Current Bird (and nature) News
Rufous-capped Warbler

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

MOST RECENT UPDATE: February 23, 2018
(prior updates: February 16, 9, 2, January 26, 19, 12, 5, December 29, 22, 15, 8, 1)

Happy back-half of winter! Only a month left!

Three inches of rain the week of Feb. 16-22 is outstanding, most on Wed. the 21st. It has been very cold including days not or just barely breaking the freezing point, so be prepared if birding in it.

The Crossbills here in Nov.-Dec. seem to be gone now, never saw the Goshawk again, and I missed the Solitaire at the park five visits, it seemed gone but heard it again Friday Feb. 2. Biz is busy in winter so not out much. Lots of very windy fronts and very cold temps making birding tough. Saving it for spring.

There is a new page up (hopefully it works) with a long discussion, called "The Birds of Utopia Park", and 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

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:
Feb. 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

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

Note the butterfly news page (which is just annual summaries), now has the 2017 summary (short version: not much) now up, with a couple new pix of last years' best three.

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.

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. 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.

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

~ ~ ~ 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 ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ and now back to the regularly scheduled drivel ~ ~ ~

Dec. 31 ~ Before 7 a.m. I heard some White-fronted Geese up in the low cieling, shortly after a couple flocks of Am. Wigeon went over. The Wigeon must be commuting to a pond out of public view. We have a big chill heading in, arriving today, the high temp was at sunup, by 9 light northerlies had begun the cold air advection and temps were dropping. If it wasn't windy I would go look for the Solitaire. Sure like a pic of one at the park. Was freezing chill factors by noon, temps by 6 p.m. or so, and below 30 by 9 p.m., wind howling, lovely out, come on down. We heard some popping noises after dark, Kathy asked if that was fireworks, or pig shooting. I suggested they could have been shooting pigs with fireworks...

Dec. 30 ~ After a 50dF cloudy morning it warmed up to a great 69dF in the afternoon. Open the hatches and air the place out, last chance for a week. We took a couple hour look around from noonish on. A nice Am. Goldfinch flock was bathing at the 360 crossing, several Myrtle Warbler and some Chipping Soparrow, a Kinglet, some Chickadee and Titmouse, nice little group and bit of action. The park had a few more Myrtle Warbler and Kinglet (Ruby), two Hutton's Vireo came down real low and close, one for pix.

The bird of the day was heard only, at the park. A TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE! I heard it yesterday too. Meant to go to xeno-canto and check calls last night but forgot. I had not heard one in 30 years. Until I heard it again today, and said to Kathy, Solitaire makes a call like that. The ringing bell-like single note standard call, kinda like a truck backing up, a monotone metronome. Unfortunately it was maybe north of the rodeo ring on the adjacent property on far side of live-oak motte or in pecan grove adjacent and no way to get to it. Two were just seen at Lost Maples a couple weeks ago.

Looked at all the pines around again, nothing still. Another standard typical winter mixed flock was working under the big XL pecan tree between park ball diamond and Cypress Street. With a half-dozen each of Bluebird, Myrtle Warbler, Pine Siskin, a dozen Chippy, nearing two dozen Am. Goldfinch. Finally checked one spot on priv. prop. south of town, had a small flock there hitting the water, more of the same types. Saw one N. Flicker fly off but missed type on it, seemed maybe orange-winged.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 29 ~ Warmed up from midnight to 7 a.m. from 35 to 40dF. Light off and on breeze, cloudy and overcast. Wintry. I heard some Red Crossbill out in the river corridor about 11 a.m. Nothing at the park but a Zone-tailed Hawk roosting in a tree up on the island. Little Creek Larry said he saw a weird hawk over his way with a super long narrow square tail. He said sorta reminded him of a Prairie Falcon, big and pale, but with a ridiculously long tail. Like a stovepipe. I suspect he saw the Goshawk I saw a couple weeks ago, it was headed his way. Better ride around over at Little Creek. Saw the male Audubon's Warbler that works around town with the wintering Myrtle flock at the 187 x 1050 intersection.

Dec. 28 ~ Still 35dF out there this morning, been that way for 24 hours now. At least the wind stopped. Warmed up to the upper 40's dF in the heat of the afternoon. Birds were the same gang save one Great Blue Heron that flew over. The forecast calls for some major cold New Years Day and the day after with highs in the 30's and lows in 20's dF. Might have to dig out the heavy duty longjohns. You won't see me trying to run up a big bird list in that. There was a flock of a couple hundred Brewer's Blackbird over in the corral but I didn't go over and check them.

Dec. 27 ~ A cold front arrived pre-dawn, so the high temp was the 50dF or so the first few hours after midnight. It was in 30's with 10-15 mph winds most of the morning, so wind chill in 20's dF. I will be by a heater if you need me. In the afternoon the winds died down and it warmed up to 35dF. A cold gray day. Feels like winter. Had to fire the gas fireplace thingie up. Kept an eye out the windows for birds, just the regulars. Which included Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawk attempts on the seed eaters.

The only thing different was a big flock of meadowlarks that flushed over at the end of the grass airstrip we can see through an opening in the corral. It was about 75 or 80 birds total, and only one called, an Eastern Meadowlark. Mostly it is Western here, especially on short grass, and I would not make any assumption about any flock of meadowlarks here based on hearing one of the flock. It is one Eastern, and the rest generic medowlark species.

Dec. 26 ~ Happy Boxing Day! Was foggy, misty, finally clearing to overcast, but stayed in 50's dF all day. Too busy back at the work desk so not much looking. A quick run to town so I checked the 6 pines I know, nothing on them. Park also had nothing but a few of the usuals. Ya gotta pay yer dues. Which in birding means putting observation time in. Keep looking, over and over and over. Like fishing, you keep casting. In birding your casting is covering it with your visual (and audio) blanket.

Dec. 25 ~ Merry Christmas! Hope you had a good one! It was 29dF here at sunup so it felt like Christmas. Got up to about 50dF. The winds turned around to south, but only had cold air to blow back over us, at 10-15 mph. Very chilly, passed on beating the bushes for birds in a cold wind. We worked on projects here with the freeish time. Weird not being at biz Monday morning. A group of 7 Sandhill Crane flew over, and I heard at least one Red Crossbill on another check outside. Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks, Raven and a Caracara went over. A hundred Chippies, one Field, did not see the Harris's Sparrow. After dark about 9 p.m. the pair of Screech-Owl (mccallii - Tex-Mex S-O) were duetting out in the yard, male doing the single pitch trill, the female doing the quavering up and down scale whinny.

Dec. 24 ~ A low of 31dF briefly. Lots of frost. I was on back porch about 8 a.m. as the frost started to melt, the Chippy flock was on the patio, about 80 of them anyway, and plop, a big black-faced adult Harris's Sparrow drops down under the millet seed feeder! What a beauty! One of my favorite sparrows. Great bird in the yard! There was one here in yard which became two over in the corral present Jan. 1 through Feb. of 2016. Most years I do not see one locally. I glimpsed what was probably it in the corral on the way back from our walk to the crossing.

We took a walk down to the crossing to stretch before the front and wind hits. Heard Kinglet (Ruby) and Myrtle Warbler, saw a couple Cardinal and a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Just below the crossing I saw some birds so we got closer and 'hid' against a big cypress trunk. A great drinking show proceeded to take place at 50' in great light. Nearing two dozen Robin, 50 or so Waxwing, a few Eastern Bluebird, above were a Myrtle Warbler and some Am. Goldfinch. Three Song Sparrow worked the riveredge, heard a Lincoln's. A couple Field Sparrow in the dry grass. It was a short but sweet fifteen minutes of great action as they all came in for a few quick gulps of water. Besides the usual few Sleepy Orange and Snout butterflies, one Variegated Fritillary was around yard, the first and only I have seen this month. You can see the male Junipers are turning rusty at the tips, which means pollen time. Kathy's nose knows.

Dec. 23 ~ Hit 32dF for a chilly morn, thirty dF colder than yesterday morning. It got up to about 62dF in the afternoon. About 11-1 I spent looking around at all the pine trees, once on way into and in town, and again as I left, nothing on any of them, again. At the park there was a Blue-headed Vireo which is accidental up here in the hills in winter. I know of only one local winter report, seen by Phil Rostron about Jan. 2004 a mile downriver from the park. That is it. They are regular in the flatlands of the brush country (in small numbers) along watercourses in winter passerine flocks. But our few dF colder is enough to keep them out of the hills for the most part, just like Turkey Vulture and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. In butterflies besides a few Sleepy Orange and a couple Red Admiral, a male Sachem was a surprise, the first in over a month, and for the month. Only odes were Autumnal and Variegated Meadowhawk.


Blue Grosbeak - male

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Dec. 22 ~ A soppy drippy low of 63dF this a.m., means the front is coming soon. Had a town run noonish. Heard crossbills as I went over the 360 x-ing, so went to the priv. prop. pines on other side of river, and nothing there. Checked all the pines around town, when I first got there, and again before I left, nothing. At the park was a male Green Kingfisher, Little Creek Larry had a Ringed (with a big sunfish) a bit earlier. The woods had a little flock with Caro. Chickadee, B-c Titmouse, N. Cardinal, Myrtle Warbler, Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird. A Zone-tailed Hawk was hunting the field just south of town on east side of 187. It landed in the biggest tree at the NW corner of that field. A few Vesper Sparrow were in the field along fenceline.

Right after I got home and emptied supplies, about 1:30 the flock of two dozen Red Crossbill flew up seemingly from the pines across river I keep running over to, and seemed to go back down. We ate the tacos I brought home, and I went back over, and found nothing again. The front hit about 1:40 with northerlies and dropping temps, was 50dF by 3 p.m. and 40 by 4:30 with 15-20 mph wind on it. There was a Flicker in the big pecan late afternoon but I did not get a make on type. At least a hundred Chipping Sparrow hitting the white millet here now, heard the Field.

Dec. 21 ~ Happy Solstice! It's winter! Felt like it with a chilly morn at 35dF. Last warm day before weather hits. Got up to low-mid-70's dF, pretty nice but clouds coming in by afternoon. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher or two over at the river for a couple hours. Too busy here to lookabout much, only saw the usual gang o birds. In leps there was a Pipevine Swallowtail though, the only one I have seen so far this month. Also a Queen went by, a Little Yellow, a few Sleepy Orange, and a couple Red Admiral. Saw a couple Silver Puff flowers in the yard, which look like a Dandelion seed globe and nothing to nectar on.

Dec. 20 ~ Well it is the last day of fall. Ran 42-76dF for a temp range, mostly sunny, pretty darn nice. Big chill headed in, in a couple days, tomorrow is the last nice day for a week. The yard was the same gang best I could tell. The Crossbill flock flew up the river habitat corridor around 1:30 p.m., at least 20 of them. One of these times I am going to get a pic or audio of them. The Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks made their regular passes on the seedeaters. Some Waxwings, a few Goldfinch and Siskin, the pair of Canyon Towhee, the usuals.

Dec. 19 ~ A mushy day, ran bout 54-62 for a temp spread, with fog, drizzle, mist, light showers, etc. and about a tenth of an inch of precip. There were 4-5 Turkey in the yard, at one point out at back fence scratching where I toss seed. Had to run to town briefly, checked all the pines and the two on priv. prop. behind the golf course, nothing on them. The pond at the park had a male Green Kingfisher and 6 Ring-necked Duck, first flocklet of them so far this fall that I have seen.

Dec. 18 ~ Another soppy one, fog, mist, drizzly, but warmer, about 48dF for a low. About 8 a.m. there were two Golden-crowned Kinglet and a Pyrrhuloxia in the yard. Great combo, a desert southwest bird and a couple coniferous forest birds. About noon the flock of Red Crossbill flew up the river habitat corridor again. There were a bunch, I got to count against the sky twice. First count 24, second 25. So there are a couple dozen here now! I ran inside for camera figuring I would just video with the lens cap on for the sound file, and they did not pass back by. Most fickle nomads ever. I will mention the Caracara that flew over, just to enhance the species juxtaposition factor.

Dec. 17 ~ About 42-58dF for a temp spread, mostly drizzly, foggy or mist, and so wet and cool, a wee bit of sun late. So worked inside more. Earlyish about 8 a.m. I heard the crossbills flying up the river habitat corridor in the sorta fog. One male Cardinal sang a fair number of measures this morning with fine form. Which is unusual before the solstice. Usually it is after that we hear the first song. Heard the Hutton's Vireo later morn. When a Sharp-shinned Hawk flushed all the Chippy flock at least a hundred left the yard. At least 30 White-winged Dove here, and a couple Ground-Dove too.

Dec. 16 ~ Kinda cool and drizzly, temp spread was about 42-46dF. So worked inside on things. Saw 3 dozen waxwing in the big pecan, a dozen Goldfinch (Am.) too, Chipping Sparrow flock is over 80 now. Best was a flock of 24 American Wigeon flying north at last light. If they had not have been calling I probably wouldn't have ID'd them. It was just light enough to count the dark bodies. Other than that just the usuals. I saw a post on Texbirds by Bill Wright, he had two Townsend's Solitaire at Lost Maples in the picnic (day use) area on Friday the 15th. Always good birds here, they are nearly but less than annual.

Cedar Waxwing

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Dec. 15 ~ Holy cow, half way through December already and only ten days until Christmas! Was 42dF and overcast in a.m., cleared to partly sunny in the afternoon. Town run noonish for a couple hours of chores. Nothing at the park (most important chore) but the usuals, heard a Flicker and Blue Jays. Little Creek Larry said he had a single duck a few days back that was probably Ring-necked. The Great Blue Heron was hunting below the spillway.

The bird of the day I spotted as I backed out of Rosie's with tacos to take home. It was an oddly shaped raptor soaring high, not any of the standard shapes we should be seeing here. Buteo sized, but with a long tail. I quick drove back behind the Ranch Outpost to get a hundred yards closer. No wonder it was confusing, it was a GOSHAWK! Holy cow, another (!) one here! I actually got a fuzzy pic that might show enough of the shape and structure to ID. It was climbing fast as it circled, so with major mag on the zoom hard to find it and harder to hold still. It gained a lot of altitude in a minute and broke NE from town. I watched it continue until its pindot disappeared in my bins, and therefore I knew it had to be in Bandera Co. by then. So yeah, I took a cheap shot at an insurance tick. I think I have one there but couldn't remember on the spot. I was afraid to blink for fear I'd lose it. Gadzooks, there is a Goshawk and a flock of Crossbills around Utopia!

After I got home and we had tacos, I went out front to smoke my pipe and the flock of Crossbills flew up the river habitat corridor, with some calling to get my attention. It looked like more than 20. I drove over to golf course (a hill country drive, it is almost 4 miles to get a half mile from driveway) to check two pines with cones on private property over there. Nothing on them, darn those nomads. That is the biggest bird chase I have done in many years. I should have known better but had to try. They looked like they were going down right where those trees are. I did spy a Snipe at the Waresville Pond on the golf course, and a couple hundred Brewer's Blackbird with a couple female Brown-headed Cowbird in with them were debugging and fertilizing the fairways.

Dec. 14 ~ About 38 for a low, and humid, so chilly. About 30 Robin and 20 Waxwing went over early. Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver 'chaking' over the Cypresses. Three Myrtle Warbler went through pecans, seemingly the whole little regular group this winter. The rest was the standard usual expected repeat offenders. Did see the Red-shouldered Hawk, heard Meadowlark over on the (grass) airstrip.

The rare bird of the day was a warbird. A couple F7F Tigercats doing some flybys. Actually lifers in the air for me. These are a unique twin-prop 1944-54 era (service usage) plane. I got a couple ID shots for the rare avionic record committee. There are only about 8 flying examples left, these probably the two of Lewis Air Legends in San Antonio. Weewow! 4000 hp of radial Pratt & Whitneys, OMG what a sound. They could do about 450 mph. Thanks to whoever is bringing them out thisaway!

Dec. 13 ~ Got down to about 31 or so here, I saw KRVL was 29dF and the Seco Creek WU station 27! It was chilly and overcast, the first light was beautiful flaming red. About 8:40 p.m. a couple Cessnas flew by a few hundred yards away while I was outside. A flock of RED CROSSBILL I didn't know were there flushed out of the big pecan. EIGHTEEN of them! Counted twice as they flew toward golf course, calling the whole way. If only I had seen or heard them before they flushed, I had the camera with me. Sure hope they come back, wish they would hit the sunflower feeder with the siskins and goldfinches. About an hour and half later I heard a couple distantly toward river. But was too busy the rest of the day, just the usual hourly checks outside and nothing else. Couple dozen Waxwing and a half-dozen Robin.

Dec. 12 ~ About 42dF for a low, sunny, and the dry front hitting in the morning with 10-15 mph northerlies. Got up to mid-60's dF. Birds were the same daily gang. The currently now showing list of yard regulars are: a pair each of Bewick's and Carolina Wren, 4 Carolina Chickadee and about 6 Black-crested Titmouse, some Cardinals, a pair of Canyon Towhee, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker pairs, resident pair of Eastern Phoebe, 75 Chipping Sparrow, a few Eastern Bluebird, currently about a dozen each Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch, a Myrtle Warbler or three, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, usually the Field Sparrow, a Vesper if I walk out to far front corner of yard. If I did that daily I would probably get that Pyrrhuloxia too. About twenty or thirty White-winged Dove, some Mourning and a couple Ground-Dove, daily visits by Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks, Common Raven flyovers, of course Black Vultures are daily too, as is Mockingbird.

Almost every day now we also see Waxwings and Robins. Caracara is near daily, maybe 4-5 days a week I catch them (the other day 5 went over at dusk heading to roost, from the general direction where there are a couple dead pigs out on the main highway). There is other stuff around, this is just what I see almost no matter what in the yard daily. The couple dozen 'sure to see' now showing daily from the porches. Then of course with any luck you get the odd stray interesting passersby.

Dec. 11 ~ About 31dF for a low, got up to mid 70's! Must be a front headed in... I heard a Red Crossbill or two calling, sounded like they flew up out of the river habitat corridor, but did not lay eyes on them. Late afternoon had to run to town quickly. At the park was the imm. fem. Ringed and ad. ma. Green Kingfisher. Had a flock of birds flying over town I tried to refind but didn't. They looked like good crossbill candidates. Checked the 4 pines I now know personally and saw nothing.

Dec. 10 ~ A chilly 27dF for a low. Counted a dozen Siskin in the big pecan scavenging bits the night raiders spilled. Working each big branch just like the American Goldfinch do. Thought I heard a Pine Warbler up the slope out back. Heard and glimpsed the Rusty Blackbird. Noonish we walked to the crossing for a leg-stretch. One male Green Kingfisher, a few Song Sparrow, but generally very slow the birds were elsewhere. Later out front the sparrow flock went by, saw Vesper and Field besides a bunch of Chipping. Yes I am ashamed, there was a pair of House (English) Sparrow out in yard.

Dec. 9 ~ A barely freeze at 30-31dF, and got up to about 64dF which felt great, took the chill out of the air, and house. The highlight of the day was that finally I saw the adult female RUSTY BLACKBIRD which I have heard about once a week the last three weeks or so. It was over in the mud and water around the horse trough out by the wellhouse. By itself, tossing dirt clodlets around. This is the FIFTH winter this adult female has spent in the area! Incredible. Almost makes up for the Louisiana Waterthrush not returning for a fourth. An hour later my FOS Brewer's Blackbirds finally flew over, at least a hundred in the flock. So a big day for blackbird arrivals.

There were four Pine Siskin on the ground with the Chippies, and one female House Sparrow, yech. Kathy saw about 10 Pine Siskin while I was gone noonish. Had a quick run to town, checked the pines again, still nothing. The park had what here is a Type A standard winter flock working the live-oak motte with 15+ Eastern Bluebird, 20 Chipping Sparrow, and a dozen Myrtle Warbler, plus one Audubon's Warbler and one Ruby-crowned Kinglet. A few Carolina Chickadee were not really with the flock. Nothing in the woods, the two first winter Pied-billed Grebe continue on the pond.


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

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Dec. 8 ~ A sunny chilly 24dF for a low this a.m., no precip overnight here it seems. Bird bath iced over. KRVL had 25dF. Some interesting storm reports this morning...  That band of snow built as it moved over to the southeast overnight. Sabinal had 2" of SNOW! So did parts of Bexar and Wilson Co., even Victoria, Lavaca, and Kingsville all had 2-3 inches! At one point last night Weslaco showed light snow as their current condition! Serious weather. In town a guy at the gas station said up on Hwy 39 above Lost Maples there were places with up to 6" of snow! Someone else showed me a photo taken this morning of 4" of snow on the south side of Corpus Christi! Weewow! Snowed down to the coast! Hopefully it will push some birds in. The park in town was quiet, only a couple Myrtle Warbler, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a female Green Kingfisher besides the armada of Black Vultures. Checked a few pine trees to no avail. Same old same old in the yard, which got up to 54dF at peak heat in afternoon.

Dec. 7 ~ Still raining at dawn, the low was 34dF here so no snow yet. Early there were reports of snow to the west in Kinney Co. which means Brackettville (Ft. Clark Spr.) or north of that, and in Carizzo Springs to our south. About 9 a.m. there were snow returns on radar all around the valley floor here, where altitude up in the hills. I heard at least just north of Vanderpool there was snow. Wow. By 10 reports were filtering in from higher parts of the plateau getting 2-3" of snow. Here it looks like we are at about 2.5" of rain so far, for about 30 hours of the event. The perfect slow-soaker too. We needed it badly from a biological standpoint, it was getting bad out there. When it is cold and wet out it is not so bad to be stuck at a desk inside. Just before 5 p.m. it dropped to 31dF and started snowing here! Big fat wet flakes lasted 15 minutes or so, smaller dryer ones another 15. A great flurry to see, it was real thick and heavy at first. A wee bit stuck a while on the trucks and roof of cottage. The ground was too warm for it to stick there but have to watch it overnight, supposed to get down to mid-20's dF. When I get the pics off camera will post one.

Dec. 6 ~ Well it was a long overdue rain day. Started just before dawn, and was a slow soaker all day. Just after dark it was 3.5 cm, or 1 and three-eighths inches so far, and still going. Chance of snow they say if it cools a couple degrees. This morn it was 41dF at 7 a.m., 39 by 9 a.m., and with 10+ mph winds chills were just over freezing most of the day. So besides it being spreadsheet Wednesday here at the desk, the rain kept me from looking much. The cold and wet did bring in a flock of Chipping Sparrow for a good count though, 80+ now. And one Field still with them, which must be from the south side of the pasture, slummin' with those Chippies. More often here they stay in their own flocks.

Dec. 5 ~ A cold front hit right at dawn with northerlies, and a brief spit of precip, a tracelet. Not even a leaf-washer, it just spotted the dust on the leaves. The 55dF low temp in the morning was also the high temp of the day. I hate when that happens. Supposed to have some cold now, and maybe some rain tonight or tomorrow. We can hope. Mostly it was 15mph gusting to 25, so the mid-50's didn't feel like it. Saw a flock of 18 American Goldfinch come in to yard so they are gathering friends, last week it was a dozen, the week before that only a half-dozen. The rest was the same repeat offenders, but a lot of Common Ravens going by.

Dec. 4 ~ Only about 60dF for a low, and strong gusty southerlies ahead of a front to hit tomorrow morning. Got warm, at least 78dF in the afternoon here. So you know cold is coming. Birds were the usual, except again thought I heard a single Rusty Blackbird flyover calling. Some butterflies were out in the heat, mostly Pierids like Sleepy Orange, Little Yellow, Dainty Sulphur, Southern Dogface, then the odd stray Mestra, Queen, Snout, or Red Admiral.

Dec. 3 ~ Mostly the same around the yard. We took a drive to town and looked at the park where there was nothing. The only flock of birds we found was in the Hackberry row along Cypress St. right out front and to north of park entrance. Best was a female Downy Woodpecker, presumedly the one I have seen a couple times in the last few months. There were 20 Eastern Bluebird, a few Robin, a half-dozen plus Myrtle Warbler, some Chipping Sparrow and great looks at a low-hunting Zone-tailed Hawk right over park entrance. We looked around the little league fields just north of town in BanCo where Morris told me he and Chance saw what he thought was a Golden Eagle out in a field yesterday. Now is a good time for one. A couple Shrikes and Mockers was it for us. Looks like a good spot for one though. The pond on the golf course at Waresville had 2 Wilson's Snipe and about four dozen Red-winged Blackbird. At the 360 x-ing there was a Belted Kingfisher. Saw a Cloudless Sulphur, Mestra, Painted Lady, Queen, Snout, and a few others.

Dec. 2 ~ We ran upper 40's to low-mid-70's dF for a temp spread. Mostly cloudy, some sun in afternoon. Had a flock of a couple dozen Cedar Waxwing in the big Pecan, eyeing the Hackberry. There was one Robin in with them. Heard the White-eyed Vireo, and a, or the, Junco. The rest was the regular usual. I am hearing a Cardinal or two starting to tune up with a few notes of song, at the crack of dawn. They will be really starting singing in about a month, after the solstice once day length starts to increase. Still trying to get all the outside stuff done before it gets too cold. Saw a Large Orange Sulphur go through yard in afternoon.

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

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* * * note the Nov. summary is up now (below), and was not at last update * * *

December 1 ~ Gadzooks, It's December! We ran about 50-75dF for a temp spread. Cloudy in a.m., sunny in afternoon. Town run so a park check. On the way, right at the 187 x 360 intersection, there was a Zone-tailed Hawk hunting low giving great views. At the park there were a few things. One lone single male Gadwall was my first locally this fall. A male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was also my FOS, as was a Pine Warbler, finally. Heard Belted and Ringed Kingfisher, but no Green today. Only odes were Variegated and Autumnal Meadowhawks and Green Darner. No butterflies, was still coolish at noon, and the library butterfly garden is over and out of flowers, done, fini.

~ ~ ~ November summary ~ ~ ~

It was a dry month with a half-inch or so of drizzle over the whole month, the river is very low, barely trickling over spillway. There were a couple freezing mornings. Several fronts passed, but all were dry, and none that cold, yet, 28dF on Thanksgiving. Turkeys are gobbling, deer are in rut, and deciduous leaves about gone.

Butterflies were a very slow and weak 36 species. There was no major fall flight as usual from the south this fall, only a very minor movement. Over the month I only saw one Bordered Patch, a couple each only Gray Hairstreak, and Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak, a couple Ceraunus Blue, and so on with everything. It was truly astounding how little was out there. There were a few Fatal and Rounded Metalmarks on a couple days, after almost none all year. The only minor rarity was a Western Pygmy-Blue (ph.) which is just barely less than annual here. One Elada Checkerspot was exciting, except last fall there were 50. Last November I saw 60 species locally, so nearly double the diversity.

Odes you know are going about done in November, since they really crash in October. Though you might find a rare stray, for the most part you just see the last few of the last flying species that hang on until the cold hits. The first week or so of the month you see a half dozen species you won't see the rest of the month. Most of the month there are just three species of dragonflies still in the air. Green Darner (the big one) and then Variegated and Autumnal Meadowhawks (small ones). I think it was 14 species over the whole month, and about 10 of them were not seen the last half of the month. Besides the cold-hardy three, odes are over and out until next spring.

Birds were about 80 species, but with little looking, and none outside of the immediate Utopia vicinity. Too busy with work. Two fantastic finds were had regardless, both from the yard. Which shows how if you spend enough time at one place you will see things, good things, just going by. If I could spend the kind of time at Utopia Park I spend in the yard, there would be 25 more species on the park list. That is the difference hours, or effort, makes. A Red-breasted Nuthatch was a nice treat, since less than annual here, and a late Nov. imm. male Common Yellowthroat might attempt to winter locally.

The best bird was the nocturnal calling Whimbrel that flew over southbound after dark. I do not know of any prior UvCo report. I have only heard the call a million times. Hurts not to be able to see it, but when you know the sound, it is an ID'd bird. That was probably the rarest bird detected since probably no prior county record.

For my personal favorite bird of the month, there are prior UvCo reports, but I had not ever seen one in Texas. Red Crossbill. I heard a flock of probably a dozen on Nov. 11, and seemingly fewer heard on the 17th. Both times up in the fog-mist and I could not see them. Then Kathy thought she saw (and heard) the flock on Nov. 21. Finally I had one lone fully red male fly low over the yard calling with over-the-shoudler sun on Nov. 25. So I got to see one well at last. Was killin' me to be hearing them and not be able to see 'em. There is an older Lost Maples record, and I think one from Concan, but none even nearby in the 14+ years I have been here. There is an incursion of them into Texas this year.

~ ~ ~ end November summary ~ ~ ~

Nov. 30 ~ Was 39dF for a low, KRVL hit 38, 44 was the predicted low. Low clouds early. The ten Pine Siskin were in the pecan early. Sharpy is hunting the seed-eaters. The other day I saw it dive on the Canyon Towhees which shot into the brushpile safely. The Sharpy then sat on top of the brushpile until I moved and flushed it. Later afternoon 3 Sandhill Crane went over southbound. Better was a, or the, imm. fem. Pyrrhuloxia at the horse water trough out by the pumphouse at far end of front yard. Saw a Buckeye (lep) out in yard, some Dogface, Mestras, Queen, Red Admiral, Little Yellow, but nothing different to finish the month with.

Nov. 29 ~ A very minor 'cold' front came in after midnight, no big wind, but cooler northerlies, and of course no rain, upper 40's dF for a low, got up to lower 70's. Wish one of these fronts would have some precip on it, we really need the rain badly. No bird news today, I was too busy at the desk to look around. All I saw was the expected suspects. Late afternoon a tardy Monarch went by heading SSW.

Nov. 28 ~ Heard the Lesser Goldfinch out there. Mid-morn I walked out front and heard all the birds alarming. Couldn't see anything. About a minute later a Merlin flew out of the top of the big pecan with a prey item in its talons. Always fun in the yard for me, not so much for the seed eaters. Too busy to look much. Some Am. Goldfinch and Pine Siskin around. The usual. Couple Hermit Thrush still upslope out back in the junipers, must be some berries. Shortly before midnight on my last check outside I heard something on the roof, turned and looked, and running right down the peak at high speed from the big pecan off front porch to the hackberry by carport in back, was a, the, Ringtail. Man they are fast. Amazing too how quiet their foot pads make them, even on the steel roof. Whereas last week the Opossum sounded like a walking battlezone as it slowly moved along the same exact path.

Nov. 27 ~ About 50-80dF for a temp spread, pretty strong southerlies much of the day. Watched 10 Pine Siskin land in the big pecan, my first little flock this season. At least a half-dozen Am. Goldfinch were there too. Heard the White-eyed Vireo again. Still about 50 Chipping Sparrow, and the pair of Canyon Towhee but Cardinals still somewhere else, only a few around. Saw a big brand spankin' new fresh female Black Swallowtail in the afternoon. That 80dF yesterday and today prematurely popped bugs. Which are genetic dead-ends.

Nov. 26 ~ About 50dF for a low is sure pleasant. Got up to 80! Sunny and dry! Worked on stuff here, kept checking the action for big fat red finches, no love there. Early, a Myrtle Warbler, a half-dozen American Goldfinch and at least a couple Pine Siskin work the big pecan for bits left by the mammalian night raiders. The Goldfinches are especially methodical working out each big branch carefully checking every crevice in the bark for bits. A N. Harrier was over front yard briefly as it headed over to the short-grass airstrip. Heard my FOS flock of Cedar Waxwing go over. Heard a, or the, White-eyed Vireo which I had not heard in a week. Also had a zeet like a warbler flight note I tried to find but struck out.

Late afternoon we went to crossing for a look. I popped up a couple baby Sycamores I hope to grow. Besides a couple Song Sparrow, there was an immature male Common Yellowthroat. Last winter at the same place was my first-ever up here in the hills, locally wintering Yellowthroat. Since this is a hatch-year bird, it is not a returnee. Weird that I haven't seen any Brewer's Blackbird yet. I heard something flying over calling today that sounded like a single Rusty Blackbird but could not pick it up in the sky.

Nov. 25 ~ A chilly 35dF for a low, NOAA progged KRVL for 46dF and it hit 37. A category off. It has been astounding how they have not gotten the low temps of this airmass right for three mornings since the front passed. Froze twice when they said not going to, and nearly so, when they called for upper 40's. About 3 p.m. I saw the cool shady front porch thermometer at 82dF! Almost 50dF diurnals! The Seco Creek WU station read 32-90dF for a spread.

Mostly it was the same old stuff in the yard but a Hutton's Vireo stopped by. There was a Lark Sparrow briefly which trilled and chattered a bit, sounding nothing whatsoever like the local birds. One Myrtle is really working the pecan bits in the big tree, and the crumbs of the night-raiders on the stone steps. A few American Goldfinch, a couple Pine Siskin, a couple Hermit Thrush, heard a Robin. Heard Eastern Screech-Owl after dark. Saw the dark Cicindellid with the metallic green highlights out in driveway, nice red abdomen in flight.

The highlight of the day was at noon-thirty. I was out on driveway by the pickup when a fully red male RED CROSSBILL flew up out of the draw calling, climbing right over my head and the big pecan. Headed south. The two prior times I heard them I thought they sounded like they came out of the draw, and Kathy said the same thing about her mystery flock of birds last Monday that she thought were likely crossbills. I went over and besides some juniper with berries all I saw was some Soap- or China- berry trees with fruit for potential food items. I walked a bit up the draw and there are Pyracantha berries. Not sure any of that would qualify as possible food. But at least I got to see one, and at least it was a fully red male! One lone male Red Crossbill. Only takes one bird to make your day, week, or month in some cases. Awesome UvCo and yard bird. To get visual confirmation is outstanding, I listened to this one call the whole way as it flew off. It was absolutely positively exactly what I heard from multiples in a flock on both the 11th and 17th.


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?

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 24 ~ Another unpredicted freeze, we were 31dF for a couple hours at least. Turkeys were gobbling at dawn so I guess some made it through yesterday. Robins, Myrtle Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the yard first hour or so of sun. Ran to town fer stuff, the park was dead. When you can't find a Carolina Wren, a Cardinal, or hear any Titmice, there is or has been an accipiter about. Just a bunch of Black Vulture on their dead Cypress roost tree. Got up to about 75dF in the afternoon.

Nov. 23 ~ Happy Thanksgiving turkeys! Which were gobbling at dawn. A chilly morning it was at 28dF! NOAA had KRVL progged for 33, it was 29dF there. Junction was 27dF. Intellicast did not have ANY of the entire Edwards Plateau even in frost (below 36dF), and WU wasn't any better, none of them called these low temps well. Got up into the 70's, so 45dF+ diurnals. One WU local station reported 25dF for a low and 78dF for a high today!

Heard a, or the, Junco out there with the Chipping Sparrow flock. The resident pair of Golden-fronted Woodpecker are chasing an interloper out of the big Pecan. Which is the only tree around with lots of nuts, a native. Ladder-backs they don't seem to mind in it so much. Every morning there are broken nuts, shells and pecan bits all over the front porch and walkway stepping stones which are used as anvils apparently. The native nut is a tough one to crack. A look last night saw Opossum, Striped Skunk, Armadillos, Racoons, and I had a brief set, just of eyeshine, that was the Ringtail. As soon as it gets dark the yard explodes with the sound of music, which here and now is a different sort of nut-cracker suite, performed by the cast of characters mentioned above. After yesterday's big frontal blow it sounded a good haul and quite the party last night.

We took an hour nooner walk down to crossing and back. Three White- crowned Sparrow were in the corral. Along the river there were a Savannah, Lincoln's, Song, and I heard a single chip of a Swamp Sparrow. Couple more Song at the crossing, where a male Green Kingfisher dove and caught a fish before departing with it. Looked like one of those Mexican Tetras I want and can't catch. On the way back we poked around where I heard the Swamp a bit, no love though, but pished up a House Wren and more of the usuals.

As we were leaving river-edge I caught something falling, biggish, which proceeded to ker-plunk with a big splash right into the river. Got my bins on it and saw it was a Cooper's Hawk, that had ridden a White-winged Dove down into the water. It held it under and drowned it. It slowly swam with its wings toward roots at bank with it. I grabbed a few pix as it did, and we departed as it was nervous of us. Sure takes the fight out of the dove fast. Later in afternoon a hundred Robins came into yard, shortly after I saw both a Sharpy, and another Cooper's dive on them.

Nov. 22 ~ About 43dF for a low, the front got here after dark yesterday and it has been northerlies ever since, mostly 10-15 mph, but occasionally gusting to 20 and 25 or more. There go the leaves. What was left after the last blow couple days ago. Only got up to mid-60's briefly, wind finally laying down late in afternoon. The Lesser Goldfinch was back on the millet tube, 6 American came into the sunflower feeder. Best was my FOS White-throated Sparrow out back on the millet. Then an ad. White-crowned was out front on one of the brush piles. Man they love 'em. So do the Wrens, Canyon Towhees, and Lincoln's Sparrows. A few Myrtles fed in the big pecan for a couple hours, a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet were there off and on. Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks made appearances, as did Caracara and Common Ravens.

Nov. 21 ~ About 45dF with low clouds and south flow. About 9 a.m. there was a Golden-crowned Kinglet in the yard, and 9:30 or so a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH! The most outstanding nasal nyet nyet nyet note I know. They are less than annual here so always a treat, and something neat about seeing them in a Mesquite tree too, I so associate them with Pines. Odd was an imm. ma. Lesser Goldfinch at the seed tube, haven't been any around, they depart in winter, save a few at thistle socks mostly. Heard a Pine Siskin go over. Noonish I took a quick look at the 360 x-ing and had two FOS Song Sparrow. Heard a Field Sparrow here in with the Chippies again. Kathy heard the Kestrel, a male has been on the power pole out at the road a few days recently, hunting the far corner of the yard.

Nov. 20 ~ Another cool one, 33dF here in the morning, KRVL again hit 31! They froze both mornings, we had near-misses. Now they say we warm into 40's for lows for the week. Kathy saw about a dozen Turkey, good week for that. I saw a couple deer raiding the Chili Pequin plant I harvest from. As if the Turkeys eating them wasn't enough competition. Nothing different in the yard. Stopped by the park when I ran for a couple PVC parts, nothing there either, just the two Pied-billed Grebes. At dusk a flock of 25+ Robin flew over, the first flock I have seen this fall.

Nov. 19 ~ A chilly 35dF here this a.m., NOAA had KRVL progged for 38dF and got down to 31! Finished moving the saltwater aquarium system yesterday, just in time. Still some leaves, what was still green mostly, everything yellow got blown off. In the afternoon I drove up 187 checking a few spots to see how winter was arriving. Almost no sparrows along the roads. A few Savannah, a couple Vesper, one White-crowned, and that was about it. One Harrier looked like an imm. male, saw a couple Shrikes, one FOS Merlin was chasing White-winged Doves. Only a couple resident Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawks. At UP there was a Zone-tailed Hawk and a Ringed Kingfisher beating a 4+" sunfish on the spillway. You could hear the smacks, it was so loud! The only passerine of interest was a Golden-crowned Kinglet up in the woods. A, or the, female Green King was at the 360 crossing.

Nov. 18 ~ The front arrived just after 10 a.m. with wind but no cold air yet. On the leading edge takin' a free ride was a flock of Sandhill Crane. A few Myrtle Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and American Goldfinch around the yard make it seem like winter is on the way. The wind is taking the leaves off the trees and by time this blow is over it will look like winter. Was sustained at 15-25 gusting to 30 and 35 mph. A leaf stripper. Watched an imm. fem. Cooper's hawk miss a Cardinal. Quite a warmup in front of the cold air by noon it was pressing 80dF. A single Pine Siskin showed up for my FOS, note Judy Schaffer had them early this past week, about Monday the 13th methinks. Feeling that temp drop fast at dark.

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?

See OLD BIRD NEWS # 28 for July and August 2017

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Above is 2017

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

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Read UP from bottom to go in chronological sequence.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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 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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