. It is almost there. It ain't easy work, you have bust some neurons for a lot of hours. Heard some Cranes heading south. The rest was the expected gang. Again must be 20 Am. Goldfinch coming in. Just a few Siskin though.

Jan. 6 ~ Low of 35, chilly, humid, a little breezy. Not my fav going out weather. After noon it warmed to 58, but still breezy and humid. Went to town to try to tape or photo the Solitaire... no love. Heard it again, can't get to it, and calling too intermittent to tape. The first two times I heard it, it was going off endlessly, but alas, now that I am here with tape recorder, not. The first winter female Ringed King was in the backwater by the island, and a Green King flew in as I was leaving. In the hackberries along Cypress St. and in the big pecan in the pasture out front were over 250 Cedar Waxwing, most I have seen at once so far this winter.

The 360 crossing had a Pine Warbler amongst a winter flock. Couple Field Sparrow across from our gate here. Interesting was an Orange-crowned Warbler just off patio, only one I have seen around this winter. I was sure I saw it two days ago, for two seconds, bare-eyed at 20'. I let it go. Here it is in the same spot on the same branch in same tree today. I just love a good re-affirmation. And especially those that come after an over-abundance of probably unwarranted caution. I knew that was an Org-crnd. It is as if it is a reward for being so careful. And for letting it go, a couple days later, here is that same bird in the same place, but you are closer, and it is chipping now, in the sun. Bam! Re-affirmation.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird - male

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 5 ~ A toasty 39dF for a low was nice and sun too. Counted 45 White-winged Dove on the seed at once. Town run. I heard the Towsend's Solitaire again, but it was again to the north of the park on priv. prop. with no access. So it is still there, and I still need a pic. A COOT was in the pond by the cattails and willows, which is my first ever January record locally and so remarkable. The rest was the same gang. Checked all the pines again, nothing, and haven't seen or heard the crossbills in a week now. My first butterfly of the year, finally, was in the yard, a Southern Dogface.

Jan. 4 ~ We ran 22-52dF for a temp spread today. Nice to thaw out a wee bit in the afternoon. Birds were the same gang o' seed-suckers. Saw a Myrtle warbler, Mockingbird, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, one Canyon Towhee. Some accipiter flushing events but which I never saw if Coop or Sharpy. Caracara or two went over, couple dozen Black Vulture, a Red-tailed Hawk.

Jan. 3 ~ Wow it was cold this morning, our thermo read 14dF! The Seco Creek WU station showed 12dF. KRVL was a smokin' hot 19. About 9 a.m. it rose above freezing. Birdbath was frozen solid early. The first couple pounds of seed sure disappeared fast. On the bright side, this was the peak cold of this Arctic event. Today has the first temps above 34dF since last year (Sunday afternoon Dec. 31st). Been like an icebox out there, and for most of the country, worse.

Jan. 2 ~ About 25dF for a low, the cloud cover kept all that 'heat' in. Supposed to break freezing maybe today. Then supposed to clear by tonight so some radiational cooling and the coldest morning will be tomorrow, in teens. The Chamber of Commerce said nothing about these three-day Arctic icebox events here. LOL   We were above freezing about 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., between 32 and 34dF. Saw Cedar Waxwing and Ruby-crowned Kinglet besides the same gang. There seems to be only one Canyon Towhee here now. It is most likely one of the accipiters got the other. It has been over a week that I have only been seeing one. It has been ranging much futher afield than normal, calling as if looking for its mate, across road, out by wellhouse, etc., so it seems they are one again, bummer.

January 1, 2018 ~ !!! Happy New Year !!! Our very best wishes to all for a healthy happy one. It started out very cold, about 28dF shortly before midnight, and 21 this morning at 7 a.m., with 15+ mph wind on it made for single digit chill factors at first light. Hard freeze warning in effect until noon Wednesday. So a 60 hour Arctic ice box event to start the new year. Weewow. Heard some sleet pellets about 11 a.m. Was a bit of light rain in the afternoon, which froze as it tried to drip off roof, the icicles got about 4-5" long. It is brutal out there. Only going out to shovel more seed and keep the bird bath thawed.

Here is what I saw: Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, N. Cardinal, Brewer's Blackbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Black Vulture, American Goldfinch, Canyon Towhee, Bewick's Wren, Eastern Phoebe, Common Raven, White-winged and Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, heard Eastern Bluebird, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Saw 15 and heard three species. Heard everything flush a couple times but never saw what did it. Likely both the Sharpy and the Coop that are relentless here. This is about as diversity poor as it can be here. If one went out and beat the bushes you could get another dozen fast. Yer fern would be frozen though. Reminds me of when I went out and saw a hundred plus species on Jan. 1 a couple times in California.



~ ~ ~ Above is 2018 ~ ~ ~


Sorry, got some year-end mopup to do here

~ ~ ~ 2017 in review ~ ~ ~

A year in review summary will go here...

~ ~ ~ end 2017 year in review ~ ~ ~


~ ~ ~ December summary ~ ~ ~

Wow that was fast. We went out with a bang with that calling Townsend's Solitaire at Utopia Park the 29th and 30th. Great way to finish the year, with a new park bird. There was one rain event Dec. 7 which also brought brief snow flurries that didn't stick of course, but the 2.5" of rain we got was beyond badly needed. Seemed pretty cool much of the month. Lots of fronts, all wind and no rain. Which is just one click from all hat and no cattle around these parts...

Odes - dragonflies and damselflies - were easy this month, with three species seen, the same last three flying every year. Green Darner the only big one, and two small dragons, Autumnal and Variegated Meadowhawks. No damselflies. Once it freezes a few times these three are all to expect in Dec. and January. While a few types might show in Feb. or March if warm, it is really April until they get going again. Supposed to be time to sort, catalong, and ID the years' photos.

Butterflies were expectedly weak after a very poor fall into November. A measley 14 or so species were recorded, with nothing but the expected ones. They are over for the season. A couple last Mestra were seen, one ea. last Monarch and Queen, probably Red Admiral and Sleepy Orange were the most common. It was all the Coots.

Birds were great this month, it was one of the (the?) best months of the whole year. Whooda thunk!?!? Monthly species total is about 83 species. Diversity down, quality up. Bunch of great rarer things. Barely got out to bird besides park checks on town run days, looking around for pine trees, and watching the yard. The Red Crossbills flying up and down river habitat corridor past our place since Nov. continued, the flock up to 24 birds at least by Dec. 18. I have seen them fly by 8 or 10 times, calling their heads off the whole way every time. Despite ridiculous amounts of searching the pines I know of locally, have not been able to find them on the ground or get a photo.

On Dec. 15 there was a N. Goshawk over town last see flying NE from behind Utopia Ranch Outpost. I got a poor blurry silhouette shot of it, but which shows the stovepipe of a tail well. On Dec. 24 an adult Harris's Sparrow in the yard was great, here they are LTA - less than annual. Then the 29th and 30th, hearing a Townsend's Solitaire from the park (seemed to be just NE of it on the priv. prop.) was outstanding. A Blue-headed Vireo at the park the 23rd is my first winter record there (ph.), I know of only one other winter report locally, in 2004. The ad. fem. Rusty Blackbird is back for its 5th winter south of town, which is remarkable and outstanding. So it was a flurry of snow, and northern birds: Crossbill, Goshawk, Solitaire, and Harris's Sparrow. Wow. All are awesome outstanding birds here.

~ ~ ~ end December summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ following is an archive copy of the update header ~ ~ ~

MOST RECENT UPDATE: December 29, 2017
(prior updates: December 22, 15, 8, 1, November 24, 17, 10, 3, October 27, 20, 13, 6)

NEWS FLASH! Some recent news highlights, the short version.

Happy Solstice! Winter is here! We got cold for Christmas.

Hope you had a MERRY CHRISTMAS, and we wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We were 35dF all day one day this week, worse on the way for New Years Day and the day after. But hey, rain! We got some rain! First significant precip in over two months was on Dec. 7. And SNOW! Some areas saw some snow Thursday the 7th! Above Vanderpool, at Sabinal, and reports of 2-3" at Rocksprings. Up on Hwy. 39, ca. 20 mi. N. of Lost Maples some got six inches! For this event we got about 2.5" of rain, and a good half-hour snow flurry, 15 min. of which was a great blizzard of thick and heavy big wet snowflakes.

We had an early (compared to recent averages) freeze in latest October for 3 mornings, hitting 27dF at lowest (and we hit 28 on Thanksgiving morning). We also have had record and near-record heat. The day before a front hits it is hot, then after passage, windy and cold. Keep it in mind if visiting during front season (fall to spring). It was 24dF Friday a.m. Dec. 8, be prepared. As of late December the male Junipers are again dispensing pollen, since the 24th, Kathy's nose knows.

There is a flock of RED CROSSBILL moving up and down the river habitat corridor south of town (at least) since Nov. 11. There are a half-dozen pines scattered around town and near the golf course which should be watched closely. Nov. 11 I heard more than a dozen, the 17th I heard fewer than that. Kathy thought she saw the flock Nov. 21. I saw one male Nov. 25. On Dec. 13 I saw the flock and counted 18 individuals, twice. On Dec. 18 I counted 24 and 25 (two counts) in the flock as it flew up the river habitat corridor toward the golf course. Saw and heard the flock again Dec. 20 and Friday the 22nd again it appeared 24 birds in the flock. They call all the time in flight, virtually all detections were first hearing them. Go to xeno-canto (google it) and type Red Crossbill in the search window to hear flight calls if you don't know them, and keep yer ears out. Some were heard again Dec. 29.

Friday Dec. 15 there was a N. GOSHAWK climbing up and soaring high over town right behind the Ranch Outpost. Two Townsend's Solitaire were seen at Lost Maples (Bill Wright) Friday the 15th in the picnic area. An adult Harris's Sparrow was in our yard Dec. 24. Another Townsend's Solitaire was at Utopia Park Dec. 29 and 30.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Pine Warbler were at the park Dec. 1. A RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, was in our yard Nov. 21. White-throated, Song, and Swamp Sparrow all showed up in late November. I heard a flock of Cedar Waxwings go over last week, saw a couple dozen since. Saw my first American Goldfinch the 11th, up to 18 at once since. Judy Schaffer reports wintering again Rufous Hummingbird, and Pine Siskins at her feeders Nov. 13th+. I have seen a few Pine Siskin since myself, biggest flock so far was ten. My first Wilson's Snipe of the fall showed up Nov. 11th. Heard my first flock of White-fronted Goose Nov. 7th. Incredible was after dark Nov. 7, a major rarity locally occurred in the form of a calling nocturnal migrant, a heard only, WHIMBREL! The four decades I lived on coasts, I wouldn't have looked up for it, one of those constant sounds you know instantly. I looked up here even though it was dark out, I wanted to see it so badly. It is my first in Uvalde Co., and was not on the Blankenship, Osborne, and Wiedenfeld Uvalde Co. Bird Checklist of 2000. Might be the first UvCo report.

The highlight for October was a YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER on the 1st (barely photographed) in our yard, it was here most of the day. Have had some duck flocks blasting over low and fast at dawn a few days in October, mostly Shoveler and Teal, winter is on the way. Winterers are showing up, Lincoln's Sparrow arrived in early Oct., Vesper and Savannah Sparrow mid-Oct., then a White-crowned later in month. A few dozen Swainson's Hawks were with migrant Turkey Vultures flying over southbound on Oct. 10th, and several dozens of Monarchs were seen overhead on a few days during mid-Oct. A Harris's Hawk was over the park Oct. 26th. New winter arrivals in November include Hermit Thrush, Junco (Slaty), Golden-crowned Kinglet, Meadowlark (prob. W.), Pyrrhuloxia, and numbers of Chipping Sparrow. Our first of season Robin was at our birdbath on Nov. 1. Have had up to a hundred in a flock since. A female YELLOW ANGLED-SULPHUR (butterfly) was at the park entrance garden Oct. 13 (ph).

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. We have a park bird list page just about ready to go up, it is just short a couple details and pictures I wanted to add before uploading. So watch for that. Note we also have a 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 at top of bird news.

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

~ ~ ~ end archive copy of update header ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ and now back to the regularly scheduled drivel ~ ~ ~

Dec. 31 ~ Before 7 a.m. I heard some White-fronted Geese up in the low cieling, shortly after a couple flocks of Am. Wigeon went over. The Wigeon must be commuting to a pond out of public view. We have a big chill heading in, arriving today, the high temp was at sunup, by 9 light northerlies had begun the cold air advection and temps were dropping. If it wasn't windy I would go look for the Solitaire. Sure like a pic of one at the park. Was freezing chill factors by noon, temps by 6 p.m. or so, and below 30 by 9 p.m., wind howling, lovely out, come on down. We heard some popping noises after dark, Kathy asked if that was fireworks, or pig shooting. I suggested they could have been shooting pigs with fireworks...

Dec. 30 ~ After a 50dF cloudy morning it warmed up to a great 69dF in the afternoon. Open the hatches and air the place out, last chance for a week. We took a couple hour look around from noonish on. A nice Am. Goldfinch flock was bathing at the 360 crossing, several Myrtle Warbler and some Chipping Soparrow, a Kinglet, some Chickadee and Titmouse, nice little group and bit of action. The park had a few more Myrtle Warbler and Kinglet (Ruby), two Hutton's Vireo came down real low and close, one for pix.

The bird of the day was heard only, at the park. A TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE! I heard it yesterday too. Meant to go to xeno-canto and check calls last night but forgot. I had not heard one in 30 years. Until I heard it again today, and said to Kathy, Solitaire makes a call like that. The ringing bell-like single note standard call, kinda like a truck backing up, a monotone metronome. Unfortunately it was maybe north of the rodeo ring on the adjacent property on far side of live-oak motte or in pecan grove adjacent and no way to get to it. Two were just seen at Lost Maples a couple weeks ago.

Looked at all the pines around again, nothing still. Another standard typical winter mixed flock was working under the big XL pecan tree between park ball diamond and Cypress Street. With a half-dozen each of Bluebird, Myrtle Warbler, Pine Siskin, a dozen Chippy, nearing two dozen Am. Goldfinch. Finally checked one spot on priv. prop. south of town, had a small flock there hitting the water, more of the same types. Saw one N. Flicker fly off but missed type on it, seemed maybe orange-winged.


Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 29 ~ Warmed up from midnight to 7 a.m. from 35 to 40dF. Light off and on breeze, cloudy and overcast. Wintry. I heard some Red Crossbill out in the river corridor about 11 a.m. Nothing at the park but a Zone-tailed Hawk roosting in a tree up on the island. Little Creek Larry said he saw a weird hawk over his way with a super long narrow square tail. He said sorta reminded him of a Prairie Falcon, big and pale, but with a ridiculously long tail. Like a stovepipe. I suspect he saw the Goshawk I saw a couple weeks ago, it was headed his way. Better ride around over at Little Creek. Saw the male Audubon's Warbler that works around town with the wintering Myrtle flock at the 187 x 1050 intersection.

Dec. 28 ~ Still 35dF out there this morning, been that way for 24 hours now. At least the wind stopped. Warmed up to the upper 40's dF in the heat of the afternoon. Birds were the same gang save one Great Blue Heron that flew over. The forecast calls for some major cold New Years Day and the day after with highs in the 30's and lows in 20's dF. Might have to dig out the heavy duty longjohns. You won't see me trying to run up a big bird list in that. There was a flock of a couple hundred Brewer's Blackbird over in the corral but I didn't go over and check them.

Dec. 27 ~ A cold front arrived pre-dawn, so the high temp was the 50dF or so the first few hours after midnight. It was in 30's with 10-15 mph winds most of the morning, so wind chill in 20's dF. I will be by a heater if you need me. In the afternoon the winds died down and it warmed up to 35dF. A cold gray day. Feels like winter. Had to fire the gas fireplace thingie up. Kept an eye out the windows for birds, just the regulars. Which included Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawk attempts on the seed eaters.

The only thing different was a big flock of meadowlarks that flushed over at the end of the grass airstrip we can see through an opening in the corral. It was about 75 or 80 birds total, and only one called, an Eastern Meadowlark. Mostly it is Western here, especially on short grass, and I would not make any assumption about any flock of meadowlarks here based on hearing one of the flock. It is one Eastern, and the rest generic medowlark species.

Dec. 26 ~ Happy Boxing Day! Was foggy, misty, finally clearing to overcast, but stayed in 50's dF all day. Too busy back at the work desk so not much looking. A quick run to town so I checked the 6 pines I know, nothing on them. Park also had nothing but a few of the usuals. Ya gotta pay yer dues. Which in birding means putting observation time in. Keep looking, over and over and over. Like fishing, you keep casting. In birding your casting is covering it with your visual (and audio) blanket.

Dec. 25 ~ Merry Christmas! Hope you had a good one! It was 29dF here at sunup so it felt like Christmas. Got up to about 50dF. The winds turned around to south, but only had cold air to blow back over us, at 10-15 mph. Very chilly, passed on beating the bushes for birds in a cold wind. We worked on projects here with the freeish time. Weird not being at biz Monday morning. A group of 7 Sandhill Crane flew over, and I heard at least one Red Crossbill on another check outside. Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks, Raven and a Caracara went over. A hundred Chippies, one Field, did not see the Harris's Sparrow. After dark about 9 p.m. the pair of Screech-Owl (mccallii - Tex-Mex S-O) were duetting out in the yard, male doing the single pitch trill, the female doing the quavering up and down scale whinny.

Dec. 24 ~ A low of 31dF briefly. Lots of frost. I was on back porch about 8 a.m. as the frost started to melt, the Chippy flock was on the patio, about 80 of them anyway, and plop, a big black-faced adult Harris's Sparrow drops down under the millet seed feeder! What a beauty! One of my favorite sparrows. Great bird in the yard! There was one here in yard which became two over in the corral present Jan. 1 through Feb. of 2016. Most years I do not see one locally. I glimpsed what was probably it in the corral on the way back from our walk to the crossing.

We took a walk down to the crossing to stretch before the front and wind hits. Heard Kinglet (Ruby) and Myrtle Warbler, saw a couple Cardinal and a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Just below the crossing I saw some birds so we got closer and 'hid' against a big cypress trunk. A great drinking show proceeded to take place at 50' in great light. Nearing two dozen Robin, 50 or so Waxwing, a few Eastern Bluebird, above were a Myrtle Warbler and some Am. Goldfinch. Three Song Sparrow worked the riveredge, heard a Lincoln's. A couple Field Sparrow in the dry grass. It was a short but sweet fifteen minutes of great action as they all came in for a few quick gulps of water. Besides the usual few Sleepy Orange and Snout butterflies, one Variegated Fritillary was around yard, the first and only I have seen this month. You can see the male Junipers are turning rusty at the tips, which means pollen time. Kathy's nose knows.

Dec. 23 ~ Hit 32dF for a chilly morn, thirty dF colder than yesterday morning. It got up to about 62dF in the afternoon. About 11-1 I spent looking around at all the pine trees, once on way into and in town, and again as I left, nothing on any of them, again. At the park there was a Blue-headed Vireo which is accidental up here in the hills in winter. I know of only one local winter report, seen by Phil Rostron about Jan. 2004 a mile downriver from the park. That is it. They are regular in the flatlands of the brush country (in small numbers) along watercourses in winter passerine flocks. But our few dF colder is enough to keep them out of the hills for the most part, just like Turkey Vulture and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. In butterflies besides a few Sleepy Orange and a couple Red Admiral, a male Sachem was a surprise, the first in over a month, and for the month. Only odes were Autumnal and Variegated Meadowhawk.

BlueGrosbeak

Blue Grosbeak - male


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 22 ~ A soppy drippy low of 63dF this a.m., means the front is coming soon. Had a town run noonish. Heard crossbills as I went over the 360 x-ing, so went to the priv. prop. pines on other side of river, and nothing there. Checked all the pines around town, when I first got there, and again before I left, nothing. At the park was a male Green Kingfisher, Little Creek Larry had a Ringed (with a big sunfish) a bit earlier. The woods had a little flock with Caro. Chickadee, B-c Titmouse, N. Cardinal, Myrtle Warbler, Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird. A Zone-tailed Hawk was hunting the field just south of town on east side of 187. It landed in the biggest tree at the NW corner of that field. A few Vesper Sparrow were in the field along fenceline.

Right after I got home and emptied supplies, about 1:30 the flock of two dozen Red Crossbill flew up seemingly from the pines across river I keep running over to, and seemed to go back down. We ate the tacos I brought home, and I went back over, and found nothing again. The front hit about 1:40 with northerlies and dropping temps, was 50dF by 3 p.m. and 40 by 4:30 with 15-20 mph wind on it. There was a Flicker in the big pecan late afternoon but I did not get a make on type. At least a hundred Chipping Sparrow hitting the white millet here now, heard the Field.

Dec. 21 ~ Happy Solstice! It's winter! Felt like it with a chilly morn at 35dF. Last warm day before weather hits. Got up to low-mid-70's dF, pretty nice but clouds coming in by afternoon. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher or two over at the river for a couple hours. Too busy here to lookabout much, only saw the usual gang o birds. In leps there was a Pipevine Swallowtail though, the only one I have seen so far this month. Also a Queen went by, a Little Yellow, a few Sleepy Orange, and a couple Red Admiral. Saw a couple Silver Puff flowers in the yard, which look like a Dandelion seed globe and nothing to nectar on.

Dec. 20 ~ Well it is the last day of fall. Ran 42-76dF for a temp range, mostly sunny, pretty darn nice. Big chill headed in, in a couple days, tomorrow is the last nice day for a week. The yard was the same gang best I could tell. The Crossbill flock flew up the river habitat corridor around 1:30 p.m., at least 20 of them. One of these times I am going to get a pic or audio of them. The Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks made their regular passes on the seedeaters. Some Waxwings, a few Goldfinch and Siskin, the pair of Canyon Towhee, the usuals.

Dec. 19 ~ A mushy day, ran bout 54-62 for a temp spread, with fog, drizzle, mist, light showers, etc. and about a tenth of an inch of precip. There were 4-5 Turkey in the yard, at one point out at back fence scratching where I toss seed. Had to run to town briefly, checked all the pines and the two on priv. prop. behind the golf course, nothing on them. The pond at the park had a male Green Kingfisher and 6 Ring-necked Duck, first flocklet of them so far this fall that I have seen.

Dec. 18 ~ Another soppy one, fog, mist, drizzly, but warmer, about 48dF for a low. About 8 a.m. there were two Golden-crowned Kinglet and a Pyrrhuloxia in the yard. Great combo, a desert southwest bird and a couple coniferous forest birds. About noon the flock of Red Crossbill flew up the river habitat corridor again. There were a bunch, I got to count against the sky twice. First count 24, second 25. So there are a couple dozen here now! I ran inside for camera figuring I would just video with the lens cap on for the sound file, and they did not pass back by. Most fickle nomads ever. I will mention the Caracara that flew over, just to enhance the species juxtaposition factor.

Dec. 17 ~ About 42-58dF for a temp spread, mostly drizzly, foggy or mist, and so wet and cool, a wee bit of sun late. So worked inside more. Earlyish about 8 a.m. I heard the crossbills flying up the river habitat corridor in the sorta fog. One male Cardinal sang a fair number of measures this morning with fine form. Which is unusual before the solstice. Usually it is after that we hear the first song. Heard the Hutton's Vireo later morn. When a Sharp-shinned Hawk flushed all the Chippy flock at least a hundred left the yard. At least 30 White-winged Dove here, and a couple Ground-Dove too.

Dec. 16 ~ Kinda cool and drizzly, temp spread was about 42-46dF. So worked inside on things. Saw 3 dozen waxwing in the big pecan, a dozen Goldfinch (Am.) too, Chipping Sparrow flock is over 80 now. Best was a flock of 24 American Wigeon flying north at last light. If they had not have been calling I probably wouldn't have ID'd them. It was just light enough to count the dark bodies. Other than that just the usuals. I saw a post on Texbirds by Bill Wright, he had two Townsend's Solitaire at Lost Maples in the picnic (day use) area on Friday the 15th. Always good birds here, they are nearly but less than annual.
CedarWaxwing

Cedar Waxwing

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 15 ~ Holy cow, half way through December already and only ten days until Christmas! Was 42dF and overcast in a.m., cleared to partly sunny in the afternoon. Town run noonish for a couple hours of chores. Nothing at the park (most important chore) but the usuals, heard a Flicker and Blue Jays. Little Creek Larry said he had a single duck a few days back that was probably Ring-necked. The Great Blue Heron was hunting below the spillway.

The bird of the day I spotted as I backed out of Rosie's with tacos to take home. It was an oddly shaped raptor soaring high, not any of the standard shapes we should be seeing here. Buteo sized, but with a long tail. I quick drove back behind the Ranch Outpost to get a hundred yards closer. No wonder it was confusing, it was a GOSHAWK! Holy cow, another (!) one here! I actually got a fuzzy pic that might show enough of the shape and structure to ID. It was climbing fast as it circled, so with major mag on the zoom hard to find it and harder to hold still. It gained a lot of altitude in a minute and broke NE from town. I watched it continue until its pindot disappeared in my bins, and therefore I knew it had to be in Bandera Co. by then. So yeah, I took a cheap shot at an insurance tick. I think I have one there but couldn't remember on the spot. I was afraid to blink for fear I'd lose it. Gadzooks, there is a Goshawk and a flock of Crossbills around Utopia!

After I got home and we had tacos, I went out front to smoke my pipe and the flock of Crossbills flew up the river habitat corridor, with some calling to get my attention. It looked like more than 20. I drove over to golf course (a hill country drive, it is almost 4 miles to get a half mile from driveway) to check two pines with cones on private property over there. Nothing on them, darn those nomads. That is the biggest bird chase I have done in many years. I should have known better but had to try. They looked like they were going down right where those trees are. I did spy a Snipe at the Waresville Pond on the golf course, and a couple hundred Brewer's Blackbird with a couple female Brown-headed Cowbird in with them were debugging and fertilizing the fairways.

Dec. 14 ~ About 38 for a low, and humid, so chilly. About 30 Robin and 20 Waxwing went over early. Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver 'chaking' over the Cypresses. Three Myrtle Warbler went through pecans, seemingly the whole little regular group this winter. The rest was the standard usual expected repeat offenders. Did see the Red-shouldered Hawk, heard Meadowlark over on the (grass) airstrip.

The rare bird of the day was a warbird. A couple F7F Tigercats doing some flybys. Actually lifers in the air for me. These are a unique twin-prop 1944-54 era (service usage) plane. I got a couple ID shots for the rare avionic record committee. There are only about 8 flying examples left, these probably the two of Lewis Air Legends in San Antonio. Weewow! 4000 hp of radial Pratt & Whitneys, OMG what a sound. They could do about 450 mph. Thanks to whoever is bringing them out thisaway!

Dec. 13 ~ Got down to about 31 or so here, I saw KRVL was 29dF and the Seco Creek WU station 27! It was chilly and overcast, the first light was beautiful flaming red. About 8:40 p.m. a couple Cessnas flew by a few hundred yards away while I was outside. A flock of RED CROSSBILL I didn't know were there flushed out of the big pecan. EIGHTEEN of them! Counted twice as they flew toward golf course, calling the whole way. If only I had seen or heard them before they flushed, I had the camera with me. Sure hope they come back, wish they would hit the sunflower feeder with the siskins and goldfinches. About an hour and half later I heard a couple distantly toward river. But was too busy the rest of the day, just the usual hourly checks outside and nothing else. Couple dozen Waxwing and a half-dozen Robin.

Dec. 12 ~ About 42dF for a low, sunny, and the dry front hitting in the morning with 10-15 mph northerlies. Got up to mid-60's dF. Birds were the same daily gang. The currently now showing list of yard regulars are: a pair each of Bewick's and Carolina Wren, 4 Carolina Chickadee and about 6 Black-crested Titmouse, some Cardinals, a pair of Canyon Towhee, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker pairs, resident pair of Eastern Phoebe, 75 Chipping Sparrow, a few Eastern Bluebird, currently about a dozen each Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch, a Myrtle Warbler or three, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, usually the Field Sparrow, a Vesper if I walk out to far front corner of yard. If I did that daily I would probably get that Pyrrhuloxia too. About twenty or thirty White-winged Dove, some Mourning and a couple Ground-Dove, daily visits by Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks, Common Raven flyovers, of course Black Vultures are daily too, as is Mockingbird.

Almost every day now we also see Waxwings and Robins. Caracara is near daily, maybe 4-5 days a week I catch them (the other day 5 went over at dusk heading to roost, from the general direction where there are a couple dead pigs out on the main highway). There is other stuff around, this is just what I see almost no matter what in the yard daily. The couple dozen 'sure to see' now showing daily from the porches. Then of course with any luck you get the odd stray interesting passersby.

Dec. 11 ~ About 31dF for a low, got up to mid 70's! Must be a front headed in... I heard a Red Crossbill or two calling, sounded like they flew up out of the river habitat corridor, but did not lay eyes on them. Late afternoon had to run to town quickly. At the park was the imm. fem. Ringed and ad. ma. Green Kingfisher. Had a flock of birds flying over town I tried to refind but didn't. They looked like good crossbill candidates. Checked the 4 pines I now know personally and saw nothing.

Dec. 10 ~ A chilly 27dF for a low. Counted a dozen Siskin in the big pecan scavenging bits the night raiders spilled. Working each big branch just like the American Goldfinch do. Thought I heard a Pine Warbler up the slope out back. Heard and glimpsed the Rusty Blackbird. Noonish we walked to the crossing for a leg-stretch. One male Green Kingfisher, a few Song Sparrow, but generally very slow the birds were elsewhere. Later out front the sparrow flock went by, saw Vesper and Field besides a bunch of Chipping. Yes I am ashamed, there was a pair of House (English) Sparrow out in yard.

Dec. 9 ~ A barely freeze at 30-31dF, and got up to about 64dF which felt great, took the chill out of the air, and house. The highlight of the day was that finally I saw the adult female RUSTY BLACKBIRD which I have heard about once a week the last three weeks or so. It was over in the mud and water around the horse trough out by the wellhouse. By itself, tossing dirt clodlets around. This is the FIFTH winter this adult female has spent in the area! Incredible. Almost makes up for the Louisiana Waterthrush not returning for a fourth. An hour later my FOS Brewer's Blackbirds finally flew over, at least a hundred in the flock. So a big day for blackbird arrivals.

There were four Pine Siskin on the ground with the Chippies, and one female House Sparrow, yech. Kathy saw about 10 Pine Siskin while I was gone noonish. Had a quick run to town, checked the pines again, still nothing. The park had what here is a Type A standard winter flock working the live-oak motte with 15+ Eastern Bluebird, 20 Chipping Sparrow, and a dozen Myrtle Warbler, plus one Audubon's Warbler and one Ruby-crowned Kinglet. A few Carolina Chickadee were not really with the flock. Nothing in the woods, the two first winter Pied-billed Grebe continue on the pond.

UtopiaSnow

The great blizzard of 2016, on Dec. 7, was 15 minutes like this, and 15 lighter.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 8 ~ A sunny chilly 24dF for a low this a.m., no precip overnight here it seems. Bird bath iced over. KRVL had 25dF. Some interesting storm reports this morning...  That band of snow built as it moved over to the southeast overnight. Sabinal had 2" of SNOW! So did parts of Bexar and Wilson Co., even Victoria, Lavaca, and Kingsville all had 2-3 inches! At one point last night Weslaco showed light snow as their current condition! Serious weather. In town a guy at the gas station said up on Hwy 39 above Lost Maples there were places with up to 6" of snow! Someone else showed me a photo taken this morning of 4" of snow on the south side of Corpus Christi! Weewow! Snowed down to the coast! Hopefully it will push some birds in. The park in town was quiet, only a couple Myrtle Warbler, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a female Green Kingfisher besides the armada of Black Vultures. Checked a few pine trees to no avail. Same old same old in the yard, which got up to 54dF at peak heat in afternoon.

Dec. 7 ~ Still raining at dawn, the low was 34dF here so no snow yet. Early there were reports of snow to the west in Kinney Co. which means Brackettville (Ft. Clark Spr.) or north of that, and in Carizzo Springs to our south. About 9 a.m. there were snow returns on radar all around the valley floor here, where altitude up in the hills. I heard at least just north of Vanderpool there was snow. Wow. By 10 reports were filtering in from higher parts of the plateau getting 2-3" of snow. Here it looks like we are at about 2.5" of rain so far, for about 30 hours of the event. The perfect slow-soaker too. We needed it badly from a biological standpoint, it was getting bad out there. When it is cold and wet out it is not so bad to be stuck at a desk inside. Just before 5 p.m. it dropped to 31dF and started snowing here! Big fat wet flakes lasted 15 minutes or so, smaller dryer ones another 15. A great flurry to see, it was real thick and heavy at first. A wee bit stuck a while on the trucks and roof of cottage. The ground was too warm for it to stick there but have to watch it overnight, supposed to get down to mid-20's dF. When I get the pics off camera will post one.

Dec. 6 ~ Well it was a long overdue rain day. Started just before dawn, and was a slow soaker all day. Just after dark it was 3.5 cm, or 1 and three-eighths inches so far, and still going. Chance of snow they say if it cools a couple degrees. This morn it was 41dF at 7 a.m., 39 by 9 a.m., and with 10+ mph winds chills were just over freezing most of the day. So besides it being spreadsheet Wednesday here at the desk, the rain kept me from looking much. The cold and wet did bring in a flock of Chipping Sparrow for a good count though, 80+ now. And one Field still with them, which must be from the south side of the pasture, slummin' with those Chippies. More often here they stay in their own flocks.

Dec. 5 ~ A cold front hit right at dawn with northerlies, and a brief spit of precip, a tracelet. Not even a leaf-washer, it just spotted the dust on the leaves. The 55dF low temp in the morning was also the high temp of the day. I hate when that happens. Supposed to have some cold now, and maybe some rain tonight or tomorrow. We can hope. Mostly it was 15mph gusting to 25, so the mid-50's didn't feel like it. Saw a flock of 18 American Goldfinch come in to yard so they are gathering friends, last week it was a dozen, the week before that only a half-dozen. The rest was the same repeat offenders, but a lot of Common Ravens going by.

Dec. 4 ~ Only about 60dF for a low, and strong gusty southerlies ahead of a front to hit tomorrow morning. Got warm, at least 78dF in the afternoon here. So you know cold is coming. Birds were the usual, except again thought I heard a single Rusty Blackbird flyover calling. Some butterflies were out in the heat, mostly Pierids like Sleepy Orange, Little Yellow, Dainty Sulphur, Southern Dogface, then the odd stray Mestra, Queen, Snout, or Red Admiral.

Dec. 3 ~ Mostly the same around the yard. We took a drive to town and looked at the park where there was nothing. The only flock of birds we found was in the Hackberry row along Cypress St. right out front and to north of park entrance. Best was a female Downy Woodpecker, presumedly the one I have seen a couple times in the last few months. There were 20 Eastern Bluebird, a few Robin, a half-dozen plus Myrtle Warbler, some Chipping Sparrow and great looks at a low-hunting Zone-tailed Hawk right over park entrance. We looked around the little league fields just north of town in BanCo where Morris told me he and Chance saw what he thought was a Golden Eagle out in a field yesterday. Now is a good time for one. A couple Shrikes and Mockers was it for us. Looks like a good spot for one though. The pond on the golf course at Waresville had 2 Wilson's Snipe and about four dozen Red-winged Blackbird. At the 360 x-ing there was a Belted Kingfisher. Saw a Cloudless Sulphur, Mestra, Painted Lady, Queen, Snout, and a few others.

Dec. 2 ~ We ran upper 40's to low-mid-70's dF for a temp spread. Mostly cloudy, some sun in afternoon. Had a flock of a couple dozen Cedar Waxwing in the big Pecan, eyeing the Hackberry. There was one Robin in with them. Heard the White-eyed Vireo, and a, or the, Junco. The rest was the regular usual. I am hearing a Cardinal or two starting to tune up with a few notes of song, at the crack of dawn. They will be really starting singing in about a month, after the solstice once day length starts to increase. Still trying to get all the outside stuff done before it gets too cold. Saw a Large Orange Sulphur go through yard in afternoon.

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

* * * note the Nov. summary is up now (below), and was not at last update * * *

December 1 ~ Gadzooks, It's December! We ran about 50-75dF for a temp spread. Cloudy in a.m., sunny in afternoon. Town run so a park check. On the way, right at the 187 x 360 intersection, there was a Zone-tailed Hawk hunting low giving great views. At the park there were a few things. One lone single male Gadwall was my first locally this fall. A male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was also my FOS, as was a Pine Warbler, finally. Heard Belted and Ringed Kingfisher, but no Green today. Only odes were Variegated and Autumnal Meadowhawks and Green Darner. No butterflies, was still coolish at noon, and the library butterfly garden is over and out of flowers, done, fini.

~ ~ ~ November summary ~ ~ ~

It was a dry month with a half-inch or so of drizzle over the whole month, the river is very low, barely trickling over spillway. There were a couple freezing mornings. Several fronts passed, but all were dry, and none that cold, yet, 28dF on Thanksgiving. Turkeys are gobbling, deer are in rut, and deciduous leaves about gone.

Butterflies were a very slow and weak 36 species. There was no major fall flight as usual from the south this fall, only a very minor movement. Over the month I only saw one Bordered Patch, a couple each only Gray Hairstreak, and Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak, a couple Ceraunus Blue, and so on with everything. It was truly astounding how little was out there. There were a few Fatal and Rounded Metalmarks on a couple days, after almost none all year. The only minor rarity was a Western Pygmy-Blue (ph.) which is just barely less than annual here. One Elada Checkerspot was exciting, except last fall there were 50. Last November I saw 60 species locally, so nearly double the diversity.

Odes you know are going about done in November, since they really crash in October. Though you might find a rare stray, for the most part you just see the last few of the last flying species that hang on until the cold hits. The first week or so of the month you see a half dozen species you won't see the rest of the month. Most of the month there are just three species of dragonflies still in the air. Green Darner (the big one) and then Variegated and Autumnal Meadowhawks (small ones). I think it was 14 species over the whole month, and about 10 of them were not seen the last half of the month. Besides the cold-hardy three, odes are over and out until next spring.

Birds were about 80 species, but with little looking, and none outside of the immediate Utopia vicinity. Too busy with work. Two fantastic finds were had regardless, both from the yard. Which shows how if you spend enough time at one place you will see things, good things, just going by. If I could spend the kind of time at Utopia Park I spend in the yard, there would be 25 more species on the park list. That is the difference hours, or effort, makes. A Red-breasted Nuthatch was a nice treat, since less than annual here, and a late Nov. imm. male Common Yellowthroat might attempt to winter locally.

The best bird was the nocturnal calling Whimbrel that flew over southbound after dark. I do not know of any prior UvCo report. I have only heard the call a million times. Hurts not to be able to see it, but when you know the sound, it is an ID'd bird. That was probably the rarest bird detected since probably no prior county record.

For my personal favorite bird of the month, there are prior UvCo reports, but I had not ever seen one in Texas. Red Crossbill. I heard a flock of probably a dozen on Nov. 11, and seemingly fewer heard on the 17th. Both times up in the fog-mist and I could not see them. Then Kathy thought she saw (and heard) the flock on Nov. 21. Finally I had one lone fully red male fly low over the yard calling with over-the-shoudler sun on Nov. 25. So I got to see one well at last. Was killin' me to be hearing them and not be able to see 'em. There is an older Lost Maples record, and I think one from Concan, but none even nearby in the 14+ years I have been here. There is an incursion of them into Texas this year.

~ ~ ~ end November summary ~ ~ ~

Nov. 30 ~ Was 39dF for a low, KRVL hit 38, 44 was the predicted low. Low clouds early. The ten Pine Siskin were in the pecan early. Sharpy is hunting the seed-eaters. The other day I saw it dive on the Canyon Towhees which shot into the brushpile safely. The Sharpy then sat on top of the brushpile until I moved and flushed it. Later afternoon 3 Sandhill Crane went over southbound. Better was a, or the, imm. fem. Pyrrhuloxia at the horse water trough out by the pumphouse at far end of front yard. Saw a Buckeye (lep) out in yard, some Dogface, Mestras, Queen, Red Admiral, Little Yellow, but nothing different to finish the month with.

Nov. 29 ~ A very minor 'cold' front came in after midnight, no big wind, but cooler northerlies, and of course no rain, upper 40's dF for a low, got up to lower 70's. Wish one of these fronts would have some precip on it, we really need the rain badly. No bird news today, I was too busy at the desk to look around. All I saw was the expected suspects. Late afternoon a tardy Monarch went by heading SSW.

Nov. 28 ~ Heard the Lesser Goldfinch out there. Mid-morn I walked out front and heard all the birds alarming. Couldn't see anything. About a minute later a Merlin flew out of the top of the big pecan with a prey item in its talons. Always fun in the yard for me, not so much for the seed eaters. Too busy to look much. Some Am. Goldfinch and Pine Siskin around. The usual. Couple Hermit Thrush still upslope out back in the junipers, must be some berries. Shortly before midnight on my last check outside I heard something on the roof, turned and looked, and running right down the peak at high speed from the big pecan off front porch to the hackberry by carport in back, was a, the, Ringtail. Man they are fast. Amazing too how quiet their foot pads make them, even on the steel roof. Whereas last week the Opossum sounded like a walking battlezone as it slowly moved along the same exact path.

Nov. 27 ~ About 50-80dF for a temp spread, pretty strong southerlies much of the day. Watched 10 Pine Siskin land in the big pecan, my first little flock this season. At least a half-dozen Am. Goldfinch were there too. Heard the White-eyed Vireo again. Still about 50 Chipping Sparrow, and the pair of Canyon Towhee but Cardinals still somewhere else, only a few around. Saw a big brand spankin' new fresh female Black Swallowtail in the afternoon. That 80dF yesterday and today prematurely popped bugs. Which are genetic dead-ends.

Nov. 26 ~ About 50dF for a low is sure pleasant. Got up to 80! Sunny and dry! Worked on stuff here, kept checking the action for big fat red finches, no love there. Early, a Myrtle Warbler, a half-dozen American Goldfinch and at least a couple Pine Siskin work the big pecan for bits left by the mammalian night raiders. The Goldfinches are especially methodical working out each big branch carefully checking every crevice in the bark for bits. A N. Harrier was over front yard briefly as it headed over to the short-grass airstrip. Heard my FOS flock of Cedar Waxwing go over. Heard a, or the, White-eyed Vireo which I had not heard in a week. Also had a zeet like a warbler flight note I tried to find but struck out.

Late afternoon we went to crossing for a look. I popped up a couple baby Sycamores I hope to grow. Besides a couple Song Sparrow, there was an immature male Common Yellowthroat. Last winter at the same place was my first-ever up here in the hills, locally wintering Yellowthroat. Since this is a hatch-year bird, it is not a returnee. Weird that I haven't seen any Brewer's Blackbird yet. I heard something flying over calling today that sounded like a single Rusty Blackbird but could not pick it up in the sky.

Nov. 25 ~ A chilly 35dF for a low, NOAA progged KRVL for 46dF and it hit 37. A category off. It has been astounding how they have not gotten the low temps of this airmass right for three mornings since the front passed. Froze twice when they said not going to, and nearly so, when they called for upper 40's. About 3 p.m. I saw the cool shady front porch thermometer at 82dF! Almost 50dF diurnals! The Seco Creek WU station read 32-90dF for a spread.

Mostly it was the same old stuff in the yard but a Hutton's Vireo stopped by. There was a Lark Sparrow briefly which trilled and chattered a bit, sounding nothing whatsoever like the local birds. One Myrtle is really working the pecan bits in the big tree, and the crumbs of the night-raiders on the stone steps. A few American Goldfinch, a couple Pine Siskin, a couple Hermit Thrush, heard a Robin. Heard Eastern Screech-Owl after dark. Saw the dark Cicindellid with the metallic green highlights out in driveway, nice red abdomen in flight.

The highlight of the day was at noon-thirty. I was out on driveway by the pickup when a fully red male RED CROSSBILL flew up out of the draw calling, climbing right over my head and the big pecan. Headed south. The two prior times I heard them I thought they sounded like they came out of the draw, and Kathy said the same thing about her mystery flock of birds last Monday that she thought were likely crossbills. I went over and besides some juniper with berries all I saw was some Soap- or China- berry trees with fruit for potential food items. I walked a bit up the draw and there are Pyracantha berries. Not sure any of that would qualify as possible food. But at least I got to see one, and at least it was a fully red male! One lone male Red Crossbill. Only takes one bird to make your day, week, or month in some cases. Awesome UvCo and yard bird. To get visual confirmation is outstanding, I listened to this one call the whole way as it flew off. It was absolutely positively exactly what I heard from multiples in a flock on both the 11th and 17th.

RedBat

Man, they got it all in Utopia, even aquatic bats.
This is the Red Bat I watched plop into the river a few months ago.
Pulled it out and left it on shore...   Bat rescue, how may we help you?

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 24 ~ Another unpredicted freeze, we were 31dF for a couple hours at least. Turkeys were gobbling at dawn so I guess some made it through yesterday. Robins, Myrtle Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the yard first hour or so of sun. Ran to town fer stuff, the park was dead. When you can't find a Carolina Wren, a Cardinal, or hear any Titmice, there is or has been an accipiter about. Just a bunch of Black Vulture on their dead Cypress roost tree. Got up to about 75dF in the afternoon.

Nov. 23 ~ Happy Thanksgiving turkeys! Which were gobbling at dawn. A chilly morning it was at 28dF! NOAA had KRVL progged for 33, it was 29dF there. Junction was 27dF. Intellicast did not have ANY of the entire Edwards Plateau even in frost (below 36dF), and WU wasn't any better, none of them called these low temps well. Got up into the 70's, so 45dF+ diurnals. One WU local station reported 25dF for a low and 78dF for a high today!

Heard a, or the, Junco out there with the Chipping Sparrow flock. The resident pair of Golden-fronted Woodpecker are chasing an interloper out of the big Pecan. Which is the only tree around with lots of nuts, a native. Ladder-backs they don't seem to mind in it so much. Every morning there are broken nuts, shells and pecan bits all over the front porch and walkway stepping stones which are used as anvils apparently. The native nut is a tough one to crack. A look last night saw Opossum, Striped Skunk, Armadillos, Racoons, and I had a brief set, just of eyeshine, that was the Ringtail. As soon as it gets dark the yard explodes with the sound of music, which here and now is a different sort of nut-cracker suite, performed by the cast of characters mentioned above. After yesterday's big frontal blow it sounded a good haul and quite the party last night.

We took an hour nooner walk down to crossing and back. Three White- crowned Sparrow were in the corral. Along the river there were a Savannah, Lincoln's, Song, and I heard a single chip of a Swamp Sparrow. Couple more Song at the crossing, where a male Green Kingfisher dove and caught a fish before departing with it. Looked like one of those Mexican Tetras I want and can't catch. On the way back we poked around where I heard the Swamp a bit, no love though, but pished up a House Wren and more of the usuals.

As we were leaving river-edge I caught something falling, biggish, which proceeded to ker-plunk with a big splash right into the river. Got my bins on it and saw it was a Cooper's Hawk, that had ridden a White-winged Dove down into the water. It held it under and drowned it. It slowly swam with its wings toward roots at bank with it. I grabbed a few pix as it did, and we departed as it was nervous of us. Sure takes the fight out of the dove fast. Later in afternoon a hundred Robins came into yard, shortly after I saw both a Sharpy, and another Cooper's dive on them.

Nov. 22 ~ About 43dF for a low, the front got here after dark yesterday and it has been northerlies ever since, mostly 10-15 mph, but occasionally gusting to 20 and 25 or more. There go the leaves. What was left after the last blow couple days ago. Only got up to mid-60's briefly, wind finally laying down late in afternoon. The Lesser Goldfinch was back on the millet tube, 6 American came into the sunflower feeder. Best was my FOS White-throated Sparrow out back on the millet. Then an ad. White-crowned was out front on one of the brush piles. Man they love 'em. So do the Wrens, Canyon Towhees, and Lincoln's Sparrows. A few Myrtles fed in the big pecan for a couple hours, a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet were there off and on. Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks made appearances, as did Caracara and Common Ravens.

Nov. 21 ~ About 45dF with low clouds and south flow. About 9 a.m. there was a Golden-crowned Kinglet in the yard, and 9:30 or so a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH! The most outstanding nasal nyet nyet nyet note I know. They are less than annual here so always a treat, and something neat about seeing them in a Mesquite tree too, I so associate them with Pines. Odd was an imm. ma. Lesser Goldfinch at the seed tube, haven't been any around, they depart in winter, save a few at thistle socks mostly. Heard a Pine Siskin go over. Noonish I took a quick look at the 360 x-ing and had two FOS Song Sparrow. Heard a Field Sparrow here in with the Chippies again. Kathy heard the Kestrel, a male has been on the power pole out at the road a few days recently, hunting the far corner of the yard.

Nov. 20 ~ Another cool one, 33dF here in the morning, KRVL again hit 31! They froze both mornings, we had near-misses. Now they say we warm into 40's for lows for the week. Kathy saw about a dozen Turkey, good week for that. I saw a couple deer raiding the Chili Pequin plant I harvest from. As if the Turkeys eating them wasn't enough competition. Nothing different in the yard. Stopped by the park when I ran for a couple PVC parts, nothing there either, just the two Pied-billed Grebes. At dusk a flock of 25+ Robin flew over, the first flock I have seen this fall.

Nov. 19 ~ A chilly 35dF here this a.m., NOAA had KRVL progged for 38dF and got down to 31! Finished moving the saltwater aquarium system yesterday, just in time. Still some leaves, what was still green mostly, everything yellow got blown off. In the afternoon I drove up 187 checking a few spots to see how winter was arriving. Almost no sparrows along the roads. A few Savannah, a couple Vesper, one White-crowned, and that was about it. One Harrier looked like an imm. male, saw a couple Shrikes, one FOS Merlin was chasing White-winged Doves. Only a couple resident Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawks. At UP there was a Zone-tailed Hawk and a Ringed Kingfisher beating a 4+" sunfish on the spillway. You could hear the smacks, it was so loud! The only passerine of interest was a Golden-crowned Kinglet up in the woods. A, or the, female Green King was at the 360 crossing.

Nov. 18 ~ The front arrived just after 10 a.m. with wind but no cold air yet. On the leading edge takin' a free ride was a flock of Sandhill Crane. A few Myrtle Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and American Goldfinch around the yard make it seem like winter is on the way. The wind is taking the leaves off the trees and by time this blow is over it will look like winter. Was sustained at 15-25 gusting to 30 and 35 mph. A leaf stripper. Watched an imm. fem. Cooper's hawk miss a Cardinal. Quite a warmup in front of the cold air by noon it was pressing 80dF. A single Pine Siskin showed up for my FOS, note Judy Schaffer had them early this past week, about Monday the 13th methinks. Feeling that temp drop fast at dark.

Filigree Skimmer

Filigree Skimmer (dragonfly) - check out those eyes!
I want sunglasses that look like that! You'd be
the coolest one at the dragonfly society meeting.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 17 ~ Another fog-mist morning in low 60's dF. Saw the Red Bat circling the big pecan at eye-level at 6:45 a.m. Around 11:30 a.m. in the clouds above somewhere I again heard a flock of RED CROSSBILL, maybe 8 or so it sounded like. Not as many as last Saturday. I ran out into driveway and looked and looked but could not pick them up out of the low clouds. The low cieling was just starting to lift at the time. I checked the pines at the golf course on the way to town, nothing, checked about four pines around town, nothing there either. Dang. It was great to hear them again. It's killin' me not to see them! Ringed and Belted Kingfisher were at park, but that was it. Saw five Monarchs, 3 were on a blooming Loquat. Cleared and got sunny in the late afternoon, shot up to 78dF or so. One Lark Sparrow in p.m. at patio. A Clouded Skipper was on the Blue Mist. A front (dry) is supposed to pass in the morning tomorrow. Oops, forgot to mention, had about 60 White-winged Dove in a single flock.

Nov. 16 ~ More fog-mist, low about 62dF, and wet out. The usual suspects. Thought I heard a Junco amongst the Chippy notes when they flushed once. Maybe the female is still around. Heard a Hermit Thrush up the slope behind us, some Eastern Bluebirds going over. Saw an Anole, and a couple female E. Fence Lizard. Almost stepped on a Skunk (Striped) after dark out in the front yard. It just scuttled away. I was not 10 feet from it when we determined each other was there. What a neat beast they are. Looked for Leonid meteors at midnight but saw none. Didn't have to worry about getting up early and trying, forecast says the low clouds will move in pre-dawn, and so kill prime viewing.

Nov. 15 ~ Had a quick town run in the early, and 15 minutes at the park. Two Green Kingfisher, two Pied-billed Grebe, and a Zone-tailed Hawk. The yard had the same gang, heard an American Goldfinch go over, none have come into feeder yet. Just the usual gang... pairs of Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren and Chickadee, Bewick's Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Cardinals, pair of Canyon Towhee, 50 Chipping Sparrow, and lots of Common Raven lately. Heard an Orange-crowned Warbler, and heard a Barn Owl after dark, saw a few Firefly at dusk.

Nov. 14 ~ More fog mist drizzle all day. A couple each Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet went through the yard. Heard Sandhill Cranes heading south and a Lincoln's Sparrow. Showers and drizzle totalled .2 of precip, and over the last five days or so we are probably near a half an inch. Keeps the dust down and grasses wet. The yard was the SOS - same old stuff. Glimpsed a dragonfly up in the pecan in the afternoon sun, looked like a Baskettail (Dot-winged), but have to let it go as way outside normal date range for flying adults here. Was just a bare-eyed look. There is a Swift Setwing still flying around the yard.

Nov. 13 ~ More fog-mist-drizzle in the a.m. in the 60's dF. Saw four American Goldfinch fly over calling. Got an e-mail from Judy Schaffer who said she has Pine Siskins at her feeder, the first I have heard of them this fall. She also has her usual Rufous Hummers as seemingly every winter. Heard the White-eyed Vireo across the road giving scold note. There were at least four Firefly at dusk, which seems mighty late for them. Heard Turkey gobbling at dawn.

Nov. 12 ~ Chalk another fog-mist-drizzle day in the 60's dF up. Wet, but not too hot or too cold. These are our choices. Nothing around the yard different. Kathy is working on candles, I took a couple hour look around town to check a couple pine trees I know. Had no luck on that, but saw some cones. Unfortunately no cone-eaters were on them. Mockingbirds, Eastern Bluebirds and Phoebes scattered everywhere.

At the park best bird was a Wilson's Snipe which called as it flew over heading south. They are hard to come by at the park. Saw a Ringed Kingfisher (ph.), heard a Green, an ad. Zone-tailed Hawk with prey was right over my truck when I got back from the woods. Couldn't make out what it had as it flew off. A Sharp-shinned Hawk had the woods so they were nice and quiet. A Flicker flew by over town. At the entrance garden was an adult White-crowned Sparrow (leuc. - ph.), a Lincoln's Sparrow, and my FOS American Goldfinch flew over calling.

Considering the barely 68dF temps a fair number of late worn butterflies were out. At the park entrance garden was a Ceranus Blue (ph.), the first I have seen this fall. Mostly it was the regulars but about 15+ species were among the flowers. At the library garden was my first Rounded Metalmark this fall. A couple Dusky-blue Groundstreak and a couple Reakirt's Blue were also there, and better my first Clouded Skipper of the month, which is pitiful. At the north end curve deco garden there was my first Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak of the fall, a couple Fatal Metalmark, another Ceranus and couple more Reakirt's Blue, couple Fiery Skipper, a Whirlabout, one Buckeye, several Little Yellow and Dainty Sulphur, and every spot had numbers of Common Checkered-Skipper. Nothing rare, but some bugs. Odes are all but crashed and gone. A couple Green Darner was it.

The Waresville golf course pond had about 35 Red-winged Blackbird, almost all males, 85% or more. It also had another Wilson's Snipe. Then as I came to the 360 crossing bridge on way home a female Green King flushed off the edge. Late afternoon between 4-5 p.m. the sun came out and it shot up to 71dF briefly. Heard a flock of Sandhill Crane heading south.

Nov. 11 ~ In the 60's and fog-mist-drizzle waxing and waning all day. Still racing the cold on my project here, I got contents of two saltwater tubs moved from under the carport into the new tank system in the cottage. Two down, two to go. I'll hopefully finish this week before the winter cold sets in for a couple months. Too busy and too wet to bird, have to make some lemonade. Over the day we might have gotten nearing a tenth of an inch of precip, just enough to stop the dust.

About noon while taking a break out front I heard a flock of RED CROSSBILL circling in the fog-mist above. I ran out into the driveway so no trees overhead, tried and tried to see them but couldn't. They circled and called for a full minute, seemingly disoriented in the near-zero visibility. It sounded like at least a dozen, maybe more. It was constant solid jip jip jip jip jip jip jip, a loud slightly squeakyish finchy note, quite unique in American birds. There are a couple prior county records for Uvalde for which I know no details (Blankenship, et.al. 2000), and a record at Lost Maples (Bandera Co.) as well, but none I think are in the last 20 years. Certainly the first I have encountered locally, though I did have a single female White-winged Crossbill at our place on Seco Ridge Jan. 13, 2012.

As if that wasn't enough heard bird torture for a day, at least I knew what those were the second I heard them. After dark still in mist-drizzle, a bird circled calling for a minute for which I have no idea what it was. Something not on our local list. Something good. My mic was out in the truck and unassembled. I just had to stand there listening to something I was dying to see, and not be able to see it. The ultimate birder's torture. It was medium to large bird, the call was a fairly loud, long, descending, strained reedy complaint. Probably about going in circles in the fog-mist. Sixty years of cataloging every sound, and I still hear things I have never heard, and there are lots more of them where those came from. It sounded closest to a Virginia Rail nocturnal flight note, but about three times the timbre.

Thornbush Dasher

Thornbush Dasher

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 10 ~ A little drizzle early, heard a Hermit Thrush when I was tossing seed early at dawn. Just the regulars about here. Thought I heard a Robin as I drove across the 360 crossing. Town run, and the same dullness there. Park was dead, must be accipiters hunting it. Heard a Green King but did not see it. Stayed about 60dF all day so no odes and only leps Pipevine Swallowtails, and a Little Yellow. Deer have shredded the big beautiful patch of Red Turks Cap at the park entrance. Water is right at the spillway with just a trickle going over.

Nov. 9 ~ Cool and cloudy. Heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet in the live-oaks upslope behind us. Saw the Field Sparrow and the pair of Canyon Towee. A few Myrtle Warbler and couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet went through, heard the White-eyed Vireo across road. Seemingly fewer Cardinal the last week or two, likely as with House Finch still eating wild seed crops out there, which are good this year. Even though the front didn't blow too hard, it took a ton of leaves off the trees, a major visual step towards winter.

Nov. 8 ~ Cold air advection brought us down to about 53 at dawn, by noon it was 47dF. A little drizzle, no real rain. Still hoping. In with the Chippies on the seed besides the Field Sparrow was a nice adult White-crowned Sparrow, bare-eyed it looked nominate leucophrys. Heard the Wide-eyed Vireo and Pyrrhuloxia out there. Lots of leaves falling with the northerlies.

Too busy on stuff here. Haven't even been able to work on the bird blind window I am making for the bathroom so I can shoot (photo) the bird bath without the screen there, whilst still having a screened window. Cutting a hole in the screen is not an acceptable solution when you live in bug country. I'll put pix of it up when I get it done. I was an actual real professional cabinet maker in another life in case I never mentioned it. But which just means it will be competent, not extravagant.

Nov. 7 ~ Warm day ahead of a cold front which arrived around dark. The northerly blow part anyway, but not too hard. Bird of the morning was a FOS White-fronted Goose flock overhead in the fog early. Saw a couple Monarch in yard, Celia's Roadside-Skipper, Vesta Crescent, Cloudless and Large Orange Sulphur, and the regulars. Saw a Field Sparrow in with the Chippies on the white millet. One Audubon's Warbler stopped to chip in the big pecan so I would notice.

After dark I heard this very familiar loud shorebird call from a bird flying south overhead, if I was on the coast I would not have even looked up. WHIMBREL!! I looked up even though it was dark out. Heard that call thousands of times. Unbelievable. Crazy good bird for here, not even sure there is a county record. I have had them at Mitchell Lake in SAT, the nearest site they are rare but semi-regular. Like a few other species I have heard calling as they migrated over at night, it is probably the most likely way to encounter one here. Shorebirds as a group score high on that list. I have had a good number of them here as calling nocturnal migrants. Learn those shorebird calls and spend time outside after dark in migration periods, and watch the yard list go up, from listening, and knowing what you are hearing.

Nov. 6 ~ Got into mid-80's dF in afternoon heat after a foggy morning. Was just the regulars around yard. Heard the, or a, White-eyed Vireo. A few Ruby-crowned Kinglet went through, as did some Myrtle Warblers. Another Monarch on the Blue Mist along with a couple Queen. Celia's Roadside-Skipper still here, and one Julia's Skipper as well. Heard a Barn Owl after dark and still a few Firefly flying.

Nov. 5 ~ SOS - same old stuff. Fog misty drizzly wet if you walk around in it and balmy for the morning, partial sun and 84dF in the afternoon heat. Worked on stuff here mostly. The cypress are turning fast now, they have gone to rust, and are quite beautiful. Instead of the ribbon of green along the river, now it is a ribbon of peachy rust. Lots of yellow pecans, and hackberries, and our Mulberry is off-the-charts yellow for a few days now. At least a half-dozen Firefly at dusk.

Went down to the river crossing in the afternoon and caught three Blacktail Shiner (Cyprinella venusta), a native minnow for such an aquarium I have. Tried for some Mexican Tetra but they are apparently faster and smarter than the Blacktails, and me. In my defense I did not have proper nettage. Kathy stayed up on the road, trying not laugh no doubt, telling me which way the fish went. There is a pic of Blacktails on the 2016 photos page. Breeding males are nice. They are out of breeding colors now but will be interesting to be able to watch more closely for a bit.

Nov. 4 ~ Fog mist and balmy in the morning. It was low 60's dF at midnight, and warmed a dF+ per hour until dawn. Southerly moist flow. Nothin' happening in the yard. Had to get a couple more PVC fittings, and stopped by the craft fair in the town square park. At the library garden there were three Fatal Metalmark, more than I have seen all year, and better a Western Pygmy-Blue, the first one of those I have seen this year. One Large Orange Sulphur, but otherwise slow, save one Hummingbird I heard that surely was a Rufous but I did not see it. A yellow lantana in a yard had Julia's, Fiery, and Checkered-Skipper, Sachem, Whirlabout, and a couple of the bigger common things. Park had nothing in the woods, or on pond. A couple bluebird at the entrance station live-oaks eating acorns, so I did a loop to crush a bunch more.

The golf course pond at Waresville had a couple dozen Red-winged Blackbird, which I suspect are from way north, and not our local breeders as they have been gone some time now. For odes there I saw a late Rambur's Forktail, a pair of Double-striped Bluet in tandem, and some other Bluet (prob. Familiar), Vareigated and Autumnal Meadowhawk and Green Darner. The park had Swift Setwing and Dusky Dancer. Heard a Belted Kingfisher from yard later in afternoon.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager, female working on a hackberry.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 3 ~ Early, balmy in low 60's and fog-misty. This is a common phenom in November here. Can happen any time, but early spring and last half of fall especially, drippy is a common atmospheric condition here, when we are not in exceptional drought. Got up to low 80's dF in the afternoon. Town run around noonish was still misty, no odes or leps save one Monarch. There was a winter flock of birds at the first patch of live-oaks as you enter the park. A dozen Eastern Bluebird, over a dozen Yellow-rumped Warbler (mostly Myrtle, one Audubon's), a dozen Chipping Sparrow, a couple Kinglet (Ruby) and Titmouse (Black-crested). Five male Lesser Goldfinch were off to themselves on some seed. A Green Kingfisher shot by me at waist level whilst I was 100' from the river. Nothing up in the woods, but an imm. female Ringed Kingfisher was perched on the spillway as I left the park (ph.). Little Creek Larry said he has about 8 White-crowned Sparrow in a flock over by his place, and that he saw an Osprey at the park in the last week. In the afternoon the yard blue mist Eupatorium had a Celia's Roadside-Skipper and a Southern Broken-Dash on it, both good for November.

Nov. 2 ~ Low about 49dF and overcast, got foggyish and misty for a while, then in afternoon up into the 80's dF again. Heard a White-eyed Vireo, and a Hutton's, saw a few Myrtle Warbler, and an Orange-crowned. Lincoln's Sparrow in the brush piles. Heard a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher give alarm notes over across road, the only one I have detected in 10 days. All the birds were calling and went dead-silent when it went off. Likely an accipiter sighting it had. A few Ruby-crowned and heard the or a, Golden-crowned Kinglet. Heard a, or the, Pyrrhuloxia over in the corral. Had at least 3 Firefly at dusk, getting pretty late for them.

Nov. 1 ~ OMG it's November! Low about 54dF, we are to have a warm spell now. It hit 85dF on the cool shady front porch, some spots hit 90dF! There were a couple Kinglets (Ruby) around yard, and better two Hutton's Vireo, both of which went to the bath. One sat on rim quite a bit between jumping in and bathing much like a normal bird, and not just splash-diving like most vireos most of the time. One also gave a great selection of calls between trips to the bath. The long zzweeoo, the faster more grating zzwee, the quick chewy, chewy, and one horse-whinny for good measure. Wish I knew what they were talking about... the water is fine, come on in? About 10 a.m. Kathy spotted our FOS Robin at the birdbath, a lone female.

Saw a few butterflies in the heat. Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphur, S. Dogface, Gulf Frit, Queen, Sleepy Orange, Common or White Checkered-Skipper, Painted Lady, Pipevine Swallowtail, and in Odes a Swift Setwing and a Dusky Dancer. Pretty quiet out there though. Late in afternoon I saw yesterday's female Slate-colored Junco again, in with the Chipping Sparrow flock. I was working in the cottage and it was right out the window. They sure look neater when you didn't see one the entire prior winter. Way cooler. Things are much better now. I was afraid I was going to have to drive somewhere to see one soon...

~ ~ ~ October Summary ~ ~ ~

It was dry, we need rain badly, the river is way down. There was some near record heat with low 90's dF mid-month, and early freezes the mornings of the 28th, 29th (27dF!), and 30th! Fall flower bloom was weak at best, and as goes with that butterfly diversity disappointing too, though a good rarity was photo'd.

Speaking of which, butterflies were a meager 42 species, last October I saw 77 species locally. About 40 of the 42 were the statistically most expected species. An Arizona Sister on the 24th was a good late date. The highlight was a Yellow Angled-Sulphur at the deco garden under the Utopia Park entrance sign. It was there all of a minute, I got docu shots on Cenizo, and it departed heading NE across town. Was one of the dozen seen but not yet photo'd species on my local list so a great one to cross off the seen-only column. Like birds it only takes one good butterfly to make your day, or week, or month if it is good enough, and to get shots of it, this one was.

Dragonflies crash in October. Though you might find a rarity, in general it is the end of the flight season for most of them. Numbers and diversity fade fast as the month proceeds, especially when we get some cold. I think it was only about 20 species for the month, and nothing unusual, just the expected suspects. Low water isn't helping (increases larval predation). We remain un-recovered from the 7 year exceptional drought, for odes, leps, birds, and surely lots else.

Birds are mostly about the first trickles of arriving winterers. The last stragglers of the migratory breeders pass through early in the month, the first third for most. My favorite bird of the month was a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher that spent most of Oct. 1 feeding in the pecans in the yard (ph.). Not a sure thing here every year, so always a treat, and especially in the yard. The other good bird was a Harris's Hawk at Utopia Park (ph.). You can see one any month here, or go a year without seeing one. On the last day of the month there were my FOS Golden-crowned Kinglet and Slate-colored Junco in the yard, both of which I did not even see *all* of last winter. Otherwise it was the expected. It was about 93 species for me locally this month, and we didn't make it up to Lost Marbles this month. But a 200+ gal. marine aquarium system is just about up and running...

~ ~ ~ end Oct. summary, back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~

Oct. 31 ~ A cool front moved in and though we were progged for 50% chances of rain we got none. Temp spread was about 54-64dF, with light northerly flow. Outstanding were two birds that are quintessential 'winter' birds here. First a female Slate-colored Junco was in the Chippy flock and on the patio. Then a Golden-crowned Kinglet was actively feeding in the Hackberries. Both species I did not record last winter! So perhaps a sign of a real winter this year?

Oct. 30 ~ Was 31dF here this a.m., NOAA had 41 predicted for KRVL low, they were 33. Off a category again. Knowing if it is going to be near-freezing, or not, is to me one of the most important things in winter. When they say not, and it is, over and over, it amazes me. Three mornings in a row they were substantially off with this airmass. Great job guys!

Hutton's Vireo and Kinglet (Ruby), Lincoln's, Field and a White-crowned Sparrow, besides about 50 Chippies. Heard a Scrub-Jay across the road towards the river. In leps saw a Vesta Crescent come into sprayed water, 4 Little Yellow were puddling on some wet dirt, one Dainty Sulphur, a Mestra, and a dozen of the common things.

Oct. 29 ~ NOAA said it would be warmer than yesterday. They were wrong, again. I never did find a gig where I could get paid to not get it right so well. Not to mention consistently. It was 29dF at 7 a.m., and 27 by 8 a.m.! Last year I am not sure we froze before Thanksgiving. Seems an early freeze to me. Saw burnt Lantana in town yesterday, and this was colder so surely more. It did get up to about 72dF in the shade on the front porch, so 45dF diurnals.

We took a walk after breakfast down the road to the crossing, up the other side of the river a bit, and back, a couple miles of overdue leg stretching. Not 100' from the SE corner of the yard in a live-oak was a Long-billed Thrasher (ph.). First I have around seen in a bit, got a pic, but a Mocker chased it away and posed in its place. What nerve! The undersides of the leaves were covered in a gall of some sort they were both foraging on. They are resident in brusy areas mostly south of town, mostly on private property. The corral had a small sparrow flock with Lincoln's, an imm. White-crowned, 2 Vesper, a Lark, some Chipping and a Field. The Cardinal flock there had one female or imm. Pyrrhuloxia, my FOS. The female Green King was at the crossing again (ph.).

In non-birds, A couple Dusky Dancer damselfly, and one American Rubyspot, plus one Green Darner. A school of minnows has me seriously considering going in after them with the seine. There were a shiner, like Sand (c.f. N. lidibundus) or similar, Blacktail Shiner (C. venusta), and some Mexican Tetra (Astyanax mexicana), which I have dreamt all my life of keeping one day. The only tetra native to the United States. All of the fish were out of breeding colors now. About 4 p.m. I checked some flowers in the corral and had a Phaon Crescent, my first for the month, which again shows how weak the fall influx is this year. Very few leps.

Oct 28 ~ It was 32dF before 7 a.m., an hour later at 7:45 it was 30, and then briefly went to 29dF after 8 before starting to warm. So we had a freeze, and an early one. Forecast has us not freezing tomorrow morning. Got up to lowest 60's dF at peak heat. Kathy spotted our FOS Hermit Thrush at the bath, last year the FOS was at the same place on the same date. Needed a couple PVC fittings so ran to town. Male Green King (ph.) at the park, but it was otherwise devoid of birds. Checked a few flower patches, not much happening. One Desert Checkered-Skipper, one Whirlabout, one Julia's Skipper, a Bordered Patch, some Painted Lady, a Buckeye, Gulf Frit and Pipevine Swallowtail, a Sleepy Orange, and one Dainty Sulphur. On a couple flowers here in yard there was a Sachem and a Celia's Roadside-Skipper.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, male. Note the tail is in
the 'scissor' position with the sides crossed
just below the base of the tail.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Oct. 27 ~ The front blew in before sunup with a big wind, 15-20 mph sustained with gusts to 25 and higher. All day. Barely hit 60dF for a high. Saw nothing around the house. Town run so a stop at the park. Ain't that a shame. Best was a pair of Lesser Scaup which blasted by at full speed once. Another good bird was a Downy Woodpecker in the willows, loosely associated with a winter passerine flock. It was my first winter type passerine flock so far, with 6+ Eastern Bluebirds, 15+ Chipping Sparrow, and 12+ Yellow-rumped Warblers. Which were mostly Myrtle, a couple were Audubon's, no Pine Warbler yet. Along 187 I saw my FOS Meadowlark flock, not many, probably Western, but I did not stop to check them.

Some of the live-oaks are dropping tons of acorns, many of the Cypresses are getting brown, and the wind is taking lots of leaves off the deciduous trees. The leaf report at the Lost Maples website indicates no color show yet in case you are wondering. Wind finally laying down at dark, and I feel a chill in the air like it is going to freeze. Which is early, we had to hustle to get everything ready for it.

Oct. 26 ~ It was 40dF at 7 a.m., and we hit 37 at 8 a.m.! NOAA had KRVL for 48dF low, so a whole category off. Remarkable. It feels a touch wintry in the upper 30's. We got up to 79dF on the cool front porch, other local areas were in the 80's. A front will hit prior to sunup tomorrow, hence the warmup. Here in yard heard a Hutton's vireo, and a Field Sparrow, but the rest was the regulars. Saw the female Mexican Yellow again on the Tropical Sage. A gaggle of gobblin' from the Turkey flock this morning at dawn was nice.

Finally did the long overdue recycling run with a whole truck bed of cardboard flats... but so a peek at the park. Saw the 6' Indigo Snake again, what a beautiful animal. Outstanding was a Harris's Hawk, which is rare locally, until you get down into the brush country. But that was it. A couple Violet Dancer pairs were in tandem, a couple Checkered Setwing were out over the pond, and one Autumnal Meadowhawk. The library garden had one Vesta Crescent, and one Tropical Checkered-Skipper.

Oct. 25 ~ This second front brought some cooler air with it, and an amazing 38dF low, KRVL hit 36dF! Got up to 80dF in the afternoon, so if you like yuuuuge diurnals (a big temp range), now is the time. Turkeys are gobblin' at dawn the last several mornings, which I guess is appropriate this time of year. Heard a Hutton's Vireo but not the White-eyed. Though was busy. A few butterflies about, saw a Giant Swallowtail, a Southern Broken-Dash, a Fiery Skipper, a Snout, and finally my first Bordered Patch of the month, which tells you how poor the butterflies are this fall. Amazingly weak. I just checked, and currently at about 35 species for the month. Pitiful. Last October at this point in the month I had about 70 of the 77 I saw that month! I knew I was going to pay for that great month...

Oct. 24 ~ A second weak and dry front hit shortly after sunup so it blew hard all day, again. A few Monarchs. My FOS White-crowned Sparrow was here briefly. Hardly any birds around presently. Nothing moving, good seed crops so all is dispersed, breeding is over, winter not here yet, the migratory breeders are all outta here. In odes saw a Swift Setwing and Blue-fronted Dancer. Best was a very tardy mint condition Arizona Sister. I triple checked it for a Band-celled, and it weren't. Also had Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphurs, a Variegated Frit, plus the usuals.

Oct. 23 ~ Ran a 45-80dF temp spread today. Heard the White-eyed Vireo. Saw the pair of Canyon Towhee. Too busy working, have a full bed of cardboard in the truck to haul to recycling center now. Did not see the swallow flight over the house in the a.m. For odes there were a number of Green Darner, and single Swift Setwing, Red Saddlebags and Pale-faced Clubskimmer. A few Monarch. After dark saw a couple Firefly, heard Barn, Screech-, and Great Horned, Owls.

Oct. 22 ~ The front got here between 8-9 a.m., a thick band of clouds, 8 drops of rain, and blue skies by 9:20 and the northerlies starting to gear up for a big blow all day. Kills birding and bugging. I am plumbing a couple hundred gallons of marine aquarium system together so too busy anyway. It stays hot here seemingly as late as it can in the year, then gets cold quickly. So there is a very narrow window to do all manner of things whilst between too hot and too cold. I did see the dozen Turkey over in the corral, a Sharp-shinned Hawk dove on the seedeaters a few times, heard the Why-died Vireo. At dusk a Belted Kingfisher flew over calling and just after dark I heard my FOS Sandhill Cranes heading south.

Oct. 21 ~ The hot balmy day ahead of the front, with 15-20 mph southerlies, so too breezy to bird. Some local sites were upper 80's, we were 82dF on the cool shady front porch, hotter in the sun. We are swamped anyway. Kathy saw the Turkey flock of about a dozen over the north fence. I heard the White-eyed Vireo, saw the pair of Canyon Towhee, no hummers or Scissor-tails, and overall what I would call mighty quiet. The highlight of the day was TEN Firefly at dusk. Maybe a dozen. Amazing for the date.

It seems about time to unfortunately finish the saga about the Lousiana Waterthrush that wintered at Utopia Park most of the three prior winters. If you recall, it disappeared in January last year. There was a big noisy tree cutting project there then which I thought may have disturbed it too much, it was very skittish. OR, it was taken by an accipiter, which are relentless in the area it wintered (up around the island mostly). So, I hoped it moved and would return this fall for a fourth winter. I am not hearing or seeing one this October, unlike last year when it was back by now. It could still show up, but it getting late enough that it is starting to seem more likely it met its demise and we won't get a four-year returnee. It was to my knowledge the first documented wintering Louisiana Waterthrush on the Edwards Plateau.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Oct. 20 ~ Upper 60's dF for a low, and heavy overcast, by 9 a.m. had turned to drizzle. Mighta gotta tenth of an inch. No hummers. Went to town, no Scissor-tails there and back. Methinks they have left the building. Now we have five long months of slogging to town with nary a Scissor-tail to see on the ways to and fro. There was an imm. fem. Green King at the 360 x-ing. Nothing at the park but heard a couple more Green Kings on the other side of the island there, and a Belted upriver. Too cool and wet for bugs, saw no dragons or butterflies. Seems kinda dead. Just south of town there was my FOS Northern Harrier.

Little Creek Larry said he has seen a pair of White-tailed Kite in pastures out 355 over his way again. He also said when he was splitting firewood yesterday the Carolina Wrens come in and hunt grubs out of the just-split pieces while he is working. He said lots of the big grubs in the old dead live-oak are the big mottled Click Beetle, so, Eyed Elatarids. Interesting. A couple Myrtle Warblers were around yard, one Field among some Chipping Sparrow on the seed here. Saw the pair of Canyon Towhee, and at dusk a pairacara flew over.

Oct. 19 ~ Southerly gulf flow is back, overcast and about 52dF for a low. Barn Swallows still going over northbound in the morning. A flock of 10-12 Chipping Sparrow surely is some migrants arriving for the winter by now. Heard at least a couple Scissor-tails. But did not see a hummingbird. Appears that last imm. male Ruby-throat left yesterday. Heard a Kinglet (Ruby), the White-eyed Vireo still scolding, there were two Hutton's Vireo out there making noise. At dusk there were at least 5 Firefly about, way late and most at once I have seen since August. So I left the porch light on to see what bugs were about since balmy out. It was pitiful. One Green Lacewing, and one MOMI, moth of minor interest. There was nothing. Where are the bugs?

Oct. 18 ~ Another 39dF low this morning. Heard a Myrtle Warbler out there. We are in a bird lull, the winterers are not here in any numbers yet and the migratory breeders that winter far to the south are all gone. Seed crops are good so those species are not at the feeders. Saw one imm. male Ruby-throated Hummer on gnatcatching duty early. Seems mighty quiet out there. Oh well, I am buried in work anyway. Still some Scissor-tails singing. Single Orange-crowned and Myrtle Warbler, one Wide-eyed Vireo, just checkin' to see if you are reading closely. A few Monarch went by, the Mexican Yellow was back on the Tropical Sage, a Gray Hairstreak and a few of the usual regulars.

Oct. 17 ~ An amazing low of 39dF just before 8 a.m., interesting as at 7 a.m. it was 41dF. Kerrville did the same thing, but after 8 a.m. it got its low, of 37dF! Pretty sure this is the first sub-40dF readings we have had since April, in 6 months. Great to see blue skies without all the usual haze of the humidity. Saw some Turkey Vultures lift off, climb and then break south. Not getting any bird movement through yard though. Heard a White-eyed Vireo scold, but no song call. Surprised not to have any Cranes yet. Heard a N. Flicker. Only saw one Ruby-throated Hummer here today at a time, might be all that is left. I did not see it at dusk, so it may have blown out on the northerlies today. Saw a Pale-faced Clubskimmer and a Swift Setwing (dragonflies) in the yard. Odes will crash quickly with these cool temps.

Oct. 16 ~ The northerly winds kept going lightly all night so a nice cool 53dF low temp this morning. No movement today. Often one gets the FOS Cranes on a mid-Oct. front, but did not hear anything yet. One or two Ruby-throated Hummingbird still here. One Orange-crowned Warbler, heard White-eyed Vireo but only been hearing one, and that barely, the last week or so. One Kinglet (Ruby) went through. I saw a butterfly leaving some blooming Tropical Sage out in the yard that caused me to say to myself "Malachite!", but it kept going. Wished I had spotted it a few seconds sooner. Saw Common Checkered-Skipper, Gray Hairstreak, a few Monarch, some Painted Lady, a Mestra or two, the usuals. One female Roseate Skimmer dragonfly was on the clothesline late in the afternoon.

Oct. 15 ~ Low of 71dF, the front hit between 9-10 a.m. with a sprinkle and 10-15 mph northerlies. Just in front of the arrival four Yellow-rumped Warbler went over, the one that chipped was a Myrtle. Did not see anything else on the immediate passage. Stayed gusty all day up to 20-25 mph. Too cool for leps and odes and too windy to bird so worked here. A couple Monarch went by in the afternoon. Either two or three imm. ma. Ruby-throated Hummingbird still here. Saw the firefly again tonight, third night in a row there has been one lonely one flying around signaling seemingly to no avail. The fall flight was a bust, just a very few. Last year it was great.

Oct. 14 ~ Ran about 70-82+ for a temp spread. No bird movement ahead of the front to arrive Sunday about dawn now they say. Which is good timing to knock down some migrants, but after it passes it will be too windy to bird, so during is the best bet. Went to town for some pvc parts, the north end had 5 Scissor-tailed and 2 ad. male Vermilion Flycatcher, 10 Eur. Starling, and a few Eastern Bluebird. Nothing new at the park save a male Green King. I heard but could not see a big splashing ruckus going on and all of a sudden a Pied-billed Grebe burst above the surface and ran across the pond. Either a big bass or that Indigo Snake made a move on it is my guess.

The fencelines on E. 360 had my FOS Savannah and Vesper Sparrows, and 20 Scissor-tails running around on the ground in a pasture chasing after maybe field crickets. When I whipped the camera up to get a shot one gave the alarm and the whole group flew over to a couple trees. I took a pic of the tree I could see the most in and later after blowing it up on monitor could find a dozen Scissor-tails in the image. It is a great birder's 'where's waldo' image, but I can't put up multi-MB photos here, run out of room in no time. I am not even supposed to be doing these 100+-kb pix like these last five+ update dividers.

Green Kingfisher

Male Green Kingfisher at Utopia Park.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below.

Oct. 13 ~ Happy Friday the 13th! Overcast and barely below 70dF at dawn. Today and tomorrow are hot days in front of another front which hits Sunday, allegedly cooling us down. At 3 p.m. local WU stations were reporting upper 80's and low 90's. Heard a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet and an Orange-crowned Warbler in yard early. This frontal passage will be about our last shot for lots of the migratory breeders for the year.

Town run day. Saw 6 Scissor-tails along E. 360 which are likely the half-dozen we have around the house and at airstrip. I saw none of the town couple dozen Scissors though. Nor any of the swallows, but which the swallows did go over in the morning heading north. The park was dead for birds, just 2 Pied-billed Grebe. Best was an Indigo Snake at least 6' long! At least a foot longer than the one we have around yard. Got shots.

Over the whole day I saw more than a dozen Monarch scattered around. The one that got away was a brief look in flight of a Mexican Silverspot here in yard, which I haven't seen but a few here, and none in years. The one that didn't get away that I have only seen maybe 3 of in 14 years was a YELLOW ANGLED-SULPHUR! I got photos of it at the park entrance garden on Cenizo, my first photos of one here. It was one of the dozen or so species out of 140 I have seen but not photographed locally. Cross that one off the list, I nailed it. It was torn and frayed, quite the worn beast, but for first photo docs here, I will take it happily. First positive sighting for me here in 5-7 years. The other butterfly of mention was a Fatal Metalmark at the library garden. Ridiculously the first one of the year, and incredibly only the second metalmark I have seen this year (the other a Rounded in July). Last year metalmarks were thick in fall. Probably means they were immigrants and don't breed or lay eggs, seemingly just like Common Mestra.

About 6 p.m. I was out on driveway and heard a couple warbler seet (flight) notes. One chipped a couple times as it flew into the big pecan. Myrtle. Cool, first one of fall. Then the second bird landed very near it. I assumed it was a Myrtle too, but it did not chip. I figured they were probably moving together as they landed 2' apart and sat next to each other a minute or so. The Myrtle chipped and flew off to the west going up the draw behind house. The other bird shortly flew off to the east toward river, also chipping, it was an Audubon's Warbler. So the first couple basic not unrealistic assumptions one might make, were as often the case, wrong.

Oct. 12 ~ About 60dF for a low, and overcast, held some heat in. No bird movement in the morning save the swallows of which it was about a hundred Barn, and at least some Cave. They roost to south, move north and feed over town seemingly for the most part, often resting on the wires at the north end of town, and in the afternoon they fly south overhead to a roost site, prolly along river. This goes on every October. Are they the local breeders or transients from elsewhere? It is only minor numbers, but an interesting staging event that occurs annually, just like the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers here in October. I turned on the porch light for a couple hours, one Green Lacewing was all I saw. I can't guess why there are no bugs, but it ain't good.

There are four hummer feeders out, two (Ruby-throated) hummingbirds left, and still, you guessed it, a dispute! Ridiculous! Have not seen the Lark Sparrows in over a week since they left. Whole flock disappeared. Actually all feeding activity is a bit slow, I presume due to the annual fall seed crop. House Finch always disappears in fall when a few of their favorites go to seed, Lesser Goldfinch too. White-eyed and Hutton's Vireo making noise in the draw. Kathy counted a dozen Turkey over in the corral. Heard my FOS Northern Flicker calling in the afternoon, one of the calls of winter here.

Oct. 11 ~ A 58dF low felt great. Heard a Kinglet and what sounded an Orange-crowned Warbler seet note early first thing. Was in town early, about 9 a.m. there was some Monarch lift-off apparent, with dozens gaining altitude. Little Creek Larry said he had a branch at Little Creek with 2-3 feet plus solid covered with roosting Monarchs. Over the day off and on a few could be seen mostly high up. George LaRue told me that yesterday somewhere off Hwy 83 along the Frio River he had a flock of over a hundred Ravens in a pasture.

The park had two Belted and 2-3 Green Kingfisher, a Great Egret, now 3 Pied-billed Grebe, and only an Orange-crowned Warbler for landbirds besides the residents. Mid-morn in yard was an Orange-crowned Warbler and another Kinglet (Ruby). A Mexican Yellow (lep) stopped on our blooming Tropical Sage patch, the first I have seen this fall. Late near dusk a Lincoln's Sparrow was on the millet seed out back. At dusk I was out on the driveway leaning up against the pickup bed and heard a pecan crack, looked to my left and 10' away was a Gray Fox! When it saw me it ran off with the nut. I had been still for over 5 minutes and it obviously didn't see or smell me.

Oct. 10 ~ The front arrived pre-dawn and dropped us to 57dF for a low, with 15 mph winds gusting 20+ it felt like the 40's. Holy cow, found long pants and socks. From first light there were Turkey Vultures getting up and moving south. Migrants that went down to roost in the vicinity yesterday evening. Some of the groups had my FOS Swainson's Hawks with them. The first group was 25+ Swainson's, later another couple dozen, later more. The groups are going over it fits and spurts first few hours of light. Mid-morn there was a brief spitting of rain, probably not a tenth of an inch.

Later in afternoon more migrant TV's went over, and over the day I saw at least 7 Kestrel up high heading south. One Sharp-shinned Hawk too. Whilst scanning the skies way up high with binocs I spotted migrating Monarchs. Not a lot, but a few dozen in less than a half hour. I could only see a small patch of sky, and without binocs I would have missed most, only a couple were low enough to bare-eye. Later near dusk one came in a roosted in one of the pecans in the front yard. Heard a couple Barn Owls after dark.

Oct. 9 ~ Clear and about 62 dF at dawn. Forgot to mention been seeing a few Draconid meteors to the north the last several nights, I think peak was the last couple days. They are often slower ones, so neat to see. Nothing moving in yard in the early a.m., supposed to be near record hot today ahead of a full frontal passage late tonight, with the post-frontal blow following tomorrow. If we get the bit of rain with it, it should knock down birds overnight. It was 89dF on the cool shady front porch, many local spots saw low to mid 90's! It was still 78dF at 11 p.m.! Kathy saw a male Wilson's Warbler at the bath. The 6 Scissor-tails went over a few times, 3-4 breaking into song and doing the display climb. Heard a Dickcissel, Nashville, and Yellow Warbler. In Leps saw Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphur, Gray Hairstreak, Giant Swallowtail, lots of Painted Lady southbound, a Mestra, Reakirt's Blue, Little Yellow, Queen, Buckeye, Red Admiral, Gulf Fritillary and some of the other regulars. Screech-Owl calling after dark.

Oct. 8 ~ Cleared last night with a mild barely frontal passage yesterday later afternoon. Early a.m. to the east you can see Venus and above it Mars. They were right on top of each other in conjunction a few days ago but we had cloudy mornings at peak closeness. The 62dF low felt great early. Again flocks of ducks went over low and fast before it was light enough to see, one flock was bombers, the other fighters (Shoveler, and Teal). Heard several seet flight notes of passerine migrants too at first crack of light.

In the yard there was my FOS Lincoln's Sparrow. We checked a few spots around town after breakfast. At the park there were 2 FOS Pied-billed Grebe, a FOS Orange-crowned Warbler, and a FOS Marsh Wren. We had great close looks at the wren on a blooming Ludwigia stem. Also one Nashville Warbler. At the north end of town there were 20+ Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. At the pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cemetery there was another Lincoln's Sparrow, and another Marsh Wren. Nearby there were male and imm. male Vermilion Flycatcher, and along 360 another 5 Scissor-tails. A couple additional stray Lincoln's Sparrow were heard, so at least 4 in as many stops.

As we got back a Common Yellowthroat flushed along the edge of the corral about a hundred feet from the corner of the yard. Where I do not have one on the list. In the afternoon I heard a Yellow Warbler, an Audubon's Warbler flew into the big pecan chipping, and I thought I heard a Redstart but could not find it. At dusk a pair of Chimney Swift were circling calling, which is a great late date for them. I have not seen the town breeders in over a month and suspect these are migrants from elsewhere, not local birds.

Oct. 7 ~ Between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m. 6 seperate small flocks of DUCKS shot over southbound. Just prior to sunup. It was cloudy so very poor light. Probably totalled 80+ birds, maybe 100. One flock was Shoveler. Another was mostly Blue-winged Teal, with some Green-winged mixed in, and that flock had 3 Athya sps. ducks which were likely Ring-necked. Most flocks seemed mostly mixed Shoveler and Blue-wings but they went over so fast and light was so poor there was no time for picking oddballs out. They were only a hundred feet up, treetop flyers, and you could hear their wings before they got to you. Man if that doesn't make it feel like fall!

Had Yellow and Nashville Warbler singles go through yard, a Gnatcatcher, the half-dozen Scissor-tails back and forth a few times, once a male sat in the top of the big pecan and sang. A Hutton's Vireo was around for a while. Cooper's and Sharp-shinned (both imms.) Hawks keep diving on the yard seed eaters. Working on a project here I need to finish before it gets cold, so no lookabout save yard. Too cloudy for odes and leps anyway.



Yellow-throated Vireo

I love this lichen on the branch... and oh yeah, a
Yellow-throated Vireo in fresh plumage on Sept. 28.
Yeah I know bad light, but as often as not, that is
how we see birds. Anyone can ID them in good light.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Oct. 6 ~ Before sunup at 7 a.m. when I went out to toss seed there was a Great Horned Owl calling from the top of the big pecan right off the front porch. All I could see was its silhouette. After a half-dozen calls it flew over to the corral whence it and the female called back and forth for a while. Very cool when very close, a NBE (near-bird experience). I live for 'em. Thought I heard Yellow-throated Warbler out front in the a.m.

There was an adult female Rufous type Hummingbird here in the a.m., that looked about the same as the one here a week ago, but which I have not seen in 5 days or more. Ran to town, the park was dead, I presume an accipiter had been around it was so devoid of movement. There was an FOS Belted Kingfisher, finally. A few Blue Jay. In the afternoon there were lots of Barn Swallow way up high, migrants I presume as they were all southbound. There was also my first this fall kettle of sure migrant Turkey Vulture, 35 or so, circled up high on a thermal and then broke southbound.

In odes fair numbers in yard (doz. plus) of Black, and Red, Saddlebags, and Wandering and Spot-winged Gliders, a few Green Darner, one Pale-faced Clubskimmer. They are crashing fast now. A couple Clouded Skipper were on flowers in town. The Ludwigia is in great bloom at rivers edge in park. Lots of Wood-Sorrel popped up this week too as did Tube-tongue, results of the recent rain.

Oct. 5 ~ First couple hours of morning heard a Dickcissel, saw a Gnatcatcher, the 6 Scissor-tails went over toward airstrip, the swallow flock went over, Barns and Caves, a dozen of each. Heard Yellow and Nashville Warblers go through. Thought I heard a Black-and-white in the morning, then all afternoon to early evening there was a female around the pecans and hackberries. Nice later date. One Lark Sparrow, half-dozen Chippies, Caracara, Cooper's Hawk.

Oct. 4 ~ Temp spread was about 72-84dF, very humid gulf flow ended with some showers totalling maybe a quarter inch of rain. Two Yellow and 1 Nashville Warbler, Gnatcatcher, White-eyed Vireo, 2 Lark and 6 Chipping Sparrow, 2 Canyon Towhee, a dozen and change Ruby-throated Hummer, the Scissor-tails, Barn and Cave Swallow. A Julia's Skipper (lep) was on the Frogfruit. Thought I heard an Orange-crowned Warbler. A few dozen Black Saddlebags dragonflies, some Red mixed in with them. Too busy workin'.

Oct. 3 ~ About 72-86dF temp spread, humid gulf flow, some got some rain and showers, not us. The morning flock of Barn and Cave Swallows moves north toward town from some roost site to the south. Couple Yellow Warbler, one Nashville, a Gnatcatcher, maybe 12-18 Ruby-throated Hummers left, maybe less. Two Lark Sparrow. Southern Broken-dash, and Celia's Roadside-Skipper were nice butterflies on the flowers, but the Elada Checkerspot on the patio was the good one. At 9 p.m. a Tawny Emperor (lep) was on a window screen at a lit window.

Oct. 2 ~ Southerly (or SE) Gulf flow and low clouds, only got down to 70dF. A few warbler seets in the morning, one was a Yellow, another Nashville, one Kinglet, a couple Gnatcatcher, a swallow flock overhead for a bit was Barn and Cave. Sure enough very few hummers around this morning compared to yesterday. Maybe a couple dozen? The last week plus there have been 100-200. Also no Lark Sparrows. Well one or two, but there were 30 last week. I would guess it was the local pairs with all the young of the year and they departed. Still White-eyed Vireo or two out there and a Field Sparrow.

October 1 ~ Gadzooks it is October! Felt like it too with a low of 62dF! Early Oct. anyway. A high in the mid-80's without humidity is not so bad either. Had to work on the projects today, since I took a couple hours off yesterday. I figured with it clearing last night everything would leave that has been grounded the last several days. Some new things will always show up on the heels of a system departing, but it would likely be slim pickens overall. First clear day in a week, there should be a hummer blowout.

It was slow in the yard for migrant motion this morning. One Gnatcatcher. Heard a couple warbler seets, like a Nashville and a Yellow. Finally about 11 p.m. I saw something flitting around flycatching in the pecans out front. Bare-eyed from 100' I thought probably a Least Flycatcher. About 15 minutes later I saw it again and figured I better grab bins and go check it. YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER! Not a sure thing here every fall (or spring), and my only so far this year. It was out there for hours, I chased it around a bit to try to grab a docushot. Could have birded all around today and not seen one, easily. It was still out there at 6 p.m.! Heard another Barn Owl after dark.

~ and now for a brief interlude ~

~ ~ ~ partial update header for archive's sake ~ ~ ~

As of Friday Sept. 22nd the river was not flowing over the spillway at the park and is dry in many sections, not a drop of rain in 6-7 weeks, and so far a poor fall flower bloom as a result, plus butterflies are then of course down. No small stuff. Then a big rain event last few days of Sept. brought the river up, the pond is at bankful again, with water barely trickling over the spillway on the 29th. But by Oct. 6 is was again not going over the spillway. We remain a couple feet behind, and un-recovered from the drought.

Many migrant birds are past us already southward. The bulk of many species have passed already, things like Orchard Oriole, Dickcissel, Upland Sandpiper, Yellow and Black-and-white Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, have peaked and are all but gone for the year. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds had a good peak in late Sept. during the rain event but blew out the couple days after it cleared. A very few might still be around. Now we are in the gap before the second half of fall, when the wintering species show up.

Three great local records in week of and after Harvey were of birds that are regular to common down coastways, but accidental or rarer here. Little Creek Larry reported two WHITE PELICAN at the park 3 weeks ago, Friday the 25th, when the first outer bands of Harvey hit us. Then Tues. eve the 29th I watched a LEAST BITTERN fly right by me out on the driveway working just over treetops heading up the river habitat corridor. Then Thursday morning the 31st two FULVOUS WHISTLING-DUCK flew over the yard calling, I got fair looks. All three are exceptional finds locally, keep your eyes peeled as other displaced birds are likely around.

First third of Sept. there were FOS Loggerhead Shrike back for the winter, FOS Mourning Warbler, and my earliest ever FOS Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The 13th the park had 5 Cattle and a Snowy Egret, as well as single Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal. It is fall migration! We need some weather to knock the birds down though.

Passerine migration has been in full swing now. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Orchard Oriole poured down-valley daily for two months. Lots of Ruby-throated Hummers went through, some Baltimore Oriole (1st Aug. 24) and Dickcissel (1st was Aug. 9) were moving, Upland Sandpiper (first on Aug. 1, eight on Aug. 9, many since) at dusk and dawn calling overhead, a few Yellow Warbler (1st was Aug. 2), a Wilson's Warbler on Sept. 6, a MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER Sept. 8 at the park, a Traill's (Willow or Alder) Flycatcher Aug. 20, a couple Louisiana Waterthrush at the park in early August, and a few Rufous Hummingbird have been seen. No Golden-cheeked Warbler were detected at Lost Maples July 30. Black-capped Vireos were still there Aug. 21. Our three yard adult male Painted Bunting were all gone Aug. 6. Birds are on the move now!

~ ~ ~ end update header archive ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ September summary ~ ~ ~

What a weird weather month it was. First third had abnormal low temps, many in the 50's dF (!) due largely to Harvey which brought premature north flow for nearly a couple weeks. But it was hot, and it was bone dry until the last week of month. Aug. 7 to Sept. 26 or so, there was no rain, as in none whatsoever. Sept. 26-29 we got 4.5" a couple miles south of town, others around had more, some less. It was the perfect slow soaker for aquifer recharge, just what the doctor ordered.

Butterflies were 50 species for the month, weak for the fall, likely due to the lack of rain ergo flowers. Best was on the last day of the month, a male FLORIDA WHITE (ours is Mexican Tropical White) Appias drusilla (photos), since only a handful of UvCo records. A fair movement of early Monarchs was nice, up to 7+ at once at one Frostweed patch. Others were seen racing south-southwest. Otherwise was the expected species. All 6 of the regular possible Swallowtails were seen, but again, no Metalmarks. None of the scarcer skippers besides the Green at Lost Maples Sept. 23. Lots of Painted Ladies went through, numbers in the thousands.

Odes (dragons and damsels) are already dialing back from the summer peak, with 30 species seen for the month. Best was several male Twelve-spotted Skimmer, since not a sure thing annually here. We had one in the yard 10 days or so! A couple were at the golf course pond by Waresville, one was at the Park (Utopia), and I photo'd one at Lost Maples in Bandera Co., where only maybe one prior documented record (which was one I got pix of at Lost Maples several years ago). Good bug hereabouts, nice invasion this year. A couple Thornbush Dasher were still at the golf course pond at the end of the month.

Birds were about a hundred species again. Had I gotten to Maples early in month a few more would have been had. Besides the regular common migrants anything else was scarce and hard to come by. We need weather to knock them down and there wasn't any. Best bird was a MacGillivray's Warbler on the 8th at the park, my second fall record here in 14 years.

When you don't live on a coast where it is really explosive for vagrants in fall, you instead get excited by minutae of details. There were only a couple Mourning Warbler over the month, slow for them this fall. My earliest ever Clay-colored Sparrow on the 1st was followed by none the rest of the month. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet on the 12th is early for here. Good late dates were a Common Nighthawk on Sept. 24, and Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler on the 28th.

~ ~ ~ end Sept. summary - back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~

Sept. 30 ~ Looks like we are finally drying out. Low was a great 64dF or so, no rain overnight. Overcast, cooler, some slightly NE to ENE flow. Should be migrants. First couple hours were dead in yard. Stuff was prolly still flying since not hot. Eventually a couple ea. Yellow, and Nashville Warbler, a Dickcissel, a Baltimore Oriole, and a Gnatcatcher. Checked a couple spots 11-1. At the park there were two Common Yellowthroat, 2 Yellow, a Nashville and a Wilson's Warbler. The library garden had another Wilson's and another Common Yellowthroat.

I drove out Seco Ridge to check the magic Stenaspis verticalis insignis sumac. Every September when the Evergreen Sumac bloom the amazing metallic green and orange Stenaspis Cerambycid beetles meet to mate on them. I saw some in bloom so went to check the magic bush where you could have a dozen at once. I have checked a hundred bigger bushes that have never had one on them. There are only a few other Evergreen Sumac I have found them on, this one must be the historical bush. The magic bush was gone, courtesy of the electric companies maintenance crew. It was not in the way, and never could have been. I did find one Stenaspis on a nearby bush. See the Critters-Insects page for a photo from prior years. The one I found was not reachable for good pix but I grabbed a couple docu-shots. Had a couple Scrub-Jay out on back of Seco Ridge.

The private Frostweed patch had zip but 3 Monarchs. The golf course pond had no birds but a couple Thornbush Dasher dragonflies, a Desert Checkered-Skipper. A Mimosa Yellow and a Julia&apo;s Skipper were at the library garden. At the deco garden at the Golf Utopia entrance sign on the yellow Lantana was the bird of the day, a male FLORIDA WHITE (Appias drusilla). Ours are the subspecies often called Mexican Tropical White, from the mainland southward. This might be the fifth UvCo record, and I did get some ID shots. The males are white as satin, without a mark on them, and twice or more the size of a Lyside. It is the third I have photographed locally here in the last 14 years. Rare bug. Was another Wilson's Warbler at that flower patch too.

Mid afternoon in the yard was 'nothers of Gnatcatcher, Nashville Yellow, and Wilson's Warbler. I had a quick look at a Rufous Hummer but did not see any gorget feathers in throat so it wasn't the one that disappeared yesterday, but a new different one, and likely an imm. female. Nearing dusk about 7 p.m. an Eastern Wood-Pewee was flycatching from a mesquite snag right across from the gate. I got great close views, it was giving just one piercingly clear whistled note of a couple seconds duration which changed tonal quality without changing pitch. Wing bars were buffy so an immature. After dark I heard the first Barn Owl I have heard in months.

Easter Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Buttonbush


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Sept. 29 ~ A little more rain overnight, about another half inch. So we are just under 5" for this week's event! I saw Anthony Sharp at the P.O. and he said 10 miles west over at Rio Frio they had over 7"! So totals float quite a bit, but there was rain! In the last 3 days you would not believe how green it got. From our yard to the pastures along the road all has gone from brown to green this week. One old-timer in town said at the start of the week his pastures looked like winter, now they look like spring.

Not much moving in the yard this morning, a Yellow Warbler, a Gnatcatcher. Checked the park in town and found a good shower which was heavy enough to supress things. Saw a Gnatcatcher, one imm. Common Yellowthroat, and a Wilson's Warbler for migrants, heard a Ringed Kingfisher. At the north end of town there were about 20 Cave and 15 Barn Swallow on some wires, and a dozen Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

On the way back from town a male Kestrel was on W. 360, prolly one of our local winterers back for the season. Saw the male Vermilion today, but it appears to have lost its tail in the last day or so. Probably a close encounter of the accipiter kind. Now will it leave without a full tail, or stay until a new one grows in? I did not hear the Great Crested Flycatcher around the yard today. Maybe it punched through one of the holes in the sky and left last night? Was hoping for an Oct. date on it. The ad.fem. Rufous Hummer was here in the morning and until the early afternoon, afterwhich the feeder it had taken over had only Ruby-throated, and I did not see or hear it at other feeders. So methinks she left.

Sept. 28 ~ Rained lightly off and on overnight, .75 more since 8 p.m. yesterday. So we are about 4.35" for the event now. Wow. Some places southward in the brush country got 10 inches! The Great Crested Flycatcher is still here calling, all day. We have to be getting near my late date for them. Around 11 a.m. a great flock of migrants moved through the yard southward and down the river habitat corridor. There were at least 10 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 6 took off flying south in a group together. My second Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the fall, an imm. Blue Grosbeak, an ad.ma. Baltimore Oriole, 4 Nashville and 3 Yellow Warbler, a probable Orange-crowned got away, would've been a FOS. The Yellow-throated Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler loosely among the flock as they passed through may have been the local breeders, though I hadn't seen the vireo in a couple weeks. Certainly a good late date for it. The White-eyed Vireo is still out there as well. Those three are all in stellar bright fresh basic plumage now. About noon-thirty an ad.fem. Rufous Hummingbird showed up and promptly took over a feeder. Lovely gals aren't they?

This half dozen Scissor-tails flies over the house a couple times per day, often a few males singing on the way, sometimes one breaks formation, climbs up in display and flips, to show off. Today one did it directly overhead. I was amazed at how the wings produce a loud deep low drumming as it climbs up, each flap making a hollow woody drum beat, at the same time its song is going to crescendo, and then the flip. Holy cow. This noise is mechanical, obviously the wing beats, but which of course are essentially silent in passing level flight. They are giving themselves a mechanical drum roll to go with the insane crescendo of vocalization, culminating in the incredibly acrobatic feat of flight, a flip. Whattabird. I have watched this display and flip many times, from the side, but I presume not ever directly exactly under the climb, as I don't recall hearing this wingbeat drum roll before. It is low pitched and likely does not carry outside a very narrow area where hearable. Often mechanical sounds, like even a Common Nighthawk boom are quite directional. Yes you hear it from the side, but it sounds nothing like what the female hears at apex. If you have ever been right under that magic sweet spot, you know what I mean. This is likely similar.

Sept. 27 ~ It was a rain day. There was another inch overnight so we are at 2.75 so far for the event (36 hrs. and counting). The NOAA storm radar total shows us for a half inch. The divides hide us from the doppler. Over the day .85 fell. So 3.6" at the 48 hr. mark. Now a cold front is supposed to hit this wet tropical one and give us some rain. We need it. It has been a great "slow soaker" as they call them so little runoff and lots of recharge, just what we needed. But not much for birds I could see during my breaks. A Yellow Warbler, a Gnatcatcher, the male Vermilion. The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are thick now, no bugs, just sugar water, and there must be a couple hundred here. A dozen or two ad. males still, mostly imm. and female type, did not pick out a Black-chinned today, or the last couple days. We will see in the a.m. by by 11 p.m. I think there was another quarter inch or more, so we are nearing 4"!

Sept. 26 ~ Bit more rain overnight, there was a half inch around dusk yesterday, now this morning it looks like we are up to about 1.25" inches fell. By mid afternoon it was 1.75", and no dust in sight. Saw a Yellow Warbler, a Gnatcatcher, couple Baltimore Oriole, and what was probably the same Great Crested Flycatcher as yesterday over in the draw and in Mesquites across road, calling. Male Vermilion Flycatcher still here. Lark Sparrow count 30 at once on patio! Must be new arrivals? In the later afternoon during a shower, at one time I counted 8 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher from the front porch. A ad.fem. Baltimore Orio and a new different female Yellow Warbler. Had a few Barn Swallows, the half-dozen Scissor-tails, Caracara, and the rain total at dark is one and seven-eighths inches. Just under 5 cm. There was a termite hatch with the rain and the male Yellow-throated Warbler was getting in on that action. Lots of migrants here on the rain day, wish I could get out and bird during the week.

Sept. 25 ~ A few light showers overnight, low of 72dF. Raining west of us, hope it makes it here. In a.m. heard a couple Yellow Warbler, an Orchard Oriole, a Dickcissel, another sounded like a Nashville. Later a Baltimore Oriole, a Gnatcatcher, another Yellow and a Least Flycatcher. Then a Great Crested Flycatcher mid-day. Migration movement, and I have to work. Male Vermilion still here, as is the pair of Canyon Towhee. Kathy counted 24 Lark Sparrow on the patio! Holy cow! I have been getting 14 or so, perhaps some migrants from northward are showing up? Saw an imm. female Sharp-shinned Hawk dive through yard in afternoon, landing in the big pecan. We will count that as the FOS, but I have had quick looks of what were surely Sharpies the last three days. In the early evening we got a bit of rain, maybe a half inch plus by midnight. There was a Hister Beetle in the kitchen after dark.

Sept. 24 ~ Up early and saw Orion, Tarus, Gemini, Sirius, Procyon, friends I have not seen in months. A few spotty showers in the area, supposed to be a rain event this coming week. Hopefully a good shower will find the car.  ;)  Went to Lost Maples early, some actual rain on the way and up there, car got washed, but just showers early. Just out the gate down the road there was an Olive-sided Flycatcher on the powerline. At the first crossing north of town a couple miles in BanCo there were 3 Great Egret downriver.

We walked to the headwater spring on Can Creek, so about 2 miles each way up canyon and back. A few migrants, most of the breeders are gone by now of course. Always interesting what is not there: Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-throated and Red-eyed Vireo (didn't hear any Black-capped either), no Pewee or Black-and-white Warbler, so quite a different place in fall. We did see about 6 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Wilson's Warbler, heard a Yellow, saw a couple Nashville Warbler, a few warbler flight notes got away as always.

One greenie (imm. Painted Bunting) and one brownie (imm. Indigo Bunting), 4 FOS Kestrel in a line went downcanyon high up, one Summer Tanager, a Hutton's Vireo, a half-dozen White-eyed Vireo, 3-4 Scrub Jay, a couple Rufous-crowned Sparrow, heard a few Canyon Wren, saw several Common Raven, and best two birds were heard only, continuing Olive Sparrow and White-tipped Dove were both calling along the trail. One Black Rock Squirrel.

Too cool and wet on way up trail, but sunny and warmer by time we headed down, and so some butterflies came out to see us. A Green Skipper was outstanding, a very neat local species here, and a good late date. Also we saw at least 3 worn Spicebush Swallowtail, again, a good late date. A couple Southern Broken-Dash were on Frostweed, some Queens, several Painted Lady. Best was point blank views of a huge female Two-tailed Swallowtail (ph.) which we watched oviposit on an Escarpment Cherry.

In odes, leaving house there was a Pale-faced Clubskimmer at the 360 x-ing. At Lost Maples a Twelve-spotted Skimmer (dragon) was the ode highlight, there are only one or two Bandera Co. documented records, the first was one I photo'd there several years ago. I had a couple quick looks at what looked like a Jade-striped Sylph, but it disappeared, at the pouroff falls below the pond where I have seen them before. A couple Common Pondhawk and Green Darner, but overal ode activity was way down. It will crash fast when it cools off.

One Scissor-tail by the propane place at north end of town was the only besides the ones around our place. Several were on W. 360 early. The park in town looked over-run so we passed and took a quick look at a private prop Frostweed patch south of town on way home, which yeilded 3-4 Monarchs, the rest the usual, no birds. On the road nearing house a small fast raptor shot over, either Sharp-shinned Hawk or Merlin, I thought the latter. About 3:15 p.m. after some rest, in the front yard was a Least Flycatcher and a nearly tardy imm. Blue Grosbeak. Male Vermilion is still out there today.

So then since we hadn't done enough today we went for a swim at peak heat, about 87dF it got to. But cloudy and muggy and we were hot from the hike. There were a handful of Scissor-tails over there, sometimes in the cypresses overhead, other times singing and displaying, including a flip or two. A male Green Kingfisher allowed close approach and did not flush as we floated past less than 30' away. There was a small group of passerines, mostly 4 Chickadees and some Titmice, but a Summer Tanager and a male Yellow-throated Warbler too. My guess is the warbler is one of the local birds still here. We are not on any migration path for the species, and I have a number of late September records, seemingly mostly males in the freshest of basic plumage. Just before dusk Kathy alerted us to a calling Common Nighthawk, first one I have heard all month, and a good local late date.

Sept. 23 ~ Ran about 70-90dF for a temp spread today, some Gulf clouds for morning. Just a few of the usual suspects went through the yard: a Dickcissel, an OROR, a Yellow Warbler, and a Gnatcatcher. The 5-6 male Scissor-tails were around quite a bit. Worked on stuff here since planning to go out tomorrow.

Bewick's Wren

I am bark. I love trees. Bewick's Wren hugging a tree.
I have seen them do this when a predator was present (hiding), and when not,
whence I wonder if they are listening for critters in crevices.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Sept. 22 ~ Happy fall! Summer is over! Time to cool down. Low about 70dF, a little better, with some Gulf clouds and moisture. Hot and sticky in the afternoon. The upcoming week has some weather forecast, so may be our big chance for a wave of fall migrants. There is tons of stuff going over, but you usually need some inclement, any migratory impediment will do, wind, rain, etc., to knock them down. Often there will be a bump in birds before a front, another set grounded during it, and a post-frontal wave behind it. We get three chances.

Town run so a look at the park. On road leaving house there was Yellow Warbler and Gnatcatcher, plus 3-4 Field Sparrow. At the 360 xing a nice male Green Kingfisher posed. At Utopia Park there were a few migrants for a pleasant change. One C. obscurus (see last weeks' update photo break) Underwing moth, and NO water going over the spillway! Six at minimum Wilson's Warbler was impressive, a couple Yellow Warbler, heard a couple warbler flight notes that got away. One Great Crested Flycatcher is nearing tardy, a couple Least Flycatcher were in the woods. Two Hutton's Vireo were also there. No Yellow-throated Warbler, they seem to have gone. Still male Summer Tanager around. One Ringed and two Green Kingfisher, and one squeaky tree that sounds sorta like a Catbird. Heard Hooded and Baltimore Oriole, saw at least four Blue Jay. The woods were full of Eastern Phoebe, a dozen at least, a major wave of them must have arrived from northwward.

Sept. 21 ~ Low was only 74 and balmy. Supposed to be the last hot hot day before things slowly start to become more like fall instead of summer. Early the yard had a male Baltimore Oriole and a Wilson's Warbler. Mid-day Yellow Warbler, late a Gnatcatcher. Last light the male Vermilion came into yard and sang a couple times, appearing to go to roost into the big (still dying) hackberry. Our resident pair of Eastern Phoebe are chasing out interlopers, so I presume there are new arrivals from the north showing up now. A few scattered rain cells were around, we got an outflow of about 35 mph, and smelled rain once the dust cleared.

Sept. 20 ~ Low of 72dF, we were upper 90's. Hondo was 102, with much higher heat index. Drippy. Dickcissel and a winter form Questionmark (butterfly) were about it for passage today. A few male Scissor-tails crossing yard daily, still singing and displaying including the quick flip. Seems to be a group of about 5-6 males feeding along airstrip in morning, then uphill behind us in day and then in the afternoon they move toward the golf course across river. I had a Red Bat at dawn fly up and hang under the porch a couple times, but it didn't stay there. Maybe two imm. Black-chinned Hummer here, lots of fiesty Rubies.

Sept. 19 ~ Low over 70dF, so not very. Hot as heck, surely over a hun in the sun, heat index higher. Heard the male Vermilion give flight song this morning, and last night at dusk. It has been back around this last week or so, but it is about to go. They always sing lots, right before they leave the territory. Scott's Oriole does it, Great Crested Flycatcher does it. Probably many or most songbirds do. Had a Yellow Warbler and a Dickcissel go through yard.

Sept. 18 ~ Might have hit 69dF for a low, with some gulf low clouds. Heard a Wilson's Warbler and a Dickcissel, Gnatcatcher and a Monarch butterfly, but not much for movement. The Yellow-throated Vireo is gone, haven't heard it in several days now, but White-eyed are still around. Red-shouldered Hawk whining over by river. Couple Caracara flew over. Hopefully this will be our last hot humid week. Heat index near a hundred. Saw one imm. Black-chinned Hummer today, but otherwise a few dozen Ruby-throated is it.

Sept. 17 ~ Thought sure I heard a Black-throated Gray Warbler chup but could not find it, though saw something that looked like it could have been one fly off. And a Gnatcatcher. Mid-morn we went to park and check it, but it had no migrants we could find. Checked the private Frostweed patch a half mile south of town and it had two Wilson's Warbler and I glimpsed a Mourning Warbler, no doubt yesterday's bird I heard. Again there were Monarchs as yesterday, and again, at least seven counted. Maybe 8. Not as many Painted Lady and Queen though. Went swimming in the afternoon, a Ringed Kingfisher was at the river.

I keep forgetting to mention how many trees are starting to turn yellow or brown. Especially where the river is only underground, which is in lots of places now, the Sycamores and Cypresses are both going brown. Where the river is still with surface water they remain green. I see Hackberries and Pecans turning yellow and the pecans in particular are starting to drop leaves. If we don't get some rain quickly the fall bloom (= butterflies) will be shot.

Sept. 16 ~ About 67dF for a low with some gulf clouds just arriving at sunup. Standard summer stuff, high in low 90's. An hour after sunup I was on front porch and heard that great "three beers" call of an Olive-sided Flycatcher twice. Then it gave a full song: Quick! Three beers! What a great sound. My FOS too. Heard the Verdin again across road in Mesquites. Then a bit later I heard a warbler flight note in the pecan over the bird bath. The bird chipped as it flew off, an Audubon's Warbler! Another FOS, there was movement last night.

About 11 I went to the park in town to see if any migrants there. Sure enough. Three Wilson's Warbler at once was great, a FOS Blue-headed Vireo was nice too, one C. Yellowthroat, a Yellow Warbler, a Chipping Sparrow up in the woods, at least two Baltimore Oriole, a few Blue Jay, and one Empidonax Flycatcher that was a Traill's type, either Willow or Alder, I lean the latter on it. More pix of ovipositing Orange-striped Threadtail damselfly.

Stopped at a private prop with a Frostweed patch a half mile south of town and it was jumping with butterflies. A fourth Wilson's Warbler and a Least Flycatcher, plus about 5 big Tom Turkey were there. Butterflies were maybe 25 Pipevine Swallowtail, 200 Painted Lady, 50 Queen, 1 Soldier, and an amazing 7 or 8 Monarch, which are early leading edge of the migrants. Also a Mournful Duskywing, and one Laviana White-Skipper were new for the month.. Thought I heard a Mourning Warbler a couple times but did not kick it up.

Then checked the pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cmty. There was another C. Yellowthroat there for the only bird, and two more male Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonflies. Which makes at least four around so probably a bunch more. A Western Kingbird on a wire there was nice to see since we don't have them nesting in the valley any more. The pic right below is one of the birds at that real cute-as-it-is-clever Martin house between the Waresville Cemetery and the pond on the golf course. Taken a couple months ago, they are of course gone for the year now.

Purple Martin

Male Purple Martin is a beauty, that calls "beer, beer". What's not to like?


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Sept. 15 ~ Low temps back to normal for the date, 67dF, got up to about 93dF in afternoon, so not as bad as yesterday. Ringed Kingfisher flying north over cypresses and river early in morning. On the way to town right out the gate a male Scissor-tail flew across the road coming from the corral, and flew up and did the flip as it was calling! Awesome. Nothing for migrant movement in yard, or at park later in morning. Only migrant at park was a nice bright yellow and dark olive fresh Great Crested Flyctcher. Two Green Kingfisher were interacting. One was wing-flashing at the other, much like a Mockingbird wing-flash, raising the wings up high as possible flashing white wing-linings at the other individual. A pair of Orange-striped Threadtail damselflies were ovipositing (ph.). Kathy had the Twelve-spotted Skimmer in the yard again today when she was spraying water around so it has been here a week now.

Sept. 14 ~ Finally the lows are warming back up, was about 67dF this morning. We had almost two weeks in the mid-50's, which I had not seen for the dates in the 14 years we have been here. At dawn heard some Summer Tanager and Carolina Wren song, and a brief 2 measure sputter of Vermilion Flycatcher flight song. Saw two FOS Nashville Warbler go through yard early. Thursday so stuck at the desk, phone, and computer... Too hot anyway, the afternoon hit 97dF on the cool shady front porch. The sunny south side of house was low 00's.

Sept. 13 ~ A low of 57dF is great. Town run early so a look at the park. On the spillway was a flock of egrets which was 5 Cattle Egret and 1 Snowy Egret. Both are scarce here. Three Yellow Warbler stopped on the spillway for a splash and were gone in a minute. Hiding in the lillies were one each of eclipse male Blue-winged, and a Green-winged Teal. Two Green Heron were seen, the park pair, still have not seen a young yet this year. One greenie and one brownie (imm. Painted and Indigo Buntings). The Shrike was along W. 360. About 30 Cave Swallow were perched on wires across the street from the post office, a few Barn mixed in. The gas station is still out of fuel! Incredible! Good thing I have a few gallons here in case I need to make a getaway. The yard bird of the day was a Verdin calling over in the big Mesquites across from the gate. Couple each Gnatcat and OROR.

Sept. 12 ~ Another 55dF low and still not complaining. Dry and somewhat northerly flow as well, but hot in afternoon. Best was my FOS Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the fall. Seems it is my earliest ever fall date for one here (n~14). Also had a Mockingbird fly over high up, clearly a passage migrant. One brown Indigo Bunting was about a bit, as were a couple Gnatcatcher. The male Vermilion Flycatcher is back around a bit, off and on, but they do not appear to be re-nesting after losing the last one to the electric company tree cutters. A couple dozen or more Ruby-throated Hummer around, not seeing any Black-chinned now the last few days.

The bird of the day was a Two-tailed Swallowtail, our biggest black and yellow butterfly, of which there is always a small flight in September. It is as if there are spring ones, and fall ones, like Rain Lily. Kathy saw the Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonfly come in to sprayed water again this morning. Surely the same one as a few days ago.

Sept. 11 ~ Still hitting 55dF for a low temp, I can't believe it continues. Couple Gnatcatchers, couple Orchard Orioles, the standard morning passersby for the last two plus months. The ones going by now likely are not so much local birds as those that nest much further north. Otherwise no movement, so work it is. We need a front for birds, and rain for the flowers. It has been since earliest August since we had any preciptation. If we don't get any soon, the fall flower bloom will be shot. Which is what we need for a good fall butterfly season. So far it looks grim.

Sept. 10 ~ Holding in mid-50's dF for low temps, high about 85-90 or so. At 7 a.m. the Screech-Owl flew out of the yard quick before the sun comes up. A couple Gnatcats and a couple Orchard Orios. Otherwise very slow of movement this morning, as it has been in this flat high pressure. So worked on projects here instead of birding. Trying to wait for a frontal passage will occur that has birds on it, then I will sneak out for a few hours. Mid to late September can be prime-time here, but usually weather is what knocks migrants down. Without it it can be work finding them. Water is the great attractant.

Sept. 9 ~ Another 55dF low is amazing, keep 'em coming! In the a.m. passing through were a Yellow Warbler, a Gnatcatcher, a couple Orchard Oriole, heard a Baltimore, and again heard a Great Crested Flycatcher. After one of Kathy's spraying water around events, a Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonfly came into yard, perching on clothesline. New for the yard proper, my first one this year, and I got some shots of it perched on a Mexican Hat stem.

Had to run to town for some bricks and got another park check out of it. Best was my FOS Mourning Warbler, an immature female. Almost got a pic, nice shot of a log it was just on. Green Kingfisher and Heron were there, the couple young Blue Jay, a Yellow Warbler. Below the spillway there was another Twelve-spotted Skimmer, so two today, whence my first sightings of them all year. A male Roseate Skimmer posed for pix.

Underwing

One of the Catacola Underwing moths we have locally, probably C. obscura, or something similar. They are nearly invisible on tree bark. Some types have striking red, pink, or orange and black banded hindwings you see when they explode off a tree trunk, and names like Darling, Sweetheart, and Girlfriend. This is our most numerous one though, with dull boring brown hindwings you can just see the corners of.


~ ~ ~ Last prior update below ~ ~ ~


Sept. 8 ~ Another double-nickel low of 55dF. Awesome. Two weeks now of break from the summer heat. Lows way below normal average, highs just a wee bit below, but northerlies and dry air for much of the last two weeks has been amazing. We needed the break, now we need rain. River is low, flow is low, after the last big event it has been bone dry for a month and the plants grew well but need a rain for a good fall bloom. None in sight. At the end of the day there was an imm. fem. Selasphorus (Rufous or Allen's) Hummer at our feeders.

A town run and quick look at the park. On the way my FOS Common Yellowthroat was at the 360 crossing. At the park, a great find was a MacGillivray's Warbler, only my second or third fall record here in 14 falls. So rarer than a Townsend's Warbler here in fall. Though we get one or two 'Macs' most springs, we do not get them in fall. A House Wren was my FOS as well. A couple juvenile Blue Jay. The rest was the expected, though a Yellow-throated Vireo was likely a migrant, haven't been any there lately.

Sept. 7 ~ An amazing low of 55dF was outstanding. Too busy Thursdays though. Had a Scott's Oriole go through yard with some Orchard and Baltimore, a nice troop. Gnatcatchers and Yellow Warbler, heard Dickcissel. Best was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, first in the yard in several weeks since the nesting pair left in July. A passage migrant no doubt.

Sept. 6 ~ The front got here after midnight some time, no rain, dry, but light northerlies, and drier. Amazing treat for the date. It will get hot again yet, so this break of almost two weeks from the summer scorch and drip has been absolutely wonderful. At sunup there were a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in the big pecan, shortly after 2 or 3 Yellow Warbler went through. There is movement, wish I could go birding. Noonish Kathy spotted a warbler at the bath, a FOS Wilson's, and a Yellow came down while it was there, followed by a female Baltimore Oriole. That was a great minute. I thought I heard Nashville Warbler flight notes outside but did not see it. There is movement. Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk and a couple Caracara go over.

Sept. 5 ~ About 67dF for a low, creeping back up, but a front is supposed to hit overnight and drop them back down to nice for a few days at least. Today is the hot in front of the front. Some local stations were upper 90's for a high. A couple Orchard Oriole early. Best was hearing a Great Crested Flycatcher calling, which I haven't heard in a few weeks since the local pair departed the territory. Heard a Baltimore Oriole chatter, an hour later whilst on phone it flew right by the office window and landed in a hackberry, a beautiful male. Whatabird. Saw five male Scissor-tails fly by late afternoon going north above trees, from airstrip toward golf course. They were calling and even singing, one got so excited about it, it climbed up a bit as in breeding display and did the flip! Incredible. Couple Dickcissel went by (farted as they flew over) early. Screech-Owls at the bath right after dark, as often on hottest days.

Sept. 4 ~ Happy Labor Day, the closing holiday of summer. I get to labor today. Still 65dF for a low temp is awesome. An Orchard Oriole or two went through, as did Dickcissel. Summer Tanager singing like it is still nesting. Heard the Yellow-throated Vireo call a bit, and heard a few Scissor-tails. Two Canyon Towhee around yard, but in and out. Best was my FOS Least Flycatcher, finally, I thought I heard a couple in August but never saw one. Not seeing any greenies (imm. Painted Bunting) in the yard for a couple days now. Methinks they are all gone. You will still find a stray or few the next couple weeks, but the local birds are gone.

Sept. 3 ~ Still mid-60's dF for a low is outstanding. Only barely hitting 90dF for a high, the seasons seem to be changing. Busy working on a project so not getting out, prefer to avoid the generally busier holiday crowds anyway. Town is out of gas, so is Sabinal I hear. A bunch of (local) folks panic-bought out the gas last week when Harvey (which never was forecast to come our way), all the way out here! For a holiday weekend, there is no gas here! Welcome to Utopia! Maybe Tuesday I hear... good thing I am busy and hadn't planned a fuel-driven getaway. Always gas (and beer-liquor) up before you leave the last stations on the way here.

Saw another Monarch go by southbound. Couple Orchard Oriole and a Gnatcatcher went through, heard a Baltimore Oriole, thought I heard a Least Flycatcher but didn't see it. One imm. or fem. Indigo Bunting was about for a bit. In the afternoon we went for a swim. Saw something too late after it flew overhead, going away it looked like the south end of a northbound Harris's Hawk.

Sept. 2 ~ About 65dF for a low, so the below normal lows are holding, for a week now, nary a single complaint. The bird of the day was a baby Indigo Snake about 15" long. The orange bands on undersides of the young are very bright, and extend quite a ways up the sides of a mostly blackish animal making for quite a striking appearing snake. Had a Yellow Warbler, Orchard Orioles, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Dickcissel and a Red-eyed Vireo for migrants through yard in the morning. Summer Tanager singing, Yellow-throated Vireo here but not singing, White-eyed Vireo still here occasionally singing, nesting seems over for them. Three or four Scissor-tailed Flycatcher were around in the afternoon, including singing. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher over at the river. Saw another Monarch blast past heading SSW fast.

Spotted Skunk

One of our neat local friends, a Spotted Skunk.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

September 1 ~ Holy cow we made it. August is over. Another amazing low, 61 dF, is very fall-like. The week of destruction from Harvey to our east brought the nicest weather we have seen here since spring. Cooler, northerlies, drier, a much needed break. But we needed rain and did not get any, the water is barely trickling over the spillway at the park now. For some reason our big male Mulberry tree is turning yellow already, very early for that.

Town run so a look at the park. Three Green Kingfisher were at the 360 crossing as I left the house, one ad. fem. and two immatures. At the park there was Great Blue and Green Heron only for waterbirds. Migrants were a Red-eyed Vireo, a Gnatcatcher, an Indigo Bunting, and outstanding was tying my earliest ever fall Clay-colored Sparrow, which was a juvenile (photos while bathing). Saw one male Purple Martin south of town, the locals have been gone weeks. At dusk an Eastern Screech-Owl flew over the yard.

Aug. 31 ~ The 60.5dF was just one dF higher than yesterday morning, and incredible in late August here. High got to 90+ in afternoon. A couple Yellow-throated Warbler were chasing around the bird bath in the morning, at least 3 each Gnatcats and Orchard Oriole, and again Monarch, Queen and Soldier. The Monarch was beating tracks southward, or SSW more properly. Best was two FULVOUS WHISTLING-DUCK that flew over calling to get my attention in the morning. I have one prior record here (of 4 flying over Seco Ridge), and there is one Uvalde record (Mary Gustafson), but so it is accidental locally. Saw the Zone-tailed Hawk go by.

~ ~ here are a couple prior monthly summaries, the meat moved to archive #28 ~ ~

~ ~ ~ August summary ~ ~ ~

After 4.5" of rain in July, we got 3" Aug. 7, and that was it for August, all in three hours. It is dry as a bone, the river has fallen alot, and is barely trickling over the spillway at the park. The fall flowers grew well, but now are stunting from four weeks without a drop of precipitation. The fall bloom is yet to show for the most part. As one might guess then, butterflies were fairly unimpressive for August. It was 48 or 49 species for the month, and the statistically most likely ones at that. A few Monarchs late in the month were of interest, and likely what they call "pre-migrants", which is silly, they are just migrants, early migrants. The leading edge of the bell curve of Monarch passage. Seven White-striped Longtail Aug. 6 was my local high count ever.

It was about 34 species of dragonflies and damselflies in Aug. Two were rare here odes this month, two male Slough Amberwings at Utopia Park (photos). It is my second record here, there are only a very few county records. So good bug. A Hyacinth Glider at the 360 crossing was my first locally in maybe 8-9 years, since pre-drought. Those are both vagrant strays here. Some good migration flight days were had with many dozens to hundreds of Spot-winged and Wandering Gliders, plus Red, and Black, Saddlebags with smaller numbers of Green Darner. Still some Red-tailed Pennants around, the first couple Autumnal Meadowhawk at Lost Maples, Comanche Skimmer and Thornbush Dasher, a few Orange-striped Threadtail at the park.,

I come up with about 97 species seen in the upper Sabinal River drainage this month. Little Creek Larry reported 3 more, so an even 100 were around that we know about. Three great birds locally were seen and or reported, were likely Hurricane Harvey displaced birds. Two White Pelican at the park (Little Creek Larry) Aug. 25, a Least Bittern over the yard Aug. 29, and 2 Fulvous Whistling-Duck on Aug. 31, are all common down on the coast and accidental here. The rest was mostly the migrants getting going. The lack of rain after early in the month seemed to cancel another breeding attempt for many species. Besides daily Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Orchard Orioles moving south, others start showing like Upland Sandpiper, Dickcissel, Baltimore Oriole, Yellow Warbler, Rufous Hummingbird, Eastern Kingbird, all longer distance migrants, true passage migrants that breed way further north and winter way further south.

~ ~ ~ end August summary, back to your regularly scheduled drivel ~ ~ ~



~ ~ ~ July summary ~ ~ ~

Hot and sticky would describe it well. Miraculously we managed 4.5" of rain, but most on just a few days. Some locally only got half that or less, others more. Generally it ran 5-10dF above normal averages for temps most days. Overall it has been dry enough that only a few flowers remain in bloom, the dedicated July bloomers. It is sort of a lull between spring and fall blooms. Butterflies were a bit on the weak side in reflection, only 50 species were found over the month. But a couple were good ones.

A Mimosa Yellow the 9th was great. A Metalmark sps. was the only Calephelis I saw, a FOY too, was probably a Rounded. Small numbers of N. Mestra are moving north. A White-striped Longtail, also on the 9th, was good, another Urbanus sps. went un-ID'd. A couple Laviana White-Skipper later in the month were nice. At Lost Maples a couple black morph female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail were neat.

Odes really kicked it up a notch this month with 46 species being seen locally. There were 32 sps. of dragons and 14 expected species of damsels. They are great fun in the heat when the birds are hiding and are hard to beat photo subjects. I am sure an expert would add a number of species, especially damsels, which I do not work hard. The STRAW-COLORED SYLPH at the 360 x-ing was the best one, quite scarce up here in hills. A GREAT Pondhawk was a great find, at the golf course, less than annual here. A couple Bronzed River Cruiser were outstanding to see again, been very scarce lately. We had four species of pennants at once at a golf course pond one day: Banded, Halloween, Four-spotted, and Red-tailed.

Birds were mostly the expected, but a couple surprises. I come up with 99 species for the month locally, plus Larry's Spoonbills makes 100. Same as last month. The best birds seen were two Roseate Spoonbill flying down Little Creek the 13th. A male Yellow-headed Blackbird was interesting at the golf course on the 15th. A White-tailed Kite on the 19th is good in summer. Was nice to see 8+ Bushtit in the yard one day this month, presumedly some local breeding success. A juv. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was at Utopia Pk. July 12-14 (ph.), and great was 2 Lesser Yellowlegs on July 30 over the river near the golf course.

The main events in July are breeding records, and the first waves of departing breeders. My last Golden-cheeked warbler was July 2 but didn't make it back to LM after that until the 30th so not meaningful. I found a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk again at Lost Maples, on the 2nd, so they were successful again there this year, 3rd in a row. A pair of Eastern Wood-Pewee is nesting at Utopia Park up in the woods by the island, the first nesting there I know of in 14 years of watching. Bigger was my first ever local sure nesting of Bullock's Oriole, an ad. female and 2-3 young in yard (ph.).

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Orchard Oriole are pouring through in July, multiples daily through yard, prolly a hundred of each went by. Some Black-and-white Warbler movement noticable as well. By the end of the month Lost Maples seems way more than half-empty of migratory breeding birds, compared to April, May and June.

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See OLD BIRD NEWS # 28 for July and August 2017

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Above is 2017

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To Top of Recent Bird News
Back to Top
January to June 2017 will be Bird News Archive XXVII (#27). July to December 2016 will be Bird News Archive XXVI (#26). January to June 2016 is now Bird News Archive XXV (#25). July to December 2015 is now Bird News Archive XXIV (#24). January to June 2015 are now Bird News Archive XXIII (#23). December 2014 and prior back to July 1, 2014 are Archive #22. January-June 2014 is now Bird News Archive XXI (or Old Bird News 21). All are linked below.

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Read UP from bottom to go in chronological sequence.

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Links to all 14+ 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 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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