Bird (and nature) News Archive # 24
July 1 to December 31, 2015
Old Bird News XXIV

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
WU = Weather Underground



....in reverse chronological order, unless you scroll to end and read from the bottom up.



2015 - July 1 - December 31, 2015



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ below is 2015 ~ ~ ~ (in reverse chrono order)

July through December 2015
Scroll to bottom and read up
to read in chronological order.




Harris's Sparrow

This is the adult Harris's Sparrow Sylvia Hilbig photographed at their place a couple miles N.W. of town in Bandera Co.,
on Dec. 27, 2015. A great picture of a great bird! Thanks for sharing it Sylvia!
There are hardly any Bandera Co. records.


~ ~ ~


~ ~ ~ 2015 - The Year in Review ~ ~ ~

Here we overview some of the highlights of the year. I realize not all will be of interest to all, and so, sorry.
It is as much for me as you, as it creates a quick way for me to look up and check stuff.

It was a good year, the biggest reason being the end of the drought which started in 2008 and after seven years, was finally busted in May with a couple feet of rain. The summer was mostly dry, but we had lots of rain in Oct. (9"), six inches in Nov., and December had about 2.75 inches. We were well over THREE FEET of rain for the year. Now we are in an El Nino winter so instead of the normal dry time, we should continue to get rain. The best spring flower show I ever saw here was after a far more minor El Nino winter a few years ago.

It will take a couple years of wet cycle to biologically recover from the 7 years of drought though. Still butterfly, dragonfly, (even wasp), and bird numbers are down overall compared to the wet cycle populations of 2003-2008. The numbers of breeding neotropical migrant songbirds at Lost Maples SNA for instance are much lower than they were in that wet cycle period as well.

The two groups of insects I pay most attention to are butterflies and dragonflies. Both were fairly uneventful overall. I saw 83 species of butterflies locally this year, so at the low end of diversity, but nearly normal since the drought regimen. There were however several LTA - less than annual - species which I had not seen since (or shortly after) the drought set in. Without them it would have only been 75 or so species for the year which would have been the worst year in the last 12.

The last time these butterflies were seen prior to this year is in parentheses behind the species: Dusky-blue Groundstreak (Nov. '10), Laviana White-Skipper (Sept. '08), Nysa Roadside-Skipper (Nov. '09), Arizona Sister (Sept. '10), White-striped Longtail (Nov. '10), Soapberry Hairstreak (can't find last date-nearly a decade), and Sickle-winged Skipper (need to dig up last one of these too, probably '09 or '10). A few Zebra Longwing were around which are always a treat since we don't get them every year. Lost Maples had Oak Hairstreak, Spicebush Swallowtail, Little Wood Satyr, a Mourning Cloak, and Silvery Checkerspot.

The best butterfly of the year was a Band-celled Sister (Adelpha fessonia) seen in Oct. and Nov. in our yard, it has been several years since I last saw one of them too. Overall though butterfly numbers were way down, and most the above goodies are immigrants from south of us.

Dragonflies were weaker than butterflies, they have really been hit hard by the drought, and by the trout they release at Utopia Park (700 at once again this year) and Lost Maples. Black-shouldered Spinyleg was common here pre- trout introductions. They remain absent. Also much decreased in numbers at the park are Orange-striped Threadtail, they are only in low numbers now. The ponds at Lost Maples are depressing considering how good they used to be. Surely too the result of the state's introduction of non-native high-end aquatic invertebrate predators, trout, into the State Natural Area. Apparently TPWD doesn't know what natural means.

The only significant different dragon of the year was a small invasion of Swamp Darner, of which I saw males and a female, both at the park and around the 360 crossing. This was the first time for me to see more than one in a year here, and that only twice in prior 12 years. So 3-4 of them is an invasion. A Springwater Dancer (damselfly) at Lost Maples was nice, there are a few there way up behind the ponds. Smoky Rubyspot had a fair minor showing, they have been scarce locally the last few years.

So now that you are bored to death with bugs... here are some avian highlights of the year. The bird of the year was found January 30, a ROADSIDE HAWK. Which was watched making an attempt on the Louisiana Waterthrush at the park! Then in early February I saw the Roadside Hawk twice more down by our place south of town.

In March the last sightings of the good winterers were the Rusty Blackbird on March 5 and the Louisiana Waterthrush March 11. The wintering Verdin was here until March as well. A Golden Eagle on March 7 was excellent locally, a northbound spring migrant.

In April I saw the Roadside Hawk three more times locally, so it stuck and can be said to have wintered. A Long-eared Owl called the night of April 9 for some time. The Hilbigs had Avocet and Stilt on a flood pond in Bandera Co., both excellent finds. I heard American Golden-Plovers calling as the flew north one night, about the third time I have detected them this way here.

In May I found 3 Hudsonian Godwit at a stock tank near Sabinal, which is a great record in UvCo. Some other good spring migrants around Utopia were Philadelphia Vireo, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Canada, Blackburnian, and Magnolia Warblers. 19 species of warblers were seen in the spring, May 5 was the big day with 14 species, plus 7 sps. of Vireos. A Cassin's Kingbird was also a good find locally.

In May and June a mated pair (plus an unmated male) of Northern Parula Warbler surely nested at Utopia on the River (R.I.P. lodge). They have prior never been known to nest along the Sabinal River. In July the highlight was a Purple Gallinule heard calling as it flew upriver (from the front porch). The highlight of August was finding a begging juvenile Broad-winged Hawk at Lost Maples SNA, probably the furthest southwesterly ever known nesting. Also in August Lesser Nighthawk, Eastern and Couch's Kingbirds, and a Grasshopper Sparrow were good finds.

September opened with an amazing Blackpoll (warbler) along 360, and closed with a Rufous-capped Warbler at Lost Maples SNA, so was a great month any way you cut it. An American Woodcock at the park Sept. 25-27 was also spectacular. Western Tanager is always a good find here too.

A Phainopepla in October was the bird of the month methinks. Three Horned Lark flew over calling the same day (Oct. 27) which are very hard to come by up here in the hills. The Rufous-capped Warbler found at Lost Maples Sept. 27 continued to Oct. 19 at least. An Orange-crowned Warbler of the western orestera subspecies was here in the yard Oct. 19. The peak Monarch (butterfly) migration flight was a lift-off event Oct. 13, several hundred were seen in a few hours, always a treat to catch.

The bird of the month in November was a Catbird, quite scarce to very rare here in fall, Nov. 9 it drank from a tub of rainwater on the patio! The other two neatest things were the returning winterers. For the 3rd year the ad. fem. Rusty Blackbird around our place and along 360, and for the second winter, the return of the Louisiana Waterthrush at the park. An orange-winged hybrid Northern Flicker is a returnee here too, as is a Verdin hanging around, often in the yard. A good number of Pyrrhuloxia seem to have moved in as well.

December highlights were the return of the Roadside Hawk that wintered at least late Jan. to mid-April earlier this year, and the one that got away, a heard well seen poorly Common Redpoll departing the feeder area at patio. Good was a Sage Thrasher out the west leg of 360 that Kathy found, and great was the Hilbig's Harris's Sparrow in Bandera Co. a couple miles NW of town. A Rufous Hummingbird at the park Dec. 6 was my first ever there, and a Red-naped Sapsucker was there the same day.

So it was a great year, there is always lots of interesting stuff to see here, always some great surprises you can't plan for or imagine. The they key being just getting out and looking. There is always something amazing or fascinating to be learned by observing nature carefully. Here is to a great 2016 ahead! Cheers!

~ ~ ~ end of 2015 annual summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ December summary ~ ~ ~

We had about 2.25 inches of rain for the month, which is great for December. Christmas week was in the 70's dF which was amazing, but cold after that. There weren't any butterfly (or dragonfly) highlights this month, save the last couple Zebra Longwings seen at the park in early December, but 22 species was a fair showing of butterflies for December.

Birds were great though. In early December a ROADSIDE HAWK flew low right over the patio and so has returned for another winter. I had outstanding views, it turned its head to look at me as it flew just over treetop level. Those big pinky-finger thick sharply defined reddish bars on creamy belly are amazing. Since, I have had only two glimpses of what was likely the bird, in latest December, despite probably 15-20 miles of walking the area over the month. But my legs are in great shape.

Also seen well was the returning Louisiana Waterthrush at Utopia Park, back for its second winter, which is a spectacular occurrence actually. The adult female Rusty Blackbird back for its third winter around UvCo 360 and sometimes in our yard is pretty neat too. So is a Verdin that regularly visited our yard last winter which is back for another, hitting the bird bath fairly regularly. Neat little bird. Good was a Sage Thrasher Kathy found on Christmas out west 360.

Outstanding was a Harris's Sparrow the Hilbigs had at their place a couple miles NW of town in Bandera Co. Further afield, at Love Creek another Rufous-capped Warbler was turned up prior to their bird count, apparently not seen again though. Their count had Bald Eagle reported there and at Lost Maples. If the same age and plumage, it could be the same bird. They also had a Black-chinned Hummingbird photographed on their count which is an amazing record up here in the hills in winter.

Then the one that got away was a heard only and glimpsed as it flew off calling COMMON REDPOLL which has not been re-detected. One was in Lubbock in November. If I didn't know the call I would not have ID'd it, but knew what it was the second I heard it. Thirty years later, still benefitting from that freezing winter we spent in Massachusetts.

~ ~ ~ end of December summary ~ ~ ~

Dec. 31 ~ Had a 32-55 dF range today. Saw a bit of sun early but clouded up by noon as the approaching weather event began to move in. Chances of rain tonight and for the next couple days and highs just in the 40's dF. Cold and wet the next 2 days.

Watched a small buteo fly down the river corridor after 9 a.m. which seemed by size, shape, and structure to most likely be the Roadside Hawk. It was bare-eyed view and too far to say for sure, but was likely the bird. It certainly was not an accipiter or Red-shouldered Hawk, but a tiny buteo. There has only been one small buteo around.

The usual gang was about but as a Thursday I am stuck at the monitor by phone. Didn't see anything different in my hourly checkabouts outside. Wishing everyone a healthy happy New Year! Hope you enjoy the arcane drivel about Utopia's nature here, and we will continue to strive to offer the best in soporific reading material. Happy New Year! See ya next year!

Dec. 30 ~ Froze again, just barely. I heard at least one Sandhill Crane from the airstrip or pasture adjacent, just south of us this morning, and another across river probably by one of the country club ponds. So at least a couple went down in local pastures or fields. Amazing to walk outside in the morning and hear them on the ground here, usually they just pass over on the way to (or from in spring) the corn fields where they winter around Sabinal. I eventually saw one flying around calling looking for the rest of the flock but never saw any more. At least two were seperated, seperately, from the main flock in the drizzle apparently. Otherwise the birds were the same gang around the yard. Did hit the mid-60's dF for a high in the afternoon. Bewick's Wren is singing now. Saw a Northern Harrier on a quick stock run into town. Trying to avoid the rush tomorrow and New Year Day.

Dec. 29 ~ Froze, ice on the bird bath, 30-31dF is plenty chilly for me. Birds are still bonkers in the yard. It is an amazing show every morning. Couldn't pick out anything unusual though, all the regular cast of characters. Warmed to 55dF for a minute or two before the cloud bank came in from the south. Drizzling at dusk. Supposed to warm up tomorrow to 60's dF but the forecast for New Year's Day and the day after is cold and wet. After dark a group of Sandhill Crane were circling around looking for a place to go down as it was drizzling. They circled for over a half-hour, I last heard them going north over the house.

Dec. 28 ~ The wind blew all night, has been a 24+ hr. blow so far. Kept us from freezing is the upside. Was 32-33dF here this morn, with 15-20 mph winds gusting to 25. Chill factors in lowest 20's dF. A tad chilly. I put out ca. 10 lbs. of seed today and it disappeared fast as I did each of 4 dispensings. The Robins, Waxwings, blackbird flock, Chippies, were all going bonkers on hackberries or the seed again.

I did see the Rusty Blackbird at one point. Heard an Audubon's Oriole. Also saw what was likely the Roadside Hawk which flew across corral into the yard landing in one of the furthest out front pecans. I slowly tried to step toward door on back porch but it flushed as soon as I moved and that was that. It was brown above and had reddish bars below. Dang thang.

The positive ID of the day was at dusk when I was outside and heard American Wigeon overhead, looked up and saw 16-18 in a flock right over the house going north, calling as they went. Probably feeding in a pasture around and heading for the pond at the park to roost. Prior for the yard list I had only heard them fly over in the dark once some time ago.

Dec. 27 ~ Just before 3 a.m. it was still 70dF (!), and by dawn it was in the low 40's dF with 15-20+ mph winds, so chills were near freezing! In between, a line of storms with the front passed over and we got about a half-inch of rain. It is not exactly pleasant out there now, and temps are to drop this afternoon as more cold air gets here. Besides the hanging feeders we throw about 3 lbs. of seed out on the ground by some understory out back which we can see from the office. Well, when the windows aren't fogged up we can see it. Normally we do this a couple times per day when warm, three times when cold, and today and tomorrow will probably be four times. The first batch today seemed to magically disappear in a half-hour or less. Mostly Chipping Sparrows and Cardinals, over a hundred of the former and a couple dozen of the latter. Put a second batch out at 9 p.m. and they were waiting for it by all appearances.

The slightly wind-sheltered area around the house seems to draw when it is like this. There were 50 Red-winged Blackbird on the patio at once, probably the largest winter flock I have ever seen locally (n~12 winters). Most (80%) are females. The Cedar Waxwing flock is now over 550 birds, maybe 600, the most so far this winter. As many or more Robin were around. I heard an Audubon's Oriole, and the Western Meadowlark flock from the airstrip came into the corral just over the fence, about 50 or so. I keep checking the goldfinches on the feeders, only a few siskin in with them so far. About 20 some White-winged Dove too. Just after noon there was a flock of 800-1000 Brewer's Blackbird. The Verdin hit the bath early. In the afternoon we got another quarter-inch of rain, temps continued dropping, some wind gusts are 25+mph and chills were below freezing by noon. It's lovely out, come on down. It's days like these I would hate to be committed to doing a Christmas bird count, though in late 1984 Kathy and I did a couple north of Boston, at Cape Ann, and Plum Island!

Sylvia Hilbig reported that they have a HARRIS'S SPARROW at their place today a couple miles NW of town in Bandera County. This is a very rare bird in our area. I have seen a couple briefly that were never seen again. GREAT find Sylvia! Thanks for sharing the good news!

Dec. 26 ~ Happy Boxing Day! Whatever that is. Yesterday was a 40% chance of rain, today 70%, and haven't seen anything but overcast. Strong southerlies still ahead of the inbound front which is to arrive tonight. They yanked the snow chances from the forecast. It warmed overnight to a low of 70dF this morning, and got into upper 70's dF for a high in the afternoon. More amazing was that it was still in the 70's at 10 p.m.! On Dec. 26!?!?!? Cooper's Hawk dove through the yard in the morning. All the regular expected stuff was about as usual.

We took a walk through a private pasture that is planted with doveweed. Looks great for sparrows or maybe a longspur or pipit. Nothing. A couple dozen doves (Mourning) and 50 or so Western Meadowlark but nary a passerine flushed. There was a Say's Phoebe on the deer fence between the pasture and the grass airstrip, and a male Kestrel further down.

We looped around out to the 360 crossing and worked a bit of river channel there. A couple Pyrrhuloxia (both females) and a Pine Warbler, couple Myrtle Warbler, Sharp-shinned Hawk, couple dozen Chipping, a Lincoln's, a few Song Sparrow. One male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. There was a big blackbird flock of mostly Brewer's and some Red-winged. Thought I heard a Rusty but light was bad for working them.

Several Dainty Sulphur, a Little Yellow, and a few Red Admiral. Then in yard was an Orange Sulphur, and later afteroon on a second walk was a second one over a mile from here, a new species for the month, #21. We also had several buckeye as yesterday but one was a fall-winter form, bright and colorful below, a bit off with mostly orange forewing bands, much darker above than usual, dorsal hindwing eyespots were typical Common type, one much larger than other, and with red in the circle.

We walked back out to where the sparrow was in the upper 70's dF heat since the next week we will be fairly cold and windy. We did see what was probably the same sparrow again. I still don't know for sure what it is. It could be a weird Savannah Sparrow, but am not certain of what it is. The way to play these is to presume something odd is an off example of the common thing. It is only rare thing when determined beyond a shadow of doubt by absolute definitive characters.

Structure does not strike me as a Savannah. It has no yellow supraloral. It has an obvious fairly sizeable pale central crown stripe. It has big dark blobs on the lateral uppertail coverts, they appear dark with pale edges. It seemed to have a pale buffy wash across and underlying the streaks on the breast, contrasting with remaining white underparts. It has a heavy whisker. There are dark spots at rear of auriculars, and I did not note a line running from the one behind eye to the eye.

I am left uncertain as to its identity, it could be a weird Savannah, but I will have to go back and try for better views. It also could be a Baird's Sparrow. The habitat and the habits are more like Baird's. But I am just not familiar enough with that species variation. Savannah can look like just about anything they vary so much. There is little on first winter plumages of Baird's in the standard guides and most photos are of breeding plumaged adults. Adults in winter don't look exactly like adults in summer, much less first winter birds.

We did not see the Sage Thrasher of yesterday, or any Spotted Towhee, did have a Scrub-Jay though. It was quiet in the 75+dF heat. When we got back the Verdin was at the gate. It went into the hackberry there and was eating hackberries, seemingly without swallowing the berry, but stripping the skin and bit of pulp off. That explains why the Mocker chased it out of the tree the other day. So with that 3 more miles on top of the two we did around noon we did 5 miles of walking today. Add on the 3 miles yesterday, and oh my achin' calves.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Dec. 25 ~ Merry Christmas! We ran about 50-72dF for a temp spread, though forecast was mostly sunny and it was mostly cloudy with barely a peak or two of sun. Was clear at daybreak but fogged up real quickly, and didn't begin to break until after 1 p.m. But a front with rain and cold is on its way inbound so we won't complain.

Kathy and I took a walk north up road along river corridor habitat, and after 3-4 of a mile the road turns west into some juniper and oak grassland. We did that another 3-4 of a mile to the gate. So about 3 miles roundtrip from our gate. There are a few spots to look down into the river channel itself but we didn't go down into it this time. There was the huge flock of Robin caroling though.

The juniper section was slow as usual but the back leg west to the gate seems to always have a surprise or two. Kathy found the best bird which I walked right by, a SAGE THRASHER under a juniper (eating berries no doubt). It froze just 10' from us for excellent views at point blank. That is new for the local 360 area list. I got an ID shot.

We had Scrub-Jay, Spotted Towhee, heard a Hutton's Vireo, Field Sparrows, Fuertes' Red-tailed and Red-shoulodered Hawk, some Kinglets (Ruby) and Titmice, but no Canyon Towhee, or Bushtit as are sometimes out the west leg of the road. The thing I wanted to check is the rank weedy area almost to the back gate where I had the Baird's Sparrow a two winters ago. So we get to the area, and wouldn't you know, I flush a sparrow which had a big head and body, small tail. But it dove back in grass. As I walked up on it, it ran off through the grass on the ground, not flushing, and gave me the slip. There are only a few sparrows that play that game and they are all good. It was Grasshopper or better, and didn't look like that to me. It was not a buffy bird, but very dark above.

We walked the last quarter mile to the gate and came back. We went to where I lost it and again flushed a big-headed dark short-tailed sparrow which again gave us the slip. I don't know what it was. I didn't see any white in outer tail but if they don't fan it, you don't see that and I'm not sure first-winter birds show it. It certainly could have been a Baird's Sparrow. The best bird of the day always gets away. Now I'll have to go back and work it again.

We saw about 5 Common Buckeye butterfly, which methinks is species #20 for the monthly total. A Dainty Sulphur or two and a couple Sleepy Orange, plus Kathy spotted one Mestra. With the cold front inbound and highs only predicted to be in the 50's dF all week next week, there won't be much more for butterflies this year save a Red Admiral maybe if it gets near enough to 60dF the warmest day next week. A couple male Variegated Meadowhawk were along the road. Better was a damselfly of some sort I am not sure of. But the background litter grabbed the autofocus so I doubt there will be a good pic to work for an ID. It sat for sometime (but not always) with its wings spread, like a spreadwing of some sort.

After lunch and a nap I got up at 3, tossed afternoon seed out, fed the fish, and set the scope up on the bird bath. Came in and told Kathy since yesterday just after 3 the Verdin came in for a drink, I would be outside ready and waiting. Wasn't five minutes I was back inside showing her the Verdin at the bath pic I just got. That was easy. Nuthin' like that dang sparrow earlier. Here is the only half-decent (of 5) pic:

Verdin

This is likely the same Verdin that visited the yard last winter.
You can see a hint of the chestnut at shoulder.



At dusk there was a great fly over of the Space Station, it is up there in full sun with all that reflectivity, appearing like a fast low planet, roughly bright as Venus it seems. Had it been last night I'd have thought it Santa.  ;)

Dec. 24 ~ Merry Christmas Eve! Temp spread today was about 40-80dF. Amazing. I see a couple forecasts have us with a chance of SNOW overnight Sunday night to Monday morning so winter is on the way. Next week we are supposed to have highs in the 50's all week. Enjoy the reprieve while it lasts.

About 11 American Goldfinch and 3 Pine Siskin on the sunflower feeder much of the morning. Where is their frosty friend? The Verdin was around quite a bit, and took a two second drink at the bath again. The full moon was great, allegedly the first on Christmas since 1977 and last until 2034. I would have guessed that statistically that ought to happen more than once in 57 years.

Dec. 23 ~ The Ringed Kingfisher was heading upriver early again. A couple Pine Siskin were on the sunflower feeder, several American Goldfinch, and a couple House Finch. A male Red-winged Blackbird also came in for a bite. Heard Bewick's Wrens singing, besides the Carolinas. The local resident pair of Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk were about, and a couple Caracara. Heard the Verdin over in the Mesquites, and a Western Meadowlark was out by the wellhouse early in the morning. Amazing was the heat, touching 80dF at a couple local WU stations!

Dec. 22 ~ Upper 30's dF for a low warmed to upper 70's dF for a high. WeeWow! Saw a few new butterflies for the month in the afternoon heat. One Lyside Sulphur, one Southern Dogface, and a Queen (!) were great for the date. Two Gulf Fritillary were chasing each other, a couple Sleepy Orange and the Large Orange Sulphur were about again. The usual Red Admiral and Dainty Sulphur too. An orange one got away, it was probably an American Lady. Considering the lack of flowers a surprising Dec. show of butterflies, no doubt due to the mild temps allowing things to live longer than usual.

Birds were the same gang. Except for the four big ducks that flew down river at 8 a.m. They looked like Shoveler but was a bare-eyed distant view. The Verdin was around again and in the late afternoon Kathy saw it at the bird bath! Wish I'd have been setup for pix of that. They sure are a neat little bird, totally unique, nothing like them. I love a weirdo. The Carolina Wrens were singing something fierce today, including counter-singing. A Red-winged Blackbird was also singing, from the top of the big pecan right off porch. The Vesper Sparrow is still working the driveway, now about 3-4 weeks it has been here. Neat yard bird. Haven't seen the Canyon Towhees in a couple weeks now though.

Dec. 21 ~ Happy Solstice! It's winter! but you can't tell by the temps here, the low was about 54dF and warmed to low 70's dF. After today's shortest photoperiod, the days will start getting longer and some of the resident birds will start singing soon. Eastern Bluebird, Carolina Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, and Carolina Chickadee are usually the first to start tuning up. If the weather is mild, by mid-January they are all going. Some will start in fits and spurts, likely within a week or two.

The Verdin went through the yard in the morning, and then in afternoon it was in the Hackberry and Mesquite by the gate, until the Mockingbird guarding that berry cache chased it out. Big ol' Mocker threatened by a Verdin? A ton of Robins, blackbirds, and waxwings were around for a while this morning. There is a dispute between a couple male Golden-fronted Woodpecker in the yard that has been going on a few days. At times it develops into a knock-down drag-out fight.

There were a few butterflies out in the heat of the day. Mostly probably the same individuals that have been around the yard the last couple weeks. A Large Orange Sulphur, a few Dainty Sulphur, a Little Yellow, a couple Sleepy Orange, a Red Admiral, a Gulf Fritillary, and an American Lady. A whopping seven species and about 10 individuals. And so went the solstice butterfly count.

Dec. 20 ~ Low was not very, only about 52dF, overcast, humid and breezy out of the south. We're supposed to have a pleasant week in the 70's dF this coming Christmas week. We are going to pay for this in Jan. and February! It was another 'thousand bird morning' in the yard with big Robin, Waxwing, Blackbird, and Chipping Sparrow flocks. The Robins drained the bath.

Kathy and I took a walk to crossing. It was a riot of Robins. I suspect a thousand or so. Hundreds were in the yard, and hundreds were along the road. We watched a bathing frenzy for a bit. There 125 at once Cedar Waxwing in the big pecan off porch as we returned, which were not the 100+ we saw down by the crossing. The blackbirds were 300+ Brewer's, a couple dozen each of Brown-headed Cowbird and Red-winged Blackbird, no Rusty, and add a few Starling.

Besides a lookout in the Prickly Pear, a flock of 4 Pyrrhuloxia were bathing at the crossing, a couple nice males, what a beauty they are. We had singles of Green and Belted Kingfisher at the crossing. Sparrows along the road and to crossing were a Vesper in yard, a White-crowned and Field along corral, Chipping, Song, and Lincoln's.

But no Lark Sparrow. Interesting how they all but depart the corral where they live spring to fall. I have seen about one in the last two months around here. One can find them around in fields with hedgerows, but there are not any along the road or in the corral now where they otherwise live all year. So are the wintering flocks here individuals from say further north whilst our breeders depart and move out of the area in winter? That is the sense I get. Our wintering Lark Sparrows are not whatsoever related to the population of breeders locally.

There were three Common Ground-Dove on the patio and the stone steps out back. I watched them long and close enough to catch them at the right angle and see that awesome purple iridescence off those dark spots on the wing coverts that usually look black.

Dec. 19 ~ About 28dF this morning, and lots of birds in the yard, but no frosty ones aside from the morning chill. The grass had that nice white covering for a bit like a psuedo-snowfield. That is about as close as we get to seeing a real snowfield most of the time here. But no one complains.

There were a dozen American Goldfinch. Went to town with Hattie to share a few errands. We stopped at the Schaffer's feeders for a bit and saw some American, and a pair of Lesser Goldfinch and one Pine Siskin there. The park had nothing, didn't even hear the waterthrush. The dump had one weird old bird, an Edwardia Straightensis.  LOL   ;)

I saw on e-bird a few reports of interest from just north of us a bit. I presume on the Love Creek bird count since dated Dec. 17 when it was held. Bald Eagle was reported from Lost Maples and at Love Creek, a Sage Thrasher at a ranch somewhere, and the real rare find, a Black-chinned Hummingbird at Love Creek. Here around Utopia I know of no winter Black-chinned Hummer reports, that is truly an exceptional find. Most of our few wintering hummers are Rufous. Rarely I have had Anna's and Broad-tailed winter, but never an Archilochus.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 18 ~ A chilly 27dF this morning. I am on 'keep checking the feeder and yard trees' detail now, and for the next several days. I may have to check some feeding stations around town if I don't soon get any more Redpoll love here. There have been some seen in N.California this year, which is not a regular occurrence and may be indicative of a broader movement southward this year. I had a simultaneous count of 6 Black-crested Titmouse around the feeders. I heard the Verdin over in the mesquites across from the gate again.

In a quick run through town with no time for goofin' off (birding) I briefly checked Judy Schaffer's feeder bank and besides American I saw one Lesser Goldfinch, they only winter here at feeders in very small numbers. We haven't had one in the yard in over a month, maybe nearing two. A Great Egret was hunting in the deco pond at the Waresville turnoff, which is a rare bird here in winter. The one Pyrrhuloxia on west side of 360 x-ing was out and about as usual the last month. A Belted Kingfisher was at the crossing, and man that water is high which is great.

Dec. 17 ~ We had a freeze, it was about 29dF this a.m. I set scope and camera up on porch aimed at feeders so minimal motion required if something shows up. Over the morning kept checking as much as I could, probably spent a couple hours watching the yard and feeders, to no avail. So much for being ready, willing, and waiting. When I saw the White-winged Crossbill a few years ago at Seco Ridge it flushed and never returned.

While out there a clean pure female Yellow-shafted Flicker landed on the big pecan 10' off the ground, not 15' from me for a great look. A female Audubon's Warbler also moved through the yard and came very close, the first I have seen around so far this winter. The Eastern Bluebirds were at the gate nestbox again. The Vesper Sparrow is still in yard seemingly sometimes moving with the Chippy flock.

The bird of the day was a butterfly, a Dusky-blue Ground-Streak, which is likely my first December record ever. It is a small hairstreak that was formerly abundant here locally before the drought.

Dec. 16 ~ The bottom end of a front passed overnight, no rain, but northerlies. The yard was hopping in the morning. A few hundred Robin, over a hundred Cedar Waxwing, about 350+ Brewer's Blackbird, and a flock of about 65 Western Meadowlark landed out by the wellhouse and worked the grass. The blackbird flock had at least a dozen Brown-headed Cowbird and several Red-winged Blackbird in it but I didn't see or pick out the Rusty. Add in the regular crowd of residents like Cardinal, White-winged Dove, the wintering Chipping Sparrow flock and all the other stuff (chickadees, titmice, wrens, woodpeckers) and it seemed like a thousand birds around the yard. My favorite caroling this time of year is the Robins.

It was bonkers out there, until the Sharp-shinned Hawk dove into yard. I went out to flush it, and had to get less than 20' from it before it finally flew. Just as it went one way, a lone bird which I did not see until it flushed and called from near the seed feeders. I instantly recognized the call, though it has been decades since I heard one. I saw the bird flying away as it continued to call, a COMMON REDPOLL! $&*#$&%! GADZOOKS!!! Some of the flight call sequences it gave were two-noted, some were three-noted.

There are less than 10 state records, it is another of those birds that is not generally believed without pictures due to rarity unfortunately. All I saw was a mighty frosty streaky finchy thing going away, but fortunately it called all the way. The notes are a completely different sound than the tut-tut-tut of American Goldfinch, or pit-pit-pit of Purple Finch. They lack the dry mechanical quality of those, having several more soft consanants in them and border on but not quite a musical quality, besides each being much longer in duration individually.

Just after 11 a.m. I was back out looking and the blackbird flock had returned and was now over 400+, the ad. fem. Rusty was in the big pecan, right where I took her picture last year, I would swear on the same branch. Also in the flock were a dozen Starling, the first actually IN the yard (one flyover sighting once before, a year ago), and the Red-wings numbered about 2 dozen. Red-wing, Brewer's, and Starling were all watched eating hackberries from our biggest tree. The Rusty would not stoop to such. No Redpoll though. And it seemed most of the afternoon there must have been a hawk hiding somewhere as it was like a morgue out there.

Dec. 15 ~ Foggy and drizzle in a.m., sunny and warm in the afternoon. I saw a few Brewer's and separately one Rusty Blackbird this morning. Finally got a look at one of the sapsuckers that keeps shooting through yard: adult male Yellow-bellied. A Large Orange Sulphur (lep) was about in the afternoon heat (77dF). NOAA called for 67dF high in KRVL, I saw the station up to at least 72dF on one check. Uvalde was about 80dF! You know a front is coming when you see that warm up.

Dec. 14 ~ NOAA called for a low of 39 in Kerrville, it was 31dF there, and here. Off by almost a category again! The difference between freezing and not, is a big deal for many. I have never seen forecast lows be so far off so often as the SAT NOAA office churns out, with apparent reckless abandon.

Saw a pair of Eastern Bluebirds at the gate nestbox in the morning. Heard Sandhill Cranes heading over southbound, and heard the White-throated Sparrow again too. At noon a Zone-tailed Hawk slowly drifted north soaring over the yard, I could see him looking hard at the feeding areas. What a beautiful hawk they are. If you see something that sorta resembles a TV from late Nov. to Valentine's Day, it is almost certainly a Zone-tail.

Late p.m. after 11 I saw some more Geminids (meteors), about a half-dozen in 10 minutes, so the shower was still going. The crescent moon set early so nice black skies and the stars were great. Update the day after... I checked spaceweather.com to see if others were still getting Geminids the day after peak and found this: " Last night, Dec. 14-15, NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras detected 148 Geminid fireballs over the USA. The shower was supposed to peak on Dec. 13-14. These data suggest, however, that the Geminids are still active. Earth remains inside a stream of gravelly debris from "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon, the shower's source."

So wow, 148 overnight over the U.S. the day after predicted peak! I was sure they were Geminids based on directional origins but it always nice when you get good solid re-affirmation data. I also saw one non-Geminid 'shooting star'. Also note at the shower peak on Dec. 13-14 "worldwide observers have reported meteor rates as high as 100 per hour in dark-sky locations." Holy cow! Almost two per minute! Which often means you go several minutes without any and then it's like photon torpedoes for a minute.

Dec. 13 ~ The main line of storms and cold front arrived just after midnight. Winds were said to be gusting to 40mph, there was a bit of thunder and it poured. Looks like about 1.75 to 2 inches but my guage was blown over so missed an accurate count. A bowl I had out there that was partially covered had 4 cm in it, so it was likley about 5cm (2"). I saw reports that the in some areas nearby the temperature dropped 20dF in 10-15 minutes when it hit.

It took most of the rest of the pecan and hackberry leaves off, it looks a lot more like winter this morning than it did at dusk last night. About 11 a.m. we broke out of the back side of the cloud sheild and sunny with blue skies. Shortly after that the winds turned west at 15-20mph gusting higher though, making birding hard.

Walked a mile north in the river channel and then back down the road at edge of it. Best was a Rufous-crowned Sparrow about a quarter mile past the Barham's place, where a bit of rocky slope effect at the edge of a knoll. I don't see many in the flatlands of valley floor. About as good was a flock of 6 Slate-colored Junco, for which one only scarcely stumbles into random flocks in the wild (away from seed feeding areas) here. Either one or two Hutton's Vireo were in live-oaks up the road. The rest was the usual suspects.

The Buckley Oaks are peaking, some past, but lots of red on the hillsides now looks great. A Lacey Oak was nice and yellow-orange too. A couple Plateau Live-Oaks were already yellowing up noticeably, which is early for that. The junipers will be getting sinuses going pretty soon. In leps saw an American Lady besides a few Sleepy Orange, and had a Vareigated Meadowhawk dragonfly.

Later afternoon there were a couple dozen Western Meadowlark over on the grass airstrip a hundred yards south of us, until a small hawk of some sort flushed them. I couldn't get an ID on the hawk it was too far away and too fast.

The rain set the Chorus Frogs off again, lots of them calling. Late in the evening I kept checking outside for Geminid meteors as tonight is the peak of the shower. I bet it was good late, if you could take the chill. I quit about 11:15, but over a few checks in the couple hours prior saw over 15 in short order. Most were short, and very fast, nothing spectacular in the way of bolides or trains, but again, I bet it got better in early a.m. when they peak typically.

Dec. 12 ~ Cool morning and almost warmish afternoon ahead of an inbound front, clouded up by late in day. Glimpsed a couple Sapsuckers moving through yard, but never got a good look. The Vesper Sparrow is still out in the driveway. Just the SOS - same ol' stuff today. Too busy to look much. The Ring King was out there in the a.m. up high again heading north. I spirals as it climbs to gain altitude, and then breaks northward upriver. Fourth morning in a row it has done this. Heard a couple Pine Warbler. The Clouded Skipper was still around.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Dec. 11 ~ Ringed Kingfisher, Vesper Sparrow, otherwise the same daily gang. Kathy spotted a Giant Mesquite Bug (family Coreidae) on a window screen, which reminds me I have seen a couple smaller Coreids the last couple days. Fuerte's Red-tailed Hawk and Caracara passing over yard. The Black Vultures have begun some love flight displays, I am seeing a few pairs in such pair-bonding flight. They are far more deft on the wing than some might think.

Dec. 10 ~ 40dF and foggy in the a.m., up to mid-70's dF in afternoon is pretty nice. It was the same gang best I could tell today, all the regulars and nothing unusual. The Ringed Kingfisher must be roosting nearby as early a.m. it climbs up to about 300' before heading off upriver. A few butterflies around, a Clouded Skipper which is new for the month, that small brown thing that might be a tiny Dun Skipper, Little Yellow and Sleepy Orange. Must be a hawk around as the birds were fairly absent much of the day from the yard.

Another great job by NOAA's SAT office, they called for a low of 49dF in Kerrville, we are usually a degree or two warmer. The low was 40dF. In other words, they were off by a category. I guess it is no wonder the severe weather link on their Point Forecast pages for KVL (KRV) and Uvalde has been broken for months despite me e-mailing their webmaster. Why yes of course, there was no response. Worthless bunch of weather wankers.

Dec. 9 ~ We are skating with the weather, 40-75 or so dF for a temp spread is pretty easy to take. I know we are going to pay for this later. The gobs of Robs still about. An unseen hawk flushed everything at one point, I couldn't believe how many came out of the trees. They are also hitting the juniper berries on the slope behind us and over north fence. Then the bath to wash them down.

An immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was in one pecan and an adult Sap flew through in a.m. and was briefly on a tree in p.m., but which I couldn't get an ID on since it was gone when I got back out with binocs. Dang thang. Heard the Pyrrhuloxia over north fence in the juniper-mesquite patch. The Ringed Kingfisher was flying up high going north early in the morning. May have been two calling.

A great butterfly was a Sachem (Field Skipper) which though common, is not in December, might be my latest ever record. Sure glad there are still a couple Blue Mist Eupatorium flowers going on our patch of that.

Dec. 8 ~ About 33dF this a.m. and sunny. I can't express how awesome it is to walk outside at dawn and have hundreds of Robins chorusing. It is incredible, astounding, ethereal, amazing, would go on, but I'm out of adjectives. I love it. Toss in the high (but off key relative to the Robins) harmony from the waxwings and I could stand it all day. They move around up and down the river habitat corridor and usually just a couple or few hours of the day they are here in the yard. But gobs of them, most eventually taking a turn at the bird bath too. It is a bird circus outside.

Had the Ring King 'kekking' up high over the river early. Saw a couple Pine Warblers in the yard over the day, an ad. and an imm., besides a bunch of Myrtles. One imm. White-crowned Sparrow continues, as does a Vesper Sparrow in the driveway, and a hundred Chipping Sparrow. I heard the White-throated out back too. The pair of Canyon Towhees haven't been around for days. Too busy with biz to get out of yard.

In butterflies there was a Clouded Sulphur, couple Red Admiral, a Sleepy Orange, but no sign of yesterday's two skippers. One male Variegated Meadowhawk (dragon) cruised around a bit.

Dec. 7 ~ Just over freezing for us, though some local cold spots reported a freeze (KVL, Seco Creek). Warmed into the mid 70's and sunny, quite nice. Heard Ringed Kingfisher over at the river early, and a-or-the Rusty Blackbird was about. In which field guide are those two mapped to occur together? Save you the trouble, they are not. Gobs of Robins. A Vesper Sparrow was again in the driveway eating on the crab grass seeds I was supposed to mow and let go to seed instead.

Had a small dark skipper I suppose was a tiny female Dun (ph.), and a Checkered-Skipper that was maybe a Tropical (ph.), will have to wait to process pix to see what they were for sure. Red Admiral, Sleepy Orange, Gulf Fritillary and Snout all went by.

Dec. 6 ~ A low in 40's dF is just right, it got darn near warm into the mid-70's in afternoon. I walked a few miles of the roads and valley floor, between 5 and 6 miles total. My legs are killin' me. Also did the park and SW corner of town. It was quite birdy, but no tiny buteos availed themselves to my gaze.

Best bird was a Rufous Hummingbird at the deco garden at the park entrance. This is my first park record, and the first I have found away from feeders in a sorta natural situation. Though it is likely using feeders in town. Probably the only new species added to my park list all year. Methinks #251 for my park list. For 10 acres or so of inland land-locked habitat, an amazing total. To put in perspective, the TPWD Lost Maples bird list from 2002 had 213 species on it, from two thousand acres, over 20 years, and thousands of birders and birder hours. If I lived in town I guarantee there would be another dozen species on it.

Second best thing was watching the Louisiana Waterthrush 20' up in the park live-oaks, calling, foraging, and once feeding, way up high on larger branches, mostly around ball moss clumps. It was up there for over 5 minutes. Amazing. I can assure you there are guys in CA that would reject the record based on that. Usually they are quite 'water-edge' restricted, however at Lost Maples I have seen them sit and sing 20-25' up in Sycamores a number of times.

Next best bird was an immature Red-naped Sapsucker. It has been a couple years since I have surely seen one here. There was also an imm. Yellow-bellied, and another I didn't get a good enough look at to ID. Three saps in the park. Red-napes can occur several years consecutive, and then not occur a few, so are less than annual, which always makes them a good find.

One other good bird was a rufous Thrasher along 187 across from country club. I only saw it fly between bushes and couldn't get it back out, so can't say for sure if it was a Long-billed or a Brown. Long-billed is the default rufous Thrasher here, but fall to spring Brown can occur, rarely. It looked short billed like a Brown to me.

Other things seen were a female Green Kingfisher at the park, plus heard another at 360 x-ing, a couple Pine Warbler, a Merlin, hundreds of Robin, maybe a thousand total (not counting the one road-killed), hundreds of waxwings, a road-kill Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Barred Owl calling at the park, a couple Red-shouldered Hawks, Vesper Sparrow, a flock of Field Sparrow, heard a Swamp Sparrow, a few White-crowned, and a Junco in the park is a tough bird to get there.

There were a few butterflies at the park, two Zebra Heliconian were fantastic, both in excellent condition. Two Common Mestra were good too. About three each Pipevine Swallowtail, Common-White Checkered-Skipper, and Sleepy Orange, one American Lady, two Cloudless Sulphur, a couple Red Admiral, and a Dogface. About doubled my December species total as 5 were firsts for the month.

In Odes there were 3 Green Darner, 4-5 Autumnal Meadowhawk, a few Variegated Meadowhawk, and one Enallagma sps. Bluet. I couldn't find the Am. Woodcock, but you can't get to or see much of the island. No tellin' if it is still around or not. There was a gray-faced yellow-winged N. Flicker at the park, which is another intergrade or hybrid, of which an amazing percentage of Flickers are here. You can't call them in flight by wing color here, there are too many intergrades that only close inspection of head features like nape, whisker, and face color reveal.

Dec. 5 ~ Coldish and cloudy, with a just above freezing low. The San Antonio Nat. Weather Serv. office is amazingly incompetent. A week or so ago we had a day with 80% chance of rain and didn't have so much as mist or drizzle, it never even looked like it might come close to raining. Today they called for sunny, I saw it peek out a couple minutes the last little part of the day. When you can't get sunny vs. cloudy, 80% chance of rain vs. none right, you should find something you are good at that does not affect people's planning. They are regularly not even close to right. Maybe it is California Bird Record Committee people there?

I worked a bunch of the river habitat corridor and saw no hawks on the roadside, or Roadside Hawk. There was a big flock of Robin and Waxwing at the 360 crossing and just above it. Probably 400+ Robin and 300+ Waxwing, both low-side estimates. One male Common Grackle in with the Robins gave me a start. About 400 Brewer's Blackbird were in that area as well.

I heard a FOS Swamp Sparrow in the riverside (Gamma) grasses, saw several Song, a Lincoln's, a small flock of Field Sparrow were right out front of our place. Saw a female Yellow-shafted Flicker, and an intergrade or hybrid that looked perfect for a Red-shafted, except the red crescent on nape. This is why flying flickers cannot be assigned to type soley based on wing color. Saw a pair of bluebirds around a nestbox which reminds me they were here at our box a few days ago too. Probably the same pair. Prospecting already. Now is the time to take down and clean your nest boxes.

Speaking of which I had been seeing a Golden-fronted Woodpecker working on the hole of the nestbox by the gate quite a bit. This morning just after 7a.m. one flew out of the box. So a female is roosting in it. Very cool. We had a Ladder-backed Woodpecker using a nestbox for roosting up on Seco Ridge. So while the nest site is much needed and used, in winter they have another very useful purpose for the cavity roosting birds.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Dec. 4 ~ Froze this morning, just barely. Too busy to do much looking about today. Kathy and I had great looks at an immature Pine Warbler in the pecan right over porch. Two imm. White-crowned Sparrows were out back, one each gambelli and leucophrys. More waxwings have arrived, there was a single flock of almost 200 in the yard early, it was raining hackberry pits as they sat in the big pecan, boy they sure come out nice and clean.

Dec. 3 ~ 33dF low was chilly, KVL had 31dF and one local station (Seco Creek) reported 29dF. Sunny and warmed to 60dF by noon. Pushin' 70 by 1 p.m. sure feels nice. The hackberry hogs (Robins, waxwings, bluebirds) and millet monsters (Cardinals and Chipping Sparrows mainly) were out in force. One immature White-crowned Sparrow had a big orange-bill and pale lores, a Gambell's type from the western part of their range. A Mockingbird is trying to chase the Robins out of one Hackberry it is attempting to guard. Good luck with that. Two Junco were around a bit, both looked like the expected Slate-colored type.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that lightning can't strike twice. At 5:02 p.m. I was out on patio enjoying last full sun when I spotted a raptor flying low just over treetops, heading straight for me. Flight was direct, wingbeats were fast shallow and stiff. At first glance from a distance for a second, just 'size-wize' I thought Cooper's Hawk as I couldn't see the tail, just a wingspan only thought. At about 150' away I saw it was no accipiter, the tail was too short proportionately, it was a tiny buteo. I thought, maybe this will be a Gray Hawk.

It flew directly overhead at about 40-45' up in full sun. The most obvious character was big thick (man's pinky finger) dark bars horizontally across the underparts from breast to belly. The bars were crisp and sharp of edges (without an 'overspray' effect between bars) against a creamy background. The breast was vertically and messily streaked. ROADSIDE HAWK!!! It had a palish yellow eye. It turned turned its head and looked straight at me as it went over. It was flying due north.

I presume it is the bird that wintered here last year as an immature and is back for another winter! Astounding! Incredible! Now if I can only get a picture so it is believed. There are about 4-5 accepted Texas state records, and several other 'sightings', they are common just a short way into Mexico. Last year I was aware of its presence from late January to early April, so we should have some time to try to maybe figure out a routine, if it allows. I had it at the park 3 times last winter so that is one spot to look for it. There is no public access where I am, sorry about that.

One other item of interest was a Dusky Dancer (damselfly) which is good in December.

Dec. 2 ~ About 38dF this a.m., KVL had 36. Shortly the cloud sheild moved east and we have blue skies and sun! Finally! It has been a week. It warmed to the lowest 70's dF! WOW! The pair of Canyon Towhees were here after being absent yesterday. Here today, gone tomorrow and the next two, then back for one, gone for six, back for three, nothing seems so haphazard in its movements. Maybe they are going up to Hattie's seed and wandering back and forth the quarter mile?

Sure is great having a bird frenzy go through the yard in the morning. It was a couple or few hours of Robins and Waxwings, raiding the hackberries. Add the residents, plus Myrtle Warbler and Kinglets, all the Cardinals and Chipping Sparrows, and it is hundreds of birds going bonkers. Must be bugs in the hackberries as they currently are the insectivore tree of choice, besides the frugivore's favorite. The highlight was a VERDIN over by the pumphouse trough. Can't help but wonder if it is the one that wintered in the area last year visiting the yard regularly in Dec., Jan., and February.

There were some butterflies out in the 70dF heat of the day. A Red Admiral was out at about 53dF, later as it warmed, a Gulf Fritillary flew by, probably the beast I saw yesterday, a Snout flew north, a Little Yellow flitted by, and over in the corral I spotted a Common (Northern) Mestra. Which only lasted a few seconds as the Eastern Phoebe spotted it too. Got it live for the monthly list anyway, it's gone now. Was a mighty narrow window to pick that one up. A few seconds tops.

December 1 ~ December!?! That was fast. I can't believe we are down to the last month... that was a really a whole year? When I was a kid they took forever, now they go by faster than a night migrant with a tailwind. Down the home stretch it is! Did see one orange butterfly today, shot by quickly, methinks it was a Gulf Fritillary based on flight style (shallow fast wing flaps).

Today ran about 42dF to maybe 58dF or so, overcast with a peek or two from the sun. The local flock was in the yard for a couple hours this morning, the accipiters must have been elsewhere. It was quite the show for a while there. Lots of Robins, Waxwings, Chipping Sparrows, Cardinal, Myrtle Warbler numbered about 10, 1 Pine Warbler, Eastern Bluebird, heard the Pyrrhuloxia along the north fence junipers. Did not see the pair of Canyon Towhee today. I give up on them. They must have a much larger winter range than I would think.

The hybrid Orange-winged Flicker (back for second winter here) was in the big pecan and even went into the big hackberry. A female Yellow-shafted was out back in the big live-oaks on the slope behind us, and the two eventually were yukking it up for a while. One Hutton's Vireo was in the live-oaks and laurels. Latest p.m. I got a better White-winged Dove count when they were all flushed - 45+.

Whilst I was standing out back by the shed under a very large (2nd biggest) hackberry in the yard (which was full of Robins and Myrtle Warblers), a bird shot in and landed on a nearly broken off wobbly branch that just barely loosely hangs on, just 6' from me. Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. It swung back and forth on the loose branch for a half-minute looking right at me for a great near-bird moment. It flew right over my head onto one of the big lowest branches which must have a dip with water as all of a sudden it was drinking and when it shook its head the water drops fell on me. Then it jumped into the tips of the hackberry branches and perched horizontally just like the Robins, and began picking hackberries off the tree. I watched it eat 5 whole.

Not sure I have seen a Sapsucker eat a hackberry before. Though I guess, why not? They don't seem to drill Hackberries like many of the other trees, so I presume they do not have very good sap, per their expert word on that matter. The most-drilled trees here are Cedar Elms, followed by Sycamores, then Pecans and some Mesquite. I have seen a few drilled Cypress, but not a Hackberry. At Lost Maples there are drilled Maples, of course. So I learned to watch Cedar Elms for Sapsuckers. Now I have positively seen an adult male, an adult female, and one immature around so far this fall. Mostly you just see them shoot by, and they are deft in the air. Maybe they are settling in now.

~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ November summary ~ ~ ~

Well it was a wet one above all else, with over 6" of rain, at least at our place, and more and less at other local sites. Most fell in a major event on November 27. Double the average November precipitation, on the heels of an October with triple the average (9"). The color show of the Maples was, er, lost, this year. As often the case. But it would seem a good spring for wildflowers is in the cards. The first part of the month was mild, the second half with significant cold fronts, a freeze before Thanksgiving, and below normal temperatures the last third of the month.

Some group totals for diversity this month were about 17 species of Odes (dragon and damselflies), a record poor Nov. showing of only 24 sps. of butterflies, and a decent 80 species of birds. Besides two sps. at the park, without going anywhere save covering the mile north and south of us of the river habitat corridor on foot. Another 20 sps. of birds are findable around the local area with some bush beating and hitting some different and or specialty habitats. With all the rain things were suppressed a bit. There were many days of fog-mist and drizzle whence it is sopping if you go out in it, though it hardly registers as any precipitation. I hid inside for most of it.

There were no ode (dragonfly) highlights really, it was all the statistically most likely stuff. A few Autumnal Meadowhawks showed as expected. There was one good butterfly, a BAND-CELLED SISTER (Adelpha fessonia) which flew through the yard on Nov. 19 and was surely the same animal I saw October 26. They are less than annual and one of the dozen or so butterfly species I have seen here but have yet to obtain a photograph of. So a thorn-in-the-side sort of a beast. It is the third or fourth one I have seen up here in 12 years. I have a photo of one from the lower Rio Grande Valley (Santa Ana NWR) taken about 1987-8, a true pure wild find on a path, long before the more recent butterfly popularity with gardens, sanctuaries and bait for them down there.

In birds the highlights were two apparent returning wintering birds, both likely back for another winter. Twice in November I heard a Louisiana Waterthrush at Utopia Park, so that appears to be back for a second winter. Then at our place, the female Rusty Blackbird is back for her 3rd winter. These are both outstanding records. A hybrid Northern Flicker with intermediate (orange) underwing color is back for another winter near our place as well. A Catbird in our yard Nov. 9 was the biggest surprise rarity of the month, they are far less than annual here in the fall.

Mainly November is when the final group of winterers show up. Things like numbers of Robin and Waxwing, Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch, some Golden-crowned Kinglet, Song Sparrow, Pine Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and others. A White-throated Sparrow was good for here too, they can be scarce locally.

Some of the scarcer low-density resident birds of interest seen in Nov. were Audubon's Oriole, a couple each Ringed and Green Kingfisher, heard a White-tipped Dove, a couple Zone-tailed Hawk are around (ad. and imm.), fair numbers of Pyrrhuloxia are in. Surely there are some Olive Sparrow around. I did not see the Woodcock again at UP in a couple rainy checks, and was unable to get back up to Lost Maples to look for the Rufous-capped Warbler. Too busy to bird. Ought to be a law against that.

~ ~ ~ end November summary ~ ~ ~

Nov. 30 ~ A little mist and fog was about it this gray day. Ran low 40's dF to about 60dF. Saw a peep of sun briefly. There were at least 8 Myrtle Warbler in a group that moved through yard, and another half-dozen later were probably different. One Orange-crowned Warbler and a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet among them. The White-throated Sparrow was out back. A couple Flicker were around, one in big pecan briefly, a sapsucker was zipping around, and later called from out front but I never got a good look.

Two Canyon Towhee were back, I haven't seen one in several days. On one of them the dark marks of the necklace on lower throat and breast are much blacker and more sharply defined than the other bird. I presume that is the male. Will try to get pix that show it. I had them 15 feet away in binocs side by side this afternoon so the difference was obvious.

Nov. 29 ~ Over the night and in the morning a bit of mist, a spot of drizzle, a showerlet, wet but not lots of water. Low 40's dF is fine as long as you have layers on and there is no wind. Chorus Frogs still having bouts of calling today. No insects moving though. Lots of Black but no Turkey Vulture left around. Couple Caracara.

Noonish I was out on road working the sparrows since it is November and working for warblers is not an good option. The White-throated Sparrow is still around, it eventually flew from across road to the bushes around the wellhouse in the yard. That makes 8 days so far, hope it sticks. I should mention that it is an immature (HY-hatch year) bird as most are here. Later afternoon it was out back in the same snags I first saw it in. It was seeming to be moving with the Chippies and gorging on the white millet.

Two or three White-crowned, a Vesper, a Savannah, and a Song Sparrow were right out front too. There were 3-4 Songs, Field, Lincoln's, and Lark Sparrow between here and the crossing. It was about 9 species of sparrows for the day. Best was a Merlin that perched in the tops of the tallest Cypress snags. A Pyrrhuloxia in a Prickly Pear looked like it belonged there. One female Belted Kingfisher, but none of the fancy types. Late p.m. I counted 25 Cardinal in the yard at once, 20 were on the patio!

Nov. 28 ~ After my last 11 p.m. check last night, overnight, there was another centimeter or so of rain, almost another half-inch. Gadzooks! So it was almost 5" from Thursday at 1 a.m. to today pre-dawn, over about 48 hours. It was 36dF with 10+mph winds on it this morning, so chills were in the highest 20's dF. Think I will watch from inside today. It got up to 46dF at peak heat, and we got none of the 80% chance of heavy rain, just overcast, cold and breezy. Winter.

I counted 55 Cedar Waxwing in the big pecan, which were hitting the biggest hackberry. The flock of a couple hundred Robin went over. Still about a hundred and change Chipping Sparrow, 20 N. Cardinal hitting the seed, a couple Ground-Dove and 20+ White-winged Dove. Heard Hermit Thrush up-slope behind house where junipers (some have berries but not a bumper crop). Mostly just the usual gang of residents like Black-chrested Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Bewick's Wren, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Black Vulture, Common Raven, Caracara, Mockingbird, Myrtle Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, etc.

The real bio-event of the day was hearing Chorus Frogs! This is our 'spring peeper' frog which usually begins calling in January or so, I will have to check and see if I have heard them in December but I think once or twice. Never had I heard one in November. There were multiples chorusing much of day. That 5" of rain must have set them off. Amazing.

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Nov. 27 ~ Stayed balmy all night, was 68dF in the morning, also some off and on showers much of the night. Del Rio set a record with a 69dF low, their warmest low ever for this date. By 11 a.m. there was an inch of rain from overnight through this morning, that is, since the .6 yesterday. The front will be here this afternoon and 68dF will be a fond memory by tonight. The 10 day forecast doesn't even show it getting back above the lower mid-60's whatsoever. The long range winter forecast shows most of Texas in cooler and wetter than normal, as would often be the case during El Nino events. We need the wetter but most could do without the colder.

We had another half-inch between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. pushing us up to 2" so far since yesterday. Right before the front got here at 3:20 p.m. it was dead calm and 70dF, whilst 10+ miles north at Vanderpool it was 50dF with 10-15mph northerlies. By 3:30 it was arriving here. This will be a major leaf denuder. By 4:15 the windows had fogged up from the cold air outside and it was raining good again. By 5:30 it was 45dF, and by 6 p.m. we had recevied another inch+ of rain, putting us at 3"+ since yesterday, and 2.5 or so for the day, so far. Then 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. we got another 1.25"! Now we are over 4.25 nearing 4.5" for the event and last two days. And over 5.5" for November, which is a sky high total for the month.

The birds were the same gang. A quick town run but park too mucky. There were several Shrike along 187 and 360 and a flock of Western Meadowlark along 360 as well. Little Creek Larry said he had a flock of 40-50 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks at Little Creek, and saw them at the park too. This cold should push them out. They never stick the winter out up here but can be common at the Sabinal feed lots just south down off the plateau where a few degrees warmer and boatloads of free eats.

Nov. 26 ~ Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you all got plenty of Turkey! Was warmer in the morning then all day yesterday, mid-60's dF. Light drizzle, mist and showers totalled about .4" by morning. Sopping wet out there. A little over another tenth by the afternoon. At least it is not cold, the cold front arrives Friday (tomorrow) afternoon, the weekend will be chilly. Got up to 70dF in afternoon. I even saw a couple rays of sun poke through a hole to the blue, though only for a few minutes.

Birds were the same. Besides residents, going through yard were a Golden-crowned Kinglet, some Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch, Robins and Cedar Waxwings, couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a few Myrtle Warbler, Eastern Bluebirds, and heard were Flicker, a Pine Warbler and the Rusty Blackbird. A wintry mix.

Nov. 25 ~ Yesterday over the day it slowly warmed from low 50's to low 60's, and then stayed there overnight. Weird when the night is warmer than the day. The weather is backwards here. The inbound rain event hasn't begun or arrived but seems to be building as planned based on the cloudy, balmy and breezy conditions.

Thursday is normally our busiest day in the office and since a holiday this week that made it today. So not much looking about. A very worn pale Queen butterfly is here for the fourth day. Saw one Pipevine Swallowtail too. Just the usual cast of birds from what I saw. The drizzle started about 6 p.m. or so.

Nov. 24 ~ Low in low 50's with high humidity and overcast so feels colder than it is. It slowly warmed to low 60's over the day. We have a potential major rain event inbound for the holiday weekend. Percipitable water values (rainable atmospheric moisture) are at record levels for late November.

Too busy with a short week to look around much. Some accipiters must be hiding nearby as the birds are barely coming into the seed. At least a couple hundred Robin are moving around the area. A couple Caracara went over. The weirdest thing was seeing another (or again) flying adult firefly. I don't recall ever seeing them in late November.

Nov. 23 ~ It was about 28dF here this a.m., ice on the birdbath. Second freeze of the fall. The white frost on all the grass is usually as close to looking like a snow field as we get here. That statement should be enough to make it really snow this winter. In 85 the whole area to San Antonio got a foot of snow, methinks that was Feb. or March. I heard the White-throated Sparrow out there this morning, still where it was, along back fenceline at the base of the hill where we throw seed. I'd love to get one to stick but the mostly absent understory in yard makes that unlikely.

There was a Golden-crowned Kinglet in the yard early. Best though was about 10 a.m. I heard and saw a RUSTY BLACKBIRD! It was over at a trough in the corral and flew off calling. It is surely the same adult female that wintered here the last two years and is back for a third winter. Outstanding! Another of those species whose mapped range isn't very well mapped at the southwest corner of their range. Like Pine Warbler, most field guide maps are off by a hundred miles on this species regular winter range too. Noonish we had an immature Zone-tailed Hawk circle low looking at the feeders. So there are at least two around. Heard Belted Kingfisher over at the river and Screech-Owl calling out back after dark.

Nov. 22 ~ We got up to see it got down to freezing. One thermometer read 28dF, another 32dF. KVL had an offical 26dF. It was mighty brisk, and our first freeze of the cold season. It seemed like winter when a flock of a hundred Robin descended into the hackberries and eventually the bird bath. Some Waxwings and Myrtle Warblers were with them, a few Eastern Bluebird, and the Chippies.

The best thing was my first seen PINE Warbler of the fall. Thought I'd heard a couple but hadn't laid eyes on one yet. This a bright adult right over the porch in the big pecan. It came down to 8' away, point blank range, forever. Then it flew down to the driveway right next to the truck, chipping in the sun. Pine is fine. Hope we get some to stick with the yard flock for the winter like two winters ago. Since I didn't grow up in the eastern half of the U.S., they are always a treat to me. All that color in the winter looks great.

So is having birds in your yard outside of the mapped ranges in the field guides. Whilst Pine Warbler is regular in winter here in small numbers along all of the main watercourse gallery forests locally (Frio, Nueces, Sabinal, Medina River drainages), it is not mapped as such in the common popular field guides. Most of the guides most of the last five plus decades have put the western limit of their range east of San Antonio and Austin, at the Lost Pines area where an outpost population nests. Only missed the truth and reality by a hundred miles. This is important to keep in mind when viewing field guide maps. They are often highly generalized at best once you get away from major population centers. In places like say the southern Edwards Plateau where no hardcore birders ever lived (save one for a while way out west at Brackettville and Kickapoo) they may suffer from a complete and total lack of understanding.

Mid-morn I was out back and heard a hissy ssss note which did not sound right for anything here. After looking a bit and not finding it I repeated the sound myself. Bingo! A White-throated Sparrow pops up into the sun on a dead branch. Only the second IN the yard, they are scarce here, and my FOS. Heck some winters I don't see one locally. I got some digi-scopes of it, but only facing away. There were some Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch to add to the pile of winter birds in the yard. The Pine Warbler was still around a couple hours after first being seen.

We took a nooner walk to the crossing. Just a very few of the same birds, the main flock must have gone up the ridge instead of along the road. There were Vesper and White-crowned Sparrow in the corral. Didn't even hear a Song Sparrow, had a couple Lincoln's though.

A couple damselflies made it through the freeze, but sometimes right down low over the water it doesn't freeze, even when it does freeze. Saw one American Rubyspot and 3 Kiowa Dancer, plus a few Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies. Butterflies were a worn pale Queen at Blue Mist Eupatorium in yard, and 2 Red Admiral by shed out back. Then along road and at crossing, one Pipevine Swallowtail, 3 Clouded and 1 Julia's Skipper, 3 Dainty Sulphur, 2 Sleepy Orange, a first-of-the-month American Lady, and an Orange Sulphur taking its last couple flaps, in the jaws of an Anole. Technically countable as live as it was still when first observed. A wild patch of Mealy and Tropical Sage was where the action was.

Nov. 21 ~ Stayed in the low 60's dF overnight, was even almost getting foggy late last night, then the front hit about 8 a.m. when it nearly instantly dropped 10dF and 20-25+ mph northerlies arrived. Or as they call it here, a blue norther. Leaves are flying and the birds are not. It is going to look a lot more like winter by the time this blow is over. We were mostly 20-25 mph sustained with lots of gusts to 30-35 mph. It blew until dark and you know what happens when the wind slows. Supposed to be around freezing tomorrow a.m., which will be our first freeze and the coldest it has been in 8 months since early March whence the last freeze was.

In the calm before the howling winds hit first thing early I saw winter in the form of three flocks of winter birds: 17 or so Pine Siskin, a dozen American Goldfinch, and 15 Cedar Waxwing. All three are 'biggest flocks so far this fall'. Heard Kestrel and Flicker so it sounded like winter too. A couple times in the morning I heard the seedeaters all give the 'look out! Accipiter!' alarm as they flushed.

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Nov. 20 ~ Upper 40's dF this a.m., got into low 70's dF in p.m. A group of 8 or so Myrtle Warbler were around for a bit, during which I heard a chip note that sounded like a Pine Warbler, but it was over in corral and I didn't chase it down. A few Kinglet (Ruby) were around too, which BTW if I got to name birds, would be called a Fidget. One word. You got something better? A flock of 50 or so Robin went over with about 9 Cedar Waxwing amongst them. Followed shortly by a group of 3-4 FOS American Goldfinch, which are right on average arrival time. A group of a dozen Turkey Vulture soared up on the first thermals and broke due south as soon as they got to migrating altitude. Had more Cranes flying south.

In butterflies saw a Pipevine Swallowtail or two, a couple Lyside Sulphur, some Large Orange and Cloudless, plus a Dainty Sulphur, a couple Sleepy Orange, a Queen, a couple Red Admiral, a Dogface, mostly the bigger stuff is it now. Saw a Variegated Meadowhawk dragon out front. In town I saw Little Creek Larry and he said he too has seen recent arrivals over there of our winter gang including Junco, Robin, Cedar Waxwing, and American Goldfinch.

Nov. 19 ~ About 40dF for a low and about 80dF for a high! Heard a White-tipped Dove early in a.m. Butterflies got going a bit in the heat, low numbers but some diversity. A couple Pipevine Swallowtail, single Julia's and Clouded Skipper, a Red Admiral, Gulf and Variegated Fritillary. Mostly it was Pierids: a few Lyside, 5 Large Orange and a Cloudless Sulphur, a few So. Dogface, an Orange Sulphur, a Little Yellow. Most spectacular was again seeing an Adelpha sister which again appeared a BAND-CELLED (A. fessonia)! Likely the same one I saw at the end of October. I have been checking the mulch pile for it on the warmer days, to no avail.

In the afternoon I heard several flocks of Sandhill Crane going over southbound. Better were my FOS Cedar Waxwing, 6 of them hiding in the crown of the big pecan. I thought I heard them a couple times in the last week but couldn't spot them, but I didn't looking inside the crown. They were in hide from accipters mode. Arrival date is about average. Kathy saw a bunch of Turkey just over the north fence. I heard a couple Hermit Thrush over in the junipers. Got some more yard work done in the heat. Maybe this time will be the last cut for the season?

Nov. 18 ~ Weewow, it hit the upper 30's dF this morning! There was near-frost on the grass! The first 30's of the fall and since April. And no one complained. I heard a Belted Kingfisher out there early, but better was a single Common Grackle that flew over southward calling, haven't seen one in a couple months, probably a winterer from elsewhere. There were two Canyon Towhee out there, they must be wandering off a bit for days at a time. They remain an enigma, even when you live with them, just like my first girlfriend.

A few butterflies were about, a Julia's Skipper was on the Blue Mist Eup, Pipevine Swallowtail and Red Admiral went by. Over towards river at some flowers I saw a Sleepy Orange and an Orange Sulphur, the latter new for the month. Got up to a toasty mid-70's dF in the afternoon. Just the usual birds. Two Opossum, a few Coons, and a Gray Fox still hitting the pecans. Audio taped an unknown call ca. 11 p.m.

Nov. 17 ~ A bit of rain overnight as the cold air and front arrived, perhaps near a quarter inch, so a half-inch + now over the last 5 days. Maybe six tenths of an inch. Temps dropped to the low 50's dF early a.m., the winds cleared it all out before noon and it was windy all afternoon. Lots of leaves falling now, supposed to get chilly tonight to the morning. The birds were the same gang. The Mulberry is half bright yellow. Did not see a Canyon Towhee. At last light, and I mean last last sliver of a crack of light when the Cards and some Chippies were on the patio, two White-crowned Sparrow dropped out of the Mulberry down onto patio, adults, so new arrivals.

Saw a small dragonfly but it got away, probably a Meadowhawk. Again saw a Pipevine Swallowtail, the only butterfly out there today. One butterfly and one dragonfly for the day is pretty bad. It means the bug season is all but over. Insect seperation anxiety has already begun to set in. It usually lasts through December and January, sometimes brief signs of improvement show in Februrary when the Elfin flies, but only in March can a complete full recovery can be expected. It seems it is only cured by flying bugs in spring. Looked for Leonid Meteors late p.m. for a bit and saw none, though seemed chilly enough for them at about 40dF by then.

Nov. 16 ~ Another drizzly one, front on way in, warmed into low 70's dF. All told maybe a tenth and change of rain. Over the last 4 days of on and off drizzle-mist we have about a quarter inch total precip. Very typical November, gray and often wettish. Was just the regular suspects about yard. Saw a Pipevine Swallowtail, the only butterfly of the day. Did have a larval Firefly after dark.

Nov. 15 ~ A gray day, with a upper 50's to low 60's dF temp spread. Occasional light brief sprinkles. I walked down the road a bit and found a nice flock. There were at least 4 Song Sparrow which is a high number at once here, bunch of Chipping and a few Field Sparrow. A flock of a couple dozen Cardinal had at least 4 Pyrrhuloxia at edges of it, two were beautiful males. I knew I was hearing more than one from yard. Bluebirds, Myrtle Warblers, one Orange-crowned Warbler, some Kinglets, Titmice and Chickadee, lots of Carolina Wren, several Lincoln&aos;s Sparrow, a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at point blank attending fresh holes in a Sycamore. One imm. White-crowned Sparrow in corral.

In the later afternoon I walked up the river channel almost a mile and came back via the road. The rocky river channel is like walking on sand, one mile = 2. One group of birds was a few Titmouse, 2 Chickadee and 2 Kinglet. Otherwise a few stray Cardinal and Carolina Wren was it. A flock of 60 Brewer's Blackbirds flew over westbound to a roost on the divide somewhere.

Unfortunately it was too cool for butterflies, a single Clouded Skipper warming on rocks was the only one all day. The most interesting thing was blooming flowers. I guess the Oct. rains set them off for one last quick one. There was lots of Palafoxia and Paralena, a fair bit of Blackfoot Daisy, a few Boneset but nice patches of Thoroughwort Eupatoriums. A stray Frostweed here and there had flowers. Lots of Tropical and Mealy Sage blooming in the riverbed, one big patch of Cedar Sage going as well. A fair bit of Lantana in several colors, and Broomweed too. In lesser numbers were Slender-stem Bitterweed, and some Navajo Tea or Greenthread.

Nov. 14 ~ A cool gray day for the most part ranging from mid-50's dF to low 60's, a sprinkle or three, nothing measurable. A FOS Spotted Towhee was the only different thing. I did see one Canyon Towhee, and only one. I can't figure them out. Heard Kestrel, Pyrrhuloxia, and Audubon's Oriole. Some of a local 'winter flock' went through with some Myrtle Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds, and a couple Kinglets (Ruby-crnd). There were a hundred Chipping Sparrow on the patio at once, and twice I heard a Junco.

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Nov. 13 ~ A happy Friday the 13th to all... hardly saw a thing today. A Fatal Metalmark butterfly was my highlight. The accipters seem to be keeping the seed-eaters at bay. No Canyon Towhee again today. Did see a couple Turkey Vulture, so a few still about, they will be gone any day now, until Valentine's Day, or so. Did have another one of those shiny iridescent gold Buprestid beetles (Dicerca sps. cf. obscura). Probably the pecans they are in here? A couple Killdeer flew over house.

Nov. 12 ~ A cool low about 50dF felt great. Noonish there were a couple Golden-crowned Kinglet in the yard. Something flushed all the Black Vultures off a carcass not too far off and I got a good count of 125+ overhead at once, and not one Turkey Vulture. A few Robins were at the bird bath, several Myrtle Warblers went through. I did not hear or see a Canyon Towhee today. I hope the hawks (Cooper's and Sharp-shinned making attempts on the yard seed-eaters daily) didn't get them. The pair of Towhees have been in the yard almost daily since they brought their two just-fledged young here in August.

Nov. 11 ~ Low was about 70dF, high in the lowest 80's dF, due to the warm southerly flow in front of the inbound front. We didn't get any rain contrary to forecasts for the last week. The northerlies didn't really get here until dark, 6 p.m. or so. Saw Hermit Thrush, Orange-crowned and Myrtle Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, heard the Pyrrhuloxia, lots of Chipping Sparrow and Cardinal hitting the seed.

Saw a few butterflies go through yard, a Queen on day 3 (torn left forewing marks it), Lyside, Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphurs, Little Yellow and Sleepy Orange, Pipevine Swallowtail, Red Admiral. A Dusky Dancer damselfly was about the flower bed. Nothing save a few Diptera (flies) are on the blooming white Thoroughwort Eupatorium, somewhat surprisingly. Saw a Swift Setwing and a couple Green Darner dragonflies.

Nov. 10 ~ Southerlies are back with a 60dF low and the standard hill-country issue low overcast. Early I heard two Ringed Kingfisher over at river, mid-a.m. I saw them chasing around high over river, calling, diving back and forth, quite the show from the driveway. While watching them I heard my FOS Golden-crowned Kinglet right overhead in the big pecan. Love those FOS dates. Data baby. Lots of Turkey Vulture were flying south today.

Went to UP with Hattie Barham and a visitor she had to see if we could get lucky with Barred Owl or the Woodcock, of which we saw neither. We did have at least 50-60 Black Vulture and a dozen or so Turkey Vulture roosting in the big cypresses. One Zone-tailed Hawk was circling quite a bit just over treetops, this very late in the afternoon. The 7 Whistling-Duck continued on the spillway, 3 adults with four young and surely a local brood. Couldn't find any passerine flock, but I heard a waterthrush chip from the other side of the island again.

Nov. 9 ~ There was a flock of Brewer's Blackbirds this a.m. which flew over corral at first light, not seen, but lots of them, and my FOS. In the "If you sit in one place and carefully watch long enough you will be amazed with what you see" department, this morn I was on the back porch just before 10 a.m. and a CATBIRD drops out of the mulberry onto a tub of water! It is my first November Catbird record locally, they are very rare here in fall when far from annual, only in spring can a few be expected. Most falls I do not detect one. I am not sure that running all over the place here in fall would increase your chances of seeing one much more than watching one place intensively and extensively. And that goes for lots of birds in lots of places.

Another item of interest was a flock of over 200 Robin that went by early. Maybe the 75+ I saw yesterday was just part of the bigger flock. Otherwise it was the usual regular gang. After dark there were an Oppossum, 4 Racoon, and a Gray Fox, eating Pecans under the trees. An Eastern Screech-Owl must have been watching as it was calling from right over them. Perhaps waiting for something to be flushed out of the grass by them? Again I saw a genetic dead-end ad. Firefly! I can't recall seeing them this late before, and it is hard to comb notes for trivial stuff like that.

Nov. 8 ~ There were a bit more sprinkles overnight, probably a tenth or two more, with spurts of wind. Pretty breezy early a.m. and low 50's dF feels like autumn. A flock of 75+ Robin sure looked like autumn. That is the first flock of the fall for me. Heard the White-eyed Vireo across road by the draw.

We took a nooner walk to the crossing. Amazing how well some Tropical and Mealy Sage is blooming, whilst ours that we babysit were annihilated by leaf-cutter ants. Seeing dozens of unattended wild ones, flourishing in bloom now, I hate the ants even more. Saw a nice male Black Swallowtail on Frostweed, a few of them are still blooming. Other butterflies were singles: Lyside and Dainty Sulphur, Little Yellow, Southern Dogface, Sleepy Orange, and a Red Admiral, but not much. A Pipevine Swallowtail was in yard. Heavy rains wipe butterflies out faster than the cold.

A couple fly-by Sapsuckers were seen, probably Yellow-bellied. A small winter type flock was in strip of trees along airstrip, Eastern Bluebirds, Chipping Sparrows, and Myrtle Warblers. One Ruby-crowned Kinglet, one Orange-crowned Warbler. A few sparrows were along corral including two immature White-crowned, one at far end 400 yards from house was the one with the bad right leg on the patio a couple days ago. A couple Lincoln's and Field Sparrow besides numbers of Chippies. Lots of Cardinals, couple Ground-Dove, several Eastern Phoebe. Heard some Cranes heading south. Thought I heard a Song Sparrow. One warbler got away that was probably an immature Pine, would have been a FOS.

In odes, for dragonflies there were several Green Darner and a few Swift Setwing, a couple each Autumn and Variegated Meadowhawk, and one Pale-faced Clubskimmer. Damselflies were several American Rubyspot, several Dusky Dancer and a half-dozen Bluets too far to tell. The insects are going to be over for the season soon. That last wave of nocturnal buzz is going on now.

Nov. 7 ~ The front started arriving late last night, with northerlies and cooler air over night, light rain tapering off by morning but there was another half-inch. Then just before 1 p.m. a small cell hit which just south of town was another half-inch! So we are now at an inch for the day and 1.75" for the last 3 days of rain event. A good start for November. The stronger winds started later morn and supposed to last a while. Low was in low-50's, with 10-15 mph gusting to 20 winds, I had to put long sleeves, pants with legs, and fuzzy slippers on first thing. High was only 60dF!

Nothing makes seeing landbirds harder than lots of wind. All the trees are shaking and moving so the main visual detection thing we use, motion, is shot. Plus in autumn leaves are falling taking normal detectability quotient down another notch anyway in the best of times, much less when it is blowing. Then the birds shut up in the loud noisy wind, so our other key detection method, sound, is also handicapped. I'm fine with 10-15 knots on a pelagic trip, but for landbirding it stinks. The problem is that there are still good birds out there hiding or going by in wind, whether we go look or not. If you can slog it out. Search for lee sites, the lee sides of patches of bushes, shrubs, trees or woods is where they will be hiding. Anything wind-sheltered is good. Hiding in a warm spot watching feeders with a hot tate can also be effective.  ;)

There are at least 100 Chipping Sparrow here now, that didn't take long. There were 15 Oct. 26, 65 Oct. 27, and now 100+ on Nov. 7. There is one imm. White-crowned Sparrow which is a new arrival, with a bad right leg. Had a quick look at a Zone-tailed Hawk going by in the afternoon. Sandhill Cranes were going over after dark, riding those northerlies for the free extra push. Also after dark heard Barred Owl, saw possum and coon eating pecans.

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Nov. 6 ~ Light drizzle overnight, and much of day, sometimes increasing to light showers. Probably around a half-inch by the end of the day, plus the couple tenths yesterday, we are about .75 or so for the event, much less than forecast, but a good wetting. The cold front brought temps into 60's dF where it stayed all day. Saw a quick glimpse of the Ruby-throated Hummer so it is still here. Heard Ringed Kingfisher over at river. Heard a White-eyed Vireo across road in draw again today.

There were 7 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck on the spillway at the park, 4 juveniles and 3 adults. Sure looks like they are a family group from a local nesting. Which is prety much the only group prior like this hanging around late, into Nov., was when a group of 3 ads. bred here several years ago.

I took a quick run through the woods at the park and it was dead, except, I heard a bird on the other side of the river behind the island so I could not see it. It sounded to me like a Louisiana Waterthrush. Which as you might recall, one wintered here last winter and was the first one documented over-wintering on the Edwards Plateau. It is more than likely it is that bird returning for another (its second) winter.

A female Black-and-white Warbler wintered at the park once 4-5 years consecutively. For many species winter site fidelity is much like breeding territory site fidelity. Exactly spot-on the dot. There are records of a warbler wintering 10 years in the same patch of trees. Most probably winter at the same site or territory every year throughout their lives, just like they do for breeding.

Nov. 5 ~ The low wasn't, it drizzled and spritzed much of the night, probably almost .2 (tenths) over last 24 hrs., so it's wet out, but a forecast bigger event did not happen here overnight. A cold front is supposed to get here this evening whence another rain event might occur. It is neat to go out at first light in the morning to put up a couple feeders, toss some seed about, take a deep breath of that nice country air and fresh rain smell, and realize very nearby something must have bugged the skunk again last night. The skunk does eat pecans late at night, like everything does here.

With much screaming the local resident pair of Fuertes's Red-tailed Hawks forcefully ejected a tresspasser from the territory, one of them dang foreigners, a yankee Red-tail, will not be tolerated here. Saw another Swainson's Hawk go over in the afternoon, the second in two days, on the tardy side, that is the tail-end of them. After dark, Barred, Great Horned, and E. Screech-, Owls all calling, and lots of wily Coyote lately I keep forgetting to mention.

Nov. 4 ~ The low was not very, breezy warm moist southerlies, balmy, fog-mist, and stayed that way all day with the occasional bit of sun, and sprinkles. The Ruby-throated Hummer was around a bit, now it is stuck until the front passes at the least. Mid-day in a break in the clouds there was a nice Swainson's Hawk drifting south. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher over at the river. Mr. O. Possum was under the pecan trees after dark.

Nov. 3 ~ Not much action jackson. The Ruby-throated Hummer that was here late yesterday afternoon was still around in the a.m. but I didn't see it in the afternoon. Did see a Monarch heading SW late afternoon. There were 14 bearded Toms (male Turkey) in the corral non-chalantly working the oats for scraps. I guess they don't know what month it is. A White-eyed Vireo called across the road in the morning, presumedly a late migrant. Mr. O. Possum was under the pecans after dark again. Later a Gray Fox was crunching nuts too.

Nov. 2 ~ A crisp cool morning, KVL hit 44 dF and we were mid-40's. In the a.m. there were a couple Hermit Thrush, a couple Pine Siskin, a couple Myrtle Warbler, a Robin, a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Flicker. Between the bird roster and the a.m. temps, winter is in the air. As last week once, thought I heard Brewer's Blackbirds but didn't see them. Heard the Hutton's Vireo again over in draw and then mesquites. Saw a half-dozen Queen (butterfly) on the Blue Mist flowers but no Soldiers left around apparently. One Celia's Roadside-Skipper was about in the a.m. Quite a few Red Admiral blasting southwest. An Opposum was cracking pecans much of the evening after dark.

November 1 ~ Clear, sunny, dry and a nice 55dF low is a good way to start a month. Not to mention it is an hour earlier than I thought it was. It's gonna be light and dark early now! I wish they would quit playing games with the time, at best it is silly, at worst it is stupid. Did you know there is an increase in heart attacks and fatal auto accidents at the spring time change that does not occur in fall? Why would we do this to ourselves? We don't. Corporate HQ does it. It would be a great test to see if we the people could change this one tiny thing for the benefit of all. Gotta hand it to Arizona for opting out. One person might have Ebola and the country is mobilized and locked down, glued to 24-7 media hyperbole. Over 300 per year are estimated to die over the time change in spring (heart attacks and sleep deprived auto accidents most common two reasons) and no one thinks a thing. We sure seem picky when it comes to how much we care about death, based on method.    End of rant... with apologies.

Around 10-11 a.m. depending on which clock I looked at, a Sapsucker flew over the yard, my FOS. Kathy is busy with candle stuff so I took a walk to the crossing to move the old bones and stave off muscle atrophy. A FOS Song Sparrow was noteworthy. A few Lincoln's Sparrow along river and road. White-crowned, Lark and Vesper were in corral, as well as at least one Pyrrhuloxia, maybe two. Which reminds me when we used to bird here on W. 360 a decade ago that was one of the first interesting birds we saw along the road, in the corral, at the same exact place. It is the scattered short mesquites methinks. Got that desert southwest look about it. Later in the day I heard one right across road from the gate in the big climax mesquites. Wonder if they crack and eat the seeds in the mesquite beans? Probably? Heard the Ringed Kingfisher over at river at dusk. River was still a bit cloudy from the rain and runoff. Not its usual crystal self.

A fair number of odes (dragons) were around the crossing. Most interesting were the first Autumn Meadowhawks of the year, several males, and the first Variegated Meadowhawks since spring, multiple males, and a pair in tandem. Very interesting how these Meadowhawks appear annually at this time. There were a few Swift Setwing, a Pale-faced Clubskimmer, some Green Darner, and a female Roseate Skimmer. Plus a couple that got away.

In damselflies there were several American Rubyspot, some Kiowa and Dusky Dancers, and several dozens of bluets. Most seemed Stream Bluet, some looked like Familiar, and one was a Neotropical Bluet. For all odes it is good to get all the November end-of-season dates you can.

Same for butterflies. Today being the first it was back to zero for the monthly diversity list. Pipevine Swallowtail was first and Queen second to get on it as it warmed. The only good things about being back to zero are that you can only go up, and everything is new for the month today! The walk to the crossing saw a few: 2 Southern Dogface (+another in yard later), Large Orange, Cloudless, Lyside, and Dainty Sulphurs, a Gray Hairstreak, Common-or-White, and Desert, in Checkered-Skippers, at least 6 Clouded Skipper, a few Red Admiral, Phaon Crescent, a Buckeye, what was likely a Goatweed Leafwing blasted past, and an apparent Vesta Crescent got away too, more Pipevines and Queens, but no Monarch or Mestra. The very hard rains really ended the season for some I think. Much of the fall action is immigrants from the south so a new set should show within a week or so, at the few flowers left.

The Broomweed is blooming well but is not much of a nectar source, Huisache Daisy still going well, mostly just bees on it though. The Tropical and a bit of Mealy Sage had the Clouded Skippers. Some Lindheimer's Senna is going, but nothing on it, as with a bit of Wood-Sorrel blooming. Some Zexmenia is going too though I saw nothing on it, the Eryngo and Frostweed are all but over, just a few flowers left on the latter here and there, mostly toasty. A few Lazy Daisy still open, not a big nectar source though.

Our transplanted Thoroughwort Eupatorium (a white Eup.) is just starting to open, and is often the best thing in late October to mid-Nov., until the first hard freeze. Last year we had one stalk, this year about four good ones. I planted it in a spot that was too sunny and hot, will move it before next year. But after it fried in the summer sun it came back and now has a dozens of flower clusters just starting to open. One key of a good butterfly garden is to have something that opens each month, so the party never ends.  ;) Especially in fall when the rare vagrants are likely to occur. August through November is the peak period for rarities so fall bloomers are critical. Our Blue Mist Eup is still going on either side of front steps, now in about its 5-6th week of bloom, peaking with well over 100 beautiful lavender misty flower heads at once, a couple weeks ago. It has been a non-stop butterfly parade but the rain was so hard it beat it up a bit. Still dozens of flowers that should last another two weeks if we are lucky.

At last sun I saw a Julia's Skipper flying around yard, and a Monarch came in to roost at very last light. So struggled up to a weak 16 species for the first day of the month. After dark I saw a FIREFLY! Surely my first November sighting, and a genetic dead-end.

~ ~ ~ October summary ~ ~ ~


It was a great month for rain, with about 9 INCHES for us just south of town. Probably 8-10 in the area depending if you got the meat of a big cell or not. Temps were above average well into the month until the last week or 10 days. The river is up and running well again.

Butterflies were only 47 species, down 11 sps. from September, with the lack of a good fall flower bloom showing in lack of diversity. Best was an Adelpa sps. (Sister) Oct. 26 that was probably a Band-celled. An Ocola Skipper early in the month was good, the second of the year, and a Mexican Yellow flew through yard Oct. 27. Monarchs were seen southbound all month, the peak flight date was Oct. 13 when during a liftoff event I saw several hundred over a few hours fly south past or over our yard.

Odes (dragons and damsels) could hardly have been less remarkable. Other than a glimpse at a likely Ivory-striped Sylph, it was just the fade-away of the few regulars that are still flying.

In birds the PHAINOPEPLA was the highlight, probably an immature, that flew over the house Oct. 27, which is my first locally (or for UvCo though there are about 4 prior county records I know of). Three Horned Lark flew over later the same day, which are tough to get up here in the hills. A Rufous-crowned Sparrow in the yard Oct. 9-10 was a first, a great find down on the valley floor, my first for that. A Black-headed Grosbeak Oct. 19 was a good. The Pyrrhuloxia that showed in and mostly around yard from Oct. 4 continues and is likely a returning winterer. An Orange-crowned Warbler of the mountain west orestera subspecies was studied closely in the yard Oct. 19.

The main event locally for birds in October was the continuing presence of the Rufous-capped Warbler I found in late September at Lost Maples SNA. Many (dozens) seemingly went and saw it, I saw reports at least through Oct. 19 and suspect it is still there. They are as easy to miss as they are tame when you finally see them.

Early in October for the most part you see the last of many common migrant species like Dickcissel, Orchard and Baltimore Oriole, Least Flycatcher, Yellow and Nashville Warbler, and Chimney Swift among others. Before late in the month the fall staging flocks of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Barn Swallow depart after the first serious front. But much of October is about the first returning arrivals of many wintering species. Flicker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Junco, Osprey, Chipping Sparrow, Robin, Pine Siskin, White-crowned Sparrow, Myrtle and Orange-crowned Warbler, Sandhill Crane and more all start to show up. It goes from the peak of fall migration to early winter over the course of the month.

~ ~ ~ end October summary


Oct. 31 ~ As predicted another round of rain moved over during the night. Appears to have been about 1.75" of which an inch fell in less than a half hour. It poured hard briefly as the cold air and front arrived, finally, dropping to about 60dF by dawn. Over the last two days the rain totalled about 3" making for ca. 9" for October. That has to be one of the wetter October totals. Great for the aquifer. Stayed mostly cloudy all day but no more rain.

Heard a Pine Siskin fly over calling this a.m., and had the Hermit Thrush over in Junipers along north fence. I think the hawks are keeping activity at bay somewhat on the seed. Imm. Cooper's and Sharp-shinned in particular have been regular. Still no hummer so we can say it is gone. Last seen the morning of the 29th leaving the butterfly net.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Oct. 30 ~ Day-before-yesterday's southbound cold front was today's northbound warm front. We had an inch+ of rain in the wee early a.m. hours pre-dawn, and light scattered showers over the morning. About 20 air mi. SE of us at D'Hanis there was a tornado, Floresville SSE of SAT had one too! A key reason being up in the hills is safer than the flatlands. Some areas N. of SAT and toward Austin had 6-12" of rain! Smell a skunk out there this morning, just light enough so it is nice. Don't see the hummingbird. That scare yesterday must have moved him on.

Today is our anniversary of arrival here in Utopia, TWELVE years ago. And so we begin our lucky 13th year. Actually I was here a month earlier for a day, when I rented the 'hay house' on N. Thunder Creek. I left the truck here; it took a month to finish packing and get back with the big truck from L.A. Frankly I can't believe the changes that have occured in the last 12 years. Hwy. 187 up and down the valley has been redone, there are curbs and sidewalks along parts of Main St. in town, the low river crossings have been raised, and due to the 2008 Wall St. meltdown I suppose, countless places are empty that were not when we got here, from ranches to houses, you name it. A merry-go-round of eating establishments have opened and closed, and even iconic landmarks like Stagecoach Inn and Utopia on the River are gone! Astounding! Nothing stays the same but change.

Didn't see anything but the expected suspects with the five minutes per hour of lookabouts I took. A couple Field Sparrow were about. Saw no Scissor-tails or Barn Swallow during a quick town run. Lots of Turkey along Hwy. 187 south of town, and sparrows (Lark and Chipping) along UvCo 360. A couple Monarch went by southbound in the afternoon storm lull. Supposed to have another round of rain overnight. At last look after 11 p.m. there was a Gray Fox eating pecans just off the porch.

Oct. 29 ~ The coldest low of the fall so far, was about 45dF here, KVL had a 42dF! Man that sure beats a low of 75. Heck the high today wasn't even 75! Yesterday's cold front is supposed to retreat as a warm front tomorrow and another rain-maker is in the cards. Kathy had the Robin at the birdbath a couple times today, later in the morning she had a Hermit Thrush at the bath, likely the one I saw there a few days ago. Late p.m. heard Ringed King over at river.

The weird thing was mid-morning going out on front porch and the last lone Ruby-throated Hummingbird was freaking out up at the peak of the inside of the roof over the porch. All it would do is fly up, into the porch cieling. It would not drop back down 4' to feeder level and away. So dumb. It has been feeding here, why all of a sudden an issue? Thousands have fed on the front porch, none ever did this. I had to get the butterfly net and catch it. The first time I did, it flew straight back up to peak inside porch covering. Caught it again and held net way out in open airspace and finally it flew out and away. Never saw it again all day. I think it left? Maybe just what it needed to go? Probably went and rested, tanked up at the other feeder it was using, and split. Good riddance.

Oct. 28 ~ Too windy and busy today to see much. At the first crack of light around 7 a.m. there was a Gray Fox 20's from the front porch when I walked out. A fall dry front passed early in the morning and winds were 10-20 mph most of the day, finally laying down at sundown. In p.m. a couple Monarch went by, one worn so pale it was almost ashy in appearance. The Ruby-throated Hummer is still here, the dummy needs to get going. A couple Lincoln's Sparrow are about the yard. The White-winged Dove flock is about 50-60 birds now. Four Caracara flew over with just the faintest bit of light left in the sky.

Oct. 27 ~ The low seemed to hit the highest 40's dF, with a 48dF at the Seco Ridge WU station, and 46-7dF in Kerrville. The first semi-widespread low in the 40's for the fall. And no one complained. We are in one of the brief periods of the year in between "ptoo hot" and "too cold" complaining. I had to find pants with legs and a shirt with long sleeves!! At dawn that is Mars (the small orange one), Venus (the brightest one), and Jupiter all close together just south of due East. Nice conjuction! If on a high spot without hills in way of east horizon Mercury is seeable now too!

About 8 a.m. just after sunup I was out on patio just feeling the cool air and watched an immature PHAINOPEPLA fly east over the house! It is the first one I have seen in Uvalde Co., and a new local (Utopia or upper Sabinal River drainage) record as far as I know. One wintered a couple years ago on a ranch a few mi. north of Uvalde, but they get scarce quickly this side of the Pecos. This is only the second I know of in the last 12 years in Uvalde Co.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird still here, fly(gnat)catching all day. Three FOS - first of season - birds first half of day. First was an Osprey soaring south along ridge behind us, then a Meadowlark sps. (prob. Western) flew over, and then about 1 p.m. I had a White-crowned Sparrow. Not hearing a White-eyed Vireo, a couple Lincoln's Sparrow are around yard, more signs of the season changing. Kathy heard a flock of cranes going over southbound today. Late afternoon I heard a or the, Robin out there.

Another amazing thing today was the arrival of Chipping Sparrow. Yesterday I counted 15 at once, after getting to 10 with fall arrivals just a few days ago. This afternoon over 60 were on the patio at once, probably about 65. Overnight a huge wave arrived. A number of Eastern Bluebird went over southbound in later p.m., migrants. Not long after the bluebirds went over I was gobsmacked by a group of 3 HORNED LARK flying south, probably heading for the grass airstrip that starts 100 yards south of us. They are the first Horned Lark I have seen locally in some time, I have only seen a few fall migrant fly-overs though they nest just south of us in the ag fields around Sabinal (sparingly). The nearish nesters are not the same subspecies as the fall migrants which are from northward. The southwest Texas breeding subspecies does not breed up here in the hills, it is a flatlander.

Oct. 26 ~ Though the winds died mostly overnight they picked back up before dawn. Low was 52dF with a breeze on it, felt like the highest 40's. Then I heard a Junco! My glimpse indicated Slate-colored, the default type here. Heard it again noonish. There were at least 15 Chipping Sparrow on the seed, winter arrivals showing up. A Myrtle Warbler went over, and in a.m. I saw the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Finally saw the Junco on the patio before dark, a nice clean sharp male Slate-colored. I wonder if it is one of the two that were about last winter? Eastern Screech-Owl and Great Horned Owls calling at dark. Had a quick look of a Hermit Thrush as it flew off the birdbath, which is my FOS.

The real highlight of the day was a butterfly, a Sister of the genus Adelpha. While Arizona Sister occurs here I have not ever seen one in October, late September are my latest dates. I have seen at least a couple Spot-celled Sister in early Nov., and a Band-celled in late October, plus a few un-ID'd sisters that were not Arizona, in late fall. Any Sister after September cannot be assumed to be Arizona, our expected type, as by Oct. they are not normally flying still, and fall is when the rarer Sisters from the south show up some years. I did not get a good enough look at this one to ID it positively. It looked smaller and browner than Arizona, though had a white bar to leading edge of forewing (across cell), so it appeared to be a Band-celled Sister, but I can only say Adelpha sps. for sure.

Oct. 25 ~ The northerlies blew all night and are 20+mph in the morning, and stayed that way all day. Like a real deal fall cold front. Temps were in low 50's dF, the rain has all moved to east Texas, after some brief clouds early it was sunny by 9 a.m. Lots of nuts on the ground, the downwind sides of some trees have a little bit of crop. Lots of poorly not fully-formed nuts. The big native tree with the small nuts that are just about not worth trying to use yourself, has a fair crop on half the tree. We collect them and use to feed the birds during the freeze events over the winter. Must have done a couple hundred deep-knee bends and toe-touches this morning. Haven't gone anywhere and I'm tired and wind-blown. Pecan calisthenics.

Saw the Ruby-throated Hummer out there. Wonder if it will ride these northerlies out of Dodge? Maybe today or tomorrow? Saw a Nashville Warbler, heard a Kinglet (Ruby) and the Pyrrhuloxia. In the afternoon I saw an orange-winged Flicker, that is, a hybrid Red-shafted x Yellow-shafted. Of course they are lumped into Northern Flicker now, which is admittedly convenient when you see an orange-winged bird. It essentially makes it 'countable' for lists whereas if the red and yellow were seperate species it would not be countable as either. While some hybrids have red or yellow underwings of parents, others may have intermediate orange underwings. We get lots of hybrids here in winter, likely 10-20% of flickers I see here in winter are impure. Some of our winterers are clearly from a zone of heavy overlap and hybridization.

One Monarch stopped and fed on the Blue Mist Eupatorium for a while then headed SSW. Cloudless Sulphur bolted by, Red Admiral and Buckeye did too. Saw a male Kiowa Dancer damselfly and a Spot-winged Glider and a few Green Darner (dragonflies). In the mid-afternoon Kathy and I heard our FOS Sandhill Cranes heading south. Saw a Four-lined Skink out there in the pecan leaf-litter while picking up nuts.

Oct. 24 ~ Early a.m. at 6:30 it was still in lower 70's dF, whence the first bit of colder air arrived ahead of the front. It dropped 7-8 dF in an hour, but it only took the first degree or two to get the rain started. By 8:30 we had over 3 INCHES of rain (8.3 cm), a torrential downpour would be an apt description. Then is was moderate over the morning and by noon or so another 1.5+" (4.3 cm) had fallen, so about 5 INCHES of rain this a.m.! Weewow! With the inch a couple days ago just ahead of this event we are at 6" so far, and supposed to get more befoe it is over, either this evening or overnight. (which did not happen - that was it)

Didn't see much besides water today. The regulars was it. Cooper's Hawk hung around waiting for something to stoop on much of the day making it hard for the seedeaters to eat. The actual front got here in afternoon with northerlies of about 10-15mph. The 7 Tom Turkey were over in the corral, Pyrrhuloxia around, the pair of Canyon Towhees, the one Ruby-throated Hummingbird, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, heard a Myrtle Warbler. By time this is over it is going to be a new game out there. There were 10 Chipping Sparrow on the patio at once, winter arrivals are appearing. The winds picked up in the evening to 15-20 mph out of the north, with some periods of 25+mph.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Oct. 23 ~ Low was in low 70's dF, so not very, but didn't get to 80 either. Very humid, a few slight sprinkles, but no real rain from yesterday evening to dark tonight. I think midnight or so is when the next series starts. A major Hurricane Patricia is making landfall on western Mexico's Pacific coast this evening, one outer band of moisture already got flung off and into south Texas. More is to follow over the weekend.

Saw a flock of about 24 poults - Turkey young of the year - on the west leg of UvCo 360. Still numbers of Barn Swallow around swarming on whatever is hatching. Heard a White-eyed Vireo across road, the Pyrrhuloxia seems to have stuck and moved in so I suspect it is the one that wintered last year around the yard area. Also saw a Zone-tailed Hawk go over shadowing a Turkey Vulture again, one Ruby-throated Hummer still hitting feeders. Best migrant of the day Kathy spotted at the bath late, a tardy imm. male Baltimore Oriole. Right before dark a Great Egret flew upriver over the cypresses. Field Sparrows across the road.

In odes I saw a Pale-faced Clubskmmer and several Green Darner. Two Monarch on the Blue Mist Eup seemed to end up hooked up (ph.) in the big pecan. Apparently not ready for reproductive diapause yet. A Soldier and a few Queen around, as were Celia's Roadside-Skipper, Dun, Clouded, and Julia's Skipper.

Oct. 22 ~ A few sprinkles overnight and early a.m., mid-morning a slow soaker started. By late afternoon we had .8 of an inch, so with what I missed this morning and yesterday we are right about an inch in the last 24 hrs. The first round of heavier rain is supposed to be overnight tonight.

One Ruby-throated Hummingbird is still here at the feeders. Heard White-eyed Vireo, Orange-crowned and Myrtle Warbler, a Kinglet, and Pyrrhuloxia among the regulars. A Lincoln's Sparrow is still here on the seed, lots of Barn Swallow still going up and down valley early and late. Seven big Toms (Turkey) were over in the corral again. Saw one each Monarch and Soldier, several Queens.

Oct. 21 ~ They are still advertising a big rain-maker inbound mostly Thursday and Friday, but some later today, Saturday and Sunday as well. Warmer lows, low clouds and lots of Gulf moisture advection, breezy southerlies, the setup does look good. The Merlin swung by for a pass, stalling right over the patio where the seedeaters hang out. Heard Flicker and Kestrel. Again thought it was two Pyrrhuloxia I am hearing across road in mesquites, but have only seen one for sure so far. The big highlight of the day was the FOS American Robin! A bit on the early side compared to average fall arrival dates, only one year of last 12 was it earlier, and that was last year, on October 15.

A couple brief sprinkles in early afternoon was followed by a full blown showerlet late afternoon, totalling about .15 to .2 of an inch of rain. Only a couple Monarchs went by today. Celia's Roadside-, Dun, Julia's, and Clouded Skipper still about.

Oct. 20 ~ Low temps warming up in front of a system on the way in, which is forecast to potentially a big rain maker for some areas locally. Just about no motion this morning, save a couple hawks. Besides ad. and imm. female Cooper's Hawks making stoops on the seedeaters here, a Merlin did so, and a Zone-tailed Hawk was circling for 2 minutes shadowing a Turkey Vulture, using the TV as cover. Would have made some great footage, low right overhead the two of them together. A Nashville or two, and an Orange-crowned Warbler, a few Kinglet, heard the Pyrrhuloxia. I had at least 7 probably 8 Chipping Sparrow in a group together, all but one first winters, and surely migrants from elsewhere arriving for the winter.

At least 5 Monarch went through yard southbound, and I forgot to mention as many went through yesterday as well. A couple Mestra, their numbers falling fast, a Tawny Emperor, a Cloudless Sulphur, still a Celia's Roadside-Skipper, a few Clouded and Julia's Skippers, one Erynnis got away that was not Funereal. I saw a small black dragonfly that was either a very very late and nearly out-of-season Dot-winged Baskettail or an Ivory-striped sylph, which though scarce, now is the time to get one. The, or a, male Blue-fronted Dancer (damselfly) continues around front porch.

Oct. 19 ~ Maybe about 60dF for a low, low 80's dF for a high. Early a.m. I heard a tardy Gnatcatcher, heard a Northern Oriole, had a Nashville, a couple Kinglet, a White-eyed Vireo, an Orange-crowned Warbler or two. Then mid-a.m. I glimpsed and heard multiple times a BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK which is a very good bird here. Out behind shed whilst looking for it (was in the big hackberry) there was an Orange-crowned Warbler that was a western orestera subspecies, which I studied for 5 minutes at point blank range in my bins.

Once called the Gray-headed Orange-crowned Warbler, it is a western subspecies generally of Rocky Mountain (or mountain west) origins. I have seen a small number and they are likely regular here in low numbers. I had one winter at Cook's Slough in Uvalde one year. The 20% of years we get early Orange-crowned Warblers in September, they are virtually all certainly the western orestera "Gray-Headed" Orange-crowned Warbler. Which I will admit would be a mouthful if we had to say that way.

Orestera are virtually unreported in central Texas because folks only look to see it is an Orange-crowned and since no tick for a list exists past that, interest is lost in a deeper understanding what we are seeing. Most of our Org-crnd's are the eastern celata, small numbers are western orestera. To me there seems a significant difference in behavior in that orestera is far more active whilst celata is far more sedate. While celata can be acrobatic, hanging upside-down checking out dead leaf clusters, orestera often seems very highly energetic taking many more sorties after flying insects more like a Wilson's Warbler or a Redstart. They seem quite different on this count. Further the Pacific or west coast subspecies lutescens aligns with orestera on this count, more active flycatching. Whilst sordida, the non-migratory southern California (mostly Channel Islands and immediate coast) subspecies aligns with celata, in being more sedate and deliberate in actions. From a feeding strategy point of view, behaviorally there are two clades of Orange-crowned Warblers, the bigger slower celata-sordia clade and the more compact faster more aerial lutescens-orestera clade. Y'all should be asleep by now...

Oct. 18 ~ A cool low in the low 50's dF (KVL had a 49dF) felt great. Mid-morning an Audubon's Oriole gave a good bit of song for a few minutes out back, it had been calling only lately. I think it is eating hackberries of which there is a fair crop. It was around 15-20 minutes. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher early, heard it late late last evening too. Did not hear Scissor-tail or a White-eyed Vireo. A few Mockers, Monarchs, and Kinglets, and more yard work.

A post to Texbirds indicated the Rufous-capped WArbler was seen about 10:30 this morning, continuing at Lost Maples SNA. Thanks to the folks posting publicly to let others know it is still present. But also know no one seeing it for a week means zilch. They can be the most confiding tame warbler you ever saw, when they don't mind being seen. They can also be the skulker of your worst nightmares. The pair at Concan in 06-07 was missed by hundreds of birders including me. Look low, they are in the bushes and shrubs, not up in the trees. The thicker the better.

Oct. 17 ~ The low in the 50's dF was awesome, and the high was only in 80's dF and without humidity which felt great. Over the day about 4-5 Nashville Warbler went through yard. But nothing else. One Lincoln's Sparrow was out back. No White-eyed Vireo and didn't hear a Scissor-tail either. A few Ruby-crowned Kinglet went through and one Ruby-throated Hummer was seen in the a.m.

Over the day there were 4 different Soldier (lep) at the Blue Mist Eup, plus about twice as many Queen, and at least 4 probably 5 Monarch went through yard. Got another chunk of the yard a bit more tidied up. At least in fall you know once you do it, it will be fine all winter until spring. Did have a few Spot-winged Glider dragonflies, especially when and where I was cutting yard. Still a few Black and couple Red, Saddlebags, and some Green Darner.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Oct. 16 ~ Supposed to be a minor frontal passage today with some dry north flow. Thought there might be some birds in front of it but I didn't see anything in the a.m. Maybe 2 Ruby-throated Hummer left at the feeders. Heard Kinglet, Shrike, Flicker and Kestrel, just like winter. A quick town-run saw 3 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher along 187, nothing like a week ago whence two dozen. Still a few fall Rain lily out there.

The big thing was the lack of White-eyed Vireo noise. The bird in the draw must have left last night. Now it is really quiet out there. Until next March. One by one all the summer breeders leave. A little more quiet and lonely with each species departure. Until only the White-eyed Vireo remains. And now finally it too has departed for warmer and buggier climes for the next 5 months. You can take some birds out of your avian audioscape and maybe barely notice, but when a White-eyed Vireo is removed, it gets wayyyyy quieter. Late p.m. I heard one distantly, but surely was not the draw bird which was all over the yard all day every day, and gone today.

At dusk there was one Scissor-tail calling from the cypresses along river that they roost in. At least I got to hear that once more. That cold turkey is rough. Also at dusk a flock of a dozen Blue-winged Teal (FOS) with a couple Shoveler blasted past. At least one and probably two Pale-faced Clubskimmer (odes) were patrolling the yard today.

Oct. 15 ~ Hear no Scissor-tails, I am still in shock at the silence. No hummers either, maybe 1-2 Ruby-throated left. One each Nashville and Orange-crowned Warbler, a few Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the White-eyed Vireo still in draw, heard the Ringed Kingfisher, only seeing a couple Canyon Towhee, maybe the adults pushed the young out finally? Hope the hawks didn't get them, Cooper's and now today a Sharp-shinned, are flushing things 5 times a day here. Heard the FOS Flicker in the afternoon. Another winter bird. In the afternoon one Orchard Oriole went through, a tardy bird. Thursday so swamped at the order desk, that would be my station. About 10 Queen, 3 Soldier, and a few Monarch went through.

The highlight of the day was hearing the Ringtail (Cacomistle) barking late late over in the big hackberry. Last fall it really ate lots of Hackberries for weeks, and this year without much of a persimmon crop they will probably eat more hackberries. I sure would like to get that call on tape. There was a lot of Coyote noise earlier in evening.

The other interesting thing was a Firefly. With a bad circadian clock (which controls our bio-rhythms). As the only one flying now it won't get any Firefly love, and its genes with the bad clock won't get passed on. Natural selection at work. The second (minor) fall flight fades to zero before the end of September.

Oct. 14 ~ After the Monarch passage yesterday there were hardly any today, just a few. An incredible low of about 51dF was the coolest temps in 6 months, since April. The amazing avian thing was the silence of the Scissor-tails. None. They too must have rode the northerlies out of Dodge yesterday. I have been hearing dozens, seeing several daily the last couple weeks or more and today, nothing, dead silence. They are diurnal migrants so surely took advantage of the free boost from the northerly winds yesterday to start the next leg south. As did Hummingbirds, hardly any of them today, maybe four in the morning, 1-2 at dusk.

But there were two FOS fall arrivals this morning. I heard a few Myrtle Warblers, one finally landed in the big pecan. Then a Pine Siskin flew over calling! Quintessential winter species are arriving now. Had a Nashville or two and an Orange-crowned Warbler, the White-eyed Vireo is still in the draw, At late-thirty when it was almost tomorrow as I was falling asleep I heard a Barn Owl go over southbound. That always helps.

There were 4-5 Mockingbird in the top of a Hackberry at first sun eating Hackberries. At least they have a crop this year. There were FOUR Soldier (lep) at once on the Blue Mist Eupatorium, my personal simultaneous high count ever here, plus a half-dozen Queen, and a couple Monarch went through. It has been way hotter than predicted locally lately, low to mid and some upper 90's dF, about 10 dF over average the last several days. And I have had it with the heat for the year already.

Oct. 13 ~ The wind turned around to the north late in the p.m. yesterday and were light north all night, finally dropping to near 70dF at about 7 a.m., but dry. The first real extended period of northerlies this fall, we have had a little north flow here and there, the slightest of brief northerly flow, but this is the first 12 hours (and counting) of northerly flow this fall.

There was a Monarch lift-off event this morning that was noteworthy. I counted a couple hundred moving south to SSW along the river corridor in 15 minutes at one point between 9 and 10 a.m. with numbers then tapering down but still multiples in the air with any quick scan at 1 p.m. and a few went by late in the afternoon. There were times when I had 10 and 20 in a single binocular field of view. It went on for a few hours. Surely more than a thousand passed by, maybe two. I am only seeing a small part of the sky and was only outside a quarter of the morning at tops. While stuck in the office I could still see them going by from that miniscule slice of sky visible.

I spotted several migrant hawks while scanning for and counting Monarchs. The first sure migrant Cooper's Hawks of the fall, four of them, and the first Sharp-shinned Hawk of fall. Also saw a nice adult Swainson's Hawk, and 2 migrant Red-tailed. All riding the northerly flow like the Monarchs. Great was a Great Egret that flew north up the river corridor mid morning.

White-eyed Vireo still at the draw, a couple Kinglet went through, and best was the Pyrrhuloxia coming into the sprinkler in the heat of the day. Neat bird to have in the yard. One Nashville Warbler came in as well. Heard the Shrike out there again today. A Great Blue Heron roosted in the cypresses over at the river with a lot of loud grating honks as it settled down.

In other butterflies there were three Soldier (Eresimus) at once on the Blue Mist Eup., the first time I have ever seen three at once here. The other highlight was an Orange Sulphur, which is the first I have seen since spring. Hummingbirds seem to have rode the northerlies out of town, there were hardly any at dusk.

Oct. 12 ~ No migrant motion so far save a Nashville, but heard the Downy Woodpecker call from river. Surely the one we saw yesterday about three-quarters of a mile south of us, downriver at the crossing. A couple Nashville and an Orange-crowned Warbler in afternoon. White-eyed Vireo still here. Best was seeing the female Pyrrhuloxia out by one of the corral troughs, still here. Maybe it is the female that wintered last year?

Two Soldier (butterfly) at once on the Blue Mist is a scarce sight here, where generally only singles are ever recorded. Three or four Monarch went SSW+- through yard over day. Plus all the ones I missed not being out there 80% of the hours of the day.

It was hot today, we were in a pre-frontal trough and some local WU stations reported highest 90's dF with heat indexes over a hundred. I thought we were done with that! We had 90dF in the shade on front porch, smokin' hot in the sun. Ugh. It was still in low 80's dF at 11:30 p.m.!

Oct. 11 ~ Before dawn we tried but were unable to see Mercury because of the row of cypresses along the river blocking our horizon view. The big 3, Jupiter, Mars, and Venus were nice though. The Great Horned Owls were duetting pre-light, and I heard a passerine migrant give a 'seet' note as it flew over in the dark, sounded like a Savannah Sparrow.

Between 9 and 10 a.m. there were a couple Nashville and a Yellow Warbler working the hackberries out office window and around shed. One male Nash came within 8' of me, unconcerned. Also there was a Lincoln's Sparrow and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in the tree too, which must have bugs. At the same time as that I looked down the sidewalk I just walked up and my FOS Vesper Sparrow was 20' away. It went over to patio and fed with Lark Sparrows briefly, then almost got up on the back porch. Clearly some birds moved last night. The couple White-eyed Vireo continue within earshot.

We took a late morn walk to the crossing, which was fairly bird-free until the crossing itself. The sound of falling water there is what always has some birds in the area. We have moved from the part of fall where we tally warbler species, to when we tally sparrows. Ugh. Remember though, the late one is often the great one. It is prime-time for something good and interesting.

Heard a Nashville Warbler, in sparrows saw a few Clay-colored, a couple Field, 3-4 Lincoln's, and a Savannah all in a flock together in the riverside weedy seedy stuff at crossing. Otherwise mostly just the locals like Cardinal, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Eastern Phoebe. The one good bird was a female DOWNY WOODPECKER, which are irregular and scarce along the Sabinal River.

In odes several Green Darner, Red, and Black, Saddlebags, several Pale-faced Clubskimmer, no Setwings, one Blue Dasher, one Wandering Glider. In damsels, 6+ American Rubyspot continue, no Smoky, single Kiowa and Dusky Dancer, several distant Bluets that looked like Stream. There were at least three, probably four, Monarch in a Frostweed patch downriver, and a couple Desert Checkered-Skipper along road, otherwise just a very few of the regular butterflies. A Goatweed Leafwing, a Snout, several Lyside Sulphur. The Frogfruit is over.

We took a later afternoon walk upriver to the Frostweed patch at the big swimming hole pond. I heard what was surely a Mourning Warbler but couldn't dig it out of the thick tall grasses. Pushin' a late date for them. A couple Field Sparrow and some Cards and Titmice, Carolina Chicks and Wrens, were about it. In odes one each Checkered and Swift Setwing, and a Variable Dancer was about it. The Frostweed is mostly done and over, but at least four Monarch were in the patch, besides a few skippers (Julia's, Fiery, Southern Broken-Dash, Eufala, Dun), an Erynnis got away. We had about 4 fall Rain-Lily across the road, about 48 hours after the rain.

Oct. 10 ~ I caught about 3 Nashville going through yard, which was about it for passage this a.m. save a Kinglet. For a few moments it looked like something was gonna happen, but it didn't. The Rufous-crowned Sparrow is still around, I heard it from fence at base of the rocky slope out back where I toss seed. Also heard a Scrub-Jay, a Ring King, and Audubon's Oriole.

The Blue Mist Eupatorium got beat up by the rain and still isn't back to snuff, so the skipper show has slowed way down. A few Monarch went by bearing SW, a Soldier with a tear on left HW is on day 4, a few Queen, a couple Large Orange Sulphur, a Tawny Emperor was eaten wings and all by an Eastern Phoebe. Saw a 2" just popped out baby Anole (American Chameleon) lizard. Caught up some more yard work.

There seemed to be a departure of hummingbirds over the day. The rain must have scared them outta here. There were still more than there were feeders first thing in the morning but never saw all the feeders occupied after morning, most were mostly empty. So less than a half-dozen Ruby-throated left now. The probably felt that light north flow and rode it out of Dodge.

Right before dusk there was a swarm of dragonflies over the road at the gate, I was on the porch holding the rocker down. I caught motion overhead and saw a bullet shoot into the swarm. When it went from 60mph to zero in one foot giving full spread wing and tail views I saw it was clearly a Merlin! The dragon that was in the airspace there was gone as it flew off, and as it departed it dodged and cut after another one on the way out of the swarm. I guess his other fist was still empty.

Heard Barred Owls late p.m. upriver a bit, and Screech-Owls must be hitting the bird bath, need an infrared cam. If you are up before the skies get light, to the east is Jupiter, Mars, and Venus, a nice planetary show. At last dark just as the moon rises Mercury is also visible now near the horizon to the lower left of the big planets, right next to the moon on morning of Oct. 11. Four planets at once currently showing.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Oct. 9 ~ We had a major rain event overnight with 3 plus INCHES (!) of rain on the south side of town, less northward up-valley. It was what we call a slow soaker, never heavy but constant moderate rain from midnight on, for 10 hours or so. Early in the week a big event was predicted, but mostly to our west, and yesterday NOAA said the main rain would stay west of a line 50 mi. west of us. The rain moved much further east than forecast yesterday, more like original predictions a week ago. Being slow and steady it was just what aquifer recharge needed. Some areas south of Uvalde got 8-10 INCHES! They are in flatlands down there and it doesn't runoff quickly like it does up here in the hills on a block of limestone.

The tail end of a big front dropping down across the country is falling in behind this rain system and passing through this evening so a northerly flow inbound. There didn't seem to be any bird action this morning ahead of it as far as migrants were concerned. There were dozens of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher around town, on 360, 187, it is the annual fall stack-up prior to departure. Neat to see bunches of them everywhere. Obviously factors more than nest locally and so birds from somewhere else that move in and stage here in fall. Would give a jelly-filled donut to know where they are from.

A quick run through the park and I did not see the Am. Woodcock, which means absolutely nothing. There is no bird in America that is easier to look directly at and not see. Most of the island is not visible, so if not on park side of bank in woods, easy to miss it. The big event of the day was a new yard bird, a Rufous-crowned Sparrow! They are common on the juniper covered rocky slopes but absent from the valley floors. Took 2.5 years here to get one in the yard. They were 'coots' in the Seco Ridge yard, even bred. Habitat is everything. Fall is when to get inexperienced young of the year wandering around.

The White-eyed Vireo was still in the draw, and an Orange-crowned Warbler checked out a hummer feeder briefly. Hoping for a wave of migrants, maybe tomorrow behind the front? There were a number of big swarms of 20+ dragonflies I saw as I went around a bit, at least a half-dozen seperate swarms, feverishly feeding on some small gnat or so. Most were Green Darner (well over 125) with some Wandering Glider, and Black, and Red, Saddlebags.

Oct. 8 ~ Low out west might give us some rain, but the clouds kept it cooler (80's dF) regardless. Had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher go through yard, the White-eyed Vireo is still over in the draw. Maybe 10 Ruby-throated Hummers still around. Best was my FOS Orange-crowned Warbler, finally. There were much larger than recent numbers of Black (75+) and Turkey Vultures (75+)today, clearly migrants are moving through as locals had been low in numbers due to departures already. The Inca Dove was around a bit.

At the end of lunch we heard the alarm notes of the Cardinals and a raptor attack. I went outside and the immature Zone-tailed Hawk was circling overhead with a small bird in its talons. Looked like maybe a House Finch. Then after dinner it happened again just before dark when only Cardinals are out eating still and Kathy saw a Cooper's Hawk fly off with what looked like a Cardinal. So the hawks had a good day here in the yard.

There was a Mournful Duskywing on the Blue Mist Eup for a bit, a Monarch, a Soldier and several Queens were also on it, as well as the regular gang of 9 sps. or so of skippers. One Gray Hairstreak showed for a bit. In dragons there are still a few Green Darner, Black, and Red, Saddlebags about, not seeing any gliders though. Some Dusky Dancer still about the yard, and the male Blue-fronted Dancer still here too.

Oct. 7 ~ Nice cool low, no migrant motion this morning. There is an imm. fem. Cooper's Hawk that has been heavilly hunting the yard the last several days, keeping normal action somewhat supressed. Probably from the local nest. The leaf-cutter ants are again chewing up our flower patch. One guy told me gasoline into the hole, and a match. I am afraid of ending up with a crater in the yard that takes out gas or water lines.

Monarchs were obvious today, there were three at once on the Blue Mist Eupatorium, plus a couple just flew through yard at migrant speed bearing SSW, and another was gaining altitude and thermalling. Migrants. An American Lady stopped briefly.

Oct. 6 ~ Slow day out there again, nice cool morning near 60dF, but no migrant motion. A couple Belted Kingfisher were having a dispute out on the wire over the dirt road out front for an extended time. Audubon's and the ad.fem. Baltimore Oriole were still around the yard, the White-eyed Vireo was still at the draw. One Ruby-crowned Kinglet and one Nashville Warbler went through over the day. One Monarch hit the flowers for a bit, Queen and Soldier also passed through.

Oct. 5 ~ Not much migrant motion in the morning. One Ruby-crowned Kinglet, after yesterday's FOS was about it. Heard the Audubon's Oriole over by the draw, heard Ringed Kingfisher at the river. Forgot to mention the other day the Ring King went off with the fast rattle, and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker in the yard immediately responded, causing another Ladder-back to go off. A funny cross-family pass-around reaction. The ad. female Baltimore Oriole continued using the hummer feeder, and about a dozen Ruby-throats fighting over the 6 feeders out. Four Canyon Towhee still, Barn Swallows moving over southbound low and fast.

Three Monarchs over the course of the day, one was messed up in a deformed sort of way. It was missing the posterior edge of right forewing, but neat and clean, not torn, deformed. The right hindwing was also not right, with several wrinkles in it, not flat as properly should be. I call these Monsanto Monarchs, they are Roundup ready.

Oct. 4 ~ Low about 60dF, KVL had 56dF. Besides the regulars, the yard in the a.m. had a Nashville and a Yellow Warbler, a Dickcissel, 2 Gnatcatcher, 2 Audubon's Oriole, and a FOS Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Hard to believe but today the Kinglet beats the Audubon's Orioles, being FOS and all. There are only a dozen or so Ruby-throated Hummingbird left now, six feeders out, each guarded by one sugar-crazed bastard. One Monarch went by southbound (or SSW) mid-morn. Like yesterday I got a half hour of overdue yard maintenence in early while still (comparitively) coolish out. The imm. male Vermilion was day 3 around yard.

We took a 11-12:30 walk to the crossing and around that a bit. On the road next to and downhill of corral in the super nutrient fed grasses which have a bumper crop every year there was a flock of about 10 Clay-colored Sparrow and at least 3 Indigo Bunting. A Lincoln's and a Field too. Single Yellow and Nashville Warblers, a couple White-eyed Vireo, Scissor-tail, and on other side of river a flock of Spizella that was one each of Field, Chipping, and Clay-colored Sparrow. Flushed the pair of Great Horned Owl which are making all kinds of odd noises quite unlike all the normal Great Horned Owl calls I have heard before.

In dragons there were a few Green Darner, a Red and a couple Black Saddlebags, no gliders, a Checkered and a couple Swift Setwing, and for damsels a few Dusky Dancer, 4 or so American Rubyspot and one Smoky Rubyspot.

The Huisache Daisy is blooming well and had the usual complement of skippers on it, but one OCOLA Skipper is my first for the 360 list. Saw one at the library garden last Sunday which was my first of the year, and here is another. Now I feel like I should sit on porch all day watching our Blue Mist Eup. flock of skippers, as it was only 300 yards south of us and surely moving north. A Fatal Metalmark was there as well. We saw 2-3 Monarchs, a couple Little Yellow, Whirlabout, Southern Broken-Dash, Buckeye, Red Admiral, lots of Mestra, several Giant Swallowtail, a False Duskywing, and the rest were the regular gang.

When we got back I asked what the weird chip note was. Went back out quickly and it was a Pyrrhuloxia! They often show up in small numbers hereabouts in fall, some winters some stay the winter, some winters good numbers stay the winter. A Pyrrhuloxia and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet today say fall is here, not to mention a flock of 10 Clay-colored Sparrow.

Mid-afternoon a female Baltimore Oriole was in yard. We took a late afternoon walk upriver to the Frostweed patch. Field and Clay-colored Sparrow were the only two non-regulars. For odes there was a Pale-faced Clubskimmer on the river and a few Blue Dasher at the Barham's pond. In leps at least 4 live Monarch (plus a beheaded one), a few Queen, some of the same skippers, 20 Mestra, a couple Gray Hairstreak and one small Hairstreak that got away which when it flew appeared metallic blue above - which means White-M Hairstreak, durnit. I could not refind it after the flash of iridescent blue.

Oct. 3 ~ A low of about 55dF was fantastic and the coolest it has been since April methinks. Awesome. Before sunup a Wilson's Warbler went through the yard. Shortly after a Dickcissel, and another cissel a couple hours later. A flock of swallows high up had Barn and Cave, at least. Two Gnatcatcher moving together went through in a.m., and heard a seet than sounded like a Nashville Warbler.

For over a week, nearing two, I have been seeing a fair numbers of Turkey Vulture moving south that seem to be migrants. A small Buteo straffed the Canyon Towhee brushpile mid-a.m. which was probably a Broad-winged Hawk - was an imm. and I didn't have bins with me. It landed in a pecan briefly though, so I had a decent bare-eyed look. Any small buteo here is Broad-winged until proven otherwise.

Heard what I think surely was an Orange-crowned Warbler. Have yet to have one this fall, didn't see it though. Swallows were often apparent in numbers moving south in late afternoon. Most were Barn, some were Cave, and in p.m. one Chimney Swift blazed by. Good late date for what surely is a migrant from way north, the local birds are long gone. One Nashville went by in p.m. as well. Heard the Roadrunner bill-rattling out back mid-day.

Hummers have really blown out, probably only a couple dozen tops in a.m., and less than a dozen in p.m. so back to problems with jerkbirds taking over feeders since the numbers are down. Have to put more out and spread them out or one sugar-crazed immature male (whooda thunk?) takes them all over. I am also not seeing the Hooded Orioles, methinks they too have departed for the winter in Mexico. Lucky birds.

One Monarch stopped briefly to nectar among 3 Queen. The same gang of skippers, about 2 dozen+ hanging on the Blue Mist Eupatorium at the front porch. Two or three Celia's Roadside-Skipper still, a female Whirlabout for a bit, a Sachem, 3 Eufala, 3 Julia's, 6+ Dun, 2-3 Fiery, 6+ Clouded Skipper, and a few Southern Broken-Dash. Pretty exciting from the rocker, as I am sure you can imagine.  ;)

~ ~ ~ intermission ~ ~ ~

This is a section of prior update header for the record (since it changes), you have read this before so skip it.... I just like having a copy for the archive record.

White-tipped Dove was heard from porch two weeks ago, and one was seen at the 360 crossing early Sept. A Peregrine and an Eastern Kingbird were at the crossing Aug. 30. In general fall has been hoppin' out there. A few Audubon's Oriole have been around our yard the last2 weeks, Ringed and Green Kingfisher are regular but not quite daily moving up and down Sabinal River around Utopia. An Olive Sparrow was following the Rufous-capped Warbler at Lost Maples. Lots of good stuff around.

Some other interesting sightings the last couple months include a PURPLE GALLINULE that from porch I heard call six times as it flew upriver on Thursday July 16. I'll take yard birds any way I can get them. My first of fall LEAST FLYCATCHER was very early on July 24, I have had a bunch more since then. Upland Sandpiper finally showed up on the morning of August 20, two flew over calling, one very low, a dozen went over on a couple nights at dusk (as Sept. 9). There were bunches of Nashville Warbler in Sept., one in latest Aug. was my earliest ever fall date. A late August migrant Broad-winged Hawk was my earliest ever for them too. So far I have about five 'earliest evers' (in 12 years of data) this fall. Better keep an eye on that, it could mean something - about winter.

Amazing was a begging juvenile BROAD-WINGED HAWK (photo'd) at Lost Maples Aug. 1, the nearest known nesting of which is at Travis and Bexar Counties the last few years. This is a major leap. A couple digi-bin photos are below in the photo strip before current news starts. Also good was a COUCH'S KINGBIRD calling in our yard on August 4. A LESSER NIGHTHAWK was a great bird on August 14 after the rain, at times right over the driveway taking termites 8' off the ground.

Wildflowers are fading due to the lack of rain (save the 2" in Aug.) for now 14-15 weeks. Some are still going though, the late summer and fall bloomers... Snow-on-the-mountain is finally finishing, Frostweed is going well now, maybe the best fall flower here. Lost Maples has a decent fall flower show going on and lots of leps. The library butterfly garden wasn't watered enough and so since we didn't get much rain, it seems not much of a bloom going this fall so far, and far fewer than normal butterflies.

There were two rare-here dragonflies (Swamp, and Cyrano Darners) at the park in June, the Swamp at the 360 x-ing in July too. In fact a PAIR of SWAMP were at the 360 x-ing Aug. 2! Some Orange-striped Threadtail were flying. Butterflies are showing well, much better than the last few years it seems. A few less-than-annual butterflies have shown including Zebra Longwing, Soapberry Hairstreak, Sickle-winged Skipper, and the first in six years or more for Arizona Sister and Dusky-blue Groundstreak! August 16 we saw our first in a few years White-striped Longtail (skipper) just outside the yard fence, then a second one showed up (without tails), photo'd in the yard Aug. 23. A Laviana white-Skipper in September was the first I have seen locally in 7 years, since fall of 2008.

~ ~ ~ end prior header for the record ~ ~ ~


~ ~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~ ~

October 2 ~ A couple Gnatcatcher went through yard early and mid-morning a couple Audubon's Oriole were on the slope behind house in the big old live-oaks. That was about it for the day though. Saw a post on Texbirds that the Rufous-capped Warbler was still showing well right where I found it. There is a post on Texbirds I made with directions to the spot.

But just in case... Take all your dough and buy a ticket to Lost Maples State Natural Area in Bandera County, Texas. Go to the trailhead parking lot and the bird is in the area just past the creek crossing right as you start the trail. Maybe a hundred yards from the parking lot, and 50-75 past the creek crossing. I put a small obscure pile of rocks on the left side of trail where I found it. The first juniper on left side of trail after crossing is in the favored area. It may be in the Sycamores along the creek, or upslope on the right side of trail where Snapdragon Vines and seems to favor this general area. I found it between 8:30 and 9 a.m., most sightings this week seem to be around 9:30-10:a.m., and GOOD LUCK!

Get there early and soon before the leaf watchers make it quite the noisy circus. Before the end of the month there will be hundreds of leafers per day marching past the area, and it sounds like herds of elephants going up and down the rocky road-trail. They often are loud talkers the whole way too. The birds tend to move away from the trails during this period.

October 1 ~ OCTOBER !?!?!? It will cool off soon, I keep telling myself. October is typically for many areas along with Sept. one of the best two months of fall migration. There was a little migrant motion this morning. Saw at least 4 Nashville and 1 Yellow Warbler, plus one Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. A group of four Chipping Sparrow that were here only briefly looked suspicous and might have been migrants. The White-eyed Vireo over at the draw is still calling. At least one, maybe two, Scrub-Jay were behind house mid-day. An imm. male Vermilion Flycatcher was in the yard but the imm. female that had been present since mid-late August seems to have departed. Heard Ringed Kingfisher over at river just before dark. E. Screech-Owl and Great Horned Owls calling.

Back to zero on the monthly butterfly list this morning. Clouded Skipper was first at the flowers. Pipevine Swallowtail second. Then the parade of skippers: Eufala, Julia's, Dun, Fiery, Sachem, Celia's Roadside-, 7 of my first 8 species were skippers. Then a few other things went by like Giant Swallowtail, Queen, Red Admiral, Gulf Fritillary, Buckeye. A Hackberry Emperor was nectaring on a hummer feeder. Southern Broken-Dash was around later, and a Dusky-blue Groundstreak showed up in afternoon as well! Also saw one Northern Cloudywing and a Funereal Deskywing. The male Blue-fronted Dancer (damselfly) was still around too. Again saw an inch-long iridescent gold Buprestid beetle. They seem common here.
~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ September Summary ~ ~ ~

September is a contender for the month with the most bird movement here. Many passerines pour through daily all month, by the end of which they are mostly past (south of) us. Most days of the month had multiple or more Least Flycatcher, Dickcissel, Orchard and Baltimore Oriole, Nashville and Yellow Warbler, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. The daily numbers might be a few to 5-10 or so. So by the end of the month you have seen bucketloads, just from watching a single yard. How many must really be going through? Boatloads.

It appears about 105 was my local area species total for the month (no Uvalde area birds counted). There were several highlights, it is September ya know? Hard to say what was best, but warblers stood out. A BLACKPOLL on Sept. 6 might be the first reported from Uvalde Co., a Wilson's Warbler with orange forehead and lores was likely chryseola subsps., the Pacific coast type, virtually unrecorded in Texas, my second September record here. A WESTERN TANAGER was briefly in our yard Sept. 22, my third Sept. record locally in 12 years.

A RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER I found at Lost Maples on Sept. 27 is a long overdue find. Likely the only one known in Texas at the present, they border on (but less than) annual with most recent records along the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau. More surprising and far less-expected though was an AMERICAN WOODCOCK Sept. 25-27 at least at Utopia Park, for an amazingly early record of a less than annual species here.

Butterflies were 58 species with a Laviana White-Skipper being the highlight, the first since 2008 for me locally. It missed the yard list by less than 100 yards. Zebra Longwing (Heliconian) was seen a couple times, an Ocola Skipper at the library garden was my first in a few years, and the numbers of Mestra (hundreds) and Southern Broken-Dash (two dozen) were impressive. Sept. 27 Lost Maples still had flying: 3 Two-tailed Swallowtail, 2 Arizona Sister, and a Red-spotted Purple.

The migrant odes (dragonflies) came through in good numbers most of the month until last week as they drop off. The 'Big 5' migrants are Red, and Black Saddlebags, Wandering and Spot-winged Glider, and Green Darner. The local resident species really dropped off quite a bit by mid-month, but Comanche, Flame, and Neon Skimmers were nice. A Springwater Dancer at Lost Maples Sept. 27 was good.

~ ~ ~ end September summary ~ ~ ~

Sept. 30 ~ No migrants this a.m. again, it is winding down for many of the migratory breeders, the bulk of them are south of us now. But remember rarities often show up behind the main waves of regular birds. The second phase of fall migration, winterers arriving, is not much underway yet, so we are in sort of an in-between time. We need a weather system to knock some stuff down, besides the rain.

I was thinking about the Rufous-capped Warbler at Lost Maples and considering they are from Mexico and most hill country records are along the south facing drainages (Devils, Nueces, Frio, and now Sabinal Rivers) it is most likely the bird arrived via the river corridor. Which means at some point on the way it likely moved by within a couple hundred yards of our house, or less. If on the other side of the river as it came north it went through Utopia Park! One way or the other it was surely in one of my key local patches, near our yard, or at the park.

In the afternoon I played hooky for 90 minutes and took a walk to the Frostweed patch up the river channel a half mile, since it was the last hour to add a butterfly to the monthly total. Saw a couple Monarchs, 2 Mournful Duskywing, which were new for the month, a Zebra Longwing (prolly the one we saw a couple weeks ago), lots of the same skippers that have been around the porch Eupatorium, esp. Southern Broken-Dash is common, Buckeye, Tawny Emperor, 5 Giant Swallowtails, 25 Mestra, etc. What looked a Nysa Roadside-Skipper got away though.

A Green Kingfisher was at the Berteau Park pond, alone was my FOS local Clay-colored Sparrow (Len and Cyndie and I had one in Uvalde a few days ago), at least 6 Field Sparrow, a Hutton's Vireo, an Indigo Bunting imm., Canyon Towhee below the Barham's place, and best of all an immature Mourning Warbler at point blank in some Frostweed, at least the third for the month - though a couple birds got away that were surely them over the month.

Later near dusk from the porch I heard Belted and Ringed Kingfisher calling from the river, so had the Kingfisher trifecta today. I saw a post the Rufous-capped Warbler was seen again today at Lost Maples SNA - which BTW is in Bandera County.

Sept. 29 ~ Several of the local WU stations reported lows in the upper 50's dF! Probably the lowest since early May if not late April. But no migrants in the morning. You can't have everything. One Gnatcatcher. I thought some stuff might be coming around the backside of the low to our east. No luck. The winds shifted and were out of the north by the afternoon, maybe tomorrow will be a wave day. (turned out it wasn't)

Still at least one White-eyed Vireo, not hearing the Summer Tanagers though. A lone Field Sparrow flew into yard, which like the Canyon Towhees stayed out of sight when there were visitors here that wanted to see them. Had at least two Hooded Oriole at the feeder, ad. ma. and ad. fem. Sounded like two Ringed Kingfisher at the river late in afternoon. The Soldier butterfly continues on the Eupatorium. A Monarch came in a nectared for a bit and I got a poor shot that has the milkweed trifecta: Monarch, Queen, and Soldier in a single frame.

The great news today was that Bob Doe got some great photos of the Rufous-capped Warbler at Lost Maples this morning! So it is still there and now being seen by others. Outstanding! I think about half (or more?) of the 25 or so Texas state records are of extended stay individuals. Also half or more were along the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau on south facing drainages (e.g. Devil's, Nueces, Frio, and Sabinal Rivers). So with luck this one will stick a bit too. There is one of Bob's pics up now on the 2015 photos page (link above just below the Chat pic). Thanks Bob Doe for sharing the great pic!

Sept. 28 ~ Great to have a slow morning after a couple early ones. The only migrants I saw early were a Gnatcatcher, and a Dickcissel was out there over an hour. That was it all day. And the hummers have really bugged out, it is nothing like it was even a week ago as the first major waves were leaving. I have not seen an adult male Ruby-throated since Friday the 25th. Kathy thought she had one Sat. the 26th when I was in Uvalde. There was a Ringed Kingfisher calling over at river late in the day.

The butterflies were hitting the Eupatorium pretty good, lots of Queens and the Soldier continues. Skippers were the main action. One Funereal Duskywing, 3 Southern Broken-Dash, at least one Celia's Roadside-Skipper, and minimums of 3+ Clouded, 5+ Dun, 4+Fiery Skipper, 2 Julia&aos;s, singles of Sachem, Eufala Skipper, a female Whirlabout, and a Common Checkered-Skipper. Over the day it was eleven species of skippers from the rocking chair on the porch, the very pinnacle of success.  LOL   ;)

Sept. 27 ~ Len and Cyndie Dasho and I birded Lost Maples for half the day with a stop at Utopia Park at sunup. We heard a Ringed Kingfisher at the park but didn't see it. We flushed the AMERICAN WOODCOCK a few times and got flight views of it, so it is a three day record now, and at least they can cross it off their 'never seen' list. From the woods it flew out to the island which is not reachable presently.

Then to Lost Maples. We had a couple flocks of Turkey on the road on the way up, nearly 30 birds total. On 187 on the way up there was a DOR (dead on road) Ringtail. At Lost Maples there was a good bit of activity around the first crossing right below HQ where you pay and get your entry permit. Leave the car at HQ lot and walk to the crossing. There were a half-dozen Indigo Bunting and at least one imm. Painted there. My FOS Audubon's Warbler landed on a snag for a bit, a Nashville was there, heard Canyon Wren, and saw a few of the regulars like Black-crested Titmouse, Lesser Goldfinch, and White-eyed Vireo.

The Mayfly hatch is what to watch for here in later Sept. and early October. Just hang out at each crossing in particular or anywhere you can see the Mayflies (easiest backlit) over the water. Birds are usually working them, if any around. There is a saying in fishing "match the hatch" and in birding it would be 'watch the hatch'. Early is best.

Then we went to the trailhead parking lot and checked those feeders a bit, just the usual suspects, but the easiest spot to see one of these mini-compact texana Scrub-Jay. We headed up the Can Creek trail (now brilliantly called the east-west trail) toward the pond and spring beyond. The best bird was right at the beginning of the trail not 100 yards from the parking lot. Right after you cross the stone steps over the creek at the first crossing I heard some very high thin 'tik' notes that were interesting so worked up on them slowly.

Turned out to be a flock of two birds, a RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER and an Olive Sparrow. Both of which make a super high thin metallic mechanical 'T' call note. Fortunately after missing several shots I finally got an identifiable docu shot of it for the record. It is the first documented record in the park to my knowledge. I was sure I heard one singing once there several years back. I reported one (description, no photo) in Bandera Co. from the 'hay house' (the staw bale adobe) on N. Thunder Creek in 2004 but I don't know if that was accepted or not.

That is why it is always best to get a picture, any picture, just a few pixels might do, thereby removing that aspect of discussion about a report by the great record deciders. Only the California Bird Record Committee has been known to reject identifiable photographs claiming ID not established (#1991-035, #1997-139, etc.). I think you are in pretty good hands in Texas, you don't have to worry about the CBRC method of bird record cheating here.

At one point the Rufous-capped stopped in the middle of the road to inspect or grab something. When it worked off and upslope, the Olive Sparrow followed it! At times it was less than 15' away, we had point blank stellar views. I told Len and Cyndie the day was going to be downhill from this point. By 9 a.m. we had seen American Woodcock and Rufous-capped Warbler, two things on their want list I'd have said were nearly impossible.

My calculations show it to be a daily double combo that is very hard to see in one day anywhere. These two species ranges just don't normally overlap. Though, Kathy and I did it in March about 2007 one day when we saw the Rufous-capped Warbler in Concan and on the way home right around dusk a Woodcock flew over the road at a heavilly wooded draw 4 mi. west of Utopia.


Rufous-capped Warbler

This is the docu grab-shot of the Rufous-capped Warbler.
Sorry its all I got, but I'll take it.
There is a great pic by Bob Doe from San Antonio from a
couple days later at the link above, '2015 pix' just
below the chat photo above.




There was not much migrant action, just a few Nashville Warbler up the canyon. The breeders are all gone, none of the migratory nesters remained present, and the winterers not in yet of course. Several Hutton's Vireo were seen, I thought I heard an Audubon's Oriole way up on a slope. Did have Common Raven, Carolina Chickadee, and Wren, the usual.

Butterflies were active mostly on the Frostweed. We saw about 5 Monarch butterfly nectaring on it. We saw at least three Two-tailed Swallowtail, a Red-spotted Purple, two Arizona Sister, some Mestra, Sleepy Orange, and lots of skippers. There were numbers of Sachem, Dun and Firey Skippers, a few Whirlabout, several Southern Broken-Dash. One Metalmark, several Pipevine and a few Giant Swallowtail, several Gulf Fritillary, one Variegated.

Not much for odes but a male Springwater Dancer was in the same area there was one on Aug. 1. A few Wandering Glider and Pale-faced Clubskimmer, an Eastern Pondhawk, some Blue Dasher, the usual few Red, and Black, Saddlebags and some Green Darner. A couple Anole lizard were seen.

We made a quick stop at the library butterfly garden on the way back where no birds, and only a few butterflies but one was an Ocola Skipper, the first I have seen this year.

The Soldier butterfly was still here in the afternoon so we can say Day 7 now. Here on the Blue Mist Eup. at the porch there was also Southern Broken-Dash, Celia's Roadside-Skipper, Fiery, Dun, Clouded Skippers and some Queens.

Very interesting was the eclipse, you might of heard about it, the supermegabloodmoon eclipse. We were mostly clouded out but watched some live-streaming, my that is exciting. LOL. Actually it was great to hear astronomers commenting on aspects of it as it occurred, without having to go anywhere. As the moon rose it was real orange (as usual due to the atmosphere, and mostly the garbage we spew into it). The Great Horned Owls were calling. As we went toward totallity, the owls went quiet, and I mean dead silent. They never gave a single hoot at least througout totallity. It got soooo dark out there.... How dark was it you ask???? It was soooo dark the owls were saying 'man it's dark out'! Didn't faze the insects though, the katydids, crickets and such kept going without a break.

Sept. 26 ~ Today birded the Uvalde area with Len and Cyndie Dasho from California. We had a great time and saw lots of neat stuff. They saw a pair of Gray Fox on UvCo 360 just west of 187 in the dark before sunup. we saw a roadkill Badger on Old Sabinal Rd., and a Nutria at the fish hatchery, plus a Cotton Rat at Ft. Inge which takes care of our mammal list. It got pretty hot in the afternoon, mid-90's dF, hotter than forecast, and then late back up here at Utopia about 4:30 there was a spritizing of rain.

At the end of the day Len commented he had never seen so many Cardinals and Mockers. I suspect we had over a hundred Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, 125+ Cardinal and way over 200 Mockers. Kathy said the Cardinal flock on the patio this a.m. was 19 birds at once. Probably saw over a hundred Lark Sparrow as well.

Old Sabinal Rd. at sunup had gobs of Mockers, numbers of Shrike that indicate winterers are arriving, a few Fuerte's Red-tailed Hawk, some Caracaras, but the Lesser Nighthawk, Cassin's Sparrow, and other breeding species are gone, save loads of Lark Sparrow. And they were everywhere all day. We had a flock of Cattle Egret go by somewhere down there.

The fish hatchery in Uvalde was surrounded by dove hunters so the place was fairly devoid of birds compared to normal. There were no waterfowl save Whistling-Ducks, only a Spotted Sandpiper and a half-dozen Killdeer for shorebirds (though I thought I heard an Upland Sandpiper go over). We watched 10 White-faced Ibis depart, likely due to the constant blasting. There were 5 total Pied-billed Grebe and 3 Coot, Cyndie spotted a hatch-year (juv.) Yellow-crowned Night-Heron eating a crayfish, some FOS Savanah Sparrow, a greenie Painted Bunting, an immature Dickcissel, loads of Lesser Goldfinch in the sunflowers, a Wilson's and a Nashville Warbler, Kestrel, numbers of Common Ground-Dove, lots of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, one Clay-colored Sparrow, great scope views of a Couch's Kingbird, numbers of Scissor-tails and a couple Vermilion Flycatcher. Several Chimney Swift were around, a Cactus Wren inspected the car, heard a few Verdin. Thought I heard a Common Yellowthroat chip at one point. Had a FOS Lincoln's Sparrow.

Then we went to Cook's Slough which birdy as usual. I heard an Audubon's Oriole or two there, and heard an Olive Sparrow but didn't see them. We had great looks at a Ringed Kingfisher on a wire over a pond, and several Kiskadees gave good looks too. Among the mostly N. Rough-winged Swallow were a few Cave and Barn. Lots more Whistling-Ducks, some Green Heron, no waterfowl or shorebirds here either. A Yellow Warbler was about the only warbler, there was just about no passerine migrant action today. A couple Cattle Egret were there too. A Rose-bellied Lizard was stalking butterflies coming into a sap leak on a willow.

We had some of that great Bar-B-Q in Uvalde at the spot between H.E.B. and the city park on Hwy. 90. We checked the city park briefly and heat of day was setting in. There was a bathing flock of Cardinal with one Nashville Warbler in the willows. A Red-shouldered Hawk there was likely keeping things hidden. Lots of dragonflies along the creek (Leona River) in the park though.

Then we took a look at Ft. Inge which was nice, but the drought has really taken a toll on the trees. Still it is comparatively lush as evidenced by hearing a few Green Jay across the river (unseen). We did have great looks at a male Audubon's Oriole there, and heard a Green Kingfisher, I only got a poor glimpse of it as a Mockingbird chased it off! Prolly one of those dang snowbird Mockers too! Great was one adult male Painted Bunting among a half-dozen greenies (imms.). I heard a Groove-billed Ani from the cane below the spillway but didn't see it. We had another Couch's Kingbird and more Kiskadee here too, and Len spotted a Long-billed Thrasher. The trail at very the bottom end is now blocked by a fallen tree now and not passable. Saw a Least and a Willow Flycatcher, a Baltimore Oriole, and a Lincoln's Sparrow. A Laviana White-Skipper was flying around at one stop.

On Hwy 90 on the way back just east of Knippa we had a kettle of about 20 Swainson's Hawks which was great. When we got back to Utopia we checked the park quickly for the Woodcock and got no love there, but an imm. fem. Green Kingfisher flew up and perched in a willow less than 25' away for as long as we wanted to watch. On that note we called it a great day.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Sept. 25 ~ The 60's dF low temps are welcome, I hear no one complaining. All but no migrants in the a.m. save an Upland Sandpiper heard around 6:30 a.m. at the crack of light. Maybe one Yellow Warbler. The Merlin dove on things here first thing at early-thirty. Later morning did hear a couple Audubon's Orioles out the window from the throne. At least two.

Removed a crab spider from the Blue Mist Eupatorium flowers. Little do the Southern Broken-Dash, Dun, Julia's, and Clouded Skippers I then watched in succession go to that very flower head know.

The bird of the day was an AMERICAN WOODCOCK at Utopia Park. I have never had one here before December, this seems very early for one to show up. What a great bird! It only takes one good bird to make your day. If it is good enough it can make a week, month, or even a year! I have a real soft spot for Timberdoodles. Ya gotta love a woodland shorebird! This is the third time I have had one at UP, and considering normal average detection rates for the species, it is always around more than we know.

Had a worn pale Monarch cross W. 360 going south, and a second even worsely worn and paler, later in yard, stopped briefly at flowers, and continued, south. The Soldier is on day 5 here, and lots of Queens around. One Fatal Metalmark at the library butterfly garden was new for the month for me. Wish I lived close enough to make sure that place got watered as it should be.

BTW added a couple cam links to that section of the links page, one a Condor cam, the other a Davis Mountains (west Texas) hummingbird cam, both can be very interesting to watch. The imm. fem. Vermilion Flycatcher is still in the yard, and a couple Chimney Swift blazed by southbound just before dusk.

Sept. 24 ~ We were in the lowest 60's dF this morning, might have been the coolest a.m. since May. KVL had a 59dF low, some local WU stations showed 60-61dF. A very few birds went through in the a.m., and all the same things. Single Orchard and two Baltimore Oriole, a couple Yellow Warbler, migrant Mocker and White-eyed Vireo. The 7 Turkey were in the coral again.

The Soldier butterfly is still on the Blue Mist Eupatorium. Great was a Southern Broken-Dash on the Blue Mist Eup. There were a few brief periods of northerly winds in the afternoon. The Shrike continues over around corral, hearing it daily the last few...

Sept. 23 ~ Nice and cool in 60's, but the high pressure has just the lightest trickle of migrants passing through in a.m. A couple each Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, a couple Yellow and a Nashville Warbler. The Least Flycatchers and Dickcissels have really tapered off the last week, getting none now. The local (for last week) Hutton's Vireo still here, and a White-eyed Vireo but which is not doing the local breeders calls and I suspect is a migrant, the locals having departed. A few Mockers went by. The 7 Turkey were in the corral again, and 3 Summer Tanager at once were still about the yard (not for long). A male Scissor-tail was working the front fence by road a while. The Screech-Owls seriously went off for quite a bit as they came into the bath about 11:30 p.m.

The Soldier (butterfly) continues on the Blue Mist Eupatorium (greggii) with several Queens, a few Clouded Skipper are on the Tropical Sage. Smaller numbers of some Black, and Red, Saddlebags (odes) still about, a few Green Darner, a couple Swift Setwing still around yard.

Sept. 22 ~ A nice mid-60's dF low, one WU station had 64, KVL was 63dF. A bit of movement this a.m., was mostly the regulars, but one rary called to notify me of its presence in the big pecan right off the front porch at 8 a.m., a WESTERN TANAGER! It moved through quickly and I only saw it well enough to say it was a female or an immature, no red head. Fortunately it called the whole time and so having grown up with that call as my default tanager it was a no brainer. I have two prior fall records locally, both in September. A couple were reported east of us already in the last week plus here in Texas.

The migrants that went by were a couple each Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, a couple each Nashville and Yellow Warbler, a Gnatcatcher, one greenie imm. Painted Bunting, a couple White-eyed Vireo seemed migrants, the 7 Turkey continue, a Ringed Kingfisher was over at the river, the Shrike is still around (heard).

Had the milkweed butterfly trifecta with the continuing Soldier, a Monarch that passed by, and a dozen Queen. All hit the Blue Mist Eupatorium. The Monarch flew off bearing S to SSW.

Sept. 21 ~ A good wee bit of movement through yard early, with about 6 Orchard and 3 Baltimore Oriole, more of both in afternoon too. A couple Yellow and Nashville Warblers early and over the day. One Least Flycatcher and one Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, the Hutton's Vireo is still around. The bird of the day was the FOS MERLIN, which was persuing a flock of about a hundred Brown-headed Cowbird. I hope he got one in each fist. Had a milkweed butterfly trifecta, Monarch, Queen, and a Soldier. The Monarch flew off heading SSW.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are really blowing out, the numbers are way down from peak last week. Probably only a hundred whereas last week it was easily 200, probably more. Also most left are immatures (most seem male), there are much reduced numbers of adult males present now.

Sept. 20 ~ Wow what a day. Saw all kinds of cool stuff. Started out cooler at 70dF but still got into mid-upper 90's dF in the sun, shady spots were in low 90's. Much cooler in the water in the river at peak heat. :) First early there was a Scott's Oriole singing in the big pecan right over porch! With yesterday's Audubon's, and the daily now Hooded, Baltimore and Orchard it was 5 species of orioles in about 12 hours. The Hooded (5+) Baltimore (4+) and Orchard (8+) were all around in numbers today, thought I heard the Audubon's too.

Early there were 7 big bearded Toms (Turkey) in the corral, late p.m. they went through again but I think there were 9 then. Single Yellow and Nashville Warbler went through early, as did a Gnatcatcher, the Hutton's Vireo was still here but only one White-eyed which was distant and not doing the mimicry our local yard bird was doing. So methinks it was a migrant and our (other 2nd) bird left last night. The imm. fem. Vermilion Flyc. continues as do a handful of Scissor-tailed, often singing in earshot.

We walked up the river channel just less than a mile before noon. Best bird was a Northern Waterthrush Kathy spotted at the pond below the Barham's place. Also there we had a Zebra Longwing (Heliconian - butterfly) fly by, my first for September and a welcome sight. There were also another pair of Canyon Towhee in the channel that were not ours from the front yard.

Then in the various Frostweed patches as we moved north through them we counted FIVE Monarchs, surely migrants, of which photos obtained of three of them. There was also a mint fresh male Great Purple Hairstreak, four Olive Juniper Hairstreak, a Questionmark (beat worn summer form), and lots of the regulars like Pipevine Swallowtail, Sleepy Orange, Gulf Fritillary, Mestra, Tawny Emperor, a Cloudless and a couple Large Orange Sulphur, etc.

Back at the casita in the p.m. were more Yellow and Nashville Warbler, another Gnatchatcher, the Orchard Oriole bathing show was great, there were 4 Orchard in the yard at once, I got a pic of 3 at once bathing in the sprinkler! We took a swim break at peak heat for an hour, what a treat that is. There was a FOS Olive-sided Flycacher over there on a snag at the river. I had something get away in the low stuff I wish I would have seen well. Heard a Belted Kingfisher.

Way less hummingbirds here today, they are really blowing out.

Sept. 19 ~ A flock of about 15 Shoveler blasted over at the crack of dawn. Ringed Kingfisher calling early, and it or another in the afternoon too. A few each of Yellow and Nashville Warbler, Summer Tanager, Baltimore and Orchard Oriole. Single White-eyed Vireo and Least Flycatcher, Caracara, 3 Red-shouldered Hawk at once, 1 greenie imm. Painted Bunting, at least a half-dozen Scissor-tails seen from porch. Best was at least 2, probably 3 AUDUBON'S ORIOLE around the yard in the later p.m.

As we came back from a walk to the crossing there was a VICEROY out by road and fence which flew INTO THE YARD. New yard butterfly! I never thought I'd get one this far from the river, Willows, and Sycamores. Prior at the crossing the Neon Skimmer dragonfly could not be found. Comanche Skimmer still there, but no Neon.

Great was confirming a new fish for the river here, a Red-eared Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus) a nice male with some breeding color still, and quite the beauty actually. It was on my hypothetical list for one I was fairly sure of before. This one was just above the 360 bridge as close as I could focus as long as I wanted. It is amazing how the fish turnover at certain holes just like the birds and butterflies do at the park or in a garden. In spring there was a big male Pumpkinseed at the same spot.

A noticeable departure of hummingbirds has taken place today, the late p.m. swarm was nothing like the morning swarm. A wave left today. I think I keep forgetting to mention, there is no Texas Persimmon crop this year. Orioles feed heavily on them as they pass through in September at peak ripening, and there are none. I have repeatedly been seeing Orchard and Baltimore Orioles eating Hackberries, which they usually don't do here in Sept., surely due to there not being the usual Persimmon crop to feast on this year. And I would say the orioles are not sticking as long as they usually do.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Sept. 18 ~ I did not hear the Yellow-throated Vireo singing today, it must have left last night. The two White-eyed are still here going, and the Hutton's was too. There were very few migrants this morning, a couple Yellow Warbler (one a fully still red-streaked male), a Nashville Warbler, couple each Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, a Gnatcatcher, and a Monarch (butterfly) was about briefly early, which could have been the one Kathy found yesterday late. One greenie imm. Painted Bunting was on the seed tube a bit. The afternoon had another Nashville, another Gnatcatcher, a few Scissor-tails, another Orchard Oriole. There are still a lot of Barn Swallow in town, interesting was a nest with three young still in it, still being fed, at the bank drive through. That is late.

Sept. 17 ~ SOS - same old stuff. Another Groundhog Day. Yellow and Nashville Warbler, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireos, Orchard and Baltimore Oriole, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Caracara, the Hutton's Vireo was 8' from me right off the porch in the lowest leaves of the big pecan. Was too busy with work and chores to goof off. No greenies (imm. Painted Bunting). Kathy spotted a Monarch which I then saw. A different ad.ma. Vermilion Flycatcher went through, besides the still here juv. fem.

Sept. 16 ~ A few hundredths of an inch of spritz from a quick shower. Bird-wise it is pretty much like the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day. Yellow-throated Vireo still singing as were the 2 White-eyed. Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, a couple each Yellow and Nashville Warbler, Gnatcatcher, Least Flycatcher, Summer Tanagers one of which sang, the juv. fem. Verm. Flyc., a Mocker and a Caracara. The only thing different, and quite interesting was a passage migrant Great Crested Flycatcher that went through yard. Big ad. fem. Cooper's Hawk went through, likely the local missus. The Canyon Towhee family of four is still here.

Sept. 15 ~ Yellow-throated and 2 White-eyed Vireo still singing. Going through were a Dickcissel, couple Baltimore and an Orchard Oriole, a couple each Nashville and Yellow Warbler, another Bell's Vireo juvie, a Gnatcatcher, the juv. fem. Vermilion Flycatcher still, a juvenile Eastern Wood-Pewee, a Caracara, and got a good Nashville photo at the sprinkler I promise to get up. No greenie immature Painted Bunting today.


Vermilion Flycatcher

This is the immature female Vermilion Flycatcher that has been
in the yard much of every day the last 5 weeks.




Sept. 14 ~ It got down to about 62dF on the porch this morning, weewow! Some stations had 61 and KVL briefly was at 59dF. Coolest morning since sometime in May. And dry. Holy cow! It was not even 70dF at 9 a.m. Not a lot of bird movement though, a Yellow Warbler may have been a holdover. A couple Baltimore and Orchard Oriole went through, one Baltimore tried a hummer feeder. Kathy (and then I) heard an Audubon's Oriole calling out there, the first in a while from the yard. Also makes for four species of orioles in the yard today. Was slow in the afternoon, except for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds of which there are pounds of. Yellow-throated Vireo still singing here. Last year it left about the 10th of September. One greenie Painted Bunting. Photo'd a Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly and had an Elada Checkerspot (butterfly).

Sept. 13 ~ A wonderful low about 65dF felt outstanding. And the post-frontal wave of birds continued today. Mostly the same things, and more of them. Over the day I saw about 8+ each of orchard and Baltimore Orioles, and maybe 5 Hooded, some of all of which came to bird bath at various times. There were also at least 10 Nashville Warbler around today, 5 at once were in the sprinkler in heat of day. Saw about 6+ Yellow Warbler, Bell's and Hutton's Vireos, besides the usual White-eyed and Yellow-throated still here singing. A couple Dickcissel, a few Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - one male flew right over the house.

A male Wilson's Warbler at the bath showed characters of the western chryseola subspecies with its orange forehead in fresh basic plumage. Poor digiscopes I obtained may show it. This would be the second time I have seen (ph. of both) one of these types here in September. There are essentially no claims ever of this subspecies in Texas as far as I can tell. Most likely people aren't looking, I would expect them to be regular in west Texas if I am getting them here. Folks see the dark cap, know it is a Wilson's, and move on without actually studying the bird. Which in fact best as we know, chryseola is an out of range vagrant here. Though probably more likely just an overlooked scarce transient? Has anyone checked to make sure some of the ones wintering on the gulf coast are not chryseola too? I doubt it. I bet some are. Repeated instances here tell me something is going on with them that we don't know. It is a common bird, so we don't study it, like Orange-crowned Warbler, no glory there, too pedestrian and sundry.

A couple Least Flycatcher were around and I heard a Willow Flycatcher but couldn't get to it for visuals. A few greenie Painted Buntings, one ad.ma. Vermilion Flycatcher at the south end of corral, about 3 juvies around the area. The Canyon Towhee family of four continues, as do a couple hundred Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

Down at the crossing there was an immature female Mourning Warbler which bathed with a few Yellow and Nashvilles. A pair of Green Kingfisher came in and perched giving great views while they called. The Neon Skimmer dragonfly was again out, and again photos were foiled, this time by auto focus which refused to pick up on the big red object in the frame, but instead was sharp on the reeds in background, five times, I gave up.

The most interesting movement of the day though was Monarchs. I have not seen one in months, as usual in summer here. We had the first weak front of fall Thursday, sweeping down out of the Great Plains, lots of areas got some rain (we didn't), but the heat broke, and the season changed. Then two days after the front, Saturday, a second re-enforcing front arrived with 10-15mph north to northeasterlies for much of the day. Temps actually dropped with the dry N-NE flow. And today the day after the real substantial front hit, there are Monarchs. First one was resting on Frostweed in the river riparian habitat corridor, two out of focus but identifiable photos were obtained. Then a very dull worn one crossed the yard early afternoon, followed by a bright one in good condition an hour later. There were three between 11 and 4 p.m.

Then we went for a peak-heat swim from 4:30 to 5:30. Two additional Monarchs passed overhead making great time on the freeway, flying downriver about 25' over it. Straight down the tube in the cleared flight path between the rows of huge cypresses on either side of the Sabinal River. Shaded, clear, wind-sheltered, great flight path choice. I have only seen migrant Monarchs do this. They know they will hit frostweed patches and have pecans for roosting if they stick to the river. So a total of FIVE were seen well today. Plus the big floppy orange butterfly in the corral by those pecans after 6:30 p.m. that was surely a sixth individual. After months without one. This is the first wave of migrant Monarchs on the first real (double) front of fall in mid-September, as has happened before. Nice when it is so well-demarcated by extended prior absence.

Finally, at 11 p.m. or so a Coyote went to singing just over the north fence upslope a bit, and it went off for a good 10 minutes or so with lots of the classic calls. It was likely only 200' away so loud. And awesome.

Sept. 12 ~ The upper 60's dF low was great. Another bit of bird movement, some post-frontal passage. Early a few each Baltimore and Orchard Oriole went through, single Gnatcatcher and Dickcissel, a Least Flycatcher, the same regular passage gang. Mid-morning there was a Yellow Warbler and a Nashville Warbler. The Yellow-throated Vireo was still here singing, still MIA the Chat and Yellow-throated Warbler are gone for the year.

Did a nooner walk to the crossing. Best was a butterfly over at the draw right out the gate when I left, a Laviana White-Skipper. The first I have seen in a few years, and the first local UvCo 360 area sighting for me. They are less than annual locally, usually absent, some years just scarce, but one year about '07 or '08 they were common, though not since. If you would have assessed abundance from that year your 'result' would be completely different from the last 3-4 years whence absent.

On the walk there were a couple Baltimore and a couple Orchard Oriole, a couple Yellow Warbler, 2-3 Nashville Warbler, a Least Flycatcher, and a greenie Painted Bunting. In the later afternoon through yard went a few more Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, anothers of Gnatcatcher and Yellow Warbler, plus another greenie Painted Bunnie. So all told some obvious major movement. Probably a couple hundred Ruby-throated Hummers at the feeders. I spent an hour plus on them at least and saw no other species. I did not see the last imm. Black-chinned here the last few days.

A passage (different) first summer Hooded Oriole went through, besides maybe 4 different ones hitting the hummer feeder over by the mulberry. At last light I heard at least 7 different Upland Sandpiper go over. In a.m. and in p.m. I heard a weird hawk type call I went out for and could not find it either time. I heard it yesterday, and I think the day before too, it shuts up everytime I open the door. It is probably that juvenile Zone-tailed begging again.

After finding out my frame filler full sun Neon Skimmer dragonfly pix were digitally corrupted and unretreivable I went back to re-shoot it, and though refound it, it would only sit with abdomen in shade since it was too hot for it. No sale. The Commanche Skimmer were still there. A couple Viceroy (lep) were still there too. Must have missed the bird bathing show, it wasn't happening as usual, I was too late methinks. While there were still a few of the migrant dragons around it seemed they cleared out with the front for the most part. The swarms of saddlebags and gliders present the last two weeks plus were absent today.

I was on porch and nearing dusk lots of dove are moving around, flying high since season is open. I see this pair of Mourning coming toward me over the cypresses along the river, east to west. I see one is bigger, so OK they are a pair, male and female. I wonder how long they have been together this lovely couple, probably very very dedicated to each other methinks. A single dove goes over going west to east at about the same altitude, they are going to miss by 20 feet or so. One of the two doves in the pair breaks off and does a 180 degree turn-around and flies off with the single dove. Their relationship ended right before my eyes! Reminded me of a date I once had, where did she go? ;) Just a reminder that we not anthropomorphize too much when we are observing birds. No matter how fun it can be. LOL

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Sept. 11 ~ The low was about 70-71dF and felt great. Just before 7 a.m. there was a fair bit of dawn song from the annual staging flock of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers across the river. The Yellow-throated Vireo is still here and singing too. A few Orchard and Baltimore Orioles went through early, a Least Flycatcher was out there calling. A male Baltimore sang a bit. Thank you very much for that. A new juvenile (hatch-year) male Hooded Oriole was at one feeder, in typical Sept. plumage for an older one, quite orangeish with a black throat but not lores.

In the afternoon there were a couple more Orchard Oriole, a Yellow and a Nashville Warbler, and a Gnatcatcher. Some areas around might have gotten some rain but we didn't. The whole event was maybe a tenth of an inch of precip here for us. But there was a lot of bird movement on the front. At least one imm. Black-chinned Hummer continues, and likely 150-200 Ruby-throated are present. It is a swarm situation at the main bank of 3 feeders. Sounds like a squadron of WWII fighters is out on the patio.

The same imm. female Vermilion Flycatcher continues, and a new different imm. male and an ad. male both were about for a while. Haven't seen an adult here in two weeks, so surely a passage migrant. I did not hear or see the Chat or the Yellow-throated Warbler today.

Shirley at the general store told me Tuesday (8th) they had an Imperial Moth there at the store. It is a big yellow fancy moth, 3 or more inches across with pink dots and markings, a striking beauty.

Sept. 10 ~ A little bit cooler this a.m., maybe 73dF, we'll take it over 75. Supposed to get some rain yet, a brief spritz of a hundredth or two came by about 11 a.m. Early morn several Orchard Oriole, heard a few Baltimore, a Dickcissel and a Gnatcatcher went through. Later morning 2 Yellow Warbler, a Least Flycatcher, a Dickcissel and two more Orchard Oriole went through southbound. An imm. male Vermilion went by southward as well. It was not a local bird, but the one last imm. fem is still here about the yard much of each day. The Yellow-throated Warbler was still in the big pecan, and the Yellow-throated Vireo was still singing, besides a couple Wide-eyed Vireo. That white eye looks pretty wide-eyed to me. Just seein' if you are really reading.   LOL    ;)

In the afternoon another rain cell just missed us but we got the cooling outflow breaking the heat of the day. Those cells that just missed us yesterday late afternoon parked near Knippa 10 mi. east of Uvalde and areas there got 3 to 5 INCHES of rain! Here in the p.m. there were more Orchard Orios, about 10 for the day total, another Gnatcatcher or two, and at dusk a couple more Balitimore Oriole, making about 5 for the day for them, a Common Nighthawk, another pretty imm. Bell's vireo, a Least Flycatcher, and three greenies - immature Painted Bunting - at once under the millet tube at dusk.

Near dusk I heard a Black-crested Titmouse going off with a scold session and I looked up into the 'north' pecan north of the hourse. A big spider with a huge (egg filled probably) abdomen was dropping down a line of silk. the Titmouse dropped down to it as it and hovered next to it, pecking at it as the spider dropped a foot as it pecked, the titmouse, lowered, hovered, pecked again and seemed to nail the spider but which dropped again into foliage. The titmouse went right in after it and soon the spider was again dropping across open airspace and the titmouse was right on it, and snagged it out of the air, flying off with its prize. The abdomen had to be three-quarters of an inch long, across and thick. It was a big orb weaver type of some sort.

Sept. 9 ~ The front is north of us a hundred plus miles and moving at a snail's pace, maybe. Will get warm and humid in front of it this afternoon. At 7 a.m. a flock of 17-18 Shoveler flew south down river corridor, my FOS. About 9:09 a.m. (on 9/9) an Eastern Kingbird flew south down habitat corridor. Going through yard early was barely anything, heard a Baltimore Orio chatter and a Dickcissel, but could have missed movement as I'm inside way more of each of the first few hours than outside, and sometimes stuff goes through quickly, like the Redstart yesterday. It is clear I need an outdoor climate controlled office in the middle of the trees, microphones covering oh what maybe 100' should do it, but 200' would be nice. Maybe one mic that gets the river cypresses. I'd never get any work done!

The Yellow-throated Vireo that is still singing territorially here had competition this morning from another across the road and down draw. For a couple hours the local breeder moved into the yard (north end of its territory) and belted at full volume to let the one across road know this territory is taken. The one across road was a transient and over the morning moved south down river habitat corridor.

The Chat was still out there, as were White-eyed Vireos. A couple Gnatcatchers went by during the day, and a couple greenie imm. Painted Bunting were about, the pair of Common Ground-Dove have a new just-fledged young with them today. The ad.ma. has recently molted new wing coverts and the black dots on wing are showing purple quite well if you get the light at the right angle now. At least one imm. Black-chinned Hummer continues among over a hundred Ruby-throated.

Part of the front arrived about 3 p.m. with light northerly winds and a slight cooling to lower 90's dF, but the rain was east and west of us, there was a break in the line in the Utopia area, as often the case. Utopia is an ancient word for rain kryptonite. Hopefully we will get some precip out of this, we need it badly. A White-tipped Dove called about 4 p.m. in the afternoon. A brief spritzing happened after 5, maybe a couple hundredths of precip, not even a real leaf washer. A single Chimney Swift flew north up river corridor after the spritz.

About 6:30 a Common Nighthawk flew over, a couple Common Raven a half-hour later. At dusk there were at least a dozen Upland Sandpiper that called as they were heading south. They must have spent the day up-valley in pastures, as they are taking off for an all-nighter flight now, gaining altitude, next stop Mexico.

Sept. 8 ~ Supposed to be the last day of the bad heat, with front due to arrive in a day or so. Low was only about 75dF, not much low about it. I thought yesterday while pondering the few migrants around, that there should be a wave in front of the front, besides what is usually peak wave - what gets kocked down during the frontal passage. Usually there is stuff ahead of it, trying to stay that way. Since the front is said to be arriving late afternoon Wednesday, I would guess a bit of movement should be ahead of it Wed. morning.

This morning there were the usual, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Dickcissel, a Yellow Warbler, a Least Flycatcher, and a Gnatcatcher. Then about 9 a.m. I was on computer doing biz, heard a sharp metallic peeek note out the open window, looked up over monitor and on the garden fence 6' away is a first fall male American Redstart! Nice peachy sides, fanning its tail showing the big yellow squares in black, OMG. I called Kathy and luckily it stuck at least a mintue popping along the garden fence turning, flashing, posing, it was awesome. They are rare here in fall, I do not see them every year locally and I missed it this spring, so this was doubly great. Now if I could just make up Tennessee which I also missed this spring.... I won't hold my breath.

Then about 10 a.m. and out on the front porch heard a Grosbeak squeak from the big pecan. Which then broke into a few notes of song. It was a Rose-breasted! I saw it fly over to another pecan just well enough through the leaves to see pink, black and white, and no buff or orange! It is a great find locally in fall. So two less than annual fall migrants in an hour this morning, and I pretty much don't care what happens the rest of the day. ;)

The Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireos still singing, the Chat chattered a bit, the Great Crest is gone, first summer male and female Hooded Orioles hitting the feeders. Ruby-throated Hummers getting thick, wouldn't be surprised if there are a hundred. Inca Dove calling out there this morning. Canyon Towhees about. Thought I heard the Yellow-throated Warbler, which was still here yesterday.

In afternoon what I presume was the same Loggerhead Shrike here two days ago was on the front fenceline out along the road. Afternoon was 95dF in the shade of front porch, some stations locally reporting a hundred or more. Had Celia's Roadside-Skipper, Clouded Skipper, Funereal Duskywing, and Julia's Skipper and a bunch of the regulars in yard.

So a migrant ad. Eastern Wood-Pewee was hawking about the pecans in the afternoon and pulls up to a perch that the Canyon Towhee thinks is his, on top of one of the brush piles. The Towhee is 6' away at the other end of a big branch that goes across the top of the pile. I'm thinkin', these two have probably never met before, likely a lifer view of the other species for both of them. The Towhee flies straight at the pewee making the high-pitched squeal call they often make when meeting other Canyon Towhees. Long and drawn out, loud, lots of flourish, but stops about 20" before the pewee. Wings down, tail up, whole bird shakin', trying to be as absolutely threatening and scary as can be. For a bird that always looks somewhere between shocked, just woke up, and deer in headlights, it was very impressive. The towhee has the size and weight advantage here.

As the towhee was flying at the pewee, the pewee did not flinch, but rather leaned down branch toward the incoming towhee, dropped wings and head, opened bill, and the towhee stopped, apparently calling off the body slam, perhaps figuring that gawd-awful sound it was making should do the trick. The towhee was gobsmacked this didn't work, the pewee straitened back up to relaxed, and after a few moments of trademark blank staring the towhee flew for the patio about 45' away. Should be no problem, right? I could see the pewee watching it, to about 30' away, seeming the be thinking about how big, fat, slow, and round-winged that bird was. The pewee bolted, in just a few flaps accelerating at warp speed and it hit the towhee in flight as it shot by with afterburner on, pulling a 4G U-2 style vertical climb up to a perch 20' off the ground in a hackberry. It acted like nothing happened as it looked down toward the towhee, hoping it got the message, about how fast birds with long pointed wings can go.

The towhee barely made the patio. It stumbled as it landed, more than well-disheveled with that 'what the heck just happened' look, much worse than their usual. That pewee blew his feathers off. Here these two totally unrelated birds that probably had never seen their types that close-up before end up having a rather odd interaction. The question remains as to whether the towhee was smart enough to learn anything. Of course I did, and that to me is the true joy of birding. Seeing the common thing in an uncommon way is as amazing as seeing any rare thing. Any day lots of people see these two species, but probably not lots of days do most people watch them long enough to see them do amazing things. They're dull, definitely not fancy, is there anything flashy exciting?, move on. The last several pewees were all juveniles so an adult was pretty exciting to me, boy that lower mandible dulls up compared to spring and summer color levels.

As a crusty curmudgeon I would say that the more one gets away from the 'the list is the goal/reward' perception of that being what birding is, the more of these types of amazing observations one has. You end up watching more. No one told me if you looked at a pewee wrong you could get your arse kicked. There is a world of things we don't know about even the most common birds. I do know they will never cease to amaze anyone who watches them.

Sept. 7 ~ Not a very low low at about 75dF, can't wait for that to end, should be less than a week now. Last night right before dark we heard a loud harsh trilled scold note. Kathy asked what was it and I replied Shrike. We went out and looked for it but couldn't see it. This morning I heard the same notes followed by something flying into the big pecan right off front porch. Walked under tree as I again thought Shrike, and as it flew off south I saw it was indeed a Loggerhead Shrike, the FOS, but which then will be dated for yesterday the 6th when it was first detected (and actually arrived). Just didn't confirm the ID until call re-heard, and then bird seen, this morning.

Not much migrant motion this morn, a couple greenie imm. Painted Buntings, a Dickcissel, an Orchard Oriole and that was it. The Yellow-throated Vireo sang a lot early in the big pecan, two White-eyed continue singing lots as well, and the Great Crested continues to be gone, having left Friday night apparently. I saw a large brown raptor fly through the corral which I think was a Great Horned Owl. Heard Red-shouldered Hawk complaining.

Did another afternoon swim at peak heat, greenie Painted Bunting juvies over along river, the rest was the expected. A couple of the deep spots are now only 5' deep, they were 6, and 7 a couple months ago. The 2" in mid-August did nothing for the aquifer, the river is down, we need a bunch more rain still. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher later p.m.

Did a bug light for a few hours, nothing stellar that I saw but 20 pix of more different moths and such is easy and quick. At least 5 Praying Mantises came in and were picking off some snacks. One Mayfly (Ephemeroptera) came in, at least 6 Coreids (leaf footed bugs), a Robberfly took a moth, quite a few leaf hoppers and sharpshooters (Homoptera), some Green Lacewing and Antlions, 2 Walnut Sphinx moths, a very few small scarabs and only one Elatarid, maybe one un-impressive Cerambycid. Lots of true (stink) bugs, several Katydids.

Sept. 6 ~ Still warmish lows about 73dF and getting hot in p.m., upper 90's dF in sun. Just a few more days until the front gets here - about Thursday - which will be the big break in the cycle. The Yellow-throated Vireo was singing all day, but for the second day, no Great Crested Flycatcher, it left Friday night. It was really whoopin' and hollerin' at dusk much louder than it had been the several previous nights. The White-eyed Vireos continue as does the Yellow-throated Warbler.

A couple Orchard Oriole went through early, a Yellow or two. I walked to crossing 11-1 or so. An incredible find was a BLACKPOLL, likely the first one I have ever seen in fall in Texas. Probably the first Uvalde County report. I heard the zzzeeeet note and thought it was higher, cleaner, and thinner than the lower coarser Yellow Warbler zzzeeet note so keyed in on it. Initially it was in the tall cypress along river, then flew to small pecan along road where I got a look on an open branch. It then flew right past me calling as it did, up into a big pecan where I got another look at it in bins. It then took off into a big patch of big pecans and I lost it despite 15 minutes of trying to refind it.

It was a warbler, mostly greenish above with streaks on upperparts, a pale supercillium and dark eyeline, two big white wingbars, whitish underparts with fine diffuse streaks on sides, no warm bay tones, and snow white undertail coverts. Amazing. Like many a good bird it disappeared as fast at it showed up. I just saw it just well enough in two views to be sure it was a Blackpoll. It was half way between corral and crossing, and likely went through the yard a couple hours ago when I wasn't out there watching.

Just above crossing I had a FOS Mourning Warbler in the tall Gamma Grass. At the bird-bathing spot there was the usual group of Tanagers (Summer), Lesser Goldfinches, Eastern Phoebes, a first summer male Hooded Oriole (that is not the one at our feeders), a couple Yellow Warbler, and a few Lark Sparrow. One Summer Tanager quiet-sang (under-the-breath style) a while.

In odes, what seemed the same Neon Skimmer (dragon) was at the same spot at upper end of new gravel bar where a small backflow channel, and I think I got some better photos this time (update since I wrote that and attempted to recover the pix - the camera had a malfunction and I lost the frame-filler close-ups I got!*#!). You might have heard me..... No Smoky Rubyspot (damselfly) but lots of American.

In leps, Viceroy still there, lots of Phaon Crescent on the Frogfuit below crossing, one Southern Broken-Dash (still?) there too. Desert Checkered-Skipper, a few Reakirt's Blues and Buckeye, lots of Common (No.) Mestra, one Rounded Metalmark was nice, and lots of the regular suspects. On the way back a couple Orchard Oriole and a couple greenies (imm. Painted Bunting).

Ruby-throated Hummingbird numbers have really increased the last few days, since Thursday and Friday there has been a constant upswing in birds. They typically peak on the first big real cold front of September, usually mid-month or so, and which is forecast to hit late this coming week. A few immature Black-chinned are still here, but not getting anything else. The problem here is that the most convenient place to hang the feeders for servicing is not out the office window, so I am not constantly checking them and seeing everything that comes in. The last place I had three feeders out office window so saw a high percentage of what was coming in, these are easy to keep full, but hard to watch much. There is no doubt I am not seeing lots of what comes in here.

Went for another afternoon swim since it was hot and sticky. Heard this morning's Red-shouldered Hawk some more. Saw a Ruby-throat, some Chickadee and Titmouse, Carolina Wren, but not much action there. Cooling off what feels like 20 degrees makes it hardly matter. The water is under 80dF and in the sun it is about a hundred, so a good deal birds or not. Did see Channel Catfish, Texas Shiner, Largemouth and Guadalupe Bass, and Longear Sunfish.

Sept. 5 ~ In the a.m. through yard were a few Orchard Oriole, a Baltimore Oriole or two, a couple Yellow Warbler, a Dickcissel, a Mockingbird bolted past. The Yellow-throated Vireo did sing a little bit, so I just missed it yesterday. It is still here. But I did not hear the Great Crested Flycatcher, and it was calling at dark loudly... like it was going to go. Did hear the Chat still, and a couple White-eyed Vireo continue, a couple Scissor-tail were out there too.

I was working mid-morning at the monitor when the Zone-tailed Hawk landed on the bird nest box on the former dish pole at the cottage, just 20' away, right behind and above the monitor. Grabbed camera and got a few pix until battery died. Kathy tried to get a quick little vid, don't know if that worked yet.

Went out on front porch so as not to disturb it, sat in chair, lit pipe, and 12' to my right it goes blazing by in full stoop dropping to the ground but goes out of view behind the big pecan trunk 10' off porch as it gets to ground level. I comes out other side of trunk, pulls up, and lands on a low branch of the next pecan 6' off the ground, and 40' from me tops. It gave full tail fan on landing so I saw it had two narrow bands inside (anterior) the broad one, so a female (males only have one pale band inside the broad one).

It turned around and looked down to the area where it just must have about hit ground, and out from behind trunk walks a yearling Armadillo that couldn't care less. The Zoney was bobbing its head at it, wanting to go for it, but must have known when it pulled up and called off the strike at the last second, these armored tanks aren't worth it. Probably thought it could have been a small cottontail rabbit when it spotted it and dove as just part of the back was sticking up higher than the grass, being a smallish yearling barely a foot long. Interesting the hawk wouldn't mess with it though.

The hawk watched the dillo for 5 minutes whilst I sat frozen save the occasional puff off my pipe watching it bare-eyed from my chair. It was a NBE - near bird experience - of the finest kind. Only takes one to make your day, or week if it is good enough, a month if it is great like this one. Best observation of a Zone-tailed Hawk I ever had, from the rocker on the porch. That is a funny thing about how birding can work that way. You can run all over the hillside or desert chasing the birds down, or you can sit at the spring. Often the latter technique produces the best observations.

Saw a couple Cave Swallows go by, a Least Flycatcher was out there. We took a walk to the crossing 11 a.m. to noon-thirty. Had a first of fall male Wilson's Warbler just south of the corral, was probably through the yard a couple hours ago. Three greenie Painted Bunting, a Scissor-tail, heard Ringed Kingfisher. A female Hooded Oriole bathed below the crossing at the bathing spot. A few Summer Tanager and Lesser Goldfinch there too, a Yellow Warbler, thought I heard a Black-throated Green Warbler chip a couple times. Heard two more singing Yellow-throated Vireo down where there were territorial birds all summer. So I would say three are still on or around breeding territory, molting and about to go.

In leps a Sachem was on the Snow-on-the-Mountain, which is still going great, one Viceroy (butterfly) was still on the Sycamores, a couple Giant Swallowtail, Goatweed Leafwings, Red Admirals, Buckeyes, Reakirt's Blues, and one Soldier was the highlight. I saw one in July but missed it in August. Hopefully my pix will turn out of a big bright Green Lynx Spider with a dead bumble bee in its grip, in a blooming (purple) Eryngo. Bumble Bees seem to have been common this year, I get them daily from porch, and almost always multiples on flowers when we walk the road.

In afternoon a few more Orchard Oriole, another Baltimore too, and the Hoodeds were at the feeders, the ad.ma. Yellow-throated Warbler worked the big pecan low and close for me, another Dickcissel, one greenie in yard. The pair of Canyon Towhee continue with their two young, adults molting central rectrices now (tail feathers) so look like Scissor-tailed Towhees as they land. Saw the Zoney heading across the river toward the pastures on other side in a long stoop. Another small swallow went by that could have been a Bank, again, as yesterday, but behind trees too quickly.

Sept. 4 ~ Had some morning low clouds so didn't cool off as much as hoped for. Going south in the a.m. were a couple Orchard Oriole, a Dickcissel or two, one Black-n-white Warbler, a couple Yellow Warbler the latter of which may be holdovers. In afternoon several more Orchard Orios, still a greenie or two imm. Painted Bunting, and still a few imm. Black-chinned Hummingbird, but a few to several dozen Ruby-throated Hummers. And hot and sticky. I saw what was likely a Warbling Vireo briefly bare-eyed but close in the pecan but couldn't find it when I got back out with bins. It didn't have a field mark on it, their key field mark. There was a Least Flycatcher over on north fence. Kathy saw a swift out the office window. Great Crested called until dark, but I did not hear the Yellow-throated Vireo today.

This weekend (besides Labor Day on Monday) is the annual Utopiafest festival concert and campout with bands playing at a ranch north of town the next couple days. We're glad to be out of earshot, and will be hiding here on the semi-private gated road, maybe in the river. The last few years they had rain so I guess they had it earlier this year when just sure to be hot and sticky. Summer's last hurrah.

This one White-eyed Vireo hanging around has been doing what they do and making its three part song up with three imitiations of other species. Most common lately is one with first the initial chik note is a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher bik note. The second part is a Bewick's Wren scold bzzzzzzzz. And for a big finale the third part of the song is the ka-brrrrrr of an Ash-thoated Flycatcher. They do this regularly, with various species sometimes inserted, instead of their normal chik-puraweeo-chik. Funny birds, great mimics, I have heard a dozen very good imitations of a dozen species out of a single bird.

Sept. 3 ~ This morn I see our 20% chance of rain has been removed from the forecast. Looks like one last week of hot and no rain summer ahead. At least it has cooled down 5 dF and is running about 73-93dF for a temp range, which is a world of difference. In one 5 min. sit holding the rocker down on the porch at least 4 Mockingbird flew by southbound down the river corridor over treetop level - migrants on the move. An imm. Bell's Vireo went through, these eastern type juvies sure are a pretty vireo plumage. A couple Orchard Oriole and Yellow Warbler in pecans, heard a Least Flycatcher. Also heard the Great Crested Flycatcher weakly sing its post breeding songs, it is going to leave any day. The Yellow-throated Vireo is still singing, as is the White-eyed Vireo.

In the afternoon more Orchard Oriole, a Dickcissel on patio, and the 2nd Nashville Warbler of the fall. Two of them this year earlier than my prior earliest (Sept. 5). A couple or few Yellow Warbler around all afternoon too. B-b Whistling-Ducks went over. Heard Red-shouldered Hawk.

Sept. 2 ~ Still singing Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo in the morning. A few imm. Summer Tanager are really hunting the pecan the bees are all over. The pecan leaves exude a sugary substance that attracts all manner of insects, especially bees in the morning. Probably with the dew from condensation it makes it easier for them to harvest or access the nectar from the leaves. The tree is humming and the Tanagers are lovin' it. This also makes the fallen leaves stick to your shoes so they get tracked into house. Your shoes sound like they have bubble-gum on them from the sugary reside when the leaves comes off, just lovely.

A Scrub-Jay was in yard a bit, September is when to get them on valley floor wandering around, probably mostly juveniles. I think I have two Utopia Park records, both in September. The male Yellow-throated Warbler was around quite a bit as for the last several days, methinks it will soon be departing. It is as if he comes by to say goodbye. After they lose the young they hang around the territory and molt while fattening up for the big blast outta here. They seem to re-inspect every tree they used all summer daily for several days, perhaps trying to re-imprint the map and territory one more and one last time. The Great Crested Flycatcher does it, Yellow-throated Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler do it, Scott's Oriole does it, Painted Bunting does it.

Saw the imm. Zone-tailed make a low pass over the place mid-morning. There only seems to be one imm. (fem.) Vermilion left hanging in the yard, some have gone, cleared out. There was an imm. male down the road a few days ago, with quite a lot of red on underparts already. A tiny swallow flew by that looked like a Bank but it was too far bare-eyed to say for sure. A Least Flycatcher was out along fences, the Chat chatted a bit. Later afternoon a Zone-tailed Hawk made a patio strafe and flushed everything. At one time I counted 5 Summer Tanager in the yard, hitting the sweetest-leafed pecan for bees. Had one Field Sparrow go by.

Today as yesterday there were lots of dragonflies hanging around the pecans, and moving south down the road and river habitat corridor. Yesterday and today Black Saddlebags are predominant, Red Saddlebags coming in second, they were predominant last week. Numbers of Wandering and Spot-winged Glider and Green Darner are among them. A couple dozen at once in a couple groups is regular, both around the lee side of the pecans, and out in open area along road. Best though was another male Flame Skimmer that flew south across yard just 6' from porch while I was on guard. Second one in a month or so.

September 1 ~ Holy cow, September! Whilst climatological summer runs until the equinox on September 22, meteorlogical summer is over. Today is the first day of meteorlogical fall. June, July, and August are meteorlogical summer. I would say ornithological summer as well. Though many to most birds are actually breeding in May at southerly latitudes, further north many migrants don't get up there and going until June.

Most are done breeding sometime in August. By which time lots of birds are in motion moving around, migrating. But September it really kicks up a notch or three. For most species that don't winter here in the states, September is when most of them cross the country. For many birds now it is fall migration. For us, it is the best time to find unusual birds.

This morning went by a couple Orchard Oriole, a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a couple Yellow Warbler (which may or may not be new or holdovers), Dickcissel, and a Mockingbird shot by southbound. Saw Zone-tailed Hawk, at least 4 greenie imm. Painted Bunting here still. The Great Crested Flycatcher did its morning song as did Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo, and Carolina and Bewick's Wrens. There must be 20 Lark Sparrow around I keep forgetting to mention, over a dozen are juveniles, and about as many Cardinal, also at least a dozen are juveniles.

In the afternoon there was a Least Flycatcher, another Gnatcatcher, a couple more Orchard Oriole, a tardy ad. male Purple Martin went over southbound, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo was hunting the pecans, and another Dickcissel. The pair of Canyon Towhee with their two young were in yard all day. A couple to a few imm. Black-chinned Hummer were around but did not see the last ad.ma. that was here. A few dozen Ruby-throated are here. A Roadrunner was clicking up the slope behind us, they have not been around this summer, moving somewhere to breed.

I made a quick tally and I recorded over 50 species of birds in the yard today during my hourly lookabouts! Surely there were more around the place today. I can think of a few that I didn't see or hear that are around. Besides early and late when I might get 10 or 15 minutes an hour, most of the 'work' day it is just 5 minutes an hour from the front porch. Clearly 55 species is possible in a day here (essentially from the front porch) when some migrants are moving and 60 might be doable on a great day. Wouldn't you know I couldn't hear an Upland Sandpiper in the evening to save my soul.

Here is the whole list: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black and Turkey Vultures, Zone-tailed, Red-tailed, and Cooper's Hawks, Crested Caracara, White-winged, Mourning, and Ground-, Doves, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Screech- and Great Horned owl, Black-chin and Ruby-throated Hummers, heard Ringed Kingfisher, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Vermilion, Great Crested and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Common Raven, Purple Martin, Barn and Cliff Swallow, Caro Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, No. Mockingbird, Yellow and Yellow-throated Warbler, Chat, Summer Tanager, Canyon Towhee, Chipping and Lark Sparrow, No. Cardinal, Painted Bunting, Dickcissel, Brown-headed Cowbird, Orchard and Hooded Oriole, heard a Baltimore Orio, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, House Sparrow, plus heard a nearly un-mentionable Euro Collared-Dove, thankfully quite distantly.

~ ~ ~ August summary ~ ~ ~

August was mostly hot and dry. Very hot, and very dry. During the third week of the month we lucked out and had a couple rain cells drop about 2" of rain locally. It was the first rain in 7 weeks which is not the norm in summer, except during drought regimens. Many Cypresses along the river are turning rust colored already, prematurely, and many pecans are already in color change and dropping leaves. There is no pecan crop to speak of for winter forage.

There were 56 species of butterflies this month locally which is a good total. Highlights were Red-spotted Purple, several Viceroy, several Arizona Sister, the first Southern Broken-Dash of the year, and the first White-striped Longtails (2! both ph.) in several years. Only the Spicebush Swallowtail at Lost Maples was not seen immediately around yard or on UvCo 360.

Odes were active too and both Flame (yard) and Neon (360 x-ing) Skimmer males locally were great to see (less than or barely annual here). The Neon was new for my local 360 area list, as was a Four-spotted Pennant right out the office window in yard. The Swamp Darner continued into early August, with a pair on August 2 at the 360 crossing. All told it was about 34 species of Odes locally, which means in the yard or along the river around UvCo 360, save one damsel, a nice male Springwater Dancer up at Lost Maples.

I count about 90 species of birds for the month locally. Pretty good for not birding much. A good number of migrants are showing up and my first ever so far here in August (n~12 falls) for Nashville Warbler (on 30th) and Broad-winged Hawk (on 29th) were great. The begging juvenile Broad-winged Hawk at Lost Maples on the 1st is likely a furthest SW nesting for them so remarkable too.

Other good birds were a Couch's Kingbird calling in the big pecan in front yard (4th), and an Eastern Kingbird at the 360 crossing (30th). On the 14th a migrant Grasshopper Sparrow on E.360, and a Lesser Nighthawk over driveway were great sightings. A White-tipped Dove and an imm. Peregrine on the 30th were nice too. Things like Dickcissel, Orchard Oriole, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Least Flycatcher all poured through in multiple numbers nearly daily all month, and fair numbers of Yellow Warblers too. The usual Upland Sandpipers the last third of the month, a few Black-and-white Warbler, a couple migrant Louisiana Waterthrush, though several were still nesting at Lost Maples on Aug. 1st as usual.

By the end of the month the Purple Martins are gone, adult male Painted Bunting are gone by mid-month or earlier, and haven't heard but a growl from a Chuck-wills-widow since the first day or two of the month.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ end August summary ~ ~ ~ ~

August 31 ~ Another cool morning in mid-60's dF was awesome. There is a world of difference in lows at 75dF vs. 65dF. Just a few migrants today, a couple Gnatcatcher, an Orchard Oriole or two, two or three Yellow Warbler may be holdovers. Two ad.ma. Summer Tanager in yard. Hooded Orioles still daily. Yellow-throated Vireo and Great Crested Flycatcher sang in a.m., heard a Scissor-tail or two. A Northern Cloudywing and a Dusky-blue Groundstreak were nice for butterflies on the porch.

A huge kettle of vultures came up I presume off some roadkill out on 187. There were over 100 Black Vulture and over 30 Turkey Vulture. I could not pick anything else out of them. In case you hadn't heard... Africa and India have some real problems where the vultures were all being killed (Africa on purpose, in India by accident with livestock medicine). Ya gotta have the cleanup crew. Now there are mega herds of dogs (with rabies) out of control in India, because they poisoned the vultures inadvertently with 'cow medicine'. Then in Africa poachers shoot them so as to not give away their location. The result is the same. The balance of nature is thrown out of whack. With real negative human consequences, as predictable, as always. When one tugs on a strand in the web of life, one finds everything is connected (John Muir).

A real surprise was the two Canyon Towhee we have been seeing off and on the last month, but less than daily, were here feeding TWO fledglings! They nested somewhere very very close, probably just up the hill behind us is my guess. Amazing. The young are heavilly streaked on underparts, no color on crown, but some of the warm tawny butterscotch on undertail coverts.

Before 5 p.m. I was sitting on porch, with binocs, and saw a Zone-tailed Hawk drifting maybe thisaway. As it got over the big pecan I moved out from under porch to watch it as it was more than 300' up, not like it was going to land. It moved north a little, I lost it behind the north pecan tree and was wondering where it was when whoooosh it stooped at the patio to my left, seemingly missed, and shot by below eye-level less than 20' away doing about 50 mph, it flew under the lowest pecan branches just over ground for 75' and out of the front yard. I can't believe how fast it got from where I lost it soaring way up there seemingly un-interested, to right next to me blazing by at full speed ahead. It was merely seconds. It was astounding.

Aug. 30 ~ Some migrant motion in the a.m., with a Dickcissel, an Orchard Oriole or two, and a Mockingbird on the move. Two or three Yellow Warbler are probably holdovers still. Outstanding was my first of fall NASHVILLE Warbler, which is also my first August record locally in twelve falls. My earliest 3 in 12 prior falls were Sept. 5, 6, & 9. A red (ad.ma.) Summer Tanager was my first in yard in over a week. Heard a Baltimore Oriole.

We took a walk to crossing and had a few interesting things. An EASTERN Kingbird is a scarce bird here in fall so great, especially since I missed it in spring. Great was an imm. PEREGRINE Falcon that went over low and fast, and as we neared the main bird bathing spot a WHITE-TIPPED Dove flew off, which must have been getting a drink. Another ad.ma Summer Tanager was at the bathing spot along with a few green ones, a Yellow Warbler, some Lesser Goldfinch, Titmouse and Chickadees, etc. Saw a Yellow-billed Cuckoo fly across river. Heard a FOS Belted Kingfisher calling from upriver. A group of swallows had lots of Barn and one Cliff.

On way back saw a Common Streaky Skipper which is the first one of them for the month = sps. #56 for August locally. The rest was the regulars, one Viceroy, dozens of Mestra a few Leafwing (Goatweed), and another Arizona Sister was great. There were a couple Eastern Ringtail (dragons) again, and good numbers of Red, and Black, Saddlebags. No Smoky but lots of American Rubyspot damselflies.

Went for a swim in the afternoon, a Ringed Kingfisher sounded off as we got to the river. There was a bit of outflow from some rain cells to our north, Lost Maples might have gotten a little. Kept the afternoon about 90dF here in the shade, at least 5dF cooler at river, and 5 more cooler yet IN river. Some swallows went by in p.m., Barn, Cliff, Cave, and a N. Rough-winged.

The pair of Canyon Towhee were around the yard. Interesting we did not see them yesterday when I had a pair 3-4ths of a mile away. Do they range that far in a day, or are there two pairs very nearby? These things are an enigma. We don't see them daily in the yard recently, but maybe every-other day.

The pecan leaves are raining like gangbusters, I can't believe how many are dropping this early. Same for how orange rust some of the Cypresses are along the river. Already!?! Amazing. Last thing at dusk I heard at least 10 Upland Sandpiper go over southbound, right before last light. Just getting up to fly for the night, they must have spent the day on the ground in the valley to the north.

Aug. 29 ~ Another chilly morning at 65dF or so felt great, weewow! Two Yellow Warbler were likely holdovers, a Gnatcatcher early was a migrant. Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo all singing still as is Black-crested Titmouse. I took an hour walk to crossing at noon. I have been hearing this different hawk begging note and not being able to find it the last few days. When I left and got out on road I spotted the source, an immature Zone-tailed Hawk way high right over the house.

Only one Yellow Warbler along road (2 in yard), a couple greenie imm. Painted Bunting in the tall grass. I went below crossing to Frogfruit patches to check for butterflies which were good. A pair of Canyon Towhee were interesting, and a Yellow-throated Vireo singing had clearly just replaced its tertials and wing-coverts as they were spankin' new fresh with big bright crisp white edges. Best was a Greater (aka Texas) Earless Lizard (Cophosaurus texana) which is a real beauty and my first local 360 area record.

In butterflies there were lots of Phaon Crescent (25) and Mestra (15), several Fiery Skipper, a Whirlabout, a Texan Crescent, Reakirt's Blue, Sleepy Orange, Eufala Skipper, Dainty Sulphur, one Viceroy, a couple Goatweed Leafwing, Common and Desert Checkered-Skippers, Pipevine Swallowtail, Queen, Gulf Fritillary, and a Clouded Sulphur. Good was a Pearl Crescent (1st of month), and best was the first of the year Southern Broken-Dash! That makes 55 sps. of butterflies for August.

Then on the way back I heard another calling juvenile hawk! Must be the season. It flew in and briefly landed in a big cypress, then took off and soared overhead for a bit before drifting off northward which took it right over the house. It was puzzling bird which must have been a Broad-winged Hawk. It was heavilly streaked vertically below and with dark wing-linings, wing tips were black and pointed. Underside of flight feathers were mostly pale with the trademark narrow crisp dark frame. I got a poor grab shot that perhaps will show something. I've never had a fall Broad-wing 'on the ground' here, all have been passovers at altitude. A migrant Broad-winged here in August is a first too. The juvenile at Lost Maples a month ago was barely streaked below as more typical, and as you can see in the photos above, this was not that bird.

A couple Common Nighthawk at dusk, and after dark a brief showelet that gave a trace of rain was a surprise. Screech-Owl has been calling regular lately.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~


Aug. 28 ~ Holy chill Mr. Freeze it was about 65dF this morning! Some local stations reported 63dF! There is hope! It felt so good as to be joyous. Early May was the last I felt that. Dry too. Interesting also since today is supposed to be the hottest day for the next week. No migration motion to speak of in the morning though. One Orchard Oriole. Three Yellow Warblers in the yard seemed to be continuing holdovers present for several days now. Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk over town. At dusk there was a Red Bat circling the pecan, just like last August. Very cool.

On a flat note our favorite local lodge, Utopia on the River has been sold and is closed. It does not appear it will reopen as a lodge at the present. For decades birders and bird tour groups stayed there. We have birded the grounds for a dozen years finding many great birds there, it is one of the best pecan bottom habitats around. I saw more Chestnut-sided Warblers there than everywhere else put together locally. It was long open to the public for birding even if you weren't staying. Unlike most of the B & B's locally you got breakfast there without having to go anywhere. We always had friends stay there when visiting and needless to say are quite sad to see it go. The gate is closed across the entrance and you need to remove it from your list of places to bird when passing through here. This leaves the Sabinal River Lodge at the south end of town the only regular 'motel type' place to stay here, besides cabin or private house or cottage type rentals (which are generally more expensive). Rio Frio Lodging is a biz that handles many rentals in the area and is a lead if you need a place to stay locally.

So to cheer you up, watch this, which we thought was very good.


(Direct link: https://youtu.be/Bf5TgVRGND4)


August 27 ~ Just about no migrant motion this morning, maybe one Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, what seem likely the same continuing 3+ Yellow Warbler chasing each other around the pecans. The Vireos (Yellow-throated and White-eyed) still singing, as is the Great Crested Flycatcher, of which there were 2 going off at dusk. Dickcissel or two went by. One ad. ma. Black-chinned Hummingbird continues as do a few immatures, lots of Ruby-throats around. Only a couple greenie imm. Painted Bunting still here, and fewer Vermilion Flycatcher around as well. Haven't seen an ad.ma. Summer Tanager in a week, just 5 immatures around. Stuff is bugging out.

These post-breeding Great Crested Flycatcher calls are interesting. One is structurally just like the Ash-throated's ka-brrrrrrr call, but musical. The intro note is piping and sharp instead of flat and the rolled trill is also clearly musical instead of mechanical. Another is a longer trilled musical drrrradle followed by a two note wee weeeeee with the second note rising. I do not hear these calls the entire few months during nesting.

Aug. 26 ~ Another cool morning with a low about 70, some stations reporting down to 68dF! Dry too. Wow that feels great. Not much for migrant motion this a.m. though. A tail-less Phoebe is a funny looking thing. The regulars, a few Orchard Oriole, a couple Gnatcatchers, seeming 4-5 Yellow Warbler, a Dickcissel. The imm. Painted Buntings are down to only a few, the Great Crested Flycatcher still half-heartedly singing a bit south of the corral along the heavily wooded former riverbend bluff. The 8 a.m. Ringed Kingfisher flyby was right on time. Nice was an Inca Dove in the afternoon at the birdbath briefly. A Least Flycatcher was about in p.m. and at dusk a couple Common Nighthawk went over low. Still good numbers of dragonflies moving south today, with Red Saddlebags far and away the predominant species.

Aug. 25 ~ MOS - more of the same. But we hit a wonderful 70dF for a low, some local stations reported 69dF! The Great Crested was still calling its post-breeding calls some of which are different than those used when it is nesting. Early a couple each Upland Sandpiper and Dickcissel went over. I counted 5 Yellow Warbler at once in the front yard pecans after 10 a.m., four were adult males. I have been trying to get a handle on how many were here, hard to tell since they work routes circling the yard. Yellow-throated Vireo still singing as is White-eyed. A couple Gnatchatcher went through, and a few Common Nighthawk were about at dusk. There were many dozens of Red Saddlebags dragonflies moving south today, with a few Black Saddlebags, Wandering and Spot-winged Glider, and Green Darner mixed in.

Aug. 24 ~ Likely the same Great Crested Flycatcher and Yellow Warbler (3+) were in yard this morning. A Bell's Vireo was probably one that has been around too. A Dickcissel was about for a short bit, and a few Upland Sandpiper went over calling, and more Orchard Oriole passed through as did a couple Gnatcatcher. A couple ad. Caracara went over calling late in afternoon. Common Nighthawk called at dusk. Chat still chattering. One ad. ma. Black-chinned Hummingbird still here, and a few immatures, with likely a few dozen Ruby-throats, mostly immatures and or females, but several adult males.

Aug. 23 ~ Some obvious migrant motion this morning with a FOS Baltimore Oriole, a Red-eyed Vireo, a Great Crested Flycatcher (first in weeks), plus two Bell's Vireo (ad. and a bright imm.), Dickcissel, at least a half-dozen Orchard Oriole, a few Yellow Warbler, a gnatcatcher (Blue-gray), and thought I heard a Black-n-white Warbler from in the office.

A pair (ma. & fem.) of Celia's Roadside-skipper were in the garden, species #53 for the month (since I just checked and counted). Outstanding was another White-striped Longtail, this IN the yard (ph.) for a new yard butterfly. Again on the Snow-on-the-Mountain, a spindly specimen I transplanted but watered too much apparently (loved it nearly to death) with barely any flowers. The longtail was missing its tails so looked more like an Aguna at a glance. When I went to mulch pile out back before 11 a.m. the bee swarm that roosted on the big Hackberry out back had departed.

We took an 11-12:40 walk to crossing area and back. Heard a Red-eyed Vireo on way which could have been the one I had this a.m. out front. Thought I heard a Waterthrush but didn't see it in an area of water hard to see. Above the crossing there were a couple Eastern Ringtail (dragons) on rocks in the river, a number of Pale-faced Clubskimmer, and the Comanche Skimmer males were still doing their aerial displays near the new gravel bar. Also in that area I saw a Beezlebub Bee-eater carrying prey away, this is the giant Acilid (robberfly) that looks like a black and yellow bumblebee, a serious predator of a beast. We also saw a Red-spotted Purple (butterfly) that could well have been the one we saw a week or two ago at the crossing, this a few hundred yards above the crossing puddling on a wet branch out in the river. A spectacularly beautiful beast.

Just below crossing there was a Green Kingfisher we saw closely, and a number of birds coming to an area they bathe at regularly. Nice ad. ma. Blue Grosbeak, some greenie Painted Buntings, Yellow and Yellow-throated Warbler, Summer Tanager, Eastern Wood-Pewee, female Hooded Oriole, and one Smoky Rubyspot damselfly. Boatloads of American Rubyspot along the river. The Swamp Darner was gone. One teneral Banded Pennant (ph.).

Got home and found a tick on my shorts, the first I have seen in 29 months here on 360. I flicked it off, dumbly, as it went into flower bed instead of on porch where I could squash it. I was crashing through a bunch of vegetation without protection on the walk though, as usual. No chiggers though.

We went for a swim at peak heat, not much for birds over at the river, the yard has more action. Heard a hummingbird there. There were hundreds of Texas Shiner (Notropis amibilis - as in amiable or friendly, hence Texas Shiner) a neat native minnow with diagnostic black lips. Dozens of Dusky Dancer (damselfly) were in tandem. Lots of Swift Setwing, one Blue Dasher (lots down at crossing). Heard a Common Nighthawk at dusk.

Aug. 22 ~ In the morning it was more of the same, a Dickcissel, several Orchard Oriole, a couple+ Yellow Warbler may have been holdovers from yesterday as they spent all day in the yard, Ringed Kingfisher calling from the river, a Gnatcatcher, and dozens of dragonflies. Most were Saddlebags (Red, and a few Black), Green Darner, and quite a few Spot-winged and Wandering Gliders. Saw ad. ma., 1st summer ma. and ad.fem. Hooded Oriole hit the hummer feeders today. One ad.ma. and a few immature Black-chinned Hummers still here, but they are far outnumbered by Ruby-throated now. Shortly (next front or so) we should have a big influx of Rubies which will last until the first real cold front about mid-September.

In the late afternoon a bee swarm came in and landed on the 2nd biggest Hackberry here, out behind the shed. Surely was thousands. The hum was amazing before they settled down. Birds went quiet, Summer Tanagers moved in for the kill, I could hear them popping the protein treats off. I grabbed a couple shots of the swarm from less than 20' away. Very impressive.

After 5 p.m. what must be the same Zone-tailed Hawk (based on molt - the missing primaries) soared over. I lost it over back of house from my vantage point out front. Next thing I hear a couple White-winged Dove bolt, look over toward the patio 35' away and see the Zoney coming up from ground level, alas with empty talons. It missed. It just looks like we feed the doves, actually it is a Zone-tailed Hawk feeding station. I was able to see both wings were in symetrical heavy primary molt as it soared in. Hooded Orioles that used the feeders today were an ad. male, an ad. female, a first summer male, and a first summer female.

Since it was calm at dark I put out a bug sheet and light. By some miracle this causes the wind to come up seemingly every time. It was getting busy and the wind snapped everything off the sheet. The 3 rocks totalling 10 lbs. wasn't enough. There were a few interesting things though. A couple bees came in, I presume from the swarm that landed this afternoon. A big Acilid (robberfly) came in, and late about 11 p.m. a Hairstreak (butterfly) was there (ph.). A Meloid (blister beetle) of a different sort was about, only two of the 1.25" brown elatarid (click beetles) with the backward facing spines at rear edges of thorax, there were a boatload two weeks ago. A Solpugid (sun spider) was picking some stuff off (ph.), it appeared a banquet to it. A couple interesting moths (ph.) among many micros, lots of the regular expected usual little things, Hemips, stink (true) bugs, small scarabs, leaf hoppers and sharpshooters, Field Crickets, Katydids, June Beetles, small scarabs, Green Lacewings. I shut it down about 11:30 as it was too windy.

Aug. 21 ~ Overcast and about 70dF for a low felt great. A handfull of Orchard Oriole went through yard early, a few Dickcissel went over. Couple Gnatcatcher took off together gaining altitude, to cover some ground in the cool morning. A few immature Black-chinned Hummer about still, but did not see an adult male. Ringed Kingfisher calling over at the river.

There was a Zone-tailed Hawk over town and a couple Chimney Swift, no Martins, lots of Barn Swallow. Early afternoon more Orchard Oriole, Gnatcatcher, and another Dickcissel went through yard. A male Flame Skimmer dragonfly flew across yard before noon, I have only seen a couple here, they are not annual for me. At least a couple Yellow warbler were around the yard all day, as was a Least Flycatcher. A single Purple Martin flew over southbound in the afternoon. Probably the same lone Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over at dusk.

Aug. 20 ~ The much advertised front did not arrive as expected overnight, must have stalled north of us, stayed warm and muggy all night, low was about 76dF. No rain. But a front surfer, my FOS Upland Sandpiper flew over pretty low calling at 8 a.m. soon followed by a second one. A lone Black-bellied Whistling-Duck went over going upriver. The only things still singing are Carolina Wren, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo, Lark Sparrow, Cardinal a wee bit, and Yellow-breasted Chat.

From the office I heard a Yellow and a Black-n-white Warbler. An Empidonax flycatcher landed on the garden fence 6' behind the monitor which was not a Least. I got it in bins briefly, it looked like it could have been a Dusky. Grabbed good bins and went outside to study it but couldn't refind it. Durnit. There was a Least out there in afternoon, but clearly was not the Empi seen earlier. Hutton's Vireo was out there again.

Though we never felt a temperature drop the front alledgedly arrived. We could only tell when some rain cells moved NW from the SE and brought rain. From 1:30 to 2:30p.m. temps went from 92 to 71dF in some spots locally. We got about an inch and a quarter of rain in 90 minutes or so, lots of lightning and thunder. Some areas around town may have gotten 1.5", a few lucky ones 2". The rain instigated another termite hatch, all including the Cardinals are flycatching again, not particularly gracefully I might add, especially those bombers, the Carolina Wren which aren't much for aerial manueverability.

There were a number of Gulf Coast and a couple Red-spotted Toad out on the patio and around house at dusk. Barking and Leopard Frogs as usual too. The amphibs like that rain. Wasn't enough to get the Spadefoot Toads out though, that takes a few inches.

Aug. 19 ~ Only 75dF for a low. Will be hot in front of the front that is supposed to get down here tonight. What seemed the same ad.ma. Yellow Warbler from yesterday was about the yard all day, at one point visiting the sprinkler and allowing a digi-scope photo that might be usable. Heard a Black-n-white Warbler again, heard some Scissor-tails. Least Flycatcher again over at gate and feeding in mesquite blooms 18' off ground. What seemed a family group (4) of Common Nighthawk went over at dusk.

Aug. 18 ~ About 71dF and clear at sunup, but the coastal clouds got here pretty quickly and it was overcast by 7:30 a.m. Which we love as it keeps the daytime heating from starting first thing, delaying it a couple or few hours. Makes for nice mornings since a heat repreive albeit brief. Some Scissor-tails were out there early.

About 8 a.m. I noticed some movement in the big Mesquite right across road from gate so grabbed bins to check it out. It is in bloom so has bugs. There were a family of Carolina Chickadee, 2 Black-crested Titmouse, 3 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Yellow-throated Vireo and a Hutton's Vireo! Then a White-eyed and a Bell's Vireo flew in! Gadzooks four species of vireo in one tree at one time!

Just after 9 a.m. I was working at biz e-mail and a male Vermilion Flycatcher lands on the garden fence 6' from me out office window. I whispered to Kathy and she came into office and we watched it watching the garden for a minute. Snuck out for camera and it was gone when I got back, but there was an immature on a part of the fence we couldn't see. Have I mentioned lately how it is very important where you choose to spend your days, and particularly monitor placement can make or break the deal.   ;)

In case that wasn't enough, about 10 a.m. I am working at the monitor and notice a moving lump on top of the sealed chimney on the cottage just 20' out the office window. Expected a Black Vulture, but a Zone-tailed Hawk was sitting on the chimney watching the feeders! That sure explains the Carolina Wrens fussin' out there. Snuck out of office to get camera again (!) and grabbed a few through-the-window-screen shots.

It would have flushed if I went outside for an unobstructed view so had to play the hand dealt. It sat there for five minutes before it flew, we had stunning views. Bobbing its head looking in the office windows as I tried to move around without it scaring off. It had mostly fresh black plumage but some old worn brown feathers were scattered about, tail was that of an adult. When it jumped the camera didn't fire, darn it, but I saw it was in active flight feather molt with missing secondaries and primaries, at least on the left wing. The head was in molt too.

Another male Yellow Warbler was around the yard a couple hours in the afternoon, came into sprinkler briefly, but left when I grabbed scope and camera. Another Gnatcatcher went by late p.m. as often. OK, here is the Zoney pic...

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk taken through two gray windows and a screen, so
please pardon the fuzzyness, it was on the chimney of the cottage.



Aug. 17 ~ Maybe 71dF for a low, clear no low clouds, and not much bird movement. A Gnatcatcher went through and that was abuot it in the morning. There were at least two calling Purple Martin overhead early. A couple still around. No adult male Painted Bunting, just greenies now. Late late afternoon a couple Chimney Swift streaked over low and fast southbound. About 7 p.m. there was an Oriole chattering from the biggest Hackberry that sounded like a Baltimore. It was that or Bullock's, but I only saw it flush off through leaves. Heard the Bell's Vireo singing again (had it yesterday too) so it is still around. Thought I heard a Black-and-white Warbler or two today but never saw them. At dusk two Common Nighthawk were overhead calling, 1 ad.ma. 1 juvenile. Have looked for the Lesser the last few nights and it has not shown again, that was real lucky.

Aug. 16 ~ Two local Weather Underground stations reported 66dF for lows this morning, coolest morning since May, light north flow, awesome. No male Painted Bunting again this a.m., methinks he has departed. He did a week short of 4 months here, likely raised 3 sets of young, I think one set was lost in the big rain event of late May. A half dozen greenies (immatures) are still here. Had a Dickcissel here first thing at early-thirty.

We took a hot walk to the crossing 11-12:30 p.m., it was dripping. Right outside the SE corner of the yard on a Snow-on-the-Mountain Kathy spotted a White-striped Longtail (butterfly) which is the first I have seen in a few years (ph.). It was not 20' from the yard, but it and I were outside it, so no score, except for the '360' list, for which it is new. Also saw a Rounded Metalmark, I saw no metalmarks in July. Lots of Mestra, must have been two dozen, a half-dozen False Duskywing, one Southern Skipperling, a late Olive Juniper Hairstreak was also on S-o-t-M. Around the crossing there were 3-4 Viceroy, all near Sycamores.

Amazingly a or the male Swamp Darner continues at the 360 x-ing. Great was a new dragonfly for the 360 area list, a Neon Skimmer. They are so neon red as to look plugged in, in good sun. I mean glowing neon red. I think I got an ID shot, but in poor light. Several Comanche Skimmer were there too, and a number of Pale-faced Clubskimmer. A new dragon and a new butterfly for the 360 list in one day is outstanding. Heard a Louisiana Waterthrush.

The Wooly Ironweed looks past peak, it burnt out early because of the lack of rain. At least we got some rain in time to make sure the Frostweed goes off well. Some of the cypresses along the river are turning, wayyyy early for that. The result of 7 very hot weeks with no rain. Hopefully the rain we just got will keep the rest hanging on green until fall like normal. The Snow-on-the-Mountain is in full roar and looks great. Some in the corral are like small trees, I have never seen them so big and thick with such full crowns of flowers. Must be the nutrients.

We went for an afternoon swim in the river to beat the heat, which that does like nothing else. No birds singing in the gallery forest of tall cypresses this time. They're all done. Nowhere near as many damselflies along riverside vegetation either. I saw the local WU stations in afternoon reporting 96dF, we had 91dF on the porch and 84 in the office without any AC running. That always-shaded back end of the house makes a world of difference.

Since the wind was nil at dusk I put out the 'bug light' which is not a proper one, but a coral light, which works. Don't tell the bugs. Mostly it was the regular stuff, lots of the 1" brown Elatarids, Mottled green Stink (True) Bugs, lots of micro moths, Mirids, a few Leaf Hoppers. A Walnut Sphinx moth was neat, about my 5th here. A new Cerambycid was great and got pix, a couple odd hemips came in, a couple nice small moths (ph.), another Ox Beetle (ph.), some June Bugs and Scarabs, a Katydid, some Crickets, hundreds of little things I don't know, it is a great show.

Aug. 15 ~ Just a quick note since I had to upload a correction first thing this morning. Early there was a male Yellow Warbler outside, my first of fall. A few Orchard Oriole went through yard. A small showerlet went over about 10 a.m., maybe a tenth and a half to two-tenths more rain. Weewow! The Yellow Warbler was around yard all day flycatching from pecans, mesquites, hackberries, seemingly taking some termites, still at it at 5 p.m. The male Yellow-throated Warbler was doing some of the same.

At least one of the locally bred juvenile Cooper's Hawks is a big female, it missed about 3 times today. Another is a small male. A couple Blue-gray Gnatcatchers went through over the day, and a Least Flycatcher showed up in late p.m. Late afternoon a rain cell ran from Junction down to the top of Bandera Co. just north of us up-valley, but it rained itself out before it got here. No adult male Painted Bunting, and the Rufous Hummingbird seemed to leave after first thing early in a.m., I didn't see it all day. Ruby-throats now seem to outnumber Black-chinned here. Heard Ringed Kingfisher over at the river.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Aug. 14 ~ A low at 70dF or so was outstanding, short-lived as it was. The male Painted Bunting is still here, might be the latest I had a local bird stick at the seed. At least 6 juvies here. They had a good year. At least two ad.ma. Ruby-throated Hummingbird, one or two ad.ma. Black-chinned, several each of imm. Ruby-throated and Black-chinned, and the mean imm. male Rufous (outer tail feather looks too broad for Allen's to me). Zone-tailed Hawk was at north end of town as often, didn't hear any Martins or Swifts, lots of juvenile Barn Swallows though. Interesting since generally scarce to absent in August was a Grasshopper Sparrow along UvCo 360 on the fence at the edge of the pasture.

Another little bit of rain cells came by around 6 p.m., with their much-loved and appreciated cooling outflows to break the afternoon heat. Took it from almost 100dF down to 80 in short order once the actual rain hit. Likely over a quarter, maybe a third-inch. The second cell hit about 7:30 and we got about another quarter-inch. I would call it just over a half-inch, and awesome. Just to the south of us some got an inch where the center of the cell tracked.

I went out on porch after 6 p.m. to watch, smell, and feel the rain and spotted the bird of the week zooming back and forth over the driveway and front yard, seeming to be catching termites, a male LESSER NIGHTHAWK! They are quite scarce up here in the hills, though common in the south Texas brush country just south of us. It was out there for 10 minutes at least often at or lower than treetop level, often right over the tops of the mesquites. If it hadn't have rained, we would never know it was here. After the second cell at 7:40 it was out there again just over the mesquites. That patch of mesquites has had Bell's Vireo, Verdin, Olive Sparrow, the Paraque was over there too, and now Lesser Nighthawk. Just enough trees of the right sort to snag the brush country birds as they pass through. Provide habitat and the birds will come.

Equally interesting was two Cave Swallow dropping down into the fray and at times right next to the nighthawk, hawking bugs. It sure appeared that they saw it hawking and responded to that.

The termites went to hatching and the birds went to flycatching. Out on the road by gate and mesquites there were over a handfull each of Summer Tanager, Cardinal, Painted Bunting (all greenies), and Lark Sparrow flycatching the emerging winged termites. By the patio the House Finches were flycatching them too. One begging greenie juvenile Painted Bunting begged and got fed by an adult female.

At dusk I had a begging immature Common Nighthawk flying high overhead, saw no adults, it is the first Common I have seen this August. Great to get both Nighthawks the same day here.

Aug. 13 ~ Low was about 72dF or so, a bit humid after the rain, but the cool felt great. Since we were socked in by clouds and near midnight looked like it was going to be that way all night, I slept through the Perseid meteor shower. Got up to clear skies and wonder what I missed. The only cloudy night in months, on meteor shower night hardly seems fair. The rule in Texas is that you never complain about the rain, because you don't know when you will get it again. No exceptions. Even if it messes up your meteor shower watching. I later heard it was great for those that could see it, and the clouds did clear around peak at 4 a.m., now I wished I'd have gotten up and checked.

First thing in morning the male Yellow-throated Warbler was hopping around the edges of the patio on the ground! The male Painted Bunting was there too for a nice start of the day. Did have at least 3 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher go through yard, a couple Orchard Oriole, the Eastern Wood-Pewee of late yesterday afternoon was still here. In the afternoon we caught the outflow boundry of a cell that missed us but some lucky folk up-valley got a little a bit, we just cooled from 99dF to 90, which was great in itself. Got a good picture finally of the 1" Buprestid beetle with the metallic gold overlay on dull mottled charcol and dirty white.

The Rufous (probably) Hummingbird continues to take over feeders as does an adult male Ruby-throated. A couple imm. Ruby-throated are present, one with some ruby gorget feathers. The Black-chins don't seem too thrilled about the new ones that showed up. Thought sure I heard a Yellow Warbler zzzeet flight note in the afternoon but didn't see it. Saw a Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak in the garden in the afternoon.

After dark a huge Ox Beetle came in, methinks to the pipe tobacco. I quickly turned the porch light on and finally it landed and I got a couple pix. What a huge beast of a beetle they are, incredible. Heard the Eastern Screech-Owl calling out back. One prior Ox I had here was partial remains, I bet taken by a Screech-Owl. Also heard Barking Frog, Gulf Coast Toad, Rio Grande Leopard Frog, and Cricket-Frog calling after dark. A little bit of rain is all it takes with amphibians, just add water.

August 12 ~ The male Painted Bunting continues, and even fed a juvenile, which is mighty late for that to be going on. Probably my latest date for an ad.ma. feeding young. There are a half-dozen juvies on the patio, probably most of its progeny for the year. The Rufous/Allen's Hummingbird is still here, and an immature male Ruby-throated is present as well, my first one for sure this fall. At least a half-dozen adult male Black-chinned continue, as well as lots of immatures, but it seems like very few adult females are present. Three species of hummingbirds is nice to see again after having only Black-chinned since mid-late May.

A number of Orchard Oriole around the yard in the a.m. again. They are pouring through now. Yesterday there were some in the yard seemingly nearly every hour. In the afternoon a Least Flycatcher was out in the lower branches of the pecans. A Texas Powdered-Skipper was on the Blue Mist Eupatorium. The Dusky-blue Groundstreak continues.

This afternoon there are some scattered rain cells around south central Texas. At 3 p.m. I checked some local Weather Underground stations and saw the two local Utopia stations reporting 105dF or so with heat indices at 114 to 120 dF! One station showed 113dF for a temp! Between 3:30 and 4 p.m. we caught the edge of an outflow boundry taking it from 99 to 94dF, and could smell others were getting rain, hearing thunder. Finally after 4 we got a showerlet, perhaps nearly a full two tenths of an inch of rain! Holy cow! The first precip since June 22. I saw the porch thermometer hit 77dF! OMG! In the afternoon!?!

Now there is a 30% chance of rain for tonight, which probably means the predicted great Perseid meteor shower show will be hard to see, if we have clouds. Meanwhile the tail end of this front is supposed to stall and wash out over us, they say northerly flow will enter the area and dry us out a bit. Typically there are a number of the early migrants on any bits of northerly flow in mid-August, maybe Upland Sandpiper or Yellow Warbler will show up in a day or two.

In the afternoon there were a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatcher that went through yard southbound and a couple Chimney Swift flew over calling at treetop level. In the morning I thought I saw an adult male Ruby-throated Hummer, but a quick no-gorget ID. Then in afternoon one took over the front porch feeder. So today was first of fall for both ad.ma. and imm. Ruby-throats here. After 7 p.m. a Black-n-white Warbler was in the big pecan, an Eastern Wood-Pewee juvenile was around, and near 8 p.m. a flock of 7 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew by.

The female Golden-fronted Woodpecker has been working on one of the nest boxes here. After I saw it go in another one the other day too. It seems she wants one of the boxes here and hasn't decided which. I don't think she can get in the box she is working on, on the north fence. She did go into the corral fence box, but is back 'fixing' the hole apparently on the north fence box.

Now I had two years of high school woodshop, and then worked professionally as a custom cabinet maker, both speaker cabinets, and high-end home, both of the fanciest sort one can craft. I resent this bird finding some flaw in my ability to put a hole in a piece of wood many other species found perfectly acceptable. Look up the Design Acoustics D-12 speaker (google is your friend). I was co-foreman of the woodshop at D.A. in 1976 (at age 21). They are a dodecahedron (12 sided) of pentagons with various speakers in all faces, and was the cat's meow of audiophiles in their day. You had to have a big room with a tall cieling as they sounded best hanging. Sure wish I had a set now, I preferred the Rosewood cabinet over the Walnut in most photos I can find of them. But my hole isn't good enough for this bird?

So after the shower in afternoon near early evening I watched a Queen butterfly drop down near ground in the Blue Mist Eupatorium. It was flapping slowly while perched, looking like it was going to roost there. BAM! Rio Grande Leopard Frog took it with a 18" leap and ate it right before my eyes, it was over in a flash. Saw another Leopard Frog out back when I was collecting a hummer feeder, and then a Gulf Coast Toad by the garden on way back in. First of them I've seen since spring. Amazing what a little rain can do.

Aug. 11 ~ An incredible low of 67dF was recorded at a couple of the local WeatherUnderground stations, boy that hit the spot. Must have been some great radiational cooling last night. A weak frontal boundry is sagging over north Texas, and might make it down here but that was not a factor in the low temp.

At least 5-6 Orchard Oriole were in a group in the yard in the morning, those males are just awesome every time. The male Painted Bunting is still here, as are a half-dozen juveniles and the salmon underparted first summer male. Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo are still singing (nesting), but little else seems to be. Though Bewick's Wren and Golden-fronted Woodpecker are both checking out nestboxes, so may go again.

Kathy spotted the rat at the bird bath again, this time I got good views in the binocs. It is a Woodrat, or Packrat, of the genus Neotoma. I had seen signs of one, and so suspected their presence here, but never have been able to get a sure ID on any rat here save a partial voucher the cat brought once, which was a Cotton (Sigmodon sps.) Rat. I suggested we name this one Ben.

At 3:30 p.m. I checked weatherunderground to see some local temps. Our porch was reading 99dF, Seco Creek showed 109 and in town it was 105dF with a heat index of 110, whilst Seco Creek's heat index was 114! It did feel a bit toasty... There was at that time a nice male Roseate Skimmer dragonfly about the yard. Earlier about 1:30 a nice male Yellow-throated Warbler was in the lowest parts of the big pecan while I was holding a chair down on the front porch wondering how long this sub-tropical high pressure dome will stay locked over us.

Around 5 p.m. the first Rufous/Allen's type Selasphorus hummingbird of the fall here showed up. Finally. We had the 3 feeders together at the back porch to keep any single Black-chin from goin' all territorial on them. Worked all summer. Not for this bird, it immediately took all three over, and I had to move two and put out a fourth feeder to deal with this tyke. It is an immature male, with an attitude. It has a fairly advanced gorget present (meaning older immature), and a fully solid green back. I couldn't get a satisfactory look at the tail feathers to say anything about if they were Rufous or Allen's types. I did get a couple docu shots of it though. At least 6 firefly were out at dusk.

Aug. 10 ~ The low was mid-70's dF, a bit on the warm side for a low. The male Painted Bunting continues, some Orchard Oriole in morning, heard a Dickcissel. Saw Clouded Skipper, Cloudless and Large Orange Sulphurs, a couple Fiery and lots of Julia's Skippers, Snout, several Queens, Bordered Patch.

Two Canyon Towhee were on the stone walkway right at the steps to the front porch. Heard a weird hawk call several times I did not recognize but couldn't find it when I went out looking for it. Sure wasn't Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, or Cooper's, the three normal regular residents I hear all the time.

I saw another one of the inch long Buprestid beetles on the pecans. This one landed lowish and I was able to pull the branch down and get a close look. The whole bug shines iridescent gold as an overlay. Under that most of it is pale, heavilly mottled with dark, a gray or charcol over dirty white maybe. The mottling seems almost scrawled in areas. I think this is the same beast I have photographed a couple times but never very well, and of course camera was safe inside, whilst it moved up too high quickly.

Aug. 9 ~ Too busy with a project and didn't get our normal walk in today. Nor a swim. It is baking hot out there, over 100dF at many local stations with some heat index reports 10dF higher than the temps! Brutal. The male Painted Bunting continues his white millet put on the pounds program readying for his flight outta here. The Ringed Kingfisher was calling from over at the river. Some Orchard Oriole went through in a.m. early.

Quite a few dragons around, Red, and Black Saddlebags, Wandering and Spot-winged Glider, Green Darner, all in numbers, and lots of Swift Setwings, one Pale-faced Clubskimmer. Lots of Dusky Dancer damselflies in yard too. In butterflies one unusual Duskywing (Erynnis sps.) I didn't recognize was interesting. I wonder if it could have been a Wild Indigo Duskywing? Generally Horace's, Juvenal's, Funereal and Mournful are fairly easy (after just 12 short years of seeing them all the time here) to recognize, and this beast was clearly different and not any of them.

Aug. 8 ~ Yes on the male Painted Bunting, no on a Purple Martin this morning. Three Orchard Oriole went through. Scissor-tail still out there. Heard a Dickcissel. Vermilions are in the yard all day, a couple juveniles with occasional visits by the ad. male. The male Cooper's Hawk made a pass at the feeders.

Since it is a short news day (in other words I worked all day), I have been wanting to share this with y'all... The following is one of the best bird postcards I ever found. I once had 50 of these, for when I needed to send a message like "Wish you were here, instead of me" or somesuch. ;)

Turkey Vulture postcard

If you were wondering what one feels like in the last month of summer in Texas after two and a half months at a hundred dF in this humidity, with no rain, this shows it well. LOL - Have a better day than this guy!



~ ~ ~ prior update below ~ ~ ~

Aug. 7 ~ I have been tortured all week by the sound of begging baby Bronzed Cowbirds. If you thought Brown-headed were bad you should have to hear these beasts. I knew I should have made sure to take out those females. We have done well this year, with about no cowbird fledgings, as usual. But now we have one Lark Sparrow with a Bronzed, and a pair of Cardinal with two Bronzed that are obviously a few days apart. Three of the dang things, and two lost nesting efforts. A few juvenile Summer Tanager are around the yard lots lately.

The male Painted Bunting showed back up, see just like I said, he will disappear a few days, back a few, then gone for the year. There were 3 Orchard Oriole in the a.m. Yellow-throated and White- eyed Vireo are both still singing. Myiarchus are all gone. Chat even quiet now. I think today was the half way point between summer solstice and fall equinox, if you wondered.

SPECIAL REMINDER! Next week I think overnight August 12-13 is the peak of the Perseid meteor showers. It is best about 2-4 a.m. for us, and they say 100 meteors per hour is possible, we are said to be in a good part of the comet's debris stream. Check the space related links on the links page to get more specific info.

Aug. 6 ~ Still Purple Martin calling overhead early in a.m., they will be gone soon. Scissor-tail still calling too. One of the adult Yellow-breasted Chat brought a juvenile to the bird bath to show it the water. Ringed Kingfisher was calling over at river for a while. In butterflies saw the Dusky-blue Groundstreak again, Lyside Sulphur, Tawny emperor, and a Horace's Duskywing came in to the water. A few Orchard Oriole at dusk. Hummers are still way down, it was about two weeks ago when there was a major deparpature event. Fall Ruby-throated Hummingbirds should start showing up any day now.

Aug. 5 ~ In a.m. Orchard Oriole, Dickcissel, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Purple Martin, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and no ad.ma. Painted Bunting. Tonight as last few, Eastern Screech-Owl calling lots. In town the temps have been running at or above 100dF for highs, with heat indices about 110dF, we have been about 95 with a 100dF heat index on the front porch at worst. Still brutal. At least we are losing a minute and a half of light every day now so it doesn't last as long. Lows only in mid-70's dF. The birds are going nuts in a sprinkler left on low in heat of the day.

Aug. 4 ~ Outstanding was a COUCH'S Kingbird calling out front, which landed in the big pecan! A great porch bird. Otherwise too busy and just the regulars in my regular checks, no male Painted Bunting. Several juveniles including the first-summer male with the salmon underparts continuing. At dusk an Orchard Oriole and another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through yard.

Aug. 3 ~ Still another low of about 71dF felt fantastic, and still a bit dryer. I did not see the male Painted Bunting though. Often they leave a few days to ditch the young, then return for one last fattening up before leaving about Aug. 7-9. When the Ash-throated Flycatcher fledged their young from the 'corral' nest box they moved into corral so I have only heard them until today when the 5 of them came back, 3 were juveniles. Nice to get a count after I missed the fledging event, which can be a 10-15 minute affair, afterwhich the birds disappear from the immediate nest site. Wrens, titmouse, flycatchers, all the same on that count. Just before dusk a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Least Flycatcher showed.

Aug. 2 ~ We got down to 71dF for a low which felt fantastic. Early in a.m. an Orchard Oriole went by southbound and a Common Grackle flew over northbound. Heard Ringed Kingfisher and Purple Martins. Bummer was seeing a Lark Sparrow with a juvenile Bronzed Cowbird, and two juv. Bronzed Cowbird with a pair of Cardinals. We have had amazingly little of this, this year. There was quite a flock of Bronzed Cowbird around in June which left in early July, having done their dirty deed.

Squirrels have to be one of the dumbest animals there are. There is hardly a pecan crop this year. I look at 20 pecan trees and see two that have 5% of normal crop, if that, the other 95% of pecans have no crop. Surely the squirrels can tell there is not a crop to harvest for winter food storage. So then in 7 minutes I watched 4 less than half-eaten green pecans fall to ground from a squirrel. They could have eaten two and there would still be two on the tree for later or winter food supply. Instead four are ruined and lost. What animal is so wasteful with food resources? So calling them tree-rats is actually disparaging to far more intelligent rats.

An Arizona Sister flew through yard about 10 a.m., #5 this year, amazing after over 5 years without one during the drought. I did not see one at Lost Maples yesterday covering 2 miles of prime habitat up and back to highest permanent water (the spring) at the headwaters of Can Creek, yet saw 4-5 Zebra Heliconian. I also did not see or hear a Yellow-throated Vireo there, which continue to sing and are still nesting here in or adjacent to the yard. It is interesting to note that there are things here in the yard which are not at Lost Maples.

We took a walk to the crossing noonish as it was heating up. Bird activity was slow, but a few immature Painted Bunting were in the riparian corridor. Did not hear a Yellow-throated Warbler sing. But did have a Louisiana Waterthrush at crossing. There were lots of butterflies along the roadside flowers, mostly the regulars but since a new month a new list to start. Lots of False Duskywing, a Ceranus Blue, a Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak, an Orange Skipperling and lots of Buckeye, a few Whirlabout. The best one was at the crossing, a Red-spotted Purple, my first here around 360, so new for the local 360 list I keep. It landed breifly in a Sycamore and Willow. The Viceroy was still at the crossing too, so two fancy admirals makes a great day here.

In odes, the male Swamp Darner was still patrolling by the lillies in the backwater (swampy) area above bridge. Then a female Swamp Darner flew right up to and by me less than a foot away! TWO at once, and both sexes at once, firsts for me here. There was a nice Leaftail that looked like Five-striped (ph.), and an Eastern Ringtail was on a rock in the shallow part of river, the first of that sps. I have seen this year. The rest were the expected, a couple dozen American Rubyspot and no Smoky this week.

At dusk three Orchard Oriole, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and another (!) Least Flycatcher showed up and fed in yard.

August 1 ~ A remarkable light NE flow overnight and in a.m., from the tail end of yesterday's 'cold front' brought some welcome dryness. Met Bill Wright early here at the house for a Bandera Co. bird hunt. We had a Chimney Swift in yard before leaving. Just north of town on 187 at the 470 junction we stopped and looked at the maint. yard for Canyon Towhee but none were there though a male Vermilion Flycatcher was consolation. There were lots of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher along the roads, many were juveniles.

Further north on the way to Lost Maples we saw a Caracara and a pair of Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawks north of W.Sabinal Rd. and up near Lonehollow, a Turkey with about 8 poults crossed the road. A couple big bull Elk (game farm) were south of Vanderpool. We checked the 337 bridge just east of 187 and had a Green Kingfisher fly off the spillway on upriver side as we went over the bridge but could not refind it. There was one Cave Swallow in with the Cliffs, and a couple Barns, a couple Common Raven and some White-winged Dove. Two seemingly immature Purple Martin were still at their house north of Vanderpool.

Then, Lost Maples. At HQ there was a Black-and-white Warbler that sang a bit on the slope to south plus Summer Tanager, Black- chinned Hummer, Black-crested Titmouse and Scrub-Jay. I brought and threw some seed at the trailhead parking lot feeding station (was dry) and birds immediately showed up: Scrub Jay, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, White-winged Doves, Cardinals, Carolina Chickadee and more Titmouse, House Finches, and best color went to a family group of Painted Bunting with a nice male. No White-tipped Dove though and those hummer feeders were down so no Scott's Oriole. A Blue Grosbeak was up on the powerline on the cliff, and I heard an Indigo Bunting sing a few times.

We had an unusual looking squirrel which was structured like a Black Rock Squirrel, but was 40' up in a tree. The front half was black, the rear half of the animal was brown like a Fox Squirrel. Though tail structure was more like Rock Squirrel. Not sure if it was a hybrid or just a different variation of color on a Black Rock Squirrel and it was too far to photo. I have seen hybrid FoxRocks at Garner St. Pk. before.

Then up the Can Creek trail to the ponds and beyond to the spring. It was remarkably quiet. So many of the breeding birds were gone I couldn't believe it, it is a shock every year when this happens, it is so full of birds in spring and summer. We did not hear an Ash-throated Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, all common nesters. Nor did we detect any Golden- cheeked Warbler or Black-capped Vireo, or see a Zone-tailed Hawk. Often what is not seen is as important as what is, bummer as it may be.

We did see one Yellow-throated Warbler (only, still), and a first summer Black-and-white Warbler by the big pond, but that was it for warblers besides still nesting Louisiana Waterthrushes. A few Red-eyed Vireo were still singing. We saw one begging juvenile Acadian Flycatcher, heard a few Canyon Wren and lots of Carolina Wren, a couple Bewick's Wren, some Lesser Goldfinch, and a handful of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. At least three maybe four Louisiana Waterthrush shot by, a couple gave flightsong, so still breeding. One stopped briefly. The usual Turkey and Black Vulture and Common Raven were seen. Also heard a few Ladder-backed Woodpecker, saw a Great Blue Heron over the big pond.

The avian highlight was a begging juvenile Broad-winged Hawk. A pair was present from mid-April to mid-May to mid-June up and down the canyon. I was not here in July, but now August 1 there is an incessantly begging juvenile. It had to be hatched here. I got a couple digi-bin docu-shots for the record (two are above in the strip of photos before the current bird news starts. A couple hours later on the way back down it was still in the same area still incessantly begging. It was born here. The last few years they have nested in Travis County and a few times in Bexar Co. Thanks to John Economidy for some current recent info on those. This then is likely the furthest southwest nesting of the species ever and quite remarkable methinks. The habitats at Bexar and Travis county are far far more like typical Broad-wing habitat, or at least my picture of what that is, not an area of juniper covered slopes (though surely they were more using the narrow riparian deciduous corridor in canyon bottom).

There were a couple Stenelytrana gigas Cerambycids, the big XL Pepsis Wasp mimic Long-horned Beetle, my first IN the park. We saw at least 4-5 Pepsis Wasps (Tarantula Hawks), mostly big females. We saw a Spicebush Swallowtail, and I saw a Red-spotted Purple briefly, but as most of the flowers were done there was far less butterfly action than expected. We did see 4-5 Zebra Longwing which is an excellent total for a walk there, probably my highest. I saw a Nysa Roadside-Skipper, Cloudless Sulphur, lots of Gulf and a couple Variegated Frits, a Giant Swallowtail, a number of Pipevines, some Mestra, two Texan Crescent, a couple Desert Checkered-Skipper, several Sleepy Oranges, and a bunch that got away. I couldn't give them the time to work them.

There was much more ode activity but I didn't have time to do it justice either. It was actually very active for odes, better than the last few summers. A nice male Springwater Dancer was great. Multiples each were seen of Black, and Red Saddlebags, Wandering Glider (+a female was ovipositing), Green Darner, Checkered and Swift Setwing, Eastern Pondhawk, Blue Dasher, Pale-faced Clubskimmer, and surely lots more. Lots of American Rubyspots and many damsels I couldn't stop to see.

On the way back we stopped at a few crossings trying for a Green King but got no love. We stopped at the mesquite patch at the north end of town and got a Bandera Co. Bell's Vireo at the usual nesting area. The town Zone-tail was not showing itself. Utopia Park was over-run with people, and we tried the north-end Woods but didn't have anything there but a heard Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and a mosquito bite, at 2 p.m. and nearly 100dF.

Later I found I had collected a chigger somewhere on the way today. Hope I don't get in trouble for taking it out of the state natural area. Somewhere perhaps at the north end of town as we headed out, there were two Eastern Bluebirds on a wire as we drove by. Somewhere else we had a Mockingbird too. One Six-line Racerunner was seen at Lost Maples but no other reptiles, amazing for the heat.

Bill had given me a wish list of 8 species he hoped for, of which we missed a few of course, but he ended up with 10 new Bandera County birds for 7 hours of trying, which wasn't bad since he had birded here a number of times before including at Lost Maples and Love Creek, so had already seen 70 sps. in BanCo. We had a great day.



~ ~ ~ July summary ~ ~ ~


Hot and dry was the program with a shower on July 31 for some locals (in town), but we have had no rain since June 22. The river is falling fast. Pecans are dropping green nuts and leaves already, that is how dry it is. Much of the flower bloom has faded as well though some summer bloomers like Wooly Ironweed and Snow-on-the-Mountain are getting going on schedule.

I saw 52 species of butterflies locally in July, a fair total. Dusky-blue Groundstreak was a highlight seen at least 4 days right around our front porch July 5, 10, 28 and 31. It is the first of that sps. I have seen in 5-6 years since the drought got going. They were abundant 2004-08. A Zebra Heliconian was seen 3 times in the yard as well July 10, 15, and 25. It and the groundstreak may each have been one individual being repeatedly seen, as opposed to 3-4 different ones in each case. A Viceroy has been around the 360 crossing much of the month (ph.). Ceranus Blue and Soldier both showed up in July, which is normal arrival time here for them. Another (#4 since June) Arizona Sister came to water on July 23. The Sisters too are the first in 6 years since the drought.

In odes the Swamp Darner was the highlight. I don't know if it was the same one seen in June at UR and UP, it was at the UvCo 360 crossing July 19-26, probably all sightings involved one individual. A pair of Orange-striped Threadtail in tandem (mating) at the 360 x-ing was good, a Neotropical Bluet there nice too, while a Coppery Dancer was my first around the UvCo 360 area, and my first in a couple years locally. July 28 an imm. or female Four-spotted Pennant was on the garden fence right out the office window, new for the yard list, and less than annual locally. A Comanche Skimmer was at 360 x-ing July 26 and a Yellow-bellied (Carmine) Skimmer near there on July 19. It was about 32 species of dragonflies and damselflies this month, probably a recent high tally.

For birds there were lots of new batches of young out of the nests from everything. Singing has really come to a grinding halt for many species (a few still going), breeders are done and leaving in many cases. And the first couple longer-distance migrants have showed up like Rufous Hummingbird (Judy Schaffer on July 22), and a Least Flycatcher at our place for 7 days from July 24 to 30. The rarest bird was a PURPLE GALLINULE that I heard call a half-dozen times from the front porch as it flew upriver. Numbers of Black-and-white Warbler, Orchard Oriole, and Dickcissel were on the move southbound, the latter half of the month especially.

~ ~ end July summary ~ ~


July 31 ~ Well they finally left. The Least Flycatcher and juv. Eastern Wood-Pewee that had been in yard the last 7 days (8 days for the Pewee) were not to be found this morning, or afternoon. They must have left last night. Most passerines (songbirds in general) are nocturnal migrants (Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher are two big exceptions - diurnal migrants). They usually take off shortly after dark if they are going to move that night, and can fly much or all of the night. That is why they eat like pigs all day every day as they may burn off a large amount of fat in a single flight. They are probably in Mexico now. Several years back there was an August Kentucky Warbler at the park that stayed 9 days fattening up for its next flight.

A Gnatcatcher and a Dickcissel went through yard early a.m. There were two Canyon Towhee on the patio. There was a brief showerlet about 3 p.m., not a whole trace of rain, just a tr. It was like we got one drop of rain and it hit me in the eye! Stations in town were reading 100dF with a heat index of 110 or so, as has been the case for about 3 weeks, and which is forecast for the next week plus. When my wife and I first thought about living here in the late 1980's the daily highs in summer were in the lowest 90's dF, a few to several degrees cooler than the norm is now. About 4 p.m. another cell looked like town got some but it dodged just NW of of us, we just got an outflow boundry, but beat the heat of the day a bit. Most amazing was that it was the tail end of a cold front and resulted in light N to NE flow, in July!

July 30 ~ A little bit cooler this morning felt good at 72dF. At least 3 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through yard in a.m. The Least Flycatcher and juv. Eastern Wood-Pewee both continue now both on day 7 and 8 respectively. Amazing. Must be a good flying bug supply. Or there was. The year-old male Painted Bunting with salmon underparts is still around, as well as a couple new juveniles, the male has really backed off on the singing the last few days. That will be over until next April real soon. The adult males will be departing in a week or so. The four recently fledged Bewick's Wren from the nestbox by the gate are still bouncing around together often from brushpile to brushpile. The Chat took a bath to cool off. A Chipping Sparrow was here with some freshly fledged begging juveniles. A few Martin still calling over yard in a.m., Canyon Towhee still singing a bit. For leps had a, or the, Dusky-blue Groundstreak again at front porch, and a Tawny Emperor (big dull type) came to water as well. A single Cave Swallow flew over right at dusk. The juv. Pewee and the Least Flycatcher still out there at dusk too.

July 29 ~ Still mid-70's dF for lows and upper 90's for highs. It's the dog days for sure. The Least Flycatcher (day 6) and one juvenile Eastern Wood-Pewee continue, day 7 now. Wow! Very cool to have them stick knowing they are fattening up for the next leg, and that they are getting enough here to not just pass through, but to stick. Hummers are really down in numbers, there has been a big blowout of both adults and immature Black-chinned, and still nothing else, but should be soon. The Bell's Vireo is still singing here, for day 4 for it. But I suspect it was the one here a couple weeks ago for a week, then down at south end of corral, and now back up here. A few Purple Martins still overhead, I know real soon I will not hear that call for too many months. Some Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks still going over. The male Cooper's hawk blasted through in p.m.

July 28 ~ The Least Flycatcher continues on day 5 now, as it at least one of the juvenile Eastern Wood-Pewee (day 6). Holding a migrant Empidonax 5 days well illustrates good habitat and forage conditions. A couple Dickcissel went through yard in a.m., a couple Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks went over, as did a family group of 5 eastern bluebird. The Bell's Vireo continues singing from the corral now. The bird of the day was an Inca Dove, first I have seen in yard since spring when it appeared the Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawks got the last of the 8 we had at the start of the winter.

Even better though was a new dragonfly for the yard, a female or immature Four-spotted Pennant. This species is less than annual around Utopia (though can be common to abundant at Uvalde), this is the first non-adult male I have seen locally. Unfortunately the auto-focus grabbed the hackberry tree behind it and I doubt we will be able to tell anything in the pic. Dangit. I spotted it from my desk while talking to a client, it was 8' away on the garden fence right out the office window. If you want to see me squirm put something new for the yard out the window while I am on the phone with one of my fish and coral clients.

July 27 ~ A high low of 75dF again. We are five weeks plus without a drop of rain locked under the summer sub-tropical high that just brutalizes us many a July and August. Amazingly not only was the Least Flycatcher still out there this morning, day 4, but a second one showed up! There were two at once! They don't get along particularly well. Mr. Day 4 days thinks this is his patch now until he decides to move on and he ran the newcomer off. The Pewee family is still here too, day 5. Must be some good bug hunting here.

The Bell's Vireo was still singing, mostly over in corral. The Canyon Towhee is singing too, though from the ground. Yellow-billed Cuckoo is about the pecans. Saw one firefly at dusk, did not hear a Chuck-wills-widow though. They called late this year as it was, probably due to a restart after the record May rains.

July 26 ~ A few Dickcissels going over in the a.m., but better was the singing Bell's Vireo. I presume it was the one we heard singing last week a third-mile south at that end of the corral which has now trolled northward. The 74dF low felt nice, brief as it was. Amazing is the Least Flycatcher (day 3) and the E. Wood-Pewee family staying another night making to day FOUR around the yard. That is some holding power. Food and cover are the two key parameters.

There are loads of juvenile birds around the yard. Cardinals, Lark Sparrows, Carolina and Bewick's Wrens, White-eyed Vireo, Vermilion Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Titmouse and Chickadee... Lots more along the river habitat corridor too. We took a nooner walk 10:50-12:35 down to crossing, up other side of river two-thirds of a mile to about even with house, and then retraced back, so about 2 and two-thirds mile total. Hot and sticky, but at least if you get a walk in full of birds, butterflies, and odes, you did and saw something, actually there is a ton of activity if you can take the heat.

We had a juvenile Bell's Vireo on other side of river in some mesquites, an adult female Black-and-white Warbler moved through them too. Due to rain many Mesquites have flowers, even the Carolina Chickadees were in them, after bugs no doubt. We had two family groups of Yellow-throated Warbler. Yellow-throated Vireo and Eastern Pewee still both singing on territory, an ad. ma. Blue Grosbeak with a fresh juvenile, little bit of Summer Tanager singing still.

In butterflies we saw what was likely the same Viceroy as the last couple weeks at the crossing, but got pix this time finally. On the other side of the river we had a Texas Powdered-Skipper. There were lots of Pipevine Swallowtail, a few Queen, some Gulf Fritillary, numbers of Checkered-Skipper, mostly Common I presume, a few Desert Ch-Skp, still Olive Juniper Hairstreak, 10 Buckeye, couple Reakirt's Blue, a few each Phaon Crescent and Borderd Patch, one Elada Checkerspot, a couple Cloudless Sulphur, several Mestra, Fiery, Eufala, and Whirlabout Skippers, Orange Skipperling, lots of Sleepy Orange, a Goatweed Leafwing, some Giant Swallowtail, Gray Hairstreaks, etc. In yard early in a.m. a Zebra Heliconian drifted through coming within a foot of me, a pair of Funereal Duskywing chased about, a Snout went by. Later at river about 5 p.m. there was a Horace's Duskywing, the first of the the month.

Then there were some odes (dragon and damselflies) too. The area around the crossing is pretty juicy with good habitat variety coming together. The male Swamp Darner continues by the lily patch just upriver of the crossing. A Comanche Skimmer was near the new rockbar. Other dragons were several Red Saddlebags, a Banded Pennant, Eastern Pondhawk, some Blue Dasher, a few Pale-faced Clubskimmer, a Green Darner, Checkered and Swift Setwing. Damselflies were topped by a Coppery Dancer, new to my area list (though overdue) and a real beauty (pix on damsel photos page) with red eyes. A Neotropical Bluet allowed an ID photo finally, that was nice. Also had Double-striped Bluet, and a number of unID'd bluets up by the lillies in binocs. Variable, Kiowa, and Dusky Dancers all present, two dozen American Rubyspot and 3 male Smoky Rubyspot. There is a lot more around for odes than a quick look gets you. There were likely 20 species that you could find right around the crossing essentially all at once just walking around back and forth a little. GREAT diversity! A few Wandering and Spot-winged Gliders were around yard early and late, plus more Swift and Checkered Setwing.

The Canyon Towhee was around yard, singing a bit. Declaring the territory, but we're just seeing one now. Has to be the bird that wintered, which was present August or September to late March or earliest April, gone April, May, June, and a little over half of July and is now back. So it went somewhere to nest a couple or few times for 3.5 months. I would sure give a dollar to know how far or where it went.

Kathy spotted a first summer male Hooded Oriole getting totally soaked in the sprinkler in the afternoon. I have not been seeing this bird around. Right side has no wingbars, left side has two. They can be pretty ragged by later in the summer. She also saw the male Painted Bunting come into sprinkler. We went for a swim at peak heat, I took a thermometer and the water was 77dF, it has really warmed up the last month, it was about 70dF a month ago. Flow is much slower, and the river is dropping fast too.

Because that wasn't enough for a day I put a bug light and sheet out. Actually because it wasn't very windy for a change. Things have quieted down as we get to 5 weeks without any rain. There were lots more a month ago. But there were some neat things, I took pix of a dozen or so bugs and moths. The highlight was a good sized Cerambycid (Long-horned Beetle) that was new to me, whatever it is. Shoot (photos) first and ID later. This beast was almost 1.5" long, and looked like the half-inch Neoclytus I know. But ginormous. Got pix. A few nice moths were had too, but nothing big save a (ph.) 1.5" furry snow white one with rows of fine black dots, should be an easy ID. Sure was beautiful.

Over a dozen of a 1.25" brown elatarid (with backward pointing spines at posterior corners of thorax), another Caddis Fly or something that looks like one (ph.), a neat big sharpshooter leafhopper (ph.) and a couple smaller Homops, bunch of true bugs (stink bugs), a few small scarabs, a couple big June beetles, a black possible Cerambycid (ph.), green lacewing, a couple very neat unknown but photo'd moths, a couple emerald moths, a nice bird dropping moth, and the pair of Great Horned Owls were duetting just behind cottage over in corral at midnight.

July 25 ~ More Orchard Oriole and Dickcissel in the a.m. going by southward, and another Gnatcatcher, a mini-parade every morning. The Least Flycatcher (day 2) and the Eastern Wood-Pewee family (day 3) were both still around the yard in the morning. The four Bewick's Wren that fledged from the gate nestbox a week ago were in the big brush pile in the afternoon. The Canyon Towhee was on the roof of the cottage.

The local weather underground stations at 3 p.m. were reading 101dF in Utopia, 104 at Vanderpool, 106 at Seco Creek, all with heat indices about 110-114! Showing 93 at Leakey in their obviously well-shaded thermometer spot. Our front porch was 95 at the same time, cooler out back of house which is in the shade at all times all day.

The Carolina Wrens that nest in the mess under the carport are on at least their third set, this back in the cardboard box on a temporary shelf I have out there where their first set of 3 fledged a couple months ago. I can hear the begging babies from my desk in office. Apparently it is a perfect mess to them.

Saw a flock of a couple dozen White-winged Dove, a sign of the season. I have not been mentioning the two Eurasian Collared-Dove that have been hitting the patio the last week or so. Bad enough for me to have to see them, you should'nt have to hear about it too. Jalapeno sauce is the perfect match so I hear and would love to find out for myself.

~ ~ ~ prior update below ~ ~ ~

July 24 ~ A low of 75dF is not very and hardly qualifies. Sticky too. A couple Orchard Oriole and a couple Dickcissel went through early. Still singing are Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo, Titmouse, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, N. Cardinal, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lark Sparrow, and Summer Tanager. Saw a Cuckoo go through yard again, but they seem done. A few Martin still calling overhead.

The Ash-throated Flycatcher are nowhere to be seen at their nestbox so the young must have fledged yesterday afternoon, they were still feeding and removing fecal sacs shortly after noon. I hear the Brown-crests to the north and Great Crested to the south still. The adult Eastern Wood-Pewee that was feeding two young here yesterday afternoon spent a couple hours here in the morning still feeding the young, and singing. Very cool, got some good pix of a fresh juvenile which in some ways look less like a Western Wood-Pewee than the adults do. They were still out there at dusk.

Kathy saw the Canyon Towhee take a bath after noon. In town there were about 20 Barn Swallow, many juveniles, around the P.O. and bank. The biggest thing today was a long-distance passerine migrant, my earliest ever FOF - first of fall - Least Flycatcher. In now my 12th fall here I had twice seen them as an FOF (first of fall) on August 1, this is my first July record here, with a week of July to go yet. It was still out there at dusk, calling and feeding quite a lot in the tops of the big old Mesquites where there are some flowers now, a good 18' or so above ground.

July 23 ~ At least 6 Dickcissel went by southbound over and or through yard in first hour this morning, and one Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. One of the male Painted Bunting was on the seed tube first thing. Heard Ringed Kingfisher over at river first thing early too. Heard a couple Purple Martin still, and a few Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was about the pecans later morning. Chipping Sparrow around again, and the 1st summer male Painted Bunting with the salmon underparts continues as well.

In the hot afternoon (96df on porch) another (#4) Arizona Sister butterfly came in to the sprinkler for a sip. Better yet an adult Eastern Wood-Pewee came into the big pecan with two begging young, for one of which it caught something and fed. I snuck into house so as not to make them nervous. At least one young was still out there later. They nest just up and down river where some deciduous along the river, this is the first time an adult still attending begging young was feeding them in the yard. Very cool.

July 22 ~ A couple more Dickcissel and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through yard early. Also a female Indigo Bunting went through, briefly landing in one of the brushpiles. Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were back and forth several times early and late in the day. The bird report of the day was from Judy Schaffer whom for the umpteenth time wins the FOF (first of fall) Rufous Hummingbird contest (so far as I know) today.  ;)

Bird song is really quieting down out there fast. If you don't have a bird bath, try putting a sprinkler on low near a shrub, especially in heat of day when we have these long hot dry spells. The pair of Caracara found the fresh XL White-footed Mouse I threw out on driveway. They know to check our driveway for treats. Good thing there wasn't a "do not feed the Caracaras" sign here, I'd be in a heap of trouble.

July 21 ~ Ring King again in a.m. A Celia's Roadside-Skipper at porch was my first for the month. Lots of Julia's Skipper in the yard, at least a dozen. A Clouded Skipper stopped at the Purple Bindweed. A couple of the big pale type of Tawny Emperor were about, as well as one of the small dark ones, I don't get that situation at all. An adult Chipping Sparrow bathed in the sprinkler.

In Odes there were a fair number of Spot-winged Glider in the yard early a.m., at least a dozen, most I have had here so far this year. A couple Wandering Glider and a few each Red, and Black, Saddlebags were among them as well. A Widow Skimmer went through yard briefly over toward draw. For damsels several Dusky and a Kiowa Dancer were in yard as usual lately.

July 20 ~ Had what seemed two Ringed Kingfisher go upriver. A couple young Summer Tanager are still all over the yard, for nearly a week now. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went by southbound. Kathy had a Common Nighthawk, and we heard a weak Chuck-wills-widow briefly at dusk. Also heard Gray Fox yapping it up over by where the rib bones were thrown across the road. A male Common Whitetail dragonfly was in driveway. A couple Spot-winged Glider were about. A juvenile White-eyed Vireo has been calling incessantly for two weeks now around the yard, likely from the pair that nests in draw right over the north fence.

July 19 ~ Three Black-bellied Whistling-Duck went over early, one was a juvenile, probably locally bred. Up at the Barhams I heard Orchard Oriole, Black-and-white Warbler, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, early in the a.m. The Indigo Bunting is still singing in the draw, and a couple Dickcissel went through our yard early. The Hooded Oriole male as well as a first summer female which I presume is his mate were on the hummer feeders.

We walked to crossing at noon, it was still overcast and so not too sticky yet. Just before we left a Soldier came into the Blue Mist Eupatorium which just has a couple buds barely, so it left quickly. On the walk we saw the FOY Ceranus Blue finally. Also had an Orange Skipperling (first of month), a False Duskywing, a few Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, but mostly the expected stuff, Phaons, Bordered Patch, Checkered-Skipper, Gray Hairstreak, Whirlabout, etc.

Above the crossing there was a worn male Swamp Darner dragonfly patrolling the backwater above the water lily patch. I have seen one at UR, UP, and here in the last 4 weeks or so. It could be one individual, all sightings were of a single male. There were a dozen American and two male Smoky Rubyspots, a half-dozen Kiowa Dancer, a few Dusky and a Blue-ringed Dancer. Several Swift Setwing and 6 Blue Dasher up in the lillies.

We went for a swim in the heat of the afternoon, having carefully done the numbers and figuring it was better to be in 66dF wet, than 96dF dry. Eastern Pewee singing over there still. I caught and released a Guadalupe Bass (after photos), and a couple beautiful breeding color Longear Sunfish, none of which will probably hit a gold spoon for a while now. Someone has to teach them... I saw a pod of 5 Largemouth Bass that was at least 15 lbs. of non-native introduced predators. Kathy found a nice school of Texas Shiner (Notropis amabilis), a pretty little native minnow.

July 18 ~ First thing early I walked out on front porch and a Zone-tailed Hawk flew out of the big pecan with a prey item in its talons, which looked avian and of fair size, perhaps a White-winged Dove. Another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher passed through southbound. Just a few Purple Martin still around. Some Barn Swallow but not lots, and the Rough-winged Swallows seem gone.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

July 17 ~ I guess that pair of Canyon Towhee were just checking to see if we were still throwing seed, as I have not seen them since the hour they were here two mornings ago. They will likely wander around the area a bit and then return. A couple of immature Dickcissel were around the yard in the a.m., kinda like in fall. I presume these are locally bred birds. Lots of young Scissor-tails along the fencelines and roads now. A family group was out front early in the a.m., they were in the pecans mid-day, a lone male flew by in the p.m.

I am uploading the update in the afternoon today so anything later this afternoon or evening won't show up here until next week. Sometimes that does happen and you may want to check that last update you read for later p.m. add-ons on that last day it was updated. Sometimes I add things after the update Fridays. I might change or correct things at any time, errors in particular I try to get to quickly. Please don't hesitate to holler if you find or see something incorrect.

July 16 ~ At least we are getting the morning clouds from the coast, keeping the sun blocked the first few hours of the day. It gives you a break in the mid-70's dF so you can do some things before it gets hot and sweaty. Still hearing that male Indigo Bunting singing across the road, what a great song. Loud ringing jingle-jangly each note doubled as if to emphasize them. Not a bad looker either.

About 11:40 a.m. I was out on porch when I listened to a PURPLE GALLINULE calling as it flew upriver. I tried to see thataway but couldn't pick anything up over the trees, it was probably flying up the river below canopy in the tunnel of trees. Most of the lily patches are just coming back from the flood damage they took. I have audio tape of the Purple Gal that was at the park a few years ago, there isn't anything else that makes that call. I was so mad when I taped it as I could not find the bird, but did a week or so later (and got pix). At the time there was a huge lily patch across the dam at park. I don't know where this one would go now, look for lillies.

July 15 ~ Amazing was two adult Canyon Towhee eating seed on the patio! Can't wait to see if they stick. They might be the pair that wintered here and departed in March or early April. I saw an immature Blue Grosbeak out on the fenceline, at least one young is out. Lots of young Lark Sparrow, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, and it appeared the Bewick's Wrens at the gate nestbox were fledging. I heard begging young in the adjacent small pecan.

About 8:30am I was tracking a shipment and doing biz e-mails when an imm. Zone-tailed Hawk crashed into the Hackberry right over the cottage, this 40' at most from my desk, right out the window behind the monitor. This well shows how important it is to choose carefully where you site your work station. It missed whatever it was after and when it flew out it just cleared the house roof, and was not 10' out window at closest point. It is a ratty one for an immature.

About 1:30 pm an adult Zone-tailed buzzed the yard, flushing the White-winged Doves. A Zebra Longwing (Heliconian - butterfly) flew across yard again. No Chucks calling at dark tonight. The Nighthawks are gone, not hearing them and never heard or saw the usual begging young, so they were probably predated.

Saw another one of the Stenelytrana gigas Cerambycids circling the pecan tree, low at first, too high after I got the net. Another neat bug event was one of the metallic blue-black wasps, you know the ones that flick their wings all jacked up all the time. Pompelids, spider wasps, they are and quite harmless. One made it to the porch with a Black Widow it killed! But could not get it off the ground with it, up to the place where they put their prey (and lay eggs in 'em). A cluster of 30 of these wasps roost under the porch covering by a beam. Wouldn't want to be a spider around here.

July 14 ~ Had a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher go by southbound, the first I have seen since spring, though thought I heard a couple the last couple weeks. Another Black-and-white Warbler went through as well. Seems to have been some hummer departure going on, numbers are dropping, no complaints, ready for something other than Black-chinned to occur. It was a hot day, upper 90's dF in town, we showed about 93dF on porch. We're in a typical summer regime when that sub-tropical high gets locked over us, hot and humid, with no rain in sight and about a 75-95dF temp spread.

July 13 ~ A low of 75dF wasn't very low. A juvenile Black-and-white Warbler moved through the yard in the a.m. Scissor-tailed and Vermilion Flycatchers about yard quite a bit, Blue Grosbeak too, but not seeing the Cuckoos. There was still one nearby Chuck-wills-widow calling. They will go quiet soon. Don't hear the Common Nighthawks.

The critter of the day was Arizona Sister, the butterfly, of which I saw TWO of them. One at 1:20 moved south through yard and was in good fresh condition, well marked, great color. The other was at about 3 p.m. and stopped at the sprinkler for a drink and for me to binoc it. It was very worn brown but definitely an Arizona, with very dull worn orange spots at forewing tips, and absolutely a different animal than the one I saw earlier. It moved off going north.

One weather station in town reported 98dF, we were 92 on the porch. About a dozen firefly still going at dusk. Mosquitoes are out, especially the fast tiny gray treeholers right at dusk. Chiggers don't seem to be happening much though. We walked a quarter mile of knee high flowers and grasses to the river and back again the other day, without spraying, and had none.

July 12 ~ There were a couple Dickcissel that went over early (are they local young moving around or migrants from elsewhere?). A couple Ringed Kingfisher over at the river sounded like a begging juvenile and an adult. Heard a Black-and-white Warbler. The yard male Painted Bunting sung from up top of the big pecan while the male from across the road fed on the tube feeder, seems fairly tolerant.

A warm one, 93dF on porch, hotter in the sun. We broke for a swim at peak heat. Heard the Eastern Wood-Pewee over at river, forgot to mention I heard it yesterday from porch. Heard the Indigo Bunting over there too, plus the usual suspects. That 66dF water feels great when it is in 90's dF. Now it is really getting crystal clear, but boy how the flood scraped the aquatic and shore-edge vegetation, there seem far fewer fish and dragonflies at a level I would call obvious. Great to be able to excercise in the heat without getting hot. Really seems to be helping that nasty-bad kink in my back. I'd move my office over here except there is no wi-fi. LOL

Saw a Leaftail (Phyllagomphoides) dragonfly that looked like Four-striped, the first Leaftail I have seen this year. Some Swift Setwings. In damsels lots of Dusky Dancers ovipositing where a side stream enters the river. Some Am. Rubyspots, a few Fragile Forktail, a Rambur's Forktail, a Double-sided Bluet, Variable and Blue-ringed Dancers, and a bunch I didn't know. I will have to take reading glasses out there in the water as I can approach closer than I can focus now. Especially from the water with only head out, they are far tamer than with the usually of neccessity, high profile terrestrial approach.

July 11 ~ A Dickcissel went over in the a.m., another in p.m., on the move. The rest was the expected, save a call I heard after dark that could have passed for Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. But only one call, so letting it go. July is when they most often show here. At last sun the yard male Painted Bunting hits that tube seed feeder for millet like a maniac. Then goes up to near top of the 40' pecan out front and sings in last sun. I was right under him in the driveway this evening and the male Yellow-throated Warbler jumps up on a branch not 3' from the singing male Painted Bunting, and commences to singing. They alternated songs back and forth for 3 minutes while just 3' apart. It was amazing. As if a duet. Both saying the same thing, 'this is my territory' in their own way, with no animosity towards each other whatsoever. Perfectly happy and content to pronounce such from the same few cubic feet of airspace of another (non-competing) species doing the same, in the same time and space. Between the yellow, black, white and gray of the warbler, and the blue, red, purple and lime green of the bunting, I had to go rest my eyes after that. ;)

July 10 ~ Another Dickcissel went over early in a.m. first thing. Did see a Yellow-billed Cuckoo sneaking around the pecans, one still here at least. Had a Zebra Heliconian (Longwing (butterfly)) and another (or the same) Dusky-blue Groundstreak fly across yard. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher still singing and displaying right over corral fenceline out by road (200' from porch) in a.m., was followed by it singing perched in the pecans in the p.m., they can fertilize my yard all they want, and, I don't care what type of bugs they eat. There was at least one Dickcissel singing along 187 south of town, ergo, nesting underway. Near town an ad. male Scissor-tail was shoulder-to-shoulder with a juvenile on a fenceline, both had their heads cocked at each other, looked like it was explainin' something real important to the youngin'.

July 9 ~ Did not hear the Cuckoos this week, they must be done and gone quiet. There was another Orchard Oriole that went through yard early, things are starting to move around. Black-chinned Hummers are thick again, lots of juveniles. Still hearing the Scissor-tails over in corral and out front, saw a Zone-tailed Hawk go over. Thought I heard a gnatcatcher distantly. More baby Cardinals and Lark Sparrows out of the nests getting fed on patio, new Eastern Phoebe young out of nest this week too. Hooded Oriole has some young tagging along now. The Ash-throats in one of our nest boxes are feeding young and removing fecal sacs, as are a pair of Bewick's Wren in the box by the gate.

July 8 ~ Balmy overnight, only dropping to 73dF or so. A Dickcissel called as it went over first thing early. Birds are moving around, it's July. Heard Scissor-tails out front in morning and afternoon. A just fledged juvenile Summer Tanager was trying to figure out what all the birds are doing at the tube seed feeder.

There are green pecans dropping steadily the last two weeks from the big native tree right in front of porch. Wish I knew why. Our best tree (not a pure native) lost the crop in winds this spring, this tree kept some, but they are not sticking to develop. The other 4 producing trees in front seem to have lost most to all of their flowers in that 45mph wind as well. Doesn't bode well for say woodpeckers this winter.

July 7 ~ Thought I heard both Black-and-white and Golden-cheeked Warblers go through yard in a.m. but didn't see either (was busy with a cup of coffee). Then a couple Orchard Oriole moved through, a male and female, the male sung, they moved around pecans a bit as he sang and they moved off. South to north progression indicates local birds in post-breeding movements. Seems maybe enough time to pull another nesting off still, admittedly latish, but I have had them locally still involved in nesting in mid-August though.

Then I heard two Mockingbird. Somewhat nearish together, the one I saw was an immature. Probably locally raised young moving around. Though one seemed to have been taken by a Cooper's Hawk, which dove on it in the big pecan, chased it through another, and last I heard was that sound of a dying bird in the talons of an accipiter. The other went to calling a whole bunch and got no reply, they had been calling back and forth.

July 6 ~ The standard summertime spread of about 70 to 90dF. We run a couple degrees cooler than all the local weatherunderground sites being mostly shaded and in the river habitat corridor. The best sighting from the porch today was when I saw the singing male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher do the full 360 deg. flip in display flight. Timed to crescendo of song of course. Like a Common Nighthawk dive and boom, this is something you will never see too much of. Except much harder to see. They fly climbing up nearly vertical, screaming excitedly all the way and at the top of the loop the song explodes into crescendo whilst they quickly flip over updside and sail back down, like nothing happened. Amazing. The flip is faster than the untrained eye. It requires practice to see, it is so fast. Have I told you lately how awesome birds are?

I heard a Golden-cheeked Warbler call in the morning but was too busy to chase the chipper down. A southbound bird on the way out. July is when to get one at the park, but still requires lots of luck. The mostly work their way out via the hills, ridges, and divides, generally avoiding the flatlands of the valley floor.

A new set of Tawny Emperor (butterfly) is out, these very similar in size and color to Hackberry Emperor. The first set that flies in spring is much bigger and paler and is obviously way different in appearance at a glance and distance, these are the ones where you have to look closely to see which it is.

July 5 ~ A real treat in the a.m. was a Dusky-blue Groundstreak (butterfly) in the front yard, the first I have seen locally in about 5 years. It was common to abundant 2003 to 2007, and since the drought disappeared like several other species. New for the yard list. We took a walk to the crossing before lunch and the heat, but still pretty warm and muggy, 85dF and 60+%.

We found the remains of a dead Ox Beetle along the road. We had great looks at a Cicada Killer at the crossing (and ph.). The Cedar Sage is going well along river, the Wooly Ironweed just about to open (a very few were), and Pearl (Green) Milkweed Vine is always a neat flower to see, that is one weird flower. Lots of Skeleton Plant blooming, another total weirdo plant, no leaves and a beautiful big lavender flower (that a little dull flower Buprestid loves). A couple Western Kingbird were on the deer fence around the airstrip.

A Viceroy was the butterfly highlight, my first for the 360 list, appearing to be an ovipositing female, hitting willows as it moved downriver. OMG, two new butterflies for the local (yard and 360) list in one day. The dragon highlight was a pair of Orange-striped Threadtail in tandem at the crossing, so we have breeding here too (besides park). I have seen singles here a number of times, nice to see mating.

In other odes saw several Banded Pennant, Black, Swift, and Checkered Setwing, Blue Dasher, lots of Kiowa Dancer, a Stream Bluet, 7+ American Rubyspot and better, both male and female Smoky Rubyspot were great to see, they have been very scarce since the drought started.

Other butterflies were at least 7 False Duskywing (Gesta), 5 Desert Checkered-Skipper, a dozen+ Phaon Crescent, two dozen Dainty Sulphur and Bordered Patch, a dozen Sleepy Orange, a Southern Skipperling, several Tawny Emperor (new fresh small dark ones), a Buckeye, a few Vesta Crescent, Gray Hairstreak, and Reakirt's Blue, a Whirlabout, few Fiery Skipper, one female Sachem, a Questionmark, Goatweed Leafwing, Gulf Frit, loads of Pipevine, a fair number of Black, with a few Giant Swallowtail.

Since it is a holiday weekend we thought we would act like it. Late afternoon to beat the heat of the day we walked over to river, maybe 5 minutes through flowers all the way, and went swimming. That mid-60's dF water will take your core body temp down to comfortable real quickly. Using swim fins so was able to float on back and still move upriver with ease, or hold position, while listening to singing Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, and Yellow-throated Warbler in a tunnel of 50' cypresses.

It was neat approaching damselflies from the river instead of bank, they seemed much less fearful with just your head out of water moving up on them. A pair of Fragile Forktail were in tandem, several Dusky Dancer pairs too, an American Rubyspot, but only damsels, no dragons over there. The bottom is scraped clean to the bedrock limestone from the big rain event, no loose rocks, and little vegetation was left as well since the recent big event. Was hoping for a close flyby from a Green King while in the river, but it didn't happen this time. Have had it happen, you get a whole new perspective on the bird with just your head out of water when one passes like a bullet at eye-level two feet away. I'm not saying you should HAVE to see one that way to count it... LOL   ;)

July 4 ~ Happy Independence Day! Has to be the biggest day of the year here for visitors, due to the first-class fireworks show at the park at dark. Makes me glad to live on a non-through and dirt road where you don't get or hear much of the traffic. Until they all leave at 10 p.m. when 187 and 1050 sound like L.A. freeways. I still hear the Indigo Bunting singing across the road toward the river. Another Black-n-white Warbler moved south through yard this morning.

A quick nooner walk for butterflies saw a couple False Duskywing, a couple FOY Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak as fresh and strongly marked as I have ever seen them, one odd hairstreak I got a poor photo of which I will have to blow-up and study, methinks something good for here. A couple dozen each Phaon Crescent and Bordered Patch, a couple Buckeye, Whirlabout, Fiery Skipper, Desert Checkered-Skipper, an Olive Juniper Hairstreak. The Frogfruit is getting going and a real magnet now. The Old Man's Beard is really going too, but alas, seems not to attract any butterflies, looks great though.

I set up a night light to see if any nocturnal goodies would come in but still fighting the wind. It never stops here, except when you don't want it to. 10 mph wreaks havoc with a hanging sheet when you are trying to bug light. There wasn't as much action as a month ago, but everything wasn't being flinged off the sheet by the wind. There was a little bit of action but nothing spectacular best I could tell. Photo'd a dozen bugs for later ID.

I heard some of the neighbors had a Tarantula out off W. 360 this evening. Which reminds me of another note from a neigbor I forgot to mention, the Barham's had one Hercules Beetle (Dynastes) this spring (normally used to have more).

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July 3 ~ The same main avian players daily in or from the yard now for the last 6-8 weeks, or more in some cases. Painted Bunting, Summer Tanager, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Ash-throated, Brown-crested, and Great Crested Flycatcher, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Bewick's Wren, Yellow-breasted Chat, Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Warbler, Lark Sparrow, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Phoebe, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawk, Caracara, Bobwhite (hear daily), White-winged, Mourning, and Ground-, Doves, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, Brown-headed and Bronzed Cowbird.

Hooded Oriole visits daily, Eastern Screech, Great Horned, and Barred Owl are heard regularly, Chuck-wills-widow and Common Nighthawk both still vocal. Lots of Black-chinned Hummers, about time something else shows up in hummer department. Other daily nearby nesters are Common Raven, Barn and Rough-winged Swallow, and Purple Martin, plus the everpresent Turkey and Black Vultures. So about 45 species daily in or from yard. Only different things today were a Western Kingbird flew by going south out over road while I happened to be out there. Later a Red-winged Blackbird (male) did so.

July 2 ~ The rain-cooled air from yesterday afternoon and evening took us down to a low of 67dF or so! WOW in July! KVL was 66dF. A few more cells went by today, we might have gotten a tenth of an inch, but more important, rain-cooled outflows beat the heat of the afternoon for the fourth day in a row. Peak heat has been mid to low 80's dF, a bit humid, and breezy, so with cooling effect. I know it won't last so am relishing every bit of it.

The Indigo Bunting was still singing over at the draw today, the male Painted doesn't seem to care. Very unusual was a couple Red-eyed Vireo going through yard, northbound in afternoon. I would guess locally hatched young wandering around. Heard Ringed Kingfisher over at river.

July 1 ~ OMG, JULY?!?!?!? The place will be a zoo (people) in a few days, but the good news is that after the Fourth it really clears out. Lost Maples is often empty on the trails, after this weekend. Golden-cheeked Warblers will be there just a few more weeks, some surely departing already, but I usually can find them to mid-July without much trouble, a little more work often gets them to late July. The Black-capped Vireo stays through August, often to early or mid-September.

The male Painted Buntings are a bit fussy out there today, chasing each other around, but not with the zeal of a couple months ago. Nice to have a juv. at the seed, and the ad. female hit the tube for a long while at dusk. Neat was hearing the male Indigo Bunting sing over by draw, probably the same one down by river yesterday.

The Brown-crested Flycatchers fledged some young, I think from over in the draw, and they got too close the the Ash-throated Flyc. box so the Ash-throats went after them to move them away, the adult Brown-crests went bonkers, and it was a major Myiarchus melee. Feathers flew, and once one of each rode each other to the ground face-to-face, biting, squacking, flapping, clawing, it was a knock down drag out round. The Brown-crests moved their young away from that side of the yard.

Apparently what I need is a screened in outdoor room for an office so I can always be seeing and hearing the action. I could really use a game or web cam to see the bird bath on the opposite side of the house of the office. And some mics so anything that calls as it passes through is detected would be nice. Especially in migration that would be useful, need some aimed skyward at night too.   :)


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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 July 1 2015, which is Bird News Archive XXIV (#24).

Read UP from bottom to go in chronological sequence.


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