Current Bird (and nature) News
Rufous-capped Warbler

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

MOST RECENT UPDATE: March 23, 2018
(prior updates: March 16, 9, 2, February 23, 16, 9, 2, January 26, 19, 12, 5)

Hope you had a good equinox and got everything evenly balanced out. It is spring here and new arrivals are showing daily it seems. Lots of bug-eaters are returning, but it takes another month for them all to get back. Just the early birds so far but which skyrockets diversity.

I saw a report of Golden-cheeked Warbler in Bexar Co. March 2, surely a bunch are at Lost Maples now. Surely the first Black-capped Vireo are arriving now too. Lots of Black-chinned Hummingbird are back. Barn and Cave Swallows are back, Vermilion Flycatcher and White-eyed Vireo have returned. The first BATS showed up Feb. 28. N. Rough-winged Swallow were back Mar. 9, Ash-throated Flycatcher the 10th. On Mar. 14 I had my first returning Yellow-throated Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler both. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and Great-tailed Grackle have been reported locally. Six female Bufflehead were on the park pond March 16. My first Monarch butterfly was Mar. 10, my second earliest date. Scott's Oriole returned Mar. 21, my first Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was the 20th. It is getting kinda birdy out there.

Over three inches of rain the week of Feb. 16-22 was outstanding, most on Wed. the 21st. The last freeze so far was mid-Feb., we hope for another or two yet, starting to look doubtful. Average last is around the Equinox. It is warming though and the first flowers are blooming, some trees have leaves breaking stems, and you can feel spring in the air. You can hear it too, with the increased birdsong.

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

The Birds of Utopia Park

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

There was a report of a Green-tailed and Eastern Towhee just NE of town on Friday Jan. 19th, (still in Uvalde Co.), but the deer feeder they were at went dry. Friday Dec. 15 there was a N. GOSHAWK climbing up and soaring high over town right behind the Ranch Outpost. A local that knows birds described what was likely it later, NE of town along Little Creek. TWO Townsend's Solitaire were seen at Lost Maples (Bill Wright) Friday Dec. 15th in the picnic area. An adult Harris's Sparrow was in our yard Dec. 24. Adult Harris's Hawk were at Little Creek later Jan., and one in our big pecan Jan. 29, a couple miles south of town. Judy Schaffer reports Rufous Hummingbird wintering again at her place in town.

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

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

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

For visiting cell phone users, often only AT&T works here, or Concan, and many local areas Sabinal to Leakey, etc.; 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

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 very unusual sightings will be in CAPS. There will also be occasional mention of butterfly (lep) or dragonfly (ode) sightings when they are out and about.

If you are a frequent flier scroll down past the Rufous-backed Robin sketch and a few 'recent' highlight photos below that, and you'll quickly be at the most recent news. Or hit the " jump to bird news " link just above. It is in reverse chronological order, with most recent day, date, 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 so (been Friday eves) I'll update with some daily or near-daily notes of what is going on with birds, or butterflies, dragonflies, fish, flowers, reptiles, triops, cerambycids, buprestids, bombyliads, and so on. Often just yard notes, but unless you got to be stationed at the park all day, one site of observation locally is about as good as another.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A newer page is the butterfly rarity photos: Rare Butterflies

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

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

Or check out the Bird Guide page.

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

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

Commonly used ABBREVIATIONS are:

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

First a 2011 highlight ...

Rufous-backed Robin

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

Broad-winged Hawk   Broad-winged Hawk

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

Some things from 2012 ...

albino House Finch

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


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

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

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

Something from 2013 ...
Texas Coral Snake

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

Ringed Kingfisher

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

Two-tailed Swallowtail

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

Texas Blind Snake

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

Zebra Heliconian

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

Louisiana Waterthrush

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

Rusty Blackbird

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

Cedar Waxwing

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

Back to Top

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.


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)

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 the last half-century, but it is not one. I wondered why it was in
with them when I was 5 years old in 1960. As of summer 2017 the AOS
(formerly AOU - American Ornithological Union) has given it its own
family, allegedly nearest blackbirds. A fairly common breeder locally,
heard more easily than seen, and often sings (or makes loud chattering
noises and whistles) at night, for which more often than not the Mockingbird
takes the heat.

Just to have this handy again for reference, recent prior updates:
March 16, 9, 2, Feb. 23, 16, 9, 2, Jan. 26, 19, 12, 5, Dec. 29, 22, 15, 8, 1

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

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

There is a page of photos from 2016: 2016 pix

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

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***  Here is a new page for visitors with ideas, links, phones, contacts, etc., about where to stay locally.
Where to Stay

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***  Here is a major new page I have been working on for half of last year, and which compiles over a decade of my study at the site. It is a long discussion about the how and why of birds at Utopia Park, and the park bird list.
The Birds of Utopia Park

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indigo Snake

Indigo Snake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vermilion Flycatcher

Pardon the pixels and fuzziness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common Raven

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

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Mar. 2 ~ Town run so a look around. My FOS three Barn Swallow were at the north end of town. Later I ran into Little Creek Larry and he said he had them over there the last two days, since Wed. Feb. 28. So the first few back in the last few days. Later about 1:30 p.m. I saw the first male Black-chinned Hummingbird at a porch feeder here at the house. Later I got an e-mail from Judy Schaffer saying she had one yesterday and today on her feeders, so a March 1 arrival date this year. Saw a post on intertubes Golden-cheeked Warblers were seen in Bexar Co. this morning. Just wondering where the Vermilions are?

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ end of February summary ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White-crowned Sparrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harris's Hawk

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

~ ~ ~ last prior update below

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren in default position

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Kiskadee

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

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ end January summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ back to the regularly scheduled drivel ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Kiskadee

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

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hutton's Vireo

Hutton's Vireo

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 12 ~ A chilly 29dF for a low, KRVL hit that too. Will be colder the next couple mornings. Wind still blowing 10+ and enough to feel some chill. Warmed up to lowest 60's dF which felt great. Nice waxwing show at the bath mid-morn. Two Mockers out on the front fence line jumping back and forth with each other, switching which way they face over and over while flashing and cocking tails, not aggressively whatsoever. Either friends or just meeting, it went on for minutes. One of the big bearded Toms came into yard heading for feeders a couple times.

Town run day so a look at the park. No Solitaire again, I think the cold blew it out. The Coot is still there! Our first overwintering Coot. Stop the presses! Had a Ring King, the same 1st winter female that has been there months. There were at least a dozen Ruby-crowned Kinglet, most I have seen all winter. They were going nuts on the winter mayfly hatch at rivers edge, and at arms-length at times. Saw the male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker up in the woods, and a female Yellow-shafted Flicker that looked good and clean of genes. At least 4 Blue Jay, one Hutton's Vireo, a number of Titmouse and Chickadee, might as well mention Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Bewick's Wren was singing. At one point the male Golden-front and the Sapsucker were less than 2 feet apart on a live-oak trunk. I went for a pic and one flew off before I could get it.

Jan. 11 ~ Low in 40's and got up to 60's before the front hit. First puffs were before 10 a.m., by 11 it was blowing 15-25, and gusting higher. There were 7 bearded Toms on the patio about 9:30. In the afternoon it was howling monkeys. Gusts over 40 mph and sustained at 25-30+. Finally laid down a bit late in the evening. Didn't see anything different, was Thursday at the phone and computer day, and swamped. Will have some new reading material up here for you very shortly though. Watch what you wish for.

Jan. 10 ~ Was 40dF and very foggy first thing. Had an early town run, only thing at the park besides a few of the residents was a single first year male American Wigeon. Did not see the Coot. Little Creek Larry said right after the cold he saw lots of Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler and Ring-necked Duck at the park early one morning, and he has had bigger flocks of Waxwings. Kathy spotted a Little Yellow (lep), species #4 for the year. About 32 White-fronted Goose headed over southbound. Late afternoon sun finally came out and it warmed a little, into the 60's, so pretty nice. Yard birds were the same gang. The Mockingbird loves the brushpile, it is wintering on hackberries and juniper berries here. Must be over 125 Chippy and 45 White-winged Dove on the seed, maybe about 10 Cardinal.

Jan. 9 ~ A 27dF low was 7-8dF and more lower than predicted. They did not call for a freeze! Missed by a mile, wankers. Great Horned Owls really going strong now. Nesting probably getting underway. Saw a female Eastern Fence Lizard, first one this year. Saw what was likely the same So. Dogface (butterfly) as a few days ago.

I had a Spizella sparrow fly into a hackberry where I couldn't see it and proceed to give call notes for a bit. It sounded like a Tree Sparrow. There were a few of the drawn-out more slurred or squeezed-out squished note (flatter than the usual thin metallic sharp standard call note) that I have only ever heard from a Tree Sparrow. I did not recognize the calls as anything I have ever heard from Chipping, Field, Clay-colored or Brewer's. Of course I hear Chippy and Field every day. I stepped inside for bins and when I came back out it was gone. Worked the Chipsters hard and nothing.

Jan. 8 ~ About 42-70dF spread for the day was amazing. The heat busted a few things out: saw an Anole, a Cucumber Beetle, a wasp of some sort went by, and the 2nd and 3rd butterflies of the year: Kathy saw a Sleepy Orange and I saw a Red Admiral. Birds were almost the same gang. Had about 125 Chipping Sparrow which were checked but you just can't get them all. Heard my first Killdeer of the year early in morning, must have been over at the grass airstrip.

Jan. 7 ~ Heard my first duelling Titmouse song of the year today. Was the same gang though and worked inside on all the too much stuff to do here. Trying to finish the Utopia Park bird list page among other things. It is almost there. It ain't easy work, you have bust some neurons for a lot of hours. Heard some Cranes heading south. The rest was the expected gang. Again must be 20 Am. Goldfinch coming in. Just a few Siskin though.

Jan. 6 ~ Low of 35, chilly, humid, a little breezy. Not my fav going out weather. After noon it warmed to 58, but still breezy and humid. Went to town to try to tape or photo the Solitaire... no love. Heard it again, can't get to it, and calling too intermittent to tape. The first two times I heard it, it was going off endlessly, but alas, now that I am here with tape recorder, not. The first winter female Ringed King was in the backwater by the island, and a Green King flew in as I was leaving. In the hackberries along Cypress St. and in the big pecan in the pasture out front were over 250 Cedar Waxwing, most I have seen at once so far this winter.

The 360 crossing had a Pine Warbler amongst a winter flock. Couple Field Sparrow across from our gate here. Interesting was an Orange-crowned Warbler just off patio, only one I have seen around this winter. I was sure I saw it two days ago, for two seconds, bare-eyed at 20'. I let it go. Here it is in the same spot on the same branch in same tree today. I just love a good re-affirmation. And especially those that come after an over-abundance of probably unwarranted caution. I knew that was an Org-crnd. It is as if it is a reward for being so careful. And for letting it go, a couple days later, here is that same bird in the same place, but you are closer, and it is chipping now, in the sun. Bam! Re-affirmation.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird - male

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 5 ~ A toasty 39dF for a low was nice and sun too. Counted 45 White-winged Dove on the seed at once. Town run. I heard the Towsend's Solitaire again, but it was again to the north of the park on priv. prop. with no access. So it is still there, and I still need a pic. A COOT was in the pond by the cattails and willows, which is my first ever January record locally and so remarkable. The rest was the same gang. Checked all the pines again, nothing, and haven't seen or heard the crossbills in a week now. My first butterfly of the year, finally, was in the yard, a Southern Dogface.

Jan. 4 ~ We ran 22-52dF for a temp spread today. Nice to thaw out a wee bit in the afternoon. Birds were the same gang o' seed-suckers. Saw a Myrtle warbler, Mockingbird, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, one Canyon Towhee. Some accipiter flushing events but which I never saw if Coop or Sharpy. Caracara or two went over, couple dozen Black Vulture, a Red-tailed Hawk.

Jan. 3 ~ Wow it was cold this morning, our thermo read 14dF! The Seco Creek WU station showed 12dF. KRVL was a smokin' hot 19. About 9 a.m. it rose above freezing. Birdbath was frozen solid early. The first couple pounds of seed sure disappeared fast. On the bright side, this was the peak cold of this Arctic event. Today has the first temps above 34dF since last year (Sunday afternoon Dec. 31st). Been like an icebox out there, and for most of the country, worse.

Jan. 2 ~ About 25dF for a low, the cloud cover kept all that 'heat' in. Supposed to break freezing maybe today. Then supposed to clear by tonight so some radiational cooling and the coldest morning will be tomorrow, in teens. The Chamber of Commerce said nothing about these three-day Arctic icebox events here. LOL   We were above freezing about 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., between 32 and 34dF. Saw Cedar Waxwing and Ruby-crowned Kinglet besides the same gang. There seems to be only one Canyon Towhee here now. It is most likely one of the accipiters got the other. It has been over a week that I have only been seeing one. It has been ranging much futher afield than normal, calling as if looking for its mate, across road, out by wellhouse, etc., so it seems they are one again, bummer.

January 1, 2018 ~ !!! Happy New Year !!! Our very best wishes to all for a healthy happy one. It started out very cold, about 28dF shortly before midnight, and 21 this morning at 7 a.m., with 15+ mph wind on it made for single digit chill factors at first light. Hard freeze warning in effect until noon Wednesday. So a 60 hour Arctic ice box event to start the new year. Weewow. Heard some sleet pellets about 11 a.m. Was a bit of light rain in the afternoon, which froze as it tried to drip off roof, the icicles got about 4-5" long. It is brutal out there. Only going out to shovel more seed and keep the bird bath thawed.

Here is what I saw: Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, N. Cardinal, Brewer's Blackbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Black Vulture, American Goldfinch, Canyon Towhee, Bewick's Wren, Eastern Phoebe, Common Raven, White-winged and Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, heard Eastern Bluebird, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Saw 15 and heard three species. Heard everything flush a couple times but never saw what did it. Likely both the Sharpy and the Coop that are relentless here. This is about as diversity poor as it can be here. If one went out and beat the bushes you could get another dozen fast. Yer fern would be frozen though. Reminds me of when I went out and saw a hundred plus species on Jan. 1 a couple times in California.

~ ~ ~ Above is 2018 ~ ~ ~

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

~ ~ ~ 2017 in review ~ ~ ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ end 2017 year in review ~ ~ ~

~ ~ Oh please! Not another summary! ~ ~

~ ~ ~ December summary ~ ~ ~

Wow that was fast. We went out with a bang with that calling Townsend's Solitaire at Utopia Park the 29th and 30th. Great way to finish the year, with a new park bird. There was one rain event Dec. 7 which also brought brief snow flurries that didn't stick of course, but the 2.5" of rain we got was beyond badly needed. Seemed pretty cool much of the month. Lots of fronts, all wind and no rain. Which is just one click from all hat and no cattle around these parts...

Odes - dragonflies and damselflies - were easy this month, with three species seen, the same last three flying every year. Green Darner the only big one, and two small dragons, Autumnal and Variegated Meadowhawks. No damselflies. Once it freezes a few times these three are all to expect in Dec. and January. While a few types might show in Feb. or March if warm, it is really April until they get going again. Supposed to be time to sort, catalong, and ID the years' photos.

Butterflies were expectedly weak after a very poor fall into November. A measley 14 or so species were recorded, with nothing but the expected ones. They are over for the season. A couple last Mestra were seen, one ea. last Monarch and Queen, probably Red Admiral and Sleepy Orange were the most common. It was all the Coots.

Birds were great this month, it was one of the (the?) best months of the whole year. Whooda thunk!?!? Monthly species total is about 83 species. Diversity down, quality up. Bunch of great rarer things. Barely got out to bird besides park checks on town run days, looking around for pine trees, and watching the yard. The Red Crossbills flying up and down river habitat corridor past our place since Nov. continued, the flock up to 24 birds at least by Dec. 18. I have seen them fly by 8 or 10 times, calling their heads off the whole way every time. Despite ridiculous amounts of searching the pines I know of locally, have not been able to find them on the ground or get a photo.

On Dec. 15 there was a N. Goshawk over town last see flying NE from behind Utopia Ranch Outpost. I got a poor blurry silhouette shot of it, but which shows the stovepipe of a tail well. On Dec. 24 an adult Harris's Sparrow in the yard was great, here they are LTA - less than annual. Then the 29th and 30th, hearing a Townsend's Solitaire from the park (seemed to be just NE of it on the priv. prop.) was outstanding. A Blue-headed Vireo at the park the 23rd is my first winter record there (ph.), I know of only one other winter report locally, in 2004. The ad. fem. Rusty Blackbird is back for its 5th winter south of town, which is remarkable and outstanding. So it was a flurry of snow, and northern birds: Crossbill, Goshawk, Solitaire, and Harris's Sparrow. Wow. All are awesome outstanding birds here.

~ ~ ~ end December summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ following is an archive copy of the update header ~ ~ ~

MOST RECENT UPDATE: December 29, 2017
(prior updates: December 22, 15, 8, 1, November 24, 17, 10, 3, October 27, 20, 13, 6)

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

Happy Solstice! Winter is here! We got cold for Christmas.

Hope you had a MERRY CHRISTMAS, and we wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We were 35dF all day one day this week, worse on the way for New Years Day and the day after. But hey, rain! We got some rain! First significant precip in over two months was on Dec. 7. And SNOW! Some areas saw some snow Thursday the 7th! Above Vanderpool, at Sabinal, and reports of 2-3" at Rocksprings. Up on Hwy. 39, ca. 20 mi. N. of Lost Maples some got six inches! For this event we got about 2.5" of rain, and a good half-hour snow flurry, 15 min. of which was a great blizzard of thick and heavy big wet snowflakes.

We had an early (compared to recent averages) freeze in latest October for 3 mornings, hitting 27dF at lowest (and we hit 28 on Thanksgiving morning). We also have had record and near-record heat. The day before a front hits it is hot, then after passage, windy and cold. Keep it in mind if visiting during front season (fall to spring). It was 24dF Friday a.m. Dec. 8, be prepared. As of late December the male Junipers are again dispensing pollen, since the 24th, Kathy's nose knows.

There is a flock of RED CROSSBILL moving up and down the river habitat corridor south of town (at least) since Nov. 11. There are a half-dozen pines scattered around town and near the golf course which should be watched closely. Nov. 11 I heard more than a dozen, the 17th I heard fewer than that. Kathy thought she saw the flock Nov. 21. I saw one male Nov. 25. On Dec. 13 I saw the flock and counted 18 individuals, twice. On Dec. 18 I counted 24 and 25 (two counts) in the flock as it flew up the river habitat corridor toward the golf course. Saw and heard the flock again Dec. 20 and Friday the 22nd again it appeared 24 birds in the flock. They call all the time in flight, virtually all detections were first hearing them. Go to xeno-canto (google it) and type Red Crossbill in the search window to hear flight calls if you don't know them, and keep yer ears out. Some were heard again Dec. 29.

Friday Dec. 15 there was a N. GOSHAWK climbing up and soaring high over town right behind the Ranch Outpost. Two Townsend's Solitaire were seen at Lost Maples (Bill Wright) Friday the 15th in the picnic area. An adult Harris's Sparrow was in our yard Dec. 24. Another Townsend's Solitaire was at Utopia Park Dec. 29 and 30.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Pine Warbler were at the park Dec. 1. A RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, was in our yard Nov. 21. White-throated, Song, and Swamp Sparrow all showed up in late November. I heard a flock of Cedar Waxwings go over last week, saw a couple dozen since. Saw my first American Goldfinch the 11th, up to 18 at once since. Judy Schaffer reports wintering again Rufous Hummingbird, and Pine Siskins at her feeders Nov. 13th+. I have seen a few Pine Siskin since myself, biggest flock so far was ten. My first Wilson's Snipe of the fall showed up Nov. 11th. Heard my first flock of White-fronted Goose Nov. 7th. Incredible was after dark Nov. 7, a major rarity locally occurred in the form of a calling nocturnal migrant, a heard only, WHIMBREL! The four decades I lived on coasts, I wouldn't have looked up for it, one of those constant sounds you know instantly. I looked up here even though it was dark out, I wanted to see it so badly. It is my first in Uvalde Co., and was not on the Blankenship, Osborne, and Wiedenfeld Uvalde Co. Bird Checklist of 2000. Might be the first UvCo report.

The highlight for October was a YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER on the 1st (barely photographed) in our yard, it was here most of the day. Have had some duck flocks blasting over low and fast at dawn a few days in October, mostly Shoveler and Teal, winter is on the way. Winterers are showing up, Lincoln's Sparrow arrived in early Oct., Vesper and Savannah Sparrow mid-Oct., then a White-crowned later in month. A few dozen Swainson's Hawks were with migrant Turkey Vultures flying over southbound on Oct. 10th, and several dozens of Monarchs were seen overhead on a few days during mid-Oct. A Harris's Hawk was over the park Oct. 26th. New winter arrivals in November include Hermit Thrush, Junco (Slaty), Golden-crowned Kinglet, Meadowlark (prob. W.), Pyrrhuloxia, and numbers of Chipping Sparrow. Our first of season Robin was at our birdbath on Nov. 1. Have had up to a hundred in a flock since. A female YELLOW ANGLED-SULPHUR (butterfly) was at the park entrance garden Oct. 13 (ph).

A quick note about Utopia Park. There have been some changes in management and rules. It is now $5 per person to enter, during the off-season. Peak, from spring break until Labor Day it will be $10 per person to enter. No charge for Utopia or Vanderpool residents. We have a park bird list page just about ready to go up, it is just short a couple details and pictures I wanted to add before uploading. So watch for that. Note we also have a new 'where to stay' page, with contact info, links and names of many of the local lodging options. It is linked at top above in the NavBar under the Sites and Misc. section, and below at top of bird news.

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

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

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing



Blue Grosbeak - male


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

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk


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

Filigree Skimmer

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

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

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

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Green Kingfisher

Male Green Kingfisher at Utopia Park.

Yellow-throated Vireo

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

Easter Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Buttonbush

Purple Martin

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

~ ~ ~

Above is 2017

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To Top of Recent Bird News
Back to Top
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Always read UP from bottom to go in chronological sequence. Weekly or so updates are generally noted with a break.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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