Bird (and nature) News Archive # 25
January 1 to June 30, 2016
Old Bird News XXV

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.



2016 - January 1 - June 30



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

~ ~ ~ below is 2016 ~ ~ ~ (in reverse chrono order)

January through June
Scroll to bottom and read up
to read in chronological order.

~ ~ ~ June summary ~ ~ ~

June was mostly hot and dry. The first three and a couple days right before the end of the month saw 6" of rain, but in between nothing. The flowers are very well though, thank you. Lots of baby birds out of the nests now and some migratory breeders have begun departing. Often the first earliest departures are the failed nesters, and I would not be surprised if there was quite a bit of that with the 2' of rain in April and May, and the two main events in June. The 35-45 mph outflow boundries probably do the most damage.

Butterflies were 53 species, which is good, and there were about four or more others not counted due to quick looks, probables. Best June total in 6 years, which hopefully bodes well for the summer. The best thing was 2 live and remains of another (two forewings) Crimson Patch, the first I have seen in about 7 years here. They were on Mr. Waters' Wildlife Conservation easement, perhaps there is some foodplant there? Good numbers of Northern Mestra are arriving (from the south), and at Lost Maples good numbers of Arizona Sister, Red-spotted Purple, and a few Spicebush Swallowtail were nice. June 29 I saw what was likely a White Angled-Sulphur fly across the road, and at Lost Maples I saw what was likely Bronze Roadside-Skipper, but didn't count either for the month. I may have photos of the Bronze.

June is the month Odes (dragon and damselflies) really get going. I saw 31 species this month. Best was a Blue-faced Darner (Coryphaeshna adnexa) at the park, which is a rarity in Uvalde Co. Some few Orange-striped Threadtail are still at the park. Lots of Widow Skimmers about, a few Neon Skimmer, one Flame Skimmer in yard. A Red-tailed Pennant at Lost Maples is good in Bandera Co., and a Carmine (Yellow-bellied) Skimmer and Aztec Dancer at the country club were good. Aztec and Springwater Dancer were at Lost Maples. Later in the month the first Wandering and Spot-winged Glider showed up.

Birds were great as usual, I counted 92 species seen locally, which includes one trip to Lost Maples (adds 4-5 sps.), the rest close around town. Best was the Green Violetear at the Sabinal River Lodge, which was last documented June 10. There was some sort of report later. The other best things were a Broad-winged Hawk June 19 at Lost Maples where last year I found the first nesting anywhere within a hundred miles. Then a pair of Olive Sparrow with 3 begging young on Mr. Waters' Wildlife Conservation easement was also outstanding, and probably the furthest north nesting ever known. At least until we find young at Lost Maples. Also there was a pair of Black-throated Sparrow with 3 young, the first local nesting I have ever found. I knew of a pair in Concan, they are around, but hard to nail down.

A bat I saw seems like it must have been a Hoary, it was all silvery white above. The usual Red and Mexican (Brazillian now) Freetail bats were around. Saw a couple S. gigas Cerambycids, a couple Dicerca Buprestids, a couple Catocola underwing moths, and a few too many chiggers. A Texas Spiny Lizard at Lost Maples was great, and saw a couple Ribbonsnake around the yard.

~ ~ ~ end June summary ~ back to the drivel ~ ~ ~

June 30 ~ Still cool in the a.m., about 70dF, which is nice in summer here. Hot and humid afternoons and evening. Thursday so my day to be stuck at monitor and phone. Birds were the same save a Black-n-white Warbler that sang early in the a.m. Numbers of Hackberry Emperor butterflies are out finally, had only been seeing a very few.

I should note that a guy doing a North American big year posted to his blog that he was here in Utopia and saw the Green Violetear at the Sabinal River Lodge this week one day, maybe the 29th. I am just the messenger in case you hadn't heard or seen that. I can not speak to the veracity of the claim. I have not been there in two weeks, as I have to do this thing called work.

June 29 ~ That rain-cooled night last night was outstanding, as was waking up to an amazing low in the uppermost 60's dF, with light north to northeast flow! Holy cow, in late June! The male Indigo Bunting was around the patio quite a bit in the morning. What a color to wake up to. Early I saw three Yellow-billed Cuckoo, I presume the ad. pair and a young. The rest was all the regulars. Firefly show is really dialing back, maybe a couple dozen around the yard at best now.

June 28 ~ Low about 71dF, cool these days, but warmed quickly to hot and sticky. We lucked out about 6 p.m. with some outflow and then got real lucky when a cell blew up right around Utopia and dumped 2.5" of rain 6:30 to 8 p.m.! An awesome instant cool down! It was a quarter inch every 15 minutes, for two and a half hours. Hummers were thick when it broke just before dark. There was a big Termite hatch after the rain of course. And the Common Nighthawks were out, and booming still. Only a couple Chuck-wills-widow calling briefly now, and I heard that begging young call once later.

We have at least a couple hundred Black-chinned Hummers and nothing else. Mostly gray-headed immatures from the last two or three months of breeding. Seems like the third wave of fresh juveniles this year. They start in March and can have fledlings by late April, late May, and late June, sometimes again in July. Leaving me sugar poor.

Saw a Horace's Duskywing come into the wet patio in the afternoon, an Arizona Sister went by too. Sister will often react quickly to water. Reakirt's Blue came as well. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher going down the river in late p.m., and the Summer Tanager family is still all over the yard half the day or more, young begging constantly.

June 27 ~ Hot and sticky, for the last and next two months, except on rain days. Please do your dance, no matter how silly you look. Heard the Hutton's Vireo out there, and the Indigo Bunting, had a few Scissor-tails, Yellow-throated Warbler and Vireo, Great Crested and some Vermilion Flycatchers, another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher passed by southbound. Later in p.m. I heard what sounded like an adult and a begging immature Ringed Kingfisher going down the river. It was the regular gang o' 30-40+ species...

June 26 ~ A bit cooler in the a.m., maybe 72dF for a low, after the rain-cooled night last night. The standard, with overcast until about 11 a.m., then patchy clouds and warm and humid. We looked a bit around the area just east of us on private property, with some nice juniper slopes and live-oak grassland.

There are two knolls with some denser habitat, the south one had the Olive Sparrow family of 5 and territorial Black-capped Vireo the last couple weeks, both were gone so I suspect the vireos too fledged young and moved away from the immediate territory as so many birds do upon getting the young out. We flushed a herd of feral pigs trying to sleep the heat off up in the underbrush up there. Heard a Long-billed Thrasher singing downslope, several Painted Bunting, Summer Tanager, saw a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

Spectacular though was two CRIMSON PATCH butterflies, together at once! Plus the partial remains (two forewings) of a third one! I have not seen "the crimson beauty" since the drought got going, about 2008 methinks was the last one. Flame Acanthus is one foodplant, and Hondo Creek at Hwy. 90 is the statewide center of population for them (greatest concentrations). There is another food plant I forget, of which some are on the (very steep rough) trail to Crystal Cave at Garner St. Park. Sometimes the crimson beauty was found there in numbers. I have not been there lately though. I saw multiples annually 2004-08 during a wet cycle here, even in yard without even trying you would get them going by. None since the drought, so I hope a great sign of recovery, and wonder if or what foodplant is in the area. The Crimson Beauty flies again!

The rest was the expected, 9 big Tom Turkey, a number of Field and lots of Lark Sparrow. I might have heard a Black-capped Vireo over on the north 1500' knoll. There was an Arizona Sister there, and some Spot-winged Glider, a Red Saddlebags. Loads of Mountain Pink looks amazing. The flowers are still outstanding. In most areas where not trees, shrubs or grass, the ground is solid native wildflowers. Awesome.

Went swimming to cool down in the afternoon, afterwhich an outflow boundry hit from a rain cell 30 miles away, which cooled us down to below 80dF from mid-90's, darn near held until dark! The gusts were 35-40mph when it hit. You could smell the rain, but we didn't get a drop.

June 25 ~ Lots of cloud cover today, and a few sprinkles, a bit of mist, probably didn't make 90dF, but made up for it with the humidity. We could use a good quarter or half-inch. I still hear the begging baby cuckoo, and a couple of the Carolina Wrens that just fledged from the corral nest box are begging lots too. I heard another Eastern Wood-Pewee in the front yard today. The third or fourth in yard this June, whence there should be none, whilst there are none singing along 2 miles of the Can Creek trail at Lost Maples.

A few rain cells got close enough to cool us down with some outflow about 3:30 p.m. on, we were below 80dF! Around 6 we got about 2 tenths of an inch, more up-valley above town, a quarter to a half inch, and it looked like Lost Maples got at least an inch! And we beat the afternoon heat! Every day you do that all summer counts. Indigo Bunting sung most of the afternoon across road, often in the mesquites. Termite hatch initiated right after the rain and all the birds were flycatching them. Including immature Painted Bunting, Cardinal, a Hutton's Vireo, even the incredibly un-aerodynamic Carolina Wren was getting in on it making bomber runs through the swarm.

The other thing that happened from the rain was a few odes. Dragonflies. Spot-winged Gliders. First time I have seen them this year, was a half-dozen hawking over driveway in a wind-sheltered area from pecan trees. I thought I saw one Wandering Glider as well. I haven't been mentioning but daily there are a few Swift Setwing and several Dusky Dancer (damselfy) in the yard.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

June 24 ~ SOS today, same ol' stuff. Ran to town for errands. The library garden (in back) is looking good from all the rains, but there were barely a handful of butterflies. Their Blue Mist Eupatorium is eaten to death worse than ours. Their cats must have pupated as I saw none. Pulled four more off ours here today, so that makes 38 (!) of the evil rotten bastards I have removed. Hopefully our Eup. will recover.

Checked the park and did not see much but was noon and a bit of human activity there. Saw just about no odes. Yellow-throated Warbler still singing (nesting). In the yard the cuckoo landed not 8' from me on a lowest bare branch of the big pecan right off porch while I was in the chair, and called repeatedly. So awesome at point blank. I hear a begging baby cuckoo in one of the pecans further out front. They have their own different begging knocking sound they make.

June 23 ~ An ad. fem. Black-and-white Warbler was outside early. It worked right down our main powerline from 50' away, to within 8' of me! Too cool. It or another was out in the big pecan about 5 p.m.. It looked the same bird and so probably spent the day about the yard and vicinity. The rest was the same old stuff, see yesterday's list. This is my life. Six more of the evil Blue Mist Eupatorium caterpillars were dispatched today, now 34 have been removed in 4 days. Sheesh! No wonder it looks so bad.

Interesting to consider the non-nesting passage species I have seen in the yard the last week: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Dickcissel, Black-n-white Warbler, Orchard Oriole, and Eastern Wood-Pewee. All of which are most likely post-breeding dispersants, = fall migrants heading out of and off the breeding grounds. Amazing.

June 22 ~ Oh man, 8 more of the caterpillars on the Blue Mist Eup., gadzooks, the stuff looks terrible. Hope I can get it to bloom still this fall, its chewed to bits. Too busy working, so the birds around the yard is it. I usually do this early in June, but actually the list would not have changed really. Here is a list of the territorial singers (in or from yard) today. This is the stuff nesting here, adjacent, or very nearby.

Scissor-tailed, Vermilion, Great Crested and Ash-throated Flycatcher, Hutton's, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Summer Tanager, Painted Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Hooded Oriole, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Lark, Chipping, and Field Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe and Bluebird, Lesser (Black-backed) Goldfinch, Bewick's and Carolina Wren, Cardinal, Mourning, White-winged and Ground-, for Doves, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee and Black-crested Titmouse, and House Finch. And hundreds of Black-chinned Hummingbirds.

Then there are the daily flyovers, like Purple Martin, Barn and N. Rough-winged Swallow, Caracara, Red-tailed Hawk, TV and BV (Turkey and Black Vulture), Great Blue Heron, maybe Collared-Dove, Red-winged Blackbird, etc. Just before dark Common Nighthawk, and at last light Chuck-wills-widow. Then after dark most nights Eastern Screech-Owl, and Barred and or Great Horned Owl. Once a week I might catch a Zone-tailed and Cooper's Hawk going by, through or over, Common Raven every couple or few days. The last couple weeks many days there have been Indigo Bunting and Red-eyed Vireo singing. Bronzed and Brown-headed Cowbird are daily too, unfortunately. About 35-40 species per day in summer are a sure thing from the rocker on the porch. And then a few of the various add-ons. The perfect day when you get all of them can be 50 species from the porch. Now, a few post-breeding dispersal (fall migrants) types might be had too, like Gnatcatcher, Dickcissel, Orchard Oriole, B-n-W Warbler, etc.

June 21 ~ In the last two days I have found 20 of some kind of caterpillar on the Blue Mist (greggii) Eupatorum. This is why the two patches have been doing horrible. Got rid of the cats, now will go visit the horse corral for some magic grow. I did get a pic of one last year, I don't care what they are as much as we need this Blue Mist Eup blooming in fall here. They are butterfly honey. The patch under the big main pecan behind the library has been looking bad too, I bet it is these same varmits tearing them up.

The Chuck-wills-widows are really quieting down already. A couple weeks and change and they will be done calling for the year. There were a few dozen firefly still at dusk. Kathy had an Arizona Sister again around the yard, I saw Julia's Skipper and a female Goatweed Leafwing besides more common stuff. A male Widow Skimmer (ode) was nice too. Saw a juvenile Cooper's Hawk today, it missed the doves a couple times, no doubt from the local nest. Also saw one of the ugly underwing moths with the solid brown hindwing (no color like all the fancy ones), likely Catacola obscurus or something close.

June 20 ~ Happy Summer Solstice! Astronomical summer begins! Which means this is the longest day of daylight for the year. Or the shortest night, pending your view of world order.  ;) They start getting shorter again tomorrow. After that exhausting weekend it is great to be back at the work desk this Monday morning where I can get some rest. The Eastern Wood-Pewee was still in front yard today, and the male Indigo Bunting is still singing, a fair bit in the big old mesquites right across from our gate. The patio pair of Six-lined Racerunner lizards were copulating on said patio. What beauties they are. Also saw a Four-lined Skink. Lots of big Coreids around now, Giant Mesquite Bugs or something similar. The birds were the expected gang.

One other thing that happened yesterday that was very cool was a Common Raven. We were a half mile plus past the ponds on a section of trail with no other people within a quarter mile in either direction. The Raven overhead called a couple times (so we would notice) and then dove straight at us. At about a 45 degree angle, as it picked up speed it flipped over onto its back, wings folded against back, diving right at us, upside-down! It dropped seemingly a hundred feet over 200 feet of travel! A hundred feet up it flipped back over to right-side-up calling as it went right over our heads. It could not have adjusted its bearing in any way to improve on hitting me between the eyes with its beak had it continued on course. Even holding exact position whilst it turned upside-down, and flipped back over. Incredible. That was the actually the neatest, most interesting, coolest thing we saw yesterday. The common thing in an uncommon way. Since it was better than anything I saw today... you get to hear about it.

June 19 ~ I am so tired I can hardly type, what a day. We got up just after 5 a.m. and out the door about 7 to Lost Maples. I tried to note each sps. as it began singing since I was up before first light. I will post that later... Driving up to Lost Marbles we saw a Striped Skunk just north of town right at the Bandera Co. sign. Don't know if that held any secondary message in particular...   LOL

Maybe one Kingbird on the whole way there, used to be so many Westerns nesting around, now virtually none, maybe a pair. Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher along 187 just north of town. On 187 just past the 470 junction 2 miles north of town were two Canyon Towhee, in the road, another was at the BanCo maint. yard there at the junction.

We were at the trailhead parking area and feeding station about 7:35, and I remembered my cup of seed this time. It went so fast it should have been two. It was gone before 8 when we went back to HQ for entry permit. The regulars came in, like W. Scrub-Jay (texana), Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Cardinal, Carolina Chickadee and Black-crested Titmouse, House Finch lots of White-winged Dove. Three Black Rock Squirrel were neat. Adjacent we had a female Black-and-white Warbler, some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak, a male Scott's Oriole came into the hummer feeder for an outstanding close view. Only Black-chins for hummers.

We walked up Can Creek to the ponds and almost a mile past to the spring at highest permanent water (with Long-nosed Dace - Rhinichthys). We had two Olive Sparrow, at least, one or more just past the first creek crossing, another after the second crossing and the right turn to pond. I thought I heard juvenile begging at the first bird. Heard a couple White-tipped Dove calling. If you see one there now check for cinnamon edges to the the tertials and wing coverts, as that would prove a juvenile. If real fresh maybe some flight feathers would show cinnamon edges too.

Overall, there were a number of juvenile birds around, but maybe not as many as usual for late June. Several seemed like single birds from clutches. Did hear a Cuckoo or two, which have been scarce to absent as summerers there the last several years. Ash-throat only summering Myiarchus as usual.

A few Black-n-white Warbler were still singing, saw a few, for Golden-cheeked Warbler we only saw one poorly and heard a couple more. A couple begging baby warblers were heard may well have been Golden-cheeks. We had 5 seperate territorial Acadian Flycatcher, and as many Louisiana Waterthrush, plus one juvenile waterthrush. Lots of singing Summer Tanager (8+) and Canyon Wren (6+), a dozen Red-eyed Vireo, only a few Yellow-throated but a boatload of White-eyed Vireo (18+) as usual there, only distantly heard a Black-capped briefly once, and heard a Hutton's Vireo. A few Yellow-throated Warbler are still singing, and likely nesting again.

Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk briefly, better was a BROAD-WINGED HAWK, intriguing after last years' nesting. They may be doing it again this year? The Red-tails have a young learning to fly, maybe, it had a long way to go to become a hawk. Red-shouldered are there too. Most amazing to me was not hearing one single Eastern Wood-Pewee. On June 20, 5 hours and over 4 miles covered, not one Pewee. I bet they got wiped out in the floods and have called it a season and left. I had one in the yard this afternoon, an adult, like the one here a week or so ago, that shouldn't really be there, also was an adult. Probably why Golden-cheeks are already so few and far between as well. It was too much rain this spring during prime time nesting for many species. Likely for many the nesting season was literally a washout.

Now for some other stuff, like critters and bugs. Very neat was a Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) which is the first I have positively ID'd here, but got no photo. Have seen a couple prior I thought probably were these. Got a good close look at this one. It was cloudy much of the morning so non-avian activity was slow to get going actually. The flowers were great. Antelope Horn is going to seed now. Lots of the two beautiful Vines, Pearl Milkweed and Snapdragon, and a bunch of Cynanchum, and what I think is the Texas Milkweed, some Drummond's Wild Petunia, saw the Witch Hazels, lost as the maples, but get no respect and have no lobby.

In odes, three male and a female Neon Skimmer were great, two males patrolling at the spring gave a stunning show. A teneral gomphid photographed I think was a female Leaftail, we'll see when we study the pix. Other dragons were Widow Skimmer, Blue Dashers, Banded Pennants, Common Whitetail, several Prince and a few Dot-winged Baskettail, Black, Checkered and Swift Setwing, rare in Bandera Co was a Red-tailed Pennant. For damsels there were Violet, Blue-ringed, Dusky, Kiowa, Aztec and Springwater Dancers. Wished I coulda found a Coppery, but still a great Argia show. A few Un-ID'd bluets, methinks Stream, and a good number of Double-striped Bluet, a few American Rubyspot.

Butterflies were slow, but there were a few Red-spotted Purple which has an iridescent blue hindwing (and a wee bit on forewing) that changes somewhat as it flaps and the angle of wing to light to eye changes. We saw a few of the cool Spicebush Swallowtail, and at least 4 Arizona Sister. Lost Maples is probably the best place locally to see those three species. We saw a couple Northern Cloudywing, a Juvenal's Duskywing, a Southern Broken-Dash, lots of Sleepy Orange, a Cloudless Sulphur, a Texan Crescent, some Checkered-Skipper (Common or White), Gray Hairstreak, a Dogface. But no Satyrs or big yellow swallowtails. I'm forgetting a couple. A few Shining Flea Beetle. Blanchard's Cricket-Frog, Rio Grande Leopard Frog, and way way too many Cattails clogging the ponds. Over half the surface area is now gone on the upper pond and nearing that on the main lower one. The Red-wings I think got wiped out though as there were none.

I am surprised those rains were not enough to clear out a bunch of the cattails. We need a one foot single event apparently. They ought to be pulled, at least half of them, to open the surface water back up. It makes mosquitoes worse when they clog solid as they are now, as even mosquito fish can not get in past the first few feet. I worked with Mosquito abatement on this issue and can provide the data... Open up channels through the middle of the patches, and keep the water over 4' deep and you won't get any in the first place. The silting in of the ponds paved the way for the cattails. Everything is connected!

Then after getting home and resting, since we hadn't done enough today (4 miles and change!) we went swimming. We drove around the river a couple minutes to the local private swimming hole with the rope swing just across and up river from us. These folks know how to have a swimmin' hole here! Yes I flew through the air with the greatest of ease. What a great instant cool-down. We were the only ones there, probably because we hadn't checked the radar. A series of cells popped up out of nowhere really and Lost Maples to Utopia got a spritzin' to a quarter to a half-inch (!) of rain, and lots of lightning. It got close enough (town) that we got out, but 20 minutes is enough to cool the core down well. Did not get but a few Texas sized drops, though the outflow took it down to below 80dF at 5 p.m. on June 20. Amazing. Between that and the swim we left the miles at Maples behind. Except my tired legs and feet ...

June 18 ~ It was a baker today, at least we got a few hours of low clouds and no direct sun for the morning. The second wave or batch of juvenile Black-chinned Hummingbirds is thinning out, finally. Questionmark and Bordered Patch butterflies in the yard today. The main event was three Bewick's Wren fledging from the box in the carport, right out the back office window.

I did a dump and recycling run, whole bed of the pickup was full of bags, must have been a dozen of recycling, all sorted of course. Hadn't gone in way too long. While loading up I saw juvenile Blue Grosbeak across from the gate, just fledged no doubt sired by that male we get to hear singing from the big pecan daily.

At the north end of town on county line road (356) going west from 187, right at the start where the hackberries are on both sides of road there are a couple singing territorial Bell's Vireo. Heard a Hutton's in the yard today, besides the incessant Yellow-throated and White-eyed. Shoulda run down to the Black-caps and grabbed the local Red-eyed... I have had 6 species of vireos in a day around Utopia several times. World-class vireo diversity here.

It was so hot in the later afternoon we went swimming in the river. First time this year. The two weeks of rain in late May and early June then leaves the river muddy, then silty, to milky, and it takes a couple weeks to clear. Which it finally has. So we hit it. It is still running very high and fast and unless somewhere like the park pond where the flow is dammed you have to be careful. Saw my first Powdered Dancer damselfly of the year, and cooled off wonderfully. The power of cool water on a hot sticky day can not be overstated.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 17 ~ Did I mention hot and humid lately? Today and tomorrow are supposed to be peak of this first round of summer. Which astronomically starts on Monday. Heat index is at or above a hundred. Keep a fan, AC, or the river handy. Nothin' works like the river. Takes that core body temp down faster than anything you can do, and lasts longer. My extensive research indicates the longer you stay in, the longer it lasts. Re-application from time to time is also effective. We have been waiting for it to clear and come down.

Only thing in the woods at the park were a couple Barred Owl. The Blue-faced Darner (dragon) was nowhere to be seen. Chimney Swift and Cave Swallow around town, a few Cliff, lots of Barn Swallow and several Martins. I was in a hurry so did not get a lot of looking around. There was a post today at Texbirds from a birder that spent the night at Sabinal River Lodge and did not see the Green Violetear yesterday evening or this morning. I was hoping it would hang a while despite the stats on that. It was last seen apparently around the 12th or so, but a few days after that I don't think had vigilant coverage. So from the May 19 first date, it was around at least 3 weeks and a bit, I saw it June 8, 9, and 10. It disappeared and returned before so we can hope it comes back.

June 16 ~ If you like it warm and muggy to hot and humid this is the time and place for you! The Red-eyed Vireo trolled by with song again this afternoon. Indigo and Painted Bunting singing too. Yellow-throated Warbler went after something right on the stone steps in front of porch. Baby Lesser Goldfinches and House Finches around. A Dickcissel is another post-breeding wandering moving around, I didn't see it well enough to tell if adult or juvenile. Good thing they call all the time. Saw another of the S. gigas Cerambycids in the big pecan. Always just above the height of me plus the net, and never stop where you can get a photo.

June 15 ~ Must have been about 74dF for a low and muggy as heck. Another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through yard. The male Indigo Bunting still sings over in the draw. Lots of Painted Bunting around, the pair of Blue Grosbeak and the Chat pair still about. Caracara and Red-tailed Hawk daily, Cooper's Hawk nearly so. The Eastern Bluebirds once they have gotten their young out are barely around. I love that juvenile plumage, so intricate and delicate appearing but the parents take them away, right away.

I did spend a half hour this morning after an errand in town watching the feeders for the Green Violetear and did not see it. But that wouldn't be the first time I spent a half hour and not saw it, when it was still coming in. In yard butterflies saw a Vesta Crescent and a Dusky-blue Groundstreak besides the regulars.

June 14 ~ Hot and muggy, welcome to summer in south Texas. Another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through, they are bugging out. In the yard the singing male Indigo Bunting is still around, interesting is that I only once saw it on the ground in weeks now and have never seen him at the seed tube, whereas there is always a Painted of some flavor on the tube millet feeder. The Indigo apparently considers that slumming it. Maybe if it were feeding young it would need or use it?

Great Blue Heron flies by regularly and is surely nesting somewhere along river. Though no Green Heron seem to be at the park this year. First year in 13 here I have not had nesting Green Heron on the island at the park. The general lack of aquatic vegetation since the dredging has decreased small fish populations. Things like minnows, mosquitofish, young juvenile bass and perch are all way down in numbers in my view. The dredging of course needing doing. But there was nowhere left for small fish to hide from big fish. And rule #1 about fish is that big fish eat little fish. What is left the Great Blue can handle, but the Green can't. You need to keep a PART of the (aquatic in this case) forest. It is like keeping all the nuts and bolts in disassembly. Keep a piece of each habitat, each niche, and all will be well.

Also in yard a Caracara, Scissor-tail and Vermilion Flycatchers, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Vireo, the White-eyed Vireo barely gives song a break all day. Yellow-billed Cuckoo must be nesting real close, I have to go check the far 3 pecans out front, one especially, for a nest. At furthest they are in the row right over the fence in corral. Multiple times daily they flop and " knock, knock, knock, knock" through the yard. I love 'em. What a bird.

June 13 ~ Feels like summer. Low 70' dF for lows, most local areas in low 90's for highs (we are high mid-80' in the shade), and very very humid. You drip if you bend over. Pushin' 100dF heat indices. It is fine the first few hours every morning whilst there are low clouds and it is in the 70's. But you better get it done quick.

A male Flame Skimmer (dragon) flew by, my FOY, and a scarce beast here. Kathy spotted a Western Ribbonsnake outside which I got a shot of before it disappeared. They are like a Gartersnake. I've only seen one red Ribbon here, over in Bravo Creek. I heard the Indigo Bunting singing late p.m. but the rest was the regular gang. A Gray Fox walked right down the stone steps and past the front porch with a Cotton Rat (Sigmodon) in its mouth, no doubt heading for its den.

Glad he took that rat with 'em. They suck. They are a type of rat that doesn't eat your stuff, it just chews it all into small bits. A full plastic bottle of Ortho garden fungicide? Which is now drained all over something else in the shed. One chewed into bits a 20 year old plastic dish drainer (with my pecan chips for the smoker). I was left with a my pile of pecan briquettes, and a pile of little dish drainer pieces. When I spotted it, it took me a minute to figure out what happened. At least they don't come in the house, their only redeeming character.

June 12 ~ Didn't even get down to 70df for a low, ugh. Here we go again. Summer. A Black-n-white Warbler was singing in the front yard first thing early-thirty. Great Crested Flycatchers out there quite a bit too but Ash-throats and their young are gone. Bluebirds barely here, once briefly, seems like they got their most of second set out yesterday or day before.

We putted around town a bit mid day. Again I studied the darner at the park and it is a Blue-faced Darner. There was an invasion of them into Uvalde Co. several years ago when a number showed up, mostly at Ft. Inge where we saw them. The darn thing won't sit and I don't have the proper equipment for good ID'able flying dragonfly shots. Nothing else there but a fair bit of people.

We went out 355 since Little Creek Larry mentioned he was still seeing White-tailed Kite along the road sometimes, but we had no luck. It would be great to get a nesting record for them locally. I was surprised no sparrows were in the pastures with scattered short mesquites. A few Dickcissel was it. We stopped for a half-hour at the Sabinal River Lodge and did not hear or see any hummers besides Black-chinned. But I have been there several times for a half hour without a detection and it was seen subsequently.

I set up a bug light since the wind wasn't blowing. A few pounds of micro bugs and moths I don't know. The only fancy thing was one Walnut Sphnix moth. A small dull long skinny Cerambycid was it for them. One each of the 1" Cicadas, Green Lacewing and Antlion. Not surprising this month was June bugs. Lots of a small metallic green Scarab beetles, a Carib beetle, two of an odd brown beetle methinks a scarab (ph.). I shot a dozen plus pix of the stuff. One of these days I hope to have a page with lots of pix of the standard basic common stuff that comes into lights at night here. I have hundreds already now but not the time to process, sort, and build the pages. Nowhere more than in nature photography is it more proper to shoot first and ask questions later.

June 11 ~ The warm muggy thing is going strong and will mostly continue until September. Just hope for some respite with rain. It was the regular gang o'birds around the house. In the late afternoon we went to the Community Bar-B-Q and Fish Fry over at the Country Club - Utopia Golf might be the name of the place. I would know if I still golfed, did you know a 5-iron makes a great snake hook, though some prefer the 9?

Thanks to all involved for a great time, especially sponsors Texas Land & Ranch Co., Utopia General Store, Utopia Insurance, and a few folks I know that were critical including Morris Killough, Shirley from the store, Scott Saunders, Lou Waters, and a bunch I don't know that helped to make it happen. Great job y'all! Thanks! YOU make it a GREAT community! But I hope people don't read this and move here.    :P

Kathy and I walked down the stream between the ponds at the country club before things got going. The pair of Egyptian Geese there have 7 young. Wonder how many they started with? There are a couple or few pairs of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher out on the course as usual and a pair or two of Vermilion Flycatcher. An Orchard Oriole singing from a ginormous Hackberry is surely nesting. Way too many Bronzed Cowbirds out there though. I see them leaving our feeder and heading across the river towards the C.C. and am sure these are the same birds. We saw at least one Killdeer, maybe two, and they might be nesting. I know of no nesting locally though would expect it at any permanent water. A small group of Common Grackle were around too, likely the birds that nest at Feller's across the road. A pretty good show of swallows and Martins was coming in to drink at one of the ponds at nearly point blank was nice.

There were a few odes. For dragons, a Yellow-bellied (or Carmine) Skimmer was nice, flashy males of Widow Skimmer and Common Whitetail were fussing with each other, Black Saddlebags, Blue Dasher, Eastern Pondhawk, Banded Pennant, and Checkered Setwing. In damselflies, Double-striped Bluet, Dusky Dancer, and best a beautiful male Aztec Dancer which is the first one I have seen out on the valley floor. I only know them from Lost Maples in the headwaters habitats. The habitat Mr. Waters has created there is fairly unique and distinct compared to much of the valley floor, nice ponds with cattails, a slow stream with sedges, I'm sure it gets lots of different odes. Of course birds use it heavilly too. Lots of nesting Red-winged Blackbirds in the cattails.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 10 ~ Got that 70-90dF spread blues. Gonna get a lot warmer real quick methinks. We were darn lucky to skate through May and earliest June as we did. We've only 3 months of misery ahead. Another Blue-gray Gnatcat in yard early a.m., they are pouring out of here. Had a couple more errands in town so stopped to see if I could get a pic of the skittish Green Violetear but it again only sat on opposite side of feeder from me. I did get a snippet of a few seconds of call on audio tape.

Bell's Vireo is on territory at the mesquite patch at the north end of town as usual. Not much at the park. In odes the Smoky Rubyspot continues on the tip of the same cypress branch it was on two days ago, 20' above the water. A darner there I was unable to ID might be something good. It has blue eyes and might be a Blue-faced Darner (C. adnexa). It is at northmost end of park past screen shelters at start of the backwater swampy area at south tip of island by the willows. One Pewee there was singing a weird sorta Easternish song. They do not nest there. A very worn Viceroy butterfly clearly was on the wing in May, whence I missed it.

Both the Ash-throated and Great Crested Flycatchers were around the yard with young today, the Ash-throats only briefly, the Great Crests spent another hour of whoopin', hollerin', whistling, and crazy laughing... ya gotta love 'em! Looks like maybe a juvie bluebird or two has gotten out of the gate nestbox too, their second set this year. Only time the adults dive bomb you. When young just got out. The Carolina Wrens are in the corral fence box, and Bewick's Wrens in the carport box. Eastern Phoebes are going again under the eaves too, which by the way are the worst on the small butterflies. Heard the Indigo Bunting singing over at draw late in day.

June 9 ~ Well we are back to the standard 70dF lows of summer, upper 80's for highs so far. Humid southerly flow is back. Another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher through yard in a.m., going south. In p.m. we went over to Sabinal River Lodge and saw the Green Violetear, got a photo of the undertail as it would only sit on opposite side of feeders from us, and viewing is upwards at a second story balcony from the ground. Nice undertail shot.

Here at our place it seems the Ash-throated Flycatchers got young out of the nest box on north fence. Great Crested have young in the yard today too, they are so noisy it is amazing. They were here an hour plus today. The firefly show is fading fast. There are only a few dozen left now, I can't believe how fast they crash. Mid-May is peak.

June 8 ~ Lows rising, about 65dF this morning, still nice though, it has been a wonderful break. The 70dF lows are regular usually mid-May to about mid-September or when the first cold front hits. I had to run to town today. A couple Zone-tailed Hawk were soaring around the park entrance area. A Green Kingfisher and a Barred Owl were in the park. A Smoky Rubyspot damselfly might be my first in the park and was 20' up on the tip of a dead Cypress branch. Maybe I have been searching to low? There were a pair of ovipositing Orange-striped Threadtail (Protoneura cara) near screen shelters as usual.

Best birds were at the Sabinal River Lodge. I stopped in to watch the hummer feeders for a few minutes. About noon-thirty I heard an odd hummingbird call but could not find it. I went back at 7:30 p.m. and after much calling and hiding, it came in, the GREEN VIOLETEAR! So it is still here! But it is private property and not open to public visitors, only to paying guests (see intro note above). The bird is very ginchy and nervous about people, seeming quite shy.

I also had a Louisiana Waterthrush there. Which is a bird moving downriver away and out of the breeding grounds. The two main options are that it is either a wandering juvenile, which it didn't look like, or an adult that lost a nest and is calling it quits on the breeding season. It is my earliest date for one away from breeding territories locally. A female Hooded Oriole hit their hummer feeders briefly too. There are a couple roving first-summer males around town which probably stop by as well.

June 7 ~ Another low about 62dF, and about the fifth day of northerly flow and dryish, amazing for the date. High was 86dF or so. First thing at sunup there was a singing first-summer male Black-and-white Warbler in the yard. After missing them as a spring migrant in the yard. It is another post-breeding wanderer, the nesting season is ending for some birds already. The rest was the regular breeders, and you can tell singing is already reduced for many species. But many will go strong the next month if not two. Some still going strong daily stuff in the yard are Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Ash-throated and Great Crested, and Vermilion Flycatcher, Cardinal and Painted Bunting. Cuckoo can quit early but at least for now a pair is regular in the yard. We hear nightly Chuck-wills-widow, Common Nighthawk booming, and Eastern (texana) Screech-Owl, and often Barred Owl too.

June 6 ~ An amazing low about 60dF, some local stations were in the upper 50's! High was mid-upper 80's, so getting warm. We totally cheated a week of heat this first week of June. Monday back at the salt mine so only get to hear and see the yard stuff during breaks. The Carolina Chickadees have some begging young. I saw a couple juvenile Painted Bunting, the first young of the year out of the nest I have seen.

Another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher makes 3 in the yard in the last week, plus the three on the 1450 knoll a mile South of us. Clearly just our yard 3 shows they are already departing local nesting areas, like Lost Maples. The three through the yard all progressed in a southward direction.

I wouldn't be surprised if lots of birds had a hard time the last two weeks and foot of rain. Often lost nests is the result of such major events. The ones that nest all summer will go again no problem. The ones that return, nest and depart early will be doing so. Like Golden-cheeked and Black-and-white Warbler and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. These return in March and are can be done by late May or early June. Especially when washed out.

A Red-eyed Vireo was singing in the yard for a bit in afternoon, heard Ringed Kingfisher over at the river in later p.m., and had a Monarch zip by late afternoon as well. Zone-tail cruised over, Scissor-tail out on wire. Vermilion Flyc. still doing flight display over yard daily, and will until August. Great Crested Flycatcher singing lots here daily too. There were under 100 firefly tonight at the dusk show.

June 5 ~ Low in low 60's dF with northerlies still holding. Wonderful in June not hitting 90dF. From 11-1:30 p.m. we poked around the wildlife conservation easement adjacent to us. Found a couple interesting things. Saw one maybe two Arizona Sister butterflies. Very neat was a pair of the somewhat enigmatic here Black-throated Sparrow with at least 3 just-fledged juveniles. The male was singing a bit, both adults were attending the young. I would call this fairly lush live-oak grassland. I would say the song sounded different from what I recall of the western birds. I will have to look some of the songs up on-line. Wished I would have had recorder for this one.

Continuing with the 'western' bird theme, we also heard a Scott's Oriole sing a bit, saw a pair of texana Scrub-Jay, a pair of Canyon Towhee, heard but did not persue Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Hutton's Vireo. But no Bushtit.

Off the south side of the 1450' knoll I heard two Black-capped Vireo that seemed like different birds and territories. Best find was a family group of OLIVE SPARROW, 2 adults with 3 just-fledged young! I've long suspected BREEDING here near Utopia, finally it is confirmed. Surely they have nested at Clayton Grade and down-valley for years, though I never saw a streaky juvenile, but had no access to poke around. They are probably nesting at Lost Maples now too. But at least now we have pushed known nesting in the upper Sabinal drainage north to about 2.5 miles SSW of Utopia. Very cool. Intersting too that their territory overlaps a Black-capped Vireo territory.

Also of interest there was again a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and it seemed like two. Migrants or could they breed here? Lots of the usual regulars like Painted Bunting, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Lark, Field and Chipping Sparrow, Cuckoo, White-eyed Vireo, heard Yellow-throated Vireo and Great Crested Flycatcher, Caracara, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks (plus Cooper's in yard).

In dragons saw another Wandering Glider and a Checkered Setwing. Along the river some Yellow-throated Warbler. The water sure is high! Not quite clear yet from all the runoff though. There was a Double-striped Bluet damselfly at the 360 x-ing, and a FOY False Duskywing (butterfly).

Noteworthy methinks was the breeding sparrow diversity. Most folks do sparrow hunting in winter when 10 or more sps. can be found, in summer not so much. A few species in any given area is usually about it for breeding. Maybe about 5 sps. would be tops in most areas? In a mile and change we had breeding Lark, Chipping, Field, Black-throated, Rufous-crowned and Olive Sparrows, for 6 species. Which is remarkable diversity in such close proximity. Plus add Canyon Towhee which is just a giant sparrow, for seven species in the big picture sparrow group, in a linear mile. In June. No migrants.

June 4 ~ Whooda thunk? 63dF this morning with northerlies of 5-10 mph! Incredible. Like a spring front, in early June. Too bad there are no migrants left to knock down. Still rain chances today, but supposed to dry out for a few days starting tomorrow (Sunday), with a string of lows in the 60's for five or so days. Holy cow. In June. Amazing. I'll be able to catch up on some weed-whacking. Mid-day I saw a FOY Western Ribbonsnake, a young one about 16" long.

Very interesting was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in the front yard early. It is either a juvenile from the last month or so that is now wandering around, or, an adult done with nesting and on its way out. I had a Blue-gray last weekend too. And I have had them before in the last days of May and early June, away from breeding territories and areas. Ad. or juv., a post-breeding wanderer either way, and just a click from being a fall migrant. Usually it means there are Golden-cheeked Warblers out wandering around away from breeding areas now too.

Still a hundred and change firefly at dusk, but numbers falling fast.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 3 ~ A few more sprinkles and brief showers overnight and the day added up to another 1/2"+ of rain. Another nice cool morning low about 64dF or so too. In June that is cool. Went to town for the weekly errands. Stopped at the Sabinal River Lodge for 20+ minutes, saw only Black-chinned Hummingbirds. Dickcissel is on territory directly east across 187 from it, another is behind Post Office. Cave Swallows are still nesting at the bank. The park hummer feeders were not out and up. Only thing I saw there besides dirty high water was a just fledged juvenile Barred Owl, feathered except head which was still a downy white fluffball. Was raining so I didn't wander around town much though. The male Indigo bunting was bathing on the wet leaves. Saw a Mestra (butterfly) on 360.

On the way out at the 360 crossing which is now down to just a few inches over the bridge and doable, a teneral (just-emerged) dragonfly flushed, which I followed to where it landed. I refound it in the base of a thick bush, got it in binocs close as I could focus and it was a Stream or River Cruiser. I think the former, Didymops, dang it. I pulled car out of road, got camera and as I moved up on it for pic it bolted away. Best ode I have seen in a year and it slipped away without pix by a couple seconds. Consolation was finding a Monarch caterpillar in the brush where it was.

The highlight of the day was about 11 p.m. when a Prionus came into the light at front porch. I was out there and heard the bomber hit the screen door. Grabbed flashlight and saw it was the giant 2 INCH PLUS brown Cerambycid beetle. Grabbed camera and got an ID proof shot, it is my first Prionus here locally. Any day with a new 'bycid is a good day.

June 2 ~ Well the rain just won't stop. Another MCS formed and moved over, mostly after midnight last night to about 2 a.m., and dropped another 1.5" of rain! So we are at 9 INCHES in the last five days! And another low in the low-mid 60's dF is awesome. A Chamber of Commerce morning here. If we want out we have to drive out the back way (west 360) as the main UvCo 360 crossing is not passable unless you are in a monster truck.

If you want to see a bird you haven't seen in a year, do a year list and then you will have than happen about January 1 or 2. Likewise if I want to see a butterfly I did not see last month, wait for the first or second day of the next month. Today it was an Arizona Sister, looking mint fresh, cruising around the sunny spot in the yard, a species I missed in May, on June 2.

June 1 ~ OMG please don't tell me it's June! We can just about forget about seeing any more spring migrants. The party is over. There may be a stray or two yet, maybe. Of course this is the first day of meteorlogical summer (June through August). We have three weeks yet until the start of astronomical summer - which is based on the relative position of earth to sun instead of the climate and temperature.

It got up to about 85dF with a boatload of humidity and heat index on it until just after 5 p.m. when an outflow boundry hit and instantly dropped us to 75dF and fine. On the outflow a Zone-tailed Hawk sailed right over the yard low. Then it rained a half-hour and we got down into upper 60's, and another INCH of rain! That makes 7.5" since May 29! Four days. The fireflys are past peak season it seems with noticeably fewer the last week or ten days.

Several weather outlets are reporting that this year was the wettest March-May period ever in history (over 100 years of records) for Austin, San Angelo, and College Station areas. Certainly we were way way up on the chart here too.



~ ~ ~ May summary ~ ~ ~

In a word, wet. Probably 10 inches or more of rain for the month. In another word, green, or lush. The wildflowers are outstanding. Birds should have a good breeding season if they don't lose nests in the outflow boundries. Bugs are low-side but picking up. Most of spring bird migration snuck by undetected, likely the day or two breaks between rains everything went through and over without stopping.

I saw about 107 species of birds locally, and heard of a few others. Best bird was a Green Violetear photo'd by a visiting birder at the Sabinal River Lodge May 19, but unfortunately not seen again. A Wood Thrush was reported at Lost Maples in early May, outstanding locally. A Northern Goshawk over yard on May 7 was surely the same immature I saw April 15, and Kathy and I saw February 28. A Great Kiskadee in our yard May 8 was a long wanted local sighting for me. Two Philadelphia Vireo went through our yard this May, both (a week apart) went splish splash in our bird bath!

It was like pulling teeth for most warblers, though I saw more Common Yellowthroat than usual, by far. Go figure. I did not see a grosbeak (one Rose-breast was at a neighbors feeder), nor any thrushes, no Catbird, and other than kingbirds, no flycatchers besides Least, this spring. A flyover calling pair of Cassin's Kingbird off of 360 were good. Missed Tennessee Warbler again this spring, and saw none of the scarcer eastern warblers we often get a trickle of. Only saw one Redstart, and an Ovenbird was lucky, except the part about walking a couple miles of Frostweed at peak passage week. Only thought I heard a Mourning Warbler. Numbers of Nashville and Yellow Warbler were way way lower than the usual passage numbers in spring.

White-tipped Dove and Olive Sparrow continue at Lost Maples. Again a Ringed Kingfisher seems to have a young in tow along the river around Utopia. They must nest early. Anywhere up and down river, park is a fair shot at it. Some Greens around too of course.

Butterflies were slowish due to all the wet and rain. About 43 species were seen over the month. One less than in April and May is usually better than April. Last May I saw 58 species. What appeared a fresh Monarch was nice. I guess one from an egg left by the first passing females in March. A Soldier was great for May. I had quick looks at what were surely Nysa, and Celia's Roadside-Skippers but didn't count them as it was too quick a look. As I moved up on them to confirm they bolted.

Odes were the 17 most likely species, nothing unusual, a bit low overall actually. Again the wet and rain has held insects back a bit. I did see the Pepsis Wasp mimic Cerambycid (Long-horned Beetle) Stenelytrana gigas, as well as the iridescent gold over mottled Dicerca sps. Buprestid (cf. obscura) beetle. Best bug was a freshly dead in a spider web female Dobsonfly (ph.)! My first locally. In non-bugs, a Tarantula south of Vanderpool was nice to see.

~ ~ ~ end May summary ~ ~ ~

May 31 ~ Holy cow more rain. It hit about noon and by 1 p.m. we had 2.5"! Then a quarter-inch more in the afternoon. After the first round I heard an Eastern Wood-Pewee singing in the front yard. I hear some newly fledged Carolina Chickadee out there. The Eastern Bluebirds at the gate nestbox and the Ash-throated Flycatcher at the north fence box are both fast and furious with the fecal sacs, so both boxes with batches of young. I can hear a distant Dickcissel singing the last several days which must be at a pasture across the river. I don't hear the Bobwhite anymore though. He is walking up and down the valley trying to whistle in a mate.

May 30 ~ It was about 63dF or so this morning after another rain maker passed over, which dumped another inch or so here. Wow. The cool feels great. The river continues to roar. Again heard Orchard Oriole out front. The birds were just the breeders. A Common Mestra butterfly was the first of the month, just in time. Saw baby begging House Finch. Did not get to get out and around a bit today as we hoped, got too busy working.

May 29 ~ Overnight there was a deluge of about 4 INCHES of rain! Mostly 11 p.m. to 2 p.m. or so, some very close lightning strikes and a bumpy night of sleep at first. But that 64dF low in the morning was outstanding. So is the roar of the river! I wouldn't try to cross the 360 bridge this a.m., except in our 5 Ton truck maybe. It looked like Lost Maples got 5-6"! 10 miles south of us there was 1" hail, Sabinal got some, and 6" of rain. Glad I wasn't camping at Maples. There won't be any dust today, or tomorrow. The river looks like Rio Grande mud. There are flood warnings along the Guad, Frio, Nueces, and Sabinal Rivers. Wow, it was a real event.

Saw the male Indigo Bunting in the yard early in the morning. A couple Chimney Swift were buzzing around too. We were out on private property near us putting some nest boxes up, and saw birds leaving a couple of the boxes I put up yesterday, already! Mostly it was just the regular expected species but I did find a singing male Black-capped Vireo which appears to be on territory. I caught one great look at the vireo on an open branch atop a downslope live-oak putting it just above eye-level at 20 feet. A stunningly beautiful bird, the fanciest vireo in North America. Also there was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, which the vireo chased off, and which I wonder if the Gnatcatcher is nesting nearby, or one that is done and departing already.

Kathy spotted a Roadrunner, which seem very secretive here when they are nesting. Chipping and Field Sparrow are nesting in the live-oak grasslands just west of us, and seemingly a Great Crested Flycatcher which was singing both days there in an area of big old live-oaks, fairly devoid of broad-leafed deciduous trees save the occasional Buckley Oak. There were several Summer Tanager, some Ash-throats, Blue Grosbeak and Painted Buntings, Vermilion Flycatcher, Mockingbird, Cardinal, Black-crested Titmouse, Bewick's Wrens, Chat, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Hutton's Vireo, Common Nighthawks up on the 1450' knoll, lots of Lark Sparrow, several Yellow-billed Cuckoo. I saw a female Painted Bunting dive into what is surely a nest site INSIDE an Agarita bush. That is as safe as any nest ever was this side of a Cholla.

A Phaon Crescent was the first for the month for that butterfly and saw a couple Large Orange Sulphur. The flowers are outstanding, a decent bit of Mountain Pink is starting to show. In dragons I saw my FOY Wandering Glider, positive Black Saddlebags, and Red Saddlebags, a Checkered Setwing and a Pale-faced Clubskimmer. The pasture below us by airstrip has a couple acres of flood pond. I wish that would have happened in late April or early May when shorebirds were migrating over. Maybe it did, you can't tell from eye-level at the edge of pasture, only from up on the ridge looking down into the tall grasses can you see acres of water. Late p.m. I saw a flock of 9 male Bronzed Cowbird on the patio. YIKES! At least it was all males. Brown-headed seem way down this spring compared to usual numbers, which is great.

May 28 ~ In the a.m. I heard a White-tipped Dove call over near the river. Then I heard a Scott's Oriole singing from the big pecan. Later I was a half-mile+ south of us and heard Scotty singing some more. Had 7 Turkey to the west behind us in the live-oaks. Saw one female Roseate Skimmer, Kathy had the first male of the year a week+ ago. A couple Dusky Dancer (damselfly) at the 360 crossing, a few American Rubyspot, a Blue-ringed Dancer, and one Swift Setwing dragonfly.

Best (besides being dead) there was a female Dobsonfly! My first here locally, a whole new family for me here. Don't know if we have Eastern or Western Dobsonfly here. It was caught in the web of one of the spiders that live over the water on plants. It is a spectacular beast, like an XL antlion, they can have a 4-5" wingspan. I did get an ID shot of it in the web anyway. The highly predacious (aquatic) larvae is called a hellgrammite. Photo'd an underwing moth on the carport out back this afternoon, probably a Sweetheart, one of the bright red-pink ones.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 27 ~ A big rain maker was to our north and east, and some way south, and west, pretty much all around yesterday evening and last night, but we were kryptonite for it. Some places east of I-35 got 8-12+ INCHES yesterday and overnight. Some spots were saying 16"! Out on the flat lands. Glad that one missed us, we haven't dried out in a month already. We finally had a hot day, we had seen a couple barely 90dF days so far this year, all the rain and clouds have kept us below normal. Today it hit 97dF or so in the local area. It was a real steamer until finally the heat burnt the humidity out. Then it was just real hot. But it was great to be able to open up and dry out finally.

One migrant in the morning was another (!) splash-bathing Philadelphia Vireo! Holy cow, the second one doing that in our bath this spring. Another did it last Friday! Wow. This one nowhere near as extensively bright below as the first one, but clearly a Philly V. Again I ran out with binocs and saw it quickly as it moved off and away, that was it. You had a minute window to detect it, again. So how many things go through undetected? Most. What percent of what goes through do we actually see? A very small one at best.

Saw another of the gigas Cerambycids (Long-horned Beetle - genus Stenelytrana) in the big pecan. A Texan Crescent was in the shady stuff out back. Some native bees are hitting the American Germander (Wood Sage) I transplanted here. These grew from the seeds that my original batch dropped last year. Usually Celia's Roadside-Skipper hit it but I am still waiting for my FOY of them, they are late this year. Saw a Dusky-blue Groundstreak go by today, a few Cloudless Sulphur, a Goatweed Leafwing, Sachem, Funereal Duskywing and at least a dozen of the more common butterflies.

May 26 ~ A few occasional misty spots in the morning, very warm and humid in the afternoon. About 86dF and 75% humidity combine to make for a 100dF heat index, in case you were wondering. I think if I wasn't melting I would mold. It has been raining or between rains and like this for a month now. Saw no migrants through yard. The party is about over. I can hear the fat lady warming up in the wings...

I went to town today to avoid the circus and zoo of hominids over the holiday weekend by hitting the store today. It was already increased of non-resident activity. Didn't see any hummers around the lodge at south side of town. Saw no migrants at the park, one Mulberry still has berries up on the island. There were begging juveniles of Yellow-throated Warbler and Carolina Chickadee, and a couple Ringed Kingfisher were heard but not seen, upriver by island. The couple hummer feeders at the bird blind there were also empty. Probably the next two feeders upriver from where the Green Violetear last was, it was likely here too. If I see an other empty hummer feeder today I don't know what I'm going to do.  LOL   ;)

Only a very few odes were out at the park. There was a FOY Blue Dasher and a couple Swift Setwing, a FOY Banded Pennant, and one Dot-winged Baskettail. Some teneral (just emerged and not colored up yet) damselflies were departing river edge occasionally but I don't know which. Ya seen one and you've seen 'em all. I don't do tenerals. Next. Saw another saddlebags dragonfly on 360 on the way, which also looked Black.

May 25 ~ More heavy overcast, the occasional mist, 85-95% humidity, but only low 80's dF for highs. But man it is muggy. Had a Dickcissel go through yard early, and two Orchard Oriole. Later in afternoon I saw a saddlebags dragonfly way up over the big pecan, which looked like a Black, and is my FOY saddlebags here this year.

Today I got an e-mail from a friend in California telling me of a report in e-bird for Utopia, of a Green Violetear (big fancy stunningly beautiful rare Mexican hummingbird) at the Sabinal River Lodge on May 19. The algebra of my comment was on the order of @!%*()&!#$^&^! I called the lodge and the poor gal is ill now but so the feeders have gone dry and the hummers are gone now (see prior algebraic equation).

Anyway, somewhere around town there is a Green Violetear! Please holler if you see it (local landline 2349), I'd run right over to do so myself if OK. The lodge is maybe two miles tops north of me on the other side of the river habitat corridor. Dang thing probably went through. Like Kathy said how could it go by without detecting the cloud of hummers coming in here?

May 24 ~ 70dF lows feel like summer, but a little cooler. Lots of cloud cover still so staying in low 80's dF for highs. Extremely humid though. All morning there was a male Wilson's Warbler singing around the house. At one point the male Indigo Bunting was flight singing around the yard. Wish he would attract a mate. Nice to hear though. The rest was the regulars. Cuckoo calling lots all day out in yard, Blue Grosbeak and Painted Bunting singing most of the day are nice too. Great Crested Flycatcher goes nuts every night at dusk.

May 23 ~ We had about .4 of rain overnight. No migrants. The Red-eyed Vireo and Indigo Bunting are still trolling with song over in the draw, and are in the yard a bit. Saw an Eastern Kingbird over on 337 east of Love Creek on a fenceline along the road. Just south of Vanderpool a Tarantula was crossing the road. Clearly it was to get to the other side.

May 22 ~ I heard half a warbler song in front yard this a.m., was Chestnut-sided or Magnolia type. Watched it fly off when I got back out with binocs and light was too bad to see anything. Otherwise late in p.m. a Yellow Warbler in yard was it for migrants here. The Red-eyed Vireo is still singing around, mostly over in the draw.

We walked a mile upriver hoping for the warbler or any migrants in the habitat corridor and had none. Hutton's Vireo in the live-oaks along W. 360 was it. Down in the river bottom there were lots of butterflies and a good Mealy Sage bloom going. A fresh Texan Crescent was new for the month, as were a couple Southern Broken-Dash (those were FOY) and a Desert Checkered-Skipper. One Olive-Juniper and several Gray Hairstreak. Kathy spotted the first Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly for the year (female). Lots of flowers going now, it looks great out there. Something is eating the seed pods of the Antelope Horn (the milkweed Monarchs use here). There was a Clouded Skipper in yard in the a.m., and a Queen when we got back. It was over 20 sps. of butterflies for the day without trying. Getting better.

May 21 ~ Back to the 70dF lows, we have 3 months of that ahead. Way too humid, misty, not quite drizzle, but keeps it cooler anyway. We walked to the crossing and had a Common Yellowthroat and 2 Yellow Warbler. Then I heard a couple more warblers I did not see, one sounded like a Mourning, another like a Redstart. Alas, I saw neither and were a couple chips each not song, so will let go. Which hurts. The Indigo Bunting was singing down near crossing, a pair of Great Crested Flycatcher were there too. Nothing in the Frostweed patch south of the corral but a pair of Blue Grosbeak which are nesting in there somewhere.

Three Kingbirds flew over the house early but I only saw them well enough to say Kingbirds. Diana Gotcher up the road a mile said she had a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak at her feeders. I missed any grosbeak this spring. There was a Cloudless Sulphur butterfly about in the later p.m.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 20 ~ The cooler air behind the front felt great with a low about 60dF, KRVL had 58 or so. Awesome. The bird of the day Kathy spotted from the kitchen window, a splash bathing vireo. A Philadelphia Vireo! Maybe the second in the yard, now is the time. Average getting one about every other spring here. Always a great and favorite bird. I watched it work up into the pecan all wet and ran out with binocs only to watch it shoot off and never see it again.

Weird was the Cliff Swallows that were starting to glue mud for nests at the bank abandoned their attempt there. Now it is just Barns and Caves again. A Zone-tailed Hawk was soaring over town. Common Grackle are nesting near the Waresville turn and sometimes are at that little deco pond as usual. Methinks Feller's yard is where they nest. Heard the Scott's Oriole singing again out the window, and later an Orchard or two went through the yard. The Hooded Oriole was in several times on the feeders. The singing male Indigo Bunting is still out there, but the Mocker is gone now. It was here about 4 weeks, attracted our yard Kiskadee with his imitation, and has now left the building.

A Soldier butterfly (Eresimus) was a good find this early in year. Have to check but might be my earliest ever. Had a quick glimpse of what was surely a Celia's Roadside-Skipper but since would be FOY I will wait for an absolute ID look. There was a Green Kingfisher at the 360 crossing.

May 19 ~ Rain event arrived about 4:30 a.m., went until about 9:30 by which time we had 8 cm, just over 3"! Weewow! We can hear the draw roaring. SAT NOAA radar showed us for 1.5", only half of what we really got. Was hoping for a migrant or two but by 1 p.m. had not detected one. Though the singing male Indigo Bunting continues. Likely an unmated troller. We have had that before here. Best was a fresh Monarch. Likely an emergence from the first ones that make it back from Mexico in mid March or so to our south.

May 18 ~ A high of 70dF or so was amazing. Saw juvenile Lark Sparrows on the patio. Kathy had the first Scorpion of the year. The first year male Painted Bunting with the salmon underparts is hitting the seed tube regularly. A male Indigo is singing over along the draw. A couple adult male Painted about, and a few females. Saw Common Nighthawks, heard a few Chuck-wills-widow. Barking Frogs are going, as are the Leopard and Cricket.

May 17 ~ Rained after dark in evening, about a half-inch. Orchard Oriole through yard in a.m. The rest was the usuals for now. No migrants, only local breeders. Cuckoo, Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, Painted Bunting, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, for Flycatchers: Scissor-tailed, Vermilion, Great Crested, Ash-throated, and Brown-crested, heard the Bobwhite across river, Carolina Wren and Chickadee, Cardinal, Black-crested Titmouse, can hear begging young Red-tailed Hawks (fuertes'), Yellow-throated Warbler, and Golden-fronted Woodpecker are apparently now addicted to sunflower seeds, Caracara flies over most days.

May 16 ~ A bit of sprinkles and mist and drizzle off and on all day. Singing Orchard Oriole outside in a.m., and a Yellow Warbler went through yard noonish. Heard the Bobwhite again. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo are nesting somewhere near again, as they are in the yard lots all day, I watched one preening in the big pecan, occasionally stopping to call, at very close range for 5 minutes.

May 15 ~ Another rain day. Drizzled, misted or showered off and on all day. A few little breaks but not enough for me to want to get far from shelter. The neastest thing was a pair of Chimney Swift checking out the place as happens most springs. But the chimney is sealed unfortunately. They were circling the yard low and at times went under the pecan canopy (!) 6's off the ground, and 6' off the porch as they zipped around the yard. Amazing close looks, they were calling, and it was a great show. I need to build a Swift tower. Check out that Chimney Swift .org place for directions for one. There is a link on one of the pages here, I forget which, just google it.

The first year male Painted Bunting with the salmon underparts and lime upperparts was back at the seed tube, eating like a pig. I could not believe how fast it was eating seed. Like a maniac. I just love the plumage color combo of lime and salmon. There is no other American bird like it, and it is a transient ephemeral plumage. Only a year-old male can have it for a few months, and not all year-old males have it! Saw no migrants today, spring migration continues to fade away. But it is good and green out there, that lush jungle thing is goin' on big time.

May 14 ~ Spent a rainy morning at Lost Maples with Peggy Persson. Too rainy though. We couldn't really bird it. It poured for hours, must have been a couple inches. I saw later between there and Big Springs up in the divide there were 3-5 inches! Between Concan and Uvalde also got 3-5 inches. Seemed less than an inch back here around the casita south of town. It just kept raining up there all morning.

We saw no migrants at Utopia Park, but there are mulberries on the trees on the island. Wish I could check them three times a day. The ponds on W. Sabinal Rd. (Haby's), and on S. Little Creek had water but no birds save some Whistling-Ducks at the latter. A pair of Eastern Kingbird flew over 187 just south of Vanderpool, my only of spring, and thought I was going to miss them.

At Lost Marbles I heard very little, due to the loudness of the rain on the metal roof of the bird blind we sheltered in. The dang seed-people did not show up all morning either (!). And I forgot the jar I usually bring - which you should have after early May when this happens fairly often. They are good about it in April, but after that, have a small jar with you for the feeding station. The birds will respond quickly if they see you.

I heard a begging juvenile warbler which was surely a Golden-cheeked on a juniper hillside, but I could not see it. A White-tipped Dove came into the feeding station, an Olive Sparrow sung once from the hillside across the creek just up the trail a bit from the trailhead parking. A Least Flycatcher was the only migrant. I heard a Lousisiana Waterthrush and a Black-n-White Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Canyon Wren, Hutton's Vireo, saw a Blue Grosbeak and besides adult Rufous-crowned Sparrows at the trailhead feeding station, there was one streaky juvenile. We got soaked to the bone wet. In the afternoon near town Peggy had two Ringed Kingfisher! I have not been having there here much the last couple weeks.

From the porch right before dark I heard the Scott's Oriole again, this time singing up the road northward a couple hundred yards. Barred Owl was calling from river after dark.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 13 ~ Happy Friday the 13th. Good luck! What was likely the same male Yellow Warbler was around all day, Kathy saw it take a bath. That was the migrant of the day. Otherwise just the breeders. Nice to have Cuckoo around daily again, and the Summer Tanager sings from the big pecan a couple or few times every day. Two male Painted Bunting begrudgingly getting along at the seed tube. Chat and Blue Grosbeak are mostly across the road but the grosbeak hits the seed here. Funny to hear a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl off and on all day, even if it is the Mockingbird. A bunch of Cliff Swallows have moved into the overhangs at the bank where the Caves and Barns are nesting. This could be interesting. The drivethrough is a real swallow show.

Late p.m. I heard a Green Jay calling from over in the river habitat corridor. I ran over with bins to make sure it was not the Mocker. I have not heard the Mocker do this in 3 weeks its been here now, but just in case. It did not do it, and I didn't hear the bird again once I got half way there. It sounded like it was moving upriver, not stationary like the Mocker remained. If I do not hear the Mocker do this in the very near future, I would say it was more likely a Green Jay. Did pick up a female Common Yellowthroat out along the road.

May 12 ~ A frontal or outflow boundry moved through in the a.m. with a tenth of an inch of rain. Keeps the dust down. Best was about 8 a.m. when a male Scott's Oriole landed in the big Pecan out front and sang. An unmated troller. Later I heard Orchard Oriole, and one Yellow Warbler was out there in the p.m. Nice was hearing the Bobwhite over across the river. I was wondering why I had not been hearing in this spring. That is the first time. Wonder where he walked in from? There are the first of the year juvenile Black-chinned Hummingbird out of the nest and at feeders now, and LOTS of them. I can't believe how they are going through the sugar water.

May 11 ~ A highly charged storm cell woke everyone within miles about 4 a.m., though it seemed only a half-inch of rain, at least we got something besides woken up. A couple Orchard Oriole were in yard for a bit early, the male was singing. I wish they would nest here, the place looks as orchard as anything with all the pecan trees. No warblers or other migrants though. The party is about over, and it barely was one this spring. I have heard reports that other areas too had a lackluster spring. I saw a report of a Wood Thrush from Lost Maples this past weekend, and excellent bird locally.

May 10 ~ This Mocker that does the Kiskadee is also doing a great Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl imitation so perfect it is amazing. He does a good Couch's Kingbird, Long-billed Thrasher, Cactus Wren, Red-winged Blackbird, Killdeer, and his Chuck-wills-widow isn't bad either. There are probably several things I don't know mixed in there too. No migrants today, just the regular breeders. One odd bird was a Bronzed (formerly called Red-eyed) Cowbird, with pale yellow eyes. It was a sick bird, and one result was losing the red eye color. I never would have guessed there was such a thing as a yellow-eyed Red-eyed Cowbird.

May 9 ~ No migrants moving through this morning. At least the regular gang here is a great selection. It has been the spring migration that wasn't in some ways. Like warblerwise. Heard the Hutton's Vireo out back, and heard some Black-bellied Whistling-Duck fly over early in the a.m., the rest was the usuals, our breeders. The Brown-crested Flycatchers seemed paired but not yet set on a nest site. The Bluebirds are going strong in the box at the gate again.

May 8 ~ KISKADEE in the yard!! One of my most wanted birds locally, finally, and a great yard bird! I have little doubt it was attracted by the Mocker imitating one. The Mocker is good but when I heard the real deal call from the pecan right out the door I knew it was not a Mocker with all that timbre. It was around for 10 minutes plus, moving about quite a bit, over in the corral, in our big pecan, crossed road over into the mesquite patch. Looking for the source of the other one it was hearing no doubt. The Mocker seemed to quit doing the imitation when the real deal showed up. Afraid of getting its rump kicked, or worse.

There are 3 prior local reports that I know of. One was reported this early April at Lost Maples. The other two were I think over 5 but less than 10 years ago, one by Tim the reptile guy up N. Little Creek and the other by Judy Schaffer in town. So this is the fourth local (upper Sabinal drainage) sight report I am aware of. Amazingly last December three were found together up in freezing South Dakota!

Don't underestimate what a bird can or will do. Lots of experts pretend to know what is possible or not, yet none EVER predict one incredible record after the next. For example the 3 Kiskadee in winter in South Dakota, Blue-footed Booby in Austin, Double-toothed Kite at High Island, a Lesser Frigatebird in Oklahoma, a Sungrebe and a Rufous-necked Wood-Rail at the same mudhole (Bosque del Apache) in New Mexico, a Snowy Owl in Hawai'i, Audubon's Orioles breeding on the Edwards Plateau, etc., ad. infinitum. The only thing we know for sure is that something else we could not have imagined is going to happen. Deluding myself that it could happen to me has been a part of why I have so doggedly birded my life away (I squandered the rest - 'cept some fishin'). LOL Just kidding dear. If my wife sees this I'm dead.

Like a bird, you can spot the authoritarian by their vocalizations. They authoritatively repeat false equivalencies endlessly. Especially "where is the pattern?" which sounds like a dawn chorus of Chachalacas when a few of them get together. Then there is "that hasn't happened in a hundred years" (or 60 - same difference - completely irrelevant). They are pretending to know all the patterns. And besides changes in habitats, that coverage 60 years ago was really meaningful at a level that we knew all that was going on. Or that we do now. Worse, as if no bird ever did anything outside our actually minute knowledge of all the known patterns. Which by the way anyone that has paid any attention has noticed are changing every decade. Pardon that outburst, back to the daily drivel.

Up the road a quarter mile or so north we had a quick look at an imm. male American Redstart, the FOS. Then down the road we went to crossing. Singing Red-eyed, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireos, Yellow-throated Warbler, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Summer Tanager, Painted Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Cuckoo, Vermilion and Scissor-tail Flycatcher, all the usual territorial breeders. The only migrant detected was a fly-away look at an Ovenbird as I walked a deer-trail through a frostweed patch. So blazingly quick looks of two new migrant warblers for the spring today.

May 7 ~ Those cool lows are over, was 65dF or so this morn. A Dickcissel and a couple Orchard Orioles was it moving through the yard today. We walked a mile up river and did a big patch of Frostweed hoping for ground warblers since none were in the trees. No love there either. Did see a begging just fledged Carolina Chickadee. Saw a dead Clay-colored Sparrow which appeared to be a cat kill at a neighbors place.

I saw a weird looking hawk circling lowish just barely across the road, grabbed bins, and was shocked to see it was the immature N. GOSHAWK, again! It has dropped a few inner primaries on each side, so a quite well-marked individual at the moment. Though that won't last long. Unbelievable. It is still here, and now I have seen it three times since Feb. 28, April 15 was last prior sighting. Not even a yard bird though, we had an adult soaring around a couple or few Marches ago.

Which reminds me... I know, here he goes again...
There is really soooo little coverage hereabouts. As in so many places. Once you leave major urban areas, unless a birding hotspot, most places are not really looked at much, much less anything we can call covered. What percent of Uvalde Co. is really really covered? What percent of the time? Much less many counties around it which all have LESS coverage. No way is 1% of the land looked at. A few percent of the time. Keep it in mind.

There is a Mockingbird around the yard the last 10 days or so which is a new arrival, it is doing a very good Kiskadee call, and the intro notes to a Paraque call, among a bunch of other stuff. It is from south of us. The Firefly show continues off-the-charts and over-the-moon amazing. Gadzooks! There are more than 300 in a little over an acre of the yard. They are mostly where we left the grass long, under a canopy of trees. The yard appears to be sparkling for a half hour or more shortly before dark. Some continue longer but there is a clear big peak of activity prior to full dark.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 6 ~ Kept our cool streak going all week with a low in the 50's dF, feels sooo good. A few migrants; early were a couple Dickcissel, one Clay-colored Sparrow, later a Least Flycatcher and an Orchard Oriole. No warblers. It is about over and it never got started. I know I am stuck working in one place but usually we get some serious flocks of mostly Nashville and Yellow Warblers, a dozen or two warblers sometimes. Typically with 10+ other species mixed in over the spring passing through the yard. Not this year. Nothing, and barely any Yellow and Nashville. No Black-and-white or Black-throated Green. First spring I have missed them in our yard in 14 springs here at three different sites.

The Cave Swallow show at the bank in town is great, about 6-8 pairs are nesting under the drivethrough and on the breezeway on north side of building. I did not see the Cliff this time but only one bird was at that nest.

May 5 ~ The cool lows are awesome, we are going to miss this soon. Was in the upper 40's dF! Migrants passing through yard were a Dickcissel and a Yellow Warbler. The Firefly show is up to at least 300 at once in the front yard just before dark. It peaks before full dark by quite a bit. What a show! Barn, Barred, Great Horned and Eastern Screech-, for owls calling after dark.

I set up a bug light since winds were calm and there was a pretty good response. Might have been a couple hundred moths of many flavors I do not know. Some nice looking different ones too. No beetles besides a couple small dull scarabs. The Painted Lichen Moth is an inch long black and orange beauty of which there were a half-dozen when I quit at 11:45 p.m., at 6 a.m. a dozen were there. A couple Emeralds came in, and several neat ones I photo'd, hopefully for a later ID.

It is interesting to consider that we set a light up on a sheet to attract moths. This old sheet has been used for years and years. Thousands and thousands of moths have been on it. Guess how many holes it has? Exactly ZERO! We bait the dang things into it, and they do not touch it. Hundreds of moths on it at once, no holes. Leave an unprotected sweater in a drawer in a dresser, inside the house, and what happens? Moth holes.

May 4 ~ Northerlies lightened up but still no birds moved, or if so they overshot us. Low in 40's, high about 75dF. Single Yellow Warbler, Orchard Oriole, Dickcissel were it for migrants. Good thing there is a gaggle of neat breeders around the yard to see. Blue Grosbeak, Painted Buntings (2 males on seed tube at once), Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Vermilion Flycatcher, Scissor-tailed still coming in at dusk, Hooded Oriole, Yellow-throated Warbler and Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Great Crested, Ash-throated and Brown-crested Flycatcher singing daily, Eastern Bluebird, Ground-Dove, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Chuck-wills-widow, so plenty of cool stuff to watch.

May 3 ~ Still northerly flow. Low in upper 40's dF, and a high of 70dF was great. One Orchard Oriole, 2 Yellow and 1 Nashville Warbler, and a Red-eyed Vireo was it for migrants. At the end of the day there was a Canyon Towhee singing from 40' up in the top of the big pecan, first one in yard in a month. I did not see it the next morning (!?!). Enigma Towhee, as I sure can't figure them out here. While I was working some motion caught my eye, I looked up from the monitor and there is the male Painted Bunting on the garden fence a few feet from the office window. Thank you very much, now back to work.

May 2 ~ The northerlies blew 10+ MPH all night and a dry line came through with maybe .2 of rain. Low was in low 50's dF with winds putting chills in upper 40's dF. The high was only about 65dF at best. Amazing! Wow! We will be longing for this soon. There were no migrants, and likely will stay that way until the winds lighten up. Maybe tomorrow there will be a little movement, but probably the day after that will be a wave. When these things blow a day or two and hold things up we can get a big push when they break. If we are lucky. Oops, spoke too soon, just before 8 p.m. when a spot of sun broke through an Orchard Oriole and a Yellow Warbler hit the highest branches of the big pecan at last sun. Two migrants today.

The hummers have nothing but sugar water to run on today. Swarms of Black-chinned out there, with a few Ruby-throats. The male Blue Grosbeak was 3' out the office window on the garden fence. What a beautiful bird up close. A Cooper's Hawk dove on things early. I just see one Chipping Sparrow, the winterers seem to be gone now, finally. This likely one of usually a pair or two nest nearby up in the open live-oak woodland behind us.

The male Vermilion Flycatcher seems to like the paths I weed-whacked through the tall grass out front, probably exposes prey more. This cool blustery day with surely far less than usual flying insect numbers it spent much of the day on the fenceline dropping down into the fresh cut path repeatedly.

May 1 ~ light northerlies overnight with southerly flow low clouds moving in shortly after daybreak. Was hoping for some migrant movement after the frontal passage, was only minor. Maybe tonight with south winds? There were a few things.

Two FOS species in the yard were Baltimore Oriole and Blue-headed Vireo, both briefly. One Nashville went through. Heard the Cuckoo. We walked downriver to the crossing. Best was a pair of CASSIN'S KINGBIRD that flew over, one called as they did. This is my fourth or fifth spring record locally (one of those was in Uvalde). There was one each Lincoln's Soparrow and Yellow Warbler, 4 Chimney Swift, a Least Flycatcher, and a couple Clay-colored Sparrow.

The regular gang of local breeders are all singing, a Red-eyed Vireo, Painted Bunting, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Blue Grosbeak, Chat, Yellow-throated Warbler, Brown-crested, Ash-throated, and Great Crested Flycatcher. Thought I heard a Green Kingfisher. A couple hawks went over I just could not settle on an ID for. They didn't seem right for anything. Weird Hawk sps. - 2. Had a Great Blue Heron flying upriver.

In odes there were 20 American and 1 FOS Smoky Rubyspot at the crossing, it was on the cool side still with no sun. Another big worn Monarch was looking to roost late in p.m. in yard, #11 for the spring, and worn the palest of all. The Firefly show continues to dazzle, a couple hundred plus at once. A big moth flew up to screen door as it got dark which was shaped and flopped around like an underwing, it was not a sphinx.



~ ~ ~ April summary ~ ~ ~

It was wet with several inches of rain, a few above average for April. The wildflower bloom looks to be outstanding so far. Dragonflies are getting going slowly, butterflies are slowly picking up, and bird migration has been a weaker than usual. The return of migratory breeders seems about normal, but the numbers of passage migrants that just move through has been low.

I was too busy working to bird much unfortunately, still, and again. Besides the usual couple hours a day around the yard, which is usually good. We have been walking 4-5 miles each weekend up and down the river corridor habitat though, usually north one day, south the other. It has been the weakest bird migration this April of any I have experienced here. The numbers of birds we typically see moving through the yard and adjacent habitats just haven't been there.

Birds were about 108 species. The big thing in April is the return of most of the migratory breeders that don't get back in March. We get covered in Painted and Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler, Scissor-tailed flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Chuck-wills-widow and Common Nighthawk, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Dickcissel, Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatcher, as they fill in their niches. All the moth, bug and 'worm' eaters return. And birdsong is taken to another, and an outstanding, level.

Best bird was a Northern Goshawk low and close over the yard April 15, an immature and surely the same one Kathy and I saw a quarter mile or so away Feb. 28. In spring Bank Swallow (2) is good here, but the 30 Tree Swallow was my local high count ever. Several Mississippi Kite went through, glad I snagged some views. An Upland Sandpiper on 17th was a rare spring record here.

Recorded 44 species of butterflies in April, low side of average. Green Skipper was probably the best one, an Arizona Sister was good, Mexican Yellow is good in spring, and 10 migrant Monarch went through the yard northeast bound over the month. Streaky Skipper is always nice. One day there was a flight of thousands of Lyside Sulphurs. Dusky-blue Grounstreak was nice too.

Odes were weak as well, about 6 species of damselflies and 7 of dragonflies, so 13 sps. total. Not much to see yet for them, they should explode shortly. Lots of heavy rain probably held insects back. You have to check lots of different micro-habitats to see lots of different types of odes and I haven&apos't been able to do that. There may be 20 sps. flying now if you worked hard for them. The river is running high and hard at bankfull due to all the rains, which is rough on the larvae.

~ ~ ~ end April summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ back to the regularly scheduled drivel... ~ ~ ~


April 30 ~ About 1 a.m. the front passed with a bang, lots of them, hail sounded pea-sized, and in probably an hour or so was 1.5" of rain! So at dawn it was cool, with some light northerlies. Birds are singing. Just right.

A few migrants went through, single Nashville, Yellow, and Wilson's Warbler, a couple Dickcissel, I heard a couple Orchard Oriole which will count as FOS as I heard them long and well giving multiple different diagnostic call notes. Another Red-eyed Vireo was singing around yard in a.m. Best was two adult White-crowned Sparrow, standard eastern type (leucophrys) together. Must be travelling together, and at least one was giving the two intro notes of song, but not finishing it. Torturing me.

We walked upriver a mile to the Gotcher's place. Along road heard Hutton's Vireo, a couple Rufous-crowned Sparrow, a couple singing Painted Bunting, plus a male at the dogleg, and on way back a Greater Earless Lizard was on the road. A flock of at least 4 Western Kingbird flew north overhead. Flushed the Green Skipper again, right where we saw it a couple weeks ago. A Zone-tailed Hawk circled around the dogleg on W. 360. One Canyon Towhee was at the Gotcher's, and in the great natural wildflower meadows a flock of over 2 dozen Clay-colored Sparrow along with a couple Vesper Sparrow, and a Blue Grosbeak. The wildflowers are really getting great!

Kathy saw just-fledged Carolina Wrens in the afternoon. I got the play by play, I thought Wren TV was on in the next room or something... they're on the tub, they're on the aquarium, they're at the shelf...  they're FLYYYYYING!   LOL Worn pale Monarch #10 went NE through the yard in the afternoon. Checked and saw nothing (larvae) on the Antelope Horns up the road.

Nearing 5 p.m. a Least Flycatcher was working the mesquites across the road from the gate. Cuckoo calling around yard on and off all day. After 6 p.m. I was weed whacking when I spotted a Pearl Crescent, my last new butterfly for the month.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

April 29 ~ It was real muggy, maybe gonna rain, all day, but only misted in the morning. The new (spring-summer) yard gang was about. A fighting pair of male Blue Grosbeak was some nice color. The Eastern Bluebirds are checking the box out again, now sans that first set of juveniles they fledged. A few Summer Tanager, Painted Buntings, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Yellow-breasted Chat now singing daily again. Several Dickcissel and a couple Nashville Warbler went through. Not sure I saw a Chipping Sparrow though. Best bird was my FOY Mexican Yellow butterfly. Only one more day to add any for the monthly species diversity list. Will go look at some flowers tomorrow. Late p.m. a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through yard. After dark heard Great Horned, Barred, and Barn Owls, plus Eastern Screech-Owl.

April 28 ~ Warm and muggy. The Scissor-tails that roosted in the live-oaks right behind the house were on the fence and power line out front in the a.m., 2 males and one female. I wish they would set up shop here. Usually a pair or two is very nearby, in earshot, but would be nicer within eyeshot. Cuckoo and Chat making noise out there, Nashville and Yellow Warbler went through yard in a.m., at least 5 Dickcissel went through. Saw big worn pale spring migrant Monarch #9. Saw Common Nighthawks before dusk. Nice to hear Chuck-wills-widows again every night. One was calling from a tree in the yard for a bit.

April 27 ~ A dry line and front came through about 2 a.m. with lots of noise and winds near 50 mph per some local reports, and about .75" of rain, with a bit of pea hail. Not to mention cooler dry air behind it. Low was in mid-50's dF and just awesome.

A male and female Yellow Warbler in the big pecan were nice to see finally (first female of year). A Bell's Vireo singing was my tardy FOS. A couple Dickcissel went through, one sang once from the big pecan too. Clay-colored Sparrow singing, or grinding, as it may be. At lunch it was on a pecan branch a foot from the window where we sit. A couple Nashville Warbler went through, the Yellows were around yard all day. Thought I heard a couple Orchard Oriole in the morning from the office but I was stuck working and by time I got outside they were gone. So there was some migrant movement knocked down by the nocturnal frontal passage and rain. Would have been a good day to hit all the blooming pecan patches and Mulberries. Me, I was stuck at the desk. Saw worn pale migrant Monarch #8 of the spring in the nearly 90dF heat in the afternoon.

April 26 ~ Finally after likely hearing a couple I saw my FOS Yellow Warbler. One Nashville, a Lincoln's Sparrow or two, seemingly only 4 Chipping Sparrow left and in the later afternoon I heard my FOS Yellow-billed Cuckoo, finally. Screech-Owl is calling at dark regularly. The Firefly show is amazing, there are 200 or so at least now over our front yard at dusk. This is the most we have seen here. Maybe a few years of leaving some of the grass taller? Sorry neighbors, but this is awesome!  ;)   Actually none live within eyeshot and only about 3 others even use the road besides us. Kathy saw fledged Eastern Phoebe young today.

April 25 ~ Neat having Clay-colored Sparrow on the patio as they pass through. A couple Lincoln's Sparrow out there, 3 Nashville Warbler, a singing House Wren for a couple hours in the a.m. was nice. Two male Painted Bunting on the patio seemed like migrants that just dropped in, as the territorial male here already would have been so. A dusk the pair of Hooded Orioles each took a feeder over for a couple minutes stocking up on sugar water for the night. A pair (at least) of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher came into yard again at dusk and settled in to roost in live-oaks on slope just behind house. Please nest here! Pleeeeeease. There was a FOS Barking Frog in the carport. The Firefly number hit about 150 or so in the front yard at the peak showtime shortly before dark.

April 24 ~ Overcast morning breaking up in afternoon, no precip. A FOS Least Flycatcher was in front yard early in a.m. Overall little movement though. Kathy spotted the first female Hooded Oriole of the year on a hummer feeder. So far it is not seeming to be much of a spring here as far as say warblers go. We are scraping for Nashvilles which doesn't bode well. Big worn Monarch #7 for the spring was in yard late p.m.

A walk to crossing had a couple Red-eyed Vireo, a couple Nashville, a Lincoln's Sparrow, and heard a Gnatcatcher later, that was about it for migrants. The Red-eyes might be trollers looking for a territory. Thought I heard an Acadian Flycatcher a few times distantly. Did hear our 2nd Eastern Wood-Pewee of the year after yesterday's first.

Plenty of neat things around without migrants anyway, Blue Grosbeak, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Painted Bunting, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler, Great Crested, Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Purple Martin, lots of Lark Sparrow, still waiting for return of our local breeder Chat and Cuckoo.

Some Engleman's Daisy blooming now, and Scarlet Pea too, the first Prickly Poppy are opening, they will soon have the big Meloid blister beetles on them, the Bluehearts are going strong, some Blue Curls are opening, lots of Cedar and Mealy Sage look great, some Navajo Tea and Greenthread, as well as Coreopsis is getting going well too. I saw some Cardinal-flower as I was mowing out front today. The first couple Mexican Hat flowers are opening, our Western Spiderwort has 35 or more of those beautiful lavender flowers. Some Western Horse Nettle is blooming now too, we try to pull or top them before they can go to seed. Same way we treat Malta Star and Musk Thistle.

April 23 ~ A nice cool morning around mid-50's dF. There were a few birds moving. Early around yard saw one Western Kingbird, a couple Lincoln's Sparrow, a couple plus Nashville Warbler, a Dickcissel, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and again a singing Red-eyed Vireo. We walked a mile north to the Gotcher's place. There we had my FOS females of Painted Bunting and Summer Tanager, and my FOS Eastern Wood-Pewee. Also there were a couple Nashville Warbler, a pair of Canyon and one female Spotted Towhee, and one of those un-yet-molted dull colorless first spring female Myrtle Warbler, the type that get called Cape Mays. One Hutton's Vireo on the way.

There were a few Antelope Horn in bloom, one had at once four hairstreaks on it. A couple blooms had 4-5 Gray Hairstreak, one Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, and one FOS Dusky-blue Groundstreak. That stuff is the best hairstreak magnet I have ever seen up here. I did not see any Monarch cats, but it is early and I suspect it might just be eggs yet. Here at house after noon I saw a FOY Arizona Sister coast NE through yard, and worn Monarch #6 was around.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

April 22 ~ Happy Earth Day! Reduce, reuse, and recycle. A cooler dry upper 50's dF for a low felt great. A wee bit of a front came through behind the system yesterday. There were a few birds moving through the yard after it too. Stuff moved the first night it was good to go behind it as would be expected.

There were a couple Nashville, an Indigo Bunting and a Dickcissel or two, Lincoln's Sparrow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, plus my FOS Red-eyed Vireo which sang a little. Not migrants today, but Hutton's, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo were singing here too. Great Crested, Brown-crested, and Ash-throated again all singing all day within earshot, and all coming into yard foraging again. The Ash-throated copulated in a pecan today.

The usual Painted Bunting and Blue Grosbeak on the seed we toss. Again a Ground-Dove walked just fast enough to keep from getting stepped on as I walk around at sunup and toss seed out at the edge of the understory out back. Some seed falls on it and it turns and eats it after it rolls off its back! If it starts following me I am going to have to name it.

Saw worn Monarch #5 for the spring move north through the yard. Was the first day of multiple Queens, about 4-5 passed by. The best butterfly was a FOY nice big Two-tailed Swallowtail that floated slowly by. Lots of the regular stuff in butterflies. Nice big fat pregnant female Four-lined Skink was outside. I hear bees up in the pecans. Weird I am not hearing Chat. I heard a couple last weekend, and have not had one since. I figured one would be the bird that breeds across the road from our house, but none are here yet. Must be 75 Firefly tonight at dusk out front, an outstanding light show.

April 21 ~ The tail end of a front brought a few sprinkles in the morning. Nice was the FOS Dickcissel. A Queen (butterfly) went by too. There was a Nashville Warbler or two. The Firefly show is really picking up steam, there were at least 50 at once in the front yard at dusk. Hearing Barn Owl every night, mostly northbound it seems. Barred and E. Screech-Owl were calling this evening, Great Horned calls all the time, even in the day when under overcast. A few Chuck-wills-widow are calling, I hear at least 3 now.

Hattie Barham sent me a photo of some Yellow-headed Blackbirds, 3 male and 2 female in a flock of cowbirds on the power lines on Main St. in town. I believe it was from today. The next 10 days is peak passage window for them each year.

April 20 ~ Ringed Kingfisher flew right over the house and yard calling. Great Blue Heron or two northbound. Chipping Sparrow number about 8 now. A Nashville Warbler went through yard as did worn Monarch #4 of the spring so far. Still one nice male American Goldfinch and a couple Pine Siskin. About 6 Red-winged Blackbird.

The Canyon Towhee left the yard the first week of April and has not been back. Which was the same time he left the yard last year after wintering. Both springs the apparent pair departed one bird at a time, with singing male leaving last. Both years the pair returned, in August, last year with a pair of just-fledged juveniles. They were not seen in the April-August interim. Then they wintered again, and now are gone again.

Keep in mind even though something is shown to be resident in an area on a map, it does not mean the actual same individual birds are in the same place all year. Some maybe yes, and others maybe not. For instance Canyon Towhee has seasonal movements within the range mapped as resident, present in one area at one season and absent there at another. Just what you wanted to find out, and I hate to break it to you, but it is more complex than it looks, if you want it to be.

April 19 ~ Thought I heard an Indigo Bunting singing from the top of the big pecan early but never saw it. A couple more Nashville went through, saw my first Queen (butterfly) of the month. Best thing was the Eastern Bluebirds that had three young in the nestbox at the gate fledged their young today. They took them across the corral and hung around over by the (grass) airstrip the next couple days. That was one of the boxes Mr. Waters had made and installed. Success already this year!

Last year a pair of Bewick's Wrens got 4 young out of the same box in late summer. If you have a box not being used, move it. Most likely the birds see a predator threat in its current location that you do not. Cavity nesters also do not need a perch on the front, that is a cutsie human idea. Cavity nesters all have super strong legs for hanging on the woodpecker holes they usually use. It also helps deter predators to NOT have a perch (= leg rest) right in front of the opening. Make a second oversized roof to shade all sides of box from the Texas sun and rain. I see way too many roofs the size of the box. It should be double. This also prevents predators like coons and squirrels from getting to the hole. Installing the boxes on say a 3' long - 1" dowel or broomstick on a T post is about the best predator proofing you can do. Still working on a page about boxes but figured I'd give some advice since you weren't asking.   ;)

April 18 ~ Well we got a rainmaker overnight, actually just before dawn an hour or so was the worst. Over an hour and change we got two inches of rain. Sprinkled on and off all day. We're about 2.5 to 2.75 inches for the last few days, most just this morning. Thought I heard an Indigo Bunting early in the a.m. but never saw one all day. The Painted Bunting and Blue Grosbeak are hitting the seed like they haven't been gone the last 8 months for the bunting and 7 for the grosbeak. Chippies now number a dozen left.

I presume it was when I ducked to get under some low-hanging hackberry branches to throw birdseed... About 1 p.m. I felt something on the back of neck at hairline, tried to grab something a couple times, felt, grabbed and missed again, and finally I got it, the FOS TICK! I knew there was something there besides the usual nuts and bolts. I hate to cut the branches because you need every leaf of shade you can get here all summer.

April 17 ~ One brief shower overnight was hard enough to wake you, but seemed only maybe a quarter-inch by the morning. Supposed to have a significant rain event in the making the next 48 hours. It was great to hear a couple new birds singing outside this morning. One was a male Painted Bunting, likely one of the local breeders, I had a glimpse of one a couple days ago a mile from here. The other was Blue Grosbeak singing up in big pecan. What a wonderful song. They make up for what the Painted Bunting lacks in timbre. Great to have some more of the daily spring and summer yard color and song back.

Bad weather means good birding is the rule. Today was no exception. Especially watch between storms or in breaks and openings for stuff moving. I saw another Mississippi Kite today, and another Swainson's Hawk, another Merlin went over northbound, a Cooper's Hawk was migrating too. It is usually just a minute or two at most as they pass over, a rather narrow window to spot things, and timing is everything.

Pretty rare in spring here an Upland Sandpiper flew over early, low, calling. I expect it was looking for the right pasture to go down for the day. Good bird in spring. We walked to the crossing and the pecan grove just past. Two fighting male Vermilion Flycatcher was an eyefull. Heard Painted Bunting and Blue Grosbeak singing. A male Green Kingfisher was at the crossing. 5-6 Yellow-throated Warbler along the river.

Best was some FOS stuff. Two House Wren, a Common Yellowthroat, heard a Chat or two, and a Western Kingbird, all were FOS. An immature western Gambell's type White-crowned Sparrow with pale lores and a big orange bill was neat, and new. We get a few every spring. Must have been 6 each Lincoln's and Clay-colored Sparrow, one Nashville and one heard Myrtle Warbler. Then at draw as we got back I heard a FOS Wilson's Warbler sing.

Later in p.m. I saw what surely was a pair of Wood Duck flying upriver over the cypress. Need it for yard, this is about the fourth time I have just caught a glimpse of a pair at distance, so don't count it yet. Another FOS an hour before dusk was a Common Nighthawk! Right before dusk 8 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over calling. Heard Ringed King from over at river early in morning.

Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatcher called from yard and vicinity all day. Bluebirds at gate nestbox furiously feeding young and removing fecal sacs. Bewick's Wrens probably incubating in corral fence box. Chickadees using a hole in a pecan. White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo singing all day now in or adjacent to yard too. Canyon Towhee is gone.

April 16 ~ A bit of mist in the a.m., mostly overcast and winds too strong out of south, about 15-20 mph much of the day. Did not see any movement down at ground level for the most part. A few things were in the breaks in the cloud cover though. Outstanding was 3 Mississippi Kite going north over the yard. I presume I caught the tail end of a group. While watching them I spotted a large group of at least 30 TREE Swallow which is the most I have ever seen here. Most springs I do not see any. That was two good FOS's for which there were only moments to spot as they moved over northbound.

We walked in afternoon along road and river a bit. There were a half-dozen Clay-colored Sparrow along the corral. Scissor-tailed and Vermilion Flycatcher, a few Yellow-throated Warbler singing. We saw a female Green Kingfisher. I heard Ringed much of morning but saw none when we were there. There were some few odes, a Prince Baskettail dragonfly was the FOS for them. In damsels there was Violet and Kiowa Dancer, Stream Bluet and Fragile Forktail. In the later afternoon I saw two FOS Bronzed Cowbird, males. A nice pale Prairie Merlin went over northbound just before 6 p.m.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

April 15 ~ Happy tax day! You just don't hear that much do you? Wonder why? It was nearly foggy in the a.m., heavy overcast, cleared in afternoon and warmed to 80dF or so. Winds strong out of south. Heard Ringed Kingfisher over at river quite a bit today. Hope they nest in that newly worked-on old hole. A Blue Jay was great in the yard in the morning, I haven't seen one here in a year. It moved north up the river corridor calling and landed in the big pecan to make sure I got the data point. One single lone bird. There was no invasion this past winter.

On a town run I saw my FOS Painted Bunting (ad. male) on 360 just west of 187 where the bluebonnets are. In town I saw my FOS Chimney Swifts, always a treat to see. There was quite a Cave Swallow show at the bank, it looks like a half-dozen pairs are inspecting the site for nesting potential. Point blank displaying and calling, very cool. The nest that had the Cliff and a Cave at last week is bigger and clearly being worked on but I saw no attendants while I was there. I asked the bank to let security know when they review that footage of me walking all around the building checking the cracks and corners out, I am a birder.

Since the forecast is for a wet weekend and week ahead we took a couple mile walk up the road late afternoon. Had one Nashville Warbler and one Hutton's Vireo, but heat of the day is usually hard for finding birds. One Swainson's Hawk (intermediate) flew over, and Kathy had a couple light morph before 1 p.m. fly north over the house.

Best bird of the walk was a butterfly, a GREEN SKIPPER! New for my 360 list, my first locally, it is a real beauty and not common. I have had a few different years here where I did not see one. Usually Lost Maples is the spot, but up on divides anywhere you can get access where lots of flowers you could find one. I had a couple over an 8 year period on Seco Ridge. Now to get one IN the yard. At least I know they are indeed here, instead of walking around looking wondering why they are not as I was. Like how I am with Black-capped Vireo.

Along the edges of W. 360 there are some Antelope Horns blooming, just a few, and there is one section with lots of White Milkwort. I am amazed at how much Blue-eyed Grass (the dwarf Iris) there is along the road, and now a bunch of Blue Gilia is opening up too. Saw a few Mountain Pink, oh man with this rain they will have a great year, and they can make say the Can Creek trail at Lost Maples amazing. Another that will grow this year is Plateau Agalinis, but not until late summer. Dry years it doesn't even break ground, it will go off this year.

Actually the real best bird was mid-day when I was sitting on the front porch and an immature NORTHERN GOSHAWK circled over the yard low and slow. Surely this is the bird Kathy and I saw up on the ridge behind us on Feb. 28. Again, I thought it was going to be some medium to large sized hawk when first spotted, until you see the long tail. So it is still around, now at 6 weeks somewhere in the area.

April 14 ~ Thursday so tied up at monitor and phone. Nice to have Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatchers calling and singing outside again. Also Summer Tanager, Yellow-throated Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo singing daily again. Great. Heard a Gnatcatcher or two go through yard, a couple Lincoln's Sparrow, at least 8 Lark Sparrow on patio. The Monarch was still around, day 3 for this one. Screech-Owl, Great Horned and a couple Barn Owls. A couple or more Chuck-wills-widow. A dozen Firefly.

April 13 ~ Rained a bit more overnight, by morning there was 1.75" total. Wow, great for the spring bloom, bad for lawn mowing. I heard a couple "greeep!" calls from my FOS Great Crested Flycatcher early. It is my earliest date, by one day (twice FOS on 14th). The Brown-crested and Ash-throated were both calling too. Finally a warbler this morning, I heard a singing Nashville Warbler, which ended up in the big pecan eventually but not for long. The Great Crested belted out a bit of song in the afternoon.

April 12 ~ Some north winds finally got here with some cooler air, was upper-50's dF in morning, all day was overcast and humid. There was one FOS bird today, a Brown-crested Flycatcher. During one afternoon slight break in the skies Kathy spotted the second Monarch of the year in the yard. We haven't seen the other one that was here for 5 days or so in the last three days. The rest of the birds were the same, no migrants but a couple each Gnatcatchers and Lincoln's Sparrows. Where are the warblers? Kathy saw some Fireflys at dusk. After dark a severe thunderstorm cell went over and in a couple hours we got 1.5" of the wet stuff!

April 11 ~ Late last evening and overnight it rained a little bit, a severe cell went south of us clipping Uvalde and Sabinal, we only got a quarter inch or so though. A good lightning show though. Good for flowers and keeping the dust down. But a balmy day with a 65-90(!)dF temp spread. A bit warm in p.m.

The main event of the day was a flight of Lyside Sulphur butterflies. Thousands of them going SW to NE. I was counting from 10-30 at once in view, and 50-300 per minute, for hours. Who knows how wide the passage was, this was just across 300' of airspace over the yard. Likely tens of thousands at the very least, hundreds of thousands if it was a broad front. A few common things were mixed in with them but not much.

A very pale worn apparent Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was odd, as all here now are fresh and just emerged. I had to strain to make sure it was yellow twice it was so pale. Usually in spring the worn stuff we see is from elsewhere, generally immigrants that wintered to the south, like the worn Pipevine Swallowtail that become common in March, or the worn Monarchs that return.

One new local butterfly was the first summer-form Questionmark of the year. With blackish instead of orange hindwings. I saw winter forms still in March but not so far in April. The other big event of the day was the FOS Chuck-wills-widow. I have been out at dusk, at Chuck-thirty, the last 4-5 nights listening closely, hearing nothing. Finally one belted from up the ridge and hill behind us. Heard a couple after going outside a while. Later I had near simultaneously calling Barred, Barn, and Great Horned Owls. The Screech did not.

April 10 ~ Still strong southerlies, which make birding tough. A few passing spritzes, supposed to be some rain later in evening. We walked a mile south through river habitat corridor, and had very few migrants, just six Lincoln's Sparrow, a Gnatcatcher and a Kinglet. Not one warbler (besides territorial Yellow-throated). Seems like there should be Nashville at least now. Nothing. A couple displaying male Vermilion Flycatcher were nice. Some raptors disappeared into the clouds just after I got on them, one was an Osprey, another a Swainson's Hawk, another later was a Sharp-shinned Hawk, and a few got away.

Kathy spotted a patch of blooming Yellow Flax, there was some Scarlet Pimpernel too, and a great patch of Cedar Sage was blooming very well. A couple male Falcate Orangetip (butterfly) went through yard. A Nysa Roadside-Skipper was my FOY at the base of the big pecan. A nice male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flew right over yard low, probably the airstrip breeder. Heard Ringed Kingfisher over at the river.

April 9 ~ Balmy and breezy, too strong out of south. Walked a mile plus of the river habitat corridor northward, had a Gnatcatcher and a Kinglet for migrants and that was about it save a couple Lincoln's Sparrow. Some Antelope Horn was just starting to open, this is the milkweed Monarchs lay eggs on here as they return from Mexico. Bird of the day was a bug, at dusk, the FOY Firefly! Always great to see again, a major sign of spring being underway. At dawn, and at dusk, I had single Great Blue Herons flying north at migration altitude (way up).

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

April 8 ~ The swallows are back at the bank in town. They seem to be attempting rebuilds on the nests. I hope they leave them alone this time. This site has mostly been Barn Swallows, and recently the odd pair of Caves. There are a few pairs of Caves this year, and one nest that was barely under construction which both a Cliff and a Cave went to. Oh boy, here we go again, more Clave Swallows in the making. There was a singing Clay-colored Sparrow in the yard today. Chipping Sparrow numbers might be 25-35 or so now.

I saw some Limestone Guara flowers, it is a delicate beauty that is easy to overlook, the flower structure and color combo reminds me of a Fuscia. On 360 just west of 187 there are a couple acres of beautiful Bluebonnets. A couple more acres on east side of 187 a mile south of town. The Monarch is still here, comes out every afternoon once it warms up, now day 6 for this worn individual, I have seen no others yet.

April 7 ~ Low 40's to 80dF or so for a temp spread. Something over by the river is making a call I do not know which of course is driving me nuts. It is a nasalish reedy honking, vaguely sorta like a Purple Gallinule, but much louder with way way more timbre. I walked to the river twice and couldn't find it. It shuts up everytime I walk over there. Wonderful, this birding stuff, it won't frustrate you at all, it is just a real relaxin' activity. !@%^%!^&*!

I did have a pair of Ringed Kingfisher interacting as well as an old Ring King hole in the bank that is being worked on as evident with lots of fresh digging marks. Also saw a female Green Kingfisher, which nest somewhere along the river here. They can get a first brood out real early.

Had a Myrtle and an Audubon's Warbler in the a.m., and a third warbler that was likely a Northern Parula. I just got a glimpse, and then saw it in flight, besides hearing the sweet light chip several times which is what got my attention. Was not the Yellow-throated. Saw my FOY female Ruby-throated Hummingbird today.

In the afternoon I went to the river a third time, now having a couple miles into 3 trips over there today... All I found was Axis Deer. I suspect that is what the odd call was. Was not their regular whistled alarm note, but an odd note I hope I know now.

April 6 ~ mid-50's to upper 70's today. A front blew in about 9 - 10 a.m. so northlies blew all day. Right as it hit some swallows appeared over the yard, two were BANK and two were Cliff, both FOS. Bank are rare here in spring (or fall). Common at Uvalde in summer as they nest near there, but very hard to get here.

Had a FOY Bordered Patch in the afternoon, finally. The Monarch is still here dashing about occasionally stopping at Dakota Verbena. This is day 4 for the same beast. Watched the male Summer Tanager take a good long bath. Tried to digiscope the Yellow-throated Warbler singing in the big pecan later in day.

April 5 ~ Monarch still here, amazing, it is hanging out, with sporadic visits to Dakota Verbena flowers, albeit brief. It is clearly the same beast as besides the wear on forewings, there is a nick on each hindwing making it obviously an easy unique individual ID. The Summer Tanager is singing in pecan again now, and for the next 5 months. I think there are only about 50-60 Chipping Sparrow left, 75% have departed.

April 4 ~ Summer Tanager, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird (at least 2 males today), wow it sure has a spring flavor to it. The Monarch was still here and I saw my FOY Bordered Patch. The male Canyon Towhee was singing but I have not seen the female (seemingly the other bird of the pair) for a few days now, seemingly just this one bird. About to split methinks.

Late about 10 p.m. I heard something overhead kinda circling almost, or drifting back and forth making some call I do not know what it was. Avian and unknown. Those drive me nuts. I hate when that happens. It was a yard bird whatever it was.

April 3 ~ A nice brisk 40dF for a low was great, high was in mid-70's. Sunny, and only breezy in later p.m., morning to mid-day was calm. We walked to the crossing before noon. Things like wintering sparrows are mostly gone. And the bulk of spring is yet to arrive, so a bit slowish, but green! Some Bluets are blooming now, and the Mealy Sage is getting going well. The mustard (invasive non-native type) is blooming.

Was still coolish at noon in shade so few odes. Damselflies were one Kiowa Dancer, one American Rubyspot, and a Bluet that was not Familiar (with a cap F). Dragons were a Pale-faced Clubskimmer, a Green Darner and a couple Dot-winged Baskettail. Three seperate Yellow-throated Warbler territories, at least.

Then from noon to 1:30 or so we walked about 2.5 miles into the live-oak-juniper grassland uphill behind us. We finally saw our FOS Summer Tanager, male of course, which was great to see, and hear again. A pair of Vermilions at an openish area might be nesting. Surprised no Golden-cheeked Warbler or Black-capped Vireo, it looks close to acceptable in spots. A couple singing Roadrunner, singing Hutton's Vireo, a couple Spotted Towhee still, a couple Kinglets, a Gnatcatcher, Ash-throated Flycatchers, Bewick's Wren and Black-crested Titmouse, Lark and Chipping Sparrow, some Ground-Dove, Turkey.

Then in the afternoon in currently well blooming half of the yard, from about 2:45 to 6 p.m., there was the FOY MONARCH (butterfly) finally! Obviously a worn individual, and a migrant from Mexico! It would zoom around quite a bit, and a few times settle briefly on Dakota Verbena, appearing to nectar, disappear for a bit and then show back up. I saw it 'practice roost' in a pecan, so think it was going to spend the night at the food source. The flowers are getting some fair action. Though not a nectar source, hundreds of skullcap are open in some spots, and acres of yellow Slender-stem Bitterweed on dry rocky slopes now.

In the afternoon another FOS bird showed up, a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird! I was sitting in a chair between two feeders each 3' from my head when all of I sudden one sat and I noticed its much longer tail projecting much further past the wings. It turned to look at me and gave a flash of red. It had a long drink, turned and showed me his color a couple times, to make sure I was duly impressed, which I was. Summer Tanager, Ruby-throated Hummer, and Monarch, were all FOS today.

April 2 ~ The northerlies from the front yesterday kept up lightly all night and into the morning. Both KRVL at NOAA, and Seco Crk. at WU showed 36dF lows, we were about 38dF, with light northerlies on it. Got into upper 70's briefly. We will soon be wishing for this. There should be a big push and wave of birds as soon as the wind turns around. Summer Tanagers any day now.

About noon we took a 90 min couple mile walk into the live-oaks behind us. Saw 2 Orange-crowned Warblers and a FOS Nashville Warbler. No Spotted Towhee though. Best butterfly was a Common Streaky Skipper right out the gate, the first of the year (FOY). A couple good odes were had. Up the draw near a wet spot was a FOY Pronghorn Clubtail, a spot of water had what looked like a Neotropical Bluet, and up on the hill there was a FOY Common Whitetail (female).

The Slender-stem Bitterweed bloom is impressive, whole areas of the draw are covered in it, widely spaced as it is. The Persimmon out by our wellhouse is blooming great (oh what a smell!) but hundreds up the hill are not yet. Watch them for Disparate Forester moths and other leps while they bloom. We had a pair of Foresters in flight display over a small juniper. Saw another purple Anemone flower, lots of Paralena is going now and a fair bit of Slender-leaf Hymenoxys. There was an acacia of some sort in bloom (ph.) and the woody shrub I haven't yet positively ID'd (either Texas Almond or Plum methinks) is also in bloom now. A Great Blue Heron flew downriver right at dusk.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

April 1 ~ A good day for fools, hope you didn't find too many. It rained a bit overnight, just enough thunder to keep waking you. We only got about a half-inch, but up-valley say at Lost Maples or so they got an inch and a bit over. Some colder air got here early a.m. and it was about 50dF. Northerlies all day and coolish in mid-60's at peak heat. The bluebirds seem to be out by box and all seems well by appearances.

Two FOS species today were Scissor-tailed Flycatcher finally, and Clay-colored Sparrow, also finally. In town I saw the Uvalde Nat. Bank has washed the Barn and Cave Swallow nests away. I guess we don't need any more flying insect eaters around, there aren't that many bugs here.

Technically folks, all migratory birds are protected by law. Destroying their nests is illegal and considered 'take' under the Migratory Bird Treaty (The Lacey Act). Squirt the feces away if need be, but does anyone really use or need the breezeway on the north side of the bank? I think the place looks better with swallows, like Mission San Juan Capistrano in California. In much of Europe it is considered good luck if the swallows choose your house to nest on. Shame we don't have such an appreciation for cost-free flying insect control here. Sure wish they would nest at our place.



~ ~ ~ March summary ~ ~ ~

It was mild and dry overall, we barely froze way early in the month, and that was it. Besides drizzle-mist the monthly rain was from 7th to 10th, and about 3" for the whole event. Great timing for spring flowers. The live-oaks are in full leaf-drop mode, many are in bloom now too. Deciduous trees like Sycamore, Mesquite, Hackberry, Mulberry, Pecan, and Buckley Oak are all starting to leaf out, as are the Cypresses along the river. March starts out in brown winter and ends in spring green.

There were about 6 species of odes - dragonflies and damselflies, and all the most expected 6, nothing unusual. There were some 35 species of butterflies, which is OK, we have had 40 a few times. The best thing was a Mourning Cloak which is not a guaranteed sure thing every year here. No migrant Monarch by the end of the month. An early Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was good. Lots of Elfins, we had 18 one hour on five small blooming Redbud trees, and have seen several female Falcate Orangetip, but no male yet.

Lots of Disparate Forester moths flying this month, surely I saw over a dozen. Best moth was a Snowberry Clearwing in the yard on the 31st, there are only a very few Uvalde County records.

Birds were about 79 species, mostly from the yard or along road out front along river habitat corridor. The best bird of the month was the Brown Thrasher Kathy spotted at the bird bath on the 17th. The big thing in March is returning breeders. Black-chinned Hummers get thick, Hooded Oriole returns, Yellow-throated Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo return, Barn and Cave Swallow are back, and up at Lost Maples Black-and-white Warbler, Golden-cheeked Warbler, and Louisiana Waterthrush return. It is a major change of season month for the birds.

~ ~ ~ end March summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~

March 31 ~ Started out dripping, by mid-day began to clear and light north winds dried it out, warming up to 84dF or so! Sure nice to have that Yellow-throated Vireo singing in the pecan again. Thursday so tied up in office. As it was the last day of the month I took a walk around half the yard (most-flowered half) looking for anything new for the monthly butterfly diversity total. Must be 300 flower heads of Dakota Verbena, and 500 Crow-Poison, and a bunch of lesser stuff like Straggler Daisy, Texas Verbena, some Deer Pea-vetch is opening now, saw one Drummond's Skullcap flower open, some Pincushion Daisy are opening, that one Blue-eyed Grass (a dwarf Iris) has about 8 flowers open now.

It was about 5:30 p.m. when the Dakota Verbena were in their last sun and it was jumpin' for 15-20 minutes. Four were new for the month: a Dun Skipper, a Buckeye, a mint-fresh Cloudless Sulphur, and a Gray Hairstreak. A few Sachem and Fiery Skipper were about, lots of Pipevine Swallowtail, one each Giant and Black Swallowtial, several American Lady and Red Admiral, a few Snout, Variegated and Gulf Fritillary, a Goatweed Leafwing and a winter form Questionmark, a couple Checkered White and a couple female Falcate Orangetip, a dozen each Orange Sulphur and Sleepy Orange, a few Dogface, and a Checkered-Skipper (Comm. or White). It was the biggest butterfly day of the year so far with 22 species.

Interesting still no Monarch yet, we usually get our first returning spring migrants in the last third of March. None yet. There was a huge snow at the wintering site which some forecast to be devastating to the already record small over-wintering population this year in Mexico. To not see one then in later March when we normally do is concerning. We better get some soon. Only one of the last 11 Marches did I not see one locally in late March. And that was probably me, not them.

The best thing today was a Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis). A small clear-winged diurnal sphinx moth that is a bumblebee mimic. It was hitting the Dakota Verbena, I ran in for camera and back out to the flowers and it was gone. Never saw it again. Had it in my binocs from close as I could focus to make the ID! They are often reported as a hummingbird as they hover in front of flowers in the day, but are much much smaller, like an overgrown bumblebee. The first UvCo record was one I photographed at the museum several years ago in summer. Also have photo'd it in Bandera Co. at Lost Maples. But it is scarce, very hard to plan to see, and one heck of a cool beast. Also had a Disparate Forester moth in the pecan about 4 p.m., so it was a good diurnal moth day.

The worst thing today was a Golden-fronted Woodpecker going INTO the Bluebird's nest box by the gate near dusk. I saw the Bluebirds flipping out, a bunch of other birds joined them so I went to check the box, and the darn woodpecker flies out. I grabbed the ladder and did a 10 second check of the box, there were a pile of close-eyed babies in nest, at least one moved, I left. I wanted to see if there were eggs and did the woodpecker predate or what? Couldn't tell if all the young were OK, saw one move and bolted. It was right before dusk. Hopefully the bluebirds don't abandon, or the young weren't killed. The adults have been in the box for three weeks plus, and the woodpecker which had used it as a roost sometimes in winter had not been there in a month it seemed. Why go in chasing an adult bluebird out when clearly there are baby birds in a nest? Surely it would have stayed if I hadn't flushed it, and the young would die overnight just from the cold. Will have to watch the box in the morning, hope all is OK with the parents and young. Dang woodpecker!

March 30 ~ Fog, drizzle, mist, a passing shower in the a.m. after a few overnight. Dripping and a 65-75F temp spread. Mostly the same birds, the Chipping Sparrows are decreasing, clearly departures are taking place. Fewer American Goldfinch too (one male is getting color), but siskins still here. Singing Yellow-throateds (warbler and vireo), singing White-eyed Vireo, heard Hutton's up the hill out back. Gnatcatcher and Kinglet went through, plus a couple Myrtle Warbler. Field Sparrow singing across road. A clear sign of birds being knocked down by the wet was 4 Lincoln's Sparrow in one binoc field-of-view out front in the afternoon. They are on the move. Another female Falcate Orangetip butterfly flew by. Nice patch of Texas Onion blooming right off the front porch, best scallions you ever had. First of year Six-lined Racerunner in garden.

March 29 ~ Overcast, balmy, occasionally misty, a sprinkle or two. We walked up to our neighbor's place a mile away to go over some bird feeding stuff. On the way we had two beautiful adult Swainson's Hawks soar over under the low cieling, my FOS, and right on time. Might have had three Clay-colored Sparrow sneak away in the Agarita and Persimmons. Gnatcatcher and Kinglet were migrants. These neighbors feed nyger seed and have a boatload of Siskins, 40 or 50 it seemed. A few years ago up on Seco Ridge we had 70-80 spend months sucking sunflowers seeds down one winter.

Diana Gotcher said she had a Black-and-white Warbler last week, I haven't seen one yet this spring, but they have been back at Lost Maples on the breeding grounds a couple-three weeks now. Often nesting birds return to their breeding territory (especially in southern states) before passage birds that nest further north move through. We will get migrant Black-n-white Warblers in late April, that are headed to Canada or such, whilst ours have already got young ready to fledge then.

March 28 ~ A crisp low 40's dF for a low was nice. KRVL had a 39F briefly. I bare-eyed a bird flying by that by flight note coupled with what I saw surely was a Clay-colored Sparrow. But as a FOS, I have to let it go. To record a bird as identified, we must be absolutely positively certain that there is no way we could be in error, 99.99% sure is not good enough to claim an ID, or a record, or enter something in a database. Quality of data is everything. Even if they are late and overdue now. A male Hooded Oriole is at the hummer feeders, likely a returnee, and a day behind Judy Schaffer's first returnee.

March 27 ~ Happy Easter! Hope you find all your eggs. Balmy with drizzle-mist in a.m. for a couple hours until the front hit, then 10-20 mph winds 10 a.m. until the heat of the afternoon when it finally calmed a bit. Shoulda gone birdin' yesterday. We walked to crossing but it was slow and windy. Just the regulars and few of them. Might have heard a Pyrrhuloxia though. Several singing Yellow-throated Warbler. Nice to have Bluebirds nesting in the box at the gate. Saw a female Vermilion Flycatcher.

A couple of the Cyrpesses are leafed out and green now. Mesquites just throwing out the leaflets, the young Sycamores in the river channel just popping leaf buds out now too. A wee bit of Mealy and Tropical Sage in bloom, some Two-leafed Senna flowers and a few Bladderpod (Silver-leafed methinks). Saw one female Falcated Orangetip (lep).

It was the first day of some little bit of dragonfly activity at the 360 crossing, which was mostly damselflies, but at least a few odes are moving. A Pale-faced Clubskimmer was there, a FOY Green Darner looked like a female maybe, and seemingly most likely a local emergence. One other dragon got away. In damsels there were three American Rubyspot and 3 Kiowa Dancer. At least it was something, a big change from nothing.

In the afternoon there were a couple Ash-throated Flycatcher around for a bit. Probably a local pair. Saw my first Blue-eyed Grass flowers of the year, which is actually a gorgeous little dwarf Iris. Also some Looking-Glass (either Venus or Western) opened up. A few Tube-tongue are opening as well. A few dozen Pink Evening Primrose are open, still hundreds of Crow-Poison, and lots of Anemone (Wind-flower). Judy Schaffer reported the first Hooded Oriole back at her feeders today.

March 26 ~ It was three years ago today, the first day we woke up here at our current humble abode. Having gotten here at dark on the 25th, it was our first full day here. Unlike that day however there was no singing male Golden-cheeked Warbler in the yard today. I knew we were in the right place though when that happened the first morning here. It was one of those 'Don Juan' re-affirmations (from the Carlos Castaneda books). It meant more than just a Golden-cheeked Warbler.

Today was the regular gang, nothing different, but I didn't get out and about save in the yard. There is some non-native invasive plant I don't know what it is but that I hate it. It has to be hand-pulled and is exploding into areas we don't want it. It goes away fast enough on its own, but a thousand come back if you don't pull them before they go to seed. At least I get to hear Yellow-throated Vireo now whilst I work in the yard. Because I have to bend over and hand pull it, it counts as exercise too. Serious multi-tasking out there what with landscaping, birding, and exercising. A couple dozen Siskin and over a dozen American Goldfinch still on the sunflower tube. Still a hundred waxwing around. Most Robins have been gone a month now.

Best bird was a butterfly, again, my FOY Falcate Orangetip, though a female without orange tips. At least I got one for March finally. Saw Sachem, Fiery Skipper, a Lyside, some Dogface, Sleepy Orange, Snout, Goatweed Leafwing, Gulf Fritillary, Red Admiral, American Lady, Checkered-Skipper (Comm. or White), Giant and Pipevine Swallowtail, all without really looking, just going by. The first spring northbound Monarchs from Mexico should be back any day now.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 25 ~ Another morning about 40dF, feels great, we are going to miss these soon. A Zone-tailed Hawk flew upriver early. A town run saw no Scissor-tailed Flycatcher back yet but someone said one of their kids saw one a couple weeks ago and none since. At the bank in town besides the usual Barn Swallow colony there are a couple pairs (at least) of Cave Swallow building nests. There is a breezeway on the north side of building and at either end of it the nests in the darkest corners are being worked on by Cave Swallow pairs. Their display flight and calling right over the parking lot 6' overhead is great. Better numbers of Barn Swallows are back in town now too.

The bird of the day was a butterfly, at 5 p.m. an Adelpha sps. (Sister) flew across the yard. I only saw it well enough to ID it to genus. Arizona is our default Sister here, except mid-October to mid-November. But it was small and brownish, and we have had 20 mph southerlies all day so I wonder. All here are Arizona until proven otherwise. Which means by clearly and critically determining definitive characters.

Vermilion Flycatcher

This is a Utopia red light. You don't have to
stop for them, though you may want to.



March 24 ~ After a warm muggy day yesterday this feels nice. The front got here after midnight overnight, a few spritzes of rain, maybe a tenth of an inch tops, some lightning, and lots of wind. Last night late at last check of radar as it was approaching, there were five distinct waves of outflow boundry in tight succession but each clear and distinct like waves in the ocean, ahead of the actual line of rain cells. Usually there is just one big obvious outflow boundry line on the radar. While we are on radar... it is that time of year again... when if you run the base reflectivity loop radar for Uvalde at dusk you can watch the exploding donut of millons of bats emerging from the Concan cave again now (just SW of Concan). As well as see all the currently used caves around central Texas for that matter.

The bird of the day was 2 Lark Sparrows on the seed and patio. These are the returning breeders, and so an FOS. While some winter here, they are not our local breeders which go who-knows-where for the winter. We have wintering Lark Sparrows that probably breed way to the north or NW many hundreds of miles, and we have breeding Lark Sparrows that probably winter way down in Mexico or somesuch hundreds of miles away. A couple Giant Swallowtail were about again. Saw a couple Silver Puff flowers.

March 23 ~ Strong southerlies, overcast 60dF for a low, a rather typical spring morning here. Warm and muggy, low 80's dF, the pre-frontal usual. At least 75 waxwings, the Lincoln's Sparrow is still about. A Zone-tailed Hawk flew over early. They likely do so far more often than detections suggest, I am only outside for 10 minutes an hour. If I just had that glassed-in turret office I always wanted, I wouldn't ever get any work done. It is getting so springy so fast, and it is just starting. Out on front porch this a.m. I am hearing Yellow-throated Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler sing, no doubt our returning local territorial breeders, whilst I watch a male Vermilion Flycatcher on the fence 120' away. Winter is over. We may freeze yet, but winter is over.

The bird observation of the day came late. At dusk I was out on the porch watching a couple Red Bats hunting in and under the pecans, quite deftly negotiating branches while the smaller Brazillian (formerly Mexican) Freetailed Bats were out in the open areas over the driveway. All of a sudden an immature female Sharp-shinned Hawk appeard stage left heading right at full speed. It zeroed right in on a Freetail, which took evasive manuevers doing a full 360 degree loop. The Sharpy was right on its tail the whole loop, doing a 360 in concert with it. I personally would have given the Sharpy a 9.8 on effort and execution, though the bat scored it much lower. The Sharpy needed a break after the failed attempt and it landed in the nearest mesquite and rested a couple minutes before taking off. I thought it was going to get it, and I bet they do sometimes. Sharpys are masters of taking prey when upside-down at the top of a loop. I have seen them do it with Chipping Sparrows many times.

March 22 ~ About 41dF for a low was about perfect. Sunny but breezy again. The green explosion continues as Hackberries in particular leaf out. Just before 1 p.m. I heard my FOS Yellow-throated Vireo singing, a second one sang back to it. They are one of the sounds of summer here. Wonder if one of these is one of our neighborhood nesting pair. Probably. We often get returning breeders prior to passage migrants, as with Turkey Vultures. This is common with many birds in many areas. There haven't been any for a couple days so a new Lincoln's Sparrow is here. Red and Freetail bats out front at dusk.

March 21 ~ A chilly 35dF for a low, KRVL had a 31 again, and one nearby station (Seco Creek) at the WU reported 29dF or so. They are in a low cold hole there. Calm early but soon picked up to 15-20mph out of south. Since I was too busy working to see anything new and different today, I feel a rant coming on. You have been warned.

Folks, if you read e-bird, ignore the Chihuahuan Raven reports for Lost Maples. There are without a doubt in error. Common Raven are common there (and here), breeding in fair numbers as they do at Garner St. Park and Chalk Bluff Park. Or anywhere there are cliff faces in the southern Edwards Plateau. Chihuahuan Raven are accidental in any of these places, and should not be reported without evidence. Don't hold your breath for it. My guess is that not a single claim could be actually proven. They are being reported as though they are common. Routinely without a second thought it seems as to their rarity at these places and in this area. As if they are supposed to be here. They are mis-ID's, the result of rarebirditis, a variant is listitis, sometimes now called stringing, it is the great birder's malady of seeing what you want to see.

To be very general, in south central Texas the Ravens in the hill country are Common Ravens. Only out in the brush-country flatlands below Hwy 90 does one rarely start seeing Chihuahuan Ravens. Common Ravens here have exploded 400-500% in numbers here in the last decade. They can be seen down to the Hwy 90 area now about 10 miles below the escarpment out into the brush country (in the blend zone). Though there were a few Chihuahuan Ravens around Utopia a decade ago, they have been absent since about '08 when the drought started. Meanwhile Commons have exploded. If you can see mountains or cliffs from where you see the Raven, it is a Common, in this area.

The mountain of Chihuahuan Raven reports (and hybrid Titmouse) reports in e-bird for Lost Maples should be expunged. They are erroneous. It should not be possible to enter either. The frightening part is the number that have questioned it: zero. Neither occur at Lost Maples. Had to get that off my chest... Folks are reporting mis-ID's in my back yard. Only in e-bird land are there Chihuahuan Ravens and hybrid Titmouse at Lost Maples. Whereas in reality, there are not. The Ravens are Common, the Titmice are Black-crested.

After 11 p.m. was outside for one last listen, had a calling Barn Owl flyover, a Vermilion Flycatcher in display flight song, and point blank views of Mr. Porc U. Pine of which I got some pix. He showed me his spines and asked if I wanted some of that...  "anywhere you wish to go is fine Mr. Pine."

March 20 ~ Happy Equinox! Feliz spring! The wind finally stopped, and it got chilly. Low was about 36dF here, I saw Kerrville had a 31dF! They froze! March 20 is about the average date for the last freeze of the year in our area. Though, we often get March or April fronts that either freeze, or get darn close to it. The big question now to everyone that lives here is: Tomatoes, to plant yet or not?

First thing this morning I heard a FOS Ash-throated Flycatcher. We walked a mile out looking for those Redbuds we found last weekend as I was not totally happy with my Elfin on Redbud pictures. The two woulda-been best ones auto focus grabbed the juniper in background and the butterfly was out of focus!*&^#! That was 3rd best below (March 13 entry) save focus. I could not refind the trees. They won't be blooming for another week, it is over for the year. Agarita looks done and it did not seem to have a very good bloom here. I think the heavy rain event took most of the flowers out right as they were about to open.

We saw at least 4 Spotted and 2-3 Canyon Towhee (plus the Canyon pair was here in the yard). Saw a pair of Rufous-crowned Sparrow, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and heard Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Black-crested Timice, and Hutton's Vireo. Kind of surprised we did not hear a Golden-cheeked Warbler, the first few are being reported at Lost Maples. The Buckley Oaks are about done blooming for the most part here which is kinda low, about 1450' where we were. Leaves are just starting to break out well now.

March 19 ~ The northerlies from the front hit before midnight and blew all night and all day until laying down near sundown. It was mostly 15-20 gusting to 25mph. The low was near 40dF so chill factors were in 30's for a few hours early. I do other things rather than fighting finding birds in the wind. It is clear there are a few dozen Black-chinned Hummingbirds at the feeders now. There were about 20 each of Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch at the sunflowers all day. Saw a 1.5" Coreid (Leaf-footed Bug), the FOY for them. The male Vermilion was out on the fence quite a bit and briefly it was on the garden fence right out office window, and on clothesline which is at edges of patio, both just 15 feet from me while I was outside. Saw my FOY Tube-Tongue flower today.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

March 18 ~ Foggy early and mighty muggy. Supposed to rain today or tonight. Heard a FOS Blue-gray Gnatcatcher out there early, after maybe hearing one yesterday afternoon. Then in town there were finally Barn Swallows back! And a Cave Swallow too! Didn't pick anything else up though. Some nice Bluebonnets off 360 just off 187. The library Redbud is done and over blooming, leaves are coming out now. Lots of stuff is bursting forth. Mesquites put out the first of their leaflets today. Yellow-throated Warbler singing over at the river. Saw a few Erynnis duskwings (butterflies) around today, one was a Juvenal's, the FOY, another looked Horace's, and another seemed Mournful.

We had to power down about 7-9 p.m. as the front and a severe thunderstorm went through. It was .7 of an inch of rain in under an hour. Lots of lightning, it was a highly charged storm. Kathy saw a tree in the distance burning from a strike for a bit. Later I saw another strike fire to our south a mile, which we kept our eye on through the scope, called neighbors, etc. The strikes are normal, but fires are very unusual here. Kathy got the first of year (FOY) mosquito bite today, congratulations.

The male Golden-fronted Woodpecker I guess thinks flying 20' back up to the broken-off branch anvil they use to open their sunflower seeds is too much work. Today it hopped around on the ground under the feeder with American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins, foraging for sunflower seeds and just jumped up on the patio with them and cracked 5 in a row there instead of flying up to the usual spot. They are amazingly deft with that bill getting the seed out of the shell.

March 17 ~ Hope y'all had a happy St. Patrick's Day! We had a 60-80dF temp spread. Hundreds of Crow-poison are now opening in the yard. Looks great. Got that flower meadow thing going again. 125 Waxwing in the big pecan early. Heard a Yellow-throated Warbler sing a couple times in the afternoon. The pair of Canyon Towhee were around, diving into the big stick pile when an ad. female Sharpy made a pass at them. The Sharpy flew less than 8' past me, waist-high, as it dove on them. Barn Owl again late p.m. Saw my FOY Pale-faced Clubskimmer dragonfly.

Kathy spotted the bird of the day, again from the kitchen window, at the bath, a BROWN THRASHER! Two weeks ago we just talked about ID from Long-billed, and boom! Yard bird. I have seen a spring migrant, in Concan, once, but that is it for my spring Brown Thrasher records locally. You can go a few years without seeing one real easy. Way to go Kathy! Who knows what goes to the bath, we can only see it from bathroom and kitchen, or from out on front porch. Need a cam on it. Saw a Disparate Forester moth today.

March 16 ~ A few hundred Crow-poison open. The Mulberry tree has sprouted flowers, as have some hackberries, some of which are putting out leaves now. Persimmons are leafing up, spring is springing. The yard is green again. At least a dozen Pink Evening Primrose are open. Had two FOS birds, 2 Northern Rough-winged Swallow, and heard a Yellow-throated Warbler sing from over at the river. A few of the Cypress are just starting to open flowers (= bugs) and their arrival seems timed to exactly coincide with that. Heard a Barn Owl at late-thirty. There were northerlies from a front, but which is now regressing back north.

March 15 ~ A couple hundred Crow-poison open. Saw a Disparate Forester moth, but they just won't stay still for me. Also saw a winter form Questionmark here in yard. Late a Barn Owl flew over southbound. A 50-86dF temp spread today. Pair of Canyon Towhee still around, American Goldfinches far fewer in number but still a dozen Siskin here, which don't seem to miss the goldfinches. A Julia's Skipper was the first of year for them.

March 14 ~ A crisp 40dF low went up to 90dF for a high in p.m.! Major diurnals. A couple hundred Anemone flowers in the yard open now. They last maybe two days and that is it. Barely longer than a Rain-Lily. Saw a Checkered-White (lep), looking for an Orange-tip but have not seen one yet. Any day now. Saw a Vesta Crescent too. A small Anole fell out of the big pecan from at least 18' up, followed immediately by the Eastern Phoebe shooting away from where the lizard fell from. The lizard jumped out of the tree to avoid the bird. It seemed a fairly sharp splat when it hit the ground, but it ran into tall grass quickly seemingly fine.

March 13 ~ Still breezy, now warm and out of the west. It got to the mid-80's dF! Almost toasty. We took a long walk to a nearby knoll about 1.5 miles to the top at about 1500', so 165' altitude gain. Glad it wasn't any warmer. No Golden-cheeked or Black-and-white Warblers yet. Buckley Oaks still just barely sprouting leaves and the warbler return right as they are a little further along than the oaks are now. Any day now still... the heat the next few days should break out the leaves. A great view up and down the valley from up top, but the wind was 20+mph. A very few Cypress are just breaking out flowers and have a slight greenish tint now.

Had a couple singing Hutton's Vireo, a couple Spotted Towhee, finally one was a male, and a Rufous-crowned Sparrow. A couple Greater (Texas) Earless Lizard were great to see, a very neat beast. There were a few Redbud trees, which had lots of butterflies on them. One small patch of three little Redbud had at least a dozen Henry's Elfin! I've never so many so close together. With the other two little Redbuds, it was about 18 Elfin total. Other things on the Redbud were Sachem (Field Skipper), my FOY Mournful Duskywing, a couple Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, and some Pipevines. Couple other Sachem scattered about the hillside, and 3 FOY Reakirt's Blue as well.

Lots of Black Swallowtail males were hill-topping on the knoll. One Lyside Sulphur flew by, fair numbers of Dogface, Sleepy Orange, Pipevine Swallowtail, and Vareigated Fritillary, several Goatweed Leafwing, a couple Horace's Duskywing, and a FOY Eastern Tiger Swallowtail blasted over the hilltop too! At least a half dozen Dot-winged Baskettail (dragon) were seen, Kathy saw an Argia (dancer) damselfly. A couple Dung Scarb were about as well, one big one flew by that looked metallic green. There were several species of native bees on the Redbud, as well as our Afro-Euro Honeybees. We saw a few of the fancy diurnal Disparate Forester moths.

Henry's Elfin

"Spring"
One of my favorite signs: Henry's Elfin on a Redbud.



About 3:30 p.m. I was out on front porch and a Mourning Cloak blasted by! I do not record them every year, you can miss the species here some years. It has a quick spring flight season, mostly March to May. Hackberry is the only foodplant I have seen them use locally. Must be one tough caterpillar.

The rest was the usual regular gang. The new thing is at twilight the male Vermilion Flycatcher is now doing flight song. Great to hear that again. And oh yeah, there are a few Mountain Laurel flowers open, so if you see one, take a whiff, take a whiff, take a whiff on me. (That is an old musical reference a few might know, sorry). If you do not believe in aroma therapy, stick your nose in a cluster of laurel flowers for a few minutes, breathe in through your nose deeply and slowly. Or walk a canyon full of them while in peak bloom. You are going to love how you feel. :)

March 12 ~ The system finally moved out, sunny and nice out. About 50-72dF temp spread, and a bit too breezy. We took a short walk up the ridge behind us. Some of the Buckley Oaks are now sprouting leaves, and a decent bloom for them. Had a singing Hutton's Vireo, but was too windy. Lots of Bewick's Wren. Highlight was the FOY Olive-Juniper Hairstreak , the green on a fresh one is just awesome. If you see a small butterfly on a juniper with a green underside of hindwing, this is it. There will be a few white spots on underwing too. The White-eyed Vireo here is sometimes replacing the initial sharp note of the song with a perfect Scrub-Jay zzzrreee note. I wish he wouldn't do that.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

March 11 ~ More rain overnight. Just a hair under an inch. So the whole event so far from Monday to this Friday morning we sit at about 2.75"! WOW! Just what the doctor ordered for the impending spring bloom. It is going to be a good one. The bluebirds seem to be seriously nest-building in the box at the gate. That should make the place easier to find. Cranes were going over all day it seemed. Mostly smaller flocks. The female Golden-fronted Woodpecker was picking sunflowers out of the tube seed feeder again. About 50 waxwing in yard in the afternoon. A Lincoln's Sparrow or two still about edges of yard. A female Vermilion Flycatcher on 360 was the first fem. I've seen this year.

I was surprised during a quick town run to not see any Barn Swallows back yet on Main St. They are tardy this year. Little Creek Larry said early in the week he had a flock of a dozen Great Blue Heron in a tree. Which taken with the 5 that flew over here Monday show the opening of their migration window here. He also said the Eastern Screech-Owl that wintered in his open garage has departed. There were at least 300 Cedar Waxwing at the library hitting the Ligustrum. The Redbud there looks great in full bloom. There were some Bluebonnets open on UvCo 360.

March 10 ~ A bit of on and off light mist and showers, cool northerlies, high in low 60's dF. Too busy at the desk to look about much. Lincoln's Sparrows still around as are the Canyon Towhee. Heard Martin and White-eyed Vireo, a few hummers but the 3 feeders already all being guarded by seperate males. Couple dozen Waxwing and a few Siskin still here, Robins seem gone.

March 9 ~ Same stuff. Drizzle and mist, no heavy rain or showers. The Persimmons sprouted leaves yesterday but they are much more apparent today. Some Hackberry leafage is breaking out as well. A couple hundred Anemone flowers are open in the yard, and more Crow-poison is popping up too. My FOS Four-lined Skink (lizard) was today, a big fat pregnant female. Saw an Anole (aka American Chameleon) too, and a few Eastern Fence (Prairie) Lizard are also about. The Chorus Frogs were really wailing today after that rain.

The bird highlight of the day was seeing the ad.fem. Rusty Blackbird, which was perched by itself in the big pecan, calling, to make sure I noticed. I suspect departure is imminent and it swung by for one last look. Safe travels and I sure hope to see you again next November for a fourth winter!

March 8 ~ There was about .2 of an inch of rain overnight, on top of the tenth yesterday. Then over the day a bit of mist and after dark it really rained in the evening. About 1.5" more, so we are at about 1.8" for the event so far. Kathy spotted a great flock of over 300 Sandhill Crane going north mid day, one of the biggest flocks I've seen here, usually the groups we see going over are way less than 100, most are in the 20-40 range. Saw a male Vermilion Flycatcher out front in the pecans. At least three Lincoln's Sparrow in the yard were migrants knocked down by the rain, there haven't been 3 in the yard at once in months.

March 7 ~ Fog-mist and drizzle, about a tenth of an inch of rain. Turkey gobbling early in a.m., and a migrant flock of 5 Great Blue Heron flying upriver was great. White-eyed Vireo and Purple Martin calling. Still 40+ American Goldfinch, a few Lesser and only about a half-dozen Pine Siskin. Couple hundred Chipping Sparrow if you want any. The male Golden-fronted Woodpecker was hitting the tube for sunflower seeds. They have a broken off branch they fly up to with them, wedge it in, crack, eat, and return for more and another.

March 6 ~ Temp spread was about 60-72dF for the day, cloudy, no sun, and a pretty stiff southerly breeze at 15-20+ mph. Feels like spring on the way, still mostly looks like winter. We looked a bit up the draw behind us, had a couple Hutton's Vireo singing, it is a nice mixed live-oak-juniper woodland. There was a pair of Caracara hanging out together too. Hmmmm...   Too windy though. In the afternoon a female or immature Merlin shot through the yard at lightspeed and eye-level, going after Chippies or Goldfinches. Like a bullet. I couldn't see if it picked something off the feeder or not, but whilst most of the birds flushed, after it passed there were a few still on the feeder with a confused look, wondering what just happened. One of those "Did something just go by, and hey, where is Fred?" looks.

March 5 ~ low in 50's dF, so not very. Overcast early, partly sunny by mid-morning. Saw my first male Black-chinned Hummingbird about 10:30 a.m., saw my first fighting hummingbirds of the year about 5 minutes later. We took a mile-and-half+ walk up the hill behind us. I was hoping for a Golden-cheeked or Black-and-White Warbler to no avail. Five (5) Spotted Towhee (not Five-spotted Towhee) and an Elfin (lep) were nice. A Junco shot over, some Ground-Dove over by the wet spots up the draw.

Best was finding what I assume is our pair of Canyon Towhee up at an old old open shed a couple or three hundred yards from our place. Perhaps this is where they go? They do seem to love old open sheds of the sort we have lots of around here. One hung out at ours when we lived on N.Thunder Creek Rd., and I have seen them use the open-air storage areas at the Ranch Outpost.

The live-oaks are really getting yellow, some already in heavy leaf-drop mode. The Buckley (Spanish) Oaks are still mostly just flower buds barely breaking stems, only one had a few open flowers on just part of the tree. Agarita is getting going but still mostly not yet. Persimmons have no sign of leaves yet. I saw a Disparate Forester (moth), the fancy one with white polka-dots on metallic blue-black wings, and fuzzy orange legs. Also saw more grasshoppers than I have seen in 3 months, over a dozen kicked up, probably 15-18.

Saw 3-4 Dot-winged Baskettail (Epitheca petechalis) dragonflies and a couple undetermined dancer (Argia sps.) damselflies. Besides the Elfin, other butterflies were a few Variegated Fritillary, lots of American Lady and Red Admiral, a winter form Questionmark (puddling like most of the Vanessa) some Dainty and an Orange Sulphur, lots of Pipevine Swallowtail, a couple Dogface, a Sleepy Orange and a Horace's Duskywing. A 11 butterfly sps. walk, must be early March, finally breaking into double digit territory.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 4 ~ Felt great in the upper 30's dF this morning. There is nothing like that first male Vermilion Flycatcher of the year against blue skies. They seem brighter when you haven't seen one for 6 months. Shortly after that I had my first seen hummingbird of the year on a feeder, a female Black-chinned. Kathy heard one Tuesday, I heard one Monday, but they both were on the move apparently. This one too didn't seem to stick but I heard another in the later afternoon. Kinda surprised there were still no Barn Swallow in town yet. Canyon Towhee were around the yard.

March 3 ~ Purple Martin, White-eyed Vireo, no hummers, after dark a Barn Owl. A Duskywing (skipper) flew by that looked like Horace's. There were 2 or 3 bats again at dusk, the one that I saw closely enough to say, was indeed a Red Bat. There are a few premature leaves popping out on a couple odd branches of one pecan, the squirrels are eating them. The Mulberry is just about to pop buds, no sign yet on the Hackberries. Coops and Sharpys (hawks) making passes on the seed-eaters. I watched a male Golden-fronted Woodpecker eating a prickly pear fruit, so if you see one with purple on the face...

March 2 ~ A Ringed Kingfisher flew down the river early a.m. The White-eyed and Hutton's Vireo were both singing again today. Saw my first White-winged Dove flight display of the year today. Canyon Towhee singing a fair bit, need to get some more tape of it before they depart again. Heard Purple Martin again. A Lincoln's Sparrow in one of the stick piles in yard is a migrant, hasn't been one in yard proper in a while. Two pairs of Common Ground-Dove are in the yard and on patio hitting the seed. Still the boatload of Chipping Sparrow (200+-) and American Goldfinch (40+) here.

March 1 ~ It is warming up, I think the low was in upper 50's dF and the high was in the low 80's! Feels like spring. Was fog mist in a.m., sunny after mid-morning, but wind picked up and blew 20 mph in afternoon. Kathy had a hummingbird buzz her but it didn't hit the feeder, after the one I only heard yesterday, and Judy Schaffer's first seen one yesterday. Heard White-eyed and Hutton's Vireo this morning. Otherwise was the expected regulars. Pair of Canyon Towhee still hanging around. Wouldn't bother me a bit if some of the couple hundred Chipping Sparrow left. Some of the adults are getting good color now, whilst some of the first-winters remain dull as the day they got here last October.

~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~

February was mild and mostly dry, save one event in which we got 1.75 inches of rain. Was likely only 2" for the month total. This El Nino winter seems to have been one of the dry ones, for us. October through December way over average wet, but dry since. There were a few freezes but overall it was quite mild.

The resident birds are starting to sing quite a bit now, and the first few flowers are starting to open, some butterflies are emerging. The first migrant breeders return, and the first migrants that winter here start departing, or passing through on the way back north from points further south. White-fronted Goose and Sandhill Crane are often heard overhead northbound now. Numbers of things like Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet increase late in the month as they start passing through northbound.

Returning local breeders (that winter elsewhere) this month were Turkey Vulture (5th), Purple Martin and Black-chinned Hummingbird (both 29th), White-eyed Vireo (13th), and Vermilion Flycatcher (26th).

I received a few great reports from some of our other local eyes. Leslie Calvert had a Catbird Feb. 14 which is a great record, she also had a couple singing Audubon's Oriole, that first early White-eyed Vireo, and a Long-billed Thrasher. Sylvia Hilbig reported her Harris's Sparrow continued all month, she had that earliest Vermilion Flycatcher, and outstanding was 3 White-tailed Kite at once over their place! Judy Schaffer had the first Black-chinned Hummer, plus her couple wintering Rufous stayed the month. Hattie Barham had a Long-billed Thrasher too.

Our best bird of the month was the immature Goshawk that flew over us Feb. 28 at close range. It was low and a local movement, not a migrant moving north. I got one more poor look at the Roadside Hawk this month but after 25 miles of hiking up and down river habitat corridor the last couple months have given up trying to figure its program out. A Harris's Hawk on 20th was new for our yard, they are less than annual here. Seen the same day was the Harris&apso;s Sparrow. Which also stuck, but stayed over in the corral, where we found a second bird with it, so at least three are around.

The wintering Rusty Blackbird was seen in last half of Feb. and the wintering Louisiana Waterthrush was seen Feb. 27 still at the park. A flock of 21 Junco away from feeders was impressive, there was one Pink-sided in with them, which are rare here. Amazing too was a single flock of 5 White-throated Sparrow at the park all together at once. Two or 3 together was my high local count.

One last interesting item was the Rufous-capped Warbler being refound at Love Creek (Nature Conservancy property). I would not be the least surprised if the Lost Maples bird continues as well. There is little to no proper thorough winter coverage there.

Butterflies were 22 species, the 28th was the first day of the month I saw 10 species. The Whirlabout was probably the most amazing one, but the Clouded Skipper was great too. The Elfins are neat but expected in February. It is the second highest species total for February in the last 13, only 2013 was higher. Nothing was added on the extra day.

In Odes I saw 4 species. Two were leftovers from last year, Variegated and Autumnal Meadowhawk. Then there were two new season emergences; an unexpected Fragile Forktail and an expected late Feb. Dot-winged Baskettail.

The Frostweed blew open February 7 and 9, here is a look.

Frostweed

Here are a couple pictures of the Frostweed when it splits open
and makes ice, or frost. Temps in teens or 20's F with
low humidity seems to do it. It is thin ribbons of ice that
freeze out of the stem which gets blown open in the process.



Frostweed
It only lasts a couple or few hours usually before it melts.
In a patch of them every plant has a unique pattern of the lacy
thin ribbon-like ice growths. A stem between a quarter and a half
inch thick can grow an inches-wide ice structure.



~ ~ ~ end Feb. summary

~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~


Feb. 29 ~ Happy Leap Day! Seems like we only get one of these every four years or so. Cloudy and even some mist in morning. Heard my FOS Purple Martin overhead a few times mid-morn! Three of four years the 60th day of the year would be a March 1 return. The male of the local nesting pair of Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk made a couple low passes over the yard, once it was going to land in the big pecan until it saw me. An adult female Cooper's Hawk just missed a White-winged Dove, pulled a couple feathers out of it as the dove dodged it in the Mulberry tree. The Coop sure looked small compared to yesterday's Goshawk. It was an adult female. A Hutton's Vireo is singing around the yard.

I got an e-mail from Judy Schaffer whom said she just got her first Black-chinned Hummingbird back for the spring. That is the first one I have heard of this spring. I'm sure I heard one fly by but didn't see it. Judy also said someone in town reported Purple Martin back at their Martin house today. So I wasn't the only one that had Martins back locally today.

The best bird for me today though was later in afternoon when I saw something with black in the face under the seed tube. Before I got a good look I figured it would be the Harris's Sparrow, then it jumped up on patio, Lark Bunting! Just getting some black in the face and a spot on breast. I got a few docu shots of it. Had a small group of 4+ in the corral next door last year, on Feb. 27, well illustrating a movement window for them. This is the first on the ground in the yard we've seen.

At least two, maybe three bats at dusk. They look like Red Bat. A couple Barred Owl were calling after dark besides the usual Great Horned and Eastern Screech-Owl.

Lark Bunting

Here is a docu grab shot of the Lark Bunting,
about to crack a sunflower seed.



Feb. 28 ~ About 54-75 dF for a temp spread. The standard low clouds early, cleared in afternoon and was nice, almost warm. The yard stuff was the same gang. One Orange Sulphur. We took a walk up the hill onto the ridge behind us into mixed live-oak and juniper woodland. I had a quick look at an Elfin (butterfly) but only one. Saw several American Lady and Red Admiral, a Dainty Sulphur. One Slender-stem Bitterweed flower was the first of the year, and a purple Anemone flower was great (most are white here). The Agarita is coming along but still just getting underway. A few Dakota Verbena, Dutchman's Breeches, and Paralena were open.

There was a Hermit Thrush at a Pyracantha bush, and a couple Slate-colored Junco at the wet spots up the draw. Heard a Chorus Frog over by them again too. In the Agarita patches there were an amazing seven (!) Spotted Towhees. This is the most I have seen so fast so close together here, and weird all were females. One White-throated Sparrow was with them.

The highlight of the walk though was an immature N. GOSHAWK that flew over fairly close and not too high up. It wasn't much above eye-level when I spotted it. I thought it was going to be the local male Fuerte's Red-tail at first glance of size. As almost always, I thought it was a buteo when I first saw it. I could only see the big size, and long wings but not tail length. I have never thought 'accipiter' when I first laid eyes on a Goshawk. Because my idea of an accipter is a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned and both are puny in comparison. That is how big the visual footprint is. Buteo sized.

As it climbed the long stovepipe tail became evident and I said to Kathy "get on this bird" which she knows means "this is something different!" It was close enough to see the big flaring white supercilium (eyebrow). It was only in view about 20 seconds as it slowly moved by southward. Just long enough to see it was an immature Goshawk. Wow! Spectacular. In spite of having seen dozens, every time, they are amazing impressive beasts. What a bird! There is nothing like them. The combo of size, shape, and structure is 100% unique in North American raptors. There is nothing like them.

I saw in the afternoon Hattie Barham had e-mailed about a rufous thrasher (Brown or Long-billed) in the hedge out front at their place just up the road a third mile. Kathy and I walked past the visually impenetrable hedge out front and I heard a diagnostic Long-billed Thrasher call, one time only. Of the two rufous U.S. thrashers, Long-billed is our default, despite what the range maps in most field guides might make you think. Long-billed nest in the upper Sabinal drainage, and are resident (year-round) from just south of town (at least) and down-valley. Brown are very rare fall, winter, or spring visitors, and are less than annual for me. I have only seen a few here in over a dozen years. Hattie subsequently e-mailed me a day or two later after I had told her what to check, and she and Bill resaw the bird and verified it was a Long-billed.

If you see a rufous above thrasher here there are a few quick things to look at. First ignore the range maps in the field guides. Then check bill shape and color (shortish, straightish, with pale base of lower mandible - or all black, big, long, and clearly curved?); overall color above (bright orangish rufous or rufous brown?); color of streaks on sides or flanks (rufous or black?); color of the underparts (creamy buffy or snow white?), and eye color (yellow or orangeish?), undertail coverts (not streaked or streaked?), and face color (light pale gray with dirty white or even dark medium gray?). In each difference given the first option describes Brown Thrasher, the second Long-billed Thrasher.

Incidently, while we are here, most birds have 5 things to check. A proper identification is made by checking everything. There often are 10 things to check. Sure, some birds have one key diagnostic feature, the easy ones. For many there are similar birds for which there are a number of characters to be determined. Sometimes we don't have the luxury of time to make the required observations.

You may find it helpful when studying and learning, rather than trying to remember each detail of every bird (overwhelming) to just remember where to look for similar species pairs. For instance, just know on a rufous thrasher you check bill shape (color?), underpart color, color of streaks on sides, undertail covert streaks (or not?), face and eye color, etc., instead of trying to remember which bird has which.

You can go back to the book and get that. IF you know which the bird had. You know that by knowing where to look. I found this better for me at first than trying to recall every dang difference, when learning. There will be too many times anyway that you see a bird and then realize later you should have looked at its arse, or whatever. Knowing where to look when there are similar species is often easier than knowing each and every difference. Eventually you will learn them anyway. A vireo without wingbars: look at details of lores and eyelines, a Myiarchus flycatcher, look at pattern of dark on tail feathers, etc. Know where to look and what to look for. Then you can go to the book and see which one it was.

We saw a few interesting butterflies in the late p.m. heat. A worn Cloudless Sulphur flew by, a male Fiery Skipper was on some non-native flowers, what surely is my first ever February Whirlabout was a male on some purple Lantana, and my FOY Vesta Crescent was in the grasses by road just across the draw. Four new for the month butterflies in 20 minutes in the afternoon, on what is usually the last day of the month, so a real coup.

Had a or the Bat again at last light. I think it is most likely a Red Bat that is wintering up in the big live-oaks out back. Also had another Barn Owl call just before total dark.

Feb. 27 ~ A 40-70dF spread for the day, pretty breezy out of the south. Expecting a hummer any moment. White-eyed Vireo and Vesper Sparrow flocklet still around yard. I went to town about noon and roamed a mile around it and missed the frugivore flock. At Jerry and Judy Schaffer's I saw a Rufous or Allen's Hummingbird, which seemed an adult female or imm. male. They are Rufous until proven otherwise here. There were a couple White-crowned Sparrow at their place, plus the usual Siskin and Lesser Goldfinch at their nyger seed. We compared numbers notes and they said they have about 50 Pine Siskin whereas we only have 15, and they had very few American Goldfinch, and we have 45 or so. They are feeding nyger and us black oil sunflower (besides mixed at both places of course).

Then I walked a mile around the park. There was a Ringed Kingfisher below the 1050 bridge below the park, and a Green Kingfisher was up at the island. Belted was along river by our place earlier so had a three king day. It is often easy to drive by the first patch of trees and strip of habitat at park entrance, but odds are it is worth checking. This time I heard an Orange-crowned Warbler and pished lightly. FIVE White-throated Sparrow popped out of a vine tangle. I have never seen 5 together here at once in 13 years! All white-striped adults in mint plumage, and clearly migrants as there have been none there all winter. An outstanding find here, a migrant flock of White-throats.

Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet were above wintering numbers and are clearly on the move now too. Best thing was more great views of the Louisiana Waterthrush which continues and nearing completion of its second winter at the site. Awesome. It has now lost most of the peachy-buff color they have on flanks in fall and winter and is now mostly just snow white below, with only vestiges of the buff wash findable with scrutiny. North end of the island in that swampy area is where it likes it best. It will be departing in less than two weeks.

Interesting was spending a couple hours walking around seeing and hearing there are no Martins or Barn Swallow back yet. Judy Schaffer said a cousin had Martins last week on 187 just off the escarpment towards Sabinal near that $100,000 Black Vulture perch, er, I mean cell tower. Had one other stray Orange-crowned Warbler in town and all told over a dozen Myrtle Warbler. At the junction of 1050 and 187 at south end of town, at SE corner, there is a pecan with a couple recently cut lower branches that are sapping. An adult male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a Myrtle Warbler were hitting it.

I received an e-mail from Sylvia Hilbig that she had THREE White-tailed Kite fly over her place this morning! Outstanding! Recall a couple weeks ago I mentioned that Little Creek Larry mentioned he was seeing one or two out 357 just this side of Little Crk. in those pastures to south of road. I do not see them annually in the area, they are always good birds here. I have never heard of 3 at once locally. A great sighting!

Heard a Barn Owl call a couple times heading over after dark.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 26 ~ Low about 35, and only warmed into 60's dF. A quick town run in the a.m. found the Redbud in front of the library is now in bloom, the first tree to bloom every spring. I'm sure more are going off in the hills around, it is a pink beauty, and a mega sign of spring headed our way. If you have one check them for Elfins (butterfly). I saw or heard no Martins or Barn Swallow yet in town, they should be back any day. A Zone-tailed Hawk was over 187 at the 360 turn off. Black-chinned Hummingbird and Vermilion Flycatcher are two others we should see in the next week if not few days.

A mint fresh male Black Swallowtail was about the yard in the afternoon. Better was a Horace's Duskywing, my FOY (first of year). The rest was the regular stuff, a Dogface, a few Pipevine Swallowtail, a Sleepy Orange, a Snout, a few Red Admiral, an American Lady, the usual gang. The small flock of Vesper Sparrow were over in the corral later p.m., and I had a quick look at the imm. Harris's Sparrow. A couple high-up northbound Turkey Vultre could have been migrants.

Sylvia Hilbig sent an e-mail reporting her Harris's Sparrow continues at her place NW of town in Bandera Co., and she had the first returning Vermilion Flycatcher today. It is interesting her, and our, Harris's Sparrows have stuck for two months at the same site (or near) where originally discovered.

Feb. 25 ~ An actual freeze this a.m., about 30dF for a low, and it got up into mid-70's dF in the afternoon. We need some more freezes. The ground turned green over that rain two days ago with all the sprouting of grasses and forbs. Several Anemone (flower) were open and I saw my FOY (first of year) Clouded Skipper on one. It was very strongly marked compared to usual, and surely the first one I have ever seen in February. April is usually my earliest for them. Good thing I had it in binocs as close as I could focus for a couple minutes to work it over criticially three times!

A flock of 17 Sandhill Crane thermalled over northbound. The female Golden-fronted Woodpecker hit the seed tube for some sunflower seeds. Flock of Myrtle Warbler moved through. Heard the or another White-eyed Vireo. I think it is a returning local breeder as I have heard it going around the perimiter of the yard, in draw, across road, over in corral junipers, circling what is a territory, singing, every day all week. After dark a flock of ducks shot over low and fast heading north, fast wingbeats, they were small and probably Blue-winged Teal or Ring-necked Duck.

Feb. 24 ~ Wind blew all night, lighter in a.m. but picked back up and blew most of the day. A few Crow-Poison (flower) were open, the first I have seen this year, just a day after the rain. In north yard we get a meadow of hundreds in March usually. A group of Myrtle Warbler moved through the yard. Methinks they are starting to move a bit. They have been scarce and I am seeing small groups seemingly moving north. Had the (or another) White-eyed Vireo and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The rest was the regular gang.

Feb. 23 ~ Rain! The system arrived about 11 p.m. last night and we had a couple plus hours of rain with some thunder and lots of lightning, it was great. Looks like about 1.75" of precip! Outstanding, it had been a month and we were parched. This is just what the spring bloom needed in the worst way at this point. Was beautiful in the morning, fairly calm for a couple hours until 10 a.m. or so, then began the post-frontal blow. Blew all day into the night, 25-35mph, gusting higher. Saw Eagle Pass had a 48mph gust.

White-eyed Vireo still around, or still another showing up? At least 40 American and 2 Lesser Goldfinch, 15 Pine Siskin. The pair of Canyon Towhee, male singing a bit, and more strongly and crisply marked on breast than female. Eastern Bluebirds still prospecting at the nest box by the gate.

Feb. 22 ~ We have had a couple days with 50% or more chance of rain, and nothing yet. The last chance is overnight tonight when a real low goes by and cold front arrives. Keep fingers crossed. Still hearing White-eyed Vireo outside, and again flushed the 5 Vesper Sparrow from the parking pad. Glad I let the crabgrass grow and go to seed one last time in November before I cut it. Turkey Vulture and Lesser Goldfinch also still about. Right at dusk a Turkey gobbled from the corral real close by. They can put out some serious decibels.

Feb. 21 ~ A threat of rain, mostly cloudy all day, temp range ran 60-70dF for the day. Yard was active but just the usual. Heard the White-eyed Vireo in the morning again, or another? Had two Turkey Vulture soaring together in the afternoon. One of the Blacks has dropped inner primaries already, so is mated and has initiated molt (no more need for showing off fancy flight skills in display flights this year). Two Anemone (Wind-flower) in the yard were the first of them this year.

In late afternoon I walked up hill behind house into mixed live-oak juniper woodland with a decent agarita understory in areas. The Agarita is starting to bloom, not a lot but some branches have open flowers now. Must have walked through over a half mile of it before I flushed a Henry's Elfin. First of year, one of the coolest butterflies here, brown with an oddly scalloped hindwing, flying adults are only out for 2 months tops early each spring. There was a bit of Dutchman's Breeches and Paralena blooming.

The Buckley (Spanish) Oak is the tree for which its burst-out of leafage coincides with the return of Golden-cheeked Warblers. It seems to me to be the favorite tree of the warbler in breeding season. Sure they use Ashe Juniper bark to build a nest, but they spend more time foraging in Buckley (and Lacey) Oaks, at least at Lost Maples in the canyons there. The Buckley now has new leaf buds just barely breaking the stems in a half dozen I checked, a couple still had last year's brown leaves attached. They are a beautiful fuzzy pinkish when the new growth unfurls, quite pretty really. As soon as the unfurling takes place, Golden-cheeks magically appear.

I kicked out 3 Spotted Towhee, all females, in the Agarita patches, a flock of 6 Myrtle Warbler, Bewick's Wrens and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Astounding however was a flock of 21 Junco! We had a similar figure ONE year of 8 at our Seco Ridge feeding station where they were trained to come in and so attract others. I have never found a wild roaming flock of so many here. I was not able to check half of them for type, though all but one I saw well enough to say were Slate-colored as expected and the default Junco here. One however was a PINK-SIDED JUNCO, which is very rare here, perhaps 3 of 13 winters I have seen one, it is a great find.

Saw my FOY bat at dusk, but light wasn't good enough for a positive ID. It was too large for a Brazillian Freetail, which are not back yet anyway methinks. I suspect it is a wintering Red Bat. Size and flight style was right. We do get them around the yard off and on, but never in winter.

Feb. 20 ~ Still strong southerlies, moist and warmish, up to 80dF or so in afternoon. Heard the White-eyed Vireo again out there, wonder if it is a returning local breeder. The bird of the day was an adult HARRIS'S HAWK, my first in a few years locally, and new for the yard list. It came over so low all the doves and other seedeaters flushed, then it soared up gaining altitude right out front, went up and across river, over corner of country club and then headed south on east side of river. Great yard bird! I see them less than annually here in the upper Sabinal River drainage.

We took a quick hour walk to crossing noon to 1, before lunch. On way back saw the imm. Harris's Sparrow, so had both of America's Harris's, hawk and sparrow, in less than two hours. Not sure I have seen those two the same day ever, much less a couple hundred yards and just over an hour apart. We had one female Pyrrhuloxia down by crossing still, likely the one that showed up in November. We had great close looks at an immature Sapsucker too, head was fairly well marked and distinct black and white, but very lightly muddy brown over-washed. Throat was all white, white marks on back in two distinct rows. Not sure what it was.

We had a Poverty Weed (Baccahris sps.) just starting to grow fresh green sprouts out its stems, which had 6 Red Admiral on it, as well as a Lady, and 7-8 Green Bottle Flies. One Song Sparrow, the same female Belted Kingfisher, a couple Myrtle Warbler, some Eastern Bluebird. As we left we flushed 5 Vesper Sparrow off the parking pad off side of the driveway in front yard. Back in the yard there was a Queen butterfly, worn, probably blown north on the strong southerlies, and first of month and year.

Early had the blackbird flock in corral and in yard pecans. There were 80 Brown-headed Cowbird, 70 Red-winged Blackbird, 200 Brewer's Blackbird, 1 Starling, and one Rusty Blackbird, the adult female still, which has lost lots of its rust now and is getting much harder to pick out.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Feb. 19 ~ Saw about 20 Turkey way over in the pasture this morn, heard a few gobbling, another sign of spring. Again I heard a White-eyed Vireo, so either the one I had Monday is in the area, or a second one is around. There were four Red-shouldered Hawks at once sreaming up a fuss right over the house after noon, way high up. Otherwise it was the same gang, save the skunk (Striped) at point blank at dawn. When I go out to toss seed first thing before sunup I am of course half asleep, only awake enough to get seed and feeders out. So I am barrelling down the walk and as I near shed out back it popped out from near trash cans (secured) less than 8' away. Looked at me a few times and headed over toward cottage, of which I have seen it go into a hole under it before. Very cool animal. Incidently an Armadillo has a hole going under the cottage too, it must be like animal apartments under there. Does the dillo think the neighbor stinks? There is a great movie or cartoon under there...

Feb. 18 ~ Sorry its Thursday, my busiest day of the week. Did not see anything but the usual suspects. See Jan. 7 for the list of the 40 regular daily expected gang around the yard. Once when I was throwing seed the Ground-Dove just sat and let the seed fall on its back, not even flying! Not the first time they have done that.

Feb. 17 ~ Too busy today. Was about a 39-79dF spread for temps, sunny dry, nice, but we need some cold and wet yet. I heard a singing Field Sparrow again, neat song. Just saw the same gang of birds today, a pair of Lesser Goldfinch is around. Chickadees are singing a lot. Birds are checking out the nest boxes.

In butterflies I saw my FOY (first of year) Funereal Duskywing, a Common Mestra (first of month), more Dogface, Red Admiral, American Lady, Sleepy Orange, a Checkered-Skipper, and Pipevine Swallowtail. A whopping 8 sps. in the yard with just 6-8 minutes per hour of casual looking from the porches. There is zilch for nectar sources open yet though. There have been at least 12 sps. of butterflies here in the last three days.

The warmth is triggering new emergences. Falcate Orange-tip and Henry's Elfin are two species which could be seen any day now, and are early spring ONLY fliers. They have a quick short flight season as flying adults in early spring. If you don't seen them in the next two months, you won't see them this year. Search fresh green forb layers with something blooming in open areas for the Orange-tip, check Agarita or Redbud trees for the Elfin. I saw a Red Wasp today (Polistes carolina), plus what was likely a Sphecid like a Mud-dauber of some sort as well.

Feb. 16 ~ About 36dF for a low, and upper 70's for high. Another sign of spring was the FOS Sandhill Cranes, about 16 of them northbound at 1 p.m. Otherwise birds were mostly the same gang. Seeing for a few days now a pair of Lesser Goldfinch around, plus an imm. male, these are probably returning migrants rather than winterers.

There were some butterflies in the heat, a FOY Black Swallowtail was nice, as was a winter form Questionmark and a Variegated Fritillary. The ground is turning noticably green, the grass is growing, some forbs are beaking ground. I see ol' breaky-leg is still around and paired up. This is a Black Vulture with a leg that just hangs loose and flops around in the wind while it soars, which nests somewhere very nearby as I see it regularly through the spring and summer.

Feb. 15 ~ Southerly flow and foggy first thing early, followed by northerly dry flow by mid-morning. The American Goldfinch flock numbered at least 40 birds eating sunflower seed as if the feed store gives me those bags. A dozen Pine Siskin with them. One of which is a yellow morph. Not as yellow as I have seen them, but far more yellow than normal even bright males, and downright stunning in flight.

Amazing was a White-eyed Vireo, just after Leslie Calvert's report of one the 12th and 13th. This one here we know is a migrant as we guard this few acres all day every day and there hasn't been one here since late October or early November. It is my record early sure migrant arrival date. My earliest returns the last 13 springs were Feb. 27, March 1, and Mar. 4. Though once I had a Feb. 18 bird I couldn't guess as to migrant or winterer. Now I think it was an early migrant. Regardless these are two weeks ahead of normal wave of early returns, and therefore remarkable. Leslie had her bird a couple miles south of us. I am guessing all are migrants. Some years a very few have wintered here, but not many since the drought as insects are down. They are regular in winter just off the plateau in the lowland brush country to south but scarce up here in the colder-in-winter high-country.

A Ringed Kingfisher and an imm. fem. Merlin flew by in afternoon. Rufous-crowned Sparrow was still out back, as were the pair of Canyon Towhee. After dark I heard Great Horned and Barred Owl, plus Eastern Screech-Owl. A few butterflies were out in the 79dF heat, Kathy saw a Dogface, I saw Gulf Frit, Red Admiral, American Lady, Pipevine Swallowtail, and a Gray Hairstreak which is the first one of them I have seen this year and an early date.

Feb. 14 ~ The southerly flow returned with low clouds and mist this Valentine's Day, and warm lows, about 50dF. Too damp out until about noon when we took an hour and mile plus walk up the road. Our former White-throated Sparrow continues at the Barham's place quarter-to-third mile up the road. We had a Hutton's Vireo at the draw a half mile+ up the road. Heard a Pine Warbler in the cypresses along river while checking the Ligustrum and Soapberrys for frugivores. A couple hundred each waxwing and Robin, a couple Field Sparrow, otherwise the expected residents. There was some almost open Dutchman's Breeches flowers, and a few of the first Agarita flower buds have broken the stems though not open yet.

A real surprise was about 3 p.m. I throw out the final pound of seed and as I got out back I heard a hissy note, similar to a White-throated Sparrow, but different. I thought, geez there can't be two White-throats can there, or is it a Towee of some sort? All of a sudden just 6' from me under awning out back a Rufous-crowned Sparrow jumps out. Awesome view at point blank! Hope it sticks around, and I wonder if it is the immature I saw a couple months ago here. It is in great color now, the rufous and gray is quite nice, very sharp.

Late afternoon about 4 p.m. we took a walk down to the crossing. Along the corral we had a little sparrow flock as usual. We refound the Harris's Sparrow, which gave great views before running around the back of a Juniper. Then I spotted a second one in front of the Juniper! TWO HARRIS'S SPARROW together at once! That is a first for me here in the area. Outstanding! One has some white mottling in throat and so probably is a first winter bird, the other an adult with solid black face, throat, and forehead. I presume the adult is the one first seen Jan. 1, and so present now for 7 weeks, truly a wintering record. The Vesper Sparrow was pale in comparison, literally and figuratively.

Got another note from Leslie Calvert south of town a few miles. Today she had a CATBIRD, which is an exceptional sighting in winter. I know of only one winter record locally, by Anthony Sharp probably over a dozen years ago out at their place on 1050. Leslie also had a White-eyed Vireo, some Juncos, and a FOX Sparrow. I have not had a White-eyed Vireo this winter, it could be a migrant. Most winters we do not get Fox Sparrow here, so that is a great bird. She also had a Long-billed Thrasher. They are often retiring so not the most detectable bird when not singing, but if you work the mesquite patches and such the bottom several miles of the valley below about 3 mile bridge, you might find a surprising number of them. So Leslie had a great day, and THANK YOU VERY MUCH for the fantastic report!

Eastern Screech-Owl (mccallii) and Barred Owl were calling late p.m. on last check outside.

Feb. 13 ~ Not so cold and not so warm today, maybe 40-74dF or so for a temp spread. Nice. I heard the Verdin again today, and saw a couple Vesper Sparrow, plus heard a Field Sparrow sing for the first time this year. The rest was the usual gang. One dragonfly was my first newly emerged actual dragon (had a damselfly a couple weeks ago) of the year, a Dot-winged Baskettail, which is usually the first new dragon (Anisoptera) out flying each year. I think I forgot to mention that there has been some Henbit in bloom, the European non-native introduced forb. A couple Straggler Daisy are occasionally open, and I saw a Yellow Wood-Sorrel today. I'm sure some Dutchman's Breeches are open by now. If it stays warm, lots of stuff will start to pop fast. We need some more cold and wet badly though.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~


~ ~ ~ Winter update header below ~ ~ ~

Every so often we put a copy of the update header in for the record, since it changes...


MOST RECENT UPDATE: February 26, 2016
(prior updates: February 19, 12, 5, January 29, 22, 15, 8, December 31, 25, 18, 11, 4)

NEWS FLASH!

T-minus about a week or so until 1st return of Golden-cheeked Warblers!

The biggest news of early Feb. is the first spring migrants. The first northbound White-fronted Goose (45+) flew over Feb. 1. The first Turkey Vulture returned on Feb. 5, and Sandhill Crane were northbound Feb. 16. A White-eyed Vireo was a few miles south of town Feb. 12-13, and one was in our yard a couple miles south of town Feb. 15; these are likely (record early) returning spring migrants. So some major signs of spring being around the corner. Leslie Calvert had a Catbird on UvCo 361 Feb. 13, which is an outstanding record, she also had Long-billed Thrasher.

In other recent news of note was the Rufous-capped Warbler at Love Creek being seen again, though on private inaccessible property. I would not be surprised if the Lost Maples bird was still around too. I just have not had time to go work the canyons for it.

Kathy and I had two Harris's Sparrow together Sunday Feb. 14 one of which is neither of the two prior known locally, an imm. At least two adult HARRIS'S Sparrows were around all Jan., at seperate (4-5 miles) private residences with feeding stations, surely more are about the area. Most winters there are none locally, they are very rare here. Those same two stations also both have had White-throated Sparrows which are scarce at best here. Some Red-naped Sapsuckers are in the area, check yer saps. The Louisiana Waterthrush is back wintering at the park (Nov. 6, Dec. 6, Jan. 30) for its second winter here. A Rusty Blackbird on private property is back for its 3rd winter around pastures south of town. A few Pine Warbler are around as usual.

A COMMON REDPOLL was briefly in our yard on Wed. Dec. 16, but was flushed by me chasing a Sharp-shinned Hawk out of the yard. The Redpoll called a half-dozen times as it flew off so I knew what it was right away by audio. By looks I could only say "my that was a frosty streaky suspect." I have not seen it again, (grinding teeth).

The ROADSIDE HAWK is back. I presume it more likely to be the imm. bird that wintered last winter, than another one. It flew right over the patio and house Thursday Dec. 3 heading north towards the park in town. Last year it was seen at the park and out front of it on Cypress St. (in the big Mulberry) three times so that is one public area to look for it. The local County, FM, and RR public roads are the only option for hunting it down unless you hire a guide that has access to private land locally (like I have). Still that is only barely a better shot, but does increase places to look by a mile plus of private river habitat corridor. I had a couple glimpses of what was likely the bird in late December, and in mid-, and late January I got an ID'able look again. The pattern is that there is no pattern, but it remains around. I have walked 20+ miles of the river habitat corridor in the past month and not once detected it, but saw it go by or through yard a couple times.

The RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER continued at Lost Maples from Sept. 27 at least through Oct. 19. Many of these have stayed at the site discovered for months if not a year or more, so my advice is to presume it is there. They are not a migratory species. Certainly anyone missing it, or it not being seen for a day or week or month is not proof of absence. I was hearing reports of it being seen 9:30-11 a.m. but keep in mind when I originally discovered it, it was around 9 a.m., and the report on Oct. 10th was at the bird bath at feeding station by parking lot at 12:45 p.m.

Another Rufous-capped Warbler was seen and photogrphed on the Love Creek Preserve (Nature Conservancy) in Bandera Co. in early December, though not an open public access site. This bird was reseen February 1. Not being seen a couple months did not mean it was not still there. In late December a Rufous-backed Robin was found at Del Rio (the one Kathy and I had in Uvalde was Feb.). Keep your eyes and minds open. Winter is the best time for Mexican origin vagrants.

~ ~ ~

Winter is here now, but we are on the back side of it, signs of spring abound. Some few of the first flowers are popping out (Agarita, Anemone, Crow-Poison, Straggler Daisy, Henbit, and Dutchman's Breeches). The first few spring migrant birds are being seen, I expect Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, and Black-chinned Hummingbird any day, and besides Golden-cheeked Warbler, Vermilion Flycatcher should be back within a week too.

Robins were in good numbers, likely over a thousand around were in the area a mile to two miles south of town along river habitat corridor raiding Hackberries through December, into January. We had 600 or so Waxwings in a single flock in late December. Numbers of both seem to have decreased after their depletion of much of the local hackberry crop. Still some around but nothing like it was in December, at our place anyway. I am hearing some reports of many Robin and Waxwing up by Vanderpool the last couple weeks. Frugivores wander about chasing fruit all winter. Pyrrhuloxia were around in fair numbers it seems this winter. A Verdin and a Zone-tailed Hawk are around, not easy to tie down though, like the Canyon Towhee and Rufous-crowned Sparrow. Judy Schaffer has a couple Rufous Hummers wintering at her place in town, one is an adult male.

Other recent highlights have been:
A SAGE THRASHER on Dec. 25 was a mile from the yard list up the road a bit. A RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER was at Utopia Park Dec. 6, and a Rufous Hummingbird that same day at the deco garden at park entrance is a great find away from feeders here, and new for my park list. A CATBIRD was in our yard Nov. 9, rare in fall here. A PHAINOPEPLA flew low over the house on Oct. 27! Also Oct. 27th a fly-over by 3 calling HORNED LARK was great locally. An AMERICAN WOODCOCK at Utopia Park on Sept. 25 at noon, was seen again by three of us at sunup on Sept. 27.

Hearing the odd Audubon's Oriole around, a neighbor a few miles south of town had a couple singing this past weekend. 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 the day I found it, and two were seen there Oct. 9. Was hearing White-tipped Dove near Utopia still in November, but not since.

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

For visiting cell phone users, often only AT&T works here, or Concan, and many local areas (Sabinal, Uvalde, etc.); wi-fi is available at the Utopia Library, the store in Vanderpool has a sign saying they have it there too.  State Park headquarters may have it? Don't tell them I told you.   ;)

Please holler if you see something good locally! THANKS!  :)  (local 830 Utopia landline WON~2349) E-dress linked at bottom of most pages.

Holy cow, something NEW!!
Note on navbar at top of this page and the home page, and just above the chat picture below is a link to a new LINKS page that is a quick handy way outta here. Who loves ya baby? It is a collection of some of the links I will publicly admit to using, though a couple with no small amount of trepidation. Space, weather, bugs, birds, blogs, bird cams, and other stuff...   Enjoy!

~ ~ ~ end winter news update header ~ ~ ~


~ ~ ~ back to the regularly scheduled drivel ~ ~ ~



Feb. 12 ~ Mid-30's dF to low or mid- 80's dF for temps today. Nearly toasty, which when everything is brown and leafless seems odd. Saw a few Dogface butterflies today, as well as a couple Pipevine Swallowtail. Birds were the same, except the Verdin was around in the morning, and I heard a Killdeer fly over. Nice to see the Verdin is still here. Heard a White-fronted Goose flock going over northbound in the morning. A quick run to town saw nothing, no Martins, no swallows, no Turkey Vulture, overall very winter still, one Shrike. I received a note from Leslie Calvert, today she had a couple Audubon's Orioles singing a few miles south of town.

Feb. 11 ~ Another 50 degree F range in temps today, 32-82, wow! The 10 day has us in upper 70's dF for 8 of next 10 days, and not much for chances of rain. Long warm spells at this time can incite early sprouting or blooming, or insect emergences, which then when the next inevitible freeze happens can wreak havoc with plant and insect life-cycles.

The Agarita show no signs of blooms breaking stems yet, at least here on valley floor. Often stuff up on the warmer ridges will be a bit earlier than valley floor where colder. We have not had an inch of rain in the last 30+ days, it is getting bone dry out there. Seemed all the regular gang today. Canyon Towhee tuning up with a little bit of song. Three Pipevine Swallowtail, a Snout, and an Orange Sulphur for butterflies. An un-ID'd small hawk flew by that looked most like a tiny buteo. The Turkey Vulture is still here.

Feb. 10 ~ Lower than forecasts again, was about 29dF, and got up to 79dF or so, again a 50 deg.F diurnal temp range! Remarkable. Seemed the same stuff, nothing different that I saw. The Canyon Towhee were about. Lots of Waxwing, Robin, Siskin, American Goldfinch, the Turkey Vulture still about eyeing coon carcass, seemingly a couple hundred Chipping Sparrow, the usual gang, plus one male Lesser (Black-backed) Goldfinch. Saw Gulf Fritillary, Red Admiral, American Lady, Sleepy Orange, and Dainty Sulphur in butterflies.

Feb. 9 ~ Another chilly one, about 26dF for a low was icy, the Frostweed stem which was already broken open and split from a couple days ago, froze out again. Didn't know they could do it twice, I figured the moisture was pretty used up by the first time. I got a couple more pix of it. Hundreds of Robin and Waxwing drank a couple gallons of water again. Some Black Vulture were eyeing a coon carcass today. Late about 11 p.m. the Eastern Screech-Owl was calling out back. Some nice bits of birdsong at dawn now, intermittent, but bouts becoming more frequent.

Feb. 8 ~ It was about a 35-65dF spread for temps today. Flocks of Robin and Waxwings around all day again, hundreds of each drank way over 2 gallons of water, probably 3 gallons all told. We kept having to go out and pour more into the bath all day. What I presume is the Turkey Vulture from Friday was back around today, actually sitting on a fence post seeable from the kitchen window, about 120' away. Otherwise the regular gang. Just a reminder a list of the regular daily gang of winter birds in the yard is at Jan. 7 entry. It remains accurate.

Chippies could number 200 here now. Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Cooper's, and Sharp-shinned Hawks, plus Caracara and Kestrel. Flicker, 3 dozen American Goldfinch, a dozen Pine Siskin, the pair of Canyon Towhee.

Feb. 7 ~ Had to be the coldest morning of the winter so far as the Frostweed split open. Our porch thermometer read 22dF. I saw reports of 21dF at KRVL (NOAA) and Seco Creek (via WU). The splitting of Frostweed stems is an amazing phenomenon, I'll get a page up with some pics of it one of these days. I have only seen it about 4 winters of 13 here. The square stem splits open as the moisture inside freezes. The moisture freezes into sheets and sometimes ribbons as it grows out of the stem as it freezes. Somehow it creates thin silk-like sheets of frozen moisture that are delicate as they are beautiful. They only last a couple hours usually unless in a very shady spot.

Had to thaw the bird bath twice before it warmed enough to stay that way. After they get that first belly full of seed, they go straight to the bath for a drink to wash it down. I would think dry seeds should suck the moisture right out of you. Big numbers of Robin and waxwing again, a few hundred of each, the roar of the Robin chorus is unbelievably awesome. When a predator (usually an accipiter) is spotted they go from a riotous roar to dead silent instantaneously, until after a few to several seconds one gives the alarm note series "quick, quick, quick!" Shortly a few more do that. If all clear they slowly then start singing again.

If a stoop is made on the flock, the whole flock gets up and goes to another area often a quarter to half mile away, at the very least. There are Hackberries in any direction here, it is the predominant native tree on the valley floor (most have been cleared though), and for that matter along all drainages in the area. They are one of the most important wildlife forage plants I have ever known. I had no idea, until I lived in them. Everything uses them, up to and including Ringtails (Cacomistle or Ring-tailed Cat) and deer! Yet among people, it seems like the Hackberry gets absolutely no respect.

There was a first winter male Red-naped Sapsucker in the yard for a bit about 11:30. Had good binoc views for a couple minutes in the pecan on north side of house where it checked out some sap holes. It is the first absolute Red-naped actually in the yard, so better than one up or down river habitat corridor. Species #210 in the 2 acre yard proper, in 34 months. Have another 10 along the dirt road we're on, and 10 more within a mile and a half, so about 230 in the 'hood.

There were 180+ Chipping Sparrow in the yard, might be 200 now. We took a nooner walk downriver to 360 crossing and beyond a bit, and back. A couple miles total. Hundreds of Robin and waxwing. Best was a pair of Green Kingfisher at the river where we walked over to it. They are another of the local residents that can get started nesting in February, I have seen fledged young in April. Saw one each of Song, Vesper, and Lincoln's Sparrow. A few Myrtle and thought I heard a Pine Warbler.

In early afternoon I had a quick look at what was likely the Roadside Hawk flying by. Don't have any other ideas for what it could have been. After 3 in the afternoon Kathy spotted a Striped Skunk walking along the fence out back. I smelled it last night. I think it still is using a hole under the cottage at least occasionally if not regularly. The Armadillo has a hole under the cottage as well. No odes (dragon or damselflies), only a couple butterflies: Red Admiral, Dainty Sulphur, and Orange Sulphur. Eastern Screech-Owl calling after dark out back.

Feb. 6 ~ The wind kept it from getting too cold but it was very near freezing. The cold air of the front arrived overnight but the wind did not. It got here around 9 a.m. and blew pretty hard almost all day. Too cold and windy for pleasant birding. The best bird of the day was a Coyote over in corral and along road out front before sunup. We hear them regularly, but only see one very rarely. Hundreds of Robins and waxwings spent much of the day around the yard. Maybe 300-400 of the former and 200-300 of the latter. Otherwise it was the expected gang of dependents.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 5 ~ A chilly 24dF this morning, KRVL had a 22dF! At least it is sunny. Strong southerlies all day ahead of another inbound frontal passage. Got up to low 60's dF again. A few hundred Robin around for a few hours in the morning was nice. During a quick run to town there was a Zone-tailed Hawk soaring high over the north end of the megalopolis. Bird of the day was a Turkey Vulture, the first one back this spring. There is only about one time per year you can have TV be bird of the day. Normal return date is Valentine's Day or the first couple or few days after. So this is 10 days early. Once I had one return in latest January, this is the second-earliest return here for me in 13 springs. These first-returning birds are our local nesters, not the passage migrants going further north. Will be interesting to see if more early arrivals return in the next week, indicating something bigger, like maybe an early spring, rather than one bird with a bad sense of timing.

Feb. 4 ~ It was a cold morning, about 26dF, a couple nearby spots had 24 and 25. Got up to low 60's. A couple hundred each Robin and waxwing around, love hearing that chorusing in the morning. Seemed mostly just the regular gang. Though I did hear the Verdin in the mesquites across the road, and along draw just over the north fence. I really think this is the same one as we saw across the river a couple weeks ago while it was MIA here, as they are very scarce here in winter (absent spring to fall). So it moves around a bit and has a fair-sized winter territory that extends to across the river 400-500 yards from here, and probably as far up and down the habitat corridor, at least. The pair of Canyon Towhee was around, a couple Caracara flew over.

The accipiters are relentless here stooping on the seed-eaters and frugivores. There are adult male and ad. female, plus immature male and females of Sharp-shinned Hawk, as well as the same age and sex classes for Cooper's Hawk here. At least 8 are making seemingly endless attempts on the birds in the yard, not to mention the Merlin. I have no way of knowing if there are more than one in any given age or sex class though, and there could well be.

Feb. 3 ~ A second also dry frontal boundry is passing with more cold northerlies, low was in mid-30's dF and probably will not see 60dF. Just saw the regular expected gang today, see Jan. 7 for a list of the daily winter birds here. I get about 5+ minutes minimum outside every hour and see 30+ species anyway. I'll take 10 if it is jumpin', 15 in migration. And of course I break for warblers. Wednesdays I am almost as pressed to the computer as Thursdays so did not get to lookabout much. A fair number of Robin and Waxwing were in the hackberries, the pair of Canyon Towhee were around.

February 2 ~ Happy Groundhog Day! I guess the beast did not see his shadow so we're to have an early spring, says the German legend. We had one that lived behind our house in New Jersey, which was often in the back yard. I really liked 'em, that Woodchuck is really a neat beast. When they run the whole pelt ripples like a grizzly bear. Anyway, the intitial passing of the front blew most of the night, but it was calm by the morning and for first few hours before the wind started again with more serious northerly cold air advection.

Heard some bits of song from House Finch and Canyon Towhee today. Had a Lesser Goldfinch, which reminds me I heard it yesterday too. A spectactular point blank view of a Merlin was had as it dove on the hanging seed feeders at edge of patio while I was on back porch. After it missed it turned around and flew straight at me, just clearing roof edge right over my head, if I had the butterfly net I could have caught it at closest point. A beautiful male Prairie (richardsoni) type with light blue-gray upperparts, surely the prettiest type of Merlin.

February 1 ~ Low was about 34dF, got up to uppermost 70's today. Eastern Phoebes are working on their nest under the eaves. It didn't take long to get my first spring migrants of the year. February is when we get the very earliest movers amongst migrants. Shortly after 10 a.m. a flock of about 45+ White-fronted Goose flew over up high, calling to get my attention. But a wrong-way Feldman was leading them more NE than north. "Speckle-bellies" are usually the first northbound migrant we see as spring approaches here, roughly about mid-winter. Turkey Vulture will return around Valentine's Day, and Purple Martin shortly after that (Martins have already been seen down on the coast). Just after the geese flew over I watched an ad. Cooper's Hawk take an ad.ma. Brewer's Blackbird over in the corral. Hope it doesn't get the Rusty!

Saw very few butterflies, an Orange Sulphur, a Red Admiral, and an American Lady were about it. Another dry frontal passage, northerlies arrived about 10 p.m., 20 gusting to 35 mph!

~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~

Holy cow that was quick! The first month of the year, shot by in a blink or few. The comet Catalina was nice to see. Weather was mild in general, though lots of lows in the 20's F and lots of highs only in the 50's instead of 60's F. There was very little rain, it was dry for an El Nino January, hopefully that will pick up in Feb. and March. After the inch on Jan. 2 all the frontal passages were dry. We didn't get another inch the rest of the month, maybe a half-inch more. River is still high though from prior rains last October through December.

I saw three sps. of odes this month. Two types of dragonfly left over from the fall (Variegated and Autumnal Meadowhawk) and one fresh new season emergence, a Fragile Forktail damselfly on Jan. 30. Chorus Frog, Rio Grande Leopard Frog, and Blanchard's Cricket-Frog were all heard, the latter two at very end of month, the former all month.

In butterflies there were at least 18 species. Which is great, tying for second best January in last 13. Bummer was that I swear I saw a Dogface and 2 Lyside Sulphur, but can't find that I wrote them down. So probably saw 20 species, but only listing the 18 recorded for my 'official' records database. You just try writing down everything you see, I dare ya!  ;)   It is so much harder than you'd think. :)

Birds were 80 species seen around Utopia over the month. Not too bad, considering I'm not driving the roads relentlessly trying to dig everything out. Mostly just casual observation in the yard or the 20+ miles walked up and down river habitat corridor south of town this month. Miles in vehicle for the month was about 40+- (four trips to town and back).

Best bird was a couple glimpses of the Roadside Hawk which is still around but unlocatable other than passing-through looks. Seeing the Louisiana Waterthrush still present at the park at the end of the month was great. The two Harris's Sparrows at feeding stations locally for the month is the first time for that as far as I know here, remarkably both are adults. The same two stations also have White-throated Sparrows. A couple Rufous Hummingbirds are wintering at Judy Schaffer's place. Other nice things around are a couple Red-naped Sapsucker, Verdin, numbers of Pyrrhuloxia, a Zone-tailed Hawk, a Ringed and a couple Green Kingfisher, Canyon Towhee, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Pine Warblers, and Rusty Blackbird. Heard Audubon's Oriole this month but didn't see one.

Perhaps the big avian event of the month is that some of the residents have begun singing with day-length increasing. The resident nesters get going quickly and early. Now is the time to make sure nest boxes are cleaned. There are Northern Cardinal, Black-crested Titmouse, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Bluebird, the two Carolinas (Chickadee and Wren), White-winged Dove, and Bewick's Wren all territorially singing now. At least on the nice days anyway.

~ ~ ~ end January summary ~ ~ ~

Jan. 31 ~ Low was in upper 40's dF, and high was about 84dF! Just in case you forgot what heat was like. Another couple months of cool will be just fine, thank you. Most of the regulars around the yard. Canyon Towhee pair was here. We took a walk up the road and river habitat corridor a mile, then west across some live-oak and juniper grassland and slope. About 3 miles total. Putting me at about 21 miles walked locally for the month!

At the Barham's place we saw a White-throated Sparrow that looked like the one that has been at our place. I think Hattie might have stolen it from us (LOL), I had not seen it the last couple days. In the junipers we saw one Scrub-Jay, but no Bushtit or Rufous-crowned Sparrow. We did have a flock of 40-50 Chipping Sparrow that had a Field mixed in, plus at least two imm. fem. Slate-colored Junco. Red-shouldered Hawk calling high overhead was no doubt proclaiming territory. A few Titmice and Chickadee, Bewick's and Carolina Wren, Golden-fronted Woodpecker.

The real action was butterflies. An amazing dozen or so each of Red Admiral and American Lady was a high total, half seemed to be moving NE. Saw a couple Dainty Sulphur, a Pipevine Swallowtail, a few Snout, but no Elfin or Olive Juniper Hairstreak I was hoping for. As Kathy noted, the live-oaks are starting to change. Some are dropping the first leaves already, many are showing yellowing leaves.

Back at house in afternoon about 1 p.m. I saw a Little Yellow which was one I thought I saw this month but didn't write down apparently. Also in p.m. had another Pipevine, and another Gulf Fritillary go by. It is soooo hard to write down everything you see. Imagine how hard it is to record everything you eat, and multiply times 10 for every bird, butterfly, flower, dragonfly, reptile, etc., you see. I have two other butterfly species I swear I saw this month but can't find a note for: So. Dogface and Lyside Sulphur. I am sure I saw both this month, but can't find a date in my notes. Aarrgh!

I heard a Chipping Sparrow sing a couple times today. Must have got caught up in all the sonic excitement of the 8 local resident species that have begun singing, and cut loose with some endless trills of standard typical Chippy song, which has not been so much as uttered since October when they showed up for the winter, as is usual.

Jan. 30 ~ Low was abut 31dF, ice in the bird bath, and below forecasts. Had a good flock of Robin and Waxwing here in the morning for a couple hours, nice to hear that racket again. The roar of a hundred robins chorusing is amazing. The pair of Canyon Towhee were about, heard a Pine Warbler with the Myrtles. I walked a few miles around here down to crossing and out to the highway for an hour. These pastures seem to be flush with birds when I drive by, but not when I walk along them. One Shrike. Not even a Savannah Sparrow.

Then walked a couple miles around town and in the park. There is typically a wandering roving flock or two of wintering passerines that works a circuit around town, you just have to move around it until you find them. Robins, Bluebirds, Myrtle Warblers, and the occasional other things in with them, which can range from say Sparrows to Sapsucker to Audubon's Oriole. Fortunately the townfolk mostly know me and my binocs now, I can assure you they are well-armed.  ;)  Pretty sure I am "that weird guy." Must have been 5 miles total I hoofed it. Oh my achin' calves.

Mostly nothing out of the ordinary was seen today. Which in birding does not mean nothing amazing and fascinating was experienced. The Louisiana Waterthrush continues around the island at the upper end of the park. After a Sharp-shinned Hawk dove on it, it was making a series of alarm calls from 20+' up in a tree with three very different notes involved, repeated over and over for minutes. The main alarm note was the standard flight chip note, which however it was giving several extreme variations in intensity of. The second note was a high thin barely hearable note much like an Olive Sparrow or Rufous-capped Warbler alarm, a super high and thin 'tee' up at the limit of hearing, nearly as high-pitched as a Golden-crowned Kinglet or so.

The third note was the amazing thing, as it was inaudible to me, and my bird hearing remains somewhere beyond abnormally acute. I have no high end loss yet, so far, knock on wood. I could see it repeatedly opening its beak giving another alarm note which I could not hear. It repeated these three different types of notes for over 5 minutes on end whilst perched against a 3-4" trunk way up high. While the Sharpy was hidden in a dense bush below at water's edge, where it had missed its attempt on said waterthrush. Whilst I just happened to be sneaking around suspiciously in woods with binoculars spying on avian activity.

I would love to know what that third note sounded like to all the birds that can surely hear it. Have not read of such a note in any literature, probably because you can't hear it, you can only watch it being made. Like UV vision many birds have, seeing things we can't, they also hear things we can't. Clearly I was watching that occur. Amazing. I have no doubt every bird in the woods knew exactly what it meant, this sound we can not even hear. Myrtle Warbler, Chickadee, Kinglet and Titmouse came in to scold the area in response. Surely they all saw the Sharpy (imm. female) being pointed out to them. During vocalizations the waterthrush stayed oriented exactly pointing in direction of hawk.

Meanwhile too, let us not forget, I have seen Cooper's, Sharp-shinned, and Roadside Hawk, all make attempts on this Louisiana Waterthrush over the last two winters. Likely both accipiters have done so many times. This waterthrush is one sharp fast cookie.

Heard Green Kingfisher at park and along river near 360 crossing, Belted at the 360 crossing. Heard Pine Warbler along 360 near crossing. Along 187 near the country club there were Pyrrhuloxia, some Vesper Sparrow, a Lark Sparrow or two, one Audubon's Warbler in with some Myrtles. And a dead skunk, of course in the middle of the road just like the song said, stinkin' to high heaven. I didn't even stop for a picture. It was that bad. And I have a pretty darn respectable series of roadkill photographs (I hope to get a show for one day - LOL) if I must say so myself. Fifty years of Roadkill, has a nice ring to it, eh?

Heard the Barred Owl at the park, which responded to the song of a White-winged Dove, scoring a chuckle from me. The doves haven't been singing for months, so now when they start, the owl responds. Funny. An ad. fem. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was in usual live-oak at park (the last (little) tree on left in first big motte as you enter park). I have seen 3 saps flush out of that well-drilled tree at once. No spring migrants were seen, it is all still very winter. Little Creek Larry said he has again seen White-tailed Kite on UvCo 355 heading towards little Creek in the mesquites in pastures on south side of road. He also said no waterfowl around, which is my experience for the most part this winter. Only 2 Ring-necks and 2 Wigeon, all but nothing for ducks this winter, lots of White-crowned Sparrows out his way.

A few scattered White-crowned Sparrows were around town, and might have heard a White-throated. I saw poorly and heard well one Rufous Hummingbird at Judy Schaffer's place. She said she has two, one an adult male, which I did not see, but is a great bird to have wintering at your place. That is the rarest age-slash-sex class here, adult male. Sorry we are not supposed to use slashes, it mucks up the script. A few Lesser Goldfinch were there too. A couple Inca Dove were in a hedge in town. Saw one Collared-Dove, which seems to have dropped in numbers after an initial surge as so many non-native introduced species do. Maybe someone figured out they taste good (with jalapeno sauce I hear)? Or maybe Cooper's Hawks are getting them?

In the upper 70's in the afternoon, and butterflies were out. Around town I saw 4-5 Pipevine Swallowtail and a couple Orange Sulphur. In the woods at the park I saw Sleepy Orange, a Checkered-Skipper, and a winter form (all orange) Questionmark, the first I have seen this winter. Near the junction of 187 and 1050 I briefly saw a Phaon Crescent, and I do mean briefly. It was snapped up by a Myrtle Warbler as quickly as I spotted it. I saw it just long enough whilst it was still alive, the positive ID was not made until it was in the bird's beak and likely deceased. The actual ID was not made positive with a second to spare before it went down the hatch. In binocs on fence at 10', as the warbler manipulated the prey in beak a perfect dorsal forewing view was given, and as I said Phaon Crescent to myself, it disappeared down the hatch before I finished saying it. Score! It's new for the month! LOL

In odes, at the park there was a pair of Autumnal Meadowhawk in tandem (hooked up). Those are leftovers from last year. Better was seeing my first newly emerged dragonfly of the year, which was a damselfly as often, a Fragile Forktail. It flushed when I moved in for a photo and I lost it. Saw what was likely a second one but only positive ID was made on one. Methinks it may be my first January Fragile Forktail. Heard Blanchard's Cricket-Frog, first time this year for that. Saw a lizard briefly that got away that may have been an Alligator Lizard, which I have not surely seen one of yet in 13 years here. They seem likely another imported fire ant victim like Horned Lizard. Saw one River Cooter (turtle) sunning on a log.

Back here at the casita in the p.m. Kathy spotted the first Anole of the year. She also had a larger orange sulphur of some sort, likely the female Clouded or male Large Orange that has been around. One last thing to mention is the Mayfly hatch, which seems fair this winter. These winter Mayflies are a critical food source for wintering passerines, and in several places over river I saw fair numbers of them today, a few decent sized swarms of 25-50 were noted, lots of smaller swarms. Eastern Phoebe, Myrtle Warbler and Kinglet (Ruby-crowned) were hitting them hard as usual. Anywhere out here, find those swarms, watch them and work them.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Jan. 29 ~ Just barely froze. At least a hundred each Robin and Waxwing were around first thing early. Had the Rusty Blackbird and three Ground-Dove. A quick run to town saw three Red-shouldered Hawk. Otherwise seemed the regulars. Got up past 75dF in the afternoon heat. A few butterflies came out in the warmth. Early in morning a Pipevine Swallowtail was great. Kathy saw a big black butterfly earlier in month that was likely a Pipevine. Saw a Cloudless Sulphur that seemed the female that has been around, a couple Snout, a couple Red Admiral and Variegated Fritillary. Shaping up to be a good month for butterflies, above average of 11.6 sps. in January.

Most interesting was some butterfly behavior. Before noon a very rare in January Common Mestra was in the yard. They are a strictly irruptive species from southward that does not breed here, nor even occurs every year. They usually stay low in woodland understory and seem weak fliers. Yet some years hundreds (or once even thousands) might show up. Other years none. I watched this one climb spiraling like a thermalling Monarch, up to 50' altitude and promptly it broke off once over treetop level, bearing due northward like a migrating hawk, and was being blown north at 20+mph, still climbing until it disappeared. At that rate it could have started fifty miles south of us in the morning, and move 50 more miles in a couple more hours.

So that is how the seemingly week flier can move a couple hundred miles in a few days easily. Especially with our south trade winds here a butterfly from Mexico can be here in a few days. The not uncommon days we have 20-25 mph southerlies they could easily make it in a single day. If a weak fragile understory inhabiting Mestra will brave the open air habitat and atmospheric zone of aerial plankton to move in that manner, than any of them would. I have wondered how they got here as the way they dodge through the woodland understory, they would seem to fly about three miles for every mile they cover. I never saw any fall out of the sky, they just magically appear some years.

About 4 p.m. I saw what was likely the Roadside Hawk fly across the corral (which is half well-treed). You can barely pick out the comet now, if you know where to find it, and it is just about not worth it, other than the challenge of location. Barely doable in binocs, seeable in low power scope, but not much left to see now. A barely fuzzy greenish area is about it now as it fades, and flies, away. Better to get up early and check out the planet show in the east.

Jan. 28 ~ A chilly 27dF for a low this a.m. was way below the forecasts. NOAA for KRVL had 31 (they got 26dF) and WU had it in the low 40's for our local area, off by 15dF! It warmed to a toasty low 70's dF in the afternoon. The pair of Canyon Towhee must have spent the night in a brush pile out front. The same gang of regular expected suspects (see Jan. 7 entry for the list of regular daily winter yard birds now). An imm. male Cooper's Hawk dove on everything. For butterflies American Lady, Red Admiral, Dainty Sulphur, and Snout were about, but best was my first Checkered-Skipper of the year (Common-or-White type).

Jan. 27 ~ Upper 30's to low 60's dF for a temp spread, sunny and no to light winds so quite nice. Would be better if one could get out and bird instead of work. The Canyon Towhee were here Monday, gone yesterday, and back again today. Some Robins were around, and at least a hundred Waxwing. The Cardinals are sure getting much brighter red, now wearing into their best plumage, and starting to sing a fair bit. Wednesdays are often as bad as Thursdays for me being tied to the computer and not getting to look around much. White-throated Sparrow still around. Thought I heard the Harris's.

Jan. 26 ~ A lightweight front passed overnight, light northerlies, no wind or rain yet. Was 50dF at dawn, and in 40's by 11 with some sprinkles. Just as I was reading NOAA's detailed forecast and got to the part that gave reasons why thunder is not expected, there was thunder. ROFL. A couple thunder cells just missed us in the late morning. A bit of spit was all we got first half of day. Noon-thirtyish an actual tenth of an inch fell, but more amazing was the ice pellets in it! There were piles of ice where it rolled off the roof and stacked up! There were still traces there a couple hours later despite the thermometer reading in low 40's dF. All day the rain total is probably about .3 of an inch, maybe .4.

Over 30 each Cardinal and Goldfinch (Am.), a dozen Siskin, about 160 Chipping Sparrow, 35+ White-winged Dove, we are talking some serious seed eating capability here. A half-dozen each Titmouse (Black-crested) and House Finch too. Then the Red-winged Blackbirds show up. Pigs they are! The blackbird flock was in corral and front yard, the Brewer's won't consider going to the seed pile or tube like the Red-wings and cowbirds will. Could not pull out the Rusty. There were three Starlings in their fresh basic (winter) best, oily green with hip artsy polka dots plumage. Did see the White-throated Sparrow out back in the afternoon. Heard a Flicker out there today, probably the orange-winged intergrade wintering hereabouts. Ad. and imm. male Sharp-shinned Hawks were seen diving on the seed eating crowd.

Jan. 25 ~ Foggy and warmer, about 45dF for a low. The pair of Canyon Towhee were around in the morning, after being gone the better part of the last two months, perhaps since earliest December. What the heck is their program? It remains a mystery to me. The afternoon got hot, in the upper 70's dF! Makes me feel bad for all the folks stuck in the snow. Birds were the same gang (see Jan. 7). Saw a couple Snout butterflies, an American Lady and a Red Admiral.

Jan. 24 ~ About 28dF this a.m., another chilly one, breezy from the south but still the shallow cold layer blowing back by, now northward. Peak heat around 3 p.m. was about 70dF. Amazing. One of my early checks outside a small hawk flushed out of the pecans out front and I only saw it fly away over corral. If I had to guess I would say Roadside. Wing had way too much hand and arm for an accipiter, bird was too small for any other buteo. Heard the White-throated Sparrow out back.

For butterflies saw a couple Orange Sulphur, Red Admiral, and over at the country club one Checkered White (first of year), a Dainty Sulphur or two. Also had a Variegated and an Autumnal Meadowhawk, for dragonflies. Rio Grande Leopard Frogs were calling along river.

We walked down to crossing, then back up other side of river and eventually to the lower pond at the country club, where there was nothing. Four miles by time we got back. On the way had a Verdin roughly even with our place but on other side of river, which may be the one that was hanging out at our place. Also saw one male Pyrrhuloxia, a few Loggerhead Shrike. No sparrows in the fields and pastures though. Heard a couple Pine Warbler along the river and one Green Kingfisher. Saw a sapsucker that is likely the same immature male Red-naped we saw a week or so ago, but on other side of river. About 11 p.m. the pair of Eastern Screech-Owl were duetting out in yard.

Jan. 23 ~ Mighty chilly at 25dF this morning, this is what happens when the wind stops. Watch what you wish for. Now it has turned around from the south and is blowing the shallow layer of arctic air back over us again as if once wasn't enough. Bird bath was frozen solid. The first hour of sun was not sufficient to get it above freezing. Extra seed rations dispersed on days like today. The birds suck it up too.

Took a short walk before lunch along corral and a piece of the river. Mostly just a few of the regular expected species. At a scolding event high in the riverside cypresses at a knot I could not see into, besides Carolina Chickadees, Black-crested Titmouse, Myrtle Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, two Pine Warbler came in, one a beautiful bright adult male, the other I think an ad. female. Maybe it is just the contrast with the grays and browns of winter but to my eye fresh basic (winter) plumage is when Pine Warblers are the brightest. They nearly glow in good sun. Lincoln's and Song Sparrow were in the riverside (Gamma) grasses.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Jan. 22 ~ The wind slowed down after dark last night but not all the way, probably what kept us from freezing. But it picked back up and blew all day, not as strong, but strong cold air advection. Low was about 35dF, high about 63 on sunny wind-sheltered south side of house. Felt barely 50dF in shade and wind on north side. In heat of afternoon I saw three butterflies, a Snout, an American Lady, and an Orange Sulphur. Birds were the same gang (see Jan. 7). Too busy today and with wind sometimes working inside isn't all that bad of a deal. Did have a quick look at a Zone-tailed Hawk zooming downwind. Got all the leaves off the patio again. Haven't been mentioning but the dillo has been tearing it up in the yard, even a few spots where the harvester ant holes are... go dillo. Heard Leopard Frogs today.

I got an e-mail from Sylvia Hilbig saying their Harris's Sparrow up in Bandera Co. just NW of town a bit is still there. So both of them (theirs, and ours) have stuck about three weeks now, we got 'em hooked. Surely there are more around, this is the year for them here. Shows what someone can see, if you know what you are looking at, just by watching a pile of seed. If you don't know what you are looking at, shoot photos and ask questions later.  :)

Jan. 21 ~ Last night just before midnight it had warmed and was foggy with maybe a hundred yards of visibility, maybe. Thinned out quite a bit by morning, a (dry) front is bearing down, mid-morn the first puffs of northerlies arriving. Another blower today. Was about 50dF at sunup. By noonish local winds were 15-20 mph gusting 25 to 30, Del Rio was 30 gusting to 40. Blew hard till 5-6 p.m. or so. And dry. It was a Thursday so I was fortunately stuck in the office. Just regulars around the yard, heard the Harris's and White-throated Sparrows. Heard the Barred Owl calling just before midnight (on 20th) last night in the dense fog which seemed about right.

Jan. 20 ~ More of the same, low in mid-40's dF and high near 60dF but very humid so felt colder. The blackbird flock was in yard and corral adjacent much of the day. The numbers of Brown-headed Cowbird and Red-winged Blackbird are unprecedented in my 13 winters here. There were at least 125 of each. In prior winters two dozen of either would have been a high count. There were also 10 Starling, which is a high number for winter here. The flock is anchored by about 250-300 Brewer's Blackbird. The ad. fem. Rusty continues, think I'm in love with her. She came back for three winters now (that we know of) which is more than I can say for a few of my early girlfriends.  ;)  The Chipping Sparrow flock seemed about 150 birds, and kinda piggy on the seed.

Jan. 19 ~ Clouded up overnight, humid south flow, low in mid-40's dF, barely got up to 60dF but didn't feel like it with 75% humidity. Same gang outside, didn't see anything but the regular expected suspects. White-winged Doves number 35+, maybe 40. A few Robin and several dozen waxwing. A couple dozen American Goldfinch and a dozen Pine Siskin eating sunflower seeds like they were free. Smelled skunk after dark, just lightly, so it's kinda nice and fragrant.

Jan. 18 ~ Another chilly one, about 28dF here. Per NOAA at KRVL, and per WU at Seco Creek (a low spot just SE of town a few miles), both had 27dF. Afternoon it got up into the mid-upper 60's dF and quite nice. The Junipers are getting going with the pollen. I can tell because my pollenometer is going off. That would be wife Kathy. They looked about ready to start on the walk yesterday but no wind and not broadcasting yet apparently. Today "cedar pollen" season opened. Ahead now there is about a month of hell to pay for sufferers. Saw a male Ground-Dove, the one an accipiter did not yet take. He will now inherit the female I suppose. Heard the White-throated and Harris's Sparrows in the morning, saw Chipping, Field, Vesper, and Lark. The rest was the regular gang.

The event of the day was a brief view of the Roadside Hawk. It stooped after doves or Cardinals or somesuch landing just over the fence in the corral, I was out front without binocs. I moved for door to grab them and it flew 35' or so giving good wing shape views (so it was obviously a small buteo, not an accipiter) before landing in the top of a mesquite. The overall (but tiny) buteo shape was even more obvious in profile as it perched. I took another step towards the door and it flew across corral along the fence and then across road out front over into river corridor habitat. All the while giving great views of overall and especially wing structure again. Clearly it was the Roadside Hawk and not an accipiter. It is still around anyway though refuses to be pinned down in any way.

At very last light I was on back porch counting Cardinals (30+) with over 20 just on the patio at once and what pops down onto the patio less than 20' away but the adult Harris's Sparrow! An awesome bare-eyed last bird of the day on the patio!

Jan. 17 ~ Was up at 4 a.m. so took a look at the comet, which now with moon down was much easier to see, very near Altair and Mizar, the double star pair at the bend of the handle of the Big Dipper. Just a green fuzzy star through binocs. Didn't stay out long as I was in PJ's and it was cold. At dawn it was about 28 dF, maybe 27, KRVL had a 26 and a local WU station pulled a 25dF. Bird bath frozen of course.

About 8 a.m. I watched an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk take one of the male Common Ground-Doves in the front yard, darn it. The dove was out in the bare pecans in front yard and it was just too far to cover. It almost got away, I thought it did, but instead of diving into a thick hackberry it angled back out into open airspace to go around it and was slapped down first, then pounced on. It was respectably fast and agile maneuvering in attempts to evade but ultimately failed.

We took a noon walk upriver a mile, was cool and breezy still. There were a couple Chipping Sparrow flocklets, and a Field Sparrow flocklet with a few Chippies mixed in, plus a single lone Field on a near vertical cliff feeding on the shelves. On the way back we flushed a Rufous-crowned Sparrow a third-mile up the road. In butterflies we saw at least one maybe two Variegated Fritillary, a couple American Lady, and a Red Admiral. Some Dutchman's Breeches have yellow flower buds just about to open.

Then later afternoon around 4 p.m. we walked a mile downriver to the crossing area. Amazing was seeing the Harris's Sparrow over in the corral about 150 yards from where we see it in the yard. Also there were a Lark, a few Vesper and lots of Chipping Sparrow. Thought I heard White-crowned but a car flushed them all. Two cars a day on the road and one comes when I have the sparrow flock in front of me. Missed Song, Swamp, and Lincoln's though in the riverside weedy grasses which killed having a big sparrow day. We did see the ad. ma. Red-naped Sapsucker near the crossing, and a second imm. male that is surely a hatch year Red-naped as well. One female Belted Kingfisher at the crossing, and one male and three female Pyrrhuloxia on the other side of crossing gave great views. A bunch of Brewer's Blackbird were in the corrals across river. Walked about 4 miles around here today.

Jan. 16 ~ Last night I could see comet Catalina was up about 11:30 p.m. but a thin layer of mid-level clouds ruined viewing. This morning 6 a.m. predawn was the same, but clouds worse. Tried. Tonight will be clear at least with the frontal passage. The approaching front brought us a few sprinkles in the morning, nothing measurable but the winds. They started mid morning and got going strong by noon, in the afternoon around say 3 p.m. checked station reports and saw 40mph gusts at Uvalde and Del Rio, besides down on the coast and in far south Texas. We were mostly 20-25mph sustained gusting 30-35mph. Just saw the regular gang blow past today. And oh yeah, I got the leaves off the patio. Counted 75 Waxwing, 25 American Goldfinch, 135 Chipping Sparrow.

Around 11:30 p.m. I could see the comet but just barely as now the moon is up at this time. So the first quarter moon washed the sky out with its light pollution. You lose all but the bright stars the entire first quarter to last quarter of the moon, and fainter things like the green fuzzy glow of the comet get lost quickly too.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Jan. 15 ~ I can't believe we are half way through the first month of the year already! I must be slowing down because time is speeding up. I guess that is how you tell? NOAA and WU called for a low about 40dF, was 32, freezing. Got up to about 72dF in the afternoon heat, dry, sunny, clear, and Chamber of Commerce beautiful.

Had the White-throated Sparrow out there first thing early, I saw it fly into yard from corral at dusk last night, so it is roosting here somewhere, likely the stick piles. An ad. fem. Cooper's Hawk buzzed over early in a.m., heard a Pine Warbler among several Myrtles, one each Lark and Vesper Sparrow were in the driveway mid-morn. The amazing thing was hearing the Verdin across the road in the mesquites! After not detecting hide nor hair, or rictal bristle of it since Dec. 31, I hear it again. Odd movements I can't begin to understand; here daily for a couple weeks, gone a couple weeks, apparently now back again. In the afternoon a couple dozen Cedar Waxwing were flycatching in the pecans. Couldn't make out what they were taking.

Saw Red Admiral, Gulf Fritillary and Sleepy Orange for butterflies. Seeing imm. or female Eastern Fence Lizards on these warm days. A small sphinx moth of some sort has buzzed me a couple times when I smoke my pipe outside at first dark. Have seen at least 68 species of birds so far in January, maybe 70, either in yard or within 1.5 miles on dirt road out front. I think this was the day I had a Large Orange Sulphur too, forgot to write it down and make note at the time. Actually two warm days in mid-Jan. I saw what I presumed to be the one I saw in late December.

Jan. 14 ~ Low only about 45dF, humid south flow with low clouds and breezy, signs of a front coming just under a couple days out. Got into upper 60's dF in afternoon. Counted 30+ American Goldfinch this morning, man they can eat some sunflower seed. Several Pine Siskin in with them. The rest seemed about the same. Bit of Cardinal, Chickadee, and Titmouse song is nice to hear. Not full blown incessant belting, but tuning up. Eastern Screech-Owl calling at dusk, as well as a couple Great Horned Owl which always call. I could see the green fuzzy comet very near the tip of the handle of the Big Dipper just over horizon at 11:30 p.m.

Jan. 13 ~ another cold one at 28dF for a low, for Utopia the WU had forecast 40dF for a low. Not even close. Warmed to lowest 60's dF though. There were about two dozen American Goldfinch on the sunflower feeder, their numbers are increasing. The White-throated Sparrow was around hissing in the brush piles, heard the Harris's Sparrow. A few Robin and Cedar Waxwing around but they seem to have much-depleted these hackberries and are now mostly working somewhere else.

Jan. 12 ~ A freeze, 28dF early, one local WU station reported 26dF. I was out before 6 a.m. and saw Comet Catalina, but just with binocs, didn't pull the scope out. Probably with my low mag birding scope it would just be a bigger green fuzzy star. Actually I could see the fuzzy part was somewhat pyramidal in shape, and the green was obvious in binocs. The moon will be messing this up in a few days, right now it is a waxing crescent setting just after dark. Closest day for comet is next Sunday the 17th when it should be right off the double stars at the bend in handle of the big dipper. And up before bedtime!

I would estimate it rising currently at about 12: a.m. at the earliest, probably nearer 1 before it gets up out of the atmospheric haze. Currently it is still approaching the tip of the handle, from the direction the handle points (toward Arcturus). On the web, www.skyandtelescope.com has some good info on it, particularly star maps to locate it with. Check out the page called This Week's Sky at a Glance too. That is Jupiter rising about 10 p.m. in the east, and a bit south of that pre-dawn the brightest one in southeast is Venus with Saturn above to right of it. They were less than a degree apart a few days ago!

About 7 a.m. I again heard a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck in flight, but since light could see, so was stunned to watch a flock of 40 (!) of them fly upriver! Only one called just like Sunday night (two days ago) after dark when I heard one fly over southbound. It was probably the flock then too. I only recorded it as one, since that was all I was sure I heard. Again, this is my first time in 13 Januarys here to have them here in winter.

Another rary in winter here which is also only a recent development, was a Lesser Goldfinch with the sunflower feeder gang. Judy Schaffer has a few at her feeders, and likely those few are making the feeder circuit around town. This is a couple miles from town so would seem likely a different bird, maybe? During 2003-2008 I saw none in winter here and their status in the hill country was considered correctly "departs in winter." Since the widespread use of nyger (thistle) seed by folks feeding birds some few are eeking out the winter up here in the hills. This morning the sunflower suckers it was with were at least 16 American Goldfinch, at least a dozen Pine Siskin, and a few House Finches, all competing with the resident handful of Black-crested Titmouse.

About 3 p.m. it was in the upper 60's dF! The WU station that had a 25dF this morning (Seco Creek) was showing 71dF! Almost a 50dF diurnal range! Heard the White-throated Sparrow out there today. The rest seemed the expected. One Red Admiral and one Dainty Sulphur were it for butterflies. One female Variegated Meadowhawk was the first dragonfly I have seen this year. A few make it from the end of season last year into January, some years.

Jan. 11 ~ Right around freezing for a low, and a slow warmup to about 50dF around noon, to about 56dF later in afternoon. Heard a Belted Kingfisher first thing before sunup, nice since Green and Ringed Kings were two of the last species seen yesterday. Otherwise was the usual expected gang here today. Saw the Rusty Blackbird, heard the Kestrel (a male wintering along the airstrip). American Goldfinch numbered at least 15. None of the rare sparrows but didn't have time to look much. Several Myrtle Warblers around. Some waxwings but no Robins.

Jan. 10 ~ A chilly 26dF for a low, bird bath good and frozen. Kathy was up while dark at 5 a.m. and went out and saw the comet Catalina, which is right between Arcturus and the tip of the handle of the Big Dipper. She said it looks like a fuzzy star just with binoculars. Is not getting as bright as they thought, it probably cooked a bit going around the sun. It is closest to us in a week, and will be nearing the tip of the dipper handle shortly. www.spaceweather.com has great photos of it, scroll down to the Comet photo gallery hotlink. Two tails, green, it's awesome.

Had the Rusty Blackbird earlier in morn with some blackbirds in corral. Saw the Harris's Sparrow (now day 10), heard the White-throated, out front had a few Vesper, the first two LARK Sparrow of the year, one singing, heard a White-crowned too. A walk along road to crossing saw at least 3 Song Sparrow, heard a or the Swamp, and saw a Field Sparrow or two. So pretty sparrowy. Missed Lincoln's and Savannah though. Over 125 Chippies here at house. Just a couple easy ones from 10 species of sparrows without trying.

Saw several Eastern Bluebird but the Robin and waxwing flock was elsewhere. Did have one Pine Warbler and several Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler. Best was a Red-naped Sapsucker near the crossing drilling a mesquite. It was an ad. male and pretty tame allowing extended views from 20' or less. The black malar (or whisker) that frames the top of red throat was broken, not complete, and the same on both sides, a very short incomplete black whisker. Standard classic Red-naped Sapsucker. I saw one at the park Dec. 6, and one was reported I think on the Love Creek bird count from near Lost Maples. Some winters we get them, some winters we do not. This apparently is a winter for them, the last few prior have not been.

Since we have been cooped up we took advantage of it being over 50dF and sunny with light wind and walked the mile and a half to the gate on west 360. Did not refind the mystery sparrow, so it remains just that. I think it was a Baird's. We did have two small flocks of Chippies of 20 and change each, one with some Fields mixed in. Heard a hissy note that was either a Canyon Towhee or a Rufous-crowned Sparrow. Thought I heard Bushtit.

Heard something giving the swan song of death and spotted a big adult female Cooper's Hawk mantling a Fox Squirrel! She was squeezing her talons into the squirrel and it was going, going, gone. She be one big bad girl! I don't think I have ever seen a Coop take a Fox Squirrel. WEEWOW! We just missed the actual grab itself, but watched it fly off with it after the minute-long struggle was over.

We did have a couple Spotted Towhee, some Titmouse and Chickadees, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and one Pine Siskin feeding like a warbler in the flock with said small passerines. After zeroing on the sparrow, on the way back I spotted a Roadrunner sunning a bit off the road over the fenceline. It promptly came toward us and then ran, paralleling us, through the understory under junipers along the road. I guess to see if the cattle kicked anything up. We stopped and it came out into road not 8' from us whence I grabbed a couple pix too close to have the tail in the frame unless I zoomed out.

Roadrunner

See what I mean? Can't find one when you need one,
follow you down the road when you don't, Roadrunner.
Their necks are like an accordian, here in full retraction.
Hard to believe this is a fast slim sleek long-necked bird.



Then on the way back we check a couple spots where we can walk over to a cliff edge at edge of river channel proper and look down into channel and a backwater area which has water now since river so high. You are looking down into trees on the cliff, and into tops of taller 40' trees, and are half way up the tall cypresses. Great neat viewing. Some Lacey Oaks, Wafer Ash, a couple Soap or China Berry I keep checking for rare robins. We heard first and then after a splash or two saw a male Green Kingfisher which missed and perched 35' below us. Great views from above looking down on it! I love that color of green. New World Tropical Kingfisher Green would be my technical name for it.

Then after we got back home a half hour later a Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver high over trees calling, followed a couple minutes later by a Kestrel. Finally at dark, about 6:22 I heard a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck calling as it flew over! This is my first January record ever here, this my thirteenth January! Eastern Screech-Owl was also calling. Not a bad day in Utopia. We walked about five miles locally today.

Jan. 9 ~ The front began to hit about 10-11 p.m. last night. The north winds were mild until about dawn, as were the temps, but by 9 a.m. it was 15-25mph winds and chills just above freezing with serious cold air advection. Not worth fighting for birds in that unless I was somewhere else. Not for the regulars. The wind stopped about dusk, will freeze overnight.

It was at least 16 American Goldfinch and a dozen Pine Siskin first thing on the sunflower feeder. The blackbird flock was around, a few hundred Brewer's, at least 40 Brown-headed Cowbird, and as many Red-winged Blackbird, plus the Rusty. Highest numbers of wintering Cowbird and Red-wing I have ever seen here. Heard the Harris's Sparrow call note a few times, saw the White-throated very well.

Those several extra brush-stick piles I made make all the difference in the world for a species that requires thickets, brambles, or understory. Around back half of (hog) fence perimiter we made a half dozen stick piles a couple or three feet tall and 4-8' long, so something to dive into, every 25' or so. It is still not enough to grab and keep a Spotted Towhee though. But a White-throated Sparrow is OK here, I have had winters where I did not see one locally! Heard a Barn Owl after dark. In a.m. there was a Titmouse singing just a little bit, the first song from them this season.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 8 ~ Another off-by-a-category low, was 33dF, forecast said low 40'sdF. A little fog early, but mostly cleared by 9 with another C of C day, the afternoon was 75dF! There was a Western Meadowlark singing this a.m. out front, sure different from the coastal socal song I grew up with. With these you can hear the oft suggested similarity to a Scott's Oriole which I never could understand with the coastal socal birds.

Eastern Phoebe was singing too. So were the Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Eastern Bluebird and Northern Cardinal. Mostly just a little tuning up from each, but birdsong! In less than a month it will be a full-blown dawn chorus from the residents on the nice days. Vesper and Field Sparrow in with Chippies, didn't see the Harris's or White-throated today though. The rest was the regulars, did have the Rusty Blackbird this morning.

I counted 30+ Cardinal at dusk, 12 males at once on the patio. I think it is 31 or 32 here now. Gadzooks! In butterflies there were single beat worn Red Admiral and Cloudless Sulphur. One possible Dainty Sulphur got away.

Jan. 7 ~ It was a Chamber of Commerce day here today. Low in mid-40's dF, got up to 72 and was sunny and dry with low humidity, skies blue as bluebirds. Outstanding. Great to be able to open the house, warm up, and air out. It's the little things in life.

This morning there was what looked like the same White-throated Sparrow that has been off and on in the yard or out in brush along road since November. Giving that ssssee hissy call while sitting on top of one of the brush-stick piles in front yard. Hadn't seen it in a couple weeks. They can be pretty low-key. Seemed like a Cooper's Hawk got a White-winged Dove this morning out by patio based on the big mostly white feathers blowing around shortly after everything emergency flushed and alarmed.

Here is the list of the regular yard repeat offenders, or expected characters or suspects, so all winter when I say "the same ol' gang" these are them... First group is those seen virtually daily. White-winged, Common Ground-, and Mourning Doves, Black Vulture, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Carolina and Bewick's Wrens, Black-crested Titmouse and Carolina Chickadee, Cedar Waxwing, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Myrtle Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Great Horned Owl, Eastern Bluebird, Brewer's Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch and Cooper's Hawk. So about 26 species pretty sure to see daily in yard.

Second group not always seen every day, about every other day or two add Caracara, Sharp-shinned and Red-tailed Hawk, Common Raven, Hermit Thrush, Barred Owl and Eastern Screech-Owl heard if calling, Northern Flicker, Belted Kingfisher, Western Meadowlark, and Red-winged Blackbird. So, another 10-11 are seen (or heard) a few times per week or more.

Then once to twice a week or so +-, add Field and Vesper Sparrow, the Harris's and White-throated Sparrow intermittently, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Rusty Blackbird, Pine Warbler, Ringed Kingfisher, Kestrel heard near daily, and Pyrrhuloxia, for another ten in the area seen repeatedly recently.

Then the odd Orange-crowned Warbler, ducks, or Great Blue Heron goes by, a White-crowned or Lincoln's Sparrow shows in the yard, a Barn Owl calls, the Merlin blasts past, etc. So about 50 species being detected regularly, daily to every two or so. I am heartbroken not to have heard the Verdin since the afternoon of Dec. 31. Probably got picked off by something, was in yard nearly daily much of December.

To better complete the local picture along UvCo 360 a few more species are over by the river or in the junipers just a few hundred yards away, like Scrub-Jay and Spotted Towhee, somewhere nearby are some Bushit and Canyon Towhee but they haven't been in the yard yet this year. Occasionally hearing an Audubon's Oriole, some Junco, Say's Phoebe, Savannah and a Rufous-crowned Sparrow have all been seen recently nearby. Over by river are Song Sparrow, often Green Kingfisher, sometimes Swamp Sparrow. So it is about 60 species in the immediate (within 5 minutes walk) vicinity. Shrike across river in pastures along 360.

If you went driving around seeking specific habitats locally you could likely pry another 15-25 species out of the bushes without much trouble. But 50 +- are currently regular from our perch at the edge of the river habitat corridor a couple miles south of town.

Jan. 6 ~ And I thought I was busy yesterday. I felt like a one-eyed Couch's Kingbird in a Cotulla cattle corral. It was 42-52dF over the day, drizzle, fog, sprinkles, mist, so real wet but not much actual precip. Best was getting great looks at the Harris's Sparrow today. So it is still here and now on day 6! Outstanding! I love me an ad. Harris's! The rest was the regular expecteds, imm. fem Coop keeps stooping on the seedeaters. Heard a Barn Owl across river over those pastures about 9:30 p.m.

Jan. 5 ~ Busier than a one-eyed dog in the meat market so hardly got to look around. Temp was 32 to 52dF at best. Bird bath was frozen. Overcast after morning, some rain supposed to be on way, again. The 125+ Chipping Sparrows had the Field, and the Vesper with them this morning. I might have seen the Harris's too. An imm. female Cooper's Hawk was terrorizing them most of the day with repeated attempts on the flock.

Jan. 4 ~ I slept through the Quadrantid meteor shower this morning. I was out looking at 9, 10, and 11 p.m. last night but saw none. They have a very quick narrow window usually and I have seen some spectacular ones in past years but had no luck last night before I hit the rack. It would have been a freezer anyway, it was 29dF this morning before sunup, only 30 at 8 a.m. and upper 30's by 9, finally by 10 the sun was having effect and it was upper 40's. Actually got up to 60dF for a bit in the afternoon briefly! Sure great to see blue skies, not to mention see and feel the sun finally, which has been out of view since last year! OK, since last Thursday, but three days of cold gray is a long stretch here at 29.6 deg. N., which should qualify as being in the sun belt.

About 11:30 a.m. I saw my first butterfly of the year, an Orange Sulphur out in the yard. There was an Audubon's Oriole singing then too. Earlier there were a dozen American Goldfinch hitting the sunflower feeder, and almost as many Pine Siskin. As of mid-day the Harris's Sparrow has been MIA and the Verdin continues absent as well. A Cardinal singing a bit roughly was the first of that I have heard in months. A Carolina Chickadee is blowing its whistle still: "See you see me", even notes lower than odds, and second half higher than first half. Had a Red Admiral after noon, but that was the only other butterfly today.

Jan. 3 ~ About 32.5dF for a low, NOAA forecast said mostly sunny and 55dF today for KRVL, we should have been warmer than that. It was overcast all day and only 52dF at best here. Cloudy vs. sunny should not be such an un-obtainable forecast goal as it seems to be here. In the latest afternoon after peak heat I did finally spot a sliver of blue about 100 yards by 30 yards. I guess if I had jogged all day to stay under the hole it would have been mostly sunny as forecast. With the humidity and evaporative cooling from the soaked ground it felt much colder than temps were.

About 10 Pine Siskin were on the ground eating seed out in back with all the Chippies and Cards. The local resident pair of Furertes's Red-tails flew off together first thing at daybreak. At least 125 Chipping Sparrow here now. Did not see the Harris's Sparrow. Haven't seen the Verdin yet this year either. We took a short walk in late afternoon and did a bit of the river corridor, but it was slow. The, or a, Vesper Sparrow over in the corral, a Belted Kingfisher along river, and after we got back I heard a Ringed King fly downriver.

Jan. 2 ~ Had some light rain overnight and light rain from before dawn until 11 p.m., I think it was about an of an inch in total. Temp range ran about 35-40dF, no wind, but cold and wet. So we wait for tomorrow to get out for a walkabout. The Harris's Sparrow continued, and gave great looks in morning and afternoon, but I only got another poor pic, of its undertail coverts. Still a bit ginchy, maybe it will get used to us if it sticks a while.

Another treat was an Orange-crowned Warbler feeding quite bit out back on the fenceline showing its orange crown very well. There are not many here in winter, this winter I have seen more Pine Warbler. Great to see that patch of crown color, no doubt due it being wet. The rest was the usual gang, which went through several pounds of seed today.

January 1 ~ Happy New Year! Here we go for another wild ride. We started off with a bang when I spotted an adult HARRIS'S SPARROW just 15' from the back door from inside the house. New yard bird the first day of the year is how to start a new year. The White-winged Doves flushed the sparrow flock though. I refound it out by the wellhouse and got a docu grab shot, a fuzzy high-mag digi-scope from 150' so at least ID'able. Steve and Sylvia Hilbig just had one at their place 4-5 miles North of us last weekend, but where even rarer (based on # of records), in Bandera Co. I had only seen two briefly here around Utopia in the last 12 years, both just ID'd before they flew, neither were ever refound.

This one came back to the seed behind house later morning so got another closer look. Sure neat to have an adult with black forehead and throat to breast. They are one of my favorite sparrows, all big and fancy. The first original 2002 Uvalde Co. bird checklist by Lytle Blankenship, et.al., showed them as R in winter and spring which meant just a few reports at each season. He had 25 years of notes from the county. So there were only barely a handful of UvCo records prior to any I saw here. This makes the third winter I have had one, so detection frequency roughly about as often as Woodcock, though Woodcock far far more likely to be overlooked.

I heard Carolina Chickadee singing today, which is the first of that for the upcoming breeding season, they are one of the first to get going soon after the day length increases. There was a Field Sparrow in with the Chippies hitting the seed, something we hardly ever see. A little cold goes a long way bringing birds in. Overcast and humid with a 42-45dF temp range today was chilly.

The 3 Common Ground-Dove were around, but the pair got bullied out by a White-winged Dove as three times in quick succession it flew right at them and was going land on the Ground-Doves if they didn't move. They moved 6' or so each time and the White-winged pounced right at them each time until they moved to another part of the yard. What a bully prick the White-wing was to them. It didn't go after the Chippies or Cardinals right there, just the little Ground-Doves. Boy I just hate a bully.

Above is 2016

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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.
Odd numbered archives are Jan-June, even July through December.
All photographs within this site are copyrighted
and may not be used without permission.
All Rights Reserved.
© M. and K. Heindel 2004-2014
www.utopianature.com