Bird (and nature) News Archive # 31
January 1 to June 30, 2019
Old Bird News XXXI

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 - our yard March 2005 to Mar. 2013.
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.



Bird News Archive XXXI (#31) ~ 2019: January 1 - June 30

Scroll to bottom and read up to read in chronological order.
BIRD & NATURE NEWS 2019


Notes without location cited are in or from yard which is a couple miles south of town at edge of the river habitat corridor. If it doesn't say where it was, it was in or from the yard. Often a few daily yard notes is all the drivel you get. Ready, steady, go!

To repeat since commonly used:
sps.=species; FOS=First of season; FOY=First of Year; FOF=First of fall; LTA=Less than Annual; UP=Utopia Park; UR=Utopia on the River; (ph.)=photo obtained; ad.=adult; imm.=immature.; ma.=male; fem.=female; juv.=juvenile; odes=Odonata = dragonflies and damselflies; leps=Lepidoptera (butterflies), town=Utopia; the park= Utopia Park at SW corner of town. WU = Weather Underground (sometimes local station readings referenced) ~ ~ ~ ~


2019 bird news archive #31 (XXXI)





January through June 2019

Read from bottom up to view in chronological order.

~ ~ ~ June summary ~ ~ ~

It was a wet one. We had 6" of rain at our place, Others got more and less, rainfall varies wildly very locally here. It kept temps on the cool side of average for the month. A cold front in June was quite a novelty, most locals could not recall such an event. One morning after it was 60dF. Quite a few mornings were in the mid-upper 60's dF, and a lot of days did not hit 90dF in the shady spots. Flowers bloomed very well with the continued rains after the 4" in May.

Nothing like some heat to bring bugs out, butterflies and dragonflies were both good in June. Butterflies were about 56 species, which is very good. Missed any Satyr and a Sister, and saw two Skipperlings left as probably Southern (numbers of Orange were seen). Could have had 60 species if I worked at it instead of a casual observation total. Sixty is my June record (2009 - 10 years ago). At 56 it is tied for second best June, way back in 2007. It has been 10 years since this level of June diversity. Which means we are either at peak and the year will fade, or, we are going to have a great fall. I suspect the latter. Best bugs were a Rawson's Metalmark, a White-striped Longtail, and a Marine Blue, the rest were the expected regular usual. Nice to see a couple ea. Hackberry Emperor and Viceroy after last years' dearth of both.

Odes were great, activity really gets into gear in June. Damsels were 14 sps. and dragons 25 sps. for 39 species total! Not counting what I thought were Cyrano Darner both at Lost Maples and at Utopia Park. Whatever they were it is not in the 39 ID'd. There were some Black-shouldered Spinyleg a couple miles south of town. A Wandering Glider on the 29th at Lost Maples where lots of Neon Skimmer late in month. A couple Flame Skimmer were there early in month, as well as some Comanche Skimmer. Teneral Yellow-legged Meadowhawk were my earliest ever on June 29 at Lost Maples. In damsels the Springwater Dancer, Orange-striped Threadtail, and Stream Bluets are always nice. Smoky Rubyspot showed mid-month and after, always neat to see.

Best birds for me were the begging young Grasshopper Sparrow on West Sabinal Rd. in Bandera Co., first local nesting I have found. At least 3 young fledged. A calling Long-billed Curlew overhead in the dark heading south June 19 was early, so good, though I record a few as calling nocturnal migrants every year here. A couple Bushtit in the yard June 16 were nice, they have been scarce for me lately, not being in heavy juniper habitat much. For some reason they have been scarce lately at Lost Maples, really since the recent 7 year exceptional drought they have never gotten back to what was normal encounter rates. The two Cormorants seen at Utopia Park the 26th were surely Neotropic (formerly Olivaceous) and a great record. I come up with 97 species seen locally for the month myself, plus Little Creek Larry saw about 3 that I didn't, so a hundred were around. Not bad for June. His Gopher Tortoise this month was a great local record too.

~ ~ ~ end June summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ archive copy, partial update header ~ ~ ~

May highlights... It started with a bang with 6 Mississippi Kite and a NORTHERN GOSHAWK over the house May 2. A FOS (first of season) Catbird was at the park May 3. After the big rain on the 3rd (4.5") there were lots of FOS species May 4th during the rain-induced grounding event. Water was not the only thing that preciptated out of the sky. Yellow-headed Blackbird, Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated Green and Tennessee Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Warbling Vireo, and Great Egret were all my FOS. May 5 they were all gone, but a FOS Northern Waterthrush was at UP. The short story on migration is here today gone tomorrow. I had a fly-bye of a cuckoo with no rufous in wings or color in bill, surely a Black-billed May 7. Another Rose-breast (both were females) was in our yard May 8. May 9 a pair of Cassin's Kingbird were in our yard, again. May 10 saw my FOS Eastern Kingbird (5!) and Mourning Warbler, a second Catbird, and a tardy American Pipit. May 11 there was a pair of Mourning Warbler at the park, my first female, another Northern Waterthrush there, and a WILSON'S PHALAROPE at the big (north) S. Little Crk. Rd. ponds. May 12 finally produced a Wilson's Warbler for the spring, and an Olive-sided Flycatcher, both at Lost Maples. A Mexican (formerly Green) Violetear was being seen in or near San Antonio, holler if you see a big shiny green hummer locally please. Finally got my FOS Common Nighthawk on May 15, way late. Lost Maples had a couple Chestnut-sided Warbler ebird reports on the 16th. May 18 another each male and female of Mourning Warbler were seen. And that was about the end of passage here. Another Mexican (Green) Violetear is being seen at Reagan Wells, Texas Chase Birds group at Fbook has info.

~ ~ ~ end archive copy - partial update header ~ ~ ~

~ ~ back to the drivel ~ ~

June 30 ~ About 5 a.m. light showers arrived and temps finally dropped below 70dF. There is a low moving west, was in east Texas yesterday. A seemingly weird but regular summer phenom here. Got down to about 67dF around 8 or so with the rain, was only 72 at noon! Last day of June, a cool wet morning, and no one complained. Maybe .2 by 11 a.m., not much, but a slow steady dust-buster. Would be a wet walk at Maples today, and no butterflies out in this. Six more BlueMistEup cats pulled, 178 removed now. Hear the Red-eyed Vireo outside again. While we were having breakfast the big juvenile female Cooper's Hawk got a White-winged Dove behind the old (unused) well.

Saw a first summer male Hooded Oriole on the hummer feeder out back (from office). Surely what Kathy saw on it two days ago. Late 4-5 p.m. we walked to the crossing, about .75 mile each way. Great flowers blooming along the road now. The Old Man's Beard is really getting going, it is a neat odd Clematis. Some Brown-flowered Psoralea (ph.), must be summer. Tons of Lazy Daisy, Cowpen Daisy, Frog-fruit, Slender-leaf Hymenoxys, Skeleton-Plant, Mexican Hat, still lots of Purple Horsemint (Lemon Beebalm) going, and the Mesquite has bloomed from the 6" of rain, so it is buzzing with bees.

Great was seeing the male Indigo Bunting I have thought was nesting down the road with a juvenile! Nice dark and rusty fresh fledgling following dad around. The other action was butterflies. Three were new for the month, in the last hour to do so, so a coup. A Marine Blue (photos foiled by autofocus) was my FOY. Both Streaky Skipper and Texas Powdered-Skipper posed for pix (I had just seen one TX Powdered- on Friday the 28th). The Streaky was only of month, maybe FOY. A Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak was my FOY. A fresh Viceroy was only my second (first was just Friday at the park) this year, it landed for pix too. A Skipperling got away that looked like a Southern, dernit. Lots of Bordered Patch and Dun Skipper.

June 29 ~ This is gonna be a long one... Got up earlyish to get another Lost Maples walk, hike, bird and bug check in. Dawn chorus is still going fairly, about 5:45 to 6:30 a.m. is best now. Chucks are still going at 6. Besides the regulars, the Indigo Bunting sang, and better, I heard a Red-eyed Vireo at 7 a.m., and again at 7 p.m.! Pulled 3 cats off the Blue Mist Eup, makes 172. There was a knock down drag out life and death battle around the frostweed about 7:45 which delayed departure five minutes.

~ ~ ~ Next two long paragraphs about spider and wasp behavior ~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~ if of no interest, scroll on by ~ ~ ~

It was between a spider wasp (Pompelidae) and a couple big, and I mean big, Wolf Spiders, which appeared a pair (male and female). Two inches across, pushing 2.5 long on the spiders, The wasp was 1.25", one of the red Pompilids, colored like a Red Wasp, Polistes carolina, but with the constantly flashing metallic blue-black wings. And it was hunting big spiders. Probably a Tachypompilus, which are red, wolf spider specialists. I spotted the wasp first and it seemed all jacked up as they get in hunt mode. Then I spotted a huge Wolf Spider up on a big Frostweed leaf about 3' above the ground. When the wasp saw the spider and approached the spider lept off the leaf at the wasp, causing it to move away, then falling into the tall thick grass below and disappeared. The wasp went right in after it on foot. All of sudden the spider ran back up the stem, maybe 18" from where it disappeared in the grass, and got on top of another big frostweed leaf. Then I saw a second big Wolf Spider run up another big stem and do the same. Hide on top of a leaf while the wasp was in the grass down below looking for them. With no sun above on a thick Frostweed leaf there would be no shadow to see. Pretty smart.

Finally the wasp came out and went into search mode and it was jacked up in overdrive. It knew the spider hiding technique and worked up the frostweed checking leaves. It saw the second spider and again on approach the spider lept at the wasp flushing it away, then fell to ground into tall grass. The wasp went in after it. Quickly the spider runs back up the stem 3' (over a foot from where it fell) and hides on top of a leaf. The wasp comes out moves up the Frostweed leaf by leaf, spots the first spider and the same thing happens again, the spider leaps at the wasp scaring it, and falls into tall grass hidden and makes getaway. Each spider did this three times and got away. The wasp was goin' nuts. I thought spider one got away, watching the tall grass move, it got 8' from the Frostweed where the wasp was, but which must have seen the grass move too. Next thing I saw the spider and the wasp grappling together, tumbling down into the grass whence they disappeared. I waited awhile and saw nothing. I have a rule about not breaking up big spider vs. wasp fights with my bare hands. By then I was late and we had to go. I don't know who won. I am thinking the wasp.

So off to Maples. Right by the dip a half mile south of town, just south of UvCo 354, a Long-billed Thrasher flew across the road. Went NE out of town on Jones Cmty. Rd. hearing Bell' Vireo on the way at NW corner of town. Loads of Lark Sparrows along the road, lots of juvies. At the corner of Jones Cmty and W. Sabinal Rd., just west a hundred feet were 3 begging juvenile Grasshopper Sparrow on the fenceline. Bandera Co. fledglings! Awesome. First local breeding I have seen, and success! Then had the mis-fortune of hitting a juvie Painted Bunting on the way up 187, and I only drive 50 here. Lots of baby birds along roads, mostly Lesser Goldfinch and Lark Sparrow it seemed.

So we were finally getting on the trail at 8:30 after all the distractions. Was still nice and cool in the canyon. We did the usual couple mile walk up Can Creek past the ponds a mile to the high-water point springs. The Chimney Swifts seemed to get a young out of the chimney at the trailhead parking lot old residence. A Zone-tailed Hawk flew over the parking lot early, and a White-tipped Dove was at the feeding station. Heard 3 more of them going up the trail, but missed Olive Sparrow. Had a pair of Audubon's Oriole a half mile up the trail. Lots of Canyon Wren singing so they are still nesting. Only heard one Black-capped Vireo, one Yellow-throated Vireo, and one Eastern Wood-Pewee. Saw two Roadrunner along the trail, surely coming to water. Weird was not even hearing a Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

Only a couple Louisiana Waterthrush, one singing, but we were a couple hours after dawn chorus. A few Black-n-white Warbler some first summer males still singing. Did not hear a Golden-cheeked sing, but had two seperate begging baby incidences, both still getting fed. Heard a couple others up slopes, so a half-dozen at least detected, but only a couple poor glimpses. You have to catch them when they come to the creek to drink or bathe for good looks now. Heard maybe 4 Yellow-throated Warbler singing still. Heard at least one Painted Bunting still singing, a few Indigo, and several Blue Grosbeaks still going strong. Lots of White-eyed Vireo, still fair numbers of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, maybe 4 Acadian Flycatcher heard, a couple seen, lots of Titmouse (Black-crested), Carolina Wren, and Cardinal. Several Summer Tanager, a few Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Overall activity is way down, breeding season is past peak for many species and many have departed. But it is still pretty birdy good.

Flowers were leaning towards past peak, a bit of a lull. Many of the spring bloomers were still going due to the good rains in May and June, like Coreopsis and Indian Blanket. The Cedar Sage was going great. Some Pearl Milkweed Vine and Snapdragon Vine still going well. A few Lindheimer's Senna were opening, one Lindheimer's Morning Glory was seen, what a big beautiful flower. The Walnuts grew well, Maple seeds look about ripe to fall, the Cherries are barely hanging on. A bit of buttonbush was blooming, but not much on it. A little Texas Milkweed was blooming.

Butterflies were few overall, still no Arizona Sister, two trips in June, none seen. Had a few earlier in spring, none since. Saw a couple Red-spotted Purple, no Satyrs. Several Cloudless Sulphur. Roadside-Skippers showed well with Celia's, Nysa, and Bronze, 3 species is a great walk. In Swallowtails there were still a few Spicebush flying, a couple Black, a few Pipevine, couple Giant, one dark form female Eastern Tiger, no Two-tailed. Several Dun Skipper, a few Funereal Duskywing, and a few not ID'd duskywings, one looked Juvenals, another looked Horace's.

Dragons were good once it got sunny and warm, about 10:30-11. A couple Leaftails got away un-ID'd, saw a couple probable Eastern Ringtail. Around the big pond was good with Banded and Red-tailed Pennant, Red, and Black Saddlebags, Prince Baskettail, Eastern Pondhawk, Widow Skimmer, Blue Dasher, Common Whitetail, so some action. At the crossing between the ponds a Wandering Glider cruised by. A couple Pale-faced Clubskimmer were seen. A FOY teneral Autumnal Meadowhawk was seen. At least 8 Neon Skimmer were seen, all males save the one female ovipositing a couple feet from us while we had lunch. A half-dozen plus different damselflies were seen so it was 20 species of odes in the last couple hours (the hot part) of the walk on the way back down.

Saw a couple big Six-lined Racerunner lizards, one E. Fence female. At the highwater spring saw one of the big rock crevice Dolomedes (fishing) spiders. These are like the big ones that live on cypress roots along river, but a different species. The main campground was full, but back country was empty judging from lack of cars at the trailhead lot. Mostly just a few daytrippers on trail. Canyon was pretty quiet of people, save one incredibly vociferous yakker. I guess no one can hear her where she works. And whaddabout those citiots that get up on top of the cliff above the pond and yell down for you to look up and see their greatness? One trio of immature males was so insistent I had to yell "shut up!" They promptly disappeared from the cliff edge, sight, and sound.

Since that all wasn't enough I set up a bug light and sheet for a few hours at dark since no wind. It was not very impressive, unless you like June Bugs. Nothing unusual, and low diversity turnout with low numbers in general. Heard the Barred Owl though. Maybe a hundred micro-moths, which I don't do. Gotta draw the line somewhere.

paintedbunting
Red-tailed Hawk, our resident breeders are the fuertesi subspecies
of the southwest. They are very pale creamy white and barely marked
below, without the heavy belly band of Eastern Red-tails, and no dark
morphs of western Red-tails, but those types both occur here as winterers.
The black along leading edge of inner wing (patagium) is on almost all
Red-tails, and none of any confusing congeners show it.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 28 ~ About 71dF for a low. Back to a more normal summer regime, high in upper 80's though, a couple or few below average. Due to all the moisture in the air, so good and sticky. All the regulars in the yard. Town run so a park check. On the way at the 360 crossing I heard a Parula warbler singing a few times. I could not spot it up in the tops of the cypresses so can't say if it was Northern or Tropical as song was not at either end of the obvious spectrum to my ear. At the park a Green King was up on the island, a Black-n-white was singing from the island, a transient, haven't had one there in several weeks.

Little Creek Larry said there were two Cormorants at the park Wed., the 26th. This time of year they were surely Neotropic (Olivaceous in old Texas Peterson), he said they had long tails. A great sighting here! He also has been seeing a white egret or heron going up and down Little Creek, which this time of year is likely a white juv. Little Blue Heron. Saw lots of juvie Barn Swallow around town. My FOY Viceroy (butterfly) was laying eggs on willow at the park. Kathy had a messy 1st spring or summer black and yellow or yellow-orange oriole at a hummer feeder briefly, but on other side and so could not ID before it shot off. Hope it comes back. Four more BlueMist cats makes 169.

June 27 ~ Low was 74dF and humid. A small patch of rain moved south to north and we were lucky enough to get it between 9 and 10 or so. Dropped 1.35" or so and the temps down to 68dF! Makes 1.5" since yesterday, and 6" for the month! A couple spots got a couple inches NE of town. Termites are emerging, birds eating them. At noon was only 71dF! I see a pile of hawk-plucked White-winged Dove feathers, something got one, Cooper's or the Zone-tail is my guess. Pulled 6 more Blue Mist Eup caterpillars, now 165 removed, and miraculously the patch still has hope to make it.

Saw the male Indigo on patio first thing at early-thirty. A young and an adult Red-spotted Toad were out after the rain picking up flying termites that were on the patio. Finally got a usable shot of the adult. A Mockingbird has shown up again, singing away with everything it has. Has not been one in earshot for a month or so. Heard a Black-n-white Warbler singing a bit right after the rain, sounded like that first-summer bird that has been around. Couple new Titmouse young out, the two Vermilion Flyc. fledges are still hanging around together. A Chimney Swift flew around a bit at dusk.

June 26 ~ Low was 71dF, 9 more Blue Mist eating cats pulled, 159 (as of 10 a.m.). Some little bit of showers moved over northbound from the south (you can tell it is summer) early 9-10 or so. Still showery at noon-thirty and 75dF! We got between .15 and .2". Three Hutton's Vireo went through noonish, I couldn't tell if it was one ad. and a couple young, or two adults and one young. They must have nested very nearby, likely just up the hill out back in the live-oaks. We hear them up there any time we walk that way.

White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo are both singing around yard still. A Red-eyed is nesting a half-mile down the road near crossing. Nearest Black-capped is on the knoll, two-thirds of an air-mile, and nearest Bell's is a half mile down and across river in a Mesquite patch with Hackberries adjacent. I can walk to six species of breeding vireos though. About 2:30 p.m. I walked out on front porch and a Zone-tailed Hawk flushed from low in the second pecan out from porch. An hour later I was back out and it almost landed in the big pecan, but saw me sitting on porch and diverted on final approach. A single Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over at dusk.

June 25 ~ After the outflows last night we got up to a sorta dry 67dF low! WeeWow! Awesome! Got up to upper 80's dF, a bearable spread for the date. Another 6 cats pulled off the Eupatorium, an even 150 now. Still hoping to save it for the fall bloom. The birds were the same gang. Saw a big Eyed Elaterid (click beetle) flying around yard again. Have seen a few Pepsis Wasp too, keep forgetting to note it. Male Indigo Bunting still hitting the millet on patio but won't touch the tube feeder, whereas Painteds of all ages and sexes are vying for position on it all day. Still singing are Yellow-throated Warbler and Vireo, Blue Grosbeak, White-eyed Vireo, Chat, and of course the resident stuff is all still going. The Cuckoo is ranging a bit further and I think it may have gotten a young out, usually the case when you hear that. Last week of June is when, here anyway. Indigo was on patio again, and sang a bit across the road, still trolling. Fireflies are flaming out.

June 24 ~ A muggy 74dF low but the Gulf low stratus kept us below 80 till after noon. About 3:30 an outflow boundry hit from the east moving west that took it from 84 to 74 in five minutes. There were a few drops of precip, a tracelet. But peak heat though. By 5 still hadn't gotten back up to 80, so we skated. Four more Eup cats, 144 removed now. More juvie Cardinal and Lesser Goldfinch out and begging. Best bird was a Canyon Towhee which was on the patio and at the brush pile about 9 a.m., first in yard since the winterer departed in March. Looked like a worn adult, may be the same bird, done breeding and returning. Turkey over in the corral again. Common Nighthawk still booming a little, not much, but some.

June 23 ~ Back to Gulf flow and 75dF for a low, but the low stratus kept it cool for the a.m., was only 77 at 11:30 a.m., so only rising 2dF in over 4 hours since sunup! Pulled another dozen cats off the Blue Mist Eup, 140 now. They might be Celia's Roadside-Skipper? I hear a couple begging Black-chinned Hummingbird outside, some new fledges. There is another wave of gray-headed juvies appearing now. Here goes the sugar again. I missed the bird of the day, Kathy saw a Golden-cheeked Warbler at the bath! The rest was the repeat offenders. Great Crested Flycatcher was calling around the yard. Couple countersinging Summer Tanager. Hearing the bluebirds a little, they have been gone since the last young fledged a couple weeks ago. They will probably go again since all the rain.

Took a few pix around the yard, couple flowers I needed, a fresh green Cicada, some Painted Bunties, and a neat little jumping spider of some sort. Upper 80's dF and very humid in the afternoon but some clouds kept the worst of the solar heat at bay anyway. At dark Chucks are still going but with a lot less vigor. Fireflies are flaming out fast. The Barred Owl is still trolling up and down the river, but I only ever hear one, likely an unmated male.

June 22 ~ Well that was nice... about midnight last night, a small MCS that started in Mexico and headed east across the river and Rio Grande plains made it here. Maybe an hour of showers, and we got up to about .75" of rain and 68dF. A treat after a few days of 75dF lows. Was still only 78 at 1 p.m.! Got up to about 86dF at peak heat, so we beat it for a day. This puts us at about 4.25" for June here, and just about guarantees everything will breed again except the early departers. Three more Blue Mist cats pulled, 128 now. Saw one of the Thread-legged bugs, maybe assassin, in the Blue Mist Eup while hunting cats.

Mid-day a Zone-tailed Hawk made several treetop-level circles looking for something to dive on. A few Scissor-tails were out there. Some juvie Painted Buntings now besides the adults, of which there are at least three ad. males. Saw two of them toe-to-toe fluttering up fighting over in the corral, while the one that sings from the big pecan out front was singing. Saw a fledged juv. Yellow-throated Vireo, the adults are still singing lots around yard. The big tom Turkey was over in the corral scrounging for oats the horses missed. Whatabird! The Bewick's Wren are setting up shop in the same broken-off Pecan branch the Chickadees used in spring. Chat and Vermilion both still doing flight song. Ash-throated Flycatcher got I think 2 young out of a box today.

paintedbunting
Here is one of the big yellow bumblebees in flight.
And oh yeah, a male Painted Bunting.
No photoshop, one original frame.

A bonus pic this week...
mourningwarbler
Another pic of a female Mourning Warbler at Utopia Park.
Same individual as the one below. A perfectly quintessential
pose and view of the species. I wonder if some central Texas
MacGillivray's reports are these Mournings with broken eye-rings.
Note the eyering is very thin, fine, and narrow, not thick. Note
the legs are mid-step, in walking mode, not (legs together) hopping.
Note long undertail coverts and short tail, unlike MacGillivray's.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 21 ~ Happy Solstice! The first day of official summer. The longest daylight day. Astronomical summer is here. We are three weeks into climatological summer, (June, July and August) and it feels like it. Low was 75dF and morning clouds from Gulf kept in below 80 until 11 a.m. or so. So at least we get almost 12 hours below 80dF. Brutal afternoons to evening though with the humidity. Pulled 6 more Blue Mist cats, 125 and counting removed. Saw the male Goatweed Leafwing zipping about again. Another Velvet Worm was out on the back porch at dawn.

Town run but nothing unusual. The Bell's Vireo is still singing behind P.O. in that huge-live oak with mesquites around it and must be nesting, Field Sparrow is in the pasture behind it too. Little Creek Larry said he has seen a few trios of Chimney Swifts out, which is adults with a young. Saw the male Indigo Bunting on the patio again today, love having him around. Blue Grosbeak still singing strong, so still going. A nice bearded Tom (male Turkey) was in the corral late in day.

June 20 ~ Low of 76dF is not whatsoever. Gulf clouds made it here and stuck till after noon, so we were just breaking 80dF noonish. Then 90 in the shade by 3 p.m. though. And very humid. Today is to be 'peak heat' day of this blast, for the last day of (astronomical) spring. Some reports in afternoon were 95 or so and heat index of 105 and better. Some south Texas stations had 110-115 heat indexes. It is brutal out there now. Be prepared to drip and melt.

Ten more Blue Mist Eup cats removed this morning, so at 119 now! The patches would be completely gone had I left them. Saw a Dusky-blue Groundstreak briefly on the Eup. briefly. A Questionmark was out there too. Kathy saw a Black-n-white Warbler over my shoulder while we were eating lunch. It was on the big trunk of the pecan right off the porch.

Saw the male Indigo Bunting out there in the patches of Mexican Hat I leave in the yard, Painteds love digging through them too. Summer Tanager singing at 95dF in the sun. The early June rains will likely convince lots of birds to nest again. If it is dry in June they often don't go for another round. But when wet, they know, more flowers, more bugs. We have had 3.5" this month, so good and green, with a summer bloom on the way. The Germander is getting done, but Red Turks Cap is getting going and the Wooly Ironweed is about to open. Cedar Sage is going well along the river. All means good seed crops too.

Finally some neat behavior to report. I would just as soon see a new behavior as a new bird. To see the common thing in the uncommon way is what really lights my rocket. When you bird a long time you better find something besides new birds to get excited about. As eventually you will have seen most of them wherever you are. Behavior is still one of the great frontiers IMHO.

I was leaning up against the pickup trucklet smoking my pipe for a break about 5: something p.m., 90 something dF, about 105 heat index. I saw just my side of the gate on the ground in the driveway the male Painted Bunting, shaking, as in trembling. It was near a Leaf-cutter Ant hole and I wondered if he was anting. He was quivering real fast with wings raised which he was flapping as if in flight but in an animated way, like a Vermilion Flyc. in flight song, and was staying on the ground.

All of a sudden the female landed very near him and began quivering as well, with a raised tail, spread wings, shaking very fast too. Apparently this was just what he wanted to see. He started moving in a circle in what looked like a Sage Grouse or Prairie-Chicken taxiing manuever, trembling, quivering, tail up, it did a couple circles like this in front of her and then from maybe 18" away did a big slow slalom as he approached. He was too low to the ground for me to see what exactly his legs were doing, if he stamping or what, but I think so. While in this slalom taxi of blessed approach, he raised first just his right wing fully out at a 45 deg. angle to the ground, then pulled it in and raised his left wing out the same way. It repeated this throughout this slalom quivering taxi approach. Three times each wing was fully extended while the other pulled in as it taxied trembling, by which time he was there, and copulation was over in a very few seconds.

She flew off across the road into the thicket where the nest is. He could barely walk it seemed. After a rest he jumped into the gate which is 4" hog fence squares, and slowly, one square at a time, with seemingly great effort, moved up to the top of the gate. It took forever. At times I wondered if he would make it. Then he was high enough to jump level into the lowest branch of a little pecan tree at gate, and rest, and recover. Ignoring the two juvie Vermilion Flycatcher flitting about. They just saw a red breast and thought it might have food methinks. Any other time he would have chased them away. Anyway, this prairie-chicken taxiing whilst quivering and alternately throwing one wing up at a time was a stunning mating display to watch, and one I had never seen. It was incredible. Whatabird! The stuff you can see if you just keep watching them. The longer you watch them the more amazing things you see. Some things may take years to see, like this for me. And I live with them a hundred days a year. My sense is that we know sooo little.

June 19 ~ Low of 74, summer is here. Another 8 cats pulled off the Blue Mist Eup, 109 removed now. Have to make a page with a pic so I can get an ID from some catsperts on them. Too dang busy lately. Just saw the usual regulars in lookabouts outside. Too dang hot, was upper 90's dF and very humid so the heat index was about 106 or so. Brutal. Painted Bunting just keeps singing through it unfazed as if its a vireo. Heard a warbler zeet note, surely a Black-n-white. In butterflies a nice male Goatweed Leafwing came in to water sprayed about. Better was a Hackberry Emperor, which was all but absent last year. Was on the Hackberry tree right where I thought I saw one shoot off yesterday. Celia's Roadside-Skipper around the Am. Germander.

Saw a distant Zone-tailed, spotted by hearing Martins mobbing. The bird of the day was at 11:55 p.m., when a Long-billed Curlew called four times as it was heading south overhead. That is the first fall migrant of the year here. They are already getting some in socal, late June is when the first shorebirds show back up, often the early ones are likely failed breeders. So right before the last day of astronomical spring, before summer, a fall migrant arrives.

June 18 ~ Low was 73dF, so not. It was all the usual regular offenders today. Four more Eup cats, 101 now. There are some new begging Summer Tanager out there, and a juvenile Gnatcatcher went through in the late afternoon. I was in town briefly and had a Green King at the park. At the corner of 187 and 354 a half-mile south of town there were three just-fledged juvenile Scissor-tails lined up side-by-side waiting for parents and more food. Good to see a good clutch get out. The Firefly show is on the wane already, peak has passed it seems. Still good, but not what it was two to four weeks ago. Chuck-wills-widow is losing momentum as well. They don't have a month of calling left in 'em, maybe 3 weeks.

June 17 ~ Late last night a line of rain cells passed over, 11:30 to 1:30 or so, we had a half-inch at least. At sunup it was 72dF and about 8:30-9 another half-inch fell dropping us to 66dF. And an inch at least so far. Maybe more on way as I type. Radar looks like Lost Maples got some too. A Black-n-white Warbler sang from the big pecan, I presume this is a first-summer troller that keeps going through yard. A male Indigo Bunting (the good) was out on the patio again as was a male House Sparrow (the bad and ugly). Got 3 more Blue Mist Eup cats off my patch, now at 97 removed. Two Velvet Worm were on patio first thing at dawn.

June 16 ~ A 74dF low wasn't very. Still decent bird song first thing early. Forgot to mention yesterday a male House Sparrow was around a bit, saw it again this morn. Yech. Very neat though was a Bushtit at the brush pile by the birdbath. Sounded like another was up in the pecan. By time I got back with camera they were gone. First one I have seen all year. Must have been departing when I detected. Pulled 3 more Eupatorium cats (94 removed now), and a couple got away. They way the jump when you go for them is amazing.

Went for another river dip at peak afternoon heat. My mama had two dumb boys but that was my brothers. Took the camera to get some scenic, ode, and spider pics. Saw 5 of a big Dolomedes spiders on cypress roots, got shots of a couple, a very impressive beast. I think the mystery dragon I saw 2-3 of yesterday, is a Black-shouldered Spinyleg. Would not sit for pix. Saw my first Smoky Rubyspot of the year, a sharp looking damselfly with mostly black wings. A bunch of Stream Bluets are there too. Lots of Dusky, Blue-ringed, and Violet Dancers, and many Double-striped Bluets. Must have been 500 Texas Shiner (minnow). Wish there were some Mexican Tetra in this stretch of river.

Besides the expected birds, saw one juv. Painted Bunting, great was a female Bullock's Oriole, which must be a finished breeder. A couple Black-n-white Warbler shot by us, and were chasing about. Was bare-eyed so couldn't age them. Also had a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk which is surely from the nest a hundred plus yards south of where we get in, so at least one fledged so far. Some begging Yellow-throated Warblers chasing adults. Heard Great Crested Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Painted Bunting, and on way back just across from gate a juv. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.

June 15 ~ Low of 72dF and the gulf moisture and morning clouds are back. Back to normal summer weather. Got 6 more cats off the Blue Mist Eup., now at 91 pulled. Gadzooks! No wonder it looks shredded. I have been removing them for a week. All the same stuff around yard. Stuck listening to Painted Bunting sing all day from the big pecan right over the front porch. I saw the Great Crested Flycatcher chase the Yellow-throated Vireo which landed 15' from me and voiced its discontent. Hummer numbers building again, it seems lots more gray-headed juveniles, the second wave of young are fledging. Heard a Bobwhite from over near the river but on our side of it, not too far away.

We went for a swim to beat the late afternoon heat. Saw some begging baby Yellow-throated Warblers with adults. Blue Grosbeak singing, Great Crested Flyc., Summer Tanager, and the regular residents. Went upstream (they call it a river here) to the high current narrows and 'shot the rapids' on my floaty board, must be about 15 mph at the fast spot. Laying on back watching the cypresses go by and fern-lined banks, just steering a little. Cheap thrills for an old man. Saw a big Dolomedes fishing spider of some sort. Saw 2-3 of a dragon I am not sure of, a Gomphid of some sort. Tomorrow will take camera and reading glasses upriver. Lots of damselflies: Violet, Dusky and Blue-ringed Dancer, some American Rubyspot, lots of Double-striped Bluet. Must have been 300+ Texas Shiner (native minnow - not the beer) and half were full 2" adults, not just this years' fry. Couple Largemouth Bass, a dozen or two Longear Sunfish. Kingfishers must be on another stretch of river this year.

americanpipit
American Pipit on May 10 in breeding plumage. This bird ducked
under the laid-down grasses and disappeared before my eyes.
Probably the plainest dullest bird you might see here. Note
the thin bill, not a thick-based seed-cracking sparrow type bill.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below

June 14 ~ Made it down to 67dF, so good. The entire second week of June with lows in the 60's is unheard of here. A Black-n-white Wobbler was singing a bit first thing at sunup. Methinks the first-summer troller moving around that we keep seeing. A male Indigo Bunting hit the white millet on the patio early. Got 11 more cats off the Blue Mist Eup first hour of light before they dive back down out of the heat for the day, now at 85 of them. Not pulling them, in a week or so there would have been nothing left of my magic fall flower patch. As it is the top of every stem has been chewed off, they killed the spring bloom but for two stalks. A White-striped Longtail (butterfly) came in to the water Kathy sprayed about mid-morn, first one I have seen this year.

Town run day. There are a couple just-fledged Red-shouldered Hawk at the park right over the playground area. Tame and lots of folks getting to see them and parents very close. Very neat. Also had a couple just-fledged Blue Jay there. Nothing but the usual stuff otherwise, one E. Wood-Pewee was singing, maybe nesting there again. One Springtime Darner dragonfly is getting late for them. Little Creek Larry said he had baby Whistling-Ducks at the SLC pond. Even better, he saw a Texas Gopher Tortoise! I have never seen one up here in the hills, just down in the flatlands brush-country as at Uvalde. Nice to know some are still around here.

June 13 ~ A 65dF low was great, I can't believe this stretch of low lows in the 60's at these dates. The thrill of it all. Got 4 more Eup cats and 3 got away this morning. So 72 removed and at least three to go. The couple years it was shredded to stems I pulled in the high 70's and high 80's off, so I should be getting close to having them all now. Two more removed in the afternoon, 74 and counting. Late afternoon there was a Two-tailed Swallowtail floating about the yard briefly.

Mid-morn saw a Zone-tailed Hawk circling low from the front porch. Late afternoon I saw a Black-n-white Warbler over in the corral. Only saw about 85dF peak heat in the afternoon. Totally tolerable. Did we ever cheat the heat this week. The rest was the regulars. Saw a 1st summer male Painted Bunting on the feeder, besides at least a couple ad. males, a female or two. Might have had a juvenile on the patio. Got some new front brakes put on the trucklet today. The rear were still nearly new. Near last sun a group of three Chimney Swift were feeding low, just over treetops here, which was surely an adult pair with their just-fledged young. If you can see a trio now, that is likely the deal. Two were in secondary molt (adults), one not (the juvie).

June 12 ~ An amazing 60dF for a low, so either my calendar or the thermometer must be broken. Unbelievable, sure is a treat while it lasts. A couple male Painted Buntings were disputing which gets to hit the white millet feeder first. Blue Grosbeak on the patio first thing too. I had a town run early. The Indigo Bunting toward the crossing is surely nesting as it just sings from the same few trees all the time. The Red-eyed Vireo too remains in the same patch for over a month now, and I suspect nesting. Just spun through the park. Lots was on the ground going after the termites that emerged. Saw a juvenile Scissor-tail running around amongst the Lark Sparrows and a female Summer Tanager on the ground.

Took 8 more cats off the Blue Mist Eup today, 68 were at. Found a crab spider guarding its egg sac on some Am. Germander. It had tied a few leaves together with its silk for shelter in the rain and from sun I suppose. It was one of the brown marbled ones, as in the 'ground' types, not one of the yellow or colored flower types. Got a better pic of a Shining Flea Beetle, they jump like fleas as you get near with camera so harder to get than I would have thought. The Am. Germander is nearing the end of bloom, but the leaves are shot full of holes due to these leaf-chafers. Have seen them all over Frog-fruit before, but they are not touching that here.

June 11 ~ A few sprinkles overnight, maybe a tenth or two, and a 65dF low again. Still some light mid-level northerly flow. Amazing for the date. This morning I pulled 30 more of the Blue Mist Eup eating caterpillars, so now at 60! Gadzooks! Hoping I can save it still, but it looks bad. They wiped out the patch at the library garden last year, it was 10 times bigger than our 2 little patches and it was completely eaten but for maybe 2 flower heads. Heard a Black-n-white sing a bit early, likely the local troller. Lots of baby House Finch out there now. Another hour or so of rain in the afternoon, another half-inch, so today was about .65 total here. At 5 p.m. it was an amazing 65dF! Astounding to spend the day at or below 70dF at this date. Heard the Common Nighthawk booming nearing last sun.

June 10 ~ A nice 68dF low was great, seeing 2" of much-needed rain fell overnight was even better! I am guessing strong cold fronts as late as June 9-10 are not a normal thing. I don't recall one like this in the last 15 years. Abnormal is the new normal. Had a quick town run. On Friday I saw two sparrows out 378, the stub at NW corner of town that looked like Grasshopper, went back and had a glimpse again of what looked like one but again only in flight. Lots of Larks there but this obviously not that. I think they nested in the pasture off the north side, which is in UvCo. Nice group of about 8 or 10 Chimney Swift were feeding on something low, at times flying two feet past my head. It was awesome.

Then ran up to the intersection of Jones Cmty. Rd. and W. Sabinal Rd. in BanCo to check that pasture and had Grasshopper Sparrow where they have been 6 weeks plus now and so are certainly nesting. This is the first nesting I have found in the area locally. Eight more cats removed from the Blue Mist Eupatorium, now at 30 pulled. I see our Red Turks Cap is opening its first flowers of the year. Something eating their leaves too. Heard Turkey gobbling at last light, still going.

June 9 ~ Only 71dF for a low, today is supposed to be the hot day and a cold front hits later in the evening. Heckofa date for a cold front. We need the rain though. I got 6 more of the Blue Mist Eup eating cats this morning, now at 22 removed in four days, no wonder it is getting shredded again. A juv. Black-n-white Warlber came in to all the feeder action to see whaddup. It landed on the clothesline, wish I had the camera for that. It worked over to the pole, and was nearing jumping for the sunflower feeder when something flushed everything. A bit later Kathy heard one singing, which was not the juvie I saw, so two in the yard this morning.

Worked inside to avoid the heat. Was looking at NOAA reports, Brownsville was 98 with 118 heat index! Once we hit 92-4 the moisture cooks out and humidty drops to about 35 pct. so we don't have the heat index issue more than a dF or two usually, once you hit near mid-90's dF here. Port Lavaca was cooler air temps than us, but heat index was 106 due to that Gulf humidity. Dripping.

About 4 we went for a swim to beat the 95dF in the shade heat. I went upriver a third mile or so in the water. Had two Black-n-whites, they are moving now. Great was a male Orchard Oriole which is likely nesting nearby. A few of them that are annual at specific locations locally are absent this year, so nice to watch one leisurely feeding in the Cypresses. The rest was the regular usuals. In odes, one Eastern Ringtail was my FOY, lots of Dusky Dancers, an American Rubyspot, several Violet Dancers, a few Swift and Checkered Setwing.

Late just before dusk another Gnatcatcher moved through. An unseasonal cold front is bearing down on us, supposed to pass tonight and be cool tomorrow and day after. Whoohoo! About 9 p.m. the outflow boundry hit from the line of thunderstorms and took 10dF off the top in about a minute. That is how I spell relief. Still no rain here by 10, but we should get some. Watching the radar the bats seemed to leave the Frio cave and quickly dive back in as the outflow boundry hit.

June 8 ~ Another coolish morning at 65dF was fantastic, no one complained. The yard was all the same stuff. Weed whacked our path to the river so we can walk five minutes, jump in and cool off to beat the heat. It is that time of year again. Nothing like being in 72dF water up to the neck when it is 95 out. While on my back on my floaty board I saw: a few Yellow-throated Warbler, one or probably two Black-and-white Warbler (they don't nest very locally here - so post-breeding dispersal), Summer Tanagers, a couple Eastern Wood-Pewee, Chickadees and Titmice feeding young, at least two Eastern Phoebe, heard Blue Grosbeak and Chat singing as well as a Scissor-tail. The Red-tailed Hawk flushed from its nest in a Cypress letting us know its discontent as it went. No kingfishers.

In odes a couple each Swift and Checkered Setwing, lots of Double-striped Bluet ovipositing, numbers of Violet Dancer, one Dusky Dancer. All the aquatic vegetation was stripped in the flood events and it seemed fewer odes than usual. Some lilies were the only veg. Good numbers of Texas Shiner (N. amabilis) though, over a hundred in one school. One Guadalupe Bass was nice, even if only 6" long, which looks like an aquarium fish to me at that size. Several smaller Largemouth Bass, but one three pounder looked good enough to eat. A couple dozen Longear Sunfish. One Texan Crescent and Celia's Roadside-Skipper were around the porch.

dickcissel
Dickcissel are numerous here this year after being absent last year.



~ ~ ~ spring weather header note archive copy ~ ~ ~

RECENT SPRING WEATHER:
We had hard freezes early in March on March 3rd, 4th, and 5th, and Lost Maples froze the 17th. Wind chills were in the 30's March 31st! We froze again here at Utopia the morning of April 2! I have seen freezes in latest April and earliest May, but we are likely out of the woods for that now. Average last freeze is March 20-21, first day of spring. Pending where you were locally, about 2-3" of rain fell April 24. And no one complained. Another 2.5" fell overnight May 2-3, .75" overnight 5-6 May, 1.5" by 8 p.m. on May 9, and it just keeps coming. The South Little Creek Rd. pond in Bandera Co. still has water and so always worth a look if here. The big one is less than a mile south of BanCo 470.

~ ~ ~ end weather note archive ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 7 ~ We had wonderful 65dF for a low, cool, and even comfortable. A real treat for the date. The Yellow-throated Warbler was singing in the big pecan early, love hearing that. A Red-winged Blackbird (male) came to the seed on the patio, which never happens in the summer. Saw another Harlequin Flower Beetle but when I got back with camera it was gone. Was a different one than the one a few days ago.

Town run so park check. Only a female Green King for something to watch. In damselflies saw Orange Bluet, Violet, Blue-ringed, and Kiowa Dancers, my FOY Rambur's, and a Fragile Forktail. Saw FOY Black Setwing, plus several Swift Setwing. Saw an Catacola cf. obscurus Underwing Moth, which reminds me I saw one of the red ones a few weeks ago and forgot to mention it methinks. Also saw a Clouded Skipper. It got hot in the afternoon, 92dF in the cool shady, and it will be worse the next couple days they say...

Thirty years ago today, 6-7-89, I saw one of my most-wanted birds in California, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Got a couple photos in the 5 seconds I had, sent them to the Calif. Bird Record Committee. Found out 8 years later they rejected my photographic record. They hid from me that they accused me of lying about where I took the photos. Because that is how honest men do that. I was branded a bird record cheater by a group of bird record cheaters: Jon L. Dunn, Kimball Garrett, Paul Lehman, Matt T. Heindel, Michael A. Patten, Brian E. Daniels, Richard Erickson, and others in the socal record wreckers gang of bird record bullies. They committed ornithological fraud bearing false witness to a photographic record of another birder. Whilst saying they were assurring the accuracy of my record. So it was just plain old fraud too. They have continued to tell other false stories about other reports since they had to quit telling their Scissor-tail lies. Proving they lied and cheated on a report did not change a thing. They still do it today. If you hear a story that I cheated on a bird record in California, it came from one of the above named, all of whom spent 8 years lying about my Scissor-tail photographs.

June 6 ~ Some occasional northerly flow overnight brought a low of about 68dF which felt fantastic. What a difference a few dF makes. I saw KRVL had some rain and 64 for a low! Had a singing Black-n-white Warbler early about 7 a.m., sang a good standard song so not sure if it was the one that was around the last couple weeks. Mid-morn heard a warbler seet (flight) note and looked up to see a Golden-cheeked fly from the Mulberry to the live-oaks out back. Looked like a male. Had a quick P.O. run in the afternoon, heard a Red-eyed Vireo singing in the big pecan in the field out front of the park where the Scissor-tails nest. I presume another trolling bird. Then at the 360 xing right down the road here that Red-eyed continues singing, it may be mated as it stays in one place. Same for the Indigo Bunting there, those two I think have mates and nests there. Sure is a great Firefly show at dusk.

June 5 ~ Ran 72-92dF for a temp spread, and sticky. I see our Blue Mist gregii Eupatorium has some leaves being eaten. Found and demolished a couple of those caterpillars that demolished it for a couple years. Saw the Celia's Roadside-Skipper on the Am. Germander. Later afternoon I heard some Scissor-tailed Flycatcher ruckus up in the pecan, there was likely the local pair there. The Scissors departed and a Great Crested Flycatcher flew into the top of the tree and gave a round of calls for a few minutes. As soon as the Great Crest left the nesting Ash-throat flew around like it is boss. The Vermilion on the low fenceline ignores them all, the nesting Eastern Phoebes are the only thing it watches for. Heard the Barred Owl over at the river late evening.

June 4 ~ A small group of rain cells formed overnight in Mexico and worked from Del Rio to Uvalde Co. slowly. All the main major models missed it, only the Texas Tech showed it so NOAA mentioned that yesterday as an aside. It was the only correct model. It dumped 2.5-5" of rain along the way. Most of it was south of us along Hwy. 90 by time it went by us noonish or so. We only got about .35 of an inch. But it kept our temps about 73dF all morning, and was still only 75 at 3 p.m. as the cells got to Bexar Co. and we came out the backside of the rain sheild into the sun. Dodged the heat for the morning and a bit of a dust buster. There was one weak area with only moderate rain in it, and that was what we got. We needed the water though.

Heard a Black-and-white Warbler first thing early, I presume the one I had a week ago, and a week prior, and a trolling first-summer male, since it sang the same non-normal song. Saw it about noon on a tree in the corral. Harvested 4 new unwanted chiggers between my morning and noon tosses of seed out back. Hope I don't get any more on the afternoon toss. Mid-afternoon saw a Harlequin Flower Beetle (Gymnetis thula) which I softly swatted to the ground where it played dead. I ran for camera and got a couple docu shots before it flew off. Haven't seen one in a few years. Saw a big Eyed Elaterid click beetle a few minutes later.

This evening I did confirm a tailess barely flight capable Lark Sparrow fledgling being attended by two adults still, out along the fenceline. So this thing made two nights out in the yard on the ground. With all the coons, I have no idea how. There are a couple dense patches of Mexican Hat which I suspect is where it is hiding overnight. It did actually have a 10 foot level flight between the Persimmon and a Pecan by the gate, but still crashed off the limb it was trying for. Tomorrow we will see if it made another night. Still a couple days from real proper powered flight. It jumped wayyyy too soon.

June 3 ~ Maybe about 72 for a low, very humid. Some rain was nearishby and we got some nice rain-cooled air for the whole morning. Mid-80's and mostly cloudy in p.m., sticky. The little Treehole skeeters are out in force. Saw my FOY Pepsis Wasp. Dang dillo dug out a Eupatorium (white - Thoroughwort type) I had transplanted because deer were eating it. Dillos are real cute until you lived with one and tried to grow anything whatsoever, have a flower bed, etc. Skunks are a dream by comparison. Birds were the breeders, I sure love listening to them all day. There are almost always a couple or few species singing at any given time, often several. Did not hear the Indigo here the last couple days, but a couple were singing a third-mile down the road.

Last night about an hour before sundown a Lark Sparrow fledgling in a nest 15' up in the big pecan made a premature ejection from said nest. Went down like a rock, stood no chance whatsoever of powered flight. I tried to put it in a small pecan below it and it would not stay in it. Then I put it in a big brush pile where it would be safe. It would not stay in it. I don't know how it made the night, but it seemed like the parents were going down out in the yard and I thought I was hearing it begging. I didn't want to pressure it so did not persue, but it seems it made the night, on the ground out there.

June 2 ~ We got up sorta early and went to Lost Maples for a walk. Dawn chorus is going at 6 a.m. now. At 5:45 it was only Chat and Chuck, but by 6 Summer Tanager and Cardinal had started and it short order lots was going off. Low was about 72dF, some low stratus, which thickened up at higher altitude and kept heat at bay for a few hours.

We walked Can Creek a mile past the ponds to the high water spring. About two miles each way, in about 5 hours total. I go slow and easy at this age in the hot and sticky. We saw 3 groups of Golden-cheeked Warbler with two juveniles each, being fed by adults. Which made for great viewing. Heard a number of and saw a few others. Pretty easy to see today. We heard about 4 Black-capped Vireo along the trail, I got a glimpse of one. Heard Olive Sparrow, 3-4 White-tipped Dove (glimpsed one) along canyon, heard Audubon's Oriole singing at the pond.

Only heard one Black-n-white Warbler, they seem to be mostly gone already. Heard a couple and saw one Louisiana Waterthrush. Four singing Yellow-throated Warbler still, one group of fledged begging juveniles. Saw Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireo splash bathing, and several of each. Heard a Hutton's and a couple Yellow-throated Vireo. At least 3 Acadian Flycatcher, only heard one E. Pewee. One Broad-winged Hawk was good, they are likely nesting in the area again. No Zone-tail at Maples, but one south of Vanderpool on the way home.

Heard what must have been a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, but giving an odd call, way up the canyon. The rest was the usual suspects like Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo and Painted (down in main canyon) Bunting, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, a few Summer Tanager, Canyon Wren, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Chipping Sparrows with juvies, Titmouse, Chickadee, Cards, a few Inca Dove, Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, etc.

Saw one Greater Earless Lizard right where Kathy had a probable a couple weeks ago. A few Six-lined Racerunner were out once it warmed. Saw a dead Ox Beetle in the path. The flowers were still great. There was lots of Lemon Beebalm aka Purple Horsemint by the big pond, and tons along 187 on way. Pearl aka Green Milkweed Vine is going well too. In lower canyon some Buttonbush was blooming but not up around ponds yet. The first few Texas Milkweed were opening. Lots of Indian Blanket and Coreopsis still, Prairie Fleabane, Snapdragon Vine, one Larkspur still had flowers, both Thistles, etc.

Butterflies were good, but no AZ Sister, one Red-spotted Purple. Two black form female Easter Tiger Swallowtail, one yellow form Tiger, 2 Two-tailed Swallowtail, a Giant, few Pipevine, one Black, and several Spicebush Swallowtail. Six species of swallowtails in a walk is great to me. I got pix of my FOY metalmark (Calephelis sps.), on which VFW (ventral forewing) pattern is clearly Rawson's. And which I had there last year in June as well. Saw my FOY Bronze Roadside-Skipper, and saw both types, the unmarked underwing with checkered fringe (standard), and the lightly marked with pale spots type (as Kaufmann shows as 'AZ type'), but with uncheckered fringe. I did not see any Monarch cats on the few Antelope Horns I saw.

Odes (dragonflies) are really getting going well, providing some great action as it got hot out. One interesting one was photo'd poorly, I will see if an expert can ID it. We saw about 7-8 Widow Skimmers around the ponds, when they are chasing each other it is a sight. What a beauty. There were a couple Comanche Skimmer which were my FOY, as were a couple Neon Skimmer. Saw one Flame Skimmer up by the usual highwater spot. Some Banded Pennant, a Red-tailed Pennant, Red Saddlebags, Prince and Dot-winged Baskettail, no gliders. A bunch of damsels I did not spend time on, but good numbers of Springwater, Duksy, Violet, and Blue-ringed Dancer.

June 1 ~ About 71dF for a low, cloudy until mid-day, got to 86 or so at peak heat, and very muggy. Worked on stuff here since the migration party is over. I should be checking the SLC pond still a time or two the first week of June, but am about out of steam and time. I fall behind every spring for migration. My life motto has arguably been "will fall behind for good birding". It was just the regular gang today. Neat was a couple cuckoos around lots, and lots. Must be feeding young very nearby, I presume over in the well-treed corral. They love hunting the big-leafed pecans. I love hearing them call all day. A Swift Setwing (ode) late in day was my FOY.

goldencheekedwarbler
Only a month or so left to see these here this year. I'm startin' to panic.
They can be fickle after mid-June. Often a few are around and findable to
mid-July. This past weekend we saw three sets of 2 fledglings being fed.



~ ~ ~ May summary ~ ~ ~

It was a wet one with about 7" of rain for us here, almost all in the first third of the month, only a couple tenths in last two-thirds. Temps were only up to lowest 90's a few days, mostly was in the 80's, so sorta beat the heat for May.

Butterflies were OK with 47 species, but which was 5 less than April. For the most part it was the most likely 48 species, spring is not when rarities or vagrants show up. There were a last couple Monarchs early in the month. Elada Checkerspot is always good. No Metalmarks yet, and only Reakirt's for Blues. Red Satyr and Red-spotted Purple are always good to see. There are some Crimson Patch on private property near the 360 crossing, on the knoll to the SW. Must be something they use as foodplant there.

Odes were 28 species, up a half-dozen over April. Like butterflies, spring is not the time for rare vagrants in general. It was a great Band-winged Dragonlet show at the ponds on S. Little Crk. Rd., and the smaller southerly pond was loaded with Plateau Spreadwing again. A Great Pondhawk at the south pond May 4 was the most (only) unusual thing seen. One Wandering Glider was good for early May then and there as well. I just snuck Orange-striped Threadtail in on May 31 at the park when I saw the first ones of the year flying.

Birds were spectacular, April and May are the two biggest diverstiy months here. I saw about 125 species locally in May. Warbler migration was lackluster, I think the 16 species I saw over the whole spring is my average here. But it was scraping: one Tennessee, one Black-throated Green, two Wilson's, one No. Parula, and so on it went. No Redstart! Four Mourning Warbler was OK though. Six Mississippi Kite were nice on May 2. Again there was a pair of Cassin's Kingbird in our big pecan, May 9!

A Northern Goshawk on May 2 might have been the best bird, hopefully the powers that be will accept my poor docushots, at least I got a couple. A male Wilson's Phalarope at the SLC ponds May 11 was the other rarity seen. The ones last year were the first BanCo records. May 10 an American Pipit in breeding plumage was my first May record here. Several folks reported Catbirds in first half of May, and I had a couple. I had 7 Eastern Kingbird including 5 at once together, just south of town which is a great spring showing. Dickcissels were all over the place after being completely absent last spring and summer.

A Tree Lizard at Lost Maples was something I had longed to see and been missing. Had a Spotted Racerunner there as well. Saw a couple Velvet Worms around the house. A 2" Robberfly (Asilid) was neat, if only I could figure out what it was. Saw a couple Eyed Elaterid click beetles. Flowers were fairly spectacular from all the rain, most things seemed to have a good bloom. Which makes for good bug and seed crops. Everything is connected.

~ ~ ~ end May summary ~ ~ ~

May 31 ~ Weewow another month hath shot by. Another spring migration passage is over too. Heck spring is over, climatological summer starts tomorrow. It went out with a bang, a group of rain cells nearby last night gave us a 65dF low to start the day with. Awesome. Was still below 78dF at 2 p.m.! How come I get the feeling we are going to pay for this mild May? Saw a Velvet Worm on the patio at sunup this morning.

On the way to town, just down the road a quarter mile or so I heard a bunch of begging baby Yellow-throated Warbler, so some of them are out of the nest now. Checked the park because I went to town, there was no good reason to do so, other than living a 'Groundhog Day' type of birding life. Just a few of the usual regulars, did see just-fledged dark-eyed White-eyed Vireo out of the nest. Barred Owl called and I thought I heard a young beg.

Saw my FOY Orange-striped Threadtail (damselfly), at least a half-dozen, finally. Over a dozen Blue-ringed and a few Violet Dancer. Lots of bluets out over the water, did see some Double-striped Bluet. One Red-tailed Pennant was out over the water. It seems they might have bred here last year and these are on-site emergences. It was always just a late summer to fall visitor, and less than annual at that, until the last couple years. Now it seems we are hatching our own.

Went out to the S. Little Crk. Pond because I am a glutton for punishment, nothing there. Still has water but only the far part. Just a small puddle or two at the small pond to the south. Lots of Band-winged Dragonlet at the big pond with water still flying. A few dozen at least. Along Little Crk. where UvCo 354 hits it there was my FOY Widow Skimmer, finally, a favorite beauty.

I hit the post office just right and ran into Judy Schaeffer and Sheila Hargill. Sheila said they had a male Black-headed Grosbeak at their feeder a couple weeks ago. I haven't seen one in a few years, but was seeing them every other year or so for a decade. That male is a pretty bird. Judy said she had a Catbird a couple weeks ago at her place. Little Creek Larry said he had a Catbird this week at Little Creek. Always great to hear of scarce passage migrants others are seeing locally.

May 30 ~ A front is washing out in the area, there were a few spritzes overnight and in the morning. Low was about 71dF. An actual wind change with light northerly flow was neat for the date. Later in afternoon it went NE. Way fewer hummers around, the majority of the last batch of young are gone now, so it is back to almost just adults. Surely another set of juvies is on the way soon. Heard an Audubon's Oriole first thing whilst on my first cup of coffee in bed. The Red-eyed Vireo is still singing out front across the road, sometimes in yard out by the wellhouse.

In the afternoon another Blue-gray Gnatcat went through yard, sounded like a juvenile. Just-fledged juvie Lark Sparrow being fed on patio now. After 7 p.m. an outflow boundry from a good thundercell hit us and dropped it 10dF from 86 to 76 in 10 minutes. We only got a spritzing, but the cooloff was great. An area of 2-4" of rain was 30 miles south, and Concan to Uvalde area got over an inch, we were just spit on here, maybe a tenth from all of it, but we got the big cooldown.

May 29 ~ Low 70's to upper 80's dF, and which is the forecast every day for the 10-day currently. Varying rain chances in low-end. Bearable cloudy breezy mornings, hot and sticky with occasional sun in afternoon. But, still not the 90's yet, only a few days hit that all month, so we beat the heat this May. Now we are down to just 3-4 months of brutal, pending how Sept. plays out. When in drought cycles it can be 90+dF April to October with 6 months of summer. A number of local residents (hominid) go to the Ruidoso NM area or Colorado for the summer, the lucky so and so's.

If it weren't for the amazing set of breeding birds and the incredible insects, I probably couldn't stand it. It is the heat and humidity that make the bugs that make the birds so good. Most of the action and excitement is the migratory insectivores, stuff that winters from Mexico to South America, and is just here a few months to breed, and eat 'bugs and worms'. Of which Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo are two flagship representitives. More-seen things like Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, Vermilion or Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Painted Bunting are better known examples by non-birding locals.

Meanwhile its Wednesday for me, so like Thursdays I am stuck at the desk all day, save my hourly 5 minute lookabouts. Ten if no one is watching. During migration I may disappear longer during brief periods of mystery or intrigue. Never any months or year-long thing like Audubon did though. I was told a long time ago there won't be any of that.

Some of what includes the yard in their territories so the things seen and singing daily are: Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, Summer Tanager, Yellow-throated Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Great Crested, Ash-throated (in a box), and Vermilion Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, White-winged and Mourning Dove, Ground-Dove, Lark, Chipping and Field Sparrow, Cardinal, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Bewick's Wren, Eastern Bluebird (feeding young in a box now), Eastern Phoebe, and too many Black-chinned Hummingbirds.

Seen half of days the last month are a couple trollers (unmated singing males moving up and down river habitat corridor), Indigo Bunting and Red-eyed Vireo. The Red-eye now is on day 5 or 6 out front right now. They will be around a few days, then not, then back, repeat. Overhead daily are Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, Chimney Swift, and Red-tailed Hawk. Weekly or so I see Cooper's and Zone-tailed Hawk, both nest not too far away and hunt the yard regularly. At dark the Chuck-wills-widow are going bonkers now, maybe 3 close and 3 more distant. Hearing Barred Owl nightly over at the river. I see or hear Scissor-tailed Flycatcher daily, but they are not nesting closer than a quarter-mile, he complained.

About 5 p.m. an Eastern Wood-Pewee was in the yard, probably an unmated bird. Heard a FOY cicada then too, so second day after the first Katydid. Saw a Questionmark butterfly today, besides the regular stuff.

May 28 ~ Hit 70dF for a low, big difference a few dF makes. With the low stratus overcast, we might make noon before 80dF. The mornings are still nice and bearable. Ran to the P.O. so checked the park. Heard a Green Heron which is the first I have had there this year. These birds arrive so late I can't believe it. Same every year, usually late April to late May, often later May arrival here. Whilst at Uvalde the City Park nesting birds there arrive in later March. Two months difference. There was a female or young male Red-tailed Pennant up by the island at the park, my FOY locally.

A couple light rain cells went by in the afternoon, we had a tenth of an inch or so, just enough to hold some dust down. We'll take it. About 7 p.m. there was a Black-and-white Warbler singing out front. Never got a look so could not age, I suspect an unmated troller. Song sounded a bit off in the same way the one did that went through a week or two ago. Some Chimney Swift at dusk feeding over the river habitat corridor with a number of Martins. More Katydids tonight, maybe 4-5, and the Barred Owl called again.

May 27 ~ The low was 69.5dF, that felt great. SOShtuff, low clouds, humid, some occasional sun. No holiday here, just another work Monday. A Chimney Swift shot over low at 7 a.m., must be a nearby chimney in use. The dawn chorus is still going well, but you can tell not as strongly as it was already. The Red-eyed Vireo is still out there trolling. The Great Crested Flycatcher gave a Titmouse hell chasing it. I wonder if it is not mated this year like a few things around seem to be. Some just-fledged juvie Cardinal on patio being fed.

Kathy saw a Two-tailed Swallowtail, surely the one I saw around yesterday. Over the day had two Blue-gray Gnatcatcher go through yard, one early, one late. I suspect these are fledged juveniles in post-breeding wandering. Already, in late May. Their voices are a bit higher and thinner, a little more squeaky than adults. Heard my FOY Katydids tonight, just a couple, barely chuggin'. Katydid tonight, cicada in a day or two.

May 26 ~ The 71dF low felt better after about four days with just 74. Low stratus from the Gulf. It is great hearing Great Crested Flycacher in the yard a bunch. I guess the Ash-throats know they have to tolerate it. When it moves through they are pretty quiet, and it is typically noisy. After it goes, they get noisy again. Pretending they are all that. Found a FOY tick on my leg mid-morn, all I had done was toss birdseed in the usual couple places out back. It was still wandering and not plugged in yet. I usually see only one to a very few each year. Locals say it was the Fire Ants (imported non-native) that took them down.

About 11 a.m. we took a spin around the wildlife easement we're on to check the knolls. The two high spots can have some different stuff. The south knoll had its usual singing Olive Sparrow and Black-capped Vireo, saw neither though. Nice to know they are there doing their thing. Also in that category was two Crimson Patch. There is a population on the knoll, I do not know what foodplant they are using, there is no Flame Acanthus there. What a stunning beauty they are. A few Gnatcatcher around, which nest there, a couple sounded like begging babies. Heard a couple Rufous-crowned Sparrow, they nest there too. Heard Hutton's Vireo.

All the Agarita bushes were stripped where we collected berries a week ago. Gone. Over on the north knoll we found a couple bushes that still had some and got a cup of berries and some poked fingers. So we get a wee bit of Agarita jam anyway this year. While we were picking them I heard a distant odd song. After a few listens I said to Kathy I gotta go find that. Sure enough, a male Golden-cheeked Warbler. Not full blast singing, and mostly a 'B' type song with the trill on the end. I saw no green in the back or crown, it looked like a full ad. male. I doubt it is on territory there and suspect it is a done breeder wandering around already. Will check the spot again soon to see. Also there was a Plains Clubtail dragonfly, and a big fancy Robberfly (Asilid), got photo so will work on ID.

May 25 ~ Ran 74-89dF or so today, mostly cloudy, some p.m. sun, breezy. No migrants, just the breeders. In the afternoon I checked the pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cmty., hardly any dragonflies, a couple Red Saddlebags and a Common Whitetail was it. Nothing at the Martin house, maybe they are just out feeding? The park had nothing but people. A Zone-tailed Hawk was over town. When I pulled back in driveway a Cooper's Hawk flushed from the patio area, empty fisted. Hummers are much fewer, the hoarde of juveniles have been departing for a week and change now. Thankfully. Surely a new batch on the way. Photo'd one of the Zopherus Ironclad Beetles out front.

wilsonsphalarope
Here is the Wilson's Phalarope on May 11 in BanCo, at
the So. Little Crk. Rd. pond. Tough bird to get locally.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 24 ~ Low of 74dF, strong SE Gulf flow, low stratus overcast, muggy, sunny and muggy in afternoon. Rinse and reapeat until September. Kathy set a mouse trap last night and this morning the trap had, well, we can't find the trap, but when we do I will let you know. Country living is like living a cartoon. I heard a Red-eyed Vireo singing across the road. Like the male Indigo Bunting it is trolling up and down the river habitat corridor, but which means they are unmated still. Nearing last sun there was a Chimney Swift, and a male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher around for a bit.

Town run day, getting busy with the Memorial Day weekend. As I was getting gas I watch some citiot with a big truck and trailer pull into bank and head back out the other driveway to head back down Main St. As he is getting near exit I think, he has to wait for those next cars, and he pulls right out in front of them, they all have to stop for his citiotness. If they had kept speed they would have creamed the trailer. The Memorial Day Morons have arrived. We will be hiding out where no one goes. The park got a new road, looks nice, is black and will be hotter. No migrant birds there. At the S. Little Crk. Rd. ponds, only 2 probable breeders: Killdeer and Black-bellied Whistling-Duck. Lots of dragonflies though, a few dozen Band-winged Dragonlets, and some teneral damselfly I will try to ID from pix.

May 23 ~ The strong gulf flow and winds have not abated, it is still 15-20 mph, gusting higher, for a few days now, and forecast for a five more. Oh to have had this in late April or early May, we'd have been covered in migrants. It is just too late, its too late baby, now its too late. All together now. Nothing goin' on but the breeders. I am even beginning to wonder if there is going to be an empi or few, or not. Usually there are some at the very end. I have not seen any Traill's type (Willow or Alder) Flycatcher whatsoever yet. Much less a Yelly-belly.

Got a few chiggers though. They are finally making a showing, Kathy hit the wrong clump of grass a couple days ago and got a bunch for free. More than I get weed-whacking an acre of tall grass, which up to a week ago was maybe one or two. Methinks they have popped. The Firefly show sure has gotten to pretty sparkly. Skeeters are out too, the park up by the island has lots now, the price for all that rain.

May 22 ~ A low of about 73dF, the Gulf flow won at some point overnight. It was dropping into the mid-60's with the dry air and northwest flow, the Gulf won. So windy and muggy, cloudy morn, sunny afternoon. Winds were 15-20 mph gusting higher. Heard a Yellow Warbler and a Dickcissel out in yard, the rest was the breeders. At least a couple baby chickadees being attended by the adults is neat around the yard. Lots of Bordered Patch butterflies moving around, I saw 5 at once from the back porch, must be tons of them around. Don't know how many you get to the ton. Saw one Tawny Emperor, first of the month. One male Fiery Skipper. One Queen was around the Blue Mist Eupatorium which has a couple stalks with flowers open. The ultimate Queen magnet here. The Am. Germander (aka Wood Sage, but not a sage) is getting going, it has a nice sweet scent. Heard the Barred owl again.

May 21 ~ Didn't cool down much until a squall line arrived about 6 a.m., we got maybe .2 tenths of an inch of precip and it dropped to 64dF. A Pacific front was behind it a couple hours and we had NW winds briefly, and very dry air, in the afternoon KRVL was 16% humidity. Awesome. Hit about 85dF peak heat in the sun, which in dry air is completely bearable. Wish I could have gone out and run around to check some trees. I heard a Yellow Warbler singing a couple times over the day, that was it. The rain arriving right before light is the perfect timing we want, but when passage is at peak roar early April to mid-May. Great Firefly show at dusk now. The Barred Owl still calling at river.

May 20 ~ A low of 73dF is not very. Balmy, was a bit of fog and a mist or two. The wind from the SE is blowing hard, 15-25 mph with gusts to 35! It is exactly what you need for good migrants here, from early April to about May 15. A bit too late now to do much good for us. Heard one Yellow Warbler in the yard, that was it for migrants here. Monday back at the salt mine, so can't go check the treed spots. In the afternoon I heard a dove flushing event, looked out the office window, and saw a Zone-tailed Hawk climbing up out of the yard, but with nothing in talons. It is back to the breeders now, the migration passage party is over. Saw what methinks was a Cuckoo Wasp, it looked like an overgrown huge metallic green halichtid.

May 19 ~ Overnight low was 70dF. Foggy, and some mist. Get used to it. First thing early before sunup there were 3 Common Nighthawk low over house and yard. Heard a Yellow Warbler sing early. Later morning I heard a Black-and-white Warbler singing out back. I presume an unmated troller. Noon went to park for a quick look, only passage migrant was a female Common Yellowthroat. One Green Kingfisher at island. Out to the pond on S. Little Crk. Rd., nothing but the 5 B-b Whistling-Duck. Checked the 354 pecans and no migrants there either. The passage of migrants will soon be just a memory. There is about one last week to get a stray straggler or two.

About 5 p.m. we took a walk up the hill behind us to see if any Agarita (aka Texas Holly) crop this year. Lots seem eaten already, but there are some berries. We picked a cup or so. Those are some well-protected fruit. In the process I flushed a female Common Nighthawk from the ground. I did not see exactly where from and did not see any eggs. I got a binoc view on a horizontal live-oak branch it landed on, but it flushed as I went for camera. Great close look anyway though. Probably a nest there. Those Agarita thickets are a pretty safe space. I once saw a Painted Bunting nest in an Agarita. Might as well be in a cactus. Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk fly by later in afternoon from the front porch.

May 18 ~ Balmy low of 68dF or so, a bit of mist early. A showerlet mid-morn to noon. No migrant motion in yard. Checked the 354 pecans since missed them yesterday, nothing, singing Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo might nest there. Dickcissels still going in pasture on north side of road. No kingbirds on fencelines. Utopia Park had a male Mourning Warbler not there yesterday. The Swainson's Thrush were gone. One Ringed Kingfisher was the first I have seen in over a month, they have been gone nesting somewhere along the river. Nothing at the SLC pond, but lots of Band-winged Dragonlet flying. On the way home right at the cattle guard a quarter mile from our gate another Mourning Warbler, this one a female!

About 4 p.m. a line of thunder cells moved over, up-valley got it good as that cell rained itself out around Lost Maples and Love Creek. Our cell ran from SE Real Co. along the Bandera-Uvalde Co. line and fairly clobbered town here, have to see what they got. We were at the edge and in a half hour got an inch of rain. And hail, up to a little over an inch across, most pea to nickel sized, but lots quarter sized. As the cell approached it sounded like fighter jets way high up, a roar, constantly for a half hour as the cell went by and over. It was the hail up in the cell, a loud roarl. I thought it was a wall of water coming down the river at first. It went from a muggy 78dF to a cool 66dF as the cell went over. Fist pumps.

After it went by it lurched south and hit Sabinal and Hwy. 90. The sun came out and all the birds went to singing as they often do after a rain. It was great all over again. Nearing last sun 3 Chimney Swift went over a couple times, wish our chimney wasn't sealed. At dusk the Firefly show was at least 3 dozen, yard is getting pretty sparkly again. Very nice. Heard Barred and Great Horned Owl over at the river.

mourningwarbler
Mourning Warbler, female, at Utopia Pk.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 17 ~ A little mist early, low about 68dF, summer is coming. Mostly overcast all day, just got to lowest 80's dF. Not bad for the date. No migrants through yard in morning, the party is about over. Town run, but forgot to check the 354 pecan patch on way in, and had tacos on way out so did not check it darn it. No Kingbirds on the magic fenceline. At the park there was one female Common Yellowthroat for passage migrant warblers. Two Swainson's Thrush were the only other migrants I saw. In the Mulberries of course. A male Green Kingfisher was tenderizing a Dollar Sunfish. Ran out to S. Little Crk. ponds and had 5 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, that was it. Heard a Yellow Warbler here at the house in the afternoon, and an Orchard Oriole 'chucked' around the yard for a bit. A couple male Blue Grosbeak were really going at it at the front of the yard out where I leave some wildflowers along the fenceline.

May 16 ~ Overcast early, cleared mid-day, sunny afternoon, a very standard pattern here, ran about 67-80dF. I did not see or hear any passage migrant species here today. The big girl is starting to warm up. At least there is a great set of breeders to watch and listen to daily in the yard. Saw Blue Grosbeak and Painted Bunting on the patio, Vermilion and Great Crested Flycatcher in pecans, the Summer Tanager pair at the bath, Chat, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireos, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, heard Yellow-throated Warbler and Field Sparrow singing, Chippy and Lark Sparrow on the patio, Caracara went over, hear a juv. Red-tailed Hawk begging. Indigo Bunting still singing and sneaking in and out. The weirdest thing was one lone begging Starling that flew over calling. I do not know of any nesting besides a few pair in town. Two FOY critters today: an Eyed Elaterid, the big click beetle with the false eyes on the thorax, and a favorite bug, and early about 7 a.m. I saw a FOY Velvet Worm out back. The velvet slugish appearing beast.

May 15 ~ Low in 60's dF and overcast, a spritz of mist around 8 a.m. as I ran to town. The park had no passage migrants whatsoever. When I got back at 9 Kathy just had a singing male Wilson's Warbler here. At the pond on S. Little Crk. Rd. there was a Spotted Sandpiper, a drake Blue-winged Teal, and 2 drake Shoveler. Has to be my latest local date for Shoveler. A Mexican (was Green) Violetear is at a feeder in the SAT area (Bexar Co. methinks). Another Dickcissel was around yard in late afternoon. Otherwise just the breeders, fine assortment that it is. Hearing birdsong all day is a wonderful thing. At dusk I heard the 'booming' of my FOS Common Nighthawk. Finally, my latest ever FOS for them. Little Creek Larry said he had some a couple weeks ago. Our local breeders have been absent. Heard the Barred Owl at the river after dark. The Chucks are goin' nuts out there after dark.

May 14 ~ Low back to the 60's again, sure was nice the four prior days in 50's. Too busy with work, but not much migrant motion here. One singing Yellow Warbler was around the yard most of the day, and an Orchard Oriole trolled through for about 5 minutes. In the afternoon a Least Flycatcher was out front. At dusk a couple Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over, and a couple Chimney Swift. Otherwise it was the yard area breeders. Migration ends quick and early south of 30 deg. N. We are past peak and it is fading fast. The biggest bulk of birds is likely 500-1000 miles north of us already. We are at the, uh, tail-end of it already here, and there is no 'vagrant season' here as much of the west has in later May to early June. Some begging baby Lesser Goldfinch are out of the nest now.

May 13 ~ We were about 56dF for a low, I saw KRVL was 51! Four days in a row with lows in the 50's in mid-May is a big treat. Heard a Dickcissel call in the yard in the a.m., and a Yellow Warbler sang. Still hear Turkey gobbling. Clear and calm last night, I suspect there was movement. But that was all the motion I saw here from back at the salt mine. Saw about 3 Funereal Duskywing around the yard. Lots of butterfly action out on the wildflowers early, of the common stuff. Vesta Crescents by the dozens. Saw one worn Queen. Later a Monarch stopped on the one Blue Mist Eupatorium flower. Saw 9 Cedar Waxwings up in the big pecan.

I am not seeing any Ruby-throated Hummingbirds for the last week. Many years a very few stay through May, some breeding. This year I am not seeing any after the first week in May. That first tidal wave of Black-chinned juveniles fledging in latest April and early May numbered a couple or few hundred, it was likely too much for them. Those young are still thick and haven't seemed to left the area, unfortunately. Too much riff-raff for the Ruby-throats. We are way over a gallon a day now, through 3 feeders.

May 12 ~ An amazing low of 53dF, with some high thin clouds. It was clear and calm at midnight last night so I suspect all the grounded birds bolted. We did a slow roll to Lost Maples, got there about 10 a.m., saw a couple or three Yellow Warbler along the roads on the way. Nothing was at Haby's wet spot on W. Sabinal Rd. but the Grasshopper Sparrow are still singing in the pasture SW of its intersection with Jones Cmty. Rd., in BanCo. An Orchard Oriole was in the Hackberry row just west.

The only Inca Dove we saw at Lost Marbles were at the HQ feeders area. The main big great feeding station at the trailhead parking lot has apparently had its seed discountinued. As they do in May for some mis-guided ill-conceived 'reason'. What they do is get a bunch of birds hooked on the seed, the birds start nesting, and then they take the seed away. Because of some date on the calendar. Not because they care about the birds or park users. But because of some ridiculous 'reason' that has nothing to do with the birds they are managing. They should not feed them in the first place if they are going to remove the food source shortly after nesting has begun for its users. What is the 'blind' and feeding station for? At least keep it filled through the first nesting cycle of its users, which means the end of May or early June. The tools are there to turn people on to nature and birds, and they are not used. End of rantlet.

We hiked the couple miles to the highwater spring a mile behind the ponds. Getting there late lots of birdsong had quieted already. There were occasional Golden-cheeked Warbler singing, but none gave good views. Heard at least four Black-capped Vireo going up the canyon, one gave views just downslope from the big pond. Another gray-naped black-headed bird. Heard a few 'begging warbler fledgling getting fed' events, Black-and-white, or Golden-cheeks, the rapidfire juvie bk bk bk bk notes are identical. Yellow-throated Warbler were about 3 singing birds, Lousiana Waterthrush maybe 5 singers. Exciting as it was pitiful was my only of spring so far, so FOS, Wilson's Warbler way up the canyon. Do you know how far off the wing-beaten path you have be to barely scrape up a Wilson's for spring? Oh, but you ought to see my spring Nashville total. Have a Nash day! Best warbler was a tardy female Myrtle Warbler.

An Olive-sided Flycatcher was my FOS, and a Warbling Vireo only my second this spring. We saw one Olive Sparrow well, and the way it was chasing Cardinals around had a nest in the immediate area. Heard about 3 White-tipped Dove, no Orioles or Scrub-Jay. A White-eyed Vireo singing was doing a great Scrub-Jay call note for its first note of song. Good numbers of White-eyes and Red-eyed Vireo, fewer but some Yellow-throated and about 5 singing Hutton's. BTW, did hear a Bell's Vireo as we left town on county line road. So for vireos it was 7 species today, 6 were at Lost Maples. It's like vireotopia man. Heard 3 Acadian Flycatcher, only two territorial E. Wood-Pewee. Heard a couple Painted and several Indigo Bunting, good numbers of Blue Grosbeak, heard a Roadrunner bill-clack up the slope above the pond. Heard an Ash-throated Flycatcher, a couple Ladder-backed Woodpecker, a couple Rufous-crowned Sparrow, a few Canyon Wren, and of course the regular set of the common stuff.

In odes there were lots of damsels I didn't look at, but saw Aztec, Dusky, and Springwater Dancers. Great was a Great Spreadwing at the highwater spring, the first I have seen at LM, the first I have seen locally in over a decade, since when the drought just got going. It moved off before I could get a photo. For dragons there were 3+ Flame Skimmers, 3 Pale-faced Clubskimmer, a pair of Roseate Skimmer with female ovipositing, a clubtail that was probably Plains, finally some Prince Baskettail (they were flying 6 weeks ago at Sabinal down off the plateau), over a dozen Dot-winged Baskettail, a Red Saddlebags. It is starting to get going. It was too cool the first couple hours, until after noon.

Butterflies were so-so. Only one big yellow Swallowtail (Two-tailed), a few Spicebush, a Giant, bunch of Pipevine. Best was a Red Satyr, my first of the year. One or two Little Wood Satyr were still flying. The second wave of Antelope Horn is blooming, now mostly covered in Gray Hairstreaks, a few Olive-Juniper, and I did not see a Southern (Oak) Hairstreak. Lots of Reakirt's Blue where wet ground, same for Red Admiral. One big worn pale Monarch. One Questionmark, one Am. Lady, no Duskywings, some Dun Skipper, one Julia's, the only Roadside-Skipper was a worn Nysa, the others are not flying yet, a couple worn Theona Checkerspot were good, a few Bordered Patch, one Texan Crescent, some Vesta. I had a skipperling back here in the yard in the afternoon.

The bummer of the day was when I spotted after 15 years of looking, a Tree Lizard (Urosaurus), and a person coming up the trail unaware scared it up a big juniper with lots of peeling bark and crevices and I could not relocate it. Only have to live 15 more years to find another one, no big deal. Kathy glimpsed a big pale lizard right in an area we have seen Greater Earless Lizard, which is probably what it was. We saw a few Six-lined Racerunner, and saw 1 Spotted Racerunner. Great to see some lizards!

On the way home, on that magic section of fencline just south of town, east side of 187, where I get my Eastern Kingbirds every year, there were two Eastern Kingbird, one allowed photos (below). On the way out in the a.m. there were TWO male Great-tailed Grackle at the north end of town, doubling their population here. Late p.m. back here at the hovelita there was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher that moved through northbound. I suspect a tardy far-north nester still on its way. The locals are all on territory a month plus now.

May 11 ~ A nice cool 54dF low, some mist, and breezy northerlies, so almost chilly. Took another look around for grounded migrants since I had to go to P.O. anyway. Total of 4-5 single scattered Yellow Warblers. There were no Eastern Kingbird where 5 on fenceline yesterday. Best bird was a male WILSON'S PHALOROPE in BanCo at the northern bigger pond on S. Little Crk. Rd. Great bird in BanCo, yes I got a docu ID shot. There were about 4 Blue-winged Teal, a pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and 5 Wood Duck on the water. I presume the latter two species are nesting there. Two Spotted Sandpiper were on the grass islets. A Canyon Towhee was again at the corner of Lee St., or 354, where the genetic engineered mutant deer are farmed.

At UP there was a female Mourning Warbler besides what I presume is a continuing male from yesterday. The female obliged for photos, the male not so much. There was also a pair of Common Yellowthroat there, and a Northern Waterthrush. A Solitary Sandpiper flew over calling, tough in the park. I presume it is the same Catbird as yesterday, sure neat to hear that call. Other things were Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Painted Bunting, Yellow-throated Warbler and Vireo, White-eyed Vireo and Summer Tanager, all fun and games. Amazingly empty of people too.

Saw Big Ern's (to go) B-B-Q was open, the car just pulled over there, I guess since it has been a while. A pound of pork ribs and a half a chicken, and I was good-to-go. It is right next to Rosie's taco trailer, on Main St., about every other Saturday during warm season, if you see them open, stop. Great brisket too. After pigging out for lunch here, to wear it off I took a drive. I am sure those two three-point turns burned off 2 calories. With that phalarope at the SLC ponds, I had to check the UvCo 361 flooded pasture. Nothing, but 30+ Dickcissel in a couple miles along the road. So for today, migrants not as many as yesterday, some obvious holdovers, most gone, and some new stuff. That phalarope was not there yesterday and the Eastern Kingbirds were. I love feeling the turnover of passage.

easternkingbird
Eastern Kingbird - May 12 - Seven this spring is a good total, all were
on the fenceline a quarter+ mile south of town, where very few occur
annually in early May. Scissor-tails are fancy-tailed Kingbirds.
When you see long pointed wings, know you have a very good flier.

~ ~ ~ partial update header archive copy ~ ~ ~

RECENT SPRING WEATHER:
We had hard freezes early in March on March 3rd, 4th, and 5th, and Lost Maples froze the 17th. Wind chills were in the 30's March 31st! We froze again here at Utopia the morning of April 2! I have seen freezes in latest April and earliest May, but we are likely out of the woods for that now. Average last freeze is March 20-21, first day of spring. Pending where you were locally, about 2-3" of rain fell April 24. And no one complained. Another 2.5" fell overnight May 2-3, .75" overnight 5-6 May, 1.5" by 8 p.m. on May 9, and it just keeps coming. The South Little Creek Rd. pond in Bandera Co. has lots of water and so always worth a look if here. The big one is less than a mile south of 470.

MARCH ARRIVALS
Some March arrivals were: Barn Swallow and Purple Martin March 1, both in town. Northern Rough-winged Swallow March 5. March 7 two Long-billed Curlew flew over calling after 11 p.m. March 8 besides a yard Golden-cheek, I had my first spring migrant Monarch butterfly from Mexico! Two Yellow-throated Warbler arrived March 10, three Blue-gray Gnatcatcher were my FOS March 13, Ash-throated Flycacher arrived March 14. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Louisiana Waterthrush were FOS March 17 at Vanderpool and Lost Maples, March 22 I saw my first Hooded Oriole, Bell's Vireo, Cave Swallow, and Great-tailed Grackle. Its a near-daily parade of new first of season migrant birds for 60-90 days. A Northern Parula sang in our yard the 23rd. March 24 we saw our FOS Grasshopper (6!) and Clay-colored Sparrow at the north end of town. A male Lazuli Bunting was at the trailhead parking lot feeding station at Lost Maples March 30-31 at least.

FEBRUARY: We have entered that time of year when FOS - first-of-season birds might show up any day for the next almost 2 months. Our first arrivals are returning local breeders that migrate away for the winter. Passage migrants that breed far to the north don't show until much later. Since the Turkey Vultures on Feb. 14th, that week two other new returnee arrivals included my earliest ever Vermilion Flycatcher by 8 days, and White-eyed Vireo returned, they have been showing up much earlier than they used to for a few years now. Black-chinned Hummingbird is another arriving almost a couple weeks earlier than it used to, and was back on Feb. 24th.

Of expected but scarcer or local things around, there are the usual: Zone-tailed Hawk, Canyon Towhee and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, Ringed and Green Kingfisher. Some few Audubon's Oriole are around, like Bushtit, you could see one anywhere anytime, or nowhere at no time. It's birding!%^*@%! Again some White-tipped Dove and Olive Sparrow have been at Lost Maples, and around Utopia, the new normal. Both nested at Lost Maples probably at least the last two years (begging juveniles seen and heard).

~ ~ ~ end partial update header copy ~ ~ ~



~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 10 ~ A 55dF low felt fantastic. Just a little drizzle overnight, mostly just northerlies. Town run so a little look around. At the UvCo 361 pond there was a breeding plumaged American (formerly Water) Pipit. Surely my only May record hereabouts. I took two quick docushots and it literally disappeared into the grass without flying off. It dematerialzed. Or Scotty beamed it up. Must have ducked under a tuft of grass, and that was that. Nothing else there though. The deeper pond with lillies had a pair of Whistling-Duck, which are probably nesting near it. Heard Bobwhite along the road there today, it is as sure a spot as we have for hearing them here. Took a look at the S. Little Crk. ponds where there were 9 Blue-winged Teal at the bigger north pond, that was it, too cold for odes.

The park had a calling Catbird which gave good views, but autofocus doesn't want me to have a pic of. Saw a male Common Yellowthroat, and better, a FOS male Mourning Warbler. Nothing at the 354 pecans but one Yellow Warbler, and singing Dickcissels. Four other single Yellows were seen along the roads or at stops. A couple dozen waxwings were at the park crapping mulberries in case you wanted to know. Careful standing under them counting...  pro tip: count birds in a tree from the side.

I scanned all the fences along the way, nearly 10 miles worth total, for Eastern Kingbird since we are at their peak week of occurrence (passage) here, and saw nothing. After I did my errands and left Rosie's with Tacos just as I got out of town on the empty fence I had driven by an hour earlier, there were FIVE Eastern Kingbird together! Most I have seen at once here. Grabbed a couple distant docushots, only got 3 in one frame, but oh whatabird. So sharp looking, I love 'em. What a beauty. Here, if you miss them this week, you could well miss them all year. The Scott's Oriole of yesterday here did not show today, so I suspect it was not our returning bird, but a one-minute wonder in passage.

May 9 ~ Low of 69dF, they continue inching upwards towards summer. Supposed to have a cold front pass in the afternoon. Cloudy early, breaking mid-morn, saw no migrant movement. A first for the yard this spring was a Scott's Oriole singing from the big pecan. I hope it found the feeders, or better, is the one that was here last year until a nest failure. They have been back in many places locally after mid-March as usual, but ours left with the female early due to the nest failure last summer and did not return the rest of the season. Been wondering if it would return, missing my daily dose of that song.

Heard a Dickcissel fly over the yard mid-day, and 9 waxwing. Just before 3 p.m. some cool air from the front got here and it was sprinkling. A Kingbird flew into the big pecan calling, a Cassin's! Ran inside for bins and camera, came back out, and a big livestock trailer came loudly clanging down the road just as I got one in bins. TWO CASSIN'S Kingbird flew out of the tree and uphill behind us. Dang trailer. This big pecan tree is a kingbird magnet. Not the first pair of Cassin's KB we have had in it! Besides Cassin's (and a Kiskadee to boot!) It have had Western, Couch's, and Eastern Kingbird, and Scissor-tails are regular. It is the tallest tree around for 200-300 feet in any direction, at about 40' or so. It is a magic tree. That is what the guy that sold it to me said anyway. Just kiddin', its about 250 years old. One of these days I will have to make up my big pecan tree list. Any Mulberry on the coast could whip it of course, but considering the location is everything. There have been some stellar birds in it. Rained in late afternoon and to dark by when we had another 1.5"!

May 8 ~ Another MCS moved over pre-dawn with showers continuing until mid-morning, another 1.125" for the May total. Now over 6.25" for us here, others around more and less. I saw upriver, upvalley in BanCo several miles, it really dumped, like 2.5-3". Then in the afternoon the bulge or bubble of runoff got down here and the river went to roaring all afternoon to evening. There were brief northerly winds behind the passage of the system, the sun came out and hot dry air blew in, getting up to about 85dF in the sun, 80 in the shade on the front porch. You get a lot more weather fer yer money here. Kathy heard an Audubon's Oriole singing outside later morning as it broke and cleared. Mid-afternoon I saw a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the pecans out front, 2nd this spring, and I miss it some years. Kathy had a few Whistling-Ducks go over at dusk.

May 7 ~ Low about 67dF, dawn chorus sure is great these days with all the breeders back on territory locally. The Chuck-wills-widow are still going at 6:30 a.m. when it is getting going. My alarm clock is a male Carolina Wren, which are rarin' to go early this time of year. Later morning I heard a Dickcissel out in the weedy far part of the yard. At least a couple Chickadee fledged from the nest in the end of a broken pecan branch. At least a couple Titmouse fledglings just got out as well.

Later afternoon I was on the front porch and a cuckoo shot by so close the hummers all exploded off the feeder. It was maybe 5' from me at closest point, at eye level. I saw no color in the bill, and no rufous in the wings. The second second of the look was watching it fly straight away whence I thought, there is no rufous in the wings after seeing both of them fully open on a downstroke. I am sure it was a Black-billed Cuckoo. But am not going to report a two second fly-bye. I have been seeing the Yellow-billed that nest somewhere adjacent, multiple times daily lately, and this was not one. It is much more compactly built. A noticeably smaller package overall (ca. 20% lighter), even if not in absolute length. The bird of the day got away, again.

May 6 ~ A MCS went over in the middle of the night, we got another .75" of rain, so now 5.25" for the month. The 62dF low was nice. Wow. The week-to-10-day forecast is like the last, with rain chances every day, and no 90's yet. We hope to get as far into May as we can before the summer sub-tropical high and heat sets in. Saw an Eastern Wood-Pewee and a Least Flycatcher in the yard, passing through. Otherwise no movement though. Some just-fledged House Finch are begging on the patio. The major action is juvenile hummingbirds of which there has been a flood in the last week. Hundreds of Black-chinned have fledged, we are covered in sugarwater suckers. Over a gallon a day now. The Firefly show is getting better, at least a couple dozen probably more in the front yard at dusk. Barred Owl called after dark from over at the river again.

May 5 ~ Happy Cinco de Mayo! Another 57dF low was awesome. We will miss these soon. Clear last night, and early, so I suspect the grounding of yesterday is gone, hopefully some new things arrived. Saw a Coyote cross the corral early, and I still hear Turkey gobbling at dawn. We went back down to UvCo 361 and still nothing in the flooded pastures but some Spadefoot Toads. Couldn't find the Yellow-headed Blackbirds. At least a dozen Dickcissel singing along the road. The flowers are great there. Heard a few Grasshopper Sparrow again there. Right after you turn off 187 the first Mesquite and brushy area on the north side of 361 always has nesting Painted Bunting and Bell's Vireo, often possible to see from the road. The whole first mile is good, especially if it has rained lots and the pastures before the houses are flooded.

The UvCo 354 pecan patch had a Yellow, a Nashville, and Kathy might have seen the Tennessee, but nothing like the 10 warblers there yesterday. Another dozen Dickcissel singing there, and Painted Bunting. At UP there was a FOS Northern Waterthrush, finally. The E. Wood-Pewee there seems to be on territory, probably the ones that nested last year. Had a Zone-tailed Hawk soaring over town. Went out to S. Little Creek ponds, and nothing there, but lots of odes. Two pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck may well be nesting at the big pond. Lots of Antelope-horn where UvCo 356 meets Little Creek, covered in Gray Hairstreaks, a couple dozen at least.

May 4 ~ A 57dF low felt fantastic. Clear at first early but clouded up shortly. The rain shield was to our east, so some birds probably back-doored behind it in the clear. One first spring male American Goldfinch is still using the sunflower tube. Great was before 10 a.m. a FOS female Rose-breasted Grosbeak approached the feeders to within a couple feet but in a case of bad timing the caballeros truck came through the corral and scared it off. Autofocus did not want me to have a sharp shot.

After breakfast I took a spin around to see what the rain dropped on us. Kathy didn't want to get muddy. Had a Gnatcatcher here. There was flood debris ON the 360 crossing we use, from the downpour at dusk last night. Actually after the last deluge we heard the river roaring for a few hours last night. If we hear it, water is on the bridge. We can cross with 4-6" no problem, even in the trucklet. After that I go the back way out.

Still Clay-colored Sparrows along all the roads, I saw nearly a dozen total, scattered here and there with Lark, Chippy, or Grasshopper Sparrows. Dickcissel were everywhere, I heard at least 50, saw dozens. Every road had single stray Yellow Warbler too. Went south on Hwy. 187 a couple miles to UvCo 361 to check the pastures that flood for shorebirds. There was a big flock of blackbirds of some sort I couldn't tell for sure but there were 8+ male Yellow-headed Blackbird in the group. Later another group of blackbirds had a few female Yellow-headed in it. Only ones I have seen this spring. A couple Grasshopper Sparrow were along 361, one pond had Great Egret and Great Blue Heron.

Then up to the 354 pecan patch a mile south of town. There were a dozen Dickcissel there, a Western Kingbird, a singing 1st spring male Painted Bunting, and a few warblers. Best were FOS single Tennessee and Black-throated Green Warblers. About 3 Nashville and 4 Yellow were there. A FOS Warbling Vireo sang a bit. Besides the Warbling, I heard Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Bell's at the same time there. Also a Gnatcat there, where they have nested.

Then to Utopia Park. A FOS Common Yellowthroat, female, was nice. Though I thought sure I heard one chip a few weeks ago. A tardy singing Orange-crowned Warbler was a good later date. A couple more Yellow Warbler. River is high and very muddy and now. Went up to W. Sabinal Rd. to check the wet spot, still nothing for shorebirds. But lots of Green Darner and FOY Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies that were not there yesterday. Lots of Lark Sparrows, a few Grasshopper and Clay-colored, carpets of Coreopsis, and some beautiful yellow Square-bud Primrose amongst tons of flowers.

Then over to the S. Little Creek ponds just below 470. A Killdeer was the only shorebird but it looks great now and an eye should be kept on it now that it is full again. Wish it wasn't so far from home, maybe 6-7 miles one way. There were just-fledged eastern Bluebird there, besides Chippy and Clay-colored Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, Vermilion Flycatcher. Great was a ton of odes out over the water. Most were Green Darner, Variegated Meadowhawk, and Red Saddlebags, but I saw a few FOS Band-winged Dragonlet. Then at the smaller pond another half mile south, there was a Solitary Sandpiper! A shorebird! Second one this spring. It was tired.

Lots more odes and this pond touches road so better views. Besides more of the 3 common ones mentioned above, there were more Band-winged Dragonlets. Better, there was a GREAT Pondhawk, which is rare here, I do not see one every year. Also great were a number of Plateau Spreadwing, this pond is the only reliable place I know for them in the area, and at that they have a very narrow window for a flight period here best I can tell. A Wandering Glider there was an early date for me locally.

Every wet spot I got near, had calling Couch's Spadefoot Toads. I heard more than a couple dozen, at 7 or so wet spots. There were 10 calling at the little pond against the road on S. Little Creek. Try as I might, I could not spot one to take a photo. At times just feet from me calling. went back by 354 pecans on way home, saw the Tennesee again, a male Yellow was chasing it a bunch. The phone guy stopped and asked what I saw since I was there a couple hours ago when he drove by, figured it must have been really good for me to still be there...   LOL

It was 2 p.m. and I was hungry for lunch. The Dickcissels seemed to have not stopped calling and were still going full bore, a couple hours later. It was about 7 FOS bird species then, and surely there are more around. Lots of movement grounded here today. I thought I heard a Baltimore Oriole but never saw it. Did not see the Catbird that was at UP yesterday. Got up to about 80dF at peak heat. A male Yellow Warbler spent all day around the yard, love hearing it sing.

whitetippeddove
White-tipped Dove at Lost Maples. There are several pairs there spring
to fall the last few years with successful breeding occurring. This is in
Bandera Co. at 1800', on the Edwards Plateau! Methinks the furthest
north known nesting station, and probably only known on the plateau.
Pretty for its mastery of sombre subtlety, with which they can disappear
in the shadows like you wouldn't believe.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 3 ~ We finally got some rain overnight, from about midnight to 5 a.m. a light to moderate steady rain fell, looks like about 2.25" by morning. Weewow! Less dust, more flowers. It was about 62dF for a low. Way up north of the plateau, Abeliene to DFW area, a few hundred sq. mi., got around a foot of rain this week! We can handle 6" quickly here no problem, but a foot causes issues. Seems no migrants through yard, I expect nothing could penetrate the rain-shield to get here.

Town run. The 354 pecan patch had three male Yellow Warbler and about 5-6 singing Dickcissel in the field on south side of road. Checked Haby's wet spot but still not enough water there. A male Orchard Oriole was there though. Near the junction of W. Sabinal Rd. and Jones Cmty. Rd., I heard at least 3 singing Grasshopper Sparrow to the SW of that intersection. Did not hear the pair I had last week on Co. Line Rd. At UP there was my FOS Catbird, in the Mulberrys of course. May 3 is my most common spring arrival date for Catbird. Almost all are in the Mulberry trees on the island in the woods at the north end of the park. What a cool bird. No warblers or other passerine migrants. Saw my first Zexmenia flowers out back.

Another line of severe thunderstorms went through about 6:30-8:30 p.m., another two inches of rain! When very electrical cells, we shut down and unplug here since the power lines seem to be lightning rods. Over 4" here today. Some spots just a few miles south of us where the cells were worse had about 6"! We got our average May monthly precip today. Maybe we will have some flood ponds for shorebirds tomorrow.

May 2 ~ Same as yesterday, overcast with occasional mist or showerlets, in the 70's dF, supposed to rain. Mid-morn there were 6 Mississippi Kite floating over the house for a few minutes. Always a thrill to see, and easy to miss here any given spring. A minute after they disappeared an unusual raptor was moving north that caught my eye for its weirdness. It looked like a buteo, big, Red-shouldered sized or so, with big broad long wings that it flapped like a buteo. When I saw it was not a buteo due to the very long ridiculously thin stovepipe of a tail, I knew to just aim camera, point and hope, and grab a couple shots as it moved over northbound fast. Barely seemed to be moving its wings and it was blazing fast. It was a NORTHERN GOSHAWK! Another one! In spring again! I have had a number of them here, several in spring moving north. There is much we don't know.

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo called from out in the yard a few times. Saw a male Painted Bunting with a female. One Yellow Warbler was around, but no major passerine movement here as far as I can tell. Has been good for warblers to our east the last few days. Unfortunately for us, San Antonio and Bexar Co. is the western edge of the 'eastern warbler' migrant corridor. West of that they get real sparse real fast. By time you get here, it is scraping for Redstarts and Tennessees.

May 1 ~ Last month of spring migration, and really only about 3 weeks of it here, if we are lucky. It has been rather lackluster so far, but often May is when the fancy stuff shows. Said the eternal optimist. It was another balmy overcast occasionally spitting day, but the rain never happened. Was in the 70's dF all day. Be a fool to complain about that on this date here. Saw a Nashville Warbler go through, and a Yellow Warbler was around all day, thought I heard a Least Flycatcher too. But was too busy Wednesdays. There was a sure female Painted Bunting here, which is my FOS, and another, different, first spring male which is fairly salmon pink below. Want of pic of him. Plus a couple ad. males. Still hearing the male Indigo singing across road, it and the Blue Grosbeaks sneaking in and out of the seed out back under cover. The Field Sparrow is still singing too and I think it must be nesting right across the road this year.



~ ~ ~ archive update header partial ~ ~ ~

May highlights... It started with a bang with 6 Mississippi Kite and a NORTHERN GOSHAWK over the house May 2. A FOS (first of season) Catbird was at the park May 3. After the big rain on the 3rd (4.5") there were lots of FOS species May 4th during the rain-induced grounding event. Water was not the only thing that preciptated out of the sky. Yellow-headed Blackbird, Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated Green and Tennessee Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Warbling Vireo, and Great Egret were all my FOS. May 5 they were all gone, but a FOS Northern Waterthrush was at UP. The short story on migration is here today gone tomorrow. I had a fly-bye of a cuckoo with no rufous in wings or color in bill, surely a Black-billed May 7. Another Rose-breast (both were females) was in our yard May 8. May 9 a pair of Cassin's Kingbird were in our yard, again. May 10 saw my FOS Eastern Kingbird (5!) and Mourning Warbler, a second Catbird, and a tardy American Pipit. May 11 there was a pair of Mourning Warbler at the park, my first female, another Northern Waterthrush there, and a WILSON'S PHALAROPE at the big (north) S. Little Crk. Rd. ponds. May 12 finally produced a Wilson's Warbler for the spring, and an Olive-sided Flycatcher, both at Lost Maples. A Mexican (formerly Green) Violetear was being seen in or near San Antonio, holler if you see a big shiny green hummer locally please. Finally got my FOS Common Nighthawk on May 15, way late. Lost Maples had a couple Chestnut-sided Warbler ebird reports on the 16th. May 18 another each male and female of Mourning Warbler were seen. And that was about the end of passage here. Another Mexican (Green) Violetear is being seen at Reagan Wells, Texas Chase Birds group at Fbook has info.

My FOS April arrivals were: Firefly (4th), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (6th), Cassin's Sparrow (7th), Yellow-breasted Chat (8th), Red-eyed Vireo and Bronzed Cowbird on the 11th, and an early Great Crested Flycatcher on the 12th. Good thing I waited until dusk before posting the update (12th), a Chuck-wills-widow is calling out there, my FOS. Western Kingbird and Solitary Sandpiper showed on the 13th, Bullock's Oriole on the 15th, it is poppin' now. My FOS Painted Bunting was on our patio the 18th, another down the road. A Cassin's Kingbird was in our yard on the 18th as well, which is a minor rary here, I have had it about 5 springs of 16 now. FOS Yellow Warbler, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo all showed on April 23. On April 26 I saw my FOS local Dickcissel, Blue-headed Vireo, and Swainson's Thrush. It is really birdy out there now folks. April 27 had FOS Least Flycatcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Brown-crested Flycatcher, and a rare here Sedge Wren. April 30 my first local Orchard Oriole. There be action Jackson.

~ ~ ~ end archive update header partial ~ ~ ~



~ ~ ~ April summary ~ ~ ~

It was a wet one with 5-6" of rain in most areas locally, pending how lucky you were. Avg. is nearly 4". Flowers were good in general, and temps were mild. Like March much of April is mostly about the returning migratory breeders arriving back on territories, and the rest of the trees sprouting leaves.

Butterflies were good, about 52 species, though the expected types. Spring is not when rarities show up as a rule. The Red-spotted Purple and Arizona Sister just snuck under the wire on Apr. 28 at Lost Maples. A great show of big yellow and black swallowtails (E. Tiger and Two-tailed) at Lost Maples, there were many of both. Little Wood Satyr was also very common there this spring, plus I got only my second sighting in the yard here. The last Henry's Elfin was early in the month. The Monarch passage was great. From March 8 to the end of April, I had about 54 big worn pale (migrants from Mexico) Monarch go through all heading NNE or so.

Odes were 22 expected species, a big jump from March, but many were just one or two individuals the last few days of the month. Overall there was not a lot of activity. It really doesn't get going well here until May. A couple each Pronghorn and Sulphur-tipped Clubtail are always nice to see, as is Springtime Darner. Springwater Dancer at Lost Maples are neat too. The first few Am. Rubyspot were out the last few days of the month.

Birds were 122 species locally, in the upper Sabinal River drainage, Lost Maples to Clayton Grade. I am sure lots more went by I did not see, I only watch the yard most days. Especially in migration when so much is on the move and only passing through. Best couple things were probably the Sedge Wren at the golf course pond by the cemetery, and another Cassin's Kingbird here at the casita. It is only my 3rd spring Sedge Wren here, and maybe 5th or 6th Cassin's KB. Grasshopper Sparrow made a great showing with at least a dozen, lots of singing. Cassin's Sparrow is a good spring snag here too (in BanCo Apr. 7). One Red-breasted Nuthatch staying until the 15th was great. Lots of Golden-cheeked Warbler and fair numbers of Black-capped Vireo at Lost Maples, where also small numbers of Olive Sparrow and White-tipped Dove, and a few Audubon's Oriole are around.

~ ~ ~ end April summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ back to our regularly scheduled drivel ~ ~ ~

April 30 ~ Weewow, another month hast shot by. Balmy and very breezy, low was about 69dF, threatened to rain, just spit a little instead. We got a good solid trace. It is a great dawn chorus going out there now, but you have to be out at 6:30 to hear it all. Actually earlier, it is roaring by then if sunny, runs later if heavy overcast. But not really light enough to see stuff until about 7 at the very earliest, later if heavy overcast. Finally had my first local Orchard Oriole of the spring singing in the pecans today. They were on territory down at Uvalde ten days ago! Great Crested Flycatcher back around quite a bit, Ash-throats are daily too but haven't chosen a box yet.

Apr. 29 ~ About 66dF for a low, summer is coming. Very breezy and overcast all day. Had a Nashville and a Yellow Warbler in the yard, another of each down at the 360 xing. Also down there a green Painted Bunting but which looked like a first spring male and not a female. So two of those so far and still no female. In the afternoon a Yellow-billed Cuckoo called from across the road, only the second I have heard this spring so far. I saw a report of a Short-tailed Hawk in Bexar Co., keep yer eyes peeled. Saw some Frog-fruit flowers. Saw my first juvenile Black-chinned Hummer of the year.

Apr. 28 ~ Ran about 60-82dF, absolutely bearable. We went to Lost Maples but in no hurry and got there just after 9 a.m. Heard a Nashville here in the yard early, and one heading down the road along river as we left, so thought there might be migrant movement. Only one at LM which was the only passerine migrant I saw there today. We walked Can Creek a mile past the ponds to the high-water spring. There was lots of activity though a few birds seem down in numbers. Four miles or so roundtrip, but without the climb up the steep hill to the top of the bluff into Black-cap Vireo country. Just the moderate part. Very few people there, it was wonderfully quiet.

The great thing about being interested in other things besides birds is that you get to stop more often. Besides the fact that the more you stop and listen, the more birds you see. When butterflies, odes, herps, fish, flowers, are all of interest, besides the birds, you can darn near rest your way up the hill. Spent years perfecting my techinque. Couple steps, oh look at that (rest), few steps, lookie here (rest). Oh look, don't have a pic of that, must stop.

Out of shape pro tip:   Unless you are in great hiking shape, even on a slight incline, a hiking pole helping makes a huge difference 5 hours on when it gets hot and you have 4 miles on your legs.

Heard about a dozen Golden-cheeked Warbler, saw a few well, had one begging baby get fed by an adult, first one out of the nest I have had this year. I see lots of the males in the prime territories are first spring males. Last year there were a couple, this year a bunch. Usually all the main canyon floor prime territories are held by full adult males. I'd say more than half are first spring males now. Which I don't suspect is good.

Had quick looks at Broad-winged and Zone-tailed Hawk as they moved by in the canyon. Heard a few White-tipped Dove, heard and saw one Olive Sparrow, didn't hear any orioles, only ONE Eastern Wood-Pewee is weird, only two Acadian Flycatcher, NO Ash-throated Flycatcher. Saw a couple Canyon Wren well since I didn't have anyone with me really wanting to see them badly today. Good numbers of Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak, one male Painted Bunting, one Clay-colored Sparrow, one texana Scrub-Jay, several Black-n-white Warbler, a few Louisiana Waterthrush, maybe 4 Yellow-throated Warbler singing on territory, only a couple Yellow-throated but lots of White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireo, heard one Black-capped Vireo not far up the trail from the parking lot, some Summer Tanager, but not a lot.

In butterflies saw a dozen big yellow and black swallowtails, several were Two-tailed, a few were E. Tiger, and all were very pale and worn. Several Spicebush were still flying, and single Giant, Black and Pipevine went by. Three FOY sightings were about five Southern (Oak) Hairstreak, three Arizona Sister, and a Red-spotted Purple. All favorites I have been waiting for. Only saw one Little Wood Satyr, far from dozens a month ago. There were numbers of the regular common stuff like Sleepy Orange, Red Admiral, American Lady, etc. Only one Dun Skipper.

In odes, dragons were: was what was likely a Pronghorn Clubtail (got pix to study later), several Common Whitetail, a Blue Dasher, a Pale-faced Clubskimmer, several Dot-winged Baskettail but still no Prince yet, an Eastern Pondhawk, a Red Saddlebags, and as usual at the highwater spring where we have lunch, at least a couple maybe three male Flame Skimmer. For damselflies, a number of Springwater Dancer incl. photos of a pair in tandem, at least one Aztec Dancer, several American Rubyspot, a Violet Dancer, and bunches I did not stop for. Some looked like Dusky and Kiowa Dancer. Finally picking up some though.

No herps, and flowers were weakish along the creek, a bit of a lull, the next round will blast in a couple weeks from the big rain last week. Flowers were great along Hwy. 187. Coreopsis, Englemann's Daisy, Mealy Sage, Indian Blanket, and Lazy Daisy, all creating carpets in areas. Besides the few odes and big butterflies, other insects seem way down. Very few other bugs. Hoping it is just a late spring. It was great to be able to lollygag at my heart's desire. Got a few flower shots I needed since I had time to stop and change all the settings as digital tech 'progress' now requires, but which also does involve resting, all but one thumb.

Apr. 27 ~ Upper 50's for a low, clear and sunny, a little bit of breeze as usual. A FOS Least Flycatcher was che-bek-ing in the front yard pecans in the morning. Couple Nashville went through. At least two male Painted Bunting here now (once chased other off millet tube) but still waiting to see first female. Male Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting back on patio daily, some of the best bird seed I buy all year as far as I am concerned. Got a bearable shot of the Indigo out back mid-morn (below) from inside the office.

Took a quick trip to see whaddup with migrant movement. The couple Dickcissel were quietly calling on 354 but the warblers were gone but a Nashville. At the park there was a Nashville and a female Myrtle that looked like yesterday's. Generally it seemed as it all blew out on the southerlies with clear skies last night. Checked the pair of Grasshopper Sparrow on Co. Line Rd. and the male was up singing where the pair was looking like breeders yesterday. Will keep an eye on this.

Went to the pond on the golf course at the Waresville Cmty. and glimpsed a Sedge Wren, heard it call a few times. I have two prior local records, both at UP, both on May 12. There are some Martins at the house there but it needs repairs. There would be more of them if the funnel roofs were not broken (leaking) on a few of the pipes. In odes there saw a Red Saddlebags and a FOY Roseate Skimmer. The park had my FOY Blue Dasher.

Back here at the hovelita in the afternoon the Least Flycatcher was still out there. I saw my first green Painted Bunting of the year, but the way one of the two males on the patio acted toward it, it was a first year male, not a female. He could tell even if I couldn't, that was no lady bunting. It was on the yellow side below for a female. Later nearing last sun two male Blue Grosbeak were on the patio at the same time, at opposite corners mind you.

indigobunting
Male Indigo Bunting.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Apr. 26 ~ About 56dF for a low feels great, clear and dry for here. A few Nashville Warbler went through early. Town run day. Checked the 354 pecans where there were a couple FOS singing Dickcissel, a couple singing Clay-colored Sparrow, a few Nashville and a Yellow Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, and across road in line of Mesquites, Bell's Vireo. Preston Place had a couple Nashville and four Chipping Sparrow. The park had more Nashville Warblers, one female Myrtle Warbler, my FOS Blue-headed Vireo and FOS Swainson's Thrush, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Great Crested Flycatcher, and something good that got away which was likely a Kentucky Warbler. Barred Owl pair was duetting. In total over a dozen Nashville shows some migrant movement. I will get out tomorrow.

Behind the general store a Sulphur-tipped Clubtail dragonfly flew right by me! Which reminds me there was a Carmine Skimmer at the park, FOY of course. Last hour of light I ran up to Haby's Wet Spot on W. Sabinal Rd. to see if a pond and shorebirds. Just a little puddle, but at least it is holding water so the next rain should hold better. There were a couple suspicious acting Grasshopper Sparrow on Co. Line Rd. just east of the river, one singing, moving around together, acting like a pair. A couple spots had sparrow flocks on the verges with Lark, Chipping and some Clay-colored Sparrows. At least 15, maybe 20 Firefly out tonight at dusk, best show so far this year. Heard the Barred Owl over at river just after 9 p.m. Barking Frogs are going, but not as much as the Blanchard's Cricket-Frog

Apr. 25 ~ Got down to about 48dF for a low, clear, dry NW flow, most excellent. Around 9 a.m. at least 4 or 5 Nashville Warbler were in the yard, and for two hours a Red-eyed Vireo sang around the yard. So there is a push the first clear day behind the passage of the system. Of course it is a Thursday so I can't get away from the desk, monitor and phone. Saw a male Indigo Bunting sneaking around the various seed piles. The Blue Grosbeak and Painted Bunting are nowhere near as shy, at least here. In the afternoon Kathy saw a Yellow and a Nashville Warbler at the bath. I heard a Barred Owl after dark calling from over at the river.

Apr. 24 ~ Rain! From 7-11 a.m. we got about 1.5"! At 9 it was a chilly rain-cooled 56dF! Another group of cells went over around 1 p.m., by time they were done and gone another 1.75+"! So a total by 5 p.m. of about 3.25"! A real dust-buster and gully-washer, we needed. Flowers are gonna rip May to June. I saw it get up to about 62dF at peak heat. Nothing for birds but the local breeders hitting feeders between downpours. Lots of pecan flowers down, seemingly prematurely, probably lost some crop, but mostly on the earlier blooming natives, not so much on the grafts.

My legs are darn near recovered, so thinking about when to do Lost Marbles again. Some birders might have a streak of masochism. You don't have to have this to be a birder, but it might help. Maybe With a side of light OCD. In fact if you like a little masochism with your light OCD, birding may be just the hobby for you. If looking for things that are not there or won't show sounds like fun... call now, operators are standing by.

Apr. 23 ~ Today it is my calves, yesterday it was my thighs. I hear the male Painted Bunting singing up in the big pecan again, music to my ears. Like the Blue Grosbeak and Chat across the road. The sounds of summer. Had a quick run to town for the P.O. so had to brake for a bird break on the way. Checked the 354 pecans and the old Preston Place across from them since it was empty. Between the two patches of pecans there were 4 FOS Yellow Warbler, 6-7 Nashville and 5 Myrtle Warbler. So, birds down!, birds down! Red-eyed Vireo sang at both spots, but may be arriving breeders. All the birds were in the flowering pecans. The park live-oaks were dead, no migrants in them.

There was my FOS Eastern Wood-Pewee on the island at park, where also a Green King, and a Great Crested Flycatcher was at the north end of the woods. Wish I had time and access to more pecans right now. They, and we, are at the week or two of peak for spring migrants. Two Monarch in yard over the day makes 54 for the spring so far. A fresh summer form Questionmark was nice. My last FOS of the day was at 11:15 p.m. when a Yellow-billed Cuckoo called from across the road. At least half of my FOS dates for them are birds heard in the dark.

Pro tip: banging together as if claves, with proper cuckoo rhythm, a couple footlong 2x2 or 2x4 offcuts will usually get a cuckoo to reply. Any old sticks might work if big enough to have proper cuckoo resonance and timbre to elicit response. A couple small pebbles can work to click up a Green Kingfisher. So yeah, that might be rocks in my pockets. Quarters can work if you cover most with fingers to deaden the metallic ping and flatten that note out. Once I called up a Green King with 50 cents, and got to keep my quarters.

Apr. 22 ~ Happy Earth Day! Oh my achin' legs. Apparently I OD'd on earth yesterday. It was likely 7-8 miles the last two days, which would be no big deal on flat ground, it is that climb to the top of the bluffs that is rough on these old legs that have a million miles on them already. Felt like a vacation being here at the desk working. Saw the male Painted Bunting on the millet seed feeder, welcome back to your summer home buddy! Kathy saw it there yesterday. A few Nashville Warbler through yard. Did note a couple female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which are the first females I have noticed this spring, but have been way too busy to work the cloud of hummers here. Saw one Monarch (52) late in day.

Apr. 21 ~ At Lost Maples at 7 a.m. meeting Cliff, Susan, Glenn, and Mary Ann for another day of punishment looking at birds. It was cool early, very windy, and damp as can be without actual misting. Finally after noon the clouds started breaking and it got warmish. We walked up Can Creek to the two ponds, and then up the hill from hell to the blufftops. We heard a few White-tipped Dove but didn't see any. We did see an Olive Sparrow and I heard about 4 more. I heard a couple Scott's Oriole and one Audubon's Oriole sang for a bit in the manner of a nester, we saw neither. We saw a few Golden-cheeked Warbler, I heard about 10. Heard at least 4 Black-capped Vireo up above the ponds. Would have a usable shot of one were it not for !&*#%)!*$! autofocus. You ought to see how sharp the juniper branch is behind it. I might post it just so you could cry or feel sorry for me. Sixty years I worked to position myself for that shot...

I had a quick look at a Black-throated Sparrow, we saw a few Rufous-crowned, Lark, and Field Sparrow. Kestrels there now are interesting passage migrants since the local winterers are long gone. We heard one Acadian Flycatcher, but no Eastern Wood-Pewee yet. Had most of the usuals, Blue Grosbeak gave great views, as did an odd orangey Summer Tanager (probably an older female), heard an Ash-throated Flycatcher, saw Yellow-throated Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warblers, a few Nashville and a couple Orange-crowned Warbler, Common Raven, Carolina Wren and Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, heard lots of Red-eyed, White-eyed, and a few Yellow-throated Vireo but saw none, heard Indigo and Painted Bunting. We missed feeding time at the feeder station early and had not seen a Scrub-Jay by time I had to go.

There were a fair number of butterflies but mostly they and the odes were just coming out as we were coming back down. Saw single Spicebush and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, both sexes of Common Whitetail, Dot-winged Baskettail, but I mostly just glanced at a few things on the fly. The Satyrs were over compared to latest March. At home in the afternoon I saw my FOY Celia's Roadside-Skipper.

On the way home I saw a pair of Scissor-tails giving a Caracara pure T hell as they rough-rode him out of Dodge. A quick check of the park because 5 miles hadn't killed me yet, found only a Green Kingfisher up by the island. Was peak heat, it was bird quiet, unlike the Easter hominid crowd. Kathy had a female Black-n-white and a Nashville Warbler at the bath here today.

Apr. 20 ~ Off to Uvalde at 7 a.m. with a couple fine couples, Cliff and Susan from Houston, and Glenn and Mary Ann from Denver. It was very nice and cool early (a 42dF low!), clear and dry, wonderful weather, but it did warm into mid-80's mid-day. We had a great day down in the brush-country, where flatlanders live. The Fish Hatchery is not open on weekends any longer in case you don't know, weekdays only 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., I was informed when I called yesterday. There seems to have been some activity at my secret Lesser Nighthawk spot in Uvalde just off Hwy. 90, the birds were not there that I could find, after over a decade of never missing them. Bummer.

We took Old (or Lower) Sabinal Rd. (OSR) from Sabinal to Uvalde and there was a lot of activity along it as usual. The flowers were great all along 187 and OSR too. On the Co.Rd. south from Hwy. 90 (just west of Sabinal) to OSR we had a Long-billed Thrasher. On OSR we had scope views of singing Grasshopper and Cassin's Sparrows, quite a few Cassin's were along the road often singing from a perch, not skylarking. Also saw a Gambell's White-crowned Sparrow, a Vesper, lots of Lark, some Chipping and Clay-colored Sparrows. Heard my FOS Dickcissel. Had good looks at a pair of Curve-billed Thrasher, fair numbers of Scissor-tailed and several Vermilion Flycatcher, a few male Bullock's Oriole, heard a few and glimpsed one Bobwhite. Saw a Blue Grosbeak somewhere.

Only a Green Heron at the City Memorial Park downtown Uvalde, but heard a couple Nashville Warbler and a Yellow-throated Vireo. Lots of Chimney Swift just south of the HEB parking lot, great views are easy. Main event of course is Cook's Slough, and it was pretty birdy. We had a couple Swainson's Hawks right at the first ponds, a light and intermediate morphs, both first spring birds. Heard a few Olive Sparrow, but no Long-billed Thrasher, saw 3 Kiskadee which put on a great vocal show at lunch, Couch's and Western Kingbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, heard some Nashville Warblers, saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Painted Bunting was singing, a singing House Wren was nice, heard a Red-shouldered Hawk, a dark morph Swainson's Hawk flew over. Saw one Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, a pair of Ruddy Duck, a pair of Blue-winged Teal, a few Coot, a Black-crowned Night-Heron, and 3 Neotropic Cormorant. One had a fish another was trying to pirate. Verdin were all over, but no Bell's Vireo was weird. Add-on Note: a Brit we ran into there and then at Lost Maples the next day said he had a Green Jay at the slough this day). A Sulphur-tipped Clubtail dragonfly was nice but way fewer odes flying than I expected, it still hasn't popped down there yet either. One male Common Whitetail, one Eastern Amberwing. Lots of Hackberry Emperor butterflies.

Then we went out UvCo County Rd. 202 to the Nueces River a couple miles west of town into the drier more deserty habitat. We had a group of singing male Painted Bunting which all got to see, at least 3 were singing close to each other. Saw a couple Roadrunner. At the river crossing there was a Black Phoebe, an Osprey, Brown-crested Flycatcher gave scope views, a couple male Orchard Oriole were singing and showed well, saw another Chat, heard Bell's Vireo, it was pretty birdy for being after noon. Saw a Pale-faced Clubskimmer there. One muddy spot on 202 had 25 Reakirt's Blue butterflies puddling. Somewhere we heard some Ladder-backed and saw a few Golden-fronted Woodpecker, one Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk, some Western Kingbirds along roads, a Shrike or two, lots of Caracara everywhere, no Harris's Hawk but a driveby Zone-tailed was just north of Hwy. 90 in Uvalde, just east of the Leona River (behind pawn shop) flying into 'upper' Memorial Park.

The flowers were amazing in many places down there in the lowlands. Standing Winecup and Indian Blanket made for some nice displays. There were dozens of species in bloom. On the way back we stopped at 8 mile bridge - the high bridge on Hwy. 187 over the Sabinal River you guessed it, 8 miles south of Utopia, to check the Cliff Swallow colony out, which seems to be going quite well. At least one Cave Swallow was seen among them, as usual. Probably a pair or two of them there again. One nest was certainly a Cave nest.

grasshoppersparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow, April 7, just NW of town,
from car with cheap crappy equipment.



~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Apr. 19 ~ Nice brisk 46dF low, clear and sunny, wonderful weather. But I think the northerly flow kept migration motion minimal. A couple Nashville Warbler in the yard was it. Heard another Bullock's Oriole. The park in town had about 15 Myrtle, 1 Audubon's, 6 Nashville, and an Orange-crowned Warbler, plus a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Which I think has been stacked up a couple days now, not newly grounded stuff. One glimpsed bird looked like a Tennessee Warbler but it shot off before I could be sure. The rest was the local breeders. Still a bunch of Common Grackle there in the live-oaks, which is where the warblers are now, they must have bugs or worms. Bell's Vireo still singing by the sign at park entrance, and the one at the NE corner of the Post Office parking lot is also still going strong, hopefully they attracted mates. Saw a Monarch in town (51), the one in the yard here early was likely the one yesterday late and already counted. Late afternoon I saw my FOS female Blue Grosbeak on the patio. After I posted the update I heard Barred Owl over at the river.

Apr. 18 ~ About 55dF for a rain-cooled low, clear, calm and sunny early but it didn't last. The post-frontal blow set in by 9 a.m. and 15-20 mph gusting higher was the program. We got just a hair under an inch, so are at about 4" for April so far. Which is a good whole month total, and great for the greening of spring, not to mention May flowers. About noon I heard some weird tyrant type squeaking outside, went out and saw a Kingbird fly out of the top of the big pecan, loop all around the yard and then lost it over the corral. It was a CASSIN'S KINGBIRD. There was a Scissor-tail up in the pecan as well, I presume they were having a talk. I had a pair of Cassin's together in the same tree in 2014, a single just down the road in 2015, and a pair in 2016 a half mile from here at the crossing! Some sort of alley for them here.

About 2:30 p.m. I looked out onto the patio and next to a male Blue Grosbeak was my FOS male Painted Bunting! Yeah baby, eat that white millet, I have enough to last until August. Ran down to the crossing and a second male Painted Bunting was there. A 5 min. check of the woods at the park had a Myrtle and 5-6 Nashville Warbler, but wind was howling still. A couple Chimney Swift and Purple Martin there too. Another Monarch in yard is number 50 for the spring so far. Later, about 11 p.m. at least a couple Chuck-wills-widow were calling, a Barn Owl flew over calling, and a Barred Owl called from over at the river.

Apr. 17 ~ Low only in 60's, we are on the warm side of an approaching low, so breezy southerlies too. Got up into the mid-70's. Early a good warbler landed in the pecans and chipped several times before I watched it fly over the house and uphill behind us. Looked and sounded like a Kentucky Warbler, but cannot claim an absolute positive ID. The chip note is a weird loud flat note very unlike any other warbler to my ear. Bird of the day always gets away. One male Indigo Bunting chased another away, so likely one that was territorial here last year. Saw one more Monarch (49). The big line of thunderstroms got here about 10:30 p.m., it rained a couple hours.

Apr. 16 ~ About 62dF for a low, cloudy, southerly flow and breezy, the usual. Heard a Nashville Warbler early. Thought I heard a Yellow Warbler again too, but didn't see it. Outstanding was a Little Wood Satyr butterfly, of which I can only recall one prior sighting in the yard, Apr. of 2014. Saw a male Indigo Bunting on the seed out back, and a male Blue Grosbeak took a bath, which we virtually never seen them do here. A Scissor-tail was out front late morning. I see some Mourning Dove feathers, one got taken. Saw a Ground-Dove. At the bath late p.m. there were 2 Lark Sparrow, a Nashville and 2 Orange-crowned Warbler, a female Summer Tanager which is first female in the yard this spring, probably our returning breeder, and a Lincoln's Sparrow. Saw another 3-inch baby bunnylet (Cottontail) whilst weed-whacking in yard (had one yesterday too).

Apr. 15 ~ Low about 45dF, clear and crisp, wonderful out. After 9 p.m. a FOS male Bullock's Oriole flew into the big pecan whilst I was out in driveway. Then a male Blue Grosbeak flew in very close and sang. Bullock's run a week-to-two ahead of Baltimore here. Of course these Bullock's are arriving in a breeding area, whereas the Baltimore are on their way much further north (where still snowing!). Thought I heard a Yellow Warbler sing. Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk fly by, glimpsed an Indigo Bunting, a couple Nashville Warbler went through, one Myrtle, saw the Red-breasted Nuthatch, and an imm. Sharp-shinned Hawk is still here terrorizing.

Saw two more Monarch (48 now). Great was one of those metallic forest green bees, big as a honey bee, dark oily greenish, beautiful bee, was on the Mealy Sage, which put out its first flowers a couple days ago. A few Coreopsis are open now, saw my first one yesterday. Some Rain Lily, and lots of what I think is Lazy Daisy is going well. Had a bad tire so ran to town to get a couple new tires put on the front of the trucklet. Stopped at park, heard a Green Kingfisher, saw a couple Nashville and Myrtle Warblers, and my FOS female Summer Tanager, but was heat of the day. Nice to hear Chimney Swifts over town. Saw a Western Kingbird on a fenceline on the way back.

Apr. 14 ~ Wind finally stopped, was clear, dry, and ran 42-72dF for a temp spread, Chamber of Commerce weather. As guessed, no migrant motion. Did hear two Blue Grosbeak singing, one from yard pecans sometimes. Saw a Texan Crescent butterfly. Worked on stuff here including spring yard and garden fun. Barred Owl called after dark from over at the river again. The real excitement of the day was at 8:30 p.m. when the power went out. A while later when Bandera Electric called they said 34 places were out, but not up in town. A couple hours later the guys were going pole to pole in the dark looking for the problem. I hear it went back on about 1:30 a.m. or so. Five hours, clear and calm out, never heard any sirens.

Apr. 13 ~ Low about 62dF or so. A couple bands of rain went through just after dawn as the low moved over and NE. About a third of an inch was it for us. Keep the dust down. But the wind turned overnight and was northerly after being southerly at dark, just what you want to knock nocturnal migrants down. A couple Nashville and a couple Myrtle Warbler were in the yard early. Great was a male Indigo Bunting on the patio, and a Blue Grosbeak singing across the road where one nests. Both were my FOS.

Had a dump run so noonish checked the park. A half-dozen each Nashville and Myrtle Warbler, and what was likley the same Great Crested Flycatcher as yesterday. The wind was blowing hard by noon on the backside of the low. About 20 Common Grackle were in the live-oaks and two Green Kingfisher were around the island. On UvCo 363 there was my FOS Western Kingbird on a barbed wire fenceline staying low. Adjacent was a Vermilion and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Then down at the pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cemetery besides a couple Common Grackle was my FOS Solitary Sandpiper. Great bird. Wind blew all day. Northerlies way to the south will likely shut progress down long before it can get here, so I don't look for a big movement tonight.

goldencheekedwarbler
Golden-cheeked Warbler, male.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Apr. 12 ~ About 41dF for a low felt great, we will be missing that all too soon. Heard the Audubon's Oriole here again this morning. Town run day so a look at the park. The northerlies must have impeded movement as there were a few migrants at the park. Mostly Myrtle (15+) and Nashville Warblers (12+), but one Orange-crowned and a mostly Audubon's amongst them. Technically it was an intergrade, or if you prefer, showed signs of introgression. A sprinkler by the house had a great bathing show going on. I heard a Parula Warbler sing but never saw it, sounded Northern to my ear.

Great was an early Great Crested Flycatcher (3rd earliest in 16 springs), and one Ruby-crowned Kinglet was there. Of course all the already-here breeders were there like Summer Tanager, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler, so an amusing assortment of birds. A half-dozen Common Grackle were there as well. The Bell's Vireo was still singing by the park entrance sign, another was still singing at the post office (N. side by the Huisache and big Live-Oak). The Great-tailed Grackle are by the gas station but appear to be nesting in the trees in the bank parking lot across the street. Looks like one male and a couple females, which doubles the number of breeding females here now, a tremendous expansion, from one, to two. Add one more Monarch (46 now) today. Had the Red-breasted Nuthatch late, almost 6 p.m., then at last light my FOS Chuck-wills-widow called! Finally, great to hear that again.

Apr. 11 ~ Yesterday was 15-20 mph warm southerlies all day, this a.m. it is a cool NW wind as the low way up north moves east and we get the backside winds. Low was about 62dF. Looks like the female bluebird is working on a nest in the box, finally, yahoo! Repeated trips with some grasses. Eastern Phoebe are making repeated trips feeding young in their nest over the bathroom window. Saw the big ad. fem. Cooper's Hawk that is the local breeder and bird terrorist. One male American Goldfinch was about half yellow, so looking funky but better anyway. There were two FOS birds in the yard today, mid-morn a Red-eyed Vireo sang in the Mulberry over the cottage, and in contrast not much of a thrill, in the afternoon a Bronzed Cowbird was out on the patio. Two more Monarch makes 45 for the spring. The Red-eyed Vireo was 3rd earliest in 16 springs.

Apr. 10 ~ About 52dF for a low, nice a crisp, clear. The big system snowing in Rockies to plains is sucking hot air up and we got up to 92dF in the afternoon. The warmest day so far this year. A Red-breasted Nuthatch calling in yard as sun came up. Kinda seemed like it musta slept here. Some great dawn chorus going now.

Ran to town early so my battery could die at the park. I have sure been stuck in worse places. Ever been to Tahoka, TX or Tacna, AZ? One thing about Utopia is that if you just hang around a bit someone you know will come by and help you. So after the jump, I went to the Ranch Outpost hoping they had my size in stock. Don'tcha hate having to ask for a quote on a battery whilst having to leave the engine running outside? Glad at I was here among friends. Anyway now I am the proud owner of the most expensive battery I ever bought. And they gave me a deal! Thought I heard a sign of weakness a recent freezing morning, so not really a surprise, just a pain.

There were about 4 Nashville Warbler singing in the live-oaks at the park. First thing early the east (sunny) side of the big patch of trees is best, it gets first sun. Nothing in the woods this time. Back here at the hovel I had a singing Audubon's Oriole, which came in to my whistle-back. What a great combo for the yard in a couple hours, Audubon's Oriole and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Not an easy pair to get in the same tree in a few hours, it's almost like, well, Utopia. Had two more Monarchs (up to 43 for the spring now). Half-a-dozen Brewer's Blackbird flew over at last sun. At 11 p.m. I finally saw a blinking Firefly, my FOY blinker, though I have seen a few in the day (not blinking yet) already.

Apr. 9 ~ Another clear dry cool morning at about 52dF and went up to about 88dF in the afternoon. The 90's, coming soon. Heard a Nashville Warbler sing a see-bit or few. I see the bluebirds back at the box after not being around much a couple weeks. I think they were prospecting the area, and maybe didn't find a better spot, I hope. They have raised multiple broods in it before. There are even a couple other unused boxes around the yard too.

The male has a neat flight display it does. From 150' away from the box, while the female is in it trying to decide, at the entrance hole looking out, the male flies at the box banking the plane of both wings and body 45 degrees to the left, and then the right, repeatedly going from one to the other like a warbird pilot at an airshow (or the immediate post-boom portion of display flight of a Common Nighthawk), while in direct flight toward the hole. Most obvious and impressive when viewed from directly behind the bird as it flies toward the nest. He really wants her to settle on something and to get things going. I know just how he feels.

Saw at least 3 Ground-Dove on the seed. One might have been a juvie. One Pine Siskin flew over calling. A few bugs included a Pronghorn Clubtail dragonfly, and in butterflies a Goatweed Leafwing, 2 more Monarch (41 now) and a Two-tailed Swallowtail. Lots of the more common now usual stuff. One Orange Sulphur, at least 6 Julia's Skipper in the close part of the front yard. At dusk 6 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew downriver low. About 10 p.m. had a calling Barn Owl flying north way up high (a migrant).

Apr. 8 ~ About 50-84 or so for a temp spread, clear and dry, chamber of commerce weather. Great was my FOS Yellow-breasted Chat, our breeder across the road is back. A dozen Waxwing were around a bit. The Nuthatch came by again, actually got a docu grabshot for April. Does not appear it was the ad. male that was around. Looks like a dove got taken out back. Lots of butterflies moving in the warmth. Dozens of Lyside Sulphur, a couple dozen Bordered Patch, many dozens Vesta Crescent, three more Monarch over the day makes 39 for the spring so far.

April 7 ~ We were awakened around 5 a.m. to the sound of thunder. A well-predicted MCS associated with a low moved out of northern Mexico and marched across Texas. I think we got about 2" of rain, will have to check with neighbors, but it poured, lots of lightning, some very close. Got down to a rain-cooled 60dF. No dust for a week if we are lucky. Was all the same in the yard, a Myrtle Warbler stopped and sang me a couple bars though.

I took a spin around about noon to 2 p.m. to have a lookabout. Kathy skipped the mud birding. The park had a female Green Kingfisher, and 7-8 Blue-winged Teal up by the island in the woods. Saw a couple small flocks of Yellow-rumped Warbler, almost all Myrtle as usual, but one very nice male Audubon's type that looked pure and clean. One Orange-crowned and 1 Nashville Warbler, better was a getting tardyish Hermit Thrush. This is a passage migrant, the local winterers are long gone. At the north end of town more Savannah Sparrow, a Clay-colored or two, and a Grasshopper Sparrow just north of the Med. Ctr. Couple Bell's Vireo singing in the hackberry and mesquite in the area too.

Went out Jones Cmty. Rd. and sparrows were all along it in small groups. A few dozen Lark, a couple dozen Vesper, Chipping, Clay-colored, Lincoln's, a couple dozen Savannah, couple more Grasshopper, and best a FOS Cassin's Sparrow. Which was 15' away on the fence. I was foiled by autofocus again, it wanted the field behind it. A bunch of the sparrows were bathing in the rain puddles. At the Cmty. more Lark, Vesper, and another Grasshopper. Nice sparrow showing, no doubt some knocked down migrants. The wet spot at Haby's on W. Sab. Rd. was a puddle, but it is a start. Saw a few Scissor-tails, including a couple females, some Cave Swallow and Purple Martin, Chimney Swift, and all around town you hear singing Summer Tanager and Yellow-throated Vireo. Two Monarch make 36 for the spring now.

April 6 ~ Threatened to rain all day but maybe a half inch was it all day, cleared and warmed to nice in the afternoon. Worked on stuff here. Heard the Nuthatch again (Red-br.) The big thing was finally my FOS Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and likely a couple at least. Must be nearing a couple hundred Black-chinned around now. About 20 Chippies and near 10 Lark Sparrow. Did not seem to be any migrant motion.

goldencheekedwarbler
A female Golden-cheeked Warbler, note green back.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

April 5 ~ Upper 40's dF for a low ended up in mid-80's for a high in the afternoon. No migrant motion I could detect here, none at the park either save one Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Only prize at the park was a Green Kingfisher at the island. Heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch again in the yard this morning, one still around. Great-tailed Grackle and Cave Swallow at the north end of town. Saw a few Dot-winged Baskettail dragonflies at park, but they were only type flying yet. Odes should start to pop pretty quickly with some heat. Saw my FOY Red Bat circling the pecan tree at dusk as usual.

April 4 ~ More fog mist until afternoon whence cleared at bit, ran about 60-86 for a temp spread, getting warm. Hearing Turkey gobbling at dawn each morning last few days. One Gnatcatcher went through. No other migrants but one Myrtle Warbler. Saw a Firefly whilst still sunny so not blinking that I could tell. Looked at dusk and didn't see any then. Another Monarch late in day, 34 for spring. Summer Tanager and Yellow-throated Vireo singing outside seem to be our local yardish breeders. We get five months at least, six if lucky, of that. Yellow-throated Warbler out there singing too. A pair of N. Rough-winged Swallow were over yard, likely the ones that nest over at the river in Green King holes. Saw my FOY False Duskywing butterfly as well as a female Fiery Skipper, plus a Giant Swallowtail and Reakirt's Blue. At dusk there were a number of Brazillian Freetail Bats which are the first of them I have here seen this year.

April 3 ~ Another gray misty drizzly day, ran about 52-62dF for a temp range. Haven't heard much moving the last couple days, there should be a decent push after this passes and before the next one. Did hear a Gnatcatcher out there, the imm. Sharp-shinned Hawk is still here diving on the seedeaters. Heard a Myrtle Warbler go by. Too many Black-chinned Hummers already, waiting for a Ruby-throat still. Gotta wonder what those 3 Martins were gettin' up there in the drizzle, besides wet. Two Monarch makes 33 this spring.

April 2 ~ Holy cow, a freeze! NOAA for Kerrville said a 39dF low, it hit 32dF there, we had 30dF on the front porch at dawn! Another (!) NOAA swing and a miss by a category here, and an early April freeze. Might have been upper 20's at Lost Maples. Wow. Cold air really sinks into these canyons and valley floors. Great was hearing a Summer Tanager singing up in the big pecan, prolly our yardish breeder back that was at the bath the other day. Heard a Ground-Dove out back, saw maybe a dozen Cedar Waxwing, they have really thinned out, had a couple American Goldfinch and that was it, but maybe 8 Lark Sparrow now back on the patio, likely our local breeders. Heard a Myrtle Warbler go through. Two Monarch went through yard puts us at 31 for the spring. I saw what surely was a Firefly while still sunny out, orange head, black body, but lost it in the tall grass. Then at early dusk I forgot to look until too late and so saw no blinking out there later by time I got out to look.

April 1 ~ Wow it feels like vacation here at the desk working. Slept in to 6:30. Nine miles in the last two days, and my calves wonder what I was thinkin'. It was a long winter with a lot of cookies, but in a feat of amazing discipline only a half gallon of egg nog this year. Obviously not enough hiking though. It was lowest 40's dF for a low at daybreak. NOAA for Kerrville showed it was 36dF at 2 a.m., then warmed to 41 or so by daybreak. So it got cold briefly last night. Cloudy, chilly and gray.

Being April Fool's day, this is the day each year I think about reporting a Great Auk seen flying by a seawatch, sorry no photos. See if anyone goes after it...   Maybe generate some posts about poor directions, delayed report, the special access issues, no gps plot, it probably being an escape, and a couple 'wheresthepatterns?'.   ;)

Kathy heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch in the yard in the a.m. So one is still around. Several years ago when there was a good passage of them one fall, I had an April one here, but this is likely one of the three winterers is my guess. Saw another Vesper Sparrow on the patio with the Chippies and Larks. Chippies are down to about 20 left now.



~ ~ ~ March summary ~ ~ ~

Was fairly benign though we had 22dF on the 5th, pretty cold, though on the dry side for precipitation. Butterflies were 47 species which is high for March. Nothing out of the ordinary though. It was a good Monarch passage of migrants from Mexico however. Odes, dragons and damsels, were just 7 species, still too cold for them in March, only the first few early types show.

For birds it is the big month of returning breeders with all the early migratory breeders showing back up to nest. Good earliest ever dates for Louisiana Waterthrush, Nashville Warbler and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher were had on the 17th. At least two calling Long-billed Curlew flew over in the dark late on the 7th. My earliest ever No. Parula was on the 23rd. The Wilson's Warbler that wintered at the park was last seen the 15th, it was found Dec. 15, so spent 3 months here. A Lark Bunting on the 30th was the only one I saw all spring. A Broad-winged Hawk on the 31st was my earliest spring record. At least one of the wintering Red-breasted Nuthatch continued through the month. One male Lazuli Bunting on the 31st at the LM feeding station was the only one I saw all spring. Leslie Calvert had a passage migrant Rufous Hummer at her feeders mid-month, a rare bird to get here thataway. The wintering Marsh Wren at the golf course pond was seen to March 10. I saw about 115 bird species locally for the month.

~ ~ ~ end March summary ~ ~ ~

March 31 ~ Ran about 42dF to 64 or so, early in the a.m. chills were in the 30's. Wind calmed down a bit compared to overnight. Back to Lost maples early to try to help Peter Tamas get a Golden-cheek photo. Cold and breezy made them quieter than I have ever heard them on a spring morning. We saw a fair number of them, and some fairly well. Heard a Black-capped Vireo right by the bench at the start of the first big pond. In general all the usual residents or migrant breeders that are back so far, were seen or heard.

Having been there yesterday it was especially amazing for the species I recorded today but not yesterday. A male Lazuli Bunting at the feeding station was nice (it was reported yesterday), a Broad-winged Hawk over the pond area was my FOS (and my first March date). At the trailhead parking lot feeding station early I heard Audubon's and Scott's Orioles. Not far up the trail were a couple Olive Sparrow, and saw both Nashville and Orange-crowned warbler. Most excellent was a male Slate-colored Junco, which I have not seen in months locally, clearly a migrant from elsewhere. Near the pond. A female Vermilion Flycatcher at the pond was very unusual there. That pond can attract migrant birds. Saw White-tipped Dove and a Zone-tailed Hawk too. So TEN species I did not see yesterday. Considering it was not normal birding and there was surely more around than we saw, the difference was significant to amazing. Today was much worse for the weather, but as often is the case, bad weather is good for us seeing birds.

Back here at the hovel late in the afternoon there was a male Summer Tanager which took a bath. We missed the one Catherine and I saw at Lost Maples yesterday, this only my second of the year. Again saw several Little Wood Satyr, but due to the chill insects were few, and reptiles out of the question.

March 30 ~ Oh whaddaday. Long, and like most long birding days, great. I was guiding Catherine Paris from Cape Cod, and we birded a bit in town here, then did Lost Maples, and in the afternoon a bit around the Sabinal area. Here in town first at the park I had my FOS Chimney Swift. Little Creek Larry said he had some a week ago, but I had not seen any yet. I heard a Green King at the park but it was on the other side of the island so not seeable. A couple Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flew over. A falcon flew over that the Purple Martins were mobbing, which was not a Kestrel, and was likely a male Peregrine.

At the senior center we stopped to check a couple Cave Swallows out, they are nesting under the overhang out front. A male Hooded Oriole was briefly there, and better a bird that flushed off the ground on the south side of the building into that little tree was a 1st spring male Lark Bunting! My FOS. Some Savannah Sparrow at north end of town, heard a couple Bell's Vireo.

At Lost Maples we had an Inca Dove at HQ, saw a couple and heard more White-tipped Dove up the Can Creek trail on way to ponds. Heard probably a dozen to 15 Golden-cheeked Warbler, saw one fantastically, a couple Black-and-white Warbler, a few Yellow-throated Warbler, and maybe 3 Louisiana Waterthrush around the upper pond. No migrant warblers as a couple weeks ago, heard maybe one Myrtle, and no Orange-crowned. Great was an FOS male Summer Tanager. Heard about 3 Yellow-throated Vireo, bunches of White-eyed, maybe two Hutton's Vireo. We went up on top of the bluffs and had a few Black-capped Vireo, saw one male great, and Catherine had a female. Heard Canyon Wren, glimpsed a Scrub-Jay, heard Rufous-crowned Sparrow, heard about three Olive Sparrow sing.

The flowers are getting going much better, but it was coolish so bugs were only on the way back down for the most part. A female Common whitetail dragonfly was my first of the year. Swallowtails were E. Tiger, Two-tailed, Spicebush and Pipevine. Over the day it was maybe 3 worn migrant Monarch. A couple Little Wood Satyr were my FOY. Lots of Duskywings were out, I saw Horace's, Funereal, and Mournful (FOS) for sure, and over a dozen were un-ID'd. Several Northern Cloudywing were about as well.

Then down around Sabinal for a quick look. Leaving the last uplands of the plateau, at that last high hill before the flats, I mentioned to keep an eye out for Harris's Hawk, and one flew over right as we crested it. Just like I planned. It would be the first big hill coming north a few miles out of Sabinal. We had Loggerhead Shrike, Catherine got a Verdin photo, heard an Olive Sparrow, saw a Swainson's Hawk, and a bunch more flowers are going very well down in the warmer lower elevation. I saw a couple odes that are not flying up at Utopia yet, a Prince Baskettail and a couple American Rubyspot, both at the UvCo 309 Sabinal River rivulet crossing a few miles south of Sabinal and a couple hundred yards west of Hwy. 187. A few Caracara, but was kinda windy. Back here there were about 3 dozen Brewer's Blackbird in the corral just east of the river on 360 still. After dark here at the casita I heard a Barn Owl.

blackcappedvireo
Black-capped Vireo. Note gray nape, not completely black.
This is another third year male, still without fully black head.
Second year male head is mostly gray like females, but have a
few black flecks and small patches of a few black feathers
here and there when return the first time. Definitive
(fully mature) adults have fully black heads with no gray.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ partial update header archive copy ~ ~ ~

~ ~ winter news~ ~

Although moving around and not always there, the Wilson's Warbler was back again on the island at the park, now present Dec. 14 - Mar. 15! We had THREE Red-breasted Nuthatch visiting our yard Dec. 2 which were all 3 seen at once still on Jan. 11, 2 still here mid-February, three again Feb. 26, one to March 19 and April 1 so far. A Brown Creeper at the park since late Nov. continued to Jan. 28. An adult female Black-and-white Warbler was at Lost Maples Jan. 5, accidental on the plateau in winter. Good numbers (for here) of Golden-crowned Kinglet are there as well. A number of male Vermilion Flycatcher wintered, along some of the county roads mostly south of town, usually near water, probably 4 at least. One was at the park Jan. 18 & Feb. 8.

The best bird I found all winter was a WESTERN KINGBIRD in Sabinal on Jan. 27, see notes that date for locale. They are accidental at best in winter here. The Hammond's Flycacher at Lost Maples continued at least to mid-Feb., by the concrete dam across from the ranger residence and big radio antenna along Can Creek on way to ponds. I do not think it has been seen the last few weeks, we missed it Mar. 17th. Leslie Calvert had a migrant male Rufous Hummer at her feeders about 5 mi. SSW of town on the 18th.

Further back in Dec., on Dec. 2 an adult male TOWNSEND'S WARBLER was near the HQ building at Lost Maples SNA, a Grasshopper Sparrow was across the road from the rest area a couple miles north of Lost Maples on 187, and a dark chocolate Red-tailed Hawk was on 187 between the first river crossing (Fisher) north of town (Utopia) and the W. Sabinal Rd. turnoff, they are very scarce here. There was a first-winter Red-naped Sapsucker in Cypresses at 3-mile bridge on Dec. 9. A Pine Warbler was at the park Dec. 15th. I saw a female Rusty Blackbird on UvCo 360 Dec. 9 which is surely a returnee for her 6th winter hereabouts. Another Rusty was down in Sabinal Jan. 27. Four Turkey Vulture south of town Dec. 26 is remarkable here, at least one is wintering, roosting at the park with the Blacks. There is no longer a chaseable Coot at the park, haven't seen it in a few weeks.

~ ~ ~ end partial update header archive copy ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Mar. 29 ~ More 60dF clouds and overcast for the morning. Front supposed to come through over the weekend. We could use a little rain, and they are great for knocking migrant birds down here. Gnatcatcher and a Myrtle Warbler in the yard in the a.m., couple more Gnatcats in p.m. Town run. Still not seeing Scissor-tails along the road despite a few so far. Some Bluebonnets are going great now. No Chimney Swifts over town yet. The live-oaks are in bloom so the birds are in them now. The patch at the entrance of the park had 2 dozen male Myrtle Warbler in it, no other warblers, no females. Amazing. There was a pair of Wood Duck up by the island, heard a Belted Kingfisher.

Little Creek Larry said he had two drake and a hen Shoveler at the park about Tuesday. Been scarce here lately. Saw three Monarchs over the day, so up to 26 since the 8th. There is a minor Utopiafest this weekend a few miles NW out of town. A music festival like the ones they were having in the fall. This time only 500 people allowed, not the 2000 the fall fests were, but still, watch out for bewildered or confused tourists.

Mar. 28 ~ Today was breezy southerlies and overcast all day, ran 60-75dF for a temp spread. A rain cell ran by Lost Maples and west across BanCo toward Tarpley. Low end chances, which usually means not. Best all at once Chipping Sparrow count I had was 40 birds or so. They are blowing out. Nice to hear some singing, simple as it is. Field Sparrow still singing across the road. Nice to have that Yellow-throated Vireo back in earshot daily. Ruby-throated Hummer should show up any day now. Surely well over a hundred Black-chinned here now. Saw at least two more Monarchs over the day. 23 now. Heard Wigeon going over northbound right at last twilight.

Mar. 27 ~ Ran another 50-70dF temp spread, breezy and overcast all day. I heard a begging baby Carolina Chickadees so methinks the pair got young out of the nest. It was built into the end of a broken off branch that maybe was 5-6" in diameter tops. Didn't seem like it was hidded or protected much. Four not being used bird houses around the yard. The bluebird pair seems to have moved elsewhere after nesting here every year the last 5, though switching boxes in the middle of the run. Major bummer not hearing and seeing them in the yard much of every day. Maybe I should move some of the boxes. They had been very successful in them raising multiple broods each year, each with two or three young fledged. One Monarch, #21.

Mar. 26 ~ I think it was about 52-72dF for a temp spread, mostly cloudy, breezy, springy. Singing Yellow-throated Vireo and Warbler out there are likely our local nearby breeders. A couple Myrtle Warbler went through northbound. Over the day had four more Monarch, now at 20 for spring! All big worn pale ones. Eastern Screech-Owl calling just after dark. Chipping Sparrow might be down to about 75 or less now. Hummers are up though. Females are gathering the fuzzy seeds of the Anemone to line their nests with. Four Monarch went by over the day, all big worn ones, all heading NNE as always. That makes 20 for the spring migration, having a great showing this year.

Mar. 25 ~ Overcast a.m., some sun in afternoon, ran ca. 60-80dF for a temp spread. At least three more Gnatcats went through yard over the day. Yellow-throated Vireo and Warbler singing are likely our local adjacent nesters. A couple Myrtle Warbler passed by. Chippy numbers are decreasing. Caracara landed over in the corral. An hour before dusk 9 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over, the first from the yard this year. Saw another Monarch, #16 big worn pale one for the spring so far. Great was an Inca Dove that flushed from out back in the afternoon, have not had one around yard lately. After dark there was a Barred Owl calling from over at the river. At least one Monarch, 16 now so far.

March 24 ~ More balmy fog and mist most of the day, some sun in the later afternoon. Heard a Yellow-throated Vireo singing over in the corral. Nearing noon we took a spin around town. At the park were the first two Black-bellied Whistling-Duck I have seen there this spring. Up at the north end of town in a field near the curve at the co. line was a group of a half-dozen each Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrow. It is the most closest-together flocklet of Grasshoppers I have had here. It is prime time for their passage. I mentioned them to Kathy just before we saw them.

Down county line road a block west just past the Prickly Pear patch there was another sparrow flock in the grass. It had 6 Savannah, 5 Vesper, a few Lincoln's, a few Chipping, and my FOS Clay-colored Sparrow. Another half- dozen Savannah were near the med. ctr. Heard the grackle (Great-tailed) by the gas station, saw a few Cave Swallows around the northmost houses in town. Behind the post office there were a dozen American Goldfinch eating Huisache flowers, and I spotted a FOS Swainson's Hawk way up high. Saw two male Scissor-tails at the north end of town, just my 2nd and 3rd, after the early one last Sunday at V'pool.

At the old Preston Place there were not any different birds, but FOS Dun Skipper, FOS Phaon Crescent, a Gray Hairstreak, a worn Monarch, and some little flowers I didn't know. Did see Drummond's Skullcap and Texas Verbena. Then we checked the knoll a mile south of our place on private property. None of the specialties were about (Golden-cheek Warbler, Black-capped Vireo, and Olive Sparrow). There were several Gnatcatcher which I think nest there, a Hutton's Vireo, some Titmice and Bewick's Wren. Saw one flower open each of White Rock Lettuce and Limestone Guara. Kathy spotted the FOS Plains Clubtail dragonfly. Saw a blue-black moth that was surely a Ctenucha. Haven't seen one in years locally, essentially since the year we had the biggest numbers ever of them. That was it. I saw a FOS Streaky Skipper, a Funereal Duskywing, and we had a couple more pale worn Monarch, making three for the day, now 15 for the spring.

Very neat is a cluster of Blue-eyed Grass, the dwarf Iris, blooming in the front yard. Somehow hanging on in a patch of evil crabgrass. After dark here there was my FOS Barking Frog, barking. Cricket-Frogs have been going a couple weeks now. The Eastern Screech-Owl was calling upslope out back. The Canyon Towhee remains MIA and I suspect it has departed for the breeding season again. Last Wednesday was the last day I noted it singing. I think it was late Aug. or Sept. when it arrived here for its 2nd winter. It lost its mate to a Sharpy early in the winter, and did not snag a replacement yet. Off to go sing one up no doubt. There is a pair just north a half mile on the north knoll near the west end of 360.

March 23 ~ Mostly overcast and some fog mist drizzle, kinda soppy, a little bit of sun in afternoon, 55-70dF temp range. A great thrill was mid-morn when a Northern Parula sang in the yard. Grabbed bins from inside as I told Kathy, and we got to watch it and hear some occasional singing. Bam! It was a good clean male Northern on all points. It is my earliest record here too, April 2 was my prior early date. A female Hooded Oriole was with the male that only showed up yesterday. Heard a nuthatch (R-b) , and a Ringed Kingfisher flew downriver in the afternoon. Several Yellow-throated Warbler singing along the river corridor now.

moth
There were a bunch of these moths on the ground at the P.O. today.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 22 ~ Low 50's dF to low 70's and mostly sunny. Wonderful. Great was a male Hooded Oriole at one of the hummer feeders mid-morning. That is some spring color if I ever saw any. Should be a Scott's around any day now too. First few hours at least a couple Gnatcats went through yard. Supply run to town. At the typical habitat, the gas station, was the male and two female Great-tailed Grackle, my FOS and likely THE pair that breeds here, with an extra female. A few Cave Swallows were up at the north end of town, my FOS, and a Bell's Vireo was singing at the mesquite patch on county-line Rd. just west of 187. A second male Hooded Oriole was in the Hackberry row on county-line road as well.

A pair of Yellow-throated Vireo were nest-site prospecting at the park, the female lowering and trembling wings, etc. The bird of the day got away though. What was surely a Neotropic Cormorant was on the other side of the island. I heard it plop off a branch into the river and then caught glimpses through the trees on the island as it flew. It was black and clearly way too small for a Double-crested. I have one later Jan. record here. Saw a couple Ischnura Forktail damselflys that looked like Fragile Forktail but they got away. Saw a couple more big pale worn Monarch, up to 12 now for the spring.

Little Creek Larry said he still has about 20 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck over at Little Creek. This morning he saw two pair of Wood Duck in with them. He also mentioned that last week he had a Rufous Hummer at his feeders briefly, so TWO migrant Rufous last week with Leslie Calvert's. Out on the back west end of 360 there was lots of Slender-stem Bitterweed and Blackfoot Daisy in bloom.

March 21 ~ Ran about 55-75dF for a temp spread, pretty nice. Over the day I had three Gnatcatcher go through the yard. Ash-throated Flycatcher was out there, an Orange-crowned Warbler went through. Found a few Lark Sparrow tail feathers on the patio, I suspect the Sharpy must have gotten one. Caracara circled low over the yard a couple times. Besides Sharp-shinned, saw Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, and Zone-tailed Hawks. Mostly it was too busy Thursdays as usual. Heard a Gound-Dove. There was a pale form female Orange Sulphur in the yard briefly puddling.

Mar. 20 ~ Happy Equinox! Wow, official spring! Ran 55-70dF for a temp spread, partly cloudy, but some sun, and quite nice out. Gnatcatcher went through yard in the morning, another noonish, another late late afternoon. About 2:30 I had another big worn pale Monarch, #10 for the spring so far. Which was followed by a singing Golden-cheeked Warbler. Nice in the yard. Ash-throated Flycatcher was calling from up top of the big Pecan. Still some Brewer's Blackbird around but they have largely departed. A couple dozen instead of a couple or few hundred. Chipping Sparrow numbers are also decreasing, they are bugging out too. Where is that first Clay-colored? We had a few spits of rain over the day, and after dark about .15", so about .2 total.

Mar. 19 ~ Low was 38dF, and another mostly sunny day is great. I think we hit 70dF at peak afternoon heat, very nice thank you. A nuthatch was around the yard mid-morning. Field Sparrow singing across the road. Gnatcatcher went through. Still 18 or so American Goldfinch visiting the sunflower feeder. Did not see or hear the Canyon Towhee, it was here yesterday. Saw a Painted Lady butterfly on the blooming Mountain Laurel. Also a Bordered Patch was on Yellow Wood-sorrel, a Texan Crescent flew by, and my FOY Julia's Skipper was about. Kathy thought she had a Monarch go by. Saw the Black Rock Squirrel up in the Hackberry eating fresh flower buds again.

Mar. 18 ~ Low about 40dF, got up to 67 or so, mostly sunny and nice. Great Horned Owl calling at dawn. At least three Blue-gray Gnatcatchers went through the yard. Kathy heard cranes going over. Best was a silent Scrub-Jay sitting in the top of the big pecan right off front porch for five minutes. Good thing I looked, never would have known it was there. We miss way more than we see. Been a while since there was one in the yard. Saw another big worn pale Monarch, #9 now for the spring and in 11 days since first one. Leslie Calvert sent a note, she had a male Rufous Hummingbird at her feeders today! A rare spring migrant to snag here, this about 4 or 5- mi. SSW of town. She also had cranes over her place, so they were on the move today. Lots more Crow-poison popping up here in the yard. Mountain Laurel is still blooming.

Mar. 17 ~ Happy St. Patrick's Day! Plenty o' spring green as buds break stems everywhere. Yesterday was way warmer of low temp than predicted, this morning way colder. It was 34dF here. Finally we stole away and went to Lost Maples for the first time since early January. We mostly missed winter there this year save two walks, in early Dec. and early January. Needed to move some way underused of late muscles and bones, and man it felt great. Heard an Ash-throated Flycatcher from the yard when loading up. We left latish, after 8:30, since it was so cold early and not light early either.

On the way up 187 about a mile and change south of Vanderpool there was a FOS male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on a fenceline. The old saying goes, once you see one, it won't freeze again. We will see. It is my earliest ever here, prior, March 21 and 24 were my two earliest dates. One of the gals in the office at LM HQ said she too had 34 in Utopia this a.m., and so it had to have frozen there at Lost Maples. It felt like it, the air was cold. And the birds were active.

We did not see the Hammond's Flycatcher, this time knowing where to spend extra time looking, but to no avail. We heard a few over a dozen, and saw about 8 Golden-cheeked Warbler, saw one female. Lots of great close views and singing. It was wonderful. I needed that. At least 10 Black-and-white Warbler. Saw one female. We had our FOS Louisiana Waterthrush singing near the upper pond, for a few minutes about 40' above the ground in the top of the tallest bare Sycamore. Heard three Yellow-throated Warbler, saw a couple of them. Those four are all presumed breeders back on territory.

For migrant warblers a couple were obvious with about 10 Orange-crowned indicating major movement for them right now, and a dozen Myrtle Warbler, obviously also on the move now. Best of all was a FOS Nashville Warbler, my earliest ever, Mar. 23 was my prior earliest date. Seven species of warblers in a walk is pretty springy here. It was outstanding warbler watching. A pair of chasing fighting Black-n-whites split when they came to Kathy. Lots of territorial disputes now, we also had toe-to-toe fighting fluttering B-n-whites right in front of us. The flowering trees, the Maples in particular, was where all the action was.

Another good FOS was Yellow-throated Vireo, not my earliest but only by a few days. Heard an Ash-throated Flycatcher, had a quick look at a Zone-tailed Hawk flying away. Heard an Olive Sparrow, heard a couple or few White-tipped Dove, heard about 3 Canyon Wren. Saw a female Scott's Oriole, texana Scrub-Jay, Rufous-crowned and Lincoln's Sparrow, Bewick's and Carolina Wren, maybe 5 Hutton's and a bunch of White-eyed Vireo, a few Ruby-crowned and at least 2 Golden-crowned Kinglet, a couple Common Raven, an Inca Dove, lots of Chipping Sparrow, Black-crested Titmouse and Carolina Chickadee, a dozen Cardinal, couple Ladder-backed Woodpecker, one of the cliff-nesting pair of Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawks. One Hermit Thrush, no Spotted Towhee.

In butterflies we saw several Two-tailed, at least one Eastern Tiger (over a half-dozen big yeller ones), at least a couple Spicebush Swallowtail, besides a few Pipevine. A Clouded Skipper was an early date, mint, and clearly a local emergence. We had three big worn pale Monarchs on the trail, and one on the way home, so four today, which makes 8 so far this spring, in the last 10 days. Over a dozen each Red Admiral and American Lady, a couple Variegated Fritillary and Sleepy Orange, one female Reakirt's Blue, a couple Elfin, Olive-juniper Hairstreak, but still slow, especially for small stuff. Still early. There were a dozen Duskywing, most not ID'd, but a couple were Horace's and a couple were Juvenal's. Only odes were a couple Springtime Darner and three Dot-winged Baskettail. Was coolish fer bugs.

There were a couple Madrone trees in bloom, and the Redbuds were going great, especially by the upper pond where more than a dozen were flamin' pink. Very few flowers out yet. A few Prarie Fleabane, a very few Mountain Laurel and it seems maybe they are yet to go off, one Agarita had some flowers, saw a few Primrose, one Spanish Buckeye had a few flowers, the Red Buckeye (yellow form here) is a week away or so from first opening. You could tell it was getting more wintry as you climbed the canyon with the trees behind the ponds noticeably behind the ones in the lower canyon. The major gully washers over winter did a great job of clearing the cattails out of the ponds. Maybe the Green Kings will start nesting again.

March 16 ~ We worked around here all day, since thinking of playing hooky tomorrow. Saw my FOS yard migrant Lincoln's Sparrow and a Vesper was on the patio again. Ran about 40-60dF for a temp spread but was breezy. Lots of hummers hitting the feeders hard. Thought I heard a nuthatch. The rest was the same gang, Canyon Towhee still singing out there.

couchskingbird
This is the Couch's Kingbird, that the Western KB was with
down in Sabinal in January. Note how saturated the yellow is
and how it reaches up the breast to the green upper breast.
Nicely notched tail, a bit of the dark mask is visible behind eye.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 15 ~ Wind picked back up, 15-20mph from NE with about 48dF for a low, overcast and gray, fairly wintry still. Mighta hit 58 briefly at peak heat in the afternoon. Vesper Sparrow was out in the yard, I always like that. Four Lark Sparrow means another pair of breeders has returned. Town errand run. The annual Porsche club drive came through and over a dozen show grade specimens were outside the cafe around lunch time. A check of the park was slow except that I again saw the wintering male Wilson's Warbler! WeeWow! That makes it a 3 month stay! Awesome over-wintering record on the plateau. One Pied-billed Grebe continues, one Myrtle Warbler. A few Yellow-throated Warbler included a pair together, early for a female to be here already. Saw a Cardinal gathering nesting material, and Black-chinned Hummingbird as well, gathering the dandelion-like remains of the Anemones (Wind-flower). The Chickadees in our yard are already at it a couple weeks going into a tree hole. The Texas Persimmon have leaves breaking stems now. Lots of Black-chinned Hummers here now, probably over a hundred already. Gadzooks! They went nuts quickly.

March 14 ~ A second front is blowing through this morning, so now northerlies and about 50dF, wind is 20 gusting to 25 mph. I see buds just barely breaking stem on Pecans and Mesquite now. Lots of Hackberry in full bloom, the flower is a hack just like the berry. Figures. Poorest excuse of a flower this side of Cedar Elm. A pair of Lark Sparrow on the patio is likely returning breeders. Canyon Towhee singing still. The 3 Pine Siskin were around the sunflower feeder again, and 18 American Goldfinch.

Amazing was a mint fresh Theona Checkerspot (butterfly), surely the earliest one I ever had and surely was a local emergence. Also great was a winter form Questionmark, which was beat, and I did not see one all winter here! It went to a Hackberry flower! There are a couple dozen Vesta Crescent around the yard. Monarch #4 went by, another big pale worn female it appeared. Lots of Yellow Wood-sorrel blooming, more Crow-poison opening. Kathy saw a damselfly briefly. Late in the afternoon I heard a definite positive FOS Ash-throated Flycatcher calling over by the draw. The White-eyed Vireo had been imitating it the last few days.

Mar. 13 ~ Rained overnight, a strong line came through about 4-5 a.m., winds were 35-40+mph, we got about .80 of precip, and it was clear and sunny at dawn. Right when we needed it for a spring sprout. I see a bunch of Bluebonnets (Lupine) have opened at the 187 x 360 intersection. Gonna get real pretty real quick now. I was in town early so a quick check of the park. Little Creek Larry said he had Whistling-Ducks Sunday (10th), about 15, which is the FOS I have heard of.

Great was a FOS Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and fantastic was a calling White-tipped Dove from north of the park, where one often calls from in spring (probably breeds). A pair of Wood Duck were in the slough in the woods by the island. Then back at the house I heard a Ringed Kingfisher fly downriver. Before 10 a.m. TWO Blue-gray Gnatcatcher were in the yard, so 3 so far by mid-morn, this FOS day for them. A Myrtle Warbler went through, a migrant no doubt, have not seen the local winterers in a few weeks. I hear Yellow-throated Warbler singing across the road. Makes me think yesterday's bird in the yard was indeed our returning breeder. Kathy had a Nuthatch still. Got about 75dF in peak afternoon heat, this front was Pacific and not cold. Three Pine Siskin were around in the later afternoon. Heard Barn Owl high and northbound late.

Mar. 12 ~ Cloudy and very breezy, about 62-72dF for a temp spread, a few spritzes here and there, waiting for rain. Great was a Yellow-throated Warbler in the yard early, which is likely our returning breeder. Had a flock of about 120 Cranes thermalling over calling mid-day. I will always stop what I am doing to watch and listen to that. Otherwise was the same gang. Lesser Goldfinch pairs around, the Canyon Towhee still singing, Hutton's and White-eyed Vireo singing. The Carolina Wrens were carrying nesting material. Cardinal and Titmice are singing up a storm, as are Chickadee. Heard a Barn Owl, high and northbound late.

Mar. 11 ~ Was balmy about 63 and foggy first thing early, then it dropped to 54dF or so as some cold air from the front got here. Mist and showers over the morning, maybe a tenth or two. Soppy mess out there. Had a pair of Hutton's Vireo together right out back. There were a couple males singing up the slope, looks like the closest one might have a mate. I heard a call of an Ash-throated Flycatcher up the hill, but, since our local breeder (and many other) White-eyed Vireo imitate it well, I am a wee bit hesitant to call it FOS, though the date is good, right on time. Hoping to hear it some more. In the later afternoon there were 75 Cedar Waxwing up in the big pecan preening, flycatching a little, and seeming to be eating the fresh Hackberry flowers. Then two Golden-crowned Kinglet went through, first in a bit in the yard and surely spring migrants. At dusk, 8 p.m. now, two calling flocks of Am. Wigeon flew over, 35 right over the house, and about 18-20 in the 2nd flock a minute later. More spring migrants heading north.

Mar. 10 ~ About 60dF and foggy in the a.m., got up to about 76dF in the afternoon, there was a peek or two of sun, but mostly it stayed overcast. We are on the warm side of a front on its way. It is still overall brown, except the ground. The live-oaks are more than half, leafless now. The Mesquite, Pecan, cypress, and Hackberry are yet to leaf out, so besides Junipers (Cedar) it is brown still. Won't last long though. Another N. Rough-winged Swallow over the yard this morn. White-eyed Vireo out there too. I took a spin to the park to avoid any gates with cows today.

On the way at the 360 crossing there were 2 drake and a hen Wood Duck. If I would have had camera ready coulda had a great shot when they were close. By time I got it out and going had to use high mag and so a bit fuzzy. Great was a FOS singing Yellow-throated Warbler along the pond at the park. Then on Jones Cmty. Rd. there was another singing just into Bandera Co. past the county line bridge. Third earliest return date for me, the other two earlier are March 2, and Feb. 25, otherwise 13 springs they were later to arrive.

I heard a Bell's Vireo song from a thicket at the north end of town where they nest but did not see it. There was a Mocker nearby (isn't there always here) but the sound was not coming from it. Since it would be a couple weeks early, without seeing it I am letting it go. If when I check it in a few days I have it, then I will use this date as my FOS. Sounded like the real deal to me. There was a male Purple Martin at the Waresville Cmty. house by the golf course pond. The Marsh Wren was still there in the reeds, I presume the one seen all winter. There was a flock of a dozen Savannah Sparrow by the pond which were likely migrants. Saw a bunch of Bladderpod of some sort blooming in a field.

When I got back Kathy said she had a flock of Cranes going north about 20 minutes after I left, wondering if I got them at the park, and sure enough I did, counted 35 at least. It is one of those birds you only see flying over at the park. Later the Black Rock Squirrel was in the Hackberry eating flowers. About 11 p.m. another Barn Owl flew over northbound, calling.

Mar. 9 ~ I am itchin' to get up to Lost Maples, been two dang months we have been too busy, or the weather was bad on weekends. They waffled back and forth on which day was rain this weekend, it was Sat., and now it is Sunday, pretty breezy today. Think it will be next weekend now, both days are good if not coolish, but sunny. I think the 3 days of hard freeze set things back a bit and it is 500' higher than we are here a couple miles south of town so botanically a few days to a week behind anyway. Am trying to hit the Laurel bloom so when you walk up the canyon it is like aroma therapy. And of course to see some Golden-cheeks but since the first just got back, it will be better in another week. Can be great for photos, before all the trees leaf out.

This morning a bunch of the horses from the corral were out on the road out front. Someone didn't close a gate right or something. Maybe 10 mares, 3 with brand new foals, hope no one comes flyin' down the road. When one of the caballeros got here they quickly came in to his honking with feed bags and the gate was secured. That was just the start of loose livestock today...

I thought I would go to the knoll a mile or so from us on private property where Black-capped Vireo and Olive Sparrow nest, and have had Golden-cheek on territory to have check about 11 a.m. I punch a gate code in and two gates open, and you drive across the grass airstrip, the gates close and it is a 900 acre nice piece of live-oak, juniper grassland with a couple knolls with Buckley Oaks. As I got to the second gate almost a hundred yards, some of the Longhorn cows were getting out, and into the airstrip!$%! I herded them back in with the truck, and used the manual button to close the gate. Whew, dodged that bullet. So I thought.

I turned around and went back across the runway. But now to hit the button and leave, again, both gates are going to open for a minute. It looked pretty clear, what could I do but try. I figured I would go around the long way and come in on the back side, where no cows waiting at the other gates. I hit the button over at the first gate and bolt through before it closes. The whole damn herd bolted through the far gate because the button opens both. All but a couple are now out on the grass airstrip thinking they died and went to heaven because it is the greenest place in sight. Good job the cows thought of me! I hoped a dang plane doesn't show up looking for a place to land!

Called the rancher, one of the biggest landowners around, and told him what I did with his cows. Said they looked real happy about it. I drove a mile or so looking for one of his caballeros, found one on the other side of Hwy. 187. Manuel got some feed bags, and a couple hours later we had them all back in that section and off the grass airstrip. At which they looked longingly. It was playing cowboy with his truck and our little trucklet, herding them. Let me tell you, it was a freakin' rodeo. Good thing Kathy was not there, especially in the trucklet. I was doin' brodies with tires spinning cuttin' them off, wish I had some footage of it, no one would believe me. Sometimes one would look at you over the hood seeming to let me know it didn't want to move, and good thing they are not smart enough to know they could take the radiator out just like that with its 4' spread. It was forward, reverse, forward, reverse, oh no they are making an end run, haul ass in reverse and cut them off. Repeat a hundred times over a half mile. That year-old with the little black dots is their evil leader on the end-runs. Thankfully the runway is only about 150' wide most of its length, so with two trucks we were able to get them where we wanted. Then honk the horn with feed bags hanging off the tailgate and most followed us through the gate first try. They were real scared of the gate they came through to get out. The last dozen took me an hour. Two hours after it started I called and let 'em know all the cows were back where they belonged and they could land a cessna again. Seems like I shoulda won a cowboy hat or something... That rodeo stuff is hard work.

By time I got to the knoll it was hot and 1 p.m., almost dead quiet. Only thing of interest was my FOY Springtime Darner dragonfly. A second female Vermilion Flycatcher was back where a pair nests. So since having to use the back side in and out now, I went up to the north knoll on the way out. There had Canyon Towhee and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, but that was it. The heat of day slows had set in. It was nearly 80dF! There was lots of Paralena blooming, a few Slender-stem Bitterweed, a few Prairie Fleabane, and the Rabbit-tobacco is coming up. We could use a rain.

As if all that was not enough, at the crossing I was kneeling down to grab a couple buckets of water for the fish tanks at the river and cracked my kneecap against the edge of the bridge. Over the afternoon it has stiffened and I am sorta limping. That is how hard it hit. I am going to stick with keyboard warrior for the rest of the day. Saw my FOS female Black-chinned Hummingbird, and seemingly at least a dozen males here now. Also my FOS Giant Swallowtail was in the yard over the afternoon. Heard Hutton's Vireo singing upslope out back, and somewhere I heard a White-eyed Vireo today. Great hearing Martins overhead.

woodduck
Here is a pair of Wood Duck, sorry for the wee bit fuzzy.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Mar. 8 ~ Foggy and mostly overcast all day, a low of 60dF (nearly twice what the high was on Monday) and it the afternoon it got up to 80dF! Holy spring! We had low 20's three days ago. Two dozen American Goldfinch were at the sunflower tube. I heard Purple Martin and White-eyed Vireo outside as I was saddling up for the town run. Great to hear that here again now, the sounds of summer. At the park there was another White-eyed Vireo, a couple Myrtle Warbler, no Orange-crowned, heard more Martins. Some Barn Swallows back on Main St., and the Redbuds at the library are flaming pink and awesome. Another Wide-eyed Vireo late in day made for 3 today. Forgot until after update: FOS Common Grackle were in town and at the park today. A Yellow-shafted Flicker was along 360.

Right when we were unloading the trucklet, Kathy heard and then I spotted a single Red-breasted Nuthatch in the pecans, first in a week. At least one is still around. Very cool. Then after Rosie's tacos I was outside and heard three partial Golden-cheeked Warbler songs, just the end bit it gave each time. Came inside for bins, and then could not find it. Oh well, at least I heard it, and in the yard for my FOS is nice. About 3:30 I had my FOS MONARCH, tying my earliest date here. A nice big worn pale female, clearly a migrant from Mexico, it was beatin' tracks NE. My FOS female Vermilion Flycatcher has shown up and boy is the male happy to see her. Kinda seems like he might have been waiting, and looking forward to this. Probably our local yard or corral breeder. Heard a Barn Owl after I posted the update.

Mar. 7 ~ Wow, zonal flow, a low of about 50dF, and it might have kissed 70dF on the cheek quickly in the afternoon. Oh to thaw and air the place out. Birds were the same gang best I could tell, nothing different. The Canyon Towhee is still here and singing. A Red-shouldered Hawk is calling from way up high as their territorial proclamations are made. Sharpy appeared to nab a Chippy early in the morning. There were at least 6 ad.ma. Black-chinned Hummingbird here today, that was an at once count. I got an email from Laura Levy saying she had her first Golden-cheeked Warbler of the year at Lost Maples today, up near the pond. Thanks for the great news Laura!

The live-oaks are really getting devoid of leaves upslope behind us. They are in full fall. Not seeing any Myrtle Warbler, or the Orange-crowned Warbler, I suspect they have departed northward. Bird of the day was a Two-tailed Swallowtail (butterfly) Kathy spotted, first of the year. Saw the Black Rock Squirrel again, still going up into the Hackberry to eat flower buds. About 11:15 p.m. I was outside and two Long-billed Curlew flew over calling, heading north. Spring migrants. An early date methinks off the top of my head.

Mar. 6 ~ Third one in a row, hard freeze, 27dF for a low, and mighty chilly. Partly sunny though and afternoon warmed into mid-50's dF. Thawed out at least. Sharpy was diving on things a lot today. Another good 150 count on the Chipping Sparrows here. Heard a Lark Sparrow singing a bit, first of that this spring here. Heard a Hutton's Vireo upslope behind us. Was too busy with work to lookabout much, Wed. and Thursdays are shot before they get here. Seems like at least three Black-chinned Hummingbird here, likely more. Saw the Black Rock Squirrel again.

March 5 ~ Another 12 hour hard freeze, we were 22dF at sunup. Chilly for here. At least the temp is supposed to double today. There were a couple dozen American Goldfinch at the feeder, most I have seen in a couple weeks. It doesn't bother me at all if they eat at my neighbors. If it was a rare bird I might feel differently.   ;)    Extra seed rations again today but it did get up into the upper 40's dF briefly at peak heat. One more freeze tomorrow morning. Saw the sun a few times. One FOS in the afternoon was my first Northern Rough-winged Swallow of the year over the yard, probably one of the ones that nest close by over at the river in the old Green Kingfisher holes. Otherwise the birds were the same gang, though at least there was some singing today.

March 4 ~ A hard freeze with 26dF at 7 a.m., it hit 32dF about midnight and stayed below that until near noon. Twelve hours, and tonight to tomorrow morning will be at least as long, and colder. At 1 p.m. NOAA Kerrville was showing 31dF with a high of 29 progged for the afternoon. I did not think that was how that was supposed to work. We had 34 or so, so I am not complaining, we actually broke freezing at peak heat. Double seed rations all day for the sunflower and millet burners. Hummers are on the feeders or near them. At least the wind mostly backed off. There were some chills in the teens around the hill country in the morning. Will freeze earlier this eve since starting at 35 at best in afternoon. Heard the Canyon Towhee out there. The rest all seemed the same gang, and I was not about to go hunting something up in this. So glad to have so much to do, inside at a desk. Kathy saw a Gray Fox outside late in the day.

March 3 ~ Early it was still in 50's dF with fog, drizzle, mist all night into early a.m. when the winds and front started arriving. It was warmer at 7 a.m. than 8 a.m., and by 9 was in the low 40's dF with chills in the upper 30's. There seem to be at least 3 ad. ma. Black-chinned Hummingbird here now, put a third feeder out. Not going to be a pleasant day out there. Glad to always have work to do inside. Nothing for bird song today, they aren't wasting their energy. Doubled seed rations all day so they could stock up for the overnight energy burn. Wind finally laid down to a bearable breeze about sundown. Did not see anything different in my peekabouts whilst throwing seed. We have a few Mountain Laurel flowers on one the best bushes, which I can smell when I get near it. Absolutely wonderful.

March 2 ~ More gray drizzle and mist all day, temps in the 50's dF. Worked inside, always biz to do when too soppy out there. A Ringed Kingfisher circled right over the house and yard early morning that looked like it was carrying a small fish. They are likely underway nesting already. I heard a Belted later over toward the river. There must be two hummers here now, as one male was doing some display type flight, the shallow U's, but so a 2nd bird is around. About a dozen American Goldfinch still visiting the sunflower tube. A few Robin and Waxwing around, about 10 Turkey Vulture at once. Spring is coming. But not until after a big freeze coming the 4th.

Canyon Towhee had an extended bout of song from 35' up in the top of the big Pecan right off the front porch. Field Sparrow also sang quite a bit. That Vermilion Flycatcher singing is really great to hear again. The plaintive Field Sparrow sounds so sad and lonely, almost forelorn. The Towhee is neutral, it sounds like it realizes that it not only did not get a very fancy suit, but that it did not get a great song like all the other birds, but this is my song and I will do it well. The Vermilion Flycatcher seems so positive, it sings like it is so exhuberantly happy and excited to be singing it can hardly contain itself.

americangoldfinch
This is maybe 20% of the mega flock of Amercian Goldfinch we saw just north of Sabinal Jan. 27. There are a hundred birds in this frame. At times the flock stretched a quarter mile, all like this. It was a cloud of them, working a ploughed field that had a giant sunflower crop this year.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 1 ~ Wow, it's a whole new month out there. What a surprise, gray, fog, mist, and drizzle. Low in the low 50's dF, got into low 60's. There are a couple male Eastern Bluebird singing out front all day, and I am lovin' it. Field Sparrow singing is nice too. Town run fer shtuff. Saw my FOS Barn Swallow, and Purple Martin in town today! We have freezes progged for Monday and Tuesday mornings, highs just in 40's dF those days. Yikes for them. These early returns are risky business for insectivores.

Saw a Mountail Laurel covered in flowers in town, if it wasn't in someones yard I would have visited it for some aroma therapy. The library Redbud trees are now roaring pink. The Agarita at park entrance are in full yellow glory now too. Lots of Silver Puff is sprouting, some just opening flowers. Englemann's Daisy have leaf rosettes that have sprouted. It is about to explode green out there, but is still very wintry looking, and mostly brown. The Black Willows at the park are sprouting leaves, some a week ago I forgot to mention, but now really going. Some Poverty Weed (Baccharis) also is sprouting leaves.

At the park I did not see the Wilson's Warbler, and only a couple Myrtle were there. I think wintering stuff is buggin' out, just like spring stuff is showing up. A female Green Kingfisher was up at the island, a couple Kinglets (Ruby), was still misting at noon, so quiet. I saw Little Creek Larry and he said he had Barn Swallow yesterday at Little Creek. And that the last few days Poor-will were calling. We hardly get Poor-will down on the flat valley floor where we are now, but when we were on Seco Ridge late Feb. was usually when the earliest ones started calling.

About 3 p.m. a Zone-tailed Hawk worked up the river habitat corridor. I suspect a returning spring migrant since over winter I did not have one around the yard, only up at the park and town. Heard a Belted Kingfisher over at the river. This morning I heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch out front. Little Creek Larry also said all his American Goldfinch have left (so have most of ours), as did his Hermit Thrush and White-crowned Sparrows he had wintering around his place.

~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~

There was no singular rain event, but lots of fog-mist and drizzle with occasional light showers and we probably had 1.5" or so of precip for the month. Good for the ground and spring sprout in an often dry month. The river is still high, roughly at bankful, so that is good. The first Agarita and Redbud flowers were out mid-month which is about on schedule.

Dragonflies were easy to track, I saw one species, a couple Dot-winged Baskettail, which many years is the only species one sees in February. Some years the first damsel shows in Feb., but not this year for me. The baskettail would have been the first dragon of the year as they usually are, were it not for the freak Springwater Dancer Jan. 4, and the anomolous just emerged Green Darner later in January, both at Utopia Park.

Butterflies were high in diversity at 29 species for the month, which is my second best Feb. ever (n~16). Record was 31 sps. in 2017. All of my 4 Febs. with more than 20 species were in the last 7 years. The 9 years prior to last 7 never did I break 20 species in February. Things are changing. Climate related things. Flowers are opening sooner, Juniper pollen gets going sooner, many more butterflies species are out flying sooner, a number of birds are returning sooner. Wintering is shortening. The climate is changing very obviously if you watch nature closely. Best lep was a Great Purple Hairstreak late in month as they sometimes do. A few Henry's Elfin were always treat as usual but of course expected.

Birds were about 76 species over the month locally, low, but we were too busy with work to get out much or up to Lost Maples. On Feb. 1 a big influx of Robin and Waxwing showed up, hundreds were all over the area. I had over 500 waxwing at once in the yard one day, and an evening flight of Robin heading to roost peaked at 2000 on the 15th. The Wilson's Warbler wintering at Utopia Park was still present the 15th which is a great overwinering record on the plateau. The THREE Red-breasted Nuthatch continued through to late in month so spent the whole winter in the area, once since late Oct., two since Nov. and three since early Dec. at latest.

Some of the first migrants show in Feb., returning breeders primarily. Vermilion Flycatcher and White-eyed Vireo were the first passerines back, but as usual the first migratory breeder to return was Turkey Vulture on the 14th. A few of the ad. ma. Vermilions that seemed to be wintering seemed to make it through the month. No telling if the one back in our yard singing the 16th (record early by 8 days) was one of those or not, the early date might suggest it was. Black-chinned Hummingbird returned to our feeders the 24th, fourth earliest, the 3 earlier returns in the 16 years prior were on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd.

~ ~ ~ end February summary ~ ~ ~

Feb. 28 ~ It is fitting we leave Feb. with a cool gray drizzly day, as much of the month was. Thursday so I am stuck at the desk, phone, and computer. Did not see anything different in my outside lookarounds. The earlybird male Black-chinned Hummingbird remains, still no second bird best I can tell. Heard the Hutton's Vireo singing again, as well as the Field Sparrow. I am not seeing the couple or few Myrtle Warbler that wintered in the area though, for a week now, maybe they have departed. The Black Rock Squirrel was out there again, climbing on top of old wellhouse and into hackberry to eat the fresh buds. Sure is a neat beast. Canyon Towhee still here.

Feb. 27 ~ Low was only about 60dF, and it got up to about 77dF in peak afternoon heat. Pretty springy. Birds were the same gang. I saw a Cloudless Sulphur which was my first sure one this year, thought I had a couple fly by earlier in month. Neatest thing was a Black Rock Squirrel over by the little original (offline) well house. Has some holes under it just as they like. It went up into a Hackberry that was just sprouting buds and ate a bunch of them. I forgot to write it down, but I saw one about a week ago as I was coming back from town, at the other far end of the corral a quarter mile away. Being a ground squirrel, it was obviously a bit clumsy in the tree compared to actual tree type (as Fox - the common squirrel here) squirrels. Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver calling shortly before sundown. FOS Skink today (Four-lined).

Feb 26 ~ Only 50dF or so for a low, mixed clouds and sun. There were two Red-breasted Nuthatch together in one pecan whilst I heard another in another part of yard at the same time, so all three are still here! Incredible. There are two male Vermilion Flycatcher out front already fighting over the yard. Hutton's vireo singing, Black-chin Hummer at the feeders, feels like spring is coming. Must be a few hundred white Anemone flowers open today, and I see one little pink one. At a flush event today there had to be 75 Chippies here in the yard, and 75 in the corral. They flush in waves so I got what I thought a very good count. It is 150 now. Bewick's Wren are really getting singing.

Feb. 25 ~ Gray and upper 30's dF for a low. A or the male Black-chinned Hummer was on a feeder at 8 a.m., probably earlier too. A Painted Lady (lep), the first I have seen this month and year, was a worn migrant. Has to be over 125 Chipping Sparrow now. Weird how the flock was slow to collect this winter. Canyon Towhee singing more and House Finch is getting going well now at times too. The American Goldfinch have sure thinned out compared to what they were a few weeks ago, most of the time a dozen or so now is it. Sharpy was around diving on things quite a bit, flushed him away a couple times. It will let me get quite close if I am not carrying the camera. About 10 p.m. I realized there was another not so auspicous FOY, a chigger. Grass just started growing, and bam! Itchy, itchy, scratchy, scratchy. Late p.m. I heard a FOS Barn Owl fly over.

Feb. 24 ~ Clear and coolish in upper 30's dF early, nice since the wind stopped. Later morning my FOS Black-chinned Hummingbird stopped briefly at a feeder! Good thing we just freshened a couple up for them. It did not seem to stick. I heard one was seen a day or two ago just north of San Antonio. Another bird that used to show up later in the first week of March up to a decade ago, and is now showing up in the last week of February.

A great thrill was a Great Purple Hairstreak, which stopped on the garden fence and let me get a shot. Was a female, probably just emerged from one of the Mistletoe clumps in the biggest Hackberry which has several. I have a number of these late February fresh emergence records for them. Couple warm days and pop goes the butterfly. A fair number of Hackberry have buds breaking stem now, not half yet, but some are starting.

Noonish we walked up into Agaritaville upslope behind us into the live-oak and juniper habitat. I got a look at a Spotted Towhee this time, a female with lots of spots above, small ones on tail, and a very brown head (not gray or charcol). A couple Hutton's Vireo were singing. Titmouse, Chippy, Bewick's Wren, singing Field Sparrow, the usual expected. Lots of butterflies on the Agarita which was still going well, but perhaps now is passing peak. Did not see an Elfin though. Several Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, great were a couple FOY Dusky-blue Groundstreak. Saw one Buckeye, a couple dozen each Red Admiral and American Lady, a few Checkered white, Black and Pipevine Swallowtail, Sleepy Orange, some Dogface, a fresh Gulf Fritillary, a worn Variegated Frit, some Vesta Crescent, a Common Checkered-Skipper. So fourteen sps. in an 45 minutes in the Agarita, and the Great Purple here makes 15 sps. for the day. Probably the high daily sps. total so far for the year.

Mid-afternoon we went over to the pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cemetery to see if the Purple Martins were back at that house yet, we did not see or hear any yet. The single Red-winged Blackbird and ad.ma. Vermilion Flycatcher that have been there all winter were both there. There were three Eastern Phoebe some in a tussle. Three together at once likely indicates passage birds are moving through heading back north. Along 363 on the way in off 187 there was Vesper, Savannah, and Chipping Sparrow.

Feb. 23 ~ Started out calm, gray, and overcast, was near 60dF before sunup. Shortly after the front hit, it dropped 10dF and winds were 15-20 mph almost all day. Cleared the skies by noonish. Heard Hutton's Vireo singing out back up the slope in the live-oaks. Canyon Towhee singing out front from a pecan tree. A flock of a hundred Meadowlark flew over the house early, the only one to call sounded standard Eastern to me. But one can't suggest the flock was such based on one bird calling. Most big flocks here are Western. The wind was too much so worked on stuff here. Saw FOY Dun Skipper (butterfly), a couple fresh Vesta Crescent, plus a few of the regular things already flying.

A classic sign of spring is migrating geese heading north.
We virtually never see White-fronted Goose on the ground here,
but they are regular spring migrants overhead a thousand feet up.
Often at night, which tends to make photographing them tricky.  :)
Early to mid-morning you can catch them if lucky. This is how we
usually see them here, flying high overhead. I have a genetic defect
which allows me to hear them when I look at pictures of them.

whitefrontedgooose

whitefrontedgooose

whitefrontedgooose

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 22 ~ Fog and drizzly much of the overnight and morning, about 52dF for a low, and gray. Lots of Cardinal and Carolina Wren song out there early. As far as I can hear in any direction I can hear both singing, must be a dozen of each, and when all going at once, wow. Awesome chorus. Sure have missed this. Pine Siskin was out there, and a couple dozen American Goldfinch. The lone Lark Sparrow that wintered is still here on the seed. Saw my first Crow-Poison flowers.

The Canyon Towhee is singing a bit more too, it will likely leave in a month or so. When it starts singing, that means it is getting motivated to depart. At least for this one that winters at a territory it does not breed at. Ours certainly is not a resident. It leaves in spring and comes back in fall. It lost the mate it returned with last fall, early this winter, to an accipiter. I am surprised another did not show up over the whole winter.

At the park there was a Green Kingfisher. Better a female Ring-necked Duck, first of that I have seen all winter, maybe a migrant. One Pied-billed Grebe, no Coot though, heard a Flicker, a dozen Myrtle Warbler but no Wilson's, only 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 10 Turkey Vulture amongst the Blacks at the roost. Did not hear any Martins in town. Warmed into 60's dF later in afternoon. Just before sundown I was at the 360 crossing briefly and saw my FOY Blanchard's Cricket-frog.

Feb. 21 ~ Another gray day in the 50's dF. Just after tossing noon seed, I had my FOS White-fronted Goose flock of the spring heading north upvalley, a thousand feet up. Three V's totalling over 500 birds. Love that call. Right after I turned the camera off after grabbing a couple shots I turned around and a Merlin shot right over the house, mighta coulda hadda shot if I had left the camera on a few seconds longer to spot it inbound. Don't know if was a locally wintering bird, or at this time, it could be a migrant heading north too. Their speed never ceases to amaze me. Some Robins and Waxwings, the usual regular gang of birds was it. Too busy to look.

Feb. 20 ~ Low 30's dF this morning, just above freezing, about 33-65dF was our temp spread for the day. Seco Creek WU station showed 30dF for a low. It was chilly. I had too much work to do at the box o'bolts and desk to see anything. There were THREE Pine Siskin out there briefly early, which after yesterday's single is interesting. Sure love those calls. There was a pair of Canyon Towhee out at the gate at the west end of 360, and ours was here around the yard today. Several Black Swallowtail around, one Orange Sulphur was worn and seemed likely a leftover but was my first this month. An Elfin (only Henry's here) flew by quickly as they do. Lots of live-oaks are turning yellow, some very yellow, and some have already dropped or are heavilly dropping leaves in their annual replacement cycle. It is early actually for so many to be so advanced right now, normally it is more a March thing.

Feb. 19 ~ Ran about 37-48dF for a temp spread, cool and breezy, occasional mist in a.m. and again late in day and evening. Probably got a tenth of an inch out of it all told. Heard the Hutton's Vireo singing again. There was one Pine Siskin around, the first I have seen maybe since December or early Jan. at latest. Probably the same one that was here then. They just didn't show this year, which means there were likely great food sources for them between where they breed and here. Otherwise the same gang. Chipping Sparrows might be near 120 in the flock now. Heard a nuthatch. Again hundreds of Robin going over 500' up at dusk heading north upvalley.

Feb. 18 ~ About 41dF for a low. Canyon Towhee singing a bit outside is nice to hear. A FOS White-eyed Vireo was outside in the morning, calling to let me know. The last few years they are much earlier to return than they were 10-15 years ago, by over a week, nearly two on average. In biological terms this is major major rapid change folks. The sort of change that would have taken decades when I was young has occurred in less than half of one. And that was not THAT long ago despite what you may hear. Heard two Red-breasted Nuthatch so they are still here, I still can't believe they stuck all winter, a real treat for us normally nuthatch-free folk. Sure nice to have that male Vermilion Flycatcher working the yard from the low Pecan branches again. What a bright spot of spring!

Feb. 17 ~ A dry but windy front arriving in morning. Ran mid-50's to mid-70's dF for a temp spread. Was a bit of fog and mist overnight, but northerlies have cleared and dried it. Kinda windy for birding though. Noonish here I saw a mint fresh Texan Crescent and a pair of Vesta Crescent butterfly. Also saw my FOY female Black Swallowtail. There was a nice big bright green Anole (lizard) displaying its pink pouch right off the back porch, first of that I have seen this year. Some overwinter in the cracks in this stone house.

At peak heat 3-4 p.m. we took a walk up the hill behind us through the juniper and live-oaks where good Agarita patches. Agaritaville. Some were in full bloom roaring in yellow dense enough to smell. Good numbers of bees on them. Great were two new butterflies for the year, my first Henry's Elfin and Olive Juniper Hairstreak! Right on time. An Elfin pic is below. They are so fresh right now they show a nice maroonish purple sheen in good light, which doesn't last long. Also great was a Dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly, which is at the early side of average FOY dates. Almost always the first dragon of the year, I am always amazed how they show up seemingly out of nowhere in dry areas among the live-oaks and junipers. The cycle begins again, new butterflies and dragonflies are emerging.

There were lots of other butterflies on the Agarita, or around it, the only heavily blooming nectar source now, unless you find a Redbud tree going. Over a dozen American Lady, 6 Red Admiral, 12 Snout, 5 Checkered White, a couple Dainty Sulphur, Black and Pipevine Swallowtails, a Sleepy Orange. Also one Ailanthus Webworm moth, unusual for 'spring', I usually just see them in fall. Kicked out a few pigs, that'll jump-start ya. Heard a couple things shoot away in the thickets that sounded just like a Spotted Towhee shooting away, but never saw one. Saw a couple Orange-crowned Warbler, Bewick's Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, Cardinal, and Chipping Sparrow.

There were a couple of the purple form of the Anemone (Wind-flower) which are gorgeous. Saw some Dutchman's Breeches in bloom, another of the earliest to go, and a Nipple Cactus had a couple fruit so must have bloomed not too long ago. Those fruit are so well protected inside that layer of spines nothing can get at them. The Buckley (aka Spanish) Oaks have some buds just barely starting to break stem. This a favorite tree of the Golden-cheeked Warbler. When the first fresh new leaves unfurl with the pink fuzzy look, there are warblers. Usually in first week of March for numbers of them.

Feb. 16 ~ We ran about 45-76dF for a temp spread, sunny and wonderful. Got a birdbox fixed and back up amongst stuff here today. Time to get those ready if you have maintenence to do on them. Heard a nuthatch, at least one still around. Birdsong is really increasing lots quickly. The male Carolina Wren is displaying to the female. A small dark butterfly flew by and around me that was surely an Elfin. Saw my FOY Buckeye. Quite a few So. Dogface flying today. One Shining Flea-beetle. Best was a FOS adult male Vermilion Flycatcher that is surely our yardish breeder returning, singing and foraging around the yard and corral much of the day. Oh to hear that song again! It is my earliest ever spring return record, Feb. 24th was the prior record early bird, so this is 8 days earlier than my earliest! Two weeks ahead of average. Usually you beat the earliest by a day or two, maybe a few, eight days earlier than earliest is off the charts exceptional.

henryselfin
Henry's Elfin, is a nickel-sized little beauty and one of the first new
butterflies to fly in spring. Elfins are an odd group in the Hairstreak
family. I could not catch the extent of the purple haze (overscaling) in the
photo, they are really maroonish in areas when fresh. Their flight season is
over and they are done flying for the year by mid-April here, only about eight
weeks total as a flying adult. Larval foodplants are Spanish Buckeye and Redbud,
and maybe Agarita. They are usually found on one of those, as on this Agarita.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 15 ~ About 44dF for a low, and got up to mid-80's dF for a high! Wow, hottest day so far this year, a warmup before a front. Hutton's Vireo singing is my first of that so far this year. Had a town run, where I saw an Agarita with flowers, and a Redbud tree with flowers! Spring! You would think it was mid-February. They are both right on time and normal schedule. Lots of honeybees on both but no butterflies. Should be some Elfin out now. Saw the male Wilson's Warbler at the park again, too cool it made it the whole winter more or less. Did not see the Coot or Pied-billed Grebe. Heard a few Blue Jay around town. Saw about TEN Turkey Vulture, so a bunch must have showed up yesterday, other than the couple here over the house. They are back!

The big thing by the heat of the afternoon was some butterflies moving, probably a fair number fresh emergences. It was the first day of the year I have seen 10 species of butterfly. Pipevine and Black Swallowtail, Checkered white, Lyside Sulphur, Southern Dogface, Variegated Fritillary, Red Admiral, American Lady, Snout, and my first Funereal Duskywing of the year. Wow. Amazing was the flight of Robin at dusk. At least 2000 flew over northbound, wow. I only saw the start and finish of the flight, was busy doing things before dark, but if it continued the 15 minutes I was not out there there were many thousand more. It was a great show. Almost all dead silent, but so many you could hear their wings despite them being 500' up.

Feb. 14 ~ About 20dF warmer with 47 for a low, still low clouds and overcast. Two Turkey Vulture soaring around right over the yard and corral for some time quite low is surely a couple of the returning breeders, and a FOS date for our migratory breeders. Valentine's Day is the most common return date I have for them. Of the few that seemed to winter locally this year, which was unprecedented, none were ever here. So as often, 'TV' is the first bird back, amongst local breeders that are migratory and depart for the winter. The rest was the usual gang around the yard. Still a hundred plus Chipping Sparrow, but fewer American Goldfinch today.

Feb. 13 ~ A 27dF low was chilly. Car was frosted over pretty thick. Heard two Nuthatch across the road in the morning. I saw Carla Nuckles and she said she had a hundred American Goldfinch at her feeders at the north end of town. This is the biggest influx of them here in the last 16 winters. Got warmish into 50's dF and some butterflies were out, peaked at 61 or so. Saw Checkered White, Checkered-Skipper, Snout, Red Admiral, and Black Swallowtail, a whopping five species. The birds were the regular gang.

Feb. 12 ~ Chilly at 36dF or so but sunny, finally! Only had a few glimpses of it the last 10 days or so. By noon was in 50's, and saw American Lady and Checkered White butterflies, plus an Anole and an E. Fence Lizard (fem.) were out. A bit later it was 60dF and I saw a Snout butterfly, and a Common Checkered-Skipper. The Robins went through the yard for an hour or so again in the morning, working south downriver. And again at last sun a few hundred are up about 500' flying north back up-valley to wherever they roost. Presumedly up on the divides or ridges where warmer and junipers. Saw the one Lark Sparrow again, stuck it out slummin' with the Chippies all winter. Makes it feel bigger. Saw 6 Anemone (Wind-flower) open today.

Feb. 11 ~ Surprise, gray fog-mist and drizzle, stayed about 50dF all night so not cold at least but still wet and soppy. At least 60 American Goldfinch counted this morning, the flock is still growing. A couple hundred Robin were out there, a bunch caroling, I could stand to hear that every day all year. At high noon must have been an accipiter strike, when that herd of doves bolts all at once in full acceleration mode, it is a mild roar. Some heavier light showers later in day, we probably got a quarter-inch today. And now at about 1.5" for the month already, amazing since Feb. is often a dry month. Bodes well for a spring sprout.

Feb. 10 ~ A slightly warmer 37dF or so wet gray fog-misty day to start. We have probably had a quarter inch to .3 in the last 48 hrs. of 30's dF. The ground is turning green. I saw some buds breaking stem on some trees in town the other day. We need the cold to stick around for a while yet so everything doesn't go off too early, and then a late freeze kills that round. Birds were the same gang o' seed theives. They are going through it in this chill. Sharpy diving on things again. Slowly warmed to about 50dF by end of day, whence still mist and drizzle.

Leslie Calvert e-mailed and said the male Vermilion Flyc. on UvCo361 is still there, and we know the park and golf course pond birds are still at those sites too, so at least 3 males made it through the winter here so far. We are only 3 weeks from average early returns. Are these winterers the same ones that breed here, or did those depart and these are from somewhere else? Too bad they are not marked so we could tell if they set up shop for breeding territory where they wintered. Or will these depart, and our local breeding birds return from wintering elsewhere. Speculation is sooooo dangerous. We are just guessing either way.

Feb. 9 ~ Another cold wet gray day. Stayed in the 30's dF all day, felt like frozen fog-mist on the face early morning. It was not a pleasant time out there. Luckily no wind on it. I must have shoveled seed 5 times today, they were puttin' it away. It was at least 120 Chipping Sparrow and at least 55 American Goldfinch. There were at least 30 Mourning Dove, and 3 Eur. Collared-Dove which I would rather not see. One has some kind of woundish looking area on back and side, maybe I should see if I can help it along...  

Saw the one Lark Sparrow that has stuck it out here for the winter. The couple hundred blackbirds were around again, at times all sitting in the pecans out front. There were 20 Red-wings, mostly female, and about 5 Starling. At least one Nuthatch was out there. It was so cold...   how cold was it you ask? It was so cold the Orange-cronwed Warbler was eating white millet seed with the Chippies on the ground. It sat tight whilst I was threw seed that was nearly landing on it! I came back out with camera and it remained for a few photos. An hour plus later did it again, and finally got a bearable shot. It only took two tries and 2 dozen images.

orangecrownedwarbler
Orange-crowned Warbler foraging for millet during a freeze.
Some birds are named after a part you are least likely to see.
Primarily these are dead leaf cluster specialists, masters at picking
out bugs or whatnot that was trying to over-winter wrapped in a dead leaf.
General color scheme recalls female or imm. Painted Bunting.
Bill structure is key to placing birds in right family group. Note the longer
thinner spiky warbler type bill, not a thick short deep-based seed cracking beak.

~ ~ ~ last update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 8 ~ Sleet! Lovely wonderful sleet, said no one! It was just above freezing this morning, with off and on bouts of sleet into early afternoon. Supposed to stay in 30's from this morning until Sunday. It might hit 40 Sat. afternoon briefly, but overall think cold. So the week of balmy and gray finally broke, things have completely changed, now it is freezing and gray. Birds were hitting seed hard today here. You'd have hardly known there were extra rations being put out it disappeared so fast, four times. Heard a nuthatch out there. The blackbird flock was in our front yard for a bit, at least 6 Starling in it might be the first ON the ground IN the yard here. There were about 20 Red-winged, and 200 Brewer's Blackbird.

Town run fer shtuff, I guess the cold had everyone inside, it was quiet for Friday and high noon. At the park I was getting sleeted on (Postman got nuthin' on birders - they are gettin' paid to be out there - we do it for fun!) at about 1 p.m. watching a Green Kingfisher for a rare combo. A Hermit Thrush was there but no Wilson's Warbler. Again an ad. male Vermilion Flycatcher was there, this time in the Lillies. As in Yellow Cow (Water) Lily. The rest was the usual gang, one Hutton's Vireo in live-oaks near the screen shelters. There was one Turkey Vulture at roost there, another on some roadkill near the Waresville turn off 187, and another where 360 takes off of 187. So at least three different TV's today, and I suspect all wintering birds. Typical first return of migrant breeders from the south is Valentine's Day, in a week.

There have been reports of Martins coastward and down in lower (altitude) country. If you have any nest box or other of that sort of maintenance to do, now is the time. Our local cavity nesters will start choosing soon and Martins will be back in the next couple weeks. Hummingbirds will be back in 3-4 weeks as well, a few maybe sooner depending weather. We actually need the cold late in season as possible, it really helps keeping pest bugs in check.

Feb. 7 ~ Wow what a frontal passage. At Kerrville 6:55 a.m. it was calm, 66dF, and 91% humidity, 20 minutes later at 7:15 it 20-25mph out of north, 64dF, and 49% humidity. 40% drop in humidity in 20 minutes. Boom! Won't get cold until overnight. Heard a Nuthatch, Orange-crowned warbler, Canyon Towhee, Field Sparrow. Something shot across the open part of front yard that looked like a Merlin but it was too fast. Which is a character of Merlin. My eyes kept trying to catch up with it. It was like trying to see a bullet. The blackbird flock was out there in the corral. Some Robin and Waxwing, not as many as it was last weekend, they have thinned or dispersed, or moved on due to lack of hackberries.

Feb. 6 ~ More gray fog mist and drizzle, still balmy. Both San Antonio and Austin tied or broke records this a.m. for warmest low temps on the date, at about 68-69dF. Pretty drippy, for a week plus now. We are probably very near an inch of precip from it all, over the last 8 days or so. Mostly a tenth at a time, or less, but it does add up. The ground needs it badly now, stuff is and will be sprouting soon. Just add water. Heard my first Canyon Towhee and Field Sparrow song of the year today. The crown patch on the towhee is seeming brighter nowadays. Neither sang much, just a bit, but song. At least one Nuthatch was around awhile. Has to be a hundred Chipping Sparrow here now, and 50 American Goldfinch. No siskin here though, had a few early in winter, but they are not around the last 5-6 weeks or so. Some of the Robins and waxwings were around a while.

Feb. 5 ~ What a surprise, gray and wet. Still running warm for lows, about 60dF, with fog, mist, and occasional drizzling. Fog was dense early. Another tenth or so of precip. A couple hundred Robin were around for a bit, a hundred waxwings, a couple hundred Brewer's Blackbird over in the corral. Heard one early, and saw the male Nuthatch later in the big pecan. At least 50 American Goldfinch hitting the sunflower seed, patio is covered with them. One male showing yellow now. Not full blown, just starting, but clearly progressing towards breeding plumage, ahead of all the rest. The Orange-crowned Warbler was out there, looked like it may have been taking some white millet from the ground. Saw a female Checkered White butterfly. The Anemone flower finished blooming today.

Feb. 4 ~ Stayed in upper 50's dF for a low and very foggy, less than a hundred yards visibility early. A shower later morning. After 10 a.m. I had three Red-breasted Nuthatch in the big pecan again, and still. In five minutes they never gave a full volume normal location-contact call, only the two closely connected ones did some quiet chatter between themselves when close to each other, it was something about the bark... Might have hit 70dF when the sun popped out between clouds for a few minutes latest afternoon. Was probably nearly a quarter inch for precip in the last 24 hours. Robins and waxwings still around but not as many. Still a good hour or two of very nice caroling outside over the day. Canyon Towhee was around. Saw a, maybe the, male Black Swallowtail again. Late in afternoon the first Anemone (aka Wind-flower) I have seen this year opened up.

Feb. 3 ~ Foggy but warmish, about 58 for a low. A bit wet out. Probably another tenth of precip. Had a couple Nuthatch go through the yard in the a.m. Lots of Robins again, fewer waxwings. We took a walk down to crossing to stretch some muscles before noon. Not enough out and about in winter. Maybe about 1.5 miles total, and I was glad to get back to the gate. It was the same gang along the road, Chickadees, Titmice, Cardinals, Bewick's Wren. Some Field Sparrow in with the Chippies along the corral.

Butterflies were best, two Black Swallowtail over the grass airstrip were my first two of the year, and a third was back at the house when we returned. Also had 3 Pipevine Swallowtail and a fresh Dainty Sulphur. The Swallowtails were mostly on what looked like some Henbit (non-native intro) flowers out on the airstrip. About 3 p.m. in yard a Lyside Sulphur flew by, my first of the year. Elfin could be flying any day now. Find the first blooming Redbud and you will likely find the first Elfin. As soon as the Agarita blooms it too is a good magnet for them and Olive Juniper Hairstreak, often about the 2nd week of Feb. the first earliest Agarita and Redbud can start blooming, pending temps.

Laura Levy in Vanderpool sent an email, she had a Blue-headed Vireo at Lost Maples today, Sunday the 3rd. It was bathing in the stream, near where the turn to the trailhead parking lot is. Kathy and I had one by HQ in early December. It could be that same bird and it wintered in the lower canyon. Or it could be another. They are pretty scarce here in the winter, so always a good record.

Feb. 2 ~ Some light showers overnight, fog, mist, and drizzle much of the morning, maybe a quarter inch all told and soppy. The yard was full of Robins and Waxwings most of the day. Once the waxwings flushed in the afternoon at it was over 500, most I have seen all winter. Robins were at least 500 in and around yard as well. They were caroling endlessly, by the hundreds, all day, it is was an ethereal acoustical heaven. Otherwise the birds were the same. For an interesting climate note, the record high and low temps for Feb. 2 for KHDO, Hondo, Texas are 96dF and 6dF. So just be ready for anything in that range and you will be fine. Maybe it is me but a 90dF range for record high-low on a given date seems kinda radical.

wilsonswarbler
Here is another pic of the Wilson's Warbler wintering at Utopia Park
(and somewhere closeby in the vicinity), Dec. 14 through Jan. 26 (this pic).
Note orange lores and forehead.



~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

February 1 ~ A warmer gray drizzly fog in the mid-50's dF this morning. There was a yard full of birds until that imm. ma. Sharpy shot through. The Ladder-backed Woodpecker on the sunflower feeder was the first to see, alarm call, and bolt, out of all the birds out there. They have darn good eyes. She was flying away giving alarm note before anything else knew what was up. The Sharpy missed though, and it did make a swerve in the stoop right at the feeder right where Mrs. Ladderback was. No wonder she doesn't trust that little bugger, he has done that before. A flock flew over with 35 Robin and 50 Cedar Waxwing.

Town run for supplies. On the way past the corral to the crossing there were loads of Robin and waxwing. Then in town more Robins and waxwings, at the park, Robins and waxwings. A huge influx has just occurred, a wave has moved in. Not much food on the hackberries. I saw at least 300 Waxwings and over 400 Robin, both factors above what has been around. Could it be a result of the big snows and polar vortex finally pushing more birds southward? Otherwise at the park I saw one Turkey Vulture, one Belted Kingfisher, heard the Wilson's Warbler, and new was one male Ring-necked Duck upriver of the island, first I have seen there this winter.

~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~

Some decent freezes, with 20dF, 23, 26, etc. lows some mornings. Some serious fronts for wind, but they were all mostly dry. A lot of fog-mist-drizzle but not a lot of precipitation, less than an inch total here for us. The river is still high from Sept. and Oct. though. Fruit and nut crops were weak so fairly depleted by late in the month, many birds seemed to move on. Then interestingly Feb. 1 a new big wave of waxwings and Robins arrived. We will see if they stick.

Bugs are easy in winter. In Odes there were a whopping two species, one dragonfly and one damselfly. The dragon was a Green Darner, a fresh emergence at that, likely my first Jan. emergence of one here. The damselfly was an incredible Jan. 4 Springwater Dancer, which is likely unprecedented in January. I had seen the same beast a week earlier in latest December. Luckily the second time I saw it I got an ID shot of it, Jan. 4. Butterflies were ok for all the fog-mist-drizzle and cold. It was 15 species, all the statistically most probable, a hair above average for the month which usually runs anywhere from 5 to 20 species. All were worn last years leftovers, until the last few days of the month when freshly minted Common Checkered-Skippers were seen.

Birds were great for the little bit we got to get out. The best birds reported in the area were a little far afield so I did not see them. I mention to keep your mind open, the same things or others equally rare are likely around here too, if you could find them. The Hammond's Flycatcher at Lost Maples is great, as was the LeConte's Sparrow at Garner, not to mention a Yellow Grosbeak in Concan and Rufous-backed Robin in Uvalde. My best bird was the Western Kingbird in Sabinal, probably rarer than all above but the grosbeak in winter in Texas.

The Wilson's Warbler wintering at the park might be a first up on the plateau, and is not the nominate eastern race, but one of the western types, so pretty radical. The Black-and-white Warbler at Lost Maples is only the second to winter up in the hills here, so also very good. At least two Red-breasted Nuthatch have stayed the winter often going through our yard, which is the first ones to stick here for me in 15 years. Same for the Brown Creeper wintering at the park, 1st to stick for the winter. Fair numbers of Golden-crowned Kinglet are around compared to the last few years.

The number of adult male Vermilion Flycatcher wintering this year is 4-5, normal is zero, so significant. The big question is, is the Coot at the park the one that wintered last year? I think so. A Marsh Wren wintering at the Waresville golf course pond is my first local winterer. A single flock of 14 Wood Duck south of town a couple miles on the river is my biggest flock ever locally. Birds were 84 species locally for me, with one trip to Maples and the rest within a few miles of town. Another dozen species were seen the half-day down at Sabinal in the brush country.

~ ~ ~ end monthly summary ~ ~ ~

Jan. 31 ~ Wow man, last day of the first month, already!?! Someone slow this train down! I suppose it is the nature of the age-time continuum. The older you get the faster time goes by, whilst when you were young it took forever. We were never going to get there. Another gray day, 45dF for a low, fog and drizzle. Keeps the dust down. Got up past 55dF though, getting foggy drizzling again by dark. Two nuthatch were in the pecan again, so still here bein' cool. It had to have been a hundred Chipping Sparrow out there today.

Jan. 30 ~ SOS, groundhog day, feels like deja vu all over again. Mid-30's and low overcast, gray and chilly. It was about 50 American Goldfinch here today. I got a note from Diana Gotcher and she has had as many at her feeders upriver a mile. Seems a good crowd of them this winter. These fat little guys can put away some sunflower seed. The blackbird flock of a couple hundred plus was over in the corral and on our powerline, over a dozen Red-winged, some of which were singing in the big pecan, great to hear that outside. Chippies are pushin' a hundred now. The Myrtle Warbler was out there quite a bit today, the Canyon Towhee was around.

Jan. 29 ~ The wind finally stopped, mid-30's dF for a low. Sunny morning, but not getting warm from all the cold air advection. Clouded up in afternoon. Got to about 55 or so at peak heat. Over 80 Chipping Sparrow on the seed, maybe 90 now. Still way down from big years, when 2-300 can collect into our flock. I presume it is good seed crops has them dispersed, or, concentrated, somewhere else. Without lots of thorough coverage it is hard to even guess. I think Savannah Sparrows are thinnish here this winter, but barely 20 miles south down at Sabinal they are incredibly abundant. It was the same bird gang here otherwise. In yard butterflies today I saw my FOY Gulf Fritillary, a Little Yellow, and another Pipevine Swallowtail, about my fifth for the month.

Jan. 28 ~ About 36dF for a low, chilly for us way down south sissies. Sunny, no wind, and birdsong in the morning. Perfect. Cardinal, Carolina Wren and Chickadee, Eastern Bluebird, Titmouse, and Bewick's Wren all sang early. Awesome to hear that again. A White-winged Dove sang later morn as it warmed up. Had a nuthatch or two go through the yard. Right around dark the front hit and shortly after it was 20-30 mph gusting to nearly 40.

Had a town run late afternoon, so hit the park for a quickie, was nice and calm before the front. No Wilson's Warbler, heard the Brown Creeper and a Green Kingfisher, saw the Coot. Saw at least two Turkey Vulture come in to roost with the crowd of Blacks in the trees on the island. Best was while standing there in the woods, a Zone-tailed Hawk flew in to roost way up in a Cypress pretty close. That is what you get for standing still for a bit. Especially in the shade near a tree trunk becoming less than obvious.

I got some obscured by limbs shots. There was no way to move without flushing it. Which it did moving to the island Cypresses, a little more in open, but light was horrible the whole time, looking into the sun. Of course when it comes to this I have no shame and shoot anyway. I was hoping to be able to sex it but did not get the undertail unobscured enough to tell for sure if male or female. It kept a wary eye on me every step as I went further down the trail into the woods, and again when I came back. But was fine with watching me walk from about 50 yards. It has probably watched me do it a bunch of times. As long as the light was bad for me, he was good. Hey did you notice the Cypresses have put out flower clusters? Classsss, yer not payin' attention!  ;)    just teasin'  LOL  Saw a Pipevine Swallowtail as I was leaving park.

Jan. 27 ~ A little rain as the system passed overnight, maybe between a tenth and .2 total. Heard some thunder about 3 a.m. We really stepped outside the box today, late morn we drove down out of the hills to Sabinal to look around some brush country and ag fields for a change of pace, ok, species. Was hoping to find Sandhill Cranes and White-fronted Geese but did not see or hear any. Lots of the dry-farmed corn failed this year down there as up here so they are not in a few usual areas. Also thought maybe Mountain Plover or Longspurs, none of those either. A guy can dream. But always some good stuff to see if you poke around a bit. Heard a couple Green Jay, saw a couple Long-billed Thrasher, one was singing nicely, a bunch of Pyrrhuloxia, and several Verdin. Heard and saw Kiskadee, Couch's, and WESTERN Kingbird, plus watched a calling Rusty Blackbird for a bit! So plenty o'fun. It is almost like going to south Texas.

The first stop was just north of the Hwy. 127 x 187 split a mile north of Sabinal when I saw a bunch of small plump fat things out in an ag field. They had white towards rear end and kept going up and down in the field, thought it might have been longspurs but the flock wasn't flying and acting like them. Turned out it was a homogenous flock of 400-500 American Goldfinch feeding out in the stubble field. I have never seen a single flock of American Goldfinch like that, it was amazing. Was glad I had the scope to make the ID. Took some distant flight flock shots and everything I can make out is an American Goldfinch. It dawned on me a couple days later that this dirt and stubble field had big SUNFLOWERS growing in it when we drove by it in late June. Doh!

In that area on a side dirt county road in a mile we had 200 Savannah Sparrow and 500 Mourning Dove, 150 W. Meadowlark, plus a bunch of Vesper and some Lark Sparrow. So this explains why I am only seeing a few up around Utopia, they are all down south off the hill. Where a few dF warmer. Heard one Sprague's Pipit fly over in that area too. Then off the northwest side of Sabinal on the road that goes along the south side of the school (Cullin?) where it drops down into the Sabinal River bed is where the three kingbirds and Rusty Blackbird were. There was one WESTERN KINGBIRD, which is accidental in Texas in winter, one Couch's, and one un-identified kingbird (yellow bellied) type that got away. We were standing there and the Rusty Blackbird flew into a tree not 100' away and began calling repeatedly. White-eyed Vireo and a couple Verdin there too, some Myrtles and a Kinglet (Ruby).

We crossed 90 just west of Sabinal on 2730 and jogged over to Lower Sabinal Rd. (sometimes called "Old 90" locally) just south of 90, and did a five miles of it. That was where in two different spots we heard Green Jay just off the road, and saw the two Long-billed Thrasher. Lots more Vesper Sparrow along the road, and Savannah, a few White-crowned here and there. Checked a number of ag fields for dirt birds but only saw dirt clods. A couple White-eyed Vireo were nice, since we don't usually have them wintering up in the hills. A couple N.Harrier, Caracara, a Sharpy, some Kestrel, some Red-tails (Fuertes'). A couple of the former plover fields were too tall with some winter grass crop.

Then we went south of Sabinal on 187, first checking what I think is UvCo 309 about 3 miles S. of 90, which quickly jogs down to a river crossing area you can look around at. Just off 187 in the first hundred yards there was a homogeneous flock of two dozen Pyrrhuloxia. What a beauty. But they were quite nervous and furtive. A dozen Ground-Dove were right there too, heard a Cactus Wren. At the crossing you can walk a hundred yards upriver and sorta check a pond. That is where the Kiskadee was, plus one Blue-winged Teal, best there was a Swamp Sparrow, nice too were two White-throated Sparrow, and a few Lincoln's Sparrow, plus 6 Myrtle Warbler, and heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher there too, which we don't get in winter up in the hills. Couple more Verdin too. It was birdy. Further out 309 I had a quick look through trees of what surely was a White-tailed Hawk but by time I got out from behind the trees it was gone.

Further south down 187 Saw another hundred Savannah Sparrow, bunch more Vesper, one Say's Phoebe. At the Ranchero Creek crossing there were a couple Inca Dove. Strange place for them, all wild and natural. Sure would be neat to be able to bird up and down the creek there. Interesting was a pair of Common Raven about 8 miles south of Hwy. 90 near some roadkill. Way out in the flatlands brush country. They hunt the roads.

Totalled over 100 Vesper Sparrow, 4 L. Shrike, 6 Red-tailed Hawk, 4 Caracara, five Kestrel, half-dozen each Eastern Phoebe and Verdin, at least 5 Turkey Vulture, about 300+ Meadowlark of which all I could see or hear were Western (including calls and singing), a couple dozen Cardinal, dozen Mockers, six Eastern Bluebird. One spot in some mesquites there were some blackbirds and stuff and I heard a perfect Black-bellied Whistling-Duck call, from a Starling.

Saw one Green Darner dragonfly somewhere along the way. At least 3 Checkered White flying down there, a few Dainty Sulphur and Sleepy Orange. The hackberries down there seemed to have very few fruit, I presume a poor crop as we had this year. It got up to 72 or so down there, it was 70dF back here at the casita at 4 p.m. It was wonderful outside. On the way back up here a mile or south of 3 mile bridge was a herd of 10 or so Zebra along the fence. Needed those for my year list.

Jan. 26 ~ More gray, less cold, mid-30's to low 60's dF for a spread, a few passing spritzes. Heard a nuthatch out there, and a Ringed Kingfisher heading downriver. A flock of a couple dozen Robin hit the birdbath. Accipiters must have been around all afternoon, no birds. I went to town about 1:30 to check P.O. and park. Half-dozen Field Sparrow along corral fence.

What could be at the park, I was just there yesterday? The male Wilson's Warbler is back in its favorite bush as if it never left. Obviously the same bird with orange in forehead and lores as in the western chryseola subspecies. So it moved off somewhere nearish-by, for just a couple days short of 4 weeks, and is back. Calling very regularly for extended periods as it usually was prior encounters. Prior date range was Dec. 14-31, now extends to Jan. 26 and it can be called an overwintering bird, not a late lingerer. Pretty radical for up here in the hills. Down off the plateau, fine, rarely in a winter passerine flock, up here in the hills, like Gnatcatchers, none.

Did not encounter the Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, or Hutton's Vireo of yesterday. Did have a Ringed Kingfisher calling just upriver of the park. And amazingly my first dragonfly of the year (in the strict sense, I had the Springwater Dancer damselfly Jan. 4), was a mint fresh Green Darner with nary a ding in the clear wings, so surely a newly emerged beast. Wow. Might be my first Jan. emergence for them. So three things I saw yesterday were absent, and two things were present that I did not see yesterday, not counting that I did not see the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe either.

Checked the pond on the golf course near the Waresville Cmty. where the ad. ma. Vermilion Flycatcher continues, as does one male Red-winged Blackbird, which sang a bit. Some Western Meadowlarks were around the golf course. Here at the house I heard Mourning Dove sing for the first time this year, and the Eastern Bluebirds are going now too. They have great voices, being in the thrush family.

westernkingbird
This is the Western Kingbird in Sabinal, Jan. 27. The snow white
outer webs on the outer tail feathers are diagnostic. This is a
supermega rarity in winter in Texas.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 25 ~ About 34dF for a low, overcast and gray. Sun did break out late afternoon whence into the mid-50's dF. What looked the male Red-breasted Nuthatch sat crosswise like any songbird on a thin branch in the big pecan, and broadcast calls for three minutes before the second bird flew into the tree, as when they sing. The second bird was a female and when she got there made that rolling trill of cooo notes, like a pair does. They were certainly not paired when they got here. A couple Robins were in the corral and 20 seconds after they called and took off a high flock of 50 went over heading downriver. They must have seen them coming a mile out. Seems kinda like the flock took my last two Robins with them.

Town run so a park check. Yes the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe are still there and chasable. Heard Blue Jay and Green Kingfisher. Best was seeing the Brown Creeper again, and finally after seeing it three times, hearing it three times, and missing it 6 times, I acquired a docushot of it. A dozen visits since it showed up in late November, before finally a docushot. Same thing happened the first year the Louisiana Waterthrush wintered there a few years ago. It took 10 trips to get a pic. It is easy to see or hear something. Lots of things are comparatively factors harder to get a pic of. The "pics or it didn't happen" people are projecting, wannabe bird record cops, but I thank them for letting me know how I should view their reports.

Had two little flocks at the park each with a number of Titmouse, Chickadee, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The picnic area flock had a Hutton's Vireo, the woods flock a Golden-crowned Kinglet, an Orange-crowned Warbler, and the creeper. Probably about 8 Myrtle Warbler total.

It was 40 American Goldfinch at once in the yard in the morning. The female Ladder-backed Woodpecker was on the sunflower feeder when the female Golden-fronted came in. The Ladder-back departed just as the GF was in the air setting up to land on the feeder. Great displacement. It seemed fairly obvious that at least in woodpeckers, size does indeed matter.

Jan. 24 ~ A chilly 23dF for a low here, I saw KRVL had 24, and the Seco Creek WU station had 20dF! Birdbath was good and frozen. Good time to drive around the yard anywhere the grass and weeds are too long, quick before they thaw. We hit about 63 or so at peak afternoon heat, not too bad, forty dF diurnals! It brought a few butterflies out. I saw my first Checkered-Skippers of the year, two of them, presumed Common, and which were fresh emergences, probably the first butterflies I have seen this year that were not last years beat, worn, torn and frayed leftovers. Then there was a fresh Dainty Sulphur, which was also a FOY. Snout and Red Admiral came by as well. So four species, two of which are new for the month and year, and the first new fresh emergences of the year. Saw a female Eastern Fence Lizard with an Earwig mostly down the hatch. It was just working on breaking the pincers off the back end it seemed. Woulda made a neat shot of a lizard with pincers projecting forward out of the mouth.

Heard a Nuthatch out there briefly. The imm. ma. Sharpy was diving on everything lots. A Cardinal used the Arundo patch (that I hate, cut all seed heads off, but keep for this purpose) deftly to avoid it. Too many vertical stems for the Sharpy to get through. The Card just keep dodging around in it until the Sharpy gets tired and flies off. I have seen Cards use a fence out back the same way. Staying totally cool, calm, and collected, just jumping through a fence back and forth that the accipiters can't get through and have to go up 3' and over and by time they do the Card is on the other side again. Sticking its tongue out, thumbs in ears waving its wings at the Sharpy. Saw an ad.ma. Lesser Goldfinch again coming in to the feeder. Amazing to have those wintering (in very small numbers) here now.

Jan. 23 ~ Blew hard all night, the front passed and it was just over freezing, about 34dF early, with strong northerlies of 20-25 mph, and a chill factor in the low 20's. Lovely, glad to be stuck inside at the computer working. Did warm into the 50's by late afternoon when the wind calmed down. Nothing different around the yard, another groundhog day here for birds. I see the female Golden-front is coming into the sunflower feeder again now too. Heard Ground-Dove again. Two dozen each White-winged and Mourning Dove, Cardinal and American Goldfinch.

Jan. 22 ~ Only about 54dF for a low with the southerly flow going strong for 24 hours or so now, and overcast, a couple sprinkles later in day. Heard a Ground-Dove, which I haven't been seeing lately. About 35 Cedar Waxwing were around a bit. Late in afternoon I heard and glimpsed one of the Nuthatches, it had been 6 days or so since I last detected one. At least two of them have been here two months already. Otherwise just the repeat offenders. There are lots of green things sprouting leaves down low at ground level, I think they are plants. Another front coming in tonight.

Jan. 21 ~ We froze, barely, about 32dF and nearly doubled itself over the day, got to about 63dF. Strong southerlies though, very windy. It is a work day for me though, so no matter. Still not seeing the nuthatches, for nearing a week now. At least 20 Cardinal here, a dozen males at once counted out office window. White-winged Doves are a couple dozen. Great to hear Carolina Chickadee singing "sweet ba-by", those high pitched thin whistled notes that are so clean and pure, just like me.

Jan. 20 ~ The wind finally stopped, so it got cold, about 27dF for a low was chilly. Birdbath frozen. Was all the same here in the yard, another groundhog day. Have not had a nuthatch in a few days now. Did a bit of yard work in the warmup, it hit about 60dF. Boy am I stiff, too much sitting indoors hiding from cold or wind already this winter. Mid-afternoon we checked the park, was the same gang there too. Pretty sure I had a Dollar Sunfish (in bins close), just not used to seeing them in dullest non-breeding color. Structurally it could not have been any other Lepomis sunfish. A mile south of town in a field of just sprouting greens of some sort there were 150 Mourning Dove in a single flock eating them, nary a White-winged. Wonder if it was all the locals, or a flock of wintering migrants from northward (probably the latter - since they looked bigger than ours). Behind the golf course entrance sign there was a male Vermilion Flycatcher. About noonish I saw a couple butterflies: a Pipevine Swallowtail and an American Lady.

Jan. 19 ~ The front passed overnight. Strong northerlies blowing since about 3 a.m. and all day at 15-20-25 mph, gusting to 35-40 mph. Mid 40's to mid 50's dF for a temp spread. There were about 35 American Goldfinch hitting the sunflowers today, they are still increasing. Saw the Canyon Towhee. Heard my first 'who cooks for you' song from a White-winged Dove of the year in the afternoon. There are a couple dozen here hitting the seed. Will save trying to look for birds when my hat will stay on. Which is probably a pretty good measuring stick for whether or not you ought to be out there. If your hat is leaving you, you might consider something else. Unless I am on a boat trip, if I have to tie my hat on, is bird searching really the best option?

browncreeper
This is the Brown Creeper that has been wintering at the park,
finally a docushot after two months of visits. My what big
strong feet you have.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 18 ~ Pea soup for fog this morning... not quite but for here it was thick, maybe barely a couple hundred yards visibility. Didn't clear until after 1 p.m. and still the low clouds and overcast never broke. There was a little mist occasionally. The front passes overnight tonight, mostly dry mehthinks, the wind blows tomorrow. Ran about 50-64dF for a temp spread.

Town run so oh boy a peek at the park. The one Turkey Vulture that I have seen off and on since early December continues, now we can say it is over-wintering, quite a rare event here. They virtually never do. As a rule you have to get along Hwy. 90 or I-10 to see them in winter, where there is a good steady guaranteed supply of their preferred A-list cuisine, roadkill. There was a male Vermilion Flycatcher on the far side of the park pond, my first winter record at the park, and another in this bumper crop year of wintering adult males. Has to be at least the fourth, maybe the fifth I know of around this winter, whilst there are usually zero.

I heard the Brown Creeper call several times over several minutes but again could not find it to save my soul. I have never had trouble finding a calling creeper until this bird. Apparently it relishes taunting me, knowing I want a photo. Had one Hermit Thrush there as well. In town behind the Ranch Outpost and the old Canyon Services shop there were 50 Cedar Waxwing and a dozen Eastern Bluebird, all going nuts on the Mistletoe berries, which we seem to have a very good crop of this year, best in several years. Also there were 2 ad. ma. Lesser Goldfinch there with a few Vesper and a Lincoln's Sparrow. Heard Titmouse and Bewick's Wren singing in town. Birdsong! I thought I was gonna die but finally Rosie is back, so after groceries, it was Chicken Fajita tacos to take home for lunch. I told Rosie how much we missed her... the whole town is glad she's back!

Jan. 17 ~ Still gray and foggish in the a.m., but warmer at nearly 50dF, as when a front is on the way. Saturday will be the post-frontal blow with 20 mph northerlies. Great was a bit of Robin singing, one bird, but first I have heard this winter. Ahhhh birdsong. Sunny out by 11 a.m. and warmed up in afternoon to about 70dF. Birds were the same repeat offenders. The male Golden-fronted Woodpecker is hitting the sunflower seed feeder daily again, the pecan stash must be at minimum. The female Ladder-backed is on it regularly daily as well. Best bird was a butterfly, a skipper, any sort of which is very rare in January. It was a female Sachem and I saw it flying around me on the patio twice, an hour apart, it has to be my first January Sachem sighting.

Jan. 16 ~ More of the same, it is like the movie Groundhog Day this time of year. Unless you have time to go kicking bushes in a bunch of different places, which can be very productive. I have to work every day. The good news is we are probably only about 45 days from Golden-cheeks, just 6-7 weeks or so and they will be arriving on territory. That is what I keep thinking. A little Cardinal and Carolina Wren song helps keeps hope alive for spring coming too. Twenty waxwing were around the yard. A Bohemian is in with some Cedars up north, west of Ft. Worth. I still keep hearing something that sounds like a White-throated Sparrow out back, and had a glimpse of something that could have been one fly off when I was out tossing seed in the morning.

Jan. 15 ~ Nothing has changed. Gray, fog, mist, drizzle, cool 40-50dF temp spread. I should mention people are seeing a Rufous-backed Robin at Uvalde along the Nueces river, and a Catbird there too, where UvCo 202 meets the river. Kathy and I had the first UvCo Rufous-backed at Ft. Inge Feb. 19, 2011. Sure would like to get one up here in the hills. Keep your eyes peeled and mind open. Anything could be anywhere, anytime. Except in the yard today where there was nothing nowhere at no time. The Sharpies were around a lot though. Saw the imm. fem. again, besides an imm. male.

Jan. 14 ~ A 40-50dF spread, gray, cool, fog, mist and drizzle, good to be stuck working inside. It was the same gang in the yard. Maybe 80 Chipping Sparrow now. One Lark, one Field, one Vesper out front by gate. Our local nesting (400 yards) Red-tailed Hawk are calling a bit now, so I think about ready to get another cycle underway. Ravens are paired up, as are some Black Vultures. A few bars of song from Cardinal and Carolina Wren at dawn. Saw the Orange-crowned Warbler go through yard again, Canyon Towhee was around. Seeing the stray Straggler Daisy flower here and there.

One other thing I updated below on that date's entry, but will mention here... about the damselfly I photographed Jan. 4 at the park. Ode expert in Hunt, Tony Gallucci, agreed with my proposed ID of it being a female Springwater Dancer (Argia plana). Which is somewhere between crazy and ridiculous in January. If you study nature you are seeing all kinds of things you never saw before. Like a bunch of wintering male Vermilion Flycatchers, or summer night-lighting with hardly any insects coming in, driving to Sabinal and not seeing any Western Kingbird or Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in June, and a January Springwater Dancer. It is as if things are all topsy-turvy out there. If only we could get a clue, some kind of clue, any kind of clue, as to what it might be...

Jan. 13 ~ A chilly 32dF or so for a low. Flushed a Sharpy when I was tossing seed out back before sunup. At least 75 Chipping Sparrow were here at once mid-morn, one Lark mixed in. Two Vesper were out at the gate when I opened it. Saw an imm. male Sharpy, and an imm. female, so there are 3 imm. Sharpies around hunting the seedeaters here, since 2 imm. males are here. Sheezzz. Saw two Nuthatches mid-afternoon, they sure act paired up. Bewick's Wren gave its first songs of the year today. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at the river about 4 p.m.

We took a quick spin to the other side of the river and to town. A third mile down the road from our gate (right where I saw a few a week or two ago) where the river comes closest to the road at an overflow channel, it breaks away from main channel creating an area of very light flow, a flock of 14 WOOD DUCK flushed. Most I have ever seen at once here, amazing. Maybe 4 or 6 if you are lucky is about it at once here. There were only a few females in the group, it was mostly males. Weewow!

At the golf course pond by Waresville Cmty. there was a Marsh Wren, which is very rare to accidental here in winter. Might be my first known over-winterer locally. Surely it is the one I had there a few weeks ago. Also a male Vermilion Flycatcher continues in the vicinity, only one male Red-winged Blackbird, nothing else but a few River Cooters. Along 363 there were 40 waxwings stripping Mistletoe berries off the clusters. There was a fem. Belted Kingfisher by the Preston Place where a Zone-tailed Hawk flew over going upriver. The park was dead but a pair of Wood Duck flushed from the top of the island. Great day for Wood Ducks! Saw one Dakota Verbena flower, and one Dandelion.

Jan. 12 ~ Sunny and calm early, about 48dF, but the winds from the front arrived and after mid-morning it was 15 gusting to 20+, so fairly blown out. Got up to about 60 at peak heat. Saw my FOY American Lady butterfly, looked a fresh emergence too. Watched a male Cardinal get taken by one of the imm. male Sharp-shinned Hawks. That hurt. It almost got away, those Sharpies are relentless and fast. In the afternoon saw about 17 Cedar Waxwing in a Hackberry. Worked on stuff here since so windy. Heard my first Carolina Wren song of the year. They have been pretty quiet just with regular calls, but this was clearly an outburst of song.

springwaterdancer
This is the female Springwater Dancer (Argia plana) damselfly that
was at Utopia Pk. latest Dec. and early Jan., this pic Jan. 4, 2019.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 11 ~ A gray soppy mushy day in the 50's. Light drizzle and sprinkles, some showers, about .3 by afternoon and .2 more after dark. A pre-frontal trough, the front is supposed to pass tomorrow a.m. Here at the hovel saw the repeat offenders. Checked the park in the rain, saw about nothing but the Coot, and heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet. Heard my first Titmouse song of the year in town. So that is three of the resident songbirds I heard first wisps of song from this week: Carolina Chickadee, No. Cardinal, and Black-crested Titmouse. Late afternoon I saw three Red-breasted Nuthatch at once in the big pecan right out front again, and thought I was hearing a fourth one over in the corral. At least three are still here anyway. Amazing as all my prior sightings over 15 years were single birds that just passed through and did not stick around. Also interesting that seemingly lusher places like Utopia Park or Lost Maples do not seem to have any. Yet a rather random strip of river habitat corridor is holding a small flock for a couple months (the first one showed up Oct. 30, second in Nov.).

Jan. 10 ~ About 42dF for a low and a few sprinkles early. Another email from Leslie Calvert mentioned her husband had an Audubon's Oriole recently at their place. They seem down a bit since the drought, but are still around in low numbers, mostly in foothills (areas with gradient of substrate), not so much out on flat valley floors. Scrub-Jay, Poor-will, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, and Golden-cheeked Warbler are a few other of the species here that want, or require, a gradient of substrate situation. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher going off a few times over at the river. They get to nesting very early here and are probably already getting ready to get it going.

Jan. 9 ~ Lower 40's dF and overcast, coolish with a light north wind on it. Got up to upper 50's peak heat. Was the same gangstas here today. Had two nuthatches and at least 200 Brewer's Blackbird but did not have time to go work them. Too much salt mining to do. Leslie Calvert reported a couple male Vermilion Flycatcher along 361. Which is amazing as we have one or two ad.ma. here on 360 and at the golf course pond at Waresville. Most years we have none, there are at least three and probably four ad. ma. Vermilion here now. Plus Kathy and I had the imm. on 361 a few weeks ago. What do they know that we don't?

Jan. 8 ~ About 44dF for a low and very foggy. I heard a Cardinal give a few measures of song this morning, first time this year. We are at about 20 days after the solistice, with less than 10 minutes increase in photoperiod since it. And bam! Birdsong. It got up to an amazing 75dF. Weewow! That was nice. The only thing different was a high migrating NORTH flock of 20 Sandhill Crane. As if it were late February or March. White-fronted Geese can get going in late Jan., but most wait for Feb. at the earliest. Cranes are later than the geese, and going north the first third of January I have never seen. One dummy convinced 19 others it was time to go. Likely the fourth day of 70dF temps and south winds triggered it despite the calendar. Wayyyy too early, they will regret this move. They will be choosing a new leader in about a week. A Dogface (butterfly) was the first one I have seen this year. The leaf cutter ants butchered a few maybe Ligustrums the waxwings had planted.

Jan. 7 ~ Warm low of about 60dF and fog. Got up to 74 or so after noon when it burned off. Wow. Nice for the date. Had two of the Red-breasted Nuthatch again, amazing was seeing one finally go to the birdbath for a drink! It likely saw the Mocker bathing while it was in the tree overhead so noticed at last. Very cool. There were a couple Robin, a dozen Waxwing, and the rest was the same. In butterflies a N. Mestra and 1 or 2 Little Yellow were the first of those for the year. Also saw a beat worn Variegated Fritilary and a couple Sleepy Orange out in the heat. The best beast of the day was hearing our 'spring peeper', Strecker's Chorus Frogs, chorusing. Outstanding! I thought I heard one a week ago at the golf course. This was several going at it after dark. I also heard a Chickadee give its first song of the year, just once.

Jan. 6 ~ About 37dF this morning and cloudy, a bit coolish. Sun found its way out in the afternoon and got up to about 70dF for a high. Not bad, but breezy after morning. We worked on stuff here. Didn't see anything different for birds, except there are two imm. male Sharp-shinned Hawks, fighting over whose seedeaters they are that we are feeding in the yard. I had only seen one at a time so thought it was just one that wanted to be 6' tall that was doing all the attacking. I heard a Belted Kingfisher going off over at the river. At dusk I saw a spider building its orb web at the corner of the back porch overhang, the web maybe a foot across but a decent sized spider, big for the small web. Right after dark I used flashlight to see if it was the spider I photo'd a few weeks ago, and it wasn't. It already had a nice moth it was working on dead center of the web. Did not take it an hour. Impressive.

Jan. 5 ~ Another 27dF low, 5 colder than they said. Late afternoon it was 75dF at least on the sunny south side of the house! Almost 50dF diurnals again! The usual stuff was in the yard, and two Red-breasted Nuthatch were in the big pecan early morning. We went to Lost Maples mid-morning, to miss some of the chill. In the corrals on 360 east of the river were 150 Brewer's Blackbird, some Red-wings, and Brown-headed Cowbird with them. There were as many Brewer's in the corral by our place when we left, so at least 300 are around 360. The only thing on the road on the way up was a a couple DOR (dead on road) birds, a Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk and a Black Vulture.

We were at the park before 10 a.m. to mid-afternoon and did the mile along Can Creek up to the ponds. Early when the wind started the Juniper (cedar) pollen was so thick it looked like smoke or fog. With a slight yellowish tint. For a half hour or so until all of what has stacked up is released, they were smoky with pollen. It must have been billions and billions of parts per million. There is seed now in the feeders at the feeding station by the trailhead parking lot. Our best bird was an adult female Black-and-white Warbler (ph.), which is roughly accidental on the plateau in winter. The ad. fem. that wintered four of five years at Utopia Park about 2008-12 or so, was the first overwintering record for the plateau. This one was in the big woods just after the third crossing up from parking lot. Or, the woodland below the ponds and the waterfall below them.

Second best thing was five Golden-crowned Kinglet, which is a high number here. We can miss them some years in winter, often we see just a couple or few all winter, many years we are lucky to see five all winter locally. So 5 in a mile or so of canyon is a great showing. Ruby-crowned Kinglet were thick too, a least couple dozen were seen. At least a couple Hutton's Vireo tried to sneak by among the Kinglets.

In the 'bird of the day always gets away' department, there was one in this category. When some citiots started yelling at the top of their volume knobs from the cliffs over the pond, it flushed from the woods along the big main pond (we were just entering them and would have likely found it) across the trail in front of us and upslope and disappeared into the woods way up there somewhere. I saw it five seconds in flight, and in bins the last three. It was a sapsucker, without any white on the completely uniform upper wing. In other words it looked like a female Williamson's. A Willy. That was what I got from it. I have spent a fair amount of time around them, they are absolutely unique, nothing like them. I don't know what else it could have been, but it just wasn't enough of a look, and I have to say, it got away. There is an old Uvalde Co. record and I think a couple Travis Co. records.

We saw a couple and heard a couple more texana Scrub-Jay, heard Canyon Wren, saw 6 Myrtle and 2 Orange-crowned Warbler, at least 5 Common Raven (at once together playing on the updrafts, at least one was flipping upside-down), 1 Red-tailed Hawk, 1 Kestrel, 15+ Cardinal, 15+ Chickadee (Car.), 24+ Titmouse (Black-crested), Carolina and Bewick's Wren, 20 some Chipping Sparrow, a couple Lincoln's Sparrow, White-winged Dove, a few Eastern Phoebe, Mockingbird. Amazingly I did not even hear a Hermit Thrush. Did not see or hear Olive Sparrow, White-tipped Dove, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, or Green Kingfisher. Heard a Spotted Towhee.

There were lots of people, the trail was heavy with hominids, very busy compared to what I expected and am used to. I guess the end of the holidays break weekend? I never saw so many yoga pants. This is the new hiking attire? Were they all from Austin? Many seemed to only have one item with them for safety and protection, a phone, which is of almost no use there unless you hike up top and get out of the canyons, and have eh-tee&tee.

More big trees down, I mean 100+ year old or more big big trees. A Chinkapin Oak, a Buckley Oak, a Maple, they are still dropping like flies there. It is a changing landscape. The bunches of big gully-washers were intense enough to wash lots of the cattails out of the two ponds, which is great and was much needed. There are still too many, and they will sprout back right away, but at least several years of overgrowth got cleared out along with some of the silt as well. It is still very silted in from the drought and all the years without big strong gully-washer rains, just enough to silt in the ponds. Maybe the Green Kings will start nesting around them again like they did before the cattails clogged them.

goldencrownedkinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet, just hangin' around.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 4 ~ It was a chilly one with 27dF for a low here. But sunny. For the second day I thought I heard a White-throated Sparrow out back when I was tossing seed before sunup, the hissy sssseet note. Town run fer stuff. At the park I saw the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe, a Green Kingfisher, and the Great Blue Heron, but no sign of the Wilson's Warbler. Maybe it was smart enough to move on southward. This last cold spell might have convinced it to go. Sure glad I made a trip there Monday and got a couple decent shots (see below) before it left. Otherwise just the dozen Myrtles, several Kinglets (Ruby), and the residents. Saw my first two butterflies of the year, a Sleepy Orange in town, and at the park a Vesta Crescent. Also saw my first ode (dragonfly) of the year, which surprisingly was a damselfly. Not sure of type, but it was Argia sps. Dancer of some sort, and since I got OK pix should be able to make an ID later. Pretty sure it was the same type, probably the same one, that I saw flush away and disappear a couple times a week ago. One Blue Jay in town in a Ligustrum.

UPDATE: I sent the best photo to Tony Gallucci whom is a dragon and damselfly expert extraordinaire (besides being what I consider the most knowledgable natural history expert on the Edwards Plateau) up in Hunt. He agreed with my proposed identification, it is an Argia plana, Springwater Dancer. Which is ridiculous in early January. Again, I saw this beast in late December a week before the second encounter when I got the photo. So actually it was probably a record late date and a record early date, the same beast, had I got a pic of it when I saw it in latest December.

An adult male Vermilion was by the corral as I drove by on way home. Wonder if it is the same one over at the golf course, or another? A Field Sparrow was in the tangle at the gate post as I pulled back in driveway. Finally at 4 p.m. two Red-breasted Nuthatch spent a minute in the big pecan as they moved through the yard. So two are still here. Had a Red Admiral late afternoon, for butterfly species number three this year, and today. At peak heat it was about 72dF on the sunny south side of the house (from 27 this a.m.!), the cool front porch was 68dF. Man that felt great to warm up.

Jan. 3 ~ About 35dF for a low with a cold north wind. Wonderful. At least it is sunny. Fortunately I am stuck inside working. After a cold morning it warmed up later in afternoon, probably hit 60dF for a moment or two. That was nice. More of the same gang here in the yard, except I heard a Junco, did not see it. Still no nuthatch yet this year. Weird. Had a run to town late afternoon, ran through the park and woods, saw nothing but the Black Vultures roosting in the trees. The 150 or so Brewer's Blackbird flock at the corrals on 360 east of the river had a half-dozen female Red-winged in with them, one male, plus 3 Starling and a female Brown-headed Cowbird. Another lone female cowbird was here below a feeder late in the day. Saw my FOY 2 Raven and some Black Vultures out moving around again after being grounded a couple days.

Jan. 2 ~ Another cold gray one, in the 30's dF all day, drizzled a bit, maybe a couple tenths of an inch of precip, light north winds to make it cold to the bone. Same gang outside but was about a hundred Brewer's Blackbird over in the corral and sometimes in our pecans. I didn't bother working them for the Rusty, but I heard a Starling in with them. Still have not heard a nuthatch this year they have been MIA so far. Saw one Robin, which I missed yesterday, a few waxwing. Not seeing the Ground-Dove pair, hope the Sharpy didn't get them. Saw a post on the inter-tubes about a Rufous-backed Robin near Uvalde, a nice Mexican vagrant with maybe only one prior Uvalde County record (the Feb. 19, 2011 bird Kathy and I found at Ft. Inge near Uvalde).

January 1 ~ Happy New Year! We started out cold at about 34dF, gray, and a light northerly wind. I saw about 44dF maybe at peak heat. Mostly 5-10 mph northerlies, so pretty chilly. Birds were the same gang but I only glanced around once an hour for a few minutes at a time. Did not hear a nuthatch, saw the Canyon Towhee, several House Finch, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Chipping and Lark Sparrow, over a dozen Cardinal, two dozen American Goldfinch, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, Mockingbird, Bewick's Wren, two dozen Brewer's Blackbird, Eastern Phoebe, a few Cedar Waxwing, and about 20 each of White-winged and Mourning Dove. It was about as weak as it gets here in the yard. Missed several regulars like Black Vulture, Caracara, Red-tailed Hawk, Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, did not even have a Raven (Common) or Robin, even missed the Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks. All are expected daily on any half-decent day. If I walk out to far front corner of yard I can usually get Field and Vesper Sparrow, didn't bother today.

~ ~ ~ above is 2019 ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ below is 2018 ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ 2018 annual summary ~ ~ ~

These are brutal, I know, and you don't have to read it. It is as much for my purposes as any, to have a quick easy reference of the highlight sightings in the upper Sabinal River drainage for the year. It was a very wet year with nearly four feet of rain locally for many. Two feet just in September, and a half to a foot in October alone. This helped knock down migrants, and provided flood ponds for some of them. Overall bird and bug numbers remain low, suppressed since the 7 year drought. We have gotten rain for 3 years now, but the animals are yet to recover. Especially migratory breeding birds are thinner than they used to be, such as at Lost Maples. Which by the way continues to lose trees at a frightening rate. Large flying insects in general seem way down.

Odes were 60 species so great for diversity. However the individual numbers were down. Places like the pond at the park, or the Lost Maples ponds, never got covered in them they way they did pre-drought. As always a few neat things though. There was a great Band-winged Dragonlet invasion after the May rains with a hundred at two Bandera Co. ephemeral ponds. A Twelve-spotted Skimmer was photo'd in BanCo again, in Oct. at the S. Little Crk. Rd. pond. A few Pronghorn Clubtail were seen in April. An Eastern Amberwing in May at the park was likely an emergence, not an immigrant, and the first of that I have seen here. A Rivercruiser in May was nice to see, they have been scarce. A great highlight of the year was a Slaty Skimmer photographed at Utopia Park, probably the second UvCo record. A probable Blue-faced Darner was at Lost Maples, I have yet to pull frames out of a few second vid to get a positive ID. A few Flame Skimmer were at Lost Maples as usual. Saw Ivory-striped Sylph and Orange-striped Threadtail also as usual.

Butterflies were 80 species, which is very low. Way more flowers than butterflies. Actually lower diversity this year than all but one (the most severe peak) of the recent seven year exceptional drought we just got through. The water is back since then, but the butterflies have yet to recover. Same goes for moths and many other insects, as well as the birds that depend on them. There was only a very limited fall invasion from the south this year, which is when and where our rarities come from, so there was none of that. June and July had apparent Rawson's Metalmark.

The biggest fall invader was Vesta Crescent, numbers were off the charts, 400+ in a day. There was a major Snout flight of millions over a week in late Sept. after the two feet of rain. The Monarch migration was mostly west of us this year, only small numbers were seen, no big flights. The last new butterfly species of the year was my only Crimson Patch of the year, on Nov. 17, in mint condition. There were virtually no Hackberry or Tawny Emperors locally this year. Beat up worn ones from somehwere else were seen one time each in fall. No Mourning Cloak this year, they seem biannual here. Carolina Satyr remains absent since the drought, though finally this year Arizona Sister and Dusky-blue Groundstreak both seemed to be slowly making a comeback.

An Imperial Moth was seen in June, a caterpillar of one was seen in October. A Lassaux's Sphinx (moth) was photographed at our porch light Aug. 30. It came into my pipe tobacco, and fluttered against the back of my head. It was a lovely light cavendish blend with just a light wisp of maple-vanilla. Only saw one Texas Wasp Moth and one White-tipped Black all fall. In beetles Eyed Elaterid made a decent showing, and in Cerambycids saw a few of the Stenelytrana gigas and only one of the Stenapsis vertailcalis insignis. Night lighting was absolutley pitiful the response was so bad. Tepid would have been exciting. I have never seen anything like it. It used to be that when you turn on a dang light at night, you got bugs and lots of them.

Birds were great this year, if they weren't it is because you did not get out and bird enough. Probably in large part because I drove around quite a bit more this year checking more bushes and trees more often. Whereas the last six years my total driving (all - personal, biz, and pleasure) has been about a thousand miles per year, this year it was probably more like 1600. When you just bird local though, that is a lot more pokin' around, or standing around doing nothing with binoculars and camera, gazing about like a bewildered lost tourist.

For the upper Sabinal River drainage, I saw about 210 species this year. That is Lost Maples to Clayton Grade. But actually only south to UvCo 360 a couple miles south of Utopia, nothing different down-valley. Very close to the last two years totals for a local only number (207 in 17, 212 in 16). I am sure if one was retired and could bird every day they could see 225 or maybe even 250 species locally (upper Sab. Riv. drainage) in a year. But I am a workin' stiff. I get a couple or few hours a day boldly looking and listening where few have gone. Plus actually birding a little here and there.

The highlight of last winter was a Great Kiskadee at Utopia Pk. in February for a couple days. In late April I had a brief four second look at 2 Black Swift flying north low as a strong western weather system cleared. In May we had some rain and grounded shorebirds in the resulting flood ponds. Probably the first documented Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Phalarope, and Pectoral Sandpiper (all 3) in Bandera County. Plus a couple Baird's Sandpipers in UvCo on a flooded golf course fairway.

The breeding season highlight was Eastern Wood-Pewee feeding young at Utopia Park, a first for me there in 15 years. In June Kathy had an adult and juv. Golden-cheeked Warbler at our bird bath. Still together they could not have nested too far away (Kathy's docu grabshots were enough for me to age them). In fall the Sept. American Bittern in Bandera Co. was the best bird probably, seemingly another BanCo first. A Sept. Least Sandpiper on the golf course (again a flooded fairway) was only the second I have seen here, the first juvenile. Late October a Red-breasted Nuthatch showed up which was joined by 2 more over November to late December. December had adult males of Wilson's Warbler at Utopia Park and Townsend's Warbler at Lost Maples, both are very rare winter records. The Wilson's appeared to be a western chryseola type, which is accidental at best, IF recorded, in Texas.

It was a great year overall with lots of fascinating observations, and lots more great documentation. Still have tons of pix to go through of all kinds of stuff. What cold, wet, windy days are for. It is always especially interesting once you have made all your notes to step back and see how they fit in the big picture over time. It is great to have notes. Remember you can never take or make too many notes. Take more notes.     ;)

~ ~ ~ end of 2018 annual summary ~ ~ ~






~ ~ ~ ~

Above is 2018 (besides prior end-of-year summary)


Back to Top


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Links to all 14+ years of archived bird news pages below. Broken into 6 month increments. One day I'll quarter it out by season as well, so all years of each season are together, perhaps making say, searching springs easier.

Odd numbered archives are January through June.
Even numbered archives are July through December.
(except a couple when the split missed, prolly due
to excessive amount of drivel in spring)


Here is a master index page of them:
Bird News Archives INDEX
Index page with links to all 'Old Bird News' pages.

Bird News Archive XXX
July 1, 2018 - Dec. 31, 2018

Bird News Archive XXIX
January 1, 2018 - June 30, 2018

Bird News Archive XXVIII
July 1, 2017 - December 31, 2017

Bird News Archive XXVII
January 1, 2017 - June 30, 2017

Bird News Archive XXVI
July 1, 2016 - December 31, 2016

Bird News Archive XXV
January 1, 2016 - June 30, 2016

Bird News Archive XXIV
July 1, 2015 - Dec. 31, 2015

Bird News Archive XXIII
January 1, 2015 - June 30, 2015

Bird News Archive XXII
July 1, 2014 - December 31, 2014

Bird News Archive XXI
January 1, 2014 - June 30, 2014

Bird News Archive XX
July 1, 2013 - December 31, 2013

Bird News Archive XIX
January 1, 2013 - June 30, 2013

Bird News Archive XVIII
July 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012

Bird News Archive XVII
January 1, 2012 - June 30, 2012

Bird News Archive XVI
July 1, 2011 - December 31, 2011

Bird News Archive XV
January 1, 2011 - June 30, 2011

Bird News Archive XIV
July 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010

Bird News Archive XIII
January 1, 2010 - June 30, 2010

Bird News Archive XII
June 1, 2009 - December 31, 2009

Bird News Archive XI
January 1, 2009 - May 31, 2009

Bird News Archive X
July 1, 2008 - Dec. 31, 2008

Bird News Archive IX
January 1, 2008 - June 30, 2008

Bird News Archive VIII
July 1, 2007 - Dec. 31, 2007

Bird News Archive VII
January 1, 2007 - June 30, 2007

Bird News Archive VI
July 1, 2006 - Dec. 31, 2006

Bird News Archive V
January 1, 2006 - June 30, 2006

Bird News Archive IV
July 1, 2005 - Dec. 31, 2005

Bird News Archive III
January 1, 2005 - June 30, 2005

Bird News Archive II
June 1, 2004 - Dec. 31, 2004

Bird News Archive I
Winter 2003-04 Summary Notes
and Mar. 31 - May 30, 2004
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.  ;)
~ ~ ~
Read UP from bottom to go in chronological sequence.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
All photographs within this site are copyrighted
and may not be used without permission.
All Rights Reserved.
© M. and K. Heindel 2004-2017
www.utopianature.com