BIRD & NATURE NEWS 2017
Notes without location cited are in or from yard which is a couple
miles south of town at edge of the river habitat corridor.
If it doesn't say where it was, it was in or from the yard.
Often a few daily yard notes is all the drivel you get.
Ready, steady, go!
To repeat since commonly used:
sps.=species; FOS=First of season;
FOY=First of Year; FOF=First of fall;
LTA=Less than Annual;
UP=Utopia Park; UR=Utopia on the River;
(ph.)=photo obtained; ad.=adult;
imm.=immature.; ma.=male; fem.=female; juv.=juvenile;
odes=Odonata = dragonflies and damselflies; leps=Lepidoptera (butterflies),
town=Utopia; the park= Utopia Park at SW corner of town.
WU = Weather Underground (sometimes local station readings referenced)
July 2016 through November so far are Bird News #26.
January 2016 through June are Bird News #25.
The Archive links are below the current bird news.
Here are assorted links of all manner, and a handy way outta here.
Yellow-breasted Chat, a bird that perhaps has defied taxonomic understanding
as well as any breeding North American species. Classified with warblers
for some time, but it is not one. I wondered why it was in with them when
I was 5 years old. A fairly common breeder locally, heard more easily than seen,
and often sings (or makes loud chattering noises and whistles) at night,
for which more often than not the Mockingbird takes the heat.
Just to have this handy again for reference, recent prior updates:
March 17, 10, 3, February 24, 17, 10, 3, January 27, 20, 13, 6
You may want to scroll down to last prior update (marked) and scroll
up to read in chrono order day to day.
**!! HEY!!! SPECIAL NOTE: There is again a NEW page, this of photos from 2016!
A dozen more new pix were added Sept. 22.
And now for something completely different... I will probably
make some changes yet, I was looking for some more pix, but
anyway meanwhile at least the basics are up... Here is a new
page with some photos and discussion of hybrid Cliff x Cave Swallows:
~ ~ ~ finally, current bird news from the greater and lesser Utopia area ~ ~ ~
March 24 ~ A front came through in the a.m., lots of clouds,
a good tenth or so of an inch of rain, maybe .15 total.
Keeps the dust down. Town run so checked the park.
Best was a male Summer Tanager, my earliest ever, by over
a week! First week of April is normal arrival. Then up
at north end of town in the mesquites, there were two
singing Bell's Vireo, also earliest ever by over a
week. Pretty amazing. Three Giant Swallowtail (lep) were
my first of the year, and a couple female Cloudless Sulphur
went by. Saw a male Green Darner dragonfly too. Speaking
of which lots of Dot-winged Baskettail were out and a bunch
of Bluet (Enallagma) damselfly were over park pond. A couple
Myrtle Warbler at park are in heavy pre-alternate molt.
Perhaps winterers getting ready to go?
About 45 Cedar Waxwing were in the now fruiting Mulberry
on Cypress St. out in front of the park. A second female
Monarch was in yard in the afternoon. Still no Scissor-tailed
Flycatcher, at least I didn't see any along roads, and
asked a couple folks that also said, nope, haven't seen
one yet. Any day now. Nice to hear Purple Martins over town
again though. More Cave Swallows are back around the bank.
Bob said the P.O. loading dock pair of Barn Swallow returned
last Saturday the 18th. Oh yeah, there were single Green,
and Belted, Kingfisher at the park. I thought sure I heard
a Parula Warbler sing a couple times but could not locate it.
Here it is only marginally, and debatably, barely more likely
Northern than Tropical.
Occasionally we get these car clubs touring that plan to be
here for lunch. Today a Porsche club was at the cafe, must
have been 25 models parked out front, looked like a museum
collection of them, every model. One vintage cabriolet was
very nice. Since I figured the rare Porsche record committee
would reject my sighting without documentation, I took photos
to prove it. ;)
March 23 ~ Too busy Thursdays... blew like heck all day
out of the south at 15-25 mph with gusts to 35 mph so
just as well. Had an Ash-throated Flycatcher around
yard that acted like it might be one of the breeders
that has used the boxes. The Ring King was over at
river. In butterflies a Gray Hairstreak was my first for
the year for sure, and a male Large Orange Sulphur was
my first this spring. Saw Dakota, and Texas Verbena flowers
open in yard today, hundreds of Crow-Poison and Anemone,
as well as Yellow Wood-Sorrel. One purple Anemone was nice.
March 22 ~ All morning overcast, fog-mist as they call it
here, a bit drizzly. Got to 84dF in the afternoon though.
One female Cloudless Sulphur was about for a bit, and
one Orange Sulphur too. Saw the Ringtail after dark.
The male Golden-fronted Woodpecker barely missed being taken
by an imm. Cooper's Hawk by inches, I thought it was
a goner. Somehow he climbed, twisted, and dodged the strike
in flight. Lots of Bordered Patch (butterfly) around, and
lots of stuff flying by, lots o'Lysides, Red Admirals,
Gulf Fritillary, some Buckeye and American Lady, Pipevine
March 21 ~ The big news today was the first Monarch of the
spring. A big female in good condition but obviously worn
as these that have flown to Mexico and back are. And so
the cycle starts again. Chipping Sparrow flock is down to
about 50-60, definitely fewer, departures have begun for
this wintering group. About four Lark Sparrow are regularly
around again now, presumedly our local breeders.
March 20 ~ Happy Spring! It's here! It was overcast all
morning, sun came out late afternoon for a bit. Saw an Arizona
Sister (butterfly) go by, and a Texan Crescent, several Bodered
Patch. A couple Ringed Kingfisher over at river, Yellow-throated
Vireo, and Warbler, both singing again all day within earshot,
which is great to hear... something besides a White-eyed Vireo.
The male Vermilion Flycatcher occasionally punctuates it all with
flight song display over the corral adjacent.
March 19 ~ Overcast all morning, but got up to about 80-85dF
locally in the afternoon. We were in the live-oak and juniper
grassland behind us putting a few nest boxes up and had a
Rufous-crowned Sparrow, but no Black-capped Vireo yet at
last year's territory. There is an acacia blooming that
is real sweet. It had two CRIMSON PATCH butterflies on it,
nice fresh mint beauties. Probably my earliest date ever
for them. Must be a food plant in that area I do not know.
It is the same place we had them last spring and summer.
Butterflies were out in numbers in the warmth. We saw a
couple dozen Bordered Patch, four Arizona Sister, an amazing
four Elada Checkerspot, and Kathy spotted the FOY Queen flying
by. Plus lots of the common usual stuff out already.
Heard Turkey gobble in the morning here from yard, later we
saw a couple up in live-oaks of which one Tom was strutting.
I give him a 10 on posture. Had a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
and an Orange-crowned Warbler up in the now blooming live-oaks.
There were a couple Pucoon flowers open, and some Blackfoot
Daisy were open. The Buckley oaks are well underway leafing out,
Golden-cheeked Warbler should be getting thick quick. Heard
a Barn Owl after dark. Just before midnight I heard my FOY
Barking Frog give some chirps.
March 18 ~ Only about 60dF for a low, and overcast until
latest afternoon, a bit of mist off and on. Great to hear
the Yellow-throated Vireo singing outside in the morning,
and the Yellow-throated Warbler over in the Cypress at river.
Turkey gobbling. Ring King shuts up everytime I pick up
the mic and recorder. Sometimes it even shuts up when I get
up to make a move for recorder.
Had a dump and recycling run so ran by park. Counted at
least 25 vehicles and at least 100 people. No birds save
a Green Kingfisher at top of the island. Did have a sprig
from one of the Texas Onions, best scallion I ever had.
A FOS at the north end of town in the usual spot north of the
gas station was what is likely the, our, same (annual here) male
Great-tailed Grackle. I can't believe we a) have just
one pair here and b) they keep returning year after year.
They have nested successfully and fledged young at least a
Spotted another Red-tailed Hawk nest today that I hadn't
noticed before. We also have the usual pair nesting in a big
cypress we can see from our front porch. These Fuertes Red-tails
are beauties, so clean and creamy below.
In butterflies I saw a Sachem in yard, and the (I presume, the)
winter form Questionmark around patio again. It won't
last much longer. After dark I saw the Spotted Skunk again
under the carport. It seems to be able to dig in this hard
substrate more easily than I with hand implements. The holes
in the ground are about 4-5" across maybe.
I keep forgetting to mention the wintering Mockingbirds
are gone. Been about a couple weeks since they departed.
There has been a dearth of Mockers in the last couple weeks,
during the window after the winterers depart and before the
breeders arrive. I saw one new arrival singing today, so
there will likely be lots again very shortly. But for instance
our wintering yard individuals have been gone a couple weeks,
we have been weirdly Mocker free. There have been a few
scattered around locally, but for the most part, there is
underway an often overlooked changeover in their population
taking place from late February to late March.
Carolina Wren, which does not have spotted wings.
They have a spotted lower back, which you will hardly
ever see. This cold one has its wings tucked up tight,
and under its back feathers which are draped over the
wing, making it superficially appear as though the
wing is spotted. It pays to know all the parts.
The Sibley Guide is the one book in which I have
seen this character this well-illustrated.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
March 17 ~ Happy St. Patrick's Day! Lots of overcast,
humid, breezy lately. Springy. Not too hot, not too cold.
Did get up to 80-84dF locally today in later afternoon.
Ringed Kings still squawking over at the river daily.
Ran to town noonish, did a quick park check but found not
much. It is spring break and a few people are around in
the area, noise and all. There was an Ash-throated Flycatcher,
a Hutton's Vireo, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Blue Jay,
and the usual Cardinal, two Carolinas, chickadee and wren,
some Black-crested Titmouse, Yellow-throated Warbler, and a
couple Kinglet (Ruby). The highlight was a Downy Woodpecker,
actually a scarce irregular bird here.
There are some big Texas Onion blooming up in the woods. Saw a
FOY Eufala Skipper on it, and a Dun Skipper. Also saw a big
yellow swallowtail that was either Eastern Tiger or Two-tailed.
After seeing my FOY Lyside Sulphur yesterday I saw 50 today.
Saw a female Falcate Orangetip again in yard. Must be a
couple hundred Anemone flowers open in the yard and at least
300 Crow-Poison. The wildflower meadow thing is starting to
At 7 p.m. I was out in driveway and a very dark Merlin shot by
at eye-level, maybe 15' away, ploughing hard and deep making
about 40-50 mph at least, flying low across the whole yard, it
had to climb up to get over the corral fence. It was obviously
not the usual normal pale richardsoni Prairie Merlin that is the
standard Merlin here. I presume it was an eastern type, which
can be very dark, and of which I have only seen a few here.
March 16 ~ Coolish and overcast with off and on stiff
southerlies, sun came out last hour or two of day.
Best was first thing in the morning finding a FOS
Yellow-throated Vireo in the blooming (male) Mulberry.
Ties my earliest ever (14th spring here) arrival date.
Heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher out there early too,
and thought I heard a seet that sounded like a
Nashville Warbler but never saw it. The rest was the
same. The Ring Kings were going off again this morning
over at river, but shut up when I went out with mic to
record. Saw a female Falcate Orangetip (butterfly), and a
FOY Lyside Sulphur flew across yard late in the day. Now
150 Crow-Poison flower stalks with open flowers on the
north part of the yard. Heard a Barn Owl after dark.
March 15 ~ Had a quick run to town in the a.m. early.
Nothing at the park for migrants, but great close looks
at Yellow-throated Warbler and a Blue Jay. At the bank
the first few Cave Swallows were back. Should be more
soon. Here in the yard saw one Robin, maybe that one is
still around, and 26 Waxwing. A couple Kinglet (Ruby) went
through, a few are daily now, they are on the move.
One Henry's Elfin butterfly fluttered around.
About 60 Anemone (Wind-flower) open around yard today.
March 14 ~ One Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over
first thing before sunup. A couple Kinglet (Ruby) went
through, and a couple Myrtle Warbler. Good were a couple
butterflies. Great was the FOY Arizona Sister, the
FOY Dun Skipper was not quite as exciting. Love them
sisters. A male Black Swallowtail, and a Buckeye were
about as well. After dark I saw the Ringtail. At dusk I
heard at least a couple Green-winged Teal call as they
flew north pretty low. No way to guess how many there
were, but at least two called. I think it is a new
yard bird, will have to check.
OK, checked, yeppers, new, Green-wing Teal is yard #214 NIB.
For you less than hardcore bird listers... NIB means no
introduced birds (are counted in that total). They are an
appendix essentially. And like an appendix introduced birds
are something you don't need and will probably cause you
trouble one day. ex. 1 & 2: see Starling and House Sparrow.
An additional 3 of these troublesome introduced non-native
species have been seen in yard.
March 13 ~ A flock of about 45 ducks were flying south
early early morning, which looked like wigeon, but I
could only bare-eye them against overcast skies. Kerrville
had a low of 39dF briefly, we were low 40's dF, and it
was quite nice. We will be wishing for that soon enough.
A few butterflies were out in the warmth, saw a Whirlabout,
Funereal Duskywing, and Phaon Crescent, besides the
common already stuff. A nice fresh Olive Juniper Hairstreak
was around too. About 50+ open Anemone flowers now.
March 12 ~ We took a walk to the crossing, there were at
least 3 singing male Yellow-throated Warbler on territory.
A male Myrtle warbler responded to the song by flying
150 FEET directly at it, and proceeding to have a scrap
with the singing male Yellow-throated Warbler. The song
of these 'edwardsplateauensis' Yellow-throated Warbler is
actually suggestive of the Yellow-rumped Warbler basic
We saw the FOY American Rubyspot damselfly, and 3 FOY
Bordered Patch. There was a Pipevine Swallowtail that
pupated on some chickenwire we have to protect flowers
in beds around front porch, oh, about last October.
The photos I took are dated, I will check. But today
we watched it after it emerged, as it pumped itself up.
A Hutton's Vireo was singing over in the draw.
March 11 ~ It was misty to drizzly much of the a.m.
The front hasn't passed and we are overcast with half
a chance at rain, so not going birding, working here,
and recovering from yesterdays run to Uvalde. There
were a couple Ring Kings in flight display out front
early, calling while diving from great height, doing
twists and turns at high speed, quite the show, and
wow are they manuverable aerialists. Must be nesting
Didn't see much but the regulars, though there was
one FOS, the bird of the day was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
It was actually in the yard at sunup. Considering they
are diurnal migrants, it surely roosted within spittin'
distance and was here yesterday at dark. March 11 is the
earliest day I have for them here, and have achieved that
now 3 times. It is peak early Blue-gray Gnatcatcher here.
I also have 2 March 12 FOS dates for them. So this is
right at the leading edge of their arrival window opening.
See how interesting phenology is?
Per wikipedia, Phenology is "the study of periodic plant and
animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by
seasonal and interannual variations in climate, as well as
habitat factors (such as elevation)." So then, dates of things
like flowers opening, trees leafing out, birds arriving,
nesting, or departing, flying periods for adult dragonflies
or butterflies, can all add data points to the big picture.
Which then can tell us things about what is going on. Like
winter is shorter, or spring comes earlier, summer is longer, etc.
This concludes our lesson for today... ;)
This is a Nysa Roadside-Skipper from a couple years ago.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
March 10 ~ We did a Uvalde run for supplies, but had
no time to goof off birding. On the way was the best
bird of the day, on Old 90 (or lower Sabinal Rd.,
which runs from Sabinal to Uvalde, south of Hwy. 90),
a young half-grown BOBCAT out in the road. We got a
great close look before it darted into roadside veg.
Any day you see a Bobcat is a good day.
Along the road there were several Loggerhead Shrike,
lots of Mockingbird, but no Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
yet. I had drive by looks at Long-billed and Curve-billed
Thrasher, Cactus Wren, and we saw at least a half-dozen
Harris's Hawk, maybe 7 total. Most of them though were
a group of 4 at the first high spot about 5-6 miles N. of
Sabinal on Hwy. 187. A pair and sometimes family group
is often in that area. Mostly for migratory breeders,
it still seemed like winter along the roads.
We went to the Fish Hatchery to stretch out and take a
bird break. It was a bit muddy, which usually means
Cook's Slough will be very muddy, so we passed on
the slough. The main pond at NW corner of hatchery
had a great assortment of waterfowl, obviously migrants
are on the move. That one pond at once had 6 drake and
a few female Cinnamon Teal, twice as many Blue-winged and
three Green-winged Teal, 20 Am. Wigeon, 4 Gadwall, 3 Pintail,
14 Ring-necked Duck, 4 male Redhead, so that was fun.
More ducks than I have seen all winter.
As if that weren't enough, there were shorebirds! That
is right, migrant shorebirds! Only a couple, but like ducks,
a thrill to see for a Utopian. There were about 4 Greater
Yellowlegs, a Long-billed Dowitcher, and 2 Stilt Sandpiper.
The couple Wilson's Snipe and Killdeer could be
migrants, or left over winterers still. Also around in
other ponds were another couple dozen Wigeon, and a Lesser
Scaup. I heard a Common Yellowthroat and a Lincoln's
Sparrow, but there were no migrants or other migratory
breeders seen. Heard Verdin and Curve-billed Thrasher,
both local breeders. Two good butterflies there were a
male Falcate Orangetip at arms length, and my FOS Nysa
Latest afternoon after we got home there were 20+ Cedar
Waxwing in the big pecan. There had been a rain shower
here while we were gone, there was a third of an inch for
us, but others locally had anywhere from a tenth, to a
full inch, depending your luck.
March 9 ~ Too busy Thursday... was the same gang of usual
suspects. Ring Kings over at river, not seeing the Robin
for a week or so now, and the same for the few waxwings
that were around. Hackberries are in full bloom and buzzing
with bees. Getting daily a few Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned
Kinglet going through yard northbound. In butterflies I saw
single Texan and Phaon Crescent in yard.
March 8 ~ Occasional mist, overcast, light northerlies in
the a.m., southerlies in the p.m. Was the regular cast,
Ring King, Purple Martin, White-eyed Vireo, 3 Myrtle Warbler
went north together, as did a couple more Kinglets (Ruby).
A couple Lark Sparrow around are probably returning breeders,
and a few Black-chinned Hummers here, the male Vermilion is
in flight display regularly again now... gotta love that.
The Cardinals have gone territorial and dispersed, but the
singing is great to hear.
March 7 ~ More mist most of morning, never did get sunny
as forecast, the front slowed and we stayed cloudy until
after dark. Supposed to have a brief drying out. What
seemed 3 Ringed Kingfisher flew downriver in the morning.
I didn't see any sneak back by to go twice. At least
3 Myrtle Warbler flew north early in a.m., saw a pair of
Lesser Goldfinch on sunflower feeder. Best was my FOS
female Black-chinned Hummingbird. Males typically beat
females back by a week or so. True for many species
besides hummingbirds, especially migratory songbirds.
Saw about 5 Turkey Vulture today, including one that is now
missing one right primary. Our local breeders start molt
shortly after returning.
March 6 ~ In the mist at 7:15 a.m. I heard a FOS Greater
Yellowlegs flying upriver, a great spring migrant to
hear. Saw a real small female Checkered White butterfly
which stopped to taste Crow-Poison, at least a dozen of
which are open now, and as many Anemone too. In dragons,
I saw a Gomphid which was surely a Pronghorn Clubtail,
one of our spring-only fliers here.
March 5 ~ A little mist yet but mostly the rain is done
and over. It was about 1.35" total, nice and mucky
out there now. We walked around uphill into the live-oak
and juniper grassland a bit. A few Hutton's Vireo,
but no migrants. The Buckley Oaks have some flowers out,
but no leaves yet.
March 4 ~ Turkey gobbling at dawn. Ringed Kingfisher flying
upriver early too. It was a rain day... about an inch fell
from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but so the day was a wash. Lots of
indoor work done. Saw what was likely a Peregrine go over.
Nice to have Vermilion Flycatcher singing out there again.
Here is another example of how red a male House Finch
can be here. Ross Silcock of Nebraska took this photo
at Lost Maples in February. We have a similar bird here
in yard among a couple dozen. Note the extent of the red on
underparts, for which one gets no idea can occur from
the field guides. Thanks for letting us share the pic Ross!
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
March 3 ~ Low was about 35dF here, and KRVL had a 31dF
for a short bit. A little cool air. The Hackberries
are blooming, and some Mulberries are putting out flowers
too. Tomorrow is supposed to be a wash, er, a rain day.
Did the town run thing... Only thing I had at the park
was a nice male Wood Duck, a spring migrant. It was in
the swampy area up by the island, right where it belonged.
What a beautiful bird! It may look the same as one in a
city park pond, but it feels different to see it in a natural
setting with fallen logs in a backwater with lillies...
On the way home on the wire right next to the yard was
my FOS Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Little Creek Larry
mentioned he saw one a few days ago, but no exact date.
Saw about 5 male Vermilion Flycatcher along the roads to
town and back, plus my FOS female, and imm. male.
March 2 ~ About 45dF this morning with the northerly
flow felt great. I was shocked to see what is surely
our yard-using local breeding male Yellow-throated
Warbler this morning (FOS). It was in the Mulberry by
the cottage exactly where I last saw him last September.
He then flew down to the patio, then right at me,
landing on the edge of the metal roof. He then leaned
over going upside-down with front half of body to look
under the roof edge, looking right at me from 3' away.
Just like he did when I last saw him his last day here
last September. He did the same exact thing, again.
So what was he thinking when he leaned over the roof edge
upside-down to look at me? You're STILL here? Haven't you moved
since September? I have been to southern Mexico and back!
You are still standing ya old fart? I see you have less
hair, are you molting? Don't you have something to do
besides stand on the back porch?
This is the type of behavior that can only be seen by
long-term observation at a single site of the same bird.
Be there watching when a migratory breeder leaves, and
be there to witness the return. And note it flew directly
at you, landed in the closest place, and went upside-down
to get a good look from 3' away, twice, at the same
spot, 6 months apart. The day it left and the day it got back.
Birds never cease to amaze me.
I am quite fascinated by these sorts of behaviors actually.
And of course as long as one is running around chasing new
birds these are not the types of things one sees. These
types of observations require a different type of looking.
Sure we can only guess at what the bird thinks, but we can
see and record what it does.
Great Crested Flycatcher becomes amazingly vociferous
the last few days before it leaves its territory in
fall. You can tell the last 3 days, by sound from a
half mile. They get nuts about singing again after
quieting down for a couple weeks whilst getting rid of
the last set of young (and probably some serious molting).
You can also see some of these things with winterers
too. Kestrel can make a very impressive flight display
calling and circling, diving, making an incredible scene,
right when it departs its winter territory in the spring.
Again, long term daily observation of individual birds
and territories is the only way to detect these behaviors.
Heard Sandhill Cranes, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and
saw a Merlin ploughing northward early. One big yeller
bumble (bee). Some butterflies were a Funereal Duskywing,
Orange Sulphur, a Checkered-Skipper and a record early
FOY Whirlabout. Not sure I have ever seen one in March,
maybe maybe late in the month.
March 1 ~ A dry front came in, early in the morning,
blowing lightly out of north all day. The male
Black-chinned Hummingbird was still around. A
Sharp-shinned Hawk sat up top of the big pecan for
a long time watching the feeders and feeding areas.
Amazing was my earliest ever Ash-throated Flycatcher,
a week early. Heard a Ringed King or two. Saw the
winter form Questionmark again today. I keep forgetting
to mention the live-oaks are really yellow now and dropping
leaves fast and furious. Ringtail out there after dark.
~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~
Well it was a wet month with 4" of rain, above average.
And it was surely a warm one, without a hard freeze the
whole month! It was way above normal temps on average.
Warmer and wetter. Could make for a good spring, but if we
get a late freeze will wreak havoc with all the flowers or
in some cases forming fruits or seeds.
Galveston set 31 high temp records in the Nov. to Feb. period
that used to be winter. Winter sea surface temps in the Gulf
were also highest ever, they never got below 73dF. Record.
One Austin station (Mabry) hit 70dF 35 of first 60 days of
the year. The climate is changing before our eyes. Will
anybody see it? Will we do anything about it, or is being
in denial or fatalistic too much easier? Did I mention
Antarctica also just broke its record for highest temp ever?
This is not a drill, a liberal plot, or a hoax.
Go to youtube and watch the 1958 Bell Science Hour educational
film I saw in elementary school as a kid called The Unchained Goddess.
Note Bell Labs were amongst the most respected of science
and engineering labs in America at the time. At the :50 min.
mark their 1958 science film talks about how manmade climate
change will occur from putting large amounts of CO2 in the
atmosphere. 1958. Bell Labs. Not the liberals or the
Chinese, but America's best scientists. Before politicians
politicized science. This is not a hoax, or new, a liberal plot,
or something being sold by people making money off it. It was
considered proven science sixty years ago. The ones now saying
it is not, are the ones selling something, and it doesn't smell
Sorry, off my soapbox, I was reading Feb. climate data to
see how other places compared with us here for perspective,
and consequently having a cow. 67deg. F in Antarctica!?!?!?!
Whilst Redbud and Agarita are expected to open in mid-Feb.,
the Mountain Laurel is really ahead of schedule. I hear
some areas nearer Austin have reported Bluebonnets! That
is how much warmth there has been. The butterflies were
a record 31 species in the month, about double average.
Always great seeing Henry's Elfin and Falcate Orangetip,
two quintessential signs of spring here. A big yellow
(Tiger or Two-tailed) Swallowtail was record early.
Only a very few odes were seen, but the two typical early
spring ones were out: a Springtime Darner and several
Dot-winged Baskettail. Also a Red Saddlebags was seen,
and a probably Green Darner. In damsels, Fragile Forktail
was first ID'd type. A bluet was probably Familiar,
and a Dancer looked Kiowa but both are only positive ID's
to genus. Any Enallagma (bluet) in Feb. is good.
Birds were good though we are so busy we didn't get
to look much besides around 360 and a bit in town. A few
good things make it through or over the yard regularly,
if I just had some sky cams, a bird bath cam, a couple for
where we toss seed, all scanning, I'd get a lot more data.
It was about 80 species by accident. The amazing thing was
the number of record early first of spring dates. Every year
you expect a few. But when 6 of 8 of the 8 species that are
normally the first to arrive, are record early, it bears consideration.
On top of confirming our first ever wintering Common Yellowthroat,
we had our earliest ever migrant Yellowthroat and Blue-headed
Vireo, both on the 26th. A nocturnal calling Long-billed Curlew
the 24th was going north, and my first Feb. record as well.
A White-tailed Kite over the yard the 26th was a new yard bird.
No major raries, but we were too swamped with work to do much
besides look around yard or at park and a few local roads.
Work now, bird peak spring. ;)
~ ~ ~ end February summary ~ ~ ~
Feb. 28 ~ Low about 60dF and fog mist, feels like spring.
Mid-morning I saw my FOS Black-chinned Hummingbird, a
male of course. He beat March back. Also saw a male
Lesser Goldfinch, heard the White-eyed Vireo, and the
Robin went through. The Vermilion Flycatcher was doing
flight display with song, and at twilight I heard some
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, my FOS this spring. Amazing
was a big yellow Swallowtail butterfly which was either
an Eastern Tiger or a Two-tailed. I thought the latter,
but will probably just put it down as either-or. In any
case it is an amazing February record. Usually after
mid-March is the first for either.
Feb. 27 ~ 60dF and fog mist in a.m., up to 80dF in p.m.
One Robin still passes through most mornings, stopping
in the big pecan for some calling. The White-eyed Vireo
is getting louder and more incessant of singing. Heard a
Lesser Goldfinch, and later afternoon heard a Purple Martin
from the porch, first over yard this spring. What a
great sound to hear. The one I saw yesterday didn't call.
Over on other side of river on W. 360 I saw a Roadrunner.
There are a half-dozen Crow-Poison now opened up in the yard,
there will be hundreds soon, like Anemones. A few Straggler
Daisy are opening, and I even saw the winter form Questionmark
(butterfly) land on one to nectar! Saw a couple Buckeye,
a few Red Admiral, a Duskywing was probably Funereal, and
the grasshoppers are really getting going now. Making it
incredibly hard to audio tape bird song.
Feb. 26 ~ A female Lesser Goldfinch in the yard is a new
arrival, right on time. I had to run to town so looked
around a bit. At the north end there was a tight group of
5 Savannah Sparrow which were surely migrants. A flock
of 35 Eurasian Starling indicates their return or passage.
It is almost as many as I have ever seen here, only a very
few winter, and not every year.
At the park were Green, Ringed, and Belted Kingfisher.
No waterthrush, since Dec. 30 now, it must have been
picked off. Saw some open Dewberry flowers. Below the
spillway, just above 1050 along the river where a few trees
there was a Blue-headed Vireo. I know of one winter record
here in Utopia, a dozen years ago, and a report or two semi-
nearbyish. I have checked this area multiple times this
winter and not seen it, so suspect it is a spring migrant
At the pond on the country club by Waresville there was one
male Purple Martin back at the house there, my FOS. Also a
second male Vermilion Flycatcher was back there. Outstanding
was an immature male Common Yellowthroat in the reeds around
the pond. It has not been there this winter and so surely
another migrant, at a ridiculously early date compared to
all my others, a month+ early. It has a pale barely yellow
throat so clearly not the bird we have had along the river
a mile away the last month.
About 6 p.m. a White-tailed Kite flew right over the house
northbound. Probably had been in the pasture just to our
south. Had just stepped outside for a minute and bam! Good
new bird for the yard list. OK, I just looked. It is #213
for the native species yard list in now a month short of 4 years.
Plus the 3 introduced non-native vermin, House Sparrow, Eurasian
Starling, and Eurasian Collared-Dove. I wouldn't even
give Egyptian Goose the dignity of being on the list, though
have them occasionally fly by. Nothing more than a barnyard
or duckpond domestic. Might as well count Chicken and Emu.
Feb. 25 ~ Still northerlies and about 44dF in a.m., but felt
cooler. By later afternoon it was southerlies, but only
got into 60's for a high. Ring King again first thing
early. Counted 30 House Finch at seed in the afternoon.
A male Kestrel was hunting the yard from one of the pecans.
Noonish we walked a mile and change up into the live-oaks
and agarita upslope behind us. Saw a few Checkered White
butterfly, one Olive Juniper Hairstreak, couple American Lady.
At a wet spot in the draw there was an Enallagma Bluet
damselfly, probably a Familiar. We heard singing Field and
Lark Sparrow, and 27 FOS Sandhill Crane flew over northbound.
A few Mountain Laurels have a lot of flowers, as do some
Agarita, but most are yet to open. Saw one Anemone (Wind-flower)
just about to open, a nice purple one. The most heart-starting
moment was when we jumped a boar. When something that big
gets moving fast, it doesn't matter that it is going the
other way at first detection.
On left is the business end of the Spotted Skunk that is around the house a bit.
Sometimes in the shed! I hope you appreciate how brave I was to get these photos.
Of course had I gotten sprayed it would have been how stupid I was. Funny how results
have great bearing on our perception of actions. The yellowish circle on right photo
is the flashlight beam, oops and sorry. Trying to get autofocus to focus...
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Feb. 24 ~ A dry frontal passage in the a.m. so most of the
day it was 10-15 mph northerlies, gusting to 20+ occasionally.
First thing a Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver calling. There
were 6 American Goldfinch at the feeders. The morning highlight
was looking over into the corral and seeing a, likely the,
probably our, male Vermilion Flycatcher right where one sits
daily for the last 4 years. Two days earlier than my earliest
prior FOS return. Then a Horace's Duskywing butterfly came
by, my first of the year.
Had a town run so a stop at the park. Added Phaon Crescent
to the monthly butterfly list, and saw my second of year
Falcate Orangetip there. Saw a Dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly,
and in damsels, a Bluet (Enallagma sps.) of some sort got away,
and saw a couple Fragile Forktail. Saw Blue Jay and Hutton's Vireo.
Watched Red-shouldered Hawks copulate. I didn't really
have anything better to do at the time. Not too long after
though, a pair of Ringed Kingfisher was interacting, quietly
(for them) chattering back and forth whilst sitting only a
couple feet apart at very close range. They were moving
around a bit and when I walked back through the woods
I saw the female had a 5" sunfish (Red-breasted) she was
beating against a branch which I think the male gave to her.
A male Green Kingfisher was there too. Then at the north end of
town were my FOS (3) Barn Swallows over the mesquite patch.
No Martins were seen or heard yet.
At last sun I stepped off back porch and a Yellow-shafted Flicker
flushed out of the big pecan, northbound. Late at 10:30 p.m.
I was outside and heard a Long-billed Curlew call as it flew
over northbound. Near midnight a Barred Owl was going off
over at the river. Forgot to mention, had my FOY of the
orange-winged Acridid - short-horned Grasshopper.
Feb. 23 ~ Just another 42-90dF day in February. Gadzooks!
Laredo, Zapata and other parts of south Texas hit 100dF today!
The first few Texas Persimmon leaves are breaking stems, as
are a few Hackberry trees, and the Mulberry tree buds are
just about to break the stems. It is about to explode green.
I saw an article in the Austin Statesman about the Lady Bird
Johnson Flower center saying many flowers were blooming a month
early or so already, including some Bluebonnets and Spiderworts.
Due to the warm winter. The last freeze was in early January!
Of the first 50 days of the year, on 35 it hit 70dF in Austin!
Holy cow. Does that sound like winter? Nothing to see here,
move along folks.
In leps the Questionmark was out there again, and so was the
Funereal Duskywing. Better was a Dusky-blue Groundstreak out
front. Great was mid-afternoon when my FOY Falcate Orangtip
landed on the only open flower in the front yard, my FOY
Crow-Poison. I saw a few butterflies around the muddy spot
by the water tank in the corral so walked over. There was
my FOY Juvenal's Duskywing!
Most excellent, we are now in record species diversity
territory for the month of February, at 28 species with a
few days left. Not that the driving forces causing these
changes are good. But it is always good to know what is
going on, regardless of where the chips may fall. January
and Feb. I broke my butterfly species diversity records for
those months (14 years of records). Clearly it is warmth
connected. They are almost all fresh emergences that had
a circadian clock that calculated the warmth and # of days
of it, and determined it was spring and time to emerge.
Feb. 22 ~ Happy Birthday to that dude that could not
tell an alternate fact. Kinda suprised I did not come up
with that myself when I was oh about a teenager. We had
a 42-90dF temp spread today. We need more cold, not 90dF in
February. That was on the cool front porch. In the sun it
was 5dF hotter. Amazing. At dusk this evening I received
my FOY mosquito bite. I'd have to check my notes but it
is surely one of my earlier FOY's for that.
Heard the White-eyed Vireo around, one each Robin and Waxwing,
4 American Goldfinch, and a winter-form Questionmark (lep).
Heard my FOS Lark Sparrow singing, probably a new arrival.
Best was at dusk a Spotted Towhee was in the thick stuff
across road at the gate. Also then, two types of bats
were flying around. Two were Brazillian Freetailed, and
the other was probably a Red Bat, and likely the beast
we saw a week ago. Much bigger and more robust with a
much slower wingbeat.
Feb. 21 ~ With the clear skies and light northerlies it
cooled down to about 40dF in the a.m. felt great. Heard
the White-eyed Vireo all around the house, gotta be
the male of the local breeding (draw) pair. Saw the Rusty
Blackbird fly over calling, heading about due north.
Wonder if it was on its way out of here? Late at night,
just before midnight, the Barred Owl was calling over at
the river. Screech-, and Great Horned earlier around house.
Ringtail was barking (squirrelish yapping) out there too.
In leps I saw my FOS Henry's Elfin fly around the porch
a bit in the afternoon. Lots of Dogface, some Black Swallowtails,
Olive-Juniper Hairstreak on the Agarita on fenceline out front.
Some Laurel flowers out back on the slope, it is way
early for that. Vareigated and Gulf Fritillary, Red Admiral,
Sleepy Orange, a possible Cloudless Sulphur again, two
Duskywings were seen, one a Funeral, the other may well have
been Mournful. Female E. Fence (Prairie) Lizard in afternoon.
Feb. 20 ~ By dawn the rain was all at SAT and eastward, we
ended up with 1.75", which is fantastic, and now are
in what can be called a wet February with ca. 4" total
so far. Heard the White-eyed Vireo in the morning over in
the draw. Not seeing the yard-visting Pine Warbler though,
I think it has departed. Saw a Goatweed Leafwing (butterfly).
After the rains, the Chorus Frogs were loud today.
Was a good day for mammals in the yard. Saw Racoon, Opossum,
Striped Skunk, Ringtail, Armadillo, and watched the Gray Fox pee
on a tire, better than the cats in the city anyway. Heard
the Coyotes behind us. Should have opened the shed to see
if the Spotted Skunk was there. Saw Cotton Rat (Sigmodon).
Since the Ringtail (or 2) have been hanging in the yard the
numbers of White-footed Mouse seem way way way down. But it
seems like they are not taking the Sigmodon.
Feb. 19 ~ First thing we have coffee in the living room
and look out the windows into the yard. The Turkey were
running down the road pretty fast but they didn't appear
to be speeding so I let them go. Heard White-eyed Vireo over
in draw early. Wonder if this is one of the breeding pair
here? Must be the male.
In the afternoon I finished fixing up the now clean nest
boxes, and re-upped a couple. Had to go into the shed for
some screws. Surprise! The Spotted Skunk was in there.
It just climbs behind boxes and moves away. So I hastily
grabbed my screws and left. Can't smell anything of it.
Also saw my FOY 6-lined Racerunner (lizard) which was a
first spring bird, not an after-second year adult (IOW - less
than a year old, a little one). After dark a good band of
rain moved through and in 90 minutes we had over 1.5".
Feb. 18 ~ Heard Turkey gobbling early thirty. Actually
there was a nice bit of dawn chorus from the local resident
gang. Cardinal, Titmouse, Carolina and Bewick's Wren,
Mourning and White-winged Dove, House Finch, Chickadee,
and heard a White-eyed Vireo.
Went to the crossing after breakfast to look for the
Common Yellowthroat I heard yesterday. Can't have loose
ends like this. Not knowing for sure if it is the bird
we saw in late January and therefore our first ever wintering
record... I refound it 100 yards above the bridge. Got
great point blank views. It is the same immature male we
saw in latest January, and can therefore comfortably be
called a wintering individual. Which is the first one
I know of here in 14 years. The black in the mask has
filled in quite a bit in the nearly 3 weeks since we last
So whilst it may be called a Common Yellowthroat, it is not
common here in winter. Annually wintering warblers here are Audubon's,
Myrtle, Orange-crowned and Pine Warbler. That is it. Four species.
There are a few odd records of single birds. Such as...
a Black-and-white returned for 5 winters, and a Louisiana
Waterthrush returned for 3 winters. Once a Yellow-throated
wintered (which was not the local Hill Country type), and
a one-day wonder Tropical Parula (thank you bird gods). So
a Common Yellowthroat is scarcer than all that here in winter.
I saw it take a couple of the winter mayflies that are the
wintering migrant passerine's fuel of choice here.
Then I putted up the road through the junipers out west leg of
360. Had texana Scrub-Jay and Hutton's Vireo, no sparrow
flock. Nothing on the Chinaberry or Ligustrum, the Turkeys
were at Berteau Park by the corn feeder, not a surprise. Saw a
Redbud with a few flowers starting to open and several Agarita
had flowers open! One had a bunch, with an American Lady,
Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, Dogface, Variegated Fritillary,
but no Elfin yet. Saw a Checkered White, a few Buckeye,
a Texan Crescent, and this before it heated up and noon.
Also saw a couple FOS Dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly up
in the junipers, after yesterday's probable at the park.
Later afternoon in 84dF heat, we walked up the hill behind
us into Agaritaville. It is mixed live-oak-juniper grassland
really, and with a few scattered Buckley Oak, the Golden-cheeked
Warbler's favored tree of choice. Their leaf buds are just
breaking stems so will be opening soon. When they do, the
warblers are back. The acres of Agarita were just getting
started blooming, only a few are going, mostly just a very
little bit yet.
Amazing was a Dusky-blue Groundstreak (butterfly)! Very early.
A couple Olive-Juniper Hairstreak but did not see an Elfin.
Saw a couple more Dot-winged Baskettail, so four FOS of them
today. A couple Mountain Laurels on the slope behind us had
a few flowers open, and a few Dutchman's Breeches were
open as well. There were honeybees on the Agarita, plus
a couple native bees including the metallic green Halichtid.
After dark the Striped Skunk and a Racoon were foraging
for fallen sunflower seeds under that feeder, shoulder
to shoulder. Then later when I went out, there are a few
pallets leaning against the side of the cottage. The
Ringtail was sitting on top of them lounging like a cat!
Black Rock Squirrel is a terrestrial (ground) squirrel
rather than an arboreal (tree living) type like Fox Squirrel.
Though rarely you might find one up in a tree.
(Taken through old grayed window and screen)
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Feb. 17 ~ So uh, happy 02172017. Pretty sure I never had
one of those before. Amazing was as I was heading to
town, a Common Yellowthroat called as I was on the bridge
over the river. It was just 10-15' away, I tried to to
pish and chip it up, but it wouldn't come out. I suspect
due to rarity right here right now it was the same individual
Kathy and I had a couple weeks ago and it can be called
a "wintering" individual. Sure would like to
visually confirm it is an immature male though. It is our
first wintering record.
At the park I saw no waterthrush, Dec. 30 remains my last
encounter. I did see a House Wren which is likely a
spring migrant this time of year. More interesting were
a couple new odes flying. In dragons, a FOS Springtime Darner
is a great sign of spring. Another dragon got away which was
probably a Dot-winged Baskettail. Then I saw about 3 Fragile
Forktail, my first positive ID on a damselfly this year.
Which was followed quickly by a Kiowa Dancer. Zygops!
Zygoptera is the group, sub-order methinks in this case,
damselflies are in. When you see zygops, spring can't
be far behind.
Lots more Redbud and Mountain Laurel flowers open on
the ones around the library parking lot. Black and
Pipevine Swallowtail were on the Laurel. Also saw those
beautiful, fast, metallic turquoise native bees. Laurel
Bees I call them, as that is where to see them. They are
big as the standard Euro Honeybee. They are so fast and
agile, they are very hard to photograph. No Elfin I could find.
At 9:30 p.m. I went outside and the last bit of seed
thrown out did not get consumed due to accipiter pressure.
There was eating sunflowers a Racoon, an Opossum, and
the Ringtail! That Ringtail is amazing. The other night
there were two chasing and squeaking loudly, they ran up
a small pecan and I heard them run right over the office
on the roof! I forgot to mention, later last night the
Coyotes made a kill and a dozen or more went bonkers calling
for 5 minutes as they do. And yesterday early a.m. saw
the Gray Fox outside. I love all the wild mammals here.
Feb. 16 ~ Another chilly morning, about 36dF, nice to feel
some winter still. In the far part of the yard, perhaps
200' from the porch, past the pecans, there are open skies
over grass, some of which I leave taller. I saw a Harrier
hunting low over that area for a minute or two. Heard
a Belted Kingfisher over at the river, certainly the
scarcest of the 3 kingfisher species along this section
of the river. Saw what was probably an Elfin blast past.
Will wait for a sure look to call an FOS though...
Feb. 15 ~ The northerlies brought some cooler air, it was
about 37-38dF this morning. Almost like winter. Heard
two Ringed Kingfishers first thing about 7 a.m. over at the
river. Sounded like a 50 cal. shootout. Had a quick town
run early and at the park was a Green Kingfisher, the
waterthrush is still MIA. Some of the Black Willows are
sprouting leaves now in another sign of spring approaching.
I heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet moving around the yard a
few times mid-morning. Haven't had one in a while a
nd I suspect this is a spring migrant. It is that time for them.
Feb. 14 ~ Happy Valentines Day! Our gift was thunder at
about 3:30 a.m. and more rain. We got about 1.25 from this
second band and so a total of 2 and an eighth inches with
last nights' 8 p.m. band of rain. Outstanding. Now
northerlies and almost like winterish. The water is great
for February as so many things approach grow mode and it
has been dry overall the last couple months. Now we have
a couple inches at least each in Feb. and January. So much
of spring here starts in March, the Jan. and Feb. rains are
actually very critical to a good growout for the early spring
Feb. 13 ~ Seven Turkeys were in the yard in the a.m. again.
Big bearded Toms. And tell the whole truth, crapping all
over the patio. Watch what you wish for. So you ask, "wouldn't
it be neat to live with Turkeys in the yard?" Yes,
until they eat all your chili pequins off the bushes, and
show up at the seed tray and throw dirt all over the patio,
then make some rather substantial deposits before they go. ;)
I know, ya gotta love 'em, they are so big, and soooo
beautiful, that green and bronze iridescence at point blank
is just dazzling, and hearing them converse endlessly
(about the hens?) is cool too.
Heard the White-eyed Vireo out there again today, in the corral.
I had to run to town quickly in the afternoon. No waterthrush
at the park again, I am afraid we lost it. Turkey Vulture,
Ringed Kingfisher, and best, I heard a squirrel being taken.
Up at the farthest part of the woods I flushed a big female
Cooper's Hawk with a Fox Squirrel in its talons. It could
barely fly with it. Went about 30' and landed on a branch.
I backed out as I didn't want it to lose the prey trying to cross
the river with it. I am amazed how these big female Coops
can take a Fox Squirrel. Second time I have seen it here.
Some Meadowlarks were along road, and the Shrike was on W. 360.
One of the big major signs of spring is now showing, right on time.
The Redbud flowers are opening on a couple of them at the Library.
Mid-Feb. is just right at average for the first ones. But
there was one Mountain Laurel with open flowers already,
which I have never seen in mid-February here. March is usually
when they go. That is how warm it has been. We need cold.
A couple Pipevine Swallowtail and an Olive Juniper Hairstreak
were on the Redbud flowers, but no Elfin. A Hairstreak got
away that was likely a favonius (Southern aka Oak). It flew
into the adjacent live oak. About 8 p.m. the first band of
rain ahead of a cold front came through and in 40 minutes
we got seven-eighths of an inch.
Feb. 12 ~ A surprise in the a.m. was my FOS White-eyed Vireo
calling! It is my earliest spring arrival date locally ever,
though Leslie Calvert had one on the 13th last year, which
was then the earliest we ever had. We showed our guests the
Buried Lies Cemetery over at Waresville, and walking the pond
there again flushed a Wilson's Snipe, so it spent the winter.
I was surprised to see a Red Saddlebags dragonfly, which is
a new fresh emergence. Later in the afternoon Kathy and I
walked to the crossing and had a Black Swallowtail, but
few birds. Needed the good leg-stretch though.
Feb. 11 ~ Got up to about 80dF today, a front is working
its way here, so the standard pre-arrival warmup. Saw the
Ringed Kingfisher flying upriver over the Cypresses early
in the morning. Also saw my first Eastern Cottontail of
the year. Where do they go in winter? Watched the Sharpy
take a House Finch up top of the big pecan. We had a quick
look at the park but only saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
We had guests visiting today so not much time out looking.
At dusk we were on the patio and saw our FOS bat fly over!
It might have been bigger than a freetail, not sure of species.
Western Ribbonsnake. It is one of the Gartersnake
group. The dorsal stripe can be cream, yellow,
orange, or even red! I saw a stunning red one off
of S. Thunder Creek Rd. once. Most here look like this one.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Feb. 10 ~ Cooler a bit finally, only in low to mid 70's dF.
Breezy in afternoon though, 15 gusting to 20mph. Yard was
the regulars, one Waxwing came by for a bit. A few American
Goldfinch too. Heard a Hutton's Vireo in the big yard
Hackberry in the afternoon. Checked the park during a quick
town run and saw nothing but the regular expected suspects.
Missed the waterthrush again, but they are still cutting trees
on the private properties on both sides of the river above the
island where it hung out. I presume it is upriver. Sorry
but had a bunch of work to do this week so short on notes.
Feb. 9 ~ Too busy Thursday... Saw a Vesta Crescent (lep)
today, as well as a Checkered White and an Orange Sulphur,
plus all the expected things flying now. Late p.m. a
Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver high over the cypesses.
Saw the Ringtail again tonight, this time I got Kathy over
to the door quickly enough that she got to see it too
as it sat on the old original (unused) wellhouse. Too cool.
Feb 8 ~ Was about 42-85dF for a temp spread today. Amazing
for early February. The Funereal Duskywing butterfly was
out there again today. Also saw Red Admiral, American Lady,
Variegated Fritillary, an Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, Sleepy
Orange, Dogface, a Pipevine Swallowtail. After dark I had
great looks at the Ringtail around the patio and on the
cottage. It made a call I have never heard, a cackling
chatter, or a rattled chirping, very interesting. What an
Feb. 7 ~ Holy cowfish it got warm this afternoon, it was about
85-86dF! Hondo had 89dF, their record this date was 82 in 2008.
The magnificent 7, bearded Toms (Turkey), were all over
the yard and patio this morning. Saw what was likely the
same Funeral Duskywing (butterfly) that was here Jan. 29.
A seemingly fairly unskilled immature male Sharp-shinned
Hawk is missing on hunting attempts on the seed-eaters about
every hour all day. Cardinal, and Bewick's and Carolina Wren
are really starting to get some singing going. They are
starting to feel it now. It seems a little reluctant as
they first get back at it. Add a little warmth and you can
feel it now.
Feb. 6 ~ Just the regular stuff, its Monday back at the salt
mine so can't look around too much. Yard flocks are
about 125 Chipping Sparrow (and one Lark), 25+ Cardinal,
50-60 Morning and 25-30 White-winged Dove, 8 Ground-Dove,
and 30 House Finch. We have some serious dependents here.
The Titmice seem to be thinning, probably spreading out as
breeding season approaches. A couple Golden-fronted Woodpecker
still daily on the sunflowers. The Chickadees are duetting a
fair bit now, the super high thin "see you, see mee" song,
occasionally interspresed with some hoarser "sweeeet ba-by"
from one of them.
Feb. 5 ~ Another gray drizzly day, but a bit warmer, maybe
55-65dF for a temp range. And there were a few brief
holes in the overcast but not much for long. About 9 Robin
were around for a bit in the morning. A few Waxwing too.
I got my high count for Ground-Dove, EIGHT at once on the seed!
We walked to the crossing noonish. A Chippy flock on the
way there had Field Sparrow in it. Had a House Wren which
are scarce here in winter, and a male Green Kingfisher when
we went over to the river about half way to crossing. At one
point it perched 18-20' over the water on a pretty thick
cypress branch. Like where you would see a Ringed. There
were a few Myrtle and a heard Pine Warbler, Kinglet (Ruby),
and the regular residents, Cardinal, Chickadee, and Titmouse.
In the corral on the way back there were 3 Vesper and a, or
the, Lark Sparrow. Later the Lark Sparrow was on the patio.
One lone bird wintering here this year. You think of them
as being a fairly social sparrow.
Feb. 4 ~ Another cold gray drizzly day, maybe 45-55dF for a
temp range. Worked inside. The 7 Turkey came by the
patio. I tried to get a couple shots of the Pine Warbler
when it was down with House Finches. They don't sit
still. Will show if anything comes out worth it. I would
be OK with 125 count on the Chipping Sparrows now. I counted
15 male House Finch at once, there are as many females. Most
males are flushed very red on the back now, quite unlike most
field guide illustrations.
Their dull winter plumage is wearing away revealing much
brighter mate selection attire. Most often think that bright
breeding plumages are acquired my molt, and they can be, they
are with some types of birds. But, they are also just as often
the result of feather wear. They molt in fall after breeding,
and have just the right amount of dullness at the tips of the
feathers to make them less conspicuous all winter, which by
time it wears off in spring reveals a brighter breeding plumage,
without molting into it just then when for many species they
have to be expending all their energy into migration.
This Anole took this Pipevine Swallowtail right off
a flower. Pipevines are alleged to be distasteful,
like Monarchs due to what the caterpillar eats,
Pipevines. Unfortunately I couldn't follow the
lizard for a day or two to ask it if it got indigestion.
It took hours but it worked the wings off and ate it.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Feb. 3 ~ A cold gray day, about 40-50dF for a temp range.
I saw two Green Kingfisher at the park, but no waterthrush
still, been since latest December when I last saw it.
Hope it wasn't taken and it is just the month of
tree-trimming noise. There were two Turkey Vulture on
some roadkill between the spillway and 1050, along with 40 Blacks.
Saw about 5 Myrtle Warbler, all males.
The ad. male Pine Warbler here is so bright I can not get
over it. Every spring, I can't get over it. It will
leave before the end of the month. No one has a clue where
these Pine Warblers that winter here, go to breed. Interesting
is how when it is on the ground I could see pale diffuse,
almost hidden but present, veiled dusky lines on the back.
When it was at eye-level I could not see them. Only when
it was on the ground and I was looking down into the back
were they visible. This of course at less than 20',
I am not sure from how far they would be visible. Generally
Pine is considered to have an unstreaked back, and it does
usually appear that way. But it can appear to have faint
diffuse pale dusky streaks that form lines in the back. At
least these can, at this time of the year.
Feb. 2 ~ I think it was 45-65dF or so today. Too busy
working on biz at the computer. I did notice the 7 Turkey
that spent an hour on the patio and cleaning under the seed
feeders. I see a Cardinal without a tail that probably
gave it to an accipiter. I think it is about 120 Chipping
Sparrow now, still 30 Cardinal, at least 50 Mourning and
30+ White-winged Dove. Talk about dependents! Just when I
was thinking how much those Chippies eat, the Turkeys showed up.
In the afternoon a Lincoln's Sparrow went through the
yard, there has not been one here in the yard in some time,
like maybe since late November.
February 1 ~ OMG, February! I am not ready for this, can
someone slow this ride down? It was about 36dF this a.m.,
again several dF colder than forecast. Then it got up to
85dF! Within a dF or two of record territory, and 50 deg.
diurnals! Amazing. A few butterflies were out in the heat,
nice since it was back to zero on the monthly total. One
Checkered-Skipper got away that may have been a Desert.
There was Sleepy Orange, Gulf Frit, Red Admiral, Dogface,
and a few Snout. Pine Warbler worked the sunflower bits
under that feeder.
So at last lookabout outside at late thirty I heard some
weird noises, grabbed flashlight and saw one of the (Striped)
skunks moving over toward cottage (where den hole). I did
notice a strong scent in the air. Must have been some sort of
altercation and it had just let loose a wee bit. Was not
real stong, or so it seemed. But apparently there was a fair
bit floating around in the air and in the process of going in
and out, the breeze wafted according to my better half, a
significant volume of fresh skunk scent into the house. Yup,
stunk the whole house up. Yer welcome. It still stunk skunk in
the morning, and for half the next day. It wasn't even that
strong outside. I cannot tell an alternate fact, I did that.
~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~
I can not believe we have blazed through a month already.
We have either entered a time warp, or I am getting old.
I fear the latter. Overall the month was warm and mild.
But there was a cold spell with a 15dF, and 18dF lows to freeze
yer ferns. It was dry, about 2" of rain for the month.
At least everything got some water, the river is still high.
Butterflies were outstanding, by species diversity count, but
which is not necessarily an indicator of something good. It
could be bad that a record number of species were seen in the
month. It was a record 26 species for the month, about double
the average January species count (n~14). Even in February I
have only exceeded 22 sps. for the month one time. Lots of
warmth and so lots of early mis-timed emergences were triggered.
Most are genetic deadends. There is nothing to eat, or mate
with for most. So it is not good for the butterflies themselves.
It also could be indicative of a bigger problem, that might
affect us, who knows. Then someone would give a hoot.
Dragonflies and damselflies were weak as expected, only
leftover Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies were seen, and a
few flushed but not ID'd damselfies were glimpsed.
Mammals made up for it though, with in-the-yard Ringtail,
Spotted and Striped Skunk, Gray Fox, and hearing Coyote nightly.
The warmth also had a few reptiles out this January, saw a Western
Ribbon Snake, around house Anoles were regular on warm days,
early was one E. Fence (Prairie) Lizard for the month.
Birds were great, though we were too busy to look much.
It was about 85 species locally this month, which does not
count anything below Clayton Grade (or 361 actually). Strictly
locally around Utopia, without any special effort, or much
time for that matter. Probably saw another 6+ sps. down
in the brush country flatlands.
A Neotropic Cormorant at UP Jan. 20 is my first on the ground here
(one prior flyover record) and a great winter record. A
White-tailed Hawk was described by Leslie Calvert 4-5 mi. SSW
of town off UvCo 361 New Years Day. Based on which I added it
to the hypotheticals under main hawk section on the bird list page.
I saw one S. of Sabinal down in the flatlands below Hwy. 90, Jan. 21,
still in UvCo where a rare bird with less than 10 records. A couple
Least Grebe were at the Frio River crossing way south of Sabinal
on Hwy. 187, wish we could get one at the park pond.
A Common Yellowthroat Jan. 28 is my first winter record here in
fourteen years. What may be my first overwintering known
Dec.-to-Jan. Turkey Vulture was good too. Three TV's on
Jan. 31 was unprecedented, presumedly early returns. On Jan. 1 a
sparrow got away that I thought was a Baird's, again.
A few Black-throated Sparrow were seen, as well as some Bushtit
which have been scarcer since the drought. Lots of White-fronted
Geese flying north Jan. 14 is a couple weeks earlier than usual.
~ ~ ~ end of January summary ~ ~ ~
Jan. 31 ~ Bird bath frozen again, another 29-30dF low! In the
afternoon it was 78-79 on the patio - near a 50dF diurnal temp range!
A few butterflies were out, I saw a Pipevine and Kathy saw a
Black Swallowtail. Saw American Lady, Dogface. Wish I could
have run off and looked for one more butterfly sps. for the month.
Especially an Elfin, a sps. I have had in January a number of times,
usually on Agarita or Redbud waiting for it to bloom. Was warm
enough today to get one if any are out yet.
The birds of the day were just before last sun, three Turkey
Vulture flew downriver looking like they were looking for a
place to roost. I have about 3-4 records in the December to
mid-February period. This winter one has been overwintering
quite unusually. Three at once in January is unprecedented.
Normally it is Valentine's Day or so on average when the
first one returns, and after mid-Feb. for three at once. So
this is wayyy early.
Kinda like how the northbound migrant ducks and geese strike me.
We will have to wait and watch to see if it is a thing this
year, and or if something is going on. Observe and record.
This is they key. Names, dates, and numbers. Get data.
Have numbers, will crunch.
Jan. 30 ~ Bird bath frozen again, about 29-30dF or so, and got
up to lower mid-70'dF in afternoon. Amazing spread. Too
much work and not much looking. Sharp-shinned and Cooper's
Hawks making visits all day. The ad. ma. Pine Warbler was out
there again in the afternoon under sunflower feeder scavenging
bits. Nice bird to have around the yard if you ask me. Some
real color here in winter when everything is brown. Saw the
Turkey Vulture, and a Zone-tailed Hawk go over in different
directions at the same time. A group of 40 Black Vultures
went over. Once Ground-Doves flushed and it was at least 6 of
them! Might have been 7. Forgot to mention, the resident yard
pair of Eastern Phoebe are messing around their nest the last week.
Jan. 29 ~ Bird bath was iced over, was 29dF this morning, KRVL
had the same. Got up to about 70dF in afternoon. Noonish we
went to the park, but were late and someone had already been up
the trail into woods, we missed the waterthrush. It seems to flush
out if anyone has been up that trail. The amazing thing was a
few new-for-the-month butterflies. I saw two winter form
Questionmark. Two others were likely my first ever January fresh
emergence records, a Phaon Crescent and a Texan Crescent. The
Texan was quite yellow where usual white areas (ph.). Will have to
give that a hard study when I get the pix off camera. Three new
for month species in a hundred yards or so is amazing. Then back
home for lunch and a Funeral Duskywing flew up to, and then away
from me. So four new butterflies for the day, surely the last day
of the month I will get any time to look around, so a nice finish.
And which pushes the total for butterfly species for the month
into record territory: 26 species. Never before in a January,
and only once in a February have I recorded 26 species. January
average over 14 years is under 14 sps. per month. The last ten
years it is under 12 species per January on average. So over double
the prior ten year average = very significant. I would guess all
the warm days triggered circadian alarm clocks and therefore emergences
were at a much higher than usual rate. Almost all the different ones
were not worn individuals left over from last year, but fresh
After lunch we went down to UvCo 361 and gave it another try.
But peak heat of the day and it was deadish. None of all the
raptors we saw a couple weeks ago but one Red-tail and a few
Kestrel. I had a glimpse of what looked like a Sage Thrasher
but it got away into a brushy wash. A couple Hermit Thrush
and some Eastern Bluebird were along the road. Also some
meadowlarks I could not settle on an ID for, at point blank range.
Is that ridiculous or what? They can be tough visually in
veiled winter plumage. Have you ever wondered if Lillian's
(Eastern) Meadowlark could occur here? I have. The ad.ma. Pine
Warbler was on the patio in later afternoon.
Jan. 28 ~ Didn't get as cold as forecast, was maybe 40dF
for a low. There were a few sprinkles late last night, but
a spit or two was it. They were calling for a chance of
sleet or snow to the west and north of us overnight last night.
We took an hour walk to the crossing and back, about 11 a.m.
it was 50dF but the off and on light wind was cold. We saw
something I keep forgetting to mention, the last couple or few
weeks, there have been pair bond flight displays by Black Vulture,
showing overhead daily on clear days. Do not underestimate the
love flight of the Black Vulture. It can be mighty impressive.
Twenty Chippies, a Vesper and a Lincoln's Sparrow along
the corral, and a dozen each Cardinal and House Finch. At the
crossing there was a Song Sparrow, and amazingly, a Common
Yellowthroat. It was an imm. male, and the first winter record
I have for the upper Sabinal drainage. Like Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
they winter off the plateau in the brush-country flatlands,
but not up here in the colder and less buggy in winter hills.
For Bandera Co., e-bird shows none from 1st week of December to
third week of March. It is absent in winter locally. Here in
winter Common Yellowthroat is a most uncommon find. I do not
think I have seen one locally from late October to latest March
for fourteen years. Generally late fall to spring there are 5
months or so we are Yellowthroat free, this is in the middle of
it. A great record for a 'common' bird. Kathy saw the
Gray Fox today (and yesterday). Barn Owl after dark.
Probably the same adult male Pine Warbler here now,
this pic taken a couple winters ago on the patio.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Jan. 27 ~ A chilly day, overcast, about 35-50dF for a temp spread
with a light north wind on it. In the morning there were two
male Lesser Goldfinch here, which is amazing. While watching
them, two Audubon's Oriole called, a warning, they were the
first to note a sneaky incoming accipiter. Tipped everyone off
with their sharp eyes. The park had a Ringed Kingfisher, couple
Blue Jay, and a Hermit Thrush. No waterthrush again. Still
noisy over the fence though with blaring radio and chainsaws.
Red-shouldered Hawk out front of park in pecan in pasture.
One Savannah Sparrow in front of the school landed on the low
wire fence next to a dozen Cedar Waxwing. I forgot something
so had to run back to town about 4 p.m. and checked the park
again. It was a real honest forgetting, it's not like it is
spring migration or something. ;) The Turkey Vulture was
with several Black Vultures coming in to roost as they do in
the big Cypresses. A corral on W. 360 had a couple hundred
Brewer's Blackbird, 40+ Red-winged, mostly females, and
a dozen plus Brown-headed Cowbird. The W. 360 Loggerhead Shrike
still in its pasture.
Jan. 26 ~ We were about 35dF this morn, it hit 31 in KRVL.
There now that feels like winter. The male Lesser Goldfinch
was out there again today. They used to arrive the 3rd week
of February after being absent since November, and most
still do. Only a very very few winter, around feeders.
Almost the same period of absence exists with Turkey Vulture,
absent late-Nov. to mid-Feb. in general. With just two or
three winter records over 14 winters, despite all the roadkill.
Today the Turkey Vulture that seems to be wintering this year
circled over the yard low. Has to be the same bird seen in
Dec., and earlier in January. Saw the Rusty Blackbird today too.
Jan. 25 ~ The dry front blew light northerlies all day,
Saw a report of a Purple Martin down on the coast today.
A week or more early. They can arrive down there in the
warmer buggy flatlands a month before they do up here
in the colder hills. Nearly a dozen Robin stopped by
briefly. Between 35-40 waxwing were around for a couple
hours, on the one juniper with berries, and twice all
coming in to the bird bath for drinks. Whence we get
great point blank views out the kitchen and bathroom
Saw at least 5 Ground-Dove at once when an Accipiter
flushing took place. The different bird of the day was
a male Lesser Goldfinch. They did not winter in the hill
country prior to thistle (nyger) seed feeding (by people).
Three tom Turkey spent a couple hours around the yard and
on the patio eating little tiny white millet seeds, deftly
I might add. Big ol' dang bird eating the tiniest of
seeds with amazing precision. Barn Owl after dark.
Jan. 24 ~ Was a 42 to 82dF spread today, nearing record heat for
the date. Further south they had 90dF! A flock of about 35
White-fronted Geese went over early in the morning. As can
happen in the heat, two new for month butterflies were out,
a Checkered White, and an early Olive Juniper Hairstreak.
They are so green, slightly iridescent, when they are mint fresh
right out of the package, er, chrysalis, when no one has
scratched the paint yet.
Had a couple Robin, couple dozen Waxwing, couple Myrtle Warbler,
the Lark Sparrow, some Ground-Dove, 50+ Mourning Dove now.
Nearing last sun a Ringed Kingfisher flew up the river calling.
At twilight about 6:30 p.m. I heard a single Wigeon call
and shortly heard duck wings, then spotted a flock of about 35
or so heading due north, probably going to fly for the night.
Heading north already like the geese. Seems early to me.
Jan. 23 ~ I told Kathy last night it was going to get colder
than the forecast. NOAA had KRVL for 39dF low, then latelate showed
37, it got 33 there. WU showed us for 42 or so, it was 35dF here.
At least the wind finally stopped. There were the couple dozen
waxwings out front early, and a couple Robin with them. Afternoon
got up to about 75dF and popped a couple new for the month
butterflies out. A Black Swallowtail and a Sachem (skipper)
were both FOY - first of year. As was a West. Ribbon Snake
which may have obliged for pix, we'll see when they come off
of camera. Nice 27" or so beauty, looked fat like a pregnant
Jan. 22 ~ From dark yesterday, all night, and all day today,
the wind blew 20-30 mph gusting to 40! I can't get up
for land birding in a gale so worked on stuff here.
In the afternoon I saw the male Pine Warbler on the ground
under the sunflower feeder with the House Finches. The one
Lark Sparrow continues. Near sundown a Merlin flew into
the big live-oaks up the slope behind us looking like
it was coming in to roost. At dark the winds finally
decoupled and laid down. It was a 24 hr. hard blow.
Jan. 21 ~ Boy you sure get a lot more weather here for your
money. It was foggy this morning. Then mid-day it got
sunny, and warm, up to 80dF! Then late afternoon about
5 p.m. the winds hit, 20-30 mph west to northwest, and
gusting higher. Supposed to blow all night and all day
Sunday. Three seasons in one day. Welcome to Texas.
Noonish I did a b double-e double-r u-n, down to Sabinal.
Actually I wanted to do some ag field and brushcountry
flatlands hedgerow birding, and look for hawks. Dirt fields
and telephone poles, how exciting can it get? Particularly
White-tailed Hawk I mentioned to Kathy, since there seems
to be an inland movement this winter. Kathy had other stuff
to do here more exciting than dirt clods and tele poles.
Usually there are hawks, cranes, geese, sparrow flocks, and
if lucky Mountain Plover or a longspur.
The 18 miles south to Sabinal was uneventful. Then I did
about five miles of Old Sabinal Rd. parallel and south
of Hwy. 90 running west from Sabinal to Uvalde. Amazing
was the lack of sparrow flocks along the road, usually it
is loaded. One Savannah, one Vesper, two White-crowned,
and that was it. Heard some Pyrrhuloxia, saw a couple
Verdin, two Harris's Hawk, best was a Greater Yellowlegs
at a stock tank. A good bird at a random tank in winter here.
Saw one Checkered White butterfly.
Then I went south on Hwy. 187 from Sabinal to the Zavala
County line, and poached a couple miles past it. About 9 miles
south of Sabinal I found an adult WHITE-TAILED HAWK out
in an ag field, way out. It was hovering, then landed
in a short tree, so I got to scope it though it was distant.
Then it got up and flew around and gave a good show of
the crisp ink black band near tip of all snow white tail
and rump, rusty shoulders, pointed wings, what a beautyo
of a buteo. Up until as recently as after 2005 there was only
one Uvalde Co. record, from 1985, filmed taking bats at the
Frio Cave. Since then there have been a handfull of reports,
but still there are less than ten county reports. One was
photographed near Sabinal I think last year, near Hwy. 90.
It is my first in UvCo and the semi-longshot hoped-for target
I was really most after.
There were about 4 more Harris's Hawk along 187 south
of Sabinal (so 6 total) and several Caracara, a few Red-tailed Hawk,
one of which was a belly banded eastern type, rest were resident
Fuertes's. Always interesting are Turkey Vulture south
of Sabinal. I had a dozen. They do not usually winter 20 miles
north of Sabinal up here in the hills (though we have one
this year) at Utopia while they are regular down there below
the escarpment in the warmer brush-country from Hwy. 90 south.
There is some good looking habitat at the Sabinal River
crossing way south of Sabinal on 187, maybe about 12 miles or so.
Better is the habitat at the Frio crossing a few miles
further south. There was a bit of water at both crossings
but some fisherman had flushed anything at the Sabinal xing.
At the Frio crossing there were a couple Gadwall, one Green
Kingfisher, and two LEAST GREBE, one in each pond on either
side of the road.
Somewhere along the road I heard a Long-billed Thrasher.
But overall there was a dearth of passerines. I looked in
a lot of fields and hedgerows along roads around Sabinal over
a few hours and saw no cranes, geese, plovers, longspurs or
any significant sparrow flock. I heard a Horned Lark but
didn't see it. No Lark Bunting or Say's Phoebe either.
Way down 187 I saw a hawk on the pole just a hundred yards over
the Zavala Co. line so continued into the foreign county to see
what I could poach. A nice tame Harris's Hawk, and a bit
further a Caracara in the first mile. Then at the junction of
Hwys. 187 x 140, a dozen Scaled Quail flew across the road!
For a whopping three species in Zavala County, where I am now
probably firmly in last place. As I returned home with my
trophies, a UvCo White-tailed Hawk and a dozen skunky Coronas,
at the 360 xing there was another Green Kingfisher.
There was a bit of an invasion of White-tipped Black
moths this past fall. They are LTA - less than annual, here.
Neat how I cut off one of the white tips on the White-tip.
Call for free tips on how to screw up photos...
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Jan. 20 ~ An amazing high of 80dF was above expectations.
Darn near warm out there. The yard seemed the same gang.
A town run netted a stop at the park though. Where you
just never know what might be there. No waterthrush but
chain saws were going over the fence again. Heard a
Green Kingfisher. The prize was a NEOTROPIC CORMORANT!
First on an emerged log at top of island, then it swam
down to the pond, and when I got back down there, it
then flew back upriver. I have had just one in the prior
13 years (only in flight) locally in the upper Sabinal River
drainage. This is the first on the water, and the first in
a decade. A few are regular at Uvalde, but up here in the
hills is a different story. Would not have thought January
was when to see one here. It was an ad. not an immature.
I heard one of the thunderstorms that went by this week
caused vehicle damage up around Vanderpool near Lost Maples,
from 2" golfball sized hail.
Jan. 19 ~ About 45-75dF for a temp spread, and humidity got
down to 30%, felt great. Yard is turning green fast. Sharp-shinned
and Cooper's Hawks hitting the seed eaters. A few
butterflies were out in the heat. Amazing was a Vesta
Crescent, my FOY and maybe my first January record. A few
Sleepy Orange, a Dogface, Gulf Fritillary, couple Red Admiral,
and Kathy thought she had a Mestra fly by. Heard a Barn Owl
after dark hunting over the grass airstrip just south.
Jan. 18 ~ Nice and wet out there from the rain last night,
and cool. A couple inches will keep the dust down for
almost a couple weeks. Plus I was going to have to wash
the trucklet, and now I don't have to, just in time. Dodged
that bullet. The Pine Warbler was back down on the seed
with the House Finches. When the sun comes through that
olive back it can really light up green.
Amazing was a huge flock of ducks at a distance unfortunately
that precluded positive ID. There were a couple hundred,
they looked big. Just behind them I picked up a second flock
of a couple dozen, again too far, but they circled back and
looked like Shovelers, as did the first group. Then at dark
another flock of a couple dozen big ducks flew over in very
little light, they too looked like Shoveler. It is the only
big duck we have in numbers here, Pintail and Mallard are scarce.
After dark I heard a squeaky squabble going on outside,
grabbed flashlight and went over to the old unused wellhouse.
Behind it were two Striped Skunk. Don't know if it was love
or war. But one went back under the cottage, so was our
local resident, and the other sauntered across the yard
toward road out front. At least they didn't spray, must
be a gentleman's agreement they have with each other.
More civil than some people.
Jan. 17 ~ Low 50's dF, gray, spotty showers and drizzle,
and staying like that all day. Might get some more precip.
Cooper's Hawks made attempts on the seed eaters a few
times in the morning. There are over a hundred Chipping
Sparrow now, and at least 25 House Finch. At one point
there were a dozen House Finch under the sunflower feeder
with a Pine Warbler foraging for bits of broken hearts
among them. Kind of a funny flock. Also saw Common Ravens,
Caracaras, a N. Harrier, local resident pair of Red-tails,
a couple Cooper's Hawk, heard Kestrel and Western Meadowlark,
had a couple dozen Waxwings a couple times. Barred Owl was
calling over at river after dark.
We got a quarter inch of precip over the day, then later
after dark, another half inch. So .75 for the day, with
the just under 1.5" day before yesterday and the event
was about 2.2" total. Amazing, we needed it badly,
all the frontal passages have been dry the last month plus.
The ground will turn way greener in a few days. It is
already greener than usual due to lack of consistent cold,
stuff is sprouting.
Jan. 16 ~ Happy MLK Day! It was about 45dF here this a.m.,
whilst forecasts said low 50's, off by nearly a whole
category. Felt great, nice and wet from the rain last night.
We needed it, was getting dusty out there. Lost Maples
looked like it got 2-3 INCHES! The river will stay high.
The grass in yard is already greening up, some birds are singing.
Ringed Kingfisher calling over at river early in morning
for an hour. The regular imm. N. Harrier went over low
early, looked like it was eyeing feeders and areas of seed
Heard my first White-winged Dove song of the year. BTW, we
heard our FOY Chickadee song on Jan. 1! In the last two weeks
there has been a noticeable increase in song from Carolina Wren
especially, but also N. Cardinal, Bewick's Wren, and heard a
Black-crested Titmouse sing a couple days ago. Nearing a
month since the solstice. Just a little increased daylength
and on nice days we get some birdsong to get us through winter.
Just after 11 p.m. I heard this constant yapping outside
the office window. Somewhere between a squirrel and a
small dog. The RINGTAIL! I went outside and actually
got a great close look at it, perhaps 6-8 feet away at
closest! The camera didn't work so I missed my photo.
But at least I got a point blank view! One of the neatest
animals there is is if you ask me. Seems like there would
have to be a couple around for it to be communicating?
Jan. 15 ~ Sprinkles on and off all morning into early
afternoon. Maybe a quarter inch total. We need rain,
supposed to be an event overnight tonight. We hope.
Finally in afternoon it broke a bit and we went out
around 360 and walked the knoll looking for the probable
Baird's Sparrow we saw a couple weeks ago.
Along the back of 360, north of the knoll we had a small
flock, of about 16 Field Sparrow, and I heard a Black-throated
Sparrow. This was right where the same two species were
a couple weeks ago. Also loosely moving with them was a
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Hutton's Vireo, an Orange-crowned
Warbler, and a Bewick's Wren. Saw a couple Dutchman's
Breeches with flower buds just about to open. They are
one of the first ones to go off.
Up on the knoll we criscrossed lots of the chigger grassy
area where the Baird's Sparrow was a couple weeks ago
and could not kick up anything. But a FOY Roadrunner, one
N. Harrier hunting juniper-oak-grassland, and four Caracara.
On the south base of the knoll we found another flock of
Field Sparrow, at least another dozen, with at least two
Black-throated Sparrow in with them. This was very near
where the pair of them nested last year. We got great close
looks, what a beautiful bird. Heard another Hutton's
vireo, saw a couple Titmouse, another Kinglet, and another
Bewick's Wren. On the way home we stopped for a quick
peek at the 360 crossing, there was a male Green Kingfisher
where yesterday's female was, just below the bridge.
Over the course of the day we got about three sixteenths
of an inch of rain, nearly a quarter. Then after dark the
predicted MCS ran across plateau west to east. In a half
hour we had an inch more, and a bit after that another few
sixteenths. Total was about one and seven sixteenths.
Sorry about the fractions, can't use slashes here
easily, it messes up the code... and I don't know my metric
Jan. 14 ~ Holy cow, two weeks into the new year already.
It was off and on showerlets most of the morning. We are
supposed to get a rain event tomorrow. So after lunch
when it cleared enough and we went out for a couple hour
putt around. We went south down-valley for a change.
At the 3 or 4 mile (heard it called both) bridge on 187
it was as dead for birds as I have seen it. But one
House Wren was nice, though heard only. A Cardinal and
a Kinglet (Ruby) were the only other birds there. I did
see a Blanchard's Cricket-Frog, my FOY.
Then we cruised the couple miles of UvCo 361 just south and
west of that crossing. Best was finally seeing a Say's
Phoebe this winter. Total of about 10 Savannah and 1 Vesper
Sparrow. Heard a Pyrrhuloxia, saw a dozen Eastern Bluebird,
a few Mockingbird, and 8 Raven. A flock of a couple hundred
Brewer's Blackbird had 3 Starling, 20 Brown-headed Cowbird
and a dozen Red-winged Blackbird in it.
Saw a bunch of raptors, there were a couple Caracara, 5-6 Red-tailed
Hawk, a Cooper's Hawk, a half-dozen Kestrel, a N. Harrier, and
a White-tailed Kite. One of the Red-tailed Hawks was a belly-banded
Eastern type, the rest resident Fuertes'. Also saw one Pipevine
Swallowtail. But no White-tailed Hawk. There are reports of 5
White-tailed Hawks further north than normal in Bexar Co. right now,
so a northward movement is apparently indicated this year. Keep
your eyes peeled, maybe you can get lucky like Leslie did.
On the way home as we went over the 360 crossing there was a
female Green Kingfisher hunting next to the bridge, and one Song Sparrow.
Hey can you pick those leaves off that for me?
Porcupine gets a bit ratty during late-summer shed.
They drink like dillos, ten minutes at a sitting.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Jan. 13 ~ Happy Friday the 13th! The low was 66dF, and
yesterday's was about 65. These are average high
temps for the date. Just getting up to mid-70's dF,
and very humid gulf flow. Some scattered sprinkles in a.m.
Across the road caught a glimpse of a small hawk as it flew
into the corral, which looked like the Roadside. Then the
electric company tree trimming crew showed up and it got
beyond very noisy with chain saws and a tree shredder.
A Pipevine Swallowtail in yard was a fresh emergence,
fooled by the 75dF warmth lately. A lot of these first-of-the-year
eager beavers are genetic dead-ends. No food and nothing
to mate with, plus likely to freeze. Got a bad bio-clock.
Had a town run so checked the park. The tree trimmers
there were not cutting, but lots of branches down on the
adjacent property to north, and across the river too, so
clearly it has been very noisy there this week. No surprise
no waterthrush. About 5 Myrtle Warbler, 4 Ruby-crowned
Kinglet, some Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee and Wren,
a few bluebird flew over. Great was a treetop view of a
Zone-tailed Hawk soaring right overhead low as could be
up in the woods. Also saw Green Kingfisher and the
Pied-billed Grebe. Was sprinkling a little in town.
Jan. 12 ~ Thursday, my stuck near phone and monitor day.
The Rusty Blackbird was in yard early in the morning.
Later in afternoon I saw a Turkey Vulture which I presume
is the one seen in December and so likely a very rare
here wintering record (once in prior 13 winters). I also
heard an Audubon's Oriole up in the live-oaks out back.
There was an amazing burst of Ringed Kingfisher machine gun
fire call for a couple minutes. There were two initially
and what I presume was the dominant male went off after
displacing the other bird. It was full volume .50 caliber
for two minutes almost without stopping, finally he ran out
of either ammo or steam. Also had a Pine Warbler in yard.
After dark I heard something banging around out under the
carport out back of house. Grabbed gun with a shotshell
.22 round and flashlight. Took minutes of poking my head
in a out of boxes and stuff on the shelves before I found
the culprit. Not 2 feet from my face when I spotted it,
a 10-12 inch long, SPOTTED SKUNK! Must be a yearling or so?
First one I have seen here. The one that has a den under
the other side of cottage is a Striped Skunk, the common
skunk here. Two species of skunk in the yard!
It was an awesome black and white beauty. Went back in
house and traded gun for camera and got a poor docu shot,
but it was fast and wouldn't stop moving in and out of
boxes and junk. It was cute as can be. About 10-12 inches and
as much tail. It looked at me with that skunk - what are
you gonna do, grab me? look. No fear. Too cool. My first
local record for the species. The beast of the week by far.
Jan. 11 ~ Had a quick errand in town early so ran through
the park. There were tree trimmers on the other side of
the fence from the woods blaring a radio to make sure it
didn't get quiet when the chainsaw stopped. I got
to hear five minutes of high volume radio commericials.
My research indicates folks that can stand listening to
that all day are less intelligent than those that can't.
Did finally see the Pied-billed Grebe, and found out later I
obtained three chigger specimens, currently being housed under
the skin at waistband.
To finish the list of winterers in the last two day's posts...
Monday the 9th lists the 66 sps. I saw the first 9 days of
the new year. Yesterday, the 10th, I listed 17+sps. seen the last
10 days of last year that are surely around still. Today here
is the list of 17 more species that are surely around now.
Generally these are localized low-density species and-or
habitat specialists. Bobwhite, Audubon's Oriole,
Canyon Towhee, Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, the park
Pied-billed Grebe, Swamp and Lincoln's Sparrow, Say's Phoebe,
White-throated Sparrow, White-tailed Kite, Canyon Wren, Verdin,
Wood Duck, and maybe Red-naped Sapsucker, House or Winter Wren, for
a few examples off the top of my head. Leslie Calvert recently
reported a few of the above south of town.
So the 66 seen, this year, plus the 17 seen the end of last
year, and the 17 we know are around but I have not seen in the
last month totals about a hundred species around locally now.
Which is about normal average for winter diversity in the
upper Sabinal River drainage. There are probably 10 more
rarer things around in low single digit numbers, if you could
Jan. 10 ~ We were about 45-75dF for a temp spread today.
Nice. Too busy working but did see a couple Pine Warbler
in the yard in the afternoon, working the ball moss
clumps in the big pecan and the biggest hackberry. Two
Myrtle and an Orange-crowned went through as well. The
single Lark Sparrow continues. Heard the Sapsucker.
To add to yesterday's list of 66 sps. I have seen so
far this year, to more complete the picture of what winters
here... Here are 17+ species seen the last ten days or so of
last year that are surely still around. Gadwall, Am. Wigeon,
Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Zone-tailed Hawk, Merlin,
Wilson's Snipe, Barred Owl, Blue Jay, Bushtit, Louisiana
Waterthrush, Pyrrhuloxia, Rufous-crowned, Savannah and Fox Sparrow,
on Dec. 22 the Roadside Hawk, on Dec. 21 Audubon's Oriole.
Plus Jan. 1 a probable Baird's Sparrow.
Jan. 9 ~ A low about 44 felt great, so nice to get out of
thermals and open the house up in 65dF heat. Today I added
a Golden-crowned Kinglet out back of house in the afternoon.
Here is a list of what I have seen locally so far this year to
give an idea of what is around. Wild Turkey, Great Blue Heron,
Black Vulture, N. Harrier, Sharp-shinned, Cooper's,
Red-tailed, and Red-shouldered Hawks, Crested Caracara,
Am. Kestrel, Killdeer, Eur. Collared-Dove, White-winged,
Mourning, and Inca Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Barn Owl, Eastern
Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Selasphorus Hummingbird sps.
(probable Rufous), Ringed, Belted, and Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted,
Ladder-backed, and Downy Woodpecker, N. Flicker, Yellow-bellied
Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Texas Scrub-Jay,
Common Raven, Carolina Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse,
Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit
Thrush, American Robin, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglet,
N. Mockingbird, Eur. Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Orange-crowned,
Myrtle, Audubon's, and Pine Warbler, Spotted Towhee,
Chipping, Field, Vesper, Lark, Song, Black-throated, and
White-crowned Sparrow, N. Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird,
Eastern and Western Meadowlark, Rusty and Brewer's Blackbird,
Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, American Goldfinch, and
House Sparrow. So I have seen 66 species so far, and haven't
really been able to get out and bird more than a five or six hours.
Jan. 8 ~ We had 15dF for a low here this a.m.! Which is
plenty cold for me if you don't know. By 10 we had warmed
up to freezing. NOAA said this was the strongest front here in
south central TX in 6 years. Froze down to the LRGV. One
hemispheric satellite map I saw showed it made it all the way
through Mexico to Central America! It should send some rare birds
to Texas from southward. Winds turned back to south in afternoon,
but it was polar air still and quite the cold breeze at 10+mph.
The peak-heat mid-40's F felt like the mid-upper-30's.
We took a spin around about 1-3 p.m. to see what we could
see while being kept warm. The park was dead, a couple
Myrtle, an Orange-crowned, a Kinglet (Ruby), and that was
it. Went to Little Creek to see if that pond below where 356
meets it had any waterfowl. A couple barnyard geese and
9 domestic Mallard. Not good countable wild Mallard. A
Belted Kingfisher was up-creek a bit on the powerline.
A N. Harrier was in the pastures to south of 356. On 356
just east of town after the first dip and draw with a brushy
section there was a small group of 3 White-crowned Sparrow,
a Spotted Towhee, and a couple Titmouse.
Otherwise We saw a few Red-tailed and a Red-shouldered Hawk,
a Caracara and a couple Kestrel, one Vesper Sparrow, some Meadowlarks,
and in town a few Eastern Bluebird with one Waxwing, some Chippies,
and 4-5 Myrtle and one male Audubon's Warbler. I saw an imm.
or female Selasphorus Hummer as we cruised by Judy Schaffer's
feeders. Probably a Rufous. Here at the house it was the usual,
the Lark Sparrow was around, 4 Ground-Dove. There were liberal
extra seed rations the last three days of this icebox living.
Jan. 7 ~ We had about 17dF for a low here in our cool spot.
KRVL briefly had 13 and 14dF. Bird bath frozen solid.
By noon it was above freezing and felt warmish. By peak heat
in afternoon the cool porch was 45 and the sunny warm south
side of the house was every bit of 50dF. Supposed to be in
teens again tomorrow morning. So we worked in house.
Watched the couple dozen House Finches for a while, and have not
reseen Mr. Super Red (scroll down to second pic below to see a
pic of him), but saw one with the least amount of red I have
ever seen, restricted to throat and only barely to upper breast.
Missed getting a pic of it though. It is an individual I have
not noticed here prior, and think it is obviously different
enough that I would have. If you actually study your House
Finches you will see a) they are not always all the same
individuals, b) there is way more variation than you think,
and c) you aren't as House Finch smart as you thought. ;)
I have seen two very odd ones that stood out as being very
different in the last 10 days.
The only other interesting thing was watching the Orange-crowned
Warbler follow an ad. male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker around
from tree to tree, working each sap well it dug or worked
immediately after the Sapsucker left that part of the tree.
The rest was the usual suspects. That same Myrtle Warbler
was eating millet off the patio again.
This is one of our dependents on the sunflower feeder.
It is not unusual for a male to have some red feathers
in the orange nape patch. (Golden-fronted Woodpecker)
~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~
Jan. 6 ~ Got up to a frozen bird bath, and about 26dF with
10-15 mph winds, and gusting higher, on it, so chills in low
teens. KRVL had 22dF with 15-20 mph winds and a chill factor
of 11dF about 9 a.m. It's lovely out come on down.
We got above freezing barely for a couple hours at peak heat,
if you can call it that. A Myrtle Warbler was on the patio
eating white millet seeds with the Chipping Sparrows and House
Finches. At last sun, a Pine Warbler appeared on the patio
and ate some white millet. That is how cold it is.
Had a town run, several around the area said they too had 26dF.
There was a Ringed and a Green Kingfisher at the park. There
was a small group of Spizella along the river in some grass
which was 6 Field and 3 Chipping Sparrow. Field are hard
to get in the park. Best bird though was a female Downy
Woodpecker, a scarce bird here. Little Creek Larry said he
had continuing Spotted, Canyon, and an Eastern Towhee where he
puts scratch out. I saw about a dozen Eurasian Collared-Dove
Jan. 5 ~ Cool, about 40dF, gray, and damp in the a.m. gave way
to warm and sunny in the afternoon, probably hitting 75dF here!
Not gonna last. The front got here after dark and a three day
cold spell is in the cards. By 9-10 p.m. it was 50 and falling
fast, 20 mph northerlies, and supposed to get down into low
30s or upper 20s by tomorrow morning, with wind on it. How lucky
this hit for the couple days I might be able to go out and poke
around a couple hours. :) It was lovely out the last three
days I was stuck at the monitor.
Counted 20 House Finch, 10 were males, jockeying for position
on the sunflower tube. Thought I heard a Junco fly off when
everything flushed due to another accipiter attack. Have not
seen one for sure all fall, but thought I heard them a couple
times. Several per day of the accipiter flushings. A big imm.
female Cooper's Hawk was chasing a squirrel around a tree
trunk right out the office window. I was on the hawks side all
the way but it saw me through the window and split. About 23
Robins flew over early. The rest was the expected gang.
Jan. 4 ~ Upper 30's to 56dF or so, little north cool wind.
Too busy at the desk. Great was a Spotted Towhee in the yard,
which was in the Mulberry and Hackberry over patio and cottage,
and later out where we throw seed by the only understory along
the back fence. Love to get one to stick around. Later in day
there were about 30 female Red-winged Blackbird around the edge
of patio where the millet tube hangs. Well over a hundred Brewer's
were in the corral, a few Brown-headed Cowbird, and one Starling.
A Red-tailed Hawk was going over about 1000 feet up when one of
the local nesters began giving that classic call we hear in movies
and on TV, from over where the pair nests in big cypresses at the river.
Which of course there are variations of the call, and probably we
can't tell differences that the birds can. This version
apparently was the one that clearly in no uncertain terms meant
" don't make me fly up there and chase you away."
Because the one going over immediately turned around and flew away
exactly the way it came. The one on the ground chased it out of the
territory without a flap, even when it was at a thousand feet up,
just with THE call. That call. It was amazing to watch and listen
to it as it happened. It only takes one good bird moment to make
your day. To see the common thing in an uncommon way, it doesn't
get any better than that.
Jan. 3 ~ We had about 38 to 76dF temp range. Cold in a.m. but
still warmed up. Cold is on way. Which good, we need it, I see
green grass growing out there it has been so warm. I saw what
seemed the golf course flock of 8 Killdeer flying from the country club
across the river, down the river habitat corridor, and over to
the grass airstrip just south of us. So they are commuting a
mile or so anyway. Otherwise it was the same gang, some of which
is 35-40 Cardinal, 75 Chipping Sparrow, and 10 Black-crested Titmouse.
A couple Robin seem to have stuck and are about daily, as are a
few American Goldfinch. Still no Siskin, must be good food crops
up north. Mourning Dove count is about 40 now coming into the seed.
Add about 25 White-winged Dove and its a herd of seed suckers.
Jan. 2 ~ Warmed up into mid-70's dF in the afternoon, amazing.
Had 8 Common Raven that went over at once early. Lots of hawks...
Red-shouldered, Red-tailed, Cooper's, Sharp-shinned Hawks, plus
Caracara, and a Kestrel was heard. Great Blue Heron, heard a Flicker,
likely that male Yellow-shafted, the Orange-crowned Warbler continues
going through yard as do a few Myrtle Warbler. Had some Red-winged
Blackbird hit the millet seed on patio. The Brewer's were over in
the corral, and wouldn't be caught dead doing such a thing.
I got a note from Leslie Calvert whom is a few miles SW of town.
She saw what sounded like it was probably an ad. White-tailed Hawk,
I think Jan. 1. She also has seen a Wood Duck, Long-billed Thrasher,
Verdin, and says Pyrrhuloxia are in good numbers over her way.
Thanks for the news! Folks, keep your eyes out for soaring buteos
with a short broad snow white tail with a black band at tip.
January 1, 2017 ~ Holy cow I can't believe I just wrote that.
Happy New Year! The good news is that last years' rolly
coaster is over. Hope this next ride isn't so bumpy with so
many hard turns. I'm getting old for this, the teacups are
sounding good to me, but I think that sign we just passed said
"Mr. Toads Wild Ride."
After breakfast we putted down to the crossing, couldn't find
a flock there and back. Just a few of the residents. Then
up E. 360 to a Chinaberry, and a Ligustrum tree near Berteau
Pk., no rare Robins. Further out E. 360 along north side of
the 1500' knoll a small flock of sparrows was along the road.
We had mostly 20 or so Chipping Sparrow, a few Field in with
them, and the beauty of the bunch, one Black-throated Sparrow,
which disappeared quickly. There were both the gray type, and
the rusty-buffy type of Field Sparrow, and a Bewick's Wren.
We went up on the knoll and still can't find a Spotted
Towhee, and did not see any Bushtits. But did have one Texas
Scrub-Jay. The bird of the day, got away. We repeatedly flushed
a sparrow in the thick grasses on top that we could never get
a good study look at. In flight as it flew away and turned I saw
it had mostly ashy white outer tail feathers. Not snow white,
but clearly mostly barely off-whitish. It had a big head and fat
body, tail was shortish, and it would not allow views. Every
time it flew it landed in a short thick patch of Agarita and
wouldn't flush until you stepped on it. Over and over
again for 15-20 minutes. Lots of flight views flying away. In
which it most closely resembled a Baird's Sparrow to my eye.
Behavior was right. We were a half mile or so from where we
had one a couple winters ago. Impossible to see is a character
of Baird's Sparrow. So we start the year with a great
one that gets away. We will look some more, but the last one
was just like this bird, no way to see it properly, except
the one time when lady luck flew it up into a tree.
It got up to just about 80dF in the afternoon heat, amazing
for New Years Day. As were the dozen species of butterflies
that were out in it. Large Orange, Orange, and Dainty Sulphur,
Little Yellow, So. Dogface, and Sleepy Orange for 6 Pierids.
Then 6 brushfoots were Snout, several Variegated and 2 Gulf
Fritillary, Buckeye, 3 Mestra, a female Goatweed Leafwing,
and later the male in yard yesterday showed back up too. I have
had whole Januarys that did not have a dozen species. So
this is pretty remarkable. Like all the green grass growing,
and some Paralena and Straggler Daisy have both put out flowers.
~ ~ ~ above is 2017 ~ ~ ~
Here is that House Finch from Dec. 29 with an extreme
amount of red on underparts coupled with a very reduced
amount of streaking on sides and a bold upper wingbar.
Rear flanks and thighs are streaked or marked, as in a
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ 2016 summary - The Year in Review ~ ~ ~ long and boring ! ! ~ ~ ~
Wow man, holy cow, a whole dang year has gone before us.
Seems like I just did this? These are brutal, the annual
summary. But it sometimes makes it easier for me to look
stuff up, like the monthly summaries. Especially for items
that don't make one of my excel files. They also help
me put records in perspective. And each year adds another
layer or level, of observation, and therefore understanding.
We finished 13 years here in late Oct., and are now on our
14th Nov., January, etc. WeeWow.
It was our 5th year of not driving a thousand miles all year,
all driving total. Most of which is just town and back runs
for supplies, mail, etc. Which is remarkable methinks. That
includes a few big city runs to Uvalde for supplies @ 100 mi. ea.
Total birding miles is a couple hundred of the less than thousand.
I guess one could say I am in a fairly sedentary phase.
I have always preferred concentrating lots of effort in a small
area. It seems to yield more results than little effort in
lots of places. Maybe not a bigger species list, but those
are not the results I seek. I want to discover something new,
something that we don't know. Chasing already known
discovered birds does not provide that for me.
This year my Upper Sabinal River Drainage (USRD) total was 368*. ;)
The area is from a couple miles south of Utopia where we live
up the valley and canyon to the Sabinal River headwaters at
Lost Maples SNA. Of course all the way 9 miles south of town
to Clayton Grade and the escarpment I consider the USRD.
I just did not see anything south of 360 that was different this year.
*My USRD 2016 total works out like this:
212 species of birds
104+ sps. of butterflies
52 sps. of Odes (dragonflies and damselflies)
368 total - LOL
I think it is the first time I have broken 200 on a bird year
list just up here in the USRD. The year I did 279 in Uvalde Co.
I birded the Uvalde area and everything between way over a dozen
times. Considering it was a poor passerine spring and fall
migration here it is a pretty amazing total. The river is a
creek, and there are only a couple weak stock tanks for ponds,
not any real lake. I hadn't counted all year and so was shocked
when I hit 200 and still had orioles and finches to count. I am
usually more like in the 170-80's for the year up here locally.
There were about 8 more sps. of birds, a couple butterflies,
and a couple more odes, seen down at Uvalde not included in
total which is strictly the local USRD list. The 104 sps. of
butterflies locally is second only to a 108 year in prior 13 years.
Odes were lackluster overall and remain depressed still
since drought. Most of the great fall butterfly show is
immigrants from elsewhere (southward primarily).
There was nearly FOUR FEET of rain locally this year, it was
a wet one. But most was in brief periods during major events,
with dry spells between them. All or nuthin' in other
words. The Persimmon and Hackberry crops were wiped out by
the couple feet in spring, and a major wind event took out
the pecan flowers at just the wrong time so there was only
a very very minor pecan crop. Seed crops however faired well.
Flower blooms were great.
Best butterflies were the second UvCo record for Purple-washed
Skipper (Panoquina lucas) in Nov. again, just like the first
I found a few years ago. A Malachite was outstanding at the
park. Both are Mexican origin vagrants. I saw a couple Adelpha
sisters that were not Arizona, one looked Spot-celled, another
looked Band-celled. I only counted Adelpha sps. (non eulalia),
besides Arizona. Dang things won't stop. A Mourning Cloak
is always good here, not a sure thing every year.
Many butterflies occured that I had not recorded in a number of
years, often going back to the start of the drought. Like Julia,
Empress Leilia, Tailed Orange, Tropical Leafwing, Coyote Cloudywing,
Zilpa Longtail, Rawson's Metalmark, a Polydamus Swallowtail,
(a couple probable Ornythion got away), and a Brazillian Skipper.
Scarce still but not firsts in such a long time were lots of
Orange-barred Sulphur, numbers of Ocola Skipper, a dozen Crimson
Patch, a Dark Buckeye, a handfull of White Peacock, and it was a
big invasion year for Mestra, but only a very few Zebra.
Misses were no rare whites, Great Purple Hairstreak (!),
no Dorantes or Longtailed Skipper, no Wood-Nymph, Mexican Frit,
Tailed-Blue. Read the Sept., Oct., and Nov. monthly summaries
for amazing numbers of things like Bordered Patch, Theona Crescent,
Sachem, and many others. The fall invasion was outstanding.
We missed any major Monarch flight this year, but in Sept.
had a week-long flight of a billion Snout.
A photo was shown to me of a Calleta Silkmoth caterpillar, from
late Oct. in town, the first I know of that species locally.
Some good bugs were a couple Eyed Elatarid, one Stenaspis Cerambycid,
(those two are on the 2016 photos page), Wheel Bugs, a Hister
Beetle, a few S. gigas Cerambycid, a Banded Sphinx ad. on porch,
and a couple of the cats on Ludwigia at the park.
The few good odes were a Blue-faced and a Swamp Darner, a few
Ivory-striped Sylph, Halloween, Red-tailed and Four-spotted Pennant
(all 3 scarce up here), some Band-winged Dragonlet, a few Orange-striped
Threadtail, Springwater Dancer at Lost Maples, but generally lackluster.
No Amberwings, Comanche or Twelve-spotted Skimmer, and Black-shouldered
Spinyleg that was common 03-08 remains absent since the drought and
dredging of the park pond.
Best birds were the Roadside Hawk last winter, now back again,
for its third winter. The Green Violetear (now called Mexican
Violetear) at Sabinal River Lodge in May and June was outstanding,
and one of the birds-of-the-year. Certainly the rarest documented.
The Short-tailed Hawk in late September was another great Mexican
origin vagrant and record. Perhaps the first fall Edwards Plateau
record? Tropical Parula were at Concan as usual in spring, but
I did not get one here. A Common Crow was a mega-rare vagrant
here this year as well.
In spring an immature Goshawk was seen several times from late
Feb. to early May. The couple Harris's Sparrows that
overwintered into Feb. were good too. A Great Kiskadee in the yard
in May was, uh, great, as were a couple Philadelphia Vireo. It was
a weak spring for warblers and eastern passerines (songbirds).
Even Nashville Warbler numbers were way down.
In summer finding nesting Olive Sparrow just south of town was
outstanding and maybe the furthest north known nesting at present.
Also a family group of Black-throated Sparrow were a nice find.
A juvenile Broad-winged Hawk in July in our garden indicates
they nested somewhere very nearby again this year. White-tipped
Dove surely must be nesting in the area, numbers are regular
spring to fall at Lost Maples now.
August from or in the yard we had a couple Roseate Spoonbill seen
flying downriver, a Townsend's Warbler, and a couple late
Golden-cheeked Warblers. Plus a couple Acadian Flycatcher off
breeding grounds in river habitat corridor. September had the
Malachite (butterfly), a Philly Vireo, and the Short-tailed Hawk.
October saw the return of the Roadside Hawk, one Red-breasted
Nuthatch, a Sprague's Pipit, and a great total of 77 species
of butterflies for that month.
November had an amazing calling Eastern Wood-Pewee on the 11th at
the park, and a Common Crow flew over the yard on the 23rd, my
first in Uvalde County. December provided a Bald Eagle, Fox Sparrow,
and I saw the Roadside Hawk again, on the 22nd.
So it may often seem light and slowish at times, but there are
always some incredible exciting things to be found. Surely we
miss more than we see and there is lots going by un-detected.
When you add it all up at the end, it was a great year out
here with lots of outstanding finds. You just have to keep
ploughing. The more you cast your visual net, the more you catch.
Always, some of it will blow your mind.
~ ~ ~ end 2016 summary ~ ~ ~ December summary is below ~ ~ ~
~ OMG, not another summary ~ I'll need a couple pix....
Here is one of the dozens of Rocky Mountain Bigtooth Maples
around town. Peak week or two we get a nice color show.
Here is another...
~ ~ ~ December summary ~ ~ ~
December was a warmer and wetter than average, by far. Wonder
what that could be? We had a 5-7" rain event over a few
days at the start of the month, nearing double the average monthly
total. The last few days of the month I talked with an expert
on how cold it has been, Mafy the propane guy. He said
business has been very slow because it has not been cold yet.
We had a couple freezes, but they were brief 2-3 day events,
and none the last couple weeks of the month! For the times
they are a changin'. Around Christmas there were some
record maximum low temps in the mid-60's F, which is the
average high for the date!
Butterflies were pretty good for Dec. with 28 species seen.
It ties my 3rd highest Dec. total, out of 14. An Adelpha
sister that was either a Band-, or a Spot-, celled Sister
was good. Looked Spot-celled but was a fly-by. A blooming
Loquat in town became the main magnet for most of the month.
A remarkable 17 sps. were seen on Dec. 17. A late Monarch
beating tracks SSW on Dec. 13 was good. A late White-tipped
Black (moth) Dec. 27 is my first Dec. record.
Odes were scarce of course. Not 10 sps. were seen over the
month, and all were the expected end-of-season types. By the
last week of the month Chorus Frogs (our spring peeper) had
begun calling. Heard the Ringtail calling one night, and
a couple nights it (the Ringtail) was raining hackberry pits
on the steel carport awning out back. It loves them.
Birds were good for the little looking around we got to do.
I saw the Roadside Hawk fly over the yard on Dec. 22. This is
its third winter locally. A third-year Bald Eagle flew over
on Dec. 13. A Fox Sparrow on 26th was great, and 5 White-crowned
at once on the 1st was a yard record. Bushtit (6) were great
to see on the 24th. The Coot since Nov. at the park pond
might have left by late in month. We made two Dec. trips to Lost
Maples and saw just about nuthin'. A Turkey Vulture around
south of town for a week was a rare sighting for December.
The rest of the funner stuff was the usual local specialties:
Some Green and Ringed Kingfisher, Audubon's Oriole, a
couple Zone-tailed Hawk, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Texas Scrub-Jay,
the Louisiana Waterthrush continued through the month in its
3rd year wintering at the park. The ad. fem. Rusty Blackbird
continued its 4th year wintering just south of town a couple miles.
A few Pine Warbler are around. I think Jerry and Judy Schaffer
have a couple Rufous Hummingbird at their (heated) feeders.
~ ~ ~ end December summary - back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~
Here is one of the turkey in the yard around Thanksgiving.
This was through office window and screen.
Dec. 31 ~ Ran 48-74dF for a temp spread, fog and mist in
morning, sunny off and on in the afternoon. Noon we ran
over to Waresville and checked the pond on the country
club there. One Wilson's Snipe and one Savannah
Sparrow flushed, that was it. Heard some Killdeer and
saw some Western Meadowlark and Eastern Bluebird.
A few butterflies were out in the heat, a couple Red
Admiral, a few Sleepy Orange, a Common Mestra, a few
Snout, and an astonishing two new ones for the month.
A Vesta Crescent flew over the river at the crossing
on 360 while we were standing on it. Later in p.m. a
male Goatweed Leafwing was on the house! Two on the
last day of the month in Dec. is highly unexpected.
That makes 28 species for the month, and a good total
Just a reminder, a lot of the resident cavity nesters
like Titmouse, Chickadee, Bluebird, and the two Wrens
can all start nest site selection quite early in the
year. So now is a good time to service your nest boxes.
Besides some weed whacking, I pulled three nest boxes
down to clean them, especially the one the Red Wasps
took over this past year. Their nest had 60+ cells in
it (!) but was empty. No larvae, no adults, nothing.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Dec. 30 ~ Happy New Years eve, eve! Cool and overcast
about a 47-57dF temp spread for the day. Luckily a
town run was in order, so I got a stop at the park
between errands. Saw the Louisiana Waterthrush very
well up on the island, it didn't flush at the sight
of me as usual (which is why I suspect it is a female) and
gave great views. The female Green Kingfisher is still there.
About 4 Myrtle Warbler, all males. No Coot. It either left
or was taken. Just south of town a half-mile at the UvCo354
cutoff there was an adult Zone-tailed Hawk circling low. It
seemed to be eyeing a big fresh carcass a Common Raven was working.
Saw a handful of Robins and a dozen Waxwings. Later p.m.
at house I heard a Hutton's Vireo over in corral junipers,
and a Merlin flew by.
Dec. 29 ~ Front blew in as daybreak arrived, dry, and winds
were northerly 15-20 almost all day, gusting higher briefly.
Thursday so my most stuck-at-phone-and-monitor day of the
week and just as well when cold, wet, or windy. Saw only the
regular gang in my brief breaks outside on the sheltered-from-northerlies
side of house.
Of about 16 total House Finch there was one male that was
the reddest below (underparts) I have ever seen. I have
seen many thousands of House Finch. It took 20 minutes but
I grabbed a couple digiscopes which when I get off camera
hopefully one will show it and will post. It was almost
entirely red below. Like the N. Cardinals they too are
getting redder now as their basic (winter) plumage wears
the duller tips off the feathers. But this was ridiculous.
In fish we would call it a super-male. Highly pigmented.
Dec. 28 ~ Was another mostly gray day until late p.m., a.m.
was fog, mist, overcast, about 68-78 temp spread today.
Still too busy and didn't see anything different today.
Maybe 75 Chippies, 30 Cards, 8+ Titmouse, and briefly about 35
Waxwing and a couple Robin in the morning. Saw the imm.
female N. Harrier heading north at last light. A Sharpy
and couple Cooper's made attempts on the seed-eaters.
One Lark Sparrow, a couple Ground-Dove. In leps, one
Mestra went by again, and a couple Sleepy Orange, a Little Yellow.
Dec. 27 ~ One of the Cooper's Hawks grabbed a Cardinal.
Heard Chorus Frogs again, and a Leopard Frog. Saw one
Mestra (lep) and a few Sleepy Orange. Heard Cranes again
heading south. Too busy with work, saw only the same gang
outside. Saw the Harrier heading over towards airstrip
and pasture. The beast of the day was a White-tipped Black
(moth), which was so worn it was a ashy-tipped gray, and
surely my first December record. We had a good invasion
this fall of this diurnal nectar-feeding moth, which are
less than annual and always scarce here. Numbers were
reported up to Dallas. Early to mid-November is usually
the last of them those years that some few do occur here.
Dec. 26 ~ Happy Boxing Day! Still mild and humid, was
about 65-77dF temp range, mostly overcast a little sun
here and there in afternoon. A horse jumped the fence and
was in yard several hours. Told Kathy it was her present.
A real pretty mare. It mowed parts of the lawn, as well
as fertilized some others. Had to cut a fence to get
it out. In leps, great was a Checkered White in the yard,
first one of the month. Since I checked, species #26 for
the month and likely the last new one for this December.
It is back to the salt mine here so just a few peeks
around outside, twas the same gang. Except in the later
afternoon I heard a FOX Sparrow belt out a bar of song!
What a great explosive surprise earfull! Outstanding.
I grabbed binocs and went out front along fenceline but
could not find it. Less than annual here, a good bird,
and of course my FOS. Heard some Cranes going over southbound.
Dec. 25 ~ Merry Christmas! It was a windy one here most of
the day, 10-20 gusting to 30, and some spots had 40mph gusts.
But warm. Low was about 65, high nearly 80dF, I think it
broke some records for warmest low for the date. Overcast
and some mist early, finally cleared later afternoon. Did
not see anything different around the yard. An anole was
on the porch later p.m.
Took a spin up to Lost Maples SNA noonish and walked a mile
and a half up Can Creek, past the ponds. Was dead for birds.
Maybe too late in day? We had two small flocks with a
handful of birds in them each and that was it. Amazing to
walk a mile and a half of brush-lined and wooded creek edge
and not even hear a single woodpecker or sparrow. The main
feeding station at the trailhead parking lot does not seem
to be filled in winter.
A few Ruby-crowned Kinglet, maybe two Orange-crowned Warbler,
a few Titmouse (Black-crested), a Carolina Chickadee, a
couple Carolina and a Bewick's Wren, heard one Myrtle
Warbler, a few Eastern Pewee, but generally dismal. No
Spotted Towhee or Hermit Thrush. A few juniper trees had lots
of uneaten berries on the ground beneath them, and no birds.
I may have heard an Olive Sparrow, the super high thin metallic
tik call note. I did hear a brief bit of a Canyon Wren call
The three miles we did was needed and felt great, but the birds
were absent for the most part. I flushed a couple damselflies
which went un-ID'd, and we saw a few Variegated Meadowhawk,
the only dragons. One ode got away that had to have been a
Great Spreadwing, a big oversized damselfly that I watched fly
away in binocs. One Rio Grande Leopard Frog was calling.
On the way up to LM we saw at least a dozen Common Raven along
Hwy. 187, and another over the ponds. About a dozen Black Vulture
were on some roadkill. On the way back there was an Eastern Red-tailed
Hawk, a migrant from elsewhere, with a nice big belly band
our local resident Fuerte's Red-tails lack. As we were
on the last mile coming home along the river, something shot
across road toward river, having to watch road I just saw a
bit of motion, Kathy said her glimpse looked like a Ringed Kingfisher.
After dark I saw some glowing Firefly larva in the grass.
Dec. 24 ~ Merry Christmas Eve, a gray muggy one it seems.
Temp range 60-70dF, humidity about 90%, foggy early, then
misty, then overcast with occasional streamer showers,
but not cold. Heard a Flicker over in corral early, and
a Western Meadowlark was chucking thataway too. The rest
was the usual yard gang.
Great was hearing the first Chorus Frogs of the season, our
'spring peeper' here. They are the first frog to get a new
season going, often December is when they start. Strecker's Chorus
Frog is this species here. Spotted Chorus Frog are here, but
they don't do the spring peep chorusing, rather sounding more
like a mccallii Tex-Mex Screech-Owl, or a mid-range toad trill.
We took a little putt up and back along E. 360 (the part on
the east side of the river where we live). There was not
much along the road, but we went up on the north knoll, the
1500' one, and found a small flock of Chipping Sparrow and
assorted passerines with them. About 40 Chippys, maybe 50,
a few Field Sparrow, great looks at a Rufous-crowned Sparrow
and heard a second one, two Hutton's Vireo, at least 4
Black-crested Titmouse, 2-3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 2 Orange-crowned
Warbler, and best of all about 6 BUSHTIT. Which I have not
been seeing lately, though don't spend much time in the
juniper-break type habitats they prefer. The knoll has a good
stand of Buckley Oaks mixed in. Also while we were standing
around a, or the, Rusty Blackbird flew over calling. Also
heard some Cranes going over somewhere up in the clouds.
Here is one of the 5 or so White Peacock butterflies
that showed up this fall. They are about 3" across
so decent sized. When fresh they can show a beautiful light
lavender overscaling this worn individual lacks. This one has
also worn off the orange-ish color along margins. They are
less than annual here so always a treat to see.
~ ~ ~ archive copy of update header ~ ~ ~
MOST RECENT UPDATE: December 30, 2016
(prior updates: Dec. 23, 16, 9, 2, Nov. 25, 18, 11, 4, Oct. 28, 21, 14, 7, Sept. 30, 23, 16, 9, 2)
Winter is here! Pecans and Mesquites are nearly bare of
leaves as are most deciduous trees now. Still a little color
left on the Spansh (Buckley) Oaks, many are just going brown.
Cypresses are mostly dropped of leaflets (needles or leaves).
Two Rufous-backed Robin have been seen recently on either
side of us, one in Bexar Co. (near SAT), and another in Del Rio,
so keep your eyes out. They like Chinaberry so check them.
That is what the one Kathy and I saw in Uvalde several years
ago was in, and a pic of the Del Rio one was in it. American
Robins were back, I saw almost 500 on Nov. 11, but it seems
like they left. Only seeing a few now. There are very few
juniper berries or hackberries this year, almost no fruit crop.
Stuff will not stick. Some few waxwings are back and a few
American Goldfinch are around. Yet to see a Siskin this winter.
A BALD EAGLE soaring upriver a couple miles south of town
on Tues. Dec. 13 looked like a 3-year old. One of the best
birds of the year was at the park in Nov., an Eastern Wood-Pewee
that called (soft chip notes) on Nov. 11. Even more remarkable
was a yard COMMON CROW flyover on Nov. 23! My first in Uvalde Co.
A Coot was at the park, for over a month, but missed it today,
it may have left. Seeing a few Pine Warbler back for the winter.
Saw Bushtits on Dec. 24, and heard a Fox Sparrow on Dec. 26.
A couple recent sightings in e-bird from Lost Maples are interesting.
Nov. 25 an Empidonax flycatcher, a Blue-headed Vireo, and a
Townsend's Solitaire were seen, and Dec. 15 a Winter Wren and
two Olive Sparrow. Besides the Solitaire (just past the first big
main pond) no details as to where any of them were. An Empi here
in winter is likely a Hammond's, the only two Empis I have
had in winter here were Hammys. We have been to LM twice in Dec.,
and saw none of the above.
Oct. 21 had the first of fall Myrtle Warblers I have seen, 4-5 of them,
a month behind Audubon's Warbler. Also on Oct. 21 in the yard
was a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH which is LTA - less than annual - locally.
Winter birds are around with Flicker, Sapsucker, Orange-crowned Warbler,
and others present now. Kathy heard Sandhill Cranes on Oct. 20, many since.
An adult female RUSTY BLACKBIRD on Oct. 19th south of town where one
has wintered the prior three winters is likely a returnee and continues.
A SPRAGUE'S Pipit was at the golf course Oct. 22. A very late
and not likely of local origin Summer Tanager was at the park Oct. 26.
Audubon's Oriole sang in and around our yard an hour each day
Oct. 26-27, more recently again on Dec. 21.
A ROADSIDE HAWK was on private property south of town a couple miles
on October 3, and in our yard Oct. 4, last seen flying north out of
yard with a Cotton Rat in its talons. There is no public access
where I saw it, all property is private along the road including
anywhere you think you can pull off to the side. It is one of those
Texas privately maintained Co. roads through private property with
no public access save stopping in the road, which ain't too cool
in a working ranch, or for the few folks that live off it. What would
seem most likely to be "the bird" that was seen the last two
winters, is back. In the prior 2 winters I did see it at the park,
and in the row of trees on Cypress St. out front of park. Other than
cruising roads, the park is the only public access place to look for
it without landowner permission. Not very chaseable is a probably a
generous assessment of that aspect of it. If I can stake out I will
post, but that did not work the last two winters. There is simply
too much habitat with too little access. I have seen a small buteo a
few times in the last 6-8 weeks, but not well enough to ID it.
Update: I saw it fly over the yard on Dec. 22. It is around.
But you can't plan on seeing it, or find it when looking for it.
Even further back...
An imm. SHORT-TAILED HAWK (vagrant from Mexico) was just south of town
Sept. 29 (ph.)! A BROWN THRASHER was in our yard Sept. 27. A MALACHITE
(butterfly from Mexico) was at the park Sept. 23! A WOOD THRUSH was on
the island at Utopia Park on Sept. 14. A PHILADELPHIA VIREO was at
Lost Maples Sept. 11. A CATBIRD on Sept. 10 was eating Snouts on
UvCo 363 near Waresville. Two COUCH'S KINGBIRD and a YELLOW-BELLIED
FLYCATCHER were near the Waresville Cemetery on Sept. 3, at least one
Couch's continued Oct. 1.
A first fall male TOWNSEND'S WARBLER was in our yard Aug. 31.
Two immature ROSEATE SPOONBILL were seen flying south downriver over
the Cypresses a couple miles south of Utopia on Aug. 23!
On Sept. 4 there was a Mississippi Kite and imm. Mourning Warbler
along W. 360, another Mississippi Kite was seen Sept. 30. A Louisiana
Waterthrush most of Sept., through Dec. 29 so far, at the park is surely
a returning bird back for its third winter here. Fall has been
good, but you have to work for it, and be lucky. Always remember,
the harder you work, the luckier you get.
Of expected but scarcer or local things around, there are the usual:
Zone-tailed Hawk, Canyon Towhee and Rufous-crowned Sparrow,
a few Long-billed Thrashers, Ringed and Green Kingfisher. Some few
Audubon's Oriole are around, you could see one anywhere
anytime, or nowhere at no time. It's birding!%^*@%! Again some
White-tipped Dove and Olive Sparrow have been at Lost Maples, and
around Utopia, the new normal. My take is that they are probably
nesting here and there. I found 3 just-fledged Olive Sparrows being
attended by adults June 5 about 2.5 mi. SSW of Utopia on private property.
The deco native flower gardens around town were loaded with
southerly origin fall invader butterflies in October, which
faded in November, the first couple freezes have taken their toll.
What is left is about to be frozen out. Oct. 23 Kathy and I
saw 51 species in less than three hours of checking flowers!
Nov. 5 at the Sr. Ctr. Lantanas there was a Purple-washed Skipper
(Panoquina lucas), the second Uvalde Co. record, and another
Mexican vagrant. If a butterfly can make it here from Mexico
how hard do you think it is for a bird?
A few chiggers are still out, even after the freezes, bug spray on
pantlegs usually keeps them off. Do not run around in flipflops and
shorts like I do. Some of the small fast gray Eastern Treehole
skeeters are still about too. Had both in the last two weeks.
~ ~ ~ end archive copy of update header ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~
Dec. 23 ~ The front returned overnight as predicted, warmer,
southerly flow and gulf moisture so in low 50's dF with
fog-mist-drizzle. It is back to the semi-cloud forest thing.
The 10 day forecast shows us not freezing through the end of
the year! The next five days are supposed to be this regular
fog-mist-drizzle thing common here, with a temp range of about
60-70dF and maybe some showers. Three Myrtle Warbler and a
Ruby-crowned Kinglet were out front early. The winter Chipping
Sparrow flock is pushing 60 birds now. There were about 35 Cedar
Waxwing in the Hackberry by the gate raiding that tree. The
Mocker did not appear thrilled about it.
Town run for some supplies so a look at the park. Don't
know why, a glutton for punishment I suppose. You just have
to keep going and keep checking. The rare stuff is mostly
passing through, so some luck helps, but the more you cast
your visual blanket, the more you end up seeing. In the woods
there were no passerines. Not even Cardinal or Titmouse.
I heard a few Myrtle Warbler on other side of river and pond,
but nothing in the woods. It has been remarkably quiet there of
late. Heard a Green Kingfisher, but didn't see it. There was
my FOS Ring-necked Duck, a female, hanging out with the continuing
Coot in the pond. What seems our first over-wintering Coot now.
Dec. 22 ~ A not very cold front came through before dawn,
no rain, just light northerlies, but is supposed to dry
us out briefly. By tonight and tomorrow it returns northbound
as a humid warm front. A weird but regular phenomenon here.
We get the same front twice, once as a southbound cold dry one,
and then as a northbound warm moist one, ususally within 12-24 hours.
Was 45-70dF spread today. The heat brought out a few butterflies.
One Little Yellow, 6 Snout, an American Lady and a Red Admiral,
a few Sleepy Orange, and a Common Mestra.
I briefly saw the Rodadside Hawk which must have been in one of
the big live-oaks up the slope behind us. I was out on patio and
saw it flying from up the hill, over the other side of the yard,
and then down the draw. It was a tiny buteo, not one of the
multiple daily Coooper's Hawks, and much smaller than a
Red-shouldered without any bold checkered pattern. Wings too
long for an accipter, small buteo wing shape, and tail proportionally
far too short for Cooper's. The brown appearance above and
size always generates a knee-jerk Cooper's thought first for me.
Until you see the parts don't fit due to much shorter tail
and longer wings. Completely incorrect for accipiter structure.
It is Thursday so I was lucky to be outside and couldn't go
run off after it. Will be looking around this weekend though.
Dang thing is the most unpredictable bird I ever knew. Apologies
if I said this before, but finding seabirds in the middle of the
ocean is more predictable.
Dec. 21 ~ Happy Solstice! Shortest daylight day of the year,
they start getting longer now. Outstanding! It is officially
winter, climatologically speaking. I heard a couple Cardinal
singing little bits and pieces of song today, tuning up, in the
sunny smokin' hot 68dF heat. That felt great. Low was 37
or so. Lots of the resident bird species will start singing over
the next couple weeks as soon as the increased photoperiod kicks
off the male's testosterone.
What I presume are the same nesting pair of Eastern Bluebirds
went to their box by the gate today. First thing early in bad
light there was a flock of 250 White-fronted Goose heading
north up-valley. The seperate back 4 birds looked different
of size, shape, and structure, I suspect they were Snow Geese,
but the birds were east of me toward the sun, so silhouette only.
I was stuck at computer so just saw the regulars in the yard
until late p.m. an hour before last sun. I went outside to
catch a blast, and an Audubon's Oriole was in the live-oaks
on the slope out back, while at the same time a Ringed Kingfisher
flew downriver calling so saw both at once. A great twofer
up here in the hill country. How many times I go outside for a
break and see something of interest, really makes one wonder how
many times things are going by that we don't see. More and most.
Dec. 20 ~ The last day of fall... it did not freeze as predicted,
that cloud blanket that moved in after the sun warmed things up
yesterday afternoon held the heat in. Much better. We warmed
to 60-62dF! That felt great, I am almost thawed out. Had to
do some errands in town. Saw the Turkey Vulture just south of
town. The park had the Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, and one female
American Wigeon. No landbirds.
Just out the gate by corral there was a female Pyrrhuloxia,
and last light there were 3 Lark Sparrow (so we got another one
in the flocklet) on the patio gulping white millet down fast as
they could crack it. You could hear their bills breaking seeds
as they were chowing down. Heard Cooper's Hawk calling from
over in the corral in the afternoon. Few each Cedar Waxwing, Robin,
and American Goldfinch.
Dec. 19 ~ Another hard freeze, about 22dF for a low, but with just
5mph or less wind so not as chilly feeling as yesterday morning.
Bird bath had to be thawed three times before it got above
freezing. It got up to about 50dF at peak heat before a cloud
sheild killed the sun around 4 p.m. Was pretty nice for a bit.
A flock of 30 Cedar Waxwing went over, most I have seen so far this
season. A few Robin came into the bath for a drink. Two Lark Sparrow
again this morning. One Lesser Goldfinch was the new odd bird, we
don't get them much in winter, unless you feed nyger seed. The
rest was the same gang o' seed thiefs.
Dec. 18 ~ Oh my freezin' fern it is cold out there this morning.
Temps in mid-20's dF with 20 mph winds on it = single digit chill
factors. At 9:30a I saw 22dF at Kerrville, with 20 mph winds and 6dF
for a chill. Vanderpool just north of us had about the same and 7dF
chill factor. A bunch of local areas were single digit chill factors.
Bird bath was frozen solid like a rock. And it was 77dF yesterday
afternoon. Gadzooks! A 50dF real temp drop, plus the loss of 20
more due to wind. No T-shirt and flip-flops today! Birding will be
from in the house trying to see through fogged windows.
There were 4 American Goldfinch at the sunflower tube, and a dozen
Cedar Waxwing were here for a brief bit. The rest was the regulars.
A blackbird flock settled in the corral late that was a couple
hundred Brewer's, 40+ Red-winged (which is a big number for
winter), a few Brown-headed Cowbird, and one Starling. Here in the
yard over five pounds of seed was consumed, probably 6. A weird
raptor went over early but I didn't get enough of a look to ID it.
Dec. 17 ~ Low of 50dF, very foggy first half of a.m., slowly lifting,
and clearing after noon. It got downright warm out, into the upper
70's dF! Tommorow morning is supposed to be 50dF colder! Baton
down the hatches. Had a Dainty Sulphur, a Little Yellow, and a
Cloudless Sulphur around yard when the sun broke out.
We took a little spin around town and out to the 1050 pass a few
miles west of town where the little bit of hills (and altitude)
have lots of Buckley Oaks. Leaves were more rusty and orange-brown
than red in color, a few were red, but it looked kinda like fall.
Figured we better have a quick look as there are 35mph northerlies
forecast with gusts to 40-50 are possible, which may strip the trees.
At the park in town there was a winter form Questionmark (lep) in
the woods, which I missed in November. The library garden had a
few Cloudless and Large Orange Sulphur, one So. Dogface, and a
rare December Rounded Metalmark. Another Dogface was at the Sr.
Ctr., probably wondering what the deer did to the Lantanas.
A few Sleepy Orange were there, and on the Loquat in town.
Great was at Bear Creek Pond which is the pond on 1050 about 4 or
5 miles west of town, and a mile east (this side) of the peak of the
pass. Ducks! Waterfowl! I haven't been seeing any so a pleasant
change. There were 6 American Wigeon, 7 Gadwall, and 11 Green-winged
Teal. Very neat. I could see a couple dragonflies at the edge of the
pond patrolling but they were too far to ID. The roadsides were
devoid of birds save one Mockingbird and an Eastern Phoebe, no
sparrow flocks. Still have not seen a Say's Phoebe this fall.
The other neat thing was the blooming Loquat in town, which had
a good selection of butterflies on it, a number first for the
month, and likely last and only. A Fatal Metalmark, plus an
un-ID'd (too worn and frayed) Metalmark were on it, one Sachem
(Field Skipper), a Mestra, a few Variegated Fritillary, a Reakirt's Blue,
a Snout, a couple Buckeye, one each American and Painted Lady,
and an Orange-crowned Warbler, probably eating them.
The northerlies hit with a vengance about 8:15 p.m., the front is
here. Was still 60dF then. Reports of 30dF drops in temps in an
hour to our north where the front passed already. The winds at
15-20 sustained (gusting twice that) are here for 36 hours or so
per forecasts. No birding tomorrow save from house. Good thing
we have a hundred pounds of various seeds here for the birds.
They are going to go through a lot the next few days.
This is the entrance at Utopia Park so you recognize it.
Some have been wondering what I have been doing the last
13 years here... I suppose you never tried to train
vultures before? They might not be there when you arrive
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Dec. 16 ~ Temp spread 50-60dF and fog with some mist, overcast all
day, no sun later as advertised. First thing in a.m. the Rusty
Blackbird flew over calling. Did a town run for supplies so got
a look at the park. SOS - the Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, and a female
Green Kingfisher all present, but nothing else. I heard some
Myrtle and a Pine Warbler across the river, no Louisiana Waterthrush.
The bird of the day was a Turkey Vulture, which are absent here
from mid-Nov. to mid-Feb. I have about 2 records in that 12 week
window over the last 13 years. It was on a roadside carcass
with a Caracara ca. 2 mi. south of town right by our turnoff around
2 p.m., and then later about 3:30 presumedly the same bird (considering
their rarity here now) was right over the house a mile west of the
first sighting. Normally if you see something that looks like a TV
in the winter window of absence period it will be a Zone-tailed Hawk.
Dec. 15 ~ Temp range today was about 44-55dF, overcast, humid and
cool. Thursdays I am stuck at desk and computer so didn't see
much besides the yard regulars. Three Ground-Dove and the Lark
Sparrow were on the patio, heard a Pine Warbler up the slope behind
us with the big ancient live-oaks. A couple Caracara went over.
One Red-tailed Hawk was an imm. eastern type, not a local Fuertes'
Red-tail, the first of those I have seen this winter. Which is still
a week away but it looks and feels like it is here already. I see
some nice red-leafed Buckley Oaks, the hills are getting some good
color with them now.
Dec. 14 ~ A quick run to town this morning, so a look at the park.
The Louisiana Waterthrush, Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, and a female
Green Kingfisher were all continuing. New was a first-winter
White-throated Sparrow in the ragweed patch, and a Pine Warbler
was there. Best was an amazing flight and vocal display by two
interacting Ringed Kingfisher. Incredible flight maneuvers, and
calls I never heard from them. At one point one of them had one
wing pointed straight up, the other straight down, belly towards
horizon, not flapping, holding position, for an extended dive right
over my head. It was awesome. At dusk a third Ringed Kingfisher
flew upriver past our place a couple miles south of town. More
common than Coots here.
In leps I saw a couple Common Mestra today, sps. #11 for the month.
Another (diff.) Gulf Fritillary went by, two Sleepy Orange, and I saw
the Mexican Yellow out front again. There were about 15 Waxwing
(Cedar) in the big pecan and three American Goldfinch here now.
The one Lark Sparrow was out there on the patio again. About a
half-dozen Turkey were over in the corral. Two FOS (for me) species
were seen today, finally a Spotted Towhee was over the north fence in
the draw, and also finally, a female Merlin shot through the yard,
much as one did routinely the last two winters. Maybe we have another
Dec. 13 ~ It got up to an amazing 75dF or so in the afternoon!
First in butterflies there was a tardy MONARCH, making tracks SSW,
way behind the main pack by about 6 weeks or more. Great was a
Mexican Yellow on the couple Tropical Sage flowers open. Saw 2 Snout,
3 Sleepy Orange, and a pale morph female Orange Sulphur. At last
sun I was on back porch in a pumpkin colored T-shirt and the first
Gulf Fritillary of the month kept attempting to land on me. I was
just the right color. Six sps. of butterflies today, best day of
the month so far. A guy in the LRGV had 71 species today! Oh
what a difference 1000' of altitude and a couple hundred
miles can make!
There were two different birds for the day, first a female
Pyrrhuloxia flew across the yard heading towards seed out back.
Wonder if it could be the one that was off-and-on visitor the
last two winters? The great bird of the day was a BALD EAGLE.
It was likely a third year bird, with a mostly white tail,
mostly white head but both still with dark areas. White on
belly and back. I grabbed the scope and called Kathy out,
we watched it slowly drift north, soaring not too high up, last
seen across and up the river from us over the country club.
Dec. 12 ~ The sun! It lives! Early there were a couple Waxwings
that stopped in the pecan with a few Robin, one Lark Sparrow,
the juv. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was in the big pecan too.
Holy cow we got into the low 70's dF in the afternoon!
First time this month. Immature Cooper's, and imm. Sharp-shinned
Hawks diving on the seed eaters all day. Nearing dusk the Rusty
Blackbird flew over the yard calling, and alone.
Most amazing was my monthly butterfly list skyrocketed from
the two species seen Dec. 1 (Sleepy Orange and Comm. Checkered-Skipper)
finally. A whopping 6 species today! There were several Sleepy Orange,
a Red Admiral, three Snout, a Variegated Fritillary, a Desert
Checkered-Skipper and an Orange Sulphur. Also saw an Anole basking.
There were lots of bees out, and loads of lady beetle (bug) that were
the introduced Asian non-native type looking for cracks to hibernate in.
Dec. 11 ~ drizzled all night and into the morning, so chilly and
damp. But mid-50's dF by noonish. Was supposed to be partly
sunny and lower 60's by afternoon but that never happened.
We checked the park, the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe continue,
and were side-by-side acting like buddies now. Pretty sure they
qualify as an odd couple. One female Green Kingfisher, no waterthrush,
hardly any birds. As Kathy noted, there was more action around our
yard. A corral on W. 360 had about 75 Brewer's Blackbird and no
Rusty, but one male Red-winged.
We went up to Lost Maples to have a quick look around there.
Most of the leaves are off the maples, a few still had some
color and looked nice. Most of the best ones though were maples
planted ornamentally in picnic area or campround, the natural
ones in canyons were mostly bare. Actually right now if you
drive around Utopia more of the planted ornamental Maples are in peak
full color here in and around town. The Buckley (Spanish) Oaks
are getting going, another week or two, some will be three, and
they should great.
It was dead for birds though. Heard (Texas) Scrub-Jay and Hutton's
Vireo, saw almost nothing going a half mile out the Maples Trail and a half
mile past that on that end of the East Trail. Sounded like a morgue.
Not even a Spotted Towhee. Along 187 there were a few small flocks of
Vesper Sparrow, a larger flock of Chipping, and 1 Savannah Sparrow was
on a fenceline. Eastern and Western Meadowlark were seen, a Shrike,
probably over 150 Mourning Dove in three flocks, some Black Vulture,
a Raven. But overall seemingly few birds out there, at the park,
along the road, and at Lost Maples.
Dec. 10 ~ Cool and damp, a bit breezy, not particularly inviting
out there so worked here. Had 4 Common Ground-Dove on the patio.
A Field Sparrow was out there for a bit. The rest was the usual gang.
The male Cardinals are getting brighter now as their basic (winter)
plumage wears and the duller feather tips wear off. They are much
redder than they were a month ago, and way more so than two months
ago. After dark, Screech-, Barn, and Great Horned Owls calling.
Heard the Barred a few days ago and forgot to mention methinks.
One of the Sickle-winged Skippers from this fall.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Dec. 9 ~ Some wind and cloud cover kept it from the 27dF or so
that was forecast, we were 33 maybe, the bird bath wasn't frozen.
Got up to a blazin' 43dF or so. Chilly day. There was an
ad. Red-shouldered Hawk in the pecan out kitchen window,
which brought a good scold scene out of the yard passerines.
Titmice in particular, but Cards, a Mocker, Bewick's Wrens all
got in on it. Later in the afternoon a male Yellow-shafted Flicker
used the bird bath for a drink!
A quick town run, too cold for butterflies if there are any left.
The Maples folks have planted around town are at peak color,
they look great, lots of yellow, some orange and red, very nice.
That cold set them off apparently. The COOT continues at the
park, amazingly, our first long-staying individual (n~13 years).
A couple Green Kingfisher were around the pond, heard the Ringed
upriver, and an ad. Zone-tailed Hawk was roosting in a big cypress
in the woods at north end. No waterthrush detection. A couple
Inca Dove were on the pallets behind Utopia Ranch Outpost, where
the seed gets spilled.
Dec. 8 ~ A dry cold front blew in overnight, winds were 15-20+ sustained
and several nearby stations had gusts at 35 and 40 mph! It howled
all day. Cleared lots of remaining leaves off the trees. It
looks a lot more like winter out there now. Temps were in 30's dF so
chills were in 20's! It was a cold one. Yard had 50-55
Chipping Sparrow, 30+ Cardinal, 3 Ground-Dove, and a Lark Sparrow
on the seed. Didn't see any White-crowned Sparrow today.
About 50 Brewer's Blackbird and the Rusty were out in corral,
on powerline, and in one of the pecans out front.
Dec. 7 ~ Warmed into the 60's dF today ahead of an inbound
cold front. The imm. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was around the
yard working Pecans and the Mulberry. A No. Harrier went over,
a couple American Goldfinch came in, a few Robin were around,
a Pine Warbler was out there with a couple Myrtles for a bit,
and a seemingly fairly unskilled immature Sharp-shinned Hawk was
diving on the seed eaters all day.
Dec. 6 ~ About 36dF for a low, colder than forecast by several dF.
WU had us for low 40's, dang near a category off. Mostly it
was the same gang today. One Lark Sparrow among the Chippies,
a Cardinal or two starting to do some warmup type singing just
a wee bit. After the solstice they get going quickly. A couple
Caracara went over early, some Brewer's Blackbird in the
corral, couple Myrtle Warbler and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the pair
of Common Ground-Dove, at least 3 of the White-crowned Sparrow
still here including the adult, and heard the White-throated again.
Seven Robin and a waxwing came by briefly.
The birds are really going through sunflower seeds now, likely
stashing as many or more than they are eating. September and
October there was very little sunflower seed traffic, even the
House Finches were all but gone, likely due to the seed crop
being very good, so natural sources were very productive.
Dec. 5 ~ Holy cow it rained another 2 cm overnight. We are now at
7.5" for the 3.5 day event! Weewow! Very little runoff,
it just kept lightly raining for most of 4 days. Would be nice
to dry out a bit. Had a Field Sparrow and an Orange-crowned
Warbler, it is amazing how similar a chip note those two can make.
Saw three White-crowned Sparrow, and heard a White-throated out back.
Actually made the sun out through the clouds about noonish. I hear
rumors of its return... there it is the last 15 minutes before it
set, the skies cleared. Heard Barn Owl, and 4 or more Great
Horned, their breeding cycle is about to commence so they
have gotten quite noisy lately.
Dec. 4 ~ Day 3 of the cold wet event, another inch of rain overnight
and now at 5" for the event! Temps holding from upper 40's dF
to lowest 50's dF steady for 3 days. Did I mention wet? It
is a sopping mess out there. It has been slow and steady so a
good soaker with little runoff and great for aquifer recharge.
Not so much for going birding though. December, and winter, are
normally the dry season here so this is a significant event and
more rain already than the average entire month of December gets.
Supposed to be one last round overnight tonight into the a.m.
Between the rain and winds it sure looks a lot more like winter
out there now than last weekend. Lots of trees were de-leafed
finally in the event and the level of brown has increased greatly,
concurrent with a huge drop in levels of green to be seen. At
least with live oaks and junipers lots stays green through the
winter. Saw the ad. White-crowned Sparrow, and the Lark Sparrow
has been joined by a second one. Counted at least 6 Black-crested
Titmouse at once hitting the sunflower seed feeder. Along with
3 Carolina Chickadee, male and female Golden-fronted Woodpecker,
and over a dozen House Finch.
Dec. 3 ~ TWO inches of rain overnight, thunder, all the clocks and
microwave flashing reading 1 a.m. when I got up at 5:30 in the dark,
a touch lamp turned itself on from the power surge... it looked
like there was a party goin' on and I was sleeping through it.
So at daybreak after yesterday's 1.25" we are at 3.25 for the event
so far whilst the NOAA storm total radar shows a half inch here!
Sometimes, lots of the time, it just doesn't read rainfall well
out here. Too many hills and too much rain between us and the too
distant doppler sites (New Braunfels and Brackettville) for it to
read rainfall here correctly. By noon about another half inch over the
morning, and more thunder. Holding steady at 50dF. Afternoon saw
another couple tenths, now we are just under 4" so far.
I got a fair count on the winter seed-eaters as they crossed
the road coming into yard. About 55 Chipping Sparrow now, and
35+ Cardinal (18+ males), and one Lark Sparrow. Saw a couple
of the White-crowned Sparrow, an ad. and an imm. on a brushpile.
Nine big Tom Turkeys walked up the corral, no doubt had roosted
in the big cypresses along the river. They spotted the Chili Pequin
plants over there and raided them big time. That is who is eating my chilis!
These wee bittie chilis are a little tiny red dot about the size
and appearance of those red hot candies, but some are hotter than
a four alarm fire. Not all are though. My understanding is that
pepper doesn't do to bird tongues what it does to mammal tongues.
I think I figured out what the natural seed dispersal method for
Chili Pequin is though, and who my competition is. I hope they
left me some. Half-dozen in a taco and you will think you have
been to Mexico, especially if one completes the effect with say a
Corona or Dos Equis in hand...
There was a big invasion of Theona Checkerspot
(Thessalia theona) this fall.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Dec. 2 ~ The advertised rain event is starting, in fits over the day,
but about 1.25" by 5 p.m. Supposed to rain to Sunday or Monday.
We need the water. Along the road I saw Red-shouldered Hawk and
Black Vultures bathing at their perches, wings out, trying to
get their wingpits wet no doubt. Been so long since a good bath.
The 5 White-crowned Sparrow all seemed to be around the yard still
today. Quick look at a small buteo over in the (treed) corral this
morning. About 30 Brewer's Blackbird on the powerline out front.
Ran to town for supplies, it was raining at the park, I saw nothing
but a male Green Kingfisher. So I drowned my sorrows, with a beer run.
That is making lemonade out of lemons if I ever saw it. B double E
double R-u-n, beer run... Don't recall if I mentioned it but as
of this year you can buy beer and wine in Vanderpool, just 10 miles
away in Bandera Co. So I did. ;) It is even a workable selection.
The Texas brewer Shiner has a great IPA, their first, that is very
good if you like bitter hopsy IPAs with silly names (Wicked Ram).
Dec. 1 ~ Oh man don't tell me it's December! I would swear
we just started the year. Three weeks until the solstice and
shortest daylight day. The month started out chilly with a low
of 29dF here! Same as KRVL, bird bath was frozen over here. Then
got up to 70dF for quite the temp spread. Now we are supposed to have
a three day cold rain event Friday through Sunday. There goes
the weekend birding. Hutton's Vireo and Scrub-Jay heard today.
Noonish there were two 8-point (4 on each side) buck White-tailed
Deer head butting, rattling antlers right in the road on the
other side of the gate. Huge cloud of dust. The sound of rattling
antlers set off Mr. 10-point Buck that was in the yard. When he
heard the rattling he turned 180 deg. and set off at high speed
right at where the noise was coming from. Jumped the fence and
the two 8-pointers both unhooked antlers and took off running.
He snapped when he heard the sound of those antlers rattling.
Not in his territory. Wow.
Amazing was FIVE White-crowned Sparrow in the yard today at once.
A record. Just don't get big Zon flocks here, down in the brush
country off the escarpment yes, but up here not so much. Maybe it
is just this valley, I do not know. It was one ad. and four immatures.
The ad. and 2 imms. were the expected pink-billed, black-lored
Eastern leucophrys race, and 2 imms. were the Western gambelli with
bigger orange bills and gray unmarked lores without a black line
through them. They were even singing a bit in the afternoon heat.
Too cool. Sure like to keep them around. They hit the bird bath too.
~ ~ ~
Nov. back to July 2016 now at Old Bird News XXVI (#26)
Above is 2016
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