Old Bird News XXIII
Some commonly used abbreviations used are:
"in town" - means in Utopia
LM - Lost Maples SNA; GSP - Garner St. Pk.
SRV - Sabinal River Valley
FOS - "First of Season" (usually used for
1st spring or fall migrant to show up locally)
FOY - First of year - 1st one seen this year
SR - Seco Ridge a couple miles west of Utopia
in Uvalde County - yard - until late March, we moved.
Ode - Odonata (dragonfly or damselfly)
Lep - butterfly
BanCo - Bandera County
UvCo - Uvalde County
ad.=adult; imm.=immature; ma.=male; fem.=female
....in reverse chronological order, unless you
scroll to end and read from the bottom up.
2015 - January 1 - June 30, 2015
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ below is 2015 ~ ~ ~ (in reverse chrono order)
January through June - scroll to bottom and read up
to read in chronological order.
~ ~ ~ June summary ~ ~ ~
We got more rain, seemingly 4" or so around the area in June,
some places more, some less. Enough the keep the flowers going,
which keeps the birds and butterflies going well. Lots of young
birds out of the nests roaming around, most of the parents seeming
to be re-nesting, reflecting the good conditions. Though a few are on
their way south. I have seen a few Black-and-white Warbler move
through the yard the last couple weeks, all southbound. A second
batch of juvenile Black-chinned Hummingbirds were fledged too.
Birds were about 80 species total in immediate Utopia area in June.
Surely another 10 to 20 are around, I am too busy to get out much.
Not bad considering they are all locally nesting species in June.
The highlight was the pair of Northern Parula (plus another male)
that probably nested at Utopia on the River. They were territorial
there for 6 weeks plus, there is no prior known nesting on Sabinal
River or in the Upper Sabinal Drainage. Good numbers of Dickcissel
nesting locally were also a treat, it has been 5 years since some
stuck to nest.
Butterflies were about 46 species for me locally in the month,
down from a high 58 sps. in May. But I couldn't get out much.
Twice I had a Zebra Heliconian fly across yard, FOY and always a treat
to see. Another FOY was Common Mestra the last two days of the month.
Twice in the month I had pink hind-winged Catocala underwing moths
as in Sweetheart or Darling Underwing, and once had the brown hind-winged
type, cf. C. obscurus. Elada Checkerspot is always good to see too.
A couple good odes (dragonflies) were seen. A male Swamp Darner was
at UR (on 7th), and then at UP (on 12th) and likely the same individual.
Probably not 5 UvCo records, the first was at UP. A Cyrano Darner was
at UP (on 19th) also rare, I only have a few records here. Orange-striped
Threadtail were flying at the UvCo 360 crossing area, a highly localized
south-central Texas specialty (in the U.S.).
I lit a bug light a night or two and there is a lot of activity out there
unlike the last couple years. Other odds and ends were a couple sightings
of the big S. gigas Cerambycid (pepsis wasp mimic) on the big pecan, and
a Texas Blind Snake one day. If one was really able to be out there
every day getting after it, I am sure a bunch of great finds would
be turned up. I barely scratch the tip of the iceberg.
~ ~ end June summary ~ ~ ~
June 30 ~ A near miss with some rain cells, but we got some outflow
which beat the heat for the afternoon. Walked down the road a bit
to check some flowers for butterflies but the outflow hit and
activity was minimal. A couple Eufala Skipper were the only thing
different in butterflies. A Hooded Oriole chattered a quarter-mile
from house, don't know if it was one of the feeder visitors or they
are on the move. An Indigo Bunting singing was quite unusual,
though they nest at UR, they are not usually in this section of
river in June, not enough deciduous (big leafy) trees. Mid-day I
heard a Hutton's Vireo in the yard, and later Kathy heard a
Killdeer. Painted Bunting female feeding a juvenile out back in p.m.
The outflow clouds blurred out the planetary conjuction at its closest
point, nearly touching (besides the 500 million miles between them.)
June 29 ~ Saw my FOY Common Mestra butterfly, a nearly annual
invader from the south that does not breed here. Also had a female
Black-and-white Warbler later in day, and in a.m. a Dickcissel
called as it went through yard. Were some scattered showers
about but we didn't get any. There is a nice conjuction of
Jupiter and Venus westward at dusk. That is Saturn to the SE over by
the moon just after dark, the slightly yellowish one.
June 28 ~ The weak front washed out for the most part after
it passed, by dawn it was calm and the dry northerlies were a
fond memory. KVL was 69dF for 5 hours pre-dawn, we were about
70dF or so, pretty darn comfortable and amazing for late June.
The long term forecast has us cooler than normal for the rest
of the summer. We could stand a break after the last 6 summers
of drought. The wet cycles feed on themselves, and so do the dry.
This afternoon was hot and humid, no rain (was 50% chance for 24 hrs.
now and nothing).
The highlight of the day, the best bird, was a Zebra, again.
That is Zebra Heliconian (or Longwing), the black and yellow
striped tropical butterfly we get some years (photo above in
picture strip) here. Their wingbeat is fast and shallow so they
appear quite different in flight compared to most of our regular
butterflies. They almost seem to twitter as they flap as the
color flashes in the light when say the far wing is up, so you
get a dorsal view for a nanosecond, and then it is down so you
can't see the color and pattern. Keep repeating fast. The effect
is sorta like an old-time movie as they twitter by.
There was one other great animal, a Texas Blind Snake, or Plains
Threadsnake as they are now called (also a photo in above pix).
It was about 8" long moving out in the open on the patio and
then sidewalk. I couldn't find it when I got back out with
camera. Of course. Neat beast to have around.
The birds were the usual... two dueling Painted Bunting still
singing vigorously is great, and same for Summer Tanagers.
Chat hasn't let up much yet, and neither has Yellow-throated or
White-eyed Vireo. Funny the Ash-throated Flycatcher that have
taken one of the boxes have gone all but silent, for a couple
weeks while incubation underway. Young should hatch any day.
June 27 ~ Was getting warm and sticky, about 90 by 1 p.m.,
and before 3 an outflow boundry hit from a big rain cell just
west of us dropping us to 80dF or so for the rest of the day.
We received no rain, but some spots in NW Uvalde Co., and Real Co.
got 3-5". It just sat and hardly moved but we were in
outflow range so got the cooling benefit without the rain.
A very rare late June cold front was the forcing mechanism,
which did pass here in the evening, bringing northerly flow
for several hours, in late June!
First thing early there must have been something in the blooming
mesquite as there was a Yellow-throated Warbler, a Black-and-white
Warbler, Titmouse and Chickadee, all seeming to be foraging in it
at once. A pair of juvenile Field Sparrow were feeding in the tall grass
I am supposed to mow. They were un-attended by adults, so just
recently fledged from a very nearby nesting. A couple juvenile
Vermilion Flycatcher were flycatching from the fence line. A Caracara
would have landed in the big pecan if it hadn't have seen me
below it at the last second.
~ ~ ~ prior update ~ ~ ~
June 26 ~ I heard two Bobwhite calling at once this morning
early at dawn, from pastures across river. Yellow-throated
and White-eyed Vireo must be nesting adjacent to yard, they
are singing right here at first crack of dawn. Painted Bunting,
Chat, Blue Grosbeak and Summer Tanager all get going at first
light and are nesting adjacent as well.
Saw the Zone-tailed Hawk in town, first at north end and later
at south end. Bell's Vireo singing in mesquites at north
end of town as usual. Little Creek Larry said the Poorwill were
calling again over near his place. This weekend is the big EMS
Bar-B-Q, rodeo and dance so park is packed. Next weekend is the
Fourth of July holiday so will be a bazillion here then. Was about
92dF today, and humid, it feels like summer.
Vermilion Flycatcher feeding a young on the yard fenceline late p.m.,
still cuckoos around. The field of Mexican Hat with the nesting
Dickcissels on 360 got mowed today, hope the young were out of
the nests, I didn't hear the birds. Summer mowing is a common fate for
field and pasture nesting birds, it is a major problem in some
areas for some sps. like Bobwhite, Upland Sandpiper and Bobolink
(the latter two not here).
June 25 ~ The family of four Great Crested Flycatcher were
about yard quite a bit. It is great to hear all their different
calls and singing all the time. The Vermilion is still in
full flight song, often right overhead. Today a Scissor-tailed
Flycatcher male was on powerline and even gave full song too.
Thought I heard a warbler seet flight note. Eastern Screech-Owl
going quite a bit again. Nice to see some flowers on the Mesquites.
June 24 ~ There were some sprinkles around dawn, a tracelet.
Low in low 70's dF, high in upper 80's, man you would
think it is summer. Our high is Phoenix's low, oh but it's
a dry 115 dF heat there. It is amazing how often the hill country
is cooler than 75-90% of the U.S. so many days in the summer.
Yeah it's the humidity that keeps it from warming, but it's not
like it's anywhere east of us, we are a category drier.
The Great Crested Flycatcher had a couple juveniles with it in
the yard today so a successful nesting for them here. The adult
was singing and calling its head off for quite a while. Great
sounds. At the same time a transient interloper Ash-throated
Flycatcher seemed to try to horn in on the pair at the nest
box, it made a move toward the female and promptly proceeded to
get its clock cleaned by the male mate.
June 23 ~ Amazing was seeing that the McDonald Observatory in the
Davis Mountains in west Texas photographed an aurora this morning.
Barely, but absolutely. The activity was amazing across the U.S.,
and way far south, from a major CME (coronal mass ejection), causing
some radio problems but otherwise not much. Auroras were photographed
from WY to MT, to Cape Cod Mass., Colorado, NM, and even Texas.
Space Weather Gallery is a good viewing site, often with photos uploaded right after
they are taken (real time). Go back a few days to Jun 23 to see today's
stuff from the U.S. locations. Their home page is worth a bookmark.
A very active sunspot is facing earth right now.
The firefly show is past peak. Far fewer are out now than just
a week ago. I noticed a few days ago it seemed on the wane, now
it is obvious the season's spring flight is on the fadeaway. It
started earlier this year, got going better than the last couple
years, and is finishing sooner. Usually the last few days of June
and first few of July is when the big decrease is noticeable.
There is a minor late summer flight, but it is nowhere as big as
the spring main event.
June 22 ~ We got another inch of rain overnight (pre-dawn) which
was another good slow soaker. This was maybe a bit of Bill's
moisture left over pooled up in south Texas, plus some of the
former hurricane Carlos from the Pacific side of Mexico with a
trough axis and low-level jet all mixing it up. We continue to
beat the June heat as we did in May, still not a single complaint.
We were in lowest 80's dF for a high today. Amazing. Same
gang of regulars, see June 3 for a list of what birds are out there
daily in or from yard.
June 21 ~ Happy Solstice! Summer is officially here, but it
was a cool low to mid80's dF for a high. Rained a bit
just before 2 p.m. which took 10dF off it instantly. Only a
couple tenths but the outflow was enough to last the day.
The dawn chorus is still pretty good, though not as intense as
a month ago. There is another batch of juvenile Black-chinned
Hummingbird out of the nest, must be over a hundred new ones again.
We took a nooner walk to the crossing getting back just before
the rain hit and it was dripping muggy in the low 80's.
But there were birds singing and butterflies and dragonflies
to see so it was great. The adult male of the locally nesting
pair of Cooper's Hawk was being mugged by a male Purple Martin.
The same gang of birds, Painted Bunting, Vermilion Flycatcher,
Yellow-throated Vireo and Warbler, Lark Sparrows, Chat, Cards,
Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Great Crested Flycatcher, Golden-fronted
Woodpecker, the usual soundtrack here.
There were some insects of interest (butterflies and dragonflies)
to be seen. In leps a couple Texas Powdered-Skipper were nice, a
Northern Cloudywing, Desert Checkered-Skipper, a couple Buckeye,
a couple Whirlabout, a few Erynnis sps., Phaon and Vesta Crescents,
and an Elada Checkerspot.
At the crossing it was good to see American Rubyspot damselflies
again, they have been absent a couple plus weeks since the big
flood event. Other damsels were Blue-ringed, Violet, and Dusky Dancers,
Stream and Double-sided Bluet. In dragons a pair of Banded Pennant
were hooked up, a couple FOY (first of year) dragons were a male
Comanche Skimmer and a Wandering Glider. Another Wandering Glider
was in yard in afternoon. Also saw Green Darner and Red Saddlebags,
plus Checkered, Swift, and Black Setwings.
June 20 ~ Wow the last day of spring. It rained a bit about
3 a.m., and a little noonish, together were about a quarter inch.
Kept it cool, in lowest 80's dF, pretty nice for the date.
Lots of the country is sweltering. We will be soon enough.
It is interesting I suppose to get my first southbound fall
migrant warbler on the last day of spring, a Black-and-white
Warbler was in the yard about 3:30 p.m., headed southward.
I have had them southbound as early as latest May, like Golden-cheeked
Warbler and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, they arrive in early March and
can bug out pretty quickly.
~ ~ ~ ~ June 19 update header ~ ~ ~ ~
HAPPY SOLSTICE! Summer is here!
Biologically it has been summer for a few weeks already.
Migration (northbound) is over, I wouldn't be surprised
to see a southbound Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black-and-white or
Golden-cheeked Warbler any day now. We can get a good solid
couple weeks between north and southbound movements where there
is a fairly low chance of a passage bird occurring.
Butterflies are really getting going (58 sps. in May, 56 sps. in April,
and 45 sps. in a couple hours on April 25!). Lots of wildflowers are
blooming including Prairie Fleabane, Coreopsis, Dakota Verbena, Mexican Hat,
Indian Blanket, Navajo Tea, Huisache Daisy, Scarlet Pea, and tons of
others. Breeding birds are singing. It's great out, come on down.
We have been getting lots of rain, the people are happy. A major
event May 23 p.m. to the early a.m. 24th dropped 7-8 inches in the
area and flooding many low-water crossings. In the two weeks prior
to that there had already been 11 inches in as many days. With
another 1.5" on the 29th we got 22+ INCHES of rain for May!
The drought is busted. We will need a few wet years to recover
biologically though. They don't measure the kinds of things I do,
like presence of 5 butterfly species that were common pre-drought and
absent since. I'll let you know when it is really over. ;)
There are of course lots of Golden-cheeked Warbler at Lost Maples.
I heard way over a dozen on each of a couple walks a several weeks ago,
saw several each walk. Saw a few on a walk a month ago, young were
not yet out of nests then, likely are now. Fair numbers of Black-capped
Vireo are above the ponds up on the bluff tops if you can get up there.
It is a strenuous half-mile, but worth it for the ease of seeing the vireo,
the other 'up top' stuff, and the views. Black-capped Vireo
can be heard at the day use area on slope west of the restroom there.
Here are the May (and spring) highlights...
A MacGillivray's Warbler was at Utopia Park (UP) May 1. May 5 there
was a local fallout 14 species of warbler and 7 sps. of vireos!
Including a Philadelphia Vireo and Mourning Warbler in our yard
(and 9 sps. of warblers just in yard!). Two more Mourning were at
UP the same day, as well as a Catbird there (plus another in yard),
while a Blackburnian Warbler was at the 360 crossing and a Magnolia
Warbler and Gray-cheeked Thrush were at Utopia on the River. WOW all
in one day! That is how fallout, and migration, works. A CANADA Warbler
(and another Mourning) were at UP on May 14. I taped a singing Mourning
in our yard on May 15, at least my sixth male this spring. It was
about the last bird of spring migration.
Dodging May showers is usually great birding locally. May 6 there
was a singing male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in our yard, and on May 7 a
Franklin's Gull and 7 Mississippi Kite went over. Four more Miss.
Kite went over May 23 just in front of a wall of rain. Nothing better
for birding here in early May than some weather to knock birds down.
The rain lets us see what would otherwise be passing by undetected.
Like a Coot at the park. Seems May 5-11 was the best week of spring
here for the scarcer passage migrants.
May 11 I found (and photo'd) 3 HUDSONIAN GODWIT at a stock tank
near Sabinal which were photographed again May 12 (Ken Cave).
There was only one prior UvCo record of a single bird. An Avocet
and a couple Black-necked Stilt were at a flood pond just NW of town
in Bandera Co. late April (Hilbigs), more Avocet (6) and Stilt (2) were
at South Little Creek pond in later May. Any rain pond can have a great
shorebird in May. A Baird's Sandpiper was at water at the edge of
the road behind the Pico (our gas station) on May 14! Darn thing is on
its way from Argentina to arctic Canada and stopped to gas up in Utopia!
Three rare in spring Upland Sandpiper went over at dusk on May 8.
The ROADSIDE HAWK was seen again on April 10 at park (when also heard
calling) and out front of the park on the 14th, and April 18 from
our yard again, a couple miles south of town. So it has stuck, but
enigmatic in that it's movement patterns remain a mystery.
Since Jan. 30 three detections at park area and 4-5 sightings a
couple miles south of town along river habitat corridor where no
open public access.
Zone-tailed Hawk, Audubon's Oriole, Olive Sparrow, Long-billed
Thrasher, Ringed and Green Kingfisher are all present locally in
very low numbers. White-tipped Dove were present last year
locally from at least late March or early April through fall, both
at Lost Maples and around town, surely they nested locally. There
are some being reported now again at Lost Maples this spring, and I
am hearing one south of town. Check the trailhead parking lot feeding
station at Lost Maples after seed goes out. I have missed them in
three visits, but others were reporting them there.
There has been a very rare here dragonfly (Swamp Darner), and a few
less-than-annual butterflies (Zebra Longwing, Soapberry Hairstreak,
Sickle-winged Skipper, Arizona Sister) in the last couple weeks,
so insect activity is on the gain after the rain.
~ ~ ~ end June 19 update header ~ ~ ~
June 19 ~ Another slug of rain from the tropical airmass Bill
deposited in south Texas. It arrived just after dawn, moving
south to north, very slowly, dumping about 1.75" from 7-11 a.m.
So now we're at a bit over 2.5" from Tropical Storm Bill
moisture so far.
Mid-morning the Carolina Wrens fledged from the nest right
outside the bedroom window, an unused Martin box. The young are
so vulnerable when they first depart the nest, as they can't fly
properly yet and would be easy prey for anything, especially a cat.
We saw for sure three young leave the nest. They have been
our alarm clock the last month plus. I bet you can't sleep
through Carolina Wren song 4' away at 6:15 a.m. I think it
was a Blackfoot (Native American) name for Winter Wren that is
also appropriate for Carolina, which translated to something like
"makes an incredible amount of noise for something so small."
At the park there was a Cyrano Darner (yes it has a big nose),
the second I have seen there, and another that was likely the Swamp
Darner, so there are some good dragonflies around. And lots of water.
Both were up in the swamp by the island. Only BB Whistling-Ducks
for birds, everything must have been asleep, except the begging
baby Red-shouldered Hawks from the nest across the river.
June 18 ~ Last night before and around midnight a big cell
was parked just north of us, Lost Maples got a couple inches,
town maybe an inch, we got a tenth or so. So with the tenth
on 16th, and the half plus on 17th, have about .75-.80 of an inch
of rain from Bill so far. Still could get more out of the wet
tropical air mass yet as it reheats today. Some places eastward
got 4-8", and some near a foot of rain from the tropical storm.
We can hear the river is up, draining what fell up-valley overnight.
An outflow boundry hit late in the day and cooled us off, but
we only got a spritz. Nuthin' but the regulars in my breaks
from the monitor. It is stuck-at-computer and phone Thursday. A single
Cliff Swallow shot over again, southbound right at dusk, at treetop
level. Sure like that male Painted Bunting on the seed tube.
June 17 ~ We got a few cells of T.S. Bill moisture, this time
moving north to south in afternoon and evening from the back
side of the system as it was in north Texas. A little over a
half inch in the afternoon. Beat the heat again, though humid
as can be. Something ate the two Clammy-weed I sprouted from
seeds. I wanted a patch of that. It is so hard to grow stuff
here, you almost have to have it in a greenhouse or screened
to get it going to safe size. Heard a Great Blue Heron fly
over after 11 p.m.
June 16 ~ Tropical Storm Bill making landfall near Matagorda
this morning. We got one skimpy band with a tenth of an inch of
rain, the wall of easterlies were pretty neat as it went by though.
A sharp San Antonio birder went to Calaveras Lake and found a
Sooty Tern, normally an oceanic species, surely blown in with
the storm. Clouded Skipper (lep) on the Am. Germander (Wood Sage)
and Purple Bindweed. Few Hackberry Emperor around.
June 15 ~ A balmy low, some sprinkles moving north mid-day,
a rain cell just west of us dumped an inch or two in Real Co.
and NW Uvalde Co. We caught the outflow boundry about 6:30 p.m.
taking the oppresive heat away. Was about 90dF with 50-60% humidity,
downright lethargy inducing. Saw my FOY just-fledged juvenile
Common Ground-Dove today, juvenile Lark Sparrows still around.
I thought I heard a warbler flight note, then saw something
fly off with wingbars and two white outer tail feathers, which
looked like a Golden-cheeked Warbler. The note was not buzzed as
in a Black-and-white. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher in the early
morning at sunup. Saw another of the S. gigas Cerambycids. If I
had the net in hand when it flew by porch I could have had it.
June 14 ~ We had a thunderstorm go over around 4 a.m. or so,
that was said to die out before it got here, and didn't.
I think it was a bit over .5" of rain. Southward got an
inch, and more toward Uvalde. We needed a wetting to keep the
dust down, it had been a dry couple weeks. The morning low
was in uppermost 60's dF as a result too, nice.
The same old singers here, man I like that Yellow-throated Warbler
in the big pecan. Blue Grosbeak pair was feeding out in the tall
grass I am supposed to mow. A pair of Ash-throated Flycatcher seems
to be taking one of our boxes. This is likely the pair that took
that same box last year and were ejected by a pair of Brown-crested
Flycatcher which did go on to rear young out of the box. Suspect
these Ash-throats lost their prior nest over by draw somewhere,
I never saw any young. Early enough for a retry. Some things
will, some won't. The way the Chucks have shut up I don't
think they are going to retry after likely losing chicks in the
mega rain event of late May. Nighthawk still booming though.
We took a late afternoon walk to the crossing, it was dripping
humid - 65% or so, after the pre-dawn rain. We saw a Green
Kingfisher fly up river, which is still with an incredible
volume of water running down it, methinks I need a tube.
We had a flock of 75+ Black and 10+ Turkey Vulture right
overhead as we left, seemingly coming up off a kill of some sort
which must be just uphill behind us.
In odes there were Black and Swift Setwing dragonflies, a Blue
Dasher, Green Darner, while damselflies were Dusky Dancer and
probable Familiar Bluet. Weak, and no Rubyspots was weird. In
butterflies there was some nice puddling at the wet potholes in
the caliche (crushed limestone) road. A male Goatweed Leafwing,
a Buckeye, a False Duskywing, a group of 5 Sleepy Orange with
a Little Yellow, Desert and Common checkered-Skipper. Saw male
Fiery Skipper and Whirlabout, Bordered Patch, Clouded Skipper,
a skipperling got away, couple Phaon Crescent, Queen in the yard.
June 13 ~ I think it only dropped to about 73dF, not very low.
I went to UR to try to confirm breeding Northern Parula warbler
on the Sabinal River. It would be a first. A male and female were
present for over a month, a second male was also territorial,
both males still singing last week. I figured I better see
the young before they fledge and depart the territory. Seems
I was too late. The male with the female were gone, so either
nest-predated, or more likely fledged young. All we are left with
is most unsatisfying speculation. Seemingly unmated male #2 was still
present and in territory of mated male, where it didn't used
to go. The pair probably nested is all we can say. Certainly an
attempt was made that lasted a month+. Likely some day during this
past week the young fledged, and they left the immediate territory.
But we needed to at least lay eyes on a parent feeding a young to
confirm breeding, darn it. I have been too busy and was not able
to keep checking or spend a half day watching them.
The Swamp Darner that was there last week was not, so then I
suspect the one at the park yesterday was the same animal and
it moved a couple miles upriver over a week. At the 360 crossing
there was an Orange-striped Threadtail (Protoneura cara), the FOY
for me. Also FOY was a Blue-ringed Dancer, my latest ever FOY for
that sps., they are usually early, I have had then in February.
Also saw Violet, and Dusky Dancer, Stream and Double-striped Bluet,
and a Black Setwing was FOY too.
There is a Pumpkinseed (a Lepomis sunfish) at the crossing, a nice
big one, and a Texas Cichlid, those two 8" long at least. Some
smaller stuff like Longear and Red-breasted Sunfish there too.
Was a Texan Crescent in yard again. The big Buttonbush at the draw
is in bloom, and with crab spiders grabbing bees.
~ ~ ~ prior update below ~ ~ ~
June 12 ~ Low 70's for a low isn't very low. The best
bird of the day was a Zebra. Sometimes the best bird of the day
is not a bird. Shortly after 10 a.m. a Zebra Heliconian butterfly
flew across yard, first I have seen since one visited the yard
in June and July 2013 (see photo in strip of pix above). We haven't had
a good invasion year for them since the drought started. The folks
along the Rio Grande to our south and west are reporting some great
rare butterflies so there may be an influx event in the making.
One butterfly at Del Rio was a second U.S. record, just a week ago.
At UP there were not any unexpected birds, but another male SWAMP
DARNER dragonfly was outstanding. Last weekend there was a male
at UR, will have to check and see if that one is still there, it
could be that it moved upriver a couple miles. It was in the swampy
area by island in north end woods. There were also my FOY Widow
Skimmer and Blue Dasher, and in damselflies my FOY Fragile, and Rambur's
Forktails. Some odetivity. Been a long dry spell for them and
great to see. Have not seen Orange-striped Threadtail yet this year.
A Green Kingfisher made a flyby. There were 8 Bronzed Cowbird on
the patio at the end of the day. One female, 7 males.
June 11 ~ Thursday so trapped at the monitor. There was a Caracara
walking around over in the corral, a year-old, very worn brown.
Yellow-throated Vireo still feeding a young here, two male Painted
Bunting at once, they are sitting on tube seed feeder occasionally
but not at the same time, one is sneaking in and out of yard.
Blue Grosbeak feeding in tall grass in front yard I need to cut.
Painted Buntings like to feed in it too. The pair of Vermilion
Flycatcher feed every evening last thing on the fence by corral
while I watch the firefly show. The fireflies seem to get a free
pass from them and the Phoebes, the chemicals that make the light
are also protection from predators. They are black and orange or red
too ya know, which means DO NOT TOUCH in nature. Rough-winged Swallow
was feeding a young out front over road today. Barely heard a Chuck
but it only gave the last part of the call, wills-widow. They are
losing enthusiasm quickly.
Put my 'bug' (coral) light out on a sheet since there are
chances of rain overnight the next several nights so last chance for a week.
Moved it to patio so I could leave it on and not keep wife awake.
But it was too windy, so shut it down after a couple hours. Lots of
June beetles (what month is it?). A couple more of the small
Cicadas, a very thin 1.25" plus Cerambycid, all brown, lots of
little Diptera, a few moths, but too windy at 10mph+.
June 10 ~ A nice cool morning in mid-60's dF felt great. Ran
to town first thing, Barred Owl and Hutton's Vireo were it at the
park, besides the usual stuff. In the afternoon a Zone-tailed Hawk
circled the yard low for a couple minutes eyeing the feeder users.
Nice when they do it during one of my breaks so I get to watch.
Today the Seco Creek Weather Underground station gave out a 104 dF for
the high! They must have it by a hot patch of cement. I barely got
91dF here on the porch, the station in town gave a 97 or so, also
way hotter than here. There is 5-10dF difference between our shaded
front porch and sunny south side back porch next to cement patio.
This could be the situation with these two stations, in hot spots.
I think it was Mr. La Rue that told me he is seeing Green Heron
down river locally. They usually are where the river has a pond
or lake type effect, and not in the stream or river type habitats
along the river. There is often a pair that nests on the island
at the park and so they can be seen around park pond. They have been
scarcer since the drought, like Whistling-Duck, so maybe we will
see more of them again now.
June 9 ~ Nice cool low, clear at first, then the gulf low clouds
arrive for a couple hours, burn off, and clear by 10 (holds longer
if you are lucky, till noon). This is the standard summer drill here.
About a 70-92dF spread. Bearable. A couple local WeatherUnderdground
stations were showing 97dF so I put two themometers on the front porch
which is shaded all but a couple hours first thing in morning. One
got to 91dF, the other read 89. So the two most local WU readings are
wayyyyy warmer than what we have here in the shade. Sure if I put them
in the sun we could get a higher reading, but the front porch is warmer
than the carport out back which is shaded all day and down along the
river is even cooler than here. There is great variation very locally, based
on where you are it can be 5-10dF cooler than what WU shows for Utopia.
Great birdsong outside. Seemingly nearly endless Yellow-throated
Vireo and Summer Tanager, and you are glad when the White-eyed Vireo
and Carolina take a break. Great Crested Flycatcher and Yellow-billed
Cuckoo going all the time, as are Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, Black-crested
Titmouse and Bewick's Wren. Cardinal singing less already, but Vermilion
Flycatcher still going great guns, Eastern Phoebe hardly stops too.
Saw a dragonfly which I also saw yesterday, small and black, it looked like
an Ivory-striped Sylph but it didn't stop, just went by porch again.
Setwings and Clubskimmer are daily now, this was not those. Did hear a
Chuck-wills-widow at dusk this evening. Should be 4 or 5 calling.
June 8 ~ The expected gang, there was a juvenlie Yellow-throated
Vireo being fed by an adult in the big pecan. A wandering male
Vermilion Flycatcher was dispatched by the local male in no
uncertain terms. They did a high speed turn at waist height just
8' from me, underparts towards me, just right with that red.
The local Ladder-backed Woodpecker pair had two young in the big pecan.
A Mockingbird moved by southward through river habitat corridor.
I haven't seen one in the yard in a few weeks. It is one of those
species that nest nearby, but not in earshot. I did not hear a single
Chuck-wills-widow tonight, which is scary. They usually call until
the second week of July when they abrubtly go silent (save begging young)
a month before they depart. I think a bunch of them lost young in
the mega rain event and are not retrying, it is too late.
Chiggers and skeeters are getting more numerous, as expected after
all the rain. Fireflies are still going great, there are way over
a hundred in the yard and for a half hour it sparkles. It is so
awesome I watch until I can't take the mosquitoe bites any more.
There were Checkered and Swift Setwing and Pale-faced Clubskimmer
for dragonflies in yard today. One of the underwing moths with the
brown hindwing (C. obscurus or somesuch) flushed off the big pecan.
June 7 ~ Nice cooler morning in upper 60's dF, quite nice early.
Later morning I went over to Utopia on the River to check on the
Parula warblers and get some better Dickcissel audio tape. The dang
grasshoppers or somesuch are making taping hard unless you get out
early. You can't hear them with your bare ear, but amplified with
a mic it sounds like armageddon. Finally I got some bearable tape.
There are still 5 or so males singing, I saw a few females, right in
front of UR on 360, nesting in a field of mostly Mexican Hat. Weird.
Two mornings last week I had singles in the big pecan at dawn, that
is, migrants on the move, northbound. After nesting here since it
rained, they take off migrating north and catch another spring up
in maybe Missouri or Kansas and breed again. Rain chasers.
Sounds like an Orchard Oriole is nesting out front of UR too, in
the biggest trees on the road. Bobwhite is calling out in that
pasture, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher nesting in the
scattered mesquites. At UR I found both singing male Northern Parula
warblers that were there a couple-three weeks ago. The one below their
burn site is the one that had a female, which I didn't see, but
since he is singing in same trees they are surely nesting there.
Which is unprecedented in the upper Sabinal drainage. I don't know
if the other male has a mate, it was in the same trees it was in
two weeks ago as well, singing the same slightly different song I
heard earlier. Visually, they are both good pure Northern Parula males.
Did not hear the Acadian Flycatcher or Indigo Bunting but it was
noonish by time I got in there. Red-eyed Vireo of course never stops
singing. There was a great dragonfly I got some poor docu shots (maybe)
of, It was a Swamp Darner. There are maybe 3 prior UvCo records, two
of them at Utopia Park which I found, one was the first UvCo record.
The two I saw at the park were females, this was a male. Saw a Banded
Pennant at UR too. There was another Orange-winged Blister Beetle on
some Prickly Poppy along 360.
At the crossing there were a few odes, Pale-faced Clubskimmer, both
Checkered and Swift Setwing, a couple Green Darner, and in damsels
some Stream Bluet, Am. Rubyspot, Violet and Dusky Dancers. The
river is still high, though well below bridge it is still roaring,
it is a LOT of water going by. I might want an innertube after all.
I could start by our place and have a half-mile to the crossing and
another half down to Utopia on the River. Wonder if I could make
3 Mile bridge?
June 6 ~ SOS, same old stuff. See June 3 for the list of what
is around. The Yellow-throated Vireo, Summer Tanager, and Yellow-billed
Cuckoo in particular are in the yard much of the day. There were
3 Cuckoo in the big pecan at once this morning, maybe they got a
young out already? A couple new young Cardinal are begging around.
Got another nest box up, this with a coon-scluder, a false front,
it ain't purdy but it works. A squirrel or coon can't reach
into the box and still reach the nest.
Late afternoon there was a scolding event in the junipers over the
north fence, I couldn't see what it was about, probably a snake.
Wish I could have seen it. The likely Baird's Rat Snake here is a
real pink and orange beauty. Took a good Red Harvester Ant sting or bite
on the foot, holy cow they can get your attention. I've had less pain
from a scorpion. Not as bad as a Red Gaviid (Hemiptera) but worse than
a Yellow Jacket. Not as bad as a dysfunctional brother, and worse
than an ex-wife. I'll be here all year....
At dark I put out a 'bug light' to see if things had gotten any better
since last year's attempt was nearly depressing so little came in.
I just use what is handy which means a four foot fluorescent fixture
loaded with coral lights. A 6500 kelvin daylight tube and a 440
nanometer actinic blue tube which is just on the blue side of UV. Put
this by a sheet hung up and let 'er rip. I need to set up one bank
of just the actinic blue and one of the daylight, and compare results.
I only had a couple hours of real dark before I had to shut down as
Kathy said it was like a spaceship was parked outside and too bright.
Have to set up where light spray isn't hitting bedroom window.
The results were great compared to a year ago. Lots of bugs came in,
hundreds of little things I mostly ignore, probably mostly Mirids, and
lots of other interesting things, though I am not entomologist enough
to get much past order, family for groups I know a little bit. The blue
light really messes up photos which will have to be fixed in photoshop,
if I can with yellow. Lots of things come in only briefly, in many cases
things I took pix of at 10 p.m. were gone at 11.
I did see a nice little Cerambycid of a different sort (ph.), and another
odd beetle that may have been one. A Walnut Sphinx (moth) was great, I
had one right after we moved here but not since. Means there are
walnut trees around. Lots of moths came in, mostly small ones, micros
they are called. Three of those Emerald Geometrids were nice. I photo'd
nearly a dozen moths with either good color or patterns. A Treehopper came in,
several of the leafhoppers, a couple things looked like Caddis Flies, an
Ant Lion, a Staphilinid, an Acilid, a couple types of native cockroaches, some
Scarabs of a small sort. I think male gloworm beetle was another, with
the branched fancy antennae.
It was great action. I shot 30 some pix pretty quickly. Shoot first ask
questions later is my policy when I don't know what I am looking at
such as in this situation. A Reduviid came in late, after midnight (ph.),
you know, a Blood-sucking Conenose (Triatoma). The tropical ones carry Chagas',
these are said not to. It was surprisingly flighty, as well as quick and
agile in the air. One long narrow hemip was weird (ph.) with flattened 'leafs'
on hind legs (Coreid I presume). There was also a small cicada that was
brightly colored and only an inch long. And a handful of skeeter bites
while looking at stuff, note, do wear long pants and not sandals. I was
out there in shorts and sandals like a tourist, getting eaten alive.
Bug spray was safe inside the house here.
~ ~ ~ prior update below ~ ~ ~
June 5 ~ On Tuesday I put up one of the nest boxes that Mr. Waters
gave me to put up in the area. Put it on a 3' dowel that I hose-clamped
to a 4' T-post out by the gate. There is a young pecan that shades
it in late afternoon right next to it, so a little tree adjacent, some shade.
On Wednesday a pair of Bewick's Wrens had taken it. Less than
24 hours, fastest box acceptance I have ever seen. They went in and out
all day, and the next.
It shows how there is a hole shortage for cavity nesters and having nesting
habitat availability is a limiting factor for them. A good hole is hard
to find. I often have to move a box a couple to few times to get birds
to take them. Location, location, location. It is everything. I have
two boxes up here not being used, which I have to move again (!) to try to
find that magic sweet spot.
How predator proof the box is, is the number one determining factor
to the birds. Racoons and squirrels are the two biggest nest predators
around, and many know nest boxes can have delicious eggs or nestlings.
I have seen squirrels take a nearly fledged bluebird young out of a nest!
If your boxes are not being used it is likely the bird sees a threat
that you don't. Move it. If your box is on a tree trunk where a
coon or squirrel can reach in, it will not usually be used, and if so,
likely only once and never again. I am working on a page about nest boxes.
In town there was a great low flyover of a Zone-tailed Hawk at the
post office. Point blank. Still exciting every time. If you need
to see a Zone-tail, cruise town mid-morning, mid-day, and afternoon.
Today the post office, a couple weeks ago the general store, watch
for the "vulture" all the swallows and Martins are mugging.
It or they hunt the fields around town daily, esp. at the north end, but
even in town and around the park too.
There were some Chimney Swift displaying, rocking, and diving about in
high speed tight circles putting on quite a show too. Thought I heard
a Parula sing across the river at the park. A Red-eyed Vireo was singing
across the river, unusual at the park. Yellow-throated Warblers gave good
views. Thought sure I heard a Mourning Warbler, but couldn't dig it
out of the flooded understory mess. Would not be too late for a first year
female. One Green Kingfisher flew by calling. Some Clouded Skipper were in
the woods. Dickcissel are still singing so presumedly nesting along 360.
Early in a.m. a Common Grackle flew down the habitat corridor at house.
Saw another couple by Feller's (Waresville turn-off) where they nest.
In the late afternoon I heard a just-fledged family group of Scrub-Jay
just uphill behind us and moving over to corral. They nest nearby but
are not regular in or from the yard. Was out of shotshell and the
varmits seemed to know it. Picked up some rounds for the squirrel
that broke the feeder, and none showed up all afternoon. In yard Swift
Setwing (dragon) was my FOY, and later a couple Checkered Setwing were FOY.
June 4 ~ Low of about 70dF. Here we go summer, this is a normal low
for much of June, July, and August. Sometimes we are lucky to get
to that and 72 to even 74dF is not uncommon in warmer spells. During
heat waves it only barely gets just below 80dF. Heard a Dickcissel
again early this morning in big pecan. The Yellow-throated Vireo was
in the pecan too, soaking wet, obviously having just left the bird bath.
Which reminds me, yesterday Kathy saw the male Painted Bunting at the
bath. I saw the female a couple times where we throw millet.
A squirrel that is not long in this universe broke one of our sunflower
tube feeders yesterday, the one with the squirrel guard. Guard is fine,
the plastic cylinder is not though. If there any little holes in the tube
feeders in any of the photos on this site, you can be assured it
was a squirrel that was shot off of them. I aim wide but still in
order to get the vermin the occasional pellet or two hits the feeder.
The other day one was trying to get out a 1/8" cable. Ridiculous.
There is seed all over the place around yard, they should be satisfied.
The feeders are where they clearly shouldn't even try to get to them.
Hung on plastic coated metal clothesline wire, etc., so as to be squirrel
proof, obviously, except to their lazy arses that refuse to go forage in
the natural wild bounty out there.
There were a couple Great Blue Heron flybys today, probably the
same bird going up and downriver. I do not see Cliff Swallows
daily though they nest a mile away at the 3 mi. bridge crossing.
Right before dark a group of about 6 of them was sprinting south
or downriver at 30', just over treetop level, full speed
ahead. I had no idea Cliff Swallow was capable of such fast
straight-line level flight. I'd peg it at 50 MPH. I presume it
was a hunting party racing back to the colony before dark. I was out
in driveway watching fireflies so got on them inbound and got a great
look as they rocketed low right overhead.
I saw one of the big Stenelytrana gigas Cerambycids (Long-horned Beetle)
today, must be June. In flight they very well mimic Pepsis Wasp, but a
big orange and blue-black beetle. Sure wish I could get a photo of one.
At dusk out on the driveway I was watching the fireflies, and the
Common Nighthawk. I saw a bug flying and as I wondered what it
was and strained to see it in the fading light, a Green Darner
dragonfly swooped in and took it right before my eyes. Solved
that ID conundrum. Screech-Owls calling after dark, I think
they have young out now.
June 3 ~ Here is a list of what is around the yard, or hearable from it
now, so the local breeders within earshot. Great Crested, Brown-crested,
and Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting,
Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated
Warbler and Vireo, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Summer Tanager,
Lark Sparrow, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed
Flycatcher (adjacent), Bobwhite (nearby), Eastern Bluebird, too many of two
species of Cowbirds, Mourning, White-winged, and Ground- Doves, Titmouse
and Chickadee (Black-crested and Carolina), two woodpeckers (Golden-fronted
and Ladder-backed) drum their songs out. Then at dusk Chuck-wills-widow
and Common Nighthawk, and finally Eastern Screech-Owl after dark.
Daily I have Barn and No. Rough-winged Swallow, and Purple Martin
overhead. Nearly daily I see Caracara, Red-tailed and Cooper's Hawk,
and of course TV and BV (Turkey and Black Vulture) are daily. The
Great Horned Owls are quieting down but near-daily, Barred I hear maybe
once a week. Turkey have gone quiet, Whistling-Duck are near-daily
going up- or down-river. This is the daily bread of May, June, and July
here. About 30 sps. nesting real close visiting yard daily as part of
their territories, and about 15 over or near yard daily or nearly so,
so nesting in the immediate vicinity. Hooded Oriole visits near-daily
as well, Dickcissel are nesting a half-mile away, Orchard Oriole probably
too, as are many things not listed above like Chimney Swift and Scrub-Jay.
This is just what I get without going anywhere. These are what is
outside during my once-an-hour 5-10 minute lookarounds, for the last
month and the next two.
The beast of the day was an Underwing moth. These are big fancy moths
of about 3" wingspan when spread, in the genus Catocala. They
are incredibly camoflaged when wings closed, as they hide on tree
trunks usually in the day, invisibly. But the hind wings are bright
pinkish red (other types are orange) barred with black. So when they
fly they are stunning. I got a couple grabshots of it, it was under
the carport awning where it stays cool as it is shady out back all day.
Sweetheart and Darling Underwing are the two types it looked like,
and if those names make you wonder about entomologists, another one
is called Girlfriend!
June 2 ~ It was mid-upper 60's dF for a low, which is pretty
good in June. SE gulf flow back with the typical low clouds in
the morning. It is just the breeders now, and for the next couple
months for the most part. In June the first post-breeding movements
occur, with southbound Black-and-white and Golden-cheeked Warblers,
and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. By mid-July some more things can start
moving, like Orchard Oriole and Purple Martin in particular. But mostly
only locally breeding things, until July. I suspect with the rains
and resulting flowers then insects, there will be many successful
second and third nestings occurring locally this year.
Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatchers were singing in the
yard at the same time this morning. Shortly after an Ash-throated
was on the gate. I can barely hear a Chipping Sparrow singing a
quarter mile away, probably the one that seemed to lose a nest here
a few weeks ago.
Seeing the ad.ma. Hooded Oriole again regularly, I guess he was
just not around during the heavy rain events, and currently he is
not singing when visiting the feeders, the ingrate. If he wasn't
so pretty... Odd was a Bullock's Oriole that stopped briefly
in the big pecan out front when I was outside to hear (and detect) it.
A flock of aerial insectivores went past in the afternoon, a tight
group that included Purple Martin, Barn and Rough-winged Swallow,
and Chimney Swift, all seemingly hitting a swarm of unseeable (to me)
I got a great full-monty Common Nighthawk dive and boom right overhead
at dusk, coming right at me (ok he was trying to impress the female
between us) so you get a full volume version of the boom that you
only get if you are right in front him when and where he does it.
I guarantee I was way more moved than the female by the looks of it.
As he dives I'm rootin' for him all the way down, go go go!
June 1 ~ Holy year blasting past, it is June! Only three weeks
until the solstice and shortening days. KVL had a low of 59dF
this morning, we were in low 60's and anytime you feel that
without standing in the rain in June is great. We are forecast
to dry out for a week, a welcome concept at this point. I was
starting to mold.
Here is something kinda funny that happened nearby in the floods.
Next canyon and river west is the Frio, with Leakey and Concan
at the top and bottom (respectively) of the upper Frio drainage.
It is super mega huge with tubers and kayakers (weekend warriors).
We don't have that circus on the Sabinal. It's quiet over here.
I heard right before one of the big rain events (so probably last
Saturday when we got 5" in the afternoon) a number of tubers
on the Frio had parked their cars at this one regular spot on a
gravel bar at edge of river, then they get taken up-river to a
put-in point, and float back down 5 or 10 miles maybe, to their cars.
I'm guessing they had a heck of ride down because some cars were
innundated and not retreiveable for days when they got back to them.
The impending major rain event could not have been more advertised and
with all our 'connectedness' these days... a current radar
image in every hand at any time here....
Heard a Ringed Kingfisher go over early, I bet they are glad to
see the river finally cleared up. I don't know how they fish
for the week it takes to clear. A Scissor-tail flew over calling
just before sundown, which got the nesting male down the airstrip to
sing so as to inform it flying southward was not a good idea. Heard
the Bobwhite later in p.m., hope it attracted a mate. Eastern (texana)
Screech-Owl calling at dusk as yesterday.
Saw Goatweed Leafwing and Questionmark butterflies today. Butterflies are always
hard on the first, you were riding high on a great month just 12 hours ago,
and now you got nuthin'. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Not a dang thing.
It's back to zero. Even a Checkered-Skipper and a Pipevine Swallowtail
are new today. You think of the slog it will be just to see what you saw
last month, this month, in hotter heat, and you get tired.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
above is June, below is May
~ ~ ~ May summary ~ ~ ~
In a word May was WET! Somewhere near TWO FEET of rain fell
locally in the month, the drought is busted. The aquifer still
needs a lot of recharging (more rain) but on the surface things
are much better now. The river is running and the land is VERY green.
Wildflowers are going great.
In May butterflies I saw 58 species which is the best May diversity in the
last 8 Mays, and a reflection of the great green-up and bloom that is ongoing.
Best May diversity going back to 2007 before the drought got started
when I recorded my record May of 61 species. So second best ever for me
in a dozen years of keeping track.
Quite a bit of our spring butterfly show is immigrants from southward
that move north in spring. Not just the Monarchs are doing this,
many species are. Some get here as beat up as any fall butterfly,
like Theona Checkerspot, Bordered Patch, Gulf Fritillary, and others.
The flight of Red Admirals this year was amazing, hundreds on peak day.
Rarer highlights seen were a Sickle-winged Skipper, the first Arizona
Sister I have seen locally in at least 5 years, as was a Soapberry
Hairstreak which is very hard to come by locally. Those 3 were on
UvCo 360. At Lost Maples I saw singles of Silvery Checkerspot, Little
Wood Satyr, Mourning Cloak, Oak Hairstreak, and the usual large
Swallowtails (Spicebush, Two-tailed, E. Tiger). Considering the many
days of rain it was a great showing.
In May I saw 125 species of birds locally, all of that around Utopia,
save one half-day at Lost Maples. Then another half-day at Uvalde
provided an additional 28 or so brush-country and waterbird species
I did not see up here in the hills. So about 150 sps. of birds in
the area this month. With but a couple half-days of serious birding away
from the immediate Utopia area, so mostly yard and a little bit of park.
Frankly I think it is amazing diversity. If one birded instead of worked
6+ days a week probably 200 is possible in a good May locally.
There was one great day with 14 sps. of warblers and 7 sps. of vireos
on May 5. There were days with lots of Nashville and Yellow Warbler
prior to that, but not the diversity. The top spring highlight was three
Hudsonian Godwit near Sabinal at a stock tank on May 11-12. Other less
than annual goodies around Utopia were a Philadelphia Vireo, Gray-cheeked
Thrush, Blackburnian, Magnolia, and Canada Warblers, 3 Upland Sandpiper, and
a Cassin's Kingbird. Saw a half-dozen male Mourning Warbler but no
females. The late May Black-necked Stilt (2) and 6 Avocet at the South Little
Creek buffalo wallows were outstanding records (L.C. Larry). The
Baird's Sandpiper behind the gas station at a roadside wet spot
was pretty good too.
The total of 19 species of warblers for the entire spring migration is
below normal, average is 22. Missed Tennessee (1st time in 12 years),
American Redstart (2nd time missing in 12 springs), and Ovenbird (seen
50% of 12 springs). Missed as well were Eastern Kingbird, Willow and
Olive-sided Flycatcher this spring. A number of Broad-winged Hawk were
at Lost Maples for seemingly a couple weeks, including one rarer dark morph bird.
Between work and rain I did not much persue dragonflies this month,
and didn't see anything out of the ordinary, just the expected lot.
A Pronghorn Clubtail was nice on 360. Good numbers of Pale-faced
Clubskimmer were nice to see. The firefly action really kicked into
gear this month and has been quite the show since early mid-May. Areas
with long grass are best. There was an Eyed Elatarid or two. The Coyote,
Gray Fox, and Porcupine from the porch were nice.
~ ~ ~ end May summary ~ ~ ~
May 31 ~ An amazing low for the date of about 63dF, KVL had 61.
Not to mention fairly dry air. Wow. Chamber of Commerce weather,
the high in low 80's. On the last day of May!?! We skated
through May on the temperatures, not to mention hitting the jackpot
on banking some much needed water. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher over
at river early in morning.
I am afraid I have to give up hope (or get out of denial) about some
more migrants coming through. I figured with the showing of 6 male
Mourning Warbler, some females would be coming through, as well as
other late migrants like Willow Flycatcher. Guess they got by me
undetected this year.
As it was the last day of the month and so many were rained out
we took a 90 minute mile-and-a-third butterfly walk along the
flower-lined dirt road out front. And it was great, besides the
85dF and dripping humidity part. Finally saw my first Metalmark of
the year, a nice fresh Rounded (C. perditalis). And my first False
Duskywing (Gesta) of the year, as well as first Southern Skipperling (2),
Pearl Crescent, and Desert Checkered-Skipper (2) of May, and a Fiery
Skipper. So added 6 species to the monthly total at the 11th hour, and
now it is my second-best May total at 58 species. Best May in last 8,
and all the way back to May of '07 which was best ever at 61 sps.
The 90 minute mile-and-change walk itself was about 27 species.
Birds were mostly heard, the local breeders: Vermilion and Scissor-tailed
Flycatcher, Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatcher, White-eyed and
Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat,
Summer Tanager, Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Lark Sparrow, Cardinal,
the wrens, titmouse, chickadee, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, E. Bluebird, etc.
The river is still roaring, an amazing amount of water coming down,
it is 120' wide at the 360 crossing and a few inches over
the pavement all the way across. And it is running clear now, no
more silt, it looks great. There is a big river-rock 'sandbar' now
where there was not one before, and a huge logjam too that will be above
water level when the river goes back down. The water sure scraped a lot
of habitat bare in the channel.
At a wet spot in the road there was a female Common Whitetail and
great was my first local Orange Bluet here. Can be regular at the
park, but I had not detected one on or along 360 yet so new for my
local list. Saw a Dusky Dancer too. Saw one male Orange-winged
Blister Beetle on one of the last Prickly Poppy flowers. Heard my
first of the year big cicada and katydid calling today.
May 30 ~ A muggy 70dF low, waiting for the front, an outflow boundry
showered just a little bit before dawn ahead of it. Supposed to
be a rain event today or tonight with the passage. I heard a
Red-eyed Vireo sing in the yard early, must be trolling through.
In the p.m. I heard an Eastern Wood-Pewee singing across the road,
also likely an unmated troller.
Just after 11 a.m. we watched 3 Bewick's Wren leave the nest box.
The second one was clearly pushed out by the last one, Kathy says
making the pusher a male. It is always great to see a set of young
fledge from a nestbox you put up. After the House (English) Sparrows
evicted some in-progress Black-crested Titmouse from the box I had
to chase them away several times when the wrens were in it, so
success at last is sweet. In the meanwhile got rid of the House Sparrows too.
It was in the upper 80's dF shortly after noon, we were saved by an
outflow boundry at about 2 p.m. whence it proceeded to drop, by shortly
after 3 it was in the low 70's. The line of storms that went by
seemed to have a hole in it, a break which mostly went right over
Utopia when the main big line went by. So everyone else got more
than we did, but we didn't need any more at the moment. It was
maybe .15 of an inch here. Got a little bit of weed whacking in before it hit.
The firefly show continues to astound.
~ ~ ~ May 29 update header ~ ~ ~
MOST RECENT UPDATE: May 29, 2015
Happy Spring! It is exploding green! Migration is tailing off
(tee he he) if not done and gone. Birds were falling out of
the skies for a while there. Butterflies are really getting going
(56 sps. in April with 45 sps. in a couple hours on April 25!).
Lots of wildflowers are blooming including Prairie Fleabane, Coreopsis,
Dakota Verbena, and tons of others. Breeding birds are singing.
It's great out, come on down.
We have been getting lots of rain, a major event May 23 p.m. to the
early a.m. 24th dropped 7-8 inches in the area and flooding many
low-water crossings. In the two weeks prior to that there had
already been 11 inches in as many days. With another 1.5" on the
29th we are now pushing 22 INCHES of rain for May! So we surely
are out of D1 on the drought scale by now. We will need a few
wet years to recover biologically though. They don't measure
the kinds of things I do, like presence of 5 butterfly species
that were common pre-drought and absent since.
There are of course lots of Golden-cheeked Warbler back now
at Lost Maples. I heard way over a dozen on each of a couple
walks a few weeks ago, saw several each walk. Saw a few on a
walk two weeks ago, young not yet out of nests. Fair numbers
of Black-capped Vireo are above the ponds up on the bluff tops if
you can get up there. It is a strenuous half-mile, but worth it
for the ease of seeing the vireo, the other 'up top' stuff,
and the views. Black-capped Vireo can be heard at the day use
area on slope west of the restroom there.
All the migratory locally nesting species have returned and those that
do are singing. Ruby-throated (a few nest sometimes) and Black-chinned
Hummingbird, Chuck-wills-widow and Common Nighthawk, Purple Martin, Barn,
Cliff, Cave, and N. Rough-winged Swallow, Vermilion, Scissor-tailed,
Ash-throated, Brown-crested and Great Crested Flycatchers, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher,
Black-and-white and Yellow-throated Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat,
Louisiana Waterthrush, Bell's, Red-eyed, Yellow-throated and White-eyed
Vireos, Scott's and Hooded Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, Painted and Indigo Bunting,
Dickcissel, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
Toss in the Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo, and it is a
great buffet of selections all breeding in one little area.
A MacGillivray's Warbler was at Utopia Park (UP) May 1. May 5 there
was a local fallout with Philadelphia Vireo and Mourning Warbler in our
yard (and 9 sps. of warblers just in yard!). Two more Mourning were
at UP the same day, as well as a Catbird there (plus another in yard),
while a Blackburnian Warbler was at the 360 crossing and a Magnolia
Warbler and Gray-cheeked Thrush were at Utopia on the River. WOW all
in one day! That is how fallout, and migration, works. A CANADA Warbler
(and another Mourning) were at UP on May 14. I taped a singing Mourning
in our yard on May 15, at least my sixth this spring.
Dodging May showers is usually great birding locally. I saw 14 sps. of
warblers and 7 sps. of vireos locally May 5 in a few hours. May 6 there
was a singing male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in our yard, and on May 7 a
Franklin's Gull and 7 Mississippi Kite went over. Four more Miss.
Kite went over May 23 just in front of a wall of rain. Nothing better
for birding here in early May than some weather to knock birds down.
The rain lets us see what would otherwise be passing by undetected.
Like a Coot at the park. Seems May 5-11 was the best week of spring here.
May 11 I found (and photo'd) 3 HUDSONIAN GODWIT at a stock tank
near Sabinal which were photographed again May 12 (Ken Cave).
There was only one prior UvCo record of a single bird. An Avocet
and a couple Black-necked Stilt were at a flood pond just NW of town
in Bandera Co. late April (Hilbigs). Any rain pond can have a great
shorebird now. A Baird's Sandpiper was at water at the edge of the
road behind the Pico (our gas station) on May 14! Darn thing is on its
way from Argentina to arctic Canada and stopped to gas up in Utopia!
Three rare in spring Upland Sandpiper went over at dusk on May 8.
The ROADSIDE HAWK was seen again on April 10 at park (when also heard
calling) and out front of the park on the 14th, and April 18 from
our yard again, a couple miles south of town. So it has stuck, but
enigmatic in that it's movement patterns remain a mystery.
Since Jan. 30 three detections at park area and 4-5 sightings a
couple miles south of town along river habitat corridor where no
open public access.
~ ~ ~ end May 29 update header ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ back to the regularly scheduled drivel ~ ~ ~
May 29 ~ A big MCS hit just before midnight and rained pretty good
for a couple hours, with a fair bit of lightning. By time dawn
arrived it was in the low 60's dF! Sunny with blue skies is not
something we have been seeing much of, especially at 62dF in late May!
Total was about 1.5" of rain. Now we are pushing 22 inches of rain
the last three weeks, with a cold front forecast to arrive tomorrow
evening with more. We might make two feet for the month. I am
hearing via weather news outlets things like "wettest May ever
in Texas" and for the most part the drought has been busted.
A few pair of Chimney Swift were around town, the usual pair of
Great-tailed Grackle near Pico did not seem to materialize this
spring, I am not complaining, nor have I heard one. With the rain
I thought maybe something could be at a pond so took a quick run
to Haby's wet spot on W. Sabinal Rd., one White-faced Ibis
was there. Nothing at the park, but lots of water going over the
Ran into Little Creek Larry at the store and he said a week ago
at the south Little Creek buffalo wallow there were 6 Avocet and
a couple Black-necked Stilt! WOW! Two records for each this spring.
Knocked down by the rain no doubt. He also said there is one set
of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck babies out of the nest over there.
And he mentioned one day last week he had a small flock of a handful
of gulls, which I would say were surely Franklin's, our default
Just before 4 p.m. I was on the porch and watched a Zone-tailed
Hawk dive on something just in the corral, missed and pulled up
right over the pumphouse and then went over yard at treetop level.
I love seeing them in the yard. The Chimney Swift were checking
out the chimneys here early in a.m., but both are sealed unfortunately.
I need to build a Chimney Swift tower.
Saw the male Hooded Oriole come in to feeders late p.m., and heard
a Couch's Spadefoot Toad before dusk from in the yard over by
the cottage. There is a sort of hiccup sound before the long buzzy
bleat if you are close enough. A friend showed me a photo of a
Tarantula they saw on 337 on the way to Leakey. Spring after rains
is the best time to see them, generally the males get out and move
around looking for females. Now THAT is a (harmless) spider!
May 28 ~ A few spritzes in between partly sunny skies, warm and humid.
Too busy Thursdays. Kathy saw the ad. ma. Hooded Oriole come in.
I saw a pair of Chimney Swifts circling low on one check outside.
Too many Brown-headed and Bronzed Cowbird hitting the millet here.
Will work on that, and the yard if it quits raining and dries out.
At least migration seems to have passed us by so I'm not feeling
like I am missing much. The firefly show continues to be mind-boggling,
the front yard sparks for a half hour of peak show. Right before
midnight a MCS moved in from the NW. Wouldn't want to fall asleep
May 27 ~ More of the same, muggy and 70-85dF, no migrants, it's over.
Just the breeders now for the next few months. At least it is a
great set handy. The Bewick's Wrens are feeding young fast and
furious, should be getting them out soon. I am not hearing though
Chuck-wills-widow as before the 8" event last Sat. and Sunday.
There were 4-5 duelling singers in earshot, now I hear one. I think
many lost their young which would have been maybe about half grown now.
So they have to decide whether or not to try again, and meanwhile
seem to be shocked into silence, save one bird. Common Nighthawk is
still booming over the little hill just north of us. I could never
tire of watching that dive with the pullout on bowed down wings
followed by celebratory side to side rocking. An amazing display.
May 26 ~ About 70dF for a low, to upper 80's today, and no rain.
So some drying out and the river is going down. Seems like a week
now with no migrants. And two with only a very very few. If it
is really over, it (spring migration) sure died a quick and sudden death.
It seems it is just breeding species now for the next few months.
I don't know how you will stay interested...
In butterflies I saw a huge sulphur today flying slowly, all floppy,
like an Orange-barred, but it got away. Probably was one. Missed
them last year (or two maybe). Goatweed Leafwing about, thought I
had a Pearl Crescent but it too got away. Re-installed a couple
bird boxes I had to take down to get rid of a pair of House Sparrow.
I couldn't get close enough to get them with shot shell, these
country House Sparrows are so wary it amazes me. Behaviorally they
are not the same bird as the city ones. They certainly call differently
as well. Which they can go do somewhere else. I didn't move to the
country to listen to that, much less watch them evict native birds out
of their nest boxes.
May 25 ~ There was a little bit of drizzle and light shower early
but the cells mostly missed us this time, up-valley might have
gotten a little, we only saw a tenth or so of precip. And the
sun and blue skies in the afternoon. Just the breeding birds
about now it seems. At least there is a pile of cool ones out
the door so not all bad.
A Carolina Wren pair has a second nest in an unused stored Martin
house on a shelf in the carport. Got used afterall. If you left
a car door open Carolina Wrens would have a nest in there in no time.
A while back that was what was roosting in the cab of the pickup on
steering wheel and rearview mirror leaving droppings on the dashboard.
Lovely, must be a birder's vehicle. I am now trained to roll the
windows all the way up.
The Cuckoos are about quite a bit, saw one chasing the other as
they flew not 8' past me on the front porch, later they
went by again in tandem. They are amazingly quiet on the wing,
you can't hear them flap. Whereas Cardinal and Cowbird are noisy as
heck when they fly at a fraction of the size. Sure great to hear
the cuckoos all day. There was a Juvenal's Duskywing butterfly on porch
May 24 ~ Sometimes I get to write about birds, other times the
butterflies, flowers, or dragonflies. Today it is the weather.
About 2 a.m. the third MCS to hit in 12 hours woke us with thunder,
and ANOTHER 2.75" of rain. So since 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon to
this morning we received 7-8" of rain locally (we have 8 here).
Flooding is ongoing at low-water crossings and downriver cities like
Sabinal are flooding seriously (flood stage is 12' and the river is
at 18' there this morning).
We are fine where we are, I think it would take a 300 year flood or
so for us to have an issue, and that happened in '02 so unlikely.
We just have to take the 'back' way out of 360 to 1050 if we want
to get to town. The 360 crossing is not usable. Glad I went to town early
and got restocked before the weekend. Memorial Day weekend has a rain
bullseye on it here. It seems to me over half of the last dozen have
had serious rain events. It is like whatever weekend they have
Utopiafest in fall, mark it for rain now.
I heard an off-sounding Chipping Sparrow type song but which was not
a Chippy. Since there are no Junco here this time of year, I have to
consider it was likely a Worm-eating Warbler, it sounded good for one too,
a little thinner and tinnier. Couldn't find it across the road though.
Which almost counts as a character for Wormies. We walked over there
a bit later morning and went to river for a look. Didn't hear anything,
but the roar of the river. Saw one of the Orange-winged Blister Beetles
eating a Skeleton Plant flower. They sure like eating flower petals.
The river was up way high, out of normal bank on the low sides of channel,
and clearly had gone way down since the deluge this morning drained. It
is usally about 900' from our house, and looks like it was maybe 450'
at one point, from the matted-down wildflowers. Would have taken more
than another foot of rain to get it to us since we are much higher up.
I saw a Buckeye (butterfly) on the way over to river that was a Tropical
Buckeye, it blasted when I pulled camera out. It is the first of
that species I have seen on or along 360. Butterflies chase rain, this
should be a great year for them. Around 3:30 we took a walk to the
crossing to check the roadside wildflowers for butterflies and saw a
Common Buckeye which made the Tropical this morning even more obviously so.
Then I found a Sickle-winged Skipper (Eantis tamenund) on some Texas
Thistle (ph.). It was so fresh it still had the purple haze of the
overscaling. This is also a new butterfly for my 360 list, and the
first one I have seen in a few years, maybe since fall of 2012. It is
usually a fall invader in the years it shows up (it is not annual),
often only one per fall except the best couple years. I have a
June record from Thunder Creek (the first Bandera Co record in 2004),
but this may be my first May record for the species here. A good sign
for butterflies to come when a vagrant is showing up already in May.
We saw a Goatweed Leafwing puddling on the wet road, as well as both
Funereal and Mournful Duskywing, a few Reakirt's Blue, Red Admiral,
and on flowers along road were the regular expected suspects, a Eufala
Skipper was my first for the month, a couple Julia's were about,
Fiery and Dun Skipper, Sachem, Celia's Roadside-Skipper, a bunch
of Common or White Checkered-Skipper, only Gray for Hairstreaks, still no
Metalmarks out. A few of the Orange-winged Blister Beetle were on
In birds only the most persistent singers were still at it in the
dripping 85dF heat of the day: Painted Bunting, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher,
Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat,
Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Vermilion Flycatcher, Lesser Goldfinch, Blue
Grosbeak and Lark Sparrow. At the crossing ran into Earlynn Tompkins,
a neighbor from just downriver a bit from us and she said they too had
8" of rain for the event, confirming what I measured total for
the 3 MCS's that moved over from yesterday afternoon to this
morning, in about 12 hours. WOW!
At 7 p.m. the first year male Hooded Oriole hit the hummer feeders.
I asked Kathy yesterday if she had seen the adult male in the last
few or several days and she said no. Neither have I. Maybe the
bugs are so available they don't need it, or the rain has been too
much, but usually when nesting they still come in daily. Hope nothing
happened to him. Maybe we have just missed him. I heard a bird
fly over calling after dark going north I sure wish I could have
seen. Still can't place the call, but it was good and something
new for me here if I had a name for it.
May 23 ~ The benign morning was deceptive. I heard a warbler just
before some rain hit in afternoon so was outside with binocs when
the first wall of water approached, with four Mississippi Kites riding the
leading edge just ahead of it. Never did see the warbler I heard. The
first big MCS of rain between 3 and 4 p.m. dumped 2.5 INCHES in an hour
and change. The second one between 6 and 7, lighter till 8 p.m. dumped
another 2.5+"+ more of rain! We received 5+" of rain this
afternoon to early evening! It was torrential downpours, the river
is roaring, surely all low water crossings were flooded. There are
flood warnings at various spots on Nueces, Frio, and Sabinal Rivers,
including at Concan and Sabinal. We are at or over 16 INCHES of rain
in less than two weeks! Should mention as I keep forgetting, seemingly
near daily there are Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks going over the house,
dusk or dawn, sometimes both, usually just 2 or 4 at a time but neat
to see and hear.
May 22 ~ SOS, same old stuff. Low in upper 60's was nice, and it
warmed to upper 70's dF in afternoon. The cloudy overcast morning
was almost foggy, partly sunny afternoon. No migrants. It is as
if it is over. Say it ain't so. One Yellow Warbler was it for migrants
in the last week. Depression can set in easily at this time, realizing 99.999% of
the migratory breeding birds in North America are past you, and that spring
is all but over as far as bird passage is concerned. The further south
you are the earlier it happens, and seemingly the harder it hits. The
upside is that if you find something late, it is often good. If you have
the impetus to keep going. Which you should. Or you could quick fly
a thousand miles north and catch it again up there. I haven't seen the
Chipping Sparrow pair that was here for a week now, I suspect they lost
their nest in the last week or two of rain storms.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
May 21 ~ A cold front came through after midnight last night
and we got about 1.2 inches of rain, so we are around 11 inches
in the last 11 days. Holy cow! Dropped temps into upper the 60's dF!
The forecast is for another event over Memorial Day weekend
so parks might not be the usual crowded this weekend. Today it
barely got to low-mid 70' after yesterday's upper 80's dF.
No migrants again today, including at the park which I checked
when I ran to town for errands to beat the holiday rush tomorrow.
We lost a big willow up on the island, or at least it fell over into
that great swampy bayou there, taking part of a mulberry with it, and
blocking much of our view of the island mulberries from the (now former)
best vantage point. Knowing willows it may well live, even though on
The only thing of interest were Cliff Swallows gathering mud for
nests along Main St. across from the P.O.. Don't know where they are
trying, but the last several years of drought they have not stuck to
nest locally around town except at the high bridges south of town
(3 mi. and 8 mi. bridges). The low bridge crossings are all innudated now.
A few Cave Swallow were among them offering roadside point blank views
from the old water co. parking lot.
Where is that last hurrah of migrants we usually get after the main push?
What I haven't seen is as interesting as what I have. No Tennessee
Warbler or American Redstart, which if I don't pick up in the next
week will be the first spring in 12 that I did not detect a Tennessee,
only second time missed for Redstart. No Willow (!) or Olive-sided
Flycatcher, or Eastern Kingbird, and no Lazuli Bunting this spring for me.
Six male Mourning Warbler and no females? Seems like there should be
another wavelet, please, one last pulse of things heading for cool climes.
May 20 ~ More of the same, cloudy overcast in a.m. with a few
passing spritzes, very warm balmy afternoon. No migrants for the
day again, save a worn Monarch butterfly. In that department
also had a Texan Crescent, Tawny Emperor and Elada Checkerspot
besides the regulars in the yard. It seems we are down to the
breeding birds though I remain hopefull some flycatchers and
maybe a late warbler or two will come through yet still.
Perhaps the sub-tropical jet and wet West flow has kept
much to the east this spring. Heard some more just fledged
begging Carolina Chickadees today.
May 19 ~ Strong southerlies all day, maybe we will get some
migrant birds tomorrow. Mostly sunny in p.m. after an overcast
morning with a couple brief spits of precip. Kathy heard a warbler
sing late p.m. she thought was a Yellow. Over the day I had a couple
Orchard Oriole, the pair of Yellow-billed Cuckoo, all the regulars.
Heard a White-tipped Dove again, seemingly near daily now from porch.
Probably nesting over by river somewhere. A female Falcate Orangetip
butterfly is probably my latest date for one of those. Must be
well over a hundred firefly in front yard now. An awesome show.
May 18 ~ Balmy overnight but no thunder or rain, maybe the water
will drop below the road level at the 360 crossing today? Warm
and humid in the afternoon (60-70%) and 85dF is sticky if you
are doing something besides guarding a fan in the shade.
No migrant motion in the morning. I really expected a wave when
this broke and haven't seen anything. There has to be another
wave (or two) as we haven't had but Least for flycatchers yet.
Things like Willow or Olive-sided Flycatcher have not yet shown up.
Hope we didn't miss them this year. The middle half of May is
typically flycatcher time here (for the northerly breeders that just
pass through) and there are usually some more stray warbler and other
goodies too. Since many things were behind a bit this spring I think
that they just haven't gotten here yet and we've still some
migrant birds to come. In migration, as life, most people quit too early. ;)
May 17 ~ Just before dawn another (!) MCS moved over which was
about at San Angelo to Ozona at 11 p.m. It dropped another (!)
1.75" of rain! We are near 10 INCHES of rain since last Monday
morning - in a week. Fortunately it has been in 2" bursts every
other day or so, so lots of aquifer recharge resulting. Probably
are some wells around the valley that have water now for the first
time in way too long. Probably water at the Hwy. 127 bridge (at Pepper's)
in Sabinal now.
Heard a couple Orchard Oriole in the morning but that was it for
non-immediate-area breeders (they nest near, but not sure how near).
Was going to tape some singing Dickcissel and check UR out but
the crossing had 4" of water roaring over it and I chickened
out. A Spotted Sandpiper was on the high curbs at the one section
where they are. A Ringed Kingfisher flew by while I was there, looking
for some clear water to fish in. One female Yellow Warbler was all I saw
in the pecans in that area. They are done blooming for the most part and
no longer the major drawing card they were save being a big leafy deciduous
attractant (where all my local Chestnut-sided Warblers records have been,
I found one of the neat black-bodied 'daddy long-legs' with some
color in legs, the first I have seen alive, and got some poor photos.
The only other one I saw was dead, under a Black Widow web where it no
doubt lost its life. Not actually a true spider though superficially
looks like one, it is in the order Opiliones (harvestmen and daddy long-legs)
in the class Arachnida (which includes spiders, scorpions, ticks, etc.).
We took a late afternoon walk to the crossing mostly for butterflies,
the roadside flowers are really getting going. We saw at least a
dozen Prairie Larkspur, so will collect some seeds in a month or so.
One Yellow Warbler, heard Scissor-tail, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting,
Yellow-throateds in both warbler and vireo, but mostly the roar of the river.
Saw a couple Tawny Emperor butterflies, a Fiery Skipper, and a Violet
Dancer damselfly. We heard a White-tipped Dove calling.
The best find though was a pair of the Orange-winged Blister Beetle
(Lytta fulvipennis), initially flying and not around poppies so looking
more like the Pepsis Wasp it appears they mimic. On they way back I
presume the same pair (male and female) were on some Prickly Poppy where
you usually see them (or else on Mexican Poppy). The females are big beetles.
Do not touch one of these beasts, the chemicals they squirt as a defensive
juice blisters, and is said to be very very painful.
Here is a pic from 2010 so you know what not to pet.
Orange-winged Blister Beetle (Lytta fulvipennis)
A female about 1.5" long. DO NOT TOUCH!
A Monarch flew by late afternoon that I couldn't say for sure
if it was a worn pale one or a new emergence, just that it was a
Monarch, it went by too quickly. Also in the late afternoon a male
Common Grackle flew over the house, don't see many from yard,
though they nest at Feller's by the gun shop.
The firefly show before dark is amazing, there are surely way over a
hundred in the yard, it is sparkling out there incredibly. They have
peaked by time the Chuck-wills-widows start calling just before actual
dark. The Eastern Treehole Mosquitoes tell me when it is time to
get inside. They are small, fast, and vicious biters right at dusk.
They are one result of rain, all the treeholes have filled up.
Chiggers still aren't bad though, just stray singles so far.
If it dries up a bit, watch out.
May 16 ~ Misty in the a.m., cleared in the afternoon, got up to
low-mid 80's dF, and dripping humidity. No migrant movement.
Finally late afternoon I had one Yellow Warbler. Went out and
dug up a few native wildflowers and transplanted to house. Working on
getting a good assortment of natives going for the butterflies.
Found a Prarie Larkspur which may be new for my 360 area list, and in
any case one of the prettiest flowers we have here. Trying to make it
so there is a full enough selection of the native flowers that
something is always blooming in the yard that is a butterfly magnet.
Best was a Soapberry Hairstreak (Phaeostrymon alcestis) butterfly
photo'd at point blank nectaring on Mexican Hat. Which confirms
Soapberry (their foodplant) here too since it was mint and fresh. The plant
and the butterfly are both new species for my 360 list. They seem to
have a brief flight period (the butterfly, not the tree) as I do not record
them annually here, so a real treat to upgrade my photos. At some rain
puddles in the road were over a half-dozen Duskywing (Erynnis) skippers.
A couple Funereal, four Mournful, one Horace's and a Northern Cloudywing
to boot. Good thing no one came along to see me using my bins staring
at the puddles in the road right in front of me. A Texan Crescent
was in the yard later. One probable Elada Checkerspot got away down
A male Orchard Oriole sang for a bit as it trolled through the
yard in the afternoon. Never get tired of that. Heard White-tipped
Dove calling over toward river again. Saw a Pale-faced Clubskimmer
(dragon) in yard which briefly hung-up (perched hanging vertically
as oposed to perching horizontally, certain dragon groups perch horizontally
while others hang vertically) until it saw the 'go-get-camera' gleam in my eyes.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
May 15 ~ A big slow moving MCS moved over much of the night.
Bad for sleep, good for the aquifer. Rained about a half-inch
per hour for 6 hours, with a bolt of lightning every time you
just fell back to sleep. LOL Average totals around town seem to
be about 3"! Some got a little less, some got near 4"!
Which makes at least 6-7 and for some 8 inches of rain since
Monday morning! GADZOOKS! A hot dry May wasn't in the cards.
We might be nearing D1 on the drought monitor scale after all this.
Before 7 a.m. I had put out the hummer and seed feeders and tossed
seed, went to look off front porch for a minute, and a Coyote
walks right by down the road right past the gate. We hear them all
the time but this is the first I have seen from the porch.
Very neat if you ask me. I know a lot of locals are not crazy
about them, but they are part of a healthy ecosystem, and are not
over-populated unlike say introduced non-native axis deer or feral
pigs which do nothing but damage to ecosystems (and taste great). :)
We ought to be at war with the feral pigs. They are actually screwing
the land and balance of nature up in ways most but the biologist
First migrant of day was about 11 a.m., a Least Flycatcher, at noon a
male Yellow Warbler showed up singing, and at noon-thirty a male Mourning
Warbler burst into song by the cottage. I got a little bit of audio
tape of it singing, very cool to hear them sing down here, they
don't sing much this far south of the breeding grounds (Canada).
It is a couple buzzy intro notes followed by a jumble that sounds
like a partial slower House Wren babble. Later I heard it while in the
office. ... just a Mourning Warbler singing while I work...
After 5 p.m. I went to UR to check the frostweed patch and pecans.
Just about nothing. One Acadian Flycatcher singing is a new
return (they nest here non-drought years). A Parula type warbler I
heard singing was a couple hundred yards from where the pair
has been, and was not singing either of the two (normal regular) songs
that male has been singing. But I couldn't get an eye on him. It
sounded like worth checking to make sure wasn't a Tropical as
it was high thin and fast. There was nothing at the crossing pecans.
The water was over crossing at some point, say the big branches
on it. The Sabinal roars again! I heard at least four different
calling Couch's Spadefoot Toad from the porch after dark.
May 14 ~ The cloudy with rain threat continues, we are about two
weeks straight of it now, and the next week to ten days is forecast
to be more of the same. Yesterday the high was only in the upper
60's dF! In mid-May! Another MCS is predicted to move over
tonight. The rivers and streams are running at bankfull now. Our
normally dry draw a hundred yards north of us was roaring yesterday
morning to afternoon. No migrants moving through in a.m., probably
most things are still being held down at departure source points.
If you aren't feeding hummingbirds, count yourself lucky. The weather
has really cut down on their main food, small flying bugs, and they
are for a couple weeks now (and the next), almost completely dependent on
the feeders. But no you can't claim them. This is compounded by the
huge numbers of juveniles that have just fledged, the first round of
them. They have gray heads. We probably have over 500 birds at 3 feeders.
I am hearing many locals saying they are seeing amazing numbers now too.
If you are using a gallon of fluid a day, you likely have 500 too.
You may see 25 at once, but they are changing every minute or two
and in a half hour 20 sets of 25 have visited.
Due to rain forecast for tomorrow I made a dash to town this afternoon.
And boy am I glad I did. I see a few birds were knocked down, probably
in yesterday morning's rain, and were grounded so still about.
A roadside wet spot in town (behind the Pico gas station!) had a
Baird's Sandpiper! So I was surpised Haby's wet spot on W. Sabinal Rd.
had no shorebirds. There are Grasshopper Sparrow singing in that area
though, I have heard them both checks in the last week. I've yet to
detect anything I would call summering or breeding Grasshopper Sparrow
hereabouts, only passage birds so far.
A Zone-tailed Hawk cruised low right over Main St. about 4:30 p.m.
At the park (UP) there were a few migrants. A Coot is always good here
and so it must have rained. Up in the woods was a female Common Yellowthroat,
a male Mourning Warbler, an Oporornis that got away (probably another
Mourning), and a stunning male CANADA Warbler at point blank, as close
as I could focus. OMG. One of my favorites, it is only the fourth one
in 12 springs here, so quite a rary actually. Made my day. A Swainson's
Thrush and Yellow-billed Cuckoo tried to get my attention but succeeded only
momentarily. Interestingly there was only one UvCo record of Canada
as of the 2002 Uvalde Co. checklist by Lytle Blankenship, June Osborne,
et. al. All four of my local spring records are in the woods at
north end of UP, and all fall between May 9 and 14 (with my first in
2004 on May 14 as well), a rather narrow window of passage dates.
Almost forgot, what with that fancy well-marked warbler, two featureless
Warbling Vireo were together at the 354 pecans, staying very close together
and seemingly like a pair. They were quite olive (not gray) as all here
seemingly are, so then, Eastern Warbling Vireo. One other item was
a dragonfly, a Band-winged Dragonlet at a flooded field on the east side
of Jones Cmty. Rd at the Spring Branch junction. First of the year.
May 13 ~ We had a big MCS (line of rain cells) go by in the morning
and got about 2" more of rain! So 4" in the last 3 days!
I haven't seen the river running like this since the 6" event
last May or June. The areas to our south and southeast have
been socked in with weather several days now, likely precluding
migrant departures, and so, any new arrivals here. There should be a
good wave when it breaks enough for stuff to move, maybe Saturday?
There are a few new photos up on the Rarities page (link at the bird
photos index page). Sylvia Hilbig has kindly allowed us to put up her
photos of the Roseate Spoonbills last summer, and the Avocet and
Black-necked Stilt she and Steve just saw in late April on W. Sabinal Rd.
Also a photo by Ken Cave of 2 of the 3 Hudsonian Godwits at Sabinal
May 11-12 by has been added. They are up near top so you don't have
to scroll through the whole thing if you've been there, done that.
Thank you very much to Ken Cave and Sylvia Hilbig! GREAT photos of
Off and on showers continued in afternoon, but little precip,
I managed one migrant late about 5 p.m., a Least Flycatcher.
Barred Owl calling over at river at dusk, but best was after
dark the Couch's Spadefoot Toad was calling again. What
a neat beast, a toad with vertical pupils like a cat, that can
live a year (or two or more?) buried in the ground waiting for rain.
May 12 ~ A bit of showers overnight and in day, mostly just
cooler (in 60's dF) and cloudy. No migrants going through.
After not getting through yesterday I tried calling my friend
Ken Cave in Sabinal and got him this morning. Woke him up. LOL
That is the kind of friend I am. ;) Good thing I had an excuse.
Told him about the Hudsonian Godwits there and in an hour or so
he had e-mailed me better photos than I got of the birds. Awesome!
That is what getting the word out can do. Not to mention turning
someone on to something they too enjoy. Turns out he needed a break,
and I called him just in time. LOL And now we have a two-day record,
so far, and with better pics. One of Ken's pics is on Rarities
A pair of Cuckoos are again seeming to take up around yard and
corral, moving through yard pecans a few times a day again.
About 3:30 I walked off front porch and flushed a Zone-tailed Hawk
out of the big pecan that is 10' off porch. It only takes one NBE -
near bird experience - to make your day. What a bird to have
sitting your dang porch tree. Bobwhite and Dickcissel singing across
road in afternoon. An Orchard Oriole went through yard, a Least
Flycatcher was out there a bit. A White-tipped Dove called a few
times from over near river. The last hour of light is a great
firefly display, now showing nightly.
May 11 ~ Got up to a big rain cell which dumped 1.5-2.5" of rain
around Utopia! WOW! Delayed departure for Uvalde an hour to wait
for it to get by us and Hwy. 90. Russ and Polly Boley and I birded
Sabinal to Uvalde today, and had a fantastic great day, nice and rain
cooled but didn't get wet, with good birds and good company.
We had an outstanding highlight first thing in the morning (9 a.m.)
down near Sabinal at the 2730 stock tanks. Three HUDSONIAN GODWIT were
among a few birds at the wet spot. I know of only one UvCo record
(one, ph. at fish hatchery May 5, 2006) prior. I'd call it a near-mega
(rarity status) here. We watched them feed and preen in the scope
for a half hour. Awesome. Saw them again on the way back after 3 p.m.
In the morning at the tank there were 8 Wilson's Phalarope, 5 Lesser
Yellowlegs, a Least Sandpiper, and a drake Shoveler. In the afternoon
there were 2 new STILT Sandpiper, 11 Wilson's Phalarope, only 3 Lesser
Yellowlegs, no Least Sandpiper, but the Shoveler continued with a number
of Blue-winged Teal. Turnover in 6 hours. That's migration.
Lower Sabinal Rd. (aka Old 90) was a bit slow, especially for Painted
Bunting but tons of Dickcissel along it. Saw a couple Curve-billed
Thrasher along it. One field has still both singing Grasshopper Sparrow
and Cassin's Sparrows. A couple Swainson's Hawks were along
the road and we had a couple Lesser Nighthawk feeding along it too.
Cook's Slough had nothing but the expected suspects though Common
Grackles nesting there again should be mentioned since a recent new
phenomenon. The Uvalde Fish Hatchery had some birds though. A surprising
number of waterfowl continue of the sort that are generally gone by now.
A few Gadwall, at least 8 American Wigeon, two pairs of Redhead, and the
usual dozen or two Blue-winged Teal. Quite a few Black-bellied Whistling-Duck,
some of which just got their first young out of the nest in last day or two.
One first year White-faced Ibis was there. For shorebirds besides the
Killdeer there were a Spotted Sandpiper, a few Lesser Yellowlegs, some
Wilson's Phalarope, a group of 3 peeps that consisted of a Baird's,
a Least, and a Semipalmated Sandpiper. All three in great alternate
(breeding) plumage, that SemiSand is a bit scarce here in UvCo.
May 10 ~ Guided some very nice folks, Russ and Polly Boley from CO and AZ,
around today, mostly at Lost Maples, where you can't go wrong, even in the
rain. On the way there a Ringed Kingfisher was flying downriver over the cypress
trees in Bandera Co. near Corneilius Rd about 5-6 miles north of Utopia.
We got good looks at Golden-cheeked Warbler, though they are somewhat
quiet now, young not yet out of nests and we did not see a female for
instance. We did not go up top of bluffs above ponds but did have a
couple close to trail Black-capped Vireo singing we did not see.
A couple Broad-winged Hawk were interesting.
There were about zero migrants though. I heard at least 8 Yellow-throated
Warbler singing. A dozen years ago there were none to be expected or
found there. It is a remarkable expansion into habitat they were not
previously occupying. Saw the regular stuff like Indigo Bunting, Blue
Grosbeak, Scott's Oriole, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Acadian Flycatcher,
texana Scrub-Jay, heard Hutton's Vireo and several Louisiana Waterthrush,
heard lots of Black-and-white Warblers, lots of Red-eyed and White-eyed
Vireo. A couple migrant Kingbirds flew over high above the ridges
that I couldn't get an ID on.
It was a bit misty, some brief heavier showers, but more often
than not nice for being overcast. Despite which a few good butterflies
were seen: a Little Wood Satyr, a Mourning Cloak, an Oak Hairstreak,
and a Silvery Checkerspot, all four can be scarce here and not easy
sure things every year. We had great looks at a Two-tailed Swallowtail,
I saw a Spicebush Swallowtail briefly and a black form female
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
There were no shorebirds at the W. Sabinal Rd. pond at Haby's
or at the buffalo wallows on S. Little Creek Rd. We had a distant
Kingbird at Little Creek that was not a Western. Probably a Couch's.
At the park (UP) there were no migrants either. But we did have
good looks at a Barred Owl. A Bobwhite is calling out front of
Utopia on the River from over in pasture across 360, which I suppose
could be the one I am hearing, but then it is really moving around.
Loads of Dickcissel there too.
One female Yellow Warbler in the yard in afternoon really increased
the migrant warbler total for the day, by a bazillion percent. ;)
The firefly show at dusk was great at least 5 dozen going off like
crazy, amazing. A couple more Barred Owl were heard late in the
evening from the porch. Three total for the day is good.
May 9 ~ The weather of the last week is predicted to be much the
same the next week. Morning low stratus from the S to SE gulf flow,
which varies from cloudy overcast to fog or mist, sometimes drizzle
or a brief shower, and occasional sun popping out in afternoons.
With various impulses of or from a low, low level jet, short wave,
and front, etc. seemingly giving good chances for rain daily but as
we have seen this week that doesn't mean we will actually get much.
Next week is forecast to have potential for a real rain-maker, they say.
We will see. Today was variously 40% chances or more and it was mostly sunny.
Again cleared up enough to see stars at dusk, and it seems like all
the (migrant) birds left. Besides local nesters nothing moving in or
through yard in morning so likely stuff was unable to move our way.
Departures beat arrivals, all to none. It was a complete blowout.
I hate when that happens. Often many nocturnal migrants still move
during the day in the direction of their migration, but on the ground
(in the trees). Particularly along river habitat corridors, which is
why the park, or the yard, could be checked 3 times a day and have
different birds each time. Or none. Point is something that made
landfall after a night's flight a mile or two (or more) from you
could work its way by in the afternoon. So while some migrants will
stick in a favorable site to feed a few days while resting and tanking up,
others keep going that are more rested and gassed up.
But a dozen yard checks today didn't get much of anything. One Dickcissel.
Hear the Bobwhite across river, it is seemingly trolling and moving
north. It started on east side of river near airstrip. Sang for a
few days. Then moved across river and sang from those pastures for
a few days. Now is is slightly up and across river nearing the
country club and singing, so moving upvalley on foot trying to
sing a mate in. Had a Monarch (worn pale) in the late afternoon.
At dusk from my station in the rocker on the front porch, I saw
something moving up driveway coming right toward the stone steps
leading to porch. An odd dumpy animal with a slow waddling gate.
Finally after much straining to see it in the near dark, I could
make it out at 25' or so, a Porcupine! I whispered trying to get
Kathy's attention to come and see it but it heard me and turned
around and left. New for my IN the yard list, I'd a couple over
at the draw a hundred yards from the yard.
May 8 ~ I saw stars late last night and surely the birds did too,
and so took off, the pair of Yellow, the male Wilson's Warblers,
and the Least Flycatcher in yard the prior 3 days are all gone this a.m.,
as is the two-day Bell's Vireo. It did fog-mist back up and drizzling
again by morning though. A Baltimore Oriole was out there early, the only
migrant first 3 hours. Then a male Yellow Warbler moved in.
A quick dash to town hoping to beat the rain predicted for the afternoon.
Three Yellow Warbler at the 354 pecans, 6 singing Dickcissel in the pasture.
At UP there were two male Common Yellowthroat, a (different from Tues.)
white Northern Waterthrush, a Swainson's Thrush singing, and thought
I heard a Mourning Warbler from the island. One Yellow Warbler. Slow.
On way home a Mourning Warbler was along the 360 just a couple hundred
yards south of our place along the corral. A dozen Dickcissel are singing
along the west leg of 360. Misted and drizzled a bit, but predicted
afternoon rains never materialized.
I was watching the firefly show from the rocker on the porch during
dusk, it was really getting going, at least 3 dozen - probably more,
going off for a half-hour intensively. I love it. I was surprised
to hear an UPLAND SANDPIPER call overhead flying due north by tracking
the call, then another called behind it, and another behind that. At
least three minimum different birds. Though common in fall, I do not
record them here every spring, they are less than annual in spring,
so a great bird. The normal edge of their spring path is east of us,
they are regular at San Antonio while rare here in spring. I listened
as hard as I could hoping to pick up some other grasspiper calling
amongst them but did not hear anything else.
Then I caught some motion on the stone sidewalk right off the porch,
not 10' from me, GRAY FOX! I had been still and it made a
quick little jump when it detected me, but rather unconcernedly continued
on its way out the stone steps and driveway. Like it owns the place.
Always neat to see very close.
~ ~ ~ prior update ~ ~ ~
May 7 ~ More low clouds, fog, drizzle, mist, light showery and a 70dF low.
In the morning the Bobwhite is still calling from pasture across
the river. Seemingly holdovers from yesterday are the male Wilson's
and 1st yr. male Yellow Warbler, the female Yellow Warbler, a Least Flycatcher,
and, the Bell's Vireo is still singing in the mesquite. The former
four all seem to be on their third days in the yard. Likely new was an
Orchard Oriole and an adult Yellow Warbler, both of which sang.
The breeding bird dawn chorus is pretty strong now, with Great Crested
Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo,
the loud Carolina Wrens (and Bewick's), Titmouse (Black-crested), Cardinal,
White-eyed Vireo, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat, Painted Bunting,
Vermilion Flycatcher, House finch, Lesser Goldfinch and Eastern Bluebird,
all bordering on getting pretty noisy the first hour plus of light. Then
a few dove sps., the other 2 Myiarchus, Turkey and Bobwhite. It is pretty
impressive, and not a bad selection of singers, especially with a few
passage migrants for spice.
The Hooded Oriole usually sings a little on the way in and out of the feeder
but is not really part of the morning roar. There is a female, a first-year
male, and the adult male coming in now. A lot of times the ad.ma. gives
a single piping note that sounds like a beechei California Ground Squirrel.
About noon I had 3 Least Flycatcher in yard at once, two were apparently
from that team, the fighting che-beks (their song). About 1:30 p.m. I spotted
a MISSISSIPPI Kite outside, and scanning produced 5 more. Then another,
a first-year, came by a few minutes later and while watching it a lone
FRANKLIN'S GULL flew by! Had some Frankies over country club a couple
years ago, this is the first from yard.
About 3 p.m. it was low 80's dF and very humid. Kathy spotted a
White-crowned Sparrow at the bath which was a black-lored pink-billed
leucophrys type. Ground-Dove count was 4 in yard, no Incas, lots of
White-winged and Mourning, can hear Collared, at least I don't often
have to see them.
A begging Black-chinned Hummingbird juvenile is likely my earliest
ever date locally for a fresh just-fledged young. As if there are not
too many hummers at the feeders already. They're killin' me,
well indirectly anyway, my wife is going to kill me over them. Only
keeping 3 feeders out and it is ridiculous, especially these rainy days
when they can't get much for bugs.
An hour before dark I was out on the driveway and heard the Catbird
over north fence at edge of the draw. Probably day 3 for it too.
The pair of Vermilion Flycatcher have been feeding nightly from
lowest branches of the pecans the last half-hour of flycatching
light. The male still doing flight song at 9 p.m. when fully dark out.
May 6 ~ Cloudy all night, a few sprinkles, low in upper 60's dF.
Bell's Vireo first thing singing across road in mesquites, not
one of the five species of vireo I saw in yard yesterday (though had
it down the road). Orchard Oriole singing too. Looks like same Yellow
and Wilson's Warblers are still here that were here until dark.
Later in morning a Catbird was calling over north fence, also likely
the one I heard upslope last night an hour before dark. A Least
Flycatcher likely an overnighter from yesterday as well. All of those
stayed in or around the yard most of day. An Eastern Wood-Pewee and a
few Dickcissel went through, but not much migrant motion. Probably
stuff grounded at source, or cutoff enroute if it could move.
Wednesdays are nearly bad as Thursdays for me though, have to be
on phone and computer most of day and couldn't look much, only
listen through partly open windows. I do little 5 minute checks every
hour but it was the same all day. Couple Chimney Swifts on one check.
Finally after 5 p.m. I looked around a bit and there was a quiet-singing
male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK out back over the shed. Only the second
in yard, and didn't even see one locally last year. It is always
a good bird here, and one of the most strikingly beautiful birds in
North America if you ask me. They look like they are in formal attire,
natty in black and white, with a huge unbelievably pink corsage mid-breast.
May 5 ~ Strong SE (Gulf) flow and low stratus clouds, balmy lows.
Was pretty dead for migrants until about 9:30 when a group of them
showed up. Best was a PHILADELPHIA VIREO, one of the pale (worn?)
ones below with bright yellow in center of upper breast to lower throat.
Nice narrow crisp black line through eye, what a beauty. Awesome
point blank views from 10' in the big pecan right off the front
porch and later the pecan out kitchen window. It and a Yellow Warbler
chased each other. I have recorded them 6 of 12 springs here,
but not in the last two. A new yard bird too.
There were at least 2 male and 1 female Yellow, and at least 2 male
Wilson's Warbler, an Orchard Oriole, a Red-eyed Vireo, a
Least Flycatcher and a Dickcissel. All at once. Topped off with
a singing 1st yr. male Golden-cheeked Warbler in live-oaks upslope
behind us and then in junipers along north fence. It was a real
party goin' on for an hour, some seeming to hang out in yard.
Now is when to run to the local migrant traps like the park, UR,
the 354 pecan patch, etc., dang struggle for the legal tender
always getting in the way. ;) I would bet a good list of migrants
could be worked up locally today. After the Philly V disappeared
I walked over and checked the draw pecans quickly, nothing.
Quarter to noon another check around yard. Was light spotty showers.
Seemed a couple of the same Yellows and a Wilson's. But new was
the Nashville Warbler, a bright male Blue-headed Vireo, and male and
female Black-throated Green Warblers together in the pecan out the
kitchen window over the bird bath were awesome. The male sang once.
Holy cow there are birds out there. I might have to ditch or play
hooky for an hour or two. There were a couple new baby Chickadees,
second clutch for the pair that got just one out a month plus ago.
No sooner than I write that and I see something bathing on the
wet leaves right over the cottage, right behind the monitor. I grab
me desk bins, and spy a male Mourning Warbler! FOS. Kathy got into
office quick enough to get a look at the wet-leaf bathing too.
Outfreakinstanding! Then Kathy spots a female Black-n-white Warbler!
These early May ones are far north nesters, we get a regular wave
of them long after the locals are in and nesting.
So at 1 p.m. lunch break I figure I have about 9 species of warblers
and 5 species of vireos in the yard this morning. That is what
here constitutes a fallout. Clearly beyond the normal level of migrants.
Yeah sure mostly onesies, do ya think I care? It only takes one
good bird to make your day. There is an event underway. So, hooky it is.
I grab my rain jacket and head out to check some blooming pecans and
mulberries. And boy am I glad I did.
A few Yellow Warbler on way down to crossing where I checked
the pecans. Besides 10+ Yellow Warbler there was a first
year male BLACKBURNIAN Warbler! Awesome. A Swainson's Thrush
was my FOS, it chased another thrush away which I did not ID.
One Wilson's and 2 Nashville there too, a Northern Waterthrush
at the river-edge, plus a Green Kingfisher.
At UR there were 7+ more Yellow Warbler, the pair of Northern Parula,
another Nashville, a Wilson's, and a male MAGNOLIA Warbler!
Warbling Vireo sang, another Swainson's Thrush chased another thrush
which stopped in a mulberry and was a GRAY-CHEEKED Thrush! Finally
a singing Indigo Bunting back there. They cleared a nice path through
the Frostweed on the east side so you can take a quick swing out
through woods more easily without getting wet legs from the plants.
Went to 354 pecan patch just a couple hundred yards east of 187 a
half-mile south of town. 6 Yellow Warbler at once. Probably more
than that there. Lots of Dickcissel along the road. So went to UP.
Two MOURNING Warbler were in woods at north end, a FOS CATBIRD was
in the mulberries on the island, a white Northern Waterthrush was
along island too. Male and female Common Yellowthroat were my first
seen this spring (heard only in April). Another Black-throated Green
I had to get back to the office, blew two hours in a few blinks.
Heard White-tipped Dove from driveway when I got back at 3:30.
Still 2-3 Yellow and the male Wilson's here until dusk. At
about 6 p.m. another CATBIRD called from up the hill behind us.
I must have missed at least a dozen warblers that shot off over
all the various stops and day.
In total is was quite the day and fallout for way inland here.
I looked only in yard a couple hours and a couple hours with
40 minutes each at three stops and 15 min at another. About 75
individual warblers of fourteen species (counting Chat) is a
major happening here. Toss on 7 species of Vireo with a Philadelphia,
Catbirds, a Gray-cheeked Thrush, and honorable mention for a Magnolia,
3 Mourning, and a Blackburnian Warbler.
It was a great day locally. If one could have spent all day
going from here to Lost Maples and back they would have likely
seen 20 species of warblers and 9 species of vireos today.
Remarkable. Any time you see 10 species of warblers here you
had a good day, and that includes the breeders. Today was 10
migrant species, plus 4 breeding species just in a few hours
at a few patches of trees around Utopia. Amazing.
Surely the showers over the day totalled over a quarter-inch ,
likely a third-inch, of rain. It was wet to be out there,
but as usual during peak migrant window, worth it! Temps stayed
around 70 dF as a result of the contant mist and drizzle. And it's not
like I could have been out there using the electric weed-whacker in it!
May 4 ~ So much for those great crisp lows last week. Sure was nice
while it lasted, a great way to stretch spring. Here where you have
a long hot summer, you try to keep spring going as long as you can.
Into June if you can get away with it. This minor El Nino in the
Eastern Pacific is usually a contributing factor to us having cooler
wetter springs. This week there will be little temp change with a
current predicted range of about 65-85 the whole week and rain chances
every day. Usually that means a few showers will pass by, and most of
the day, and much of the area, won't see any precip, or very light
precipitation. And good birding.
Gulf flow and low clouds, no migrant movement out there through
mid-morning but some streamer showers. After 10 a.m. had a Yellow
Warbler, and at 11 a Dickcissel. A rain cell just missed about 4 p.m.
with a trace here, but it appeared Garner S.P. got an inch, and
Lost Maples got a half-inch. While I was typing these bird notes,
right now (shortly after 5 p.m.) a Yellow-billed Cuckoo called and
then flew right by the office window.
The male Summer Tanager bathed at bath, its departured followed almost
immediately by a nice fresh Red Admiral landing adjacent to bath and
imbibing on tanager-splashed water drops on the Straggler Daisy leaves.
I presume it had been watching the tanager bathe, smacking its proboscis.
About 6 p.m. a Warbling Vireo moved through yard. Sun came out for a
quick bit, but strong southerlies never stopped.
May 3 ~ A 60dF low, southeast gulf flow, low morning clouds, but not
much for birds going by. Figures, I have a couple hours to look around.
Early through yard was 'nothers of Dickcissel and Least Flycatcher.
Heard Bobwhite and Turkey again early.
The east leg of 360 between 187 and the river is lined with singing
Dickcissel, at least a dozen, and there is at least one Grasshopper
Sparrow singing in the pasture to south of 360 near Utopia on the River.
At UR the singing male Parula warbler continues, it is a Northern, and
today there was a female with it. Holy cow. There is no nesting
record for them in the upper Sabinal River drainage. Frio headwaters
at Big Springs is the only locally known nesting location.
One Yellow and one Nashville Warbler were it for migrants at UR.
No Acadian Flycatcher yet, and surprisingly no singing Indigo Bunting.
Red-eyed Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler seem on territory.
One Eastern Wood-Pewee. Didn't see or hear a cuckoo. Numbers
seem down for a lot of birds though. At the 360 crossing there was briefly
a CASSIN'S Kingbird, which was in a big pecan and flew off shortly.
I had a pair in the yard late last April, and a decade ago had one in
Lost Maples (ph.) in early May. Have a Uvalde Fish Hatchery record too.
At about 12:30 p.m. an Arizona Sister flew across the yard northward,
the first one I have seen locally in 5-6 years. Where did it come from?
I saw a flattened one in front of Neal's Store in Concan a couple
weeks ago. Butterfly species #82 for the yard. About 4:30 p.m. a singing
Yellow Warbler was in pecans out front. That makes 3 today, only one
Nashville, must be May. I looked along a mile and a half + of the
river habitat corridor in total today, no tiny buteo love.
Saw the male House Sparrow go up to the Bewick's Wren's nestbox
and get ejected from the vicinity in no uncertain terms. Last I saw as
they headed up the hill into thick foliage, the wren appeared to be
trying to take the sparrows temperature, in flight.
There were a couple dozen plus Firefly at dusk, one of nature's greatest
shows on earth. Hearing Common Nighthawk nightly now besides the Chucks.
Great to hear that booming again.
May 2 ~ upper-40's dF for a low, still dry, still great, warmed to low
80's or so. Not much migrant motion this a.m., a Yellow Warbler sang
early, another Dickcissel stopped in the big pecan and sang. Heard both
Turkey and Bobwhite early. I heard all the doves flush along with everything
else so knew a hawk had dove on the patio. I walked around from front porch
and saw a hawk fly off that was a tiny buteo. Surely it was the Roadside
Hawk. Second time I have had it fly off by the cottage. A couple more
Least Flycatcher went through yard over the day.
Third day of some serious weed-whacking trying to clean it up out
there whilst retaining as much of the native wildflower bloom as
possible. My arms are so tired I can't fly anywhere. I would
have a beer if I thought I could lift it. Now I see there truly was
an actual need driving the creation of those gravity-feed beer-holder hats.
Hope there is nothing I need to lift binocs for.
~ ~ ~ prior update ~ ~ ~
May 1 ~ Oh my, it's May!?!?!? Next you'll tell me it is 2015! OMG,
if true I am way further behind than I thought I was. In case any of you
were wondering how weird it was that you read this website, in April there
were about 3000 different visitors. That means you are in an elite group,
of what I don't know. :P Probably people that
need to be bored to sleep? LOL! Thank you all very much for your interest!
It is very heartening to know something you do has value for others.
A third morning in the mid-40's dF and dry, it's like, well, utopia.
Saw my FOS female Blue Grosbeak this morning, another Least Flycatcher out
front, heard the Bobwhite singing again, which is great from the porch.
Not a big migrant bird movement morning though. A Dickcissel and a Nashville
was it the first 3 hours. After a few weeks without one, a Pine Siskin
stopped briefly and called so I would notice it. Counter-singing Great Crested
Flycatcher are neat besides Ash-throated and Brown-crested singing.
Town run today so a park check, never happens on the big fallout days, those
are on days I have to be at phone and computer. OK, back, and well, not much
for migrants at the park. A getting tardy Orange-crowned Warbler sang,
as did my FOS MacGillivray's Warbler, which was a 1st spring bird.
Pretty quiet is how I would describe it beyond the local breeders. Too bad
they can't leave some of the wildflowers between river edge and where
you park (up toward the shelters). It was looking great last week, a bunch
of wildflowers starting to bloom, butterflies coming in, today I see it has
been mowed down to the ground, and no butterflies where there were many.
They are wildflowers, not weeds. Nice to see water pouring over the dam though!
Late p.m . about 7:30 I heard a Green Heron over by the river. They nest
annually (wet years) up by the park, and surely more pairs in a number of
places along the river, mostly where there is some pond type habitat and effect.
It is only the third or so that I have had from the yard. Someone in town
told me they had a foot+ long worm the other day while digging in the
garden. I bet $10 to a donut it was a Worm Snake, aka Texas Blind Snake,
and now Plains Threadsnake. Spring after rains is when they come up to
and near surface from their subterranean lifestyle. I would love to see
a foot-longer. I just keep getting them 3.5-8" or so.
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ April Summary ~ ~ ~
The big story this April was rain, lots of it, 6-7" locally, water
is running over the spillway at the park dam for the first time since
last June methinks. A great flower bloom is underway and will likely
run a couple more months with all the water we got. A big wind storm
though took out many of the pecan flowers too soon. We and the wildlife
will pay for that this fall.
The butterflies were outstanding, particularly a pronounced wave that
arrived and passed on April 25. That day I saw 45 species in a few
hours, in less than a mile of W.360, with counts of over a hundred of
multiple species, overwhelmingly in northward progression. I saw 56 species
for the month, just one short of my best April ever here, 57 in 2004.
In other words, it was my best April in over a decade for butterfly diversity.
Amazing what a little rain can do.
Highlights were POLYDAMUS Swallowtail and DOTTED (A. eos) Roadside-Skipper.
Prior I've only seen for sure one Polydamus here (+ a couple probables),
and the A. eos was regular here in 04-08 period or so, and disappeared
with the onset of the drought. This is the first one I have seen in five
years or more. There has been a good movement of big pale worn (migrant)
Monarchs from Mexico this spring, many more than I saw last year.
For birds it was a great month. I saw about 128 species locally, Lost
Maples to Utopia in April. I know of a handful of others seen by others
that I didn't see, and surely another handful went by undetected.
A very birdy month. April might be the month with the most FOS's,
lots of returning breeders as well as passage migrants showing up after
many months far to the south of us.
The biggest thing was seeing three times again, the ROADSIDE HAWK,
at the park on the 10th, at edge of town out front of park the 14th,
and once more it flew by our place a couple miles south of town on
the 18th. Best yet, I heard it calling at the park so got to experience
and confirm another aspect of its characters. It doesn't sound
anything like any North American raptor.
A LONG-EARED OWL calling the night of April 9 was my second best find.
Another outstanding discovery was Steve and Sylvia Hilbig finding an
AMERICAN AVOCET with 2 BLACK-NECKED STILT at the flood pond on W. Sabinal Rd.
in Bandera County. Exceptional spring records in the Sabinal River Valley,
the first I know of. Sylvia got great photos too. Multiple Broad-winged
Hawks at Lost Maples was good, especially the dark morph bird. I heard
a half-dozen AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER calling, nocturnal migrants on
April 16, about the third time I have had them go over at night in spring.
I have only had them on the ground in the day a couple times in spring
in UvCo, both records a long time ago, 4 at a tank near Sabinal, and
one at the Uvalde Fish Hatchery.
Odes are getting active again, just starting through April, but with
at least 20 species flying in the month locally. A Pronghorn Clubtail
on W.360 that Kathy found was likely the only scarcer type. But after
winter it is great to see the common stuff again! Good numbers of
Pale-faced Clubskimmer are great to see, they have been down, and
Springtime Darner was out in fair numbers as well.
~ ~ end April summary ~ ~
April 30 ~ Man this is awesome, another low low, about 45dF!
Clear, sunny, and dry, Chamber of Commerce why they call it Utopia weather.
There was some bird movement through the yard early, would be a
good day to get out, but a Thursday so I'm stuck at the desk. At least
I can hear Painted Bunting, Vermilion and Great Crested Flycatcher,
Chat, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Vireo and Warbler
singing off and on all day, to take my pain away.... ;)
Very cool was a male Scott's Oriole singing in yard, which watched
the male Hooded come into the hummer feeders. I hope he learned
something but I didn't see him come in. Had to have seen the
feeders though. Then while we get lots of Dickcissels through
the yard, of a few this morning one stopped in the big pecan and sang.
Too cool. A Least Flycatcher or two was out there again, several Nashville
Warbler went through yard, heard a Wilson's sing, and something
else went through giving just enough flight note to get me real
interested and it shot north out of the big pecan.
A first-year male Hooded Oriole is now coming into the feeders
besides the adult. Probably one of last years juveniles. It is a
brown and orange type, not the green and yellow type of first year male.
Walked to crossing late in p.m. trying one last time for a Buckeye
which I noticed I was missing for the month. No Buckeye love.
Flight song of Vermilion Flycatcher was the consolation prize.
I am not seeing the Inca Doves anymore. Their either left or the
last two got taken by Accipiters. Started last winter with 8, only
2 made it to March, now they are gone. Hope they just went somewhere
to nest but with the seed here kinda surprised they would leave it
as the original pair fed daily all last year while they bred.
April 29 ~ An incredible low in the low 40's dF, holy cow! And dry.
This will likely be the last batch of this for the next four months.
A couple passage migrants were in the big pecan this morning (besides a
few Nashville Warbler), a male Orchard Oriole and a Least Flycatcher
both sang quite a bit for some time. That Orchard Oriole song sounds
great as he looks. A Bullock's Oriole sang briefly from the big
mesquites across the road as well.
Other things singing are a Painted Bunting right out the office
window, Great Crested Flycatcher just upslope in the big live-oaks,
Chat and Blue Grosbeak across the road, Cardinal and Carolina Wren
are downright loud, Bewick's Wren and the two Yellow-throateds
(warbler and vireo) are all going, Summer Tanager, getting to be
quite the concert.
A few hundred Black-chinned Hummers at the feeders, at least a
dozen male Ruby-throated, likely as many females, I haven't been
paying close attention beyond looking or listening for anything
that is not an Archilochus. There is a female Black-chinned with a
white streak behind the eye made up of unpigmented feathers, so snow
white, and superficially appearing as an eyestripe like some rarer
female hummers have.
Barred Owl was calling about 10 p.m., Great Horned earlier, must be
5 Chuck-wills-widow within earshot. In flowers Coreopsis is starting
to get going, so is Cardinal Flower, at least the males of the latter,
Bluets and Blue Curls are going well too.
April 28 ~ Got down to about 50dF and 15-20 MPH northerlies so chills
in 40's, wow! Great for late April, I recall a 95dF or so
high temp last year at this time, we will top out at the mid-60's dF
today! Probably for the last time in 4+ months. Sure feels great!
But the northerlies shut down migrant progress south of us,
there was nothing moving out there the fisrt few hours this morning
that I could detect. Finally almost 10 a.m. there was a first year
male Painted Bunting (1st in yard this spring) in lee of house just
8' from me and un-concerned while I was also hiding in lee of
house. Later it sang a bit. A green singer is a first year male.
Actually there is in some (like this one) the slightest bluish tint
to the green so they aren't really the same exact version of lime
green as the females. A male Orchard Oriole was in the trees later too.
First thing at 7 a.m. I toss seed on and off one side of the patio.
Then I go out back and throw some on a stone walkway near the
shed, and the rest at the fenceline at base of the laurel and live-oak
hill out back. Usually a few things might flush that were foraging for
leftovers while waiting for me. Today a Common Ground-Dove did not flush
as I walked up within 10' and twice threw handfuls of seed. It
immediately commenced to picking it off the stones as if a human wasn't
there and didn't just make throwing motions in its direction.
To it, it was just perfect out, raining white millet.
April 27 ~ I guess I shouldn't have said anything about the lack
of rain and thunder during sleepytime in yesterday's post. Last
night a MCS (mesoscale convective system - a long line of connected
thundercells) hit just before midnight. It poured, outflow winds were
at least 40 gusting to 50 mph, some pea hail (Leakey had quarter sized).
It was buckets for 30 minutes, and medium rain for 30. I think it was
about an inch here.
The gusts took almost all the pecan flowers down, likely nearly
totalling our crop this year. Seems to me the most common reason for
pecan crop failure, bloom-time severe winds the last week of April
or early May, either with a frontal passage, or a MCS. We must be at
7" of rain for the last month now. And the morning was in the
mid-50's dF with northerly dry winds, unbelieveable, Chamber
of Commerce spring weather. Got up to 85dF or so, but dry and nice.
There were a Yellow and couple Nashville Warbler in the yard
early, a FOS here Bullock's Oriole, a couple Dickcissel,
heard Orchard Oriole. Then an amazing 3 adult White-crowned
Sparrows at once on the patio! One had a big orange bill and
gray lores, a gambelli, and two were with small pink bills and
black lores, leucophrys. Awesome. Clearly some birds got knocked
down by the weather. This is when you jump in the car and go
check all your local patches for migrants, when there are 10 new
ones in the yard in the morning. Except for that work thingie.
The blonde squirrels seem to be acquiring a new pelt and are
losing the blonde color on their sides and becoming normally
colored. Roughly half the blonde area has turned normal Fox
Squirrel color now on one of them. Maybe they didn't realize
it was their get out of jail free card?
Kathy found a 3.5 inch (baby) Texas Blind Snake (now called Plains
Threadsnake) on the floor, in spring after rains is the time to see one.
I put it outside. Mid-day I saw an 11-12" Western Ribbon Snake
in the flower bed at front porch.
In the afternoon there was a Least Flycatcher and a Yellow-billed
Cuckoo through yard. A Mockingbird sang 5 minutes from the top
of the big pecan that was obviously a new arrival migrant. It
did perfect Green Jay, Kiskadee, Paraque, Long-billed and Curve-billed
Thrasher, an amazingly spot-on Scissor-tail, and a few other
things I didn't recognize, probably Mexican birds. The Ring King
was over at river.
April 26 ~ No thunder and rain wakeup overnight so that was nice.
Upper 60's dF to about 85 was the spread, mostly cloudy
with occasional sun. A singing Bobwhite from the porch first
thing was great to hear. The butterfly movement was nothing like
yesterday. The northward movement must have been held up a couple
days by the low pressure system and when the cork blew they flew.
One of the first ones I saw on the Mealy Sage at the porch was
a Clouded Skipper, one I missed yesterday. Later I saw well
fly-bys of Cloudless and Large Orange Sulphurs, both of which I
had quick flybys of yesterday but didn't count in the 45 sps.
total. Saw another Queen, a few more Monarch. The Mealy Sage
patch at the crossing that had 30 species on it yesterday had
maybe 5 sps. on it when I checked it today.
There were though a couple FOS birds: Yellow-billed Cuckoo at
Utopia on the River (UR), an Eastern Wood-Pewee above the crossing,
another at UR, and the first female Painted Bunting for me locally.
The amazing thing was Dickcissels, they were everywhere. There
were a dozen singing along 360, esp. across from UR, and they
called from everywhere, even in the woods, there was a major
flight of them that arrived last night or this morning. It was
dozens of them. Very cool.
A couple Orchard Oriole were in the yard early, and I heard
a couple more near UR and at crossing. Red-eyed Vireo seem
back on territory at UR. A Parula (warbler) was singing there
which I never saw but sounded like Northern. Besides the fast
song, it gave the slow song which is four of the grinding notes
slowed down to semmingly one-tenth speed of the fast trill.
Sorta like a Cerulean but without the pretty high ascending final
zzzraaaaaang note. A few Nashville were around and a couple Yellow
Warbler, but very little warbler movement. A Turkey was drinking
at the crossing.
An Eyed Elatarid buzzed around a bit, my second in a week or so.
The big (1.5") black click beetle with big fake eyes on its thorax
are regular enough to be no big deal here. The "Eyed Elater' name
is dumber than any animal name I have ever heard. It is as I've heard
a reference to how elated one is at seeing them. In other words, it's not
about the animal, it's about you and your so important feelings.
That is how we should name things? And I thought some bird names were
poorly reasoned to stupid! They got nuthin' on the great kahuna
bug name deciders. What are they going to do next, call something that
bites or stings a bummer? That? It's a big bad bummer. Oh those?
Those are make-me-happys. Elater!?!?!? GEEEEEZZZZ! It is like
peta calling tuna sea kittens. Ridiculous.
April 25 ~ Overnight a severe storm cell ran east down Hwy. 90
from west of Uvalde to Hondo, dumping 2 to over 3 INCHES of rain
down there, an inch several miles south of Utopia at the edge
of escarpment. We got another half-inch or so a couple miles
south of town, and woken up again at 3:30 a.m. by the thunder.
It probably stopped migrant progress south of us though, finally
near 10 a.m. I had my first migrant of the day, one Nashville.
A Dickcissel briefly in yard shortly after. I suspect last night,
yesterday's (passerine) stuff could see the stars through the
fog like me, and left.
A pair of Scissor-tails was across road in big old mesquite,
facing each other beaks just inches apart for five minutes.
As they landed the male made a couple of the higher pitched
buzzy downslurred notes that remind me of the sound of firing
when playing the Asteroids video game from the 80's.
We took a nooner (11-1) walk down to crossing. Heard a Yellow Warbler,
a couple Nashvilles, a Red-eyed Vireo was singing at crossing,
Painted Bunting singing in corral, 3 female Scissor-tails were
at edge of corral, they just got here, has been mostly males.
One Lincoln's Sparrow, Great Crested and Brown-crested
Flycatchers, a few Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, lots
of Summer Tanager and a couple Yellow-throated Vireo singing.
Yesterday was the big bird movement day.
Today's show was the butterflies. A massive movement was evident,
just about everything seems to be moving from south to north.
While some things are fresh, there are a good number that
are beat and worn and obviously immigrants from southward.
A Gulf Frit was as worn as any late November individual.
Same for several other species (Theona, Vesta and Texan Crescent).
In the following paragraphs of butterfly discussion, for some
I put a number in parentheses behind it which is how many I saw
in total over the day.
We stood in the shade of a huge Cypress watching a big patch
of Mealy Sage by the crossing for 25 minutes and saw 30 species!
Best was a Dotted Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscrites eos), which I
haven't seen locally in several years. They were common when
we got here (04 was our 1st spring) and they disappeared after
the drought started, by about 2009.
The patch also had a Texas Powdered-Skipper, Orange Skipperling (4),
and Desert Checkered-Skipper (2), all three new for the month, the
first two FOY. Funereal (2), Mournful, and Horace's (3) Duskywing were
there. Other Skippers were Julia's (10), Dun (20), Fiery, Sachem,
Nysa (2) and Celia's (5) Roadside-, and Common Checkered- (10). Where
was last week's Clouded Skipper when you need it?
Then there were American Lady (75), Red Admiral (100+), Gulf and Variegated
Fritillary, Snout(50-100), Elada Checkerspot (10), Vesta (50) and Phaon Crescent,
Bordered Patch, Gray Hairstreak (10), Pipevine Swallowtail (100),
Lyside (200+), Orange (75), and Dainty Sulphur (50+), Sleepy Orange (150),
So. Dogface (200), and Checkered White (400-500). It was a real
party goin' on.
Not all but most seem to be moving from the south, northward.
The roadsides are loaded with butterflies and flowers now too,
the whole three-quarters mile and back was solid action.
Prairie Fleabane in particular is good now, as are rain puddles
in caliche roads. Several Questionmark (7) puddling in mudholes in
road as were a numbers of Snout and Red Admiral. When we got back
to yard a Queen was in it, our FOY. A few more Skipperling checked
along the road produced one Southern Skipperling, another FOY.
In yard saw a couple Monarch, a Reakirt's Blue, one worn
Olive-Juniper Hairstreak and later another, a Tawny and a FOY Hackberry
Emperor, Giant and Black Swallowtail. The real butterfly of the
day was a Polydamus Swallowtail which I saw in the morning. A Gold Rim!
I have only seen one other here for sure, which was here in the yard too,
late July, 2013. I have seen a few that got away as probables. The
different wing shape gets your attention when you are tuned into
the normal regular swallowtails here, and further it has a different
flight style than our regular swallowtails here so stands out for
that enough to get your attention as well.
Then in the afternoon I realized I dropped my coffee cup out
there somewhere, so was forced to walk back down to the crossing
through all those flowers and butterflies again. It was so painful.
But it was then 90+dF. Before I got out the gate there was a Theona
Checkerspot on the Fleabane, along with a dozen Checkered White, another
Nysa, another Reakirt's and a brown Juniper Hairstreak. Saw a different
Texas Powdered-Skipper at a mud puddle on way. The Mealy Sage patch
was dead for leps, only Bombyliads (bee flies) and Hymenops (bees and
wasps) in the heat of the day. My cup was right where I bent and leaned
to take the Dotted (A. eos) Roadside-Skipper photos.
At a shady spot at the crossing was the most worn beat Texan
Crescent I ever saw, new for the day and month, I'll take it,
thank you very much. Obviously not a local fresh emergence.
Several more Elada were out, a couple more Theona seen, then
another new one for month, a Pearl Crescent right on road out front.
I ID'd 45 species of butterflies today! Had a probable Painted Lady
or two go by which I didn't count as well as fly-bys of what were
surely Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphur, also not counted. Surely if
I was chasing after leps at a few other sites (the park in town, Lost Maples,
Garner) I could nose closer to 50 species for a single spring day here.
Which in spring is outstanding. In fall fine in any good year, but in
spring very very good.
There are only two Aprils of prior eleven that I broke the 50 species
barrier for the whole month total. Today's FOY's or first of months,
put me at about 56 sps. for this April making it only the third April in
last 12 to reach 50 sps., and second best April. Only April 2004 was better,
with 57 sps., my top April diversity total. Last April to see 40 species
in total took the entire month. April 2011 as the drought set in, I only
saw 36 species the whole month. So 45 sps. in a few hours today is off-the-charts
awesome. There were hundreds and hundreds of butterflies, most going by northward.
Surprising to not see a Leafwing today, and so far this year no Satyr or Metalmark
yet, and only Reakirt's Blue.
Odes were out in numbers not seen yet this year too. For damsels
there were hundreds of Bluets over the river, I presume many are
Stream and Familiar. A number of Double-striped Bluet were about.
Four or five American Rubyspot were dancing around the riffles.
Argia Dancers were Dusky, Kiowa, Variable, and Blue-ringed.
In dragons there were several Dot-winged Baskettail, one FOY
Prince Baskettail, a Black Saddlebags, a Pale-faced Clubskimmer,
Green Darners, Eastern Pondhawk, a pair of Red Saddlebags in tandem,
and along the road on the way back Kathy spotted a Pronghorn Clubtail
which is fairly scarce here (ph.). In p.m. over at draw I saw my
FOY Roseate Skimmer. First day this season that I have seen 9 species
of dragons, and 7-8 species of damsels, so there are likely at least
20 species of odes flying already and probably if one did some of
the other nearby areas (habitats) 30 or more would not be out of
the question or surprising now.
Late late afternoon to early evening hearing singing of Painted
Bunting, Great Crested Flycatcher, Cardinal, Yellow-throated Vireo,
Yellow-throated Warbler, House Finch, and heard Ringed Kingfisher
over at river as daily. Gotta go look for a nest in that bank.
A couple Orchard Oriole were in the yard pecans at dusk and just
before dark a male Painted Bunting was where we toss seed along
the undergrowth outback. Likely the singer, and a returning breeder.
The firefly show is getting going at dusk, just a half-dozen to a
doz. so far, but nice to watch. A new frog began calling at dusk
as well, which I believe is Cliff Chirping Frog. It is the one
frog found in the area I don't absolutely know by voice, so
that is what it must be. A nice series of high pitched chirps.
And occasionally a frog trill thrown in. BTW, Barking Frog are
common and regular. Saw a bigger bat also, not a Mexi-Braz. Freetail.
April 24 ~ We had a MCS move over during the night, worst of it
about 3 a.m. and on for a bit, we received over an inch of rain.
Some locals got 2". Timing seems to have been good for knocking
some migrants out of the night sky. This morning there were four
FOS species seen in the yard. A singing Warbling Vireo, a Least
Flycatcher, an Orchard Oriole, and a few Baltimore Oriole. Plus a
couple Nashville and one non-Nash warbler also went through. Thought
I heard a Cuckoo too. I was stuck inside with business so probably a
lot more out there. Fortunately a town run was required today.
A Western Kingbird was on the fenceline along 360.
On 187 south of the country club and north of 360 in the pasture there
were about 16 Cattle Egrets (FOS) around the horses. Then at
the park there was a FOS Green Heron and my FOS Chimney Swifts
here in town. I had seven FOS species today. The park also had a
Northern Waterthrush, a Myrtle Warbler, an Orange-crowned Warbler,
and about 5-6 Nashville Warbler. Thought I heard a MacGillivray's
Warbler on the island but it is an island again so couldn't get
to it. In fact the biggest news is WATER IS GOING OVER THE SPILLWAY
at the dam in the park! First time since last July maybe? WEEWOW!
Actually was probably late June when it last went over. There were
a half-dozen whistling-duck in the dead cypress at the park too.
Then in the afternoon I received an e-mail from Sylvia Hilbig
and she reported two Black-necked Stilts and an Avocet in the
flood pond on West Sabinal Rd.! GREAT birds here in spring,
and great in Bandera Co.! In the last dozen years I only have a
single fall record for each (small flocks) at Utopia Park when
it had islands several years ago. Wish I could have checked the
South Little Creek ponds. Bet they had pipers today.
Heard Barn and Barred Owls after dark. Better was hearing a
Couch's Spadefoot Toad in the front yard over by one of
the horse troughs! We are at about 6" or more of rain
in the last month. Usually it takes a 6" single event to
bring them out. At 11:30 p.m. at my last check outside it was
pea soup fog, but just on the deck, you could see stars above
the low thick layer. A very low Dickcissel flew over calling,
my 8th FOS bird species for the day.
~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~
April 23 ~ Foggy and about 70dF for a low. Heard a Nashville or
two in early a.m. Had about 4-5 Monarchs go through yard over
the day. In afternoon there were a dozen Chipping Sparrow in
corral with 18 Lark Sparrow. Heard a Bunting, probably Indigo,
but now is good time for Lazuli too so without seeing, just a
bunting. Shortly before dusk my FOS Common Nighthawk called.
Then the first mosquito to go after me at dusk on the porch
Even worse news was I am virtually sure I hear a Bullfrong
calling over at river. There goes the neighborhood. Gawd I hope
it doesn't get a mate. How did it get up here? They are
abundant down in brush-country flatlands, but I have never heard
one up here. Ask the fish hatchery what a disaster they can be.
April 22 ~ Happy Earth Day! To paraphrase John Muir, 'when one
tugs on a strand in the web of life one finds that everything
is connected'. That includes us and what happens on this blue
marble we live on. You can pretend the 92dF water and subsequent
coral bleaching in Fiji or severe cyclone season in Australia
both going on right now doesn't affect you (it affects my business
though), but what is causing that is affecting you too. We have
record heat, record cold, record drought, and record floods here
for instance. Do your part and reduce, re-use, and recycle.
Don't be part of the problem but part of a solution.
A few Nashville Warbler went through yard in the morning, and
a couple Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler over the slow day.
A Zone-tailed Hawk flew by later morning, and just before noon
Kathy spotted the FOS male Painted Bunting on the tube feeder.
Even under the heavy overcast that lime green back was stunning.
And so good to see, I've been waiting months, since the
first week of last August, the last week was particularly hard.
As territorial nesting birds we don't even have them for four
full months and they are gone again.
I hadn't gotten a chance to get the ladder out and pull down
the nest box the Titmice were in that the House Sparrows emerged
from and must have punctured their eggs as the Titmice abandoned.
Now the Bewick's Wren are in it. They'll just build over the old nest.
It's on an unused satellite dish pole over on the cottage so 20' out the
office window behind monitor, e.g., I can see it from my station
at the salt mine. A Brown-crested Flycatcher showed up at the hole
and luckily the Bewick's Wren was inside, it kicked that big
slow flycatcher's rump off the front of his or her box in short order!
Between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. we got three-quarters to an inch of
rain from a good cell that went over. Looked like Uvalde, Sabinal,
and Concan all got it too. Outstanding! A pair of Whistling-Ducks
heading upriver, which I keep forgetting to mention they have been
regular the last week or two, every few days, a pair or two going up
or down river. Wet years they can nest locally. The Chat is getting
after it after dark now.
Northern Cloudywing on some Mealy Sage around porch. While it was
not new for the month, should mention I did count up on Sunday the
19th since we saw a few FOY's that day, and it was 45 sps. of
butterflies for April so far. Which is good. 50 would be great.
April 21 ~ Another nice cool morning, a nearby station had upper
40's dF for a low, I think maybe 50dF here, sure felt great.
We cherish the last of these brisk mornings for several months.
Heard a FOS Yellow Warbler sing a few times early this a.m.,
and a Nashville or two. The Blue Grosbeak was singing too,
as were Chat, Summer Tanager, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated
Vireo and Warbler, now if the Painted Buntings would get back.
A nice male Blue-headed Vireo was singing for a couple hours in
the biggest thickest hackberry. A Clay-colored Sparrow was on
the patio noonish. Couple more Nashville in later p.m., and a nice
flyby of a female calling Ringed Kingfisher, which circled for
extended viewing. Scissor-tail singing at end of day at front
of yard. Couple Firefly at dark, Barred Owl calling about 10 p.m.
April 20 ~ The cold front came in overnight with cool northerlies
and the 54dF or so low felt fantastic (and cooler than the 54).
Early a.m. my FOS Wilson's Warbler went through yard singing,
a few Nashvilles after that, and the first yard Blue Grosbeak of
the year too. So a wee bit of migrant activity to augment the
morning song show. At 9:20 a.m. a Golden-cheeked Warbler sang
from the junipers along north fence. A trolling first year male.
The male Blue Grosbeak is likely a returnee, out on patio seed.
Later p.m. about 4:30 on for an hour there were 8+ Nashville in
the yard pecans plus one Ruby-crowned Kinglet and one Orange-crowned
Warbler. Nice little group of birds. Was probably a good day
for migrants locally. Follow the bloom, live-oaks are now finishing
with pecans taking the lead. Four was my Chipping Sparrow count,
of what is left in yard of the 125 strong winter flock. Hearing
three species of Myiarchus from yard daily again now: Great Crested,
Brown-crested, and Ash-throated.
In owls after dark I heard Great Horned, Barn, Barred, and Eastern Screech-.
Chuck-wills-widow are going well now too with several countersinging
April 19 ~ Didn't cool off much and got past 85dF, maybe
hit 90dF in the afternoon. Still not much for migrant birds.
We walked to the crossing and back and had 1-2 Nashville Warbler,
whilst over a few hours about 4 went through yard. Several Brown-crested
Flycatcher along river corridor, fair numbers of territorial
Yellow-throated Warbler. No hawks. A couple Clay-colored Sparrow.
Saw a couple FOY fast Six-lined Racerunner (whiptail) lizards.
Boatloads of flowers and butterflies. Saw 3 FOY: Elada Checkerspot,
Clouded Skipper, and Nysa Roadside-Skipper. Also saw Celia's
Roadside-, Dun and Julia's Skippers, a probable Fiery Skipper,
Several Questionmark, Lyside, Dainty, Cloudless and Large Orange,
and Orange Sulphurs, Dogface, Snout, Gulf and Variegated Fritillary,
6+ Monarch (worn pale migrants), Black, Giant, and lots of Pipevine
Swallowtail, Sachem, Funereal Duskywing, Gray Hairstreak, Reakirt's Blue,
Common-White Checkered-Skipper, loads of Vesta Crescent, a couple
Bordered Patch, lots of Red Admiral and American Lady, lots of
Sleepy Orange and Checkered White, and a Tawny Emperor which is
my FOY up here, a bunch were out in Uvalde a few days ago. At
least 30 species of butterflies around today in an hour and change
of paying attention.
Around 5 p.m. a Tanager flew out of the big pecan and away that sure
looked like a Scarlet to me it was so dark red. If I didn't have
one on the yard list already it would have been very frustrating.
After dark I saw my FOS flying adult Firefly.
April 18 ~ No rain since yesterday's afternoon to early
evening event. Didn't seem much for action in the a.m.
There should be a decent flight day or two right behind the
system. Sometimes the first day after is too soon as the
source areas were socked in for departures. Neat to see that
flight display of the male Vermilion Flycatcher out the office window.
I can't believe all the wildflowers in the yard. It looks
unkempt to the eye of those beholden to usually pesticide and
fertilizer laden manicured lawns, but it is so full of native
wilflowers it is mind-boggling. Thousands and thousands of them.
We are trying to let the native wildflowers go to seed to
thicken it up. It was obviously over mowed to death for years
and they never got too. It only looked fullish on edge from
the side driving by. It was lots of barren dirt if you got to
looking down from in it. Now our third spring here and it seems
the not over-mowing and allowing re-seeding is having great
success so far. The natives are exploding and gaining ground
on the non-native grasses and other invasives. We selectively
pull and top those to prevent their reseeding.
With only a little bit of walking around the yard I saw Western
Spiderwort, boatloads of Straggler Daisy, Prairie Fleabane,
Deer Vetch and Tube Tongue, Rain Lily, Annual Pennyroyal,
loads of Western Looking-Glass and Drummond's Skullcap, lots
of Dakota and Texas Verbena, some Anemone still, dozens of
Pincushion Daisy, lots of Yellow Wood-Sorrel, some White Rock-Lettuce,
Parallena, Burr Clover, the beautiful Limestone Guara and Blue-eyed Grass,
Crow-Poison, Silver Puff, and a few more I don't know.
Other things like say Mexican Hat and Zexmenia are growing well,
but not blooming yet. The Mealy and Tropical Sage I transplanted
into flower beds a couple years ago are blooming now too. Twenty
species of native Texas hill country flowers (at least) in a
couple minutes. Really quite amazing, not counting that I can
ID 20 kinds of flowers. A migrant Monarch was nectaring hungrily
on Pincushion Daisy and Prairie Fleabane for over a half hour.
A couple more different ones (mig Monarchs) went through yard in
afternoon so at least 3 by 5 p.m.
Lots of butterflies are out now too and there were several
that were my FOY on the yard flowers: Dun Skipper, Fiery Skipper,
Sachem, and Celia's Roadside-Skipper. Dozens each of Vesta
Crescent, Dogface, Checkered white, and Pipevine Swallowtail.
Olive-Juniper and Gray Hairstreaks, lots of Lyside and Orange
Sulphurs and Sleepy Orange, Dainty Sulphur, Snout, Variegated
Fritillary, numbers of Red Admirals, American Lady, Common-White
Checkered-Skipper, a couple each Giant and Black Swallowtails.
It was at least 22 species in the yard today, the highest diversty
day so far this year, and a great improvement in individual numbers,
hundreds of butterflies went through.
Shortly before noon the Roadside Hawk flew by just across road
and just over mesquites, going down river habitat corridor.
I had binocs on and got an ID look as it went by. It kept going
and I lost it through and against the trees. The eye is lighter
than it was in late January.
Barred Owl called from very close over in corral about 10:30 p.m.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below = April 17 ~ ~ ~
April 17 ~ Went to town 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. to get back before
the rain started, sorta made it. There was a flock of a dozen
warblers across the river from park in the willows. All I could
get were Myrtle and Nashville, one each Orange-crowned and
Audubon's, plus my FOS Blue-headed Vireo. A few more
Nashville were in the woods at the north end of park. Heard
what sounded like a Kentucky Warbler but couldn't find it.
I flushed a duck from upriver of the island I would give a
dollar to have seen properly. It was a small diving duck.
The Loggerhead Shrike continues just west of Utopia on the River
on 360, and my FOS Western Kingbird up here locally was there too.
Some Common Grackle as usual along 187 a mile south of town
by the Gun Shop (they nest in Chuck's yard adjacent).
By 2 p.m. it started raining and did so most of a couple plus
hours. We got at least an inch, again (!). Up at Lost Maples
they got about 2.5 inches! I don't want to jinx it but
the dry cycle seems broken. We have had four inches of rain
in the last two weeks. Timing couldn't be better for plants
sprouting, blooming, pecans growing leaves and flowers, etc.
We will have a great spring for wildflowers, and chiggers.
Around 6 p.m. we got out the backside of the rain and there
was 5 minutes of activity. At least 5 Nashville Warbler were
in the yard, plus the local Yellow-throated. A Great Egret
flew by over the treetops going upriver giving the perfect
Audubon logo pose all the way. Then a male Indigo Bunting
popped out. Though I heard a couple at Lost Maples a few days
ago, it is the first I got to see well in binocs this spring.
Which reminds me Little Creek Larry told me he saw his first
Painted Bunting this morning at his place. He also saw a
Spotted Sandpiper on the spillway at park in the last week,
and a Coot a couple weeks ago at the park. That must have
the day after some nocturnal rains, how all of our Coots
April 16 ~ I get a few days of recovery after four straight
days of guiding. I am beat and glad to be stuck at the desk.
But man it sure was fun. There are two really neat things about
guiding people. One is turning them on to all sorts of cool
stuff they haven't seen. The other is that you get to
meet some really neat people.
Saw the Bronzed Cowbird in yard today, now that there is no
one standing around that wants to see it. Heard a Gnatcatcher
and a Kinglet go through yard. Did have a good rain cell go
over dropping about an inch of rain in 45 minutes around 1 p.m.,
a bit of pea-sized hail fell too. Looks like up-valley they
got an inch as well. Nashville Warbler singing in yard in
afternoon. After 7 p.m. a male Black-throated Green Warbler
was in the yard 15-20 minutes, mostly feeding in the barely
leafing out pecans.
The birds of the day were at night, about 11 p.m. I was outside
for one last sit in the rocker on the porch with the pipe.
All of a sudden after a few quiet minutes what must have
been a fair sized group of American Golden-Plover went over
with at least a half-dozen different birds calling. I ran out
into driveway to hear well enough to count calling birds
and it was at least 6 and there were probably more, and likely
a lot more birds in the group as the first and last birds
were 75 yards apart. I have had them as nocturnal fly-overs in
spring at least a couple times before, and have found them on
the ground in the day at Sabinal and Uvalde in spring a couple
times too. So rare but regular, and as likely to detect in
dark as in daylight. But generally a tough UvCo bird to get.
April 15 ~ Can you say Happy Tax Day? I think it is illegal
in most states? Today Bill and Dianne and I went to Uvalde and
birded some south Texas brush country. We took Old 90 (aka Lower
Sabinal Rd.) from Sabinal to Uvalde and it had lots of birds,
but not as many as usual. Lots of things still aren't in,
I was surprised not to see any Painted Bunting down there yet.
Many residents seemed down too, like Curve-billed and Long-billed
Thrasher, Olive Sparrow and Cactus Wren among others. I think
the drought has taken a toll on populations.
Along Old 90 we watched skylarking Cassin's Sparrows in a
field with singing Grasshopper Sparrow. White-crowned Sparrow
were along the road still in good numbers, the usual Savannah
and Lark too. Scope views of a male Bullock's Oriole were great.
Several Fuertes's Red-tailed Hawk were on poles, numbers of
Scissor-tails, and I heard then saw two very uncooperative Green
Jay. Only heard one Cactus Wren and no Curve-billed Thrasher.
Dianne saw what was likely a Scaled Quail run off roadside.
We saw a couple Loggerhead Shrike along the road.
At Cook's Slough we saw a few Green Kingfisher, a couple fuzzy
baby Black Vulture, some Verdin, heard Bell's Vireo and
Kiskadee, saw a Couch's Kingbird, I had a quick look at a
Bank Swallow. About 4 Wood Duck, a dozen Black-bellied Whistling-Duck,
and one male Shoveler was the duck population, they're long
gone. A singing Myrtle Warbler was nearly in full breeding plumage.
It seemed like many spring things had not arrived yet. Saw a
Sulphur-tipped Clubtail dragonfly. Sharp-shinned Hawk there too.
We checked just the bottom end of Memorial Park on the south
side of Hwy. 90 nearly at city center in the megalopolis of
Uvalde where the Leona River (a small creek) goes under Hwy. 90.
At the south end of the park there is a little trail that goes
a couple hundred yards along the creek in some willow forest.
We found a couple Green Jay willing to show themselves, heard
a Long-billed Thrasher, and a few warblers were a couple each
Nashville and Orange-crowned. A couple Chimney Swift shot over.
Don't under-estimate this park, Ringed and Green Kingfisher
and Kiskadee are regular here. We heard a Bronzed Cowbird.
After a great Bar-B-Q lunch we went to the fish hatchery.
I heard a Solitary Sandpiper and we saw a nice breeding
plumaged Greater Yellowlegs. One Shoveler, four or so
Blue-winged Teal, 6 Gadwall, a Verdin, heard a Bell's
Vireo, was after noon and getting hot out though. Most of
the ponds are dry, I presume due to water restrictions and
the drought, with maybe a little sequester thrown in. Saw
a Texas Spotted Whiptail lizard. Good odetivity though no
time to check it.
We then checked UvCo 202 a couple miles west of town. I was
amazed at all the dead trees along the river there since the
drought. No water was running as I have heard has been the
case lately. A couple low spots with enough water for a few odes
were upriver, but didn't check. A couple Couch's Kingbirds were
flycatching at the crossing, but little else, the heat of the day
had set in and we didn't see any of the 'desert' species
we were hoping for along 202.
We saw at least 4 worn pale migrant Monarchs over the day.
A flattened Arizona Sister was on the pavement at Neal's in
Concan, the first I have seen in a few years as they have
been absent around Utopia for 6 years since the drought.
Later afternoon here at the house I had a Hooded Oriole and
heard Ringed Kingfisher at the river, couldn't find either
the last three days when trying to show them to visitors.
It can take several days here to see everything.
April 14 ~ Today Dianne and I birded around town a bit hitting
some of the local patches for birds. First thing out of the gate
we went to the Bushtit nest and found it missing, the whole
dang thing is gone. Had a storm taken it there would be remains.
A predator made off with it. I thought I heard the birds
but didn't see them. There goes my staked-out Bushtits.
Didn't last a month. Had said to Kathy the nest was too
exposed, too easy to see. Smart money is on Coons.
Then we went west out 1050 to Bear Creek Pond which had no
birds but the new box culvert they installed just past the
pond seems to have gotten some of its Cave Swallows back.
We saw 11, so not half as many as before they, uh, fixed it.
We went west up and over the '1050 pass' as it is called locally,
a half to one mile west of the pond and culvert. The former border
of wildflowers along roadside going up the grade were all
bulldozed for the road widening, so it is hardly recognizable.
Some few wildlfowers are starting to come in at edges of the
new wayside but is near hospital barren compared to the stunning
show it was when going uphill on east side of pass.
The pee stop for cyclists is interesting, a lifer for me, I guess
I don't get around much. I don't recall seeing such officially
designated roadside bushes. Until I figured it out I thought it
looked like a good place to pish, apparently I was off by a letter.
Multiple trees I regularly saw Golden-cheeked Warblers in were
removed for the improvements. In general the uphill side of pass
where all the major construction took place seemed very devoid of
birds compared to usual. It went from a ton of stuff to nothing.
I could list a half-dozen species that I never stopped there
without hearing, that I did not hear. Biologically it was not
improved. But apparently it will get regular infusions of
ammonia and nitrogen now.
Once over the top on the west downhill side of pass things still
looked the same or close enough. There were a few birds in
the blooming live-oaks just downhill a bit, including outstanding
views of a singing male Golden-cheeked Warbler from the roadside.
Dianne got pix. A few Field Sparrow singing on territory
there as usual, texana Scrub-Jays, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Summer
Tanagers, two each Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Orange-crowned Warbler
and Ruby-crowned Kinglet were likely all migrants. Up on the
high point on the divide first thing early. Interesting.
The park was slow, no migrants this morning. Great views of
Yellow-throated Warbler were had though. I heard a Northern
Waterthrush, and we saw no Kingfishers. Out front of the park we
checked the Hackberries and the big Mulberry on Cypress Street. I was
surprised to see no birds in the Mulberry, until the hawk flushed
out of the middle of it. The ROADSIDE HAWK! It flew across street
and away through the trees. Landed briefly but as we approached
it took off again across town. I just saw it well enough to say
that was it. Without my 5 prior encounters in last 12 weeks it would
have just been a hawk. Tawny patches in bases of primaries, scalloped
whitish edges of uppertail coverts on dark rump, on a mini-tiny buteo.
I had heard and glimpsed it again at park just 4 days ago. We worked
around for it a bit but could not refind it. We saw 48 Cedar Waxwings
in a nearby Pecan, waiting for the hawk to leave the mulberry is my guess.
We checked Judy Shaffer's feeders hoping for a Hooded Oriole
since mine doesn't seem to be regular at our feeders yet.
No oriole love, but an Inca Dove and some Lesser Goldfinches.
We also had a pair of Bewick's Wren down the street a little,
the male caught a worm and gave it to the female. Such a great provider.
We then went out Lee St. (355) to Little Creek where Dianne spotted
one lone male Shoveler hiding up against the bank. We saw my
FOS Blue Grosbeak, a singing male, talked in a Hutton's
Vireo in the live-oaks just before the creek, saw Lark and
Vesper Sparrow, I finally heard a FOS Clay-colored Sparrow,
several N. Rough-winged Swallow, but still no Kingfisher love.
Saw what appeared a Ring King hole in the bank though, that
did not used to be there. Right where Little Creek Larry told
me he saw them digging.
There was nothing at the buffalo wallows north towards 470 but
a Killdeer, though they are holding enough water to get migrant
shorebirds. Usually after night rains, early in the a.m. is
the best time to look for those there.
We came back to town via 470 as if coming from Bandera and
right at the junction with 187 where you turn left or south
to get to Utopia we pulled over to the county maintenance yard
at the west side of the electric substation. Yesterday on
our way back from Lost Maples a Canyon Towhee shot across the
road here and I figured with some trucks and equipment in the yard
which they seem to like so much it would be worth a look. Took all
of 10 seconds to see the Towhee again fly across 187 (at grill and
bumper level) into the maint. yard. We got great looks under a
truck parked just inside the fence. Their favored natural habitat.
Anyway it is a spot to check for Canyon Towhee when in the area.
Since ours left the yard and the ones up the road a mile
(near the former Bushtit nest site) disappeared too, it helps
to have another site for them. There was a Loggerhead Shrike
on 360 just west of Utopia on the River.
Heard the Ringed Kingfisher over at the river at 1:15 and
5:30 p.m., seemed to be going downriver first and upriver
later. Had a pale worn migrant Monarch in the yard about
5:30 p.m. and a different one at 7 p.m., and saw my FOY summer
form Questionmark mid-afternoon. Two FOS species of birds
occurred in the yard in the afternoon. First a Bronzed
Cowbird, which Dianne wanted to see and we only heard.
Then about 6:30 p.m. tied my earliest ever Great Crested Flycatcher
spring arrival date (three Myiarchus sps. in yard today) with
one vocally announcing his return for 10 minutes right uphill
behind the shed. He wanted to make sure I got this date on him,
after hurrying back and all.
The male Vermilion Flycatcher was feeding from the top of the big
pecan late in day, and with the front the skies are cleared of
humidity and blue as can be. Just right for setting that red off.
April 13 ~ We had an INCH of rain overnight! We have about two
inches for the last few days. An amazing great total. The water
is only an inch from going over the spillway at the park pond.
By time this couple inches percolates down in a few days I would
not be surprised to see it dripping over the spillway, finally,
would be the first time in many months, maybe about 8.
Guided some very nice folks (Bill and Dianne Papet) from Florida
at Lost Maples today. We had great looks at Golden-cheeked Warbler
and Black-capped Vireo, and Scott's Oriole too. Saw a nice
Black-throated Sparrow up top above the ponds. A few Orange-crowned
Warbler and a couple Nashville were it for migrants. A couple Indigo
Bunting were singing which I didn't hear yesterday. Missed
the White-tipped Doves again though. Heard a few Red-eyed Vireo,
only two Yellow-throated Vireo, several Louisiana Waterthrush,
heard Hutton's Vireo, saw a couple Yellow-throated Warbler,
several texana Scrub-Jay and some Rufous-crowned Sparrow.
We saw 5 or 6 migrant Monarch butterflies. Also saw both
Two-tailed and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies and some
Disparate Forester moths. Saw a skipper briefly that looked
like a Green. Plus a few of the regular expected things.
In odes one Springtime Darner and lots of Dot-winged Baskettail,
a pair of Aztec Dancer (damselfly) but still slow. Some great
Claret Cup Cactus (or similar) is in bloom on top of the bluffs
above the pond.
April 12 ~ We had a half-inch of rain overnight and still a bit
drizzly. Guided some wonderful folks from California at Lost Maples
today. Quite misty off and on until after noon, but quite birdy
as usual too. This 80 year old guy went up the steep rough trail
from pond to top of bluffs (where the Black-capped Viero is) with
as little effort as me. A couple years ago I was huffin' and puffin'
and thinkin I was dyin'. It might be a half-mile up to the top
from the pond. And it sure seems more like 400 feet of elevation gain.
They never cleaned the trail up after a major flood years ago so
it is strewn with rocks. Used by many locals as their jogging and
hiking for excerise trail regardless. It is a strenuous climb though.
That half-mile takes a half-hour and 6 or 8 rest stops for me.
A Brit at the trailhead feeders said there were three White-tipped
Dove there for a while when we were up the trail. We had great views
of Golden-cheeked Warblers and heard lots of them as expected.
We all saw Black-capped Vireo, two of us had a male singing up
top of a bare snag above eye-level. I heard at least 5 of them,
saw maybe 3. One was just before the second crossing up Can Creek
on the right near powerline cut where always, but an impenetrable area.
When you concentrate on seeing "the warbler and the vireo" you go
by a lot of calling things you don't make much effort to see.
Of course call them all out so the folks you are guiding can say if
they want to see it or not. I heard a Scott's Oriole (and it was also
said to come into the feeders at trailhead), lots of Black-and-white
Warbler, a Hutton's Vireo, Canyon Wren. Summer Tanager are
in, a few Yellow-throated Warbler appear on territory again along
Can Creek, several Lousiana Waterthrush were heard singing. Very few
Yellow-throated Vireo and lots of White-eyed. Saw a single at eye-level
above the ponds and then at trailhead parking lot a couple calling
Broad-winged Hawks, one was a dark morph! Also an Osprey went over.
A couple weird looking larger buteos went over as well, probably they
were odd Red-taileds.
Interesting is what seems not there yet, no E. Pewee, Blue Grosbeak,
Painted or Indigo Bunting, and Cuckoo of course. Migrant activity was
typical, weak at best, with a Nashville and a couple Orange-crowneds
I could hardly take the action. A couple warblers did get away
in the rain. Good thing the place is wall-to-wall nesting Golden-cheeks,
B&W's, and some Louisiana Waterthrushes for spice.
My FOS Red-eyed Vireo and Acadian Flycatcher were heard, the flycatcher
surely my earliest ever. After noon we saw a Two-tailed Swallowtail
and a Disparate Forester moth. The Mountain Laurels were still going
and smelling great but fading fast. The Wafer Ash and some Texas
Persimmon were smelling great too.
April 11 ~ Too much to do getting ready for guiding the next several
days. Did have Nashville and Orange-crowned Warbler go through yard,
and a male Hooded Oriole fed at one of the hummer feeders. Hope it
gets addicted. Brown-crested Flycatcher still around. Bit of mist and drizzle.
April 10 ~ About 5:30 a.m. thunder announced an area of rain,
which moved over west-to-east as most does here, dropping at least
a half-inch here, finishing about 8:30 a.m. The low was in upper50's dF
with some northeast wind, it felt like good bird weather.
Mid-morning I heard the FOS Yellow-breasted Chat, which then spent
the whole day chattering from the center of last year's territory.
So a returning breeder, not a passage migrant. Brown-crested Flycatcher
around still too, also probably a returning local breeder, about 4 days
here so far.
A town errand run in the afternoon so a quick look at the park.
A couple Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were on far bank. A warbler
or two got away, Blue Jay, Yellow-throated Warbler, the regulars.
From the woods at the north end of park came a very out of place
raptor call. A long descending coarse note, repeated. Somewhat
like an anemic Red-shouldered, but not so whistled. A pair of those
are nesting across river just above park. This was much more throaty.
I've never heard any hawk like it. I moved into woods slowly
binocs half lifted to cut a second off raise time, while I fiddled
with focus wheel nervously. I don't often hear something I have
never heard. It flushed before I saw it and flew perpendicular to
me, across an opening, then seemingly through the woods on the island,
and presumedly out the other side since I couldn't refind it in the
trees. It was a tiny buteo with big thick reddish horizontal bars on
a cream background from breast to legs. It was the Roadside Hawk.
It continues in the area. I think I mentioned a couple weeks ago
that I may have seen it again. It is still around. Wish I had
been with mic as it would have been easy to tape.
Something broke the biggest Texas Wild Onion flower stalk I ever
saw, over knee high, probably a deer or person had just kicked it
over. So I was forced to collect the voucher stems for research.
Tonight some will be studied on top of some enchiladas. After I
did a couple errand stops when I got back in the car I could not
believe how strong ONION smell was. These are the best scallions
I have ever tasted. An explosive herbal entry, followed by a
long sweet middle, finishing strong with a pleasant bite and excellent
crisp clean aftertaste.
April 9 ~ upper 60's to mid+80's dF temp spread. After today
there are rain chances the next 7 or so. An event might evolve,
or might not, NOAA says watch the weather. There was again
a Brown-crested Flycatcher around calling this a.m. Last year
they nested in one of our boxes. We have a box with Black-crested
Titmouse nesting in it now. Another box remains un-chosen so far.
I had to take one box down that House Sparrows took.
Heard a Belted Kingfisher go over, besides the Ringed at river,
guess I should go look for a Green. It's Thursday, so it's
manning the computer and phone for me, and hoping something shows up
out the office windows, or in yard when I'm out there to detect it.
The wildflowers in the north yard are a virtual meadow of color,
though most of it short and small. The first White Rock Lettuce
was open, with a pair of flower Buprestids on it (ph.). Saw a FOY
Reakirt's Blue butterfly on some Deer Vetch. At least a dozen
Blue-eyed Grass (Iris) flowers now, the first Tube-tongue is opening,
lots of Deer Vetch, Texas Verbena, a dozen plus Pincushion Daisy,
still must be 750 Crow-poison, 6 dozen Pink Evening-primrose (white
morph here). Numbers of Dainty Sulphur, a FOY Gray Hairstreak,
several Vesta Crescent, Checkered-Skipper. A Julia's Skipper was on
some just opened Mealy Sage.
After I thought it was all done for the day at 11:30 p.m. I went
out one last time. Heard Great Horned and Barn Owl, texana Eastern
Screech-Owl, and for over five minutes a LONG-EARED OWL called.
The single long haunting hummed hoot. WEEWOW! I didn't bother to
try to tape as my mic won't pick up low frequencies like that.
It was up the road across the draw but I didn't want to go out
with gun (pigs) and lights so just listened to it for five minutes.
April 8 ~ Balmy spring temps with a upper 60's to mid+80's dF spread.
A spritz or two of mist. Drove my FOS Swainson's Hawks down
no doubt, five of them in the a.m. going south low over tops
of cypresses along river looking to go down somewhere. Very nice.
Mid-afternoon saw my FOY Pale-faced Clubskimmer dragonfly (and
a Dot-winged Baskettail).
Later p.m. my FOY Ruby-throated Hummingbird showed up at one of the
feeders. Those males are just stunning with tail in full flare and
glowing gorget, not five feet away. Today it was at least two Lincoln's
Sparrows at once. The Chipping Sparrows number less than 25 now.
Still a few Vesper over in the corral, and lots of Lark Sparrow.
FLEDGED baby Carolina Chickadee chicklets in the afternoon! The first
thing out of the nest this year. Also saw a FOY Disparate Forester,
the black and white polka-dotted diurnal moth with fuzzy red-orange
leg bases. A real beauty, check your blooming Texas Persimmons
April 7 ~ Heard my FOS Brown-crested Flycatcher today, in corral,
then yard, and across road in big mesquites. Wonder if it is
the one that nested last year? A couple Ringed Kingfisher
are cavorting over at the river. I'll have to do a nest check
in the bank there, I hear them much of the day, every day. A couple
more Blue-gray Gnatcats moving north, heard Scissor-tail over in
corral, a Myrtle Warbler went by, the Lincoln's Sparrow continues.
Great to be hearing daily singing of Summer Tanager and Yellow-throated
Vireo in yard. Not sure any of the White-eyed Vireo are sticking yet,
sorta seems maybe passing through mostly, a pair nested in the
draw adjacent last year so were heard to death all summer.
April 6 ~ Heard a couple warblers go through yard this a.m.
but could not lay eyes on more than fleeting glimpses. One
sounded like a Black-throated Green chip. The Yellow-throated
Warbler was at the bath early afternoon. More Blue-gray Gnatcats.
Don't know if this is the same Lincoln's Sparrow every day
the last two weeks or different ones moving through.
There was my FOS Hooded Oriole in the yard today in the biggest
Hackberry, hoping it is a returnee of one of the feeder users.
Judy Schafer had one almost two weeks ago, mine were obviously
partying on the way back from Mexico. Heard Ringed King over
at river this a.m. and p.m., need to go nest hunting. Chucks
calling at dusk. Right before and at last light. That male
Vermilion Flycatcher goes until dark as well.
April 5 ~ Something around a 57-77dF temp spread, mostly cloudy.
Kathy and I walked up to the Bushtit nest and beyond a bit.
The Bushtit pair was there and easy to see well. We could not
find Canyon Towhee, so it seems the other pair we knew of nearby
is also not where they were a couple weeks ago. While most
books show them as residents, clearly there are at least local
seasonal movements of them. I also missed the one that had
been at the Ranch Outpost last week, maybe it left too.
A number of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were seen, probably 3 on
the walk and 3 in the yard over the day, at very minimum.
A couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet too. Missed Scrub-Jay which
are around but quieter now that nesting probably. An adult
eastern type Red-tailed Hawk went over with a heavy belly-band,
quite unlike the nearly unmarked creamy white underparts of our
local resident Fuertes' Red-tails. We saw four Black-bellied
Whistling-Ducks heading downriver. Plus all the regulars.
The Mountain Laurels are still blooming but many are finishing.
The earliest few Wafer-Ash are just starting to open the first
few flowers as is Texas Persimmon or two. All three are worth a
smell. We saw Blue Gilia, found a few Blue-eyed Grass blooms,
Blackfoot Daisy are opening, Prairie Fleabane, Slender-stem
Bitterweed, Parallena, Pincushion Daisy, flowers are starting
to pop everywhere. Pecans are leafing out, the Hackberries
and at least our male Mulberry are all but done blooming now.
Cypress are getting leafed out along river, Mesquite starting
to get some foliage now too. The Buckley Oaks (seemingly
nearly Golden-cheeks favorite tree but Lacey Oaks they quite
like as well) are finally getting leafed out.
Big pale worn (migrant from Mexico) Monarch #2 floated around
a bit in later afternoon. A couple Chuck-wills-widows called
April 4 ~ Pretty breezy from north in a.m. from the front, low
in low 50's dF, high about 65dF or so, mostly cloudy all day
but none of the predicted rain yet. Couple more Blue-gray Gnatcats
went through yard. We walked to crossing and it was quiet, a
few Yellow-throated Warblers chipping from Cypresses, a male
Summer Tanager showed well, heard a Scissor-tail on other side
of corral at airstrip. Lincoln's Sparrow in yard again,
seems like daily now for a week. Chipping Sparrow numbers are
down to about 35 or less. Twenty five Cedar Waxwing. In the a.m.
there were two Sharp-shinned Hawks in yard at once, and in p.m.
I saw one grab probably a Chippy out of the sky as everything
The real unfolding story is the Canyon Towhee pair that has
been months in the yard is not here anymore. This is the
third day without seeing them. They were singing, I thought
sure they were going to nest somewhere here, but not enough
understory I suppose? Major bummer, can't believe they
left the seed. I'll check adjacent in draw and hope they
didn&apso;t go too far. I hadn't taped the singing really
as I thought it was yet to get going well. Because they were
not on the breeding territory it seems now.
We did see a FOY American Rubyspot damselfly at the crossing.
I saw a Sapsucker fly through yard, grabbed bins from inside
and went after it and never could find it. Nice adult but
I don't know what type, default here is Yellow-bellied,
so that until proven otherwise, but even at that, only 'Sapsucker sps.'
is proper until you confirm it is a Yellow-bellied.
April 3 ~ Another balmy low in upper 60's dF, but not as
warm as yesterday, made the low 80's dF. A bit of mist over day.
The front arrived about 6-7 p.m. with mild north winds at first,
and cooling temps. Supposed to get some rain later, we'll see.
Multiple Gnatcatchers daily going through yard now. Made a quick
town run and stopped at park. Saw my FOS Nashville Warbler,
and a Myrtubon's, e.g., a hybrid or intergrade Myrtle x Audubon's
Warbler. I detect about one or two per year here.
As usual I am always glad when I run into Little Creek Larry
as I get some bird info from the east side of the valley
and Little Creek. He said before the Ring-necked Ducks left
over there a couple pair of Bufflehead were around shortly.
Those are great birds locally, I have only seen them here once in
the last dozen years. He also reported seeing Ringed Kingfisher
kicking dirt out of a hole (and told me where) so maybe we can
get some hill country nesting documentation.
Finally there are some Barn Swallows as you drive Main St., and
even better south of town along the road I saw at least four
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Mostly birds at or adjacent to
trees that they regularly nest in (returning breeders, not passage
birds). Saw a Blue Jay in town, heard another at park. Water is
still 6" from going over spillway.
The flowers are really starting to pop. There were a couple
very nice patches of Bluebonnets (Lupines) along the roads,
Texas Onion is huge tall at the park. In our yard here there
must be 700+ Crow-Poison now, it is a beautiful meadow. I keep
forgetting to mention a few Pincushion Daisy have opened. Now
lots of Texas Verbena is open, as is the Deer Vetch. Best
was finding my first Blue-eyed Grass (a native Iris) in the yard.
We had a great patch we nurtured into sometimes 60+ blooms at
once up on Seco Ridge. A beautiful little miniature Iris.
Butterflies were another Lyside Sulphur, more Giant Swallowtail,
lots of Red Admiral, a FOY Sachem, a few Comm. Checkered-Skipper,
lots of Vesta Crescent and Pipevine Swallowtail, some Checkered White,
saw yesterday's Julia's Skipper again, and a FOY Horace's Duskywing.
Startin' to get goin'.
April 2 ~ Balmy lows in upper 60's dF, and high was 86 or so.
Today was a big leap forward into spring with several FOS birds.
Great were a singing male Summer Tanager, male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher,
a Northern Parula (warbler) in big pecan, and at dusk my earliest
ever (last 12 springs) Chuck-wills-widow calling, might have
been two of them. Four FOS's in one day shows how the season
is progressing in leaps and bounds now. Got a good pic of the
pregnant female Four-lined Skink on the back porch. Saw a Lyside
Sulphur, a Giant Swallowtail, the FOY Julia's Skipper, and a Snout.
April 1 ~ I wish someone would tell me they are fooling, it is
not really April yet is it? Already? At least a couple (at once)
probably three Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through yard as did
single Orange-crowned and Myrtle Warblers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Heard two Ringed Kingfisher over at river. The bird of the day was
the FOS Black-throated Green Warbler in the blooming (male) Mulberry.
Real werid was seeing the Black Rock Squirrel up in the Mulberry tree
about 15' off the ground eating the male mulberry flowers.
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ March summary ~ ~ ~
Broke free of the long cold winter, so far our last freeze was
around 10-11 March and overall it was mild since. A little bit
of precipitation was great and good timing for a spring bloom.
Many wintering species of birds started departing, the first of
the returning migratory breeding species are arriving. The first
wildflowers are getting going as it turns from brown to green.
Looks like it was 25 species of butterflies for the month,
which is decent average-ish diversity. Only 15 sps. was the
high single day of diversity. A few things in small numbers
like Pipevine Swallowtail, Checkered White, Southern Dogface,
and Vesta Crescent. The first of year migrant Monarch returning
from Mexico was March 30. Any month you can see Elfin and Orange-tip
is a good month. I saw an Orange-tip taken as prey by a Robberfly.
The wintering Louisiana Waterthrush was last seen March 11 and
a migrant was seen March 27-8. The wintering Rusty Blackbird
was last seen March 5. Some of the early returning breeding
species back in March are Golden-cheeked Warbler, Black-and-white
Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Vermilion
Flycatcher, tardy Purple Martin and Barn Swallow finally made it
back, but Scissor-tailed Flycatcher missed March this year.
Both Osprey and Verdin several times in March was good, Golden Eagle
was probably the rarest highlight on March 7, finding a Bushtit nest
was great, seeing Green Kingfisher carrying food is good too. A
Greater Yellowlegs was also good heading north March 30, did not
see one here last year.
So without really trying I saw 91 species of birds in the month,
(plus three introduced non-natives) so a significant uptick in
diversity from the three prior months of winter by almost 20 species.
Mostly in the yard, along the road, and at park in town.
~ ~ ~ end March summary ~ ~ ~
March 31 ~ Too busy at the computer. Sure great to hear birdsong
now. Yellow-throated Warbler and Vireo, Vermilion Flycatcher,
lots of Cardinal and Titmouse, Bewick's and Carolina Wrens,
Eastern Bluebird, it's getting downright noisy out there.
Some Chipping Sparrow are even singing a bit. Gnatcatcher and
Orange-crowned Warbler went through yard. There is a big fat
pregnant female Four-lined Skink right off the back porch in
the leaf litter in a flower bed. Can't wait to see those
beautiful bright indigo blue-tailed babies.
March 30 ~ Overcast in a.m., low in upper 50's dF, feels like
spring. Sounded like spring when a Greater Yellowlegs flew over
calling. Only the second I have had here from yard in now two years
and our third spring. It was moving north over river habitat corridor.
Sure nice to hear a calling shorebird, we don't get a lot of that
here besides Killdeer.
As an aside last week we marked two years down here on valley
floor at edge of river habitat corridor. In those two years I recorded
195 native species in, from, or over yard, plus 3 introduced non-native
species. So was a couple birds short of 200 in 2 years. Not bad. More
than two got away un-ID'd, and obvously several went through unseen.
There are a couple more species I saw in the draw less than a hundred
yards away that didn't make the yard list.
To expand out of yard a little and complete the local picture better,
I have additionally a total of 15 species seen along the road or
across river at country club but not in yard, and 10 more just down
the road at Utopia on the River from my decade of mostly spring coverage
there. So the whole 360 area list is actually just a couple clicks
under 225 species of birds.
March 29 ~ Had a 50-85 dF temp spread, getting warmish out there.
Heard Ringed Kingfisher over at the river. The Yellow-throated
Vireo singing in the big pecan out front sure is nice again.
We walked to crossing and saw a hawk I couldn't put a name to
for sure. It could have been the rare hawk seen this winter.
Also had ad. and 1st yrs. of both Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks.
At least 4-5 Yellow-throated Warbler were singing from Cypresses in
a half-mile of river. Found a female Vermilion Flycatcher working on
a near-finished nest. Odes were a female Kiowa Dancer at crossing
(no Rubyspots yet) and a Baskettail patrolling road.
The corral had at least 4 Vesper, 15 Lark, 50 Chipping, and two
Savannah Sparrow. The Savannah were both weird. One had a white
head, a partially albinistic (leucistic is proper term) bird.
The other was unlike the standard pale type we have here for the
winter, but instead one of the dark overall with rufous and black
types which I have seen before here in spring. Also heard
Ringed Kingfisher over at river.
The big FOS for the day was afternoon when I finally saw a Barn
Swallow go by. Latest ever arrival for me in 12 springs, usually
they are here the first week of March, 3 years of 12 they arrived
in late Feb., and never arriving later than 13 March. Over two weeks tardy.
The highlight of the day was a metallic iridescent gold Buprestid,
that is, what I learned a long time ago as a Flat-headed Tree-borer
and is now called Metallic Woodborer. A group of very colorful
fancy beetles that can be tree pests. I got close macro photos of
it on a stone step as we left for the walk. Nearly an inch long,
and mottled dark and light posteriorly on elytra (the hard-shell
wing coverings on beetles), but anteriorly was largely iridescent gold.
It flew up and landed on the big pecan. He better not be messin' with
the tree. We know those gigas Cerambycids live in it (another tree borer) already.
Some of the Mountain Laurels are really going now, the patch on
the slope behind us has open flowers so when the wind blows right
you just about melt into the incredible sweet smell. We saw some
Parallena blooming and Texas Verbena which has been open a few days
and I forgot to mention it. The first Texas Persimmon flower buds
are almost nearing opening. The amazing Disparate Forester moths
will be on them as soon as they open.
March 28 ~ Low in low 40's dF felt great, love those crisp
mornings with birdsong. Had to make a dump run so snuck over
to park for a quick look at about noon when I was done. I saw
the waterthrush I heard yesterday and confirmed with great views
that it was a Louisiana as ID'd by call, and it is absolutely
not the bird that wintered.
Then downright rare was a singing first-year male Golden-cheeked
Warbler at the north end of the loop road near screen shelters.
Methinks this is the first spring migrant I have had at the
park, they generally use the slopes and ridges moving north
up valley in spring (and southbound in fall too for that matter).
Consider I have found over 25 species of warblers at Utopia
Park in spring, but not a Golden-cheeked before.
In odes a few more teneral damselflies popping out, but nothing
I could put a name on past female dancer (Argia sps.).
I saw TWO Falcate Orange-tip butterflies, one on the island,
the other floating oddly to the ground. I got it in binocs
and saw an Acilid (Robberfly) was sucking on it and clearly
had taken it as a prey item. As I neared for a photo the
killer fly took off and so I acquired a nice voucher specimen.
Saw some other butterfly I could not ID, like a miniature
Sleepy Orange sorta above, with more black on borders, and
sorta like a Pearl Crescent below (vhw). It got away without pix.
There were Engleman's Daisy blooming out front by water co.,
the Spanish Buckeye are in bloom and Dewberry is too. Bushtit
nest looked fine as I took a quick look. Still did not see any
Barn Swallow or Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.
Had more Cranes going over northbound today, and a White-eyed
Vireo at UP was my first there since last fall and so clearly
a migrant or returning breeder. Saw my (2) FOS Giant Swallowtails.
March 27 ~ With the wind stopping and the cold air from the
front filling in, we got down to uppermost 30's dF which
felt great after a few balmy nights at about 60dF early this week.
By afternoon wind picked up from south at times pretty gusty.
One Pine Siskin here at tube feeder with a few American Goldfinch still.
Went to town and in that couple plus miles and back did not
see a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher yet, or a Barn Swallow for
that matter. Real weird on the swallows, the Scissors should
be back any day though.
A quick park check but was hot at about 80dF in late afternoon
so fairly deadish. There was a FOS spring migrant Louisiana
Waterthrush, which is a very rare bird here in spring away
from breeding grounds. This is prime-time spring arrival time
for them returning to Lost Maples where they breed. The one
that wintered was last seen March 11, so over two weeks and
several checks for it say it is gone. The other item of interest
was a male Green Kingfisher carrying food, so feeding a mate or
young very nearby.
In butterflies saw my FOY Falcate Orange-tip, a nice male,
one of my favorites with only a brief spring flight period
for the whole year (like Elfin). Also saw a FOY Phaon Crescent.
In odes saw a few teneral damselflies which are left un-ID'd
In dragons a couple Springtime Darner were my FOY and another species
with only a short spring flying period as an adult (but longer than
Elfin or Orange-tip). Several Dot-winged Baskettail dragons were
flying. A couple River Cooter turtles were not flying. Lots
of Blanchard's Cricket-frog calling. Overall, the place is
exploding in green. Water is about 6" from going over spillway.
The Pink Evening-primrose (we have white morph here) is blooming
in the crack in the patio. Had a Mournful Duskywing in yard.
March 26 ~ A front came through before dawn, we got a tenth
of precip maybe, mostly wind with 15-20 mph gusting to 25
and 30. Blew till late afternoon. Low was about 50 and it
only got up to low-mid 60's dF. The Mesquite and the
Cypress trees both have green leaves sprouting out now in
a major sign of spring.
Birds the same as the last few days. Kathy saw the Merlin
shoot through the yard. I saw a Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawk,
Caracara, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks. Continuing
parade of a few Gnatcatchers and Myrtle Warblers daily
all moving north, Cranes still doing same overhead, a Ruby-crowned
Kinglet, Ash-throated Flycatcher. Only 6 male Cardinals here
now (as many females) so they are dispersing and spreading
out for breeding. One without a tail must have given it
(probably not willingly) to an accipiter. Chipping Sparrow
numbers are decreasing. Where is that first Clay-colored?
Hearing Ringed Kingfisher from river seemingly near-daily now.
Saw my FOY Four-lined Skink in the garden, the Prairie Lizard
and Anole have been out and about for weeks if not a month.
The two aberrant blonde squirrels continue in the yard.
March 25 ~ The FOS of the day was Judy Schafer reporting her
first returning Hooded Oriole, thanks Judy! Smack dab on time, I have
several return dates for them in prior years for March 25, 26, & 27.
The Yellow-throateds continue (Warbler and Vireo) and White-eyed
Vireo as well. These are the local breeders having returned
to their territories here. A couple Ash-throated Flycatcher,
more Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 4 Myrtle Warbler, a Lincoln's Sparrow,
more Cranes going north. The aberrant Chipping Sparrow with
the huge white throat and dark lower border continues. Saw the
Black Rock Squirrel in yard, what a neat beast.
The interesting behavioral observation of the day was provided
by the Armadillo. I spotted it hopping backwards in 6" to 10"
jumps. Have you ever seen an Armadillo hopping backwards in
about 8" increments? Seemed like something one might see
in the Disney classic Fantasia. The odd thing was it appeared
to have a soccer ball of something underneath it that is was
moving. No I was not drinking before I saw the Armadillo
Upon closer scrutiny I saw the dillo had a huge ball of
dried hackberry leaves under itself, nearly as big as its
body. It backed up in short hops with the ball of leaves
for 20' and disappeared down its hole behind the cottage.
It was nest building! I came in and told Kathy and a bit
later she said "it's doing it again." We watched
as it gathered all the leaves within reach of a single spot
and worked them into a ball underneath it and hopped backwards
with it. Gathered up all it could again, hop backwards with
the growing ball of leaves, gather more, hop backwards, gather
more, hop and repeat until a soccer ball sized ball of leaves
is in possesion, and then hop backwards to and then down hole
with them. It did this at least 4 times that I saw and likely
several more I didn't see. I think someone is about to have a
litter. FYI, in case you didn't know of their strangeness, the
litter is always four pups of the same sex. Weird animal. Had I
first seen it in a dinosaur book I would not have thought it out of place.
March 24 ~ Sure is springy when you get up and go outside and
hear singing Yellow-throated Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo.
Had some Myrtle Warbler move through, as well as a Kinglet and
a Gnatcatcher, couple Ash-throated Flycatcher, a White-eyed Vireo,
and more Sandhill Cranes going over northward. Turkey gobbling
and Vermilion singing until twilight. Kathy saw the FOY Gecko,
but the introduced Mediterranean, not a native.
Must be 300 Crow-Poison flowers on north side of house, and nearly
as many Anemone on south and east sides. This is what happens if
you don't over-mow not giving a chance for re-seeding. If we get
anything near normal rain the next couple months (likely with the
El Nino) we should have a great spring wildflower show. Which runs
March to June here normally in a stunning procession of new beauties
each month. FOS Tipulid (Crane Fly).
March 23 ~ A cooler low in the upper 40's dF felt great as the
birdsong sounded. A couple Yellow Wood-Sorrel flowers opened this
a.m. but better was around 11 a.m. hearing my FOS Yellow-throated
Vireo. Funny how a somewhat mournful (slow descending) song can be
so uplifiting and fill one with joy. Ahhh, for the love of birds.
Surely this is the male of the pair that breeds adjacent to our
yard, whilst feeding and singing in it daily from March to September,
we see its just-fledged young in the pecans.
There was an aberrant Chipping Sparrow around I tried to grab
a docu shot of, it had a huge snow white throat with a black
lower border, and a dark mark in lower face where it shouldn't have.
It flushed to corral before I think any decent images to study
were obtained. Will try to find and photo for the abberant file.
Yellow-throated Warbler is singing at the territory across the
road that is occupied annually, probably 'our' bird that
during breeding visits the yard pecans daily, brings its young here, etc.
Had a Pine Siskin in the a.m., and a White-eyed Vireo was singing
in the afternoon. Cranes going over northbound. Temps made it into
the low 80's dF! Quite a few Wild Geranium (nothing like domestic
types) and some Straggler Daisy opening up. About a week now with
no sign of the Junco, it was here over three months. Barn Owl after dark.
March 22 ~ A last cell from the system went over us last night
around midnight, we got another quarter to third of an inch.
So right about 2" for the whole event. Spectacular. A slow soaker
with little runoff too, just right. Mostly cloudy till noonish
then sun took over. Fair bit of birdsong in the morning.
Sure like hearing that Vermilion Flycatcher every morning, that
flight song makes them seem so happy to greet the day and blue skies.
I wandered around some of the mixed live-oak-juniper, with some
Buckley Oak over grassland habitat. Live-oaks are mostly yellow
and dropping leaves fast. Did not get lucky with a Golden-cheeked
Warbler or Black-capped Vireo. Did get lucky though and found a
pair of Bushtits working on an essentially finished nest! I'll
come back another day and set up for some pix. Very cool. They
give a Verdin a run for the money when it comes to ratio of nest
size to bird size, weaving a ginormous foot-long pendulum like an
oriole with a hole down on one side. Hope the cowbirds don't find it,
it seems exposed for that. I once saw a miniscule Bushtit standing
on the back of a (ca. 10 times its weight) baby cowbird while feeding it.
We know what happened to the other baby Bushtits that were in that nest.
This is one of the if not the, most enigmatic locally resident birds.
It is by sheer luck, chance, and good karma one runs into them most
of the time. You can hardly go look for them, they find you when
the dog deserves a bone. They are eternal roaming wanderers, save at
nesting time when they go quiet and are not in sorta noisy flocks.
There is often a pair around Concan, and one or two at Garner, and
even some at Lost Maples, if you can find them. My last 6 trips to
Lost Maples has not seen one there. Sorry, this nest is not at a
public access site though if I were your guide I could show them to you.
I also had 2-3 Scrub-Jay, several singing Hutton's Vireo, singing
Field Sparrow, several Purple Martins flew overhead low, a couple
Ash-throated Flycatcher, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and the regulars
like Titmouse (Black-crested), Carolina and Bewick's Wren,
Ladder-backed Woodpecker, etc. Then later at the crossing I heard my
FOS Yellow-throated Warbler singing, this a breeder returning to
territory, not a passage migrant. A singing warbler sure makes it
sound like spring. Later in the p.m. I heard another from porch
along river that is probably 'our' returning breeder.
A flock of 20 Cedar Waxwing were around a bit today.
I saw 4+ Goatweed Leafwing my FOY for that butterfly, and fair
numbers of other things already out and about. Late p.m. my FOY
Northern Cloudywing was around the yard. Several Dot-winged Baskettail
dragonflies were out, but I saw no damsels at the crossing just after
I saw some Prairie Fleabane flowers today, just a couple, and a
magenta Anemone. Anemone come in white (most of them) and a dark
lavender, as well as an intermediate lavender, and the lavenders
seem a small percent of them here, <10%, probably <5%. I have
seen perhaps one of the magenta ones prior, they are the prettiest
ones of them all.
March 21 ~ Today is the first full day of spring, something about
it arriving last evening, so it got here yesterday, but today is
the first whole day of spring. It showered off and on all night
and it seems like about 1.6 or 1.7" of rain. A great slow
soaker, just what we needed. Much of the areaa just south of us
between Uvalde, Sabinal, and Concan got 2.5". Perfect timing
for spring wildflowers, I suspect a great show is on the way. It
seems likely a wet pattern will continue through spring with the
minor weak El Nino forming in the Eastern Pacific as that Pineapple
Express moisture conveyor belt often feeds us lots of rain.
Another sign of spring was a flock of 10 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck,
my FOS this year, flying upriver over the cypresses fairly early a.m.
They winter in the flatlands of the brush-country to our south,
but not up here in the hills, at least in our area here. Maybe
elsewhere in hills at some sewer, nature center, or city duck ponds,
or maybe at a feedlot? But they do not naturally winter in the
upper Sabinal drainage. They show up in spring to see if it is wet
enough to risk breeding. We will know by if they stick. So far I
think we gonna get a no. More rain could change that. They seem
to hang around a month or more watching it and make a decision.
Dry years the leave quickly. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher again.
March 20 ~ Balmy, feels like spring. In 60's and 97-100% humidity. We are
allegedly going to have a big rain event tonight and tomorrow. The
first cold air of the front hit about 1:40 and by 3:40 it was 15 dF
cooler, in the 50's. A sub-tropical moisture tap has the
warm moist air saturated and we will now proceed to cool it off
quickly and see what happens. LOL ;)
A male No. Harrier flew north over yard early in morning, that is
a migrant. Heard Ringed Kingfisher. Ran to town early and fast,
was spritzing and no activity at park. Nothing. The Redbuds in
town are really going now though. At least 5 American Goldfinch
and a Pine Siskin were on the patio mid-day. Heard waxwings.
Another Gnatcatcher went through and a Kinglet bubbled (sang).
March 19 ~ Another gray day in the 60's dF but got into
70's later afternoon. A little drizzle early. Gettin' green,
feelin' springy. Found a lot of feathers on patio that indicate
one of the Ground-Doves was taken this morning, likely a Sharp-shinned
Hawk victim. There were four Ground-Dove here yesterday. Had a dozen
Cedar Waxwing around a bit, and a Robin. About 7 p.m. 2 Ringed Kingfisher
were having a disagreement over at the river. Sounded like twin-50's.
One ended up flying out of the habitat corridor and coming right up
to yard before turning around. Heard a Barn Owl after dark.
Singing this morning were Carolina and Bewick's Wren, No. Cardinal,
Canyon Towhee, Eastern Phoebe and Vermilion Flycatcher, Black-crested
Titmouse and Carolina Chickadee, Eastern Bluebird, Chipping, Lark, and
Field Sparrow, Inca, White-winged and Mourning Dove. Turkey gobbled,
and Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker were drumming (their
version of singing). It is starting to sound like spring out there.
The pair of Bluebirds chased a squirrel out of the yard.
March 18 ~ Mostly overcast, a little drizzle left over from the
system, humid in the 60's most of the day. A little sun
and blue sky peeked out in later p.m. Heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
first thing early. There are over a hundred Anemone (Wind-flower)
open in front yard, and on north side of house 3 doz. Crow-poison
have opened. Spring wildflowers! A couple Whitlow-grass were a
foot tall and impressive, been small the last several years.
I am busier than a one-eyed flycatcher at the fruit fly factory
so didn't get to look about much today. My one or twice an hour
5-10 min. stretch-and-listens didn't produce anything but the
regulars. A couple of the Hackberry trees are really getting to
blooming, others still with no sign of it. The first few small new
green leaves on one Texas Persimmon are breaking out. No Junco.
March 17 ~ Happy St. Patrick's Day! May the luck of the Irish
be with you! Drizzly and 60dF in morning, showers mid-morn, actual
rain before noon, and supposed to get a bit. Just what we need
for spring flowers. Heard a FOS White-eyed Vireo call a few times
in early a.m., Vermilion Flycatchers around, Bluebirds checking the
boxes out still.
In late afternoon a Merlin dove after a Cardinal that was up in top
of a Hackberry, shooting overhead so fast I barely saw it, until it
missed and swung back over to see if any other potential victims
around the seed tube were within striking capability. It then flew
to the big tall cypresses that line the river and landed up top, which
was promptly followed by about 5 Black Vulture leaving their perches
in adjacent trees. As if they didn't want to be around the little
terror of a tyke. Two hours later I was out on front porch and it flew
into yard and landed in the big pecan up top. Flicking and fanning tail
while bobbing its head and watching all the birds in the yard depart.
By near-dusk we had received a little over a third of an inch of rain
over the day. Just before dark I was on porch in rocker smoking a pipe
like an old man. Some pigs were over in the corral, and one disturbed
another which then let out a big squeal. To which a Turkey responded
gobbling maybe 75 yards away, to which the Vermilon Flycatcher sang back.
So the vocalization play went pig to turkey to flycatcher. Squeeeaaalll,
gobble gobble gobble, ttttttrreeerr, tttttrreeerr. At my age I find
this plenty amusing.
March 16 ~ Overcast and a mild upper 40's to upper 60's dF spread.
Early this morning I heard a Black-and-white Warbler singing from
upslope behind us. FOS. Didn't see it. That will have to wait for
another bird. But sure great to hear that sound again! Heard the
Ringed Kingfisher over at the river. A pair of Lesser Goldfinch were
around and on the feeder, still just very few about yet this spring.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Myrtle Warbler moved through yard in a.m.
Roadrunner was singing (mournful cooing like a dog whimper) from over
15' up in one of the big mesquites right across from the gate.
Couple Common Raven and a couple Caracara went over.
In the p.m. about 6 the FOS Blue-gray Gnatcatcher appeared outside
the office window feeding in the mulberry buds just starting to
peak out. Another Kinglet or two in the p.m. as well. And more
Myrtle Warbler. Four hummer feeders out now with a building number
of Black-chins, probably nearly a dozen female and twice as many
males. Turkey gobbling at dusk and heard Barn Owl late after dark.
Saw the male Slate-colored Junco today, but was last time, it left.
March 15 ~ Low 50's dF to mid-70's for a temp spread was nice.
We walked about 1.5 miles each way to gate at the west end of the
road which takes us through some juniper and live-oak grasslands
and around a knoll, so a bit of slope, with a few Buckley Oaks and
lots of Persimmon and Agarita. The Agarita was well in bloom,
the Persimmon still leafless as were the Buckley Oaks for the
most part. Only a couple were just barely pinkish from the
buds sprouting, most with only nubs just breaking branches. They are
behind, spring is behind. It looks fairly wintry still overall.
The one Redbud tree we saw still did not have blooms open yet.
The live-oaks overall are quite yellow and dropping leaves.
We did not see or hear a Golden-cheeked Warbler as I hoped,
but it is a longshot for a transient probably except in the
wettest years maybe some might breed here. There were 3-4 singing
Hutton's Vireo along the road though. We had a pair of Canyon
Towhee a mile from our yard pair, and a Bushtit called from very
near road at one spot but we couldn't see it. Was in an area of
very dense junipers where we had it last year and the year before.
It shut up when I spissed lightly. A surprise since I do one heck
of world class Bushtit. Probably one of a nesting pair, and so
quiet and secretive now. Heard a Scrub-Jay and we watched a singing
Field Sparrow. We had a dozen Sandhill Crane moving up-valley, and
a couple dozen GEESE flying south down-valley, but too far away and
in bad light for an ID. Of course any geese here are White-fronted
until proven otherwise.
A number of butterflies were about, a dozen Pipevine and a Black
Swallowtail, the FOY Mournful and Juvenal's Duskywings, a couple
Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, an Elfin (Henry's), Orange Sulphur, Dainty
Sulphur, Dogface, Red Admiral, American Lady, and a couple fly-by
Painted Lady (FOY migrants), Checkered-Skipper, Snout, and in yard on
our return a FOY Pearl Crescent! At least 15 species, the biggest
diversity day of the year so far. Weak as it sounds, in the entire
month of February I only saw 14 species, so it is a giant leap forward
toward spring. Did have another Dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly.
At 9:30 p.m. I was outside and heard American Wigeon calling as
the flew over northbound. Good yard bird. At 10:p.m. I heard a
Barn Owl go over high up, northbound as well. One other thing...
in the morning I saw a bird out the office window I thought sure
was a Barn Swallow. Have not had one yet this year, they are late,
and though it surely was, 99.999% doesn't make a data point.
Almost forgot, also had a Black Rock Squirrel out front and in
March 14 ~ A nice day ranging from low 40's dF to about 80!
The male Vermilion Flycatcher that returned yesterday was
displaying with flight song today, and against a bright blue
sky is quite the sight. What a beauty, and such exhuberance.
Late late p.m. a group of three Myrtle Warbler were in the
tall pecan through last sun and took off due north together
just before dark, they are going to fly tonight. A few butterflies
came out in the warmth, including one Elfin that flew by, Snout,
Dogface, Pipevine and Black Swallowtail, a Checkered-Skipper.
The regulars like Caracara, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker,
March 13 ~ Happy Friday the 13th! It got a whole lot more like
spring this morning when I heard my FOS Ash-throated Flycatcher.
Not my earliest but on the early end of the arrival window, and
in sharp contrast to yesterday's latest spring arrival of
Purple Martin. In the afternoon another FOS, the pair of Vermilion
Flycatcher were in yard, I presume returners. Another FOS today
was FEMALE Black-chinned Hummer, a few males have been around a week.
Bird song is really getting going, great to hear spring getting underway.
Over the day I had 3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet go north through yard,
they are on the move now. Saw 3 flocks of Sandhill Crane at once
totalling around 100 birds going over northbound. Heard the Ringed
Kingfisher over at the river, and more Purple Martin overhead.
Saw three American Goldfinch and the male Slaty Junco.
A quick town run and stop at the park found no Louisiana Waterthrush.
It is about time it leaves, they are early spring migrants, and its
been here about 100 days that I know of. The female Yellow-shafted
Flicker was still there. The Canyon Towhee was still around the
outbuildings at Utopia Ranch Outpost on Main St. This time at N. end
of the feed building in back. Might be a spot to grab one if you need it.
They are around but not staked out easy "drive-by" birds.
If it weren't for the pair in our yard I wouldn't otherwise
know where to see one. When we lived in the hay house on N. Thunder Crk.
they loved the open steel shed with pallets over there, nearly
the same 'habitat' as the Ranch Outpost has. Urban canyons.
The Redbud is in great bloom in front of the library now.
March 12 ~ Big temp spread today, 36 to 76dF, the warmth felt great.
Thursday so stuck at the computer. Saw the male Slaty Junco,
most of the rest was the regular offenders. The big happening
today was finally hearing my FOS Purple Martin overhead. Has to be
the latest arrival date I have for them, this is my 12th spring here
recording such arcane data. Heard the Northern Rough-winged Swallow
out there today. The other bird of interest today was hearing a
White-tipped Dove call in the morning. I heard one in Jan. at the park.
Also heard a Pine Siskin this afternoon. A couple of the hackberries
are just starting to pop flower bud tips out. There were two small
bats tonight hunting the area over the driveway for a bit at dusk,
probably Free-tails. Live-oaks up the slope behind us are turning
yellow and starting to drop leaves.
March 11 ~ Was in town briefly early so stopped at the park. The
Louisiana Waterthrush continues, evading another attempt (!) on it,
this by an ad.ma. Sharp-shinned Hawk. It has been doing this all
winter! Great to get another date after I missed it last Friday.
I saw the Osprey that was reported to me last week. The Hutton's
Vireo continues territorily singing in the live-oak motte, at the
north end of park, and a Barred Owl was hunting the backwaters
up by the island. Couple Blue Jay were around.
Most interesting were 50 Turkey Vulture (TV) that were roosted in a few
big cypresses. These are MIGRANT TV's, dates for which are very
hard to get in spring. These are birds passing through, probably from
Mexico or further south on their way to probably way further north.
Our local TV's do not gather in groups of 50 and roost at the park.
At least a dozen Anemone (Wind-flower) were open in the yard, all
white ones. A couple Agarita flowers are open on the one in the
fenceline out back but the drought has really taken a toll on it.
The yard is really turning green so fast it is amazing. I can't
believe I'll have to be fighting it again so soon now. Sure was
nice for a few months.
March 10 ~ Mid 40's dF to lowest 70's dF was a very nice spread.
Saw the Junco still here, a couple American Goldfinch and a Robin.
Heard Cooper's Hawk and Red-shouldered Hawk giving display
flight calls. At dusk there was a Turkey gobbling right up the
road, maybe 75 yards away. Also at dusk I saw my FOY Bat, it was
small and looked like a Free-tail. Coyotes were going off lots after
dark, must have been a couple kills. Sure love that sound.
March 9 ~ Drizzly and a shower or two but not cold, mostly in
the 50's all day. Probably ended up with a half-inch
since yesterday evening (overnight and today). Looks like a
bunch of Anemone (Wind-flower) coming up in the yard. That means
it was good winter rains, last year there were only a few. Maybe
we will have a good bluebonnet (lupine) year too, last year was
a weak showing at best.
Finally after 7 p.m. I saw a second Black-chinned Hummingbird,
after the first one on Mar. 4. This last and several prior cold fronts
made it to Vera Cruz and when that occurs it slows northward progress
of migratory birds down. Good thing since it got down to 24dF here after
the front passed.
I detected none of the typical 'first week of March' migratory
returning breeders last week, so expect a wave this week as it warms
back up. The first Vermilion Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Barn Swallow,
Purple Martin, Golden-cheeked and Black-and-white Warbler should
all be back any day now. A Golden-cheek was reported east of us so
I would think the first few are back here. By the end of the week some
numbers will start showing up. They are easiest to see their first
month back when they are establishing territories (singing all the
time) and the trees are not yet fully leafed out so they can't hide.
Too busy working, and since drizzling no sense it gettin' wet
over it. Saw the male Slate-colored Junco that has been here
months, I expect it will be leaving soon. Twice over an hour apart
after dark I heard Barn Owls go over, one high up going due north,
the other low and headed southeast, probably two different birds.
March 8 ~ Spent the day in the 50's dF, a chilly drizzly gray day.
It had drizzled off and on overnight and by afternoon we probably had
a quarter inch of precip. Supposed to be a real rain tonight or tomorrow.
Chilly and wet so it is inside things to do today...
Male and female Sharp-shinned Hawks repeatedly diving on the
seed-eaters here. Did have 9 male Cardinal at once still. The
Canyon Towhee is really starting to do some serious singing
on a stick pile in front yard. They make a crackling bag of chips
sound that is very like that sound the texana Scrub-Jay makes. It also
makes a hollow whistle that sounds like a kiddie toy train whistle.
They have an amazing vocal repertoire. California Towhee is dull,
boring and monotonous by comparison.
The hard freeze a couple mornings ago set back my Frostweed sproutling.
But the Wood Sage (Germander) and greggii (Blue mist) Eupatorium coming
up doesn't look fazed. Some other great but as yet to be ID'd
flower which I transplanted some of last year is with new sprouts
so they made it. It blooms in fall and smells like a cross between
rose and carnation, it is a butterfly magnet. Heard a Barn Owl
March 7 ~ Low was in 30's but no freeze, slow to warm too.
We took a mostly sunny walk from 11:30 to 1 p.m. by which time
it had become overcast. Nice to see some blue skies and sun.
Hovered around 60dF much of the afternoon under overcast skies.
Some days there is not much to write about, I work all the time.
Still then other days make up for it, I hope. Today was one of
those where I hardly know where to start. But I got outside and
around a little so scat happened. It only takes one good day to
make a week.
Actually shovelled some scat today. I knew all along I would need that
snow shovel from New Jersey in 1982, and boy does it work great
for this. Went over to the corral to get a sack of fresh road
apples for the nutrient starved flower beds here. About four of
the mares thought my old birdseed bag now scat sack, was a bag
of oats I guess. So they came over to watch closely following me
very near as I went from pile to pile. They couldn't believe
I was putting things in the sack, clearly no human had done anything
but empty sacks in front of them. With a somewhat confused look on
their faces after lots of watching me and looking back and forth
at each other it seemed they determined I indeed was putting the
used oats and hay back in the bag.
One mare walked right past me a foot away, stopping when her hind-quarters
were just in front of me, oh, pretty near right about where the
shovel and bag were, and can you guess what happened next? She
proceeded to made a donation to my collection efforts. A tremendous
donation I might add. It was a fountain of road apples, apparently
she saw my 50 lb. sack was only half full. She is a keeper. It
was chilly out so it was hot steaming fresh product. I briefly
considered putting the bag over there to save the shovelling,
but it is not the best time (and place to be) to startle a large
animal which apparently had a half a bale of hay to get rid of.
She looked proud for helping when she walked away, probably will
be looking for some extra oats for that.... I backed up out of
the fog hoping the steam wouldn't stick to my clothes. Next
time I'll just bring the sack, elbow gloves, and follow the mares around.
The highlight for birds was an imm. GOLDEN EAGLE which worked
its way north up-valley gaining altitude when last seen. We were
along the airstrip on 360, it was pretty low at first sight and
circled gaining altitude, then set sail due N. That is one big
spring migrant. LTA (less than annual) here, most are in fall or
winter, a good bird and date.
Interesting is that I actually have a prior, fairly nearish,
springish record, in Medina Co., also an imm., just a couple-few miles
east of Uvalde Co. on Hwy. 90, from I think early March, in 1989 (!).
Kathy and I watched it go after and miss a Jackrabbit, I actually
have a photo of that bird in an old bird photo collage a few feet to
my right (so too a date in that period's notebook).
Saw our first two dragonflies of the year. Upslope behind us
a Dot-winged Baskettail (Epitheca cf. petechalis) was patrolling
in the live-oaks, then at the crossing was a fresh mint Variegated
Meadowhawk male sunning on a rock. No damsels though. They
probably froze in the 24dF yesterday morning.
A few flowers were nice to see, FOY Dutchman's Breeches,
a Dakota Verbena, Whitlow-Grass, a Slender-stem Hymenoxys
and a purple form Anemone were all nice signs of spring despite
how gray and wintry it still looks overall. Butterflies were
a couple American Lady, a Pipevine Swallowtail, a couple
Checkered White, FOY Olive Juniper Hairstreak, and FOY Vesta
Crescent. We walked upslope into the live-oaks and junipers
and despite a fair bit of Agarita in bloom saw no Elfin (and
heard no Golden-cheeked Warbler) but did hear singing Hutton's
Vireo. The Buckley Oaks (like Agarita) seemed a bit behind,
with bud-tips just barely breaking branches. They are often
well out in full growth mode now, and when at that stage, the
Golden-cheeks are back (in numbers).
A few Western Meadowlarks were singing more this morning. We saw
in the corral over a dozen each Vesper and Lark Sparrow, a
half-dozen Savannah and a couple Field (later I saw them all
from front porch). Along the road we kicked up 150 Mourning Dove,
must be migrants from soutward passing through northbound now.
Saw a flock of 7 Sandhill Crane moving up-valley. Folks over near
Austin and Bastrop had a thousand and almost 2 thousand cranes
northbound today. I still have not heard or seen a Martin.
We were out with ears on for 90 minutes and covered 1.5 miles plus.
We had an immature Red-tailed Hawk seeming like the Eastern race bird
that has been sorta around, besides the nesting Fuertes' about.
Also saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk. The Verdin was across the road in
the big Mesquites again. Cool bird. Later p.m. a Zone-tailed Hawk
flew by office window, and of course had the usual Caracara, plus
Black and Turkey Vultures, a Roadrunner. A pair of Eastern Bluebird
were checking out a box they got two young (plus a cowbird) out
of last year, the male singing, be nice to have that daily again.
~ ~ ~ ~ update header ~ ~ ~ ~
MOST RECENT UPDATE: March 6, 2015
(last updates: February 28, 20, 14, 8, 1, January 25, 18, 11, 4)
Winter is here but there are signs spring is itchin' to arrive.
Besides junipers and live-oaks, there isn't much green out there,
though some things are just starting to get going. Redbud trees
are in bloom, and the first wildflowers are just poking out.
No freeze forecast in the next 10 days, our average last freeze
is about the first day of spring, March 20-21. Surely the first
few male Golden-cheeked Warbler are back by now. I thought I
heard a chip note of one today from yard.
You should be prepared for warmish, cold, wet, or wind, at any
given time, or all at once. We had record heat (86dF) on Jan. 20,
and a major (3.5+") rain event on Jan. 22 and upper twenties
and record heat in Feb., record heat and cold again in early March
too. Weather is a roller-coaster here in spring. The pollenating
junipers have had hay-fever folk clogged or sneezing, they are on
the wane now. But everything else will get going soon...
Typical winter bird species are around, in low numbers, like Robin,
Cedar Waxwing, Myrtle and Audubon's Warblers, Vesper, Lincoln's, White-crowned,
Chipping, Song and Savannah Sparrows, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Hermit
Thrush, Spotted Towhee, American Goldfinch, Ruby-crowned and a few
Golden-crowned Kinglet, Western Meadowlark, Kestrel, as well as others.
Insects, as well as fruit (hackberries, juniper berries), mast (acorns),
and nut (pecans) crops are all way way down and some birds seemed to
move through, not sticking.
There are a couple new photos in the strip of pix below, including
the wintering Lousiana Waterthrush, the wintering Rusty Blackbird,
a male Ringed Kingfisher, and one of the blonde squirrel twins.
Recent local sightings include: returning Black-chinned Hummingbird
from March 4 on; an Osprey at the park; a ROADSIDE HAWK at the park
Jan. 30 and 2 mi. south of town Feb. 1 & 8 (+probably on 22nd);
a LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH has been at park from early Dec. and continues
Feb. 28 (photo below); a Merlin and a Zone-tailed Hawk are around;
a surely returning wintering adult female RUSTY Blackbird in yard
Dec. 3 - March 5 (was first heard in late Nov.); a TUNDRA SWAN flew
over low calling after dark on Dec. 3! Nearby an imm. White-tailed Hawk
was posted to Texbirds on Dec. 28 between Knippa and Sabinal (so
probably on Hwy. 90?). A few Rufous Hummer wintered at feeders in town.
~ ~ ~ ~ end update header ~ ~ ~ ~
~ ~ back to the drivel ~ ~
March 6 ~ A chilly one, about 24-5 dF for a low, it was 22 in KVL
and 20 in JCT. Had to thaw the bird bath, it was half ice.
Made it to 40dF by 10 a.m., calm and sunny, blue skies and nice.
Cardinal, Chickadee, Titmice, Wrens (Bew. and Caro.), and Canyon
Towhee all singing. Spring is on the way. It got up to about
60dF in the heat of the afternoon.
In town I heard others too have seen their first hummingbirds
back (Black-chinned). Also talked to someone that had an
Osprey at the park, always a good bird to see locally. I saw
a Pied-billed Grebe at the park and since none wintered we
know it is a spring migrant on this date. A Lincoln's Sparrow
was also a spring migrant. I did not see the Louisiana Waterthrush,
but which doesn't necessarily mean anything, except that
I did not see it. I also did not see any Purple Martin or Barn
Swallow in town.
A great sign of spring this morning when a Western Meadowlark
burst into song from airstrip, I got binocs and saw about five.
I am still amazed how these sing so differently than coastal
socal W. Meadowlark I grew up listening to. Then in town at the
north end I saw at least 8 Eastern Meadowlark, so had both
species here today. Always good to do here.
Another great bird locally was in yard when I pulled back in
from town, a Verdin! I thought I heard one this morning.
Later it was across road in the leafless big old mesquites.
I just got my first one in the yard on Jan. 30, this is
likely the same bird still around.
March 5 ~ It showered a bit overnight and probably another
couple of tenths of precip, near a half-inch for the prior
16 hours as the front passed, and an inch for the last 8 days.
Wind blew hard all night and into the afternoon before it
finally started to lay down. The winds were why the morning
was just above freezing but with chills in twenties F. Two
pounds of birdseed seemed to dematerialze nearly instantaneously
to the din of nearly a couple hundred seed-cracking bills all
working overtime at once. They ate about 5 lbs. today, because
I didn't throw out ten.
Since a Thursday (my crunch day) and blowing like heck I stayed
hunkered at the monitor, by the heater. Did not see any hint of
Black-chinned Hummingbird after the brief visit by a male
yesterday morning. It must have tanked up and kept going.
It was pretty ratty, I didn't want that one anyway, not like
it was a keeper. ;)
March 4 ~ 60's dF, gray and wet. Fog, drizzle, overcast, with
about a tenth (.1) of precip during the day, pre-front. This is
about day 6 of this gray dripping event and we are likley at about
a half-inch of precip from it the last week. The front got here
around 5:30 p.m., we were 65dF and by 6:30 we were barely 50dF,
by 8:30 we were 40dF. Winds were 20-25 sustained with gusts to 30
and up, Hondo had one 39mph. A good thunder cell hit before 10 p.m.
and dumped at least a quarter inch of rain, fortunately still in
upper 30's dF when it hit, winter storm watch or warnings in
the area for later tonight and tomorrow morning after it drops below freezing.
The bird of the day was the FOS Black-chinned Hummingbird, a male.
Which I saw early about 11 a.m. and not again the rest of the day.
The other bird of the day was flowers. Wind-flower, or Anemone, of
which about 3-4 popped open so Anemone wins the 'first real spring
wildflower to open up this year' contest. Though maybe an Agarita
got a flower open earlier that is a shrub rather than a wildflower
and Redbud trees are trees so also not a wildflower. Straggler
Daisy will bloom any and every month so I don't see it as a measure
of 'first spring wildflower'. Oh yeah, Turkey were gobbling
at dawn. The pair of Roadrunner were in the yard again.
Been seeing Armadillo regularly, pairs of Eastern Cottontail, and
of Black-tailed Jackrabbit, still some racoon after dark, and we
hear Coyote nearly nightly, mostly when a group makes a kill and
they whoop it up with some call of the wild.
March 3 ~ low 50's dF, gray and wet. Fog, drizzle, overcast, about
a tenth (.1) of precip. Glad not to see any hummingbirds back yet
with the front headed in. Did have a single Robin today but the
single American Goldfinch had already left by time it got here.
The single Junco was around. I'm only seeing two Inca Dove now,
started with 8 in the fall. Hope a pair makes it to breed to make
more. Must be the accipiters.
March 2 ~ 40's dF, gray and wet. Fog, drizzle, overcast,
about a tenth (.1) of precip. The male Slaty (Slate-colored) Junco
continues, and has gotten much darker, nearly black, in face and
adjacent areas of head over the last month. Heard a Ringed
Kingfisher over at the river. Once I went outside and saw nothing
for a couple minutes, then a big imm. fem. Sharp-shinned Hawk flew
out of the Mulberry. After it left, a Golden-fronted Woodpecker that
was on a very old wooden clothesline pole flew off. I had scanned right
past it a few times looking around wondering where all the birds were.
It was surely frozen and pressed up against the pole barely
wider than it, hiding from the Sharpy so well that even though in
view to me, I had scanned over it and missed it a couple times bare-eyed
from 20 feet.
March 1 ~ MARCH!?!?!?!?!? Seems like we just finished New Years.
The cold inclement weather and fronts forecast have me wondering
how the first week of March will play for returning breeders.
It is forecast to be below normal, with a couple fronts. That is,
March is coming in like a lion. Typically we expect during the
first week of March the first wave of returning neo-tropical migrant
songbirds. Insectivores. Insect eaters that winter in the (neo)tropics
and migrate here to breed, when there are bugs.
Normal arrival is the first week of March for Black-chinned Hummingbird,
Black-and-white, and Golden-cheeked Warbler, White-eyed Vireo,
Barn Swallow and Vermilion Flycatcher to name six off the top of my head.
Plus the Martins should be back since late. The first week of March is
usually on average the first big show of diversity and return to the
breeding areas amongst the earliest-to-return hard-core insectivore
It was maybe 40dF and fog, mist, and drizzling still in the a.m.,
warming to near 50 by noon, nice not to be in the 30's, but
it won't last long. Stayed wet and gray all day. One of the imm.
Sharp-shinned Hawks that is a regular landed in the mulberry,
behind monitor so I saw it... Being wet it fanned its tail and
shook out, holding tail fully fanned repeatedly, giving a great
closeup binoc views of how utterly destroyed most of the terminal
inch of rectrices (tail feathers) are. Shot. Torn and frayed.
As bad as any cage bird I ever saw, worse than most. It reminded me
of Kevin Karlson's Crane Hawk photo, tail spread trying to dry,
all mangled at tips. After a long tough first winter hunting this
is how that ends up. No one would suggest this imm. Sharpy is an
escaped cage bird, yet birds with far less mangled tails have been
accused as such. It is a normal thing that is part of why birds
molt every year. Feathers wear out. Especially tails that stick out
on predators that crash into things going after stuff.
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~ ~
It was a chilly dry one, with only around an inch of rain.
The first green sprouts start showing and the first Redbud trees
got their first flowers open (but not full roaring bloom). There
were weekly cold events which are a cycle of hard freezes. First
pre-front there is a warm-up, then the front passes (most have
been dry) followed by a too-windy period for a day, and when that stops
it gets real cold for a few days, repeat. Until you can't stand
it. LOL. Multiple days it never got out of the thirties dF.
Based on the stage of plant growth I would say winter still has
a firm grip on things and it looks like that damned groundhog was right.
The highlight of the month was seeing the Roadside Hawk at least
twice south of town Feb. 1 & 8 (after the initial Jan. 30 find).
With the combined three seperate observations I was able to see
most of the key characters well, multiple times. There is no doubt
as to the identification at a level that I posted it publicly (on
Texbirds) so others could know, just in case some birder gets
lost and ends up here outside of the March through June window
of occurrence for birders here. ;)
The other neat things were the continuing Louisiana Waterthrush
at Utopia Park, and the Rusty Blackbird at the corral adjacent
to our place (and sometimes in our yard). Both great birds to
have around since essentially no field guides have them mapped
for being here in winter. Well illustrating how little is
actually known, versus what is pretended to be known by experts.
A Poorwill was nice to see too, as were a few Lark Bunting.
Butterflies were not very evident due to the mostly cold conditions,
but one warm day 10 species were recorded, an excellent total for a
single Feb. day here. Plus a Lycaenid sps. that got away that day,
so really 11 species were seen that day, only 10 ID'd. Methinks
it was 13 sps. for the month, normal range is 10-20, so on the low
end of the range. In 2013 February had 27 species of butterflies,
so there can be in Feb. twice the diversity of this year. The individual
numbers were between pitiful and woeful, mostly it was a few
over-wintering singles seen repeatedly.
The only odes I saw all month were 3 Enallagma Bluet damselflies,
I think maybe Stream Bluets. Some years there is a lot more odetivity
in February. It was cold. But a few warm days brought frogs back out.
Cricket, Leopard, Chorus, and Barking were all heard and or seen.
Best mammals were Bobcat and Ringtail, both were heard this month,
and the two blonde leucistic squirrels continue in the yard.
I come up with about 73 species of birds seen locally this month,
plus four introduced non-native species. Another 20 species are
around if all the various habitats (& micro-habitats) were checked.
~ ~ end February summary ~ ~
~ ~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~ ~
Feb. 28 ~ Man that was a quick short month. It was just above
freezing, and drizzling, all day yesterday, and I see .10 for
a precip. total, and that continued overnight and through noon today.
Cold, wet, wet, cold. Maybe .25-.3 by time we add it all up. Good
for botanical purposes, namely the spring bloom. Warmed to low
40's dF in afternoon, and supposed to warm a few more dF
overnight. Snuck a town run in during a lull. The Louisiana Waterthrush
continues at the park and the Hutton's Vireo is still singing.
A few Myrtle Warblers, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but not much in the
cold wet. The ad.fem. Yellow-shafted Flicker is still here, must be
its 4th or 5th winter here. A Canyon Towhee was under the steel open
building on the south side of the Ranch Outpost. That place might
be able to hold one with piles of pallets, etc. It might be a spot
to check for one on Main St. as a driveby if you are in the area
needing one. The Redbud trees are getting going a bit better now
and some pastures are turning green.
Feb. 27 ~ Another cold gray one, winter's grip remains intact.
Possible snow today and tonight, still cold tomorrow, then a warmup
Monday and by Tuesday about 80dF with thunderstorms, afterwhich we will
freeze again. The late winter weather roller coaster. Early spring
is the same, 40-50dF temp changes in a couple days are routine, and it
is hard to know in advance which way it will be when you get here.
Us locals just watch it go by, from inside more when it is cold, and
have lots of warm things to wear for when we have to be out in it.
After 10 a.m. I was outside in the 35dF heat and heard LARK BUNTINGS!
Eventually I saw at least four over in the corral, a great yard bird.
I had a few single flyovers up on Seco Ridge I think all in fall. I saw
them once on the 10 winter bird count days I did locally (was a half-dozen
in Bandera Co. 3 miles north of town). Good numbers (flocks of hundreds
some years) winter just south of us in the brush country flatlands.
These are surely spring migrants as they are one of the earliest of
the small landbirds to move north. Love that call, a low soft musical
The Chipping Sparrow numbers have been increasing, today I counted
125 of the little piggies on the millet. Since it stayed in the
30's dF all day I threw extra rations out, a couple times.
Saw the Junco, a couple American Goldfinch, the pair of Golden-fronts
still heavily dependent on the sunflower seeds in the tube. Threw
some crushed pecans out as well, starting a near-riot on the patio
among the (Black-crested) titmice.
Feb. 26 ~ We froze, there was ice on the bird bath, again the Weather
Underground (WU) station in town showed 37-38dF for a low, pretty far
from what we have 2 miles south of town. Maybe it is near some concrete
that retains heat? Anyway by noon local WU stations were showing
67dF in town and 57 at the Lost Maples station. Just ahead of the
front arriving, gawd it felt great. An ice box is on the way in.
We hit 70 about 1:30 p.m. and I saw it was low 40's with chills
in 30's ca. 60 miles north in Junction. By 3 p.m. we were cooling
down fast in strong northerlies. By 7 p.m. JCT was 31dF with a chill
of 20 and we were upper 30's with chills in mid-upper 20's dF,
Heard the Pyrrhuloxia tinking over toward the draw, higher, thinner,
more musical, a slight ring to it, like a miniature bell, whereas Cardinal
is deeper thicker, richer, flatter, with more timbre. Had the Rusty
Blackbird again over in corral. They removed a few horses that were
in a seperated section yesterday so will quit feeding that area, which
was where the main flock of 350+ Brewer's spent most of their time.
A male Black Swallowtail flew by at peak heat, first for sure for
the month, though thought I had one a few days ago. Considering
the weather forecast it is likely the last new butterfly of the month.
I can tally them up now, nothing will fly the next couple days.
Saw that one Sceloporus lizard on the window screen so could see
belly is turning orange (breeding colors). Not sure which lizard this is.
Feb. 25 ~ About 38-68dF for a temp spread today, the warm felt great!
Birds were singing, but more cold is on the way. Yes we need it to
be cold enough for enough days each winter, keeps the bugs down and in
check, but I am not crazy about it personally. If we could just trade
10dF of winter cold to the summer, it truly would be Utopia. ;)
The Rusty Blackbird was still over in corral, calling a bit the last
couple days. Neatest thing was a Gray Fox in the late afternoon
to early evening, making trips across the slope behind us, calling
the single whistled note repeatedly. Always great to see them.
Saw a pale morph female Orange Sulphur butterfly, and a Pipevine Swallowtail.
I see today there are buds that have broken the stems of the big
male Mulberry tree. Wow. Spring is coming. The yard is now more
green than brown from all the grass sprouting, mostly a plethora
of non-native wicked stuff unfortunately, but greener than it has
been since October. Be doing battle with it in no time....
Feb. 24 ~ Man it was a three dog night and a frozen bird bath morning,
about 27-28dF in KVL from about 4 p.m. yesterday through 10 a.m.+ with
chills in low 20's dF. We were about the same here, a little
warmer yesterday afternoon and early evening, but in the a.m. upper 20's
was it. Crispy and crunchy as I took hot water out to thaw the bird
bath at dawn. Two American Goldfinch were among a couple hundred
non-tax-deductable dependents about at early-thirty waiting on some
sunflower and millet seed.
After noon we burst up to a hot 36+dF, maybe hit 42 in afternoon.
There were 5 each American Goldfinch and Pine Siskin in the big
hackberry about 1:30, not many of those two around this winter,
like Robin and waxwing, just a few. Counted 110 Chipping Sparrow
at once. Canyon Towhee starting to sing a bit, and the Cardinals
were going pretty well too considering how cold and gray it was.
Roadrunner and Junco (the male Slaty) were seen.
Feb. 23 ~ Cold and windy if you like that, we got it. Was in low
30's dF just above freezing this a.m., with a fair bit of
wind on it, chill factors in 20's dF. Throw some drizzle on
it and you can just imagine how nice it is. By late morning
there were icicles 3" long hanging off roof edge of cottage.
It will stay freezing or thereabouts all day and until tomorrow
morning, so I'll guard this heater by the monitor, keyboard,
phone and windows. The coldest part of the event then will be
about 33-36 hours at or about freezing with chills in 20's dF.
Saw and heard the Rusty Blackbird so it is still around, slightly
less 'rusty' in color and darker. The cold brings it in
from wandering to a sure food source, the corral. Sharpy and Coop
dove on sparrows and Cards in yard, I spotted the (ad. fem.) Sharpy
watching the yard from a distant tree in the corral. Our yard
is a bird buffet to them, but they seem to miss more than succeed.
Those 6 brush piles are life savers.
Counted at once 10 male Cardinal and 13 male House Finch, there
are as many females of each present as well. That is the most
House Finch in a while. Chipping Sparrow numbers 105 or 110.
Heard a Kinglet (Ruby-crnd) and a Myrtle Warbler. Saw a TV out
soaring in the freezing cold, maybe it got blown off its perch.
At 4 p.m. Junction was reporting 28dF and chill factor of 17dF.
Kerrville (KVL) was 29dF with a chill of 20. We were about a
toasty 34dF at peak heat, if you can call 34dF that, and I doubt
chills got out of upper 20's dF all day. Uvalde has a record
for lowest high temp this date in the 40's, about 45dF. So
today here surely was a record for lowest high temp this date.
If we could just split the difference between winter and summer
here for more of the year it would be... like Utopia. ;)
Feb. 22 ~ Another balmy 60dF morning, this one with drizzle
from the south ahead of arriving cold front. Was a bit breezy
too, the cold air finally arrived about dark and it dropped
fast. By 11 p.m. it was in 30's dF with chills in 20's, a
50dF drop in 30 hours since yesterday afternoon when record warmth.
The only thing of real interest beyond the regular stuff today
was a hawk that seemed to flush from trees at edge of yard as
I walked outside once. I only saw it three seconds as it flew
perpendicular to me before it disappeard behind the cottage
going across an open part of corral. It was not a Cooper's or
Sharp-shinned Hawk which I see multiples (multiple ages and sexes
of each) daily in the yard. It was heavier bodied, longer winged
and shorter tailed (proportionately). The rear part of the
underparts was creamy, with very thick horizontal bars on lower
belly. That was about all I saw. It was a small buteo was my
ID. It was most likely the Roadside Hawk I have seen 3 times in
last 3 weeks, but not since Feb. 8. It was the bird.
Feb. 21 ~ A low of 60dF was pretty balmy, then the afternoon heatup
in front of the front took us to at least 86dF! Toasty! The record
for the date in Uvalde was 84dF, so this is surely a record here.
The first few puffs of northerly wind change were after 3 p.m., but
the cold arctic air isn't getting here until tomorrow. The warm was
dry too, about 20% humidity. Besides warm and dry, the southwest feel
is enhanced by seeing Caracaras, Roadrunners, Fuertes' Red-tailed
Hawk, and Pyrrhuloxia in the yard today. The Ringed and Green Kingfishers
over at river do however place one in Texas.
Lots of butterflies today, most of the year so far. There were
three Pipevine Swallowtail, a Checkered White or two, a couple
each Lyside (FOY) and Orange Sulphur, a Dainty Sulphur (FOY), at
least a dozen Dogface, a half-dozen Snout, a Red Admiral and an
American Lady, and a Lycaenid got away on a juniper that was likely
an Olive Juniper Hairstreak. We looked for it a bit and couldn't
refind it. It was able to anger me later again however when I
realized I had 9 sps. of butterflies for the day, plus it. ;) Then
about 5 p.m. I saw a Checkered-Skipper for a 10th species for the day.
Also another Pipevine Swallowtail went over, and another dark
Swallowtail that looked like a Black, not a Pipevine, but it was
just a second short of a positive ID of a look. So it ended up
10 species plus a Lycaenid, and probably a Black Swallowtail.
We took a walk to the crossing for an hour or so centered on noon.
In a couple minutes at the crossing we had a male Green and a
Ringed Kingfisher go by in opposite directions, and 15 minutes
later a female Green flew downriver like the male. No Belted, just
the two most expected kingfishers here. Saw the first odes of the
year, Enallagma (Bluets) damselflies, three of them, not sure what type,
The Agarita have some flower buds growing, a couple were almost open.
Kathy counted 50+ Black Vulture in the flocks while most airborne
overhead, there are probably 60+ here. Also saw an ad. ma. Sharp-shinned
Hawk, heard a Red-shouldered, saw a Fuertes' Red-tail, but could
not see if anything was on their nest. A couple each Common Raven,
Turkey Vulture, and Caracara. Had the Merlin at yard in p.m.
Kathy also spotted the Pyrrhuloxia again from kitchen window,
and TWO Roadrunner in yard together, surely the local pair.
Barking Frog was calling in afternoon. Cricket Frogs were at the crossing.
Had maybe one Myrtle Warbler and one Kinglet, not much for insectivore
passerines. There were a dozen Vesper Sparrow in the corral, along
with some Larks. Saw a Lincoln's and heard a Song Sparrow along river.
Later about 5:30 p.m. three Robin landed in the big Pecan briefly.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Feb. 20 ~ Balmy overnight, in 50's dF, and got to mid 70's!
A few American Goldfinch were in trees early, maybe 3-4, and
about as many Waxwings late in afternoon. Lesser Goldfinch
and ad. fem. Sharp-shinned Hawk in yard again. Saw the Roadrunner
just south of house in p.m. There was a singing Hutton's Vireo,
but I did not see the Louisiana Waterthrush at the park in town.
Nor did I hear any Martins around town, though wouldn't be surprised
if some are back. Saw Snout and Dogface butterflies at park, plus the
first Checkered-Skipper of the year, which was Common/White type.
And saw the Orange Sulphur in yard again.
No odes, some winter mayflies still, and the first Redbud flowers are
opening on the trees at the Library. The Cypress trees are now really
bursting forth with their grape cluster 'flowers'.
Spring is on the way. New fresh vegetation, wow! Also noticed
some things like Mexican Hat, and Tropical and Mealy Sage, have
all quietly been putting some new leaves out the last week.
One of my transplanted Frostweed has popped a sprout with
leaves too, great to see that made it, as it seems a few of my
Wood Sage (Am. Germander) transplants are sprouting anew too.
At dusk I was admiring the conjuction of the crescent moon,
Venus, and Mars right above them with just a little light
left in sky and a bird flew by that was a small nightjar.
Which would be a POORWILL this time of year. In fact February
is when they come out of what amounts to a 3 month hibernation
here. I just saw it for a second and half as it flew across
the open area between house and cottage, against twilight sky,
just long enough to see it was a small nightjar by the way it
flew and wing shape.
Saw 3 larval Firefly glowing in the grass after dark.
Feb. 19 ~ We froze here a couple miles south of town, whilst one
of the WeatherUnderground stations in town only went to 36dF.
What are they, next to a light or heater vent? There was ice
on the birdbath here, which still requires 32dF. A Ringed Kingfisher
flew downriver about 8 a.m. and one went right over house calling,
high up about 300' above ground going north a half-hour later.
Some birdsong in the a.m. was nice, again Turkey gobbling at dawn,
and Barred Owl called before sunup. The regular gang was it over
the day. Thursday so busy at desk. If it flies by the window
I'll be right on it though, as long as it is fairly behind
the monitor. Male Ground-Dove are wonderfully pinkish salmon below now.
Feb. 18 ~ We froze, upper 20's dF, bird bath frozen over about
a quarter-inch thick. KVL was 26 and Junction 25dF, we hit 28dF
briefly while I was outside waiting for sun to clear the hills
on the horizon and watching thermometer. An extra cup of seed for
the birds this morning. They Chippies make an excited trill when
I appear and throw seed, different from song but similar. It is
their "look he's tossing seed" call. Actually they also do it
when they are in feeding frenzies in live-oaks as they bloom and the
'worms' (moth caterpillars) are out. It is actually a "FOOD!!" call.
Heard Turkeys gobbling at dawn, and a Ringed Kingfisher over at
the river before 10 a.m., but too busy to look around. Keeping an
hourly eye on the skies, but nothing different. Red-tailed Hawk,
2 Turkey Vulture, 30 Black Vulture, a few Caracara. Did see an
Orange Sulphur butterfly, probably the same one as early in month.
Feb. 17 ~ Low was in mid-30's dF with breeze felt like the 20's.
Warmed into 40's and felt like 30's. Should freeze tomorrow a.m.
A hundred plus Chipping Sparrow counted, about 104 maybe when most
hit the seed pile on the patio all at once so in the clear for
counting, they can be invisible until they move in the grass.
The male Junco (Slate) continues. Saw a Turkey Vulture or two
again. Too windy most of the day, but great clear dark skies
after dark, save the light pollution glow of San Antonio on the
east horizon. Watch for Mars and Venus in conjunction to the
west at dark. That is Jupiter in the east at dark, and high
nearing overhead at midnight.
Feb. 16 ~ The cloudy daybreak low was about 62dF until the front
hit between 7:30 and 8 a.m. and by shortly after 9 a.m. it was
upper 30's dF with wind chills in the 20's! So it felt like a
40 dF drop in less than a couple hours. Bet that FOS swallow
(N.R-w on 14th) is wondering why it just had to get here so soon.
A little bit of recovery on temps over day but not much, and in
afternoon quickly began dropping, with some light rain. After
dark a shower or two went over and we got about two-tenths of an
inch of precip.
About 94 Chipping Sparrow at one count on the patio. Among the
flock of mostly Brewer's Blackbirds (300+-) feeding over in the
corral daily, I presume spring migrant Red-winged Blackbird and
Brown-headed Cowbird are showing up as their numbers are increasing.
There are now over 50 Red-wings and over 60 Cowbirds. Saw both
Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawk make failed passes at the
seedeaters here in yard.
Feb. 15 ~ At 11 a.m. out the office window there were 2 FOS Turkey
Vulture! Sure didn't see any yesterday or day before despite lots
of looking. They are back! Right on normal average schedule.
There were about 25-30 Black Vultures going down on something which
the "TV's" were also coming in to. The two TV were
around later in afternoon too. Saw the Merlin late in day dive through
yard flushing the passerines. Heard the N. Rough-winged Swallow today.
Late p.m. I heard a Ringtail (Cat (but it is not), or Cacomistle)
call a few times.
Feb. 14 ~ Happy Valentine's Day! Give someone a good squeeze. ;)
Another sign of spring this morning, my first Lesser Goldfinch
in months, surely a spring migrant. A few winter around thistle or
nyger seed socks in town, which is a new phenomenon not near a decade
old yet. My first several winters here they did not winter, and then
returned in spring around Washington's birthday. Around '08-'10
Lesser Goldfinch started sticking for the winter in small numbers
where humans put out thistle socks. So now only if you are away from
that can you easily tell when spring migrants show up. Like here today.
Been a couple months since one has been in the yard. Away from handouts
of a particular sort, they still don't winter 'in the wild'
(unaided by humans) here.
A Merlin landed in the big pecan while I was on side porch
sorta hidden. Bobbed its head as it watched the feeder, and
flocks of House Finch, Brewer's Blackbird, and Brown-headed Cowbird
split the scene, Chippies and Cards dove for cover. Titmouse kept
singing like Nero fiddling. After a couple minutes the Merlin took
off, alarm notes all around as it shot away like a bullet. So
small and so powerful. Whatabird.
Just after 11 a.m. another major sign of spring, a swallow! An
insectivore! It was a Northern Rough-winged and likely a returning
local breeder from the riverbank cut 8-900 feet away. It circled
low over the yard for some time, just like it does all spring
and summer, calling repeatedly, seeming happy to be back after
5+ months somewhere way down south Mexico way probably.
The FOS (first of season - or first of spring) Lesser Goldfinch and
Northern Rough-winged Swallow today were for both my earliest ever
spring dates in now 12 springs of recording that data. Will we have
an early spring? I'd rather we get a couple more hard freezes and
cold spells not to mention especially more rain. Saw the Merlin shoot
over again late in the day when putting a birdhouse up.
Those resident cavity nesters especially get going right away and
are site selecting now. Titmouse, Bluebirds, Chickadee, Bewick's and
Carolina Wren all are in the mate selection process if not nest site
selection already. Make sure your boxes are cleaned and ready for a
new season now. While you are at it remember to get a hummer feeder
out and cleaned, we could have the first Black-chinned back in a week
I was outside late one last time after 11 p.m. and heard a BOBCAT!
Followed by a bunch of suckling piglet squealing. Wonder what happened?
Awesome! I can put it on the yard list now. It is one of the animals
you know are around but they are hard to lay eyes on except by accident.
We saw them in both our other yards here, on Seco Ridge, and North
Feb. 13 ~ Low in 40's dF, high in 60's, perfectly bearable considering
they are too cold in the east and too hot in the west. We need
more cold, and rain though. A town run in the afternoon, and so
a park check. The water at the park pond did come up again, over
a week after the main event which brought it up a little bit at
the time. Now we are less than 2' from normal, that is, water
going over the spillway. Several Blanchard's Cricket-Frog were
calling, the first of them I have heard this year. A Roadrunner in
the park is always a rare bird there though this is maybe the third
time this winter, probably the same bird, as I only have 2 prior
sightings there in a dozen years and a thousand plus park checks.
The cypress trees are just starting to put out the 'flowers'
(don't look for flowers) , with their green grape cluster type of
'flower'. The Redbud trees at the library just barely have
red buds breaking the branches, not even fully formed flower buds yet,
they will be open in a week. The Agarita should have buds any day now
too. Still just Black Vultures overhead, but lots paired up and in display
Saw the Louisiana Waterthrush, so it is at 10+ weeks here now, a nice
date spread on an overwintering bird. First time I wrote it down was
Dec. 6, noting I had heard a different warbler I didn't see, which
turned out to be this bird. I heard it Thanksgiving weekend (a week
earlier) some time but didn't write it down because I had no idea
beyond unknown warbler chip, it called once and disappeared. These winter
individuals seem mighty skittish. Saw one Golden-crowned Kinglet, which
is probably a northbound spring migrant by now, seems like I haven't
seen one in a month or so. Sometimes you can catch a February or
March individual singing if you are lucky.
My last look and listen outside at 11:45 p.m. was quite rewarding
in that a Barn Owl called. The first one I have heard in months
and probably a spring migrant. Don't think I have heard one
since November. Certainly not in December or January.
Feb. 12 ~ A Red-tailed Hawk dove at a squirrel in the yard and shot
by the office window just 30' away as the squirrel gave alarm notes.
At least 2 dozen Cardinal still here, a dozen males seen at once.
Saw the one male pearly gray Slate-colored Junco, 90 Chipping Sparrow,
10 Lark Sparrow, and an icky male House Sparrow. Thursday so at computer
and phone all day. Great Blue Heron flying down the river corridor
Feb. 11 ~ A front came in late in the evening, but dry, and not
even very windy, but cooler and dry. A real sign of spring was
just after 7:30 a.m. when a big flock of 300 White-fronted Geese
flew over calling, due northbound. You could set your compass by them.
One of the quintessential calls of the wild, a flock of migrating
geese. Somehow they make it past us in fall almost undetected here,
compared to the thousands that winter just south of us. We're
lucky to get a flock or two in fall, they must mostly pass over at
high altitude as they arrive in fall, probably at night as well.
Feb. 10 ~ A hot and cold 35-80dF temp spread for the day. Too
much work but to keep checking skies over river corridor once
or twice an hour. Nothing. Great Horned and Texican (mccallii)
Screech-Owl calling after dark. The warmth can make one dream
of returning spring birds that should start showing soon.
Heard White-winged Dove sing today, first of that this year.
The first two returnees are long-distance migrants passing over,
White-fronted Geese and Sandhill Crane, around mid-February.
Then a few of the local breeders show up, Purple Martin and Turkey
Vulture around mid-Feb, At about 3 weeks into Feb. usually Lesser
Goldfinch and N. Rough-winged Swallow, and the last week of Feb.
(lately) to earliest March Black-chinned Hummingbird and
Vermilion Flycatcher. White-eyed Vireo, plus Golden-cheeked and
Black-and-white Warblers all return the first week of March,
just 3 weeks away now!
Feb. 9 ~ A nice upper 40's to low 80's for a temp spread.
Some serious Eastern Phoebe and Bewick's Wren song this
morning, both gave extended bouts of singing. One female Golden-fronted
Woodpecker trying to discourage another female too. The breeding
season is getting under way for local residents. Some Cardinal,
Carolina Wren, Lark Sparrow, Titmouse and Chickadee song as well.
This was the first day you could call it a wee bit of dawn chorus
Made a post to Texbirds about the Roadside Hawk on the long shot that
someone with a lens might get lucky and get a photo of it. I can only
check so much, but I keep an eye on river corridor hourly off and on
all day. Ringed Kingfisher was over there.
In butterflies saw a couple Sleepy Orange, a couple Dogface,
a Snout, and an Orange Sulphur, for a whopping four species,
probably the high diversity day for the year so far.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Feb. 8 ~ About 50dF and foggy this morning, got up to 82dF!
Turkey again roosted in the big tall Cypresses along the river
as they were gobbling at dawn. Couldn't see the trees
in the fog, but could tell they were not calling from the
ground. If you didn't know the trees were there and they
roost 40' up, it would definitely be confusing. ;)
Heard a Ringed Kingfisher fly by going upriver. A Dogface
in late p.m. was the second butterfly of the month. Saw three
Caracara and heard a Belted Kingfisher at dusk.
Back to late morning, it was clearing and I kept checking the
skies over the river corridor habitat, that we sit at the
edge of. About noon I spotted a small raptor already north
of the house, circling and slowly gaining altitude slowly
drifting north. Ran inside and got bins and in a few seconds
was on it. It was the ROADSIDE HAWK! The bars on the belly
are over one centimeter wide (!) messy broken big thick wavy
edged horizontal reddish bars from breast to belly.
This time when it circled as it gave dorsal views I was able
to see pale edges on uppertail coverts. Clearly scalloped at
close range, but more a broken band of dirty white at more
distance. I had it in bins well over a minute before it was
too far to be of use. It is very quick and graceful of wing
stroke. The buffy-cream tone of base color of all underparts
was obvious, and clearly not white. Buffy-cream wing linings
have dark freckling along rear edge and in axillaries.
Again as it circled it never opened its tail. It strikes you
as a Cooper's Hawk soley due to size, but quickly one sees
the comparitively shorter tail (though long for small buteo) and
much longer arm part of wing, besides the much more substantial
body of a small buteo. The undertail is pale with several narrow
dark bars, uppertail fairly evenly width dark and light bars.
This makes 3 sightings in 10 days, two on private property
without public access. One 2 miles north of those at the park,
the only quarter-mile of public access around. Not particularly
chaseable. Wish I would have spotted it a few seconds sooner
south of house inbound as it was much lower at first sight,
only 60' up. But, it is still around, and still not
documented. Do you put an alert out? I hate these dilemas.
Feb. 7 ~ Low in upper 40's was nice but thick low overcast
kept it cool until afternoon when it finally burned off and
got to about 64dF and sunny for a few hours. Once it cleared I
kept watching the river corridor for small buteo but nothing
showed. Had at least one Ringed Kingfisher calling from river
early in a.m., 6 bearded Toms in the corral at dusk, when the
Chorus Frogs were calling again.
Besides our record high temp and record rainfall (for the dates)
in Jan., it has been an amazing winter across the country for
weather. Record heat in the west from California to Utah, Arizona,
and in the mid-west, but where there is push there is shove.
In the east and northeast in particular, record cold and snow.
Boston with 4' in two weeks, Worcester with 5'! And
it is staying cold so not melting. Half the country is hotter
than ever, the other half colder. And it is all connected.
We're in the middle mostly about average, but we actually need
a couple more good freezes. Few things keep insects under control
like some good freezes, and places that aren't getting as cold
as they used to are seeing explosions of pest insects, some pine
bark beetles in particular.
Feb. 6 ~ Still overcast and cool. Got a good Chipping Sparrow
count when they all hit fresh seed thrown on the patio, there
are 100. One male Slaty Junco, 30+ Cardinal, a couple each
Inca and Ground- Doves. A pair of Common Raven flew over low
just 50-60' up and one flipped over upside-down and croaked
right overhead, while in slow straight-line flight. Then it
did it again as it headed away. Some birds just want to have fun.
Kathy spotted the Pyrrhuloxia again out the kitchen window
feeding in tallish grass along fenceline.
Stopped at the park briefly on a town errand run, saw the
Louisiana Waterthrush, and the local Red-shouldered Hawk.
That was about it. Little Creek Larry said he has had some
Ring-necked Ducks on Little Creek, up to a couple dozen,
and he had one Wigeon.
Feb. 5 ~ The forecast was upper 30's dF and KVL was 32dF,
we were just a little warmer but with the north winds from
the front that came in last night chill factor in mid-20's dF.
Another overcast longjohn day. Saw the male Slaty (Slate-colored)
Junco on the patio first thing, must have been waiting for me to
get out there and toss seed. One Robin to go with all the
other things just singles of around. A bit later one Waxwing.
Feb. 4 ~ A cool cloudy day, 'nother front coming in tonight.
Saw a Cedar Waxwing - one, to go with the one Junco, one
American Goldfinch, and unfortunately 2 House Sparrow.
Still a big herd of Cardinal sucking the seed down, and
the Chipping Sparrows number about 85-90. Had the Rusty Blackbird
again among the Brewer's, cold days it seems more likely
to be with them, nice days not. A Caracara went by.
Feb. 3 ~ drizzle in a.m. turned to light showers for most
of the day, we got a little over a half-inch of rain. The
temp range for the day was about 38-44dF, a chilly one.
Over 350+ Brewer's Blackbird were in corral, the Rusty
with them, and a dozen Red-winged a few of which have
started some singing. Over 30 Brown-headed Cowbird have
taken to raiding the seed here, dang things. As if that
weren't bad enough a male House Sparrow was here too.
Saw the Pyrrhuloxia out front, and seemed to be hearing
another across road at same time, so maybe 2 are around.
The one Junco continues, an imm. Cooper's Hawk dove on
everything, wish it would take some Cowbirds. The Inca
Dove group seems down to 3 birds now, from 8 at start of
fall. Pair of Ground-Dove still about. Some Turkey were
in the corral.
Feb. 2 ~ A chilly 35dF for a low, might have gotten up to 55.
These darn Brown-headed Cowbirds have rounded some friends
up and now there about 30. They were so tight at one point
I was about to do a shotshell number, could have had 20 at
once with no risk of anything else in line. But an aquarium
on the patio might have gotten some spray and I couldn't risk
it. The tank will be moved now.
Mid-day Kathy spotted the female Pyrrhuloxia at the bath
again, and called me quickly enough that I got a brief look
before it flew back towards draw. Needed it on my bathroom
window list. I still am amazed how it is not hanging with
the 40 Cardinals here, but coming in to the water semi-regularly.
Later p.m. a Merlin shot over again, and I do mean shot, like
a bullet from a gun.
February 1 ~ Wow, a month of the year gone by already, and this
short one will go by faster! Drizzle and foggy in a.m., and warm,
55dF or so, then cleared fairly quickly, warmed up to about 75dF,
with a front passing in the afternoon. I had too much to do to go
to park and look for the hawk, we took an hour walk on road out front
down to the crossing to stretch the muscles and bones a little.
Saw a number of Vesper, Lark, and Field Sparrows plus a few Chippy
along road and corral. Heard a couple Rio Grande Leopard Frogs,
and saw (!) a Chorus Frog. Across river at pasture were 11 Killdeer.
No odes or leps yet. About noon-thirty in yard a Sleepy Orange
(butterfly) went by, first butterfly of month, later two were seen.
So then this hawk comes along, moving over the river corridor
south. I first think Cooper's Hawk based on size, thinking
imm. female since it was messy below. Then I got it in bins.
It was THE bird. The tail was proportionately far too short for
accipiter. But long, and it was a tiny small buteo. It had hugely
thick horizontal bars on belly, of reddish on buffy cream, with
coarse vertical bars on breast. It circled a few times as it
gained altitude and went down the valley. It never opened its tail
even when circling and when it got against the light there were
translucent panels of tawny at inner primary area. It was the
Roadside Hawk. And it was heading south. Sayonara. I don't think
this bird will be seen again. Chalk another unbelievable sighting up.
I'm sure some experts will be along shortly to erase it. The
type that never lived here but can tell you what you can't see here.
~ ~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~ ~
Well it was a wet January with three-quarters of an inch on
the last day of the month, and a major 3.5+" event a week earlier,
over 4" is a great start. There were a couple good hard
freezes, and we also had a record warm day at about 86dF!
Some of the first new green sprouts are breaking the surface,
I see some Wild Geranium and others coming up now. Maybe we'll
have Anemones this year?
For butterflies it was weak, with 7 species seen in the month.
and not many more individuals than that! I did see an early
Elfin on the 19th which was good, a day short of earliest ever.
Early in the month (first weekend) I saw my only two odes
(dragonflies) of the month with one each male Variegated and
Autumn Meadowhawks. The last of last year's leftovers,
odes are done now until the spring flyers emerge.
Birds were great considering I have no time to bird and mostly
either watch the yard or stop at the park on my weekly errand
runs to town. If I'm lucky I forget something and get to check
it twice in a week. I saw about 74 species locally (around town
and yard) in January by accident without trying. I know of
another dozen (at least) in the area that are findable.
The best bird was the tiny buteo with thick wavy red bars on
belly at the park on Jan. 30, surely it was a Roadside Hawk.
I saw it a second time Feb. 1, 2 miles south of town heading
south. Second best was getting photos of the wintering Louisiana
Waterthrush, which I think might be the first Edwards Plateau
over-wintering ever documented. Third was the continuing Rusty
Blackbird in the yard and corral adjacent. A Verdin in the
yard was outstanding, as were 3 Mallard at the park, and I
heard a White-tipped Dove at the park on a warm day. Kathy
saw a Pyrrhuloxia at the bird bath one day this month too.
Hearing Chorus Frogs is great, Mercury showed incredibly well
this month as did the Comet, though we missed the Asteroid
due to clouds the best night.
~ ~ ~ end January summary ~ ~ ~
Jan. 31 ~ The rain was tardy as the front was, hours behind
forecasts, it just started light drizzle in the early a.m.,
and was off and on light all day, maybe a half-inch and change
by dark. Temp range was 45-55dF. Hunkered in. Didn't see
anything different in the few lookabouts I took outside. Mostly
just pondering what to do about yesterday's hawk. Maybe I can
sneak to park tomorrow for a lookaround after the rain stops.
Jan. 30 ~ The low stratus clouds made for another awesome red
sunrise. Behind the big black trunks and branches of the
tall Cypress trees along the river it was a beautiful stunning
flaming red. The cold front was barely one, the winds were
nothing as advertised, low only mid-40's dF and we had sun
almost all day, nearly made 65dF. Quite nice.
Did see the Slaty (Slate-colored) Junco in the morning, one Pine
Siskin, and one American Goldfinch. What a weird winter we are
having. You just can't tell much from any one season or year.
Or two for that matter. It takes ten to get a grip on things
The bird of the morning was a VERDIN in the yard, under 10' away,
one of my favorite and one of the coolest birds, since unique
(is in its own family) and I love an oddball. I have a few times
thought I heard one across the road in the mesquites, and years
ago we had one in the corral when we used to bird this road.
But this is the first in the yard. Very cool. It never called,
which is how one typically detects them. If I hadn't have been
standing there looking stupid (which I do so well) I would not
have seen it.
We only see a small percent of what is going by. It flew into the
yard from over in the corral, went to some foreign vine on the
garden fence, then quickly moved to the hackberrries in back and
up the slope and was gone. If you weren't standing right there
then, it didn't happen. As is the case with millions of birds
all the time, everywhere, and a big part of what makes it great fun.
Rule No.1 in birding is: Anything can happen. Anytime. Anywhere.
Did an errand run to town in afternoon and so stopped at the
park. The Louisiana Waterthrush was calling as I got out of
car. It was in the flooded area between former island and
main bank, ankle deep, chasing Gambusia (mosquito fish) around
in the shallows. I saw it get one. Then the hawk dove on it.
OMG it just missed. The waterthrush shot under some thick bank-edge
cover (a huge buttonbush) and the hawk landed right above it on a
lowest cypress branch looking straight down, for it. I am 60'
away watching my rarest bird of the winter, maybe year, about
to get eaten.
I get the hawk in my bins, 3:30 p.m. sun on it from my left
and unlike virtually all the hawks I see locally, I do not
immediately know what it is. In fact, after checking the
puzzle pieces, it is obviously something else, something different,
something weird, something odd. You go into 'mental record' mode
and look at and make mental note of every feature, everything
you can see, and burn an image of it in your minds eye. Keep
looking at parts of the bird describing it to yourself. Repeat.
I should have grabbed a digi-bin photo but was too befuddled
just trying to figure out what it was.
Note everything you can, like unmarked uniform brown upperparts
save narrow pale covert edgings, most outstanding feature is
belly with broad thick wavy-edged reddish horizontal bars on
light buffy or creamy background, lowest belly unmarked, coarse
vertical streaks on breast, etc. Size, shape and structure
is that of a tiny small buteo, and clearly smaller than the local
Red-shouldereds, roughly closest to female Cooper' Hawk size,
but tail proportionately way too short for accipiter.
Initially I was baffled as none of what I was seeing was matching
any of our local species we see daily, Red-shouldered and Cooper's
Hawks were the two nearest things it was between but was neither.
Red-shouldered because it was a buteo, Cooper's due to size.
It was tiny for a buteo.
The waterthrush makes a break for it shooting across 60' of open,
the hawk immediately dives after it, the waterthrush disappeared
behind the visual footprint of the hawk, I thought it was a gonner,
there was not 2' between them, but it barely made the thickets
on the island the hawk couldn't fly into and the hawk peeled up at
the last second and landed again on a low perch.
I got a good view of the shape as it flew and it was clearly a
very oddly shaped (long tailed) very small buteo, not an accipiter.
Tail was nowhere near long enough for a Cooper's Hawk, it was
a small buteo. It was now in bad light, I moved to get good light
and it took off across the river and that was that.
I don't know what it could have been but a Roadside Hawk. Which is
one of those birds you don't say you saw without a photo. People
will think you are nuts. I think the nearest accepted record is at
San Ygnacio, 30 miles below Laredo, but of course there is essentially
no coverage between here and there. Once prior here I saw what I
am sure was one, flying over Seco Ridge several years ago, which was
mentioned in this blog.
This is a birder's worst dilema. I don't claim an ID unless
I am 1000% positive, and with something like this, this rare, and this
hard to ID, one needs an extended study, not a quick look. I saw it
very well, very close, but quickly, for just a minute. I can say
unequivocally that it was not any of our regular species, all of which
I have 55+ years of experience with.
It was also not a Broad-winged (rare) or Gray Hawk (accidental), the
other two small buteos that barely occur (though not in winter so far)
both of which I also have extensive experience with. It was roughly
female Cooper's Hawk sized but not proportioned, it was a tiny
Buteo, brown above with fat thick red horizontal bars on belly, not
the thin fine red lines of Red-shouldered and Cooper's Hawks.
And coarse vertical streaks on breast.
I think most of the accepted Roadside Hawk records are in winter,
all in the LRGV with the San Ygnacio bird northmost. Now is when.
Of course a boatload of formerly 'LRGV' species are occurring here
now regularly and there is no reason to think some of the vagrants
to there wouldn't occur here as well. The Rufous-backed Robin
Kathy and I saw in Uvalde a few years ago was further from its home
range in western Mexico than a Roadside Hawk here would be, by far.
Tomorrow (Sat.) is a wash, a rain day. Do you tell some others
so they can look? I'm absolutely sure as can be that is what
it was. There is nothing else it could be. I really don't have any
time to look. There is 15+ miles of river corridor habitat in the
valley and public access to a quarter mile at the park, and visual
access for what a hundred yards at each river crossing on Hwy. 187?
Unless it hangs at the park it will not be re-seeable. Like the
Verdin in the yard this morning it was a million-to-one odds to see
it, to see it again would be what odds? You don't want people
driving (time, money, pollution) for something they are not likely
to see. I think the proper technical term is AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHH!
Jan. 29 ~ Low in the 40's was nice and the front held
off until after sundown to arrive. We got up to 75dF!
Supposed to be a dry front, just windy all night, then
something else comes over with some advertised rain for
Friday night to Sunday a.m. Latest p.m. I heard the first
couple roars of a Rio Grande Leopard Frog this year.
I saw likely the same beat worn Snout butterfly today
that I have seen a few times the last week plus. New
was a Pipevine Swallowtail, the first of year, which
seemed a fresh emergence this third day of the heat spell.
It came up out of grass and climbed thermalling up to
50+' altitude and drifted west. Remarkable. That
makes 7 species for the month and it doesn't look good
for butterflies the last couple days. My lowest Jan. totals
are 4 species in '07, 6 sps. in '08, and 5 sps. in '10. The average
is 11.8 species for the month (n~11 prior), so we are in the
bottom of the range.
Must have been a half dozen Anole in the flower beds
on the sunny side of the house. The two aberrant blonde
squirrels are still hanging out, eating the bird's seed
when they can. Saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk miss on an attempt
for one of the seedeaters here. One of the main areas I toss
seed is along a fence an accipter can't get through, but
the Cards and Chippies can, and they know it.
Jan. 28 ~ Another warm one in front of the incoming system,
got into upper 70's dF again. Sure is nice. The only
different bird I saw was a small group of Pine Siskin in
the yard, maybe 7 of them, which is about as many as I
have seen at once all winter so far. Otherwise the same,
so today it will be butterfly news.
In interesting butterfly news, the Giant Swallowtail has been
split into two species, Western, and Eastern. It had also
been put in a new genus prior, Heraclides, and I'll update
the lists and photos here when I get a chance. Central Texas
is the zone of overlap, aren't we lucky? To complicate
things hybrids or indeterminate individuals are known.
So now we get to figure out what is going on with them
here. Do we have both, or just one? If both which one is
predominate and what is frequency of the rarer one? It is
especially interesting to me because I noted a different
underwing pattern on the hind wing than most photos in the
popular books showed and had been collecting images of this
common animal as I knew something was going on with them beyond
what the basic standard field guides were telling me.
The common books mostly show Eastern and here we have Western.
No wonder what I was seeing didn't match the books. Turns
out it was way bigger than I thought, and others (real pro
lepidopterists) were already on it. A quick review of a few
of the photos I have handy shows ours to be the newly named
Western Giant Swallowtail (Heraclides rumiko is the new
binomial, the Eastern Giant is now Heraclides cresphontes).
There are always new things to learn right under our noses,
if we just stop and smell the roses. Look at the common
thing in an uncommon way. Do the common thing in an
uncommon way. Get out of the dogma box with thinking,
it will set you free. Here and now we have big flashy
common butterflies and we didn't know what was going on
with them still in 2010. An unknown and un-named species!
I don't feel too guilty, as I am only an amateur butterfly
guy, and am mostly thrilled to find out there was a good
reason for noticing my local pix were not matching the book
pix. I'd feel dumb if I hadn't have noticed something
was off. I was 'shooting' them far far more often than
ID or photo docs required, as with several things here, I was
collecting images of them. Figuring one day I will get time
to compare a hundred of these and a hundred of those, etc.
and something would become apparent, or more confusing.
Everything has not been looked at hard and thought about
by someone that knows their stuff. There is always much
Jan. 27 ~ Low in upper 30's and warmed to about 80dF!
Must be another system headed in. Heard Ringed Kingfisher
flying downriver just after sunup. Another nice red sunrise,
yesterday's was nice too. Otherwise the regular gang.
The birdsong is increasing ever so slightly, but the build-up
has begun, they are getting started. A little Titmouse here,
some Chickadee there, a bit of Cardinal, some Bewick's and
Carolina Wren, the Canyon Towhee tuning up too.
Saw a small Scoliid wasp of the type with a couple pale yellow
squares on metallic blue-black abdomen, the ones with the
huge females. An Anole went after it, I presume until it
recognized it when it backed off and decided to let it be.
Did have my first grasshoppers of the year, Short-horned
(Acrididae) green-winged types. The Roadrunner must have
found some too as it was hunting the yard for them with
wing-flashing. Like Mockingbird, they move, stop, and quickly
spread wings to try to flush something into moving. It
also hit all three brush piles in the front yard doing the
same wing-flashing, there no doubt trying to flush a lizard
at the brush piles.
I saw a distant white appearing butterfly in the corral
that looked like a Checkered White, but it was too far
to call for sure. So it doesn't make the monthly list,
just a probably seen mention.
Jan. 26 ~ Mid-30's dF for a low, didn't have to thaw the
birdbath. A flock of 4 Caracara went over together, had the
Rusty Blackbird, thought I heard a Pine Warbler, a few Waxwing,
a few American Goldfinch, Scrub-Jay, the pair of Canyon Towhee,
and the regular gang.
The best beast of the day though was a frog. I heard Chorus
Frogs, our 'spring peeper', though not that exact
species called by that name. I am not sure if these are
Strecker's or Spotted but they are a Psuedacris sps. Chorus Frog.
I think both types are found locally. I'll have to see if I
can get some sounds on tape and then maybe an audio ID on-line.
Last winter was so dry I did not hear any here.
We got skunked by clouds on the asteroid passing near Earth.
I wanted to see it with my own eyes. Amazing they found it
has a little 200' moon! I had done all the calculations
on how much to lead it, wanting to see if I could hit it
with my .22. ;)
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Jan. 25 ~ We froze just barely this a.m., about 31dF. Went to
the park to try once more and FINALLY got digi-scope pix of the
wintering Louisiana Waterthrush at UP. Maybe my 28th or so visit
since early Dec. when I first detected it (was heard only then).
It is now the first known and documented over-wintering record
for the Edwards Plateau. Outstanding. A relief to get the pix.
See one pic of it above in photo section. Note a few new pics
were added including a pic of the Rusty Blackbird, a new Ringed
Kingfisher pic, plus a couple grabshots of the aberrant leucistic
squirrels we have here.
Also at park had male Ringed Kingfisher, a few Myrtle Warbler,
Red-shouldered Hawk, a Song Sparrow, Yellow-shafted Flicker
and Blue Jay, otherwise the regular cast. On 187 south of town
a Roadrunner, well, ran, across the uh, road.
Heard a Barred Owl here from yard in a.m., upriver somewhere.
Got up to low 70's dF this afternoon, pretty nice to
not be cold in winter. We have a few days of the mild ahead.
The river did come up a bit from the major rain event, it is
likely less than 2' from going over spillway at park now.
It had come up today over yesterday, as the water filters
After I uploaded the update, around 10 p.m. I was outside and
a Great Egret flew over calling heading due S. down valley.
If I may, a great winter record.
Jan. 24 ~ A hard freeze, we were about 28dF just south of town,
KVL hit 26dF. The bottom of the valley is the coldest part.
Spent 11 a.m. to noon at park and no waterthrush, no doubt since
I had camera and tape recorder. Dang thang. Three wild MALLARD
flushed, which are my first ever at park and quite rare here,
it's been a few years since I've seen one locally, though
Little Creek Larry told me he thought he had a couple in fall.
Jerry Schaeffer was at the park and said he and Judy have a few
Rufous Hummingbird at their feeders as usual each winter. I
received a pic of an interesting sapsucker from Sylvia Hilbig
which I can't say for sure from the image, but it might be a
hybrid Red-naped x Red-breasted. The white facial stripes seem
too polluted with red. Saw the Loggerhead Shrike along 360 just
east of Utopia on the River again. Heard Turkey gobbling
A bit of birdsong, at the park the Carolina Wren was doing
the e-oo e-oo e-oo song. A little Cardinal and Bluebird,
and Chickadee and Titmouse are starting to utter some song too.
I also heard a White-TIPPED Dove call, the first trace of
them in a couple months. A couple Blue Jay were giving a
Barred Owl lots of grief. Got up into mid-60's dF in afternoon.
Jan. 23 ~ Overnight and in the morning another quarter inch
of rain, we are over 3.5", probably 3.75" for the event. WEEWOW!
I talked to someone in town that said they had 4"! That
was big. We ran about 35-45dF for a temp spread today, with
northerly winds on it a bit chilly. I had a count of 19 male
Cardinal at once on the seed, incredible, amazing. Must be
40 here total with the females....
Stopped at the park at noon and saw the Louisiana Waterthrush
but had a camera memory malfunction and missed getting photos!
Had it in the scope! Great looks, no pix and I am mad as a
wet hen about it. I went back at 2:30 after getting groceries
home, and heard it a couple times and it disappeared the next
hour I spent looking for it. You would be amazed how mad a
bird can make you. If I could get pix it will be the first
Edwards Plateau documented winter record, and the furthest
inland, and furthest NW in Texas in winter. They are rare
along coast and in LRGV at this season, never up in the hills.
I did have a Zone-tailed Hawk and a Ringed Kingfisher which I
did get good pix of. An Orange-crowned Warbler was nice too.
Hardly any around this winter. Two Myrtle and a nice male
Audubon's Warbler, and heard a Pine but didn't see it.
Five or six Field Sparrow on the island was good for the park.
A number of Bluebirds (20+) south of town on 187 in the hackberries.
On 360 about 60 Mourning Dove in one flock, about 8 Meadowlark,
and 6 Killdeer. Several Kestrel were out, probably hungry
after being stuck in shelter most of yesterday.
I saw one of my least favorite beasts at the park, a Nutria.
One was there several years ago. Which I think was shot.
Good riddance. I heard that one was introduced by someone wanting
their 'water weeds' out of their swimming hole.
I don't see how they could get here unassisted by man.
The hypothetical philosophical question is: If you don't want your
'water weeds' does that give one a right to introduce
something that say swims downriver and comes into my place and
destroys mine? Maybe I was trying to encourage aquatic vegetation
to have more fish and dragonflies? Without aquatic vegetation (over
a dozen species of aquatic plants here) there would be far fewer fish
and dragonflies, among many animals, and the ecosystem would be
worse off for it. And so would we. There would be more mosquitoes
I like the old 'freedom not license' view, which here
would be something like, yes you have the freedom to remove your
aquatic vegetation but you do not have license to remove mine. Which
is what the introduction of a non-native animal like Nutria does.
I hope someone shoots this one quickly too, they are a non-native
invasive pest, of which we are already over-run with.
Everyone should read that book "Freedom not License" which
is a real classic from maybe the early 1970's. The lesson is
kinda sorta that you have the freedom and right to listen to any kind
of music you want but you don't have license to make me hear it.
Jan. 22 ~ Well it rained off and on all night from midnight
and through late morning, by which time there was over 3"!!
I consider that a major event, especially in winter (our dry
season). A bit of lightening and thunder, the water is just
what the trees needed though. The ground is so bone dry it seemed
very little runoff, most soaked in since it was generally slow
and steady. I bet there are happy ranchers all over Texas today.
After noon the frontal blow got going 15 gusting to 25 mph and
temps dropped, chills in 30's dF. A great day to be stuck
inside at the monitor by a heater. After late morning and through
the rest of the day we added about another quarter inch of rain.
I couldn't put seed out first thing though, it was raining
too hard. Nearly got bird-mugged when it broke enough to run out
and spread it. Later morning counted 18 male Cardinal on it at
once! What a beautiful sight. Crested Christmas ornaments all
over the ground. As many female are about as well. The birds
are sucking down the seed something fierce today. Here's a list.
About 75+ Chipping Sparrow, the 35-40 Cardinal (!), 4 Chickadee,
8 Titmouse, 4 Inca and a pair of Ground-Dove, one Slaty Junco,
a couple dozen House Finch, as many Brown-headed Cowbird, one
Red-winged Blackbird, the Golden-fronted Woodpecker pair on the
sunflower seed tube. The pair of Canyon Towhee don't seem
fazed much by it all, as too the resident pair of Eastern Phoebe (though
I can't imagine what they were finding flying to eat). The
few hundred Brewer's and one Rusty Blackbird were in corral,
a few Black Vulture were about, as was the local resident Fuertes'
Red-tailed Hawk and some White-winged Dove. Thought I heard a
White-throated Sparrow a couple times but didn't see it.
Jan. 21 ~ Though a mid-40's dF low, it only warmed about 10dF
for a high, roughly 30 dF cooler than yesterday. A system is
on the way in and forecast to bring us some rain, though
nothing major by all accounts. It was the same gang around
the casita, only seeing 4 Inca Dove now. Probably the immatures
that are getting picked off by the Cooper's and Sharp-shinned
Hawks. About 20 White-winged Dove at one point. Saw the
Roadrunner again, I guess it's going to try to stick it
out down here on valley floor for the winter. The rain was
light and didn't start until late late p.m.
Jan. 20 ~ Cool in 30's dF in the a.m. which didn't last long.
Today was the big warmup day before the next system heads
in. It got up to a record (methinks) 86dF or so! WOW!
In 2008 at Uvalde this date recorded a record low of 18dF.
Anyway, today we had a 50dF diurnal temperature range.
Early in a.m. a Ringed Kingfisher flew downriver above
treetop level calling its measured chik chik chik as it went.
Later some full-blown hard machine-gun rattling was going off,
probably two birds present. Heard the first Bewick's Wren
singing of the year.
In the heat of the afternoon I saw the Sleepy Orange (lep)
again, a beat worn Snout (which I glimpsed but didn't note
yesterday as I wasn't 100% on the ID), and a fresh mint
Gulf Fritillary. So we shot up from 4 to 6 species of
butterflies for the month today.
Jan. 19 ~ Bird bath was frozen over thinly so we were 32dF or
below. KVL hit 31. Local Utopia stations showed 38dF or so,
much higher than frozen water, again. In the morning there
were 21 Cedar Waxwing and 8 American Goldfinch in yard, as
many of either as I've seen at once lately. Also heard
an Audubon's Oriole and a couple (texana) Scrub-Jay.
Might have gotten a couple decent waxwing digi-scope pix.
The afternoon warmed to a toasty upper 70's dF, maybe 79!
Gadzooks! I saw the Sleepy Orange butterfly again, about the
third day in a row, surely the same over-wintering individual.
Very exciting was seeing a NEW butterfly, one that just emerged,
as opposed to most of our January butterflies, old beat worn
over-winterers. This was a Henry's ELFIN, one of my favorites.
I have a couple January records but usually the first ones pop
are in February after a couple warm days. In 2012 I recorded
one on a Jan. 18, so a day short of tying my earliest ever.
Henry's Elfin are the early bird of butterflies here and
are typically out as flying adults only from February to earliest
April at the latest, and that is it for the year. Key larval host
plants (where they lay eggs) are the first two bloomers here,
Texas Redbud and Agarita (aka Texas Holly), which should still
be a few weeks away from starting. The early season warmth
sometimes causes premature emergences, which are usually genetic
Saw both the regular yard lizards today as well, the Sceloperus
of some sort, and a couple Anole. A gust of wind hit a Juniper
and it looked like smoke, all the pollen coming off it. In case
you were wondering why you were sneezing or coughing.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Jan. 18 ~ Coolish in mid-upper 30's dF in morning. First
thing early I heard Ringed Kingfisher over at the river, the
first time I have heard it this year. I went to park just after
9 a.m. to be there before any people were there, to attempt
getting documentation of the wintering Louisiana Waterthrush.
Armed to teeth with telescope, camera, audio recording gear,
the bird was not there. Did have single Killdeer, Hermit Thrush,
Song Sparrow, Yellow-shafted Flicker, Blue Jay, Red-shouldered
Hawk, Myrtle Warbler, but very little else. Fair number of
winter Mayfly out over water.
At the cattail pond on the country club by the Waresville Cemetery
there was a Wilson's Snipe. Otherwise nothing at the C.C.
No sparrows in the taller grass areas, nothing in the hackberry
patch. Overall I would call winter bird populations dismal.
It is eerie there are so few birds out there. Did hear at park
and at house here a couple Bluebirds giving a bit of song.
Got up to near 70dF in the afternoon, what a nice break. Able
to get some of that overdue outside work done.
Jan. 17 ~ Just above freezing at sunup, but in afternoon warmed
to low 70's dF! Smokin' hot. What a nice break and treat.
Saw a Sleepy Orange butterfly, the 3rd butterfly I have seen this
month, all 3 of different species. Also saw a Sceloperus and an
Anole, the lizards were liking the warmth too. Birds were the
same gang. Heard a Pine Siskin in the a.m., haven't been many
around. The Ruby-crowned Kinglets seem to have moved on as well,
there were numbers in late fall and early winter, but very few
remain around. No bugs. The Juniper (Cedar) are spreading
pollen now, in case you are sneezing.
Jan. 16 ~ Wow it froze, bird bath was iced over, was about 30dF
for a low, KVL got to 27dF, while a weather underground station
in town said 35dF. Was sunny and warmed within a couple hours.
Got into the low 60's dF for a nice afternoon. A few Robins
and Waxwings went over, the Roadrunner walked within 2 feet of
me, stopping and cocking its tail nearly at my feet. Saw a
Red Admiral butterfly, first of the year, a worn and beat
A town run netted a stop at the park. This time I took scope
and camera to get waterthrush pix. No bird of course. Dang
thang. Heard the Downy Woodpecker across the river. Not much
around, but a better number of winter mayflies was good to see.
I imagine that is what the waterthrush is living on.
Jan. 15 ~ What a pleasure to wake up to 40dF and some sun! It
was about 55dF by noon and warmed to just over 60dF in the later
afternoon. About time! Looks like we have at least a few days
of it ahead, so time to thaw and dry out. Didn't see anything
but the usual birds around yard. An Anole was sunning in the
p.m. warmth. The two blonde Foxish Squirrel were about.
Did count 8 Titmouse and 4 Chickadee at once hitting the seed
tube, besides the Golden-fronted Woodpecker pair which have
become regular customers. Last year when there was a pecan
and hackberry crop they hardly touched sunflower seeds. This
winter with no crop of either they are a major part of their
diet. What are the ones away from feeders doing to get by?
Jan. 14 ~ The cold, gray drizzle continues, low in mid 30's dF
and high not 10dF above that. I had to run to town early on an
errand, and since drizzly and dark opted out of carrying the
scope or camera, just brought the bins as I was just running
in and out. Stopped at the park of course and besides a pair of
Gadwall there was the LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH calling away on the
other side of pond out in the open. It would have been easy to
photo - if I would have brought the camera. So it is still here,
and my 1 out of 4 visits detection rate stands. It is a tremendous
wintering record best I can tell. Probably the first for the Edwards
Plateau, and if I could get a photo, it would be one of few ever
documented over-wintering in Texas.
Saw that big ugly sow again with 6-7 tiny piglets, hope that number
keeps going down, was 8. There were 11 big bearded Toms (Turkey) in
the corral which worked the oat-lines for scraps and then went
to one of the water troughs. They are in great plumage now,
amazingly metallic green and bronze, a beautiful beast of a bird.
Jan. 13 ~ Another cold gray one with a 34-44dF diurnal temp
range with winds on it, chills in 20's most of morning.
Don't care for it frankly, unless the birds are really
really good. Too busy to goof off like that to find out what
is hiding about. There were 16 Cedar Waxwing in the big XL
hackberry today, wondering where the berries were no doubt.
Otherwise just saw the regular gang. One slaty Junco, one Scrub-Jay.
Jan. 12 ~ Foggy and overcast in a.m., cleared and warmed to
low 60's dF briefly in afternoon, then a front hit and
it got cold again. Saw a flock of 20 Robin go over in a.m.,
the Roadrunner again in p.m., otherwise the expected regulars.
The 400 Brewer's Blackbird are hitting the corral daily
now, and bringing the dang 25 Brown-headed Cowbirds with them,
which are now hitting the millet we put out for non-parasitic
After dark I went outside to smoke my pipe for a moment and
heard a noise on the porch with me. Yes an animal noise.
Of course I had no light nor weapon, so slightly un-nerving.
It was just a few feet away from me and definitely making
sounds that could only be a mammal, in the dark, 2' away.
Need I say I was back in the house in record time...... and
back out with a flashlight in a few seconds, to see a Racoon
running away. I aimed the flashlight to the porch and saw I had
pulled the tube feeder down and brought it to porch but left
it on a chair. There was seed all over of course, and while
cleaning it all up I had time to ponder that the dang thing
wasn't two feet from me when I initially walked out and
heard it as I stood next to the chair it was making love to
the seed feeder in.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~
Jan. 11 ~ It warmed overnight from right around freezing all
day yesterday, to nearly 40dF by dawn this morning. Weird
when it gets warmer overnight, but I'm not complaining.
Didn't really warm up until the heavy overcast burned off, after 2 p.m.
when it got to about 55dF and sunny. Kathy pointed out the first
loud Cardinal song we have heard this year. There will be lots
of bird song from the residents soon.
The Roadrunner was over in corral and then front yard. Saw a
Titmouse and a Chipping Sparrow without tails, surely both lost
them to ice during the event yesterday. It is normal to see a
few birds that got their tail stuck to a branch with ice and
then lost it when they had to jump. Makes them easy accipiter prey.
We took a late afternoon walk to move some muscles and see
blue skies, and as we used to say in socal, soak a few rays,
while they were out. There was a nice flock of sparrows along
the road and corral, especially where there were a few potholes
full of water next to a leak in a horse trough hose. At least
50 Savannah Sparrow with a few each of Lark, Vesper, Field,
and Chipping, plus 16 or so House Finch. One Lincoln's Sparrow.
I have yet to find any decent winter insectivore flock this year,
here or at the park should both have one or two each. I heard
two Myrtle, apart from each other but no Pine Warbler, no kinglet
(was a Ruby in yard in a.m.), no bluebirds, and no hackberries.
There were 6 Killdeer acros the crossing in a pasture, and a
couple Western Meadowlark on the airstrip. A Fuertes' Red-tailed
Hawk flew over as did a few hundred Brewer's Blackbird.
One last tremendous flying object we saw today, or tonight I
should say, was Comet Lovejoy. At low magnification it is a
green fuzzy ball, you can't see a tail but if you google it
you can see some pix of what it looks like in an astronomical
telescope, and it is most impressive. Actually the FIFTH comet
Lovejoy has found (!).
I could detect it with bare eye, and it is easily seen in binoculars,
a scope at 20 power just made a bigger fuzzy green ball. Will try
my 60 x lens but I think it will just be more bigger fuzzier.
You need 200 power or more to get it good. Sky and Telescope.com has
pix and links to maps showing where to look, it is between Orion and
Tarus, nearing Tarus' rear spine now. Mercury was spectacular too,
right after sunset as it gets dark, just below Venus, they set by time
the sky is black though. Mars is there too, at 11 o'clock to Venus
(above left) several degrees if you want a planet trifecta.
Jan. 10 ~ It rained overnight and showered a bit all day.
Hovered around freezing, the precip was liquid but froze on
branches so mid-day many of the trees looked like they were
covered in water drops, but it was ice. Upper surfaces of
horizontal branches in particular had a thin coating of ice.
Kinda pretty but lotta cold. We got off light on the ice
part. It showered more in the evening and I thing when all
said and done it was .75"+ of much-needed precipitation.
At one point I watched a titmouse landing on a branch
which was too iced for its feet to grip on, but had already
locked on to it for landing. So its inertia carried its
body forward and it went upside-down locked onto the
branch, then had to flap to get itself back up and over,
and upright on the branch. It was funny, woulda made a
great video clip, the look on its face was priceless.
Did scope the (ad. fem.) Rusty Blackbird over in the corral
with a few hundred Brewer's. A pair of Eastern Bluebird
has been around the last couple days on and off, which might
be our breeding pair. The wintering birds that arrive from
elsewhere stay in flocks throughout their visit, whereas the
local breeders will pair off and become an item without the
flock quite early in the season, sometimes even in January.
Jan. 9 ~ A chilly day running about 32-42dF for not much of a
temp spread, with a front and breeze on it. I made a quick check
for the waterthrush at the park but it was raining, cold and wet,
and I didn't see anything. Rained a bit in later p.m. too. In
yard saw the Scrub-Jay and Slate-colored Junco, about 5 American
Goldfinch, an ugly 25 Brown-headed Cowbird, but mostly the regulars.
Jan. 8 ~ It was a cold one this a.m. with a low about 25dF here.
I saw a station near Vanderpool had 23dF and Lost Maples 22dF.
Got up to a smokin' 41dF or so at peak heat of the day.
Kathy saw the Pyrrhuloxia come into the bird bath in the afternoon,
I missed it again. Interesting how it is coming into the bath
for water but not associating as one of the flock of 29+ Cardinal
hanging out eating seed here. I first saw it on Dec. 6 and have
only thought I heard it sing a couple times since, but Kathy has
now seen it twice in the last few weeks at the bird bath - a
reward for doing dishes I suppose - which is out the kitchen window.
Some serious itching led me to two NEW chiggers today, so have
three of the pesky beastlets now, an amazing tally in January,
though not exactly a big win. Also amazing for January was a
feral sow (pig) with 8 brand new little tiny sucklings. I don't
recall seeing them starting to drop young in January before.
Jan. 7 ~ Not too chilly this morn, but a front was arriving in
the morning. Before noon it was getting windy with 15-25 mph sustained
and gusts to 30+. It did get up to upper 50's dF in the afternoon
before the cold air arrived. I counted 12 male and 17 female Cardinal
at once on the seed we throw out. Makes for a nice flock of birds.
Crested Ground Grosbeak would be a good name for them. Haven't
decided if the g-g part of that should be hyphenated or not. Cardinal
is a name like Red-winged Blackbird, Pintail and Long-tailed Duck,
and others, that only apply to the male, so probably not the
best choice of a moniker.
A couple Myrtle Warbler were hitting the pecan scraps from last night's
nut-cracking session. Besides Titmice, Wrens, and Chickadees, even a
Golden-fronted Woodpecker was on the patio sorting through the shells
for odds and ends.
Jan. 6 ~ The bird bath was frozen, and I'd guess about 29dF
for a low, several dF lower than the WeatherUnderground shows
from the Utopia station which reads 35dF this a.m. for a low.
If it was 35dF my bird bath water wouldn't be frozen with
over a quarter inch of ice solid across the top.
Did see a Sceloperus lizard in the flower bed enjoying the upper
60's dF warmth in the afternoon. Heard a few Cedar Waxwing
today, and Robin, the Ground-Dove pair were about as were 5 Inca
Dove. Heard an Audubon's Oriole too, saw Slate-colored Junco,
Hermit Thrush, Scrub-Jay and otherwise the expected cast. Great
Horned Owl calling after dark.
Jan. 5 ~ Shiver me timbers it was about 22dF this morning here!
KVL tagged a 19 briefly, two local Weather Underground stations
seemed to report much higher temps than we actually had here.
Bird bath was frozen solid and so was I thawing it out. A bit
of extra seed for them this morning. NOAA is advertising near the
same for Thursday morning. Have your thermals handy for the morn!
The event of the day was seeing the planet Mercury so well.
After sunset as the sky darkens if you look west the real
bright object fairly low in the sky is Venus. Below that is
Mercury, shining as brightly as I have ever seen it. They
are going to get much closer in the immediate future, with
a conjunction that is supposed to less than 1 degree of
seperation. A degree is about a finger width at arms length.
Right after sundown, before last light, before it gets totally
dark is when to look as they both set fairly shortly after that.
Again I am not going to do the mock-pretend CBC I did for the
first 10 winters we were here. To repeat last years' mention,
we moved out of the circle I was using, and, an official count
was begun up at Love Creek which covers Lost Maples and some of
the upper valley. So the 10 years of just doing a day of working
it is over. I have an excel file free for the asking of those
10 counts I did locally. It is also in old-school longform at the
'winter bird count' page, with a bit of discussion of highlights.
The most important thing I learned from it was that just a few
counts, say 2-3, only tells you the residents and the common obvious
numerous things. You really need to do 10 years to start to get
a grip on the whole picture due to varagies of hydrologic cycles
and resultant food crops (or not), not to mention effects of
seasonal weather variations on the birds, and the counting.
That itchy spot I felt turns out to be the first CHIGGER of
the year. I can't believe it in January. Did walk a bit
in the grass, but barely.
~ ~ ~ ~ prior update ~ ~ ~ ~
January 4 ~ Sunny but cool with a cold front arriving in the
morning, a high in the 50's dF with cold northerlies on it.
Tomorrow morning supposed to be the coldest so far of the winter,
in the low 20's dF, and a second arctic front is to hit
Wednesday night and about as cold again Thursday morning.
Nothing different for birds, the regular cast of 30-35 species.
Too sissified to go out in the cold wind, would rather get work
done and wait for a nice day for a walk.
January 3 ~ Great to wake up and have it be 40dF! Not to mention
the sun showing up for the first time in 3 days. We got a little
rain overnight, but most missed us as usual. Finally a warm day,
but due to another front being inbound. It got up to a toasty
68dF in the afternoon (Sat.). Monday morning is forecast to be about
20dF. How's that for some temperature range? In case you couldn't
have guessed, most people in socal hardly know what weather is.
I waited until today to do the town run as I thought the nice
weather and sun might help me get a Louisiana Waterthrush photo.
There was nothing at the park, I did not see or hear the bird.
As has been the case on 2/3's+ of the dozen+ trips I made in the
last month. So it doesn't mean it is gone, just have to wear the
odds back down. I suspect it is moving up and down along the river,
since only 4 of my last 14 visits have I heard (thrice) or seen (once) it.
Did have Blue Jay and Yellow-shafted Flicker, always good to see.
This Yellow-shaft is probably the same adult female for about
four or five years now.
Also recorded the only two dragonfly species likely here in January,
Variegated and Autumn Meadowhawk. Single males of each. After this
next front with 20dF on Monday it may be the end of odes until
spring. And saw a female Cloudless Sulphur, my first butterfly
of the year. A few winter Mayflies were out, only a very few. An imm.
Eastern Red-tailed Hawk was along west edge of town.
January 2 ~ Another cold drizzly day, though a few dF warmer than
the last couple, mid-upper 30's dF for a low and maybe 42 dF
for a high, with cold drizzle or mist most of the day. Three days
we've been mostly in the 30's around the clock. Actual
thunderstorms with moderate rain got here about 9 p.m., unusual
to hear thunder and see lightening on Jan. 2 methinks. Might have
gotten a couple more tenths and with all day drizzle probably another
third of an inch, and a 3 -day total of 2/3 to 3/4 to nearly an inch
of precip from the event, pending where you were locally.
In the cold drizzle today I saw a few of the semi-regulars I missed
yesterday like Ground-Dove, Scrub-Jay, Cedar Waxwing and Robin, heard
Pine Warbler and Rusty Blackbird, so about 34 species in two days
in yard, and some things just are MIA, surely just trying to hide out
for the cold spell, like Caracara, Kestrel, etc., and me.
January 1 ~ HAPPY NEW YEAR !! So what do we call it? 2K15?
Twenty-fifteen? Or just 2-15? Well it started out cold and damp,
just above freezing and drizzle, it did shower a brief bit overnight,
we might have got a couple tenths of precip. Made it through the
event seemingly without the ice in any significant way, though
there was a bit just WNW of us in Edwards County.
There were at least 65 Chipping Sparrow here at once when I got
a good count. I sure like having 6 male Cardinal at once on the
patio, they are getting real red, the first-spring birds are not
as bright as the older males. I heard one briefly do a bit of 'warmup'
under-the-breath song this morning despite the cold. Some 400+
Brewer's Blackbird were in the corral mostly, but the yard too,
at one point a dozen male Red-winged were on patio and even a
couple on the seed tube. Counted 8 Black-crested Titmouse at once.
The Eastern Screech-Owl was calling after dark. About 28 sps. were
noted in the cold wet yard today mostly from warmth of the house.
One weather station locally reported .3 (3 tenths) of an inch of
rain today, so I guess the little shower plus the tenth of drizzle
all day added up. There was tenth the day before from the drizzle
all that day, so about .4 for the last two days.
~ ~ ~ above is 2015 ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Go, look, see, take notes and pictures, boldly nature nerd where
no one has before. Few things rival the thrill of discovery.
Besides having fun and learning, you will probably see some things
people won't believe without photos. ;)
Above starts January 1 2015, which is Bird News Archive XXIII (#23).
Read UP from bottom to go in chronological sequence.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Links to all 11+ years of archived bird news pages below.
Broken into 6 month increments. One day I'll quarter it
out by season as well, so all 11+ years of each season are
together, perhaps making say, searching springs easier.
Odd numbered archives are Jan-June, even July through December.