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: August 10, 2018
(prior updates: August 3, July 27, 20, 13, 6, June 29, 22, 15, 8, 1)

If you like hot and humid, come on down, the weather is fine! Brutally hot the last few weeks, highs 100+dF every day at some local stations. We had a third of an inch of rain July 31. Supposed to be a rain event this weekend to Monday, 11th to 13th. Still some breeding underway but birdsong is past fading fast. Just a few die-hards still going. Lots of begging baby birds though, making things easy to find and see. The first several hours of morning are usually bearable (75-80dF), cooler if up higher at Lost Maples.

A fair number of birds are already being seen off the breeding territories, done, and wandering about, molting. This includes Golden-cheeked and Black-and-white Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Orchard and Bullock's Oriole, Dickcissel, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Louisiana Waterthrush and others. Golden-cheeks are few and far between by now, most have departed. Judy Schaffer reported the first Rufous Hummingbird back Aug. 5, the same day I had my first Ruby-throated back. Hummer season is open.

We are in a drought, flowers are few and spotty, so are butterflies, but the library garden looks good. Dragonfly action is picking up. What appears to be only a second Uvalde County record, a Slaty Skimmer was at Utopia Park July 13-14 (ph. below). What looked like a Blue-faced Darner (C. adnexa) was at Lost Maples July 29. Haven't gotten to working with the poor pix yet.

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

Golden-cheeked Warbler

The light was bad, but the bird was good.

For some Lost Maples reports see the dated entries below (or at Old Bird News #29 now) for April 1, 9, 10, 15, 29, May 13, June 3 and 24, and July 29. All the usual breeders were been being seen: Golden-cheeked Warbler ('bout gone now), Black-capped Vireo, Scott's Oriole, Canyon Wren, texana Scrub-Jay, Hutton's Vireo, Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-throated Warbler and Vireo, Acadian Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Black-throated and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Zone-tailed Hawk, Carolina Wren and Chickadee, Canyon Wren, the standard awesome assortment. Three are the new normal recent colonists: Olive Sparrow, White-tipped Dove, and Audubon's Oriole. Ignore the ebird Chihuahuan Raven reports there, they are mis-ID'd Common Ravens which are common resident breeders.

In news section between May and June entries, there is a chronological list of my local arrival dates for the entire spring from the first arrivals in January. For those that like to see when what arrives roughly. We are in a drought, recent rains have helped but it is very dry. July 4-9 we got 2.5" of badly needed rain. Late June there was .5 to 1.5", for precipitation locally, but it had been dry the month prior since an inch of rain May 19-20. We had a major rain event May 4, with 4.5" to 5" here. Some spots around town and valley had 5-6"! Saved the late May-June flower bloom but which is over. Would have done a lot more good if it were a few 2" events. May through July has been about 8" and it should be 12+. We were in a drought already from the dry fall, winter, and early spring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are now 14+ (!) years and growing worth of nature notes here, mostly in the bird news archives pages linked at the bottom of this page in 6 month segments. You can fairly easily check, 10 fall or spring periods, etc., and get a good idea of what goes on when, where, or how weak migration is here.   :) If you're coming in April, you can check several years out and see when different species arrive.  For instance for Painted Buntings not till later April, earliest numbers about the 18-20th, later is better, some years not till the 21-22 are the first back locally.  Often a few days earlier down in lower altitude brush country or down on the coast, etc. Adult males mostly depart territories and the area the first week of August.

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

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

A newer page is the butterfly rarity photos: Rare Butterflies

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

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

Or check out the Bird Guide page.

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

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

Commonly used ABBREVIATIONS are:

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

First a 2011 highlight ...

Rufous-backed Robin

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

Broad-winged Hawk   Broad-winged Hawk

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

Some things from 2012 ...

albino House Finch

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


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

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

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

Something from 2013 ...
Texas Coral Snake

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

Ringed Kingfisher

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

Two-tailed Swallowtail

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

Texas Blind Snake

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

Zebra Heliconian

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

Louisiana Waterthrush

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

Rusty Blackbird

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

Cedar Waxwing

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

Back to Top
Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat

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

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

There is a page of photos from 2016: 2016 pix

And now for something completely different... I will probably make some changes yet, I was looking for some more pix, but anyway meanwhile at least the basics are up... Here is a new page with some photos and discussion of hybrid Cliff x Cave Swallows: Clave Swallows
~ ~ ~ ~
***  Here is a new page for visitors with ideas, links, phones, contacts, etc., about where to stay locally.
Where to Stay
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
***  Here is a major new page I have been working on for half of last year, and which compiles over a decade of my study at the site. It is a long discussion about the how and why of birds at Utopia Park, and the park bird list.
The Birds of Utopia Park
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Here are assorted links of all manner, and a handy way outta here.
Mitch's Links

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

Notes without location cited are in or from yard which is a couple miles south of town at edge of the river habitat corridor. If it doesn't say where it was, it was in or from the yard. Usually a few daily yard notes is all the drivel you get. But you never know what that can lead to. Ready, steady, go!

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

Black-capped Vireo
Black-capped Vireo at Lost Maples

Just to have this handy again for reference, recent prior updates:
August 3, July 27, 20, 13, 6, June 29, 22, 15, 8, 1, May 25, 18, 11, 4
Usually each week's update break is marked with a photo.

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

~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ and now for the news ~ ~ ~

Aug. 10 ~ Low of 73, some outflow washed out just north of us at dark last night. Cleared late, now clouds from the south in the a.m. and supposed to get a rain event over the weekend. Saw one Black-chinned Hummer in the morning. About 5 Orchard Oriole went through the yard early, that's more like it. Saw the imm. fem. Rufous in the morning. Kathy saw an ad. ma. Painted Bunting. Only saw one pair of Barn Swallow in town. No Chimney Swift. Amazingly there are still at least two Common Grackle at the park, the ad. fem. and one juv. molting into first basic. They have always departed immediately upon fledging in the past. In June. With the drought, the (former) island area remains the best Common Grackle habitat around.

There are some Mexican Tetras there I might have to go in after... and below the spillway some Bantam Sunfish, a few of which are in good breeding color and pretty nice looking. Pale with a half dozen blackish vertical bars and red fins. So if you see a middle-aged, slightly overweight, balding dude down there with a bucket, seine and other nets...

No Scissor-tails around. Saw what looked like two Eastern Kingbird flying out of the park across the ball diamond. A dry outflow boundry passed from rain to the north. At 6 p.m. it was 94dF, 6:30 was 90, and by 7 p.m. it was 82dF, at 8 it was 78, raining at Lost Maples, and I felt a couple spits here. What a break, over 10dF below recent avg. at 7pm is a treat. It's the little things... Right after I posted the update was out on front porch at last light and a Chuck-wills-widow flew across the yard low. Saw the Red Bat, and the Barking Frogs were really going off after the spritzing we got, maybe a tenth or two.

Aug. 9 ~ About 70.5dF for a low, on the edge of coolish. Another front is sagging over north Texas, which may bring us some precip over the weekend, maybe some migrant birds too. Yellow-throated Warbler was a foot from the millet tube, almost went for it, scared by a House Finch. Roadrunner still hunting juvenile birds. Everything goes off in alarm mode when it shows now. Hope it didn't get any of the juv. Painted Buntings. Only a couple left here now. Did not see an adult again today. Nor a Blue Grosbeak. Kathy spotted a juv. Cooper's Hawk (female) at the bath late at last light, I got a few grabshots though my screen porthole. Only saw the imm. male Rufous Hummer today.

Aug. 8 ~ A balmy 73dF low. The Rufous Hummer I saw first thing was an imm. female without any dark feathers in throat, there are absolutely two different birds here. Yesterdays bird was an adult female. Then this afternoon I saw ANOTHER different Rufous Hummer, this appeared an imm. male with scattered dark gorget feathers in throat. That is three different Rufous for sure in the last 24 hours. Saw an imm. male Ruby-throated again. Did not see an Painted Bunting today. Kathy saw a male Blue Grosbeak though. The migratory breeders are fading fast. Have not seen an adult cowbird of either species in a week, only a few unattended juv. Brown-headed.

Aug. 7 ~ We had 69dF for a low, at WU Seco Creek showed 67, and at KRVL the heat island effect kept them up at 72dF. No migrant motion in morning still. The red-backed male Painted Bunting was on the millet tube, the only male I saw today. It has been here since before July 3 when photographed, so over a month! I did not see it in May or June, it was not one of the yardish breeders that was hitting the seed through nesting season. The pattern of green framing the red back with an intrusion of green at bottom center toward middle of back identifies it as the same individual. The two different with some yellow on underparts seem gone but were here a couple weeks. A couple greenies were around. Today I hear quite a bit and see a few times a Rufous Hummer which looks like an adult female with a well defined pyramid of gorget feathers. I am sure the one yesterday had no dark in throat, so there must be two here. A couple Black-chins still.

Aug. 6 ~ Only 72dF for a low. Saw a Nighthawk real low again first thing before sunup, but going away, not an ID look. Common until proven otherwise here. Thought sure I heard a Rufous Hummingbird outside early in the morning melee at the feeders. Orchard Oriole and Gnatcatcher went through. Watched hard all day for a male Painted Bunting, nuthin', then Kathy caught one at the bath at last sun. Couple or three greenies still. At one point today I thought sure I heard a Calliope Hummer, again, as I did yesterday once as well but didn't mention. Last hour of light sure enough, a Rufous Hummingbird came in. I did not see any dark feathers in throat, as in an imm. female. Now if I could just see that other delicate soft squeaky call I am hearing that sounds like a Calliope.

Lots of dragonflies out in the yard, a few dozen, and as many heading over southbound. Was the usual Wandering and Spot-winged Gliders, and Black, and Red, Saddlebags for the most part. A Ringed Kingfisher called from river the last half-hour of light. You would think they would run out of breath, clearly they can breathe fine when firing off two-minute long 50 cal. salvos. I don't see how it could be all just on one breath, they have to be inhaling and exhaling while calling. Or they can hold their breath way better than humans, and all that noise takes no effort whatsoever.

Aug. 5 ~ Got down to 69dF for a cool feel briefly first thing. Some clouds from the coast kept it a bit cooler for a while. Got up to about 86 just before 1 p.m. when a little rain cell hit and dropped it to just over 80 by 1:30. Another cell hit about 2: and by 2:30 there was a quarter inch total, and it was 75dF! Nice break from the burn! After the unpredicted rain occurred NOAA put a 20 percent chance in the forecast. That took a college degree? Any rancher on a tractor could have done better than that! Got back up to 87 at 5 p.m. peak heat, but which is a category cooler than what it has been averaging. Yer dang right I'm happy about it.

Early in the morning I had an imm. male Ruby-throated Hummingbird, my first this fall. I was alerted by sound, it grinded out that deep hard guttaral mechanical grackle-like clicked 'djergk' very unlike anything I ever hear from a Black-chinned. I have not heard this noise in the last 70 days. It was as close as I could focus bare-eyed, looking at my red t-shirt, I guess that is what he was croaking about. Saw his red gorget feathers in throat coming in. In the afternoon I got an email from Judy Schaffer that she had a Rufous Hummingbird today! So we are done with 'just Black-chins' and now again have three species of hummers around the area. Later I thought I heard a Rufous here, and thought I heard a Calliope, but saw neither.

Heard a Red-eyed Vireo out front in the morning, and a Gnatcatcher. Yellow-throated Vireo is still singing, Chat barely so, White-winged, Mourning, and Ground-, Doves are all still singing. One Painted Bunting, a couple or few greenies. Roadrunner was at the bath in the morning. At last light I saw a Nighthawk fly over low, presumed Common, the default, but did not get an ID look. It had to climb to get over the big pecan, was just over Mesquite treetop level.

Aug. 4 ~ We had 70dF for a low, those 60's were nice while they lasted. Still no real migration motion, just the expected Gnatcatcher and Orchard Oriole. Did a dump run so stopped by park. Besides Green Heron and Kingfisher, there was a Gnatcatcher, and a Black-n-white Warbler. Lots of yearling Long-eared Sunfish, and people. One of the juv. Common Grackle was there, now molting into first basic, getting its first adult-like black feathers. Another of the same was at the Waresville pond on the golf course. A fresh set of fledling Red-winged Blackbird were there with ad. female, no males. Just a very few of the common dragonflies. A Zone-tailed Hawk was soaring around over town. I tried to get under it for shots but everytime I got lined up it moved another block. After a dozen attempts I gave up.

~ ~ ~ big bonus version of the weekly break ~ ~ ~

I am amazed at the variation in Painted Buntings, even in adult males. As they molt their body feathers there are a few versions it is possible to see besides the type with yellow shown a few weeks ago. We do not even get to see them in the heat of heavy molt for the most as they leave here before they get in the thick of that. We just get the front edge of it as it is starting right before they go, on some of them.

Painted Buntingxxxx
Adult male Painted bunting. When in body molt they can become completely pockmarked with pale spots as this bird is begining to show. When enough red feathers drop, the pale bases are exposed of the ones that remain. Their entire underparts can look like the breast on this bird.

Painted Bunting
When enough red feathers drop evenly, they can appear
fairly pinkish brickish red below, quite unlike the
bright saturated usual red. I didn't get the front of
this bird, but they can be entirely like the paler posterior
abdomen shown here. A paler muted pinkish brick red.

Painted Bunting
Here is another example with much pale pockmarking, this on lower underparts.
Several I have seen in later August or September have been very pale below,
and or very heavilly pockmarked throughout underparts with pale spots.
This is normal appearance due to molt, it is not diet or captivity, it is natural.
They are not discolored. You can see this on Vermilion Flycatcher and Cardinals,
which BTW get much worse as they molt, and since they don't leave, we see it
all the way through with them.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ long one this week with monthly summary and a Lost Maples walk ~ ~ ~

Aug. 3 ~ Another 66dF for a low, KRVL and Seco Creek a dF or two cooler. Makes for a wonderful morning on these hot summer days. Couple Orchard Oriole went through, heard a Gnatcat, saw the red-backed male Painted Bunting and three greenies. Heard a Hutton's Vireo out front mid-morning, which I did not have a few days ago when there were 4 sps. of vireo in the yard. Field Sparrow still around, so is a female Blue Grosbeak that I think is the nester. Heard the Bluebirds this morning, they have been gone since they got their last 3 out of the box.

Saw my FOY Snow-on-the-Mountain with some open flowers. It must be early August. Does not look a good year for it though. In town I saw no Purple Martin, no Chimney Swift, no Cave and only one Barn Swallow. Aerial insectivores are gone. Cicada Killer at the gas station. Little Creek Larry (LCL) said he drove to Sabinal and then the back road to Uvalde and saw no Scissor-tailed Flycatchers the whole way and back. That road is usually lined with them. Gone. No bugs to eat. In case you have not heard the term being used by those that study insects in some places, the new buzz word (for insects, get that?) for an apparent dearth of insects is bugpocalypse. Which will be followed by pocalypses of ecosystems, and then humanity. Maybe Monsanto (now Bayer) and Dow sold enough Glyphosate, chlorpyrfos, and neonicotinids to saturate with aerosol the entire atmosphere?

LCL also said a few days ago he had a Harris's Hawk out UvCo 355 (Lee St.) a mile or so east of town this week. I saw nothing at the park, the island is not one now, the river continues to drop, some muddy bank edge now exposed. Heard a Green Kingfisher. A Rounded Metalmark and a Eufala Skipper were it for butterflies at the library garden.

Aug. 2 ~ An amazing 63dF low here felt great. I saw KRVL had 61, and Seco Creek WU station 62dF. Incredible for earliest August. Surprised again by there not being any migrant motion on the northerly flow behind this first front, weak as it was. One Gnatcatcher. Maybe stuff up north is largely still breeding? Was hot, about 97dF or so in afternoon, in the cool shady. Saw two Painted Bunting today, one the red-backed bird. Found an odd molted wing feather out back, will have to work on it. Not from any of the common stuff we see all the time. Maybe a Chuck-w-w? I love a good puzzle. Whatever your field of nature study, it is the ultimate never-ending puzzle.

August 1 ~ A 66dF low is a great way to start August! I saw KRVL and the Seco Creek WU stations both reported 64dF! With dry northerly flow on it. Weewow. But mid-90's for a high. I did not see any passerine migrant movement in the morning, which was somewhat surprising. Three Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew upriver early, haven't been seeing any around lately. Saw the red-backed male Painted Bunting (and 2 greenies) which looks like the one photographed a few weeks ago. Same green frame on sides of a big red back patch. More molted and paler below though. Was out there without the camera though so no shots. Couple Orchard Oriole went through in the afternoon. At dark I saw my first two 'fall' firefly of the season. Haven't seen any since early in June.

~ ~ ~ July summary ~ ~ ~

It was a hot and dry month for the most part. We had 2.5" of rain the 4th to 9th, and then about .35 of an inch on the 31st. So just under 3" total. We remain in D1 level drought, but it seems worse than that biologically speaking. Very few flowers and butterflies, very few insects. Lots of young birds out though many species seemed to have small broods, especially insectivores, often only one or two young. Those using feeders and seed which were well fed had bigger broods. Many things seem to have quit early, likely due to the lack of rain = bugs.

Butterflies were weak. About 49 species, and overall very low numbers, almost nothing unusual whatsoever. No Viceroy still this year. Did see Southern Skipperling, a couple Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak, False Duskywing, a Bronze Roadside-skipper (at Lost Maples), and a couple unknown Amblyscrites sps. there too, Celia's Roadside-Skpr here at the hovel. Saw a few Red-spotted Purple. Besides Fatal and Rounded, I had one Metalmark that was not, and surely Rawson's. Very few flowers with nectar. Buttonbush was the best thing going.

About 31 sps. of Odes with a couple good ones made up for the weak butterflies. If worked harder I am sure one would have seen 35+ sps. locally. This is almost by accident while birding and butterflying, not dedicated ode searching. The 4 usual July migrants started showing in small groups: Wandering and Spot-winged Glider, and Black, and Red, Saddlebags. The UvCo highlight was a Slaty Skimmer at Utopia Park (ph.) for my first local (upper Sabinal River drainage) record. It is perhaps the second UvCo record ever. It was there July 13-14. At the lower end, but not always around, a couple Red-tailed Pennant and a Carmine Skimmer were at Utopia Park.

Even rarer, at Lost Maples in BanCo there was an apparent Blue-faced Darner (Coryphaeschna adnexa) at the upper pond of the two main ones. Apparently will be a first for BanCo, if my poor photos show the critical features. A 'bridge' camera is not good for moving dragonflies. Also what appeared a Tawny Pennant was there which would too be new for BanCo. I have not had a chance to work on the pix I got yet, will correct these if ID in error.

It was about 90 sps. of birds for me locally this month, same as last month. The regular standard expected breeding assortment. I know of a few other sps. that were seen by others. And others no one saw. So there are a hundred plus sps. around. Oddly saw my first Dickcissel of the year this month, missed them this spring. Had a couple go through yard. July 3 saw an ad. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, probably the one seen in June. By the end of the month only a few Black-chinned Hummers are still here.

Painted Bunting peaked the third week of July, about the 16th to the 20th, when we had 7-8 daily in the yard. They bugged out early this year. Saw the first fall migrant Louisiana Waterthrush the 28th at Utopia Park, a Chuck-wills-widow was there the same day, a transient on the move, and my first ever seen in the park. A White-tailed Kite a few miles north of town in BanCo on the 31st was a great bird. Seeing Ringed Kingfisher at Lost Maples that same day was nice, my first one there, finally.

~ ~ ~ end July summary ~ ~ ~

July 31 ~ A balmy overnight, just over 75dF before 7 a.m., but shortly light northerly winds arrived from the tail end of a front in the Mississippi valley. We caught the edge of a band of rain that was mostly westward, and got about .35 or so of precip over an hour and the temp dropped to 70dF! Holy cow, a cold front on the last day of July! That is normal right? Then we had nice northerlies. Only about 77dF at noon. Amazing. Only got up to upper 80's for a high. Wonderful for a day. I would not be surprised to see a wave of birds behind this tomorrow. Time for an Upland Sandpiper, Rufous Hummer, Least Flycatcher, and other early-bird first fall migrants.

The birds loved it and were making lots of noise, bathing on wet leaves, etc., they seemed thrilled about it as we were. No dust for a day or two. Heard a Red-eyed Vireo in the yard, another transient. Saw a red-backed male Painted Bunting on the feeder, will have to see from the grab shot I got if it was one of the ones here earlier this month. Two greenie Painted Bunting, male Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak was here. Orchard Orio went through about noonish, another later. Heard the Bell's Vireo over in the corral again, so with the Yellow-throated and White-eyed, four species of vireos here today.

I saw one of the immature female Cardinals with a yellowish beak, need to get a pic. As they change from the juvenile black beak to the adult red beak there can be a week or two when the beak is fairly horn pale, then yellow, then orangish, before finally getting red. These get called (and entered into ebird as) Pyrrhuloxias because on them, the yellow bill is a key feature. This is why you cannot make proper identifications based on one field mark. You have to use a suite of characters, unless you absolutely see a mark known to be definitive. Since a Card can have a yellow bill for one week of its life, the yellow bill of a Pyrr is NOT a definitive mark.

Also Pyrr has a dark bill as a juvenile which turns light. This is why you should always triple check everything anyway, all the time, everytime and make sure multiple marks all match correctly to make a proper ID. Never use one mark. Their bills are shaped completely differently (Pyrrhuloxia is named for its rounded bill). So an ID on shape and structure of bill alone will always be correct regardless of color. Structure don't tell no lies, color can fool you. Such as now when there are juv. fem. Cards out there with yellowish bills, and juv. Pyrrhuloxias with dark bills like juv. Cardinals. I know of no summer Pyrr records locally except in ebird. We get them fall to spring, mostly it is a winter bird here.

July 30 ~ Only about 73dF for a low, and about 91dF at noon. Another hot one, was about 97dF in the shade at peak heat. Saw a male Painted Bunting fly across the yard, but never saw it on the seed or at the feeders. Only one greenie at a time today, maybe two birds at most. Not hearing the Blue Grosbeak sing anymore but the Yellow-throated Vireo still is. A Bell's Vireo sang from over in the corral, so still trolling going on with them. One Gnatcat went through. Saw a Bordered Patch butterfly which have been scarce, it came into sprayed water. Roadrunner walked right by me 8' away on the patio while I was sitting on back porch. Kathy had something fly over in the twilight I suspect was a Chuck-w-w.

July 29 ~ Got up early to get at least one July visit to Lost Maples in. Been too busy to get away lately, sometimes you just have to make some time for a hike. No matter how hot it is. Calling it dawn chorus now is an exaggeration, here at the house anyway. Vermilion Flycatcher was the primary song early at first light, some Chat and Yellow-throated Vireo. Very little else, the thrill is gone. No Painted Bunting song sure makes it quiet out there. For about 90 days there are 3-4 singing at once, all the time, from late April. It is a major part of the soundtrack outside. Fini. Until next late April.

Some Cave Swallows were on the powerline across from the post office sunning first thing early as we headed north through town before 8. A great bird was a White-tailed Kite on the way up-valley, in BanCo, just north of the W. Sabinal Rd. turnoff, heading west. It flew right over the road in front of us. No Scissor-tails the whole way up the valley from here.

Got to Maples shortly after 8 when office opens and while getting out of car at HQ a calling Ringed Kingfisher flew up the canyon over Hwy. 187 and turned around at the big incline just north of park entrance. My first one there in over a hundred visits, though I know others have gotten lucky. Pretty small tight creeks for RingKings up there. We went straight to the trailhead parking lot to try to beat the heat up the canyon. Right when we got out of the car the RingKing flew over calling again, flying up the main (Sab. Riv.) canyon, over the day use area towards the Maples Trail.

Betweeen HQ and the parking lot, slowly cruising the road I heard a group of begging juv. Yellow-throated Warbler, and a couple Olive Sparrow. Some juvenile Rufous-crowned Sparrows were at the feeding station, with ads., and more were up the trail. It was soooooo quiet for birdsong going up the canyon compared to the prior few months it was amazing. A little bit of song here and there, but not much. Still a few Indigo Bunting singing, saw one greenie Painted, no adults, a handful of Red-eyed Vireo and White-eyed Vireo singing, 3 Hutton's, but not one Yellow-throated Vireo was heard. A Blue Grosbeak looked like it was still involved in nesting. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was the most numerous of the migratory passerine nesters there, a dozen or so total, one family group of just fledged young. One Black-and-white Warbler sang a bit, sounded like a first summer bird to me. I heard one begging warbler event far up a hillside that surely was Golden-cheeked, but I couldn't see them. HQ said someone had one or some yesterday (28th) still. Heard a couple Louisiana Waterthrush chips, but did not see one. Heard a Black-capped Vireo way up a hillside. No Acadian Flycatcher (early for that), Ash-throats gone (normal for that), heard a bunch of Canyon Wrens, saw one well on cliff at the main pond, hunting the underside of an overhang, while hanging upside down with the ease of it being rightside up. A few Eastern Wood-Pewee still, heard two White-tipped Dove. Did not see a Zone-tail, heard only a Scrub-Jay. The bird of the day that got away was likely a Least Flycatcher I only saw for a moment. Would have been a first of fall. Have had them in latest July locally.

The water is low, very low, flowers were pitiful, only a few butterflies. Some Buttonbush is still going, but past peak, a few Snapdragon Vine, some Cedar Sage, and a few Texas Milkweed far up the canyon. Three Spicebush and a Pipevine were the only Swallowtails, a few Sleepy Orange, one Dogface, a Snout or three, same for Gulf Fritillary, two Red-spotted Purple were nice, a few Queens. There were a few Roadside-Skippers, one Bronze, and a couple I am not sure about. Finally got some better pix though. One Northern Cloudywing. Did I mention how dry it is? Bone dry. The crossing between the two ponds is the dryest I have ever seen it, there is no water above the road, that last little spot where it ponds up is dry. I wonder what eats the Witch Hazel? Something uses it as a larval foodplant. I couldn't see anything on it where it was ravaged.

As can happen in later summer, dragonfly activity picks up. Drought reduces available water and concentrates them wherever it is. Lots of the rarities here occur in drought periods. The fun thing is that no matter if you watch birds, butterflies, or odes, vagrants happen. The more you know the common stuff, the more likely you are to detect them. Stray waifs are some spice of life in natural history study. Mostly odes were just a few of the regular things, one setwing was so covered in mites its lower half looked red. Damselflies seemed few, but I didn't work hard for them. A Red-tailed Pennant is always good there, as were a dozen plus Wandering Glider, and a few Spot-winged, since in BanCo. In general it is too cool for them on the way up the canyon, and you are too hot to stop for all of them on the way down.

The highlight was at the second pond, I am pretty sure was a Blue-faced Darner (Coryphaeschna adnexa) patrolling and everything there was messin' with it. These were only first found in Texas along the Rio Grande about 2004, and then scarcely from 2009 and after. The first ones found in Uvalde Co., were about Sept. to Nov. 2009 Ft. Inge. Kathy and I saw those that fall. but I have not heard of many north of the LRGV since then. I have thought I had them up here a couple times over 15 years but they always got away. I do not think there is a Bandera Co. record. So a pretty fancy beast of a bug.

I got one fuzzy shot of 50 that shows the blue face but have not had a chance to work and process the pix yet. Until these get overheated when they hide by hanging up in vegetation, the dang things do not land, or even hover in one place as many dragons do. They are constantly on the move, and they are fast. The other good dragon was probably a Tawny Pennant which do sit and let you take all the pics you want, no matter how long it takes you to get freakin' auto-focus to figure out what the subject is. Have I told you how I hate that lately? By time I got it to figure it out the bug moved to the shady side of the reed and I could not shoot the dorsal surface. But I think there are shots to get an ID from.

Heard a couple things slither away in the leaf litter that were likely Four-lined Skinks. They had that silky slithering skink sound to them. No herps seen though besides one Six-lined Racerunner. We got to the spring at high-water spot a mile past the ponds and took a shady sandwich and coffee break. Kathy seems to feed much of hers to the Mexican Tetras, creating a full blown fish boil. Again. There was a big exoskeleton (molted as they grow) from a spider of some sort which I photo'd and will send to my spider expert friend.

The animal interaction of the day was only positive for one of the members. I was watching some big yeller Texas sized Bumblebees on a Buttonbush. As one left a big Robberfly (Acilid) flew out and grabbed it, landing in adjacent tree foliage with it. The bee quit buzzing almost instantly, it was over. The Robberfly was much longer than the Bumble, with a thin abdomen, as in Promachus sps., very unlike the big fat fuzzy black and yellow bee mimic and bee-eating Mallophora sps. types. Got shots.

We were back down at about noonish, when 90dF or so, but hotter in sunny sections on the trail. About four hours and 4 miles. Saw an adult male Painted Bunting in the yard in the afternoon, the first one in four days. Only a couple greenies about the yard. At last light twice I saw a Chuck-w-w fly right over house low. Lots of bats out there still, a Red or two, a dozen Brazillian Freetail.

July 28 ~ Though KRVL and Seco Creek read upper 60's for a low I only saw 71dF here. Couple ea. Gnatcatcher and Orchard Orio went through yard southbound early. Heard the Pewee. Easing the pain of there being no ad. ma. Painted Bunting already, was a transient male Indigo Bunting on the patio eating millet. The local breeder male Blue Grosbeak landed very near it, blew my blue receptors out. Had to run to town briefly. Nothing at the library garden but a couple Queens (the butterfly), Little Yellow and a Fatal Metalmark. A line of 45 Porsches cruised through town. One Euro imported old racing model, maybe like 1960 Carrera was very nice. I forgot to mention a couple weeks ago I saw a group of a dozen Ferraris go down Main St. Either group could have probably bought the town?

The park was great fun though for just a few birds. Green Heron and Kingfisher, the latter of which was a juvenile (hatch-year bird). One juv. Painted Bunting up in the woods is a bird on the move. A first-of-fall migrant Louisiana Waterthrush is likely a fairly local breeder. Best was a Chuck-wills-widow I flushed up in the thick stuff in the woods. It landed in a willow, I lifted camera and it flew over into the dense stuff on the island and I lost it, just missed a shot. Dang I wish I could have spotted it on the ground before it flew. Harder to see than a Woodcock as the shape blends in to the leaf litter better. It is the first one I have flushed off the ground in the day in the park in 15 years. Heard them from the park at dusk and dawn, but never saw one on the ground in it. Red-tailed Pennant (dragonfly) was out over the pond.

Well Doc, this is how I blew my blue receptors out.
Blue Grosbeak in front, Indigo Bunting in rear, both males.
This does not begin to do justice to the instensity of blue.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

July 27 ~ I had to read the thermometer twice, figuring I must have died and gone to heaven, it was 64dF before 7 a.m.! KRVL also had 64, the WU Seco Creek station (which reads way too hot in the day) had a 62dF low! Might have been nearer 60 at Lost Maples! NOAA called for low to mid- 70's for lows, off by a category! In late July?

Early a Gnatcat went through, then a Pewee was out there, which could have been one hanging around. A Red-eyed Vireo was a passage transient though. No Painted Buntings. They usually are here to Aug. 7-10 or so, they bugged out way early, on the order of 10-14 days. Saw a female or juv. Blue Grosbeak with a white upper wingbar. Yellow-throated Vireo still singing. I think a major lack of insects (presumedly due to drought) has shut lots of the usual late summer nesting activity down.

Town run and park check. Green and Great Blue Heron at the park. Heard a Great Crested Flycatcher across the spillway. Water is dropping fast, looks about 8" below the overflow. Still Orange-striped Threadtail flying, and saw a Carmine Skimmer. Orange Skipperling, Fatal Metalmark and Julia's Skipper at library. For the third week in a row I had no Chimney Swifts over town. It is eerily quiet. Another sign of no bugs. No Scissor-tails going there and back as well. While some might say they wouldn't miss bugs, if you took the people off the planet, it would do fine. Remove the bugs and it and you, would not survive as we know it. Pesky as many may seem at times, the numbers of those you don't see that are doing you good are astronomical in comparison to the pesky few you notice.

July 26 ~ Wow, a 68dF low, 10dF lower than yesterday morning! Felt great to cool off. Gnatcat early. Did not see an adult male Painted Bunting in the morning, but some greenies still here. They are blowing out early this year. Too hot and dry for them. Did see a Barking Frog early, they are one of those neat, easy-to-hear-but-hard-to-see beasts. For several days now there have been flowers on the Mesquites from that last rain a couple weeks ago. Forgot to mention last week all the Cenizo around was in bloom from the rain as well, it was beautiful, the famous 'purple sage' that is not a sage. The well-named Old Man's Beard is also blooming well now, that white fuzzy lookin' stuff on the fencelines and hedgerows. Late afternoon I had a male Orchard Oriole go through yard southbound which stopped in the pecan 10 feet away and gave me a good lookin' over, which I joyfully returned.

Watched my pair of wild caught and reared Cyprinella sps. minnows spawn today, a whole new genus and group for my watched-em-spawn in my aquaria list (over 100 species). These are supposed to be Blacktail Shiner (C. venustus) but differ from prior ones I had that were absolutely those. Have to pull the male and photo now that he is in spawning colors.

July 25 ~ A full solid 78dF for a low, warmer than yesterday's warmest-so-far-this-year low. Too high for a low if you ask me. Was a cooler (!?!) 95dF today, so a break from the searing heat of the last few days. A Gnatcatcher or two in the a.m., couple more late afternoon. Maybe the same Eastern Wood-Pewee around. Blue Grosbeak still here and singing (nesting) as seems Chat, but the Painted Bunting are bugging out fast. The main male that sings from the big pecan right off the front porch is gone. I only saw 2 adult males today, and a half-dozen or so immatures. A week ago there were 8 adult males and over a dozen juveniles on the seed. It happens fast. We already passed peak Painted Bunnies. Common Nighthawk at last sun.

July 24 ~ A low of 77dF is our warmest so far of the year, after yesterday's hottest day of the year so far. I saw 101dF on the front porch in late afternoon. Had to be 105+ in the sun. Besides a Gnatcatcher a couple Orchard Oriole went through yard early, you would think it is late July. An Eastern Wood-Pewee was calling up in the big pecan, then later an Ash-throated Flycatcher was there. Saw one of the ad. Yellow-throated Warblers at the bath. Couple more Gnatcats in the second half of the day. The Painted Buntings are buggin' out, obviouisly fewer birds around, especially adult males. No Chucks calling.

July 23 ~ Wow a 70dF low just before 7 a.m. felt great after yesterday. Today is progged to be peak heat of this round, they say. At around 5 p.m. I saw 102.5 dF on the cool shady front porch, so a few hotter in the sun, at least. I saw some local WU stations reporting 104-106dF, a 108 in Medina, etc. A couple stations in hot spots were over 110. It has been running 10-15dF above normal average daily highs (which is e.g., 93dF at KHDO Hondo). Which of course serves to dehydrate and exacerbate the drought issues. Japan broke its all time high temp record with 106dF today. Just a short while back I saw it was an unprecedented 44dF AT THE NORTH POLE! That won't keep an ice cap. Where will Santa go?

Gnatcatcher through yard southbound early morn. Saw one of the juv. Yellow-throated Warblers, now with some yellow on throat, at about 2-3 weeks out of the nest. Birdsong is really quieting down out there and it is not just the heat. For many species the nesting season is over. Brown-headed Cowbirds numbers are down, they are bugging out now. Bronzed Cowbird stays to predate the late summer nesters. For all the juvenile birds around the yard we get amazingly few attended cowbird juvies. They stray here from elsewhere, but are not being attended by the local breeders.

Later evening Kathy caught another Triatoma (Kissing Bug, aka Blood-sucking Conenose - Reduviadae) in the house, the third one so far this year. Brings me the bug in a jar, is she great or what?   :)   Took it out and killed it. Then over in the cottage I found one caught and dead in a little tiny spiders web, so fourth of the year. The one bug that seems up in numbers, is not a desirable one.

July 22 ~ A low of 76dF bodes well for the day - not. That is the warmest low so far this year. Was 90dF at noon, 99 at 3 p.m. That is on the cool shady front porch, it was low huns in sun. A juv. Yellow-breasted Chat was in yard mid-morn, so they got another young out, and seemingly another one-young brood. An Eastern Wood-Pewee was flycatching around yard an hour or so mid-morn as well. Male Blue Grosbeak still here on the seed, bunch of Painted Bunnies, another one with some yellow and pale spots in areas different from the other yellower one. At last light I saw a Chuck-w-w fly across the yard but did not hear one.

Went for a swim in the peak heat hour, sure breaks it up to cool off. Spent a little while and caught 5 young smaller minnows with large dipnets (2 at once method). The big ones with red in fins (Mexican Tetras) were staying too deep for my seine, where the water is cooler. Now back home and in a tank I see they are all Blacktail Shiners (Cyprinella venusta). I am amazed at how starved they are, there must be little to nothing to eat in the river here. In the fish biz we would call their bellies nearly pinched, with no fat whatsoever.

July 21 ~ We briefly hit 71dF at about 6:45 a.m., but it didn't last. Couple Gnatcatchers and an Orchard Oriole went through early. Field Sparrow doing funny trill noises unlike the standard song, bubbly, almost wrenish. In the afternoon there was a Black-and-white Warbler on the big pecan right off the front porch. Heard a Great Crested Flycatcher. I saw several stations in the DFW area reported 109dF today as did Hondo (KHDO). We had 98dF on the cool front porch, so low huns in the sun. I keep forgetting to mention, this years young male immature Black-chinned Hummingbirds, now nearing 80-90 days old are starting to show some dark feathers in the throat. I have been seeing it for about 7-10 days now. Heard Common Nighthawk at dusk, but no Chucks.

Slaty Skimmer
Here is the Slaty Skimmer at Utopia Park on July 14, 2018,
which appears to perhaps be the second Uvalde. Co. record.
Tripp Davenport found the first at Cook's Slough, Uvalde, in 2009.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

July 20 ~ Low of 73dF, About 98 at 3 p.m. in the cool shady parts, over a hun in the sun. A couple Gnatcatcher went through yard in the morning, better was a Red-eyed Vireo, another post-breeding wanderer. Doing some bubbling trill weird sounds. Did my town run for supplies, where Zone-tailed Hawk. Little Creek Larry said someone told him they saw a black colored Hawk take a Hummingbird! Surely was a Zoney. Musta had a sweet tooth. He also mentioned he saw a couple Western Kingbirds, and a male Ruby-throated Hummer this week. I have twice had mid-July adult male Ruby-throats here. Latest July or early August is typical fall return. Some quit early and get a headstart back. No Chuck-w-w calling at last light.

In the park there was Green Kingfisher and Green Heron, the juv. Eastern Wood-Pewee that fledged there was still there, eating a big brown Katydid on the same branch I photo'd it on two weeks ago. A male Painted Bunting in the woods is a transient, they don't nest there. A couple of the juv. Common Grackles that fledged there were still in the willows. Heard a Downy Woodpecker call from across the river, very rare in summer here, I presume the male that has been around off and on a bit.

The Slaty Skimmer dragonfly was gone, the pewees probably ate it. Orange-striped Threadtails were 8-10' up in the Mulberries. One Texan Crescent (lep) in the woods. A guy had a 5 lb.+ Largemouth Bass on a stringer, and a nice school of Mexican Tetra was there too. We only get those in the pond when the river is very low. Water is not going over the spillway now, which is the great measure of if we need more rain very badly. Means the water table is way low.

The Library butterfly garden had a Vesta Crescent butterfly, again no Brazillian Skipper after the late June sighting. Was still hoping to get a photo of one in focus. Oh well. Singing Bell's Vireo and a juv. White-eyed Vireo there. Lots of flowers and it looks great, finally, hope they don't butcher it again. They often cut too much, and some things at not the right time. As if it is done because of a day on the calendar, its that time again, not based on what needs to be done when. And they just need a big pile of cuttings to show for it.

July 19 ~ Thursday at the desk and monitor. So here is an idea of the days temps. Before 7 a.m. it was 73dF for a low, hit 82 around 10:20, 90 by noon, and at 4 p.m. it was 98 on the cool shady front porch, over a hun in the sun. About 9 p.m. it drops below 90dF so 9 hours or so of real hot. They are calling for Sun.-Mon. to be peak heat with this session, so it will go up a bit yet over the weekend into Monday. Gadzooks! No rain in sight, the sub-tropical high is also preventing the usual morning low clouds from the Gulf getting here. After the first few nice hours, mostly I just go out and toss seed every few hours, and get back inside.

Still two begging Yellow-throated Warbler out there early, and the two each begging Vermilion Flycatcher, and Carolina Wren, but just seeing one Bewick's beggar. We are covered in baby birds. Over a dozen each of just fledged young around of Cardinal, Painted Bunting, House Finch, and Lark Sparrow, and a half-dozen Chipping Sparrow juvies. Well yer tax judge honor, they seemed like dependents... There was 50 of 'em. Heard a Chuck unenthusiastically call 6 times and quit.

The adult male Black-chinned Hummingbird numbers are way down, they are blowing out. Lots of the females and immatures seem to be leaving as well. Still good numbers but not like it was two weeks ago, and much lower numbers of ad. males. We are entering the prime time window for something good, or at least something else. I am probably very close to a hundred pounds of sugar so far this year. By keeping it down to four feeders (32 often full ports), averaging about 5 lbs. per week. Put me down for a couple hundred more dependents.

July 18 ~ The 72dF felt better for a low, but it got hot, was 96dF on the cool shady front porch, surely the hot patio was over a hundred. I saw the KHDO station reported 111! Covered in baby birds of all manner. The Summer Tanager was singing after a couple weeks of just begging young (that seem kicked out of the territory now), so will likely attempt breeding again. Saw a Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak on the Frogfruit. Wed. so busy with work at the desk.

Bare-eyed a funky weird vireo I couldn't name right away, so I just grabbed some docushots quickly, which was a good thing, it soon bolted. But now at least I have something to study later. In birding, shoot first and ask questions later is the proper approach and thing to do if and when seeing anything whatsoever out of the norm. You might not need to know what it is right now, as badly as you might need to prove what it was later. Because if it was anything rare, there are guys waiting to say "no it wasn't". Shoot first, ask questions later, then you can study it as long as you want. Now with the magic of mega-pixels, and a better study than I could obtain trying to see it at the time, I see it is an incredibly worn Yellow-throated Vireo with absolutely no wingbars left! All dark wings.

No wonder I could not put it together bare-eyed. This bird could really throw people. Likely the local adult female breeder. The tail is so worn and frayed in California they would call it a cage bird. Generally since the female does most of the incubating it is the one that shows the extreme tail wear this time of year after probably doing at least two if not three rounds of incubating by now.

July 17 ~ 75 to 95dF in the shade for a temp range today. Amazing how long this set of Yellow-throated Warbler young are being allowed to hang and beg. Early broods get booted to the curb in a few days as the parents are anxious to do it again. Later season young get more time with the parents, and probably have higher survival rates. These like the recent Summer Tanager young begged and got attended for two weeks. Both of these first broods were kicked out of the territory in a week. I have seen the same thing with Wrens, Carolina in particular. First set gets a couple days, last set, weeks. In different butterflies (besides the common) I saw an Orange Skipperling, and a fresh Olive Juniper Hairstreak, of the flavor WITHOUT the white basal spots as most are here. These are a different type. Kathy saw a crescent of some sort, probably Vesta.

July 16 ~ Hot and hazy. Low about 75, high over 95dF, and one of the hazier days I have seen here, due to Saharan dust! For those that don't think we are all connected on this blue marble. The begging Yellow-throated Warblers are still squawking incessantly. Field Sparrow still singing, I saw it briefly on the patio. Gnatcatcher went by. Heard a warbler flight note several times that surely was a Golden-cheeked but I could not pick it up as moved through the dense trees. At the last seed-eating frenzy I counted 7 adult male Painted Bunting at once, none were the the red-backed bird, so at least 8 are around, since I saw it earlier today. Heard two Chuck-wills-widow briefly at the last crack of light.

Too hot to hang outside, so you get some random thoughts and ideas. Warning, thoughts and ideas ahead! Besides seeing the red-backed male Painted Bunting again, I saw a couple with many pale areas where red feathers have molted away, as well as one with a fair bit of yellow on the underparts, of which I got photos and will post one. Often when red underparts molt they expose pale bases of remaining feathers which are normally all covered. So the overall effect is a much paler bird. Sometimes the so many pale feather bases are exposed to create entirely pale-spotted underparts, or ones that are fairly evenly dull pinkish red.

Many don't realize the variation in a species, even one seemingly as straightforward and simple as a Painted Bunting. Then add the variation over the year from feather wear. Sure you can still ID it, but it looks totally different if you observe details closely. For most birds the field guides show one type, a perfect one, an average one, and typically a bright male at max color. Not a worn one. Not a dull one, not a molting one that looks rode hard and put up wet, not all the variations.

In Painted Buntings for instance one would be hard pressed to find a field guide in the last century that mentions the males with bright neon sun YELLOW underparts and eyering (replacing the red). Painted Buntings seem to have 2 plumages in the books, green and the fancy adult male. Reality is there are at least 3 types of adult male plumages (4 counting the red-backed ones!), 3 types of first-spring male plumages, female, and juvenile plumage, at least, (I think there are 2 juv. plumages, perhaps sexable) but anyway EIGHT plumages at minimum, maybe 10, whilst field guides show two. So if you want to really learn and know the birds, you have to do that yourself once you get past the basic identification the field guides are for.

Lots of red birds are now getting very pale and speckled with pale areas below as they molt. Besides noticeably dull male Painted Buntings, Cardinals too are nearing their dullest, some are amazingly worn and dull now. Vermilion Flycatcher as well are much duller red now, showing some pale areas where underparts are molting. This is standard on red birds in later summer to early fall when they molt their body feathers. They actually wear into their brightest plumage, timed to be during mate selection, in early spring. After the wear and tear of nesting the feathers need replacing, which can be quite worn and dull. The difference is tremendous, going from knock your eyes out flaming neon red, to dull pinkish red with dirty white areas everywhere.

July 15 ~ A 75dF low was not very. The juv. Yellow-throated Warblers still begging and being attended around yard as. are the two juv. Carolina Wrens. I was standing on the back porch and a fledgling Bewick's Wren flew up to me and landed on my camo cargo shorts. Looked like a bush. Field Sparrow singing just over north fence toward draw, I suspect it is nesting very near now. Not seeing the Scott's Orioles. Generally they bring young to the feeder, and when they disappear without notice, they got predated. Did not hear a Chuck at dusk, methinks they are done.

Went for a swim in the afternoon, had two Green Kingfisher at the river. Had a great time with nearly 100 Mexican Tetras. Forgot my seine, dipnets and fish catching bucket. You have, eh? A sunfish of some sort swam up to me and tried to take a piece away, it was little 3" job, a yearling with an attitude, not a breeder defending nest. Saw a grass carp too, which suck, a non-native that should not be allowed in waterways. I don't trust the sterile claims, and they destroy fish fry and dragonfly and other insect larva hiding places by eating all the vegetation. This upsets the balance of nature. It is not a no consequence act, they do not just remove vegetation. They remove all that lives in and with it.

Why is it that man still thinks they can fix or improve everything? Sometimes by introducing non-native alien species!?! Have none noticed the track record for that? If you think the ecosystem is better off with non-native Nutria or Grass Carp, you should not be allowed to play with the environment. Yes it does affect us all, less baby fish in the shallows, and less dragonflies and damselflies means more mosquitoes. Less mayflies means lower survival rates of wintering birds, which eat your worms and weed seeds. Everything is connected. Tug on a strand in the web of life and you will find everything is connected. Don't fool with mother nature. There is this thing called the balance of nature. Non-native alien introductions invariably upset it. See Australia or Hawai'i, or a pure Guadalupe Bass if you can find one.

July 14 ~ About 74dF for a low, and last several days no morning clouds so straight to solar heating early. I had to run to town so went back to the park despite the zoo of people. Gnatcatcher in the a.m., and heard a Dickcissel. My pix of the Slaty Skimmer yesterday were blown out, burnt with overexposure, the gray bug looked white. The miracles of digital sensors and imagery. Luckily it was still there on the same twig, and I got some shots that show it is gray. Nice beast. I can think of a couple dozen birds I saw that I wish were on the same twig the next day for photos! The library garden is looking pretty lush now for butterflies. Here at the hovel nothing different. Yellow-throated Warblers still attending the two young in the yard. Two new fledgling Vermilion Flycs, so more of them out too. Saw two big Tom Turkey over in the corral. The Carolina Wrens have two new begging just-fledged young in tow now.

Painted Bunting
Here is another variation you might see in Painted Buntings that
is not well-illustrated in the field guides, those that show
yellow on underparts. There is a very rare type where yellow
replaces all the red including eyering. These partially yellow
ones are more regular, but I only see these in late summer when
body molt occurs. I do not see this type in spring or early breeding
season, but there are some like this every late summer to fall.
In California the bird record cops say anything but immaculate red
is discolored - probably due to diet from captivity. These are
obviously wild, normal, natural, and not cagebirds. They are not
discolored, it is not due to diet, or captivity. Variations of this is
a normal plumage I see seasonally year after year in a few birds.

~ ~ ~

P.S. I replaced the photo break below with 2 male Painted Bunting
at the feeder with an image not taken through the screen door.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

July 13 ~ Happy Friday the 13th! Hope you had a good one! Low of 73dF, the party is over, back to the heat. After this weekend we are at the half-way point of climatological summer, which is June, July and August. The dog days lie ahead. Six weeks down, six to go. Which of course the back side heat runs closer to 8 weeks, to mid Sept., but if we get lucky and start getting fronts early, the heat is broken, and days are way shorter. Saw my first of year juvenile Cooper's Hawk this morning, one big female.

Don't think I mentioned this year the bank apparently washed away the Cave Swallow nests as they were getting going so they are not there this year. A few are around, but that colony is not happening. Bummer. I checked the butterfly garden at the library hoping to refind the Brazillian Skipper since my photos were out of focus two weeks ago, no such luck. Did have Rounded, Fatal, and a likely Rawson's, in Metalmarks, all on Zexmenia. One Large Orange Sulphur, and a Celia's Roadside-Skipper which is scarce there.

The park was overrun with hominids. The adult and 3 juvie Common Grackle are gone. Had both adult Green Heron up on island, both out in day seperately means they have young to feed. Saw one juv. Green Kingfisher, first juvie I have seen this year. Best though was a new dragonfly for my upper Sabinal drainage and Utopia Park lists, a Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta), which is a rary in Uvalde Co. Only a handful of records. So a dragon saved the day. Pays to have varied interests, you never know if the lep, ode, or bird is going to be the highlight that makes your stop and walk. The more interests one has, the better odds of having a highlight. Usually with those three, every stop or walk will be good. Because those are the three most obvious easy to see and learn things.

July 12 ~ Third day in a row, 69 dF for a low, feels great. The Yellow-throated Warblers are still feeding their two pre-Yellow-throated young around the yard. Two male and a female Blue Grosbeak on the seed, they are still breeding, yesterday a male landed on the seed tube which I have never seen before. They are very ginchy about people. Couple more new Chipping Sparrow fledglings, more new Lark Sparrow and Painted Bunting juvies too. Been tossing an extra cup of seed the last hour of sun so they can all pig out one more time. One rather unenthusiastic Chuck calling at last light. Lots of bats though.

July 11 ~ Another 69dF low is fantastic. Makes a big difference starting out just a few degrees cooler in the morning. Great-tailed Grackle in town. The Yellow-throated Warbler babies (2) are still being fed and attended around the yard. A couple Gnatcats went through, and an Orchard Oriole. Heard a distant Great Crest, maybe with the rain they will nest again. Five male Painted Bunting at once on the patio sure makes a nice view. I was stuck out front and couldn't move without flushing them so could not see out back if any or how many were on that seed. I was in shower at Chuck calling prime time, which is down to about a 2 minute window now, so missed them tonight. They are worn out and about done.

July 10 ~ The 69dF low felt great. Back up to 90dF today, the break was nice while it lasted. Here comes the heat. Heard Ringed Kingfisher early over at the river. Also had a few Chimney Swift flying over low early, and a pair at dusk. Birds were the same gang, didn't get much chance to look around but once an hour checks of the yard and there was just the usual suspects. Sure wish the sound of all these hummers would bring something besides the couple or few hundred Black-chinned in. Tis the season for a vagrant hummer. Rufous usually show up in later July, often one of the first long-distance migrants we get back. Time to start paying attention, listen for something different sounding. Two Chucks called at dusk.

July 9 ~ We hit the jackpot this morning with some bands of rain, totalling about 1.1"! This brings us to a total of about 2.5" since the 4th. Totals are very spotty here though, some got an inch more, others an inch less, just up or down valley a bit. Anyway at least we got something in the ground this last week! I will have a couple acres to mow again in a couple weeks is the downside.

A couple new just-fledged juvie White-eyed Vireo were begging around the yard with parent in the morning. At least one Orchard Oriole, but may well have been two. Another Gnatcatcher went through southward in a.m., another late p.m., Yellow-throated Warblers still feeding begging young around the yard as well. A Frogfruit patch in the driveway had 6 Reakirt's Blues and my FOY Southern Skipperling on it in the afternoon (leps). Heard a couple Chucks at dusk, and a Common Nighthawk.

July 8 ~ Only 72dF for a low, mixed clouds and sun, humid, supposed to rain. Gnatcatcher out there early. Before noon we had a quick little shower, a couple more later afternoon, maybe a tenth of an inch. Outflows kept it in the 80's all day, a nice break from the heat. Couple Orchard Orioles went through yard in afternoon. Heard a Hutton's Vireo over in the corral. The rest was the breeders. Saw a Cardinal get a Cicada, geez that must be loud in the head when you have one in your beak and they are buzzing. Celia's Roadside-Skipper on a Wild Petunia. In the afternoon I heard the or another Dickcissel up in the pecans. Had an Eastern Wood-Pewee too. Must be some 'worms' (caterpillars) up there now. We worked on stuff here, last day of the big holiday week. The local recreation sites will be cleared out comparatively after today and much less busy until Labor Day weekend.

July 7 ~ Weewow 68dF for a low! Amazing! And NE flow. In July. Holy cow. Only Chuck and Chat making noise at 6:a.m., Vermilion Flycatcher next but they can sing off and on all night. Blue Grosbeak was the first diurnal singer to go off. Couple Gnatcatchers went through over the day. Still baby Yellow-throated Warblers begging and being fed around yard. Kathy spotted the Indigo Snake at the bath, I got a couple shots methinks. Couple good butterflies were Orange Skipperling and False Duskywing, both of which I did not see in June. A couple rain cells missed us but some nearby areas got some precip, and we stayed below 90dF for the day. Nearing dusk Common Nighthawk boomed a couple times, haven't heard that in a while, maybe they will nest again now after the rains. Rain in later June and early July is what determines additional nesting attempts for many species here. Rain = flowers = bugs. A Chuck-wills-widow flew across yard while light enough still to see it well.

Painted Bunting
Ever see one of the red-backed Painted Bunting males?
They are around, one of 7 males now in yard is one.
I see at couple or few at least every year. I do not know
what the story is with them, just that they are, and neat
looking. I hate to lose that green I love, but still nice.
You should get an extra point for every plumage type you see.
Then you find out who the real sluggers are. Got one of the
bright yellow below adult males? 'Nother point.   ;)

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

July 6 ~ The 70dF low feels great. A band of rain just SE missed us here in the morning, but the cloud shield kept the sun and heat at bay. Orchard Oriole and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher through yard in a.m., must be July. From 11 to noon we had a nice light shower, with about a half-inch of precipitation! So we are at 1.35-40 or so for the last three days. More termite emergences, Cardinal, Mocker, and Chickadee are all what I would grade as very poor at the flycatching thing, they manage but it requires much effort. None do the bombing runs Carolina Wren makes, seemingly hoping to miraculously collide with something.

Town run for supplies was late though as I wanted to be able to check the park so waited for rain to pass, I thought. Devil fools with the best laid plans. I got rained on at the library garden and at the park, saw just about nuthin'. Heard a Green Heron and saw a Green Kingfisher, that was it. Lot of water in the driveways in town. E. Pewee in the yard later afternoon, Yellow-throated Warbler still feeding young here too. A few more spritzes in afternoon, one cell may have hit town, another cell was southeast of us, and another looked like it hit Lost Maples. We can hope. Nearing last sun my FOY juvenile Bell's Vireo moved through, northward. One of the nice colorful ones. A Common Nighthawk flew by at dusk.

Turned porch light on to see if any bugs. Nope. It is astoundingly devoid of insects out there. Scary. Couple June Bugs (that lost their calendars), a moth, couple little things, pitiful. Another Triatoma sps. (kissing bug aka Blood-sucking Conenose - Reduviadae) which was dispatched to the great packrat nest in the sky. Did have in the day a Tawny Emperor butterfly.

July 5 ~ Heard a little rain overnight. Woke up to 70dF and five-eighths of an inch of new rain to add to the quarter inch we got late yesterday! So seven-eighths so far and misting and drizzling a bit still. We needed this badly. The birds are happy too, rain initiates ground-termite emergences. Saw a Common Nighthawk fly by in the misty drizzle in a.m. taking termites. Golden-fronted Woodpeckers were actively taking the termites too. Got up to mid-80's late afternoon when the sun came out, so pretty sticky. Did hear a Chuck at last light in the evening. Kathy spotted a big Prionus Cerambycid beetle under the porch roof (ph.).

Amazing was my first Dickcissel of the year, after missing them in spring for the first time in 15 years. It is likely either a fledged juvenile, or post-breeding wandering adult. Two were reported on the Breeding Bird Survey on UvCo 361, 4-5 mi. SSW of town, I think in late May or early June. Those are the only I know of this year locally. They are absent from all the usual sites this year like 360, 354, all along 187, etc. It was around all morning, I heard and saw it 3-4 times up to noonish but never well enough to age, just bare-eyed in bad light up in the pecans. Saw a or the Black-n-white Warbler again. It could be the same bird hanging out. We had a singing first-year male summer here once.

July 4 ~ Happy Independence Day! Funny how we celebrate a revolution while generally wanting everyone to maintain status quo and stay in line with the program. Had a Black-n-white Warbler at the bath early, which is likely the one I had at last sun last night. Maybe this is a post-breeding wanderer hanging out for the water? Not seeing the Cuckoo, I suspect it fledged a young, as they disappear shortly (as in immediately) after.

Amazing was a bit of rain about 5:15 p.m., a low coming from the east, moving west. Was off Louisiana a couple days ago, gave Houston 2.5 to 5" today. It took the heat off right at peak, it went from 97 to 77dF in a half hour. Might kill the dust for a couple days. About a quarter inch the first hour and change and at this point thrilling. Lots of birds went to singing, and bathing, in the rain. Those wingpits hadn't been wet in way too long. After dark it was clear the Barking Frogs approved as well.

July 3 ~ About 75dF for a low and not much for morning clouds, a hot one. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at river early, which I have not been hearing the last month since it fledged two young. Must go somewhere to ditch the young, I missed it in June. Heard Orchard Orio out there again. Mid-day a Black-and-white Warbler moved around the yard. Boatloads of baby seedeaters out there, going through lots of seed. Only counted 6 male Painted Bunting at once today, but they are hard to see in the bushes where we throw seed out back.

At last sun there was begging baby Yellow-throated Warbler being fed by an adult in the Pecan and Hackberry. At dusk I was on the front porch and heard and then saw an adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron flying downriver seemingly coming from the pond behind the Barham's place, where I saw one going into a few weeks ago, surely the same bird. A great 'sittin' on the porch' bird.

July 2 ~ Low of 73dF was a little better, but not much. Not much for morning clouds either. In a.m. heard singing the Indigo Bunting across road in draw, an Eastern Wood-Pewee and an Orchard oriole in the yard, and a Field Sparrow over at the draw, which was on patio later. Didn't see the Oriole to age it, was in the big thick hackberry. Probably that trolling first summer male I have seen off and on lately. Saw a Gray Fox out back.

Some more new Lesser Golfinch juveniles to go with all the other juvies out there. Caught the Roadrunner seemingly stalking the juvie pile on the patio. There are two dozen mixed juveniles of Lark Sparrow, House Finch, Painted Bunting, and Chipping Sparrow out there. So I flushed the Roadrunner away, like just another unwanted bird already on your list. Of course I felt guilty but I also know it would take a juvie Painted Bunting before a juvie House Finch. We had one once taking hummers at the feeders up on Seco Ridge, had to move the feeders. They live on Chippies all winter here.

Around mid-afternoon I had 5 adult male Painted Bunting at once again outside. Shortly after 7 p.m. there were SEVEN adult males at once outside on the seed! Looks like party confetti out there. Plus more than twice as many greenies - females and immatures. I may have to rest the color receptors in my eyes now. Just before last sun I saw a Ringtail (Cacomistle) over in the corral. To be out in the day in this heat, it must have young to feed would be my guess. Heard one distant fairly un-enthusiastic Chuck-wills-widow at dusk. They are about done calling for the year.

July 1 ~ Well that was a quick first half of a year, eh? I am just barely used to writing 18, and it is July!?!?! For a temp spread today We ran about 75dF to 98! A hot one. Didn't see anything unusual or different around today. We went for a swim in the afternoon peak heat to cool off. Over at river had singing Blue Grosbeak, more begging young Summer Tanager, Scissor-tails, couple Pewee, the usual assortment. Kathy found a school of about 75 Mexican Tetra which we hung around a while, a few were 3"+! A nice native! Here at the hovel at varying times I saw 3 and 4 male Painted Bunting at once. The pair of Scott's Orios hitting the hummer feeder lots, must have young in nest. Haven't been seeing the Hooded much lately though.

~ ~ ~ June Summary ~ ~ ~

There were a few spritzes in June but overall it was a drought. The early and late May rain kept flowers going until about mid-month. Butterflies were 47 species, so holding steady the last 3 months. Best was a Brazillian Skipper at the library garden the 29th, my photos were OOF - out of focus. Shouldn't take you long to learn to hate autofocus. Two species of Metalmark (one of each) were great to finally see this year. One Rounded, and the other probably Rawson's, but absolutely not Rounded. Twice I saw Red-spotted Purple in the yard, which is rare, still no Viceroy this year, at least 3 Texas Powdered-Skipper, quite a few Arizona Sister. Fireflies flamed out early, the year was a burn for them. But did see a few gigas Cerambycids, and Eyed Elaterids.

Odes were good at 33 species, 10 damselfies, and 23 dragonflies, a nice bit of diversity to see. At Lost Maples we had Neon and Flame Skimmer, an Ivory-striped Sylph, lots of Comanche Skimmer, Red-tailed Pennant, Springwater Dancer, it seems to have the best action now. The Orange-striped Threadtail damselflies are flying at Utopia Park as usual by the island. The odes should be great for the next 3 months.

Birds were 90 species in June, which are of course all local breeders. A far cry from 130 sps. in May. Surely a hundred nest in the area. Mostly June is about begging babies, the more you see the better. June 1 Kathy had ad. with juv. Golden-cheeked Warbler at our bird bath. At end of month a juv. Orchard Oriole was around yard chasing and begging from an adult. The 29th I photo'd at Utopia Park an Eastern Wood-Pewee feeding a young for my first park nesting. The Common Grackles there got out three young this year. The only real transient (and a semi-vagrant here) that I saw was a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. July starts to see the departures of many breeders that are not going another round, as well as first arrivals of southbound transients from far away.

~ ~ ~ end of June summary ~ ~ ~

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

June 30 ~ One month of climatalogical summer down, two to go. Clouds stuck around longer so kept the solar heating at bay all morning. Still hot and sticky, but not burning hot. Did garden work and other stuff here. This weekend through next weekend centered by the Fourth of July on Wednesday, is a huge tourist week here, like everywhere else. One of the bigger vacation weeks of summer. So we hideout and work here.

In the a.m. had another Gnatcatcher, which are about daily now, a Black-and-white Warbler, the Orchard Orioles, and the usual gang. Heard Indigo Bunting singing over by draw, wonder if its trolling and unmated. Field Sparrow around again. Scissor-tail, Scott's Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, begging baby Summer Tanagers, Yellow-throated Warbler and Vireo, lots going on if you can handle the heat. About 1:30 I saw a metalmark (lep) on the Frogfruit in the driveway, grabbed reading glasses to ID, and photograph. Was not sure when looking at it, but which after studying later, I would say it is absolutely not Rounded, and probably a Rawson's Metalmark! Which is less than annual here.

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

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 29 ~ About 75dF for a low, cloudy and humid, then hot. Early saw a Gnatcatcher, heard a Black-and-white, and thought I heard a Golden-cheeked Warbler chipping but didn't chase it down, too busy. The pair of Scott's Oriole were at the hummer feeder. Heard an Orchard out front, probably the same female with young still here. Town run for stuff.

At the Sabinal Cyn. Mus. lantanas there were several Whirlabout and a Eufala Skipper. At the library garden there was a BRAZILLIAN SKIPPER, which I do not see every year here. A huge beast of a skipper, auto-focus failed the day on the pix though. Also had a pair of Texas Powdered-Skipper in copulation there, first time I have seen more than one of them at a time.

At the park outstanding was watching an Eastern Wood-Pewee feed a baby! The first successful nesting at the park I know of! Last year was the first sure attempt I knew of but it failed in a major rain event. Looks like only one young, but that is great. It was fed a Swift Setwing dragonfly (ID'd in the photo after the fact) which makes the Pewee swifter. The three juv. Common Grackle are still there, mostly in the willows at south end of the island. Saw a pair of Green Kingfisher, heard Blue Jay, saw a couple White-eyed Vireo juvies unattended, so look out for those messes of feathers now. Also saw the Green Heron there, which being out in the heat of the day now means it probably has young to feed. They are so ginchy and secretive here it is amazing. Saw a bunch of Orange-striped Threadtail damselflies. A few were high up in a Mulberry 10 FEET over the water. Have seen them even higher in Cypresses. This is a thing they do. Kathy saw the Roadrunner at the bath again.

June 28 ~ More of the same. I had what is surely the same 2 birds as yesterday, in the same big (but dying) Hackberry, an ad. fem. Orchard Oriole with another begging bird with it, which I now see and hear is indeed a juvenile oriole, so not a Cowbird, YIPPEEE! Could not have nested too far away for the ad. to be with a juv. still. FY - feeding young in yard! Awesome. Had a Black-and-white Warbler singing a bit in the yard early, saw it a little later. Lots of begging baby birds out there. Just in juveniles it must be 8+ Lark Sparrow, 10-12 Cardinal, several Painted Bunting, and a dozen House Finch. And dozens of juv. Black-chinned Hummingbirds draining the feeders. The pair of Scott's Oriole were at the feeder together again, so they are nesting very nearby. Kathy saw the Roadrunner at the birdbath.

Amazing was after 7 p.m. when all the seed eaters come in for one last tankup, I counted FIVE male Painted Bunting at once. I knew we had 3 minimum, but never got 4 at once. Four males were on the patio, millet feeder, or under it, and one more out back where I throw seed, all at once. I had to run back and forth to confirm, but it was worth it. Awesome yard confetti. At least one 1st summer male with salmon underparts is still here too, it showed up I think May 1. Then there are a lot of females, and more juveniles. It is Painted Buntingville here. We are generating as many as we can. Probably 15-20 or so around using the seed now.

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

June 27 ~ Same as it ever was. Except the Orchard Oriole in the yard, which was an adult female, and I saw something chase after it, as in a begging young bird. But could not tell if the beggar was a juvie oriole, or a cowbird. In any case, they don't nest around the yard and immediately adjacent area, about a half-mile is the closest I have found a pair nesting. Here we have a female and young of some sort, out of the nesting territory moving about in late June. Saw the Zone-tail soaring low over yard about 2 p.m., looking for another dove I suppose. Great was seeing 3 juvenile Eastern Bluebird fledge from the nest box out on the road fenceline.

We had to run to Sabinal for a vehicle inspection in the afternoon. I can not believe how few Scissor-tails and Western Kingbirds are along the ag fields north of Sabinal. Used to be edge to edge territories for a few miles on 187. I saw one pair of Scissors, no Western Kingbirds. I suspect they are spraying (crop dusting) the fields and there are no bugs. There were a few Western Kingbird in Sabinal itself. Major bummer was on the way back a couple birds in a chase shot out into roadway, one hit the car. It was a male Painted Bunting. That hurts bad.

June 26 ~ SOS. Same old shtuff. Better get used to it. Same birds and weather, sometimes life will seem just like the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. But at least if there are birds, bugs, or fish in it, all will be fine. Still 74dF for a low, some clouds for a couple hours, a couple mist spits to make sure the humidity is high enough. Heard a Gnatcatcher go by southward early in the a.m. Saw the cuckoo heading into the pecans, hunting katydids again no doubt. You have to have a sharp darn eye to pick them out. I collected insects since I was a kid so am a bug spotter extraordinaire if I must say so myself. I walk around out there all the time and virtually never spot a Katydid. The cuckoo can fly in, and be on its way out with one in a couple or few minutes, over and over. I think I have good eyes, and this feathered reptilian thing shames me.

A Nysa Roadside-Skipper was at front porch Eupatorium patch, first I have seen this month (ph.). Ya gotta love getting new species for the monthly list late in the month, especially when you don't have to go hunt them down in the heat. I do not make that sort of effort, don't have the time. With so few flowers out there right now, watering some dirt and caliche is as effective as nectar for attracting many species of butterflies.

Saw two new begging baby Chipping Soparrow being attended by an adult. After noon found a big spread of White-winged Dove plucked feathers just off the front porch. Obviously they fell from one of the large branches on the big pecan. Which surely means Mr. Zoney got another one. They are faster than the average buteo.

June 25 ~ Monday morning back at the desk, will be nice to relax at work today. The Gulf low clouds got here after 8:30, after a sunny start. Cool (75dF) moist air, and for here, this time of year, refreshing. A, or the, Yellow-throated Warbler was over by the seed feeders, it landed on the thin cable they hang on a foot away and watched the House Finches on the sunflower and a male Painted Bunting on the millet.

I was at the computer working and a female with two juv. Painted Bunting landed on the garden fence right out the window, maybe 6' away, babies begging, their beg chip note sounds somewhat like an Audubon's Warbler, as does one call the adults make, this juvie beg more emphatic, metallic, and squeakier. Had begging Blue Grosbeak out there today as well. Great to see all the new youngsters.

There were a few rain drops from a nearish light cell, no one got more than a trace or two. At 11 p.m. Kathy spotted a bug on the wall in the living room by the light. It was a Triatoma sps., Blood-sucking Conenose aka Kissing Bug, family Reduviadae, took it outside and killed it. I see one or two a year here, usually when I bug light at night. These are the kissing bugs that bite your lip or face. Southward from Mexico they carry Chagas' disease, so I don't take chances with them, in the house, yer dead.

June 24 ~ Got up early to go to Lost Maples. Dawn chorus peaks 6: to 6:30 a.m. now here at the hovel at 29.6 deg. or so N. Chuck and Chat were the only two things going at 5:45, Vermilion Flycatcher chimed in next. Just before we left I watched an ad. fem. Painted Bunting bring 3 fresh juvies across the road from draw, into and across yard, over to feeders. This was clearly the first major long distance herding movement for the young. It took so much effort on her part it was unbelievable. They were taken straight to the feeder. Not the first time I have seen this either. That is how imprinted on a seed feeder Painted Buntings can be. First thing out of nest, first flight, this is where they go, this is what they do. No doubt for thousands of them annually.

Nothing on the road on the way up except south of Utopia someone hit the trifecta, 3 not-so-little pigs will be making the vultures and Caracaras happy. Then right at Lost Maples' entrance, is a flattened Cave Swallow on the road. So from Utopia, turn left into park at the flattened Cave Swallow near centerline, for now. From the north if go by one in middle of the road, you just missed the turn. Coming down off that hill at 65mph yer gonna have to be good to make the ID.

Interesting were male Painted Buntings at both feeders, HQ, and the parking lot station, where there was a juvenile as well. They don't always (usually?) nest there. I presume these did though the juvie was unattended. I did not hear any singing as territorial nesting birds still are. They could have moved in from locally. We hiked the Can Creek trail past ponds to the highest (permanent) water spot. The narrow canyon after second pond is great that next mile, the stuff has nowhere to hide compared to lower canyon where creek often far from trail.

The feeding station at the trailhead parking lot was going well about 8:30-9 a.m. A male Scott's Oriole hit the peanut butter log! We hosted a herd of them at Seco Ridge for 8 years, with over a dozen regular user individuals and none ever touched the PB log. Even though it was right there with Audubon's Orioles hitting it all the time, never did a Scott's go to it. There were male Painted and Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak there at the seed, juveniles of Indigo and Painted Bunting and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, and a bunch of the more usual attendees. Heard a Scrub-Jay up the slope, did not see a Zone-tailed Hawk.

We got there too late for the early birdsong, we did not hear a Golden-cheeked Warbler sing. Surely if you were there at dawn you still would. Though we encountered begging young being fed twice, at first pond before restroom, and above second pond by the third crossing past 2nd pond. The first one was definitely an ad. male feeding the young. We spent 10 minutes watching it. The juvie flew down to within 5' of me, auto-focus failed the day. Second one I only saw a female feeding a young. Begging babies make them easy to locate, but you have to cover some canyon as the majority are gone already.

Heard at least 2 maybe 3 Black-capped Vireo, had a look at a male, but all from canyon bottom trail, we did not go 'up top'. Had a few Lousisiana Waterthrush including juvies, heard a few Yellow-throated Warbler but only a poor look at one, that seemed orangish in throat. Heard a few Black-and-white Warbler, saw one or two, they too are thinning fast. Fair numbers of Blue-gray Gnatcat still, but less than there were. Heard a number of Canyon Wren, did not see one, heard 2 Eastern Wood-Pewee, did not hear a Yellow-throated Vireo, maybe 3 Acadian Flycatcher, but at least one is a troller moving far too much for a nesting territorial bird. Heard a Hutton's Vireo, and lots of White-eyed of course.

Only heard about 3-4 pairs of Red-eyed Vireo, good was hearing Purple Martin overhead at the parking lot, and some Barn Swallows there were ads. with juvs. Heard an Olive Sparrow and two White-tipped Dove, saw neither. Some juvie Indigo being attended by ad. ma. up the trail. Clouds stuck until about 11 a.m., so nice to make the ponds before sun comes out, as it gets hot fast when it does.

We went up to the highwater (highest permanent) spot on Can Creek, which is almost a mile past the first pond. Great place for a break before the walk back down in the sun. There were 2 male and a female Neon Skimmer (dragonfly) at that spot. A few months ago it was Flame Skimmers there. Both are regular at this site. Saw one Red-shouldered Hawk, and one recent fledgling Red-tailed from the cliff nest is begging a hundred yards from the nest. The begging Ravens are still at that too but free-flying.

There were almost no flowers, it was amazingly done and cooked, so butterflies were weak at best. Did see a couple Spicebush and one Pipevine Swallowtail, one AZ Sister, one Roadside-Skipper (ph.) that was probably a Bronze, a few Lyside Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, Variegated and Gulf Fritillary, a Queen, one N. Mestra. Very slow. No flowers. Kathy spotted a yearling Watersnake of some sort, maybe a Diamondback?

In odes besides the Neon Skimmer, there were lots of Comanche Skimmer, and great was a Filigree Skimmer at the (now dry) crossing between the two ponds, right where I had one last year. A Red-tailed Pennant which is scarce there, was at the pond (FOY), saw a Five-striped Leaftail, and got a pic of a gomphid I will have to work on to figure out. Saw Swift Setwing, Prince and Dot-winged Baskettail, Pale-faced Clubskimmer, Red Saddlebags, and some Springwater Dancer damselflies. All on the way down, nothing going up under the cloud cover. By then I am cooked and do not put the effort in that it merits. Especially with damsels.

Back here in the late afternoon we went for a swim to wash away the heat. Had a Black-n-white Warbler working the cypress trunks south at the edge of the river. Heard singing Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting. Saw a small group of Largemouth Bass with one nearing two lbs., two that were nearing 3 lbs. and one that was pushing four. That could explain why there are few fish in the river here right now too. They cruise as a school, and are fish-eating machines. Big bass are not good for sunfish.

June 23 ~ A balmy 74dF for a low and got up to a hot 98dF! Worked on things here. Saw my FOY juvenile Blue Grosbeak out on patio, just one so far. Heard the Orchard Oriole out front again. Saw an Elada Checkerspot butterfly, my first of month. Best was at last 20 mins. of sun, the male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher brought 3 just-fledged juveniles into the top of the big pecan right off porch and was feeding them up there. Too cool. They nest by the grass airstrip maybe 150 yards away, so we hear it sing all the time, and they do go through or over yard regularly, sometimes hunting from it. Great to watch it feeding three young here! I should have kept track of a FY (feeding young) all time yard list, for all my yards ever. We had Blue-winged Warbler feeding young on our porch banister in NJ.

Neon Skimmer
Neon Skimmer male

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June 22 ~ About 74dF for a low, a little mist early but hot and humid by noon. Nothing through the yard in the morning. Town run. Everywhere I went I saw an adult Zone-tailed Hawk, at the Library butterfly garden, up at north end of town, over west side of town, and while waiting for tacos on Main St. Then leaving town a mile south I saw another one when half way home. Probably two in town and a different one a mile south. When they have older nearing fledging young, both adults will leave and go hunting. Five times I looked up and there one was. Yet, you can't find one if you are guiding someone. Spring to fall Main St. in Utopia is one of the best places in America to look for one. Depending cloud cover in morning, I'd say most days starting at 9 or 10 a.m., by noon you'd have one, just cruising Main and some of the streets around the edges of town. Once they get prey (later in day), they aren't out as much.

At the park the pair of Eastern Wood-Peewe seem to have set up housekeeping, as a pair did last year, but which failed in a major rain event. The pair of Common Grackle that nest on the island fledged 3 young, which are just out of the nest, they had a great year. Last year it was one. A fair number of Orange-striped Threadtail damselflies are flying near island. In leps a Cloudless Sulphur and a Celia's Roadside-Skipper were at the park.

A Painted Bunting is singing around the Sabinal Canyon Museum on Main St. At the library garden there was a Rounded Metalmark (Calephelis perditalis), my first metalmark (butterfly family) of any type this year. The bird bath at the library garden had water and a male Blue Grosbeak, plus a juvenile Yellow-breasted Chat were at it. Water means life in the hot summer here. A bath (best with a drip) will get you as many birds as food will, and many that you can't attract with food.

A Black-n-white Wobbler was back at the bath here today, which looked the same one as yesterday and a juvenile male. The tail is only half grown out, so the bird is a bit funny of proportions. When heat peaks in afternoon that bath gets busy like a L.A. traffic jam. Stuff is backed up in the brush pile waiting. Remember you must have cover next to the bath so they have something to dive into when a hawk strikes, and they will. Next to a dense shrub is best. We improvised and made a stick pile next to the bath for safety cover, since there were no shrubs here. If you have cats outside, a birdbath is usually not a good idea. Perhaps if you put it on a very high pedestal away from anywhere a cat can hide, or a hanging one (might as well do the mister on timer in a tree), but absolutely not on the ground (like ours - so the 6' Indigo Snake can use it) or anywhere that cats can hide close to it.

I saw a skipper on my Wooly Ironweed and as I was moving over to ID it, an imm. Black-chinned Hummer flew up to the flowers, turned its head and side-swiped the skipper with its bill, with no small amount of force. Much later I saw a Julia's Skipper on the flowers which was probably it.

June 21 ~ Happy Solstice! Hope you didn't spend that whole second of extra daylight in one place! There have been enough Blue-gray Gnatcatchers through the yard the that now the dang nesting alpha male Lesser Goldfinch is doing their call. It was not doing it a few weeks ago before they started being a near-daily thing again. Heard an Orchard Oriole singing in the pecans out front again in the afternoon. I bet it is that first summer male I saw the other day trolling by the crossing, and heard the other day here in the yard, trolling up and down the river habitat corridor with song for a mate.

Early in a.m. a Black-and-white Warbler was down at the bath and I got to use my handy-dandy window screen-with-a-hole-in-it. Slide the slat open and voila! Finally, I get to shoot the birdbath without that dang 50 year old grayed glass and a rusted screen essentially pre-pixelating everything. A clear shot. Shoulda done this years ago. In later p.m. I topped up the millet tube since the Painted Buntings always come in a few times before dark. One was singing in the big pecan as I did it, and apparently watching. By time I got across the patio twenty feet, it was on a feeder perch. Late afternoon there was a Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak on the Frogfruit in the driveway, the first one I have seen this year. A few duskywings around looked Funereal. Small numbers of Queen and Gulf Fritillary. Late in afternoon I saw my FOY Spot-winged Glider dragonfly going south.

June 20 ~ Still no rain here, a little bit of coolish air, maybe 73dF for a low and staying cooler since cloud cover. Some places in coastal plains got lots of rain yesterday, but we are on the dry side of the system, or wave. Heard a Roadrunner singing so they must be convinced to nest again. Just barely got to 90 for a high, no rain. Saw the Texas Powdered-Skipper on the Wooly Ironweed at front porch again. Still good and muggy from the tropical moisture, a bit sticky you might say. Barking Frogs were going at it late.

June 19 ~ The 71dF low felt great, some rain-cooled air from elsewhere, we'll take it. Shortly before 10 there was a Black-and-white Warbler and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher that moved south through yard. Heard an Orchard Oriole sing as it moved by upriver. Wonder if it was yesterday's 1st summer male I had at the crossing down the road a bit. Didn't see it, only heard it singing. Cloud cover kept temps down about 10dF below avg., 84dF at 4 p.m. was lovely. No rain though. The highlight of the day was on the first Wooly Ironweed flowers of the year (on one I grew here in a flower bed) a Texas Powdered-Skipper. First of the month, and always neat to see. The camo brown marbling is beautiful.

June 18 ~ Low of 75dF is not very. Clouds moved in shortly after sunup, then a little shower from 10-11 that might have been two tenths of an inch. Enough to be a dustbuster. Alas, nothing else all day. Ran to river crossing briefly in late afternoon. Besides Yellow-throated Warbler there was a singing Red-eyed Vireo, still, wonder if it got a mate? A first summer male Orchard Oriole also trolled singing and moving upriver.

Saw my first Blacktail Shiner (Cyprinella venusta - a native minnow) of the year, a half dozen or so, finally. Year-olds, and nowhere near as big as the couple I kept over winter in an aquarium. Apparently after only 50 years of keeping fish, I can really fatten one up. The wild ones were just over 2" and mine are 3" and twice the body depth and weight.

June 17 ~ Woke up at 6 a.m. to some spittin' and spritzin', maybe a couple hundredths and enough to hold some dust down. Seemed a good sign for the day but alas, nothing else happened. Another Gnatcatcher moved south through yard in the morning. Saw the cuckoo fly across yard with another Katydid, toward the draw, where I think the nest is this year, probably feeding young now. Saw a Black-and-white Warbler fly through the yard later in afternoon. There are some Summer Tanager babies begging around the yard and adjacent. The rest was the usual gang. Worked on things here. So much for a 30% chance of rain, again. They are still pretty bullish on a rain event in a day or two.

June 16 ~ Wished I could get up to Maples, but had to work on stuff here, the biz can be 7 days a week so always something to do. Was a wee bit cooler, low 90's dF. A couple small rain cells went fairly nearish by, just enough to cool the air a a few dF from the east, and another blocked the sun from the west. We went for a swim in the afternoon at peak heat anyway. Weird we have not been seeing any kingfishers in this stretch lately. But, there are very very few fish in it now as well.

I wonder if the big flood events just wash them all out, which may well be the case? There are none of the native minnows, and no sizable sunfish or bass that I am seeing. Used to see lots of all. I haven't fished it in years myself, since I ID'd everything in it. It could be that a flood had deposited them here in the first place? In this section the river bed is mostly smooth hard limestone (with a thin coat of algae on it, giving new meaning to slippery when wet) without much aquatic vegetation save at occasional gravel or rock bars moved around each flood. So it is not exactly lush fish breeding or fry heaven. But man it is great for swimming.

It was all the expected usual stuff around the yard, and over at river. Right after we got back and changed saw a bunch of birds flush as I headed outside, and saw a Zone-tailed Hawk climbing out of yard, empty-fisted.

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

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June 15 ~ It is bad when 72dF feels nice and cool for a low. I know, lots have it worse. I lucked out into being on the front porch just before 8 a.m. when an adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron flew up the river over the cypresses. It looked like it went down at the pond behind the Barham's place. Perfect spot for it. New bird for the yard list, though Kathy saw what was probably one fly by a few years ago. Town run, saw Little Creek Larry at the park, he said he had a sub-adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron there yesterday! Mine this a.m. was a full adult. They take 3 years to mature so you can age them easily, and therefore know if multiple individuals are present fairly easily, if they are different ages.

Saw two Black-and-white Warblers at the park, one chased the other off. Two Eastern Wood-Pewee were there, it is not too late for them to attempt to nest. A Zone-tailed Hawk over the pastures on east side by rodeo ring. Flushed an Underwing moth with orange for color on the hindwings, so maybe Catocala ilia. Too cloudy and cool for odes so missed last week's Orange-striped Threadtail, but they are there and flying now, once sunny. About 4 Blue Jay around town. At the Sabinal Canyon Museum where the yellow Lantana is in bloom there was a tailess White-striped Longtail (skipper- butterfly), which is my first this year for them. Also a male Whirlabout there, and a duskywing I was not sure of.

We had a near-miss rain cell but which gave us a little cooling from outflow at peak heat, took us from about 94 to 85dF. Every wee bit of relief is great! We are still hoping for an advertised rain event, running about Saturday or Sunday through Wednesday at least. The Field Sparrow was on the patio late, and way late a Barn Owl called again, from way high up, like migrant height, not a low hunting or commuting bird.

June 14 ~ Same gang here... and Thursday so at the desk all day. A little cooler today, at least the heat dialed back a bit, maybe 92dF at peak heat. Hope this potential rain event materializes in a few days, it is getting mighty dusty out there. We need the water badly. Bell's Vireo still singing in earshot. There are some Cardinals floating around now without any feathers on the head now. It is that time when they molt those, briefly having rather unattractive bare purplish skin exposed but increasing their dinosaur appearance greatly.

In nearby news, and a reminder to keep your eyes peeled and mind open... Rare butterfly season has opened, Troy Hibbits and his dad had a Banded Orange Heliconian (Dryadula phaestusa) at Cook's Slough in Uvalde yesterday (13th). This methinks will be a first UvCo record for this Mexican vagrant. Since the county was worked for 20+ years by great entomologists Charles Bordelon and Mike Knudson, it is exceedingly difficult to add new butterfly species to the UvCo list (ca. 140 sps.). It takes vagrant mega-rarities, as the regular vagrants have all been recorded. So, a most excellent find!

June 13 ~ SOS, same temps, same birds, same spreadsheet Wednesday at the computer. Got some more yard work done early, and did some last half-hour of light last night too, it's brutal, and chiggery. It is a drippy proposition all summer here. Before sunup I heard a juvenile Common Nighthawk calling. About 5 p.m. we had a few spritzes from a passing rain cell, maybe a few hundredths here. Just enough to really smear the dust on vehicle windows, and drop the temps about 8dF to mid-80's at peak heat. Radar showed some spots around got a quarter inch, like Sabinal, Concan, maybe Lost Maples got it too.

Great were a couple juvenile Bullock's Oriole that went through yard early. I had a couple last year, with an ad. fem., these seemed on their own. A very few nest locally. There were two male Scissor-tails visiting in the big pecan right off porch for a bit after the spritz. One was the grass airstrip male, the other from over by the river. Probably couldn't believe it rained a few drops. Bird noise was great after the spritz. Everything was calling. Heard the Bell's Vireo singing. Twice today, early and late, I heard what surely was a Rufous-crowned Sparrow out back on the slope. I also heard what I was sure was a Black-n-white Warbler a few times, then a juvenile female appeared in a pecan right in front of me. A young bird, off the territory and heading south down the river habitat corridor already. After dark I heard a Barn Owl, very very rare in June here. It seemed like it was up high commuting, not at foraging altitude.

June 12 ~ About 74-94dF for a temp range. Just getting below 90 at 7 p.m. when I saw Kerrville was still 94, due to the heat island effect from all the pavement and concrete. Finally, today was the big day. Got my screen with a hole in it up on a window facing the bird bath. So now I can shoot photos without that dang old dirty window and rusty screen that was screwed into the window frame (with stripped screws, and not properly seated) just to make sure you could not clean the glass and it didn't keep the bugs out. Looks like a new window now, and best of all, with a hole to shoot pix through the screen. I will have to measure to see how far the shot is. It's a game changer for pix at the bath. Saw a Scissor-tail do a flip from the porch. Field Sparrow on the patio seed.

June 11 ~ Here is when we get to the part that feels like the movie Groundhog Day, because everything stays about the same the next couple months. Oh, sure by later July we start getting a bit of migrant motion. But that is still a month away. We run low 70's dF to low to mid-90's for highs the next three months. Unless we get rain. There is some potential showing on the long range so dance, pray, whatever you do, now is the time.

Hooded and Scott's Oriole singing in yard on feeder visits. Hear a Blue Grosbeak singing across road over Chat way. Late afternoon watched a cuckoo catch a nice big green katydid in a pecan out front. The light was bad but I shot anyway, just so I could blow it up and ID the bug prey item. Katydid killer. It was quieter out there later. The fireflies are weak, as if they peaked already, but which was never any peak to me. There was a Brown-crested Flycatcher in the yard late afternoon. Ash-throated and Great Crested nested nearby but out of yard as usual, the Brown-crests did not stick this year.

June 10 ~ About 72dF for a low. Morning low clouds, afternoon was a bit patchy clouds so only (!) a cool 92dF or so at peak heat. Heard another Gnatcatcher go by. Worked on projects here, too busy to go out. A few butterflies, a Bordered Patch, late p.m. a Tawny Emperor might be my first of year for them, and down at river in the afternoon a False Duskywing I think was also FOY too. Had a swim to cool off. In the big cypresses there was what seemed a territorial pair of Eastern Wood-Pewee, one chased a Summer Tanager away from the few trees it was guarding. Maybe the troller I was hearing found a mate! Also down there was Indigo and Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Warbler, Chat, Chickadee and Titmouse, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, heard the Scott's Oriole go through.

June 9 ~ About 74dF for a low, and muggy. Had biz work to do half the day, and tried to get some projects here worked on the other half. Same gang of birds around yard. Heard Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak. Took a pic through the screen door of two male Painted Bunting on the white millet seed feeder. Feeder flies. A baby Cowbird being fed by Lark Sparrow is a bummer. But we get darn few of those here overall. Scott's Oriole hitting the feeder lots, which means we hear lots of singing. The male Vermilion now has two young he is feeding. In butterflies saw the sooo orange Goatweed Leafwing male around yard again, a couple Arizona Sister went by.

Blue Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak, adult male

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June 8 ~ Low 70's isn't very low. But at least it is not hot for a few hours early. Too much to do today, but did stop at the park briefly when in town for supplies. Heard a Black-and-white Warbler in the woods, another post- breeding dispersant. There was a pair of Great Crested Flycatcher there, one of which I watched go down to the water and bathe! Very neat to watch. Otherwise it was the usual gang, plus hot and humid. Add-on after update posted: I forgot to mention there were 4-5, maybe 6 Orange-striped Threadtail (Protoneura cara) damselflies at the park, so their flight season has opened.

June 7 ~ Low 70's and low clouds were off and on for the morning. They were fighting to get here. The second wave of juvenile Black-chinned Hummingbirds is appearing now. Numbers are up with fluid consumption, and I see lots of gray-headed fresh juveniles now. Yellow-throated Warbler was at the bath. The other side of its territory is the cypresses along the river, yet it comes here to drink regularly, as in seemingly daily. It certainly makes a couple or few rounds of the yard daily, singing, likely hitting the bath. The female visits the yard too. They bring their young to the bath when they fledge. Another Gnatcatcher today.

While on break on the front porch I watched a Scissor-tail sally over front yard for bugs a couple times. Great break bird from the porch. On this date many moons ago, 6-7-89, I finally saw my first Scissor-tail in California, in Torrance, at my mother-in-laws (!), for 10 seconds or so. I got two photos as it flew over and by me. I had chased and missed several out there. Then a funny thing happened to my photos and report on the way to science...

A free no charge rantlet with a money back guaranty follows. I do not think I have ever covered this event here, so here it is.

A gang in the California Bird Record Committee, the socal record wreckers, the most fearsome band of bird record bullies known to man, led by Jon L. Dunn, and consisting primarily of Paul Lehman, Michael A. Patten, Brian E. Daniels, Kimball L. Garrett, Richard A. Erickson, and Matt T. Heindel, falsely accused me of bird record fraud by making up lies about my photos. With no evidence. Just lies. And they hid this from me, because they, and the CBRC, do not believe in a birder's right to defend themselves (habeus corpus) against whatever BS they make up about them and their report. This is not how science or assurring the accuracy of the record (what they say they are doing) works. It is however a master class in character assassination. This is the socal birding scene for those that would dare be a CBRC critic.

So I was not able to defend myself against their fabricated falsehoods about my photos. I found out why my name was mud 8 years later, and proved the above had been lying about my bird report all that time. They continue to lie about it today, by never setting the story straight with a true story about the false story they started and set free. So I think it important to print their names and make sure everyone remembers how super special they are, for bearing false witness to my photographic Scissor-tailed Flycatcher report. And refusing to admit it when caught. They have probably lied about your reports too, if you are a CBRC critic. How dare you not bow to their egos and question their authority.

They would tell you they fixed it if you asked them about it today. Which to them means they changed the rejection to an accepted record. They did not fix the false story they set free. That requires telling the truth. They don't have it in them. They never corrected the story they fabricated, promoted and spread for years with the truth. Ask them if they published the truth about the record in a way anyone reading it after we are all dead, would understand what really happened to the record. The answer is no. As they wanted it to be. So I get to, and will continue to, remind and warn folks occasionally about these most sublime of bird record cheaters, those that bear false witness to the bird reports of others. Screwing perfectly good records and the birder it flew in on, as they did to me on CBRC #1991-035.

These are Type B bird record cheaters. These are not your sundry Type A fudgers that simply make up that they saw something with a little stretching of field marks. These guys work is far more sublime, being so highbrow, and all that. They don't lie about what they saw, they lie about what you saw! They fabricate falsehoods about the reports of others, sometimes lies of the reputation destroying sort, like the above named did to me. Which is a billion times worse than making up that you saw something, of course. Because it is against, and hurts, others. The guy that makes up Goshawks is not hurting anyone. What Jon Dunn and his fellow bird record bullies do is control the word on themselves by controlling the word on you. By falsely accusing fraud, which is fraud. Clearly that type of fraud is OK with his, and the CBRC people's, ethics and morals. These same proven bird record cheaters continued deciding and voting on the my records after I proved they were cheating on them! CBRC quality control. So moral. This is CBRC science.

~ ~ ~ end of rantlet ~ ~ ~

June 6 ~ About 72dF for a low, but the low Gulf clouds kept the sun away for a few hours. A pair of Killdeer flew by heading towards grass airstrip maybe. Probably nesting on the golf course near one of the water features. Kathy saw a male Scott's Oriole at the bath, so you know it is hot. They generally won't go to it if it is under 94dF. It is an upper 90's thing or higher only for them. Saw a juvenile Painted Bunting, my FOY for that.

At dusk what seemed a female and begging young Chuck-wills-widow flew across yard. The ad. was giving the pulsating guttaral mechanical (a flat underlying clicking throughout) reverberating wowowowowowowowowow as it flew across the yard and when it first landed. Almost always followed by calling. Flying behind and off to side was a second bird giving what I consider a begging note only heard from fledglings. A single guttaral 'owl' unlike the one adults can give. It has a hungry pleading sound to it. It is great to be able to experience them closely a bit. Whatabird. I get the sense we know very little. What is the clicking? Coincidence of sound, or functional?

June 5 ~ Clear and cooled off to a chilly and thrilling 69dF. So more yard work early, that 5" of rain a month ago results in a tall-grass prairie in 3 weeks. I try to keep a patch of tall grass around the base of each pecan so there are islands of good bug habitat generating food for the nesting birds. The combination of micro-habitats, tall grass and short grass, increases biodiversity by factors. Even a few small patches of some tall grass, or little patches of native flowers, like Mexican Hat, make a world of difference in biomass (bird food). There is very little in very short grass areas. Fairways can be biological deserts, whilst roughs comparitively are biodiversity hotspots. Had a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in yard in the afternoon, another bird done and gone off the breeding grounds. Heard a trolling Field Sparrow sing its way around and move off. Juvenile Lark Sparrow out there begging.

June 4 ~ Happy Tonga Emancipation-Independence Day! Yer welcome! There was a cold front that washed out over the plateau last night, areas in north and west saw some rain, not here, but we got a rain-cooled outflow low of 72dF which was great. So yard worked early a bit before the heat sets in. Just the usual, Indigo Bunting singing over in draw again, Cuckoo around the yard, Yellow-throated Vireo, Great Crested Flyc., Yellow-throated Warbler, Painted Bunting, etc., is great daily fare in my book. saw a Caracara go by, but better was a Killdeer. Wonder what it was doing. A pair might nest at the golf course and perhaps commute to the grass airstrip to feed? Seems like the fairways would have enough short grass. Maybe too short, so no bugs? But there will always be bugs around the water features.

The Chuck-w-w is going off nuts again, I think he sits on that empty birdhouse that is 12' up in the open. Heard the Common Nighthawk booming over by north knoll. Fireflies seem a bit light, err, low in numbers, this year so far. At least in our yard, some but not big numbers like last couple years. Saw a nice big red and black Velvet Ant out in the driveway. One Catacola Underwing was brown of hindwing, so obscurus or near that. I actually saw it a few days ago too, maybe Friday.

June 3 ~ Only 74dF for a low here. We were up before 6 a.m. and already light in the sky, dawn chorus already going, and Chucks still calling. We went up to Lost Maples for a hike and bird walk, trying to beat heat, but not. It was cooler and drier up there at 8:30 a.m., you could feel a real difference. We didn't spend but a few minutes at the feeding station at the trailhead parking lot. A couple Chimney Swift were rocking right over that old cabin-house there. Not much going on at the seed though so up the canyon we went. A couple Scott's Oriole were at the start of the trail just after first crossing. Also in that area were Olive Sparrow, a Black-capped Vireo still singing there, and White-tipped Dove called from high up on hills.

We saw about 5-6 Golden-cheeked Warbler, including point blank views of adult feeding young, and heard a few more singing up on slopes. Watched one bathe looking down on it at 10'. For them it was a great showing. We saw begging young of Yellow-throated and Black-and-white Warbler as well, adults still singing too, as are Louisiana Waterthrush, of which I saw a couple adults and one juvenile. A few Blue-gray Gnatcatcher but their numbers are way down already, as are Golden-cheeks for that matter. Only heard one Eastern Wood-Pewee, which is nearly scary, and only heard two Acadian Flycatcher. Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireo still in good nubers, fewer Yellow-throated, and heard two Hutton's. Did not hear a Blue Grosbeak, several Indigo Bunting territorial along the canyon. Heard Canyon Wren and Rufous-crowned Sparrow but did not see any. No Zone-tailed Hawk. The Common Ravens are out of the nest and up on the cliff above it. Fair numbers of Ash-throated Flycacher. Scarce there in summer, we heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo call.

In lizards saw a 4-lined Skink, some Anoles, and a 6-line Racerunner, only snake was a young W. Ribbonsnake (ph.). Butterflies were limited, lots of Spicebush Swallowtail flying though, and one black form female Eastern Tiger, one Southern Broken Dash, a couple Arizona Sister, but didn't see a Satyr, or a Roadside-Skipper. Fair numbers of the common stuff. Only a little of the Texas Milkweed was in bloom, only one Boneset type Eupatorium. The Snapdragon Vine was going good, as well as Indian Blanket, while Musk Thistle going too well. A highlight was two of the Stenelytrana gigas Cerambycids, the first I have seen there actually, but I only got one out of focus shot of one. Both were in flight, one hovering around some blooming vine. It is a great Pepsis Wasp (Tarantula Hawk) mimic. Later we saw a huge female Pepsis, which I did get a good shot of.

Odes were way up in numbers and activity. First of year Widow Skimmers are always a treat. Lots of Blue Dasher, a few Banded Pennant, several Prince Baskettail, several Comanche Skimmer, a Neon Skimmer was FOY too. Best was an Ivory-striped Sylph male I saw briefly. Something else we watched closely at leisure I couldn't figure out, it was surely an imm. male Ivory-striped Sylph. Great looks at Springwater Dancer as usual. Also saw an Eastern Ringtail fly away, and a Black Saddlebags, Wandering Glider, a Leaftail got away before ID, another FOY. Some years the place gets pretty odey (odie?), maybe this will be one. Best ode day so far this year, finally. First day this year with over ten species of dragonflies, plus some few damsels.

Fish were the usual, Largemouth Bass, Red-breasted Sunfish, a Notropis sps. shiner, plus my favorites, Mexican Tetras. I got usable photos of the latter two this time finally. The tets are just starting to get some breeding color. I need to find some around town so I can throw a few in a tank to watch. By noon coming back down the canyon it was dripping hot, 90+ and very humid. There were very few people on the trail, About 4 of the 5 hours we saw no one else. Needless to say, no birders. No coverage. Just one bumbling dummy and his better half. The office said lots of reservations cancelled this weekend, likely due to the heat forecast. I am always amazed how quickly birder tourist season ceases here though. Like its all over, nuthin' to see here folks, move along.

After resting a bit, since we hadn't done enough today, we went swimming in the afternoon to beat the heat. Nothing different over there at river but the ability to be in 75dF to the bone in short order. A Scott's Oriole was singing in the cypresses as it worked its way toward our feeders. We walked about 3.5 miles, and then swam almost a mile. I can't wait for tomorrow when I have to be in the office sitting in a chair.

June 2 ~ A balmy 72dF for a low isn't very. The price for the morning clouds that keep the solar heating at bay a few hours first thing. Early a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher called from out front just over fence. This is another post-breeding dispersal wanderer already, species #3 for that in the last two days. Yesterday was Black-and-White and Golden-cheeked Warbler, today the Gnatcatcher. All three off breeding territory moving around already. If they were staying for another clutch they would still be on (maintaining) territory.

Was a hair under 96dF on the cool shady front porch about 5 p.m. You don't want to stand in the sun too long. You will be dripping if your shoes come untied. There is a new set of just fledged Cardinals, four of them in this one batch! It is all that sunflower seed out there. Hummers are in a lull, and we are not complaining. That batch of young in May is gone and the females are likely nearly fledging another set now. The Chuck-w-w went off again, must have been on the roof or that high birdbox with nothing using it, so lound, so close, two more countersinging not far away. It is a riot out there when they all go off.

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

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 1 ~ OMG June! I swear it was just New Years. I heard a Black-and-white Warbler singing over in the draw early in the morning. Mid-morn it was singing in the big pecan right off the front porch. Before I could binoc to age it the Yellow-throated Warbler flew up very near it, belted out one bar of song, and immediately chased it away. Was it an unmated troller, or an already departing post-breeder, is the big queston. I heard baby Yellow-throated Warbler begging up in another pecan, and which might have been why so territorial.

The birds of the day in the yard were photographed, but I did not see them. I went to town for supplies and errands (and Rosie's chicken fajita tacos) for a couple hours 11-1. Man, I just left for a few moments and she gets the drop on me! When I got back Kathy said she got an ID shot of a Golden-cheeked Warbler and something else at the birdbath! After looking at the pix it is clearly an adult AND a juvenile Golden-cheeked! They had to have nested very very nearby to be together still. My guess would be on one of the knolls right behind us on Lou Waters' wildlife conservation easement abutting us here.

I had nothing in town but the usuals. Cave Swallows at the bank, Great-tailed Grackle at the old water company building, Bell's Vireo at the post office, Yellow-throated Warbler singing behind general store, Red-eyed Vireo singing on Cypress St., a Zone-tailed Hawk flew over Main St., Chimney Swift and Purple Martin also overhead. At the park Blue Jay and Green Kingfisher besides the usual suspects. For a supply and errand run it is entirely bearable. The three species of warblers in the yard on June 1 is outstanding!

~ ~ ~ May summary ~ ~ ~

It was about average for temps, bearable early in the month, and getting hot by the second half. We had one big rain event early in the month, mostly May 4, 5-6" locally, and another inch later in month. So the total was good, but lots of the big one was runoff since most of it fell in 12 hours or so. We remain in a serious drought. Flowers were down for the spring, it was not a great year for spring wildflowers here.

Butterflies were 47 species, one less than April, usually May is better than April, except in off years. It was about the 47 most likely species with nothing odd really. The Bronze Roadside-Skippers at Lost Maples were nice, as was a couple Southern Broken-Dash, but neither unexpected. It was a great Little Wood Satyr flight at Lost Maples this spring, and a good flight for Oak (So.) Hairstreak. A fair number of Arizona Sister are moving, a few Red-spotted Purple up at Lost Maples, a very few N. Mestra here around Utopia.

Odes were still slow. Picking up a little, but not fast enough if you have been missing them since October. We only get about four months of really good season with them here, June-September. About 8 species of damselflies, and nothing but the expected early ones. For dragons about 19 species, and there were a few items of interest. A River Cruiser was at the 360 crossing, but I couldn't get a photo, it was cruisin too fast. Probably a Bronzed. A couple Black-shouldered Spinyleg were seen just emerged at the park. A Flame Skimmer was at Lost maples, a Eastern Amberwing at the Utopia Park was maybe my first May record here, and seems likely a local emergence. The big flight was at the ephemeral flood ponds on W. Sabinal Rd. and S. Little Creek where peak day between both ponds there were over a hundred Band-winged Dragonlet adults, May 5 and 6. Some were there May 4, the very afternoon they filled with water from the big rain event. Then for a couple weeks you could see them, slowly dwindling. They are less than annual here.

Birds are always great in May, as often the peak of diversity here is in a final burst right before migration ends. I come up with about 130-131 species that I saw in the upper Sabinal River drainage, roughly Utopia to Lost Maples in May. Not bad. If I were retired and could bird every day, 150 in the month is not out of the question if you had a good year for landbird migrants, and multiple rain and migrant grounding events.

It was about 10 species better than April was. The shorebirds really helped. The first week of May is about the peak time for many things, and after the second week migration is really mostly past us as far as transient passage migrants are concerned, save some flycatchers. Weirdest thing was no Dickcissels, not even a passage bird! The highlight of the month was the shorebirds grounded in the big rain event at the flood ponds on W. Sabinal and S. Little Crk. Rds.

Likely the first indisputable Long-billed Dowitcher (2 - ph.) and Wilson's Phalarope (3 in ph.) records for Bandera Co., and probably the first photos of Pectoral Sandpipers (3 in ph.) for BanCo. Add on good numbers of Lesser Yellowlegs, some Solitary Sandpipers, plus in UvCo at the golf course, 3 Baird's Sandpiper. Might not sound like much, but try getting shorebirds in BanCo. We have to get enough rain to fill the ponds, right as the stuff is going by. Most springs we get few to no shorebirds here besides Spotted Sandpipers on the spillway at the park.

A few fun landbirds were had. Two Philadelphia Vireo were great, one photo&apo;d, the other heard singing, in the yard! A few Catbird, just one Eastern Kingbird, one Alder Flycatcher called to make it into the books, one female Rose-breasted Grosbeak was on sunflower seeds here at house. Warblers were slow, 16 sps. the whole spring, and individual numbers seemed down, especially for Nashvilles, again. Only Yellow Warbler seemed in good numbers, though Common Yellowthroat had a good strong showing. One Chestnut-sided was the only of the scarcer LTA - less than annual - species. Two Mourning is low, two Tennessee was great, missed it the last couple springs, just by luck snagged one male American Redstart. Did not see a Parula of any sort.

~ ~ ~ end May summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ archive copy of spring arrival dates ~ ~ ~
Here are my dates for 2018 spring arrivals for the Utopia area,
in chrono order so you can sorta see how it unfurls.
29 - Turkey Vulture
29 - Purple Martin
20 - Great Egret
25 - Sandhill Crane
25 - Dragonfly (Red Saddlebags)
28 - Bat
 2 - Black-chinned Hummingbird (JS Mar. 1)
 2 - Barn Swallow
 2 - Lincoln's Sparrow (migrant)
 4 - Vermilion Flycatcher
 5 - White-eyed Vireo
 7 - Double-crested Cormorant (LCL)
 7 - Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (LCL)
 9 - No. Rough-winged Swallow
10 - Ash-throated Flycatcher
10 - Monarch (butterfly)
14 - Yellow-throated Warbler
14 - Yellow-throated Vireo
16 - Cave Swallow
20 - Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
21 - Scott's Oriole
23 - Common Grackle
23 - Clay-colored Sparrow
23 - Barn Owl
24 - Louisiana Waterthrush
25 - Golden-cheeked Warbler
25 - Black-capped Vireo
29 - Hooded Oriole
29 - Ruby-throated Hummingbird
30 - Summer Tanager
31 - Bell's Vireo
31 - Nashville Warbler
 1 - Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
 1 - Black-and-white Warbler
 2 - Bronzed Cowbird
 6 - Great Crested Flycatcher
 6 - Chimney Swift
 6 - Chuck-wills-widow
 6 - Firefly
 9 - Indigo Bunting (LM-TS)
 9 - Yellow-breasted Chat
10 - Broad-winged Hawk (LM)
11 - Green Heron
12 - Common Yellowthroat
13 - Blue Grosbeak
16 - Painted Bunting - (LCL male)
17 - female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
18 - Indigo Bunting (yard male)
18 - Swainson's Hawk
19 - Painted Bunting - (yard male)
19 - Brown-crested Flycatcher
20 - Spotted Sandpiper
21 - Yellow-headed Blackbird (DS)
22 - Baltimore Oriole (early)
22 - Western Kingbird
22 - Northern Waterthrush (white)
22 - Tennessee Warbler
22 - Lazuli Bunting
24 - Orchard Oriole
25 - female Blue Grosbeak
25 - female Hooded Oriole
27 - Yellow Warbler
27 - Cattle Egret
27 - Catbird
27 - female Lazuli Bunting
29 - Bullock's Oriole
29 - Acadian Flycatcher - LM (others earlier)
30 - Yellow-billed Cuckoo
 1 - Least Flycatcher
 1 - (yard) female Painted Bunting
 1 - 1st spring male Painted Bunting
 1 - Common Nighthawk
 3 - Black-throated Green Warbler
 3 - Mourning Warbler
 3 - American Redstart
 4 - Swainson's Thrush
 4 - Olive-sided Flycatcher
 4 - Wilson's Warbler
 5 - Eastern Kingbird
 5 - Philadelphia Vireo
 7 - Rose-breasted Grosbeak
11 - Chestnut-sided Warbler
13 - female Mourning Warbler
18 - Cliff Swallow (earlier at V'pool)
19 - Alder Flycatcher
19 - yellow type Northern Waterthrush
 *nothing new after the 19th is about average

Abbreviations used above:
LM - Lost Maples
JS - Judy Schaffer
TS - Thomas Smythe
LCL - Little Creek Larry
DS - Deborah Siegler
~ ~ ~ end spring 2018 arrival dates ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

Indigo Snake

Indigo Snake

Vermilion Flycatcher

Pardon the pixels and fuzziness

Common Raven

If you are missing a pecan, call, I may have a lead for you. All the Ravens around here are Common Ravens (and there are no Crows). The ebird reports of Chihuahuan Ravens on the south central Edwards Plateau are best disregarded. I highly doubt anyone can prove any of them. Especially the Lost Maples reports. Common are common nesters and residents locally, which have exploded in numbers in the last decade. Chihuahuan are all but accidental here and should not be considered without diagnostic evidence unless reported by a known Raven expert. These Common Raven here are small and compactly built. Any Raven here is Common until proven otherwise beyond question. Show me the proof. All the hundreds reported and not one has any actual evidence to support it. I have seen photos of Ravens on websites labeled Chihuahuan at Lost Maples which are undoubtedly Common Raven, in which there is nothing whatsoever to support a claim of Chihuahuan .
~ ~ end Raven rant ~ ~

White-crowned Sparrow

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

Harris's Hawk

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

~ ~ ~ last prior update below

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren in default position

Great Kiskadee

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

Great Kiskadee

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


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

Hutton's Vireo

Hutton's Vireo

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird - male

There is another series of the weekly break photos below.

~ ~ ~ Above is 2018 ~ ~ ~

Sorry, got some year-end mopup to do here...

~ ~ ~ 2017 in review ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 totals for upper Sabinal River drainage only:
2017 Total....354

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

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

~ ~ ~ end 2017 year in review ~ ~ ~

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing



Blue Grosbeak - male


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

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk


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

Filigree Skimmer

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

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

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

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Green Kingfisher

Male Green Kingfisher at Utopia Park.

Yellow-throated Vireo

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

Easter Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Buttonbush

Purple Martin

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Links to all 14+ years of archived bird news pages below. Broken into 6 month increments. One day I'll quarter it out by season as well, so all 10 years of each season are together, perhaps making say, searching springs easier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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