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: March 24, 2017
(prior updates: March 17, 10, 3, Feb. 24, 17, 10, 3, Jan. 27, 20, 13, 6)

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

HAPPY SPRING EQUINOX!! Winter seems all but gone and spring is here. At least the early parts, the rest is on the way! It could be 85 or 50dF any given day here now. Be prepared. Average daily temp spread is running about 55 to 80dF. Just know if a cold front comes it can still freeze. We have had some record 90dF temps in the last month too!

It is exploding in green out there, trees are leafing out, the forb layer is in growth overdrive, and the grass apparently has missed being mowed. The butterflies are getting active, Falcate Orangetip and Henry's Elfin were seen recently. Some of the trees breaking out in flowers and or leaves, are Hackberry, Black Willow, Mulberry, Cypress, Mesquites, Buckley Oak. In fact some Mulberries have berries already! The live-oaks are yellow and dropping leaves, or already in bloom. Our big pecan even has some (early) new leaf growth.

Now is that exciting time of year when every day can have
a FOS - first of season - report. I love watching spring unfold.
Here are my recent FOS (first of season) arrival or passage dates:

March 24 - Bell's Vireo
March 24 - Summer Tanager
March 21 - Monarch (butterfly)
March 16 - Yellow-throated Vireo
March 15 - Cave Swallow
March 11 - Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
March 3 - Northern Rough-winged Swallow and Wood Duck
March 2 - Yellow-throated Warbler
March 1 - Ash-throated Flycatcher
Feb. 28 - Black-chinned Hummingbird
Feb. 26 - Common Yellowthroat, Purple Martin and Blue-headed Vireo
Feb. 25 - Sandhill Crane
Feb. 24 - Barn Swallow and Vermilion Flycatcher
Feb. 12 - White-eyed Vireo
Jan. 31 - Turkey Vulture (3)
Jan. 14 - White-fronted Goose

Some recent winter highlights were...
Jan. 20 - Neotropic Cormorant at Utopia Park
Jan. 21 - White-tailed Hawk 9 mi. S. of Sabinal on 187
Jan. 21 - Least Grebe (2) 15 mi. S. of Sabinal on 187 at Frio R. crossing
Oct. to Feb. 21 - an ad. fem Rusty Blackbird for its 4th winter.
The park Louisiana Waterthrush was present Sept. to Dec. 30
Nov. to Feb. 4 a returning male Pine Warbler visited yard.
Oct. 4, Dec. 22, and Jan. 13 a, the, returning Roadside Hawk was seen.

Near enough to keep in mind: 3 Rufous-backed Robin were reported on all sides of us over the last few months.

Of expected but scarcer or local things around, there are the usual: Zone-tailed Hawk, Canyon Towhee and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, a few Long-billed Thrashers, 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.

A few chiggers are still out, even after the freezes, bug spray on pantlegs usually keeps them off. If it is only gonna be one or two, why bother? Benadryl anti-itch cream is a must-have item here though...

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 usally a broken line of tildes (~) to denote prior update breaks. Sometimes this header is archived within body of news as well since it changes... seperated by tildes as well, as are monthly summaries.

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

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

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

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

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

During migration periods or when things are "jumpin," I might post updates weekly, or less, with my local (often yard) notes from nearly every day....since there has never been a birder here daily it might be interesting when we get a bit of data??? Normally every week or sometimes two weeks I'll update with some daily or near-daily notes of what is going on with birds, or butterflies, dragonflies, fish, flowers, reptiles, triops, and so on. Often just yard notes, but unless you got to be stationed at the park all day, one site of observation locally is about as good as another.

If you're in the area and see something, please don't hesitate to let us know. For instance, we would be happy to post Lost Maples SNA bird news, if it were reported to us. Perhaps other visitors might better know where to look for something of interest. E-mail link in next (pale yellow) box, and at bottom of most pages. Local (eight-three-zero) landline WON~2349.

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

Be sure to check out the Bird List page, which is updated (Feb. 2015) with seasonal status and abundance for each species. It lists all 340 plus species (!) known from the upper Sabinal drainage.

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

The NEWEST 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. mitch @ utopianature.com

Or check out the Bird Guide page.

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

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

Commonly used ABBREVIATIONS are:

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


First a 2011 highlight ...

Rufous-backed Robin

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




Broad-winged Hawk   Broad-winged Hawk

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



Some things from 2012 ...

albino House Finch

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



Cerambycid

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



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

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



Something from 2013 ...
Texas Coral Snake

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



Ringed Kingfisher

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





Two-tailed Swallowtail

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



Texas Blind Snake

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


Zebra Heliconian

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



Louisiana Waterthrush

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



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. Oct. 2016 likely this same bird has been seen again, probably it plans on wintering again, for the fourth year.



Cedar Waxwing

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



Back to Top


Rant warning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIRD & NATURE NEWS 2017


Notes without location cited are in or from yard which is a couple miles south of town at edge of the river habitat corridor. If it doesn't say where it was, it was in or from the yard. Often a few daily yard notes is all the drivel you get. Ready, steady, go!

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

July 2016 through November so far are Bird News #26.
January 2016 through June are Bird News #25.
The Archive links are below the current bird news.

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



Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat, a bird that perhaps has defied taxonomic understanding
as well as any breeding North American species. Classified with warblers
for some time, but it is not one. I wondered why it was in with them when
I was 5 years old. A fairly common breeder locally, heard more easily than seen,
and often sings (or makes loud chattering noises and whistles) at night,
for which more often than not the Mockingbird takes the heat.



Just to have this handy again for reference, recent prior updates:
March 17, 10, 3, February 24, 17, 10, 3, January 27, 20, 13, 6

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

**!! HEY!!! SPECIAL NOTE: There is again a NEW page, this of photos from 2016! 2016 pix
A dozen more new pix were added Sept. 22.

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

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

March 24 ~ A front came through in the a.m., lots of clouds, a good tenth or so of an inch of rain, maybe .15 total. Keeps the dust down. Town run so checked the park. Best was a male Summer Tanager, my earliest ever, by over a week! First week of April is normal arrival. Then up at north end of town in the mesquites, there were two singing Bell's Vireo, also earliest ever by over a week. Pretty amazing. Three Giant Swallowtail (lep) were my first of the year, and a couple female Cloudless Sulphur went by. Saw a male Green Darner dragonfly too. Speaking of which lots of Dot-winged Baskettail were out and a bunch of Bluet (Enallagma) damselfly were over park pond. A couple Myrtle Warbler at park are in heavy pre-alternate molt. Perhaps winterers getting ready to go?

About 45 Cedar Waxwing were in the now fruiting Mulberry on Cypress St. out in front of the park. A second female Monarch was in yard in the afternoon. Still no Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, at least I didn't see any along roads, and asked a couple folks that also said, nope, haven't seen one yet. Any day now. Nice to hear Purple Martins over town again though. More Cave Swallows are back around the bank. Bob said the P.O. loading dock pair of Barn Swallow returned last Saturday the 18th. Oh yeah, there were single Green, and Belted, Kingfisher at the park. I thought sure I heard a Parula Warbler sing a couple times but could not locate it. Here it is only marginally, and debatably, barely more likely Northern than Tropical.

Occasionally we get these car clubs touring that plan to be here for lunch. Today a Porsche club was at the cafe, must have been 25 models parked out front, looked like a museum collection of them, every model. One vintage cabriolet was very nice. Since I figured the rare Porsche record committee would reject my sighting without documentation, I took photos to prove it.  ;)

March 23 ~ Too busy Thursdays... blew like heck all day out of the south at 15-25 mph with gusts to 35 mph so just as well. Had an Ash-throated Flycatcher around yard that acted like it might be one of the breeders that has used the boxes. The Ring King was over at river. In butterflies a Gray Hairstreak was my first for the year for sure, and a male Large Orange Sulphur was my first this spring. Saw Dakota, and Texas Verbena flowers open in yard today, hundreds of Crow-Poison and Anemone, as well as Yellow Wood-Sorrel. One purple Anemone was nice.

March 22 ~ All morning overcast, fog-mist as they call it here, a bit drizzly. Got to 84dF in the afternoon though. One female Cloudless Sulphur was about for a bit, and one Orange Sulphur too. Saw the Ringtail after dark. The male Golden-fronted Woodpecker barely missed being taken by an imm. Cooper's Hawk by inches, I thought it was a goner. Somehow he climbed, twisted, and dodged the strike in flight. Lots of Bordered Patch (butterfly) around, and lots of stuff flying by, lots o'Lysides, Red Admirals, Gulf Fritillary, some Buckeye and American Lady, Pipevine Swallowtails.

March 21 ~ The big news today was the first Monarch of the spring. A big female in good condition but obviously worn as these that have flown to Mexico and back are. And so the cycle starts again. Chipping Sparrow flock is down to about 50-60, definitely fewer, departures have begun for this wintering group. About four Lark Sparrow are regularly around again now, presumedly our local breeders.

March 20 ~ Happy Spring! It's here! It was overcast all morning, sun came out late afternoon for a bit. Saw an Arizona Sister (butterfly) go by, and a Texan Crescent, several Bodered Patch. A couple Ringed Kingfisher over at river, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Warbler, both singing again all day within earshot, which is great to hear... something besides a White-eyed Vireo. The male Vermilion Flycatcher occasionally punctuates it all with flight song display over the corral adjacent.

March 19 ~ Overcast all morning, but got up to about 80-85dF locally in the afternoon. We were in the live-oak and juniper grassland behind us putting a few nest boxes up and had a Rufous-crowned Sparrow, but no Black-capped Vireo yet at last year's territory. There is an acacia blooming that is real sweet. It had two CRIMSON PATCH butterflies on it, nice fresh mint beauties. Probably my earliest date ever for them. Must be a food plant in that area I do not know. It is the same place we had them last spring and summer. Butterflies were out in numbers in the warmth. We saw a couple dozen Bordered Patch, four Arizona Sister, an amazing four Elada Checkerspot, and Kathy spotted the FOY Queen flying by. Plus lots of the common usual stuff out already.

Heard Turkey gobble in the morning here from yard, later we saw a couple up in live-oaks of which one Tom was strutting. I give him a 10 on posture. Had a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and an Orange-crowned Warbler up in the now blooming live-oaks. There were a couple Pucoon flowers open, and some Blackfoot Daisy were open. The Buckley oaks are well underway leafing out, Golden-cheeked Warbler should be getting thick quick. Heard a Barn Owl after dark. Just before midnight I heard my FOY Barking Frog give some chirps.

March 18 ~ Only about 60dF for a low, and overcast until latest afternoon, a bit of mist off and on. Great to hear the Yellow-throated Vireo singing outside in the morning, and the Yellow-throated Warbler over in the Cypress at river. Turkey gobbling. Ring King shuts up everytime I pick up the mic and recorder. Sometimes it even shuts up when I get up to make a move for recorder.

Had a dump and recycling run so ran by park. Counted at least 25 vehicles and at least 100 people. No birds save a Green Kingfisher at top of the island. Did have a sprig from one of the Texas Onions, best scallion I ever had.

A FOS at the north end of town in the usual spot north of the gas station was what is likely the, our, same (annual here) male Great-tailed Grackle. I can't believe we a) have just one pair here and b) they keep returning year after year. They have nested successfully and fledged young at least a few times.

Spotted another Red-tailed Hawk nest today that I hadn't noticed before. We also have the usual pair nesting in a big cypress we can see from our front porch. These Fuertes Red-tails are beauties, so clean and creamy below.

In butterflies I saw a Sachem in yard, and the (I presume, the) winter form Questionmark around patio again. It won't last much longer. After dark I saw the Spotted Skunk again under the carport. It seems to be able to dig in this hard substrate more easily than I with hand implements. The holes in the ground are about 4-5" across maybe.

I keep forgetting to mention the wintering Mockingbirds are gone. Been about a couple weeks since they departed. There has been a dearth of Mockers in the last couple weeks, during the window after the winterers depart and before the breeders arrive. I saw one new arrival singing today, so there will likely be lots again very shortly. But for instance our wintering yard individuals have been gone a couple weeks, we have been weirdly Mocker free. There have been a few scattered around locally, but for the most part, there is underway an often overlooked changeover in their population taking place from late February to late March.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren, which does not have spotted wings.
They have a spotted lower back, which you will hardly
ever see. This cold one has its wings tucked up tight,
and under its back feathers which are draped over the
wing, making it superficially appear as though the
wing is spotted. It pays to know all the parts.
The Sibley Guide is the one book in which I have
seen this character this well-illustrated.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 17 ~ Happy St. Patrick's Day! Lots of overcast, humid, breezy lately. Springy. Not too hot, not too cold. Did get up to 80-84dF locally today in later afternoon. Ringed Kings still squawking over at the river daily. Ran to town noonish, did a quick park check but found not much. It is spring break and a few people are around in the area, noise and all. There was an Ash-throated Flycatcher, a Hutton's Vireo, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Blue Jay, and the usual Cardinal, two Carolinas, chickadee and wren, some Black-crested Titmouse, Yellow-throated Warbler, and a couple Kinglet (Ruby). The highlight was a Downy Woodpecker, actually a scarce irregular bird here.

There are some big Texas Onion blooming up in the woods. Saw a FOY Eufala Skipper on it, and a Dun Skipper. Also saw a big yellow swallowtail that was either Eastern Tiger or Two-tailed. After seeing my FOY Lyside Sulphur yesterday I saw 50 today. Saw a female Falcate Orangetip again in yard. Must be a couple hundred Anemone flowers open in the yard and at least 300 Crow-Poison. The wildflower meadow thing is starting to get going.

At 7 p.m. I was out in driveway and a very dark Merlin shot by at eye-level, maybe 15' away, ploughing hard and deep making about 40-50 mph at least, flying low across the whole yard, it had to climb up to get over the corral fence. It was obviously not the usual normal pale richardsoni Prairie Merlin that is the standard Merlin here. I presume it was an eastern type, which can be very dark, and of which I have only seen a few here.

March 16 ~ Coolish and overcast with off and on stiff southerlies, sun came out last hour or two of day. Best was first thing in the morning finding a FOS Yellow-throated Vireo in the blooming (male) Mulberry. Ties my earliest ever (14th spring here) arrival date. Heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher out there early too, and thought I heard a seet that sounded like a Nashville Warbler but never saw it. The rest was the same. The Ring Kings were going off again this morning over at river, but shut up when I went out with mic to record. Saw a female Falcate Orangetip (butterfly), and a FOY Lyside Sulphur flew across yard late in the day. Now 150 Crow-Poison flower stalks with open flowers on the north part of the yard. Heard a Barn Owl after dark.

March 15 ~ Had a quick run to town in the a.m. early. Nothing at the park for migrants, but great close looks at Yellow-throated Warbler and a Blue Jay. At the bank the first few Cave Swallows were back. Should be more soon. Here in the yard saw one Robin, maybe that one is still around, and 26 Waxwing. A couple Kinglet (Ruby) went through, a few are daily now, they are on the move. One Henry's Elfin butterfly fluttered around. About 60 Anemone (Wind-flower) open around yard today.

March 14 ~ One Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over first thing before sunup. A couple Kinglet (Ruby) went through, and a couple Myrtle Warbler. Good were a couple butterflies. Great was the FOY Arizona Sister, the FOY Dun Skipper was not quite as exciting. Love them sisters. A male Black Swallowtail, and a Buckeye were about as well. After dark I saw the Ringtail. At dusk I heard at least a couple Green-winged Teal call as they flew north pretty low. No way to guess how many there were, but at least two called. I think it is a new yard bird, will have to check.

OK, checked, yeppers, new, Green-wing Teal is yard #214 NIB. For you less than hardcore bird listers... NIB means no introduced birds (are counted in that total). They are an appendix essentially. And like an appendix introduced birds are something you don't need and will probably cause you trouble one day. ex. 1 & 2: see Starling and House Sparrow. An additional 3 of these troublesome introduced non-native species have been seen in yard.

March 13 ~ A flock of about 45 ducks were flying south early early morning, which looked like wigeon, but I could only bare-eye them against overcast skies. Kerrville had a low of 39dF briefly, we were low 40's dF, and it was quite nice. We will be wishing for that soon enough. A few butterflies were out in the warmth, saw a Whirlabout, Funereal Duskywing, and Phaon Crescent, besides the common already stuff. A nice fresh Olive Juniper Hairstreak was around too. About 50+ open Anemone flowers now.

March 12 ~ We took a walk to the crossing, there were at least 3 singing male Yellow-throated Warbler on territory. A male Myrtle warbler responded to the song by flying 150 FEET directly at it, and proceeding to have a scrap with the singing male Yellow-throated Warbler. The song of these 'edwardsplateauensis' Yellow-throated Warbler is actually suggestive of the Yellow-rumped Warbler basic oscillating song.

We saw the FOY American Rubyspot damselfly, and 3 FOY Bordered Patch. There was a Pipevine Swallowtail that pupated on some chickenwire we have to protect flowers in beds around front porch, oh, about last October. The photos I took are dated, I will check. But today we watched it after it emerged, as it pumped itself up. A Hutton's Vireo was singing over in the draw.

March 11 ~ It was misty to drizzly much of the a.m. The front hasn't passed and we are overcast with half a chance at rain, so not going birding, working here, and recovering from yesterdays run to Uvalde. There were a couple Ring Kings in flight display out front early, calling while diving from great height, doing twists and turns at high speed, quite the show, and wow are they manuverable aerialists. Must be nesting very nearby.

Didn't see much but the regulars, though there was one FOS, the bird of the day was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. It was actually in the yard at sunup. Considering they are diurnal migrants, it surely roosted within spittin' distance and was here yesterday at dark. March 11 is the earliest day I have for them here, and have achieved that now 3 times. It is peak early Blue-gray Gnatcatcher here. I also have 2 March 12 FOS dates for them. So this is right at the leading edge of their arrival window opening. See how interesting phenology is?

Per wikipedia, Phenology is "the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate, as well as habitat factors (such as elevation)." So then, dates of things like flowers opening, trees leafing out, birds arriving, nesting, or departing, flying periods for adult dragonflies or butterflies, can all add data points to the big picture. Which then can tell us things about what is going on. Like winter is shorter, or spring comes earlier, summer is longer, etc. This concludes our lesson for today...   ;)

Nysa Roadside-Skipper

This is a Nysa Roadside-Skipper from a couple years ago.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 10 ~ We did a Uvalde run for supplies, but had no time to goof off birding. On the way was the best bird of the day, on Old 90 (or lower Sabinal Rd., which runs from Sabinal to Uvalde, south of Hwy. 90), a young half-grown BOBCAT out in the road. We got a great close look before it darted into roadside veg. Any day you see a Bobcat is a good day.

Along the road there were several Loggerhead Shrike, lots of Mockingbird, but no Scissor-tailed Flycatcher yet. I had drive by looks at Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrasher, Cactus Wren, and we saw at least a half-dozen Harris's Hawk, maybe 7 total. Most of them though were a group of 4 at the first high spot about 5-6 miles N. of Sabinal on Hwy. 187. A pair and sometimes family group is often in that area. Mostly for migratory breeders, it still seemed like winter along the roads.

We went to the Fish Hatchery to stretch out and take a bird break. It was a bit muddy, which usually means Cook's Slough will be very muddy, so we passed on the slough. The main pond at NW corner of hatchery had a great assortment of waterfowl, obviously migrants are on the move. That one pond at once had 6 drake and a few female Cinnamon Teal, twice as many Blue-winged and three Green-winged Teal, 20 Am. Wigeon, 4 Gadwall, 3 Pintail, 14 Ring-necked Duck, 4 male Redhead, so that was fun. More ducks than I have seen all winter.

As if that weren't enough, there were shorebirds! That is right, migrant shorebirds! Only a couple, but like ducks, a thrill to see for a Utopian. There were about 4 Greater Yellowlegs, a Long-billed Dowitcher, and 2 Stilt Sandpiper. The couple Wilson's Snipe and Killdeer could be migrants, or left over winterers still. Also around in other ponds were another couple dozen Wigeon, and a Lesser Scaup. I heard a Common Yellowthroat and a Lincoln's Sparrow, but there were no migrants or other migratory breeders seen. Heard Verdin and Curve-billed Thrasher, both local breeders. Two good butterflies there were a male Falcate Orangetip at arms length, and my FOS Nysa Roadside-Skipper.

Latest afternoon after we got home there were 20+ Cedar Waxwing in the big pecan. There had been a rain shower here while we were gone, there was a third of an inch for us, but others locally had anywhere from a tenth, to a full inch, depending your luck.

March 9 ~ Too busy Thursday... was the same gang of usual suspects. Ring Kings over at river, not seeing the Robin for a week or so now, and the same for the few waxwings that were around. Hackberries are in full bloom and buzzing with bees. Getting daily a few Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet going through yard northbound. In butterflies I saw single Texan and Phaon Crescent in yard.

March 8 ~ Occasional mist, overcast, light northerlies in the a.m., southerlies in the p.m. Was the regular cast, Ring King, Purple Martin, White-eyed Vireo, 3 Myrtle Warbler went north together, as did a couple more Kinglets (Ruby). A couple Lark Sparrow around are probably returning breeders, and a few Black-chinned Hummers here, the male Vermilion is in flight display regularly again now... gotta love that. The Cardinals have gone territorial and dispersed, but the singing is great to hear.

March 7 ~ More mist most of morning, never did get sunny as forecast, the front slowed and we stayed cloudy until after dark. Supposed to have a brief drying out. What seemed 3 Ringed Kingfisher flew downriver in the morning. I didn't see any sneak back by to go twice. At least 3 Myrtle Warbler flew north early in a.m., saw a pair of Lesser Goldfinch on sunflower feeder. Best was my FOS female Black-chinned Hummingbird. Males typically beat females back by a week or so. True for many species besides hummingbirds, especially migratory songbirds. Saw about 5 Turkey Vulture today, including one that is now missing one right primary. Our local breeders start molt shortly after returning.

March 6 ~ In the mist at 7:15 a.m. I heard a FOS Greater Yellowlegs flying upriver, a great spring migrant to hear. Saw a real small female Checkered White butterfly which stopped to taste Crow-Poison, at least a dozen of which are open now, and as many Anemone too. In dragons, I saw a Gomphid which was surely a Pronghorn Clubtail, one of our spring-only fliers here.

March 5 ~ A little mist yet but mostly the rain is done and over. It was about 1.35" total, nice and mucky out there now. We walked around uphill into the live-oak and juniper grassland a bit. A few Hutton's Vireo, but no migrants. The Buckley Oaks have some flowers out, but no leaves yet.

March 4 ~ Turkey gobbling at dawn. Ringed Kingfisher flying upriver early too. It was a rain day... about an inch fell from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but so the day was a wash. Lots of indoor work done. Saw what was likely a Peregrine go over. Nice to have Vermilion Flycatcher singing out there again.

House Finch

Here is another example of how red a male House Finch
can be here. Ross Silcock of Nebraska took this photo
at Lost Maples in February. We have a similar bird here
in yard among a couple dozen. Note the extent of the red on
underparts, for which one gets no idea can occur from
the field guides. Thanks for letting us share the pic Ross!


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 3 ~ Low was about 35dF here, and KRVL had a 31dF for a short bit. A little cool air. The Hackberries are blooming, and some Mulberries are putting out flowers too. Tomorrow is supposed to be a wash, er, a rain day. Did the town run thing... Only thing I had at the park was a nice male Wood Duck, a spring migrant. It was in the swampy area up by the island, right where it belonged. What a beautiful bird! It may look the same as one in a city park pond, but it feels different to see it in a natural setting with fallen logs in a backwater with lillies...

On the way home on the wire right next to the yard was my FOS Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Little Creek Larry mentioned he saw one a few days ago, but no exact date. Saw about 5 male Vermilion Flycatcher along the roads to town and back, plus my FOS female, and imm. male.

March 2 ~ About 45dF this morning with the northerly flow felt great. I was shocked to see what is surely our yard-using local breeding male Yellow-throated Warbler this morning (FOS). It was in the Mulberry by the cottage exactly where I last saw him last September. He then flew down to the patio, then right at me, landing on the edge of the metal roof. He then leaned over going upside-down with front half of body to look under the roof edge, looking right at me from 3' away. Just like he did when I last saw him his last day here last September. He did the same exact thing, again.

So what was he thinking when he leaned over the roof edge upside-down to look at me? You're STILL here? Haven't you moved since September? I have been to southern Mexico and back! You are still standing ya old fart? I see you have less hair, are you molting? Don't you have something to do besides stand on the back porch?

This is the type of behavior that can only be seen by long-term observation at a single site of the same bird. Be there watching when a migratory breeder leaves, and be there to witness the return. And note it flew directly at you, landed in the closest place, and went upside-down to get a good look from 3' away, twice, at the same spot, 6 months apart. The day it left and the day it got back. Birds never cease to amaze me.

I am quite fascinated by these sorts of behaviors actually. And of course as long as one is running around chasing new birds these are not the types of things one sees. These types of observations require a different type of looking. Sure we can only guess at what the bird thinks, but we can see and record what it does.

Great Crested Flycatcher becomes amazingly vociferous the last few days before it leaves its territory in fall. You can tell the last 3 days, by sound from a half mile. They get nuts about singing again after quieting down for a couple weeks whilst getting rid of the last set of young (and probably some serious molting).

You can also see some of these things with winterers too. Kestrel can make a very impressive flight display calling and circling, diving, making an incredible scene, right when it departs its winter territory in the spring. Again, long term daily observation of individual birds and territories is the only way to detect these behaviors.

Heard Sandhill Cranes, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and saw a Merlin ploughing northward early. One big yeller bumble (bee). Some butterflies were a Funereal Duskywing, Orange Sulphur, a Checkered-Skipper and a record early FOY Whirlabout. Not sure I have ever seen one in March, maybe maybe late in the month.

March 1 ~ A dry front came in, early in the morning, blowing lightly out of north all day. The male Black-chinned Hummingbird was still around. A Sharp-shinned Hawk sat up top of the big pecan for a long time watching the feeders and feeding areas. Amazing was my earliest ever Ash-throated Flycatcher, a week early. Heard a Ringed King or two. Saw the winter form Questionmark again today. I keep forgetting to mention the live-oaks are really yellow now and dropping leaves fast and furious. Ringtail out there after dark.

~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~

Well it was a wet month with 4" of rain, above average. And it was surely a warm one, without a hard freeze the whole month! It was way above normal temps on average. Warmer and wetter. Could make for a good spring, but if we get a late freeze will wreak havoc with all the flowers or in some cases forming fruits or seeds.

Galveston set 31 high temp records in the Nov. to Feb. period that used to be winter. Winter sea surface temps in the Gulf were also highest ever, they never got below 73dF. Record. One Austin station (Mabry) hit 70dF 35 of first 60 days of the year. The climate is changing before our eyes. Will anybody see it? Will we do anything about it, or is being in denial or fatalistic too much easier? Did I mention Antarctica also just broke its record for highest temp ever? This is not a drill, a liberal plot, or a hoax.

Go to youtube and watch the 1958 Bell Science Hour educational film I saw in elementary school as a kid called The Unchained Goddess. Note Bell Labs were amongst the most respected of science and engineering labs in America at the time. At the :50 min. mark their 1958 science film talks about how manmade climate change will occur from putting large amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere. 1958. Bell Labs. Not the liberals or the Chinese, but America's best scientists. Before politicians politicized science. This is not a hoax, or new, a liberal plot, or something being sold by people making money off it. It was considered proven science sixty years ago. The ones now saying it is not, are the ones selling something, and it doesn't smell too good.

Sorry, off my soapbox, I was reading Feb. climate data to see how other places compared with us here for perspective, and consequently having a cow. 67deg. F in Antarctica!?!?!?!

Whilst Redbud and Agarita are expected to open in mid-Feb., the Mountain Laurel is really ahead of schedule. I hear some areas nearer Austin have reported Bluebonnets! That is how much warmth there has been. The butterflies were a record 31 species in the month, about double average. Always great seeing Henry's Elfin and Falcate Orangetip, two quintessential signs of spring here. A big yellow (Tiger or Two-tailed) Swallowtail was record early.

Only a very few odes were seen, but the two typical early spring ones were out: a Springtime Darner and several Dot-winged Baskettail. Also a Red Saddlebags was seen, and a probably Green Darner. In damsels, Fragile Forktail was first ID'd type. A bluet was probably Familiar, and a Dancer looked Kiowa but both are only positive ID's to genus. Any Enallagma (bluet) in Feb. is good.

Birds were good though we are so busy we didn't get to look much besides around 360 and a bit in town. A few good things make it through or over the yard regularly, if I just had some sky cams, a bird bath cam, a couple for where we toss seed, all scanning, I'd get a lot more data. It was about 80 species by accident. The amazing thing was the number of record early first of spring dates. Every year you expect a few. But when 6 of 8 of the 8 species that are normally the first to arrive, are record early, it bears consideration.

On top of confirming our first ever wintering Common Yellowthroat, we had our earliest ever migrant Yellowthroat and Blue-headed Vireo, both on the 26th. A nocturnal calling Long-billed Curlew the 24th was going north, and my first Feb. record as well. A White-tailed Kite over the yard the 26th was a new yard bird. No major raries, but we were too swamped with work to do much besides look around yard or at park and a few local roads. Work now, bird peak spring.   ;)

~ ~ ~ end February summary ~ ~ ~

Feb. 28 ~ Low about 60dF and fog mist, feels like spring. Mid-morning I saw my FOS Black-chinned Hummingbird, a male of course. He beat March back. Also saw a male Lesser Goldfinch, heard the White-eyed Vireo, and the Robin went through. The Vermilion Flycatcher was doing flight display with song, and at twilight I heard some Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, my FOS this spring. Amazing was a big yellow Swallowtail butterfly which was either an Eastern Tiger or a Two-tailed. I thought the latter, but will probably just put it down as either-or. In any case it is an amazing February record. Usually after mid-March is the first for either.

Feb. 27 ~ 60dF and fog mist in a.m., up to 80dF in p.m. One Robin still passes through most mornings, stopping in the big pecan for some calling. The White-eyed Vireo is getting louder and more incessant of singing. Heard a Lesser Goldfinch, and later afternoon heard a Purple Martin from the porch, first over yard this spring. What a great sound to hear. The one I saw yesterday didn't call. Over on other side of river on W. 360 I saw a Roadrunner.

There are a half-dozen Crow-Poison now opened up in the yard, there will be hundreds soon, like Anemones. A few Straggler Daisy are opening, and I even saw the winter form Questionmark (butterfly) land on one to nectar! Saw a couple Buckeye, a few Red Admiral, a Duskywing was probably Funereal, and the grasshoppers are really getting going now. Making it incredibly hard to audio tape bird song.

Feb. 26 ~ A female Lesser Goldfinch in the yard is a new arrival, right on time. I had to run to town so looked around a bit. At the north end there was a tight group of 5 Savannah Sparrow which were surely migrants. A flock of 35 Eurasian Starling indicates their return or passage. It is almost as many as I have ever seen here, only a very few winter, and not every year.

At the park were Green, Ringed, and Belted Kingfisher. No waterthrush, since Dec. 30 now, it must have been picked off. Saw some open Dewberry flowers. Below the spillway, just above 1050 along the river where a few trees there was a Blue-headed Vireo. I know of one winter record here in Utopia, a dozen years ago, and a report or two semi- nearbyish. I have checked this area multiple times this winter and not seen it, so suspect it is a spring migrant pushing northward.

At the pond on the country club by Waresville there was one male Purple Martin back at the house there, my FOS. Also a second male Vermilion Flycatcher was back there. Outstanding was an immature male Common Yellowthroat in the reeds around the pond. It has not been there this winter and so surely another migrant, at a ridiculously early date compared to all my others, a month+ early. It has a pale barely yellow throat so clearly not the bird we have had along the river a mile away the last month.

About 6 p.m. a White-tailed Kite flew right over the house northbound. Probably had been in the pasture just to our south. Had just stepped outside for a minute and bam! Good new bird for the yard list. OK, I just looked. It is #213 for the native species yard list in now a month short of 4 years. Plus the 3 introduced non-native vermin, House Sparrow, Eurasian Starling, and Eurasian Collared-Dove. I wouldn't even give Egyptian Goose the dignity of being on the list, though have them occasionally fly by. Nothing more than a barnyard or duckpond domestic. Might as well count Chicken and Emu.

Feb. 25 ~ Still northerlies and about 44dF in a.m., but felt cooler. By later afternoon it was southerlies, but only got into 60's for a high. Ring King again first thing early. Counted 30 House Finch at seed in the afternoon. A male Kestrel was hunting the yard from one of the pecans.

Noonish we walked a mile and change up into the live-oaks and agarita upslope behind us. Saw a few Checkered White butterfly, one Olive Juniper Hairstreak, couple American Lady. At a wet spot in the draw there was an Enallagma Bluet damselfly, probably a Familiar. We heard singing Field and Lark Sparrow, and 27 FOS Sandhill Crane flew over northbound. A few Mountain Laurels have a lot of flowers, as do some Agarita, but most are yet to open. Saw one Anemone (Wind-flower) just about to open, a nice purple one. The most heart-starting moment was when we jumped a boar. When something that big gets moving fast, it doesn't matter that it is going the other way at first detection.

Spotted Skunk Spotted Skunk

On left is the business end of the Spotted Skunk that is around the house a bit.
Sometimes in the shed! I hope you appreciate how brave I was to get these photos.
Of course had I gotten sprayed it would have been how stupid I was. Funny how results
have great bearing on our perception of actions. The yellowish circle on right photo
is the flashlight beam, oops and sorry. Trying to get autofocus to focus...


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 24 ~ A dry frontal passage in the a.m. so most of the day it was 10-15 mph northerlies, gusting to 20+ occasionally. First thing a Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver calling. There were 6 American Goldfinch at the feeders. The morning highlight was looking over into the corral and seeing a, likely the, probably our, male Vermilion Flycatcher right where one sits daily for the last 4 years. Two days earlier than my earliest prior FOS return. Then a Horace's Duskywing butterfly came by, my first of the year.

Had a town run so a stop at the park. Added Phaon Crescent to the monthly butterfly list, and saw my second of year Falcate Orangetip there. Saw a Dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly, and in damsels, a Bluet (Enallagma sps.) of some sort got away, and saw a couple Fragile Forktail. Saw Blue Jay and Hutton's Vireo.

Watched Red-shouldered Hawks copulate. I didn't really have anything better to do at the time. Not too long after though, a pair of Ringed Kingfisher was interacting, quietly (for them) chattering back and forth whilst sitting only a couple feet apart at very close range. They were moving around a bit and when I walked back through the woods I saw the female had a 5" sunfish (Red-breasted) she was beating against a branch which I think the male gave to her. A male Green Kingfisher was there too. Then at the north end of town were my FOS (3) Barn Swallows over the mesquite patch. No Martins were seen or heard yet.

At last sun I stepped off back porch and a Yellow-shafted Flicker flushed out of the big pecan, northbound. Late at 10:30 p.m. I was outside and heard a Long-billed Curlew call as it flew over northbound. Near midnight a Barred Owl was going off over at the river. Forgot to mention, had my FOY of the orange-winged Acridid - short-horned Grasshopper.

Feb. 23 ~ Just another 42-90dF day in February. Gadzooks! Laredo, Zapata and other parts of south Texas hit 100dF today! The first few Texas Persimmon leaves are breaking stems, as are a few Hackberry trees, and the Mulberry tree buds are just about to break the stems. It is about to explode green.

I saw an article in the Austin Statesman about the Lady Bird Johnson Flower center saying many flowers were blooming a month early or so already, including some Bluebonnets and Spiderworts. Due to the warm winter. The last freeze was in early January! Of the first 50 days of the year, on 35 it hit 70dF in Austin! Holy cow. Does that sound like winter? Nothing to see here, move along folks.

In leps the Questionmark was out there again, and so was the Funereal Duskywing. Better was a Dusky-blue Groundstreak out front. Great was mid-afternoon when my FOY Falcate Orangtip landed on the only open flower in the front yard, my FOY Crow-Poison. I saw a few butterflies around the muddy spot by the water tank in the corral so walked over. There was my FOY Juvenal's Duskywing!

Most excellent, we are now in record species diversity territory for the month of February, at 28 species with a few days left. Not that the driving forces causing these changes are good. But it is always good to know what is going on, regardless of where the chips may fall. January and Feb. I broke my butterfly species diversity records for those months (14 years of records). Clearly it is warmth connected. They are almost all fresh emergences that had a circadian clock that calculated the warmth and # of days of it, and determined it was spring and time to emerge.

Feb. 22 ~ Happy Birthday to that dude that could not tell an alternate fact. Kinda suprised I did not come up with that myself when I was oh about a teenager. We had a 42-90dF temp spread today. We need more cold, not 90dF in February. That was on the cool front porch. In the sun it was 5dF hotter. Amazing. At dusk this evening I received my FOY mosquito bite. I'd have to check my notes but it is surely one of my earlier FOY's for that.

Heard the White-eyed Vireo around, one each Robin and Waxwing, 4 American Goldfinch, and a winter-form Questionmark (lep). Heard my FOS Lark Sparrow singing, probably a new arrival. Best was at dusk a Spotted Towhee was in the thick stuff across road at the gate. Also then, two types of bats were flying around. Two were Brazillian Freetailed, and the other was probably a Red Bat, and likely the beast we saw a week ago. Much bigger and more robust with a much slower wingbeat.

Feb. 21 ~ With the clear skies and light northerlies it cooled down to about 40dF in the a.m. felt great. Heard the White-eyed Vireo all around the house, gotta be the male of the local breeding (draw) pair. Saw the Rusty Blackbird fly over calling, heading about due north. Wonder if it was on its way out of here? Late at night, just before midnight, the Barred Owl was calling over at the river. Screech-, and Great Horned earlier around house. Ringtail was barking (squirrelish yapping) out there too.

In leps I saw my FOS Henry's Elfin fly around the porch a bit in the afternoon. Lots of Dogface, some Black Swallowtails, Olive-Juniper Hairstreak on the Agarita on fenceline out front. Some Laurel flowers out back on the slope, it is way early for that. Vareigated and Gulf Fritillary, Red Admiral, Sleepy Orange, a possible Cloudless Sulphur again, two Duskywings were seen, one a Funeral, the other may well have been Mournful. Female E. Fence (Prairie) Lizard in afternoon.

Feb. 20 ~ By dawn the rain was all at SAT and eastward, we ended up with 1.75", which is fantastic, and now are in what can be called a wet February with ca. 4" total so far. Heard the White-eyed Vireo in the morning over in the draw. Not seeing the yard-visting Pine Warbler though, I think it has departed. Saw a Goatweed Leafwing (butterfly). After the rains, the Chorus Frogs were loud today.

Was a good day for mammals in the yard. Saw Racoon, Opossum, Striped Skunk, Ringtail, Armadillo, and watched the Gray Fox pee on a tire, better than the cats in the city anyway. Heard the Coyotes behind us. Should have opened the shed to see if the Spotted Skunk was there. Saw Cotton Rat (Sigmodon). Since the Ringtail (or 2) have been hanging in the yard the numbers of White-footed Mouse seem way way way down. But it seems like they are not taking the Sigmodon.

Feb. 19 ~ First thing we have coffee in the living room and look out the windows into the yard. The Turkey were running down the road pretty fast but they didn't appear to be speeding so I let them go. Heard White-eyed Vireo over in draw early. Wonder if this is one of the breeding pair here? Must be the male.

In the afternoon I finished fixing up the now clean nest boxes, and re-upped a couple. Had to go into the shed for some screws. Surprise! The Spotted Skunk was in there. It just climbs behind boxes and moves away. So I hastily grabbed my screws and left. Can't smell anything of it. Also saw my FOY 6-lined Racerunner (lizard) which was a first spring bird, not an after-second year adult (IOW - less than a year old, a little one). After dark a good band of rain moved through and in 90 minutes we had over 1.5".

Feb. 18 ~ Heard Turkey gobbling early thirty. Actually there was a nice bit of dawn chorus from the local resident gang. Cardinal, Titmouse, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Mourning and White-winged Dove, House Finch, Chickadee, and heard a White-eyed Vireo.

Went to the crossing after breakfast to look for the Common Yellowthroat I heard yesterday. Can't have loose ends like this. Not knowing for sure if it is the bird we saw in late January and therefore our first ever wintering record... I refound it 100 yards above the bridge. Got great point blank views. It is the same immature male we saw in latest January, and can therefore comfortably be called a wintering individual. Which is the first one I know of here in 14 years. The black in the mask has filled in quite a bit in the nearly 3 weeks since we last saw it.

So whilst it may be called a Common Yellowthroat, it is not common here in winter. Annually wintering warblers here are Audubon's, Myrtle, Orange-crowned and Pine Warbler. That is it. Four species. There are a few odd records of single birds. Such as... a Black-and-white returned for 5 winters, and a Louisiana Waterthrush returned for 3 winters. Once a Yellow-throated wintered (which was not the local Hill Country type), and a one-day wonder Tropical Parula (thank you bird gods). So a Common Yellowthroat is scarcer than all that here in winter. I saw it take a couple of the winter mayflies that are the wintering migrant passerine's fuel of choice here.

Then I putted up the road through the junipers out west leg of 360. Had texana Scrub-Jay and Hutton's Vireo, no sparrow flock. Nothing on the Chinaberry or Ligustrum, the Turkeys were at Berteau Park by the corn feeder, not a surprise. Saw a Redbud with a few flowers starting to open and several Agarita had flowers open! One had a bunch, with an American Lady, Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, Dogface, Variegated Fritillary, but no Elfin yet. Saw a Checkered White, a few Buckeye, a Texan Crescent, and this before it heated up and noon. Also saw a couple FOS Dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly up in the junipers, after yesterday's probable at the park.

Later afternoon in 84dF heat, we walked up the hill behind us into Agaritaville. It is mixed live-oak-juniper grassland really, and with a few scattered Buckley Oak, the Golden-cheeked Warbler's favored tree of choice. Their leaf buds are just breaking stems so will be opening soon. When they do, the warblers are back. The acres of Agarita were just getting started blooming, only a few are going, mostly just a very little bit yet.

Amazing was a Dusky-blue Groundstreak (butterfly)! Very early. A couple Olive-Juniper Hairstreak but did not see an Elfin. Saw a couple more Dot-winged Baskettail, so four FOS of them today. A couple Mountain Laurels on the slope behind us had a few flowers open, and a few Dutchman's Breeches were open as well. There were honeybees on the Agarita, plus a couple native bees including the metallic green Halichtid.

After dark the Striped Skunk and a Racoon were foraging for fallen sunflower seeds under that feeder, shoulder to shoulder. Then later when I went out, there are a few pallets leaning against the side of the cottage. The Ringtail was sitting on top of them lounging like a cat!

Black Rock Squirrel

Black Rock Squirrel is a terrestrial (ground) squirrel
rather than an arboreal (tree living) type like Fox Squirrel.
Though rarely you might find one up in a tree.
(Taken through old grayed window and screen)


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 17 ~ So uh, happy 02172017. Pretty sure I never had one of those before. Amazing was as I was heading to town, a Common Yellowthroat called as I was on the bridge over the river. It was just 10-15' away, I tried to to pish and chip it up, but it wouldn't come out. I suspect due to rarity right here right now it was the same individual Kathy and I had a couple weeks ago and it can be called a "wintering" individual. Sure would like to visually confirm it is an immature male though. It is our first wintering record.

At the park I saw no waterthrush, Dec. 30 remains my last encounter. I did see a House Wren which is likely a spring migrant this time of year. More interesting were a couple new odes flying. In dragons, a FOS Springtime Darner is a great sign of spring. Another dragon got away which was probably a Dot-winged Baskettail. Then I saw about 3 Fragile Forktail, my first positive ID on a damselfly this year. Which was followed quickly by a Kiowa Dancer. Zygops! Zygoptera is the group, sub-order methinks in this case, damselflies are in. When you see zygops, spring can't be far behind.

Lots more Redbud and Mountain Laurel flowers open on the ones around the library parking lot. Black and Pipevine Swallowtail were on the Laurel. Also saw those beautiful, fast, metallic turquoise native bees. Laurel Bees I call them, as that is where to see them. They are big as the standard Euro Honeybee. They are so fast and agile, they are very hard to photograph. No Elfin I could find.

At 9:30 p.m. I went outside and the last bit of seed thrown out did not get consumed due to accipiter pressure. There was eating sunflowers a Racoon, an Opossum, and the Ringtail! That Ringtail is amazing. The other night there were two chasing and squeaking loudly, they ran up a small pecan and I heard them run right over the office on the roof! I forgot to mention, later last night the Coyotes made a kill and a dozen or more went bonkers calling for 5 minutes as they do. And yesterday early a.m. saw the Gray Fox outside. I love all the wild mammals here.

Feb. 16 ~ Another chilly morning, about 36dF, nice to feel some winter still. In the far part of the yard, perhaps 200' from the porch, past the pecans, there are open skies over grass, some of which I leave taller. I saw a Harrier hunting low over that area for a minute or two. Heard a Belted Kingfisher over at the river, certainly the scarcest of the 3 kingfisher species along this section of the river. Saw what was probably an Elfin blast past. Will wait for a sure look to call an FOS though...

Feb. 15 ~ The northerlies brought some cooler air, it was about 37-38dF this morning. Almost like winter. Heard two Ringed Kingfishers first thing about 7 a.m. over at the river. Sounded like a 50 cal. shootout. Had a quick town run early and at the park was a Green Kingfisher, the waterthrush is still MIA. Some of the Black Willows are sprouting leaves now in another sign of spring approaching. I heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet moving around the yard a few times mid-morning. Haven't had one in a while a nd I suspect this is a spring migrant. It is that time for them.

Feb. 14 ~ Happy Valentines Day! Our gift was thunder at about 3:30 a.m. and more rain. We got about 1.25 from this second band and so a total of 2 and an eighth inches with last nights' 8 p.m. band of rain. Outstanding. Now northerlies and almost like winterish. The water is great for February as so many things approach grow mode and it has been dry overall the last couple months. Now we have a couple inches at least each in Feb. and January. So much of spring here starts in March, the Jan. and Feb. rains are actually very critical to a good growout for the early spring first starters.

Feb. 13 ~ Seven Turkeys were in the yard in the a.m. again. Big bearded Toms. And tell the whole truth, crapping all over the patio. Watch what you wish for. So you ask, "wouldn't it be neat to live with Turkeys in the yard?"  Yes, until they eat all your chili pequins off the bushes, and show up at the seed tray and throw dirt all over the patio, then make some rather substantial deposits before they go.  ;)  I know, ya gotta love 'em, they are so big, and soooo beautiful, that green and bronze iridescence at point blank is just dazzling, and hearing them converse endlessly (about the hens?) is cool too.

Heard the White-eyed Vireo out there again today, in the corral. I had to run to town quickly in the afternoon. No waterthrush at the park again, I am afraid we lost it. Turkey Vulture, Ringed Kingfisher, and best, I heard a squirrel being taken. Up at the farthest part of the woods I flushed a big female Cooper's Hawk with a Fox Squirrel in its talons. It could barely fly with it. Went about 30' and landed on a branch. I backed out as I didn't want it to lose the prey trying to cross the river with it. I am amazed how these big female Coops can take a Fox Squirrel. Second time I have seen it here.

Some Meadowlarks were along road, and the Shrike was on W. 360. One of the big major signs of spring is now showing, right on time. The Redbud flowers are opening on a couple of them at the Library. Mid-Feb. is just right at average for the first ones. But there was one Mountain Laurel with open flowers already, which I have never seen in mid-February here. March is usually when they go. That is how warm it has been. We need cold.

A couple Pipevine Swallowtail and an Olive Juniper Hairstreak were on the Redbud flowers, but no Elfin. A Hairstreak got away that was likely a favonius (Southern aka Oak). It flew into the adjacent live oak. About 8 p.m. the first band of rain ahead of a cold front came through and in 40 minutes we got seven-eighths of an inch.

Feb. 12 ~ A surprise in the a.m. was my FOS White-eyed Vireo calling! It is my earliest spring arrival date locally ever, though Leslie Calvert had one on the 13th last year, which was then the earliest we ever had. We showed our guests the Buried Lies Cemetery over at Waresville, and walking the pond there again flushed a Wilson's Snipe, so it spent the winter. I was surprised to see a Red Saddlebags dragonfly, which is a new fresh emergence. Later in the afternoon Kathy and I walked to the crossing and had a Black Swallowtail, but few birds. Needed the good leg-stretch though.

Feb. 11 ~ Got up to about 80dF today, a front is working its way here, so the standard pre-arrival warmup. Saw the Ringed Kingfisher flying upriver over the Cypresses early in the morning. Also saw my first Eastern Cottontail of the year. Where do they go in winter? Watched the Sharpy take a House Finch up top of the big pecan. We had a quick look at the park but only saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. We had guests visiting today so not much time out looking. At dusk we were on the patio and saw our FOS bat fly over! It might have been bigger than a freetail, not sure of species.


Ribbonsnake

Western Ribbonsnake. It is one of the Gartersnake
group. The dorsal stripe can be cream, yellow,
orange, or even red! I saw a stunning red one off
of S. Thunder Creek Rd. once. Most here look like this one.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 10 ~ Cooler a bit finally, only in low to mid 70's dF. Breezy in afternoon though, 15 gusting to 20mph. Yard was the regulars, one Waxwing came by for a bit. A few American Goldfinch too. Heard a Hutton's Vireo in the big yard Hackberry in the afternoon. Checked the park during a quick town run and saw nothing but the regular expected suspects. Missed the waterthrush again, but they are still cutting trees on the private properties on both sides of the river above the island where it hung out. I presume it is upriver. Sorry but had a bunch of work to do this week so short on notes.

Feb. 9 ~ Too busy Thursday... Saw a Vesta Crescent (lep) today, as well as a Checkered White and an Orange Sulphur, plus all the expected things flying now. Late p.m. a Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver high over the cypesses. Saw the Ringtail again tonight, this time I got Kathy over to the door quickly enough that she got to see it too as it sat on the old original (unused) wellhouse. Too cool.

Feb 8 ~ Was about 42-85dF for a temp spread today. Amazing for early February. The Funereal Duskywing butterfly was out there again today. Also saw Red Admiral, American Lady, Variegated Fritillary, an Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, Sleepy Orange, Dogface, a Pipevine Swallowtail. After dark I had great looks at the Ringtail around the patio and on the cottage. It made a call I have never heard, a cackling chatter, or a rattled chirping, very interesting. What an incredible animal.

Feb. 7 ~ Holy cowfish it got warm this afternoon, it was about 85-86dF! Hondo had 89dF, their record this date was 82 in 2008. The magnificent 7, bearded Toms (Turkey), were all over the yard and patio this morning. Saw what was likely the same Funeral Duskywing (butterfly) that was here Jan. 29. A seemingly fairly unskilled immature male Sharp-shinned Hawk is missing on hunting attempts on the seed-eaters about every hour all day. Cardinal, and Bewick's and Carolina Wren are really starting to get some singing going. They are starting to feel it now. It seems a little reluctant as they first get back at it. Add a little warmth and you can feel it now.

Feb. 6 ~ Just the regular stuff, its Monday back at the salt mine so can't look around too much. Yard flocks are about 125 Chipping Sparrow (and one Lark), 25+ Cardinal, 50-60 Morning and 25-30 White-winged Dove, 8 Ground-Dove, and 30 House Finch. We have some serious dependents here. The Titmice seem to be thinning, probably spreading out as breeding season approaches. A couple Golden-fronted Woodpecker still daily on the sunflowers. The Chickadees are duetting a fair bit now, the super high thin "see you, see mee" song, occasionally interspresed with some hoarser "sweeeet ba-by" from one of them.

Feb. 5 ~ Another gray drizzly day, but a bit warmer, maybe 55-65dF for a temp range. And there were a few brief holes in the overcast but not much for long. About 9 Robin were around for a bit in the morning. A few Waxwing too. I got my high count for Ground-Dove, EIGHT at once on the seed!

We walked to the crossing noonish. A Chippy flock on the way there had Field Sparrow in it. Had a House Wren which are scarce here in winter, and a male Green Kingfisher when we went over to the river about half way to crossing. At one point it perched 18-20' over the water on a pretty thick cypress branch. Like where you would see a Ringed. There were a few Myrtle and a heard Pine Warbler, Kinglet (Ruby), and the regular residents, Cardinal, Chickadee, and Titmouse. In the corral on the way back there were 3 Vesper and a, or the, Lark Sparrow. Later the Lark Sparrow was on the patio. One lone bird wintering here this year. You think of them as being a fairly social sparrow.

Feb. 4 ~ Another cold gray drizzly day, maybe 45-55dF for a temp range. Worked inside. The 7 Turkey came by the patio. I tried to get a couple shots of the Pine Warbler when it was down with House Finches. They don't sit still. Will show if anything comes out worth it. I would be OK with 125 count on the Chipping Sparrows now. I counted 15 male House Finch at once, there are as many females. Most males are flushed very red on the back now, quite unlike most field guide illustrations.

Their dull winter plumage is wearing away revealing much brighter mate selection attire. Most often think that bright breeding plumages are acquired my molt, and they can be, they are with some types of birds. But, they are also just as often the result of feather wear. They molt in fall after breeding, and have just the right amount of dullness at the tips of the feathers to make them less conspicuous all winter, which by time it wears off in spring reveals a brighter breeding plumage, without molting into it just then when for many species they have to be expending all their energy into migration.


Anole

This Anole took this Pipevine Swallowtail right off
a flower. Pipevines are alleged to be distasteful,
like Monarchs due to what the caterpillar eats,
Pipevines. Unfortunately I couldn't follow the
lizard for a day or two to ask it if it got indigestion.
It took hours but it worked the wings off and ate it.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 3 ~ A cold gray day, about 40-50dF for a temp range. I saw two Green Kingfisher at the park, but no waterthrush still, been since latest December when I last saw it. Hope it wasn't taken and it is just the month of tree-trimming noise. There were two Turkey Vulture on some roadkill between the spillway and 1050, along with 40 Blacks. Saw about 5 Myrtle Warbler, all males.

The ad. male Pine Warbler here is so bright I can not get over it. Every spring, I can't get over it. It will leave before the end of the month. No one has a clue where these Pine Warblers that winter here, go to breed. Interesting is how when it is on the ground I could see pale diffuse, almost hidden but present, veiled dusky lines on the back. When it was at eye-level I could not see them. Only when it was on the ground and I was looking down into the back were they visible. This of course at less than 20', I am not sure from how far they would be visible. Generally Pine is considered to have an unstreaked back, and it does usually appear that way. But it can appear to have faint diffuse pale dusky streaks that form lines in the back. At least these can, at this time of the year.

Feb. 2 ~ I think it was 45-65dF or so today. Too busy working on biz at the computer. I did notice the 7 Turkey that spent an hour on the patio and cleaning under the seed feeders. I see a Cardinal without a tail that probably gave it to an accipiter. I think it is about 120 Chipping Sparrow now, still 30 Cardinal, at least 50 Mourning and 30+ White-winged Dove. Talk about dependents! Just when I was thinking how much those Chippies eat, the Turkeys showed up. In the afternoon a Lincoln's Sparrow went through the yard, there has not been one here in the yard in some time, like maybe since late November.

February 1 ~ OMG, February! I am not ready for this, can someone slow this ride down? It was about 36dF this a.m., again several dF colder than forecast. Then it got up to 85dF! Within a dF or two of record territory, and 50 deg. diurnals! Amazing. A few butterflies were out in the heat, nice since it was back to zero on the monthly total. One Checkered-Skipper got away that may have been a Desert. There was Sleepy Orange, Gulf Frit, Red Admiral, Dogface, and a few Snout. Pine Warbler worked the sunflower bits under that feeder.

So at last lookabout outside at late thirty I heard some weird noises, grabbed flashlight and saw one of the (Striped) skunks moving over toward cottage (where den hole). I did notice a strong scent in the air. Must have been some sort of altercation and it had just let loose a wee bit. Was not real stong, or so it seemed. But apparently there was a fair bit floating around in the air and in the process of going in and out, the breeze wafted according to my better half, a significant volume of fresh skunk scent into the house. Yup, stunk the whole house up. Yer welcome. It still stunk skunk in the morning, and for half the next day. It wasn't even that strong outside. I cannot tell an alternate fact, I did that.

~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~

I can not believe we have blazed through a month already. We have either entered a time warp, or I am getting old. I fear the latter. Overall the month was warm and mild. But there was a cold spell with a 15dF, and 18dF lows to freeze yer ferns. It was dry, about 2" of rain for the month. At least everything got some water, the river is still high.

Butterflies were outstanding, by species diversity count, but which is not necessarily an indicator of something good. It could be bad that a record number of species were seen in the month. It was a record 26 species for the month, about double the average January species count (n~14). Even in February I have only exceeded 22 sps. for the month one time. Lots of warmth and so lots of early mis-timed emergences were triggered. Most are genetic deadends. There is nothing to eat, or mate with for most. So it is not good for the butterflies themselves. It also could be indicative of a bigger problem, that might affect us, who knows. Then someone would give a hoot.

Dragonflies and damselflies were weak as expected, only leftover Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies were seen, and a few flushed but not ID'd damselfies were glimpsed. Mammals made up for it though, with in-the-yard Ringtail, Spotted and Striped Skunk, Gray Fox, and hearing Coyote nightly. The warmth also had a few reptiles out this January, saw a Western Ribbon Snake, around house Anoles were regular on warm days, early was one E. Fence (Prairie) Lizard for the month.

Birds were great, though we were too busy to look much. It was about 85 species locally this month, which does not count anything below Clayton Grade (or 361 actually). Strictly locally around Utopia, without any special effort, or much time for that matter. Probably saw another 6+ sps. down in the brush country flatlands.

A Neotropic Cormorant at UP Jan. 20 is my first on the ground here (one prior flyover record) and a great winter record. A White-tailed Hawk was described by Leslie Calvert 4-5 mi. SSW of town off UvCo 361 New Years Day. Based on which I added it to the hypotheticals under main hawk section on the bird list page. I saw one S. of Sabinal down in the flatlands below Hwy. 90, Jan. 21, still in UvCo where a rare bird with less than 10 records. A couple Least Grebe were at the Frio River crossing way south of Sabinal on Hwy. 187, wish we could get one at the park pond.

A Common Yellowthroat Jan. 28 is my first winter record here in fourteen years. What may be my first overwintering known Dec.-to-Jan. Turkey Vulture was good too. Three TV's on Jan. 31 was unprecedented, presumedly early returns. On Jan. 1 a sparrow got away that I thought was a Baird's, again. A few Black-throated Sparrow were seen, as well as some Bushtit which have been scarcer since the drought. Lots of White-fronted Geese flying north Jan. 14 is a couple weeks earlier than usual.

~ ~ ~ end of January summary ~ ~ ~

Jan. 31 ~ Bird bath frozen again, another 29-30dF low! In the afternoon it was 78-79 on the patio - near a 50dF diurnal temp range! A few butterflies were out, I saw a Pipevine and Kathy saw a Black Swallowtail. Saw American Lady, Dogface. Wish I could have run off and looked for one more butterfly sps. for the month. Especially an Elfin, a sps. I have had in January a number of times, usually on Agarita or Redbud waiting for it to bloom. Was warm enough today to get one if any are out yet.

The birds of the day were just before last sun, three Turkey Vulture flew downriver looking like they were looking for a place to roost. I have about 3-4 records in the December to mid-February period. This winter one has been overwintering quite unusually. Three at once in January is unprecedented. Normally it is Valentine's Day or so on average when the first one returns, and after mid-Feb. for three at once. So this is wayyy early.

Kinda like how the northbound migrant ducks and geese strike me. We will have to wait and watch to see if it is a thing this year, and or if something is going on. Observe and record. This is they key. Names, dates, and numbers. Get data. Have numbers, will crunch.

Jan. 30 ~ Bird bath frozen again, about 29-30dF or so, and got up to lower mid-70'dF in afternoon. Amazing spread. Too much work and not much looking. Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks making visits all day. The ad. ma. Pine Warbler was out there again in the afternoon under sunflower feeder scavenging bits. Nice bird to have around the yard if you ask me. Some real color here in winter when everything is brown. Saw the Turkey Vulture, and a Zone-tailed Hawk go over in different directions at the same time. A group of 40 Black Vultures went over. Once Ground-Doves flushed and it was at least 6 of them! Might have been 7. Forgot to mention, the resident yard pair of Eastern Phoebe are messing around their nest the last week.

Jan. 29 ~ Bird bath was iced over, was 29dF this morning, KRVL had the same. Got up to about 70dF in afternoon. Noonish we went to the park, but were late and someone had already been up the trail into woods, we missed the waterthrush. It seems to flush out if anyone has been up that trail. The amazing thing was a few new-for-the-month butterflies. I saw two winter form Questionmark. Two others were likely my first ever January fresh emergence records, a Phaon Crescent and a Texan Crescent. The Texan was quite yellow where usual white areas (ph.). Will have to give that a hard study when I get the pix off camera. Three new for month species in a hundred yards or so is amazing. Then back home for lunch and a Funeral Duskywing flew up to, and then away from me. So four new butterflies for the day, surely the last day of the month I will get any time to look around, so a nice finish.

And which pushes the total for butterfly species for the month into record territory: 26 species. Never before in a January, and only once in a February have I recorded 26 species. January average over 14 years is under 14 sps. per month. The last ten years it is under 12 species per January on average. So over double the prior ten year average = very significant. I would guess all the warm days triggered circadian alarm clocks and therefore emergences were at a much higher than usual rate. Almost all the different ones were not worn individuals left over from last year, but fresh (mis-timed) emergences.

After lunch we went down to UvCo 361 and gave it another try. But peak heat of the day and it was deadish. None of all the raptors we saw a couple weeks ago but one Red-tail and a few Kestrel. I had a glimpse of what looked like a Sage Thrasher but it got away into a brushy wash. A couple Hermit Thrush and some Eastern Bluebird were along the road. Also some meadowlarks I could not settle on an ID for, at point blank range. Is that ridiculous or what? They can be tough visually in veiled winter plumage. Have you ever wondered if Lillian's (Eastern) Meadowlark could occur here? I have. The ad.ma. Pine Warbler was on the patio in later afternoon.

Jan. 28 ~ Didn't get as cold as forecast, was maybe 40dF for a low. There were a few sprinkles late last night, but a spit or two was it. They were calling for a chance of sleet or snow to the west and north of us overnight last night. We took an hour walk to the crossing and back, about 11 a.m. it was 50dF but the off and on light wind was cold. We saw something I keep forgetting to mention, the last couple or few weeks, there have been pair bond flight displays by Black Vulture, showing overhead daily on clear days. Do not underestimate the love flight of the Black Vulture. It can be mighty impressive.

Twenty Chippies, a Vesper and a Lincoln's Sparrow along the corral, and a dozen each Cardinal and House Finch. At the crossing there was a Song Sparrow, and amazingly, a Common Yellowthroat. It was an imm. male, and the first winter record I have for the upper Sabinal drainage. Like Blue-gray Gnatcatcher they winter off the plateau in the brush-country flatlands, but not up here in the colder and less buggy in winter hills. For Bandera Co., e-bird shows none from 1st week of December to third week of March. It is absent in winter locally. Here in winter Common Yellowthroat is a most uncommon find. I do not think I have seen one locally from late October to latest March for fourteen years. Generally late fall to spring there are 5 months or so we are Yellowthroat free, this is in the middle of it. A great record for a 'common' bird. Kathy saw the Gray Fox today (and yesterday). Barn Owl after dark.

Pine Warbler

Probably the same adult male Pine Warbler here now,
this pic taken a couple winters ago on the patio.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 27 ~ A chilly day, overcast, about 35-50dF for a temp spread with a light north wind on it. In the morning there were two male Lesser Goldfinch here, which is amazing. While watching them, two Audubon's Oriole called, a warning, they were the first to note a sneaky incoming accipiter. Tipped everyone off with their sharp eyes. The park had a Ringed Kingfisher, couple Blue Jay, and a Hermit Thrush. No waterthrush again. Still noisy over the fence though with blaring radio and chainsaws. Red-shouldered Hawk out front of park in pecan in pasture.

One Savannah Sparrow in front of the school landed on the low wire fence next to a dozen Cedar Waxwing. I forgot something so had to run back to town about 4 p.m. and checked the park again. It was a real honest forgetting, it's not like it is spring migration or something.  ;)  The Turkey Vulture was with several Black Vultures coming in to roost as they do in the big Cypresses. A corral on W. 360 had a couple hundred Brewer's Blackbird, 40+ Red-winged, mostly females, and a dozen plus Brown-headed Cowbird. The W. 360 Loggerhead Shrike still in its pasture.

Jan. 26 ~ We were about 35dF this morn, it hit 31 in KRVL. There now that feels like winter. The male Lesser Goldfinch was out there again today. They used to arrive the 3rd week of February after being absent since November, and most still do. Only a very very few winter, around feeders. Almost the same period of absence exists with Turkey Vulture, absent late-Nov. to mid-Feb. in general. With just two or three winter records over 14 winters, despite all the roadkill. Today the Turkey Vulture that seems to be wintering this year circled over the yard low. Has to be the same bird seen in Dec., and earlier in January. Saw the Rusty Blackbird today too.

Jan. 25 ~ The dry front blew light northerlies all day, Saw a report of a Purple Martin down on the coast today. A week or more early. They can arrive down there in the warmer buggy flatlands a month before they do up here in the colder hills. Nearly a dozen Robin stopped by briefly. Between 35-40 waxwing were around for a couple hours, on the one juniper with berries, and twice all coming in to the bird bath for drinks. Whence we get great point blank views out the kitchen and bathroom windows.

Saw at least 5 Ground-Dove at once when an Accipiter flushing took place. The different bird of the day was a male Lesser Goldfinch. They did not winter in the hill country prior to thistle (nyger) seed feeding (by people). Three tom Turkey spent a couple hours around the yard and on the patio eating little tiny white millet seeds, deftly I might add. Big ol' dang bird eating the tiniest of seeds with amazing precision. Barn Owl after dark.

Jan. 24 ~ Was a 42 to 82dF spread today, nearing record heat for the date. Further south they had 90dF! A flock of about 35 White-fronted Geese went over early in the morning. As can happen in the heat, two new for month butterflies were out, a Checkered White, and an early Olive Juniper Hairstreak. They are so green, slightly iridescent, when they are mint fresh right out of the package, er, chrysalis, when no one has scratched the paint yet.

Had a couple Robin, couple dozen Waxwing, couple Myrtle Warbler, the Lark Sparrow, some Ground-Dove, 50+ Mourning Dove now. Nearing last sun a Ringed Kingfisher flew up the river calling. At twilight about 6:30 p.m. I heard a single Wigeon call and shortly heard duck wings, then spotted a flock of about 35 or so heading due north, probably going to fly for the night. Heading north already like the geese. Seems early to me.

Jan. 23 ~ I told Kathy last night it was going to get colder than the forecast. NOAA had KRVL for 39dF low, then latelate showed 37, it got 33 there. WU showed us for 42 or so, it was 35dF here. At least the wind finally stopped. There were the couple dozen waxwings out front early, and a couple Robin with them. Afternoon got up to about 75dF and popped a couple new for the month butterflies out. A Black Swallowtail and a Sachem (skipper) were both FOY - first of year. As was a West. Ribbon Snake which may have obliged for pix, we'll see when they come off of camera. Nice 27" or so beauty, looked fat like a pregnant female.

Jan. 22 ~ From dark yesterday, all night, and all day today, the wind blew 20-30 mph gusting to 40! I can't get up for land birding in a gale so worked on stuff here. In the afternoon I saw the male Pine Warbler on the ground under the sunflower feeder with the House Finches. The one Lark Sparrow continues. Near sundown a Merlin flew into the big live-oaks up the slope behind us looking like it was coming in to roost. At dark the winds finally decoupled and laid down. It was a 24 hr. hard blow.

Jan. 21 ~ Boy you sure get a lot more weather here for your money. It was foggy this morning. Then mid-day it got sunny, and warm, up to 80dF! Then late afternoon about 5 p.m. the winds hit, 20-30 mph west to northwest, and gusting higher. Supposed to blow all night and all day Sunday. Three seasons in one day. Welcome to Texas.

Noonish I did a b double-e double-r u-n, down to Sabinal. Actually I wanted to do some ag field and brushcountry flatlands hedgerow birding, and look for hawks. Dirt fields and telephone poles, how exciting can it get? Particularly White-tailed Hawk I mentioned to Kathy, since there seems to be an inland movement this winter. Kathy had other stuff to do here more exciting than dirt clods and tele poles. Usually there are hawks, cranes, geese, sparrow flocks, and if lucky Mountain Plover or a longspur.

The 18 miles south to Sabinal was uneventful. Then I did about five miles of Old Sabinal Rd. parallel and south of Hwy. 90 running west from Sabinal to Uvalde. Amazing was the lack of sparrow flocks along the road, usually it is loaded. One Savannah, one Vesper, two White-crowned, and that was it. Heard some Pyrrhuloxia, saw a couple Verdin, two Harris's Hawk, best was a Greater Yellowlegs at a stock tank. A good bird at a random tank in winter here. Saw one Checkered White butterfly.

Then I went south on Hwy. 187 from Sabinal to the Zavala County line, and poached a couple miles past it. About 9 miles south of Sabinal I found an adult WHITE-TAILED HAWK out in an ag field, way out. It was hovering, then landed in a short tree, so I got to scope it though it was distant. Then it got up and flew around and gave a good show of the crisp ink black band near tip of all snow white tail and rump, rusty shoulders, pointed wings, what a beautyo of a buteo. Up until as recently as after 2005 there was only one Uvalde Co. record, from 1985, filmed taking bats at the Frio Cave. Since then there have been a handfull of reports, but still there are less than ten county reports. One was photographed near Sabinal I think last year, near Hwy. 90. It is my first in UvCo and the semi-longshot hoped-for target I was really most after.

There were about 4 more Harris's Hawk along 187 south of Sabinal (so 6 total) and several Caracara, a few Red-tailed Hawk, one of which was a belly banded eastern type, rest were resident Fuertes's. Always interesting are Turkey Vulture south of Sabinal. I had a dozen. They do not usually winter 20 miles north of Sabinal up here in the hills (though we have one this year) at Utopia while they are regular down there below the escarpment in the warmer brush-country from Hwy. 90 south.

There is some good looking habitat at the Sabinal River crossing way south of Sabinal on 187, maybe about 12 miles or so. Better is the habitat at the Frio crossing a few miles further south. There was a bit of water at both crossings but some fisherman had flushed anything at the Sabinal xing. At the Frio crossing there were a couple Gadwall, one Green Kingfisher, and two LEAST GREBE, one in each pond on either side of the road.

Somewhere along the road I heard a Long-billed Thrasher. But overall there was a dearth of passerines. I looked in a lot of fields and hedgerows along roads around Sabinal over a few hours and saw no cranes, geese, plovers, longspurs or any significant sparrow flock. I heard a Horned Lark but didn't see it. No Lark Bunting or Say's Phoebe either.

Way down 187 I saw a hawk on the pole just a hundred yards over the Zavala Co. line so continued into the foreign county to see what I could poach. A nice tame Harris's Hawk, and a bit further a Caracara in the first mile. Then at the junction of Hwys. 187 x 140, a dozen Scaled Quail flew across the road! For a whopping three species in Zavala County, where I am now probably firmly in last place. As I returned home with my trophies, a UvCo White-tailed Hawk and a dozen skunky Coronas, at the 360 xing there was another Green Kingfisher.

White-tipped Black

There was a bit of an invasion of White-tipped Black
moths this past fall. They are LTA - less than annual, here.
Neat how I cut off one of the white tips on the White-tip.
Call for free tips on how to screw up photos...

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 20 ~ An amazing high of 80dF was above expectations. Darn near warm out there. The yard seemed the same gang. A town run netted a stop at the park though. Where you just never know what might be there. No waterthrush but chain saws were going over the fence again. Heard a Green Kingfisher. The prize was a NEOTROPIC CORMORANT! First on an emerged log at top of island, then it swam down to the pond, and when I got back down there, it then flew back upriver. I have had just one in the prior 13 years (only in flight) locally in the upper Sabinal River drainage. This is the first on the water, and the first in a decade. A few are regular at Uvalde, but up here in the hills is a different story. Would not have thought January was when to see one here. It was an ad. not an immature. I heard one of the thunderstorms that went by this week caused vehicle damage up around Vanderpool near Lost Maples, from 2" golfball sized hail.

Jan. 19 ~ About 45-75dF for a temp spread, and humidity got down to 30%, felt great. Yard is turning green fast. Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks hitting the seed eaters. A few butterflies were out in the heat. Amazing was a Vesta Crescent, my FOY and maybe my first January record. A few Sleepy Orange, a Dogface, Gulf Fritillary, couple Red Admiral, and Kathy thought she had a Mestra fly by. Heard a Barn Owl after dark hunting over the grass airstrip just south.

Jan. 18 ~ Nice and wet out there from the rain last night, and cool. A couple inches will keep the dust down for almost a couple weeks. Plus I was going to have to wash the trucklet, and now I don't have to, just in time. Dodged that bullet. The Pine Warbler was back down on the seed with the House Finches. When the sun comes through that olive back it can really light up green.

Amazing was a huge flock of ducks at a distance unfortunately that precluded positive ID. There were a couple hundred, they looked big. Just behind them I picked up a second flock of a couple dozen, again too far, but they circled back and looked like Shovelers, as did the first group. Then at dark another flock of a couple dozen big ducks flew over in very little light, they too looked like Shoveler. It is the only big duck we have in numbers here, Pintail and Mallard are scarce.

After dark I heard a squeaky squabble going on outside, grabbed flashlight and went over to the old unused wellhouse. Behind it were two Striped Skunk. Don't know if it was love or war. But one went back under the cottage, so was our local resident, and the other sauntered across the yard toward road out front. At least they didn't spray, must be a gentleman's agreement they have with each other. More civil than some people.

Jan. 17 ~ Low 50's dF, gray, spotty showers and drizzle, and staying like that all day. Might get some more precip. Cooper's Hawks made attempts on the seed eaters a few times in the morning. There are over a hundred Chipping Sparrow now, and at least 25 House Finch. At one point there were a dozen House Finch under the sunflower feeder with a Pine Warbler foraging for bits of broken hearts among them. Kind of a funny flock. Also saw Common Ravens, Caracaras, a N. Harrier, local resident pair of Red-tails, a couple Cooper's Hawk, heard Kestrel and Western Meadowlark, had a couple dozen Waxwings a couple times. Barred Owl was calling over at river after dark.

We got a quarter inch of precip over the day, then later after dark, another half inch. So .75 for the day, with the just under 1.5" day before yesterday and the event was about 2.2" total. Amazing, we needed it badly, all the frontal passages have been dry the last month plus. The ground will turn way greener in a few days. It is already greener than usual due to lack of consistent cold, stuff is sprouting.

Jan. 16 ~ Happy MLK Day! It was about 45dF here this a.m., whilst forecasts said low 50's, off by nearly a whole category. Felt great, nice and wet from the rain last night. We needed it, was getting dusty out there. Lost Maples looked like it got 2-3 INCHES! The river will stay high. The grass in yard is already greening up, some birds are singing. Ringed Kingfisher calling over at river early in morning for an hour. The regular imm. N. Harrier went over low early, looked like it was eyeing feeders and areas of seed closely.

Heard my first White-winged Dove song of the year. BTW, we heard our FOY Chickadee song on Jan. 1! In the last two weeks there has been a noticeable increase in song from Carolina Wren especially, but also N. Cardinal, Bewick's Wren, and heard a Black-crested Titmouse sing a couple days ago. Nearing a month since the solstice. Just a little increased daylength and on nice days we get some birdsong to get us through winter.

Just after 11 p.m. I heard this constant yapping outside the office window. Somewhere between a squirrel and a small dog. The RINGTAIL! I went outside and actually got a great close look at it, perhaps 6-8 feet away at closest! The camera didn't work so I missed my photo. But at least I got a point blank view! One of the neatest animals there is is if you ask me. Seems like there would have to be a couple around for it to be communicating?

Jan. 15 ~ Sprinkles on and off all morning into early afternoon. Maybe a quarter inch total. We need rain, supposed to be an event overnight tonight. We hope. Finally in afternoon it broke a bit and we went out around 360 and walked the knoll looking for the probable Baird's Sparrow we saw a couple weeks ago.

Along the back of 360, north of the knoll we had a small flock, of about 16 Field Sparrow, and I heard a Black-throated Sparrow. This was right where the same two species were a couple weeks ago. Also loosely moving with them was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Hutton's Vireo, an Orange-crowned Warbler, and a Bewick's Wren. Saw a couple Dutchman's Breeches with flower buds just about to open. They are one of the first ones to go off.

Up on the knoll we criscrossed lots of the chigger grassy area where the Baird's Sparrow was a couple weeks ago and could not kick up anything. But a FOY Roadrunner, one N. Harrier hunting juniper-oak-grassland, and four Caracara. On the south base of the knoll we found another flock of Field Sparrow, at least another dozen, with at least two Black-throated Sparrow in with them. This was very near where the pair of them nested last year. We got great close looks, what a beautiful bird. Heard another Hutton's vireo, saw a couple Titmouse, another Kinglet, and another Bewick's Wren. On the way home we stopped for a quick peek at the 360 crossing, there was a male Green Kingfisher where yesterday's female was, just below the bridge.

Over the course of the day we got about three sixteenths of an inch of rain, nearly a quarter. Then after dark the predicted MCS ran across plateau west to east. In a half hour we had an inch more, and a bit after that another few sixteenths. Total was about one and seven sixteenths. Sorry about the fractions, can't use slashes here easily, it messes up the code... and I don't know my metric sixteenths well.

Jan. 14 ~ Holy cow, two weeks into the new year already. It was off and on showerlets most of the morning. We are supposed to get a rain event tomorrow. So after lunch when it cleared enough and we went out for a couple hour putt around. We went south down-valley for a change. At the 3 or 4 mile (heard it called both) bridge on 187 it was as dead for birds as I have seen it. But one House Wren was nice, though heard only. A Cardinal and a Kinglet (Ruby) were the only other birds there. I did see a Blanchard's Cricket-Frog, my FOY.

Then we cruised the couple miles of UvCo 361 just south and west of that crossing. Best was finally seeing a Say's Phoebe this winter. Total of about 10 Savannah and 1 Vesper Sparrow. Heard a Pyrrhuloxia, saw a dozen Eastern Bluebird, a few Mockingbird, and 8 Raven. A flock of a couple hundred Brewer's Blackbird had 3 Starling, 20 Brown-headed Cowbird and a dozen Red-winged Blackbird in it.

Saw a bunch of raptors, there were a couple Caracara, 5-6 Red-tailed Hawk, a Cooper's Hawk, a half-dozen Kestrel, a N. Harrier, and a White-tailed Kite. One of the Red-tailed Hawks was a belly-banded Eastern type, the rest resident Fuertes'. Also saw one Pipevine Swallowtail. But no White-tailed Hawk. There are reports of 5 White-tailed Hawks further north than normal in Bexar Co. right now, so a northward movement is apparently indicated this year. Keep your eyes peeled, maybe you can get lucky like Leslie did. On the way home as we went over the 360 crossing there was a female Green Kingfisher hunting next to the bridge, and one Song Sparrow.



Porcupine

Hey can you pick those leaves off that for me?
Porcupine gets a bit ratty during late-summer shed.
They drink like dillos, ten minutes at a sitting.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 13 ~ Happy Friday the 13th! The low was 66dF, and yesterday's was about 65. These are average high temps for the date. Just getting up to mid-70's dF, and very humid gulf flow. Some scattered sprinkles in a.m. Across the road caught a glimpse of a small hawk as it flew into the corral, which looked like the Roadside. Then the electric company tree trimming crew showed up and it got beyond very noisy with chain saws and a tree shredder. A Pipevine Swallowtail in yard was a fresh emergence, fooled by the 75dF warmth lately. A lot of these first-of-the-year eager beavers are genetic dead-ends. No food and nothing to mate with, plus likely to freeze. Got a bad bio-clock.

Had a town run so checked the park. The tree trimmers there were not cutting, but lots of branches down on the adjacent property to north, and across the river too, so clearly it has been very noisy there this week. No surprise no waterthrush. About 5 Myrtle Warbler, 4 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, some Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, a few bluebird flew over. Great was a treetop view of a Zone-tailed Hawk soaring right overhead low as could be up in the woods. Also saw Green Kingfisher and the Pied-billed Grebe. Was sprinkling a little in town.

Jan. 12 ~ Thursday, my stuck near phone and monitor day. The Rusty Blackbird was in yard early in the morning. Later in afternoon I saw a Turkey Vulture which I presume is the one seen in December and so likely a very rare here wintering record (once in prior 13 winters). I also heard an Audubon's Oriole up in the live-oaks out back. There was an amazing burst of Ringed Kingfisher machine gun fire call for a couple minutes. There were two initially and what I presume was the dominant male went off after displacing the other bird. It was full volume .50 caliber for two minutes almost without stopping, finally he ran out of either ammo or steam. Also had a Pine Warbler in yard.

After dark I heard something banging around out under the carport out back of house. Grabbed gun with a shotshell .22 round and flashlight. Took minutes of poking my head in a out of boxes and stuff on the shelves before I found the culprit. Not 2 feet from my face when I spotted it, a 10-12 inch long, SPOTTED SKUNK! Must be a yearling or so? First one I have seen here. The one that has a den under the other side of cottage is a Striped Skunk, the common skunk here. Two species of skunk in the yard!

It was an awesome black and white beauty. Went back in house and traded gun for camera and got a poor docu shot, but it was fast and wouldn't stop moving in and out of boxes and junk. It was cute as can be. About 10-12 inches and as much tail. It looked at me with that skunk - what are you gonna do, grab me? look. No fear. Too cool. My first local record for the species. The beast of the week by far.

Jan. 11 ~ Had a quick errand in town early so ran through the park. There were tree trimmers on the other side of the fence from the woods blaring a radio to make sure it didn't get quiet when the chainsaw stopped. I got to hear five minutes of high volume radio commericials. My research indicates folks that can stand listening to that all day are less intelligent than those that can't. Did finally see the Pied-billed Grebe, and found out later I obtained three chigger specimens, currently being housed under the skin at waistband.

To finish the list of winterers in the last two day's posts... Monday the 9th lists the 66 sps. I saw the first 9 days of the new year. Yesterday, the 10th, I listed 17+sps. seen the last 10 days of last year that are surely around still. Today here is the list of 17 more species that are surely around now. Generally these are localized low-density species and-or habitat specialists. Bobwhite, Audubon's Oriole, Canyon Towhee, Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, the park Pied-billed Grebe, Swamp and Lincoln's Sparrow, Say's Phoebe, White-throated Sparrow, White-tailed Kite, Canyon Wren, Verdin, Wood Duck, and maybe Red-naped Sapsucker, House or Winter Wren, for a few examples off the top of my head. Leslie Calvert recently reported a few of the above south of town.

So the 66 seen, this year, plus the 17 seen the end of last year, and the 17 we know are around but I have not seen in the last month totals about a hundred species around locally now. Which is about normal average for winter diversity in the upper Sabinal River drainage. There are probably 10 more rarer things around in low single digit numbers, if you could find them.

Jan. 10 ~ We were about 45-75dF for a temp spread today. Nice. Too busy working but did see a couple Pine Warbler in the yard in the afternoon, working the ball moss clumps in the big pecan and the biggest hackberry. Two Myrtle and an Orange-crowned went through as well. The single Lark Sparrow continues. Heard the Sapsucker.

To add to yesterday's list of 66 sps. I have seen so far this year, to more complete the picture of what winters here... Here are 17+ species seen the last ten days or so of last year that are surely still around. Gadwall, Am. Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Zone-tailed Hawk, Merlin, Wilson's Snipe, Barred Owl, Blue Jay, Bushtit, Louisiana Waterthrush, Pyrrhuloxia, Rufous-crowned, Savannah and Fox Sparrow, on Dec. 22 the Roadside Hawk, on Dec. 21 Audubon's Oriole. Plus Jan. 1 a probable Baird's Sparrow.

Jan. 9 ~ A low about 44 felt great, so nice to get out of thermals and open the house up in 65dF heat. Today I added a Golden-crowned Kinglet out back of house in the afternoon. Here is a list of what I have seen locally so far this year to give an idea of what is around. Wild Turkey, Great Blue Heron, Black Vulture, N. Harrier, Sharp-shinned, Cooper's, Red-tailed, and Red-shouldered Hawks, Crested Caracara, Am. Kestrel, Killdeer, Eur. Collared-Dove, White-winged, Mourning, and Inca Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Barn Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Selasphorus Hummingbird sps. (probable Rufous), Ringed, Belted, and Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted, Ladder-backed, and Downy Woodpecker, N. Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Texas Scrub-Jay, Common Raven, Carolina Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglet, N. Mockingbird, Eur. Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Orange-crowned, Myrtle, Audubon's, and Pine Warbler, Spotted Towhee, Chipping, Field, Vesper, Lark, Song, Black-throated, and White-crowned Sparrow, N. Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern and Western Meadowlark, Rusty and Brewer's Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, American Goldfinch, and House Sparrow. So I have seen 66 species so far, and haven't really been able to get out and bird more than a five or six hours.

Jan. 8 ~ We had 15dF for a low here this a.m.! Which is plenty cold for me if you don't know. By 10 we had warmed up to freezing. NOAA said this was the strongest front here in south central TX in 6 years. Froze down to the LRGV. One hemispheric satellite map I saw showed it made it all the way through Mexico to Central America! It should send some rare birds to Texas from southward. Winds turned back to south in afternoon, but it was polar air still and quite the cold breeze at 10+mph. The peak-heat mid-40's F felt like the mid-upper-30's.

We took a spin around about 1-3 p.m. to see what we could see while being kept warm. The park was dead, a couple Myrtle, an Orange-crowned, a Kinglet (Ruby), and that was it. Went to Little Creek to see if that pond below where 356 meets it had any waterfowl. A couple barnyard geese and 9 domestic Mallard. Not good countable wild Mallard. A Belted Kingfisher was up-creek a bit on the powerline. A N. Harrier was in the pastures to south of 356. On 356 just east of town after the first dip and draw with a brushy section there was a small group of 3 White-crowned Sparrow, a Spotted Towhee, and a couple Titmouse.

Otherwise We saw a few Red-tailed and a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Caracara and a couple Kestrel, one Vesper Sparrow, some Meadowlarks, and in town a few Eastern Bluebird with one Waxwing, some Chippies, and 4-5 Myrtle and one male Audubon's Warbler. I saw an imm. or female Selasphorus Hummer as we cruised by Judy Schaffer's feeders. Probably a Rufous. Here at the house it was the usual, the Lark Sparrow was around, 4 Ground-Dove. There were liberal extra seed rations the last three days of this icebox living.

Jan. 7 ~ We had about 17dF for a low here in our cool spot. KRVL briefly had 13 and 14dF. Bird bath frozen solid. By noon it was above freezing and felt warmish. By peak heat in afternoon the cool porch was 45 and the sunny warm south side of the house was every bit of 50dF. Supposed to be in teens again tomorrow morning. So we worked in house.

Watched the couple dozen House Finches for a while, and have not reseen Mr. Super Red (scroll down to second pic below to see a pic of him), but saw one with the least amount of red I have ever seen, restricted to throat and only barely to upper breast. Missed getting a pic of it though. It is an individual I have not noticed here prior, and think it is obviously different enough that I would have. If you actually study your House Finches you will see a) they are not always all the same individuals, b) there is way more variation than you think, and c) you aren't as House Finch smart as you thought.  ;)  I have seen two very odd ones that stood out as being very different in the last 10 days.

The only other interesting thing was watching the Orange-crowned Warbler follow an ad. male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker around from tree to tree, working each sap well it dug or worked immediately after the Sapsucker left that part of the tree. The rest was the usual suspects. That same Myrtle Warbler was eating millet off the patio again.



Golden-fronted Woodpecker

This is one of our dependents on the sunflower feeder.
It is not unusual for a male to have some red feathers
in the orange nape patch. (Golden-fronted Woodpecker)


~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Jan. 6 ~ Got up to a frozen bird bath, and about 26dF with 10-15 mph winds, and gusting higher, on it, so chills in low teens. KRVL had 22dF with 15-20 mph winds and a chill factor of 11dF about 9 a.m. It's lovely out come on down. We got above freezing barely for a couple hours at peak heat, if you can call it that. A Myrtle Warbler was on the patio eating white millet seeds with the Chipping Sparrows and House Finches. At last sun, a Pine Warbler appeared on the patio and ate some white millet. That is how cold it is.

Had a town run, several around the area said they too had 26dF. There was a Ringed and a Green Kingfisher at the park. There was a small group of Spizella along the river in some grass which was 6 Field and 3 Chipping Sparrow. Field are hard to get in the park. Best bird though was a female Downy Woodpecker, a scarce bird here. Little Creek Larry said he had continuing Spotted, Canyon, and an Eastern Towhee where he puts scratch out. I saw about a dozen Eurasian Collared-Dove in town.

Jan. 5 ~ Cool, about 40dF, gray, and damp in the a.m. gave way to warm and sunny in the afternoon, probably hitting 75dF here! Not gonna last. The front got here after dark and a three day cold spell is in the cards. By 9-10 p.m. it was 50 and falling fast, 20 mph northerlies, and supposed to get down into low 30s or upper 20s by tomorrow morning, with wind on it. How lucky this hit for the couple days I might be able to go out and poke around a couple hours.  :)   It was lovely out the last three days I was stuck at the monitor.

Counted 20 House Finch, 10 were males, jockeying for position on the sunflower tube. Thought I heard a Junco fly off when everything flushed due to another accipiter attack. Have not seen one for sure all fall, but thought I heard them a couple times. Several per day of the accipiter flushings. A big imm. female Cooper's Hawk was chasing a squirrel around a tree trunk right out the office window. I was on the hawks side all the way but it saw me through the window and split. About 23 Robins flew over early. The rest was the expected gang.

Jan. 4 ~ Upper 30's to 56dF or so, little north cool wind. Too busy at the desk. Great was a Spotted Towhee in the yard, which was in the Mulberry and Hackberry over patio and cottage, and later out where we throw seed by the only understory along the back fence. Love to get one to stick around. Later in day there were about 30 female Red-winged Blackbird around the edge of patio where the millet tube hangs. Well over a hundred Brewer's were in the corral, a few Brown-headed Cowbird, and one Starling.

A Red-tailed Hawk was going over about 1000 feet up when one of the local nesters began giving that classic call we hear in movies and on TV, from over where the pair nests in big cypresses at the river. Which of course there are variations of the call, and probably we can't tell differences that the birds can. This version apparently was the one that clearly in no uncertain terms meant " don't make me fly up there and chase you away." Because the one going over immediately turned around and flew away exactly the way it came. The one on the ground chased it out of the territory without a flap, even when it was at a thousand feet up, just with THE call. That call. It was amazing to watch and listen to it as it happened. It only takes one good bird moment to make your day. To see the common thing in an uncommon way, it doesn't get any better than that.

Jan. 3 ~ We had about 38 to 76dF temp range. Cold in a.m. but still warmed up. Cold is on way. Which good, we need it, I see green grass growing out there it has been so warm. I saw what seemed the golf course flock of 8 Killdeer flying from the country club across the river, down the river habitat corridor, and over to the grass airstrip just south of us. So they are commuting a mile or so anyway. Otherwise it was the same gang, some of which is 35-40 Cardinal, 75 Chipping Sparrow, and 10 Black-crested Titmouse. A couple Robin seem to have stuck and are about daily, as are a few American Goldfinch. Still no Siskin, must be good food crops up north. Mourning Dove count is about 40 now coming into the seed. Add about 25 White-winged Dove and its a herd of seed suckers.

Jan. 2 ~ Warmed up into mid-70's dF in the afternoon, amazing. Had 8 Common Raven that went over at once early. Lots of hawks... Red-shouldered, Red-tailed, Cooper's, Sharp-shinned Hawks, plus Caracara, and a Kestrel was heard. Great Blue Heron, heard a Flicker, likely that male Yellow-shafted, the Orange-crowned Warbler continues going through yard as do a few Myrtle Warbler. Had some Red-winged Blackbird hit the millet seed on patio. The Brewer's were over in the corral, and wouldn't be caught dead doing such a thing.

I got a note from Leslie Calvert whom is a few miles SW of town. She saw what sounded like it was probably an ad. White-tailed Hawk, I think Jan. 1. She also has seen a Wood Duck, Long-billed Thrasher, Verdin, and says Pyrrhuloxia are in good numbers over her way. Thanks for the news! Folks, keep your eyes out for soaring buteos with a short broad snow white tail with a black band at tip.

January 1, 2017 ~ Holy cow I can't believe I just wrote that. Happy New Year! The good news is that last years' rolly coaster is over. Hope this next ride isn't so bumpy with so many hard turns. I'm getting old for this, the teacups are sounding good to me, but I think that sign we just passed said "Mr. Toads Wild Ride."

After breakfast we putted down to the crossing, couldn't find a flock there and back. Just a few of the residents. Then up E. 360 to a Chinaberry, and a Ligustrum tree near Berteau Pk., no rare Robins. Further out E. 360 along north side of the 1500' knoll a small flock of sparrows was along the road. We had mostly 20 or so Chipping Sparrow, a few Field in with them, and the beauty of the bunch, one Black-throated Sparrow, which disappeared quickly. There were both the gray type, and the rusty-buffy type of Field Sparrow, and a Bewick's Wren.

We went up on the knoll and still can't find a Spotted Towhee, and did not see any Bushtits. But did have one Texas Scrub-Jay. The bird of the day, got away. We repeatedly flushed a sparrow in the thick grasses on top that we could never get a good study look at. In flight as it flew away and turned I saw it had mostly ashy white outer tail feathers. Not snow white, but clearly mostly barely off-whitish. It had a big head and fat body, tail was shortish, and it would not allow views. Every time it flew it landed in a short thick patch of Agarita and wouldn't flush until you stepped on it. Over and over again for 15-20 minutes. Lots of flight views flying away. In which it most closely resembled a Baird's Sparrow to my eye. Behavior was right. We were a half mile or so from where we had one a couple winters ago. Impossible to see is a character of Baird's Sparrow. So we start the year with a great one that gets away. We will look some more, but the last one was just like this bird, no way to see it properly, except the one time when lady luck flew it up into a tree.

It got up to just about 80dF in the afternoon heat, amazing for New Years Day. As were the dozen species of butterflies that were out in it. Large Orange, Orange, and Dainty Sulphur, Little Yellow, So. Dogface, and Sleepy Orange for 6 Pierids. Then 6 brushfoots were Snout, several Variegated and 2 Gulf Fritillary, Buckeye, 3 Mestra, a female Goatweed Leafwing, and later the male in yard yesterday showed back up too. I have had whole Januarys that did not have a dozen species. So this is pretty remarkable. Like all the green grass growing, and some Paralena and Straggler Daisy have both put out flowers.

~ ~ ~ above is 2017 ~ ~ ~

House Finch

Here is that House Finch from Dec. 29 with an extreme
amount of red on underparts coupled with a very reduced
amount of streaking on sides and a bold upper wingbar.
Rear flanks and thighs are streaked or marked, as in a
House Finch.


~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ 2016 summary - The Year in Review ~ ~ ~ long and boring ! ! ~ ~ ~

Wow man, holy cow, a whole dang year has gone before us. Seems like I just did this? These are brutal, the annual summary. But it sometimes makes it easier for me to look stuff up, like the monthly summaries. Especially for items that don't make one of my excel files. They also help me put records in perspective. And each year adds another layer or level, of observation, and therefore understanding. We finished 13 years here in late Oct., and are now on our 14th Nov., January, etc. WeeWow.

It was our 5th year of not driving a thousand miles all year, all driving total. Most of which is just town and back runs for supplies, mail, etc. Which is remarkable methinks. That includes a few big city runs to Uvalde for supplies @ 100 mi. ea. Total birding miles is a couple hundred of the less than thousand. I guess one could say I am in a fairly sedentary phase.

I have always preferred concentrating lots of effort in a small area. It seems to yield more results than little effort in lots of places. Maybe not a bigger species list, but those are not the results I seek. I want to discover something new, something that we don't know. Chasing already known discovered birds does not provide that for me.

This year my Upper Sabinal River Drainage (USRD) total was 368*. ;) The area is from a couple miles south of Utopia where we live up the valley and canyon to the Sabinal River headwaters at Lost Maples SNA. Of course all the way 9 miles south of town to Clayton Grade and the escarpment I consider the USRD. I just did not see anything south of 360 that was different this year.

*My USRD 2016 total works out like this:
212 species of birds
104+ sps. of butterflies
 52 sps. of Odes (dragonflies and damselflies)
368 total - LOL

I think it is the first time I have broken 200 on a bird year list just up here in the USRD. The year I did 279 in Uvalde Co. I birded the Uvalde area and everything between way over a dozen times. Considering it was a poor passerine spring and fall migration here it is a pretty amazing total. The river is a creek, and there are only a couple weak stock tanks for ponds, not any real lake. I hadn't counted all year and so was shocked when I hit 200 and still had orioles and finches to count. I am usually more like in the 170-80's for the year up here locally.

There were about 8 more sps. of birds, a couple butterflies, and a couple more odes, seen down at Uvalde not included in total which is strictly the local USRD list. The 104 sps. of butterflies locally is second only to a 108 year in prior 13 years. Odes were lackluster overall and remain depressed still since drought. Most of the great fall butterfly show is immigrants from elsewhere (southward primarily).

There was nearly FOUR FEET of rain locally this year, it was a wet one. But most was in brief periods during major events, with dry spells between them. All or nuthin' in other words. The Persimmon and Hackberry crops were wiped out by the couple feet in spring, and a major wind event took out the pecan flowers at just the wrong time so there was only a very very minor pecan crop. Seed crops however faired well. Flower blooms were great.

Best butterflies were the second UvCo record for Purple-washed Skipper (Panoquina lucas) in Nov. again, just like the first I found a few years ago. A Malachite was outstanding at the park. Both are Mexican origin vagrants. I saw a couple Adelpha sisters that were not Arizona, one looked Spot-celled, another looked Band-celled. I only counted Adelpha sps. (non eulalia), besides Arizona. Dang things won't stop. A Mourning Cloak is always good here, not a sure thing every year.

Many butterflies occured that I had not recorded in a number of years, often going back to the start of the drought. Like Julia, Empress Leilia, Tailed Orange, Tropical Leafwing, Coyote Cloudywing, Zilpa Longtail, Rawson's Metalmark, a Polydamus Swallowtail, (a couple probable Ornythion got away), and a Brazillian Skipper. Scarce still but not firsts in such a long time were lots of Orange-barred Sulphur, numbers of Ocola Skipper, a dozen Crimson Patch, a Dark Buckeye, a handfull of White Peacock, and it was a big invasion year for Mestra, but only a very few Zebra.

Misses were no rare whites, Great Purple Hairstreak (!), no Dorantes or Longtailed Skipper, no Wood-Nymph, Mexican Frit, Tailed-Blue. Read the Sept., Oct., and Nov. monthly summaries for amazing numbers of things like Bordered Patch, Theona Crescent, Sachem, and many others. The fall invasion was outstanding. We missed any major Monarch flight this year, but in Sept. had a week-long flight of a billion Snout.

A photo was shown to me of a Calleta Silkmoth caterpillar, from late Oct. in town, the first I know of that species locally. Some good bugs were a couple Eyed Elatarid, one Stenaspis Cerambycid, (those two are on the 2016 photos page), Wheel Bugs, a Hister Beetle, a few S. gigas Cerambycid, a Banded Sphinx ad. on porch, and a couple of the cats on Ludwigia at the park.

The few good odes were a Blue-faced and a Swamp Darner, a few Ivory-striped Sylph, Halloween, Red-tailed and Four-spotted Pennant (all 3 scarce up here), some Band-winged Dragonlet, a few Orange-striped Threadtail, Springwater Dancer at Lost Maples, but generally lackluster. No Amberwings, Comanche or Twelve-spotted Skimmer, and Black-shouldered Spinyleg that was common 03-08 remains absent since the drought and dredging of the park pond.

Best birds were the Roadside Hawk last winter, now back again, for its third winter. The Green Violetear (now called Mexican Violetear) at Sabinal River Lodge in May and June was outstanding, and one of the birds-of-the-year. Certainly the rarest documented. The Short-tailed Hawk in late September was another great Mexican origin vagrant and record. Perhaps the first fall Edwards Plateau record? Tropical Parula were at Concan as usual in spring, but I did not get one here. A Common Crow was a mega-rare vagrant here this year as well.

In spring an immature Goshawk was seen several times from late Feb. to early May. The couple Harris's Sparrows that overwintered into Feb. were good too. A Great Kiskadee in the yard in May was, uh, great, as were a couple Philadelphia Vireo. It was a weak spring for warblers and eastern passerines (songbirds). Even Nashville Warbler numbers were way down.

In summer finding nesting Olive Sparrow just south of town was outstanding and maybe the furthest north known nesting at present. Also a family group of Black-throated Sparrow were a nice find. A juvenile Broad-winged Hawk in July in our garden indicates they nested somewhere very nearby again this year. White-tipped Dove surely must be nesting in the area, numbers are regular spring to fall at Lost Maples now.

August from or in the yard we had a couple Roseate Spoonbill seen flying downriver, a Townsend's Warbler, and a couple late Golden-cheeked Warblers. Plus a couple Acadian Flycatcher off breeding grounds in river habitat corridor. September had the Malachite (butterfly), a Philly Vireo, and the Short-tailed Hawk. October saw the return of the Roadside Hawk, one Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Sprague's Pipit, and a great total of 77 species of butterflies for that month.

November had an amazing calling Eastern Wood-Pewee on the 11th at the park, and a Common Crow flew over the yard on the 23rd, my first in Uvalde County. December provided a Bald Eagle, Fox Sparrow, and I saw the Roadside Hawk again, on the 22nd.

So it may often seem light and slowish at times, but there are always some incredible exciting things to be found. Surely we miss more than we see and there is lots going by un-detected. When you add it all up at the end, it was a great year out here with lots of outstanding finds. You just have to keep ploughing. The more you cast your visual net, the more you catch. Always, some of it will blow your mind.

~ ~ ~ end 2016 summary ~ ~ ~ December summary is below ~ ~ ~

~ OMG, not another summary ~ I'll need a couple pix....

Maple

Here is one of the dozens of Rocky Mountain Bigtooth Maples
around town. Peak week or two we get a nice color show.


Maple

Here is another...



~ ~ ~ December summary ~ ~ ~

December was a warmer and wetter than average, by far. Wonder what that could be? We had a 5-7" rain event over a few days at the start of the month, nearing double the average monthly total. The last few days of the month I talked with an expert on how cold it has been, Mafy the propane guy. He said business has been very slow because it has not been cold yet. We had a couple freezes, but they were brief 2-3 day events, and none the last couple weeks of the month! For the times they are a changin'. Around Christmas there were some record maximum low temps in the mid-60's F, which is the average high for the date!

Butterflies were pretty good for Dec. with 28 species seen. It ties my 3rd highest Dec. total, out of 14. An Adelpha sister that was either a Band-, or a Spot-, celled Sister was good. Looked Spot-celled but was a fly-by. A blooming Loquat in town became the main magnet for most of the month. A remarkable 17 sps. were seen on Dec. 17. A late Monarch beating tracks SSW on Dec. 13 was good. A late White-tipped Black (moth) Dec. 27 is my first Dec. record.

Odes were scarce of course. Not 10 sps. were seen over the month, and all were the expected end-of-season types. By the last week of the month Chorus Frogs (our spring peeper) had begun calling. Heard the Ringtail calling one night, and a couple nights it (the Ringtail) was raining hackberry pits on the steel carport awning out back. It loves them.

Birds were good for the little looking around we got to do. I saw the Roadside Hawk fly over the yard on Dec. 22. This is its third winter locally. A third-year Bald Eagle flew over on Dec. 13. A Fox Sparrow on 26th was great, and 5 White-crowned at once on the 1st was a yard record. Bushtit (6) were great to see on the 24th. The Coot since Nov. at the park pond might have left by late in month. We made two Dec. trips to Lost Maples and saw just about nuthin'. A Turkey Vulture around south of town for a week was a rare sighting for December.

The rest of the funner stuff was the usual local specialties: Some Green and Ringed Kingfisher, Audubon's Oriole, a couple Zone-tailed Hawk, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Texas Scrub-Jay, the Louisiana Waterthrush continued through the month in its 3rd year wintering at the park. The ad. fem. Rusty Blackbird continued its 4th year wintering just south of town a couple miles. A few Pine Warbler are around. I think Jerry and Judy Schaffer have a couple Rufous Hummingbird at their (heated) feeders.

~ ~ ~ end December summary - back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~

Wild Turkey

Here is one of the turkey in the yard around Thanksgiving.
This was through office window and screen.



Dec. 31 ~ Ran 48-74dF for a temp spread, fog and mist in morning, sunny off and on in the afternoon. Noon we ran over to Waresville and checked the pond on the country club there. One Wilson's Snipe and one Savannah Sparrow flushed, that was it. Heard some Killdeer and saw some Western Meadowlark and Eastern Bluebird.

A few butterflies were out in the heat, a couple Red Admiral, a few Sleepy Orange, a Common Mestra, a few Snout, and an astonishing two new ones for the month. A Vesta Crescent flew over the river at the crossing on 360 while we were standing on it. Later in p.m. a male Goatweed Leafwing was on the house! Two on the last day of the month in Dec. is highly unexpected. That makes 28 species for the month, and a good total for December.

Just a reminder, a lot of the resident cavity nesters like Titmouse, Chickadee, Bluebird, and the two Wrens can all start nest site selection quite early in the year. So now is a good time to service your nest boxes. Besides some weed whacking, I pulled three nest boxes down to clean them, especially the one the Red Wasps took over this past year. Their nest had 60+ cells in it (!) but was empty. No larvae, no adults, nothing.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 30 ~ Happy New Years eve, eve! Cool and overcast about a 47-57dF temp spread for the day. Luckily a town run was in order, so I got a stop at the park between errands. Saw the Louisiana Waterthrush very well up on the island, it didn't flush at the sight of me as usual (which is why I suspect it is a female) and gave great views. The female Green Kingfisher is still there. About 4 Myrtle Warbler, all males. No Coot. It either left or was taken. Just south of town a half-mile at the UvCo354 cutoff there was an adult Zone-tailed Hawk circling low. It seemed to be eyeing a big fresh carcass a Common Raven was working. Saw a handful of Robins and a dozen Waxwings. Later p.m. at house I heard a Hutton's Vireo over in corral junipers, and a Merlin flew by.

Dec. 29 ~ Front blew in as daybreak arrived, dry, and winds were northerly 15-20 almost all day, gusting higher briefly. Thursday so my most stuck-at-phone-and-monitor day of the week and just as well when cold, wet, or windy. Saw only the regular gang in my brief breaks outside on the sheltered-from-northerlies side of house.

Of about 16 total House Finch there was one male that was the reddest below (underparts) I have ever seen. I have seen many thousands of House Finch. It took 20 minutes but I grabbed a couple digiscopes which when I get off camera hopefully one will show it and will post. It was almost entirely red below. Like the N. Cardinals they too are getting redder now as their basic (winter) plumage wears the duller tips off the feathers. But this was ridiculous. In fish we would call it a super-male. Highly pigmented.

Dec. 28 ~ Was another mostly gray day until late p.m., a.m. was fog, mist, overcast, about 68-78 temp spread today. Still too busy and didn't see anything different today. Maybe 75 Chippies, 30 Cards, 8+ Titmouse, and briefly about 35 Waxwing and a couple Robin in the morning. Saw the imm. female N. Harrier heading north at last light. A Sharpy and couple Cooper's made attempts on the seed-eaters. One Lark Sparrow, a couple Ground-Dove. In leps, one Mestra went by again, and a couple Sleepy Orange, a Little Yellow.

Dec. 27 ~ One of the Cooper's Hawks grabbed a Cardinal. Heard Chorus Frogs again, and a Leopard Frog. Saw one Mestra (lep) and a few Sleepy Orange. Heard Cranes again heading south. Too busy with work, saw only the same gang outside. Saw the Harrier heading over towards airstrip and pasture. The beast of the day was a White-tipped Black (moth), which was so worn it was a ashy-tipped gray, and surely my first December record. We had a good invasion this fall of this diurnal nectar-feeding moth, which are less than annual and always scarce here. Numbers were reported up to Dallas. Early to mid-November is usually the last of them those years that some few do occur here.

Dec. 26 ~ Happy Boxing Day! Still mild and humid, was about 65-77dF temp range, mostly overcast a little sun here and there in afternoon. A horse jumped the fence and was in yard several hours. Told Kathy it was her present. A real pretty mare. It mowed parts of the lawn, as well as fertilized some others. Had to cut a fence to get it out. In leps, great was a Checkered White in the yard, first one of the month. Since I checked, species #26 for the month and likely the last new one for this December.

It is back to the salt mine here so just a few peeks around outside, twas the same gang. Except in the later afternoon I heard a FOX Sparrow belt out a bar of song! What a great explosive surprise earfull! Outstanding. I grabbed binocs and went out front along fenceline but could not find it. Less than annual here, a good bird, and of course my FOS. Heard some Cranes going over southbound.

Dec. 25 ~ Merry Christmas! It was a windy one here most of the day, 10-20 gusting to 30, and some spots had 40mph gusts. But warm. Low was about 65, high nearly 80dF, I think it broke some records for warmest low for the date. Overcast and some mist early, finally cleared later afternoon. Did not see anything different around the yard. An anole was on the porch later p.m.

Took a spin up to Lost Maples SNA noonish and walked a mile and a half up Can Creek, past the ponds. Was dead for birds. Maybe too late in day? We had two small flocks with a handful of birds in them each and that was it. Amazing to walk a mile and a half of brush-lined and wooded creek edge and not even hear a single woodpecker or sparrow. The main feeding station at the trailhead parking lot does not seem to be filled in winter.

A few Ruby-crowned Kinglet, maybe two Orange-crowned Warbler, a few Titmouse (Black-crested), a Carolina Chickadee, a couple Carolina and a Bewick's Wren, heard one Myrtle Warbler, a few Eastern Pewee, but generally dismal. No Spotted Towhee or Hermit Thrush. A few juniper trees had lots of uneaten berries on the ground beneath them, and no birds. I may have heard an Olive Sparrow, the super high thin metallic tik call note. I did hear a brief bit of a Canyon Wren call (not song).

The three miles we did was needed and felt great, but the birds were absent for the most part. I flushed a couple damselflies which went un-ID'd, and we saw a few Variegated Meadowhawk, the only dragons. One ode got away that had to have been a Great Spreadwing, a big oversized damselfly that I watched fly away in binocs. One Rio Grande Leopard Frog was calling.

On the way up to LM we saw at least a dozen Common Raven along Hwy. 187, and another over the ponds. About a dozen Black Vulture were on some roadkill. On the way back there was an Eastern Red-tailed Hawk, a migrant from elsewhere, with a nice big belly band our local resident Fuerte's Red-tails lack. As we were on the last mile coming home along the river, something shot across road toward river, having to watch road I just saw a bit of motion, Kathy said her glimpse looked like a Ringed Kingfisher. After dark I saw some glowing Firefly larva in the grass.

Dec. 24 ~ Merry Christmas Eve, a gray muggy one it seems. Temp range 60-70dF, humidity about 90%, foggy early, then misty, then overcast with occasional streamer showers, but not cold. Heard a Flicker over in corral early, and a Western Meadowlark was chucking thataway too. The rest was the usual yard gang.

Great was hearing the first Chorus Frogs of the season, our 'spring peeper' here. They are the first frog to get a new season going, often December is when they start. Strecker's Chorus Frog is this species here. Spotted Chorus Frog are here, but they don't do the spring peep chorusing, rather sounding more like a mccallii Tex-Mex Screech-Owl, or a mid-range toad trill.

We took a little putt up and back along E. 360 (the part on the east side of the river where we live). There was not much along the road, but we went up on the north knoll, the 1500' one, and found a small flock of Chipping Sparrow and assorted passerines with them. About 40 Chippys, maybe 50, a few Field Sparrow, great looks at a Rufous-crowned Sparrow and heard a second one, two Hutton's Vireo, at least 4 Black-crested Titmouse, 2-3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 2 Orange-crowned Warbler, and best of all about 6 BUSHTIT. Which I have not been seeing lately, though don't spend much time in the juniper-break type habitats they prefer. The knoll has a good stand of Buckley Oaks mixed in. Also while we were standing around a, or the, Rusty Blackbird flew over calling. Also heard some Cranes going over somewhere up in the clouds.

White Peacock

Here is one of the 5 or so White Peacock butterflies
that showed up this fall. They are about 3" across
so decent sized. When fresh they can show a beautiful light
lavender overscaling this worn individual lacks. This one has
also worn off the orange-ish color along margins. They are
less than annual here so always a treat to see.



~ ~ ~ archive copy of update header ~ ~ ~

MOST RECENT UPDATE: December 30, 2016
(prior updates: Dec. 23, 16, 9, 2, Nov. 25, 18, 11, 4, Oct. 28, 21, 14, 7, Sept. 30, 23, 16, 9, 2)

NEWS FLASH!

Winter is here! Pecans and Mesquites are nearly bare of leaves as are most deciduous trees now. Still a little color left on the Spansh (Buckley) Oaks, many are just going brown. Cypresses are mostly dropped of leaflets (needles or leaves).

Two Rufous-backed Robin have been seen recently on either side of us, one in Bexar Co. (near SAT), and another in Del Rio, so keep your eyes out. They like Chinaberry so check them. That is what the one Kathy and I saw in Uvalde several years ago was in, and a pic of the Del Rio one was in it. American Robins were back, I saw almost 500 on Nov. 11, but it seems like they left. Only seeing a few now. There are very few juniper berries or hackberries this year, almost no fruit crop. Stuff will not stick. Some few waxwings are back and a few American Goldfinch are around. Yet to see a Siskin this winter.

A BALD EAGLE soaring upriver a couple miles south of town on Tues. Dec. 13 looked like a 3-year old. One of the best birds of the year was at the park in Nov., an Eastern Wood-Pewee that called (soft chip notes) on Nov. 11. Even more remarkable was a yard COMMON CROW flyover on Nov. 23! My first in Uvalde Co. A Coot was at the park, for over a month, but missed it today, it may have left. Seeing a few Pine Warbler back for the winter. Saw Bushtits on Dec. 24, and heard a Fox Sparrow on Dec. 26.

A couple recent sightings in e-bird from Lost Maples are interesting. Nov. 25 an Empidonax flycatcher, a Blue-headed Vireo, and a Townsend's Solitaire were seen, and Dec. 15 a Winter Wren and two Olive Sparrow. Besides the Solitaire (just past the first big main pond) no details as to where any of them were. An Empi here in winter is likely a Hammond's, the only two Empis I have had in winter here were Hammys. We have been to LM twice in Dec., and saw none of the above.

Further back...
Oct. 21 had the first of fall Myrtle Warblers I have seen, 4-5 of them, a month behind Audubon's Warbler. Also on Oct. 21 in the yard was a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH which is LTA - less than annual - locally. Winter birds are around with Flicker, Sapsucker, Orange-crowned Warbler, and others present now. Kathy heard Sandhill Cranes on Oct. 20, many since. An adult female RUSTY BLACKBIRD on Oct. 19th south of town where one has wintered the prior three winters is likely a returnee and continues. A SPRAGUE'S Pipit was at the golf course Oct. 22. A very late and not likely of local origin Summer Tanager was at the park Oct. 26. Audubon's Oriole sang in and around our yard an hour each day Oct. 26-27, more recently again on Dec. 21.

A ROADSIDE HAWK was on private property south of town a couple miles on October 3, and in our yard Oct. 4, last seen flying north out of yard with a Cotton Rat in its talons. There is no public access where I saw it, all property is private along the road including anywhere you think you can pull off to the side. It is one of those Texas privately maintained Co. roads through private property with no public access save stopping in the road, which ain't too cool in a working ranch, or for the few folks that live off it. What would seem most likely to be "the bird" that was seen the last two winters, is back. In the prior 2 winters I did see it at the park, and in the row of trees on Cypress St. out front of park. Other than cruising roads, the park is the only public access place to look for it without landowner permission. Not very chaseable is a probably a generous assessment of that aspect of it. If I can stake out I will post, but that did not work the last two winters. There is simply too much habitat with too little access. I have seen a small buteo a few times in the last 6-8 weeks, but not well enough to ID it. Update: I saw it fly over the yard on Dec. 22. It is around. But you can't plan on seeing it, or find it when looking for it.

Even further back...
An imm. SHORT-TAILED HAWK (vagrant from Mexico) was just south of town Sept. 29 (ph.)! A BROWN THRASHER was in our yard Sept. 27. A MALACHITE (butterfly from Mexico) was at the park Sept. 23! A WOOD THRUSH was on the island at Utopia Park on Sept. 14. A PHILADELPHIA VIREO was at Lost Maples Sept. 11. A CATBIRD on Sept. 10 was eating Snouts on UvCo 363 near Waresville. Two COUCH'S KINGBIRD and a YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER were near the Waresville Cemetery on Sept. 3, at least one Couch's continued Oct. 1.

A first fall male TOWNSEND'S WARBLER was in our yard Aug. 31. Two immature ROSEATE SPOONBILL were seen flying south downriver over the Cypresses a couple miles south of Utopia on Aug. 23! On Sept. 4 there was a Mississippi Kite and imm. Mourning Warbler along W. 360, another Mississippi Kite was seen Sept. 30. A Louisiana Waterthrush most of Sept., through Dec. 29 so far, at the park is surely a returning bird back for its third winter here. Fall has been good, but you have to work for it, and be lucky. Always remember, the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Of expected but scarcer or local things around, there are the usual: Zone-tailed Hawk, Canyon Towhee and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, a few Long-billed Thrashers, Ringed and Green Kingfisher. Some few Audubon's Oriole are around, 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. My take is that they are probably nesting here and there. I found 3 just-fledged Olive Sparrows being attended by adults June 5 about 2.5 mi. SSW of Utopia on private property.

The deco native flower gardens around town were loaded with southerly origin fall invader butterflies in October, which faded in November, the first couple freezes have taken their toll. What is left is about to be frozen out. Oct. 23 Kathy and I saw 51 species in less than three hours of checking flowers! Nov. 5 at the Sr. Ctr. Lantanas there was a Purple-washed Skipper (Panoquina lucas), the second Uvalde Co. record, and another Mexican vagrant. If a butterfly can make it here from Mexico how hard do you think it is for a bird?

A few chiggers are still out, even after the freezes, bug spray on pantlegs usually keeps them off. Do not run around in flipflops and shorts like I do. Some of the small fast gray Eastern Treehole skeeters are still about too. Had both in the last two weeks.

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

~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Dec. 23 ~ The front returned overnight as predicted, warmer, southerly flow and gulf moisture so in low 50's dF with fog-mist-drizzle. It is back to the semi-cloud forest thing. The 10 day forecast shows us not freezing through the end of the year! The next five days are supposed to be this regular fog-mist-drizzle thing common here, with a temp range of about 60-70dF and maybe some showers. Three Myrtle Warbler and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet were out front early. The winter Chipping Sparrow flock is pushing 60 birds now. There were about 35 Cedar Waxwing in the Hackberry by the gate raiding that tree. The Mocker did not appear thrilled about it.

Town run for some supplies so a look at the park. Don't know why, a glutton for punishment I suppose. You just have to keep going and keep checking. The rare stuff is mostly passing through, so some luck helps, but the more you cast your visual blanket, the more you end up seeing. In the woods there were no passerines. Not even Cardinal or Titmouse. I heard a few Myrtle Warbler on other side of river and pond, but nothing in the woods. It has been remarkably quiet there of late. Heard a Green Kingfisher, but didn't see it. There was my FOS Ring-necked Duck, a female, hanging out with the continuing Coot in the pond. What seems our first over-wintering Coot now.

Dec. 22 ~ A not very cold front came through before dawn, no rain, just light northerlies, but is supposed to dry us out briefly. By tonight and tomorrow it returns northbound as a humid warm front. A weird but regular phenomenon here. We get the same front twice, once as a southbound cold dry one, and then as a northbound warm moist one, ususally within 12-24 hours. Was 45-70dF spread today. The heat brought out a few butterflies. One Little Yellow, 6 Snout, an American Lady and a Red Admiral, a few Sleepy Orange, and a Common Mestra.

I briefly saw the Rodadside Hawk which must have been in one of the big live-oaks up the slope behind us. I was out on patio and saw it flying from up the hill, over the other side of the yard, and then down the draw. It was a tiny buteo, not one of the multiple daily Coooper's Hawks, and much smaller than a Red-shouldered without any bold checkered pattern. Wings too long for an accipter, small buteo wing shape, and tail proportionally far too short for Cooper's. The brown appearance above and size always generates a knee-jerk Cooper's thought first for me. Until you see the parts don't fit due to much shorter tail and longer wings. Completely incorrect for accipiter structure.

It is Thursday so I was lucky to be outside and couldn't go run off after it. Will be looking around this weekend though. Dang thing is the most unpredictable bird I ever knew. Apologies if I said this before, but finding seabirds in the middle of the ocean is more predictable.

Dec. 21 ~ Happy Solstice! Shortest daylight day of the year, they start getting longer now. Outstanding! It is officially winter, climatologically speaking. I heard a couple Cardinal singing little bits and pieces of song today, tuning up, in the sunny smokin' hot 68dF heat. That felt great. Low was 37 or so. Lots of the resident bird species will start singing over the next couple weeks as soon as the increased photoperiod kicks off the male's testosterone.

What I presume are the same nesting pair of Eastern Bluebirds went to their box by the gate today. First thing early in bad light there was a flock of 250 White-fronted Goose heading north up-valley. The seperate back 4 birds looked different of size, shape, and structure, I suspect they were Snow Geese, but the birds were east of me toward the sun, so silhouette only.

I was stuck at computer so just saw the regulars in the yard until late p.m. an hour before last sun. I went outside to catch a blast, and an Audubon's Oriole was in the live-oaks on the slope out back, while at the same time a Ringed Kingfisher flew downriver calling so saw both at once. A great twofer up here in the hill country. How many times I go outside for a break and see something of interest, really makes one wonder how many times things are going by that we don't see. More and most.

Dec. 20 ~ The last day of fall... it did not freeze as predicted, that cloud blanket that moved in after the sun warmed things up yesterday afternoon held the heat in. Much better. We warmed to 60-62dF! That felt great, I am almost thawed out. Had to do some errands in town. Saw the Turkey Vulture just south of town. The park had the Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, and one female American Wigeon. No landbirds.

Just out the gate by corral there was a female Pyrrhuloxia, and last light there were 3 Lark Sparrow (so we got another one in the flocklet) on the patio gulping white millet down fast as they could crack it. You could hear their bills breaking seeds as they were chowing down. Heard Cooper's Hawk calling from over in the corral in the afternoon. Few each Cedar Waxwing, Robin, and American Goldfinch.

Dec. 19 ~ Another hard freeze, about 22dF for a low, but with just 5mph or less wind so not as chilly feeling as yesterday morning. Bird bath had to be thawed three times before it got above freezing. It got up to about 50dF at peak heat before a cloud sheild killed the sun around 4 p.m. Was pretty nice for a bit.

A flock of 30 Cedar Waxwing went over, most I have seen so far this season. A few Robin came into the bath for a drink. Two Lark Sparrow again this morning. One Lesser Goldfinch was the new odd bird, we don't get them much in winter, unless you feed nyger seed. The rest was the same gang o' seed thiefs.

Dec. 18 ~ Oh my freezin' fern it is cold out there this morning. Temps in mid-20's dF with 20 mph winds on it = single digit chill factors. At 9:30a I saw 22dF at Kerrville, with 20 mph winds and 6dF for a chill. Vanderpool just north of us had about the same and 7dF chill factor. A bunch of local areas were single digit chill factors. Bird bath was frozen solid like a rock. And it was 77dF yesterday afternoon. Gadzooks! A 50dF real temp drop, plus the loss of 20 more due to wind. No T-shirt and flip-flops today! Birding will be from in the house trying to see through fogged windows.

There were 4 American Goldfinch at the sunflower tube, and a dozen Cedar Waxwing were here for a brief bit. The rest was the regulars. A blackbird flock settled in the corral late that was a couple hundred Brewer's, 40+ Red-winged (which is a big number for winter), a few Brown-headed Cowbird, and one Starling. Here in the yard over five pounds of seed was consumed, probably 6. A weird raptor went over early but I didn't get enough of a look to ID it.

Dec. 17 ~ Low of 50dF, very foggy first half of a.m., slowly lifting, and clearing after noon. It got downright warm out, into the upper 70's dF! Tommorow morning is supposed to be 50dF colder! Baton down the hatches. Had a Dainty Sulphur, a Little Yellow, and a Cloudless Sulphur around yard when the sun broke out.

We took a little spin around town and out to the 1050 pass a few miles west of town where the little bit of hills (and altitude) have lots of Buckley Oaks. Leaves were more rusty and orange-brown than red in color, a few were red, but it looked kinda like fall. Figured we better have a quick look as there are 35mph northerlies forecast with gusts to 40-50 are possible, which may strip the trees.

At the park in town there was a winter form Questionmark (lep) in the woods, which I missed in November. The library garden had a few Cloudless and Large Orange Sulphur, one So. Dogface, and a rare December Rounded Metalmark. Another Dogface was at the Sr. Ctr., probably wondering what the deer did to the Lantanas. A few Sleepy Orange were there, and on the Loquat in town.

Great was at Bear Creek Pond which is the pond on 1050 about 4 or 5 miles west of town, and a mile east (this side) of the peak of the pass. Ducks! Waterfowl! I haven't been seeing any so a pleasant change. There were 6 American Wigeon, 7 Gadwall, and 11 Green-winged Teal. Very neat. I could see a couple dragonflies at the edge of the pond patrolling but they were too far to ID. The roadsides were devoid of birds save one Mockingbird and an Eastern Phoebe, no sparrow flocks. Still have not seen a Say's Phoebe this fall.

The other neat thing was the blooming Loquat in town, which had a good selection of butterflies on it, a number first for the month, and likely last and only. A Fatal Metalmark, plus an un-ID'd (too worn and frayed) Metalmark were on it, one Sachem (Field Skipper), a Mestra, a few Variegated Fritillary, a Reakirt's Blue, a Snout, a couple Buckeye, one each American and Painted Lady, and an Orange-crowned Warbler, probably eating them.

The northerlies hit with a vengance about 8:15 p.m., the front is here. Was still 60dF then. Reports of 30dF drops in temps in an hour to our north where the front passed already. The winds at 15-20 sustained (gusting twice that) are here for 36 hours or so per forecasts. No birding tomorrow save from house. Good thing we have a hundred pounds of various seeds here for the birds. They are going to go through a lot the next few days.


Utopia Park

This is the entrance at Utopia Park so you recognize it. Some have been wondering what I have been doing the last 13 years here... I suppose you never tried to train vultures before? They might not be there when you arrive though.  ;)



~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 16 ~ Temp spread 50-60dF and fog with some mist, overcast all day, no sun later as advertised. First thing in a.m. the Rusty Blackbird flew over calling. Did a town run for supplies so got a look at the park. SOS - the Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, and a female Green Kingfisher all present, but nothing else. I heard some Myrtle and a Pine Warbler across the river, no Louisiana Waterthrush.

The bird of the day was a Turkey Vulture, which are absent here from mid-Nov. to mid-Feb. I have about 2 records in that 12 week window over the last 13 years. It was on a roadside carcass with a Caracara ca. 2 mi. south of town right by our turnoff around 2 p.m., and then later about 3:30 presumedly the same bird (considering their rarity here now) was right over the house a mile west of the first sighting. Normally if you see something that looks like a TV in the winter window of absence period it will be a Zone-tailed Hawk.

Dec. 15 ~ Temp range today was about 44-55dF, overcast, humid and cool. Thursdays I am stuck at desk and computer so didn't see much besides the yard regulars. Three Ground-Dove and the Lark Sparrow were on the patio, heard a Pine Warbler up the slope behind us with the big ancient live-oaks. A couple Caracara went over. One Red-tailed Hawk was an imm. eastern type, not a local Fuertes' Red-tail, the first of those I have seen this winter. Which is still a week away but it looks and feels like it is here already. I see some nice red-leafed Buckley Oaks, the hills are getting some good color with them now.

Dec. 14 ~ A quick run to town this morning, so a look at the park. The Louisiana Waterthrush, Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, and a female Green Kingfisher were all continuing. New was a first-winter White-throated Sparrow in the ragweed patch, and a Pine Warbler was there. Best was an amazing flight and vocal display by two interacting Ringed Kingfisher. Incredible flight maneuvers, and calls I never heard from them. At one point one of them had one wing pointed straight up, the other straight down, belly towards horizon, not flapping, holding position, for an extended dive right over my head. It was awesome. At dusk a third Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver past our place a couple miles south of town. More common than Coots here.

In leps I saw a couple Common Mestra today, sps. #11 for the month. Another (diff.) Gulf Fritillary went by, two Sleepy Orange, and I saw the Mexican Yellow out front again. There were about 15 Waxwing (Cedar) in the big pecan and three American Goldfinch here now. The one Lark Sparrow was out there on the patio again. About a half-dozen Turkey were over in the corral. Two FOS (for me) species were seen today, finally a Spotted Towhee was over the north fence in the draw, and also finally, a female Merlin shot through the yard, much as one did routinely the last two winters. Maybe we have another returnee?

Dec. 13 ~ It got up to an amazing 75dF or so in the afternoon! First in butterflies there was a tardy MONARCH, making tracks SSW, way behind the main pack by about 6 weeks or more. Great was a Mexican Yellow on the couple Tropical Sage flowers open. Saw 2 Snout, 3 Sleepy Orange, and a pale morph female Orange Sulphur. At last sun I was on back porch in a pumpkin colored T-shirt and the first Gulf Fritillary of the month kept attempting to land on me. I was just the right color. Six sps. of butterflies today, best day of the month so far. A guy in the LRGV had 71 species today! Oh what a difference 1000' of altitude and a couple hundred miles can make!

There were two different birds for the day, first a female Pyrrhuloxia flew across the yard heading towards seed out back. Wonder if it could be the one that was off-and-on visitor the last two winters? The great bird of the day was a BALD EAGLE. It was likely a third year bird, with a mostly white tail, mostly white head but both still with dark areas. White on belly and back. I grabbed the scope and called Kathy out, we watched it slowly drift north, soaring not too high up, last seen across and up the river from us over the country club.

Dec. 12 ~ The sun! It lives! Early there were a couple Waxwings that stopped in the pecan with a few Robin, one Lark Sparrow, the juv. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was in the big pecan too. Holy cow we got into the low 70's dF in the afternoon! First time this month. Immature Cooper's, and imm. Sharp-shinned Hawks diving on the seed eaters all day. Nearing dusk the Rusty Blackbird flew over the yard calling, and alone.

Most amazing was my monthly butterfly list skyrocketed from the two species seen Dec. 1 (Sleepy Orange and Comm. Checkered-Skipper) finally. A whopping 6 species today! There were several Sleepy Orange, a Red Admiral, three Snout, a Variegated Fritillary, a Desert Checkered-Skipper and an Orange Sulphur. Also saw an Anole basking. There were lots of bees out, and loads of lady beetle (bug) that were the introduced Asian non-native type looking for cracks to hibernate in.

Dec. 11 ~ drizzled all night and into the morning, so chilly and damp. But mid-50's dF by noonish. Was supposed to be partly sunny and lower 60's by afternoon but that never happened. We checked the park, the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe continue, and were side-by-side acting like buddies now. Pretty sure they qualify as an odd couple. One female Green Kingfisher, no waterthrush, hardly any birds. As Kathy noted, there was more action around our yard. A corral on W. 360 had about 75 Brewer's Blackbird and no Rusty, but one male Red-winged.

We went up to Lost Maples to have a quick look around there. Most of the leaves are off the maples, a few still had some color and looked nice. Most of the best ones though were maples planted ornamentally in picnic area or campround, the natural ones in canyons were mostly bare. Actually right now if you drive around Utopia more of the planted ornamental Maples are in peak full color here in and around town. The Buckley (Spanish) Oaks are getting going, another week or two, some will be three, and they should great.

It was dead for birds though. Heard (Texas) Scrub-Jay and Hutton's Vireo, saw almost nothing going a half mile out the Maples Trail and a half mile past that on that end of the East Trail. Sounded like a morgue. Not even a Spotted Towhee. Along 187 there were a few small flocks of Vesper Sparrow, a larger flock of Chipping, and 1 Savannah Sparrow was on a fenceline. Eastern and Western Meadowlark were seen, a Shrike, probably over 150 Mourning Dove in three flocks, some Black Vulture, a Raven. But overall seemingly few birds out there, at the park, along the road, and at Lost Maples.

Dec. 10 ~ Cool and damp, a bit breezy, not particularly inviting out there so worked here. Had 4 Common Ground-Dove on the patio. A Field Sparrow was out there for a bit. The rest was the usual gang. The male Cardinals are getting brighter now as their basic (winter) plumage wears and the duller feather tips wear off. They are much redder than they were a month ago, and way more so than two months ago. After dark, Screech-, Barn, and Great Horned Owls calling. Heard the Barred a few days ago and forgot to mention methinks.


Sickle-winged Skipper

One of the Sickle-winged Skippers from this fall.



~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 9 ~ Some wind and cloud cover kept it from the 27dF or so that was forecast, we were 33 maybe, the bird bath wasn't frozen. Got up to a blazin' 43dF or so. Chilly day. There was an ad. Red-shouldered Hawk in the pecan out kitchen window, which brought a good scold scene out of the yard passerines. Titmice in particular, but Cards, a Mocker, Bewick's Wrens all got in on it. Later in the afternoon a male Yellow-shafted Flicker used the bird bath for a drink!

A quick town run, too cold for butterflies if there are any left. The Maples folks have planted around town are at peak color, they look great, lots of yellow, some orange and red, very nice. That cold set them off apparently. The COOT continues at the park, amazingly, our first long-staying individual (n~13 years). A couple Green Kingfisher were around the pond, heard the Ringed upriver, and an ad. Zone-tailed Hawk was roosting in a big cypress in the woods at north end. No waterthrush detection. A couple Inca Dove were on the pallets behind Utopia Ranch Outpost, where the seed gets spilled.

Dec. 8 ~ A dry cold front blew in overnight, winds were 15-20+ sustained and several nearby stations had gusts at 35 and 40 mph! It howled all day. Cleared lots of remaining leaves off the trees. It looks a lot more like winter out there now. Temps were in 30's dF so chills were in 20's! It was a cold one. Yard had 50-55 Chipping Sparrow, 30+ Cardinal, 3 Ground-Dove, and a Lark Sparrow on the seed. Didn't see any White-crowned Sparrow today. About 50 Brewer's Blackbird and the Rusty were out in corral, on powerline, and in one of the pecans out front.

Dec. 7 ~ Warmed into the 60's dF today ahead of an inbound cold front. The imm. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was around the yard working Pecans and the Mulberry. A No. Harrier went over, a couple American Goldfinch came in, a few Robin were around, a Pine Warbler was out there with a couple Myrtles for a bit, and a seemingly fairly unskilled immature Sharp-shinned Hawk was diving on the seed eaters all day.

Dec. 6 ~ About 36dF for a low, colder than forecast by several dF. WU had us for low 40's, dang near a category off. Mostly it was the same gang today. One Lark Sparrow among the Chippies, a Cardinal or two starting to do some warmup type singing just a wee bit. After the solstice they get going quickly. A couple Caracara went over early, some Brewer's Blackbird in the corral, couple Myrtle Warbler and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the pair of Common Ground-Dove, at least 3 of the White-crowned Sparrow still here including the adult, and heard the White-throated again. Seven Robin and a waxwing came by briefly.

The birds are really going through sunflower seeds now, likely stashing as many or more than they are eating. September and October there was very little sunflower seed traffic, even the House Finches were all but gone, likely due to the seed crop being very good, so natural sources were very productive.

Dec. 5 ~ Holy cow it rained another 2 cm overnight. We are now at 7.5" for the 3.5 day event! Weewow! Very little runoff, it just kept lightly raining for most of 4 days. Would be nice to dry out a bit. Had a Field Sparrow and an Orange-crowned Warbler, it is amazing how similar a chip note those two can make. Saw three White-crowned Sparrow, and heard a White-throated out back. Actually made the sun out through the clouds about noonish. I hear rumors of its return... there it is the last 15 minutes before it set, the skies cleared. Heard Barn Owl, and 4 or more Great Horned, their breeding cycle is about to commence so they have gotten quite noisy lately.

Dec. 4 ~ Day 3 of the cold wet event, another inch of rain overnight and now at 5" for the event! Temps holding from upper 40's dF to lowest 50's dF steady for 3 days. Did I mention wet? It is a sopping mess out there. It has been slow and steady so a good soaker with little runoff and great for aquifer recharge. Not so much for going birding though. December, and winter, are normally the dry season here so this is a significant event and more rain already than the average entire month of December gets. Supposed to be one last round overnight tonight into the a.m.

Between the rain and winds it sure looks a lot more like winter out there now than last weekend. Lots of trees were de-leafed finally in the event and the level of brown has increased greatly, concurrent with a huge drop in levels of green to be seen. At least with live oaks and junipers lots stays green through the winter. Saw the ad. White-crowned Sparrow, and the Lark Sparrow has been joined by a second one. Counted at least 6 Black-crested Titmouse at once hitting the sunflower seed feeder. Along with 3 Carolina Chickadee, male and female Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and over a dozen House Finch.

Dec. 3 ~ TWO inches of rain overnight, thunder, all the clocks and microwave flashing reading 1 a.m. when I got up at 5:30 in the dark, a touch lamp turned itself on from the power surge... it looked like there was a party goin' on and I was sleeping through it. So at daybreak after yesterday's 1.25" we are at 3.25 for the event so far whilst the NOAA storm total radar shows a half inch here! Sometimes, lots of the time, it just doesn't read rainfall well out here. Too many hills and too much rain between us and the too distant doppler sites (New Braunfels and Brackettville) for it to read rainfall here correctly. By noon about another half inch over the morning, and more thunder. Holding steady at 50dF. Afternoon saw another couple tenths, now we are just under 4" so far.

I got a fair count on the winter seed-eaters as they crossed the road coming into yard. About 55 Chipping Sparrow now, and 35+ Cardinal (18+ males), and one Lark Sparrow. Saw a couple of the White-crowned Sparrow, an ad. and an imm. on a brushpile. Nine big Tom Turkeys walked up the corral, no doubt had roosted in the big cypresses along the river. They spotted the Chili Pequin plants over there and raided them big time. That is who is eating my chilis!

These wee bittie chilis are a little tiny red dot about the size and appearance of those red hot candies, but some are hotter than a four alarm fire. Not all are though. My understanding is that pepper doesn't do to bird tongues what it does to mammal tongues. I think I figured out what the natural seed dispersal method for Chili Pequin is though, and who my competition is. I hope they left me some. Half-dozen in a taco and you will think you have been to Mexico, especially if one completes the effect with say a Corona or Dos Equis in hand...


Theona Checkerspot

There was a big invasion of Theona Checkerspot
(Thessalia theona) this fall.



~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 2 ~ The advertised rain event is starting, in fits over the day, but about 1.25" by 5 p.m. Supposed to rain to Sunday or Monday. We need the water. Along the road I saw Red-shouldered Hawk and Black Vultures bathing at their perches, wings out, trying to get their wingpits wet no doubt. Been so long since a good bath. The 5 White-crowned Sparrow all seemed to be around the yard still today. Quick look at a small buteo over in the (treed) corral this morning. About 30 Brewer's Blackbird on the powerline out front.

Ran to town for supplies, it was raining at the park, I saw nothing but a male Green Kingfisher. So I drowned my sorrows, with a beer run. That is making lemonade out of lemons if I ever saw it. B double E double R-u-n, beer run... Don't recall if I mentioned it but as of this year you can buy beer and wine in Vanderpool, just 10 miles away in Bandera Co. So I did. ;) It is even a workable selection. The Texas brewer Shiner has a great IPA, their first, that is very good if you like bitter hopsy IPAs with silly names (Wicked Ram).

Dec. 1 ~ Oh man don't tell me it's December! I would swear we just started the year. Three weeks until the solstice and shortest daylight day. The month started out chilly with a low of 29dF here! Same as KRVL, bird bath was frozen over here. Then got up to 70dF for quite the temp spread. Now we are supposed to have a three day cold rain event Friday through Sunday. There goes the weekend birding. Hutton's Vireo and Scrub-Jay heard today.

Noonish there were two 8-point (4 on each side) buck White-tailed Deer head butting, rattling antlers right in the road on the other side of the gate. Huge cloud of dust. The sound of rattling antlers set off Mr. 10-point Buck that was in the yard. When he heard the rattling he turned 180 deg. and set off at high speed right at where the noise was coming from. Jumped the fence and the two 8-pointers both unhooked antlers and took off running. He snapped when he heard the sound of those antlers rattling. Not in his territory. Wow.

Amazing was FIVE White-crowned Sparrow in the yard today at once. A record. Just don't get big Zon flocks here, down in the brush country off the escarpment yes, but up here not so much. Maybe it is just this valley, I do not know. It was one ad. and four immatures. The ad. and 2 imms. were the expected pink-billed, black-lored Eastern leucophrys race, and 2 imms. were the Western gambelli with bigger orange bills and gray unmarked lores without a black line through them. They were even singing a bit in the afternoon heat. Too cool. Sure like to keep them around. They hit the bird bath too.



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Nov. back to July 2016 now at Old Bird News XXVI (#26)

(link below)

Above is 2016

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

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Read UP from bottom to go in chronological sequence.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Links to all 12+ 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)


Bird News Archive XXVI
July 1, 2016 - December 31, 2016 (July through November so far)

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 (Jan.- May so far)

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 2004-2016
www.utopianature.com