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: May 18, 2018
(prior updates: May 11, 4, April 27, 20, 13, 6, March 30, 23, 16, 9, 2)

Hope you had a good equinox and got everything evenly balanced out. Spring is heading to summer here, the bulk of migrant birds have past us. A few should still show for another week or so. All the breeders are in and on territory now.

We had a major rain event May 4, which the first round of was arriving last hour of the 3rd. It was about three rounds of rain for most of it, and here we had 4.5" at minimum. Some spots up-valley of town in Bandera Co. had 5-6"! Saved the late May-June flower bloom. The S. Little Creek buffalo wallows (just S. of 470 - 2 mi. E. of 187) have water now and it has had a few shorebirds since the rain so check them if in the area, especially if it rained lately. They were covered in Band-winged Dragonlet dragonflies.

Note that (scratch, scratch) there are (scratch) a fair number (scratch, scratch, scratch) of (here a scratch, there a scratch, everywhere a scratch, scratch) chiggers out now. Spray pantlegs with bugspray if going into any knee-high grass. The reckless abandon approach of going in after a bug, whilst in sandals and shorts is not recommended, save for highly skilled professional scratchers, or those that wish to be.

I saw a report of Golden-cheeked Warbler in Bexar Co. March 2, fair numbers are at Lost Maples now. Kathy and I watched a singing male, a mile from our place in Utopia on March 25:
Golden-cheeked Warbler

The light was bad, but the bird was good.



May arrivals (FOS - first of season) around Utopia the last two weeks: May 11 Chestnut-sided Warbler; May 7 a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak; May 5 Eastern Kingbird, May 5-6, a 2-day Philadelphia Vireo; May 4-6 some shorebirds (L-b Dowitchers, W. Phalarope, Pectoral and Baird's Sandpipers) at a couple wet spots north of town in BanCo; May 4: Olive-sided Flycatcher, Swainson's Thrush, and finally a Wilson's Warbler for me here locally; May 3: Black-throated Green and Mourning Warbler, and American Redstart; May 1: Least Flycatcher and Common Nighthawk. At start of latest bird news below there is a chronilogical list of my local arrival dates for the whole spring since the first arrivals in January.

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

A quick note about Utopia Park. There have been some changes in management and rules. It is now $5 per person to enter, during the off-season. Peak, from spring break until Labor Day it will be $10 per person to enter. No charge for Utopia or Vanderpool residents. The new "Birds of Utopia Park" page is now up. Link just above, and below at start of bird news, and above in nav bar under birds category. Note we also have a fairly new 'where to stay' page, with contact info, links and names of many of the local lodging options. It is linked at top above in the NavBar under the Sites and Misc. section, and below at top of bird news.

At Lost Maples on Apr. 1, Kathy and I had several Golden-cheeked Warbler and a few Black-capped Vireo, as well as most of the usual gang: Olive Sparrow, White-tipped Dove, heard Audubon's Oriole, saw Scott's Oriole, Black-throated Sparrow, Canyon Wren, Louisiana Waterthrush, Scrub-Jay, etc., it is getting pretty birdy there again. See the notes below for April 1st, 9th, 10th, 15th and 29th for more details. Some recent ebird reports there include N. Parula and Black-throated Green Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, and Solitary Sandipiper. Ignore the Chihuahuan Raven reports there, they are mis-ID'd Common Ravens which are common resident breeders.

Of expected but scarcer or local things around, there are the usual: Zone-tailed Hawk, Canyon Towhee and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, Ringed and Green Kingfisher. Some few Audubon's Oriole are around, like Bushtit, you could see one anywhere anytime, or nowhere at no time. It's birding!%^*@%! Again some White-tipped Dove and Olive Sparrow have been at Lost Maples, and around Utopia, the new normal. Both nested at Lost Maples last 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. Often around Hwy 90 (Hondo, Uvalde) you can get other signals. Then wi-fi is available at the Utopia Library, the store in Vanderpool had a sign saying they have it there too. State Park headquarters may have it? Don't tell them I told you.   ;)

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

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

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

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, and weekly 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 River drainage.

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

A newer page is the butterfly rarity photos: Rare Butterflies

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

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

Or check out the Bird Guide page.

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

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

Commonly used ABBREVIATIONS are:

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


First a 2011 highlight ...

Rufous-backed Robin

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




Broad-winged Hawk   Broad-winged Hawk

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



Some things from 2012 ...

albino House Finch

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



Cerambycid

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



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

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



Something from 2013 ...
Texas Coral Snake

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



Ringed Kingfisher

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





Two-tailed Swallowtail

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



Texas Blind Snake

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


Zebra Heliconian

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



Louisiana Waterthrush

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



Rusty Blackbird

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



Cedar Waxwing

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



Back to Top
Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat

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

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

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
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
***  Here is a major new page I have been working on for half of last year, and which compiles over a decade of my study at the site. It is a long discussion about the how and why of birds at Utopia Park, and the park bird list.
The Birds of Utopia Park
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Here are assorted links of all manner, and a handy way outta here.
Mitch's Links

~ ~ ~ finally, current bird news from the greater and lesser Utopia area ~ ~ ~
BIRD & NATURE NEWS 2018


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; SLC=So. Little Creek Rd. (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)



Black-capped Vireo
Black-capped Vireo at Lost Maples


Just to have this handy again for reference, recent prior updates:
May 11, 4, April 27, 20, 13, 6, March 30, 23, 16, 9, 2
Usually each weeks' update break is marked with a photo.
You may want to scroll down to last prior update and scroll
up to read in chrono order day to day.

~ ~ ~
Here are my dates for 2018 spring arrivals for the Utopia area,
in chrono order so you can sorta see how it unfurls.
January
29 - Turkey Vulture
29 - Purple Martin
February
20 - Great Egret
25 - Sandhill Crane
25 - Dragonfly (Red Saddlebags)
28 - Bat
March
 2 - Black-chinned Hummingbird (JS Mar. 1)
 2 - Barn Swallow
 2 - Lincoln's Sparrow (migrant)
 4 - Vermilion Flycatcher
 5 - White-eyed Vireo
 7 - Double-crested Cormorant (LCL)
 7 - Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (LCL)
 9 - No. Rough-winged Swallow
10 - Ash-throated Flycatcher
10 - Monarch (butterfly)
14 - Yellow-throated Warbler
14 - Yellow-throated Vireo
16 - Cave Swallow
20 - Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
21 - Scott's Oriole
23 - Common Grackle
23 - Clay-colored Sparrow
23 - Barn Owl
24 - Louisiana Waterthrush
25 - Golden-cheeked Warbler
25 - Black-capped Vireo
29 - Hooded Oriole
29 - Ruby-throated Hummingbird
30 - Summer Tanager
31 - Bell's Vireo
31 - Nashville Warbler
April
 1 - Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
 1 - Black-and-white Warbler
 2 - Bronzed Cowbird
 6 - Great Crested Flycatcher
 6 - Chimney Swift
 6 - Chuck-wills-widow
 6 - Firefly
 9 - Indigo Bunting (LM-TS)
 9 - Yellow-breasted Chat
10 - Broad-winged Hawk (LM)
11 - Green Heron
12 - Common Yellowthroat
13 - Blue Grosbeak
16 - Painted Bunting - (LCL male)
17 - female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
18 - Indigo Bunting (yard male)
18 - Swainson's Hawk
19 - Painted Bunting - (yard male)
19 - Brown-crested Flycatcher
20 - Spotted Sandpiper
21 - Yellow-headed Blackbird (DS)
22 - Baltimore Oriole (early)
22 - Western Kingbird
22 - Northern Waterthrush
22 - Tennessee Warbler
22 - Lazuli Bunting
24 - Orchard Oriole
25 - female Blue Grosbeak
25 - female Hooded Oriole
27 - Yellow Warbler
27 - Cattle Egret
27 - Catbird
27 - female Lazuli Bunting
29 - Bullock's Oriole
29 - Acadian Flycatcher - LM (others earlier)
30 - Yellow-billed Cuckoo
May
 1 - Least Flycatcher
 1 - (yard) female Painted Bunting
 1 - 1st spring male Painted Bunting
 1 - Common Nighthawk
 3 - Black-throated Green Warbler
 3 - Mourning Warbler
 3 - American Redstart
 4 - Swainson's Thrush
 4 - Olive-sided Flycatcher
 4 - Wilson's Warbler
 5 - Eastern Kingbird
 5 - Philadelphia Vireo
 7 - Rose-breasted Grosbeak
11 - Chestnut-sided Warbler
13 - female Mourning Warbler
18 - Cliff Swallow (earlier at V'pool)

Abbreviations used above:
LM - Lost Maples
JS - Judy Schaffer
TS - Thomas Smythe
LCL - Little Creek Larry
DS - Deborah Siegler
~ ~ ~ and now for the news ~ ~ ~

May 18 ~ 64dF for a low, I am going to miss this real soon. Very nice first few hours of light. The dawn chorus is so early now I can't believe it. There is a lot of noise out there before 6 a.m. at first crack of light! No migrants through yard. Heard RingKing over at the river. Some clouds kept it to about 90dF, but a bit sticky. I had a town run for supplies. There was only one migrant at the park, a dull pale female Common Yellowthroat, and I mean dull, must have been a first spring bird. Along the road NW of town I saw one male Yellow Warbler. There were no shorebirds at the SLC ponds or the wet spot on W. Sabinal Rd., save one Killdeer at the latter.

The new thing was Cliff Swallows at the 1050 bridge. I had not seen any there yet this year, so maybe they will nest again under it as they do some years, but not lately. The ones up at Vanderpool have been there under the 337 crossing just east of 187 a couple weeks or more at least. These arrive oddly late. Little Creek Larry said he has seen a Green Heron over on LC, I have not been seeing the park pair that sometimes nests.

The White-crowned Sparrow is gone, so it flew the coop last night. A three day bird, and I got some nice shots of it on the patio. Like that 9-day Kentucky Warbler I had at the park one August, it is great to get stay-durations for migrant birds, and often these are very hard dates to acquire. How do you tell one from another, etc.? Only with an odd bird is it easy to keep track. Some birds burn 25-50% of their body weight in a month (or a week or two, or even less in some cases) during their migration. Quality migration stopover refueling sites are as critical as winter or breeding grounds. They tank up like maniacs for a few days, or weeks, blast off and burn it all off until the next stopover.

Here is my rant of the week... you can go months without one... if yer lucky.
There was a nice bit on SAT NPR radio on Monday about birds. Hat tip to George LaRue for the headsup so I caught it. They had John Karges from Last Chance Forever was on (the raptor rescue people - and if you ever get a chance to see his show, do it, or you can donate to them), Sarah from the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center, some call-ins, one of which was Martin Reid, a crack expert birder, so overall it was very good. It is great to hear any mainstream airplay birds can get. But I got a tail-bone to pick with them.

The idea was put forth (I forget from which) to take feeders down during migration as it keeps birds from migrating. This is false. Why isn't our White-crowned Sparrow of the last three days still out there? If this were true the White-crowned Sparrows, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, and a bunch of others, would all stay to breed here. They don't. Then where are the Painted Buntings in winter?

All these birds migrate away as usual and normal, despite acting like hogs at the slop tray for some of the year. Like many wild waterfowl get in bread-lines at city parks in the winter. Over 99.99999% migrate away in the spring. Then where are the 500 Black-chinned Hummingbirds we have here just at our feeders all spring and summer, in the winter? They migrate away just like they are supposed to, despite the free food signs. And the one that says give us your tired, your weak, and thirsty, your juveniles, immatures, and first-years.

There were just waves of buntings at the feeders at Lost Maples the last few weeks, they were all gone last week. Feeders do not keep birds from migrating except under extenuating circumstances for the most part. Yes some birds will overwinter where they would not otherwise. Besides milder winters, some species are moving north in winter, partly because of feeding stations and food availability. The cold was never the main limiting factor, snow cover hiding the food was bigger.

We just had a one day Rose-breasted Grosbeak here, as almost all are here, at the seed, as most are here (if not in a Mulberry). It pigged out until it was stuffed with very high quality migrant energy to burn, and migrated. It willfully left a veritible fantasy land of sunflower seeds everywhere it looked. You really can't stop a migratory bird from wanting to migrate, it is what they do. Occasionaly you get a Wrongway Feldman, like the Robin that sang all summer at the General Store here several years ago, unrelated to any feeder. There is more of that sort of thing naturally occurring, than there are migratory birds that stop migrating because of a feeder they found.

I have been feeding birds over five decades and would never have to go anywhere to bird if they all had quit migrating when they found my feeders. I'd still have a Redpoll and a White-winged Crossbill outside. Feeders do not keep birds from migrating. Birds are very adept at finding and capitalizing on food sources, and seed eaters especially are very good at recognizing seed feeders, for some reason. As well as migrating when the time for that comes. Migrating is every bit the biological imperitive to them as breeding. Many hundreds of birds of a couple dozen species stop and refuel on our feeders or at our seed piles annualy. They all continue on their migration and leave! Not one stays. Hopefully with some extra fat to burn, re-hydrated, and in better shape then they arrived. In which case my work is done.

~ end of rant.

May 17 ~ Another cool one at 63dF for a low is great. Another low 90's dF high in afternoon, and sticky. No migrants northbound in the morning. At 3 p.m. there was a male Yellow Warbler working around the yard. The White-crowned Sparrow stuck and is on day 3 here now, eating like a pig and hitting the bath often. Seems to be glad he found this resort. Might be my latest date here now. The rest was the breeders, that is about what we are down to. Male Hooded Oriole hit the bath, which is rare to see, and like Scott's, only when very hot out.

There are low-end chances of rain I think Sunday through Wednesday mornings, so those will be about the last chances to snag a spring migrant. I can't believe I did not hear a single Dickcissel this spring. Even the years they did not stick to nest, they still showed up in the yard as passage birds. Nothing. First spring in 15 I have not had one here, usually they are numerous. Eyed Elaterid flying arund yard again today.

May 16 ~ A low of 61dF from the rain-cooled air of last night feels fantastic. It got up to about 93 on the cool shady front porch, I saw KHDO (Hondo) had 103dF! Two Yellow Warbler went through yard early. I had to run to town so checked the park, to no avail, I saw no migrants, nor any at 354 pecans either. But there was an Eastern Amberwing dragonfly, my earliest ever record locally. The spring migration bird party is about over. I ran out to Haby's wet spot and there were 4 Pectoral Sandpiper there. Outstanding BanCo birds, third time in two weeks there have been a few here (or at SLC ponds) this spring, 9 total birds so far in 3 little groups. I can only find reference to one prior sight record of one single bird in Bandera Co.

I heard in town people in some areas around got .25 to .50 inch when the rain cells came through last night, the lucky ones got an inch, mostly eastward, some got 1-1.5". In the yard the White-crowned Sparrow stayed the night and was around again all day until late eating white millet like a pig for another day. Must be hungry, has a long way to go, and is going to tank up all it can for the next leg. Glad to be of service. Keeps hitting the bird bath too, acting like it is at the spa or something. Kathy spotted the Indigo Snake, our FOY sighting, it must be six feet long now, it was at the bath drinking.

May 15 ~ Cloudy early but clearing by noon, 68-88dF spread again. Heard a Yellow Warbler sing around for a while, and heard an Orchard Oriole do the same, besides a couple call notes, there were a few of them, likely northerly breeders on passage. Great was a late White-crowned Sparrow, which was around all day, three times it came into the bird bath and was still out there in the evening. It looks like (eastern) leucophrys, the usual one here, with a pink bill and black lores. In butterflies had a Horace's Duskywing besides the couple usual Funereal around. A few Vesta Crescent, saw one Bordered Patch, a couple Queen, a Large Orange Sulphur, a Black Swallowtail, lottsa Red Admiral, a Questionmark, and some of the regulars.

Three RingKings out there again, at times right over house, the begging young behind the ad. male. After dark a thundercell ran down the ridge on east side of valley between us and Seco Crk., which dumped them an inch of rain, but it was a narrow band and the cell split as it approached Utopia. We got a tenth of an inch. Better was the outflow cooldown. Heard a Barn Owl going N. after it went by about 11 p.m.

I moved the birdbath a few feet, which meant moving nearly 100 lbs. of large rocks. It had to be under where I could hang a milk jug with pinholes (one top one bottom) in it in the pecan. So as to create a slow drip sound (no spigot on that side of house). As it warms they are going through the water, besides the attractant factor of the dripping water sound. We needed an 'automatic' refill, to keep it sorta topped up, since we have to manually fill it. At least it gives us a gallon worth of latitude. When a couple doves and cards come in by time they get done splashing there is just a little left. I'll put a pic up shortly.

May 14 ~ Cloudy most of the day, about 68-88dF for a temp spread, a little sun late in day, southerlies blowing most of the day. One Yellow Warbler sang out in the yard. Heard RingKings over at the river. Mostly it was the same gang of breeders now. The female Indigo Bunting continues as does the male singing over by draw, so it looks like they are nesting nearby this year. The are at least 3 Painted territories around the place. It seems one pair of Blue Grosbeak are across the road, and a pair of Chat which hit the bath nearly daily. Hooded and Scott's Orioles hit the feeders many times daily, so are nesting nearby. Great Crested Flycatcher nests over in the corral but visits the yard daily to belt out with all manner of sounds from the big pecan. There are begging baby House Finch I forgot to mention, since the 11th. Wood Sage has flowers opening, since the 10th. Saw another Eyed Elaterid (the giant click beetle) flying around yard.

May 13 ~ Stayed cloudy most of the day, with some breaks in the afternoon, temp spread was about 67-88dF. Martins were overhead in the dark at 5:30 a.m., before the Chucks get going with their morning last blast. Heard a Baltimore Oriole in yard early before we left. We went to Lost Maples, via Haby's wet spot, where there was one solitary Solitary Sandpiper. As it should be. At Lost Maples we went straight to feeding station area, it has calmed down a bit since the rush of bunting migration is over. There were a couple White-tipped Dove there, and a couple more heard up the trail to the ponds. Rufous-crowned Sparrow and texana Scrub-Jay were also there, the rest was the expected usual gang.

Heard a few Black-capped Vireo along the trail, got a glimpse of one. Heard a bunch of and saw a few Golden-cheeked Warbler, often when feeding young. With fledged begging young now they have gotten easier to find than the couple prior weeks. We had great looks at point blank on the trail to the ponds. Watched a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher feeding a nestful of young. The baby Ravens are getting huge fast. Did not hear an Olive Sparrow though, I suspect they lost their nests in the big rain event. On the way back down in the heat about 1 p.m. we had a couple Audubon's Oriole. Had a hawk go over too quickly to ID, sure was interesting looking though, buteo, long tail.

Heard a dozen Black-n-white Warbler saw a few, their young are not out yet. We had 3 Common Yellowthroat, which are migrants and a big number for the late (here) date, I heard a Nashville Warbler sing. Heard several saw a couple Louisiana Waterthrush. Only one pair of Eastern Wood-Pewee in two miles of canyon is very low. Total of three territorial Acadian Flycatcher is also low, one clearly was unmated and trolling up and down the highwater area.

In general too cloudy and cool so bugs were not very active. Saw one Flame Skimmer dragonfly at the highwater pond up Can Creek a mile past the ponds. At least 3 Prince Baskettail, finally more than one. In butterflies a couple Mournful, one Juvenal's, and a couple un-ID'd Duskywing, one worn Red Satyr, no big yeller swallowtails but Spicebush still flying, one FOY Southern Broken-Dash, one Bronze Roadside-Skipper, one Red-spotted Purple, and small numbers of the common stuff.

The beautiful blue Larkspur was in good bloom though, some Rock Flax showing now too, saw blooming Green (Pearl) Milkweed Vine, Texas Littleleaf Mulberry, some Looking-glass (Venus or Western), a bit of Scarlet Clematis still going, the Canyon Mock-orange is done. The rain last week really greened the place up, lots more stuff was just coming up. It was obviously parched before, now it is on its way to its usual lush self. But it may have cost some nesting success. We heard a half-dozen Canyon Wren singing along the canyon but saw none.

Back here at the hovel, Kathy spotted a male Yellow Warbler coming into the bath. Didn't have one at Lost Marbles. Then later about 5 p.m. Kathy called me to look at the orioles in the bird bath. It was 2 first-spring male Hooded, and one (happy appearing) female Hooded splashing around. While we were watching (from different rooms) she calls out a Mourning Warbler, and sure enough a female comes in and takes a bath. Unfortunately I only got docushots through the window and screen but you can tell what it is just fine. Bird of the day, back at home at the bath, not during the 4 miles and 6 hours of hiking. Coulda just sat here drinkin' whiskey and beer all day and got it.

May 12 ~ Cloudy morning, sun in afternoon, about 65-85dF for a temp spread, hotter in open sunny areas. Southwest flow though so dryish compared to the usual level of sticky. No migrants in yard over the morning. We went to the park to check it and Kathy found a Northern Waterthrush, which was the only migrant there. You know you are getting near the end of spring migration when all you have left is Northern Waterthush that nests in the furthest north trees and forest on the continent. They are always at the er, tail-end of it.

At the 354 pecans there were no migrants, but we heard four species of vireo singing. Bell's in the mesquite at east end of the pasture off north side of road, and in the pecan patch, White-eyed, Yellow-throated, and Red-eyed Vireo all sang. Over at the old Preston Place a male Ringed Kingfisher flew out from below the falls. This is where there are 4-5 RingKing holes in a bank cut, about 18' above the usual normal water level.

Mourning Warbler
This is the female Mourning Warbler Kathy spotted at the
bird bath May 13. Sorry the pix were taken through a window
and a 50 year-old screen so a bit fuzzy, with apologies.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 11 ~ Low clouds from the coast, 10-15mph southerlies from the Gulf, humid, about 65dF for a low. Summer is coming. Still nice early, but not for long. I see upper 90's forecast later next week. Here it comes. No migrant motion through the yard in the morning. Town run for supplies. At the 354 pecans there was a singing Chestnut-sided Warbler, which is LTA here, less than annual. Whatabird. Have seen it now 7 of 15 springs here, but not the last three. The park had no migrants at all.

The W. Sabinal Rd. and S. Little Crk. Rd. ponds both had no shorebirds. Everything gone, and nothing new pulled in and holding. At SLC there were 9 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and lots of Band-winged Dragonlet (odes) flying. One Yellow Warbler was in the big live-oak behind the general store. Zone-tailed Hawks were seen just south of town and 1050 by the Sabinal River Lodge, and another was on UvCo 360 over a horse pasture. Probably parts of different pairs being a couple miles apart. Heard Ring Kings over at the river. Barking Frog are going fairly well, if you listen closely there are a number of variations in the sounds one makes, when a couple get going barking back and forth in conversation, it really sounds like the frogs are talkin' to me.

May 10 ~ Low clouds and about 65dF for a low, highs in 80's, which is standard average range for first half of May. Not bad, completey bearable. Had one Yellow Warbler Warbler through yard. The female Indigo Bunting is still around, and I hear a male singing, hopefully they are nesting. Hooded Oriole singing around quite a bit, I wish they would nest close. Saw a first-spring male which is a new arrival, so three of them here now. At least one female Ruby-throated Hummer here, besides more than a couple males. Too many Archilochus to work. It is crazy with them out there now. Perhaps the first batch of young are fledging, I have been too busy to look closely at them. Chucks squawking up a storm at last light, and prior to that, the Common Nighthawk is getting into the booming finally. Saw fledged juvie Cardinal today.

May 9 ~ About 62dF with the low clouds from the coast here in the morning. No migrant noise this morning, it is fading already. The bulk of it is already past us now. But there should still be a week (or two if lucky) of trickle as it winds down. Consisting mostly of the females and first spring birds that run behind the ad. males that have to get to and acquire territories first. We are getting to the 'just the breeders' time. Hope for some more weather to knock some more down before its totally over.

Sure nice to see Yellow-breasted Chat flight song and display though. The last couple days I caught bouts of it out front. Today it went over to the millet seed tube to see what the action there was about. Very neat bird. I love a genetic outlier. Saw a female Indigo Bunting at the bath, hope it is with the male that sings over in the draw, and was on the patio yesterday. Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk go by in the afternoon. Heard RingKing and a Red-eyed Vireo was singing over in corral.

May 8 ~ A third morning in a row with 53dF for a low methinks we hit the jackpot. Last of this until about October. There were two juvenile Ringed Kingfisher chasing and begging from an adult male, the trio circled right over and around the yard about 200' up. So two young out now so far this year, last week there was only one. Did not see any migrant motion in yard. It fades fast here, there is about another week of great potential IF IF any weather to knock 'em down, then a week of fade-away and tardy stragglers, then its over.

Some just-fledged Titmice in the yard, the pair of Common Grackle were around the seed, that thrill will wear away fast. When we lived in New Jersey, a hundred would come in and clear the place out of other birds and seed in no time. Scott's and Hooded Orioles occasionally clearing the hummers off the feeders. Hit the jackpot today about 5:30 p.m. when I glanced out the window and saw a Catbird in the bath! Too cool. Here we see just a very few (1-3) each spring, almost all in Mulberries, so to have one in the bath is outstanding. Kathy saw it back sometime after 7 p.m. for another round of splashing. I got docu shots through the window and screen, so they aren't sharp (below).

May 7 ~ Wow another 53dF or so for a low, we will soon miss this crisp. Heard a Nashville and a Yellow Warbler in the a.m., alas, it's Monday. Mid-morn I spotted a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak on the ground at the seed out back! I do not see them every year here, it is a LTA - less than annual, species here. Yes some get reported around the area, a very few, mostly at the sites covered daily all spring by visiting birders, like Concan or Lost Maples. You can bird all spring here and not see one easily, I have seen them 10 of 15 springs here, and only had more than one in a spring, two or three times. Made my day early.

Otherwise not much different. The Cuckoo (Y-b) was out there, so likely the local breeder. The pair of Common Grackle were back. A male Indigo Bunting was foraging below the seed, presumedly the one singing over at the draw that summered last year. In the afternoon two female Indigo Bunting were a good sign, or migrants. Did not see the grosbeak after the morning. Lucked out to get a couple docushots. The Chucks went off again around the house at last light, not as intensely as last night though.

May 6 ~ A low of 53dF was outstanding, it feels like utopia man. Got up to about 87dF at peak heat in the afternoon, but dryish. Dawn chorus is getting going at about 6:30 now, some stuff earlier! I heard an Orchard Oriole singing over in the corral, and some calls from others in the front yard. That fancy male American Goldfinch was back at the feeders, has to be getting close to my latest local date ever. At one point it landed next to the male Painted Bunting on the tube, it was all my eyes could take. That yellow, black, and white, right next to that red, green, and blue. I was in the cottage so not 10' away looking through the barely cracked door. The pair of Common Grackle came back in to the feeders this morn, I got a couple docu shots.

Mid-day we went to check and see how migration looked at a couple tree patches. Begging just fledged tailless Yellow-throated Warbler were at the 360 crossing. Also there was my FOY Checkered and Swift Setwing dragonflies. Better was a River-Cruiser (dragon) of some sort, I presume Bronze, the most likely here.

Mostly though it was devoid of migrants. What was here left, and little new showed up in the way of migs. Heard a few Clay-colored Sparrow still singing along roadside. At the UvCo 354 pecan patch just east of 187 a couple Orchard Oriole appear to have returned since yesterday and we had some great flight song at point blank. Amazingly the Philadelphia Vireo was still there! A two day Philly here! I got a docu shot or two. In birding you can have something be relatively dull, and still be totally awesome. The Yellow Warbler there was prolly one of yesterday's as well. The park had zip for migrants. Bunch of Waxwings on the Mulberries was it save the begging baby Chickadees.

So we went out to the SLC ponds. There were 3 Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Solitary Sandpiper, and 1 Dowitcher continued. No Phalaropes or Pectorals. Yesterday there were 2 Killdeer, 10 Yellowlegs, 4 Solitary Sand., 7 W. Phalarope, the two Pectoral and two Dows. So most of it left. There was a new Blue-winged Teal drake. Didn't even see the pair of Killdeer. In odes dozens of Band-winged Dragonlet dragonflies and one Wandering Glider.

Then over to Haby's wet spot on W. Sabinal Rd. Yesterday there were 6 Phalarope, 13 Lesser Yellowlegs and a Solitary Sandpiper, all were gone today. At the smaller wet spot a couple hundred yards east though, there were 3 Pectoral Sandpiper which I got great photos of. Migration: here today, gone tomorrow. A dozen Scissor-tails were feeding over the wet spots though, which was nice to see, the two Eastern Kingbird there yesterday were gone. Saw a couple Yellows, and one probable Nashville along the roads.

At dusk after a pair of Common Nighthawk went over, I was treated to a Scissor-tail doing a couple display flights including full 360 deg. loops from the driveway. Awesome. One was close enough facing me so I could hear the drum roll of the wing clapping on the climb up as it is screaming its head off right up to the flip. It is an out-of-this-world awesome flight display. You can tell by its calls when it is going to do it. It is a special set of excited notes, presumedly to make sure the female is watching.

Then as it got dark two Chuck-wills-widow went off nuts right around the house. I don't know if it was duetting or competitive. They were moving around, and one surely had to be sitting on the peak of the roof at one point, the other maybe on a high unused birdbox over the garden out back. It sounded like Poor-will duetting with constant back-and-forth, one was distinctly higher pitched than the other. Which is why I thought maybe a sexual difference. I can hear the difference in sexes of Screech-Owl pitch, which I think many can.

May 5 ~ A 58dF low felt fantastic, clear and sunny, dry air, it's like utopia. The pair of Hooded Oriole hit one of the feeders early, and the Scott's sung his way in and out. Heard an Am. Redstart singing upslope behind us, but couldn't find it in the thick. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo out there too may be our local nearby nester. A pair of Common Grackle were on the patio eating white millet this morning, and returned around 2 p.m. for more. I would put up with just one pair no problem if they let me get some good photos of that iridesence.

An Eastern Kingbird on 360 between the river and 187 was my FOS. Auto-focus chose the hills two miles away on the horizon though. The park had one Swainson's Thrush, presumedly one of yesterday's birds. A Least Flycatcher was in the willows adjacent and below the island. A Northern Waterthrush and a Common Yellowthroat were it for migrant warblers. There were begging fledgling Yellow-throated Warblers above the screen shelters. A male Ringed Kingfisher flew in and landed 30' from us sorta hidden in the woods, before it knew we were there. Slowly reaching to bring camera up was enough for it to fly. We had two just-emerged (teneral) Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly, which have been very hard to come by here since the drought.

Heading out on north part of Jones Cmty. Rd. in one big pasture there were over 25 Common Raven. Which reminds me, I forgot to mention last weekend on the way to Lost Maples, about a mile from there, we had 25-30 in a field together at once. My first couple of years here I did not see 25 total Common Raven, now we can see that at once, and not in winter flocks. They have exploded here in the last decade.

On W. Sabinal Rd. at Haby's wet spot there were 13 Lesser Yellowlegs, 6 Wilson's Phalarope (4 fem., 2 ma.), 1 Solitary Sandpiper, and just east a couple hundred yards 2 Eastern Kingbird feeding over another flooded area. In odes dozens of Band-winged Dragonlet and Roseate Skimmer over the big wet spot, one FOY Wandering Glider, and a couple calling Couch's Spadefoot Toad. Another of the toad was calling at that often flooded area on east side of Jones Cmty. Rd., where Spring Branch Rd. junctions with it. At the corner of Jones Cmty. Rd. and W. Sabinal Rd. there was a small flock of 6-7 Savannah Sparrow. Another species for which we get a distinct late wave of in early May, after the winterers and the early spring migrants are long gone, which surely must be some far north nesters.

Then over the buffalo wallows, aka SLC ponds. One Pine Siskin flew over calling. The 2 Dowitcher continue, and though distant appear expected Long-billed in scope. New were 2 PECTORAL Sandpiper which are exceedingly rare in BanCo. There were 7 Wilson's Phalarope (only 3 yesterday), 10 Lesser Yellowlegs, and 3 Solitary Sandpiper, all at the big pond, one more Solitary at the little pond, further south. The pair of Killdeer at the big pond are presumedly nesting, also one pair of BBWD there, where they have nested before as well. There were lots more Band-winged Dragonlet over the big pond, which is where I first discovered them in Bandera Co. in 2004. Another Spadefoot Toad was calling at the smaller pond, as often if rain. So those were calling at 3 sites today. Usually it takes 5-6" of rain to get them out. Saw my first Skeleton-plant flower today.

At the 354 pecans were 3 Yellow Warbler and a PHILADELPHIA Vireo. I have recorded it 7 of 15 springs here, a few years had more than one, and only once two together (which was also at the 354 pecans). The Olive-sided Flycatcher continued on the same snag. A couple random Yellow Warbler were seen along the road. But overall, though some things stuck, most of the grounding left. I presume after skies cleared last night. Warblers were nothing like yesterday. The story of migration. But there were more shorebirds so the ponds are pulling birds down, and will do so for a week at least while they hold water and they are migrating over, two if we are lucky. Had a RingKing calling over at river at dusk. Rio Grande Leopard Frog are roaring now. Saw an Eyed Elaterid flying around which was smaller than the one last week, so different.

Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird at our bath May 8, taken through a window
and a 50 year-old screen so a bit fuzzy, with apologies.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 4 ~ Major rain day. It started just before midnight last night, lots of heavy lightning, and over an inch in an hour. By 6 a.m. it was 1.5" here, and some Purple Martins were up flying and calling in the dark overhead then though. Gotta be eatin' moths like the bats do, what else is up there in the dark? This is why their eyes are big?

About 7:30 a.m. the cold air got here and wrung about 1.75" out of the atmosphere in an hour! It was torrential, sideways, with lots of closeby lightning strikes. So by 8:30 or so it was 3.25 inches here, and I saw some radar estimates upvalley in BanCo at 5 inches! Then in the next two hours, up to 10:30, another inch fell! In the couple hours after that about .35 more! So 4.5" at minimum here and well over 5" to 6+ in spots upvalley in BanCo!

I will get some totals next time I go to town, this is the sort of thing we love to compare in Utopia, rainfall totals. The pecans will fully leaf out now, and the spring flowers that were on hold will likely explode. We needed it bad. At one point mid-morning there were at the tube white millet feeder and below it, 3 ad. male, 3 female, and 2 1st spring male Painted Bunting. Eight at once, feeder flies they are.

Hooded and Scott's Oriole hit the hummer coated feeders first thing early. We have surpassed a gallon of fluid a day now and so there are an estimated 500+ Black-chinned Hummingbird here. To have 50 at once either on the feeders or waiting in line is nothing at the heavy feeding times. I have not been able to work them, but did see a female Ruby-throated yesterday, besides several males.

One of the things that years of good fieldcraft does is make you lazy. I know if anything really different shows up I will know instantly by audio, so why bother working 500 Black-chins? I know all the others calls, so if something else comes in I will detect it before I see it anyway. The only problem is the feeders are on the front porch at the other end of the house from the office, so I am not in constant earshot. I just have one out a window on office end of the hovel, so I can see male Hooded and Scott's Orioles as often as possible, which will do you wonders BTW.

I played hooky in the afternoon as Friday late usually gets slow in the office anyway. Had to go see what happened in the rain. We were not having passage migrant action in the yard, a Nashville and a Yellow was about it. First I checked the road from here to the crossing and that area around it. Saw 8-10 Yellow Warbler, 3 Black-throated Green Warbler, 5 Least Flycatcher, a Common Yellowthroat and a couple Nashville Warbler, a late Orange-crowned, my FOS 1st spring male Orchard Oriole, Chats, plus some that got away. So what I would call a good fallout for here happened overnight. The rain hit in the middle of the night after stuff was up and flying, perfecto!

I would not try fording the crossing without a couple hundred pounds over the rear wheels in the pickup bed, it was too dicey for me. So I went out the back long way around to town to check the park and wherever I could get into some pecans. The park only has a few, but has some understory, and Mulberries. Water was roaring over the dam, I heard this morning it was almost up to 1050. It looked like the entire island had been power washed clean. Which I suspect is exactly what happened. But there was at least one and maybe two Swainson's Thrush hitting the Mulberries, my FOS, and easy to miss here if you don't hang out at Mulberries the key two weeks of open window for them. One each Yellow Warbler and Common Yellowthroat were the only other migrant warblers I saw there.

With the rain, the caldendar says it is THE time to get a shorebird over at the So. Little Creek Rd. "buffalo Wallows", about 3-4 mi. NE of town in BanCo out 355, just above the N. Thunder Crk. turnoff, and below 470. So I took the chance, and sure enough, shorebirds! Not many, hardly any, but that is way more than usual here where finding them is like pulling teeth. Best were a couple Dowitcher in fair breeding plumage which I got some distant shots of, hopefully enough to prove species. I did not have my scope so could only binoc, and shoot pics. Any here are Long-billed by default, until proven otherwise. Then as stunning were 3 female Wilson's Phalarope in beautiful breeding plumage. The Phals and Dows are both my first ever in Bandera Co., and for my upper Sabinal River drainage area list. There were also a couple Lesser Yellowlegs, and three Solitary Sandipiper. At least 10 sandpipers of 4 species. Which is remarkable here. Tomorrow I will have to go check "Haby's wet spot" on W. Sabinal Rd., I was running out of light.

On the southmost east-west street in town just east of the church there was group of warblers in some pecans with another 8 Yellows, and 2 more Nashville. Then I checked the 354 pecans where there were another dozen Yellows were. I saw about 30 Yellow Warbler around the area here today, which is amazing. Also on 354 was my FOS Olive-sided Flycatcher. Finally I figured I should check the golf course in case a flooded fairway had maybe a Buff-breasted Grasspiper or somesuch. The last one I checked had a wet spot, and three Baird's Sandpipers! On their way from Argentina to the furthest north tundra in Canada to nest. Just a little rain, and bam! Shorebirds! You get to see them here. Very cool. Once (2004) I had a good little flock of 17 or so Baird's at the So. Little Creek Rd. buffalo wallows after a rain. The clouds and northerly flow might keep some of the stuff here overnight, we will see tomorrow.

There were Clay-colored Sparrows at every stop, and flushing from sides of road, same for Painted and Indigo Bunting, and Blue Grosbeak, but still no Dickcissel. Had a couple Orchard Oriole. Couple Least Flycs along the roads too. I bet if you hung at the wallow until dark, by tomorrow there will be Couch's Spadefoot Toads calling if not tonght. Heard Bell's Vireo singing in a few places along the roads, but no Dickcissel yet anywhere here. Some other transients were Red-eyed Vireo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee for a few off the top of the pointy head. Chimney Swifts rocking (display flight) over town. Martins all around too. Today was one of the best bird days I have had here in the last year, or two, or three, for about 3 hours and change out in the afternoon only late. Rain is magic for birds in migration.

May 3 ~ Another balmy low about 70dF, overcast, occasional mist in the a.m., we missed the rain overnight, was to north, and now they say overnight tonight to Friday night is the big chance. Tomorrow is 75%+ chances they say, so I did my town run today. It was enough to knock birds down though. I saw a Tennessee Warbler in the yard in the morning. After missing them the last few springs a plain female is great to see. A couple Nashville went through yard. Bet you could work up a good list if you could stay after it all day here today. Temp was 87dF on the cool shady front porch at 5 p.m.

Just down the road a piece between the corral and crossing I had a beautiful male Black-throated Green Warbler, my FOS. A Yellow was in the pecan with it and a Black-and-white was singing nearby. Then at crossing a couple Yellows. At the Preston Place a couple more Yellows, at the 354 pecan patch a couple Yellows and a Nashville. No Dickcissel or Orchard Oriole there though. What happened?

At the park in the woods was a FOS male American Redstart, and a FOS male Mourning Warbler! Which is like a jackpot here. It seemed two Catbirds to me in the Mulberries on the island. Three Common Yellowthroat there is a high number here at once. Eastern Wood-Pewee was singing, a couple pairs of Common Grackle are likely our nesting pairs, and the male Downy Woodpecker that was there in March continues. Couple Blue Jay.

In the yard at dusk were two of yesterday's 3 Clay-colored Sparrow that spent the day here. Beautiful little sparrow. Another yellow Warbler in yard here in p.m., methinks it was about 9 total today. There was some migrant movement out there. Saw a pair of Common Nighthawk at dusk. Heard a Barn Owl after dark. Finally about 11 p.m. we have a thundercell bearing down on us, time to unplug. Little Creek Larry mentioned he had a couple dozen or so Pine Siskin in one flock a few days ago. A big number for so late, was prolly Apr. 29 or 30.

May 2 ~ Still cloudy and misty, maybe 72dF for a low. Looks like another good bird day with weather to knock them down. Has to be in the yard for me, I am stuck at the desk. Some later afternoon sun took it to a humid sticky 84dF in the shade. Only a few spritizes still so far. Still supposed to get some real precip. Heard a few Nashville Warbler go by in the a.m., and a couple came into the bath late p.m. Indigo Bunting singing over in the draw, probably last years' summerer. I saw a report of 19 species of warblers today at a park on the Cibolo Crk. in far eastern Bexar Co., including Blue-winged and Golden-winged. Oh what a difference a hundred miles makes. Takes a minor miracle to get 10 species here.

The big hit of the day was late about 6:30, when a male Common Yellowthroat took two long baths! It was of the broadly white mask-border type, with limited yellow throat. It is the first one I have seen IN the yard, only took five years. The yard was originally mowed to death for decades, not a sprig of understory, gardening, or landscaping visible whatsoever. So understory birds are beyond very hard to come by in the yard, it is a virtual desert for them. The canopy is nice, but with no understory it is only half of a habitat, and actually less than that. I have seen them across and down the road, and once saw one over road leaving the yard, had them in draw 50 yards away, etc., so finally! Methinks bird species #220 for the yard proper, in 5 years. Not bad for no gas. It was also my 20th species of warbler in the yard. Which does not count Audubon's Warbler (which should count as a seperate species), or Yellow-breasted Chat (which is no longer a warbler).

The female Phoebe is back today, so it was 10 days she was gone from the day of fledging the young and leading them away. We saw neither her nor the 5 young after the day they got out. The male stayed here and guarded the territory, singing his keister off, while she and the young were nowhere to be found. Finally today she is back. I suspect the first several days is spent teaching the young how to flycatch. Then several are spent mustering the courage (not to mention calcium) up to come back and do it again. It may be other phoebes do it other ways, but I thought this was very interesting behavior, which I had not realized was occurring before. It seems the last broods of the year, they all stick together for a few days.

May 1 ~ There was some migrant movement through yard in the morn, wish I could have gone birding. Had a Bullock's Oriole sing, and later a male Baltimore was exploring both the seed feeders. A couple Clay-colored Sparrow, my yard FOS female Painted Bunting, also my FOS first-spring male Painted Bunting (lime above, salmon below type), single male Yellow, and Black-and-white, plus a Nashville Warbler or two, and my FOS Least Flycatcher. New birds. Still cloudy and threatening to rain but just spritzes so far, though clearly was enough to knock birds down though. Bet it is good out there based on yard action. Got up to about 82dF and very humid late afternoon. At dusk finally I had my FOS Common Nighthawk fly over calling, about one week later than average return date.

~ ~ and now for a brief intermission ~ ~

~ ~ ~ April summary ~ ~ ~

It was a dry one, about 2" of rain for the month, maybe 2.5 at our place but 1.5 or so in town. Avg. is about 4, so about half of normal. It shows in the flower bloom now, which is much reduced for the end of April. Temps were average, very bearable. For birds a lot of nesting activity gets underway for the earlier returners, and most of the rest start showing up over the month. Amazing was getting out of April without a Dickcissel or Common Nighthawk yet. That is real weird.

Butterflies were about 48 species, nothing rare as is the norm in spring (vagrants are a summer-fall thing here). Saw all six of the regular Swallowtail species. An Elfin snuck under the wire on April 1, they are done for the year now. A decent crop of Oak Hairstreak are out, and loads of Olive-Juniper Hairstreak. Little Wood Satyrs were thick at Lost Maples, as common as I have ever seen them. Red Admiral numbers were very high too. Saw a few of the Bronze, and at least one of the other very similar Roadside-Skipper with uncheckered fringes. I think it was 9 total spring migrant Monarchs I had pass in March and April, about average.

Odes were weakish still, they are just getting going. I count about 9 damsels and 12 dragons for 21 total ode species in April. In dragons Pronghorn Clubtail is always nice, only one Prince Baskettail so far, a few Springtime Darner, but slow. Damsels were few too, Springwater and Aztec Dancer are always nice at Lost Maples. Next month it should break.

Birds were great, though I would say migration so far has been weak. No major fallouts, just trickles of the usual expected. After fall and winter it has been so long, any diversity, especially that with color and song, is fantastic. The dawn chorus gets back to full roar as the first round of breeding activity commences. Some things seem a bit slow getting back and filling in so far. Looks about 120 species I saw, maybe 4 just at Lost Maples. I know of a few other things others saw locally as well. So over 125 species were around the area for the month. Not bad for inland without a major open water in way of lake or river. If you were retired (I am just tired over and over, which is not the same) and could work at it every day (and burn some gas), 135 or 140 is possible locally over the month, maybe even 150 if you were lucky, in a good year. Just in the upper Sabinal River drainage.

Territorial singing Olive Sparrow are just south of Utopia, and at Lost Maples where also some pairs of White-tipped Dove, and an Audubon's Oriole reported. By the last week of the month a begging Ringed Kingfisher juvenile is chasing an adult up and down the river south of town a couple miles, as last year. The new hill country normal. I have only seen a couple other species with young out of the nest so far: Eastern Phoebe, Chipping Sparrow, and Carolina Chickadee. Bluebird will be any day though.

The bird of the month were the two BLACK SWIFT that gave a four-second view as they passed by on April 26, the morning after the big storm from the west went by. Not long enough to write up an offical report, but long enough to ID if you have seen a bunch of 'em. When you know what you saw, you know what you saw. No matter who comes along and pretends they know better than you, what you saw. Be especially suspicious if they wear corrective lenses. For some reason birding is blessed with lots of guys that actually can't see very well, that insist only they can say what you saw.

~ ~ ~ back to the regularly scheduled drivel ~ ~ ~

April 30 ~ Cloudy, breezy, supposed to maybe rain pretty much every day all week there are fair to good chances. A few spits of mist was it all day. In the a.m. finally heard a FOS Yellow-billed Cuckoo in a far pecan out front. Same time a male Orchard Oriole was in the top of the near big one, and I heard a singing Black-and-white Warbler. So some movement, figures when ya gotta work. Had a Swainson's Hawk go over. The juv. Ringed Kingfisher still chasing and begging from an adult over at river. Bath getting some colorful traffic with Summer Tanager, Painted Bunting and Yellow-throated Warbler regular again now.

April 29 ~ Lost Maples one last time in April. Kathy and I did the Can Creek trail to the highwater point (highest permanent) a mile past the ponds, to the oh what the heck, let's call it the Mexican Tetra pond. A flock of Clay-colored with some Chippy Sparrow were on 360 east of river. There were only a few Scissor-tails on 187 all the way up and back, less than a handful total, maybe 3 pairs. Just north of Boyce's Ball Field, I had to hit brakes to avoid a Bullock's Oriole chase event. Heck of a way to see a FOS, braking hard for it. A pair or two nest in that line of Hackberry and Mesquite along 187 from the BanCo line north, especially above the ball field to where it turns to live-oak woods on the west side of 187.

As if that wasn't enough braking for birds, on the way we came around a corner and I had to hit them again, there was a big Tom Turkey with tail fanned in display in the middle of the road! We already have one in the freezer. Then we saw the hen off the side. Saw another big flock of Chippies and Clay-colored on the way too, they are all over now. Heard a Golden-cheeked Warbler up on hill at entrance sign as we were driving into park. Indigo and Painted Bunting were at the seed feeder there at HQ. Usually a good idea to walk down to the first crossing while parked at HQ (no other way to check it). The Olive Sparrow continues singing between river and east end of the camping circle at that crossing. Surely it is nesting right there in that area.

At the trailhead parking lot feeders there were Indigo, Painted, and a male Lazuli Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, begging baby Chipping Sparrows, a couple Scott's Oriole, one first spring male Baltimore Oriole, and later we heard a White-tipped Dove up on the hill there. About 8:45 or so it warmed and skies cleared enough, the morning vulture liftoff occurred. In with 8 TV's were 2 Zone-tailed Hawk were interacting, one buzzing the other right over the parking lot. Feeders had one Black Rock Squirrel, some House Finch, Chickadee, Titmouse, Cardinal, the usuals. Nothing as pretty as that male Lazuli Bunting. Whatabird. I just love that shade of blue, nothing like it in any other American bird. Cerulean Warbler is close but it lacks the electric reflective iridescent quality being more a light absorbing passive flat pastel finish.

Going up the Canyon I heard another Olive Sparrow, we heard at least a half-dozen Golden-cheeked Warbler, but saw none, heard about 3 Black-capped Vireo not too far off trail. Did have my FOS Acadian Flycatcher, others reported them a week ago, but I only heard one in 2 miles of canyon. Should be more here by now. Went through what is usually four territories minimum. I heard what surely was a Mourning Warbler chlup very close, but could not see it. A couple Nashville Warbler was it for other warbler migrants. A half-dozen singing Yellow-throated, and Black-and-white Warbler along the canyons. A few Louisiana Waterthrush on territory.

Amazingly did not hear an Eastern Wood-Pewee, so earlier reports were of transients, no territorial singing yet. Went through what used to be a half-dozen territories. We heard several Canyon Wren, a Hutton's Vireo, numbers of Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireo, a couple Rufous-crowned Sparrow and lots of the regular residents. But it gets quiet fast after noon. Though the bugs come out so the walk back and down is very to completely different than the walk up, if you are looking at them. Wait till you see my Odontomyia pix!

Odes (dragons) were weakish still, nothing but a few of the common things, like Common Whitetail and Common (E.) Pondhawk, Dot-winged Baskettail, Aztec, Dusky, and Springwater Dancer, some blue Forktails, and glimpsed what was likely a Banded Pennant. A Clubtail got away that was likely Pronghorn. It is still early for odes, May is when they really get going.

In butterflies, there were a few Little Wood Satyr, but they are past peak now. Saw Arizona Sister, a Red-spotted Purple (ph.), three or four Southern Oak, one Olive-Juniper and a couple Gray Hairstreak, one probable female White-M Hairstreak, Dun and Common Checkered-Skipper, no Green, lots of Sleepy Orange, Pipevine and Spicebush Swallowtail but no big yellow ones. The rest was the usual stuff like a few Reakirt's Blue, Common Checkered-White, Gulf and Variegated Fritillary, Red Admiral, and So. Dogface. No new species for April, was hoping for a couple possibilities. One Disparete Forester moth.

One Anole was the only herp I saw, but heard a couple get away in the leaf litter, likely Four-lined Skinks. We had in baby birds, the nestfull of noisy Raven, multiple family groups of fledged begging Chipping Sparrow, and Carolina Chickadee, but that was it. The (Fuertes') Red-tailed Hawks are on the cliff but you can't tell what they have going, but are there underway. I suspect lots are in the middle of laying and incubation now, the earliest ones with just-hatched nestlings maybe.

Driving home I saw a bird fly across the road briefly that I thought sure was a Cuckoo. Brown above, long tail, graceful deft flight. In the late afternoon the juvenile Ringed Kingfisher was again chasing an adult around over at the river. So they are fledged already, and as mentioned a couple days ago, not at the site I found last year with at least 4 seperate RingKing holes.

April 28 ~ I heard a Nashville or two in the yard in the a.m., one more at the park, a Yellow was at the 354 pecans, and no other migrants, it was deadish. The female Lazuli Bunting continued at the old Preston Place so it stuck the night. A pair of Brown-crested Flycatcher were there, a few American Goldfinch with some Lessers, and the Chippy flock with at least a couple Clay-colored were still there too. A Green Kingfisher was at the park, and the first two Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks I have seen this spring though Little Creek Larry has had them for over a month over his way.

Along four miles of road, to town and back, as yesterday, I saw no Scissor-tails. There are usually a half-dozen returning pairs I have staked out that are not present. They showed up, but it seems like they came in and have left. I think it is a large flying bug problem, as in there aren't any, or enough to incite nesting. Did see a pair of Western Kingbird, which have not stuck to nest in years here, I suspect these will move along. Late nearing last sun what appeared to be an adult with a begging young in tow Ringed Kingfisher circled around out front towards river, but at one point the ad. was right over the yard, trying to shake that racket behind it that would not quit following.

In leps besides 25 Red Admiral, a fresh Queen and an Arizona Sister, I saw two new-for-month butterflies in the yard. First a Common Mestra which was my FOY, and then a female Falcated Orangetip. Earlier in the month I saw a few of what I thought were Orangetips jerkily blast by low to the ground. In afternoon saw a FOY Plains Threadsnake (was formerly called Texas Blindsnake), the earthworm-appearing scaled beastie, just a baby a few inches long. Photo'd a weird cat(erpillar), which a bit of looking has me thinking it was an Underwing moth (Catocala sps.) of which we have at least three species in the yard, maybe four.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

April 27 ~ I think it ran about 60-80dF for a temp spread today. Mostly cloudy but occasional sun. Nice. My FOS Yellow Warbler sang in the yard in the morning, a couple Nashville Warbler went through. Town run fer supplies, so a couple stops. A Bell's Vireo was on 360 in the mesquites just east of the river. In a pasture just south of the golf course entrance there were 15 Cattle Egret around the horses. They seem not very good at large animal ID.

At the 354 pecan patch just east of 187 was another singing male Yellow Warbler, plus another Nashville, and out in the pasture Chat was singing, another Bell's Vireo was in the mesquites at the east end of pasture at usual spot. No Dickcissel or Orchard Oriole there yet, they usually nest there. No Scissor-tails along the road. Whaddup with that?

Across 187 at the old Preston Place there was a third singing male yellow Warbler for the morning, and another Nashville. Even better was hitting a bunting trifecta there with my first female Painted Bunting of the year, a couple Indigos, and my first female Lazuli of the year. There was a Chippy flock there with a couple Clay-colored Sparrow. I heard a Blue Jay there to the NW, but which was south of 1050 and west of the river.

At the park while I was up in the woods Little Creek Larry saw four Spotted Sandpiper flushed off the dam when someone went out on it. I saw one when driving by, but didn't stop to scan. Four at once is big numbers here. Up in the woods I had a FOS Catbird, which is always a thrill since we only get a few annually. It is one of my favorite birds. They nested in our Blackberry bramble in New Jersey, and I fell in love. About 5 Nashville Warbler were in the woods, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and a Red-eyed Vireo or two, one of which did a perfect Blue-headed Vireo song. Heard a couple Blue Jay. On the way home there were a couple Western Kingbird on a fenceline on 360 just east of the river. Another passage Red-eyed Vireo here in yard singing in afternoon.

April 26 ~ Low was in lowest 50's dF and quite nice, humid from the rain yesterday, which was a lifesaver for spring here. Flowers that should have been coming up weren't, and will now. Cloudy early, but breaking up by 9 or so to blue skies. Thousands, probably tens of thousands of pecan flowers are on the ground, prematurely ejected by the outflow boundry. I hate when that happens.

About 5 Nashville went through yard in first couple or few hours of light in the brief spells I was outside. Always a Wed. or a Thurs. when there is good movement apparent, and I can't leave the desk those days. A singing Indigo Bunting is nice to hear. The Ash-throated seems like it found a mate finally, and is now prospecting around. Looks like they are going to take the gate box.

About 9:45 I was out front on driveway looking back west over house and little ridgelet behind us. There are a couple clear shots with long-distance viewing of the airspace for flying birds. Two birds flew by and I got about four seconds on them. My thoughts were: swifts, black, big, Black Swifts! And they were gone. I ran in for bins and then spent 10 minutes scanning the sky and never saw anything else. I had perfect over the shoulder sun against blue sky, they were all jet coal black and they were swifts, they were big, there was no white on the body. I have seen hundreds of them and spent lots of hours watching them. They are not something I am unfamiliar with. I have watched their copulation freefall, which BTW is amazingly unlike that of White-throated Swift, save the part about plumetting hundreds of feet in mid-air during the embrace. I am sure they were Black Swifts and was in a second frankly. I am not sure officially reporting a four second bare-eyed sighting as something official is what you do with that where the bird is accidental. It is like that Fieldfare I watched fly by at point blank late November '83 on Long Island, N.Y. Fortunately that called upon seeing me as it shot by so I got to hear it too.

There is no accepted state Black Swift record though a tagged and tracked bird once flew over Texas. My guess is Black Swifts pass over west Texas annually in migration, probably mostly too high to see, if there were anybody to see them. Out west, 99% of the airspace is not watched or looked at about 99% of the time. So how can one say something is not happening with that level of observation? Out in Calif., spring weather events just like this one is when to see them close, low, and on the coast even in L.A., if you are lucky. I suspect this frontal system that just came over from the west coast and four corners pushed them east. Timing is perfect.

April 25 ~ Overcast must have held heat, low was about 60 dF. Supposed to rain. Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatchers around yard calling, singing, and otherwise being boisterous as tyrant flycatchers are. Chat sang its way around the yard as it hit the bath. Couple Nashville went through. Looks a good bird day, it is Wednesday spreadsheet day for me. A first U.S. record Great Black Hawk was photo'd at S. Padre Isl. yesterday. Anything can happen. But all the Chihuahuan Raven reports at Lost Maples are rubbish.

This south-moving-north thing is just going to get more interesting as it accelerates, which it is doing sure as sea level is rising and ice is melting, both at rates faster than any predicted. Things have changed, it is not the way it was. So in some ways, what we 'know' doesn't matter, it is a new game. There are new rules, and we don't even know them. Tufted Flycatchers breed in AZ now. It is a different world.

Finally we got clobbered by a thunderstorm cell complex, about 2-3 p.m., looks about 1.75" most of it in 45 minutes. It was raining sideways, lots of lightning, NOAA called it torrential, at least they got that right. There was a 40-50 mph outflow as it hit which took off lots to many of the pecan flowers, and may well have ruined half the crop for our trees in the yard. They were just getting going with pollen.

There were two FOS sightings today, but not for species, just for sex. Our first female Blue Grosbeak, and female Hooded Oriole were seen today outside. Had only seen males so far. Still waiting for a female Painted Bunting to return here. The male Blue Grosbeaks have been around 10 days at least, and the male Hooded oriole over 3 weeks.

April 24 ~ About 48dF for a low felt great, so were the calm conditions. Big hole in the morning yard chorus, it was the main alpha Blue Grosbeak dead on the porch yesterday. It must have been about its 4th year nesting around and had become very tame for a Blue Grosbeak, letting me move slowly around 25' away without flushing. It knew I threw the seed. The beta male is around, but ginchy as they usually are. It seems to be trying to figure out why it isn't getting ejected from the yard. And quiet so far now (day 2) without alpha male singing, just call notes. Weird.

Great was finally a FOS Orchard Oriole, a male singing at the top of the big pecan, whatabird. I love 'em. Sharp as it gets, chestnut and black. A few Nashville went through, but I gotta work. Heard a Ring King over at the river. By mid-afternoon it was 86dF on the cool shady front porch. It is the warmup day ahead of another front. A Red-spotted Purple (Admiral) flew around yard briefly, only my 3rd or so actually in yard. Saw my FOS Eyed Elaterid (the big click beetle with false eyes). OK, ok, it flew up to porch and landed at my feet while I was on a chair smoking my pipe, so I worked real hard for it. Got a couple shots for the rare click beetle record committee. There were reports I saw today of a Pileated Woodpecker on King Ranch in far south Texas, and a Violet-crowned Hummingbird at Corpus Christi, so keep yer mind and eyes open.

April 23 ~ Low in upper 40's dF was nice, so is clear and sunny without any wind, light breeze in afternoon whence 80dF or so. A few Nashville Warbler went through yard early, so some movement evident. I gotta work though. About 9 a.m. Kathy found a dead male Blue Grosbeak on the front porch, right in front of the door. The outer which is screen and inches from the real door. No obvious reason, it was already stiff and not warm. There had been two countersinging here, one mostly around house, another across and down road a bit. I saw and heard one, earlier in the morning. I took pix of it yesterday. This is a bummer. A couple hours later one was on the patio for a bit. Sorta wonder which, but did not hear the usual singing in yard all day that has been ongoing so suspect the mortality was the main yard alpha male. Chimney Swifts flying low checking to find out chimney is sealed. Every spring we get them checking it out, I need to build a tower.

April 22 ~ Happy Earth Day! Low was about 50dF and the winds were 10-15 out of north so felt like 40's. Warmed up to low 80's and was generally beautiful. We passed on Maples due to wind and so we just did a few hours locally from late morning to early afternoon. In the yard in the a.m. there was a wee bit of migrant movement. A couple FOS Baltimore Oriole were nice, a singing Black-and-white Warbler was good too. A few Nashville went through as well. So there was a bit of a knockdown of migrants.

A third male Painted Bunting has showed up, this one much paler of red than full adult males, in its first red-below plumage. So a third year, or second spring bird (second spring is third year of life). They are not as red as definitive adults, and they wear even paler. When the odd one shows up in California the know-it-alls there say they are pale due to captive diet, ergo, they are escapes. False. Maybe some are, but some are these third year birds, very worn. The fruits and nuts that appointed themselves in charge of bird reports out there don't know lots about Painted Bunting plumages. They also see something wrong when one shows up at a feeder. It is a mental condition. But they decide your reports.

Down at the 360 crossing there were a few Nashville Warbler, a singing Red-eyed Vireo and singing Indigo Bunting. Best was a male Lazuli Bunting in with a couple Indigo that had just bathed. It was wet, but a beauty anyway. There was a sizeable flock of Chipping Sparrow, numbering over 50 birds, with a few Clay-colored in with them. We had two other flocks almost as big elsewhere which also had Clay-coloreds in with them. These Chippies are spring migrants coming from much further south, and going far north is my guess. Our winterers departed weeks ago, we spend a couple weeks from early April with just a few paired singing breeders around, and then last third of April a big distinct wave hits. Every spring. Like clockwork. It is a different population, not our winter birds, not our breeders, but later migrants, so likely ones that nest far north and winter far south.

East of the crossing heading down 360 there were two FOS Western Kingbird, finally! Great to see them! We went to the park, saw Little Creek Larry, he said he saw two Spotted Sandpiper earlier. I heard a FOS Northern Waterthrush on the other side of the island. We had a few Nashville Warbler, a couple Orange-crowned Warbler, 1-2 Common Yellowthroat, and briefly, one Tennessee Warbler. Which is the first I have seen here in a few years, missed it the last couple springs, at least. Heard Blue Jay, bunch of Yellow-throated Warbler, one Red-eyed Vireo was singing, a Mockingbird was a passage migrant, a couple Lincoln's Sparrow, and the pair of Barred Owl. Heard Eastern Wood-Pewee, and a Great Crested Flycatcher or two. No Kingfishers, it was nearing noon and some people there.

We stopped at the 354 pecan patch just east of 187 and not in yet were Dickcissel and Orchard Oriole that nest there every year, no sign of them. Heard Bell's Vireo over in the mesquites and a Yellow-throated Vireo in the pecans. Then we stopped at a private property along river where another big Chippy flock, a couple more Nashville, and outstanding was another male Lazuli Bunting! Second in a day here not at feeders, just random along the river is great. Prolly a bunch of them out there today. Heard a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The Ring Kings must be using other holes, the set of 3 or 4 together there do not seem to be in use this year. Pecans is where it is at now for migrants, they are in great bloom, the birds have left the live-oaks. Heard a Barn Owl after 11 p.m. at last check outside, and a few duelling Chuck-wills-widows going at it sound great.

April 21 ~ Drizzled with a few light showers over the morning, it seemed about .2 (tenths) maybe. Wet. Something for grasses and forbs, but just a leaf-washer for the trees. Late afternoon the dry line passed and it cleared. So worked on the too many things here. Finally got the second fenced-in (guaranteed to be deer and dillo proof) garden patch secure from all manner of beasts here, save leaf-cutter ants. There was no migrant motion through yard save a Nashville. Trying to get more chores done before it gets too hot. I got a report later that on this day Deborah Siegler had a male Yellow-headed Blackbird at Jones Cemetery on this date.

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch - Not every year a few stick around long enough
into spring for us to see the male's beautiful breeding plumage.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

April 20 ~ Low in upper 50's dF, breezy and overcast. Supposed to be a rain event overnight tonight and into tomorrow. I will believe it when I get wet. We need the water so badly you wouldn't believe it. Looks a good day for migrants. Forecast said cloudy morning, sunny afternoon. By afternoon the sunny part was removed. Winds were 10-15 gusting to 20-25 mph. We struggled to get to the low 60's dF, which is almost a category cooler than forecast. I am sure there is a weather crew that gets it worse more often, but I hope I never end up living there and counting on them.

Five Eastern Phoebe fledged from the nest over the bathroom window this morning. How did they all fit? I heard a weird song I could not place up in the pecan tree, grabbed bins and found a Lincoln's Sparrow quiet singing 20' off the ground. I had not heard one sing since we left L.A. where there is one Skunk Cabbage meadow in the San Gabriel Mountains at over 7000' where they nest, which we usually visited multiple times annually. I have never heard them sing down here before, so, very neat. You might pass this quiet song version off as a weird off House Wren. A close listen to the components though will reveal the real source. Two male Painted Bunting here on the seed this morning.

Town run and park check. Too windy, heard a few Nashville seet notes but couldn't spot anything in the blowing trees. Heard two FOS Eastern Wood-Pewee but couldn't find them in the blowing trees either. My FOS Spotted Sandpiper was on the spillway. George LaRue had a flock of 50-60+ Swainson's Hawks in a pasture on B & R Rd. this morning, which is the first report around Utopia this spring. There was a report from Lost Maples a couple weeks ago or so, but I haven't seen any. A flock of big hawks on the ground running around after grasshoppers (or grubs behind a tractor) are usually Swainson's. Little Creek Larry said he still has some White-crowned Sparrows around. Early evening I heard a Scissor-tail out front, and the male Hooded Oriole hit the feeders for a long tank-filling.

April 19 ~ Low in low 50's dF, KRVL hit 46dF, but not here. It was a not-so-cold front with no rain. Finally this morning our FOS male Painted Bunting on the seed, likely a returnee breeder. Yesterday was our first Indigo, today the Painted. Later in the morning the FOS Brown-crested Flycatcher was out there in the Pecans announcing its return. I could hear Great Crested and Ash-throated at the same time. Hooded Oriole out there singing a bit as it comes and goes to and from feeders. Yard is getting pretty colorful again. Blue Grosbeak hitting the seed lots too, I hear two males duelling at dawn chorus but have not yet seen a female. Saw my first FEMALE Summer Tanager here today, mentioned it and Kathy said she saw it a day or two ago at the bath. One fem. was at Lost Maples last Sunday. Saw another Western Ribbonsnake, which was smaller, maybe 15", so not the one I saw a week ago.

April 18 ~ About 60dF for a low, overcast, a front is coming in but said to be dry here. This morn Kathy spotted our FOS Indigo Bunting at the stick pile (cover for safety) next to the bird bath, waiting for the Blue Grosbeak to leave the water. One Nashville Warbler early. Looks good conditions for migrants to be knocked down, which always happens on the critical must-be-at-desk days. In the afternoon there was a beautiful male American Goldfinch on the feeders. Usually they just barely get any breeding color and are gone, so always a treat to see these tardy ones in color. As the front passed I had a hawk, a big non-Red-tail buteo, I grabbed a long distance doc shot on hoping for there to be enough there for an ID. Nope, not enough there. Was probably a dark morph (all chocolate type) Swainson's Hawk. Had some great Scott's Oriole song for a bit in the afternoon.

Apr. 17 ~ Low of 48 was again almost a category (10dF) lower than progged, and exactly no one complained. Dawn chorus is rocking now, it is just outstanding out there at early thirty. Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Chat, Vermilion Flyc., Bewick's and Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler a bit distantly (it will be over here later), Ash-throated Flycatcher (Great Crest is back, but just, and not full monty dawn chorusing yet), Cardinal, Lark Sparrow, White-winged Dove, and Eastern Phoebe (which frankly do not contribute very much, unless you like a lonely complaining type of song). Heard a Hutton's Vireo early too, prolly a transient. Otherwise just the regulars.

Ran to town for an errand in the afternoon and the Coot seems to have finally departed the park. It arrived in latest December on that real strong front at end of year, so was here 3.5 months. Kathy saw the first Scorpion of the year out on back porch. Forgot to mention, I saw my FOS female Ruby-throated Hummingbird today, I have been too busy to pay attention and surely they have been around a few days if not a week or more.

April 16 ~ A low of 41dF was almost 10 (a category) lower than progged. Nice and calm for a couple hours, and then the winds woke back up. Dawn chorus is going well by quarter to seven now! Our local breeder Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Summer Tanager are all back on territory going strong. Heard about 3 Nashville sing their way through the yard over the morning. Two American Goldfinch were on the sunflower feeder. A Barn Owl called going North at late-thirty just before I crashed.

A couple of the transplanted Mealy Sage in a flower bed that have been fighting leaf-cutter ants and dillos finally have a few flower spires this year after almost none the last two. I was admiring one closely when my FOY Texas Powdered-Skipper landed on it. It didn't stay 10 seconds and was gone. An Arizona Sister came into water sprayed around. But it blew 15-20 mph gusting higher from mid-morn on to late afternoon. Glad I wasn't trying to see birds.

Apr. 15 ~ Happy Tax Day seems quite the oxymoron doesn't it? At least Amazon didn't have to pay any taxes for last year, that is what is important. There was a fittingly chilling feel this morning, with a 37dF here at the house. Wind stopped and it got cold. Surely there were some colder spots around. Wow. Got up to about 77dF at peak afternoon heat, 40 deg. diurnals. Our first at house this spring (FOS was at park Friday 13th) Blue Grosbeak was singing at sunup this morning, and in afternoon on seed on the patio, which means likely our local (across the road) breeder is back. Turkeys are gobbling in distance.

We went to Lost Maples for a walk but was after the morning rush of activity, did not get there until 10 a.m. We did the couple miles one way to the headwater spring at highest permanent water up Can Creek past the ponds. The far upper canyon area is wonderful, and always a great walk. Worth it just for the Mexican Tetras at the last pond if you ask me. Lots of Long-nosed Dace and a Notropis sps. minnows in there too. Natives! Those Mexi Tets are nice, a few getting some red in fins now. The birds really get quiet after about 1 p.m. or so, though some are still moving, nowhere near the amount of audio clues are offered.

The weirdest thing was seeing flowers on the also every bit as lost Witch Hazel (hundreds of miles to the nearest ones). My book says they flower in fall. Whaddup? Yes I got pix for the rare flower record committee. Man it is a weird flower too. I have been looking for this, apparently at the wrong season. I saw one Canyon Mock-orange with flowers, two without. A bunch of the Antelope Horns have opened and once it warmed they were swarmed with hairstreaks, it is hairstreak honey. Multiple single flower heads had ten hairstreaks on them. One cluster of a half-dozen plants had 24+ Olive-Juniper Hairstreak and 10 Gray Hairstreak, plus lots of other stuff. In reviewing my photos there was one Oak (So.) Hairstreak there too. A few Soldier Beetles (Cantharidae) were on it as well.

At the feeding station area we heard a few White-tipped Dove (and more up the trail). A Lazuli Bunting was reported yesterday. We heard a few Black-capped Vireo along the trail, but all too far off in the impenetrable (stay on trails) to persue. Heard a few and saw a couple Golden-cheeked Warbler (one very well dancing on the tips of a trailside juniper in the sun). Glimpsed a couple Louisiana Waterthrush, and some Black-and-white Warblers, saw a couple and heard a half-dozen Yellow-throated Warbler. Several migrant Orange-crowned Warbler were singing, prolly had 10-12 Nashville Warbler, and heard a Myrtle. Heard a Kinglet (Ruby).

Found a Common Raven nest on the cliff, right across the canyon below the big pouroff below the first big pond. Under a big overhang, just to right of the biggest most crooked trunked Sycamore that doglegs around said big overhang. New site here. Vireos besides heard Black-caps were good numbers of White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireo, several Yellow-throated, and a couple Hutton's. Still not on territory there are Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Acadian Flycatcher, and Eastern Wood-Pewee. No migrant Painted Bunting reported yet. No Cowbirds to speak of up there yet either. We did not hear Olive Sparrow (we were late) but some saw it/them yesterday. Heard only a Rufous-crowned Sparrow, saw one texana Scrub-Jay.

Only soaring hawk I saw was a Red-tailed, but we had a male first spring Sharp-shinned coming into the water at the high water point. Lots of Gnatcatcher, Cardinal, Carolina Wren and Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, heard a couple Canyon Wren, numbers of Summer Tanager now including a female, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, and one of the better birds was a repeated song of Spotted Towhee, which is getting tardy. A couple hundred Cedar Waxwing were up around 2nd pond and between the ponds. Only lizard I saw was a Four-lined Skink. Saw a small rat again in some Virginia Creeper by 2nd pond but couldn't tell if Pack or Cotton (Neotoma or Sigmodon).

I can't believe the numbers of Little Wood Satyr this year, never saw so many, a couple dozen today. Also several Red Satyr were seen. Saw my FOS Red-spotted Purple which was nice, and saw two Arizona Sister. Several each of E. Tiger and Two-tailed Swallowtail, and a half-dozen Spicebush. One Elada Checkerspot, an Orange Skipperling, a few Dun Skipper, one Disparete Forster moth. In odes nice were a bunch of Aztec and a few Springwater Dancer (ph. in wheel). Also a FOS pair of male Flame Skimmer patrolling at the high water spot. Lots of Common Whitetail, some E. Pondhawk, numbers of Dot-winged Baskettail, and my FOS Prince Baskettail over the main first big pond.

On the way back in Utopia Kathy spotted a male Great-tailed Grackle in a yard on Main St. in Utopia. I had a female a couple days ago just off Main, so I presume our local pair that breeds is back. Little Creek Larry mentioned one maybe a few weeks ago. Very few Scissor-tails on the road, I am hoping they just haven't gotten here in numbers yet.

Apr. 14 ~ After yesterday's cooker at 87dF on the cool shady front porch, the front hit late last night and blew all night, save a couple brief intermissions. This morning was 55dF and north at 20-30 mph! And supposed to be 20dF colder tomorrow a.m.! Spring weather everywhere can be dicey of course, the transition is a rough one. The upside in birding is that these events often either preciptate a grounding, or, drive what is there down low, to get out of the trees and wind. Find the lees. At Lost Maples, the main (Sab. Riv.) canyon with the Maples Trail (not Can Creek canyon to the ponds - the other one) is a bad choice when blown out with northerlies. The other canyon (ponds trail) will have a dogleg or two that are somewhat wind protected, often below the first pond, and around and past second pond is good for that. The main big pond area itself I often refer to as Hurricane Gulch.
Golden-cheeked Warbler
Golden-cheeked Warbler in Ashe Juniper.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Apr. 13 ~ Happy Friday the 13th! Chuck-wills-widow was still going at 6:40 (early thirty), but was silent 5 minutes later. As we get light earlier, dawn chorus is earlier too. Now by about 7 a.m. it is starting, though a few vocalize occasionally earlier, the full-monty chorus is not underway until about then. And a minute or so a day earlier as we progress to the solstice. I heard the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher singing over at the airstrip, so that local bird is back. Thought I heard a Yellow Warbler in the big pecan but did not see it.

Town run so park check. Best was my FOS Blue Grosbeak, a male as expected. Up in the woods were about 8 Nashville Warbler, an Orange-crowned and a Myrtle. The Coot continues. The rest was the expected gang. A female Great-tailed Grackle was walking around a lawn in town, first I have seen this year though Little Creek Larry said he had one a month ago. A small group of Common Grackle goes through the park occasionally.

Back in yard in afternoon was a Celia's Roadside-Skipper, my FOS. Also saw my FOY W. Ribbonsnake, about 20" long, a beauty. Heard my second of year Great Crested flycatcher about 4 p.m. across road toward the river. It seemed to move over to what is a territory annually and call, so may be our returning breeder. I will know at dawn chorus tomorrow. I can't wait. About 7 p.m. over by the cottage was a Clay-colored Sparrow on the seed, later about 8 it was on the patio looking dinky next to a Lark Sparrow.

I saw a new different Sphinx moth of some sort I have never seen. It was a small one, with black hindwings, trimmed in snow white dots. There was a thin sharp white eye-line. I caught it in the cottage, and turned it loose on the front porch where light was on, hoping it would stick for photos, but it appears not. It was too jacked up in net and hand for photos. Need that Sphinx book. My online search suggests Pawpaw, except Bexar Co. might be most SW locale known so far of it so far.

Saw a note online about a Red Warbler being found in the mountains near Tucson, AZ, which is the first U.S. report of this stunning Mexican mountain species. I saw them in Durango many moons ago. It pays to keep the mind open, anything can happen. We could sure use a new U.S. record here. If a Red Warbler can happen in AZ, then we need to expand our ideas about what might occur here from eastern Mexico's Sierra Madre Oriental.

Apr. 12 ~ About 60dF for a low and overcast, and calm for a few hours early finally after yesterday's blowout. Saw a couple Six-lined Racerunner (lizard) today, my first of the year. Was at the crossing for a few minutes and had a FOS Common Yellowthroat. Also single Dusky Dancer and American Rubyspot damselflies, and a FOY Pale-faced Clubskimmer dragonfly. One good migrant in the yard was a Hermit Thrush at the bath. It was not the flavor that winters, as those have been gone over a month. It was much paler of back, seemed bigger, and boy were the two wingbars bold. Otherwise nothing but the breeders in the yard today. In leps, saw my FOY Arizona Sister, my 3rd April Monarch (9th total this spring), and the summer form Questionmark again.

A Painted Bunting at Tarpley was posted to the SATX yahoo groups bird message board today. April 12 ties my earliest date ever here. Interestingly besides the 12th arrival here once, I have only once had arrival on the 13th, 3 times it was the 15th, once the 16th, and once the 17th. So in the last 14 prior springs, in 7 years arrival was the 17th or earlier, and for 7 springs it was later than the 17th when the first one showed. The first 7 years I was here avg. arrival was the 20th. The last 6 years, the 17th is avg. arrival, and both my two earliest dates. That is how fast things are changing. Right before our eyes. It is obvious to those who look, most simply do not observe at the level of detail required to see it.

Apr. 11 ~ A low in mid-40' like yesterday feels great! Had a quick town errand in the a.m. so a quick look at the park. I missed what looked like a sandpiper someone flushed off the spillway (statistically Spotted). Below the dam along creek I had my FOS Green Heron. There were a few Nashville and a Myrtle or two. The Mulberry tree on Cypress St. had a couple hundred Waxwing going in and out of it. I had to get to the desk to make up the last couple days. No way I could get up that "hill from hell" to see the vireo three days in a row anyway, spreadsheets will be just fine today. Sure great to have some serious singing in the yard again, like the Chat, Summer Tanager, Yellow-throated Vireo, Vermilion Flycatcher are all at it full time out there again. Heard the Ring King over at the river here from yard.

Apr. 10 ~ Birded Lost Maples with Meade Cadot and Sandy Taylor from NH, we had a great walk. Early at Utopia Park we had a Green Kingfisher briefly, the Coot continues, Meade had a small flock of what was likely Black-bellied Whistling-Duck go over, and I had a small flock of larger dabbling ducks, maybe Shoveler. No migrants, so up to Lost Maples. Couple Caracara near Vanderpool.

Golden-cheeked Warbler were a bit shy, again my sense is that the numbers are down compared to usual. We got looks at the Black-capped Vireo above the ponds, and might have heard about 8 total. Their numbers are increasing as more show up now. We had two Broad-winged Hawks, likely the pair that has nested the last 3 years, one is a normal light bird, the other darker below, which is one of the recent pair. A few White-tipped Dove are around the feeding station at the trailhead parking lot. Heard Louisiana Waterthrush, several Red-eyed Vireo, a couple Yellow-throated, lots of White-eyed, and a Hutton's Vireo.

Heard a Scott's Oriole but didn't see one. Heard lots of Black-and whites, and Summer Tanagers, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, a couple Canyon Wren, some Ash-throated Flycatchers. Migrant Warblers were a half-dozen Nashville, and a couple Orange-crowned. Heard Louisiana Waterthrush, had several Red-eyed Vireo, a couple Yellow-throated, lots of White-eyed, and a Hutton's Vireo. Several Lincoln's Sparrow and a Rufous-crowned, besides the usual Chipping at the feeders. Interesting what is NOT in yet. No buntings (Indigo or Painted), Blue Grosbeak, Chat, Acadian Flyc. or Eastern Wood-Pewee. Likely in a week or so all will be there.

Saw Spicebush, Two-tailed, Eastern Tiger and Pipevine Swallowtails. More Little Wood Satyrs, seems a good year for them. A Greater Earless Lizard was on the trail upslope in the talus. Saw some Brickelbush (a Eup.) coming up, but which doesn't bloom until fall. Sycamores still not leafed out, just starting.

Apr. 9 ~ Heard the Chuck at early-thirty before first light. Birded Lost Maples with Tom and Tanya Smythe from MI. We had a great walk, saw Golden-cheeked Warbler between the ponds, heard a bunch, and saw Black-capped Vireo (up on top of bluffs above pond). Two new FOS species were had, Tom had a female Indigo Bunting at the feeding station, and we had 2-3 Red-eyed Vireo singing along the (Can Creek) canyon. Prior to last year my earliest Red-eye was April 12, then other arrivals were 13, 15, 16 April. More first dates are later than the 16th. Last year was my earliest ever, one on the 8th, and this year 3 are singing on territory on the 9th. A week earlier than the first ones used to show up most years.

I heard an Olive Sparrow sing when driving between HQ and the trailhead parking lot and feeding station. There was a White-tipped Dove at the feeding station. A Clay-colored Sparrow was there for a moment. We had Rufous-crowned up top above the pond, where I heard Black-throated but couldn't find them. Roadrunner singing up there too. Tom had a duck fly over at the pond which I missed. Blue-winged Teal is favored statistically. Just TV's and Common Raven in the skies. Migrant warblers were a few Nashville, a couple Orange-crowned, and I heard one Myrtle chip fly over. Way more Summer Tanager than 8 days ago, good numbers of Blue-gray Gnatcat and Black-and-white Warbler, but heard only on the B-n-W. Heard a couple Louis. Waterthrush chips, didn't see any, heard a few Hutton's Vireo.

Heard Yellow-throated Vireo and Canyon Wren, did not hear a Scrub-Jay or Scott's Oriole. Lots of usuals like White-eyed Vireo, Carolina Wren and Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, some Ladder-backed Woodpecker, numbers of Cedar Waxwing, 4 Pine Siskin which are nearing tardy considering how few came down this winter.

Mostly it was too cool and overcast for insects, until later after noon. Saw a couple Bronze Roadside-Skipper as well as the similar ones with uncheckered fringes, whatever they are. A Two-tailed Swallowtail was my first of the year, one Red Satyr flopped by. Odes were few and far between. One male Common Whitetail, a couple Dot-winged Baskettail, and some un-ID'd damsels, one looked like Aztec Dancer.

After leaving and driving back as I left Utopia, soaring over the first pasture south of town on east (left) side of road right across from the Sabinal River Lodge, was a Zone-tailed Hawk. Didn't see one at Lost Maples. Then at home in the afternoon, our breeder Yellow-breasted Chat was singing on station across the road, my FOS. A lone American Goldfinch flew over calling about 6 p.m.

Apr. 8 ~ About 41dF for a low, overcast so held some heat in, KRVL had about 6 hours at 39dF. At least the wind stopped, but feels kinda wintry for spring. No migrant movement that I saw. Worked on stuff here since will be out the next couple days morning to early afternoon. Was the same gang, but did hear a Scissor-tail fly by up the river habitat corridor, first one from the yard this spring. Maybe our local nearby breeders? Yellow-throated Vireo singing around yard is nice to hear again. Saw my first summer form Questionmark (butterfly) of the year, with those black hindwings quite the beauty.

Apr. 7 ~ The front got here overnight, but the cold air was just arriving pre-dawn. Temps dropped every hour all night and morning, even 9 a.m. was colder than 8 a.m., with 42dF and 10-20 mph gusting higher northerlies, chill factors in Vanderpool and Kerrville were 32dF. That is about what it felt like here. Gonna be a heavy hummer feeder day, and surely migration was stopped in its tracks to our south somewhere. Only got to mid-50's dF at peak heat, wind blew all day. Was a bad day to be a flycatcher here. Don't know what that Chuck that got here yesterday is going to eat tonight. Temps are supposed to rebound tomorrow. Heard a Ring King over at the river but that was about it besides the regulars. Did not see a dozen Chipping Sparrow, saw a Lincoln's, and a dozen Lark are daily again on the patio now, until September, by which it will be two dozen or more. Saw the Ground-Dove on the seed. Worked here tryin' to get a bunch of stuff done, but the garden stuff will wait for a nicer day.

Black-capped Vireo
Black-capped Vireo at Lost Maples, pardon my pixels, I figured
you'd give me a pass considering their lovely arrangement.
This is a third year bird and still not a definitive adult.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Apr. 6 ~ Back to balmy, overcast, about 65dF for a low. Clearing late in afternoon. Calm for an hour or two early, but then windy. Supposed to be a frontish thing overnight. Maybe birds tomorrow? Nothing in yard in a.m. but the usual expected gang. Heard the Ring King over at the river in a.m., saw it flying upriver over Cypresses in late afternoon. Town run so a look at the park. A flock of 5 migrant Great Blue Heron landed in the big dead Cypress in the river at top end of the pond. The Coot is still there, a Gnatcatcher and a Kinglet.

Warblers were about 8 Myrtle and one beautiful male Audubon's in nice breeding plumage which looked great, a couple Nashville, one Black-and-white, and a few of the nesting Yellow-throated Warbler. Best bird was my earliest ever FOS Great Crested Flycatcher. The 11th was my earliest date prior, and that just last year. We have had several days of very strong southerlies in the 10 days or so. The other good bird to see was FOS Chimney Swift over town. Little Creek Larry said he has a couple dozen Black-bellied Whistling-Duck over on Little Creek (where else?).

After sundown but before dark I got two more FOS new species for the day. A Firefly was my first of them, and better, about 8:15 to 8:20 (chuck-thirty now) I listened to a calling Chuck-wills-widow. Great to hear that again! Both species are at the very early end of the date windows for them, but not earliest ever.

Apr. 5 ~ Upper 50's dF for a low, overcast, the usual spring gray. At least the winds stopped for the morning. Little sun in afternoon, the standard program. A Ringed Kingfisher or two were calling over at the river mid-morning. Did not see any migrant action through yard in a.m. again. Maybe tomorrow said the eternal optimist. Just one more day and a big wave will hit. Just over that next ridge, maybe around the next bend, or over that next big swell, what about that last little tree patch we didn't check... There are always good unfound, unknown birds out there, probably closer to you than you would want to know. Most of the time I just can't see them from wherever I am.

Apr. 4 ~ The winds blew all night from the north, surely it shut down bird movement to the south. Low was in the upper 40's dF. No migrant movement through the yard. Ideally you want the wall of northerlies to pass over you in the middle of the night, not just at dark. That way birds are up in the air overhead when it hits and they are grounded. When it passes before the night flight starts, yer goose is cooked for migrants. It blew all day too. Maybe 18 on the Chipping Sparrows now, mostly first-winter birds, the adults are gone, save the local breeders. Hooded and Scott's Oriole males hitting the hummer feeders.

Apr. 3 ~ A balmy 65 for a low, threatened to rain all day but never did. A 40 percent chance gets ya nuthin' here. Twenty percent can get you a flood. A bit windy too, and no migrant movement through yard save one each Myrtle and Orange-crowned Warbler, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Couple Lincoln's Sparrow still around the bath. The Bronzed Cowbird still hitting the millet tube when no one around looking. Chipping Sparrow count is about two dozen now. The front passed and the northerlies arrived after dark. Kathy had two Yellow-throated Warbler at the bath, prolly THE pair that nests in the nearest Cypress across the road and uses the yard regularly.

Apr. 2 ~ Low of 65dF and overcast, first two or three hours of the day as is often the case are calm without any breeze, and so quite nice. Saw my FOS Bronzed Cowbird on the millet tube this morning. There cannot be a spring arrival I am less excited to see. You again already? I see green growing pecan flowers on some of the trees, not open and pollen yet, but couple-inch long buds. Besides 'when the Scissor-tails show up', one of the other 'will not freeze again' pieces of lore here is 'when the pecans bloom'.

April 1 ~ Happy Fool's day for all you fools out there! The first quarter is over. We finally got to go to Lost Maples, first break in biz in 3 months. A whole half-day of hiking and birding. Wow! We saw a few FOS Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on 187 north of town on the way up the valley. At HQ there was an Audubon's Oriole singing across the opposite side of the canyon. The primative camp area at the main pond is closed for recovery so it is much queiter in that area than it has been the last decade. Very nice. Great idea. Use has been tremendously heavy spring to mid-summer the last 15 years. I can feel the 4 miles or so we did, with a steep 400' of altitude gain and then loss. Way easier with a walking stick if you are going up top of the bluffs, especially for the way down.

Of course since it was early in season lots of stuff is not there yet, but of course there were still lots of things to see. I had a quick look at a White-tipped Dove and a female Scott's Oriole at the feeding station. We heard a couple Olive Sparrow singing. Might have heard ten or so Golden-cheeked Warbler, saw a couple, one male very well. I had a great view briefly looking down on a female, she had a nice back man. There were a few singing Louisiana Waterthrush, and 8 or 10 Black-and-white Warbler, nearing a half-dozen Yellow-throated Warbler for breeding warblers. Migrant warblers were a couple Nashville, an Orange-crowned, and about 5 Myrtle Warbler, and a few that got away that were likely Nash. A couple Hermit Thrush and a House Wren are migrants.

We went up the steep rough trail above the pond to the bluff tops where there were a few singing Black-capped Vireo scattered about. It was very windy, even a bit of mist, tough conditions. I had a couple poor looks at vireos. Had great looks at a pair of Black-throated Sparrow though. There were a few Claret Cup cactus along the cliff edge, lots of Rain Lily up there, some Spiderwort that might have been Giant, some Drummond's Skullcap. Such a different habitat up there from the canyon bottoms, it is amazing. No hawks working the cliff edge, only Common Raven and Turkey Vulture.

Coming up the canyon we heard a few Canyon Wren, Ash-throated Flycatcher, there was one Yellow-throated Vireo, lots of White-eyed, and a couple Hutton's, a couple Rufous-crowned Sparrow, only heard one Summer Tanager. Of course some of the usual residents like Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Cardinal, Ladder-backed Woodpecker. The migratory breeders are just gettin' there. There were over a hundred waxwing in some Sycamores.

The Redbud is done and over, and the Mountain Laurel all but, only a few scattered blooms left here and there. Saw a couple Scarlet Clematis flowers, some White Rock Lettuce, Red Buckeye (ours is yellow flowered form) is blooming, as is Spanish Buckeye (that is not a Buckeye). Lots is still just sprouting, including the leafing out of the trees, many of which were still just barely starting. There were some blooming Huisache on the way up the valley. You could tell a botanical and seasonal difference in just the few hundred feet of altitude change between here (Utopia) and there (Vanderpool-Lost Maples) though.

In general it was too cool for bugs, but there were a few of interest. First of the year were two Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (one was black form female), 3 Spicebush Swallowtail, and three Red Satyr, so those were the highlights. The other few were the expected. One Henry's Elfin on Spanish Buckeye was so worn I didn't bother trying to take a photo. I didn't bother with a half-dozen Erynnis Duskywings either, saw one each of Horace's, Funereal, and Mournful. For odes there was less. Some of those super blue Aztec Dancers were nice, and the only damselfly I saw. A few Dot-winged Baskettail, and one male Common Whitetail were the only dragons. Saw one Red-breasted Sunfish with good color already. On the way back there were 4-5 Scissor-tails along 187. So the first of them are back in.

~ ~ ~ March summary ~ ~ ~

It was a dry March, with less than an inch of precip and no freeze the whole month, last one was in mid-February. Spring explodes on the scene in green over the month, lots of flowers are now going, trees are leafing out, and it is generally wonderful. Newly arriving birds and newly emerging butterflies are the big thing all month keeping it exciting to be watching.

Dragonflies were few and far between overall, but the usual March emergers were out. Maybe 3 sps. of damselflies, and 5 of dragons, for about 8 total . The expected: a few Springtime Darner, a few Red Saddlebags, and good numbers of Dot-winged Baskettail. The highlight was a few Pronghorn Clubtail (ph.). One FOS male Eastern Pondhawk on the 31st. Next month they get going much better.

Butterflies were a good showing of 41 species. A Goatweed Leafwing snuck under the wire on the 31st, Giant Swallowtail on the 30th. The highlight was a female Great Purple Hairstreak at water in the yard, my first since 2015, missed it the last two years. A fair showing of Henry's Elfins this spring. In April leps really gets going and should be over 50 species.

For birds I saw about 101 species around Utopia, and know of about 7-8 more others saw nearishby, a few were only at Lost Maples. Most of the excitement is seeing the return of things like Hooded and Scott's Oriole, Hummingbirds, Golden-cheeked Warbler, and others. We had an Olive Sparrow and a Couch's Kingbird in our yard both of which are good. A few Olive Sparrow, a couple Golden-cheeked Warbler, and a Black-capped Vireo are within a couple miles of town. Audubon's Oriole, White-tipped Dove, and Olive Sparrow have been reported at Lost Maples SNA. Twice small flocks of Bufflehead were seen at the park this month, which was likely the rarest thing locally this month. That we know about.

~ ~ ~ end March summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ back to the regularly scheduled drivel ~ ~ ~

March 31 ~ For a long month it sure went by fast. Temp spread was about 60-80dF, and a bit too breezy for birding. Had an errand in town so swung through part of the golf course to see if Scissor-tails back there and saw none. A flock of 20 meadowlarks flushed, the two I had great studies of were Eastern. Over on the Waresville Rd. (363) there was a FOS Bell's Vireo singing in the mesquites.

About 20 Cave Swallow are back at the bank working on nests. Stopped at the park again and mostly over-run by people but the Coot was still in the water lillies. Up in the woods there was my FOS Nashville Warbler. At the blooming live-oak patch by the ball diamond there were about a dozen Myrtle Warbler, including one Myrtubon's hybrid (Myrtle x Audubon's). Also my first of month Goatweed Leafwing butterfly, which is great to add for the March list. Two different Monarchs were at the park, so now 6 for the month of them. One watersnake of some sort, my FOY (ph.). In the yard I saw flowers of Tube-Tongue and Yellow Ground-Cherry.

Black-throated Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow at Lost Maples on April 1

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Mar. 30 ~ About 52dF for a low is fine by me. The male Ruby-throated Hummer was back at the feeder in the morning. Mid-morning my FOS Summer Tanager announced itself back from the top of the big pecan right off front porch. There was another (I presume) singing at the park in town a couple hours later. The Coot was still there, but nothing else. Did not see a Scissor-tail along the roads yet. Little Creek Larry said there were 5 Bufflehead at the park yesterday (29th), one male and four females. Either our third occurrence this spring, or a group has been moving around. I suspect they are all different birds passing through. There was my FOY Giant Swallowtail at the park, and a couple Large Orange Sulphur around town. My fourth Monarch of the spring drifted around the yard a bit and then northeastward. Thought sure I heard a Black-and-white Warbler singing distantly in the live-oak motte North of park. Some Forktail damsels (Ischnura) were in the woods but I did not get a shot or an ID. Not Fragile, Rambur's, or Citrine.

Mar. 29 ~ A wonderful 45dF low felt great after those recent few mornings in the mid-60's. The front passed, finally sunny. Got up to the mid-80's dF in the afternoon heat! Didn't see any migrant movement through the yard in the a.m., thought there might be a post-frontal push. Wishful thinking apparently. There was however our FOS male Hooded Oriole on a hummer feeder here, for some outstanding color we haven't seen in 6 months. Whatabird. Two new for the month butterflies showed, a Northern Cloudywing, and a FOY Dun Skipper. Should be a Giant Swallowtail out any day now. About 6:20 p.m. I saw my FOS Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a male of course. Fancy seeing that back. About a third of my 15 springs here I have seen the first one during the last 5 days or so of March, more often it is the first week of April.

Mar. 28 ~ Low about 60dF or so. We had another quarter inch of rain overnight, after yesterdays quarter, so a good half-inch total as of the morning. Just southeast of us 20 miles the storms trained and they got 2.5-5"! Heard the Ringed King over at the river at early thirty and again mid-day. The male Scott's Oriole was at the feeder early, after hitting it long and hard just before dusk last night. Getting raucous with birdsong out there, a little after 7 a.m. it starts. A couple Myrtle Warbler moved through the trees northbound. I suspect there would have been some migrants around with the rain, had one been able to go kick the bushes and wanted to get wet feet.

Mar. 27 ~ Low about 65dF, not very, and some mist and drizzle. By 4 p.m. the light shower or two with it added up to .25 of an inch. There was a Savannah Sparrow eating white millet off the patio. But a bit soppy, so I wasn't out looking a lot. Since it was wet and a workday, I was thinking of the sparrows I have seen in the last 10 days either around the yard, or a mile south on the 1450' knoll. I mean a 'big picture' sparrow group which includes Towhees, since they are just XXL sparrows.

Except the Spotted Towhee (uphill and on knoll), just in the yard from this past weekend to the one prior, I have seen Canyon Towhee, Olive Sparrow, Lark, Field, Chipping, Clay-colored, Savannah, Lincoln's, Vesper, and White-crowned Sparrows. So ten in yard and eleven species around big picture group without really trying. It's like Sparrowtopia. They are on the move bigtime now. Several other species are around as well.

Rufous-crowned are around within a mile for sure, and so is Black-throated. The wintering Song seem gone, but a passage transient is possible, as is a Swamp or White-throated along river. If one birded all day and was very lucky they could get 15 species of sparrows in a day locally lately. Likely that Grasshopper, and Lark Bunting are hereabouts in late March too. Cassin's is a scarce to occasional migrant, almost annual, so possible. Past that you are just wishing.   ;)  And if you are going to do that my rule is you might as well think big, like a Striped Sparrow or a Brush-Finch from Mexico.   ;)

Mar. 26 ~ About 66 dF for a low, and humid. Strong southerlies 15-20mph gusting higher, and it got into the 80's in afternoon peak heat. There was a Clay-colored Sparrow on the patio eating white millet, and at one point within a foot was a Lark and a Chipping Sparrow, since camera was in house of course. In butterflies it was a big day for Lyside Sulphur, 200-300 of them went through the yard today, at least 4 were yellow morph. Also saw my FOY Large Orange Sulphur, and my 3rd Monarch of the month, year, season, so far. Saw again the very worn winter Questionmark that has been around the eight days or so.

Mar. 25 ~ Overcast and mid-60's dF for a low, feeling springy. Shortly after 8 a.m. I came out of the cottage after feeding fish and there was a calling COUCH'S Kingbird in the top of the big pecan in the front yard. A very nice spring migrant, sort of an overshoot, but they have nested locally, and some always get further north in spring. I am dyin' to see a Golden-cheek and Black-cap of course, knowing they are back. We took a couple hours 11-1 and looked at the 1450' knoll SW of the 360 crossing (on private property), maybe a mile from our place.

Nice live-oak and juniper grassland with some Buckley Oaks on the knoll as well as some good dense (as in impenetrable) understory on the south slope of the knoll. There were two territorial singing Olive Sparrow, one had a second bird with it, presumedly the female. That pair was right where I saw fledged young a year or two ago. There was one singing Black-capped Vireo at the usual territory, I got a half a glimpse, but we heard some great song close. Then there were at least two, maybe three, singing Golden-cheeked Warbler. Relief at last! We had great looks at one of them, whatabird.

Other things were a few Blue-gray Gnatcatcher which might nest there, heard a Scrub-Jay, saw one and heard another Spotted Towhee, heard a Hutton's Vireo, Turkey was gobbling, Roadrunner was cooing, a pair of Titmouse. One fresh Bordered Patch butterfly and better, two or three Pronghorn Clubtail dragonfly (ph.). That acacia whatever it is was blooming, what a great scent, but was mostly too cool for butteflies still. A few flowers were some nice Diamentia, lots of Blackfoot Daisy and Paralena, but the Laurel is all but over. Saw a big Tom Turkey gobble on the way out, Kathy had a Caracara fly-by I missed. It was a great haul for an hour and a half a mile from the house.

Mar. 24 ~ A bit misty in the a.m., did a recycling and dump run noonish, got sunny later in afernoon after 3 p.m. or so. Still no Scissor-tails along the roads. Saw one Clay-colored Sparrow along dump road. A FOS Louisiana Waterthrush at the park was great. So was a male Downy Woodpecker there, almost all my sightings here are of females. Watched a male Green Kingfisher catch a small fish. A continuing continually singing Hutton's Vireo continued. Couple Myrtle Warbler and the Coot. A bunch of Yellow-throated Warbler, of which females are in now. I watched a pair nest site prospecting way up in the top of the biggest Cypress. Which, when they finish 'leafing' out you won't be able to see them up there. Some Spanish Buckeye is in bloom now, which is another good place to look for Elfins if your Redbuds are done blooming. In the afternoon and evening from the front porch I heard a Ringed Kingfisher calling over at the river. The male Scott's Oriole is hitting feeder regularly. Should be a Hooded around any day now.

Is this what you are looking for?
Golden-cheeked Warbler
Singing "she says I'm so laa-zzeee"

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Archive copy of update header (partial)

Some recent winter sightings:
There was a GREAT KISKADEE at Utopia Park Friday Feb. 2-3, up in the woods on the island upriver of the screen shelters. See photos below the first two Feb. updates below. A PURPLE MARTIN was heard Jan. 29, and a Turkey Vulture was seen to have returned the same date. A Townsend's Solitaire was hearable from Utopia Park, on the priv. prop. to the NNE of park, last heard Feb. 2. A flock of northbound White-fronted Goose was heard at dusk Jan. 31. Little Creek Larry had two EARED GREBE at the park in early Jan. one day. He had a pair of BUFFLEHEAD there Monday Feb. 19th. There was a flock of RED CROSSBILL moving up and down the river habitat corridor south of town (at least) from Nov. 11 to late December. I heard a few a couple times in earliest Jan., and none since.

There was a report of a Green-tailed and Eastern Towhee just NE of town on Friday Jan. 19th, (still in Uvalde Co.), but the deer feeder they were at went dry. 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. Adult Harris's Hawk were at Little Creek later Jan., and one in our big pecan Jan. 29, a couple miles south of town. Judy Schaffer reports Rufous Hummingbird wintering again at her place in town.

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Mar. 23 ~ Low about 60dF with mist and drizzle. Saw an Orange-crowned Warbler working the male Mulberry flowers, Kathy had one yesterday, they are on the move now, these are transients, not the wintering very very few. Great having Yellow-throated Vireo singing around the yard every morning again. Town run so a look at the park. First at the north end of town there were 3 Savannah Sparrow in a field, migrants, and some Bluebonnets are open too. A few Cave Swallow were up there as well. Near the storage spaces there were a dozen male Common Grackle in a field, which are also spring arrivals. Did not see a Scissor-tail along the roads. Little Creek Larry said some people saw some along Hwy. 90 in the brush country in the last week. We are usually a week to 10 days behind them.

At the park the Coot was still there, I missed it a couple times in the last week or 10 days. There were a few Yellow-throated Warbler singing (and a few along 360), a Yellow-throated Vireo, a couple Myrtle Warbler, but slow. There was blooming Texas Onion, lots of Dewberry, lots of Slender-stem Bitterweed, the first few Engleman's Daisy, and some False Day-flower. In the afternoon there was an adult White-crowned Sparrow here in the yard and later, my FOS Clay-colored Sparrow. When you have the spring equinox here, Clay-coloreds are not far behind. About 9 p.m. I had my FOS Barn Owl.

Mar. 22 ~ Low in the low 50's dF and humid with overcast. Heard three Yellow-throated Vireo singing at once in the a.m. Male and female Brown-headed Cowbird out there. No sign of the Olive Sparrow of yesterday evening. Got up to about 80dF when sun came out in afternoon. The male Scott's Oriole was at a hummer feeder in the a.m., surely it is the one that breeds upslope behind us somewhere. Two Lincoln's Sparrows at the bath early, they are on the move now, so where is that first Clay-colored? Any day. Hermit Thrush was out there, the local winterers gone weeks now, this is a passage transient.

The hummers (Black-chinned) number over a hundred now, likely a good bit over too. We're already past a quart per day, barreling towards a half-gallon, and only have three feeders out, each on a different side of house for MAF - maximum attraction factor. Which does not seem to help but makes me feel like I am trying. The valley floor is nothing like being up on the ridges for transient hummers. We had way way more Rufous, Allen's, Calliope, Broad-tailed, and Anna's (not to mention rare vagrants like a Violetear, a Lucifer and a White-eared) when we were up on Seco Ridge.

Mar. 21 ~ A low of 37dF when I checked (in dark before peak cold) was great, I saw KRVL hit a 36. We'll long for this soon. I presume the same Lincoln's Sparrow that was on the seed all day yesterday was the one at the bath this morning. Bet that Gnatcatcher yesterday is glad it didn't arrive a day sooner. A female Brown-headed Cowbird was my first spring arriving female. The Yellow-throated Vireo is singing around the yard and surely the local territorial male that has returned. Ash-throated Flycatcher out there a bit, it could be the local nester back as well.

My FOS Scott's Oriole sang up the slope behind us in the big ancient live-oaks about noonish and again at 12:30 closer to house. Might be 'our' local breeder that uses the hummer feeders. Later afternoon a second Gnatcatcher went through. Later, after 6 p.m. I was over in the cottage looking out back door by the one good laurel that constitutes understory, and an Olive Sparrow flew into it. We throw seed under it a couple times daily. It worked along the fence and upslope where denser and I lost it. Have not seen one lately around and so a bird on the move. Did see the winter form Questionmark again. Great was a FOS female Falcated Orange-tip that flew around the yard a bit. More Lysides, a Painted lady which was also a FOY for me.

Mar. 20 ~ Happy Equinox! Clay-colored Sparrow will show up any day now. The low in the low 40's dF was great, but 10-15+mph northerlies make it tough for birding. When all the branches and leaves are moving, the single most used bird spotting technique - seeing motion - becomes far far less effective. Everything is in motion. The other most used bird detection method - hearing - is also greatly diminished pretty soon past about 15 mph, except for closestby stuff. Not a big deal scoping shorebirds (which we don't do much of here) but when looking in trees it can be. Small birds duck for cover and work the interiors of dense shrubs, etc. In wind, look for the lees, whether hill or ridge, building, treeline or hedgerow, or a dogleg in a canyon (often only one side or the other of a leg will be blown out).

Heard 2-3 Yellow-throated Vireo, one over in the corral which may be the area returning breeder. The big (but not very large) FOS of the day was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher for over an hour in the afternoon. It is my 2nd latest arrival date in 15 springs here. A Lincoln's Sparrow was around the seed we toss all day. A Vesper Sparrow is a passage bird, out working in the driveway and in a Persimmon. Love seeing that male Vermilion sputtering overhead against the blue skies off and on all day again. No Canyon Towhee again, methinks it split.

Butterflies were great, we spray a little water around and make a couple wet spots, which since it is so dry can bring a wave of a half-dozen to a dozen butterflies in a few minutes. And sometimes they are good ones. Outstanding was a Great Purple Hairstreak that came in for a drink. I have not seen one the last two years, it flushed when I came back out with camera. But I had great looks of the incredible neon metallic blue upper wings as it fluttered around looking for where to land. You can't see the best part when they sit (wings closed). It was a female. In the afternoon I saw my FOS Dusky-blue Groundstreak. Saw one Pearl and a half-dozen Vesta Crescent, and a Henry's Elfin came in to the watered wet soil as well. It got to mid-70's with very low humidity (not as bad as yesterday's but dry).

Mar. 19 ~ A wonderful calm dry 52dF or so for a low felt great. What I am sure is the Yellow-throated Warbler that uses yard as part of its territory was back this morning in the male Mulberry working the branches over the cottage. The wind started around 9 a.m., and blew all day, 15-20 gusting 20-30mph. Finally calmed down shortly before dark. Lots of hummers here now as in several dozens, all Black-chinned of course. Anything else is rare in March, Ruby-throats mostly show up the first week of April. Was the usual suspects but a couple Myrtle Warbler went through northward. Best was a butterfly that came into water, Theona Checkerspot, my first of year. Kathy spotted a worn winter form Questionmark on the wet patio, which I missed all winter, and will likely be the last of them we will see until fall.

There were humidity readings in the area today of 10-15 percent, very low here. Bone dry low, and it is great, except for the fire danger with the strong winds. Did not hear or see the Canyon Towhee today, it was singing still here yesterday. Lost its mate presumedly to an accipiter, didn't attract a new one in the couple months since, and so has likely gone off to see if it can sing one up.

Mar. 18 ~ Low 60's dF for a low, and another pre-frontal warm day in the upper 80's. Saw and heard the first returning Lark Sparrow of the spring, singing for a few minutes in the top of the big pecan. Though a few winter, we have a clear departure of the breeders in fall, and as clear a return of them in spring, which seems likely completely unrelated to the population of wintering birds. Thought I heard a Black-and-white Warbler again upslope in the live-oaks behind us. Heard a Yellow-throated Warbler over at the river. In the afternoon a Yellow-throated Vireo sung its way north up the river habitat corridor. The live-oaks are in heavy molt right now, many are all but leafless, and surely flightless, with the new growth tips just breaking stems.

Mar. 17 ~ Low in mid-60's dF, high about 85 when it got sunny in afternoon. Heard a couple singing Yellow-throated Warbler moving north through cypresses along the river. The Chipping Sparrows number about 55, over half of the wintering flock is gone now. The rest was the same gang, a lot of great birdsong at dawn, right now just after 7 a.m. or so it gets rippin' for a bit. Music to my ears. Two first of year (FOY) butterflies today were Texan Crescent and Lyside Sulphur. Trying to get a bunch of spring cleaning and chores done before I can't stand it and go birding. Actually besides the little bit of very local looking I tend to hold my fire until I can see the whites of their eyes, so to speak. At least until a bigger percentage of the migratory breeders are here and in and the birdsong has become a din. Sure you can rush out and get that first Golden-cheek, but no Gnatcatchers yet, much less Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, buntings, etc., and often no females yet of many of the earliest arrivers. Gotta get garden stuff done before it gets too hot and all the birds show back up.

Indigo Snake

Indigo Snake

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Mar. 16 ~ Only about 60dF in the a.m. under cloud cover, then cleared and got up to about 86dF in the shade. Getting warm, and green. Hackberries are in flower, male Mulberry too, Redbud is still going as is Mountain Laurel, and the Cypresses. Saw my FOY Prairie Fleabane flowers today along the back fence. Some Crow-Poison and Yellow Wood-Sorrel in yard, at the park the Dewberry is blooming well. Wish I could get some going here. My FOS Cave Swallows (10) were on the powerline in front of the senior center, and no doubt the ones that nest at the bank breezeways.

The park check was nice, there were 6 female Bufflehead on the pond! Great spring migrant record. Little Creek Larry had a pair Feb. 19, so we have a bumper crop this spring, it is easy to go a several years without seeing one here. Larry also has had continuing from last week 6-8 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck over at Little Creek. He also saw a Great-tailed Grackle in town this week and he heard a Black-capped Vireo out 470 towards Tarpley. There were a couple Yellow-throated Warbler and one Yellow-throated Vireo singing at the park, and another of the warbler at the 360 crossing. Our yard breeders (yard is part of their territories) of both have not returned yet as of this afternoon. One Green Kingfisher at the park. I saw the Pied-billed Grebe but not the Coot which may have left. A Field Sparrow is always good in the park.

Lots of Vermilions but no Scissor-tails along the roads yet. The earliest returns I have for Scissors are March 21 up here. They get back in brush country flatlands a week or 10 days sooner than up here where colder. There is an old saying that when they show up, it means it won't freeze again. The average date for last freeze here is right around Mar. 21, though it can freeze much later, on average the last feeze is the day after the Equinox here. Roughly the same as my earliest two return dates, so the proximity of those two dates is not likely a coincidence, and at least you have to give the old saying some credence. A Merlin flew over yard at last sun, and a Ringed Kingfisher called from over at the river at dusk.

Mar. 15 ~ Upper 40's dF for a low. Had my first spring arrival of Brown-headed Cowbird. Some winter with the Brewer's Blackbird flocks, but a clear wave of them (no doubt from elsewhere - southward) shows up in spring. Even an unfavored species can have interesting aspects about it. Heard the Barking Frog off back porch again after dark. Weird is that I never heard the 'spring peeper' chorus we usually have in Jan. or Feb. of Strecker's Chorus Frogs.

Mar. 14 ~ About 42dF for a low. Town run errand first thing early so a look at the park. Little Creek Larry said he had a pair of Blue-winged Teal there yesterday. Best was two FOS species, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Yellow-throated Vireo. The vireo is early up here in the hills. At least two of the warbler were singing in the Cypresses. There were 3 Gadwall, the Coot, the Pied-billed Grebe, one Green Kingfisher, heard Blue Jays, and the pair of Red-shouldered Hawk. Thought I heard the flight note of a Black-and-White Warbler in the big live-oak motte over the fence, couldn't see it though. Vesta Crescent (lep) in the yard in the afternoon. Late in day a Merlin was chasing Waxwings around over yard and corral.

Mar. 13 ~ Low about 40dF, KRVL had a 38. Got up into mid-60's. Busy at work. Saw a Disparete Forester moth, the first of the year for me. Kathy saw a Gray Hairstreak. I saw my FOY Buckeye (butterfly) as well, a nice fresh one just out of the paint shop. Noonish a flock of 45 cranes thermalled overhead, it is amazing how quickly they gain altitude with so little apparent effort. The pair of Vermilion Flycatcher were prospecting around the yard a bit. Sure nice to have that exhuberant male back around again. The hummer numbers are building already. Has to be a couple or three dozen males, and a good number of females too.

Mar. 12 ~ Low about 43dF, the wind stopped some time in the wee hours, finally. Only got to mid-60's or so peak heat. The Canyon Towhee singing a bit on the brush piles we make out of fallen pecan sticks. It, the wintering Mocker, and the Wrens just love a good stick pile. We have a smaller one next to the bird bath for stuff to dive into when Accipiters attack. Always provide cover near a bath. Noonish an immature White-crowned Sparrow showed up for a bath. It was a pale-lored orange-billed Gambell's (Western) type, not the usual black-lored, pink-billed Eastern type we have (leucophrys). Every spring a small number of these go through, it sure would be neat to understand the phenomenon whatever it is. Today was the first day the Red Harvester Ants were back out of the ground. And so the battle begins again. Seeing a few Fire Ant mounds popping up too. Fire Ants are easier to kill.

Mar. 11 ~ Too windy. The front got here, at least the wind did, 10-20 mph all day, gusting to 30. So worked inside. Not cold, about 66 or so much of day, but too windy to bird. Did see an Ash-throated Flycatcher in the yard after hearing the FOS yesterday. Still a hundred plus Chipping Sparrow out there on the white millet. The rest seemed the same gang. A Golden-fronted Woodpecker was working on a hole in the big dying Hackberry again. It has done so a few springs, but never seems to have yet made a cavity, though the hole is there.

Mar. 10 ~ Just before midnight last night had a 10 minute shower with a tenth of an inch of precip. This morning I heard my FOS Ash-throated Flycatcher up on the ridge behind us, and Turkey gobbling. Mostly worked on stuff here. The highlight in the yard was the FOY returning MONARCH butterfly! My second earliest date in 15 springs, March 8 is my only one earlier, but have two March 12 arrival dates. It was at the blooming Mountain Laurel in yard.

Nice to see the male and female Vermilion Flycatcher back here. In later afternoon we checked the crossing and the blooming Redbuds, Laurels, and Agarita on the hill behind us. It was about 86dF in the shade, 90 in the sun, the birds were quiet. At the 360 x-ing there was a Kiowa and a Dusky Dancer, the two first damselflies for the year, or first with positive ID's. In dragons a Springtime Darner was my first this year, and a number of Dot-winged Baskettail were flying.

Inadvertently flushed a Great Horned Owl in a dense area of live-oaks where it may be nesting. Heard Hutton's Vireo. Uphill most of the Agarita is done, but some few are still going. Many Laurels seem past peak as well, though the early first ones, some just getting going. The few Redbuds look peak flower right now. There were a few Henry's Elfin on them but which refused to stay for photos, they always seem very ginchy to me. A couple Olive-Juniper Hairstreak were not so shy. Saw one Sachem, my FOY, as was a Horace's Duskywing on a Redbud. There were a few un-ID'd Duskywing.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Pardon the pixels and fuzziness

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Mar. 9 ~ Low about 50dF, high about 68, cloudy all day. Did the town run fer stuff. Redbuds are blooming all over the place, they look great, some Laurels around town are now dripping in purple flowers. Park had 4 Gadwall on the pond, and the wintering Coot continues. Nothing in the woods, but my FOS Northern Rough-winged Swallow were feeding right below the spillway, maybe on mayflies, three of them. Little Creek Larry said he had a couple strings of Double-crested Cormorant go over northbound Tuesday the 6th, and he saw one in the water at the park. He also saw the FOS Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks over at Little Creek some day this week. I thought sure I heard a Yellow-throated Warbler chip a few times at the park but could not pick it out. The Cypresses are 'blooming' full bore now. I saw about 5 male Vermilion Flycatcher just in a mile of UvCo360, and my FOS female of the year. Kathy spotted the FOY Bumblebee, one of the Texas sized XL yellow ones, I saw it later. Had my first Barking Frog of the year barking after dark.

Mar. 8 ~ About 41dF this a.m., they called for upper 30's, but some clouds came it and held some heat. Too busy Thursday so not much looking. Kathy saw a Gray Fox out there. I saw a Black-tailed Jackrabbit. The birds seemed all the same gang of seed theives.

Mar. 7 ~ The cool air finally got here, it was 37dF this morning here, I saw 36 for KRVL. Saw my first female Black-chinned Hummer at a feeder this a.m. Some great birdsong at dawn now from the residents mostly, which are really getting in to it now. Cardinals, Titmice, Wrens, Chickadees, the Canyon Towhee, a Mockingbird, and now the first couple migratory breeders are back in the mix with Vermilion Flycatcher and White-eyed Vireo. Actually heard a couple Wide-eyed Vireo, and a couple male Vermilion Flycs were going at it deciding who gets which end of the corral. Some leaves breaking stem on the Texas Persimmons, and the male Mulberry flowers are popping out well. Saw 14% humidity in the afternoon for KRVL!

Mar. 6 ~ Frontal passage overnight so northerly flow, in low 40's, drier, very nice and got up to about 75dF! The White-eyed Vireo is still singing over in the draw, so I suspect it is indeed our breeder having returned. Might have been a half-dozen Black-chinned Hummingbird today, all were males. More small flocks of cranes going over northbound. Couple Myrtle Warbler passed through yard heading the same way.

Saw a couple Vesta Crescent butterflies today, my FOY and a Gray Hairstreak was on the Mountain Laurel that has flowers out back. Black Swallowtail went by, a couple more male Checkered White as well. Great was while I was on back porch at very last crack of light, a, the, Gray Fox walked out on the patio less than 20' from me.

Mar. 5 ~ Only got down to about 64dF overnight. Not very low. Nice to hear Vermilion Flycatcher as part of the dawn chorus again. It was singing at dark last night as well. Coyote was over in corral hunting piglets first thing early-thirty. Might be 3 Black-chinned Hummingbird males out there now. No female yet. Nearing noon I heard my FOY White-eyed Vireo over in the draw. Wonder if a transient or the returning breeder? There were a half-dozen each Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch at the sunflower tube. Waxwings in the Hackberries. Small flocks of cranes heading north. Saw my FOY Checkered White, a male, also a Funereal Duskywing went by. FOY Red Wasp today.

Mar. 4 ~ More work around here for the most part. Big Coyote over in the corral early in the morning. FOS male Vermilion Flycatcher happened about noonish in the corral. Took a couple mile spin around the adjacent live-oak-juniper habitat noonish, was very slow for birds, but also very breezy. As we left a Pearl Crescent butterfly was next to driveway, the FOY. We saw several FOY Duskywings, at least a couple were Mournful, one was Funereal, a few got away. A blooming Redbud had a Eufala Skipper, maybe my earliest ever. Saw a Gulf and some Variegated Frits. Saw a few each FOY dung scarabs, and acilids (robber flies). Some Mountain Laurel is blooming, and some Agarita. Saw one each Slender-leaf Hymenoxys and Slender-stem Bitterweed flowers, a few Anemone, one was purple. It was 3 or 4 Dot-winged Baskettail dragonflies. Heard Scrub-Jay. Saw a pair of Caracara that I think are the local nesting pair. Thought I heard a Black-and-white Warbler flight note as something flew off. Bats at dusk looked like Free-tail. I saw the Concan cave emergence tonight before dusk on the radar loop, as well as the colony down D'Hanis area somewhere which also shows well on the loop.

Mar. 3 ~ Low-end chances of rain so Worked around house on stuff. Heard my FOS Roadrunner song, one cooing up the draw to the north. About noon a male Black-chinned Hummingbird showed up, to be chased off by one here already. So two feeders up, now two hummers, and a dispute took about 2 seconds. The rest was the same gang of regulars. Saw a couple Anemone flowers starting to open.

Common Raven

If you are missing a pecan, call, I may have a lead for you. All the Ravens around here are Common Ravens (and there are no Crows). The ebird reports of Chihuahuan Ravens on the south central Edwards Plateau are best disregarded. I highly doubt anyone can prove any of them. Especially the Lost Maples reports. Common are common nesters and residents locally, which have exploded in numbers in the last decade. Chihuahuan are all but accidental here and should not be considered without diagnostic evidence unless reported by a known Raven expert. These Common Raven here are small and compactly built. Any Raven here is Common until proven otherwise beyond question. Show me the proof. All the hundreds reported and not one has any actual evidence to support it. I have seen photos of Ravens on websites labeled Chihuahuan at Lost Maples which are undoubtedly Common Raven, in which there is nothing whatsoever to support a claim of Chihuahuan .
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Mar. 2 ~ Town run so a look around. My FOS three Barn Swallow were at the north end of town. Later I ran into Little Creek Larry and he said he had them over there the last two days, since Wed. Feb. 28. So the first few back in the last few days. Later about 1:30 p.m. I saw the first male Black-chinned Hummingbird at a porch feeder here at the house. Later I got an e-mail from Judy Schaffer saying she had one yesterday and today on her feeders, so a March 1 arrival date this year. Saw a post on intertubes Golden-cheeked Warblers were seen in Bexar Co. this morning. Just wondering where the Vermilions are?

Heard a Lincoln's Sparrow at the Ranch Outpost, FOS migrant. At the smaller blooming Redbud by the library there were at least 3 Henry's Elfin butterfly, my FOY. There were a couple Mountain Laurel with flowers and 20 Pipevine Swallowtail on them. Then over at the park there were 5 Gadwall, the Coot, a Pied-billed Grebe and a FOY spring migrant Great Egret. In the woods there was singing Hutton's Vireo, Blue Jay, male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, female Yellow-shafted Flicker, and the regulars. Several flocks of Sandhill Crane were going over northbound. Single Zone-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks. The wintering Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers seemed to have bugged out, saw none, as a few days ago when I was here. We get migrants through March and April, but it seems the ones that winter locally depart for the most part before those arrive.

The highlight was watching the pair of Green Kingfisher copulate. The male was making sounds I have not ever heard despite having watched the species for a hundred if not two hundred hours. One was a low guttaral Common Grackle type call, which was interspersed with what sounded like the wing trill of a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird. All this stopped after mating took place. It was all kinds of awesome. Which was just what I went to the park for. My work was done so I left, with a full tank of amazing. A Ringed Kingfsiher called as I walked to car.

Last Tuesday I saw a female Mulberry with the first few leaves breaking out, today I can see leaf buds breaking stem on our male just off the patio. In town I saw a Hackberry with some leaves just breaking out, and at park a couple Black Willow had the first few leaves breaking out. I also see the first vestiges of buds breaking Texas Persimmon stems. It is about to explode green.

March 1 ~ OMG it is March!?!?!?! Two months done already!?!?!?! It is too busy Thursdays so can't lookabout much. Didn't see anything but the usual suspects. Keeping an eye peeled for Mr. Vermilion and Mr. Black-chin, but nothing yet.

~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~

About 3" of rain for the month was great, and lots of days with fog-mist-drizzle, so the plants got some precip. But we are still running way dry behind normal and nowhere near caught up for water. We had a good freeze mid-month, which is seeming like it might be our last as none to mid-March so far. Last year we didn't freeze after early January, so this is much better, for bug control especially.

The only two odes (dragonflies) I saw this month were the usual Feb. Dot-winged Baskettail, and several Red Saddlebags were a bit of a surprise, most were at the Waresville golf course pond. Butterflies were likewise weak, with 14 species seen, all the expected most statistically likely varieties. The first few fresh emergences start to show as opposed to the worn leftovers of January.

Birds were alright for the little bit of looking I did, mostly too busy working so only park checks on town runs and a wee bit of looking around the casita and nearby crossing. The highlight was the Great Kiskadee at the park up in the woods on and by the island on Feb. 2-3, photographed both dates. Likely the first photo-documented local record, but the 4th sight report locally that I know of. Not that a Kiskadee ID is tough, but for anything, having photos is better than a description. A picture says ten thousand words. When you get the docu-shot it puts it in a different category: irrefutable. Having some evidence is everything. Even for the easiest ID, if where the species is not a regular occurrence. Now there is a photo of a Kiskadee in the USRD - upper Sabinal River drainage, and the Utopia Park Kiskadee record is a photo documented one.

The other best bird of the month was a pair of Bufflehead that Little Creek Larry had at the park pond Feb. 19. You can blow by a few years without seeing one locally real easy. I heard the Townsend's Solitaire that was adjacent to the park from late Dec., on Feb. 2 for the last time. So it was around five weeks, I never saw it, heard it a half-dozen times, but never when I took my recorder and dishlet.

Otherwise February sees the return of the first Purple Martins and Turkey Vultures and Wild Turkey starts gobbling at dawn (I have heard there can be some gobbling of wild turkey at night here. ;)  LOL ) The resident birds began seriously singing and checking out nest boxes and such, the winter Cardinal flocks start to break up as they begin to get territorial again. And you regularly hear geese or cranes (White-fronted and Sandhill) going over, chasing that cold air back north. Kinglets (Ruby) seem to start moving through as well. Last day of the month saw the first Bats back as well.

~ ~ end of February summary ~ ~ ~

Feb. 28 ~ Last day of month, late in day, last heat, checked the Agarita with flowers out back and bam! Gray Hairstreak, new butterfly for the monthly species list (and FOY). Was a fairly normal 14 species for the month. Yard gang was the same, but lots more singing going on. Cards, Wrens, Titmice, all getting after it now. Field Sparrow and Canyon Towhee singing too. Saw the male Black Swallowtail again today, what a beauty. Shortly before dusk I saw my FOY White-lined Sphinx moth.

The big thing today was BATS! I saw a couple over the patio at dusk. First this year. No positive ID though. Earlier I saw the radar signature of a typical bat emergence down near D'Hanis where there usually is an emergence signature near dusk, at least the last couple or few summers. Then bam! there they are over the patio. Probably Free-tails. Later at 10 p.m. there were White-fronted Geese going over northbound.

Feb. 27 ~ Great was a Black Swallowtail butterfly, my first of the year, nice male. Numbers of Pipevine Swallowtail are about. A Zone-tailed Hawk pretending it was a TV dove right into a Juniper and a bunch of Cardinal exploded out of it alarming. He missed though. Cranes going north.

Feb. 26 ~ A nice crisp 41dF for a low, KRVL pulled a 38 briefly. Canyon Towhee is singing a little bit, tuning up. A Little Yellow (butterfly) was about. The rest was the regular expected gang. The Agarita on the back fence has a few flowers opening.

Feb. 25 ~ Clouds in a.m. but cleared by noon or so and got up to a dry 75dF in the afternoon and was wonderful. Heard a Flicker upslope behind us in the morning, and the Western Meadowlarks chorusing over across the corral. About a hundred waxwings in the yard much of the day, mostly eating hackberries. Noonish I went to the park for a quick look, had Ringed Kingfisher and the Coot, two female Gadwall, and again no Pied-billed Grebes. Heard a Purple Martin fly over calling there. A surprise was a Red Saddlebags dragonfly, which surely just emerged. First dragon of the year, and first time that species has been my first. Usually in late Feb. a Dot-winged Baskettail is the first dragonfly.

Went to the Waresville pond on the golf course. There were 5 more Red Saddlebags and one Dot-winged Baskettail flying there. So, odes! Dragons! Major sign of spring. Three male Purple Martin were at the house there. There were butterflies out in good numbers everywhere. Over the day I saw at least two dozen Southern Dogface, a dozen Dainty Sulphur, and a half-dozen Pipevine Swallowtail. Plus a few Snout, a couple American Lady, 2 Red Admiral, 3 Variegated Fritillary, an Orange Sulphur, and 4 Sleepy Orange. Nine species is highest single day diversity so far this year. Also the most individual butterflies any day so far this year (over 4 dozen). Taken with the odes, a very springish feel is in the air, in the way of flyin' bugs.

We took a mile walk around the live-oaks and Agarita upslope behind us in the afternoon. I heard a couple birds get away in the big agarita patches that surely were Spotted Towhee, but did not lay eyes on them. The Agarita is in bad shape from the drought, many to most are half dead. I expected lots of flowers by now but only a few had a few stems with flowers. Some bees, but no Olive-Juniper Hairstreak or Henry's Elfin yet. There were a couple Dutchman's Breeches with flowers. On Buckley Oaks you can just barely see leaf buds starting to break stem. Saw one Yellow Wood-Sorrel flower in the driveway. The ground is really green in lots of places now. Flushed a bunch of smaller grasshoppers on the greening ground as we walked.

Feb. 24 ~ Was still gray, drippy, and was another third of an inch of precip overnight. Mucky out there so Worked around here. A little sun late in afternoon. Birds were mostly the same gang. One Robin with some waxwings, 7 American Goldfinch, the Canyon Towhee, nothing different. One Dainty Sulphur butterfly. Hope the Collared-Doves go away on their own before I get tired of hearing them and they end up on a plate under jalapeno sauce.

White-crowned Sparrow

Adult White-crowned Sparrow of the usual variety here,
the eastern nominate leucophrys subspecies. Note black
in lores, pink bill, and pale areas in back light gray.

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Feb. 23 ~ What a surprise, it is gray, misty and drippy still, but not hot or cold. We had about a quarter inch, maybe .3" over the day. More than likely within the next week we should see the return of the first Black-chinned Hummingbird and Vermilion Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo could show up any day now, and probably about 10 days or so until the first Golden-cheeked or Black-and-white Warbler make it back. Barn or Cave Swallow could show up any day now too. Things are going to be changing real soon, only four weeks of winter left.

Town run, there were open flowers on the Redbuds at the library! Soon as the sun comes back out there will be Elfins. The drizzle was heavy and the woods at the park were empty. Five Ring-necked Duck and the Coot out on the pond. Little Creek Larry said he had a pair of Bufflehead on the pond Monday (19th) at 7:30 a.m. and when he swung back by at 8:30 they were gone already. I have only seen them there twice in almost 15 years. Great record of some spring migrants. He also had one male Purple Martin this week over at Little Creek. I heard a Mocker singing at the park entrance.

Feb. 22 ~ Cool gray misty breezy soppy, more of the same, only minor traces of precip though. Saw a couple Turkey Vulture and Caracara besides lots of Black Vulture. Field Sparrow singing is nice. I see the first signs of flower buds breaking stems on Mountain Laurel and Agarita along the back fence. Couple Eur. Collared-Dove out there making noise I could do without. The bluebirds are singing a bit, heard the Western Meadowlarks over at the airstrip singing a bit too.

Feb. 21 ~ Front coming in, 68dF just before dawn, dropping with northerlies and rain, by 10 a.m. it was about 40dF, chills in 30's, and we had received 1.25" of rain and some pea-sized hail briefly. By 1 p.m. after a second band of rain it was 2.25"! With yesterday's, bit, and the drizzle the week prior we are likely about 3" total for the week now. Great timing for spring green. Same suspects in the yard.

Feb. 20 ~ Low about 65 dF, a line of showers with some actual thunder moved over right after daybreak, we got about .6 of an inch. I suspect over the last week plus of on and off drizzle we have received a tenth or two on top of that. Just what the growing stuff needs. Looks like a green explosion is on the horizon. All the trees are still brown sticks (save the junipers and live-oaks) but the ground is turning green. I see a bit of yellowing just starting on some live-oak leaves here and there so they will be starting their annual leaf change shortly.

Had to run to town for an errand in the a.m. so looked at the park, where a Ringed Kingfisher and 8 Ring-necked Duck. Did not see the Coot or Pied-billed Grebes. Of some interest was a Great Egret, clearly a spring migrant. Only Titmouse and Chickadee in the woods. Heard a Myrtle Warbler.

Feb. 19 ~ More of same, fog-mist, drizzle, low about 65 dF, so not very. In afternoon clearing a bit got up to 78 or so. Common spring type weather here. Lots of green stuff breaking ground in yards, and grasses in pastures greening as well. Looks like spring is on the horizon, coming soon. Birds were the same gang. Saw a (nother?) Pipevine Swallowtail. Better was one of the 1.25" Scoliid wasps with the pale yellow bands across blue-black abdomen. Heard my first Chipping Sparrow song of the year in the afternoon.

Feb. 18 ~ SOS - same old stuff, fog mist drizzle most of a.m., some little sun in late p.m. but it did warm into 70's. At dawn first trip out with the feeders and seed a Black-tailed jackrabbit was on the patio, scrounging seeds no doubt. It is the first one I have seen in a few months. I don't know where they go but do not see them around yard all winter, and as soon as some green stuff starts sprouting in yard, there it is. I was only 10-12' from it when I saw it since it was barely light. It slowly moseyed away after I walked by. The Cottontails take off like rockets when they see me, as soon as they determine the 'freeze' did not work. Birds were the same gang. Working on stuff here while not too hot or cold.

Feb. 17 ~ Another gray drizzly one, temps were dropping at dawn, and did not recover to 7 a.m. temps until noon or so. Spread was 55 to an amazing 75 in afternoon when some sun broke through. Worked on things here so just the same yard gang for the most part. Heard Turkey gobbling at dawn. Had a or the Field Sparrow, which reminded me I forgot it last week when I made the day list up on the 12th. The good bird of the day was mid-morn when two Rusty Blackbird flew over low calling. Looked like the ad. fem. that has been around now five winters, and another that found it. Saw a Turkey Vulture soaring around in afternoon, likely a local.

Harris's Hawk

Tight crop of the adult Harris's Hawk in our big pecan.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below

Feb. 16 ~ If you like gray and drippy, this is the place. Low of 60dF, and stayed in that category all day. The forecast for the next week has it the same the whole time with daily low-end rain chances. So mostly that fog-mist-drizzle that has the grass and ground soaked, trees dripping, and its a mess. But since it is not hot, cold, or windy, we celebrate.

The Striped Skunk was on the back porch when Kathy opened the door this morning. Dang cottage stinks, its burrow is under it and when it has gassed something, scent bleeds up into the cottage. There is a dillo that lives under there too, how does he stand it? There was an Opossum under it too, but which now I think is in the old unused junk storage shed. I have an idea about why it moved.

Another nice Western Meadowlark chorus in front yard this morn. At least a half-dozen, it sounds fantastic. Town run for supplies. Saw a couple Turkey Vulture, and Cardinals are singing all over, every stop I made, I heard singing Cards. The park had a male Green Kingfisher and below dam along creek low in trees a wet Zone-tailed Hawk. Nine Ring-necked Duck, the Coot and a Pied-billed Grebe on the pond. Little Creek Larry said Tuesday he had a flock of 16 Green-winged Teal there. Some Kinglet (Ruby) and Myrtle Warblers, one Hermit Thrush still on island. Red-shouldered Hawk circling screaming as in territorial flight, some Blue Jays were mimicing it quite a bit, which seemed like it kinda pissed the hawk off, and it seemed like the Jays were sorta snickerin' about it.

Feb. 15 ~ Mostly overcast, mist-drizzle, soppy and about 60-71dF for a temp spread. Had to make a pickup at the P.O. so did a quick town run noonish and checked the park. Saw the Coot, the pair of Gadwall, 9 Ring-necked Duck, one female Green Kingfisher. A couple Lark Sparrow were on margins of 187. We had a great chorus of a half-dozen Western Meadowlark on the powerline over in the corral for 10 minutes. In the afternoon I saw my second of year Turkey Vulture. From now 15 years of recording data, Valentine's Day was one of the most common arrival (return) dates for our local breeders. So you would call this on time.

Feb. 14 ~ Another soppy drippy misty morning. Winds cleared the skies in the later afternoon, sun came out, at least that is what I think that was, and it hit about 72dF! Holy cow! Nice, opened up and aired it all out. Had to run to town early, nothing in the woods at the park. The pond had a pair of Gadwall, a pair of Am. Wigeon, the Coot, a Pied-billed Grebe, and 15 Ring-necked Duck, so that was nice. Waterbirds. The yard was the regular gang.

Feb. 13 ~ It is gray days here, but not cold, upper 40's to mid-50's for a temp range isn't much of one. Misty, drizzly, wet, great day to be working inside. Same gang of daily yard users. Saw Red-tailed Hawk and a Caracara go by. Too busy in the office. Sure nice to hear Cardinals singing! Heard my first Mourning Dove song of the year today. White-wings start earlier.

Feb. 12 ~ A chilly 25dF for a low was crisp. Got up to about 56dF or so, sunny about 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and then cloudy. In the yard it was the regular gang. Canyon Towhee, Ladder-backed and Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Common Ground-Dove, White-winged and Mourning Dove, N. Mockingbird, N. Cardinal, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren and Chickadee, Bewick's Wren, Cedar Waxwing, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, Chipping Sparrow, Sharp-shinned Hawk, (missed a Cooper's), Common Raven, Black Vulture, Myrtle Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Field Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird and Phoebe, Common Raven, and Caracara. Missed Red-tailed Hawk. These are the couple dozen-plus sure-thing peak-of-winter daily bread yard birds for the moment.

Feb. 11 ~ The cold and wind with the front that entered the area later yesterday got here overnight. Low 30's dF at dawn, and upper 20's within a couple hours. Isn't it supposed to go the other way? Winds were 10-20 gusting to 25 mph. Chill factors at 9 a.m. or so were 13-16dF at Rocksprings, Junction, and Kerrville, prolly about 20 here. It will be an extra seed rations day. By 9:30 the windows were so fogged up I wouldn't be able to see something good outside if it was there. At 10 a.m. San Francisco was 49dF, Boston 39, and two Utopia WU stations read below 29dF! It warmed to 42dF or so at peak afternoon heat as wind finally slowed down to 10 mph, so chills were still in 30's. We worked inside. Didn't see anything different out the foggy windows. Chipping Sparrow flock might be very near 140 now.

Feb. 10 ~ Foggy with mist in the a.m., but not cold anyway. A front is headed in, so we get the day prior warmup today. Sun came out afternoon, we went to the park and had a look in the woods. No Kiskadee, no Solitaire but the park was noisy with a party, no Kingfishers either. Pair of Fuertes' Red-tails just north of park. A dozen Myrtle Warbler, 5 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, plus some of the regular residents, 10 Ring-necked Duck and the Coot. One group of a half-dozen Myrtle across the river had one Pine Warbler in with them. At the golf course pond by Waresville I had my first two frog detections of the year in the 70dF heat. Saw one Blanchard's Cricket-Frog, and heard one Rio Grande Leopard Frog. FOY frogs. About 40 Red-winged Blackbird in the cattails there, 25 female, 15 male. Song Sparrow at the 360 x-ing. Male and female So. Dogface (butterflies) were in the yard (was my FOY female), and saw Snout and Sleepy Orange again. Couple Anole around the house.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren in default position

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 9 ~ Overcast and about 48dF for a low, and 58 for a high. Town run day, so a peek at my current favorite park. Did not see the Kiskadee so at present it was a 2-day bird, Feb. 2 and 3. Did have Ringed Kingfisher, no Green though. Ten Ring-necked Duck and a pair of Gadwall flew in and landed while I was there. The Coot continues as does one Pied-billed Grebe. Little Creek Larry said one of the first days of the year when it was almost snowing he had two EARED GREBE at the park, just one morning. So we will be adding that to the park list. Another example of the stuff going through quickly and if you aren't there checking it all the time, you miss it. Wish I could check the pond as much as Larry does. There was a Zone-tailed Hawk over Main St. in town. A couple meadowlarks I looked at in a corral along W. 360 were Eastern. Ten or so female Red-winged Blackbird in with a few males and a hundred Brewer's. Vesper Sparrow was along corral out front.

Post-update add-on: Forgot to mention, since I typically just partially mentally toss things I don't ID (except those pangs you can't shake). I flushed a hawk out of the big pecan as I came out of the cottage once, which defied identification with my view. It was not Cooper's or a Red-shouldered, sorta between them in appearance generally. Small small buteo is what I got off it, not anything that is supposed to be here was my take.

Feb. 8 ~ A good and chilly 28dF or so, KRVL had 26 per NOAA. It got up into the low-mid-60's dF much of the day, quite nice. Two new fresh mint just-emerged butterflies today, the first of either species so far this year, a female Gulf Fritillary, and a Common Checkered-Skipper. They were before noon, so I thought there would be more stuff, but noooooo. Saw the Canyon Towhee so it was a female Card the Sharpy got day before yesterday and it must have been on the lamb laying low yesterday. I heard the first full long song from White-winged Dove today. I have heard just single 'who cooks for you all' calls a few times the last week, today we reached fully embellished extension with at least 3 'for yous', so full blown song.

Feb. 7 ~ A front blew in overnight, temps in upper 30's dF and dropping first thing, winds 10-15 gusting to 20. Kerrville had 33dF and 23 chill factor at 9 a.m. Lovely. Glad to be stuck here at the desk indoors guarding heater. Except that Wed. is spreadsheet day. Today I did not see the Canyon Towhee or the brush pile Mocker. After an accipiter hit, as yesterday, sometimes the stuff really makes itself scarce for a day or two. Might have had a tenth of an inch or precip over the morning.

Feb. 6 ~ Foggy, misty, drizzle, some light showers, prolly about a quarter-inch over the day, much needed. Gray and damp, but not cold. Saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk (the ad. male) mantling on either a female Cardinal or the one remaining Canyon Towhee, it got one or the other. Did not see the brush pile Mockingbird all day.

In case I forgot to mention, I have been seeing the love flight (pair selection and bonding) behavior of the Black Vultures for a couple or few weeks now. Their breeding season has commenced and is underway here. Three pairs at once today in display. Pretty fancy flying if you haven't ever seen it. The bird might be on the ugly side, but man can they fly. If I could do that I'd be doing it all year. I'd be Jonathan Livingston Vulture. See Ravens get that part. Raven>vulture.

Feb. 5 ~ Coolish and humid, about 40-60dF for a temp spread. Busy working anyway. Nothing different that I saw, just the usual repeat offenders. Heard the Hermit Thrush uphill behind us in the live-oaks, saw it eating hackberries the other day. Still holding around 125 on the Chipping Sparrow count here now. Forgot to mention last night I killed my FOS mosquito over in the cottage.

Feb. 4 ~ Low in 40's, a front on way in this evening, so it got hot in front of it. I saw 90dF on the front porch briefly! Mostly it was upper 80's locally, but one station had low 90's. So doing some yard work and servicing bird nest boxes ended up sweating for the first time in months. Two boxes fixed and back up. A Titmouse was scolding me as it watched me install one. Making sure I knew it saw what I was doing. The Eastern Phoebe has begun singing again, first time in months. Saw a mint fresh just emerged Pipevine Swallowtail the heat popped out no doubt. The Snout, Dogface, and Sleepy Orange seemed the worn leftovers. A half-dozen Pine Siskin and a few American Goldfinch stopped by.

Feb. 3 ~ Not too cold, not too hot, about 40-60dF for a spread. Sprinkled a bit around midnight last night, perhaps a tenth of an inch, maybe .15". Breezy and a bit humid. Noonish we went to the park and refound the Kiskadee again up in the woods by the island. I got some better photos this time. What a fancy bird! Saw the Ringed Kingfisher, a pair of Ring-necked Duck, the Coot, some Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but did not hear the Solitaire.

Went over to Little Creek and looked for rare Towhees again. Only one female Spotted was it. A small flock of 5 or so Junco looked all Slate-colored as expected, Larry mentioned he had seen them a couple or few weeks ago. A half-dozen Field Sparrow were there. At the pond right where 355 hits the creek was the male Vermilion Flycatcher which is wintering, and a pair of Gadwall. The lower pond had 30 Ring-necked Duck on it. One Variegated Fritillary there was my first this year. One imm. White-crowned Sparrow was along 355.

Great Kiskadee

Here is a better pic of the Kiskadee at Utopia Park, from Feb. 3.
Last weeks first docu shot was a bit fuzzy and bad light.
Kathy and I went the next day, had great views and got this pic.
Whatabird. It is on a stem of Greenbriar Vine, of which it ate
a berry.

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Feb. 2 ~ The northerlies blew all night, but light, 10mph or so, and about 40dF for a low and hit mid-60's dF for a high. Had a town run for stuff so a look at the park. It was pretty birdy. Spectacular was my first GREAT KISKADEE record there. New park bird, see the fuzzy photo below. Which is also first local irrefutable documentation methinks, though the fourth total local sight report I know of. Overdue and surely one has been at the park before, but having a pic is a whole 'nother animal. Got out of the car and heard it calling, made my day.

I also heard the Townsend's Solitaire again, still calling from the priv. prop. to the NNE of park and can't get to it. So Kiskadee and Solitaire both calling at the same time and place. Never heard those two together at once. Must be Utopia man. Also there was a Green Kingfisher, a Zone-tailed Hawk, the Ring-necked Duck and Coot continue, a Hermit Thrush, over a dozen Myrtle and one Orange-crowned Warbler, a half-dozen Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and the imm. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker continues on the island. Saw one teneral (just emerged - not ID'able for amateurs like me) Argia (dancer) sps. damselfly, it was probably a Blue-ringed.

February 1 ~ Gadzooks! February! Somebody slow this ride down! Upper 30's dF for a low, but ahead of a front coming in, it warmed to upper 70's in the afternoon! I saw 78dF. Three butterflies came out for it, likely the same worn Sleepy Orange that has been around, and new was a Snout and an Orange Sulphur. The latter two not seen in January, but both obviously worn leftovers like the Sleepy O. Nice to hear the Field Sparrow singing again today, a song as simple and plain as its face. Had a Lesser Goldfinch again. The front (dry - just winds) arrived in the afternoon.

~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~

I can't believe the month is over already. It went by so fast my head is spinning. We are real busy for biz in Jan. and the month is gone before you get used to writing 2018. We had a bunch of good freezes with lots of temps in the 20's dF the first four weeks of the month, which was needed after last year not freezing after the first week or so of Jan. Hopefully we'll get some more like we are supposed to this year. No need to rush into the heat here ya know?

Butterflies and odes are sure easy to track in January. You need one hand for butterflies and none for odes. Not even sure I saw a dragon or damsel of any sort this Jan. May have glimpsed a flushing damsel or two. Butterflies were about 5 species, and individuals. A worn Pipevine late in month was interesting. Others were a Sleepy Orange, a Red Admiral, a Little Yellow, and a Southern Dogface. No winter Questionmark was off, I guess I didn't walk enough woods. Usually I get one here at the house and one at the park. Did get about 4 chiggers over the month from too much ankle-to-knee high dry grass with reckless abandon.

Some good birds were had though. The Red Crossbills that were regular from Nov. 11 to latest December mostly disappeared. I heard a couple only, a couple times in Jan. and that was it. The Townsend's Solitaire hearable calling from the park from Dec. 29 did so until at least Jan. 6. I never saw it, but heard it on four seperate days, it was on the priv. prop. to the north-northeast of park. A Coot that spent the month at the park is the first local overwintering I know of.

Two adult Harris's Hawks were seen (or one that gets around), one at Little Creek (3 mi. ENE of town) that I watched fly into Bandera Co. on Jan. 20, and another Jan. 29 I watched land in our big pecan right off the porch (a couple miles south of town). Also at Little Creek Jan. 20 was an ad. ma. Vermilion Flycatcher, which is only my second winter record here in now our 15th winter here. The other prior was over 10 years ago, at the same spot at Little Creek. The early returning Purple Martin and Turkey Vulture on the 29th were noteworthy dates, especially the Martin, my first in Jan., my prior early date was Feb. 7 locally.

~ ~ ~ end January summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ back to the regularly scheduled drivel ~ ~

Jan. 31 ~ OK, well that was quick. It was 32-68dF for a temp spread today. Perfectly bearable. The Field Sparrow is now singing, first of that I have heard this year. Kinda nice for a change. There is something about birdsong. The other major different thing today was right at dusk, the first northbound flock of spring migrant White-fronted Goose passed over up high calling. Amazing. Call of the wild. Heading out and back north already. Not as early as the first flock last year though.

Jan. 30 ~ About 27dF for a low here, with colder readings at stations at Seco Creek and KRVL. Mid-60's for a high, so bearable. Birds were the same gang in the yard as is the norm in the middle of a season. So dreaming of spring. The first White-eyed Vireo can return in mid-Feb., hummingbirds could be back late in Feb., and Golden-cheeked Warbler the first week of March, in just 5 weeks. Only what is usually the coldest month of winter is between us and them. I hate to say it but we could use some more cold after the last two very mild winters. We need some more rain badly too.

The drought monitor has us in D1, moderate or somesuch. It is much worse than moderate currently if you measured the many ecosystem components carefully. Such as bird, butterfly, dragonfly, moth, or large flying insect populations. Their levels are depressed more than moderately, still fighting to recover from the exceptional drought that just "ended", unless you were the animals or plants set back by it, in which case it never did end yet.

Jan. 29 ~ A chilly 29dF for a low on the 29th. But sunny and no wind so warming quickly. Got up to about 69dF in afternoon. Nice to hear some birdsong now. Singing are Bewick's and Carolina Wren, a little Cardinal, Black-crested Titmouse and Carolina Chickadee. None at full bore, but all are starting to sing a bit. The big surprise song this morning was from a Meadowlark perched up top of the biggest hackberry in the sun. Western! I saw four around, one was in the big pecan too. They were gurgling and singing at about half volume, under-the-breath type warmup song. Very cool.

As I was enoying the meadowlark song a dark raptor of size flew towards me on the back porch, from the mesquite surrounded grass airstrip, across the corral, climbed to clear the big Hackberry (the meadowlark did not flinch as it went by less than 15' away), and proceeded to land in the big pecan right off the front porch. As it landed I saw it was an adult Harris's Hawk! Now maybe just 75' away or less! Second one this winter here, just had one at Little Creek last week. I ducked inside for camera and got a branch filled docushot of it but it saw me and left. An hour later a female or imm. No. Harrier flew over the yard. It was looking for those meadowlarks, I have seen them take them here.

About 1:30 p.m. I heard multiple times a Purple Martin calling. I went out from under back porch and scanned sky but could not pick it up. A minute later I heard it again. Looked again and nothing. My earliest prior return locally was Feb. 7, and that house is gone now. Makes me want to run over to the golf course and see if one is back there. Then about 2:30 I had a Turkey Vulture, the first one back this year. The local breeders used to depart by Nov., and return around Valentines Day. They have been inching the return date forward for a number of years now as winter shortens. Last year three returned on Jan. 31. Can't help but wonder if this is one of those early birds.

Jan. 28 ~ Heard a Lesser Goldfinch, have not had one yet this year, though I have not been by Judy Schaffer's feeders either, she usually has a few winter there. Sharpy and Coop both flushing the seed eaters. A hundred plus Chippy is most of it, I do hear the Field Sparrow regularly. One Canyon Towhee and a couple Mockers hit the bath seemingly daily, as do the waxwings often. A few Robin were out there with them today, a couple dozen flew over in a group. Heard a Flicker calling..

Jan. 27 ~ More fog mist drizzle until the front passed in the a.m., then breezy. Between yesterday, overnight and this morning I would not be surprised if it totalled a half-inch of precipitation. Was the same gang o' birds in the yard. In the later afternoon we went to the crossing for a peek. Just above it there were a few hundred waxwings having a bathing party. Heard a Pine Warbler but couldn't pick it out, a few Myrtle were around, some Bluebird and Goldfinch, heard a Song Sparrow, some Titmouse, Chickadee and Carolina Wrens.

Great Kiskadee

First known Great Kiskadee at Utopia Park, Feb. 2, 2018 was up in
the woods on the island, occasionally calling. The poor light and
angle hide the rufous wings and tail well. It is a big flycatcher
that is a great fisherman, taking smallish minnows and such often.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 26 ~ A wet soppy one, it was drizzle-fog-mist all day, with a few showers here and there. Dust is out of the picture for a few days. Maybe it will take some pollen off the junipers. Mostly hovered around the low 50's all day. Had a look at the park. The SY (second year) fem. Ringed Kingfisher, the Coot, the Ring-necked Duck and 2 Pied-billed Grebe all continue. About 18 Myrtle Warbler up on the island, a high count this winter. One imm. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was new and different, the SY fem. Yellow-shafted Flicker continues.

Jan. 25 ~ Another low 20's dF low was chilly, bird bath was frozen. You could see where a deer tried to break the ice up to see if water underneath. Was the same suspects around the yard. A couple Ground-Dove sure are ginchy. Must be the accipiters, saw ad. and imm. Sharp-shinned, and ad. Cooper's over the day. More Common Ravens going by, and Caracara. Heard the Pyrrhuloxia out there. Too busy Thursday.

Jan. 24 ~ About 24dF for a low this morning, at least we are having some freezes later than last year when our last was in early January. We need the freezes to set the pest bugs back, among other things. A dull nearly colorless immature female Pine Warbler was just off the patio in the morning, a different one than any I have seen so far this winter. At about 57dF a Pipevine Swallowtail flew by, the first I have seen this year, and which looked worn not fresh, so a leftover that made it through the 20dF temps holed up somewhere in suspended animation.

Jan 23 ~ Wow a chilly 23dF or so for a low. The WU station at Seco Creek showed 20, KRVL had 22 where was progged for 29. One time I came out of the cottage (where the fish tanks are) this morning and some Meadowlarks flushed from under the white millet feeder. Funny to see them there, they headed across corral and back to the grass airstrip. Got up to mid-60's dF in the afternoon, which felt pretty good. Nice to be able to open up and air out. Saw a Red-tailed Hawk go by. Heard the Canyon Towhee and a couple Mockers were around. Couple American Goldfinch, but haven't been seeing much of them or the Siskins lately. House Finch are elsewhere as well. Just as well, they are eating someone else's seed.

Jan. 22 ~ Too busy with biz, a weak front passed and was windy most of the day. Lot of dust and pollen in the air with it. I tend to save my wee bit o' birding time for better conditions. And biz comes first. Mondays are often very busy with multiple fish or coral air-freight shipments and clients needing attention. A couple flocks of 10 or so bluebird went over, and in one I heard two different sounding ones that were likely either Mountain or Western. Sure was not any standard Eastern call, which I hear them daily all year so feel like their basic set of conversation I know fairly well.

Jan. 21 ~ Was foggy and drizzly until afternoon, worked on stuff here and didn't get out. Saw a dozen Turkey over in the corral, all Toms. I thought I heard some few Red Crossbill at one point but couldn't spot them. Sure sounded like a few. I have not been detecting them so far this year like I was in Nov.-Dec. Thought I heard a couple or few a couple times, that is it. There were reports of them in west Texas eating native pecans and juniper berries. I bet they get into a native pecan faster than you without both hands and tools. Sunday afternoon is our Monday morning for the week's biz, and so when busy, we gotta be in the salt mine, er, office. The 50 gal. sacks of salt mix are actually over in the fish haus.

Jan. 20 ~ Foggy with drizzle early, but in 40's dF so a break from the big chill, finally. Yard seemed the same gang. Went out 355 over to Little Creek and looked for some Towhee love, but alas none was to be found. There were a few good birds though. It could have been the Merlin hunting the area. Which looked much darker and more heavily marked than Prairie (richardsoni) type, probably an Eastern-Taiga type.

Right around Larry's place there were a dozen each Lark Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrow, plus a couple Lincoln's. Just a quarter mile north right before Bandera Co. line an adult Harris's Hawk was great, very rare here in winter, and which I watched fly into Bandera Co. where quite a scarce bird. Another good bird was an adult male Vermilion Flycatcher, which must be wintering, as it is about 6 weeks before they return. I have only one prior January record, and it was a male at Little Creek, over 10 years ago. This one was often down right at waters edge, no doubt taking the winter Mayflies.

There were a few ducks in the pondish area below where 355 bends north as it hits Little Creek. There were 10 Ring-necked Duck, one Gadwall, and rare in winter here, a female Pintail. Larry said he has been seeing a Wigeon there too. There are a dozen barnyard cross ducks, like Mallard x Peking, as well as some other Peking and mutt ducks, and a couple barnyard geese, all best ignored, unless one has some orange sauce handy.

At the second dogleg east of town on the way back I had a Roadrunner, my first this year, and at the corner by the deer farm a flock of about 10 more White-crowned Sparrow and a Canyon Towhee. Maybe 400 plus Waxwing around town. Checked the park on the way back and just a few Myrtle Warbler and a half-dozen Ruby-crowned Kinglet, that male Ring-necked Duck and the Coot both still there.

Goshawk

This is the Northern Goshawk that was over town Dec. 15, 2017
Note the long stovepipe of a tail. This structure is unique.
Apologies for the poor pic, it was the best of 3, at maximum
high (pixelated) magnification after it got high up. Initially
it was quite low, was a nice adult.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 19 ~ Sure nice to not be freezing first thing. Upper 30's dF and foggy. Birds were the same gang in the yard. Town run noonish so a lookabout. At the park there was a male Ring-necked Duck, the Coot, and the two imm. Pied-billed Grebe continue. A Zone-tailed Hawk flew in and landed in the cypresses right across river. The pair of Barred Owl were calling in the woods at the north end of park. Did not see or hear any kingfishers. The E. Bluebird and Myrtle Warbler flock was out front on Cypress St. in the hackberries mostly. About 400 Waxwing were in a flock in town.

Little Creek Larry said besides Spotted, he had single Eastern and Green-tailed Towhee at his place this morning. He has had Eastern there before. I'll go have a look tomorrow when it gets nice out and I can steal an hour or two. Green-tailed Towhee is my most-wanted bird in UvCo, which is measured by what occurs most in the county that I have not seen. Probably a couple or few per year happen, just never where I am standing for 15 years. The deer feeder (filled with chicken scratch) where they were is is a good solid 50 yards inside the county.  ;)

Jan. 18 ~ Low was in upper 20's, and humid, so cold to the bone. Stations were reporting low to mid-40's dF for highs, but it did not feel like it. Birds were the same gang, same as it ever was. In winter it can be fairly monotonous if you are not running around to different habitats, and especially ones with water. And if it is cold and windy, you have to be pretty determined. Been there done that got the T-shirt. I wait for nicer days to go out and work at it now that I am old and soft. Such is the advantage of age and having been there done that and saw the birds. I hear a Chickadee singing, as if it feels like spring.

Jan. 17 ~ A chilly 22dF or so for a low, but got up to upper 30's dF here at Utopia, maybe even 40 dF along Hwy. 90, which is where I was. Had to run to SAT to pickup some Fiji live rock at Southwest cargo. On the way into the megalopolis just after noon I saw a few Common Raven along 90 between Sabinal and Hondo, maybe 3-4, which is different, never used to get them there. Great was a flock of a dozen Mountain Plover that flew low right over 90 right in front of me, a mile or so west of Hondo in the finely plowed field area. On the way back in the same area a flock of a dozen Water Pipit flew over. Then a little west of that, three LONGSPURS flew up out of the median! They looked like McCown's, big and fat, grayish, lotta lotta white in tail and one had what looked the inverted black T on tail as it fanned during climbing turn. But was a drive-by at 60. I'll just have to call it longspur sps. for Medina Co. I had live fish in the car so couldn't stop and look around. Seemed fewer Red-tails along 90 but more Caracara. A few Cranes, and White-fronted Goose flocks were just east of Sabinal.

Jan. 16 ~ Blew all night, a.m. temps in low 20's with 15-20 mph winds, gusting to 25 and 30! I saw single digit chill factors at KRVL, Junction, Rock Springs, the rest were in low low teens. Come on down, the weather is fine. They said it got up over freezing, but not so sure here. Lottsa extra bird seed rations today, and a half-dozen trips to keep the bird bath liquid. Did not see anything but the usual gang. Was a good day to not be outside.

Jan. 15 ~ Chilly morning but warmed up into 50's dF with strong southerlies ahead of an inbound front. Last day to get everything sealed up before the all-day freeze tomorrow. Birds seemed the same gang, nothing different, but am too busy to look. The front hit about 11 p.m. with strong northerlies and blew hard all night.

Jan. 14 ~ Was about 21dF this morning, for a nice chilly one, got into 50's dF at peak heat. Birds were all the same. A quick look at the (river) crossing had nothing, and we drove slowly out the back of 'west' 360 and couldn't find any flocks, or birds, there either. Maybe it was the mid-day doldrums, but was only noon and cool. Could be accipiters too.

Jan. 13 ~ Low of 27 and got up to 58dF or so in afternoon heat briefly. Saw the usual suspects, some Robins besides the waxwings, a few Common Raven, a few Pine Siskin, Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, still only one Canyon Towhee, accipiter must have gotten the other one. Have a ton of work to do so can't get out. Last week was buried busy, and the week ahead will be worse.

Hutton's Vireo

Hutton's Vireo

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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. Heard my first Killdeer of the year early in morning, must have been over at the grass airstrip.

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 ~ ~ ~

I like to have a quick easy reference for greatest hits each month, or year, as it helps me organize and remember. So I won't be hurt if you scroll past the yearly or monthly summaries, and realize they are probably more for my purposes or sake. Though methinks some learning still to be had as to how the year related to others, or what is going on, especially changes that are taking place.

I did another micro- or mini- year, in that again, for I think now 6 years consecutive, did not drive over 1000 miles all total miles driven, not just birding miles. Everything. Life miles for the year. Think global, bird, and live, local. I guess at a thousand mile limit they should be called a miliyear. So I am at 6000 miles the last 6 years, all driving total, birding, life, work, everything. Which is roughly about 3 long crazy weekend chases by a statewide Texas year lister. Since I don't chase birds my year list is just whatever it ends up being, bycatch of gathering and recording the data.

My upper Sabinal River drainage area list this year was about 207. That is Clayton Grade to Lost Maples, but actually nothing south of UvCo 360. That would take out a couple hundred miles of the 1000 driven for two trips to Uvalde. Just from around the ' house and adjacent vicinity within walking distance, the park, and maybe 10-12 Lost Maples visits. Probably saw a dozen or more different species, maybe 20, down around Uvalde in the brush country and at the ponds there those two trips.

Well it was a great year for seeing unusual birds locally, despite the generally poor migration seasons we had. It only takes a little spice to make it nice. It always seems slow when you are in it, but afterwards in sum and retrospect, there were a lot of great birds. For breeding success it probably was not so great for many birds, it appeared lots of very small clutches fledged to me.

Rain was a fair amount in total but in fits and spurts all at once between longer dry periods, which makes it hard for plants and flowers especially to use. And which then translates to insects for birds to eat. Local rainfall amounts vary tremendously in ridiculously close proximity, but for us here I think it was about 28 inches in total, near average. So a good amount, but we are still in drought with a very low water table and river not running above ground in lots of sections.

Flowers were good early in spring but faded fast with little rain in May and June. Fall bloom was very weak too. The fruit and nut crops were hit hard by strong spring fronts right at the wrong bloom time with 40-50+ MPH winds. Little to no Persimmon, Pecan, and Agarita crops, while Hackberry was on the weak side of fair to barely OK.

First we will roundup the best birds in sorta chrono order. Leslie Calvert reported a White-tailed Hawk Jan. 1 about 5 mi. SSW of town, the only upper Sabinal drainage report I know of ever. A Neotropic Cormorant at UP Jan. 20th was my first for the park list. My 1st local wintering yellowthroat (an imm. male) was present all Jan. along river at the 360 x-ing south of town. Next good birds were in April with a PAIR of Short-tailed Hawks at LM April 2 and after, which seemed to be nest site prospecting but also seemed to be pushed out of one canyon by the nesting Broad-wings and the other by nesting Zone-tails. A Gray Hawk was reported at LM by the pond April 15 or so. I found a Ringed Kingfisher hole just south of town on priv. prop. that I am sure was the one currently being used. Young apparently fledge in April, so they must start very early.

Spring was weak for warblers and the other scarcer 'eastern' species that can make migration fun. Only 13-14 species of warblers, no Tennesse again, and far fewer than usual Nashville and Yellow numbers. The 5 or so Redstart reported locally is high for one spring (I only saw 2) here. I saw at least 6 Mourning Warbler. One Worm-eating was reported from LM. The one great eastern spring vagrant for me was a Black-billed Cuckoo that called from just over the fence at our place on May 22.

A male Varied Bunting trolled singing at LM from May 21 into June. A male Lucifer Hummingbird was at a Century Plant June 23, 2 mi. S. of town. On July 13 Little Creek Larry watched 2 Roseate Spoonbill fly down Little Creek. At UP in July was an imm. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (ph.), and my earliest ever Yellow-headed Blackbird (ph.) was at the golf course July 15. The August highlights were likely Hurricane Harvey displacements: 2 White Pelican at UP the 25th, and from the yard a flyby Least Bittern the 29th, and 2 Fulvous Whistling-Duck on the 31st.

White-tipped Dove and Olive Sparrow both appeared to have bred at LM this summer, present earliest spring through the fall. I saw juv. Olive Sparrow late in summer, and saw a pic of a juv. dove that was posted on the intertubes (e-bird). Which is first breeding for the site, and for Bandera Co. For White-tipped Dove it is first breeding on the Edw. Plateau. For both species it is the furthest north known nesting ever and the known limit of their northward range expansion currently.

Fall was weak as usual here, but also as usual a few good things will always be dug out with enough looking. A Clay-colored Sparrow was my earliest ever on Sept. 1 (ph.) and a MacGillivray's Warbler on Sept. 8 at UP is only my 2nd fall record. A favorite was an all-day in the yard (and LTA) Yellow-bellied Flycatcher on Oct. 1. Good at UP was a Harris's Hawk on Oct. 26. November had a couple megas. The lowlight was a Red-breasted Nuthatch, LTA here, on the 21st. The megas were first a nocturnal flyover calling Whimbrel on the 7th, which seems it might be a first Uvalde County report. Then from the 11th on, a flock of Red Crossbill moved up and down the river habitat corridor, all the way through to late December. Up to 24 birds at once were seen almost a dozen times, but only in flight (when they call incessantly) and never 'on the ground' (in a tree).

Then in December besides the continuing Crossbills through the month, Bill Wright saw two Townsend's Solitaire at LM, which was followed by one hearable calling from Utopia Park late Dec. to early Jan. for a week. It was just north and east of the park property. A Northern Goshawk was outstanding over town on Dec. 15 (ph.), and an adult Harris's Sparrow on our patio Dec. 24 was good, they are LTA here. The adult female Rusty Blackbird showed up for her FIFTH winter around 360 south of town a couple miles. The Louisiana Waterthrush that wintered at Utopia Park the last three winters, did not return (suspected it was taken last winter). Neither did a male Pine Warbler that has used our yard the last three winters. All things must pass.

Butterflies broke records for species diversity each month the first four months of the year. Likely related to not having a freeze after earliest January. Then they fizzled out early and hard. Summer was weak, and fall stunk with no major invasion from the south as most years. Total species seen was about 88, which is an average drought regimen type total. Last year was 103 species, the difference being a good fall invasion.

Of interest were the Amblyscirtes Roadside-Skippers at LM (ph.) again this year (as last) which were not present for 8+ years of the drought. Which are either Bronze or Oslar's. Really need to have a specimen to do a proper ID on something outside norms. A Mimosa Yellow on July 9 was unusual. There was a little pulse of White-striped Longtail, with seven in one day locally Aug. 6 being my personal record. Usually you are lucky to see one.

There were two good rarity vagrants of the LTA (less than annual) sort, both photographed well. First a Mexican Tropical (Florida) White on Sept. 30 at the golf course entrance garden, and then at the UP entrance garden a Yellow Angled-Sulphur Oct. 15. They saved the fall. It was astounding how there were almost no blues, hairstreaks, metalmarks, checkers or crescents, or skippers on the flowers. No small stuff. It was eerie. There was a good Mestra invasion this year, but no major Monarch flight locally this October. No Viceroy all year up here after a great year last year, but a good Arizona Sister recovery seems to be underway. No Carolina Satyr or Common Wood Nymph still since drought, but Dusky-blue Groundstreak seems to be slowly recovering too.

For odes there were a few interesting things. Besides the basic set of breeders, the transients are sure to change every year it seems. Very good was a Straw-colored Sylph at the 360 x-ing in July, and in August there, a Hyacinth Glider, both far less than annual up here in the hills. I have had Swamp Darner and Ivory-striped Sylph there before, it is a great area, but all private and no trespassing. Also both LTA up here, a Great Pondhawk at the golf course, and a couple Bronzed River-Cruiser were good to see again, both in July. Maybe best was two male Slough Amberwing at UP (ph.) in August. There are only a very few UvCo records. Twelve-spotted Skimmers staged a minor invasion this year, I saw up to four in a single day, and twice that many in total. A couple days I saw four species of Pennants at the golf course: Halloween, Red-tailed, Banded, and Four-spotted, which is a Pennant slam up here, only Banded is resident and a sure thing every year locally. For the upper Sabinal River drainage it was about 18 species of Zygops (damselflies) and at least 41 species of Anisops (dragonflies), so at least 59 species of odes locally this year, which is great by me. There were a few others I let go due to quicker looks than I wanted, so surely over 60 species were in the area.

I did make a side trip out Seco Ridge to a special Evergreen Sumac in late Sept. to find Stenaspis verticalis insignis, a Longhorn (Cerambycid) Beetle (ph.). There were a few of the gigas Longhorns around our big pecan tree as usual in summer, and a Neoclytus sps. (Cerambycid) came into the night light one night. A few Eyed Elatarid (the giant false-eyed click beetle) were seen. No big fancy moths this year, and night lighting in general was nearly pitiful there was so little response some nights I tried. Lots of bugs seem way down still, presumedly unrecovered from drought still.

So always some things better than you could ever guess, no matter how much you know. And always some things you think should have happened, that didn't. Again, showing how much we really know. That is the fun of watching, observing, taking notes and maybe pictures, and recording what you see. You get that big ol' pile of raw data to peruse and sift through for ideas, meanings and trends. That is some of the great fun of natural history study.

Scroll through the bird news pages for 2017, especially the last half of the year, to see a bunch of photos of various things we saw. More often than not the weekly update breaks are punctuated with a photo. There is a link to a new page that is an index page for all the archived bird news pages (Old Bird News), up in the top Nav Bar now. Something else new I worked on much of the year just got up in Jan. 2018 is the 2.0 version of "The Birds of Utopia Park", with a major discussion about birds at the park, and with a park bird list in it.

2017 totals for upper Sabinal River drainage only:
Birds.........207
Butterflies....88
Odes...........59
2017 Total....354

In 2016 it was:
212 species of birds - 5 more last year
104+ sps. of butterflies - 16 more last year
52 sps. of Odes (dragons and damselflies) - 7 more this year
368 total in 2016

So odes were better in 2017, but birds down a bit, and butterflies down quite a lot. Most big flying insects seem down overall still, and in most groups, way down.

~ ~ ~ end 2017 year in review ~ ~ ~


~ ~ Oh please! Not another summary! ~ ~

~ ~ ~ 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 ~ ~ ~


Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

.

BlueGrosbeak

Blue Grosbeak - male



UtopiaSnow

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



Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk



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?


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.


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.



Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher




Green Kingfisher

Male Green Kingfisher at Utopia Park.




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.


Easter Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Buttonbush


Purple Martin

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


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Links to all 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 XXIX
January 1, 2018 - June 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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