2023 Pix
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© 2023 - All Rights Reserved

These are the 2023 bird news weekly update photo breaks. Often filling in blanks of species we had not posted yet. Sometimes documenting something seen. Occasional reruns used to show something being seen or just seen recently. They are point-and-shoot study material or documentation grab-shots from the hip. Generally overly tight crops to reduce file sizes, and merely for illustration. They are in reverse chronological order as used in bird news weekly photo break. Most recently used in late Dec., at top; first in Jan. at bottom-end. They were mostly taken with a Canon Powershot SX40, some may have been chisled onto a floppy disk with a Sony Mavica.

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The 2023 pix


This is a tardy Monarch on Nov. 24, 2023. We hardly had any this fall. They missed us this year. Passage peaks in our area a month before late November. Some few also occur a month (and more!) before the peak. There is a nice bell-curve of dates, but longer on the front end, and overwhelmingly mostly the peak week or two mid-late October. I have seen them in December though. Next ones will be in March when they head back north.


This is a Ring-necked Duck diving for food. I thought it interesting how they fan the tail as they dive. It is not fanned until the dive going underwater. I presume stability and steering? They were eating Ceratophyllum (Hornwort), which must be the tastiest aquatic plant of a dozen types there.


This is an immature or female Indigo Bunting. Sept. 30 was date. A quintessential little brown bird. Non-descript uniform brown above, paler below with diffuse streaks on sides and often breast. The black on neck is just some mis-aligned feathers, not a field mark.


These are Bluehearts. Which seem decidely lavender to my eye. The flowers are about an eighth of an inch across, and butterflies love them, even large species use them. The roots are thought to be parasitic on other plants(!). They are found growing at water's edge.


Northern Cloudywing. Not sure we have a half-decent shot of one up, so there. :) This is almost half-decent. The wing with lots of white dots is the dorsal left wing. The darker velvet brown is how they start out and as they wear through the season they turn that nice umber brown as scales wear off. This is our only regular Cloudywing here, never very common but small numbers present. The Coyote Cloudywing is a LTA (less than annual) vagrant. Cloudywings are larger than the Duskywings, whose wings are always patterend with marbling, not uniform above. Note the pollen on proboscis. Pollenator at work. These are big skippers with a couple inch wingspan.


Great Purple Hairstreak, male. Note blue band on ventral forewing which females lack. And which is the color of the entire dorsal surface, the alleged great purple, which is actually a great blue. Cruelly, it is only seen in flight as it perches with wings closed together. It is about twice as big as all our other local Hairstreaks, and its larval foodplant is Mistletoe, where you might catch one emerging.


These are Wild Turkey poults, young of the year. A couple months ago, the flock of them was vacuuming up birdseed here. And boy can they!


This is a Halichtid sps., which are commonly called sweat bees. There are many species, some are black, or look like honey bees. They are about a half-inch long and you can see them on flowers gathering pollen. That is a Frostweed flower head it is on.


This Great Blue Heron was on the spillway at the park pond today (Nov. 10, 2023). Seems a bit late in year to still have all those breeding plumes? Or is it an eager beaver ahead of schedule ready for next cycle to get going?


Just making sure you are seeing enough Carolina Wren. This one had no tail at the time, you shoulda seen the side view. If we measured all the bird sound here, every day all year, this would probably be 'the noisiest species in Utopia'. Or anywhere else one is. Pairs duet, I suppose because one thinks it is not loud enough. A wren box in the garden will be the best pest control you ever had.


This is the Tiger Moth we took back outside. Sorry about the docushot through glass. Wooly Bear caterpillars turn into this beauty, or another very similar species. Oct. 25, 2023. Family Arctiidae, genus either Grammia or Apentesis. Will try to get an ID. They are a couple inches across.


This is what the eclipse looks like on the ground under a leafy tree, whence each pinhole of a lightbeam projects an image of it for 5 minutes or so at peak.


Lesser Goldfinch, male, ours are the nice fancy black-backed type. They are nuts about the Tropical Sage.


This is the Swainson's Thrush that visited the birdbath Sept. 30. Note buffy spectacle (eyering and lores) and throat to upper breast.


This is a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I think it an immature male before any red throat feathers molt in. In fall some show those, others (half or more) don't. Compared to Black-chinned (our abundant summering hummer, which are almost all gone by early September) note the snow white underparts (save a tinge of color on flanks), whereas B-c are dirty whitish below. Also note black lores and dark crown. The green upperparts are much darker and more emerald green than the dingy grayish ash-green of a Black-chin.


These are female Dickcissel, seemingly at their first birdbath. Took them all day to come in to it. The front bird is an immature (first-fall) without the rufous or chestnut shoulder of the adult in rear.


Two-tailed Swallowtail on Tropical Sage.


This is a closeup of a White-winged Dove head.


The third pic on the site not taken locally, obvious by the green grass. Another pic of a slide so a bit degenerate. But you may see one in a pasture in fall or winter. More often I hear them overhead in the dark migrating. It is a Long-billed Curlew, a type of shorebird. Over a foot tall and one of the bigger types.


The yellow rose of Texas, a Prickly Pear cactus flower. Which lost the race for state flower to the Lupine (Bluebonnet) by one vote in the Texas state legislature. And Uvalde Counties own John Nance Garner will always have the moniker Cactus Jack, for his campaign on its behalf. He was right though, half the state never saw a Bluebonnet.


You may see an adult male Indigo Bunting in heavy molt now. They can get a bit ratty looking mid-process.


This is an Elada Checkerspot (Texola elada).
What kind of genus is Texola? Sounds like a juke box!


This is a closeup of the Tricolored Heron last week. You can see some downy feathers on the crown, a fresh recently fledged juvenile.


This is a juvenile Tricolored Heron, and my what a beautiful bird they are. This was on spillway at the park July 28, 2023. First I have seen in over a decade here, a pretty rare bird locally.


This is a 'greenie'. A Painted Bunting, that could be adult female, or a juvenile or immature male or female. These three age and sex plumages can be hard to tell apart. Adult males are easy.

Remember to water your warblers!


The birds really need water when it is this hot out. Plus you get great looks at them for a reward. Black-and-white Warbler, female.


Adult male Golden-cheeked Warbler making waves. By providing water you often gets views hard to come by out in the field.


Not sure you are seeing enough of these either, so here. We change our bath water a couple times daily, since it is not being hose-flushed, only a milkjug drip. Keep the water clean folks. A birdbath near cover will bring lots of things in close for great viewing. Especially in this heat, as many of the birds need water. Shady sheltered spots near cover are best for the birds, but not photography. I get an hour a day maybe with good dappled sun on it, usually when I am stuck at desk in late afternoons. This is a male Painted Bunting.


This Black-and-white Warbler has been coming into the birdbath daily lately. As are lots of things in this heat. Keep the water clean, daily. Or, run a sprinkler an hour in tree or bushes, same place same time every day, they will be lined up on time in no time. Faster than kids.


Probably a lot of you think you have seen enough pix of these, but I don't.  :)  June 17 coming into our birdbath.


This is a quarter-inch grasshopper nymph. The guilty party regarding the hole in the Tropical Sage leaf no doubt. Surely its DNA is in that frass (bug feces) it left as evidence. There were a couple but did not see them again yet. They will likely be plain and dull as adults but some grasshoppers are pretty fancy as nymphs.


These are Six-lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineatus). The common green-striped lizard here. Until relatively recently the genus was Cnemidophorus, and this group is also known as whiptails, for their long tail. Said to do 18 mph, I think that is below what I have seen them do. They can easily outrun you.


Methinks this is a Meloid, e.g., a Blister Beetle (perhaps Nemognatha lutea), of which you can look but you better not touch. Their bug juice burns, bad.

Elada Checkerspot

Elada Checkerspot (Texola elada), ventral. Of the two long thin curved orange lines, the one on right is the outer margin of hindwing. Everything left of that is the forewing ventral. Dorsally similar to common Vesta Crescent, orange and finely checkered with black.


This is a female Lazuli Bunting. Not sure we have a female pic up so here ya go. I suppose somewhat sparrowish in appearance. There is just a bit of blue edging on wing and tail feathers. A vestige of the males breastband is present. The wingbars are broad, not narrow as in female Indigo if or when they show them. No streaks on underparts.


This is a first spring male American Redstart. The first black feathers of an adult start to show in first spring. Note solid black over the bill and in lores. Probably where a female would first look to ID a male. A couple black feathers on breast confirm it. Also note slightest salmon tint to breast patch, not pure lemon yellow as tail and wing, from some orange (adult male) feathers coming in.


Here is something I virtually never see. A Blue Grosbeak in the birdbath. They do not even use it to drink, much less bathe. The color of the wingbars in natural history terms is called rufous, chestnut, or bay.


This is one of the flower Buprestid beetles. Likely of the genus Acmaeodera as most are. The small yellow dots are pollen, the larger irregular ones are the markings of the beastie. It appears to be a good pollenator. Must be catnip to them. That is the yellow rose of Texas, a Prickly Pear cactus it is helping make fruit for.


This is a male American Kestrel. Photo from CA, it was not taken locally, and a photo of a slide, so a degenerate, like the person that took it.  :) Ours do not differ from what we see in this image in any meaningful way. The second pic on the site not taken locally.


This is a Mealy Sage and a pink moth.


Olive-Juniper Hairstreak on an Acacia sps. flower.
They are about three-quarters of an inch long.




We had an adult male Rufous Hummingbird like this at the feeders this week, a one-hour wonder.

This week's photo break is courtesy of Sydney Killough. She took these pics of a Black Vulture nestsite and eggs in a little cave out 354. Great pics of beautiful eggs!


This is the nest site, a small cavelet is typical. You can see the eggs in the dark at left end of cave.


These are the beautiful Black Vulture eggs.

Thanks for sharing Sydney!

They're back!

Sorry-not sorry for the rerun. ;)
Golden-cheeked Warbler are back!


This is a Great Egret, a few years ago. They are nearly as big as a Great Blue Heron, all the other Egrets (or white herons) are much smaller. Besides large size, note gray legs, yellow bill, and very long thin neck.

Here are a few poor pics taken through an old grayed window and screen, of the Javelina that visited our mulch pile this week.

Collared Peccary is the official common name for the beastie most of us call Javelina. The white collar is the key mark it is named for.


It seemed to scavenge for sunflower seeds briefly, and then went to mulch pile where tasty treats.


It sounded to me like nom, nom, more mulch, mulch good, nom nom.

apologies, may have used this pic a long time ago...
Cinnamon Teal

This old photo is of a Cinnamon Teal at Utopia Park.
A male in eclipse plumage. Found date, was Sept. 12, 2009.
This is why now I use a mmddyy number followed by a letter on
files now. That is part of a Blue-winged Teal to the right.
Digiscope: Sony Mavica, floppy disk, through Nikon FS III.

Purple Martin

Purple Martin should be starting to return very shortly. This looks an adult female. Keep an eye on yer houses now. Early Feb. is my earliest return here, though for most later Feb. or early March is when they get back.

Cedar Waxwing

Just low numbers of Cedar Waxwing around this winter.

Ring-necked Duck

Female (hen) Ring-necked Duck Jan. 11, 2023 at Utopia Pk.
Long distance high mag but not sure a female up here.
We showed a male a couple weeks ago. Edit: This could
be an immature male, just starting to quit looking female.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk. All the streaks on the breast sides suggest it is not one of our local subspecies and residents, but a migrant from elsewhere, as happens in winter. It was very small and compact, so surely a male.

Ring-necked Duck

Male (drake) Ring-necked Duck Jan. 5, 2023 at Utopia Pk.
Long distance high mag but better than prior pic here.
Ring-billed Duck would be a better name since we can
actually see that part all the time. Usually the head
iridesces purple, but it can show green at some angles.

Black-crested Titmouse, adult

This is an Ash-throated Flycatcher. Not sure we have a
pic of one up on the site, so here ya go. Trying to fill in
some holes and gaps. Of the three Myiarchus flycatchers
that nest here, this is the common one. The tail is mostly
rufous like that bit (primary edges) in the wing.

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Berteau House

Just to give an idea, here is a pic showing part of the yard, house and cottage, so you can get an idea of where much of the stuff being written about is being seen. This pic was May 2013, barely two months after we moved into this place. Now there are butterfly flowers around the porch and in flower beds. The yard lists are: 45 species of odes (dragons-damsels), 99 sps. of butterflies, 7 sps. of frogs & toads, 7 sps. of native lizards, 9 sps. of native snakes (two more out on the road), 20 sps. of native mammals, about 100 sps. of plants (mostly native wildflowers), and now at the 9 year point, about 230 native species of birds.

Quick links to the last few years ...

2015 pix

2016 pix

2017 pix

2018 pix

2019 pix

2020 pix

2021 pix

2022 pix

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