Current Bird (and nature) News
Rufous-capped Warbler

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


MOST RECENT UPDATE: February 15, 2019
(prior updates: Feb. 8, 1, Jan. 25, 18, 11, 4, Dec. 28, 21, 14, 7, Nov. 30, 23, 16, 9, 2

T-minus a couple weeks and change for Golden-cheeked Warblers to return! The best bird I will likely find all winter was a WESTERN KINGBIRD in Sabinal on Jan. 27, see notes that date for locale. They are accidental at best in winter here. A YELLOW GROSBEAK is being seen in Concan on private property, see notes just below. The RUFOUS-BACKED ROBIN was continuing in Uvalde, but seemingly missed this past week. A few Texbirds groups on Zuckerbook is where much current info is nowadays.

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

Further back in Dec., on Dec. 2 an adult male TOWNSEND'S WARBLER was near the HQ building at Lost Maples SNA, a Grasshopper Sparrow was across the road from the rest area a couple miles north of Lost Maples on 187, and a dark chocolate Red-tailed Hawk was on 187 between the first river crossing (Fisher) north of town (Utopia) and the W. Sabinal Rd. turnoff, they are very scarce here. There was a first-winter Red-naped Sapsucker in Cypresses at 3-mile bridge on Dec. 9. A Pine Warbler was at the park Dec. 15th. I saw a female Rusty Blackbird on UvCo 360 Dec. 9 which is surely a returnee for her 6th winter hereabouts. Another Rusty was down in Sabinal Jan. 27. Four Turkey Vulture south of town Dec. 26 is remarkable here, at least one is wintering, roosting at the park with the Blacks. There is a chaseable Coot at the park.

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

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

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

I am pretty certain ebird has the capability for people to put a pin in the correct place for an unusual bird, but few use it that way. These birds were not on the sites ebird lists prior, so locations should be denoted succinctly. What about other people showing up after you knowing where to look? When we were at Lost Maples in early Jan. none had put it in the bird notebook at HQ either. Like we did for the Townsend's Warbler in Dec., or the Rufous-capped Warbler a few years ago, or anything unusual we see. This very old-school method is so anyone walking in as you leave (without internet maybe?) can know where to look for something unusual just seen. Whereas waiting until you get connected and uploaded say that evening, people may be right where you just were and have no way to know something was there. Old school, I know, it works better for some things sometimes. Grab a map at the counter, put a dot on it at the spot with the bird and date and put that in the book. "Here is where to look for it" used to be a big important part of bird reporting. So others stumbling around might see it, perhaps extending a date, and adding to the record and science.

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

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

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

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

Golden-cheeked Warbler

The light was bad, but the bird was good.



For some detailed 2018 Lost Maples reports see the dated entries below (or at Old Bird News #29 and #30 now) for April 1, 9, 10, 15, 29, May 13, June 3 and 24, July 29, Aug. 26, Sept. 30 and Dec. 2. Ignore the ebird Chihuahuan Raven reports there, they are mis-ID'd Common Ravens which are common residents.

In news section between May and June entries, there is a chronological list of my local arrival dates for the entire spring from the first arrivals in January. For those that like to see when what arrives roughly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A newer page is the butterfly rarity photos: Rare Butterflies

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

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

Or check out the Bird Guide page.

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

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

Commonly used ABBREVIATIONS are:

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


First a 2011 highlight ...

Rufous-backed Robin

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




Broad-winged Hawk   Broad-winged Hawk

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



Some things from 2012 ...

albino House Finch

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



Cerambycid

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



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

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



Something from 2013 ...
Texas Coral Snake

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



Ringed Kingfisher

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





Two-tailed Swallowtail

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



Texas Blind Snake

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


Zebra Heliconian

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



Louisiana Waterthrush

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



Rusty Blackbird

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



Cedar Waxwing

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



Back to Top
Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat

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

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

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


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

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

~ ~ ~ finally, current bird news from the greater and lesser Utopia area ~ ~ ~
BIRD & NATURE NEWS 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. Usually a few daily yard notes is all the drivel you get. But you never know what that can lead to. Ready, steady, go!

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



Black-capped Vireo
Black-capped Vireo at Lost Maples


Just to have this handy again for reference, recent prior updates:
Feb. 1, Jan. 25, 18, 11, 4, Dec. 28, 21, 14, 7, Nov. 30, 23, 16, 9, 2
Usually each week's update break is marked with a photo.

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

***  Note - above are two new links to pages with just the photos used for this bird news page's weekly breaks. 2017 photos, and 2018 photos. Closer to soporific than terrific.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ last update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ end monthly summary ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

goldencrownedkinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet, just hangin' around.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ above is 2019 ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ below is 2018 ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ 2018 annual summary ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ end of 2018 annual summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ OMG not another summary! ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ December summary ~ ~ ~

It was a wet one with about 4" of rain for the month, and it was a cold one, though not record cold. It is often a somewhat benign month weatherwise, it was fairly active. Lots of fronts and wind though the biggest rain event was not frontal passage related, it was the convergence of two systems from the south of us.

Butterflies were 18 species, the statistically most likely, nothing but the last few flying of the most common things. The last Monarch and Mestra, last few Queens, the last Texan Crescent, etc., etc. Odes (dragons and damsels) were a whopping 2 species. Variegated Meadowhawk was the only dragonfly, and an Argia sps. Dancer (probably a Dusky) was the only damselfly. So the bugs are all but over until next year's flight season begins in spring.

Birds were good with 90 species that I saw locally, not getting out much. The surprising highlight for December was two warblers. An adult male TOWNSEND'S WARBLER at Lost Maples the 2nd, and an adult male WILSON'S WARBLER at Utopia Park Dec. 14-31, are both great late records. The Wilson's had orange lores and forehead and was likely a western chryseola subspecies. Which would be an accidental occurrence in Texas methinks. A Blue-headed Vireo Dec. 2 in the flock with the Townsend's Warbler was good, only one I saw all fall. A Grasshopper Sparrow up on top of the plateau above Lost Maples the same day was nice. An all dark chocolate (western) Red-tailed Hawk (small male) Dec. 2 north of town is a rarity here.

A pair of Pintail at the S. Little Crk. Rd. pond was very good locally. A Brown Creeper was seen at the park a couple times. The Red-breasted Nuthatches in our yard numbered 3 at once in early December, at least two continued all month off and on. An imm. male Red-naped Sapsucker was at 3 mile bridge. A couple Vermilion Flycatcher appear to be attempting to winter around the golf course and UvCo 360. Four Turkey Vulture together appeared late migrants on Dec. 26. An adult female Rusty Blackbird on 360 is surely a returnee for her 6th winter here.

~ ~ ~ end of December summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ back to the current daily drivel ~ ~

Dec. 31 ~ Weewow, New Years Eve. This is the day we have a contest to see how much nog we can drink, right? Last chance to do all those things you said you were going to do this year. Hmmm... think I should go birding, since I can't lose 16 lbs. today. It was about 35dF and gray, a few traces of precip overnight, but a chilly morn. Over the last two days it might have totalled .2 of an inch. So we can call it 4" for December, and a wet one. Finally hit about 55dF by 12:30 and sun trying to peek out. Heard a nuthatch, and Roadrunner bill-clacking outside in afternoon.

After lunch I took a spin around to enjoy the sun and warmth. Kathy had other things to do. Must have got up to 66 or 68 dF at peak heat, pretty nice to open up and air out. At the park saw the Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, finally maybe got a decent Wilson's Warbler photo, Great Blue Heron, a male Ringed Kingfisher, a dozen plus Myrtle Warbler, a few Kinglet (Ruby), a Cooper's Hawk, and the usual residents. Lots of Mayfly emerging. One Starling at the north end of town.

The pond on the golf course at Waresville has the continuing adult male Vermilion Flycatcher, and five male Red-winged Blackbird. Best was one Marsh Wren. Good bird here any time, but especially now. Then I looked at the wet spot on 361 again below the three mile bridge and a mile west. A couple Killdeer, one Wilson's Snipe was nice, have not been seeing any. A few Vesper and Savannah Sparrow, the Say's Phoebe, some Cedar Waxwing. A small barely visible pond south of the road had a Pied-billed Grebe on it. On the way back home here on 360 after I crossed the river and headed up our side, four Wood Duck flushed right where road closest to river. A half-mile below our place. Sure love to see them from the yard.

Dec. 30 ~ About 34-40dF for a temp spread, low overcast, some mist and drizzle here and there. Glad I am not doing a CBC in this. Kathy heard one of the nuthatch on a trip outside. All I saw was the regulars. The male Golden-fronted Woodpecker was on the sunflower feeder for the first time this fall or winter. So you know it is cold out. Saw the Canyon Towhee. Eastern Phoebe ate some hackberries, so you know it is cold out. I wonder if they ever eat juniper berries? As yesterday the imm. male Sharp-shinned Hawk keeps diving on everything. Saw a couple White-tailed Deer eating Juniper berries right off the tree.

Dec. 29 ~ A cold gray day, low about 38dF, might have reached low 40's for a high, northerlies about 10 mph so a chill factor too. Plenty to work on inside luckily. Nothing like cold to bring the whole Chipping Sparrow flock in, there were at least 75. Three Lark Sparrow were among them. The couple dozen American Goldfinch were on the sunflower seed. Heard a nuthatch and a robin. The rest was the regulars from what I saw during seed tosses and out the windows.

wilsonswarbler
This is the male Wilson's Warbler that was at the park
Dec. 14-31. Note orange in forehead and lores. This is a
character typical of chryseola (western subspecies) Wilson's Warbler
As of Oberholser's 1973 Bird Life of Texas (BLOT), the bible of
Texas birds, he listed no chryseola records for the state. The chip
note call was obviously the flatter dryer western type chit to my ear.

wilsonswarbler
You can see the color break between forehead and lores,
and the post-ocular portion of supercilium which is pure yellow.
Note it is orange anteriorly, yellow posteriorly.

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Dec. 28 ~ Low about 37dF, but clear, dry, and sunny. One last decent day before a cold weekend. And I gotta work. Heard a nuthatch, saw the Canyon Towhee, couple dozen American Goldfinch, 4 Chickadee and 8 Titmouse at once. Town run for supplies. The male Wilson's Warbler continues at Utopia Park. Two weeks now, obviously attempting to overwinter here. Amazing. Heard a Green King, saw the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe, about a dozen Myrtle Warbler, 3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet and the usual residents. Great was a Checkered White, a new butterfly for the month. Back here at the hovel there was a Queen around in the afternoon. Heard a few Cranes overhead here about 1 p.m., saw a Caracara go by, and a few Raven (all Common here).

Dec. 27 ~ Low in low 40's dF, clear and Sunny after the frontal passage last night. WNW flow, dry, but the ground is soaked, it's a mess out there. At least the air is dry, low humidity is always a treat here. It warmed up wonderfully, probably hit 70dF on the sunny south side of the house. We have a gray, windy, cold, wet, weekend forecast, so appreciating airing everything out in the warmup. Didn't see anything but the usual suspects out there today. Still a Thursday so at the desk working, though without the ususal mayhem. Took one last look and saw the Comet 46B/Wirtanen in the scope at 20 power. Just a smaller green fuzzy dot now. Didn't pop in the higher power zoom eyepiece. It is was much smaller and duller than a week ago, already fadin' fast.

Dec. 26 ~ Happy Boxing Day for all you boxers and box lovers. Drizzle and light showers off and on all night, temps held level around 60 dF all night, the warm before the next front. About noonish we were at .75" of precip. Heard a nuthatch, saw the Canyon Towhee, about 25 American Goldfinch, and the regulars. A well-predicted line of severe thunderstorms rolled over just after 9 p.m., we got another .75 or so from it, so 1.5 for the day. Wow, a wet December, about 3.75" for the month now so far.

I ran to town for a pickup at the P.O., didn't even check the park since it was so late in day. On the way there were four big bearded Toms (Wild Turkey) crossing 187 a half mile south of town. On the way back there were FOUR Turkey Vulture together over 187 that looked like a migrant group. Boy they sure evolved fast. I have not been seeing the tardy one that was with the Blacks that roost at the park lately. These acted like migrants looking for a place to go down for the night. I have never seen more than single TV's in Dec. or Jan. here, that did not stick, and that only about 4 winters out of the last 15. So four together here at this date is remarkable.

Dec. 25 ~ Merry Christmas! Hope you had a good one and the elves were good to you. We laid low and worked on stuff here. Was fog mist drizzle (wet) until the afternoon, ran about 50-60dF all day. Heard at least two Nuthatches out in the yard, might well have been three. One Pine Siskin still with the American Goldfinch flock. The Chipping Sparrow flock has hit 50 birds now. A couple Robin and Waxwing briefly went through. The Canyon Towhee was around. About 20 Mourning Dove at once was a bigger flock than we have had. The male of the local resident pair of Red-tailed Hawk was overhead briefly. The same gang.

Dec. 24 ~ Was 32 or lower, there was thin ice on the bird bath early. Mostly overcast, breezy first half of day, barely hit 60dF. At least 25 American Goldfinch on the seed in the morning. The robins and waxwings have not been around much, I think the weak hackberry crop is not going to hold or keep anything long this season. The Canyon Towhee was around, as was the rest of the usual suspects. A female Ladder-backed Woodpecker is hitting the sunflower seed daily now. The Golden-fronts have not been at it this season, so there must have been enough pecans for them to stash, so far.

Dec. 23 ~ Went upper 30's to lower 60's dF for a spread today. In morning a minor frontal passage, dry, but with 15+mph winds gusting higher until late afternoon. Field and Vesper Sparrow along corral. Heard a nuthatch. One lone male Lesser Goldfinch was interesting. They formerly did not winter on the plateau. It was where I toss seed at edge of bushes out back, not at the feeder, nor have I seen one on the feeders. At least 20 American Goldfinch are seemingly hooked on the sunflower handouts though. For some reason I was looking for the hummer, which I haven't seen in weeks now, and then I realized...  I had a dream last night I saw it again! Too funny. Here I was looking for it despite its 3 weeks plus of established goneness. The amazing power of the subconcious mind.

Dec. 22 ~ NOAA called for a 40dF low, it was 30dF, some local sites lower! A category off! They just don't get the lows well here. The temp spread was amazing as it got up to 82dF in the afternoon, a 50dF range! Great diurnals! There was ice on the birdbath first thing. The yard was the same stuff. Kathy spotted a Hermit Thrush at the bath in the afternoon. We took a quick spin around noonish. The pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cmty. had a dozen Red-winged Blackbird, 10 male, 2 female. Also an ad. male Vermilion Flycatcher was there, and an imm. male Vermilion was at old Waresville proper. Amazing two are trying to winter here. No snipe or passerines in the reeds.

At Utopia Park we saw the male Wilson's Warbler, wouldahada great shot if not for auto focus. A pair of Wood Duck flushed from the, er, woods, up at the top end of the island. Heard a Flicker, saw some Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, one Orange-crowned Warbler, the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe were upriver of the island, a couple Lincoln's Sparrow were in the streamside veg below the spillway. As yesterday I saw an Argia sps. Dancer (damselfly) flush off the trail as I was walking. Looked like a Dusky at a glance. Lots of Eastern Phoebe everywhere.

fall
Here is a pic of fall, it was on a Tuesday this year...   This is 'the 1050 pass' 4-5 mi. W. of town.
All the hills here look like this every year late November to early-mid December.
The Buckley Oaks (aka Spanish) are a sure thing for a color show unlike the Maples.
Some years they are cherry red, others more orange, and this wet year lots of yellow.
Golden-cheeked Warbler nests on this slope, but never sees it like this.

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Dec. 21 ~ Happy Solstice! We are there! It is winter. Something neat about an event that has been noted as being very special by mankind across cultures and continents for thousands of years. My understanding is that due to our slightly elliptical orbit the shortest daylight duration day is not neccessarily the earliest sunset day, by a day or two. Today and tomorrow are shortest daylight duration day, but I think Sun. will have the earliest sunset.

NOAA said 33 for a low at KRVL, it was 28dF here, and there, 5dF is the difference between a freeze and not. Heard a couple Nuthatch out in yard in morning. Good was a male Slate-colored Junco, only the second time I have seen one this season. Wonder if it was the same one as three weeks ago or a new different bird? Probably the latter since I have not been seeing the first one around. Got up to the upper 60's dF in the afternoon heat, pretty darn nice out.

Town run. Too many errands to look around much, but over the holiday should get some time. A quick stop at the park saw the Coot, a Green Kingfisher, and the male Wilson's Warbler continues at the south end of the island where still greenery. I am amazed it is still here, now on day 8, at a time when in general they are done migrating. They are on the winter grounds now. I should mention the forehead and lores are orange, in contrast with the yellow posterior supercilium, as in fresh basic western chryseola subspecies. Which might make more sense for a wintering bird here anyway. I wonder what types generally winter in Texas? Has anyone worked them lately (since Oberholser and BLOT) to see what they are down in the valley for instance? Flushed a Dancer (damselfly - Argia sps.) off the trail in the woods at park, looked a Dusky.

Dec. 20 ~ Was about 48dF for a low, calm early for a few hours. Then the northerly winds hit from a dry frontal passage, and it blew all day 15-20 mph gusting to over 30. Kept seeing that imm. male Sharpy (Sharp-shinned Hawk) diving on the seed eaters around yard. Maybe 20 Am. Goldfinch hitting sunflower seeds. The rest was the usual, was too dang windy until dark when it finally laid down.

Dec. 19 ~ More pea soup fog this a.m., less than a quarter mile visibility. About 50dF for a low. Today is the day before the front, so the warm-up day. Fog burned off by 11 or so, dry air started filtering in and it got up to a smokin' 75dF or so! Only the lightest of occasional breeze, amazing for the date. We'll pay for it tomorrow with wind all day again, but likely another dry frontal passage. Heard at least two and very probably three Red-breasted Nuthatch at once out front noonish. At least 15 American Goldfinch at once on the patio. Saw a few butterflies in the searing heat, a Queen, a Red Admiral, a Gulf Fritillary, a couple Sleepy Orange, and several Snout. All looking worse for the wear nowadays.

Dec. 18 ~ Was about 35dF at midnight last night, and by 7 a.m. it was 47dF and pea soup fog. Weird weather here. Cloudy all day and maybe hit 60dF peak heat. The yard was the same gang. Heard Red-breasted Nuthatch and Canyon Towhee, some waxwings and Robins, a Field Sparrow was out there. I have been forgetting to mention the Juniper (cedar) pollen. I saw male flowers (rusty orange trees) on Dec. 2 at Lost Maples and by the 7th there was pollen out. A couple of the town's super high tech pollen sensors were triggered (like Shirley at the store - LOL) which let us know it is happening long before most of us can tell. And which has increased more since as they are actually really getting going already. This is much earlier than they used to get started. Used to be later December before you saw it, and early January before it got really going. Some sensitive folks are already sneezing. Way early. For the times they are a changing...

Dec. 17 ~ Overcast and 40dF for a low. There were 30 American Goldfinch on the patio at once this morning, a big increase in their numbers. Heard one Pine Siskin and heard a nuthatch or two. Had a quick town run at noon. Saw the male Wilson's Warbler at the park, now day 4 for it that we know of, got a docushot, oh boy something to analyze. Even more fun for me since I had heard and not seen it a couple weeks ago, was the Brown Creeper! Not a sure thing annually here, so always a great bird to see. Took over 10 minutes for me to find it after hearing it, and when I pulled my camera up it flew over to the island. Also one Golden-crowned among several Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe. Back here at the casita counted 8 Black-crested Titmouse in the yard at once. Between eating and stashing they can go through some sunflower seed over the day. I wonder if they have noticed those yankee (vocally and geographically) nuthatches have been stealing their stashed seeds?

Dec. 16 ~ Another cold one at 28dF, but was 58 or so by noon. At least 60 Cedar Waxwing were in the big pecan mostly hitting some junipers along north fence, and the bath. At least one, probably two Nuthatch (R-b) still here. A Hermit Thrush was in the biggest Hackberry. The bird of the morning was a House Wren in the brush pile next to the bird bath. A herd of waxwing scared it away, but that is a very rare bird in a yard without any understory. Mid-afternoon there was a Golden-crowned Kinglet over the shed out back. There has been a baby Gulf Coast Toad around the back porch the last couple months, now nearing 1.5". I saw it covered in fire ants, so grabbed it, and pulled off at least 30 of them until it was ant-free, and moved him away into flower bed. It was a gonner. Yesterday a deer, today a toad.

Dec. 15 ~ Low of about 28dF, chilly and 5 lower than NOAA said it would be. Saw the comet again last night late once the moon set. Once I located it, I could detect it bare-eyed, barely, only knowing what to look for and where. It would be easy to overlook. Did a dump and recycle run so went to park to look for the little 'chitter' I heard yesterday. Took dang near an hour but finally found it, a male Wilson's Warbler. Which is astounding, the first I have seen later than mid-October here, outside the window of occurrence by two months. Did not get a great study of it, and it disappeared quickly. The tangle gave me an OOF - out of focus - picture of it. There was also a Pine Warbler in the woods (not ad.ma., probably ad. female) along with about 8 or so Myrtle Warbler (one an intergrade) a few Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and the usual Chickadees, Cardinals, Carolina Wren and Titmice, Golden-front and Ladder-back Woodpeckers. Great big Mayfly hatch going on in the warmth and the birds are happy. There were four Inca Dove on the log in front of Judy Schaffer's place.

Went out to South Little Creek to check the pond there and after much searching (didn't bring scope) way over on the far side under the big live-oaks, was the pair of Pintail Little Creek Larry reported the prior couple days. Great bird locally. Also saw two pair of Wood Duck hidden in the shade under the big live-oaks. A good bird here was a single Water Pipit foraging out on the grass islets. You can miss them any given year locally remarkably easily. Here at the house was the regular gang, a nuthatch or two, 8-10 American Goldfinch. In the later afternoon I heard a couple Sandhill Crane overhead, my first of the fall, but a NMD - not meaningful date, as others reported them 4 and 6 weeks ago locally. For some reason I had not yet heard a single measure of that 'call-of-the-wild' yet, and was really feeling slighted.

Now for the big story of the day... On the way outta here to the dump I took the back way on west 360 over to 359 and 1050 since closer thataway. Out in the middle of nowhere off the side where fence is not right against road (by the caliche quarry gate) there was a deer in the fence hanging by one hind leg upside-down, appearing dead. Maybe 2-3 points on each side, a young buck. I have seen a few dead deer that mis-judged fences, probably in the dark at speed, and that was the end. This one looked that way, a hoof stuck in two top wires, its body hanging vertically downward, just its neck and head on the ground. I got out and took a couple pix from just a few feet, it did look fresh dead, eyes looked kinda glazed, tongue hanging out a bit. No movement with me standing next to it.

As I was getting back to car it snorted. It was alive still. First I tried to pull the wires apart but his 150+ lbs. rendered them immobile. They were hooked too tightly right above the hoof with all his weight on them. I grabbed the best I had on me at the time, a small 8" pair of vice-grips I carry. It was eighth-inch thick hog-fence wire, that stuff can break mere mortal pliers. Using the crusher at back of jaws and with lots of elbow grease workin' it baby, I finally severed the key strand, just when it seemed like the vice-grips were about to explode. When that wire snapped, the deer fell to the ground and bolted as if it were launched for orbit. Amazingly all his legs were fine, and he was good to go. It stopped at about 50 yards which was like 2 seconds, and turned back to look at me, by then wide-eyed, mouth open, jaw on the ground, not my best look, before turning and continuing on. No telling how long it was hanging there, and it was getting hot in the sun. Lucky the Coyotes hadn't found it!

deerinfence
Here is the deer before I cut the strand that set it free.

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Dec. 14 ~ Wind blew all night and day, but backed off a little. Over the day it was often 15-20 mph gusting to 30. Unbirdable. Temp range was 38-58dF. I forgot to mention I saw Carla Nuckles the other day and she said upvalley in a pecan orchard there were over a hundred Raven. Today Little Creek Larry said he had 20+ at once together playing in the howling wind yesterday, appearing to be having fun and enjoying it. He also had an Eastern Towhee over there near Little Creek today, and yesterday and today a pair of PINTAIL are on the flood pond up the road. Pintail are hard to come by around here.

Saw the Coot at the park. Bird of the day got away, up in the woods I heard a dry chit note that was likely a Pacific Wren. The western Winter Wren, now a full species. Sounds just like a western Wilson's Warbler (which is impossible this time of year here), only one single dry chit note of a certain special unique quality and tone, heard it three or four times. I think it went over to the island. Will have to come back tomorrow when not on an errand run with schedule, and no wind. UPDATE: Nov. 15 - I refound it, it is an unprecedented Wilson's Warbler in winter.

One last item of interest in case you don't know... I told Kathy today that last night about midnight I saw a comet. She asked if I saw Donner or Vixen. I had to explain...  ;)  There is an actual comet visible now. Was about straight up at midnight last night. No head or tail, just a green fuzzy round area a quarter degree wide. If you know where to look easily findable with binocs. They say it may be bare-eyed visible in dark skies. It is Comet 46P/Wirtanen. It is in Tarus, and the astronomy sites on my link page will have maps where to look, and pix, as at space.com. One of the 10 closest since 1950, but a bad angle, we're looking down the tail from behind.

Dec. 13 ~ Low about 45dF and calm first couple hours of morn. The winds arrived from the front about 11 a.m., and will blow until tomorrow evening! A day and a half blow. They are 20-30 mph sustained, gusting 40 and higher. By 3 p.m. there were 48 mph gusts recorded at Uvalde and Hondo. I heard that go over here. There is a teeny ridgelet just on NW side of yard, so we get a wee bit sheltered and do not take a direct hit when N or W winds. Heard Nuthatch or two early morning, saw a Vesper Sparrow on the patio again. As the wind hit I saw a Painted Lady briefly caught in an eddy on lee of the house before it got blown away. Otherwise it was the expected gang o'suspects. Thursday so stuck at the desk, and once the wind hit was glad to be. Went to the garden tub (about 3 x 6 feet) to grab the few last tomatoes, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet flew out of it. It was about half covered in plastic because I had opened it up. Looked pretty lush and maybe buggy ... to a Kinglet. Amazing how it keyed in on it so quickly.

Dec. 12 ~ About 49dF for a low was a welcome respite. Cloudy and humid. Had a quick town run this a.m., saw the Coot at the park pond. Little Creek Larry said he saw a Brown Creeper there on some big cypress trunks last weekend, maybe the 9th. Recall I heard one there Nov. 30. I saw the Turkey Vulture at the main Black Vulture roost tree in river upriver of main lake. Which means it is attempting to winter, a very rare phenomenon here. I saw it mid- and late November, and figured it would soon depart. It must have other ideas. Saw two Red-breasted Nuthatch at once in the big pecan again today. Saw the Orange-crowned Warbler by the cottage again, so it is sticking too. It must have seen I was cameraless the way it danced on the ends of close bare branches in great light.

Dec. 11 ~ Another 26dF for a low, another frozen birdbath to thaw first thing before sunup, when so nice out. Did not see last evening's White-crowned Sparrow today but was chilly and busy. Seemed like it knew where it was going when it hit the seed straight from a brushpile 75' away. Still no hummer, last seen on the 4th, a week ago. Did have two Red-breasted Nuthatch at once again though. Had a quick errand run to town, saw the pair of Green Kings at the park. They get started on breeding activity like pair bonding behavior about as early as owls (e.g. now). I saw the male trying to entice female with a fish. I told my wife who said she hoped Ms. KF told him that she is a kingfisher and can catch her own fish anytime she wants. That was pretty much the highlight of my day.

Dec. 10 ~ I saw 27dF at 7 a.m., so probably hit 26, Seco Crk. WU staion had 25, and Kerrville 28. Cold. Sunny and no wind though. Heard a nuthatch this a.m., after not all weekend. About 10:30 it worked the pecans for 20 minutes during which it never called. Twas the ad. male. Some American Goldfinch and Pine Siskin, Robins and Waxwings to go with the chill. Canyon Towhee. Only different thing was an adult White-crowned Sparrow that came into the seed at dusk. A Pipevine Swallowtail (lep) was my first of the month, and pretty beat and worn. Saw a couple Sleepy Orange and a Dogface.

Dec. 9 ~ We were 32dF at 7 a.m., and still some breeze from north, so, cold, but sunny. Still no hummer, now day four without seeing it, and no nuthatch since Friday either. Same gang in the yard. About 3 p.m. it warmed to 50dF and the wind slowed to under 10 mph so we took a quick spin out. Some Field Sparrow along the corral as we left. There are Brewer's Blackbird along 360 east of the river, and I saw a female Rusty Blackbird with them, which surely is the same one that has wintered in the area the last five years, often visiting our yard when they hit the corral next to us.

We went to the 3 (or 4) mile bridge (heard it called both - it is 3 (or 4) miles south of town), a Sabinal River high bridge crossing, and checked around it. There were at least a half-dozen Lincoln's and one Song Sparrow there, one House Wren along the fenceline, and best a first winter Red-naped Sapsucker in the Cypresses on west side of bridge and river. I do not get them every winter, they are not a sure thing annually here. Any LTA - less-than-annual, is a good bird to see. A Loggerhead Shrike was working the fenceline along the access road on SE side of crossing.

Then we went out UvCo 361 since we hadn't done that a while. A half mile south of the crossing, it takes off to the west. The low spots have water. I wish I had been checking it during fall shorebird season, we never had one before so I didn't think of it. There were at least 11 Killdeer at various wet spots along the road. One flood pond area had a small group of birds around it including my FOS Say's Phoebe, finally. Saw about 5 Vesper and 4 Savannah Sparrow, 5 Kestrel, a couple hundred Brewer's Blackbird around the corrals, a Great Egret hunting one of the wet draws, a second Say's Phoebe, several Eastern Phoebe, a dozen Eastern Bluebird, and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker working a roadside fencepost, some more Lincoln's Sparrow, a few Mockingbird. Saw one imm. or female Vermilion Flycatcher. Nothing rare, but great to get out and see some sun and birds though, and take a few pix. On way back here, on 360 east of river where has been one, there was an adult male Vermilion Flycatcher. Rare in winter here, this one has been around a month or more and seems to be attempting to winter so far.

Dec. 8 ~ The wind from the front is finally here. Only a little light rain over night, that part is done, we have 2.25" at minimum here for the event. This a.m. it is low 40's with 15 mph northerlies, gusting higher, chill factors just over freezing. Only going out to put more seed out, so did not see squat. Might have gotten to 47dF peak heat, but the wind blew all day, chill factors might have broken 40 briefly, maybe. It was yucky. Heard everything flush as in an accipiter attempt late in day. That is all.

grasshoppersparrow
Ahhhhh grasshopper... when you can identify the sparrow...
This was at the rest area just north of Lost Maples Dec. 2.
Pardon the fuzzy and pixels, was a long-range high-mag grab.
Grasshopper Sparrow.

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Record early record cold in mid-Nov., with 20dF (!) here the 14th. Nov. came in like a lion. Seems to be leaving like a lamb. We have not been able to get out as usual, bad weather or windy conditions rear their ugly heads every time they see I might be able to sneak out for a few hours. Landbirding in the wind is tough. A second RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH has shown up this week and been seen with the first one around the yard through the 29th. The first one has been here since Oct. 30. An EASTERN TOWHEE was on UvCo 359 on Nov. 1. One SPRAGUE'S PIPIT flew over calling Nov. 7. A Rufous-Allen's (prob. Rufous) Hummingbird was at our place Nov. 7-30. One or more usually winter at Judy Schaffer's heated feeders in town. My FOS Golden-crowned Kinglet showed up Nov. 15. A flock of five Audubon's Oriole were in our yard the 16th. My FOS Pine Warbler was Nov. 22nd. Two Townsend's Solitaire were at the 1050 passlet about 5 mi. west of Utopia on Nov. 24. My FOS Junco (Slate-colored) was Nov. 27. I heard a Brown Creeper at Utopia Park Nov. 30. The Buckley Oaks are showing good color now for a nice fall look.

In October we weren't able to get out much with rain almost every day, and muddy everywhere when not. Had first of fall American Wigeon and Orange-crowned Warbler on Oct. 12, Oct. 19 a 2nd (different) Ibis at the same Bandera Co. floodpond and a tardy Mourning Warbler at Utopia Park. My first N. Flicker and Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler were Oct. 21. A male-female pair of Downy Woodpecker were at Utopia Park that day as well, maybe first time I have seen a pair together here in 15 years, haven't been seeing them in Nov. though. My earliest ever in 15 falls American Goldfinch showed up Oct. 25. Robin and Cedar Waxwing showed up Oct. 29, a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH on Oct. 30.

A few of the better things in Sept. were: on September 1 FOUR Mourning Warbler at Utopia Park. On Sept. 7 there was a LEAST SANDPIPER at the golf course, and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was in our yard, plus a seemingly different Yell-bell Flyc. here on the 9th. Also on Sept. 9 there was an AMERICAN BITTERN on S. Little Creek Rd. at the southerly smaller floodpond, but in Bandera County. Sept. 14 there was a Black-crowned Night-Heron at Utopia Park up on the island, and, an adult male MacGillivray's Warbler went through our yard the 14th as well. An ad. male Broad-tailed Hummingbird was at our feeders a bit Sept. 15-17. A White-faced Ibis was in Bandera Co. Sept. 23 at the W. Sabinal Rd. floodpond. A couple Long-billed Curlew flew over southbound Sept. 29. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet showed up on Sept. 24.

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~ ~ ~ back to the drivel ~ ~ ~

Dec. 7 ~ Rain started sporadically pre-dawn, a cold front is moving in, temps dropping after about 3 a.m., so moisture being wrung out. We needed it, was gettin' dusty already. But cold and wet out. Did not see the hummer this morning, again. Had to wait for a break in the rain to do a town errand run, too cold, wet, and muddy, to bird. In a flooded pasture on UvCo 360 just east of the river there were a hundred Robin on the ground. Only thing I saw at the park was a male Green Kingfisher on the spillway. Not complaining. Missed the Coot at the park, so know if you chase it, might take a couple tries. Rained all day, we are at 2" at 5 p.m. Heard a nuthatch.

Dec. 6 ~ Thursdays at the desk. Did not see the hummer again today for the second day. Did hear nuthatch a couple times. Saw 10 American Goldfinch at once, most so far this season. Just a few Pine Siskin. Had to be 6 or more Titmouse (Black-c), and at least 4 Carolina Chickadee. At least 30+ Chipping Sparrow hitting the seed, Canyon Towhee still around. A few Myrtle Warbler, some Eastern Bluebird, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, at least 30 Cedar Waxwing in one flock, couple dozen Robin. Might have hit 60dF at peak heat.

Dec. 5 ~ About 45dF for a low, overcast, humid, cool and damp, maybe got up to 54dF for a high. Did not see the hummer, or a nuthatch, but Wed., so stuck at the desk and computer. The Sharpy was out there, it was kinda quiet the times I got out for a stretch, listen and lookabout. No bees or butterflies today. Oh for that nice warm sunny Sunday with a Townsend's Warbler. This is why it is important to make those memories on days off. So you have some awesomeness to consider whilst at the salt mine.

Dec. 4 ~ We had about 36dF for a low, but I saw 33 at KRVL and Seco Crk. WU stations. The Hummer was out there this morning before sunup, after being absent the last two days. At least a couple nuthatches, was not paying attention. A quick dash to town, saw an Inca Dove with about 1 tail feather. The park had the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe, heard a Green Kingfisher. Just the regulars in the woods. Best was two butterflies: a Monarch and a Mestra. The Monarch will likely be the last of the year for them, a tardy straggler over 6 weeks behind the peak of the passage bell curve. Then here at the casita a Texan Crescent flew by. In early December you scrape up your last sightings of the year for many of the few species that remain flying. Got up to lowest 60's at peak heat.

Dec. 3 ~ About 45dF for a low, cloudy and overcast. Did not see the hummer again this morning. Two mornings, no bird. It already got down to 20dF here in Nov. so it would be wise to go. Heard a nuthatch distantly. At least 4 Myrtle Warbler went over. Before noon I had two nuthatches in the pecan, after 1 p.m. all three were there again. Looked like an ad. male, an ad. female, and an immature. In other words, they each appear different in the new pix I got. They are still finding stashed sunflower seeds in the bark crevices. Had 4 Pine Siskin and 5 Am. Goldfinch come to the feeders. Probably 35 Chipping Sparrow, saw the Canyon Towhee, counted 6 Titmice and 4 Chickadee at once, and a single flock of 25 House Finch was in the top of the big pecan. We have only been having a few around.

Dec. 2 ~ We got up earlyish to sneak a walk in at Lost Maples since it had been a couple months and I was startin' to get withdrawal heebie-jeebies. In case you wonder what is outside here at 6 a.m. in the black, the answer is nothing. But Leo is at zenith. Got colder than they said, was in the upper 30's dF here, I saw 36dF for NOAA at Kerrville and at the Seco Creek WU station. From about 7:40 to 8 a.m. there were THREE Red-breasted Nuthatch in the yard at once! THREE!!! Amazing! I kept going back and forth with them until two were on the same branch and another calling from a tree behind me, which then flew into the big pecan as well. Weewow!

Swung through park on way by town but no ducks on the pond, so kept going. No birds in the woods early, too cold still. On 187 just east of the W. Sabinal Rd. cutoff there was a small male chocolate morph (western) Red-tailed Hawk. All dark chocolate brown. These are pretty darn scarce here, I have only seen a few. Some sparrows were along road, as well as meadowlarks in some pastures. Got to Lost Marbles about 8:35, it was already busy. We generally avoid it during leaf season as the trails are often too noisy to bird. It is apparently still leaf season. Though only a very few maples have anything left on them, some Buckley Oaks still look good. Most on the slopes up there have lost there leaves though. The 1050 pass west of town has more color right now.

Coming out of HQ I heard a few birds at the east end of the circle so after taping the permit in the window we walked over thataway to see if there was a flock. A lot of winter birding is finding flocks. Doesn't matter if you just hear chickadees, titmice, or kinglet, go check it out. There is often other stuff with them. First I see a Hutton's Vireo, then a Blue-headed Vireo, the only one I have seen all fall. There were a couple titmice, a kinglet, and a bird flies across an opening one juniper to another. As I am getting on it Kathy says look at this bird in an imperitive sorta way. By time she gets done saying that, I called adult male TOWNSEND'S WARBLER. It was not very cooperative, but I did manage a docushot of it (below).

My first in BanCo, though there is an old prior park record, I think from maybe 20 some years ago, maybe another more recent. I do not see one listed in ebird for the Lost Maples list. I have seen 4 in Utopia (UvCo) in 3 falls over 15 years, so missed it 11 falls locally. Plus we found that hybrid Hermit x Townsend's at Garner S.P. one year. I told Kathy right then, the day was going to be downhill from there today. First thing, hadn't moved the car from where we parked to grab the entry permit. It was over. There were also single Orange-crowned and Myrtle Warbler heard in the vicinity. The flocklet kind of melted up the slope and we lost them. There was LOTS of traffic going by entering park.

Again we did not do the trails, but worked the main canyon floor a mile or so. It was not particularly birdy, but there were tons of people, it was packed and a pretty noisy. Surprising it was still soooo busy. Saw Scrub-Jay, a couple Lincoln's Sparrow, 3 Lesser Goldfinch and the rest was the regular expected stuff, Cardinal, Chickadee, Titmouse, Ladder-back, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Raven, etc.. Anothers of Hutton's Vireo and Orange-crowned Warbler at the day use area, where more titmice, chickadee, kinglet, and Cardinal. We went back to HQ around 11 and could not relocate the little group of birds. Probably when first sun hits that open bowl at canyon mouth around the HQ is when to look. There were some mayflies along the creek, which is THE critical wintering insectivore passerine sustenance here.

We went up the grade north from the park to get up on top of the plateau at a nosebleeding 2300' for a peek and stopped at the rest area about a mile or two up 187. There is a Rufous-crowned Sparrow stationed there (usually - it called when we pulled in) and were some Vesper Sparrow across the road. I walked over to get a better look at the Vespers and a GRASSHOPPER Sparrow flew up out of the roadside verge and into a bush. Got docushots of it. I virtually never see them in winter around Utopia so a great bird to me, though likely good numbers are in all these grasslands we can't get to. Always a treat to see, one of the most beautifuly colored and patterened sparrows. You will be seeing a poor pic of it one of the weekly breaks no doubt.

A Roadrunner popped up into a bushlet 125' off the road to see what or who was pishing off the side of the road. One of very few of those I ever pished up. We would never have seen it if it didn't respond to the ruckus I was making. You can't blame the bird though. It was seduced by my patented and copyrighted full flock mob scene imitation which is custom tailored to fit the appropriate scolders at any given location. If you want to have some fun, tell those hotshots you run into that you are pishing for Roadrunners. Then tell me how hard they laughed. Think you are a hot Johnny Pisher? Can ya get a Roadrunner up?  ;)

As we were nearing home back at 1300' my ears popped. Just barely, but it happened. From that 1000' climb. Amazing. We don't get no altitude here. Back at the hovel in the afternoon I did not see the Rufous-Allen's Hummer all day, nor did I see it in the morning as usual. Temp got up to about 75dF here with little to no wind! Weewow! It was very nice out. A pair of Variegated Meadowhawk (dragons) were in the yard. At dusk a Ringed Kingfisher went off over at the river. Some butterflies we saw today were Dainty Sulphur, a Queen, Red Admiral, Gulf Fritillary, Sleepy Orange, Variegated Fritillary, Common Checkered-Skipper, So. Dogface, and one Reakirt's Blue.

Dec. 1 ~ Ran about 60-75dF for a temp spread, dry front passed, was windy all day at 15 mph gusting to 20-25, but not cold. Too windy for me to enjoying birding for landbirds in trees. Dutifuly worked on my fall report. Had a nuthatch and the hummer, some robins and waxwings, Chippies and the imm. Sharpy. Did I complain about the wind yet? Forecast looks good so tomorrow we will try to get up Vanderpool way, after noon since a Sunday, for a b-double-e-double-r-u-n. I mean to Lost Maples for a bird walk. Just a coincidence, at a cosmic level, that we should finish up on a Sunday, and be at a place at 11:59 making beverage selections of the sort they can sell when the clock strikes 12 on Sunday.

Here is a pro tip for visitors: the Shiner (native Texas) 6-pack called Brewery Tour is very interesting with six different examples of their specialties, including a Wicked Ram Ale (IPA) (I sixer those anyway), an interesting cream ale, some other type so Texan it has Jalapeno in it, and I found the Black Lager fascinating. UPDATE: Not all the Brewery Tour 6 packs are the same, there are multiple versions, so you may want to check for the Wicked Ram IPA for instance, or get a six of them anyway. The Black Lager and Cream Ale was in all of the few I checked though.

townsendswarbler
This is the adult male Townsend's Warbler Kathy and I found
near HQ at Lost Maples SNA Dec. 2. Sorry it is fuzzy, it shows
the bird for the record, was a miracle to get an image. I got six
with nuthin' but fuzzy junipers, one nice sharp one with its
head turned away, and this. Note it has a prey item at the tip of
bill, looks like a small spider maybe, the only reason it slowed
down enough for me to get a pic.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ November summary ~ ~ ~

We had record early record cold, hitting 20dF on the 14th, and the lower 20's 3 mornings straight. An early hard freeze. Lots of frontal passages, but no significant rain, very dry, just cold and wind. River still high from the 20-30" of precip in Sept. and October. A weak pecan and hackberry crop will not likely hold birds in the area very long into winter. Seed crops are good though. A Rough Greensnake was one of my favorite highlights for the month.

As can be expected with an early cold, insects flamed out fast. Odes were 11 species, and barely that, just the last few of the last things flying. Nothing unusual, the 11 most likely, always nice are a few Autumn Meadowhawk as expected. Butterflies were better with 44 species, but nothing new after the 17th. That Nov. 17 bug was the butterfly of the month, my first and only CRIMSON PATCH of the year, in the woods at Utopia Park, in mint condition, landed in the sun briefly. The runner up was my only Great Purple Hairstreak of the year, on Nov. 4, which also saw my only White-tipped Black (moth) of the year. It was very good the first week of November with a limited southern origin fall invasion, but between the 7th and 9th a front hit and it was about over. Dribs and drabs for a week until the deep freeze hit and that was it save stragglers.

Birds were good though, for the little looking had. I count 87 species and we didn't make it up to Lost Maples so missed a few easy things. It is pretty crowded there on weekends in November for the leaf thingie. The trails are often too loud for birding. November is the tail end of fall migration, and the leading edge of winter birds showing up. An EASTERN TOWHEE on the 1st was great, LTA - less than annual for me here. Was an ad. female, but which I'll gladly take. A SPRAGUE'S PIPIT on the 7th was good, they too are LTA for me, easy to miss if you don't just spend all of Nov. in green sprouting fields. Five Horned Lark on the 22nd were about as rare here. For some reason the field birds are tough here.

A Rufous-Allen's Hummingbird spent the month at our place, which is very unusual for us. The big Nov. surprise show was Red-breasted Nuthatch. One showed up the end of October, I thought I heard two mid-November, finally saw two together at once in our big pecan on the 26th, and Dec. 2 had THREE at once in our big pecan. That explained my confusion ageing and sexing what I was seeing. It is an adult male, ad. female, and an immature. First time I have seen more than a single here, so pretty remarkable. Two Townsend's Solitaire were at 1050 pass 5 mi. west of town up at the top of the pass, which are not a sure thing annually, so always great to see.

~ ~ ~ end November summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~

Nov. 30 ~ It was clear and about 50dF at midnight last night, at 6 a.m. it was 60dF and fog-mist, so the low was at about 12:01 a.m. Weird weather they got here in Utopia. The hummer was around but didn't hear the nuthatches. The rest was the usual gang. On 360 the male Vermilion Flycatcher continues along the pastures east of the former Utopia on the River. At the park was the Coot and a Pied-billed Grebe. Can't help but wonder if the Coot is the one that wintered last year. I heard a Brown Creeper but could not find it. Methinks it flew or was flying over to the island when I heard it. Do not see them every year here so that kinda stung, but not as bad as the bee yesterday. Also there and the first I have seen locally in weeks, was a Turkey Vulture, presumedly a tardy migrant. Little Creek Larry said he had a couple Snipe at the So.Little Crk. pond this past week.

Nov. 29 ~ We had a 37dF low, Seco Crk WU station showed 38, and Kerrville 45. Again way colder than forecast. But sunny so got nice. Saw the hummer and heard the two Red-breasted Nuthatch again. Both are still here, hope they stick all winter, wish they would find the sunflower feeder. The first one has been here a month so far. Too cool, I love 'em. Whatabird. The hummer is at three weeks. Other than that the same old stuff all day. Thursday so at desk. At dusk there was a House Wren jeering over in the corral. Saw a Buckeye (butterfly) besides the expected half-dozen types still flying.

The bees are swarming the hummer feeders now that there is no nectar or pollen out there. Two flew into my shirt, one on my chest I felt crawling, pulled the shirt away knowing what that feel was, and it flew out. The other went under from below and was discovered by the sharp stinging sensation on my stomach. Nothing this stupid should be allowed to have a stinger. Luckily it hit me right in the fat and so was not nearly the bother a sting usually is. The evidence is clear, I was saved by beer!

Nov. 28 ~ We had a 36dF this morning, the Seco Crk. WU station showed 37, and Kerrville low 40's, so the city heat island kept them much warmer than we were. Heard the nuthatch and saw the hummer. About 23 waxwing and 44 Robin flew over. Great was my FOS Slate-colored Junco out back on the seed, a sharp lookin' male. My latest ever date for a 'first one of the fall' arrival, except the year I did not see one all fall and winter. In the afternoon I saw an ad. ma. Sharp-shinned Hawk coming in over the corral trees out front. A Mourning Dove bolted from a water trough seeming to aim to be behind the Sharpy after it passed. The Sharpy wheeled on a dime, gave 9 cents change and grabbed the dove as it was climbing. You heard about 6 wing-whistles of climbing dove and then silence. Lotta weight for a little Sharpy. Saw a few butterflies: Vesta Crescent, Dainty Sulphur, Little Yellow, Queen, a Fiery or Whirlabout Skipper, couple Dogface, some Snout. It is fadin' fast.

Nov. 27 ~ It was 26dF here on porch this a.m., Kerrville was progged for 32 by NOAA, they had a 26, as did the Seco Crk. WU station. The R-A Hummer was out there before 7 a.m. before sunup. About 50 Robin and 20 Cedar Waxwing were eating some hackberries early. Had 4 Pine Siskin at a seed tube, most for me so far this fall. The imm. Sharpy dove on everything and missed again, it is going to be around doing this all winter. The Canyon Towhee was out there and is apparently getting a bit territorial. Some waxwings and robins were coming into the birdbath for a drink and the Towhee displaced a perched waxwing by flying right at it, flushing it. Then as a robin departed from a drink heading back to the junipers, the towhee flew right on its arse for 20 feet and sounded like it was mumbling something all the way. Can't wait to see what it does when a few hundred each waxwings and robins show up. Mighta gotta waxwing drinking shot.

Nov. 26 ~ About 45dF for a low with some cool north wind on it. The R-A Hummer still here. A Merlin shot over early. Hutton's Vireo was out there. Outstanding was having TWO Red-breasted Nuthatch AT ONCE together in the big pecan right off the front porch. Finally got a usable pic of at least one of them (below). Interesting was that twice it pulled a sunflower seed out of a bark crevice. The seed-stashing Chickadees and Titmice must hate these guys being here. This is why it keeps returning to the big pecan. He thinks it is a magic tree. Just like me. I wonder if it thinks when pecans get big they have sunflower seeds in the bark crevices? Of course this is the first time in 15 years I have seen two together at once here, generally as you get near south Texas you only see singles. I do not see them here more years than I do, by far. So two at once, in the yard, is somewhere between fantastic and awesome. I had a quick town dash at noon, at the park had the pair of Green Kings on the island, Blue Jay, Red-tail and Red-shouldered Hawk. A new guest that was not there Thurs., Fri., or Sat., was a Coot. Got a winter plumaged Myrtle Warbler pic while a group was working the run-over pecans in the streets of town. Which fills a gap on the warblers page since it is actually the most-seen warbler plumage around town, a winter Myrtle.

Nov. 25 ~ Upper 40's dF for a low, maybe got to 62dF or so. But the front got here (dry) with 15mph gusting over 20 northerlies, too windy to bird. So worked on stuff here. Glad we took a spin around yesterday. Had the hummer and the nuthatch early, as well as a Hutton's Vireo, plus all the regular gang. A dozen Robin and 3 Waxwing were in the big pecan. Saw the Sharp-shinned Hawk terrorizing things. Heard a Field Sparrow. Canyon Towhee was about.

Nov. 24 ~ About 41dF for a low, overcast until the afternoon. Sun came out about 3 p.m. and warmed to low 70's. A nice little flock was here mid-morn. At least 6-7 Myrtle Warbler and one Orange-crowned, 3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and my FOS Hermit Thrush (2) were in the same Hackberry with the warblers. Finally on them. The R-A Hummer and the R-b Nuthatch were both out there at the same time as the winter flock. I did not see the imm. White-crowned Sparrow that was here at dusk.

We took a drive around noonish to peek about a little. Our annual trip this weekend to go see fall. We go out 1050 to the 1050 pass, 4-5 miles west of town. Don't worry, it is not a pass like you think of. It is no Donner or Tioga Pass. More like that Frontierland train ride at Disneyland kind of pass. It is the lowest thing I have ever heard called a pass. It is a little mini-pass I guess. A passlet. There is one formal pullout, and a wide shoulder on the way up it (westbound side), so you can get out and look and listen in a few spots. When no traffic it can be ok. Great color now, sometimes some birds, Golden-cheeks breed on these slopes. We just heard a Scrub-Jay this time.

At the Bear Creek Pond just before the passlet there were ducks! Counted 11 Gadwall, 18 American Wigeon, 3 Ring-necked Duck, and best, one wild Mallard, which are very rare here. There was one blonde frankenduck on the pond, someone's easter duck, a new addition. We did find and see fall, had great views, got photos of it. The pass has very nice color now from the Buckley Oaks, the slopes are covered in yellow, orange, rust, and a little red. The maples are a crapshoot any given year, the Buckley Oaks a sure thing. Should last a couple more weeks at least, sometimes some through December. I saw some Brickelbush that had gone to seed, but so it bloomed this year.

Right as you top the passlet I had a brief but close bare-eyed view of two Townsend's Solitaire on the powerline. Stopped at the first wide spot right at top and they flew as I moved to get out. Could not refind them. Surely my earliest record locally, but I think others have had them at Lost Maples around Thanksgiving in some years in the past. Just the other side of the crestlet we saw my two FOS Spotted Towhee (finally), both females. At the park in town was a female Green Kingfisher on the island. Heard Blue Jays. Two different pastures had flocks of 50 meadowlark each. The ones on 360 looked Eastern, the ones at the north end of town in the Blackbuck pasture looked Western. None called, since a birder was listening. A Merlin stooped on the 360 flock but I think us approaching or the stock fence made it decide to call it off. What a bullet of a bird.

redbreastednuthatch
Here is one of the Red-breasted Nuthatch around the yard now,
caught red-handed stealing a stashed sunflower seed out of a
crevice in the bark of the pecan. The chickadees and titmice
are not likely as thrilled about our new visitor as I am.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 23 ~ Foggy and about 50dF this morning. Early I had the R-b nuthatch I missed yesterday, the R-A hummer, some Robins, and a couple Myrtle Warbler. Sunny by 11 a.m., and the afternoon got up to at least 71 or 72dF! Nice to open up and air out. Town run, nothing much moving but since the flowers are cooked, it was mostly errands. Thought I heard a Hermit Thrush on the island at the park but couldn't coax it into view. That was too an errand. Had to make sure there were still not any new park birds there. On the way back just south of the corral on 360 I had to hit the brakes and run off edge of the dirt road to avoid a snake. Missed it thankfully, a 20" Rough Greensnake. Which looks and feels smooth as silk. Has to be my first November record. Got a couple (now I see exposure-messed-up) photos, dang white balance or digital metering can not handle caliche. Has to be my first November record. What a beautiful animal. Heard a couple Waxwings here in the trees mid-afternoon. Right before dusk I saw my FOS White-crowned Sparrow out back office window on the seed, an imm., finally. I have thought I heard them a few times in the last couple weeks but hadn't seen one yet.

Nov. 22 ~ Happy Turkey day turkeys! Mid-to-upper 40's dF for a low, overcast and humid. Got up to about 60dF at peak heat. Saw the hummer out there, missed the nuthatch today. Didn't hear or see any Turkey, had a couple stuffed Cornish Gamehens though. Might be my favorite bird. Tonight it is. Mid-morn a flock of 5 Horned Lark flew over coming up off the grass airstrip, good thing a couple called. Only maybe the 2nd or 3rd time I have had it from the yard here. They are regular in the ag fields down around Hwy. 90 but rare up here in the hills.

We took a couple hour lookabout around noon since we had a break. This is the only Thursday of the year that can happen. A flock of sparrows along 360 had 35 Chipping, some Lark, a Field or two, and a couple Lincoln's were in the same area. Some Myrtle Warbler, a dozen Cardinal. A flock of 20 some Cedar Waxwing flew over calling, my first flock of the fall, had only had a single. Near Utopia on the River there was a adult male Vermilion Flycatcher. The park had a couple Blue Jay, and heard a Green Kingfisher. Saw an(other?) ad.ma. Vermilion Flyc. on the way back on 187 over a half mile from the one on 360. I guess if it is moving around a lot it could be the same bird. A half-mile in under an hour seems a lot compared to what I am used to from them but my observations are mostly during nesting season when tethered. Also on the way back at the 360 crossing a decent flock of E. Bluebirds, a few Myrtle Warbler, and my FOS Pine Warbler, a bright adult male. Had a glimpse of what surely was a White-throated Sparrow at the crossing too, thought sure I heard one call at UP as well. Still no Hermit Thrush.

There is some great color going on now. Anywhere there is good color on the hills, you are seeing Buckley (Spanish) Oaks. Oh maybe a few other things here and there have some, but 99% of the color now is Buckley Oak. And they are beautiful. Some very nice yellows, oranges, pinks, reds, they are the best sure thing color show in fall here and should be good a couple or few weeks at least now. The divides (higher ground between the river valleys) are covered in them. Mostly tied to slopes, thickest on steeper ones, they like an altitudinal gradient. These are a favorite tree of Golden-cheeked Warblers.

Nov. 21 ~ I saw a 38dF before 7 a.m., later saw KRVL had 32 and Seco Creek WU station 34. Maybe it dropped a little after I looked, it happens if you check early at dark-thirty. Overcast and humid so chilly. After 8 a.m. heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at the river, and a flock of 60+ Robin dropped in across the road. After 10 a.m. there was a little sparrow party on the patio. The 20 Chipping is my highest count so far this fall, a thrill which doesn't last very long. There were also 5 Lark, and best 1 Vesper Sparrow! The Vesper came right up to the back porch steps just feet away. The real fast tail flick they do as they forage flashes the white outer tail feathers. Heard the hummer and nuthatch out there.

With a little free time over the last week I did my need-it-or-not once-every-five-years update to the warblers page (at the bird photo index). Added and refined text here and there, and added some photos to better illustrate our warblers. Besides feathering in some of the weekly update break warbler photos that were not there, a couple new ones are not anywhere else on the site. I am partial to that Black-and-white near the end without full tail.

Nov. 20 ~ About 40dF for a low, chilly. Eventually warmed to the mid-60's dF in the afternoon which was quite nice. Saw the R-A Hummer, the R-b Nuthatch, and the Canyon Towhee, the rest was the regular gang. Some butterflies came out in the heat. A Red Admiral, couple Gulf Fritillary, few Sleepy Orange, at least 2 So. Dogface, a Vesta Crescent, a Fiery or Whirlabout Skipper, and best, a Texan Crescent flew by - only my second for the month, plus one Dainty Sulphur. Was swamped having to get biz done as our normal peak busy day is a holiday this week so all has to be done early.

Nov. 19 ~ About 45dF for a low, cloudy, humid, a bit chilly. Got up to about 57dF under overcast skies in the afternoon. Heard the Nuthatch early, saw the Canyon Towhee. About 11 a.m. I saw the R-A Hummer after not seeing it for a couple days, again. Must be visiting someone else's sweet stuff, the two-timer. Counted 16 White-winged Dove on the seed, and maybe as many Chipping Sparrow, which is double what there has been. A flock of big fat finches flushed out of the big pecan before I saw them, that I wish I could have ID'd. Was over a dozen. My impression was crossbills. A couple Lesser Goldfinch were around.

Nov. 18 ~ A dry front came in before dawn with northerly winds. It dropped from 55 to 44dF between 5-9 a.m., chill factors with winds are in the high 30's dF. Only barely broke 50dF at peak heat, maybe low 40's chill factors. Worked on stuff inside. Thick cloud layer but no rain. Knew not to get up and look for Leonid meteors in advance. Here, apparently 'meteor shower' means cloudy with no chance of stars. That is how the overwhelming majority of them play out here. Canyon Towhee is out there, did not see the hummer yet at noon and missed it yesterday. There is an imm. Sharp-shinned Hawk harassing the seed eaters all day missing repeated attempts. So just the regular repeat offenders sneaking in on the seed as they can.

Nov. 17 ~ Foggy and in the 40's dF for a few hours early. Did not see the hummer, but had the Nuthatch and a Golden-crowned Kinglet again (maybe yesterday's?). The rest was the regulars in the yard. We looked around a couple hours around noon. The golf course pond at Waresville Cmty. had a couple dozen Red-winged Blackbird fairly evenly split of sexes. There was finally my FOS Savannah Sparrow there as well. At Utopia Park we had single Great Blue Heron and Great Egret at the pond, up on the islad was a male Green Kingfisher, in the woods were Carolina Wren, Titmice and Chickadees, a few Cardinal.

Best bird was a bug, a CRIMSON PATCH butterfly flew by and landed right in front of us in the sun for a few moments at the edge of the woods. It quickly took off and disappeared whilst I fumbled with camera, which made a bad heavy ker-plunk sound and voila! the lens goes in and out again. We know it will break again quickly. It is the first Crimson Patch I have seen all year, it was in immaculate mint fresh condition as if a fresh emergence. What a beauty! May well be the last new species of butterfly for my local butterfly year list. We are having a very weak year for diversity locally, at drought levels.

We drove out Jones Cmty Rd. to check the wet spot on W. Sabinal, where there were 7 Killdeer, probably migrants from northward. Heard a couple more Savannah Sparrow, saw a L. Shrike, a few Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk, 4 E. Bluebird, but not a lot. Coming back just before the house along the corral there were some Field and Lincoln's Sparrows. Saw a couple Monarchs out there, and a few minor butterflies, but flowers are toast now. Frozen in time and place.

theonacheckerspot
Theona Checkerspot


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Of course I am always looking for a few good bugs... What appears to be only a second Uvalde County record, a Slaty Skimmer was at Utopia Park July 13-14 (ph. below). What looked like a Blue-faced Darner (C. adnexa) was at Lost Maples July 29. Haven't gotten to working with the poor pix yet. An apparent Lassaux's Sphinx Moth was at the porch light for photos Aug. 30. A Twelve-spotted Skimmer was in Bandera Co. at the S. Little Crk. Rd. pond Oct. 5 (ph.).

There is a RIVER! And it is mighty high. We have had repeated rain events for most of the last 8 weeks. Major events Sept. 2-10, and the 15th-16th. Minors in between, it rained most of September, yet no one complained. It has rained much of October so far as well. Many local reports are of in the area of TWO FEET of rain in September. We have had about 7.5" in Oct. so far. So we have a fall flower bloom. But so far few butterflies. It also got cold early with a four day event with highs in the 40's dF last week, three days in the 50's this week, winterish high temperatures. And 80dF today.

So much for that D3 we were at the USGS drought monitor, Couch's Spadefoot Toads were calling. If you can hear them, there is no drought. Oct. 1-2 there was another 3.25" for us here, but it was 5" and more upvalley, all the low water crossings were flooded, locals were calling water levels epic. Then Oct. 15 we got another 2.75", low-water crossings down again. The rain just won't stop. The ground is so saturated it is all runoff at this point. Still some chiggers and skeeters out, that would love to see you.

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Nov. 16 ~ NOAA had Kerrville at 37dF for a forecast low last night. We had 27 here. Off by a category. They had 29 there. Last three mornings here were in the 20's, and last four froze. The R-A Hummer and R-b Nuthatch were both out there early. There were 6 American Goldfinch, had only been seeing 1-4. Better yet, was a flock of 5 Audubon's Oriole working the yard for a while around 9:30 a.m. Mostly in the Hackberries, and working the ball moss clumps particularly. Wish they would take to a hummer feeder here like the Seco Ridge birds did. Guessing the hummer would not be as excited about that as I. About 10 a.m. I saw my FOS Pine Siskin in with some American Goldfinches on the patio.

Town run. At least two FOS Song Sparrow were at the 360 x-ing. A Zone-tailed Hawk was in a tree just south of town, and a male Green Kingfisher was at the park, but that was it. The hard freeze cooked all the remaining flowers at the various gardens around town. Normally this is a great week or two for vagrant butterflies from the south as we finish the fall bloom, that appears shot now. There were a few things about, mostly singles, and little to nothing to nectar on. Perfectly good flowers nuked. Saw a couple ea. Vesta and Phaon Crescent, one Theona Checkerspot, couple Dogface, couple Large Orange Sulphur, 1 Orange Sulphur, a couple Little Yellow, American Lady and Red Admiral, Pipevine Swallowtail, a Whirlabout, 10 Sleepy Orange, a few Gulf Fritillary. It is fading fast now. One female Variegated Meadowhawk dragonfly, one Blue-ringed and one Dusky Dancer in damselflies.

Nov. 15 ~ About 26.5 for a low here, KRVL had 26, Seco Crk WU station, 25dF. Chilly willy. Got up to the lowest 60's at peak heat. The Pigeon spent the night in the big pecan, then fed with the White-winged Doves on the patio early, then took off with some White-winged Dove heading north toward town, to go party with its new friends. I heard back from the American Racing Pigeon Union people, the bird is from Kerrville. At least the owner knows he has a carouser now. It was born this year so still inexperienced. Heard the Nuthatch, and a Hutton's Vireo, saw the Ruf-All Hummer, probably a Rufous. An Audubon's Warbler moved through the yard, looked ad. female. Saw my FOS Brewer's Blackbird when five flew over calling. Then I had my FOS Golden-crowned Kinglet upslope behind us, a couple Ruby-crowned were out there too.

Saw a few butterflies. One Monarch, a couple Gulf and one Variegated Fritillary, a few Sleepy Orange, a Vesta Crescent, a So. Dogface, a Red Admiral, an American Lady. Amazing this stuff can take 20dF! The tomatoes we had left, and covered, couldn't take however cold it got in the makeshift greenhouse. Looks like most have met a premature demise. Not fried, but frozen green tomatoes.

Nov. 14 ~ If there was any doubt winter was coming the record lows this morning should remove that. We had 20dF! Kerrville had the same and the WU station at Seco Crk. reported 19dF! The historical record low for Uvalde for this date is 37dF! Yesterday's low (28dF) and this morning's (23dF), both broke hundred year old records at San Antonio. The panhandle of Texas had 10, 11, and 12dF! It was a killin' freeze. Lots of purple leaves out there. Temps got up to freezing about 9 a.m. Some of our Frostweed stems blew open and froze their ribbons of paper-thin ice, something you usually see in later Dec. or January. We got up to about 55dF on the cool shady front porch, probably near 60 on the sunny south side of the house.

First thing early there were a HUNDRED Robins in and around the yard. First big flock of the season. Hadn't had a full handful yet prior. I heard one Waxwing in with them. All the puddles along the roads were frozen, bird bath was too, had to use warm water on it twice before it quit refreezing. There were a dozen Vesper and a couple Lark Sparrow along the corral early. Canyon Towhee was around. The imm.ma. Rufous-Allen's Hummingbird was out there flycatching after not seeing it the last couple days. So it is still here. Heard the Red-breasted Nuthatch out there. Saw Meadowlarks over on the airstrip.

A few butterflies popped out when it got over 50dF: one male Fiery Skipper (not the female skipper of yesterday), one Red Admiral, one Gulf Fritillary, two Sleepy Orange, two Vesta Crescent, one Clouded Skipper, one American Lady, and late one Queen. The Pigeon looked fine today after being in the cottage a couple days and eating seemingly a couple pounds of seed in two days, so I put it out on the patio. It flew up to roof of cottage an hour, then sat in the Mulberry an hour, then it was gone. I recorded the band info so I can report it and maybe find out where it was from. It was the pigeon people's plastic bands, not a USFW aluminum type for wild birds of course. Dang thing has shown back up now at sundown. I tried to coax it into the cottage but gave up. It is roosting in the big pecan.

Meanwhile Kathy found a barely moving bat on the front porch. We brought it in and warmed it, took pix, took it back out just before dark and it flew off, not particularly strongly. It did not look to be in great shape. I do not know what it is eating these last couple or few nights. Probably starved? Never a dull moment here. On another subject, the deer and horses are sure hitting the fallen Mulberry leaves as annually. They both appear to relish the fresh fallen Mulberry leaves, must be something good in them they want.

Nov. 13 ~ The winds blew all night, still 15-20 gusting to 30, the low temp was 30.5dF here, wind chills around 20dF. Winter is here. An early first fall freeze. Might be some record lows around the area for the date. Winds finally laid down near the end of the day, and you know what that means. Tonight to tomorrow morn, it gets real cold, as in low-to-mid 20'sdF. There goes the last of my Blue Mist Eup flowers. A few Robin here again in the morning. Thought I heard the nuthatch from inside. There was a Sharp-shinned Hawk bothering the seedeaters. Amazing was at peak 45dF heat a skipper (butterfly) was out, a female Fiery or Whirlabout. Only butterfly I saw today, no surprise.

Nov. 12 ~ It was in the low 50's dF in the early morning. That was the high for the day. Mid-morn the northerlies started puffing and were howling by noon, continuing to do so all day, and they say much of the night. So temps dropping from about 9 a.m. on. Was often 15-20 mph gusting to 30. Tomorrow morning will be the first freeze of the season. Early. I did not see the hummer in the morning, maybe it was smart enough to go yesterday afternoon. The little passerine flock was around early before it got bad, and included the Red-breasted Nuthatch (which makes two weeks here now). Of the few I have seen here prior, none have stuck around more than a day or few at most, so this is a treat. Loosely associated with the Bluebirds, Chippies, Myrtle Warbler were 3 Robin and 3 Lesser Goldfinch.

Right after the front started blowing out of nowhere was something I have only seen a couple times from the yard, a Pigeon! As in Rock Dove, Feral Pigeon. Nearly at my feet. A nice fairly natural colored (checkered) type. I caught it, it didn't look real well, put it in the cottage, so it could crap all over in there, it ate a bunch of seed, and is banded! Haven't gotten the number off it yet but clearly it is a pet bird. So, a lost banded pet pigeon makes landfall during intense storm front at a birder's place with large bags of seed and shelter. If you made it up they would say it is too corny. Bet it's glad to be indoors tonight.

Nov. 11 ~ About 45dF for a low, misting a bit early. Chilly. Got up to a smokin' 55 or so for a high, but still drizzly. The R-A Hummingbird was out there early. I heard the Red-breasted Nuthatch right over the shed out back, close, and swear there was a second distant bird calling at the same time. We have to get stuff done here before the big hard freeze next week. The lows Tues. through Thurs. are progged to be below freezing, with mid-20's on Wed. morning peak cold. Likely near records for the date. Every day for the last five, the NOAA forecast is a degree colder for next Tues.-Wed.-Thurs. mornings.

Not a lot of bird activity around the yard though. Racoons and squirrels decimated what pecan crop there was here, and the hackberry crop is weak. Seed crops seem good though, and that is a lot of what most attract to yard feeders. There are four each Carolina Chickadee and Black-crested Titmouse hitting the sunflower tube pretty hard all day. Not even a dozen Cardinal, the Canyon Towhee, maybe 8 Chipping and a few Lark Sparrow, the pair of Common Ground-Dove, a few Mourning and less than 10 White-winged Dove. A female Ladder-backed Woodpecker was on the pole next to the sunflower feeder watching stuff use it, but did not go to it. A few Eastern Bluebird, a Myrtle Warbler, a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet, heard a Flicker.

Nov. 10 ~ Cloudy in a.m., sunny a few hours late afternoon, temp range of 45-53dF, if you can call that a range. Not much of one. Humid, and chilly. Not much bird action around yard, probably a Cooper's Hawk hiding nearby the stuff has seen. Saw the imm. ma. R-A (Rufous-Allens) Hummingbird at all three feeders over the day, so it is still here. I heard the Red-breasted Nuthatch but didn't run out to see it. When the sun came out and it 'warmed' up I saw 4 butterflies: 2 So. Dogface, a Gulf Fritillary, and a Common Checkered-Skipper. Worked on stuff inside, nearish heat. Hard freeze next week.



Spinyback Spider
This is a Spinyback Spider (Gasteracantha cancriformis) female.
It is about a half inch across, males are little tiny things.


Spinyback Spider
This view gives a better idea of the amazing bright yellow coloration.
There is another color form with a white sheild with red spiny points.
That is a hard protective exoskeleton on these neat beasts.

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Nov. 9 ~ A few spits of rain overnight as the front arrived but just a trace. Was about 48dF for a low, but with 15-20 mph northerlies on it, gusting higher, it felt more like upper 30's. Birds seem pretty hunkered down. Next week we are supposed to freeze or so a couple mornings. At the park in town there was one Great Egret, and at the island a pair of Green Kingfisher interacting, probably the local breeder pair. A couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Myrtle Warbler, heard a Blue Jay, Cardinal, Chickadee, and Titmouse was about it. Didn't bother looking for butterflies, too cold for them. On the way back on 360 there was a flock of a dozen Eastern Bluebird, and an imm. ma. Vermilion Flycatcher. Did not see the Ruf-All Hummer here today.

Nov. 8 ~ About 60dF and soupy again, a little drizzle here and there. Saw the Rufous-Allen's Hummingbird early after not seeing it all afternoon or at last light yesterday. Noonish a little flock was around the yard and in the corral. Was a few Eastern Bluebid, a couple Myrtle Warbler, a handful each of Chipping and Lark Sparrow, a Hutton's Vireo, the Red-breasted Nuthatch, and a Nashville Warbler. I would guess the Nashville is the same laggard I saw two days ago in the corral. Canyon Towhee was out there as well. There was a Desert Checkered-Skipper out in yard too, but only a very few butterflies on the fading Blue Mist due to cool moist air.

Nov. 7 ~ It was cooler at midnight than at 7 a.m. when 70dF, and foggy. Sunny afternoon, 75dF on cool shady front porch, 80 in the sun and at some local stations. A front is to arrive tonight. Heard the R-b Nuthatch again in the early a.m. Great was an imm. Rufous-Allen's Hummingbird in the morning, which I did not see yesterday. So still the odd stray hummer out there migrating that needs a refuel station. Looked like probably an imm. male. A real surprise was a single pipit that flew over, called a couple times, heading for the grassy airstrip it seemed, which was a SPRAGUE'S Pipit. Now is prime-time for them, and any single lone pipit right now is more likely not a Water Pipit. But hearing it call removes any doubt. A Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver high over the cypresses 'chakking', at last sun.

Had a weird pale Duskywing (butterfly) on the Blue Mist for a couple hours. Got a few Mavica pix, hopefull will be enough to ID it. I know the usual regular ones here fairly well after 15 short years, and did not recognize this beast. I guess it could be a very pale worn Mournful, but the trailing edge of ventral hindwing was not typical of that species (no sub-marginal white dots).

Nov. 6 ~ A low of 52 and sunny. Just right. To the east where more humid was a fog advisory, it didn't make it here. Got up to 80dF in the heat of the afternoon. Saw a Julia's skipper on the Blue Mist Eup, and a dozen Queen. Heard the Red-breasted Nuthatch go through the yard again, wish it would spot the chickadees and titmice at the sunflower seed feeder. The rest was the expected. Late afternoon I took an hour walk through the Huisache Daisy patches in the corral for butterflies. Not as warm tomorrow and rain chances, so strike while the iron is hot. The bummer of the day was while trying to shoot some butterflies, the camera lens malfunctioned and the SX40 seems bricked until I can get it to a Canon repair shop. Major bummer. Lens won't go in and out, apparently came out of the track. Scat. No it was not banged. It had happened a couple times and moving it in and out it got back on track.

Heard the nuthatch over by the river, saw a few Vesper Sparrow, and best was a very late Nashville Warbler, maybe my first November Nashville, and two American Goldfinch. A couple new butterflies were a Checkered White, and a few Whirlabout. Otherwise it is amazing how much things change in a couple days since I was last there. Here is a list. At least 30 Pipevine and 2 Black Swallowtail, single Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphur, 60+ Sleepy Orange, 60+ Dogface, a few Little Yellow, one Lyside, the Checkered White (missed it in Oct.), 20 Gray Hairstreak (no Mallow Scrub-), 1 Dusky-blue Groundstreak, no blues, one Fatal Metalmark, 20 Theona Checkerspot, 50 Bordered Patch, at least 500 Vesta, 15 Phaon, and one Texan Crescent, 4 Red Admiral, 1 American Lady, 35 Monarch, 20 Queen, 1 No. Mestra. For Skippers it was 15 Sachem, 12 Fiery, 3 Julia's, 1 Dun, 3 Whirlabout, 4 Eufala, and 10-20 un-ID'd were mostly Sachem or Fiery types. Single bushes had dozens of butterflies on them, it is an outstanding show.

Also a few metallic green native halichtid bees, and some of the black-n-white bees, and some bicolored red-n-black Sphecids. A couple of the 1.5" black with pale yellow bands on rear sides of adbomen scoliid wasps. A pair of mating Soldier Beetles (Cantharidae), that gold Meloid (blister beetle) that is common in fall on sunflower types. Tons of flies (Diptera) of various sorts I try to ignore.

Nov. 5 ~ Only 58dF for a low, overcast and humid, the southerly Gulf flow is back. The Red-breasted Nuthatch came through the yard again in the morning. Same route as before, Mulberry to kitchen Pecan to porch big Pecan, toward river via a Mesquite across the road. Same bird, now since Oct. 30, makes a week. I have heard more 'nyets' in the last week than in the prior several years. What a great little bird they are. I heard it again about 11 a.m., and again about 1 p.m. it was in earshot. Otherwise it was just the regular suspects over the day. It only takes one good bird to make your day. If it is good enough it can make a week or month.

Some butterflies on the Blue Mist, Salvia, and flying by. A couple Monarch, 8 or so Queen, a dozen each Dogface, Sleepy Orange, and Vesta Crescent, some Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphur, another crab spider (#5), Pipevine Swallowtails, a Mestra, nothing unusual, but some stuff to watch. The Texas Powdered-Skipper showed again, a Fiery Skipper stopped briefly, as did a Common Checkered-Skipper. The flowers are past peak but at least some are still going bringing things to the porch.

Nov. 4 ~ A dry front passed, we had northerlies for most of the morning, then easterlies, it finally laid down late afternoon. Heard a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Hutton's Vireo, a couple Myrtle Warbler, saw the Ground-Doves and Canyon Towhee. No hummers again, the last two left Friday Nov. 2 after the morning sometime. We worked on stuff here until peak heat and took a walk through the Huisache Daisy (an acre's worth total) patch mostly at the far end of the corral for butterflies. Saw a pair of female Ladder-backed Woodpecker goofing around real close. Also 5 Vesper and a Lincoln's Sparrow, an ad.ma. Vermilion Flycatcher, 50 Black Vulture, no Turkey Vulture they are gone for the most part. Two Red-tails were the local breeder ad. Fuertes, and probably their young they fledged, but which is not welcome in these parts any longer. I heard one loud 'nyet' that surely was the Red-breasted Nuthatch, but it never called again so I let it go.

Butterflies were pretty good for limited diversity. At least there are numbers of a few things. Interesting how some are amazingly fresh, mint condition, and others amazingly worn, within any of the species we saw. Vesta Crescent is the most abundant with 300++ of them still, saw 1 Pearl Crescent and maybe 15 Phaon Crescent. Very nice was a Texan Crescent, which I did not see in October! Fifteen Pipevine and a pair (male and female together) of Black Swallowtail. A few Large Orange Sulphur (saw Cloudless at the porch Salvias today). One Lyside, 10 Dainty and 1 Orange Sulphur, 8 Little Yellow, and at least 75 So. Dogface. Great was a GREAT PURPLE HAIRSTREAK, first one I have seen this year I think, was a female (ph.). Probably 20 Gray Hairstreak, a Dusky-blue Groundstreak, no metalmarks or blues. A couple American Lady and a couple Red Admiral, 3-4 Buckeye, a No. Mestra, 40 each Gulf, and Variegated Fritillary, 2 Theona, (both ph. - one all orange type), 20 Bordered Patch is a big increase in them, 7 Monarch (another 5 in yard and went by over day), and 30 Queen. In skippers there were 10 Common Checkered-skipper, 1 Clouded, 2 Eufala, 10 Sachem, and 16 Fiery Skippers, and one Orange Skipperling. One White-tipped Black moth was my first of the fall (ph.), not a sure thing annually, and a pretty bug.

Off to a roaring start for November butterflies since I got to look at flowers little each of the last three days. You have to get all you can quick and early as when the first hard freeze hits, it is all but over until next spring. The Texas Powdered-Skipper was on the Blue Mist Eup at porch today again. A whopping 40 species for the month now, on the 4th. Amazing. But which means I won't be adding many more. There were a dozen Queen at once on our Blue Mist when we got back from our walk. No Firefly tonight.

Nov. 3 ~ We had 40dF for a low here, so chilly. Got real breezy out of the south early though, 15+mph. Warmed to about 74 or so. I went to town earlyish for the annual town craft fair (I think always first Sat. of Nov.) but at 9:30 a.m. the jelly lady was already out of Agarita. This is second year in a row of very poor crops for them and supplies are short. Especially for people at my part of the totem pole, the part below the ground. Got a couple others... and I gotta say I had no idea there was jalapeno everything jelly. Made off with a breakfast Taco from Rosie and went birding. Went to stop for more for lunch on the way home but the line was too long. Saw a Painted Lady in town on Judy Schaefers white (Boneset?) Eupatorium, among many butterflies.

At the park there was a Green Kingfisher and a Blue Jay. It was still coolish but on the flowers out front at entrance another Theona, 12 Phaon, 20 Vesta Crescent, and one Fatal Metalmark. A couple Dainty Sulphur, a Little Yellow, one Yellow-margined Flower-Buprestid. Too windy at the garden at north end of town. Went out W. Sabinal Rd. for a bit, to sneak a peek in Bandera County. At the wet spot by Haby's my FOS Merlin landed and was walking over to the water, no doubt to bathe. Just as I got my camera up and out a Kestrel stooped on it and flushed it away. Near Roy Heideman's place on the Fisher Rd. section there was my FOS Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in the trees along the road with a group of Chickadee, Titmouse, Myrtle Warbler, Cardinal, and I thought sure I heard a White-crowned Sparrow or two. Also heard one loud 'nyet' contact call of a Red-breasted Nuthatch but never could find it. At the Fisher gate there were a couple (FOS) Northern Harrier hunting in the pasture there.

Drove a couple miles up W. (Lower) Sabinal Rd. to the crossing where there was a Texas River Cooter. Just a few of the regular expected things: E. Bluebird, N. Cardinal, Car. Chickadee, B-c Titmouse, Bewick's and Carolina Wren, numbers of Mockingbird. Heard a Western Meadowlark sing from a pasture. On Jones Cmty. Rd. just south of W.Sab.Rd. there was a small group of Meadowlark at least one of which looked Eastern. On 360 just west of 187 by the corrals there was an ad. ma. Vermilion Flycatcher, the first of that age-sex class I have seen in a couple weeks. Neither of us saw a hummer here at the house all day. None at closing time yesterday either. They are gone. First day without a hummer here since March 2. We will keep at least one feeder up through the winter in hopes of Audubon's Oriole or a stray vagrant hummer.

northernharrier
Nothern Harrier, formerly called Marsh Hawk, often drifts slow and low over pastures and fields
dropping quickly on anything tasty. They have a white rump or uppertail covert area above.


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Nov. 2 ~ Probably the coldest morning since early April if not March. We had 39dF here, I saw KRVL had a 37 and the Seco Creek WU station a 38! Chilly, but sunny and warming up to 70dF or so. Saw two hummers in the morning, might be the only ones left. Around 9:30 a.m. I was outside and heard a distant Red-breasted Nuthatch calling repeatedly. The Russians are coming! Nyet, nyet, nyet, nyet, nyet. So either the one from two days ago is still around, or another one is. Then 10 minutes later I heard an Audubon's Oriole. Is this utopia or what!?! A great combo, sub-tropics, meet coniferous. Generally where one of them is, the other is not. Its like getting Scorpio and Orion together. About 10:30 the Nuthatch went through the yard, again hit the Mulberry, the kitchen (N.) Pecan and the big Pecan off front porch, got a docushot. Same route the one two days ago took, probably the same bird. When it flew across road over the gate it then landed in a Mesquite. They sure look funny in a Mesquite.

Town run, park had a Ringed and a Green Kingfisher and that was it. Couple Myrtle Warblers around town. At the garden at the curve at north end of town was a Theona Checkerspot and a Metalmark that looked Rounded, I'll have to study pix to ID. A few Monarchs were seen floating around, and we had two on the Blue Mist here for a while. Also here at the porch were single Dun, Clouded, and Julia's Skippers Not seeing any hummers this afternoon or at the evening last chance time, those last two might have split today. Almost forgot, near the golf course entrance a Canyon Towhee flew across 187 in front of me on the way home. The individual here in our yard was present as well.

There WERE two new crab spiders that showed up on the blue mist and took a couple butterflies, a Sleepy Orange and a Vesta Crescent. They eat on them for a while, drop 'em, and go back to set-trap position. When there is a week or two of food in the one they just killed and dropped, ate for an hour and now its not fresh enough? If I wasted food like that it would cost ten thousand dollars a month to feed me. I don't know what they thought I was running here but this is a butterfly refueling station, not a spider smorgasbord. With apologies to my spider expert friend.

redbreastednuthatch
Docushot of the Red-breasted Nutchatch in yard Nov. 2.
So pale below not a male, I would guess female, maybe an immature.


November 1 ~ Clear and cool after the frontal passage yesterday evening. Low was about 44dF with 10+mph northerlies on it, chilly. I had a quick town run before noon, went out the back way to UvCo 359 and 1050. Just south of that intersection on 359 a female Eastern Towhee flew across the road right in front of me. First one I have seen in a couple years at least. They are pretty scarce here, Spotted outnumber them about 100 to 1. You can easily go a few years without seeing one locally. Whereas Spotted are common in winter. So a great bird. A Ringed Kingfisher was at the park. Nothing but the regular residents in the woods. Saw a few Monarchs but did not have time to look at the flowers and it was still pretty chilly. Nothing through the yard either. Did see one Monarch, a couple Queen, few Dogface and Vesta Crescent, no skippers. There were about 4-5 Ruby-throated Hummingbird still here in the a.m., but I only saw one late in day, so they probably mostly departed today on the northerlies.

~ ~ ~ October summary ~ ~ ~

Another wet month, we had 8 inches of rain at our place, others around more and less an inch and two, pending how lucky you got with the biggest cells. More than double average Oct. rainfall. After a two foot September. The river is running high and mighty. A Coral Snake and a 6' Indigo Snake were a couple highlights of the month for me.

Butterflies picked up with 52 species and so the best month of the year for diversity. It was almost all invaders from southward, and so far this years' fall invasion has been rather limited in species diversity compared to really good years. Nothing fancy rare, but when everything is scarce, anything is good to see. Saw an Imperial Moth caterpillar at the park (thanks Lou). The bazillion kagillion Snout flight of the last week of September thankfully faded away in October, but numbers were still good early in the month.

After the Snout flight, the most common butterfly was Vesta Crescent. I saw over 400 in less than an acre of Huisache Daisy at once late in the month. No big Monarch flight this year but over 125 in the same Huisache Daisy patch late in month for a couple days was nice. A couple Western Pygmy-Blue were nice, but most obvious was all the stuff not present. Just a few Bordered Patch, almost no blues, no metalmarks, very few hairstreaks, only a few Phaon Crescent and barely any skippers, big or small. Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphur made a fair showing this fall. Mestra were here but in low numbers. A couple Ailanthus webworm moths, one Texas Wasp Moth.

Odes were pitiful. All the bad weather made it rough for them. I saw only about 16 species the whole month. They are all but crashed for the year. A few Autumn Meadowhawk showed up late in month as expected. Best maybe was a Twelve-spotted Skimmer in Bandera Co. (ph.) where rare. I saw what looked a male Ivory-striped Sylph on Oct. 30 floating around yard but it disappeared when I got back out with camera.

twelvespottedskimmer
Here is a docushot of the Twelve-spotted Skimmer in Bandera Co.,
taken from 75 yards, at least, maybe 85 yards. It is surely my
longest distance dragon docushot. Pardon the pixels. Oct. 5, 2018

Birds were fair, nothing real rare though. It was about 82 species for me locally this month, tying a weak August. The 106 species in between, in September, shows what a movement month that is here locally. Too much rain and work to make it to Lost Maples this month so missed a few sps. there. Bird of the month was a Red-breasted Nuthatch in our yard Oct. 30. The second Ibis of the fall at the W. Sabinal Rd. wetspot was good Oct. 19, 4 Greater and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs there were even better. Two Coots together at the S. Little Crk. ponds was interesting. In general some wintering type things seem a bit slow to arrive, but an American Goldfinch was record early Oct. 25. A pair of Downy Woodpecker at the park was the first time I have seen a pair here. A juv. Broad-winged Hawk is rare to see in here in October, especially on a roadside fencepost. Am. Robin and Cedar Waxwing both showed up early, Oct. 29. A late Mourning Warbler on Oct. 19 was very nice.

~ ~ ~ end October summary ~ ~ ~



Below are some of the recent weekly photo break pix used.
The 2017 or 2018 photos pages have complete sets.


Yellow Warbler
Here is a fall male Yellow Warbler. The streaks on the
underparts are flaming scarlet red spring to summer.





Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting male, waiting in line for the feeder.
We had SEVEN males at once on the seed one day this week.



a bonus pic this week
Painted Bunting
I have replaced the shot I had here with one not taken through screen.
Wanted to show how averse these beasts are to feeders. A copy of this
should be put into every California Bird Record Committee Painted Bunting
record in which a reviewer said "its a male at a feeder" in a disparaging
manner as if it is not a normal natural thing. Same goes for the lack of
pure red underparts as on bird on the left, due to molt, not diet or
captivity. Anyone that suggests these as reasons for one not being
wild is bearing false witness to your bird record. It is not OK to give
bad reasons that good bird records are not valid. It is making up false
stuff up about the bird record. Best I could tell (and I was there)
Jon Dunn was the one that started the mythical preposterous unfounded
notion that there is something amiss about a male Painted Bunting at
a feeder, and that those that are not perfectly uniform red below are
discolored. Both are pure rubbish! They are feeder flies!



Neon Skimmer
Neon Skimmer male



dowitcher and phalaropes
Long-billed Dowitcher and 3 Wilson's Phalarope in Bandera Co., May 4, 2018.
Likely the first proof of either species in that county, at the South Little Creek ponds.
Sorry about the fuzzy, pic taken at max magnification and about a hundred yards.



Broad-winged Hawk
Adult Broad-winged Hawk at Lost Maples in April. This
looks like one of the pair that nested the last few years.



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.



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



Golden-cheeked Warbler
Singing "she says I'm so laa-zzeee"



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.



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.



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?



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.



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

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


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

Bird News Archive XXX
July 1 - December 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bird News Archive I
Winter 2003-04 Summary Notes
and Mar. 31 - May 30, 2004
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© M. and K. Heindel 2004-2018
www.utopianature.com