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: June 23, 2017
(prior updates: June 16, 9, 2, May 26, 19, 12, 5, April 28, 21, 14, 7, March 31, 24, 17, 10, 3)

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

Welcome to summer! Which is here officially in all ways now. Average daily temp spread is running about 72-94+dF now. It is breeding season but some species are done and going going gone already, like Golden-cheeked Warbler, which is markedly reduced in numbers now. Gnatcatchers too are pouring down-valley, seeing them daily southbound through yard. Best bird last week nearishby, found by Mary Gustafson, was a singing male Prothonotary Warbler on UvCo 411 which is between Chalk Bluff and Camp Wood, June 15. A male LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD was at a flowering Agave (c.f. Century Plant type) on June 23 a couple miles south of Utopia.

A couple rare things were detected over spring. While guiding some fine folks at Lost Maples SNA April 3, I found TWO SHORT-TAILED HAWKS! We had great views over the pond area. One was photo'd on April 5. One was heard and glimpsed April 30. Bob Behrstock had another one over Neals Lodge parking lot in Concan April 16. Tropical Parula is being reported (as annual) at Concan, as well. A male VARIED BUNTING was at Lost Maples May 21. A BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO was heard calling from our yard May 22. A Chestnut-sided Warbler was singing in our yard June 2, a 2nd Catbird was at our bath June 8. The Varied Bunting at Lost Maples was heard singing on June 18, just above 3rd crossing which is a quarter mile below big main pond on Can Creek. A pair of Broad-winged Hawk at Lost Maples (ponds area) are likely the ones that nested the last couple years. A Least Grebe was at the Uvalde Nat. Fish Hatchery April 29, on NW-most pond.

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

Chiggers are out, bug spray on pantlegs usually keeps them off. I currently am nursing just a few of the little buggers.  ;) I have been cutting a bunch of taller grass in the yard though. If birding, stay on open trails or roads without knee-high grasses, you'll be fine. Benadryl anti-itch cream is however a must-have item here (get the extra strength).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The NEWEST PAGE is the butterfly rarity photos: Rare Butterflies

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

And here's something else.......
Sometimes I may be available as eyes and ears for hire. Send an E-mail if you desire professional expert level birding guide services while in the area. mitch @ utopianature.com

Or check out the Bird Guide page.

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

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

Commonly used ABBREVIATIONS are:

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


First a 2011 highlight ...

Rufous-backed Robin

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




Broad-winged Hawk   Broad-winged Hawk

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



Some things from 2012 ...

albino House Finch

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



Cerambycid

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



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

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



Something from 2013 ...
Texas Coral Snake

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



Ringed Kingfisher

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





Two-tailed Swallowtail

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



Texas Blind Snake

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


Zebra Heliconian

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



Louisiana Waterthrush

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



Cedar Waxwing

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



Back to Top


Rant warning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIRD & NATURE NEWS 2017


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

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

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

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



Yellow-breasted Chat

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



Just to have this handy again for reference, recent prior updates:
June 16, 9, 2, May 26, 19, 12, 5, April 28, 21, 14, 7, March 31, 24, 17, 10, 3

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

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

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

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

June 23 ~ Low of 74dF is 10 higher than yesterday morning. What a drag, drag, drag. Saw 98dF on the front porch at 5 p.m. Supposed to maybe get a cold front the next couple days and possbily rain they say. Believe it when you see it. I heard a flattish sharp (you can actually describe a bird call as such) warbler chip outside this morning I thought sure was a Louisiana Waterthrush. Couldn't find it though. Ad. ma. Painted Bunting feeding a fledgling on patio. In the afternoon there was a juvenile, and a singing ad. Field Sparrow, and an unattended juvenile Yellow-throated Warbler.

The bird of the day was on the way to town about 11 a.m., a couple miles south. There is a century plant type Agave with a big stalk and some yellow flowers just opening on it. Sunday as we drove by I said to Kathy that it should get orioles and hummers. As I putted up to it a bigger hummer chased two regular appearing (Black-chinned) hummers away and went back to a flower to feed. By then I had stopped and was 12' from it. Male LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD! Bigger than the Black-chins, long nicely decurved bill, splayed at corners of extensive purple gorget, a tinge of rufous on sides, big long black forked tail, OMG. It is my second one locally, the other appeared June 29, 2011, at our Seco Ridge feeders and stayed for 5-6 days.

In town saw only a few Cave and Barn Swallows, only a few Martin, and heard the Bell's Vireo at NW corner hackberry row. In the park there was a juv. Barred Owl up in the woods, ad. and juv. Blue Jay there too, and best, a male, female, and juv. Common Grackle. I only saw one juv. (ph.), but so they were successful. There is now a pair of Eastern Wood-Pewee there, one of which ran an ad. Blue Jay off, which is interesting as I have yet to see Pewee nest there in 13 prior summers. Some Orange Bluet (damselfly) are flying at the park.

June 22 ~ Wow, we had an amazing 64dF for a low, Kerrville was 61dF! Incredible what a little radiational cooling can do. The typical Gulf flow and moisture prevents this most of the summer. It got up to about 96 on the cool shady porch, over 100 at lots of local stations. Was 111 in McAllen! Brutal. Average for the date at Hondo is 90dF, it was 102 there today. Great was a male Bullock' Oriole out front in the a.m., but it only stuck around a couple minutes. Nice to hear though. Second one I've seen in a week, the other up in BanCo the 18th. Otherwise it was the usual regulars. A Southern Broken-Dash was a good Skipper (lep) on the Lantana.

The best bird of the day was a bug, a dragonfly, an adult male Ivory-striped Sylph! It slowly drifted by the porch at eye level, I saw the aqua blue eyes and two white headlights on the thorax from about 3' away! We spray some water around to keep it cooler in heat of day, and run a sprinkler sometimes, which I imagine might be an attractant. Brings butterflies in for sure. Saw a couple Spot-winged Glider today as well.

June 21 ~ Happy Equinox! The longest day (light). We made it. Summer is here! Another 68dF low is a great way to start summer. It got up to a hot 94 on the cool shady front porch, hotter in sun. A couple adult with 7 juvenile Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over early. These are surely locally bred just-fledged young. Heard the Hutton's Vireo again, Brown-crests still around too. The bird of the day was at 7:30 p.m., a male Orchard Oriole was feeding in the flowering Mesquites across the road at the gate. It was alone, and I don't hear one singing near enough that this is a nesting bird out foraging. Most now are feeding young, so suspect it was a failed nester, or cowbird predated, and so done and gone. The Mesquites started a week ago with the first few flowers a week after the last good rain. Now you can hear the bees humming at them from 200'. Noticed the state high and low temps today were 60dF at Marfa and 107 at McAllen. Remarkable was a Monarch, very fresh and flying north, which I presume was from an egg laid by the ones that just passed through in spring. I have checked a number of Antelope-Horns this spring and not found a single cat(erpillar) yet.

June 20 ~ A low of 68dF was a treat, what a difference a few dF makes. We were hitting 80 by 10 a.m. though, very little in the way of morning clouds from the Gulf, which is of course why we cooled. Few more Gnatcatchers went through southward (3 by 1 p.m.). Three male Scissor-tails were dive-bombing a small buteo that went over. I did not get an ID on the small buteo. Statistically it was a juv. Red-shouldered, but it didn't look like one. Looked smaller for starters. Oh well, you have let it go if you didn't get a good enough look. Whatever you do, don't try to make stuff into shat, 'cause that is what you end up with when you do that. Neat how these Scissor-tails each are all nesting in the immediate area, defending their territories against each other, but when a universal threat appears they join together to run it off.

Heard the Hutton's Vireo out back in the big live-oaks again. Red-eyed still singing too. Besides the Ash-throat pair and the Great Crested Flycatchers, a pair of Brown-crested Flycatcher was prospecting around the yard this morning. There are a couple open boxes, they have nested in one of them before. Begging young being fed in the yard include 2 Vermilion Flycatcher, 2 Carolina Wren, 2 Carolina Chickadee, a few Lark Sparrow, a bunch of House Finch and No. Cardinal, a Yellow-throated Warbler this morning, a couple Summer Tanager and at least a couple White-eyed Vireos. The pair of Eastern Bluebirds I think have their second set of eggs now. Had what appeared an Ornythion Swallowtail flying around yard for a minute or two. Didn't stop though.

June 19 ~ The 72dF low felt nice after yesterday's 100+ heat indices. A juv. female Black-n-white warbler came in to see what all the birds were fussing with at the feeders, landing on the wire the feeders hang from and watching before moving to the Mulberry. Saw a Gnatcatcher fly through yard southbound. A bit of cloud cover held into the afternoon and at 3:30 it was only 89dF, though a bit muggy. I saw at WU Hondo was 102dF yesterday, average for the date is 90. We have been running nearly 10dF over normal here lately. Another Gnatcat flew through in afternoon. Hear the Scissor-tails over at the airstrip, the Red-eyed Vireo and Indigo Bunting are still out there. Hear some begging young Summer Tanager. This successful pair's male is a red and mustard first-summer bird.

Kathy pointed out the Opposum here is missing any external sign of a left ear. Boy it just figures we get a defective one-eared possum. Man life is rough. Goes with our Ringtail with a bad leg. Did someone paint on the back of the shed "send me your wounded"? It looks to me as if the 'possum has a distended pouch, so, a pregnant or carrying female is my guess. Hope the young have two ears.

June 18 ~ Was only about 74dF for a low at 6-7 a.m. early thirty. Can't believe how light it is at 6 now! Still some good birdsong going, but not the roar it was in April and May. You can tell it is dialing back. Especially up at Lost Maples. It was only about 71dF or so up there early. That felt great. Only a couple Scissor-tails along 187 Utopia to there. Way low. No Western Kingbirds around, still, since drought. In the late afternoon we hit 95+ on the cool shady front porch, had to be a hun in the sun and heat indices worse.

Which made a morning at Lost Maples a treat. We did about 4 miles in as many hours, which is about my standard birding speed in well-vegetated habitats. Actually we did the 2 miles back down in an hour, so it was 3 hours doing two miles on the way up the canyon. I know many go much faster, but I think they are missing birds. You have to stop and listen and look and listen. You are a noisy beast walking on a rocky dirt road. Especially when in a canyon where noise amplified and echoed. Stuff is ducking for cover as it hears you approach. How often are you alerted to a bird due to an alarm note when you are the only thing around being alarming? How many skulk away quietly?

Usually it's only a couple minutes of quiet and still needed, and things start moving normally again, and calling other than alarm notes whence going into hide mode. So make lots of quick 'quiet stops' along the way. Like at first shade right after any even minor uphill section.  ;)  Always in the shade. Your visibility will be better. If sunny line up a thick branch or trunk to shade eyes and you will see better. Or wherever heavy vegetation and habitat, like for instance where minor side drainages meet more major ones. Always at any watered areas.

We did the Can Creek trail past the ponds to the spring. Figured it was going to be one last look while breeding season still underway with at least some vim and vigor. Overall numbers are still strikingly down for many breeders there since the drought. It is not back to normal. Just a few pairs of Summer Tanager and Yellow-throated Vireo for instance. One Eastern Wood-Pewee (carrying food).

Some things have finished nesting and much of their breeding population have already departed for the season. Like Golden-cheeked Warbler, of which I heard no singing, heard one set of flight notes from one, and finally after over 3 hours and zeroing in on a seet and chip I heard, we had point blank views of an adult female in heavy molt. Just barely stubs of new tail feathers coming in. This was past the second pond. We are out of the sure-thing window for viewing them now. If you spend a whole day, you can likely still find one, if you are lucky you might get one in a half-day. Work the watered areas wherever you can. It is not unusual, in fact almost regular, to get stray individuals the next few weeks, to almost mid-July. But most (99%+) of the breeding population is gone and any you see might as well be transients from elsewhere passing through on their way off of the plateau.

There were still a few singing Black-n-white Warbler, and begging young being fed, and an unattended juv. female, but most are gone. Same for Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, still a few, most have departed. Heard one and saw (ph.) one White-tipped Dove. Saw at least two Olive Sparrow, one of which was a JUVENILE with streaks on underparts and weak crown stripes, as well as sporting a fairly fuzzy appearance. It was following the adult around begging. Perhaps the first known Bandera Co. nesting. I couldn't get a pic though. The White-tips would be a BanCo first too if someone could get a shot of a juvenile. Look for buffy cinnamon edges to the wing feathers on a juv. White-tip.

I heard a Varied Bunting singing far up one of the slopes of the canyon, but I couldn't pick it up from where I was due to visibility. It was a quarter mile below the ponds (above which where a male was in late May), e.g., just above 3rd crossing, on opposite side as trail way up the slope, in that drier juniper zone they like. There were a few Indigo still singing (nesting) along the creek, and some Blue Grosbeak still nesting too. Heard Black-capped Vireo, Canyon Wrens, Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

Saw a couple Texas Scrub-Jay, a few Acadian Flycatcher, a few Louisiana Waterthrush, including begging young, fair numbers of Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireo, heard a few Ash-throated Flycatcher, saw one Green Kingfisher between the ponds, and at the trailhead parking lot right when we got there and out of car, a nice low flyover from a Zone-tailed Hawk trying to sneak by with a TV. Couple singing male Yellow-throated Warbler still may be nesting, Chipping sparrow feeding young, same for House Finch. Heard begging juv. Red-tailed Hawk, but gone from nest, and heard Red-shouldered Hawk, but no other small buteos.

In other stuff... on the way upcanyon when the morning low clouds present you see very few butterflies, dragonflies, or reptiles. On the way back down (after 11 or so) you hit 90dF, the sun burns off most of the clouds, you see fewer birds, and more other stuff. In lizards I saw a 6-line Racerunner and a Texas Spiny Lizard, Kathy saw an Anole. In dragons we saw a few male Comanche Skimmer, two male Flame Skimmer, two Leaftail sps., a probable Sulphur-tipped Clubtail, a couple Dot-winged Baskettail, a Pale-faced Clubskimmer, two Swift Setwing, and a Blue Dasher. The only damsel of note was the Springwater Dancers in the usual spots. There is one 60 foot long (top secret) spot there where this animal ALWAYS is, during flight season.

For butterflies it was slow, none of the big yellow swallowtails, no Satyrs, Blues, Hairstreaks, and no Sister or Red-spotted Purple flying now either. Still a number of Spicebush Swallowtail, one nice male Black. Saw a couple more of the Amblyscrites Roadside-Skipper that is not a Celia's in the usual spots. I think maybe Bronze. Got pix a couple weeks ago, again, and will put out for expert ID. Also had a Celia's as usual. Much of the spring bloom is over and out, though some is still going. Ya gotta be tough to wait for it to heat up and then spend your four hours working the flowers. I used to be that tough, but fear I am getting old and soft. About an hour of it on the downhill return leg is fine for me when it is pushin' 95dF.

On the way home about 1.5 miles north of town (in BanCo) on the straightaway where lined with Mesquite a male Bullock's Oriole flew across the road. They are very scarce in summer here, though common off the plateau in the brush country just south of us. I do not know of nesting in the upper Sabinal drainage, but it is possible.

June 17 ~ About 74-95dF for a temp spread today, a hun in the sun. Morning clouds so bearable to noon, oppressive hot humid afternoon to sundown. There was a singing Black-n-white Warbler out back mid-morning. Best thing today was a Smoky Rubyspot damselfly in the yard, just off the front porch. Almost got pix, but missed, it kept flushing everytime I got close. Any new yard damsel is awesome. Saw a Wandering Glider out over driveway. A few days ago there were a couple dozen dragons out in far corner of yard that looked a mix of Wandering and Spot-winged Glider, but I didn't walk the 250' to make an ID. Was all the usual expected regular birds. Worked on stuff here and tried to avoid the heat.

Springwater Dancer

Damselfly - Springwater Dancer (Argia plana) at Lost Maples May 29.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 16 ~ Mostly the SOS - same old stuff. A couple more Gnatcatcher went through the yard. Zone-tail went over again. Had a town run for some supplies and a look at the park, where Ringed and Green Kings, Blue Jay, Chimney Swift. Interesting was an Eastern Wood-Pewee that did the oft-seen tyrant flycatcher behavoir of driving a small bird to the ground. The small bird was the female Black-and-white Warbler that is summering at the park. Which interestingly now has new primaries. It has been there a month, appeared a first-spring with very browned primaries when it first showed up in May. A local there mentioned the Green Heron being around. It was still overcast so I saw no odes.

The bird of the day was as I was getting in car to head to town, a Black-throated Sparrow sang thrice to get my attention, from the top of a Mesquite adjacent to the north yard fence. When I first heard it I knew I had just heard this in the last month but could not put a name to it immediately. After the second song I remembered what it was, and spotted it in the Mesquite. Got on it momentarily but it flew quickly. First one in the yard in four + years at this bird observatory, I mean yard. Kathy and I saw a pair feeding young a half-mile away last year. But away from the lusher river habitat corridor in uplands where drier with lots of Agarita and grassland. Having just watched one singing a month ago at Lost Maples was invaluable in figuring out what it was. You have to repeatedly and constantly reinforce things, even stuff you know, seemingly particularly with audio. Eventually it will sink in, but repeated exposure is the key. I am just learning this Texas Black-throated Sparrow song.

June 15 ~ A low of 74 is not very. The cool shady front porch was 91dF or so, I saw local stations in mid-90's. It was hot. Heat indices were over 100dF. It is stuck-at-the-desk Thursday. Did steal a couple more digiscopes of the male Vermilion while I was on breaks. One young was with the male hunting the yard, one hung with the female working very different habitat in the corral. I wonder if they are each with the young of their sex? Maybe probably? Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk soar over yard a couple times mid-day. 'Nother Gnatcatcher. Very few fireflies left flying, they are about done. It has been just a few nightly since before Memorial Day. They peaked way early, after starting way early. Wonder what will happen with the timing of the smaller late-summer flight?

June 14 ~ Not very low of 74dF but at least the Gulf clouds got here and kept the sun at bay until after noon. Down at the crossing there were two Green Kingfisher sitting on the concrete bridge. There was a Black-n-white Warbler singing over in the Mesquites across from the gate. Heard the Indigo Bunting and Red-eyed Vireo still singing, the juv. Hutton's Vireo still out there. 'Nother Gnatcatcher moved through.

We had to make a run to Sabinal in the afternoon to get a vehicle inspection (can't get one in Utopia anymore), passed thank you. We did a twofer and hit that new Family Dollar store they recently built there for stuff that is higher here. Astounding was the relative lack of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher along Hwy. 187 between here and there. I did not see a dozen, in 20 miles. Ridiculous. Fifty to a hundred would be normal. And only two Western Kingbird the whole way. Incredible. There is a big, large flying insect shortage going on. Whaddup? Did see a Roadrunner, some gone-to-seed Basketflower, a fair bit of Purple Horsemint and Indian Blanket still blooming.

Fantastic was a note from Mary Gustafson who is an expert bird guide (mostly down in the Lower Rio Grande Valley) about a singing male Prothonotary Warbler along the Nueces River above Chalk Bluff and below Camp Wood on UvCoRd 411. I think nearest known nesting is on the Medina River in SW Bexar Co. Probably the first June record in Uvalde County? My 14 springs here have produced 3, all in May, so about twice a decade for me so far. There are always some of a population that are pushing the limits of range, generally unmated males trolling for a female. Remember a few years ago there was that summering Hooded Warbler at Lost Maples, keep your ears open. Thanks Mary for sharing your great find with us!

June 13 ~ Low was 72dF, high was 92 or so, it feels like summer. Too busy to see much. The Vermilion Flycatcher pair now has two young they got out of the nest, fantastic. Saw a juvenile (unattended) Field Sparrow in yard. Indigo Bunting and Red-eyed Vireo still singing, Cuckoo nesting nearby somewhere, a couple juvie Carolina Wrens being attended. Another Gnatcatcher through yard moving south like all of them. There has been a major blowout of Black-chinned Hummingbirds. I would call it the departure of the second batch of young they have gotten off.

June 12 ~ Got the 70-90dF temp spread thing going, for the next 3 months, 95 if you are in the sun. The morning was overcast with the low clouds from the Gulf, and so we are barely breaking 80dF noonish. We get a half day of bearable if there are morning clouds. Heard a Gnatcatcher out there mid-morning, and the Indigo Bunting still trolling up and down the river habitat corridor. A Mockingbird in the big pecan is doing an excellent Groove-billed Ani call. Wish he would bring one in. Don't laugh, last year a Kiskadee came in to a Mocker imitiation, producing one of my favorite best yard bird records ever. Had a FOY Soldier (lep) fly around the porch a minute or so.

The Chuck-wills-widow has shut up prematurely. I am guessing the nest or young got predated. Normally they are vociferous until July 10 or so. It is like a switch was flicked, I only hear a distant bird, there is no local calling adjacent to the yard for three nights now. Silence. This is a major bummer, I was supposed to get 30 more days of it, then begging young, etc. I set up a bug light and sheet for a few hours for the first time this year to help get over it.

Overall I would say bug numbers are very low. There were a couple neat things but it was fairly underwhelming in general. The best bugs were 'bycids. Cerambycids, Longhorn Beetles. Three different ones. Awesome was a big female Neoclytus sps. (perhaps c.f. mucronatus) which as quickly as I got a shot it flew off into the dark. Then a second Cerambycid came in, 1.75", mottled, unknown and new to me, and I got some shots to work on an ID later, possibly an Ataxia sps. Finally one of the brown ones with two yellow dots on each elytra came in. Maybe Eburia mutica or something similar. Late in day saw one of the S. gigas Cerambycids too, so had four good 'bycids today, weewow!.

Otherwise slow, lots of the big brown June Beetle, an Ant Lion, some Sharpshooters, a Katydid, some crickets, the small Cicada, a few flies and hymenops, very few small moths, and some other little things, but nowhere near the numbers you would expect in June. Biologically, clawing your way back from a drought takes years and years. This is the third year with rains since the 7 year drought, and numbers are still way way down, birds to bugs. And so surely lots else is, that we aren't keeping tabs on.

June 11 ~ Back to 70-90dF spreads in shady areas, hotter in sun. Saw the juvie Hutton's Vireo again, likely the one I saw about 4 days ago. The usual singing Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated all present, so 4 vireo sps. in yard today. The Mocker does a good Bell's, but that doesn't count. Had three (!) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher move south through yard today. Still catching up on chores here. No Chuck calling at dusk?!?

June 10 ~ A 69-89dF temp spread today. Since I spent too many (actually not enough) days bird guiding in April and May now I have to catch up on all the spring stuff I was supposed to be doing all those weekends. Two weeks and no Lost Maples, feels like cold turkey. I need to get up there and see the juvenile Olive Sparrows, and White-tipped Dove, both of which are nesting (heard the juvie Olive Sparrows) and both need photo documentation of young for new Bandera Co. nesting proof.

Had another Gnatcatcher go through yard, these are local breeders departing breeding grounds already. That is about the fourth one in a week, they are all moving south through yard. Heard the singing Blue Grosbeak and Red-eyed Vireo still out there. But at dusk the Chucks were already not as loud as three days ago. Prolly have young to feed.

White-tipped Dove

One of the White-tipped Dove at Lost Maples this spring,
this at the feeding station, and which are surely breeding.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

For archives sake, here is a final of the section of the update header pertinent to spring arrival dates...

Spring is that exciting time of year when every day can have a local FOS - first of season - report. I love watching spring unfurl. Following are my local FOS (first of season) arrival or passage dates. An (e.e.) behind the name means it is my "EARLIEST EVER" spring arrival date in 14 springs of recording that data locally. We expect a few (e.e.) in any given year. This year that frequency is off the charts. Of the 37 species listed below Jan. to April 13, FOURTEEN were the earliest ever I have recorded them. Update: fifteen of 42 sps. as of April 21 are (e.e.), plus two ties.

June 8 - a second Catbird - surely my last spring migrant
June 2 - Chestnut-sided Warbler
May 27 - Cicada
May 23 - Katydid
May 22 - Black-billed Cuckoo
May 21 - Varied Bunting
May 20 - Lesser Nighthawk
May 20 - Lazuli Bunting
May 19 - female Mourning Warbler
May 19 - Eastern Kingbird
May 16 - Mississippi Kite
May 12 - Catbird
May 7 - Mourning Warbler
May 4 - Rose-breasted Grosbeak
May 2 - female Common Yellowthroat
May 1 - female Indigo Bunting
April 30 - Yellow Warbler
April 30 - Olive-sided Flycatcher
April 30 - female Blue Grosbeak
April 28 - Least Flycatcher
April 28 - Swainson's Thrush
April 28 - American Redstart (others saw - 2 males!)
April 28 - Baltimore Oriole
April 28 - Orchard Oriole
April 27 - female Hooded Oriole
April 27 - Mourning and-or MacGillivray's Warbler
April 25 - female Painted Bunting
April 23 - Acadian Flycatcher
April 23 - Indigo Bunting
April 21 - Common Nighthawk
April 21 - Bullock's Oriole
April 19 - Wilson's Warbler
April 19 - Dickcissel (e.e.)
April 16 - Eastern Wood-Pewee
April 16 - Painted Bunting
April 16 - Blue Grosbeak
April 15 - Yellow-breasted Chat
April 14 - Chimney Swift
April 14 - Northern Waterthrush
April 13 - Yellow-billed Cuckoo (e.e.)
April 11 - Great Crested Flycatcher (e.e.)
April 8 - Red-eyed Vireo (e.e.)
April 7 - Chuck-wills-widow
April 4 - Ruby-throated Hummingbird
April 3 - female Summer Tanager
April 3 - Short-tailed Hawk (2! at Lost Maples)
April 3 - Broad-winged Hawk (e.e.)
April 3 - Louisiana Waterthrush
April 3 - Nashville Warbler
April 2 - Black-capped Vireo
April 2 - Bronzed Cowbird
April 2 - Clay-colored Sparrow
March 31 - Brown-crested Flycatcher (e.e.)
March 28 - Firefly (e.e.)
March 26 - Golden-cheeked Warbler (migrant off territory)
March 24 - Bell's Vireo (e.e.)
March 24 - Summer Tanager (e.e.)
March 21 - Monarch (butterfly)
March 18 - Great-tailed Grackle (ties e.e.)
March 16 - Yellow-throated Vireo (ties e.e.)
March 15 - Cave Swallow
March 11 - Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
March 3 - Northern Rough-winged Swallow and Wood Duck
March 2 - Yellow-throated Warbler
March 1 - Ash-throated Flycatcher (e.e.)
Feb. 28 - Black-chinned Hummingbird
Feb. 26 - Common Yellowthroat (e.e.), Purple Martin and Blue-headed Vireo (e.e.)
Feb. 25 - Sandhill Crane
Feb. 24 - Barn Swallow and Vermilion Flycatcher (e.e.)
Feb. 12 - White-eyed Vireo (e.e.)
Jan. 31 - Turkey Vulture (3)
Jan. 14 - White-fronted Goose (e.e.)

A couple rare things have been detected recently. While guiding some fine folks at Lost Maples SNA April 3, I found TWO SHORT-TAILED HAWKS! We had great views over the pond area. One was photo'd on April 5. One was heard and glimpsed April 30. Bob Behrstock had another one over Neals Lodge parking lot in Concan April 16. Tropical Parula is being reported (as annual) at Concan, as well. A male VARIED BUNTING was at Lost Maples May 21; a BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO was heard calling from our yard May 22. A Chestnut-sided Warbler singing in our yard June 2 will likely be my last migrant of the spring. Oops spoke too soon, a Catbird was at our bath June 8.

~ ~ ~ end update header spring arrival section ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~


June 9 ~ About 69dF for a low this a.m., and 90dF in the shade for a high, hotter in the sun. Just the usual suspects in the yard. Supply run to town, so a lookabout. Still hearing a couple Bell's Vireo singing in the hackberry row at NW corner of town. They will sing and breed into August. Some Cave Swallow around the bank. At the park there was the ad.fem. Black-n-white Warbler again, a Ringed Kingfisher, one Eastern Wood-Pewee. As I neared home and went over the low-water crossing on 360 a Green Kingfisher made a last-second correction to avoid hitting the truck. I can't get over how few Scissor-tails are along Hwy. 187, and around the area in general. Their numbers are much reduced, there is a larger flying insect shortage.

In odes at the park I saw a few Orange-striped Threadtail (Protoneura cara), my FOY, and FOY Checkered Setwing. Saw Widow Skimmer, Red Saddlebags, Black and Swift Setwing, lots of Bluet damselflies of some sort out over the water, and a Fragile Forktail up in the woods. Just before dusk two male Painted Bunting were on the millet seed tube at the same time, opposite sides of course. Saw a Red Bat flying around at dusk, and a lone Whistling-Duck went over.

As a reminder Utopia Park is now $10 per person per day to enter unless you have a Utopia or Vanderpool addressed ID. While we are on public service messages, there is a biz called Clear Springs Lodging locally that has a dozen or so different rentals they handle in the area. I have no financial interest, standard disclaimer applies. Almost forgot, had a Red Bat in yard at dusk, besides lots of Brazillian (was Mexican) Freetail.

June 8 ~ Another cool dry one at 63dF this morning. Weewow! Up into the 90's dF though, so afternoons feeling like summer. Very surprising was my first June record ever of Catbird! At the bird bath about 10:30 or so. This is at least two weeks later than my prior latest spring record. In the afternoon another of the S. gigas Cerambycid beetles was out front, they are quite the Pepsis Wasp mimic. Wish I could catch or photo one.

Had to run to the P.O., so snagged a peek at the park. There was a Ringed Kingfisher up on the island, as well as a, or the, Black-n-white Warbler, a female that is not a juvenile. Also Blue Jay, and an Eastern Wood-Pewee. A pair of White-eyed Vireo were attending a juvenlie Brown-headed Cowbird. One Celia's Roadside-Skipper and a couple Dusky-blue Groundstreak in the woods. Just south of town I heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher along the river, another post-breeding wanderer. Took a couple pix of the Ringed Kingfisher hole in the bank, but it appears they are out of it already. Maybe they'll nest again this year, we'll see.

June 7 ~ Holy guacamole, it was 62dF this a.m., KRVL had 60dF! Clear, dry northerly flow, C of C weather. Got up to 90dF on the front porch. Too busy at the desk today to see anything but the usual gang. 'Tis that time of year where the species diversity stays somewhat stagnant, good thing it is a 5-star assortment in the yard for my 5-10 min. per hour lookabouts. Which was not an accident if you were wondering. Did have a juvenile Hutton's Vireo for a while out front. I got a pic of a Catocala (c.f. obscurus) Underwing moth today, my FOY. This is one with brown hindwings, lacking the fancy orange, red, or pink of many its congeners.

At dusk I had a Chuck fly by so close I heard its wing stroke. And they fly quietly. After stopping in one of the big Mesquites across from gate to call a bit, it then flew back down driveway where I was and across the yard again. Now, 10 p.m. it is belting out of one of the big ancient live-oaks right out back. It is nesting real close by. In a month they will go silent, or nearly so. Only 90 days of territorial calling each year so I cherish every day of it. But which is longer than most Golden-cheeked Warbler sing. We get about 100 days out of Painted Bunting here. Whereas White-eyed Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler both sing 150+ days while they are territorial here for their breeding season.

June 6 ~ Another 64dF low feels great as the dry light north flow. Incredible for the date, though June on average is a wet month and so can have some surprisingly comfortable periods around the rains, when we get them. Heard a Black-n-white Warbler upslope in the big live-oaks behind us. Saw Mrs. Scott('s Oriole) at the hummer feeder. The male is there often, the female is likely in nesting mode now so not seeing her as much. They are surely nesting nearby now. Helps make up for the loss of our Hooded Oriole pair, which never did return. One first spring male Hooded is coming in, probably one of the juveniles from last year. Almost forgot, had a FOY Common Mestra (butterfly) today.

June 5 ~ About midnight last night another line of cells went over and dumped another .7 (tenths) of an inch of rain! So .9 the last two days, 2" the day before that puts us at just under three inches in three days, and for the month. I am seeing the first fledged Vermilion Flycatcher out front following the male around. Saw another S. gigas Cerambycid beetle in the big pecan out front, as always too high to even consider netting. Everytime I put out old banana for bait the ants run it over and ruin it.

The Ash-throats and Eastern Bluebirds are fighting over nestboxes. The Ash-throats ran the bluebirds out of the box they just fledged 4 young from. So I put up another box 125' down the fenceline at other end of front yard. The bluebirds were at it in an hour. That was over a week ago, the fighting has not stopped. They keep going back and forth between the two boxes, constantly chasing and displacing each other. Whilst an unused box sits on another fence 150' away. The bluebirds have used that box before too, why don't they just move to it? There was a branch that had grown down to fairly near the top of it, so I went out and cut that off. Now I see the male bluebird at that box, trying to call the female over. Wish they would take it and get the next set underway. The Ash-throat can't be in both boxes on the front fence, why is it defending both? It doesn't want the bluebird there I presume. Tyrants.

Another post-breeding wanderer today in the yard, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. On the way to becoming a fall migrant. Like the Black-and-white Warbler last week, these are surely local nesters (returning in mid-March) that are done and finished. They will now drift around the breeding grounds while they molt for a couple weeks before heading somewhere. For some the breeding season is already over, before summer starts, and is timed to match peak spring.

After dark scavenging where we throw seed was Racoon, Opossum, and a Gray Fox. Heard Coyotes going off across the river. Barn Owl called a few times. Had another tenth of an inch of rain in the late afternoon, so that makes an inch in the last two days and three in 3 days.

June 4 ~ Nice low in low 60's dF, and we got another .2 (tenths of an inch) of rain over the morning. Outstanding! With the rain threat decided to stick close, and some cells were close, but nothing major, though a few miles east over at Seco Creek some areas got 3 inches! We checked a couple spots locally and didn't have anything besides the expected. At the 360 crossing there were a couple Smoky Rubyspot damselfly amongst a number of Americans. Some Kiowa and Violet Dancers, couple Black Setwing, Pale-faced Clubskimmer.

Upriver a bit on private property, I inadvertenly flushed a teneral dragonfly. One that has just emerged, the wings are soft and shiny, they do not have full flight capability yet. I got it in binocs in the grass 12' away and saw it was the first Black-shouldered Spinyleg I have seen since the drought and trout (at Utopia Park). Probably 7-8 years since they disappeared locally. So nice to know some are still around, in areas most can't get to most of the time. So I took a step to try to grab a shot of it. It flushed, I tried to keep an eye on the area it landed a hundred feet away. As we approached a male Summer Tanager flew up out of the grass with it in its beak. There goes that one. We felt bad, but there was nothing we could do to avoid it. Actually at the park when they were common I saw many tenerals of them taken by you guessed it, Summer Tanager.

Four Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over at dusk. Great hearing Common Nighthawk booming nightly.

June 3 ~ A real rain maker MCS went over about 4-5 a.m. with lots of lightning. We got 2"! So now were are at 3" for the week. Low about 64dF was great too. 'Twas the regular gang about the yard. The bright limey first-spring male Painted Bunting is getting a wee bit of the salmon color on the underparts now, which it did not show when it got here a few weeks ago. Red-eyed Vireo still here, should go look to see if it has a mate and is nesting.

I meant to mention a week ago, but sorta morbid, and weird, so was hesitant. I am just the observer and messenger. A female Bronzed Cowbird had an accident here, colliding with a recently discharged projectile, perhaps a pellet. It fell and died over in the coral, whence two males promptly flew down and copulated with the body. I have actually heard of this behavior prior, with a roadkill incident.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

June 2 ~ Rain at dawn, a light slow soaker which we need. About 6 to 10 a.m. it was five-eighths of an inch. Great! So with Wednesday's rain we have about an inch this week. Some areas more, others less. I finally saw my FOS local Green Heron at the park. It was breaking willow twigs for nest material. No passage migrants there. Did have a just-fledged begging young Summer Tanager. There were some Chimney Swifts flying up to the big tree-like hunting blind at the Ranch Outpost, hovering at the shootin' holes, I could have caught one with a butterfly net. Spectacular views at point blank. Couple dozen Cave Swallow around town. I thought sure I heard a Golden-cheeked Warbler at the park but couldn't find it.

Had a Zone-tailed Hawk go by the yard in the afternoon. Bird of the day was about 1:p.m., a singing and calling Chestnut-sided Warbler! My only one this spring, so a miracle this late. That big pecan right off the front porch is so leafy, they can't resist when passing by. It is about the third one in it now. I get them locally every-other year on average in spring. That will be my last migrant warbler of the season. Numbers of begging House Finch, Lark Sparrow, and Lesser Goldfinch are around yard now.

June 1 ~ OMG, it's June! Migration is past us now, it is the summer doldrums. A birding term I never understood, when all the breeding activity is at a fevered pitch. All the migratory breeders that are gone most of the year are present. What is doldrums about it? Some of the migratory breeders on territory within earshot, most of which spend at least some of the day in the yard right now are: Blue Grosbeak, Indigo and Painted Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, and White-eyed Vireo, Scott's Oriole, Scissor-tailed, Vermilion, Great Crested and Ash-throated Flycatchers, Purple Martin, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, belting Chuck-wills-widow and booming Common Nighthawk. I am looking for the doldrums but can't seem to find them for all the beauty and birdsong. Did see a herd of just-fledged White-eyed Vireo, 5 birds, so if both adults in group it was 3 young fledged. Saw a couple just-fledged begging and being fed Carolina Wren in the big pecan right off porch.

~ ~ ~ May summary ~ ~ ~

Well that went quickly. Temps were about average, maybe just a bit on the cool side, only lowest 90's a few days. Precip was light, less than 2", which is nearing half of normal for May. The lack of rain really dialed back the bloom, and insects still seem way down overall.

Butterflies were 53 species, plus a couple that got away. Only one better than March, and less than the 60 in April. Everything was the most expected 50 species. The only odd one was a Marine Blue on May 29, my FOY. A Little Wood Satyr was good, but expected at Lost Maples. One odd Amblyscrites Roadside-Skipper (ph.) will require study to see if I can put a name to it. Probable Julia's Skipper and a Duskywing that was Horace's or Juvenals were un-counted.

Odes were 26 species, 10 Zygops (damselflies) and 16 Anisops (dragonflies). Again like butterflies, it was the 26 most expected species. Late in month added one Widow Skimmer, Swift and Black Setwing, and finally one Smoky Rubyspot. Very few Prince Baskettail, and still no Black-shouldered Spinyleg since the drought and trout.

Birds were a great 125 species locally (Utopia to Lost Maples) for me. Best bird was the Black-billed Cuckoo that called just over fence from the yard on May 22. Second best bird was the male Varied Bunting at Lost Maples May 21. So the tail-end of passage period had the best birds. May did show a few of the usual scarcer passage migrants like a Catbird, some Mississippi Kites, a couple Rose-breasted Grosbeak, an Eastern Kingbird, some Mourning Warblers.

Warbler migration was weak as can be, I think the whole spring only totalled 13-14 migrant species I saw locally. Pitiful. No numbers of even formerly common species like Nashville and Yellow, again. I saw no Tennessee Warbler again. There were about 5 Redstarts reported locally this spring that I know of, I saw two. Mourning Warbler I saw at least 6 of.

No Willow Flycatcher again either. And since the drought Western Kingbird has never re-colonized the valley. There is a large flying bug issue. There aren't any. Or at least very few. Numbers of breeding birds at Lost Maples are still down since the drought as well, not yet anywhere near the pre-drought numbers of breeding birds or territories. I was there 8 times in April and May, and there were times every trip I could not believe how few birds were singing of many species.

It appears White-tipped Dove is nesting at Lost Maples though, and May 29 I heard begging juvenile Olive Sparrow there. It seems a pair of Broad-winged Hawk are there again, and it seems the nesting pair of Zone-tailed chased the pair of Short-tailed Hawks off the hill they were showing interest in. Most of the sets of warbler young I saw at Lost Maples this spring consisted of one fledged young. I saw this in Louisiana Waterthrush (multiple), Black-and-white (multiple), and virtually all the Golden-cheeked Warbler young this year that I saw were only singles fledged.

~ ~ ~ end May summary ~ ~ ~


~ ~ regular daily drivel continues below ~ ~


May 31 ~ A nice cool 64dF for a low is outstanding for the date. Only got up to mid-70's for a high! Rain cooled air all around even though we hadn't received much ourselves. Finally a couple small cells found us and over half the day we got a half-inch of much needed wet stuff. 70dF at 3 p.m. on the last day of May is awesome.

The bird event of the day was seeing that Mr. Scott, the oriole, brought a soon-to-be Mrs. Scott with him to the feeder! He sung one in! We have been hearing and seeing him about 10 days now, and now he looks to have a mate! She is a beauty too, an ASY (after second year), 'full', or definitive, adult.

One of the two male Painted Bunting has molted some of the lime green back feathers and so much red is showing in back, probably nearing half, it appears more red than green. A couple weeks ago I saw the two males in a round of the toe to toe, beak to beak, clawing and pecking whislt hovering face to face, slowly falling toward ground. Over whose turn it was at the feeder. What a flurry of color that was.

May 30 ~ A low in the upper 60's dF with a high in the lower 80's dF on this date is fantastic. Supposed to be about like this all week into early June. Amazing. You will not hear a single complaint anywhere. Out west in California migration sorta ends with a big bang around Memorial Day with a flurry of rare eastern vagrants occurring. Here Memorial Day drills home the fact that spring migration is over. It is just the breeders now. I think the Mississippi Kite last Friday May 26 was the last passage migrant I saw. Over the weekend we had weather that would have knocked migrants down, if there were any still going by.

I saw an adult female Black-and-white Warbler just off the patio in the Mulberry, probably looking to see why a bunch of birds were at the feeder there. I bet it is a finished breeding female that will now wander the area while it molts for a few weeks before it heads out.

May 29 ~ Happy Memorial Day! We snuck out early and went up to Lost Maples for a walk. On W. 360 we had a Western Kingbird in a pasture, and listened to an Orchard Oriole singing while we checked the kingbird. Low was in upper 60's dF. Being the last day of a holiday weekend with rain, we figured it would have cleared the place out. Hardly saw anyone until noon. Most of the morning we were the only ones on the trail, it was like the good old days, or the off-season, not a holiday weekend. Staff said they had .75" of rain yesterday. Ranger Bill said he saw a Large Brown Bat recently there, about 2 p.m.

Only heard a few Golden-cheeked Warbler, and finally watched a just out-of-the-nest juvenile being fed by male and female quite close. They are fading fast. They are already much less apparent, and a much less prominent part of the avifauna there now. Many seem to have left. Generally there are some present and findable through June, and even into early July, but often you might find only one, or a few, and it can take time. Seeing them now is not the gimmie it is all spring from mid-March through May.

We saw two White-tipped Dove, one at the feeding station (ph.) at the trailhead parking area, and another way up the trail a mile away. I heard begging juvenile Olive Sparrow. Last early June I chased the exact same sound down, a mile from our place just south of Utopia, and it was begging juvenile Olive Sparrow. This was too far off trail and too thick to see to confirm visually. It is likely the first report of nesting at the park or in Bandera Co. We also heard at least one, then later heard and saw another (I whistled back and it came in) Audubon's Oriole singing, way over a mile apart, so at least two birds minimum. We saw a couple Green Kingfisher, one was a begging juvenile. They probably nested there this year.

The Fuertes' Red-tail juvenile is about to fledge, now below the nest on the cliff face ledge. I heard Red-shouldered Hawk, and heard a begging juvenile Broad-winged Hawk, which I could not see. We saw a male Scott's Oriole in the Musk Thistle at parking lot, I heard another way up the canyon high up on a ridge. I heard about 3 Black-capped Vireo, but didn't persue seeing any of them. Heard about 4 minimum Yellow-throated Warbler singing, and watched one young being fed at the main big pond. Heard 5 territorial Acadian Flycatcher. But only one Eastern Wood-Pewee, only a few Summer Tanager, only a couple Ash-throated Flycatcher, bigger flying insects are still way down.

Singing Black-n-white Warblers still fairly numerous, a few singing and several begging young Louisiana Waterthrush, and still a number of Gnatcatchers. The usual soundtrack of Carolina and Canyon Wren, Indigo Bunting, White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireo, played throughout. Some texana Scrub-Jay, heard Rufous-crowned Sparrow, heard a few and saw one Hutton's Vireo, lots of Titmouse and Chickadee (Black-crested and Carolina).

Since it was coolish and overcast there was no reptile and little insect activity. In butterflies we saw a few Spicebush Swallowtail, one Red-spotted Purple, one Little Wood Satyr, an odd Amblyscrites Roadside-Skipper (ph.), plus a few of the common things like Sleepy Orange, Pipevine Swallowtail, a Queen, etc. In odes there was a Prince Baskettail, Aztec and Springwater Dancer.

Finally, in the bird-of-the-day-always-gets-away category, we heard a singing Worm-eating Warbler but couldn't get to where it was, much less see it. Chipping Sparrow sings quite a bit there, as in our yard, and they do vary, but there are limits. The Worme is slightly faster, thinner, more metallic, and sounds like a warbler, or insect, more than a sparrow. The individual notes of the trill are not so thick, full, rich and round as in a Chipping Sparrow, so thinner and more insect-like. I was certain that is what it was whilst we were hearing it, Kathy agreed, not a Chippy. We hear them all the time. This was so obviously different. Later checking the song at Xeno-Canto proved it a Worm-eating Warbler to my satisfaction. Used to hear them a lot when we lived in Jersey. I called Worme first time it sang.

May 28 ~ Another 73dF low, and humid, but not supposed to be as stiffling as yesterday. A front is on the way, allegedly, and rain is advertised this afternoon or evening, and then for much of the next week. Even if they are wrong most of the time, we should still get some. We need it badly. It is dry out there. Last week I bought a Rainbird sprinkler, which I know you won't believe this, but it made it rain. That little two-thirds of an inch last weekend? Bought the sprinkler Friday. Boom! Rained Sat. and Sunday. It was a Rainbird. Did not know they worked like that. Didn't even have to hook the dang thing up. Just took it out of the box, put it out in the grass, and in a little while it started raining.

As far as migration goes here, it is all but over. I might hear the big girl warming up. There should still be a flycatcher or two. I have not seen a Willow or Alder yet, again. A late warbler is possible, but chances are fading fast. Nearing time to turn out the lights, the spring party is about over. Fortunately we have a great assortment of nesting species locally, which are at peak activity generally through June, and a month or two longer than that if we get rains.

It was about 90 on the shady porch and oppressively humid, until about 5:30 an outflow boundry cooled us down to 75 by 6 p.m. The rain seems all north of the county line and town so far, but it seems some areas 15 or so air mi. NW got around 4 INCHES. We got cooled off. I kept checking as it approached, sometimes outflows can have birds on them. One check had a singing Orchard Oriole troll through the yard. Fine by me. Can hear an Indigo Bunting singing out there across draw just to north. Ended up with just a trace, the cells split around Utopia as so often happens. Perhaps it is something about the topography, but the upper Sabinal River drainage gets missed in many a rain event that hits everywhere around us.

May 27 ~ A not very low of 73dF here, and humid. Only four months to go. No migrants here in yard, or along 360 best I could tell. Couple singing Indigo Bunting down the road a bit now. On UvCo 354 the Orchard Oriole pair continues, as does one singing male Dickcissel, which must be mated with nest. A few Red-winged Blackbird nest far out in the pasture in the Musk Thistle patches. At the mesquite patch a half mile down the road on left you can hear the usual Bell's Vireo and Yellow-breasted Chat, both of which nest there. There were at least one pair of Common Grackle, likely nesters, and a Hutton's Vireo at the park. So with the Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, and White-eyed in yard, 5 species of vireo today. Could have walked a mile and heard a Black-capped. Too hot. Was 90dF on the shady porch, heat indices of 105+ reported.

Four local FOY odes were seen, a male Widow Skimmer at the park, a Black Setwing at the 360 crossing, a Swift Setwing in the yard, and a Smoky Rubyspot among a dozen American at 360 xing. Turned on the sprinkler in heat of afternoon and a bunch of hummers took baths. A male and two female Great-tailed Grackle were by a corral on W. 360, I wouldn't be surprised if these are the same ones I saw at the Waresville pond at golf course. I heard my FOY Cicada today, right across from our gate. Summer is a comin'.

Texas Spiny Lizard

Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceous).


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 26 ~ Town run day, trying to be ahead of a big weekend locally. The first rodeo of the summer is this Sunday I think, so lots of visitors besides just the usual Memorial Day weekend flood. We will mostly try to hide out from it all. Unlike the forecast it was drizzly all morning, surely over a tenth of an inch fell. Low was only 73dF, high about 90, summer is here.

The park has a new deal I don't know the full extent of, but which seems to eliminate birders stopping in for a quick check as had been generally possible. They want $10 per person to enter now if you are not a local resident. A quick bird check seems to not be a reason to not pay from what I gather so far. It has been overun lately with folks from neighbor towns, essentially making it un-usable to the locals for whom it primarily exists.

Only migrant I saw today was right at the junction of Hwy. 187 and UvCo 360 in a dead snag, in the drizzle, a Mississippi Kite! They always make my day, even if it is just one and it is not even flying. What a cool bird. I looked around a bit in nearby trees but did not see any others. Only takes one good bird to make your day anyway. Later afternoon the Red-eyed Vireo was singing out there, so still around. Imm. Cooper's Hawk keeps diving through yard, missing.

May 25 ~ Still cool and dry in the a.m., about 53dF for a low, but it got hot, 89dF on the cool shady front porch, worse in the sun. Thursday so mostly stuck at desk. Ring King at river early morning. One of the pair of Great Crested Flycs that nest adjacent spent a couple hours around the pecans calling and singing, in between bug-slaying. The Ash-throats that took the gate bluebird box never showed, though are there. Ash-throats prolly know that big bright one can kick their rumps. Saw my FOY Stenelytrana gigas Cerambycid beetle, a pepsis wasp mimic. Grabbed the net but it was too high and disappeared.

May 24 ~ The cool air behind the front got here with an incredible low of 49dF this morning. Likely the last of that until September. And it was awesome. Dry too. Heard a Yellow Warbler in the a.m., and something else I wasn't sure of and couldn't find to see. Yellow-billed Cuckoo around yard lots again today, close, and is likely one of the pair that nests adjacent. An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (lep) was nice. Heard a couple Ring King at river. The adult male Cooper's Hawk got something, maybe a Mourning Dove.

May 23 ~ Overcast and muggy ahead of approaching cold front, the rain missed us though. By afternoon stiff northerlies at 15-20 for a while and clear. Ring King, Scott's, Orchard (2), and Hooded Orioles, Indigo and Painted Buntings, the usual gang. In a fit of bravery I moved and cleaned a nest box the Red Wasps had again taken over. Must have been a dozen of them. Ringtail was out back eating sunflowers in afternoon, it is wounded and has a bad right front leg. Maybe from the fight I heard it in, with another. Saw my FOY fledgling Lark Sparrow being fed. Two Barn Owl after dark. Another FOY this evening was a calling Katydid. A serious sign of summer.

May 22 ~ Nice to be back at the desk working, my feet and legs need a break after yesterday's 5 miles or so. Cool morning after the rain yesterday later afternoon, low 60's dF with a light northerly wind on it. At noon it was barely 70dF! A bargain in late May. A second cold front is supposed to pass tomorrow, Tuesday, and keep it cooler for a few days.

Ring King or two over at river early in morning. One lone Cedar Waxwing was in the big Hackberry. Can't help but wonder if it is one that has been here in prior winters, and checking for crop (the green berries are showing well now). Two warblers were in the yard, a singing Black-and-white up the slope in the big live-oaks out back, which I was too busy to look for to age, likely an unmated imm. male is my guess. Then later a singing Yellow was in the pecans out front. The rest was the regular gang of distractions. The male Scott's Oriole hitting the hummer feeders is great, an immature male Hooded is doing so as well. Not seeing any adult male Ruby-throated Hummers now. They did their 6 weeks, and have gone north for another round of breeding where peak flower bloom is going.

The highlight of the day was about 5:45 p.m. when I heard a BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO sing or call, whatever you call it. The coo-coo-coo-coo Least Bittern type vocalization. It was just over the north fence between it and the draw where thick, and no easy way to go after it. So I just listened to a few rounds of call and basked in the pleasure. After dark a Barn Owl or two called.

May 21 ~ Back to Lost Maples early for another try, with Chuck and Rhonda Gay from Houston. Perfectly dodged the rain and we had a great walk. Did Can Creek to the ponds, the top of the bluff above pond, and then the mile of the canyon past the ponds to the headwater spring. Rhonda found the best bird, a male VARIED BUNTING, the first I have heard of locally this year, and I would call it less than annual here.

So with the Lazuli I saw yesterday, add the several each of Painted and Indigo we saw, plus the Varied, and it was a Bunting Slam in the last two days at LM. The place is great. We came across three or four begging juvenile Golden-cheeked Warblers we got to watch parents feed. One group had male, female, and 1 juvenile. In fact all only had one juvenile. We also saw Black-and-white Warbler feeding a begging juvenile. One. The Louisiana Waterthrushes I saw feeding young last Monday, each had one juvenile. So to me, clutch sizes seem small this year.

Bug count seems low too. Hardly any Ash-throated Flycatcher this year (missed it again), only a very few Summer Tanager, both eat bigger end bugs. Warblers eat smaller end. All bugs remain down since the drought, despite this being our third year of recovery. Speaking of misses no Scott's Oriole or White-tipped Dove today. Should mention Chuck and Rhonda saw a Zone-tailed Hawk up the East Trail near Monkey Rock yesterday. I had a quick look at a Broad-winged Hawk today, back above the headwater spring up Can Creek. We saw a couple of the Millipedes that are dark brownish-black with narrow red segment-join bands, one was over 4".

We had great views of a few Acadian Flycatcher, and Common Raven with a couple young in a nest in a Sycamore. I think it was a stolen hawk nest. The Red-tailed Hawk (Fuertes') nest has at least one young. Some great fun was had up on top of the bluffs above the pond, where the Black-capped Vireos are most numerous. We saw a few and heard more of them. Eventually great looks were had at multiple males, and I saw an imm. male too. A Black-throated Sparrow was singing, and could well be breeding up there. These are very small and dark Black-throated Sparrows. Rufous-crowned, Field, Lark, and Chipping were all up there too. Pretty good for breeding sparrows.

Once you get up to the 'top of the plateau' above the pond (more easily said than done) you are roughly at a nose-bleeding 2250' altitude. Right after the bench if you walk out to the edge of the cliff you look down on the main pond, and there are vireo territories right below you. The little buggers are still hard as heck to see, but with some time, good views can be obtained. This is where Rhonda spotted the Varied Bunting in the top of a juniper downslope just a little bit. You would not have seen it from the pond trail way below, unless perhaps scoping the junipers. She also spotted a Wilson's Warbler, which was another 1st spring male.

Along the second smaller pond I flushed and heard a Mourning Warbler but we just saw movement as it skulked away. We heard a Common Yellowthroat out in the cattails of the second pond, and they said they had one yesterday at the main bigger pond. There was a Canyon Wren going in holes right above the Red-tail nest with something in its beak. Probably a pretty safe place there?

I checked the park on the way home but saw no migrants. There was a juvenile Green and 2 Ringed Kingfisher there. Just as I got home after 2 p.m. it started sprinkling again. They say we are in for some rain overnight. About 6 p.m. I have a Cuckoo out the office window as I type these notes. Was a bit under a half-inch total for rain over the day. Probably two-thirds of an inch total event.

May 20 ~ Was going to do Lost Maples but got rained out quickly. Had a brief glimpse of a male Lazuli Bunting, the only one I have seen this year. Also heard an Olive Sparrow, but didn't want to get back in the canyons with lightning strikes nearish. Didn't see anything at Utopia Park in a.m., but later about 2 p.m. I saw juvenile Green Kingfisher there. At a private spot on river there was a female Common Yellowthroat, and later in yard a Yellow Warbler sang. On the way up to Lost Marbles at about 6:40 a.m. just north of town a Striped Skunk sauntered across the road.

We had some brief pea hail in afternoon, but most of the rain so far missed us, just under a quarter-inch here at the casita, just a leaf-washer, the line of storms split as it arrived and mostly missed our area. But it seems one of the lightning strikes took out our DSL in the afternoon, so no intertubes. Could not watch the weather, last forecast said an event may happen overnight, and now no way to know. I hate when that happens. Kathy and I were forced to resort to talking since we couldn't e-mail each other.   ;)   Lucky for her, just before I was going to suggest my guitar, it was time for bed.

At dusk besides the Common Nighthawk and Chuck-wills-widow, a male LESSER Nighthawk flew by the yard twice, just over the treetops. Great looks at about 60' away, twice! I see the odd individual here, usually in April or May, and sometimes later in summer, but would say they are not a breeder in the upper Sabinal drainage. After dark I heard my FOY Couch's Spadefoot Toad. Which is odd as we usually require a major rain event for them to emerge. Also heard Barking Frogs, and of course the usual Rio Grande Leopard Frog and Blanchard's Cricket-Frog.

Painted Bunting

One of the two male Painted Bunting that are our dependents.
Nobody ever said they saw too many of them too often.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 19 ~ Low of 74dF isn't very low, kinda summery. Rain has been much-advertised, and is much needed, it has been a long dry spell now with very little, some grasses are brown. Normally we get about 3" per month, and have not had an inch in 5 weeks or so. Due to the porus substrate, everything here is geared to the constant regular replenishing rains and when it doesn't happen it is amazing how quickly it dries up. If we get a few-inch event as often happens in late May or June, everything will explode again.

Hear the Red-eyed Vireo out there singing, I wonder if it is trolling, or mated? Have not had one nest in earshot yet. Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo are out there as usual. Scott's Oriole hitting the hummer feeder first thing early. He's hooked. The rest was the usual dull stuff like Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Cardinal, Summer Tanager, Vermilion Flycatchers tending nestlings, Chat, hear an Indigo Bunting singing across and down the road.

A flock of 8 first-spring Common Raven was interesting. Likely non-breeders still, and so flocked at a time of year when breeders are not. Here, last year's young appear shot full of holes in their first spring. They are in heavy molt with holes everywhere, wings, tail, lots of missing feathers. In good light they will also be distinctly browner due to nearly a year of feather wear. In direct comparison, they can also still appear smaller than an adult. Adults molt after breeding in fall and are in generally very good plumage condition in breeding season.

Town run so a peek at the park for migrants, which was not disappointing. On the way just east of the 360 river crossing on the pasture fenceline was my FOS Eastern Kingbird. Snagged one by the skin of my snagletooth this spring. At Utopia Park there was Blue Jay, Yellow-throated Warbler feeding young, Common Grackle, a begging young Green Kingfisher with an ad. fem., and a Ringed Kingfisher. One 1st spring male Wilson's Warbler was bested by TWO female Mourning Warbler. Outstanding close views and at one point I had them both in the same binocular field. On the way back on E. 360 just past the cattle guard and a quarter mile south of our casita was another Mourning Warbler, which was also a female. Three Mourning Warbler is a good day. I think that makes about 6 so far this spring, plus the indeterminate individual.

Also at UP saw a first spring Black-n-white Warbler, which seemed like the same one seen last Friday. Perhaps it is an unmated female summering? About 2 p.m. there were two female Yellow Warbler bathing in our bath together! Five species of warbler is good for the date, only Yellow-throated surely a breeder. It appears the Orchard Orioles are again nesting on 354, singing male was taking food into a dense hackberry, probably feeding an incubating female. At a mud puddle in town I saw a Cassin's Sparrow (!) plus a pair of Blue Jays with 3 just-fledged young. Weird combo of birds there...

May 18 ~ More of same, still overcast and muggy, low about 70dF, summer is working its way here. A few spits of precip overnight, a tr of a trace. Had ad. ma. Scott's, imm. ma. Hooded, and a couple Orchard Oriole today. Heard a Least Flycatcher out on the road out front. Spotted the Vermilion Flycatcher nest from the porch so set the scope up on it. It is in a clump of ball moss in a pecan just over the fence in the corral. Sure great having them feeding all day in the yard, not to mention the male's flight song display, which you hear even at night in the dark. At 6 p.m. I saw my FOY Eyed Elaterid, the big click beetle with the false eye spots on the thorax (Alaus sps.). After dark heard a Barn Owl.

May 17 ~ Got warm, almost 90dF in the afternoon, mostly cloudy and humid. Two male Indigo Bunting were trolling the river habitat corridor across the road in the morning, one was back in the afternoon. Two Orchard Oriole were out there as well, one singing, looked like a prospecting pair. The pair of Blue Grosbeaks is prospecting the hood for a nesting spot too. One good warbler flight note got away. Saw three juvenile Titmouse being attended by adults, I think from the box on the north fence. At dusk again had a super close flyby from a Chuck-wills-widow whilst I was on the driveway. Two Common Grackle (male) flew over just before dusk.

May 16 ~ Overcast and humid, threatened to rain but never did. About 1:30 p.m. a group of at least 6 Mississippi Kites went over. My FOS. Might have been 8 birds. Did not otherwise detect any migrants. Heard the Ringed King over at the river, and after dark a Barn Owl called. Male Scott's Oriole using the hummer feeders regularly now, I think we have one hooked. Still two or three ad.ma. Ruby-throated Hummers here, but they are clearly a bit worn compared to when they arrived, 4-6 weeks ago. Still a couple or few females here too.

May 15 ~ Overcast day, not a low low, but not a high high. Guided Stan Blackstone for a walk at Lost Maples. We had a great time and saw or heard most of the usual suspects. We had great looks at a fledged (unattended) juvenile Golden-cheeked Warbler besides a nice male, and heard a good number sing. Also watched a couple just fledged Louisiana Waterthrush being fed. Still numbers of Black-and-white Warbler, heard a couple Yellow-throated Warbler sing. Migrant warblers were 2 first-spring Wilson's and a first-spring male Common Yellowthroat. Heard White-tipped Dove, Olive Sparrow, plus Scott's and Audubon's Orioles sang. Had Hutton's, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, and White-eyed Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Painted Bunting, a couple Orchard Oriole, no hawks but Red-tailed.

I found remains (partial pile of feathers) of a warbler, no body, but some rectrices (tail feathers). Update: Have researched the pattern of white on the feathers of interest (Curson, Quinn, and Beadle, 1994, New World Warblers) and it was a Golden-cheeked Warbler.

On the way back just before quitting we checked Utopia Park about 1 p.m., there was a first-spring male Mourning Warbler on the island. It had no black in the face whatsoever, and the black breast bib at lower edge of gray hood was much reduced and not fully formed. It gave just one snippet of song. Then about 4:30 p.m. there was a first-spring male American Redstart at our bird bath. My second one this spring, and fourth I know of locally this spring, plus another or two were in e-bird locally methinks. But no Tennessee so far, again. Interesting to note I saw five migrant warblers today, and ALL were first-spring males. They migrate later than adults and so apparently that seems to be where we are now in migration.

May 14 ~ Low about 65dF, will be bird-guiding tomorrow so did yard and house stuff today. Was a bit windy much of the day anyway. Got up to 90dF at 4 p.m. No migrants detected. But the male Scott's Oriole came into the office window hummer feeder! So he knows it! Hope he makes that a habit. I was at computer (where I can't see that feeder) and it landed on the garden fence about 2' from the window and 6' from me.

So yesterday it seems the Eastern Bluebirds fledged out of the gate nest box. I see a pair of Ash-throated Flycatcher have taken over the box already today! Soon as they were gone. I finally caught the family together and it was 4 young fledged! Awesome. But the dang Ash-throats. Last year the bluebirds raised 3 sets of 3 out of that box. Now it is off limits. Hope they take one of the other boxes around yard and stick for their next sets.

May 13 ~ The low of 50dF felt outstanding. Dawn chorus is a mild roar from 5:45 to 6:45 or so. It is still going after that, but not as intensely. Still good, but not as overwhelming. I heard a Wilson's Warbler sing over in the draw. Taped a little and the extra boost of the mic allowed me to hear an Eastern Wood-Pewee singing over at the river. We went to Lost Maples for an early walk in the cool. Did a couple miles of the East Trail (to the steep climb part) and back.

We had incredible views of a perched in the sun preening and singing male Golden-cheeked Warbler. Which sang an odd song variant. Saw a few and heard a bunch. Heard one Black-capped Vireo I didn't go after in the wash not far past the end of the Maples Trail, likely an unmated immature male. We heard at least 3 White-tipped Dove. Probably 5 Acadian Flycatcher, a couple Louisiana Waterthrush. A couple migrant warbler flight notes got away, one was soemthing good. One Nashville sung, it and a Least Flycatcher were the only ID'd migrants.

The rest was the expected, texana Scrub-Jay, Canyon Wrens, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, and White-eyed Vireos, Black-n-white Warblers, lots of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting, Zone-tailed Hawk, and my personal record orangeist throated ever, Yellow-throated Warbler.

I mention on the warblers photo page about how these Yellow-throated Warblers can have some orange in the throat. One pic even suggests a hint of it. This bird we had at point blank in full sun, and the anterior half of the yellow throat-breast patch was orange as an orange. The whole throat was orange, and only the upper breast was the standard yellow patch. It was nearly Blackburnian orange (seen duller burns). Clearly distinct from the remainder of yellow, clearly bicolored. Not all show this. Could it be only old ones? It is also ephemeral. Only at peak spring do you see it. Is it possibly a brief stage in the wear of the feathers? It coincides with breeding season. I have seen it on a number of birds here, and never on any other Yellow-throated Warblers east of the Edwards Plateau (which is most of their range - maybe 1% are way out west here on the Edw. Plt.). Nor have I seen it mentioned in any literature. These are different Yellow-throated Warblers than the rest, in song, plumage, and habits, being a strict Ball Moss specialist here.

After 4 miles total and about 4.5 hours, and no Scott's Oriole, we get home and one sings from the pecan, and later the live-oaks upslope out back. Sure would be great if he figured out the feeders. Heard Barn Owl after dark, couple Chucks nearby doing vocal battle is great. The firefly show is still pretty good but past peak, and way way early for that. The numbers are clearly declining now. They were out of the gate weeks early, and now are flaming out early.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 12 ~ Northerlies, a dry frontal passage, and a low of 57dF felt great. Heard a Bullock's Oriole sing from the big Mesquites across the road. Weird was a Swainson's Hawk moving south on the northerlies early in the morning. Heard Ring Kings at river. In the afternoon at 4 p.m. a Scott's Oriole sang from the front yard while I was at desk. At dusk I was bringing in feeders and a Chuck-wills-widow flew right over me whilst on the patio, low and close.

Noonish run to town for stuff. The northerlies blow out the UvCo 354 pecan patch. The Chimney Swifts over town are sure nice. The park had Ringed and Green Kingfisher, I watched the male Green catch a fish and feed it to the female. Great was my FOS Catbird finally, in the Mulberries of course. Actually for rarity the adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was the best bird I saw. A first-spring female Black-and-white Warbler was good, and likely a far-north nester at the tardy end of passage. Young Carolina Chickadee and Wren were begging, as were juv. Yellow-throated Warbler and White-eyed Vireo. Heard an Eastern Wood-Pewee sing, Blue Jay, and Barred Owl.

I almost hit a Green Kingfisher today. On the way to town just down the road from the house as I drove over the bridge at the river crossing, one shot over the hood! Between the windsheild and the grill guard. It was going upriver and must have pulled up to go over the bridge and we met at the exact same time. It could not have been three feet from the windsheild.

May 11 ~ Still overcast with low-end rain chances, good birding weather, if you can get away from the desk. The ad. White-crowned Sparrow is still here. Best was another Rose-breasted Grosbeak, in the big pecan right off the front porch. I miss them some springs. A Bell's Vireo sang much of the day in the big Mesquites, but also came into yard pecans. A pair of Cuckoos interacting may be our near-yard breeders back. The rest was the regular gang.

One Eastern Bluebird was box-tapping, so I suspect the young will fledge tomorrow. The male was flying up to the box with food, and just tapping it, and turning around flying away with the food item. A technique they use to inspire fledging. Once the Mockingbird came too close and the bluebird pair launched a co-ordinated attack diving from 20' away, that placed both their beaks in the Mockers upper tail coverts at the same exact time. The Mocker disappeared quickly.

May 10 ~ More drizzle, mist, the occasional spitting and threat of rain, and heard a few migrants go through yard. Baltimore Oriole and Yellow Warbler seem the two most likely lately. Had both, and heard an Orchard Oriole. What is likely the same White-crowned Sparrow as a couple days ago is still here on the millet seed. One first spring male Wilson's Warbler was around briefly. An immature Cooper's Hawk dove through yard and is probably a fresh local fledge.

May 9 ~ Some drizzle and mist, and a few migrants, wish I could get out birding. Tuesday to Thursday it is not an option, it has to show up in the yard those days, and best if outside office windows or I will likely miss it. Saw a couple Yellow Warblers move through, one Baltimore Oriole, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Saw my FOS first-spring male Painted Bunting, one of the super-lime types. Some 1st springs are the same green as the female but sing. Others are a brighter, limer, and distinctly more iridescent green. This one had no salmon on underparts whatsoever, in fact there may have been a bluish patch on underparts, which I can't explain. Will be trying to photo. The Ring Kings were over at river. Someone said they saw three of them together which could well mean there are fledged young out of nest already.

May 8 ~ Low 60's to low 70's dF for a temp spread, mostly cloudy, a few spritzes and mist. Heard a warbler zeet but didn't see it. In afternoon was a singing Bell's Vireo in yard, which I saw again at 7 p.m., whence there was also a singing Yellow-throated Vireo, and singing Baltimore Oriole. The rest was the regular coots. Painted Bunting, Great Crested, Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycatcher, Blue Grosbeak, White-eyed Vireo, Chat, Summer Tanager, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Lark Sparrow, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Caro Chickadee and Black-crested Titmouse, Cardinal, Eastern Phoebe, Ground-Dove, and both Cowbird sps., Ruby-throated and Black-chinned Hummingbird.

A note on the hummers. There are at least 500 Black-chins here now, with a humongous wave of freshly fledged juveniles draining feeders at lightspeed. Can't wait until they go away. In Ruby-throated there are still some males around. But, the one guarding the front porch feeder for the last 3+ weeks seems to have left as that feeder has gone communal. It was guarded early April to early May by one male Ruby-throated. Surely a bird remaining a month like that is mating here. I see a very few female Rubies, but have not had time to watch the feeders, can barely keep up keeping them with fluid. I think the Rubies get here, breed, and first the males and then the females, leave and go north chasing summer and breed somewhere else in the summer.

May 7 ~ About 52dF this a.m. felt great. No migrants around yard. An Indigo Bunting was singing along the road out front, prolly same one as yest' afternoon heard from porch. We checked the park, no migrants there, but saw the Green Kingfisher. Some fisherman asked about the big crested bird with a bill like a loon, perched high on a cypress snag, making lots of noise, gray above with rufous below. So the Ring King was there before we were. A pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck were upriver of the island. Grabbed some of those delish wild scallions. Saw another begging Yellow-throated Warbler out of the nest being fed.

Over at the 354 pecans were a Yellow Warbler singing, and a first spring male Baltimore Oriole. The rest is probably breeding there. A trio of Orchard Oriole, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Painted Bunting, and a few Dickcissel nesting there as often, Blue Grosbeak. No Cuckoo or Great Crested Flyc., both of which usually nest there.

Then we checked a private property on the river I have permission to access. Another big worn pale Monarch, #16 for the spring was nice. One Northern Waterthrush and one FOS male Mourning Warbler were good. An Indigo Bunting might be nesting in the Frostweed, Yellow-throateds: Vireo and Warbler, were singing. Best was finding what looks to be a very recently if not currently active Ringed Kingfisher nest hole. The bird seemingly exploded out of a real high cut bank, in which I then found a nice big fresh beautiful RingKing hole. I have seen a couple of their holes along the river (and one on Little Creek), and I have seen begging young chasing adults up and down the river. So surely they are nesting. But if active, the hole needs to be photographed with a bird at it, which then might represent the first proven nest on the Edwards Plateau.

Late afternoon about 4:45 the Ringtail came out and was eating sunflower seeds. I mighta got some better pics, just through the screen, with no window fuzzin' it up. What an amazing beautiful animal. The high temp on front porch was lowest 80's dF.

May 6 ~ Another chilly morning, 47dF on front porch, and about 45dF at Lost Maples this morning. Saw the usual stuff there. Golden-cheeked Warbler, Black-capped Vireo, Louisiana Waterthrush, Acadian Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, texana Scrub-Jay, Ash-throated Flycatcher, etc. For me best bird was a quick glimpse of a male American Redstart, my only one this spring so far, but at least the third I know of. Odd was no White-tipped Dove, not even one heard, after four last week. Did hear one and see another Olive Sparrow though. A couple Nashville Warbler were the only other migrant warblers I saw. I heard a good one that got away though, a super high thin series song that I thought sounded like a Bay-breasted. The other best bird was a Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus. olivaceous)(ph.).

At Utopia Park there was a male Common Yellowthroat, which may well have been yesterday's bird again. Heard Ringed and Green Kingfisher. An Olive-sided Flycatcher was at the 354 pecan patch. First year male Orchard Oriole was at Waresville Cemetery. At the pond on the golf course there by the cemetery are a pair of Great-tailed Grackle which appear to be nesting in the cattails, a first for the site that I know of. Late in afternoon at house was a singing Indigo Bunting over at the draw adjacent, a Least Flycatcher, and a male Yellow Warbler in the pecans.

Ringtail

This is the answer to last week's photo quiz.
Taken through a window and a screen from the office.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 5 ~ Holy cow the cold air behind the front got here and it was 46dF this morning. And dry. I am gonna miss this all too soon. There was a first-spring male Orchard Oriole out front, heard an Audubon's Oriole out back up in the live-oaks upslope, and a Least Flyc. by the gate. Still Blue-gray Gnatcats heading north through yard too. Amazing was the Ringtail out in the daylight scavenging sunflower seeds again at 10:40 a.m. Kathy saw this last Saturday. This time we got some pix. Unbelieveable. What an animal. It was not 20' out the office window, at times 15' or less!

Town run for errands and supplies. At the 354 pecans there was a singing male Yellow Warbler, and an Empidonax flycatcher that was likely an Alder. But can't say for certain. It got away. One Clay-colored Sparrow there. At a nest I was watching the Barn Swallows have fledged some time in the last week. At the park there were two Swainson's Thrush, a male Common Yellowthroat, a Northern Waterthrush, a Green Kingfisher, and fledgling Carolinas: Chickadee and Wren. One warbler got away. After dark, and the update was posted, about 10:30 p.m., I heard a Golden-Plover call is it flew overhead northbound.

May 4 ~ About 56dF for a low, the northerlies blew all night. Another cooler drier nice spring day. Another Least Flycatcher, a couple Dickcissel, an Orchard Oriole or two, another oriole sounded Balitmore (was Northern type), and had a Hooded too. Best was a heard only Rose-breasted Grosbeak, which I do not get every year. So much leafage now they can be hard to find. The sneakers on gym floor call is distinctive to my ear. Pale worn migrant Monarch #15 this spring in afternoon. Canyon Towhee was singing around the yard. It is in and out. Here one day, not the next.

The male Scissor-tail was in the big pecan for a while, calling. Way up top 40' off the ground in a bare snag. This recently arrived Mocker flies up from 150' away, and perches a few feet from it. It appears to size it up... well yer tail is kinda long, but the peach is kinda purty... And henceforth commenced to unleash upon it all manner of noise. After a minute the Scissor moved a few feet away to another snag. Guess who jumps over to be near and pour forth with everything but the kitchen sink. It was the Pepe LePew of Mockers... It gave it all it had, every imitation spot-on perfect, flawless as the Petersen record: Curve-billed Thrasher, Green Jay, Western & Couch's Kingbird, Long-billed Thrasher, Kiskadee, Cactus Wren, Bell's Vireo, Chat, and probably a few things I wished I knew. It did not do a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. It was rapid-fire like a machine gun on a loop, it went on for minutes without any apparent gasp for breath by the Mocker. Unimpressed, or unable to withstand the audio assault any longer, the Scissor left. It was clearly audio assault in the first degree.

May 3 ~ A bit of movement this morning, wish I could go bird. One Least Flycatcher in the yard in the morning, two in the afternoon. A few Dickcissel in the a.m., an Orchard Oriole or two, and my FOS Baltimore Oriole finally, a Clay-colored Sparrow was on the patio, a couple Cuckoos went off close by, hope they are our breeder pair. Saw a fledgling Titmouse begging today, and 3 Eastern Phoebe fledged today. A Monarch, #14 this spring, flew by late in afternoon. Had a glimpse of what looked a Zone-tail go over the yard.

May 2 ~ 50dF for a low was nice. One Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a Nashville Warbler went through yard. Still a Red-eyed Vireo singing within earshot. Great Crested Flyc. right out office window while I was working. Had a quick run out and at the old Preston Place was a male Indigo Bunting and a Yellow Warbler. Some singing Dickcissel, singing Orchard Oriole, and a Monarch (#13) was at the 354 pecan patch. UP had 2 Northern Waterthrush, a female Common Yellowthroat, a Green Kingfisher carrying food or fecal sac, and a male Wood Duck. Also a just-fledged Red-shouldered Hawk was begging from an adult.

May 1 ~ OMG it is May! An amazing low of 40dF on the front porch, Kerrville hit 38 briefly! Weewow! A Least Flycatcher was singing early out front. A Yellow and a Nashville Warbler were around briefly, and another warbler flight note got away. A Bullock's Oriole sang and chattered a bit. An Orchard went through too. Saw my FOS female Indigo Bunting. Very neat was at 10:30 p.m. hearing an Orchard Oriole sing, which sounded like it was in flight. The Vermilion Flyc. is going off after dark regularly.

~ ~ ~ April summary ~ ~ ~

Well it was a great month, especially for the color green. We had about 4" of rain here, but totals vary quite a bit very locally. Were you under the big cell or not? Like they say here in Texas, if you don't like the weather, hang around 10 minutes, or go across the street if you can't wait. And so go rainfall totals. Birds, butterflies, and flowers were all most excellent. Late in the month odes picked up, especially down Uvalde way in the brush-country flatlands, where the flatlanders live.

Butterflies were great though not any but the expected. The 60 species seen locally is my record April total. Average is about 44. All four months so far this year we broke my records for number of butterfly species flying. And I think it safe to say we also broke the record for average temperature records those same four months. Everything is connected. A boatload of earliest ever spring migrant bird species recorded this year also adds support to the idea that something major is going on.

Actually let a couple probable ID's get away on top of the 60 absolutely positively certain sps., and there were 4 more sps. seen down in the flatlands at Uvalde this month. It is great to see good numbers of Arizona Sister again, multiples daily all month. The Red Admiral migration was yuuuge, many hundreds flying NE over the month (since late March). Lots of Lysides on a few days too (00's). From later March when the first went by, by the end of April it was a dozen worn pale Monarch I had seen passing NEward locally. So they seemed to have a fair showing this spring flight, which is all the Mexican winterers returning to finish, and start, the cycle again.

Odes were fair, nothing fancy or rare, just the usual expected spring fliers locally. The couple good things of interest were down at Uvalde off the plateau in the brush-country where the season is a couple weeks advanced compared to that up here in the hills. Down there I saw Great Pondhawk, Band-winged Dragonlet, and Thornbush Dasher, only the Dragonlet was seen up here in hills. I saw 12 sps. of damselflies locally (+1 more at Uvalde). I saw 16 sps. of dragonflies locally (+7 more at Uvalde). So it was 28 sps. of odes locally, 36 if counting Uvalde, in April. By accident.

Of course a lot of the excitement for birds in April is recording all the migratory breeding species return dates. Which becomes fascinating over time. This year we saw an abnormally high number of early returns. After an abnormally mild winter, with an abnormally early last freeze date (early January). Locally I saw about 125 species of birds, in the upper Sabinal River drainage in April. I saw another 40 (!) species down in the flatlands brush-country from Sabinal to Uvalde area. Mostly water related (ducks and sandpipers), and some of the south Texas brush country specialties.

The best birds locally this month were hawks. First a pair of Short-tailed Hawks at Lost Maples. Then a Gray Hawk there is actually much rarer, and about the third upper Sabinal drainage report I know of. And it appears the nesting pair of Broad-winged Hawks are back at Lost Maples as well, this will be their third year now here.

April was again generally poor for the more eastern type migrant songbirds, like warblers in particular. Very weak so far, and pullin' teeth for the common stuff again. A Worm-eating Warbler was reported on e-bird at LM, which is less than annual locally. Two male American Redstarts seen in one day here is nearly unheard of, someone must be living right, it wasn't me. I have missed it in spring here, it is not a absolute sure thing.

The birds I have seen fledged young out of the nest of by the end of April are Carolina Chickadee, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Chipping Sparrow. Within the first three days of May add Red-shouldered Hawk, Black-crested Titmouse, and Eastern Phoebe. All of which likely had stuff out in April. Ten species.

~ ~ ~ end April summary ~ ~ ~ regular drivel below ~ ~ ~

April 30 ~ Wow, what a day. The front blew all night, with a brief spritzing of rain. Blowing still in the morning, it was under 50 on the front porch here at 7 a.m. With 15 mph winds, a bit chilly. Patrick, Joni and I did Lost Maples. And I mean did it. According to Joni's watch she made over 21 THOUSAND steps. About a mile and half each (one-way) of both of the main two canyons. Probably a good six miles plus. I usually feel like I saw a quarter of what was there.

We had great views of a foraging female Golden-cheeked Warbler, heard a few males, you just have to put time in on the trails, and it helps to know what to listen for. So you know when to go on high alert. We watched a Black-and-white Warbler feeding a just-fledged juvenile at point blank. We saw a few Nashville Warbler (migrants), and some of the now regular Yellow-throated Warbler. For which another birder mentioned they found a nest. We saw three seperate Chipping Sparrows feeding fledlings.

At the trailhead parking lot there was a male Scott's Oriole and a female Hooded Oriole feeding on the Musk Thistles. A White-tipped Dove came in while we heard a couple more calling, and heard at least one more in another canyon later for at least 4 minimum. Saw my FOS female Blue Grosbeak, along with a male of course. A couple texana Scrub-Jays obliged, a Rufous-crowned Sparrow, but oddly no buntings at feeders.

I heard a snippet of Black-capped Vireo song from uphill of the restroom at the pond (usual area). Above the second pond we enjoyed the every-bit-as-lost as the maples Witch Hazel, and the Canyon Mock-Orange is still in bloom. A few Prarie Larkspur were open, what a beauty, and lots of Scarlet Clematis. Had a quick flyover of a ratty Broad-winged Hawk, methinks a first year bird. Over nearing the end of the Maples Trail I heard an Olive Sparrow tik tik tiking. We heard a good bird that for now will remain unmentioned. There were two FOS Olive-sided Flycatcher seen.

In bugs We saw a bunch of Red-spotted Purple (butterflies), some Spicebush, Two-tailed, and Tiger Swallowtails, a couple Arizona Sister, Southern Broken-Dash, but I was not working for them so things like Duskywings were left un-checked. In Odes only a few obvious ones were noted. Saw Prince and Dot-winged Baskettail, one Springtime Darner, lots of Common Whitetail, a few Aztec Dancer.

Later in the day we made a stop on the Sabinal River at one of my secret spots and watched a Yellow-throated Warbler feeding a just-fledged juvenile. Baby warblers out of the nest before May. Amazing. At about 5:30 p.m. in the yard was my FOS male Yellow Warbler. It was another great day in paradise, which is near Utopia, you know, just down the road a piece from Comfort.

April 29 ~ Went to Uvalde with Patrick and Joni Thevenard. Had to work for it, but had a great day. There was no passage migration evident whatsoever, and Cook's Slough remains eerily quiet. Not a single Bell's Vireo singing in all those acres of mesquite, in two two-mile walkarounds this week. Only heard one Verdin. Did not hear a single Cuckoo today, nor a Myiarchus, where are the Brown-crests? Major weird. Whaddup? Did see a pair of Great Kiskadee which was nice, heard Olive Sparrow sing, saw some Painted Buntings, 3 Black-crowned Night-Herons. Lots of Common Sootywing butterfly flying, none five days ago on Monday.

On the way down at the 2730 stock tanks there were again a few shorebirds. Four Pectoral and at least 3 Baird's Sandpiper, a Spotted and a Solitary Sandpiper, 4 Wilson's Phalarope, and a couple Killdeer. Lots of Dickcissel and a Bullock's Oriole there too. Along a couple roads we had Harris's Hawk, and on Old Sabinal Rd. we had a pair of Canyon Towhee, out in the flatlands brush country, not a canyon in sight. Did not see the Shrikes of last Monday. Mid-morn we went by the secret Lesser Nighthawk spot and had views of the male and incredible, crippling, face-melting looks at the female which is now there too.

After lunch we went to the fish hatchery (U.S. Nat.) and the water was up at most ponds so only a couple shorebirds, a Spotted Sandpiper and a Solitary Sandpiper. Plus the usual Killdeer. There were about 30 Ibis, I checked every one, they were as usual (always for me) all White-faced. A few Wigeon, Gadwall, a couple Shoveler, some Blue-winged Teal were the ducks. Over a dozen Coot, a pair of Common Galinule, and the highlight was a Least Grebe on a pond. We saw it make a couple brief flights and saw the big white wingstripe. Very cool. Out at the gate, again a Couch's Kingbird was amongst all the Westerns. The ad. ma. Orchard Oriole is still singing there and will likely nest in one of those dense trees on either side of gate.

Went out 481 to the Nueces River crossing about 4-5 mi. west of the hatchery. A good Cliff Swallow colony is under the bridge there, but it was heat of the day and otherwise quiet. Except the butterflies puddling along river under and near the bridge. A hundred Snout, a couple dozen Reakirt's Blues, Red Admirals, Lyside and Orange Sulphurs, and Sleepy Orange, it was amazing. So were a couple hundred Snout on a blooming Acacia of some sort there. I found a Dusky-blue Groundstreak dead in the water so we got to see the dorsal side which is normally only in viewable in flight since it sits with closed wings. Absolutely beautiful butterfly.

There was lots of ode activity but I couldn't really work them, only seeing the obvious. As last week there were Thornbush Dashers at the hatchery. A Giant Pondhawk there was also for me an early date. At least one Four-spotted Pennant was flying, and saw a Red-tailed Pennant as well. One Leaftail flyby looked like a Four-striped to me, very green of thorax. Good numbers of Eastern Amberwing, Roseate Skimmer, a few Desert Firetail at the city park in town. There are lots flying now down below 1000' altitude.

At the Memorial Park in town on Hwy. 90 where the Leona River starts, the Sailfin Molly (probably introduced at this site but are the native wild type as in Nueces River drainage and south Texas) seem to be doing well. The males are in great color now. Lots of odes but no migrants in the woods. At Uvalde it was 91dF and humid as physically possible at the hatchery and slough. The porch thermo read 85dF when I got back here. Six degrees, Uvalde to Utopia (900' to 1350') and every one counts when it is hot and humid!

An hour before we got back to Utopia, Kathy saw the Ringtail out back, in the day, about 3 p.m. or shortly after! When we pulled in the driveway, the pair of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher were prospecting in one of the outer pecans, going branch to branch looking for the right one for the nest. They never choose the yard, but a guy can dream, right? What does the grass airstrip have that I don't, besides regular mowing?

mystery eyes

This is a photo quiz for those guys that put up the
ID quiz photos with one obscure mark barely showing.
Something like the bifurcated scutes on the metatarsals.
So for you guys. Take this! Hint for the rest: mammal.
Now what do you wanna bet one of those smart alecs
will e-mail me with the correct ID. I tried to shoot it
with flash but too far so mostly just got some eyeshine.
Probably ID-able though.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

April 28 ~ A not very low of about 68dF. Heard a FOS Baltimore Oriole out in yard early this morning, a couple Dickcissel went through, heard an Orchard Oriole sing, my first locally this year, and a Cuckoo called (Yeller-bill). Kathy spotted a White-crowned Sparrow around, which was another leucophrys, but not the one here on Monday, none were present the last three days. Heard the Canyon Towhee out there early. I had to run to town for errands and on 360 had a half-dozen Clay-colored Sparrow in a flock on the fence.

Met a couple birder friends in town at the park to plan for tomorrow. They had seen a male American Redstart at Lost Maples this morning, at the turnaround on the Maples Trail. After we parted I sent them to Waresville Cemetery to see the Martins. They saw ANOTHER male American Restart there! Holy cow, two in a day locally! The only migrant we saw at the park was a FOS Swainson's Thrush. We heard the Barred Owl, saw Blue Jay, and a couple White-eyed Vireo. In the afternoon at the casita I had my FOS Least Flycatcher. Heard the Ring King again over at river, and heard it this morning too.

April 27 ~ We dipped to 47dF for a low this morning, felt outstanding. But the breezy picked back up fairly soon. About 10 a.m. I heard the first Canyon Towhee in the yard in 6 months or so. It came into garden and was singing all around the yard. Hope it found enough seed to want to stick.

Astounding was a warbler at the bath about 9:30 a.m. or so that was likely a hybrid MacGillivray's x Mourning Warbler. It surely could not be claimed as either, though was obviously one or the other, or both. Male, with just a few feathers of white at rear of where Macs upper eye-crescent would be, and a few more feathers of white at the rear of where the lower crescent would be, and thick like a Mac. Otherwise face was all black with no white. Just a couple small white areas at the rear of where eye-crescents should have been on a MacGillivray's.

Bill was small (Mac), undertail covert projection was short (Mac), tail then longish (Mac), and chip call note was MacGillivray's. So it was mostly a Mac, but with an all black face, except thickish white dots the width of a Mac eye-crescent above and below eye at rear of what would be the eye-crescent areas on a Mac. It was nearly surely a hybrid. Unfortunately my Scan-o-Matic 2000 DNA scanner is on the fritz. It could not be properly recorded as a MacGillivray's or a Mourning. I will have to decide whether it will be Mournivray's or MacGourning Warbler. Or maybe "former Oporornis sps."... I might have some sort of image through the bathroom screen.

Finally saw my first Hooded Oriole of the year, a female, on one of the hummer feeders. Did not see it well enough to age it. Thought I heard a Yellow Warbler distantly again. Ringed Kingfisher called from over at river before dusk. At dusk I thought I heard a distant Paraque vawheeer a couple times. Don't know what else it could have been. Barn Owl after dark. About 140 Firefly.

April 26 ~ Another dry front rolling through, arriving about 9 a.m. just as it was about to get foggy from the gulf flow. Northerlies blew like heck all day at 15-25 gusting higher. Mostly it was the regulars. In butterflies saw both Hackberry and Tawny Emperors. Birds were the residents, no movement with the winds. Which finally laid down just before dark.

I was out on the driveway for that last half hour of light, trying to get a good firefly count (150). A Chuck-wills-widow was calling over across the draw, still a fair bit of light, and a Chuck flies right at me 8' off the ground, pulls up to snag a bite to eat so close I could have caught it with a butterfly net. Full spread eagle pose as it grabbed whatever, 6' away! It spun on a dime and flew back down driveway , over gate, and turned down the road, without signaling. I saw it was a female due to lack of white in tail and barely paler buffy corners. In the next ten or 15 minutes I saw it, the male or both fly across the yard three times. Awesome Chuck show!

April 25 ~ Went to bed early and slept in to 6:30. That was nice. Needed some battery recharge time. Was about 55dF or so early at sunup. Nothing going for migrants through the yard this a.m. I had to get back to the desk and work and catch up before I do this again next weekend. It is migration prime-time, and ya gotta fish when the birds are bitin'! The new bird of the day was a FOS female Painted Bunting. Thought I heard a Yellow Warbler sing distantly.

At dusk a Chuck-wills-widow was moving around the permiter just outside yard calling. It uses a snag in the draw on which the perch spot is too low for me to see from the driveway. It fluttered up and caught moths a half-dozen times though and every time it did it breaks treeline and I can see it in the fading light. At least 125 Firefly in the yard at dusk yesterday and today. Common Nighthawk called "beer, beer", and heard a Barn Owl after dark.

April 24 ~ Left at 7 a.m. with Ted and Leslie for a day of some brush country birding down Uvalde way. It was a cool 43.5dF on the front porch here! Amazing! In areas the flowers along 187 from the escarpment dropoff at Clayton Grade down to Sabinal are either already going great, or will be shortly.

Since it rained recently a few times I was excited to check the FM2730 stock tanks. These are a couple miles west of Sabinal between 127 and 90, on 2730. There may be a million tanks around but we can only see a couple good ones from public roads in the county. We were not disappointed, they had water, and shorebirds!

One American Golden-Plover was best, a couple Stilt Sandpiper were great, about 3 Solitary and 4 Spotted Sandpiper (one of each landed in the road for a while!), 8 Lesser Yellowlegs, a couple Killdeer, a nice female Wilson's Phalarope, one Least and one Semipalmated Sandpiper. Some Blue-winged Teal too. Three times I heard an Upland Sandpiper call from out in the pastures but the grass was too tall to see into. A getting nearly tardy Merlin shot by as well! Dickcissel numbers along the road were in the several dozens, a mild roar. It was bird city.

We worked down Old Sabinal Rd. (aka old 90) and had great looks of a Mockingbird playing pinball, himself the ball, a Harris's Hawk the bumper he was trying to move. The Mocker won eventually. It was his tele pole after all. Literally bouncing off the hawk with its claws, a dozen times. Saw Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrasher shoot across the road, which was lined with singing Dickcissel. A few Bullock's Oriole as usual, and lots of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, but no Cassin's Sparrow yet in the couple good fields they regularly use. A few Loggerhead Shrike were along the road.

We took a walk around Cook's Slough first. It was weirdly quiet, I think the resident nesters are incubating by now in many cases, and they go fairly quiet then. Only heard one distant Kiskadee, no Green Jay. Did hear Olive Sparrow, saw a couple Neotropic Cormorant, 2 Shoveller, and best, had great looks at singing male Painted Bunting. Heard a few. Heard a couple Nashville and an Orange-crowned Warbler but it was weirdly all but dead for migrants. More Dickcissel too.

At the City Memorial park on Hwy. 90 we saw a Green Kingfisher. We saw the male Lesser Nighthawk at the spot just off of Hwy. 90 a hundred yards. Then had lunch and went to the fish hatchery. There were a hundred Black-bellied Whistling-Duck. A few other ducks too, a couple Gadwall, a pair of Ring-necked Duck (lateish), a few Am. Wigeon, a pair of Cinnamon Teal, some Blue-winged Teal, a dozen Coot, three White-faced Ibis. Again another 8-10 Lesser Yellowlegs, a few Spotted and a few Solitary Sandpiper, 2 Wilson's Phalarope, one Long-billed Dowitcher, and some Killdeer. In the trees at the entrance we found a singing male Orchard Oriole (had heard and glimpsed one earlier) and finally a Couch's Kingbird among the Westerns. Scoped two male and a female Bobwhite on a dike. It was an amazing day, loaded with birds, great fun, and company.

Interesting at home in the later afternoon was an adult White-crowned Sparrow, which is a new migrant to show up. It was the more expected pink-billed black-lored leucophrys.

April 23 ~ Up at zero-dark-thirty to go bird guiding. Wow, Cygnus at zenith, Scorpius to the southwest, holy cow. We will soon have the summer humidity issue, so these last good drying northerly blows each spring are much appreciated. Though wind calmed last night at dark, it picked back up by 10 p.m. with still northerly, but lighter, but northerly, and still blowing lightly at dawn. So probably not much migration motion was my thought.

I met some fine folks in town at sunup for some birding, Ted Jarvi and Leslie Hall from Arizona. Chimney Swifts over Main St. at first sun. First we checked the park, nothing moving, a couple Black-bellied Whistling-Duck were on the other side of pond. We headed up to Lost Maples for a hike to the ponds, and maybe a warbler or something. Checked the HQ at opening and a few things there, but was still early and a bit chilly. Kerrville was 44dF this morning! I think at the casita we were 48, methinks it was 45 or so at Lost Maples at 8 a.m., it felt great.

We went to the trailhead parking lot and I threw a cup of seed out at the feeding station (sometimes it is best to take things into your own hands). When you have to get up the trail early, you can't wait for the help to show up with seed. The birds see someone spreading seed at the spot and it is like the bell rings as they see things moving in.

We saw the usual mostly, Blue Grosbeak, Scott's Oriole, and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, texana Scrub-Jay all showed well. As did a White-tipped Dove, of which we saw and heard more of up the ponds trail. Going up the trail to the ponds we saw most of the expected usual like Indigo Bunting, Summer Tanager, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo, Common Raven, at least one Broad-winged Hawk. On the way back down we heard an Olive Sparrow sing just off the trail, just above the first crossing leaving the parking area.

Fewer singing male Yellow-throated Warbler than a couple weeks ago. A couple Nashville, a couple Orange-crowned, and one Wilson's were it for migrant warblers. We saw a couple Black-and-white very well. Saw my FOS Acadian Flycatcher in the woods below the ponds where they always nest. Some heard-only species were an Eastern Wood-Pewee, a couple Louisiana Waterthrush, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Canyon Wren, and Black-capped Vireo. We did not go up to the bluff-top above the pond for them.

We had extended point blank views of a female Golden-cheeked Warbler with a mouthful of green bugs and still hover-gleaning more! Means young are hatched. Later we saw a male as we almost got back to the car. It sung with a buzzy whistled trill I have never heard. It learned something wrong. Otherwise heard a half dozen singing but now much quieter of song since in full nesting mode.

In butterflies I saw a Little Wood Satyr, several Spicebush and a couple Two-tailed Swallowtail, a Red-spotted Purple, an Orange Skipperling and a Southern Broken-Dash, besides the more usual common stuff. Didn't pay attention to any but obvious odes, a Prince Baskettail was my FOS, lots of Dot-winged Baskettail, Common Whitetail, and Common Pondhawk flying. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher from the porch at dusk.

April 22 ~ Happy Earth Day! Overcast humid summerish morning, it was 70dF at 7 a.m.! The dry sorta-cold front hit at 8 a.m. with 15-20 mph northerlies, at 10:30 a.m. it was 60dF, by 11 it was upper 50's. Holy cow. You get way more weather for your money here. I was hoping the northerlies would hit us while still dark and knock migrants down since it was clear with southerlies at midnight.

Another Bullock's Oriole in the yard in the morning. About 9 a.m. I walked out on back porch and a Chat was in the little leafy pecanlet a few feet to my left. Three male and a female Bronzed Cowbird at the millet feeder. They commute here from the golf course, you can watch them fly in and out. Sure hope that female doesn't have an accident. Worked on the yard since cooler and I have a couple days of birding work ahead.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

April 21 ~ I have thought I heard a couple chatter in the last week, but this morning there was a FOS singing male Bullock's Oriole in the yard. There was a male Common Grackle around briefly as well, a Nashville Warbler went through (surprise). Town run for supplies, another Nashville up in the woods at the park, and a Great Blue Heron, but that was it. In afternoon a Monarch butterfly passed through yard (#10 this spring). Just before 7:30 p.m. a silent FOS Common Nighthawk flew by. Glad I was out there to see it, as I did not hear one all evening. Was over a hundred Firefly in yard, maybe 120, what a show.

April 20 ~ Too busy Thursdays. Nashville and Gnatcatcher (warbler and Blue-gray) through yard again today. A Bronzed Cowbird hit the millet seed tube. A Nysa Roadside-Skipper was on the Mealy Sage in the porch flower bed. Clearly we are over a hundred on the Firefly count at dusk. Another 25 across road and over in corral. Barking Frogs doing a lot of, well, er, barking now. Hearing Blanchard's Cricket-Frog out in front yard a bit too.

The male Painted Bunting is around but I still haven't heard it sing yet. This is normal for many species here. When they first arrive back on territory they do no immediately go to singing. It takes days in most cases. They call a lot so you know they are around, but they don't sing. Not full song. Blue Grosbeak, Great Crested or Vermilion Flycatcher, Chat, they all return to the breeding territory and do not start full territorial song immediately. Generally a few days on average I would say for most, some longer. Of course they know there are no females here yet, and they likely need a couple days of some serious eating first thing on arrival after the trip.

April 19 ~ Another earliest ever spring FOS date, a Dickcissel flew over calling at 9 a.m., northbound. Then at end of day at 7 p.m. my FOS Wilson's Warbler sang a few times. Barn Owl after dark, and hit a hundred Firefly in the yard at dusk, and likely a couple dozen outside yard but adjacent. It is an awesome show already the last half hour of light. A few Chuck-wills-widows serenading at dusk now too.

April 18 ~ The back side of the front cooled us down to about 53dF this morning, very nice. A House Wren and a Lincoln's Sparrow in yard were migrants passing through, as were a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Back to daily Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, the Red-eyed Vireo or another singing, as is the Chat. Sounds great out there. Toss in the Great Crested, Vermillion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, plus the residents. It is music to my ears. I see four Chipping Sparrow, likely local breeders nesting nearby. A Monarch went by, I think #9 for the spring. The Coyotes went off quite close after dark. At least a dozen Blue-eyed Grass (the Iris) flowers in a patch in the yard. Still just 90 Firefly in yard.

April 17 ~ We had a rain event overnight, and a little shower in the day, total of about 1.25-1.5", right when the leaves need it for their growout. Male Blue Grosbeak on the seed is likely the local nester that sings daily around the yard. The male Painted Bunting is on the millet tube again, until early August. A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, I haven't had time to work the hummers past keeping feeders with fluid. Thought I heard an Indigo Bunting distantly again, but still no sighting yet this spring here for me. Red-eyed Vireo singing, so is the Chat, and clear passage migrants were a Nashville Warbler and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Did have a FOS Swift Setwing dragonfly. Firefly count was 90 in yard, and 20 or so within sight outside it. Gray Fox on the patio after dark.

April 16 ~ Mostly overcast, threatened to rain but didn't. We did some of the river corridor habitat above and below us for a couple hours. About 4 Nashville Warbler, heard a Myrtle and an Orange-crowned. The Chat is across the road in the usual main territory singing-tree. Kathy pointed out a calling FOS Eastern Wood-Pewee. One Lincoln's Sparrow along road, another came into our birdbath. A couple more Blue-gray Gnatcatcher too.

In the later afternoon again today another FOS showed up, a male Painted Bunting! Again, we know it hasn't been here or around and was not here earlier in the day. It showed up just before 6 p.m. and went straight to the white millet seed feeder it knows and loves. Like the Chat yesterday, a late afternoon arrival.

Also in the afternoon I saw my first Disparate Forester moth of the year. Usually I see them in March on the Agarita but not this year. This is the day-flying moth that has white polka-dots on gun-metal blue-black wings, with furry orange on body and legs. Google that name for better pics than I have, most locals have probably seen them and wondered what they were, besides a striking beauty.

April 15 ~ More low clouds with occasional mist in the a.m. Breezy too. Noonish we walked to the crossing to get a mile and half in (roundtrip) and cover some river habitat corridor to see if any migrants moving. There were a few. At least 5 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (these are passage birds headed further north now), 3 Nashville Warbler, one first spring male Black-n-white Warbler, a House Wren, a Lincoln's Sparrow, and a Broad-winged Hawk. Plus heard my FOS Blue Grosbeak call a few times. Definitely some migration motion. Saw a couple Yellow-throated Vireo and one Red-eyed Vireo was singing.

Amazing was the FOS Yellow-breasted Chat which is surely the one that breeds across the road and uses the birdbath. It showed up later in afternoon, singing from the main tree it uses all summer. It was not out there at 4 p.m. but was at 5 p.m.! Since I was out front every hour all day, and we took a walk down the road right through its territory it is more than safe to say it was not there earlier.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

April 14 ~ More mist in the morning, some scattered showers, but nothing serious here. Ran to town for some supplies and checked the park. Lots of people and noise with the holiday weekend already starting. Saw my FOS Northern Waterthrush, always a nice migrant to see. A couple Nashville Warbler were in the blooming live-oaks. One Green Kingfisher up by the island. Also there was a migrant Hermit Thrush, the first I have seen locally in over a month. The wintering ones are long gone. A few FOS Chimney Swift were over town, nice to hear them back. Bell's Vireo singing along the road behind the gas station at NW corner of town. Also about 20 Common Grackle over there by the retention pond behind the storage spaces.

April 13 ~ Typical low clouds, almost misty, had a few drops of rain overnight, but it missed us. First thing early there was a FOS Yellow-billed Cuckoo cooing over in the corral. Doing the 'rain song'. It is my earliest ever spring date, for the 14th time this spring. Remarkable. Three, or maybe in a 'early spring' year there are five, 'earliest evers', out of 10 or more years of good spring arrival date records.

We are at FOURTEEN 'earliest evers' this spring! Plus two ties. Most of the early returns are local breeders arriving on territory. So it is very telling. The first wave of most migratory breeders like say Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Black-and-white Warblers are the local nesters. So it goes for most species. The individuals of the same species that pass through in late April or early May are the ones on the way far to the north. Where you can't nest in April. Our local breeders can get going in March, most are in full roar in April. These more southerly breeders return as soon as they can of course. This year a third have returned earlier than ever before. It might not sound like much, but it is a monster big change.

April 12 ~ Had to run to town early, stopped at park. Saw a migrant Louisiana Waterthrush, which is scarce here in spring. Also one Nashville Warbler sang in the live-oaks. Otherwise quiet save a few residents. Englemann's Daisy getting going, and saw my first flowers of Prickly Pear, and Prickly Poppy. Now 50 (!) Firefly at dusk over yard. You might think I should have something more important to do than count fireflies at dusk? Well you would be wrong!  LOL I don't. This is heavy science man. Don't be fooled just because I don't have to say "hold my beer" to conduct it! Nine of fourteen prior springs (2 out of 3) I had not even seen ONE yet by this date! Fifty at once already!?!?! Astounding.

April 11 ~ There was between a quarter and a third of an inch of rain overnight. North side of plateau had some wet spots with inches but it mostly missed us. Best was my earliest ever (14th spring) Great Crested Flycatcher. Thought I heard an Indigo Bunting sing a few times distantly... but not good enough for an absolute FOS date. Betcha it was though. Ring King flying high over cypresses along river. Now 40 Firefly at dusk over yard.

April 10 ~ Just the regulars today, too busy working. So nice to have birdsong going on outside again though. So from the desk, here are the migrant breeders I hear territorially singing now. Yellow-throated, White-eyed, and the last few days a Red-eyed Vireo (but Red-eyes never stick to nest here), Vermilion, Scissor-tailed, Ash-throated, Brown-crested, and Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Summer Tanager, and a few times a day I will hear Purple Martins overhead. Then all the residents are going full bore now too. Heard the Ringed King over at the river, saw the Ringtail after dark scavenging sunflower seeds. Did some more yard work, saw a Scarlet Pea flower, and some Bluehearts. Counted 30 Firefly at dusk over yard.

April 9 ~ Misty much of the morning. Trying to catch up on some yard work before it gets hot. A bunch of weekend days mid-April to mid- May I will be bird guiding so have to get the spring cleaning done now. I was resting on the front porch in the afternoon and watched a male Scissor-tail fly down into the path I cut to the wellhouse and grab a bug off the ground. So neat to have on the ground in the yard! Male with a full tail, and all that orange. What a bird. Saw 20 Firefly at dusk over yard.

April 8 ~ Trying to get caught up on the spring cleaning stuff, yard work, etc. I saw three male Ruby-throated Hummingbird at once on one of the feeders, so they are in good numbers already. Bird of the day was a singing Red-eyed Vireo, my FOS, and my earliest ever in this 14th spring of recording such stuff. Couple Barn Owls called after dark. Saw 10 Firefly at dusk over yard.

Pine Warbler

Here is the north end of a south-facing Pine Warbler,
the male that wintered and is presumably a returnee
visiting the yard regularly for at least 3 winters now.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

April 7 ~ About 42df for a low, got up to mid-upper '70's. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher over at river early. Did a town run and had a Green at the park. Only migrant was a male Myrtle Warbler in mostly alternate plumage, and a Kinglet (Ruby). Saw a summer form Questionmark (butterfly) here at the house. Otherwise it was the regulars, no migrant birds went through that I saw or heard but an Orange-crowned Warbler and a Kinglet. I'm too busy with work.

At dusk though a most welcome FOS, a calling Chuck-wills-widow! Awesome! We get about 90 days to soak a whole years' worth in, and that is it. That is 10 days less than adult male Painted Bunting are present on territory here. Of course the Chucks are still here longer than 90 days, but that is all they call for. Besides begging young they are mostly silent the last month of presence.

April 6 ~ Holy cow 39dF on the front porch this morning! KRVL had a 37! Outstanding. We will soon wish for such cool air. Thursday so stuck at the desk getting a peek here and there outside. I am starting to wonder about our Hooded Orioles. They should have been back by now and have not yet returned. Got me worried. They are a late March returner. Ours are MIA. Sure nice to hear Summer Tanager singing out in the yard again.

April 5 ~ Wind blew all day from a dry frontal passage, 48-88dF temp spread. Would have been tough birding out there, 10-20 mph, gusting higher. I was too busy working to see anything but the usuals. There were 16 Lark Sparrow and 5 Chipping Sparrow on the patio late. Heard the Scissor-tail singing. Brown-crest too. Ash-throats interested in the box on the corral fence. They have used it before, as have the Brown-crests. After dark I heard something fly over northbound calling that sounded like Redhead (ducks). Sure wish I could have seen them.

April 4 ~ We were 45-85dF for a temp spread today. Couple Caracara went over, they are nesting nearby. Counted 14 Lark Sparrow on patio. Best was my FOS Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycatcher around. Saw a big fat pregnant female Four-lined Skink, a Horace's Duskywing, and a couple Monarch. That makes about 7 migrant Monarch so far this spring for me here locally. Which is good. Still Kinglets going by.

April 3 ~ It was a great cool 45dF for a low this morning. Today we four (James Smith, Jim Cain, Alan Cohen, stuck with me guiding) birded Lost Maples. It did not disappoint. Though some things are not in yet, it was still pretty birdy. In the area of the trailhead parking lot (bring your own cup of seed if you are going to be there early before they put it out) when sun first hits the hillside to south there is lots of activity on it. We watched a singing male Scott's Oriole there for a bit. Two White-tipped Dove came into the seed I threw out in fairly short order, a male displaying at and chasing a female around. Surely they are breeding here now.

We heard lots of Golden-cheeked Warbler singing along Can Creek (now called the East-West trail) on the way to the ponds. We saw a few, finally one showed better than well, carrying food, presumedly feeding an incubating female. We heard a few Black-capped Vireo, and got some looks up on the bluff over the pond, a couple males and I saw a female. Heard lots of Canyon Wren, a couple Rufous-crowned and an Olive Sparrow. Saw a couple FOS Nashville Warbler, a Blue-headed Vireo, heard Hutton's Vireo, lots of Kinglet (Ruby). We saw a number of and heard lots of Black-and-white Warbler, heard a couple Louisiana Waterthrush. Lots of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on territory. A few Yellow-throated Vireo. Amazing is the number of Yellow-throated Warbler which were all but accidental there 10 years ago, there were at least 6, maybe 8 singing males.

As is usual and normal for the early date, a few things are not there yet, like Blue Grosbeak, Indigo (or Painted) Bunting, Red-eyed Vireo, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, to name a few off the top of my head. It is still early. James had a pair of Texas Scrub-Jay at the pond while we were uphill on the bluff.

The highlight of the day was as we approached the pond. I spotted two small buteos that were snow white below soaring a couple hundred feet up, over the area of the pond. SHORT-TAILED HAWKS! We got great looks as they soared around, seeming to be interacting, they drifted away, and then came back reappearing even closer, and disappearing again. While we were watching them, two adult BROAD-WINGED HAWKS appeared! They were really interacting, as a pair would, and clearly seemed such by the size difference. I suspect they are the pair that nested here the last two years. At one point both pairs were overhead in the airspace above the main big first pond up Can Creek at the same time. Between the ponds we had a first spring Red-shouldered Hawk fly over. The Fuertes's Red-tailed Hawks seem to be at that cliff nest along trail on way up between 1st and 2nd water crossings again.

Butterflies were great, with about 5 Two-tailed and 4 Spicebush Swallowtail, 3 Little Wood Satyr, a Monarch, and lots of the usual for the date things. A fair number of Aztec Dancers (damselfly) were out. Flowers are just getting going, besides the early ones done already like Redbud, Agarita and Mountain Laurel.

Late in day in yard, what is probably the local nesting pair of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher landed in the big pecan right off the front porch and called a bit, did a sortie or two. Great to have them back! Kathy had a Monarch at the house during the day too.

April 2 ~ We had a MCS move over in the pre-dawn and shortly after. We got just over 2&aquot; (2 and an eigth) of rain here about 7-9 a.m. After the rain, I birded a half-day around the town and vicinity guiding visitors Jim Cain (ID/MT), Alan Cohen (OH) and James Smith (AZ). They stayed at the Utopia River Retreat cabins which seemed a workable solution for a local room. We had my FOS Clay-colored Sparrow there. And we had a great time birding around the area.

They saw Ringed Kingfisher yesterday late afternoon at the park. We saw a male Green Kingfisher there. Heard the Barred Owl and a White-tipped Dove called from upriver, a Whistling-Duck (B-b), but no migrant landbirds. There were over 160 Cedar Waxwing near the fruiting Mulberry on Cypress St. out front (east) of park. More than I have seen all winter.

We birded a bit on a private area near my casita and heard an Olive Sparrow singing right where they nested last year. At the same spot we heard and I briefly saw a male Black-capped Vireo. But they are not any more willing to be seen than ever. A few Blue-gray Gnatcatcher there too, where I suspected breeding last year as well. We also heard an Orange-crowned Warbler. A flood pond on the golf course had 5 Blue-winged Teal, and a Brozned Cowbird there was my FOS. Over the gas station was a Zone-tailed Hawk circling low which we got great looks at. Cave Swallows are working on nests at the bank now.

April 1 ~ Was too busy trying to get ahead, or actually caught up, which is ahead in my case. A couple Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through yard northbound. What seemed 'the pair' of Yellow-throated Warbler were about the yard a fair bit and the male took a long bath in the afternoon. First female I have seen this year and they were closely interacting. Both Ash-throated and Brown-crested Flycatcher were in the yard calling.

~ ~ ~ March Summary ~ ~ ~

It was about 3.5" of rain for the month, not bad, and a bit above average. Temps were way over normal, we did not freeze. We frosted once or twice, but no freeze in March. Incredible. Our last hard freeze was in January as we had none in February! It may seem nice on the surface but freezes are about the number one thing to keep pesty bugs in check.

As one might expect with warmer than normal temperatures, we had a record breaking month for butterfly species diversity. The average for the last 8 years is 30 species in March. Highest ever were a 40 (2009) and a 41 (2013) species March. I saw 52 species of butterflies this March. If I would have been able to make it to Lost Maples late in the month on a nice day, it would have been 55 or more. At 52 sps. it breaks the prior best 41 by 25%. It is more than 70% above the average 30 sps. of diversity for March. That is such a radical change it should scare you. It is wholesale level change. Look out.

Odes, dragonflies and damselflies, were better than Feb. of course, but it is still slow in March as usual. It was about 14 sps. total for the month. There were some days with over a hundred Enallagma Bluets out over the pond at the park. Lots of Dot-winged Baskettail, some Pale-faced Clubskimmer, Common Whitetail, a few Variegated Meadowhawk, a Green Darner, Red Saddlebags, couple Springtime Darner, Fragile Forktail, Kiowa dancer, American Rubyspots, the expected. A Pronghorn Clubtail was nice.

Birds were outstanding with a major movement of migration motion. I saw about 99 species locally this month, without trying, mostly just park checks on my town runs, the yard, and puttin' around the very local vicinity. We saw a few other species down in brush country toward Uvalde. Mostly the bulk of March new species is returnees, that is migratory breeders that winter southward and return in March. A few good things went by.

Best birds were a flurry at the end of the month... a binoced and scoped adult Goshawk on the 27th, a nocturnal calling Black-necked Stilt on the 25th, and a Lark Bunting on the patio on the 28th. A Common Yellowthroat on the 25th, and a Marsh Wren on the 26th were both of interest in March.

~ ~ ~ end March summary ~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~


Crayfish

Mudbug if you are in cajun country, Crawdad in
most places, or Crayfish to be most accurate.
Barred Owl and Red-shouldered Hawk seem particularly
fond of them. I once knew some Pied-billed Grebes
that lived on them.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 31 ~ The 45dF low was outstanding. Clear, dry, more chamber of commerce weather. Hot and dry in the afternoon, 82-85 pending where you were. Incredible was a Brown-crested Flycatcher calling around the yard for an hour in the morning. It is my earliest ever, and first ever March record. Wow. Had to run to town. Bell's Vireo still singing at the north end curve mesquite patch. At the park there were no migrants, but a Summer Tanager was singing, the first of that I've heard in 6 months. A male Green Kingfisher was on the other side of the river above island. A few Yellow-throated Warbler are singing territorily there now. Looks great but slow for birds.

Best was on the way home the open Mealy Sage flowers by the corral had some butterflies. A Nysa Roadside-Skipper was new for the month locally, as was a Northern Cloudywing! New for the month butterflies on the last day of the month are always particularly welcome. A female Whirlabout was my first fem. for them this year. Lottsa Dun Skipper.

The No. Cloudywing had a broad (.25") pale margin to the distal VHW (ventral hindwing), as I see on a very very few, often in March or April. I might have gotten a shot to show it. These look intermediate between normal typical individuals, and albosuffescens, tending toward the latter. Most here do not show this obvious distinct character.

March 30 ~ With the passage of the front we had a great low of about 51dF with some nice dry light northerly flow. Getting up to maybe 80, in a bout of what they call Chamber of Commerce weather, just perfect. And exploding green everywhere you look. Another gnatcat sung its way through the yard northbound this a.m., and a male Summer Tanager stopped in briefly too. Chipping Sparrows now number less than 20. It has been a very early blowout of them this year.

Butterflies were great in the afternoon wawrmth. Three first of year species were nice enough to fly around the porch while I was out there. A Painted Lady, a Mournful Duskywing, and best a Red Satyr flopped by. Over a hundred Lyside went by in fairly short order. Lots of Red Admiral on the move now too.

After dark a couple times the coyotes must have made a kill, as they went off totally bonkers nuts howling, very close. Screech-Owl was calling lots late. I saw another firefly, #2 for the year, which is amazing in March!

I looked for the comet with binocs late but didn't spot it. Maybe will scope tonight. Should be a fuzzy green dot as if above the pan of the big dipper (or so). They say barely below or just at naked eye detectability, so binocs should get it. Have to study the charts again and better before looking tonight. Can't remember if I looked at the charts at SpaceWeather.com or Sky & Telescope.com, both should have good locator sky charts. Spaceweather has good pics of it in the comet photo gallery, no tail really, just a neon green fuzzy pinhead. Maybe after parhelion we'll get to see a tail?

March 29 ~ An amazing 47dF for a low after it rained last night. About midnight to 1 a.m. lots of lightning, thunder, a bit of hail, I think we had about 1.1" total, some locally had only .75. There was a Ringed King at the river, and a high-flying Belted was likely a migrant. A singing Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through yard northward. A quick town errand, only saw a Summer Tanager male at the park. Great to have them back! A few butterflies in yard were Arizona Sister, Queen, 2 Goatweed Leafwing, a Texan Crescent, Giant Swallowtail, and lots of the usual stuff. A Zone-tailed Hawk went by.

March 28 ~ Overcast, fog-mist, about 65dF for a low. A few spritzes in the a.m. After breakfast I walked out on back porch. There is a little 10' pecan treelet against the house a few feet to left. A Lark Bunting flew out of it! Female or immature plumage. It landed in the Mulberry, then went over into corral. I have had them in the yard at least three times now in March. This is when they are on the move. The real big highlight of the day was my FOY FIREFLY! Which is my first ever MARCH record. A week earlier than my earliest prior. My average date for first one is MID-April! So this is two weeks ahead of my average 'first firefly'. Wow!

March 27 ~ Got up to 90dF again in the afternoon, and so lots of butterflies were about. I briefly saw Monarch #3 for the year, a Reakirt's Blue was around, great was my FOY Orange Skipperling, more Giant Swallowtail, over a hundred Lyside Sulphur, a Gray Hairstreak, Dun Skipper, it is starting to get going for leps. Kathy pointed out a Scrub-Jay calling from the junipers over the north fence.

The bird of the day was mid-day, I spotted a raptor circling over the house and could not immediately pin it down. Which is good. Ran in for binocs and watched it a minute as it circled and gained altitude, an adult GOSHAWK! Ran back in for scope and got it in scope for another minute before it got too high up. Holy cow! We had one here three times last late Feb. to early May, an immature. March of 2014 we had an adult move north overhead much like this one did. Was a miracle I went outside for 5 minutes right when it was low over the house, and the thermal it climbed was right overhead giving me time to get binocs and scope on it.

March 26 ~ About 55-85 for a temp spread, getting warm in the afternoons now. We went to the park before noon as often if you beat the lunch rush there it is still quiet, except holidays. On the way a Green Kingfisher flew across the road at the crossing as we left. Then another was up at the park around the island. The mulberries there are just starting to get some fruit, but worth watching all spring. One Celia's Roadside-Skipper was my FOY, also saw a Fragile Forktail (damselfly). About 6 singing Yellow-throated Warbler along length of park.

The library garden has a few flowers, not much for butterflies yet, but in the one big still-blooming Redbud in the parking lot was a Henry's Elfin. Lots of Martins overhead around town, and Cave Swallows, haven't heard a Chimney Swift yet. We did hear a couple Common Grackle in town which are new arrivals that just got here (from where?).

We stopped to admire the Purple Martins at the Waresville Cemetery house (by the C.C. pond), they are in good number. I love that style of house, cute as it is clever. The pond had a Savannah Sparrow and a Marsh Wren. Which is a good spring migrant to snag here, and probably my earliest. A male Common Whitetail dragonfly was nice too.

Then over at Berteau Park (private) besides the Yellow-throated Warblers, we heard a singing Golden-cheeked Warbler! It was on the other side of river and we couldn't spot it, but heard it sing a nearly a dozen times. Awesome! This is about a half mile upriver from our casita, dang thing just went by. I actually have a yard record of a singing male from this date, four years ago.

Finally, on the way out of the country club, nearing Hwy. 187, along south edge on the power line we saw our two FOY Scissor-tailed Flycatcher! You might drive by a lot of them April to mid-October, but you always stop to binoc and drink in that first sighting each year. Yeah baby. They're back!

March 25 ~ The 45dF low felt great at early-thirty. Some good dawn chorus going (for how many of the regulars are not here yet) at 7 a.m., but still too dark to bird by sight. Heard Turkey gobbling up the hill behind us. A White-crowned Sparrow was out back in the morning, wow a migrant. After finishing fixing some bird nest boxes we put them up in the oak-grassland behind us. Had one Hutton's Vireo singing, a couple migrant Orange-crowned Warbler, but was the heat of the day so quiet overall.

In butterflies about 4+ Theona Checkerspot were my first of the year, a half-dozen Elada were nice too. Did not see the Crimson Patch. Had a couple Arizona Sister, Black Swallowtail, and the regulars. In the late afternoon at house I saw my FOY Pale-faced Clubskimmer dragonfly. Saw the Ringtail after dark. At least 500 Crow-poison open in yard. Great was seeing a fair bit of Blue-eyed Grass (the little Iris) scattered about, including a half-dozen open in yard.

The bird of the day was about 10 p.m., I was outside and heard a BLACK-NECKED STILT fly over calling! Who knows how many, but at least one called a couple times so you could tell what it was and that it was northbound. Great yard bird. In L.A. I had it as a nocturnal calling flyover on my yard list, regularly.

Texan Crescent

Here is the Texan Crescent we saw at the park in
late January, probably my first ever in Jan., and
obviously a mint fresh individual.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carolina Wren

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


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nysa Roadside-Skipper

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


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House Finch

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


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Above is 2016

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

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Read UP from bottom to go in chronological sequence.

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Links to all 12+ years of archived bird news pages below. Broken into 6 month increments. One day I'll quarter it out by season as well, so all 10 years of each season are together, perhaps making say, searching springs easier.

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


Bird News Archive XXVII
January 1, 2017 - June 30, 2017 (Jan. through late May so far)

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

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

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

Bird News Archive XXIII
January 1, 2015 - June 30, 2015 (Jan.- May so far)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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