Current Bird (and nature) News
Rufous-capped Warbler

Rufous-capped Warbler - Basileuterus rufifrons jouyi
at Neal's Lodge, Concan TX, March '06


MOST RECENT UPDATE: February 26, 2021
(prior updates: February 19, 12, 5, January 29, 22, 15, 8, 1, 2021, December 25, 18, 11, 4)


   ** SPECIAL NOTICE **

*** Lost Maples and Garner St. Pk. are open for day use and
    limited camping; advance reservations required.
    See the park, or TPWD, websites for details.


* Utopia Park is open. *

~ ~ ~

FOS - first of season - for the first one back.

First a short version of highlights of the month as we go.


February! Only a month to Golden-cheeks! Saw a WHITE-THROATED Sparrow Feb. 2, which I had heard earlier, they are scarce here. On Feb. 5 there was a FOS migrant hummingbird (female) at a feeder but it is un-ID'd, so far. There were at least a couple calling GREEN JAY up and across river from the park the 5th. There is a report of CINNAMON Teal on Little Creek, the Pintail continue there too. A Verdin was noted on Feb. 5, another on the 7th was a second one. Update: the hummingbird is an ANNA'S, which is a rary here, and still present on the 26th. A FOS spring returning Turkey Vulture showed Feb. 9, two were together on the 10th. A major severe cold event began Feb. 11 and will last most of a week. Amazing was a PRAIRIE FALCON in our big Pecan on the 13th. Overnight on the 14-15th we got about 4" of SNOW (!) and record-breaking cold (5F!) in the morning. Southbound Sandhill Cranes were noted Feb. 15. On Feb. 18 we got 4" more snow, and a male Yellow-headed Blackbird! Looking around after the big freeze of Feb. 2021, a 10 day event, there seems to be a great dearth of Carolina Wren, Black Vulture, and Eastern Phoebe. Two or three GREEN JAY were in our yard Feb. 23. Right on historical returnee time was a male Lesser Goldfinch on Feb. 25. A FOS Lincoln's Sparrow was in yard Feb. 26. Also heard FOS northbound Sandhill Crane the 26th.

January 2021 ~ A Lark Bunting on the 3rd was the first noteworthy bird of the year, scarce here, so always a treat. Sylvia Hilbig reports a WESTERN Bluebird at their place in mid-Jan. (priv. prop.), a few miles NW of town in BanCo.! A GREAT sighting! They also had a Merlin there. A flock of 9 MOUNTAIN Bluebird was briefly on UvCo 360 on Jan. 29. A Rusty Blackbird is irregular south of town, a female in her 8th winter hereabouts.

splish splash I was takin' a bath!

male Golden-cheeked Warbler



This page has the current bird and nature news from the area around Utopia, the Sabinal River Valley (SRV), and occasionally elsewhere in the area, such as Uvalde, Concan, Lost Maples, etc. Often unusual sightings will be in CAPS. There will also be occasional mention of butterfly (lep) or dragonfly (ode) sightings when they are out and about. Or anything natural history of interest, bats to beetles.

For 2020 Lost Maples reports, there is one for July 29 and the other is on the April 26 entry in the birdnews (now archives) below. We have not been visiting it as usual this spring and summer. For some detailed 2019 Lost Maples reports see the dated entries for Jan. 5, March 17, 30, 31, April 21 & 28, May 12, June 2 and 29, July 28, September 15, Oct. 13, and Dec. 8. These are at Old Bird News pages #31 and #32 now. (Old Bird News pages link below)

Pro Tip: Ignore the ebird Chihuahuan Raven reports at Lost Maples, they are mis-ID'd Common Ravens which are common residents. You would think with so many reports, ONE could be proven. Guess again.

A quick note about Utopia Park. There have been some changes in management and rules. It is now $10 per person per day to enter No charge for Utopia or Vanderpool residents. Been gently suggesting we need a one hour or two hour birder rate. They are receptive to the idea but no action yet on it.

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

For visiting cell phone users, often only AT&T works here, or Concan, and many local areas Sabinal to Leakey, etc. Often around Hwys. 10 or 90 (Hondo, Uvalde) you can get other signals. Then wi-fi is available at the Utopia Library, the store in Vanderpool had a sign saying they have it there too. State Park headquarters may have it? Don't tell them I told you.   ;)

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

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



I have been fairly good for a few years now about posting the weekly update Friday evenings. Since night life is so exciting here. Usually this is just minor local (often yard) notes from nearly every day. Some daily or near-daily notes of what is going on with birds, or butterflies, dragonflies, fish, flowers, reptiles, triops, cerambycids, buprestids, bombyliads, and so on. Anything might get mentioned. Usually just yard notes. Unless you got to be stationed at the park all day, one site of observation locally is about as good as another. The big picture only becomes amazingly fascinating by filling all the little details in, one tiny bit at a time. I have a strong interest in bird behavior and often will discuss some aspect of that which I observed.

If you're in the area and see something, please don't hesitate to let us know. For instance, we would be happy to post Lost Maples SNA, or any bird news, if it were reported to us. I love hearing from locals when they see something of interest. Perhaps other visitors might better know where to look for something of interest. E-mail link in next (pale yellow) box, and at bottom of most pages. Local (eight-three-zero) landline WON~2349. I can be at the park in 10 minutes, 8 if I was dressed with shoes on, 5 if it is a Sabine's Gull, but I might not be neatly dressed.

Some rudimentary maps of the area are at the bottom of the "site guide" page, if you need help locating any of the places mentioned.

There are now 17+ (!) years and growing worth of nature notes here, mostly in the bird news archives (Old Bird News) pages linked at the bottom of this page in 6 month segments. You can fairly easily check, 10 fall or spring periods, etc., and get a good idea of what goes on when, where, or how weak migration is here.   :) If you're coming in April, you can check several years out and see when different species arrive.  For instance for Painted Buntings not till later April, earliest numbers about the 18-20th, later is better, some years not till the 21-22 are the first back locally.  Often a few days earlier down in lower altitude brush country (earlier still down on the coast) etc. Adult males mostly depart territories and the area the first week of August.

Be sure to check out the Bird List page, which is updated (2020) with seasonal status and abundance for each species. It lists all 350 plus species (!) known from the upper Sabinal River drainage.

And here's something else.......
Sometimes I may be available as eyes and ears for hire. Send an E-mail if you desire professional expert level birding guide services while in the area. Take out the spaces around the at if you copy this instead of clicking it: mitch @ utopianature.com
Or check out the Bird Guide page.

The BIRDING SITES, HUMMINGBIRDS, BIRD LIST, LM REPORTS, SPARROWS, BRUSH COUNTRY, WARBLERS, HAWKS, and the RARITIES pages have all been recently updated! Most have lots of new pics added in the last year or so.

With apologies, I am not interested in photos from other areas for identification. Please please please do not send unsolicited out of area photos. Contact your local Audubon Society if you have pictures of a bird that you would like identified, every area has one. From Houston to Travis to Ft. Worth, Big Sky, Llano Estacado, no matter where you are there are other local folks interested in your local birds, and since you are (to have a pic that you want ID'd) you should want to know them.  :)  Thank you in advance.



Back to Top
Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat

Here are links to some new pages added in the last couple years:

Here is a master index page of 'Old Bird News' links:
Bird News Archives Index
It has links to all the 'Bird News' pages, in 6 month increments. It is the 16 year plus bird news archive file.

~ ~ ~ ~
***  This is the page for visitors with ideas, links, phones, contacts, etc., about where to stay locally.
Where to Stay
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
***  Here is a page which compiles over 16 years of observations at Utopia Park. It is a long discussion about the how and why of birds at Utopia Park, and is the home of the park bird list.
The Birds of Utopia Park
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Here are assorted links of all manner, and a handy way outta here.
Mitch's Links
~ ~ ~
Bird Photos


~ ~ ~ finally, current bird news from the greater and lesser Utopia area ~ ~ ~
BIRD & NATURE NEWS 2021


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. Usually a few daily yard notes is all the drivel you get. But you never know what that can lead to. Ready, steady, go!

Commonly used ABBREVIATIONS are:

To repeat since commonly used:
sps.=species; FOS=First of season (can be any season); FOY=First of Year; FOF=First of fall; LTA=Less than Annual; UP=Utopia Park; SLC=So. Little Creek Rd.; dF=degrees Farenheit; (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) BanCo = Bandera Co.; UvCo = Uvalde Co.



Black-capped Vireo

Black-capped Vireo at Lost Maples


Just to have this handy again for reference, recent prior updates:
February 19, 12, 5, January 29, 22, 15, 8, 1, December 25, 18, 11, 4
Each week's update break is marked with a bad (usually bird) photo.

You may want to scroll down to last prior update and scroll
up to read in chrono order day to day.
~ ~ ~ and now for the news ~ ~ ~

*** Lost Maples and Garner are open for day use and limited camping, reservations required.

*** Utopia Park is open now.

Feb. 26 ~ Drizzled all night and flatlined at 60F. By dawn it was about .2 of precip. Stayed the same all day but without the drizzle or mist. Town run, they had food and I got a little gas. As if that wasn't enough, Rosie was there so some tacos made the return trip with me. Some Killdeer were in the pasture just east of the river on 360. On county line road (UvCo 356) there was a flock of about 35 Eastern Meadowlark, and one Audubon's Warbler in the Hackberry row. At the park there were 9 Ring-necked Duck, and a Pied-billed Grebe on the pond. In the woods the large dark soaring objects had just lifted off, there were now 3 Turkey Vulture and the one Zone-tailed Hawk just over treetops circling to gain altitude. The Zoney DOVE at one of the TV's which had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid being struck! I do not recall ever seeing such an interaction. No small stuff in the woods, and NO Black Vulture. Incredible. After thinking I might have heard one yesterday afternoon, this afternoon late I heard then saw, my FOS Lincoln's Sparrow. A passage spring migrant! Yesterday's FOS Lesser Goldfinch is a returning breeder, not a passage transient. Saw Mocker and Anna the hummer, Kathy had a Scrub-Jay. Heard only FOS northbound Sandhill Crane today.

Feb. 25 ~ Flatlined at 60 all night, overcast and humid. Springish, but no warmup today. Sure nice to not be fighting the cold, with water, electricity and the intertubes. Benign is fine. Soared up to about 64F in the overcast afternoon. Heard one Carolina Wren trolling about briefly in the morn, and then late afternoon a second bird was around. They did not seem to be acting like the house pair. It all seems like it is new to them. Later heard the Scrub-Jay, saw Anna the hummer, a few Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbird still coming in, a couple Brown-headed Cowbird. Maybe a hundred Chipping Sparrow, still 50 American Goldfinch, 8 or more Field Sparrow. Saw the Orange-crowned Warbler at the birdbath, and maybe my first ever ad.ma. Red-winged Blackbird at it.

New was an adult male Lesser Goldfinch. This is exactly on time for the first spring returnees historically. Last week of February was usually when the first ones return. Rarely earlier, but the biggest cluster of arrival dates is last week of Feb. We don't know that the few that winter at thistle socks locally are the local breeders, they may well be from elsewhere. Even IF they are local birds, then still about 99.999 percent of our breeders depart for the winter. Great to see them back. I just love it when a data dot or duck falls right in the row perfectly.

Feb. 24 ~ We flatlined at 60F all night. Overcast, the gulf flow is back. Today is the big warmup before the next frontal passage (dry) this afternoon. It got to 84F, at least, in the afternoon! Anna the hummer was out there before 7 a.m., and later. A few Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbird around. Mid-morn a Scrub-Jay was quietly gathering a gullet of sunflower seeds along the back fence where I toss. Later Kathy spotted it at the birdbath. Finally heard single Eastern Phoebe and Carolina Wren! I doubt they are the ones that were resident here. Both are trolling around the yard acting like they have never been here before, not long-term residents that know the place. Neither stuck too long. Saw the male Eastern Bluebird on the gate nestbox, presume a female was around or inside it. They are scouting boxes already. So are Titmouse and Chickadee. Saw two Black Vulture finally, but the skies are for the most part, essentially vulture free here now. What are we going to do with all the roadkill? Todd's Roadkill Cafe in Leakey closed a long time ago. Best guess is that name was scientifically formulated after much focus-group research which determined it to be what would most effectively keep the tourists away, and attract the locals, in one word.

Feb. 23 ~ Low maybe 35F or so briefly, chilly but no freeze. The Anna's Hummer was out there before 7 a.m. on the feeder. About 10:30-11: at least two (and maybe three) Green Jay were in the yard! One went to the sunflower feeder and got seeds! One was making a very loud cat meow call, much like the hawk alarm mimic call, but clearly different. One came back later for more sunflower seeds. Great to see at least a couple made it through the big freeze. Pretty tough for a semi-tropical species. Bet they never saw anything like that snow and cold before. There were a couple days with sub-zero chill factors and single digit temps, and a few days with snow covered ground. Consider that it was possible if one were in the right place to have gotten photos of Green Jay in the snow. In the afternoon the Scrub-Jay came by briefly. Nearest Blue Jay I know of are in town and at park.

Feb. 22 ~ Low was about 34F or so, chilly but no freeze. Which is a big win, and none are on the ten-day forecast. Spring will spring now. It got up to 70F or so in the peak afternoon heat. Still no Vultures, Phoebe, or Carolina Wren. They were all lost in the event. Normally I can hear a few other pairs of Carolina Wren countersinging with our yard birds. Dead silence out there now, and I do mean dead. It is eerie. Holy longhorn. The Anna's Hummer is still here though. I ran to town late afternoon to pickup at the post office since a truck finally got here. The gas station is selling emergency rations of gas only still. Store still does not have milk or creamer. Went to the park to see how many Black Vultures were on the roost tree. NONE! At 5 p.m. this is unprecedented. They are gone folks. We lost 'em. There should be a hundred plus there. ZERO! One Turkey Vulture flew out of a Cypress, which is likely a new arrival in the last couple days as none wintered. Our just-arrived pair at the house is MIA. The Zone-tailed Hawk flew in looking to roost just before 5 p.m. so it made it. There was one Kinglet (Ruby), two Myrtle Warbler, and NOT ONE Phoebe. Should have been a handful. There was a good Mayfly hatch going, and NO Phoebe! I think a lot of them were lost. I did hear two Carolina Wren though which was nice since ours at the house are gone. A dozen Ring-necked Duck were on the pond. It is a different birdscape out there since the big freeze. Kathy mentioned here at the casita there are a lot less Cardinal out there than a week ago. After dark heard the Barred Owl for the first time in a while, over along the river.

Feb. 21 ~ Low was in the mid-40's F after midnight, but a couple hours before dawn it went up to 50F, about 30dF warmer than yesterday morn. Sure feels great to not be freezing. Have to peel the layers off the windows. The Red-wings are not around, just a few Brown-headed Cowbird. Still 50+ American Goldfinch though. Chippies have dialed back to half the freeze peak numbers. About a hundred each Robin and Waxwing in the morning and again in the afternoon, had to refill the bath a couple times. I saw the Anna's Hummingbird a couple times in the morning. It got up to 72F in the afternoon! First warm day, and warmest in 12 days at least. No Turkey Vulture, hardly a Black Vulture (1?), I am thinking they both took a major hit in this. Also we did not see or hear our Carolina Wren pair here today. Which is impossible. I saw them Friday for sure, but not sure about yesterday, and certainly not today. It appears we have lost them. Looking for the phoebe pair too, did not hear them either today. Did hear an Eastern Bluebird. I saw two reports in Texas of 6 and 7 dead male Eastern Bluebird all together in two seperate boxes. Too many days without food or being able to forage, in too much cold.

Feb 20 ~ Another hard freeze at 18F this morning, and all was covered in thick frost. I ran to town in that at 8 a.m., since a supply truck got here at dawn with bread, eggs, produce, and other stuff, but still no milk. Hopefully they will get another delivery later in the upcoming week. Scanned the park pond, about 20 Ring-necked Duck on it was it. Little Creek Larry said he forgot to mention this week for a couple days during the worst cold a male Vermilion Flycatcher was on the dam as Phoebe (Eastern) often is. I suspect it is the same male that was wintering at the pond on the golf course (a mile south), and had to move and work the river in the big freeze.

On the way home on 360 by the former Utopia on the River, there were a dozen Lark Sparrow. The only ones I have seen all winter. They could be returning spring migrants. Larry just recently mentioned he had a few. The Anna's Hummingbird made another night in the teens. We sweat it out every morning until we see it. There have been lots of stories on the intertubes of people across Texas that lost their wintering hummingbirds during this freeze event. Was nice to not have to be swapping out feeders in the snow or cold. Only a couple dozen Red-wings, half the peak number when the Yellow-headed was here, and no sign of it. It is with the other couple dozen. About 10 Brown-headed Cowbird. All 3 orange-billed gray-lored western type (probably Gambell's) White-crowned Sparrow continue. Great to hear Red-winged Blackbird singing out there much of the day. Sounds like spring!

I may have forgotten to mention (for obvious reasons) in the peak cold there was a Eurasian Collared-Dove out back on the seed briefly, on a couple days. Thanks for the condolences. Did have a Caracara today, but did not see the two Turkey Vulture that showed up the day before the major freeze, ice and snow event began. They had about 9 days they could not get up, out, and fly. Can they live that long without food when they are having to burn way more than the usual amount of energy trying to stay thermal? I doubt it, and expect they succumbed. It was 58F here in the afternoon with southerlies, they should have been up and out looking for roadkill, and hanging out overhead later in the afternoon, like they were the day before the big freeze hit. Way fewer Black Vulture out there too now, only saw one small group along road between here and town, only a couple over house all day.

So we made 10 days of this major cold and deep-freeze event. It appears we are headed back to more seasonal temps for the rest of the month. That was brutal. None can say it was a mild winter here this year. No one under 35 had ever seen snow or cold here like we had this week. Little Creek Larry said since 1985 for the snow. Which he estimated at 10" for the event. He is pretty good about that sort of thing. As he said it was melting all the time as it was snowing. His gauge had 1.25" of water in it after it all melted. So it surely could have been 10" of snow. This was a remarkable historic event. The likes of which hopefully we won't see again for some time, or ever.

greenjay

Green Jay head crop. We had at least two in the yard
again this week, meaning they were in the snow last week!


yellowheadedblackbird

We have not seen the Yellow-headed Blackbird again
since in the snow last Thursday Feb. 18.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb 19 ~ A chilly 14F for a low. It was a cold morning, but finally it warmed up in the afternoon to about 50F! Most of the snow melted. Did not see the Red-wing flock, only a few, and no Yellow-headed. Saw the Anna's Hummingbird and Downy Woodpecker, the rest looked the same. But I saw both imm. White-crowned Sparrows well finally, and like the adult here, they are orange-billed and gray-lored. They too are probably Gambell's (western) type like the adult.

The internet remains down here if on DSL, they hope to have it back up 11 p.m. tonight! Went to town and got lots of horror stories but very few supplies. No mail truck has arrived this week, the gas station was just a station all week, they were getting some gas today. The store is out of most staples like milk, bread, eggs, butter, fresh vegetables, and so on. All this because it got cold in Texas. I heard some say not to bother trying at the nearest HEB stores, they too are out of most of the basics as well.

Looked at the park but I didn't walk the woods at the park as it was muddy with melting snow, but there were 62 Ring-necked Duck on the pond, most I have ever seen at once there. Open water must have frozen somewhere up north. Little Creek Larry said there were more than 60 Ring-necks out there yesterday. He also said the creek froze, and all the ducks there left for a couple days but mostly seem to be back. Hummer was tanking up late.

Feb. 18 ~ In the low 20's F, about 24, and shortly after dawn it started snowing again. By afternoon it looked like 3 inches but was probably more like four as it was melting quite a bit the first couple hours. Flatlined at 25F all day. Birds are thick on the seed. Astounding was my first winter record of a Yellow-headed Blackbird here, in with now 45 Red-winged Blackbird! They are accidental on the plateau in the winter. It was a beautiful male, and got shots, which I froze for. New for the yard list too! Got a count of 12 male Cardinal at once, 27 Mourning and 25 White-winged Dove. It is over 200 Chipping Sparrow here now, maybe 225. Anna's Hummer still here, we are swapping out the feeder every 90 minutes or so. Saw both the ad. and an imm. White-crowned Sparrow. The dark ad. is an orange-billed gray-lored type, probably a (western) Gambell's, not our default standard pink-billed black-lored (eastern) leucophrys. The Brewer's Blackbird flock was 45 and at least half of them came down to the patio edge for seed late in day, which they never do. Red-wings have no aversion to the patio, the Brewer's, never come down to it. Three species of blackbird in a day here is good. If only I could have seen the Rusty. They are really jumpy and hard to work.

The power was on all day though was off some overnight last night. Pipes didn't re-freeze, so we have heat and hot water. The DSL is down, the phone company is not answering, they are in Rocksprings. Welcome to Texastan. The energy state. We did not break freezing after briefly doing so in a big way yesterday. We are now at 7 days of the last 8, at or below freezing, which constitutes a major deep freeze a way down south here below 30N. Nearing 6 p.m. the snow has tapered off and I think it is about 4" for today. There are horizontal branches that were clear yesterday afternoon now with at least 3" on them. Yesterday when I saw Calvin he said he had 4" not far from here from the first event. I would say then probably 7-8" for two events, Monday and Thursday, at minimum. Lots melted each time as it began because the ground was warm. It is likely the most snow here since 1985, over 35 years. Now though, we can not tell what is supposed to happen next weatherwise without the DSL. Was to be very cold tomorrow morning again.

Feb. 17 ~ Stayed right around freezing all night, there were a couple 2 FOOT icicles! Almost all the snow melted in the afternoon when it warmed up to about 50F briefly! Finally some heat, outside the house at least! The water lines thawed finally. So there is hot tap water again, when power. Power was off and on all day here in the banana Republic of Texastan. The afternoon it was mostly on, but the constant improper shutdowns on the computer are not a good thing. Can barely work, answer emails, or do business. It is past ridiculous. Didn't see anything different in birds, all the same stuff, but more Chippies, and more Red-wings have collected. Downy Woodpecker and Anna's Hummingbird still here. Heard the Scrub-Jay out back a bit, thought I heard it yesterday too but was just once. Myrtle Warbler still eating seed. Another winter weather event inbound for tomorrow. More power outages in evening. There was a blown pipe (making a nice fountain behind the cottage) that feeds some troughs over in the corral so I had to call to get ranch maintenence to come out and fix it. They had more to do after fixing this one...

Feb. 16 ~ Day 6 of the big freeze. It was a smokin' 14F at 7 a.m., but was in single digits during the overnight. KERV had a 5F at 2:30 a.m., we were likely near that. Up to 22F here at 10 a.m., pipes (wellhouse?) still frozen, at least we have stored emergency water and snow for more, plus power and heat. Lots of Texas is in a big hurt this morning with none of the above. At noon I saw 27F on the front porch, and some bodacious icicles. Heard the pair of Eastern Bluebird out by their usual box. Hummer here of course, nothing moving in this. Saw the dark ad. White-crowned Sparrow and the Orange-crowned Warbler. White-winged Dove are getting the purple mauve on their necks now.

Spent the afternoon and night with rolling blackouts. Lovely. Begging the question as to why the Texas electricty distribution management org has the word *reliability* in their name. I don't think it means what they think it means. This same thing happened in the 1989 polar air event, AND on the 2011 (DFW) Super Bowl day. This is the third time, recently. Feds and others both prior times told the state they needed to winterize the power plants. Nothing happened but millions in exec pay and lobbying for their monopolies, and deregulation. Texas in order to be unregulated required them disconnecting from the federal Western Grid, so they could not get power from it now when we needed it. An oh yeah, this is the energy state, where when it gets real cold no one has any power or heat, and it is the windmills fault. Offline was 16 GW of renewable and 30 GW of thermal (nuke, coal, gas). About 75 of 675 power plants in the state were offline. During the polar freeze. Makes sense. About 10 percent of plants, roughly the amount of power the state was short. Despite having something called the electricity reliability council. Some are saying when the brownouts started Monday it was within minutes of a major meltdown that would have taken out the grid for months. Now there is some reliability.

Feb. 15 ~ Day 5 of the big freeze of Feb. 2021. We woke up to at least 3.5" (maybe 4) of SNOW (!) and a sizzling 5F! Blinking clocks and frozen pipes, which is probably out at the wellhouse. A drip was going, was being the key word. At least we have heat and electricity! It went out quickly a few times overnight. There has been nothing like this in 18 years we have been here. There was an Arctic cold event in 1989 but it was after we left San Antonio and Texas that year. Then there was a big snow in 1985 (SAT had a foot, 18" in Utopia). The SAT record low for today was 16F, they had 9F this morning, KERV was 5F like us here. Was a good bit of melt in the heat of the day in the upper 20's F.

Amazingly, I got to use my SNOW SHOVEL! It is from New Jersey, a 1982 vintage, it was made in America before the crapification and is real deal steel. I should be shoveling in town today for extra dough.  LOL   Probably the only one in the whole valley. Most of them have never seen such an implement, and they have almost every implement known to man here. Had to clear areas to toss seed on the patio, made a path to the back and cleared spots out there for seed, a path to the cottage, the stone step walkways, and out to the driveway. The job sure is easier with the right tool. We can get around the house, to cottage, and seeding, without tracking snow in now.

Hummer was out there at dawn when I was being a shoveler. The hummer feeder lasted about 90 minutes before the fluid was icing up. Doing the swap with one inside the house, all day. In the afternoon I saw 28F on the cool shady front porch, was probably 30F on the sunny south side. The wind was still over 10 mph so it didn't feel very warm. KERV was 22 and Hondo 30F. The Downy Woodpecker was going to ground getting sunflower seeds just like the Ladder-back and Golden-front have been. They also learn by watching. It was packed with birds on the seed all day here, and I shoveled lots of that too. About 3:30 we lost the sun and the melting slowed way down. Got a 200 count on the Chipping Sparrow late afternoon! At least 30 for the Red-winged Blackbird count. Saw the Orange-crowned Warbler grabbing some white millet. I have never seen so much snow and cold without a junco to be found. Two species of warbler are here, but no junco, in the snow. Saw both ad. and imm., female Cooper's Hawk make passes at the seedeaters.

I took a bunch of pics, just to have evidence to look at next July and August. I took a few generic shots to show all the birds in the cleared areas where seeded. Kathy was outside on the front porch about 5 p.m. and heard cranes, I got out there quickly enough to tell they were going south. Wonder where they left from this morning? Hummer was out there camped on feeder at 6 p.m. for last fill-up. Late p.m. saw the dark ad. White-crowned Sparrow.

Feb 14 ~ Day 4 of the big freeze of Feb. 2021. About 25F for a low, and some patches of ice on the ground from the mist which is freezing and then building up. The Hummer is on the feeder, which we brought in overnight. Did I say the low was 25F? Turns out it was the high. By afternoon it was 22 and dropping. Never did warm up. With the wind on it feels the teens. The birds were all the same gang. The historical cold event peaks the next two mornings in single digits and tonight we are supposed to get snow. It is brutal out there and getting worse before it gets better. Been shoveling seed all day. Three days had been the limit for freeze events for the last 18 years we have been here. This one is now looking like it will be 7 days where only once for a few hours was it over freezing (Friday the 12th). Had to quick thaw hummer feeders at 5 p.m. when it was 18F, they were slushy. At that time Winds were N 15- gusting to 25 mph, chills were in the single digits. Counted 10 male Cardinal at once, and got a 150 count on the Chipping Sparrow. Now with the cold they all show up. The Red-wings were around in the afternoon, heard a few Robin and Waxwing. Saw the Myrtle Warbler grabbing some white millet seed. Worked on cold-proofing some things better, expecially in the cottage where marine aquaria. Guess I got all my good birds for the weekend yesterday. Now I am just trying to keep a hummer alive, and pipes from bursting. At 8 p.m. I saw 14F on the front porch, and wind chills then had to be about zero. There was some frozen rain and sleet, which should turn to snow shortly. Junction and Rock Springs are sub-zero chill factors aleady this evening. By 10 p.m. there was 1.5" of snow on the ground and it was coming down moderately, local WU stations were reading 9-11F, wind was 10-15 gusting 20-25 mph..

Feb. 13 ~ Low was 25F, some mist, we won't see 32F today. Saw the hummer a few times in the morning. Best was before 10 a.m. when I went to put a second shovel of seed out. The birds had all just flushed so I figured a good chance. When I got out back tossing I heard a Titmouse alarm call, looked up and saw a PRAIRIE FALCON jumping out of the top of the big Pecan! That is what flushed the doves and all a couple minutes earlier! It lazily flew north low over the draw, and was likely going back down shortly. First one in the yard, and whaddabird for my Pecan tree list! Gotta say if I hadn't seen a couple hundred of them I would not have instantly recognized it. No substitute for experience with the animal.

Less than an hour later I walked out of the cottage and a Loggerhead Shrike was on a (original juniper) clothesline pole (that the wire the birdfeeders hang on is connected to). Right at the corner of the patio! Looking for a Chippy. First Shrike on the patio. Only had one IN the yard once before, have heard a few over toward the airstrip. It flew and landed in the lowest branches of the big Pecan. BAM! On my Pecan tree list. Two new ones in an hour! With almost 3000 days straight of watching this tree. Ten thousand hours looking in this tree, and now, leafless, I see two species in an hour that I have never seen in it. Amazing how fast one can go from "well I have been looking for ten thousand hours and never saw one of those here", to "oh yeah, sure, got it". It never did break freezing, was misting on and off, and getting colder and breezier.

yardsnow

This is the yard Feb. 15.

yellowheadedblackbird

This is the male Yellow-headed Blackbird in the snow on Feb. 18.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 12 ~ Low about 30F, briefly misted, feels like winter. A little more precip overnight, probably safe to say .75 (of an inch) for the event. The Red-winged Blackbird flock was down on the seed, 27 I counted, about 12 were male. Little Creek Larry said he got an inch of rain from the event. Also said there was a nice flock of Ring-necked Duck on Little Creek yesterday. He also heard there was a half inch of ice up on top of the plateau, just above Lost Maples yesterday. There was a pair of Ring-necked Duck on the pond at the park, and the one Pied-billed Grebe, which actually called, something I do not hear often here. I did not walk the woods though. Rosie was closed, presumably the bad weather, so no tacos today. Hope I survive. By 1 p.m. it was over freezing, maybe 35F or so, and misting lightly. Just after 4 p.m. finally I saw the Anna's Hummingbird today. Some Chipping Sparrow are getting very rusty of crown.

Feb. 11 ~ Low just over freezing, about 34F, with some mist and drizzle, winter rears its cold head again. We are in for nearly a week of very cold temps, for here, they say peak will be the coldest in at least several years here. Mon. and Tues. lows are forecast to be single digits! Arctic air. Four or five days straight of highs in the 30's F or lower. Three is the most I have seen in the last 18 years here, a few times. Looks like I will be shoveling bird seed for the next week, and hunkering down inside near the heaters. The drizzle was nearing a half-inch by about 1 p.m., and we were flat-lining at 33F, so, at least it is not ice. Just north of us up on top of the plateau above Lost Maples it is ice all over. From way west of Junction to KERV and Austin. The wind is off and on breezy, so feels below freezing out there in the wet. Was a bit of thunder occasionally as well. More weather for your money. I would love a nice thundersnow. At dark it was about 15mm of precip total over the day.

The blackbird flock was in the big Pecan first thing, a bunch of Red-wings singing, right out in the breeze in a cold rain. Thrilled. Lots of birds on the seed. Kathy said at least a hundred Chipping Sparrow. Remember, it is easier to trust the count of another than to count them ones self. It was about 40 some Siskin and 50 Am. Goldfinch, 20 each House Finch, and Cardinal. About 8 each of Field Sparrow and Black-crested Titmouse, and 4 Carolina Chickadee, a few each Bewick's and Carolina Wren, lots of White-winged and Mourning Dove. Saw the icterids down on the patio and under Mulberry in the afternoon. So did some counting myself. There were 11 Brown-headed Cowbird (3 male, 8 female), and 25 Red-winged Blackbird (12 male and 13 female). Highest count of either sps. all winter for me here. February is when we see their numbers go up and I suspect it is spring arrivals. Kathy saw the hummer on the back feeder, which is a bit more sheltered than the one on the front porch.

Feb. 10 ~ Flatlined in upper 50's F all night, and day. A cold front is just pushing in under the warm moist air aloft, and so winter is back. It was all springy yesterday afternoon. The blackbird flock (125+ Brewer's, some Red-wings) was over in the corral but I had too much work to do to work them. Nice to hear some Red-wings singing though. Saw the hummer in the morning, hope it is packing the pounds on for this next cold spell. Next Mon. and Tues. morns they are talking major cold with a couple lows in the 20's F prior to those Not good hummer weather. Caracara and Raven made passes. Heard the Ring King over at the river. In the later afternoon there were TWO Turkey Vulture together, working the area low like the local breeders. Very cool to see them back. Kathy spotted a very dark adult White-crowned Sparrow at the last seed eating feeding frenzy. Maybe it is dirty, the white stripes were not clean, the whole bird looked dirty. The pair of Eastern Phoebe were singing together in the treetops today.

Feb. 9 ~ Another fog-mist morning, balmy at 60F or so. We have a major blast of winter with some very serious cold heading down in a few days. Will enjoy the mild gray in the meanwhile. Must have been some accipiters lurking in the shadows, much of the day the birds were not out there. Kathy saw the hummer late in the day, about 5 p.m., finally, otherwise would have missed it today. At least it is getting to put some calories on before the big freeze hits. They are talking one of those 48 hr. spells without breaking freezing this coming Sunday to Tuesday, with lows in the teens. Got up to about 76F here in the afternoon. Tomorrow will be about 20F cooler. What looked the female Red-tailed Hawk was soaring over the nest tree area in the afternoon. Great was a FOS Turkey Vulture in the afternoon working low over the corral. Surely one of our local returning breeders. Most common arrival date the first 10-12 years I was here was Valentine's Day, but they have been returning earlier, as spring, the last few to several years. Methinks these will soon regret it this year.

Feb. 8 ~ Overcast, almost fog, low about 50F. Early saw the hummer perched in top of the Mulberry, as if on station, which is great to see. It has been flying way away across road so maybe it will become photogenic in good light yet. I am sure it is an ANNA'S Hummingbird. Which is a great bird here, far less than annual here, and the first one here at this place (8 years and ten thousand hummers here). We had at least 3 at Seco Ridge in 8 years. Judy Schaeffer in town had a couple one of those same invasion years, including one that stuck the winter. This fall and winter was a big year for them in the east half of Texas, maybe the fires out west pushed more thisaway. But most showed up a month or two ago. Showing up in early Feb. is not the usual program with them. I can't even guess which way it is going. But for now it is not going anywhere in this inclement mess...

There was a flock of 125 blackbirds in the corral, most were Brewer's but 10 Red-winged in with them were about half each male and female. Did not spot the Rusty before they bolted. They are ginchy too. I heard a Hutton's Vireo singing over along the north fence in the Junipers. Which are really spewing pollen now. Some male trees are orange. Kathy saw the Downy Woodpecker by the sunflower feeder, it must be watching the Ladder-back and Golden-fronts. Late about 6 p.m. I saw the hummer on the back (office) feeder for the first time. Which is great. Saw what looked a pair of Raven (Common) ejecting another pair of Raven from the area.

Feb. 7 ~ Low was 30F, maybe it got a dF colder, I wasn't hanging around watching it. After lots of looking, about 10:30 the hummer was at the feeder briefly. Got another bad light shot, but had only camera so no study, until I get pix off it. A bunch of waxwings hit the birdbath, making off with a half-gallon of water in short order. We went for a spinabout for a couple hours noonish. First we slow-rolled over to Little Creek and scoped the pond with the ducks. The light is bad mid-day and the wind was blowing over 20 mph. We did not see the Cinnamon Teal but you can not surely see everything due to vegetation. We did see the 40+ Pintail continuing, a dozen Green-winged Teal, probably 40 Gadwall and around 30 Am. Wigeon, one Ring-necked Duck, and a Great Egret. Nothing along the roads, save on 355 in the jog section we had a look at a Verdin. Checked the pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cmty. and saw nothing. In the pasture on 360 just east of the river the ground has just gone green and there were 9 Killdeer and about 40 American (Water) Pipit, neither of which have been around. Make it green and they will come. Warmed up to about 70F, but too dang windy until nearing sundown. The hummer showed briefly about 5 p.m. but I did not get a binoc look or another photo either one. The front porch feeder is in the best high-vis place to snag a passing bird, but it is horrible for viewing light most of the time. If there were a plug out there I would have an LED spot on it, with a switch I could throw from inside as needed.

Feb. 6 ~ Was about 44 around 3 a.m., but 48F by dawn. With fog and mist, heavy overcast ahead of the front due in later this morning. The hummingbird came in one time that I saw in the morning, when it was still gray and overcast, in very low light. But I got a few shots. Pretty sure it is an ANNA'S. I can see gray in the underparts I could not see yesterday (whence also in bad light), and a fair bit of green on the sides. It has just a few dark gorget feathers in lower center throat, so probably a first-spring female. I heard it call a couple thin sharp hard chips again, which as I said to Kathy when it did that yesterday, is Anna's call. The front cleared the clouds out before noon and every hour all day I spent 10 minutes watching the feeder camera in hand, and as of 5 p.m. had not seen it again all day, when there would have been great light. At least we know it tanked up good last night and this morning, and we got some pixels to argue about.

annashummingbird

This is the Anna's Hummingbird, present Feb. 5-12 so far.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 5 ~ We ran about 48-68F for a temp spread today. Sunny and nice. The yard was the same seedeaters. More birdsong every day now. Town run fer shtuff. Best was hearing a couple Green Jay across the river from the park, just above the top end of the island in that live-oak motte on other side. So they are still around. Just probably hanging on some corn feeders up thataway. Heard Belted Kingfisher up the river. Little Creek Larry said there were a couple CINNAMON Teal over at Little Creek in the duck flock, and the Pintail are still there. Rosie was there so real deal tacos for lunch here at the hovelita.

After lunch a female hummingbird showed up at the front porch. After it departed I checked and both feeders had gone syrupy, hope it got something. Refreshed both again. Been doing it all winter for nothing. Then one finally shows up when it's shot. Dang it. It was not a Selasphorus, there was no rufous or rusty. It generally looked like a female Black-chinned for the most part, but had a small group of dark gorget feathers in center of lower throat. The underparts were fairly white without buffy sides, and not gray whatsoever. I heard a couple thin chips which were hard and sharp. Since none of that adds up, it will remain a hummingbird sps., which is about as big a bummer as one hummer could be. Whilst I was standing around hoping for it to return I heard the Verdin go off over in the Mesquites across the road. Saw one Orange Sulphur and a couple Snout for butterflies. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher over at the river.

About 5:45 p.m. the hummer came back. It gassed up good this time with fresh fluid. On the other side of the feeder of course. It remains un-ID'd but importantly, I am unable to rule out a Costa's on it yet. It seems not Anna's, and is not a Selasphorus. The hard sharp thin chip does not sound like the soft Black-chinned or Ruby-throated. Since it is here this late in day, I presume I will get chances to see and study it tomorrow. I had a very early spring female Costa's up on Seco Ridge, March 4-5, 2006, which called alot but wasn't there 24 hours, and I did not get a tape of it. So, no score! After dark I was slow-rolling on the back west end of 360 and saw a Gray Fox on the road. They can be remarkably fast.

Feb. 4 ~ It was about 59F all night. Balmy, south Gulf flow ahead of the next front, which is set to arrive this afternoon. Thick overcast bodering on fog early. Warming up above average ahead of the cold air on its way down from Canada. We saw the male Ladder-backed Woodpecker on the birdbath, which is a very very rare sight. Probably because he is eating all those sunflower seeds. The northerlies arrived around 3 p.m., whence I saw 82F on the cool shady front porch! The sunny south side of the house had to be a few dF warmer, likely 85F. Most of the local WU stations were reading 82-85F. The record for the date at SAT is 85, so our record would typically be a couple dF cooler than that. Which means we are right about or at a record high for the date. Remarkable. Saw several Snouth fly by. Kathy saw a Dogface.

Feb. 3 ~ Low was in upper 30's F, sunny and no wind, great out. I can't believe how fast how green the ground is turning with sprouts in some areas. Various grasses, and other green sprouty things are breaking ground. Go green. Got up to about 75F in the afternoon. Weewow! Had a glimpse of some Zons flushing from under the sprawling laurel out back. Looked like two White-crowns and a White-throated. Weird how some laurels grow sprawling like a bush, and others grow vertical like a tree, totally different growth forms.

The rest was all the same gang. Too busy at the desk. Heard the ack ack ack ack ack fire of a Ringed Kingfisher from over at the river. Heard the Eastern Phoebe singing for the first time this year. So it joins the sputtering chorus of residents that are delving into song as we pass the mid-winter point. Days are nearing 1.5 minutes longer, daily, now.

Feb. 2 ~ Another near-freeze, about 34F for a low. At least the wind laid down. Got up to upper 60's, so about average for the date. A Robin and waxwing flock that went over looked like a hundred of each. Some Robin were dropping to land in the top of the big pecan and getting to within 10' of an adult Sharp-shinned Hawk before they made the ID and changed course. It was really fidgeting as several did this, but knew it was a waste of energy trying to get one out in the open airspace. They would break off the landing maneuver at what seemed like way too late to me. I was surprised they got that close before seeing and-or recognizing it. I know it sits up there trying to look like a White-winged Dove, but eight or ten did this, separately, as the Robin stream went over. It was all the Sharpy could take, changing position a couple times, it wanted to go after one badly.

Kathy saw a big black butterfly today, which was surely a swallowtail of some flavor. Actually Black Swallowtail is more likely, often it can be seen in earlier Feb. when on a warm day the first emergences will pop. But she didn't see it well enough to say whether Black or Pipevine. First swallowtail of the year though. Maybe we will see it again in the next day or two.

February 1 ~ Low about 33F, sunny and nice out. Figures its a work day in the office, weekend was mostly blown-out. Same gang o' birds. Until after noon when I saw a Rufous-crowned Sparrow at the birdbath. Have not seen one here in a couple or few months, so that was nice. Then in the afternoon I caught a look at a White-throated Sparrow when it stopped on a branch after it flushed out from under the laurel out back where I toss seed. Right where I heard it a few days ago. It is a white striped adult. Now if I could just get a pic, but it is ginchy as can be. BTW, ever notice how close ginchy is to gunshy? A good flock of Robin and waxwing went over late afternoon, about 75 of each, heading west towards a roost site.

~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~

This one will be short and easy. We had about 1.3 inches of rain for the month. Which is below average but made a big difference as reflected in how the river has come up to only a foot below going over spillway at park. Food crops are poor and gone, there is an amazing dearth of birds out there overall. Pastures, hedgerows, treelines, patches of woodlets, riverside, are all fairly devoid of birds, as bad as I have ever seen it here in 18 years now. There were 6 species of butterflies this month, and perhaps a dozen individuals total of which half were Snout. The Eufala Skipper was best for Jan. Three Variegated Meadowhawk were the only dragonfly, on one day early in month. Heard Leopard and Barking Frog on a warm day later in month.

Birds were very weak though. We have not seen the Green Jays this year, or since mid-December. Best bird locally was the Hilbig's Western Bluebird. Second best was a flock of 9 Mountain Bluebird I saw briefly on UvCo360. An ad. fem. Rusty Blackbird sometimes in the corral adjacent to us is on her 8th winter here. One Lark Bunting on UvCo354 was good. A female Downy Woodpecker has been around a bit. A male Vermilion Flycatcher is again wintering at the pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cmty. I saw about 68 sps. locally this month, with hardly any looking outside yard or park checks. I know of several more that others saw.

~ ~ ~ end Jan. summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ back to the dairly drivel ~ ~ ~

Jan. 31 ~ It is appearing as though we may yet make it through the first month of the new year. Was in uppermost 30's F for a bit overnight but over 40 at dawn. Clear and sunny but a second front is moving in so wind picking up by 9 a.m., northerly cool air and a high 10F cooler than yesterday. Too windy until late afternoon so worked on stuff here. Birds were the same gang. Robin flock might have been a hundred though. There are some juniper berries, and mostly up in town some Ligustrum and Chinaberry. But the birds are sure not like when there are great food crops of Pecans, Hackberries, Junipers, or seed crops from a good fall bloom.

Jan. 30 ~ A balmy 59F for a low, overcast, nearing fog, some mist at one point in the morning. Southerly Gulf flow being sucked up in front of the next front. Noonish the front cleared it out and it was northerly breezy a few hours. It warmed up in the afternoon, at 4 p.m. the local WU station readings ran 75-79F! Amazing. The birds here looked all the same gang. After lunch we took a short quick spinabout checking the pastures along 360, no bluebirds. Nothing on the airstrip either. Went on top of the 1450 knoll as it has a big flat bareish top, nothing. Had to look around a little. There were very few birds out. The most action is in our yard. Even the river-edge is quiet. No bugs save the winter Mayfly hatches on warm days.

scrubjay

The Texas Scrub-Jay, texana, is our subspecies, of what is now called Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, of which it is not. The far west Texas (and westward) Scrub-Jay are Woodhouse's, these Edwards Plateau birds are their own flavor. Ridgeway I think originally described this subspecies, in other words, before Oberholser, it was that obviously different.


scrubjay

This is in the shade under overcast. One day it should have full species status. But since west Texas has different (Woodhouse's) scrub-jays, Texas Scrub-Jay would not be a good name for it. Edwards Plateau Scrub-Jay would be suitably accurate and unwieldy methinks.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 29 ~ Low was around freezing about 4-5 a.m., but was 38-40F by dawn. Cool and overcast, a slight breeze, chilly. The yard birds were the same. Town run, was real quiet there, maybe the stock show in Uvalde? At the park there was a beautiful drake Ring-necked Duck on the pond. A few Myrtle Warbler and the male Audubon's continue, a Kinglet (Ruby) and a Hermit Thrush. Nice to hear Titmouse and Bewick's Wren singing in town. Rosie was not there today so missed our weekly taco fix. On the way home on 360 just west of Utopia on the River, a flock of 9 MOUNTAIN Bluebird flew right over me low. I jumped out and got fair binoc views (at least a couple were ad. males), as they flew over the pasture along road toward river, gaining altitude and disappearing. Have not seen one locally in a bunch of years. Saw them a few times the first few years here, and maybe once since. Only takes one good bird to make your week.

Jan. 28 ~ We were right on the freeze line this morning. KERV had a couple 29F readings, we might have been 31F briefly. Warmed up to about 60F. Was the same birds, nice to see about 50 Robin in a flock. Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers eating sunflower seeds. Another 36 count on White-winged Dove, couple dozen Cardinal, 50 American Goldfinch is great, 100 Chipping Sparrow. Too busy at the desk with work. Hearing some Chickadee song is great.

Jan. 27 ~ Low about 40F and the wind blew all night. Around midnight last night there were some 30 mph gusts, it was 15-20 mph sustained overnight and much of day. Sure is a crowd of birds out there first thing early after I toss seed and put feeders out and up. Weird that I have not seen that Chipping Sparrow with the white feathers on left wing again. Seems like it is likely one of the ones the accipiters have taken. For standing out. Let that be a lesson to you. Maybe hit 60F in the afternoon, whence wind laid down finally. Which means it will get cold.

Jan. 26 ~ Low was about 35F, about a category lower than progged. Great to hear Cardinal giving a decent burst of song. It warmed up quickly, by noon it was 70F and I was seeing butterflies. A Eufala Skipper has to be my first Jan. record (n~18). A Lyside Sulphur flew over, and a Snout came into water Kathy sprayed. There is nothing out there for them to eat, but for puddling. Then a Lady of some sort dashed off un-ID'd, most (all?) wintering Lady here are American. Painted generally continues through in fall and does not stick for the winter. Birds were the same gang, as expected in January. Another dry front is inbound, winds started late in the evening.

Jan. 25 ~ It was in the 60's until about 6 a.m. when the front started arriving, dropping to almost 50F by dawn. Looked as though there were a showerlet briefly as it went by, the ground was wet. Then clear and sunny, but the wind blew most of the day until late afternoon. At 15-20mph, gusting to 25. It warmed up to the low 70's in the afternoon. KERV was 72, and Hondo had a 77F! We were in between. Pretty amazing for the date. Nice and dry too. Kathy spotted the first Southern Dogface of the year, a mint fresh just-emerged male that the paint had not yet dried on. Just a little heat and pop goes the butterfly. Saw two imm. White-crowned Sparrow here. Had a quick town run late in afternoon and so a look at the park. Saw one Pied-billed Grebe. Better was hearing a (Rio Grande) Leopard Frog, and a Barking Frog. First amphibs, and of those calls this year, and way way early for them. Almost surely my earliest dates ever for both of them. Usually (Blanchard's) Cricket-Frog is the first early amphib on a warm day in Feb., if not our 'spring peeper' the (Strecker's) Chorus Frog. There was a fair bit of Mayfly emergence going on. A couple Myrtle Warbler, an Eastern Phoebe, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet were right on it. A female Ladder-backed Woodpecker was drumming on a dead Cypress knot making an interesting sound. Is it singing back to its mate, or trolling for one?

Jan. 24 ~ Foggy and 60F in the morning. Didn't cool down a bit. Had some drizzle and mist off and on over the day, stayed soppy and in the 60'sF. Plenty of work to do on things inside. That is the great part of trying to have a half-dozen projects going all the time. Chipping Sparrows were over a hundred, and nothing in with them save the Field Sparrows. Of which I finally heard one sing today, Kathy did several days ago. Heard some Cardinal and Carolina Wren song too. Saw Titmouse checking out nest holes. Time to do any annual nest box work or maintenance is now. The non-migratory residents get going very early. All I did was toss seed a few times via seemingly well worn paths, and yet I was still able to acquire my first chigger of the year.

Jan. 23 ~ A gray day in the 50's, foggy in the morning, overcast with occasional mist over the day. Heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet uphill in the live-oaks behind us. Counted 30 House Finch at once in top of the big Pecan, they are building in numbers now too. Great was a Savannah Sparrow on the patio in with the Chippies. It is a rare bird on the patio, have only seen a couple prior. The rest seemed about the same. Another 36 count on White-winged Dove. Sharpy was diving on the seedeaters in the afternoon. Warmed to about 60F and stayed there into the evening. Had too much biz work to do here to lookabout.

sharpshinnedhawk

This is an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk. These bird eaters
take lots of birds all winter, sparrows, Cardinal, and even
dove. Especially the smaller males appear barely bigger than
a Robin. A handy book gives 10 inches for Robin, 11 for Sharpy.
Don't let their size fool you, they make up for it with attitude.
I watched one march on foot into thick brush after a rabbit (!)
once, which had to be over twice its weight.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 22 ~ Was clear late last night at midnight, some clouds this morning but clearing out. Stayed around 50 all night again. Nice not to be cold. It was at least 36 White-winged Dove on the ground this morning. Warmed up to a toasty 77F here in the afternoon, local WU stations were reading 75-78F. And dry. Very nice. The birds were all the same gang here. Checked park in town, nothing new or different there either, except the water has really come up. I'd say a little over a foot below the spillway, it was nearing three feet below. So major headway with some water in the hole. Saw the male Audubon's Warbler at north end of the island.

Jan. 21 ~ Clouds, mist, fog, maybe was some light drizzle overnight, stayed about 50F and soupy all night. Lifted to just overcast for the afternoon, and hit the low 60's F. Still dozens of Pine Siskin and Am. Goldfinch going through pounds of sunflower seed. The White-winged Dove might be 32 now, it was at least 30. There are things about their movements we do not understand. We were down to about 4 or so a month-plus ago at peak absence. They have been building steadily the last couple or few weeks, the current number much higher than what was wintering locally (incl. town) in December. Saw the Downy Woodpecker female from the office desk, over in the Mulberry over the cottage. The Robin was squawkin' and about 45 Waxwing were around a bit. A pair of Eur. Collared-Dove was on the patio, which I would rather not see. In the afternoon warmth as it dried out the pair of Golden-fronted Woodpecker were preening extensively a couple feet apart in the top of the big Pecan. He has been chasing her around a bit lately.

Jan. 20 ~ A chilly wet one, low 40's F, drizzle, light showers, mist. Looks like about .75 or so total since yesterday. There were a couple tenths yesterday, so a half-inch or so overnight and in the morning. Will wait for it to end to get a total. After dark, I would say about .85 or .9, event so far. Saw a, the, Orange-crowned Warbler under a Laurel eating millet. I presume it is the same one that has done that the last four winters here. Nothing out there to eat in the cold drizzly. The rest was the same gang, but wet. It might have warmed up to 50F over the day, and I think is to stay about that overnight, in continued soppy. The cold frontish thing moved over southward in the morning, and has retreated as a warm front this evening. Don't like the weather, hang around a bit. Just as well to have work at the desk.

Jan. 19 ~ Overcast, mist, drizzle, and about 60F at dawn, with a warm moist Gulf flow. It was just over 50 before midnight. A Ringed Kingfisher flew up the river calling early in morning. Before noon the winds had turned to north and cold air was dropping temps back to mid-50's F. A front is said to be inbound, and 24 hours or more of rain chances. We might have had a tenth of an inch over the day, and another tenth after dark. Will just wait for the event to end to get a total. Didn't see anything different today, was the same gang o' seed-eaters. Too busy with work.

Jan. 18 ~ Another one of those backwards nights for temps. At midnight it was clear, stars were great, about 35F, at dawn it was fog and 50F. Keeps the dust down anyway. Sunny afternoon warmed to about 70F! Last of the sun in the forecast for a few days. I go out on the back porch and lizard up the last bit. The birds were the same gang. I was too busy to work on finding that White-throated Sparrow I heard yesterday. I figure if it sticks, I will get a look. A couple accipiter flushing events over the day, when five hundred bird wings explode into action. Kathy heard Field Sparrow sing today, first of that this year. House Finch was giving long bouts of extended song today, great to hear.

Jan. 17 ~ I saw 30F when tossing seed before sunup, KERV got colder, we probably did too. Thought sure I heard a White-throated Sparrow out back twice, saw a Zon fly uphill into cover. Saw an imm. White-crowned too, but this call was absolutely not that, was the harsh hissy strained seeeet note. Otherwise was the same gang. Heard Chickadee song, our Carolina do four notes, see you see me. Great Horned Owls calling more. We worked on things here. Got up to upper 60's F, maybe 68F or so in the afternoon, pretty nice out. Supposed to have some rain this week, and warmer temps.

Jan. 16 ~ Another hard freeze, I saw 25F at 7 a.m., so it likely got a dF or two colder. KERV had a couple 23F readings. It warmed up well in the afternoon though, hitting 67F or so. The 250+ assorted seedeaters were mighty busy the first half of the day. It was the same gang, did not see anything different. Some Black Vulture in pair bond flight is always nice to see though. They can show suprising precision in delicate manuevers. Never saw Bewick's Wren eat so much seed, it is eating the White Millet. Must be nothing else out there to eat. The Black Rock Squirrel was gathering sunflower seeds. The live-oaks are getting yellower, about to drop their leaves in the annual replacement. The Junipers are just starting to put out pollen. I see some green sprouts just breaking ground, which must be what the deer are eating now. That one Tropical Sage has another flower open, a little 2-3" specimen growing out of stone steps at front porch, only open flower around.

greenheron

Green Heron, juvenile. This is the young the pair that nests on the island at Utopia Park produced this past summer (photo on Sept. 9, 2020). They usually do not arrive here until late April, sometimes early May, with young not seen until later August or early September.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 15 ~ Another freeze, but barely, maybe 31F or so, though I did see KERV hit 28F. It is noteworthy methinks that we have only had two mornings so far this year that was above freezing, one of those barely so. That is a cold start to the year. Many winters we do not have a 15 day stretch of almost all freezing mornings. A bit breezy in the a.m. but calmed down nicely and got into the lowest 60's here, though most of the area looked like upper 50's. Nice with no wind, in the sun. Birds were the same here. I saw a poster in town about some Groundhog Day thing. I wonder what they use here, Armadillos?

Stopped at park and saw a new male Audubon's Warbler, which clearly was not the female I saw last week. Two new Audubon's warblers in the last two Fridays there. Nothing else though. In town I saw two flickers, ON a Purple Martin box. Both were females, one Red-shafted, one Yellow-shafted. Both had all appropriate marks to be considered good pure birds. Other than that it was just 3 fajita chicken tacos at Rosie's, the culinary highlight of the week. Kathy pointed out that I wouldn't appreciate them so much if it wasn't for her cooking.    ;)   Tomorrow will be one minute longer than today, the first time we added a full minute in a day this year, about 26 days from the solstice. We will add over a half-hour, nearing 40 minutes I think, to daylight length over the next month. And the birds will be singing in no time.

Jan. 14 ~ Got down to at least 28F an hour before the usual peak, KERV had a 26. It was cold. Looked like an imm. Sharp-shinned Hawk got a Chippy in flight. The way it quickly broke-off, turned, and skulked back to the shadows up the hill hoping the others would not notice what it just did, is what they do when they grab one. There were four Robin together briefly, then later afternoon a group of over a dozen flew over with 25 waxwing. Saw one White-crowned Sparrow still here. Otherwise the rest seemed the same gang. A front blew in before noon, for a few hours it blew hard, 15-20 mph gusting to 30 and 35 mph occasionally. The hot sunny back porch was showing upper 60's F in the afternoon. Got a count of 28 White-winged Dove today in a flush. Amazing how they have increased the last month.

Jan. 13 ~ A frosty 22F for a low this morning. That was before usual peak, and I saw KERV had a 21F. Birdbath was frozen solid, as was jug over it, luckily only half full, so hot water fixed that. The first few pounds of seed sure disappeared quickly. So did the second and third few pounds. There sure are a lot of dependents out there. Twenty four White-winged Dove now, 12-15 Mourning, not seeing or hearing the Ground-Dove for a couple months. Ninety Chipping and 8 Field Sparrow, 40+ each Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch, couple dozen Cardinal, a dozen House Finch, a dozen chickadee and titmice combined. Over 250 seed eaters. Kathy heard a Chickadee singing the high thin whistle 'see you see me'. They have not done so in about 5 months or so.

Jan. 12 ~ A chilly 24F low, might have been colder. I was not about to hang around out there and watch the thermometer. KERV had some 23's and briefly a 22F reading. In that, at first crack of light when I was tossing seed, several Turkey were gobbling less than a hundred yards away right across the road. There is an area just south of the treeline along the draw we follow to the river, that is a big open wildflower meadowish thing, which is where they were calling from. Sure would like a good pic of one in full display. Whaddabird! Was the same gang here otherwise. In the afternoon we broke 50, hit 54F briefly before a cloud shield blew it, a great warmup at this point.

Jan. 11 ~ About 34F for a low, cloudy and overcast. We are nearing 36 hours straight in mid-30's dF. It has been a cold January so far. The female Golden-fronted Woodpecker was picking sunflower seeds up off the patio, which says there is not a lot of food out there. White-winged Dove count hit 22, arrivals are occurring. Counted 11 male Cardinal at once, surely as many females out there. Pine Siskin numbered over 40, likely 45 plus, a high count so far this winter. Chipping Sparrow looked about 90, finally a real flock, Field Sparrow were 8. Got up to a smokin' hot 45F in the afternoon. Cleared after dark, and it is going to get cold.

Jan. 10 ~ It was a cold wet gray one. The temp was 38F first thing, that was the high. Most of the day was about 36F. Off and on drizzle, showers and mist, but only about .4 of precip here. Stayed in where warm and dry. Nearest snow flurries were 40 miles north or so. Got a high count of Chipping Sparrow for the winter so far though, 90 at once. One with some snow white primaries and one white tertial on left side is absolutely new. Seemed 3 dozen Pine Siskin, maybe 40 Am. Goldfinch now. About 15 each of Mourning and White-winged Dove. A couple accipiter flush events. Some waxwings, the one loyal Robin, about 20 Cardinal, a half-dozen each House Finch and Field Sparrow.

Jan. 9 ~ Another chilly one about 25F this morn. Seems like there ought to be Juncos at these temps. Sun lasted a couple hours and it clouded up. At 11 it was a chilly 44F, maybe hit 48 at peak heat. Gonna be an inside day tomorrow. There were lots of Goldfinch (35+) and Siskin (30+), a nice group of waxwing (30+), the one Robin, and the male Myrtle Warbler, half dozen Field Sparrow, the same gang. Worked at the desk where warmer. Had to run to town late afternoon so slow-rolled around a bit. Not much out there though. A couple Eastern Phoebe, a few Eastern Bluebird. Completed my annual wintering Starling count, got all both of them, again. Was some drizzle shortly after 7 p.m., supposed to deteriorate overnight and tomorrow.

How about our two small woodpeckers this week?
Besides the much larger Golden-fronted, these are the two
little woodpeckers here. From behind, Ladder-backed
appears lined, Downy appears spotted.
ladderbackedwoodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker, male. Note back is evenly zebra- barred throughought upperparts and wings. The female crown is black without red. These are the most common woodpecker here and are widespread residents. They are what enlarges the holes of every birdbox they find, often roosting in them in winter. Note the black facial stripe makes a U on its side, doubling back from eye, and returning to bill without connecting to the black nape stripe, and is completely encircled with white.


downywoodpecker

Downy Woodpecker, female. Note big white stripe up back that otherwise appears mostly black. The spots are on the wings. Males have a small red patch at top rear of crown. These are very scarce here, but semi-regular. Only one known breeding record, April 2020. Might see one any month though, generally right along river habitat corridor. Note black facial (eye) stripe a thicker line narrowing rearward, but straight, connecting to nape stripe, breaking the white.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 8 ~ It was a chilly one at about 25F for a low. Sunny with little to no breeze so nice in afternoon whence warmed to lowest 60's F. It was about 30 or more Cedar Waxwing hitting the bath to wash down juniper berries. Town run day, so a check of the park. Was a bit of a mayfly hatch going so some flycatching along the main pond edge. A couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 7 Myrtle Warbler, and new was one female Audubon's Warbler. At least 5 Eastern Phoebe too. The live-oaks in the main park area had a decent flocklet of Titmouse and Chickadee but nothing else. The woods were dead, most exciting was a Green Bottle Fly. It was my first one of the year. I keep forgetting to mention, lots of the live-oaks are turning yellow already. We noticed it first a couple weeks ago on some, but now a good number are going yellow. It is early for so many to be so yellow already, and surely drought related. I also see some male Junipers turning rusty of tips, just about to unleash the pollen Kraken. Shirley at the store showed me some awesome pix of the rest area above Lost Maples covered in 4-5 inches of snow. WEEWOW!

Jan. 7 ~ The wind stopped and it cooled to about 34F for a low. Sunny, and slowly warmed to about 65F for a high. Wonderful afternoon. Was too busy at the desk as usual. There was a good Robin flock, for this year, of nearing 3 dozen birds that came into the birdbath late afternoon. Nearly two dozen waxwing were there too, they were hitting the Junipers just over the north fence, and need water to wash them down. The one male Myrtle Warbler came in to the bath as well. The couple dozen Siskin and three dozen American Goldfinch were here until the afternoon. The Great Horned Owls are seriously duetting now, which is really a sign of the start of their breeding cycle. They start the process in January. I am seeing Black Vulture pairs flying around too. They are getting underway as well.

Jan. 6 ~ Finally the first morning without a freeze this year. It was about 50F at midnight, and was 60F in drizzle-fog-mist at dawn. A front is coming in, so the warm moist air being sucked up from the south and Gulf, hits the escarpment for some orographic magic and it might have squeezed a tenth of an inch out of it over the first 3 hours of light. A dust-buster for a day or two. Was clearing by 11, getting breezy by noon, and a full post-frontal blow by 1 p.m. As it got east near I-35 where more humid it kicked up a good squall line. Heard my first Carolina Wren song this year, giving a few series of 'we-yo we-yo we-yo we-yo'. Kathy said she might have heard some the other day. The one Robin continues up in the big Pecan every morning. All the other Robins came and left, it stayed. I am a sure as can be that it is the one that did this all winter last year too. Such loyalty is hard to find. Saw the female Downy Woodpecker, and saw the sapsucker fly out of the Mulberry by the cottage into the corral. Saw a bigger butterfly zipping about briefly that was either a winter Questionmark or a Red Admiral, but it disappeared quickly.

Jan. 5 ~ Low was 31F, sunny for a couple hours but after 10 a.m. was overcast and chilly. At least 25 Pine Siskin flushed at once. Sun came back out after 1 p.m., whence I heard Titmouse give the trilled lulululu song a few times, which I have not heard in many months, maybe six. Then a White-winged Dove belted a few bars of song, also the first of that in months. Saw a Sleepy Orange butterfly, species number 4, bfly individual number 5 for the year.

Jan. 4 ~ Still waiting for a morning above freezing this year. Was 28F here. In the afternoon more than one local WU station was reporting 78F! FIFTY dF diurnals! Amazing. Saw that ginchy adult sapsucker sneaking around again, but could not get bins on it. The female Downy was out there too. Ladder-backed and Golden-fronted, check. So, fairly certain there will not be a Flicker today. In the afternoon heat I saw my first butterflies of the year. One Snout, one Little Yellow, and a yellow morph Lyside Sulphur which looked like a fresh emergence, whereas the other two were worn leftovers. The heat can get them to pop. Today was the peak heat day of the week. Sure felt great. I totally get lizards, or at least my lizard-brain does. Later a second Snout came by. A couple accipiter flush events in the afternoon whence all the seedeaters explode in full alarm. Over a dozen each of Mourning and White-winged Dove, fifteen waxwing and the single Robin.

Jan. 3 ~ It was a cold one at 24F this morning. Birdbath was frozen solid. Frost was thick on everything. Great Horned Owl was calling at dawn, unfazed, likely thrilled. Kathy got a high count of 60 Chipping Sparrow, so more, but still just half or less of our usual winter flock size. About 9 a.m. besides the always present Ladder-backed Woodpecker, the female Downy was out there, and an adult Sapsucker which went through the yard stopping in a pecan, but too briefly for me to ID it. Yellow-bellied until proven otherwise here, but just sapsucker sps. when you don't see the key characters to ID it to that level. Of course we had Golden-fronted later, but could not buy a Flicker all day. An intergrade would have been fine. It was 15 White-winged Dove this morn, they are increasing now. The male Cardinal sure are getting bright red now.

We went for a slow-roll around noonish. We went onto a private prop. road and ranch and it mostly had no birds like all the other roads locally this winter. One sub-adult Caracara, one Kestrel, a couple Blackbuck, and around some big trucks and heavy equipment, a Canyon Towhee. The one or ones we have had love our big truck out back (a 5 ton Ford with an 18' box, lift gate, Big Red, she's a beauty), but this was more bigger trucks. This was probably ours, we lost it to the place with more bigger trucks. We used to see one at the Bandera County yard around the big trucks at the 187 x 470 intersection. County yards is a place to look for them, around the big trucks. They look like big rocks to them. But not to a Canyon Wren.

Then at Utopia Park there were lots of Black Vulture but little else. The water did come up a few inches from the rain on Dec. 31. Then we rolled out UvCo354 which often has birds along the roadsides. They were mostly devoid there too. The drought-induced lack of fall bloom and loss of subsequent seed crop is apparently critical to wintering sparrows and such here. We found one small group by a big brush pile. There were five Vesper and a Savannah Sparrow, one (a second one!) Canyon Towhee, and one Lark Bunting, all together around one brush pile. A veritible jackpot! Heard a Pyrrhuloxia or two, saw a few Western Meadowlark. The Lark Bunting is the first I have seen this fall or winter locally, they are always scarce here, so always a treat. There was a small pale male sub-ad. fuertesi Red-tailed Hawk at the 187 x 354 junction. A few Eastern Bluebird, a few Eastern Phoebe along the roads, but can't find a Say's Phoebe this winter. The fields are bare of bugs. Lastly we checked the golf course pond by the Waresville Cmty. The wintering male Vermilion Flycatcher continues, and just 3 male Red-winged Blackbird were there. There were 3 male Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies, which must have anti-freeze. These are last years leftovers that show up every late fall (Nov.) to early winter, often mate and ovipositing here, until they expire.

Talked to a local that said on New Years Eve when it snowed it was sticking from about B & R road northward, so starting up-valley a few miles north of town. He said lots of locals went up to the rest area north of Lost Maples a mile or so, up the grade and on top of the plateau (ca. 2100-2200' alt.) where there was FIVE INCHES of snow on the ground! In the afternoon here it warmed up to 70F for a couple hours which felt great. Opened up and got rid of the cold air in the house and cottage. Saw the Black Rock Squirrel, with jowels full of sunflower seeds. Some Anole and a female Eastern Fence (Prairie) Lizard were out soaking sun.

Jan. 2 ~ A bit chilly at 26F for a low, with a frozen birdbath. But the winds finally calmed down, sunny, and warmed up to a wonderful 62F in the afternoon. About 9 a.m. the Rusty Blackbird flew over calling and dropped into the far end of the corral again. Was 30 plus waxwing, and the one each Robin and Myrtle Warbler, but were two White-crowned Sparrow, an ad. and an imm., at least 35 Am. Goldfinch and 25 Pine Siskin, a dozen White-winged Dove is an increase. A Cardinal was giving the first vestiges of song. The tew notes in series but not yet clearly, not full blast, but not quiet singing either. It went on for several minutes. We are gaining 30 seconds of photo-period per day now. Lots of the non-migratory residents will start singing this month.

americanrobin

A few American Robin at the birdbath.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

January 1, 2021 ~ Happy New Year! Cheers for a better one! Merry Vagrants and Happy New Birds! Wishing everyone a healthy happy peaceful year ahead! It started cold here, 31F. The low system had moved north by midnight last night. Now we have the post-frontal blow on the backside, heavy on the cold-air advection. Chills this morning are in the 20's F. Around 11 a.m. it broke 40F, but winds are at 10-15 mph gusting to 20, so it still feels a freeze. After 11 the female Downy Woodpecker was in the yard again, always a treat to see here. I wonder if it is the one that nested last April in the 354 pecan patch? A mile and change from here. Or one of the young? Heard some Sandhill Crane going over southbound later in afternoon. Right at dusk the Striped Skunk was under the Mulberry scavenging sunflower seeds. At 15' away, it could not care less about your presence. I measured the tub water today, it was 44F! Holy cow that is cold. In Oct. I wrapped the entire tub sides in a layer of bubble wrap, and at night cover the surface with it, plus a tarp wrapped around and over the whole thing. The Gambusia are fine, the inch long Barking Frog tadpoles come up to surface to warm when sun hits it. The spindly Ceratophyllum is still doing well despite the cold water. Cattails are brown and bent over, still waiting for Marsh Wren. The Lost Maples Facebook page has pics of the place with an inch or two of snow on everything.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here is a long detailed annual 2020 summary...

Well that was a weird year. There was not the usual out and about birding due to the virus. There were Lost Maples closures, there was a hail carpet-bombing in spring, and the drought got real bad. Summer ran 5-7 dF or more above normal average temps as it has been the last several years. We had some rain in the spring but the tap went dry early in summer. We went from D1 to D3 (extreme) drought in the last half of the year. Many long-time locals say they have never seen it this bad. Much of the river north of town is dry above ground.

Insects in particular seemed depressed from the drought. Which affects lots of bird nesting. Many seemed to only have two broods instead of three, with two young fledging instead of three or four. Everything is connected. There was almost no fall flower bloom, and then a subsequent lack of all that seed crop. Fruit crops were very poor, there was very little of the Pecan, Hackberry, Juniper, or Texas Persimmon crop in most areas, some areas a near wipeout due to the devastating 1" hail carpet-bombing in May.

Butterflies were weak overall but a few good things were seen. I saw 88 species over the year locally, which is typical of drought condition periods. Thirty species were skippers. I saw 20 sps. of skippers just in August. Doesn't that sound exciting? The misses always stand out most to me though. No Viceroy, Mourning Cloak, or Great Purple Hairstreak. Still many years without a Carolina Satyr, Common Wood-Nymph, or Silvery Checkerspot, all absent since the last epic drought we never recovered from before this one started. There was a wave of small stuff in July and August, Skippers, Blues, and Hairstreaks, but it faded and a fall flight from southward did not materialize. The Monarchs also missed us this year, never did I see a hundred in a day. Only a few days had double digits. Only saw a very few Arizona Sister and Red-spotted Purple.

Only saw two White-striped Longtail, and no other of the long-tailed Skippers, again. The better butterflies were... a Clytie Ministreak was likely best, my first documented here (ph.) though had seen a couple here. A Zebra Longwing spent over a week around our place (ph.). Three or four White-patched Skipper (ph.) is my best total for a year, a Coyote Cloudywing (ph.) was the first in several years, most years you will not see one here. Outstanding and second best was my third Purple-washed Skipper photographed here, all three UvCo records, this one at the front porch. There were two Ocola Skipper this year. An Ornythion Swallowtail July 3 is about my 5th sighting here, only have pix of one a long time ago. In Nov. a big black swallowtail with color on the hindwing got away that surely was a Ruby-spotted Swallowtail. That one hurt the most, still stings and will for a while. I'd be dyin' if I did not have a prior local photo of one. A couple Laviana White-Skipper were good, they are less than annual. A few Texas Wasp Moth were seen, no White-tipped Black, one Obscure Sphinx, one Imperial Moth.

Odes were worse than butterflies. The drought really puts the hurt on them. Besides half the habitat being absent from there being no above ground water in much of the river, the remaining fish are concentrated at levels that it is a miracle any dragon or damselfly larvae can get out of the water to successfully emerge. The numbers of the local populations were very depressed, you had to scrape for a Widow Skimmer and Prince Baskettail at Utopia Park. Repeat on all sorts of stuff. Did not see an Amberwing here this year. Best was three male Comet Darner on a pond on the golf course. Two at once at one point. This is about the third year I have recorded it locally. They showed up after a hurricane went north into Louisiana, again, like at least one of the prior occurrences. There were a few Twelve-spotted Skimmer and Band-winged Dragonlet this year, a couple Four-spotted Skimmer went over one day in a migrant herd of dragons southbound in fall. Saw one Great Spreadwing, one River-cruiser sps. (prob. Bronze), a Cyrano Darner at Lost Maples, and a Pin-tailed Pondhawk (ph.) there might be a Bandera Co. first. The small Orange-striped Threadtail population at Utopia Pk. is down in numbers, but still going. Some Flame and Commanche Skimmer at Lost Maples but no Neon. I saw 49 species locally this year, lowest in last 3 years at least for sure, but probably more.

Birds were great, for the reduced level of birding, and seeing so few species. I count 203 species I saw locally this year, which is actually great if you ask me. That is an USRD (upper Sabinal River drainage) total. I saw more down on a couple trips down into the brush country. But only a couple Lost Maples trips. Canyon Wren is probably the only bird added there. Everything else is within 4 miles of Utopia. Here is a recap of the highlights.

Last winter the female Rusty Blackbird that was on maybe its 7th winter here was last seen Feb. 15. It is back again in December 2020. A hybrid Sabsucker that was partly Red-breasted was here Feb. 21. A pure one would draw a huge crowd. In spring best bird was a calling nocturnal migrant Black-bellied Plover Apr. 20. Great was a Common Pauraque March 1-10 around our place. The first known nesting along Sabinal River of Downy Woodpecker was also a great find. It was a good thrush spring as besides Swainson's it is easy not to see any others. A Gray-cheeked Thrush in our birdbath on May 11 was awesome, but better was a nice calling rusty Veery May 9 in a Mulberry just south of town.

In summer a Least Grebe June 27 - Aug. 30 on the golf course pond by the Waresville Cemetery was a first local record so a great bit of excitement. A female Anhinga at the park was my second local record so very good. Begging juvenile Audubon's Oriole were in our yard. It was a good hummingbird fall, perhaps the fires out west pushed more our way. We had at our feeders at least three each minimum Calliope and Broad-tailed Hummingbird, and about 10 different Rufous go through here. Warblers were weak as usual in fall, one female MacGillivrays Sept. 4 was maybe my third fall sighting locally. Great was my latest ever Golden-cheek Aug. 31, an adult male as was my prior latest (Aug. 25). Outstanding was a calling Cordilleran Flycatcher Oct. 14 at the park, also about my third one here locally, but got a pic.
br /> A major highlight of the year was a group of at least four Green Jay seen along the river habitat corridor from 4 mile bridge to Utopia Park, from Oct. 19 to at least mid-Dec. so far. Including in our yard a bunch of times. But never for long. This is only their second incursion up onto the Edwards Plateau, so significant. Also outstanding was a Cactus Wren Nov. 1 at the golf course pond by Wareseville providing my first local documentation. Less than annual so of note was a Western Tanager, and less than annual in fall were 2 separate Lazuli Bunting, both males.

It always seems a slow slog when you are doing it, and especially so this year livin' la vida quarantina. We again drove less than a thousand miles all year, all driving. If I just counted a THREE mile circle centered in Utopia it was 200 species of birds. When you add it all up, there were lots of great birds and some good butterflies and odes too. My BOB total - bird, ode, and butterfly species - for the year was 340. Last year was 331 and two years ago 350. About average for being in a drought regimen lately. Two local site lists (the most important lists) hit milestones, with one of the best birds of the year this year. The Green Jay were number 230 on our yard list (2 acres - 8 years), and number 270 on the Utopia Park (15 acres - 17.5 years) list.

~ ~ ~ end of 2020 annual summary ~ ~ ~

OMG not another summary !!

~ ~ ~ December summary ~ ~ ~

We went out with a bang, a cold wet one, with 1.75+" of rain on the 31st, and some local snowflakes! Lost Maples had snow that stuck! With the prior .25 made for just a hair over 2" of precip for the month, which is great for a drought December. In odes all I saw was Variegated and Autumn Meadowhawk, as usual, and just a very few of each. Butterflies were pretty shot too with the cold wiping them out in Nov. for the most part. A dozen species is at the low end of my (n~18) Dec. totals, second worst ever, but an improvement over last years worst ever December. It was the expected hardy dozen. Did I mention how bad the drought is? D3 per U.S. Drought Monitor. Did see Striped Skunk, Ringtail, and a Gray Fox in a Juniper getting berries.

Birds were good though, you can always count on them. The four Green Jay were in the yard 5 days in a row mid-month. A Rusty Blackbird is likely a returnee back for about its 8th winter. A flock of about 40 Pintail is more than anyone has ever seen here locally at once. One nice obviously wild Mallard is a rare find here. A ad. Harris's Hawk was seen. A Zone-tailed Hawk often at the park is likely a returnee that wintered as an imm. last year. A female Downy Woodpecker was in our yard a few times. A few Golden-crowned Kinglet are around. Only saw one Green Kingfisher one time all month, but Ringed are around. A couple Audubon's Orioles. Finally on the 30th I got a FOS Pine Warbler. It was about 88 species for me locally (which is more than the miles I drove), and I know others saw a few others. Things I missed this fall or arriving for winter so far include Swamp or White-throated Sparrow, any Junco again, Sprague's Pipit, and Say's Phoebe, off the top of my head.

~ ~ ~ end December summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ archive copy update header ~ ~ ~

December! At Utopia Park on the 4th there were Ringed and Green Kingfisher at the pond. A likely returnee Zone-tailed Hawk is wintering in the area, often hunting just south of town, and roosting in the park. My FOS Wilson's Snipe was at UP on Dec. 4, saw it again Dec. 11. My FOS Song Sparrow was Dec. 7 at the 360 crossing. There were four GREEN JAY in our yard again on the 7th through 12th, so they are still in the area, but at best completely unpredictable. Besides at our place, four have been seen at Utopia Park, and then south to the 4-mile bridge area, mostly along the river habitat corridor. I saw one in town fly across Cypress St.! The 13th a FOS Rusty Blackbird was in the corral next door. I suspect it is the individual (an adult female) that has wintered for about 7 or 8 years now. A flock of about 40 Pintail were on Little Creek Dec. 17-20 at least, a record high count here. A drake Mallard was at Bear Creek Pond Dec. 20, a very rare bird here. Dec. 26 an adult Harris's Hawk soared over our place, one had been reported east of town a couple weeks prior. Saw a Turkey Vulture Dec. 28, they are rare here in winter. Finally added a Pine Warbler for the season at the park on the 30th.

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~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~

Dec. 31 ~ A little more rain overnight, the low was about 36F, and a soggy one. In morn was a little over 1.5" of rain since it started last night, which is wonderful, and amazing. There were a few brief bouts of heavy, but for the most part it was a slow-soaker, just what we needed. For the morning we are on the warm side of the system so the nearest snow is about 30-40 miles west in Northern Kinney and So. Edwards Cos., with ice to the northwest in Real Co. Sometimes a cold rain is OK. Noonish I saw radar showing snow just west of Camp Wood, and ice up on top of the plateau above Lost Maples but in Bandera Co., we dropped to 35F. By 3 p.m. we were 33F, and there were snow flurries over much of the western half of BanCo starting just north of town, and all of Real Co.! Per radar, Lost Maples was getting it! KERV was 33 in light snow. Between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. we were 32F and saw some snowflakes fall here. Amazing. Over the whole day we added ca. .25 of precip to the morning total so about 1.80" the event total here.

Birds were voracious on the seed today. I have too much to do to hang out there in the wet cold and look, fortunately. Wouldn't ya know I am stuck at the desk by a heater. We put out more than double rations today and it all disappeared remarkably quickly. At least a half-dozen Field, about 50 Chipping, and one ad. White-crowned Sparrow. Cold brought some Chippies out of the woodwork. Saw the male Golden-fronted Woodpecker grab sunflower seeds off the ground and take them up into a tree to crack and eat. One Robin and a few waxwing were around briefly. Eastern Phoebe must be eating Hackberries.

And that brings the infamous 2020 to a close. Sure didn't see that in any of the predictions! Totally unrelated, not seeing much for predictions this year as usual. It wasn't anything like the pics they showed, or like they told me when I was a kid. Almost feel like I am owed a refund. Does anyone have the phone number for customer service? Actually we were lucky, having prior gone sedentary and remote, so we were already livin' la vida quarantina. I just kept observing, photographing, and note-taking, carrying-on as usual as possible, save no Lost Maples or brush country birding. Hope y'll had as great of a year as could be had, and wishing you a better one ahead! Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy Utopia nature notes.

Dec. 30 ~ Was in the low 60's dF all night, cloudy, humid, a few misty spots. The front hit about noon-thirty. Went from 64 to 54F in about 5 minutes or less. I went to town to do supplies today since tomorrow looks to be a bad weather day. Here on 360 there were two pig kills (the caballeros) covered in Black Vulture, 135 at least. Then at the park in town there were at least 50-60. So I would put the wintering number at 175 minimum, and probably over 200 which is higher than ever. Wonder why the carcass eaters are increasing? On the way to town on 360 there were some Eastern Meadowlark along the road. Also about 50 Brewer's Blackbird by the corrals on west side of river, one Starling, and one female Brown-headed Cowbird with them. At the park there was finally a Pine Warbler, at last. It was in the flock of Titmice and Chickadee in the main park live-oaks. There were also 3 Golden-crowned Kinglet, which is a high count at once for here. Plus one Belted Kingfisher, and one Great Blue Heron. It dropped to about 45F by 3 p.m., with 15-25 mph northerlies on it. First spit of rain about 5 p.m., about 10 p.m. a thunderstormlet moved over with some close lightning strikes, one interupting power long enough to mess clocks up. Worth it as it dumped a quick half-inch of rain we badly need.

Dec. 29 ~ Low was about 63F! Strong southerly (Gulf) flow ahead of the next front tomorrow. Cloudy and humid with a 15-20 mph breeze on it. The high on Thursday is progged for the 30's with a chance of snow! A kinglet seemed to scold me when I freshened the bird bath first thing. The small group of Waxwing came by, and at least one Robin, the one male Myrtle Warbler, a Caracara circled. It was the same gang. Saw a female Ladder-back on the sunflower seed feeder, which they have not been using whatsoever. Could not tell if it took seeds with it when it left.

Dec. 28 ~ It was clear and 42F at midnight, 59F in fog and drizzle at dawn. A flushing of the Siskins gave a count of 22 at once. In the later afternoon a Turkey Vulture was out there a bit. First one I have seen in at least 6 weeks. They have been very very rare here in winter, but last year a few did so, maybe this is a returnee. This is our 18th winter here and the first 15 or so, I don't think I saw a TV in winter but once. Sharpy was diving on the seedeaters. At dusk all I could see was the silhouette but the giant squirrel about two squirrels long was obviously the Ringtail, in the Mulberry right over the cottage. It ran along a branch and to main trunk, head sticking out one side and tail the other. I think it is living in the attic of the cottage, I hear something up there occasionally when working in it. Bet there are no rodents in that attic! Have wondered if I should make a way for it to hunt the rooms?

Dec. 27 ~ Low was about 48F, toasty warm after the last couple mornings. Saw one White-crowned Sparrow, the adult, is still here. It was the same gang here. Three dozen Am. Goldfinch, over a dozen Siskin, about 15 Waxwing for a bit. The male Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler was around. It got up to about 74F in the afternoon, wow. In the heat butterflies were a So. Dogface, an Orange Sulphur, and a few Snout. A couple Robin in the afternoon. An Armadillo drank from the birdbath in the afternoon. Have another short holiday week ahead so we worked on stuff here. At last sun a Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver calling, saw it from the patio.

Dec. 26 ~ Another freeze, about 30F here, but maybe colder, did not look, got back under elect. blanket for the first cup of coffee. Three dozen Am. Goldfinch out there early. Just before noon overhead with some soaring Black Vultures was an adult Harris's Hawk that wasn't up there for a minute. Probably came over to see if the vultures had a kill. A few days ago Little Creek Larry said he has not been seeing the one he had a couple weeks ago just east of town a bit. Could be the same bird, or like other things south of us in the brush-country, could be some are moving up into the hills looking for food. Heard a distant Collared-Dove sing, first of that in months, not that it is a good thing. Also heard Chickadee doing the sneezy garble, which I have not heard in a couple months or more. Photoperiod is now increasing almost 15 seconds a day, and the birds can tell. Might have gained a minute in the last 5 days. At least 25 Waxwing hit the bath for a nice show.

Green Jay

One of the Green Jay at our place in mid-December.
Some are more yellow below than others. Certainly
one of the highlights of the year here.

and a bonus pic, since you probably need some red for that green...
vermilionflycatcher

This is the male Vermilion Flycatcher that seems to be
wintering by the pond on the golf course adjacent to the
Waresville Cemetery.


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Dec. 25 ~ Merry Christmas! Hope everyone had a good one! A Friday off the normal work really seems like a holiday. It was a chilly one here, with 24F for a low. Mostly sunny until later afternoon, warming to 72F! Just missed 50dF diurnals. In the a.m. heard a couple things, one surely was a Red-breasted Nuthatch. The other called its chip note a few times. I thought sure was a Pine Warbler but the light was bad and it flew off before I could see it. Pine Warbler is about the only regular winter bird that I have not seen yet this season. I was suprised to hear a Bewick's Wren give a nice full song. The Am. Goldfinch flock was more like 35 birds today. In the late afternoon the Merlin shot by like a bullet again. Saw a Little Yellow (butterfly) and a couple Snout.

Dec. 24 ~ The wind blew most of the night at 20 mph with gusts to about 40! It froze here, probably about 30F but felt like 20. I'm sure at some point (when I was under electric blanket) the chills were in teens overnight. First thing early a gaggle of goldfinch (Am.) was over two dozen. A couple males have a bit of color. Town run today since closed tomorrow. At the park saw the Zone-tailed Hawk and the Wilson's Snipe, the Pied-billed Grebe and Great Blue Heron, and the five Myrtle Warbler there are all males, as usual. The air out there was cold all day, sources showed 54F for a high but it never felt like it. I heard in town area virus totals of 7 and 9 currently infected, double last week. This does not bode well.

Dec. 23 ~ Heavy gulf flow with a low of 60F in fog-mist. Getting sucked up in front of the next frontal passage. The Black Vultures are using a new trough for some Longhorns that are now up behind us. Seemed like a hundred or more must have come and gone. At the last flush I counted 80 at once, and many had departed over the hour prior. So now we are at the 'the vultures are circling' part.

I ran into Lou Waters yesterday and he said he has (stock) tanks that have never been dry, that are dry, and that he has never seen it this dry in 48 years here! When I mentioned it he said he too had a flock of Pintail on one of his little lakelets recently too! Could be the same ones that are at Little Creek, moving around.

After noon the female Downy Woodpecker was in the yard again. Kathy got to see it this time. About 3 p.m. I saw KERV was 77F with some local WU stations were reporting 78, and one at 81F! The SAT record highs for yesterday and today's dates were 82 and 83F, and they run hotter than us, so we are at or about record heat here today. Later afternoon, the Downy, a male Ladder-backed, and two Golden-fronted Woodpecker were all in the big pecan at the same time. The wind blew like, the wind, at 20 mph gusting to 35 or 40 starting after dark.

Dec. 22 ~ Warmed up overnight again, was in upper 30's F around midnight, and about 44F at dawn. By 8:30 four local Utopia WU stations were showing 50-55F, whilst KERV had 38F! The warm moist gulf air had gotten here, but not there yet. At least 20 Am. Goldfinch and a dozen Siskin out there early, but an accipiter kept things quiet much of morn. Saw the Black Rock Squirrel out on the patio filling up throat and cheek pouches with sunflower seeds. Stayed overcast all day, and breezy, got up to about 66F but felt cooler with the humidity and wind. Had to run to P.O. late in p.m., checked the park quickly. One Pied-billed Grebe on the pond, heard a Flicker and 3 Myrtle Warbler across the river. The Zone-tailed Hawk was coming in to roost in the trees as I was leaving the woods, hanging right overhead at treetop level for a couple minutes giving great looks. Try about 4 p.m. when it comes in to roost in the woods.

Dec. 21 ~ Happy Solstice! It was a chilly morn here at 26F. Birdbath iced over, so a hotwater drip for it. Maybe 2 dozen Chipping Sparrow on the white millet early. Saw one White-crowned and a few Field Sparrow. Seems like 4 Carolina Chickadee and 8 Black-crested Titmouse using the sunflower feeder. Warmed up in the afternoon, must have been 74F or so, nearly 50dF diurnals. Saw Ladder-backed and Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Mourning and White-winged Dove, Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch, a few House Finch, Black Vulture. Cardinal numbers are not very high compared to some years. A couple Mockingbird, couple Eastern Phoebe, one or two Bewick's and a pair of Carolina Wren, a Myrtle Warbler and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Not hearing the Ground-Doves lately. Most days I see Sharp-shinned and or Cooper's Hawk. Barely scraping up 20 species in the yard these days. Lots of days there will be a few Robin or Waxwing, a Red-tailed Hawk, so might hit 25 sps. on the better days. Overall numbers are way down though.

Dec. 20 ~ Low was 27F here, ice on birdbath. A Sharpy, an imm., perched up in the sun watching over everything here in the morning. I was surprised how close the Titmice and Cardinals would get scolding it to make sure all knew of its presence. Less than ten feet away, in the adjacent crown of very dense thick (leafless now) Hackberry that I am sure they knew it could not negotiate through. Heard a White-crowned Sparrow.

We took a couple-and-a-half-hour spinabout noonish. First we went out the west end of 360 and checked the caliche quarry area (private) where I had a glimpse of a bird working the vertical rock face that looked like a Rock Wren. But which disappeared. About three each of Field and Chipping Sparrow were in the area, but driving all the way around the 1500' knoll, there were no birds. We went a few miles west of town to the 1050 pass, which still has a bit of color on the Buckley (Spanish) Oaks, mostly yellow and maroon now, an interesting combo actually. The red is over. Great was at Bear Creek Pond there were a dozen Gadwall with a few Ring-necked Duck and one nice drake Mallard. Mallard are very scarce locally, far less than annual, so grabbed a long-range ID shot of it. A couple Killdeer were there too. I can't believe how low the water is. Saw one Kestrel in an oak but there is a dearth of birds along the roads. We slow-cruised around town and saw nothing except at Judy and Jerry Schaefer's place. One Rufous Hummingbird, and a half dozen Lesser Goldfinch at their feeders, as usual for them. The only ones of either of those I know of around, and they always have them in winter.

Then we slow-rolled out to Little Creek a couple miles east of town. Sure enough just like Larry said, a for here huge flock of Pintail was there. It was probably 40 or so, got a long-distance docu-shot. More than I have seen locally here in total for 18 winters. Amazing. You can get some down at the Uvalde waterholes, but rare up here. There were Gadwall (20), Am. Wigeon (10), and Green-winged Teal (8), plus a few more Ring-necked Duck. So it was a waterfowl bonanza for this area. Some Gadwall and Wigeon were close to the road, but the Pintail and teal were in the bigger pond a quarter mile south of where road (UvCo 355) meets the creek. Had the scope though so no problemo. Thought I heard a Pyrrhuloxia and looked up to glimpse it as it shot by to never be seen again. We checked a corn feeder on Larry's ranch, there were some Cardinal, Field Sparrow, Titmouse, a Carolina Wren, a flyby Caracara, and at creek a few Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly, a few Mexican Tetra and probably Sand Shiner (Notropis sps.) were in the tricklet left.

Lastly we checked the pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cmty. on the way home. One male Vermilion Flycatcher there still, which is undoubtedly the one that wintered last year. The $64k question is, is it the same bird as the one that breeds there? I doubt it. Less than ten Red-winged Blackbird there in the reedbeds. A few Mockingbird along way, at golf course one Loggerhead Shrike, and a Black-tailed Jackrabbit, which Kathy said took off like a jackrabbit. So you know what I am up against and dealing with here.   ;)   Saw two Red-tailed Hawk total. The roadsides are parched and seemingly fairly devoid of much life compared to wet years. It is dead out there. The Pintail and Mallard were new for my local year list though, so quite nice to see. I do not persue birds for it, however it turns out, it is what it is, bycatch of recording data. I do not keep it in a way that I know what it is for the year. But will soon.

Dec. 19 ~ Was in the 50's all night last night, maybe 58F or so at dawn this morning. Showers just before and after dawn, and just before a frontal passage. We got about .2 of precip, anything is great at this point. Keeps the dust down too. Then the afternoon was the post-frontal blowout. Did not see anything different in birds around the yard. Still surprised how few Chippies stuck, smallest group we have had in winter in 18 winters here. Peaked at 40-50 but haven't seen that many in a month now, even on a 20F morning. They moved on since the wild seed crop so poor. Will try to sneak out for a look about tomorrow.

myrtlewarbler

This is a Myrtle Warbler (Yellow-rumped) at the birdbath.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 18 ~ Low was about 35F, no freeze, but overcast and chilly. Counted 30+ American Goldfinch at once on the ground under the Mulberry and on the patio. Was probably 34, and a high count so far this winter. A dozen Siskin in with them. A flock of 60+ Waxwing came into the bath and the junipers over the north fence. The Hermit Thrush and ad. White-crowned Sparrow hit the bath early too. No light and too cold to open window and take pics but a great show. Town run fer shtuff. Park was dead save for one Hutton's Vireo. The water came up an inch or so from that last rain. Little Creek Larry said a flock of a few dozen Pintail is over on Little Creek. Which is more than I have seen here in 17 years, he said he had never seen a flock like this here. One or two is usually all we get at once, and not even close to annually. While I was waiting for tacos at Rosie's the Zone-tailed Hawk soared over, nice of it to oblige. Heard a Ring King over at the river just before dark.

The bad news is after dodging the bullets for months, we have some community transmission of Covid. I heard 3 and 5 for numbers infected currently. We have had none for months and months. The primary case was a pastor-teacher here, so it is presumed many were exposed and it is still too soon to tell what will happen. The county has had a hundred new cases per week the last two weeks. There are only about 25,000 in the whole county, 200-250 in town and vicinity. Yesterday the Uvalde Co. Health Dept. web page showed all cases were down in Uvalde, with none in Sabinal, Concan, Knippa, or Utopia zip codes.

Dec. 17 ~ It was a cold one, 20F for a low here, I saw 22 at KERV and Junction. The cold air really sinks into the bottom of these valleys. They had KERV progged for 29F as a low, so most of a category off, for the nth time. Birdbath was iced, had to put hot water in the jug over it. A few Robin and Waxwing early. But who am I to stand around outside in that? Mid-morn the female Downy Woodpecker was in the big Pecan again. It was last here on Dec. 6, eleven days ago. No Green Jay again today. Kathy saw an ad. White-crowned Sparrow at the bath. I have been seeing both Carolina and Bewick's Wren eating white millet seed. Which is not a regular thing, and likely reflects the overall dearth of food out there now. About 15 each of Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch. Not many Chippies, they must have moved elsewhere. With no fall bloom, the fall seed crop is weak to shot. Got up to about 62F at peak heat.

Dec. 16 ~ Wind stopped and the low was about 27F, bird bath was iced over. Must have been an accipiter out there as it was quiet much of first couple hours. Warmed up t about 60F. Kathy saw the Black Rock Squirrel out, which we hadn't seen in a couple weeks at least. They do not like the cold, they go underground. It seems they can stay underground a couple or few months in winter. Do they just sleep, or go into a type of torpor? Have to hook it up to a motion detector. Did not see or hear any Green Jay today. It was the most days straight we had them, five days in a row, up until today. It had been two or three days consecutive tops, then gone for a week or more, so 5 days straight of detection was nice. Saw 8 Cedar Waxwing and a few Robin. The rest was the same gang. Too busy at the desk. Late late afternoon I heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at the river.

Dec. 15 ~ After midnight it was about 37F or so but before dawn it warmed to 41 and got foggy. Some moisture being sucked up in front of another frontal passage today. Dry again, no rain, just more wind. But warming up well in afternoon. Mid-morn I heard a Hutton's Vireo out back, first one in a month or so. Better, my FOS N. Harrier flew over, finally. The Hilbigs had them in October NW of town in BanCo but I had not seen one yet. Though have not been cruising the roads and pastures as much as usual. At least a couple Green Jay were around a bit getting sunflower seeds, one went to the tub pond and drank a bunch. So Catbird is now the second best bird that came in to the tub pond. A flocklet of Robin numbered 7 birds. Saw both Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawk out there. Kathy saw the Gray Fox over the north fence by the Junipers. The post-frontal blow started in the afternoon and was still bringing cold air at midnight.

Dec. 14 ~ Wind blew until late last night, but finally stopped and got cold, low was about 30F. Shortly after 8 the four Green Jays showed up for sunflower seeds to start their day, and mine. Awesome. At the same time two Ringed Kingfisher were arguing over at the river, I saw one from the porch. Amazing. Over a dozen, about 15 of each Siskin and Am. Goldfinch were on the patio. Later in day a couple times I saw just one Green Jay silently getting sunflower seeds. Got up to about 60F in the afternoon, which, dry with no wind is pretty nice.

Dec. 13 ~ It was clear and about 48F around midnight last night, 58 and foggy at dawn. The warm moist southerly flow is being sucked up in front of a frontal passage today, it will be a blower of a day. Outstanding in the morn was a FOS Rusty Blackbird that flew right over me in yard calling and dropped down somewhere south at the other end of the corral. I suspect it is the adult female that has wintered locally the last 7-8 years, back for another. Kathy saw one Green Jay come into bath and get a drink. I did not hear or see any outside at the time. Mid-morn I finally saw a FOS Merlin shoot by at about 80 mph in level flight. Earlier I heard and then later saw a Golden-crowned Kinglet as it moved across yard from the big live-oaks upslope behind us into the corral junipers. Couple Robin, few waxwing, a Myrtle Warbler and a (Ruby-c) Kinglet. So a decent morning for not going anywhere. By 11 a.m. the northerlies from the front were arriving and it began to clear. The afternoon was a blowout. It was 15-25 mph gusting to 35 a few times. Gusts at Uvalde were at 45 and at Del Rio at 48 mph.

Dec. 12 ~ Cooler after the front, about 39F for a low. Got up to lowest 70's, pretty nice, and dry. Supposed to be another one pass with another small chance of rain overnight tonight into the morn tomorrow. I had stuff to do at the desk so didn't get out. Heard a few waxwings in afternoon. Am. Goldfinches were over a dozen. At least two White-crowned Sparrow continue. I heard Green Jays around 2 p.m. out in back. Then before 4 p.m. they came onto the patio. I was in the cottage with door open so had to hide down the hall so as to not scare them. I saw two come down onto patio and take sunflower seeds. Kathy saw three from the house. So went the great bird moment of the day. Maybe 5 minutes they were around, seeming to fill gular pouch with sunflower seeds. They eat a couple on a branch in the tree, and then grab some for the gular and go. Wouldn't it be neat to follow them all day? If you could? See how far they go, what they do, what they eat, where else they are going. Property and fence lines generally make that far more difficult nowadays. Interesting was a Dun Skipper, perhaps the only skipper I have seen this month.

Warning! There are two pix in the photo break this week.
The second one shows a hawk eating a dove, so do not scroll
down after the cute butterfly if you find that distressing.

chiomara

This is a White-patched Skipper (Chiomara georgina) which is less than annual here. This year I saw 3 or 4 from July to November, this one Nov. 23 was a late date.



This is your chance to bail...

Do not scroll down further if squeamish or easy-queasy type...

Some red meat follows...

last chance, here it comes...

sharpy-dove

This is a Sharp-shinned Hawk with a White-winged Dove. Both clock in at 5 oz. The Sharpy ate an ounce or two, and then could fly off with the rest for tomorrow. It is a second fall or second winter Sharpy, just over a year old in a tweenage plumage. It shows the horizontal red bars coming in on underparts but still has an immature tail. Eye color has changed to adult-like, upperparts were admixed gray and brown, more gray overall.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 11 ~ A balmy 60F low with almost fog, looks like a sprinkle or two fell. Another spit or two over the morning but a tracelet at best. A little sun late in the afternoon whence got up into the lowest 70's F for a couple hours. Town run day and a check of the park, which remains fairly dead. There are no seeds or bugs to hold the birds. It is eerily quiet. The only thing of interest was the Snipe again at the little puddle in the woods. This time knowing about it, I didn't accidently flush it, snuck up and got some shots. One Orange-crowned Warbler was over by Rosie's taco trailer, good thing I stopped there to detect that. After 4 p.m. Kathy spotted two Green Jay at the bath, briefly. But not fast enough to keep me from getting a few more shots. One was much yellower below than most of the ones I have pix of so far. Wonder what that indicates? Older male?

Dec. 10 ~ Somewhere around a freeze, 33F maybe. Too busy on desk duty to see much, and nothing different jumped out at me during my hourly lookabouts in the yard. One Kinglet (Ruby) and one Myrtle Warbler went through. No jays. Saw an American Lady (lep), a few Snout, and a couple Anole basking in the sun. Again warmed to about 75F, and dry, what a treat C of C weather is in December. Supposed to be slightly below average next week, so enjoying this week of wonderful. The days are losing less than a half-minute of daylight per day now, so with the solstice only 11 days away, the photoperiod will not decrease by 6 minutes between now and then.

Dec. 9 ~ Maybe 31F for a low so chilly early. Warmed to upper 70's F in the afternoon! Local WU stations showed 76, 77, and 79F! It was over a 45dF diurnal temp range. Amazing. I talked to someone (a Tepke methinks) that had 4 Green Jays near the 4 mile bridge (some call it 3 mile - I suppose just to show how hard it is to get people together on something, anything, even a distance from town). He saw them a couple weeks ago, and is a couple miles south of our place, but also along the river habitat corridor. Four is my peak simultaneous number here, and a couple miles north in town at the park. It is beginning to look like there is a flock of four moving up and down the river habitat corridor. Ranging over at least four miles that we know so far. Mapping every bird and (deer) corn feeder no doubt. They have not visited our yard more than a couple days in a row, then they are gone a week, or more. They are moving around. If you seen them please let me know! There is plenty of corn feeding going on out there for them. What a treat to have them around without having to drive down to the flatlands. I can't believe I added it to my cumulative (entire life) yard list. It was a desk slog day so didn't see much and the jays did not show today. Several Field Sparrow were out there, sure would love a Tree. Hey a birder can dream. Just don't let that have anything to do with your bird identifications.

Dec. 8 ~ Another barely freeze, 31F for a low. Heard a White-crowned Sparrow out there in the darkish while tossing seed at dawn. Mid-morn the Green Jays were out there a bit hunting sunflower seeds, a couple went to the bath. Like seemingly many jays, for how loud they can be, they can sure be quiet. They were making a guttaral rrrrrr like a Bewick' Wren scold sorta, that was not the clicking series, much softer, quieter. It had something to do with the sunflower seeds (food). Heard a Cooper's Hawk call over the fence toward draw. In the heat of the day, which was a flamin' 75-78F depending where you were locally, there were a few butterflies. One Little Yellow and one Vareigated Fritillary were new. The rest was the same as it ever was.

Dec. 7 ~ A chilly 30F for a low, clear and sunny and supposed to be a toasty week in the 70's F. At quarter-to-ten four silent Green Jay showed up and were eating and filling throats with sunflower seeds. We hadn't seen them in two weeks. Clearly our food and water source is on their map as they wander about the area. Now there is a fourth bird as well. Whaddabird! This makes seven weeks that they have been in the area so far, so it appears as though they are 'sticking'. Though their wandering daily habits make them all but impossible to nail down. So far anyway. Every couple weeks they are around a couple days. But only briefly in the yard, 5 minutes at a time. The only calls they made in five minutes this time were the quiet clicking trill and that just a few times. If you didn't know what that sound was, you may well not think it was a bird. About 4 p.m. they stopped back by to hit the bird bath for a drink.

A quick town run and park check before noon. Under a mile south of town near the hysterical marker, a Zone-tailed Hawk soared low over 187. One Belted Kingfisher, one Myrtle Warbler, and one Ruby-crowned Kinglet was it, save the wintering flock of Black Vulture. No Green Jays there. A lady in town said she had Green Jays just south of 1050 and the park recently, as well as 'Black-headed' (Audubon's) Oriole. Most non-birding folks here learned names from Texas Petersen. This is what almost all the locals know them as, which was a great name. She is along the river habitat corridor. Which is a bird freeway.

At the 360 crossing I heard a FOS Song Sparrow, finally. Sure takes them a long time to get here in fall. Obviously the cold is not an issue for them at the south end of their winter range. We broke 70F in the afternoon, some local WU stations were 71, 72, 73F, etc., awesome! Great to open up and air out.

A few butterflies were about in the heat. A pale morph female Orange Sulphur was new. A worn Dogface Kathy saw yesterday came by again, one Sleepy Orange, a dozen Snout, and three Ladies. Two were American, one was Painted, the latter just stopping briefly for me to ID it on the stepping stones, and then continuing south as if a regular migrant. Saw the Striped Skunk after dark along with four Racoon out there scavenging sunflower seeds. At one point the skunk and a coon were side by side, as if they were the same thing. If I was that skunk I'd have cleared that coon outta there with just a little side squirt. And then said 'whoops, I thought it was a fart'.

Dec, 6 ~ Low was 31F, barely a freeze. Kathy saw the Gray Fox in the Juniper again, and I got a glimpse of it 12' off the ground working up in the tree, presumedly for berries. In morn heard a Scrub-Jay and Audubon's Oriole. A dry frontal boundry went through and by 10 a.m. it was breezy, about 10-15 mph with higher gusts, and stayed that way all day. But clear and sunny, and it warmed up to 65F or so! Saw an imm. Sharpy diving on things a few times, not the dove-taker of yesterday. Best bird was a female Downy Woodpecker in the big pecan again. Been well over a month since I last saw it. Saw a few waxwing, a Robin, some Field Sparrow, and the rest of the usual gang. Wind finally laid down late in day, so prolly a freeze in the morn.

Dec. 5 ~ About 35F for a low, sprinkled a little overnight, a trace. Cold and cloudy all day, may have hit 52F for a high. So worked on stuff inside. The only thing I saw of interest was a bunch of white feathers floating down through the Mulberry. Then I spotted the Sharp-shinned Hawk plucking on the ground in the corral just 15' over the fence. Snuck back in to grab camera and back out and using said trunk for cover, got close enough to get some shots of it eating a White-winged Dove (!). Which is huge prey for a Sharpy. It must be a female. They both weigh 5 ounces! It was a sub-adult, a year old type in second fall or winter plumage. In between immature and adult plumage, great to get some shots of that. The rest was the usual gang. Good thing it only takes one good bird encounter to make your day.

snipe

This is the Wilson's Snipe at Utopia Park. It was called Common Snipe recently but it has changed back to the original name. It was lumped during the lumping craze with the Eurasian species, Common Snipe, so had to take that name. Now they realize the lump was not justified (was bs), so it was recently re-split and the old name then revived.


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Dec. 4 ~ A chilly 27F to start the day. At least the wind finally laid down. Can tell there is a Sharpy or two out there early by the dearth of birds on the seed. Eventually most of the regulars came in. Town run and a park check. Kingfishers showed well around the pond, Ringed, Belted, and Green (male) were all present. First Green I have seen in a month. The Zone-tailed Hawk was circling around too. It briefly landed right at edge of pond in a big Cypress. The best bird was a Wilson's Snipe, which is very hard to get at the park, I have only seen a couple or few. It was at a wet spot up by the island, in habitat any would say is better for Woodcock with trees all around. Alas, it was a snipe. I have seen fewer Snipe at the park than Timberdoodle. Hardly any birds in the woods, they are bare for bugs and such. We hit a toasty 60F in the afternoon, pretty nice. A pairacara flew by at last sun.

Dec. 3 ~ It was 29F just before 7 a.m., so might have dropped another dF. Thin layer of ice on the birdbath. The wind blew much of the night, was calmish early in the moring but picked up again fairly soon and was 10-15mph gusting 20-25 much of the day. A blower of a day. Just as well to be inside working. The temp may have broken 50F but it never felt like it. Birds are the same gang. About 20 each of Am. Goldfinch and Pine Siskin today. Seems cold enough to see a Junco but still looking. The aquatic plants in the tub pond are not liking the chill. I expect most to die off, hopefully some will come back, but collecting more is easy. The river water temp generally does not get much below 60F, save at surface during prolonged freezes. The tub is below that now.

Dec. 2 ~ A toasty 37F low, 20F warmer than yesterday! Another front passed after noon, dry, but more wind. Was 15-20 gusting to 25 mph, pretty blown out. Too much work to do but see the same gang around the yard. Before it was light when I went to spread seed, there was an unseen Turkey gobbling right across the road from the gate, real close. Whaddabird! Was nice to open and warm up, air out with some dry. In plants, the tender-leafed stuff is shot after that hard freeze. Wilted leaves with that purple tinge of death on the Lantana and Frostweed. And of course the tomatoes, though we had grabbed the last few the day before. Saw nothing different in yard, but was at desk all day. It was the same there too. Typing, writing, phone calls, emails, spreadsheets, you know the drill.

Dec. 1 ~ The new month arrived from the North Pole apparently, it was 17F here this morning. I saw KERV showed 20. Cold air sinks into the bottom half of the valley here, so we are in a cold spot. It is warmer up at Vanderpool a few hundred feet higher. Bird bath was frozen rock solid. I hang a gallon jug of warmed water over it to drip on it which seems to work well enough that the birds can get sips quickly, until it thaws. The record low at SAT this date is 28F, so I can't imagine that this was not record cold. Nothing different for birds. About 15 each of Pine Siskin and Am. Goldfinch spent much of the day sucking seed down here. The rest was the same gang of repeat offenders. One imm. Golden-fronted Woodpecker is visiting the sunflower seed feeder, so you know the pecan crop is over and out. Did finally warm up late in afternoon, to 58F or so. I missed the highlight of the day. Kathy saw a Gray Fox up in a Juniper eating berries! They are great climbers. TPWD published a pic about 15 years ago of one once 15' up in the top of a Century Plant (the Agave with the tall spike of yellow flowers) eating pollen and nectar off the flowers.

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We got an inch of rain at the end of the month, finally. The river is more than a couple feet below going over the spillway, closer to three. We are at about D3 for drought level, extreme. It is bad out there. Generally it was mild with only a couple barely freezes, more often it was slightly above average temperatures. The weak pecan crop seemed exhausted by the end of the month at least around our place. Hackberries are few now too. There are no bugs save Cucumber Beetles, the insectivores and frugivores will not stick around long is my guess.

Butterflies were low in overall numbers, but ok for diversity. Due to the mild temps, we got a slightly extended season. It was 42 species, which is in the bottom half of November diversity totals, though thrilling after last years' worst ever Nov. at 20 species. Most was at the last of the Blue Mist Eupatorium bloom at our front porch which kept going all month. Best was a White-patched Skipper which allowed photos. It is the 3rd or 4th I have seen this year, of this LTA - less-than-annual, species. Mimosa Yellow and Ocola Skipper were the next best. The best one got away. I saw a very large black swalowtail with color only on the hindwing, which was surely a Ruby-spotted Swallowtail. The photo record I have here that is the only UvCo record was in November. I watched it fly away across the yard, having just departed the Blue Mistflower and Tropical Sage area. That will sting awhile.

Odes were mostly done for the month early. Just a few strays left flying in November. A few Variegated and Autumn Meadowhawk showed up as expected, some late straggler Red Saddlebags and Green Darner, and that was about it. A couple days there were some Bluets out over the pond at the park, Familiar or Stream, probably the former. The ode of the month was a Great Spreadwing in yard on Nov. 1. Six species for the month, and it won't get any better until March at the earliest, if lucky.

Birds were great for only seeing 79 species for the month. Didn't get out much. Several scarcer things were seen, and of course lots of the winter birds show up in November. The 3 Green Jays which appeared Oct. 19 continued through the month off and on around our place. More were at the park in town, I saw one in town itself fly across Cypress St. The other mega rary was a Cactus Wren on Nov. 1, my first local photo record, it is accidental here. Also on the 1st, a Sage Thrasher on UvCo 361 was good (LTA). A Red-breasted Nuthatch was here Nov. 1-6. A Calliope Hummingbird from Oct. 31 made it to Nov. 2. It was followed by a Broad-tailed Nov. 4-6, and a Rufous Nov. 8-16. Great was a Winter Wren (LTA) at the park Nov. 2. A couple Gambell's White-crowned Sparrow were in our yard. So a handful of LTA species provided a little bit of interesting data spice.

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November! On the 1st, a CACTUS WREN was at the golf course pond by W'vl, providing my first photo record locally. I have only seen a couple poorly in 17 years here. Then on UvCo361 the 1st, a SAGE THRASHER was great, far less than annual here for me. Kathy spotted the FOS Red-breasted Nuthatch at the bath the 1st, which continued to Nov. 6. A CALLIOPE Hummingbird from Oct. 31 continued to Nov. 2. Also Nov. 2 there was a WINTER WREN at the park in town, first in a few years here for me. An imm. Broad-tailed Hummingbird was at our feeders Nov. 4-6. A FOS Golden-crowned Kinglet was at the park Nov. 6, two were there on Nov. 13. American Goldfinch FOS was heard on Nov. 6, seen Nov. 7. At least 4 (and probably 6) GREEN JAY were at Utopia Park Nov. 8, two were across the river from park Nov. 11, and I heard at least one there on Nov. 13. A Zone-tailed Hawk has been at the park lately, and Ringed Kingfisher has been regular, often upriver a bit by island. A pair of Wood Duck were on the river a couple miles south of town Nov. 15, they have been absent locally lately. A couple Verdin were south of town, also the 15th. An imm. or female Rufous or Allen's Hummingbird was at our feeders Nov. 8-16. My FOS Cedar Waxwing were 25 on Nov. 17. Saw a Green Jay in town Nov. 20, and three again in our yard Nov. 21 and 22. A White-patched Skipper Nov. 22-25 was great. The 22nd a Pine Siskin flock numbered 25. Some Red-naped Sapsucker have been around, have seen a few this fall so far. On the 26th I was thankful for a single flock of waxwings of a hundred plus birds, with Robins at 80+, which all seemed to visit the birdbath for a great show.

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Nov. 30 ~ And there went another one, just one to go. It was a chilly start at 36F with 10-15 mph winds on it, so chills in upper 20's F. Feels like winter. In the afternoon the winds laid down and it warmed to near 60F and was quite nice. As soon as the sun went down you could tell it is going to be a cold one. Hard freeze predicted tomorrow morn. Was the same gang here, nothing different to report. Statewide however, it is red hot for rare birds. There are all sorts of spectacular bird reports around the state. A Clark's Nutcracker out in Alpine, TX, and a flocklet of Common Redpoll at Smith Pt. on the east side of Galveston Bay. There are Pacific-slope Flycatchers at San Antonio, and I think Karnes City. The Rio Grande Valley way down south has Elegant Trogon and Rose-throated Becards, and Del Rio a Rufous-capped Warbler. It is pretty hoppin' out there for rare birds if you are in the right place, a vagrant magnet. I wish we were.

Nov. 29 ~ A sunny chilly 36F here at dawn. Amazing to see the ground wet, that inch of rain yesterday was awesome. After a quiet couple hours, around 10 a.m. the northerlies began arriving, let the blowout commence. I bet there are some new birds out there behind this frontal passage though. In the afternoon it really got going at 20 mph with gusts at 25-30. A good day to hunker down. The Cardinals number a couple dozen now. At least a couple Field Sparrow still here, Chipping Sparrow are about 30 today, a couple White-crowned and a Lincoln's sneaking are around the edges of cover. Half-dozen House Finch, 3 Am. Goldfinch, 8 Pine Siskin, some Robin and Waxwing, but not a lot. Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

Nov. 28 ~ Temps dropped from about 56F at midnight to 52 or so at sunup, with rain beginning prior to dawn. It was a cold slow soaker all day. About 11 a.m. I had my FOS Brewer's Blackbirds, a dozen were over the yard. They were late to get here this fall. By 4 p.m. we had an inch of the precious holy wet stuff. I checked the park noonish in the light showers, saw Ringed and Belted Kingfisher but that was it. As usual in drought times, it will be a winter of fewer passerines. Little Creek Larry said the (park) pond came up over an inch though. We needed this worse than badly. Stayed in the low 50's all day, it was a cold wet one. Should clear and get cold before tomorrow morning, with a strong northerly post-frontal blow. So a washout followed by a blowout for the weekend.

rednapedsapsucker

This is a first fall Red-naped Sapsucker. Of the Yellow-bellied and Red-naped, adults have a big black chest crescent not present here yet, and clean unmuddied underparts. So it is a young bird of the year. Young Yellow-bellied do not get adult type black and white head until the first spring, staying muddy brown washed of head through the first fall and winter until spring. So far it has been an above average year for Red-naped here, I have seen a few, and do not get one every fall or winter.


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Nov. 27 ~ Was in the low 50's around midnight, about 60F at daybreak. With some mist and drizzle, which is supposed to become actual rain tonight. Saw the Texan Crescent (butterfly) on the Blue Mist again today, and the tiny Sleepy Orange as well. First bird I heard whilst tossing seed as it gets light was a White-crowned Sparrow. Saw a Lincoln's Sparrow out back, so one still here. Town run day and a look at the park. One Red-shouldered Hawk out front of park. Ringed and Belted Kingfisher were at the pond. Heard one and saw another (at same time) sapsucker, presumedly Yellow-bellied, but the one I saw was too far across river to tell. Heard Blue Jay. At least 5 Mestra (butterfly) in the woods. One Red-tailed Hawk. The rest was the regulars. Back here at the hovelita in the afternoon there were about 3 dozen Robin that came in for a drink, a few Waxwing with them. Another Red-shouldered Hawk was calling toward river here. Saw three Am. Goldfinch. The skunk (Striped) was scavenging sunflower seeds at dusk, so neat to see.

Nov. 26 ~ Happy big bird day Turkeys! Hope all had a stuffed day! A chilly start here at 37F. A small flock of Robin (20+) and Waxwing (20+) were around a bit in the Hackberry and Juniper for berries before 9 a.m., which grew over the morning to the most of each I have seen together all at once so far this fall. They all seemed to hit the birdbath to wash down (juniper or hack-) berries. Had to refill the bath, which is a manual, not an automatic. After 10 it was over 100 waxwing in the single flock that flushed and returned to the big pecan. Robins were 80+. At least a few White-crowned Sparrow still around, they seem to be sticking, which is nice. Saw the Scrub-Jay move through yard silently. Misted a bit before noon. Didn't get sunny until later afternoon, but then finally did get to about 72F or so. Did not see the White-patched Skipper today, maybe 37F was too cold for its sub-tropical blood. Did have a Texan Crescent and an Elada Checkerspot though. Both are new for the month. We took an hour walk over to river and checked the wet spot with some flowers at peak heat but they were mostly toast. One Little Yellow and a Mestra was it. Saw maybe a dozen Cardinal, and over at river an Eastern Phoebe, four Titmouse (B-c), Carolina Chickadee, Field Sparrow, one probable Lincoln's Sparrow got away.

Nov. 25 ~ About 54F for a low, light northeast flow, dry and sunny, wonderful. Heard Audubon's Oriole and Ringed Kingfisher out there early. Maybe 20 Robin mid-morn, a few Waxwing, a few Siskin, two American Goldfinch, a couple White-crowned Sparrow, a Myrtle Warbler and a Kinglet (Ruby). In the afternoon saw the White-patched Skipper, now at day 4 here. Other butterflies were an Orange Sulphur, a few So. Dogface, a Queen, a Sleepy Orange, and a few dozen Snout, single Gulf and a Variegated Frits. Still Cucumber Beetle flying. Too work busy.

Nov. 24 ~ It was about 64F at dawn, but was lower at midnight. Lots of low stratus with strong southerlies 10-20 mph. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at river early in morning. Heard a Flicker out there too, nice to hear, a sound of winter here. The deer are eating sunflower seeds off the patio and where we toss them. I saw one nose the feeder. We have never had this before. There are a thousand acres of browse in any direction. There was a great spring and summer flower bloom, so it looks like there is a good browse crop despite the fall failure. Saw the White-patched Skipper on the Blue Mist Eup again today, day 3. It got up to 80F in the afternoon here. Saw a few Robin and Waxwing in morn, one Hermit Thrush over in Junipers. Kathy saw an adult White-crowned Sparrow at the bath. After dark saw a Firefly larvae glowing in the grass, and the (Striped) skunk.

Nov. 23 ~ A bit of a front passed overnight, dry northerlies briefly. Low was about 52F or so, but winds had turned back to south quickly and low stratus is here. There were a couple dozen Robin and nearly as many Cedar Waxwing feeding in the Junipers just over the north fence. The Hermit Thrush that is hanging out in them is probably not thrilled to see the berry raiders. Kathy spotted a flicker at the bath, but it flew before I got there with camera. It had a gray face and a red moustache but Kathy said wings were orangish when it flew, so it was likely an intergrade. Which are regular here. Sure would love a flicker pic at the bath. Then Kathy spotted an Orange-crowned Warbler at the bath. It went in for the full monty spa treatment, allowing my best-ever shots of the orange crown as it bathed (below). In the afternoon it was about 70F when I saw the White-patched Skipper again. It was only there briefly, but I got a shot or two in focus to make up for yesterday. Not super sharp, but good enough for ID and illustration. Only had some low-res Mavica shots of them prior. Late in the afternoon saw an ad. male Sharp-shinned Hawk get a small bird but I couldn't tell what for sure, it seemed a Titmouse maybe.

Nov. 22 ~ Was a repeat of the 52F or so, clear and cool at midnight, and 60F, and misting at dawn. A flock of Pine Siskin here in the a.m. was 25 birds, the most I have seen so far this fall. Seems a bit slow out there. In the afternoon there was a White-patched Skipper on the few Blue Mist flowers left. Have I mentioned lately how the Canon autofocus on the SX40 blows. Maybe the 3rd or 4th of this LTA - less-than-annual, species this year. There was a Kestrel and an imm. Sharp-shinned Hawk in a full blown fight right over the house in the afternoon. Kestrel was screaming, they went after each other several times as they circled. The Green Jays came in for a drink in the afternoon, I had heard them over in draw earlier. Got a couple better shots at the bath. We did an hour walk to crossing and back. Figured might be some sun for pix in the afternoon. About 3:30 as we were leaving it showered, the advertised sunny afternoon did not materialize. There was one area with some birds, where there were some Hackberry with berries. A couple dozen Cardinal, a handful of Robin, couple Kinglet (Ruby), couple Myrtle Warbler, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, some Titmouse (Black-crested), and a sapsucker. Which looked like the same first-fall Red-naped I had in the yard and photo'd in corral ten days ago.

Nov. 21 ~ Low was just after midnight, about 50F, I saw KERV was 48F! By 7 a.m. it was 62 or more. The gulf flow is back with its low stratus, e.g., humidity. Pretty slow over the morning until around 10 when 3 Green Jay showed up. I got a couple pics that show a very distended gular pouch, so they are cacheing sunflower seeds. Whaddabird! After a half hour of them in and out of yard, it fairly promptly went back to mundane. So it went: dead, dead, nothing, dead, followed by a brief flurry of WOW, OMG, Cheeses!, Holy smokes!, and epic, and then I was returned to the regular programming. This is birding in a nutshell. After all day of nothing, about 4 p.m. Kathy saw them at the bath, they flew north toward the draw after drinks. I got one shot of the last one at the bath. Sure seems weird to watch three Green Jay fly out of the pecan over to the junipers on their way to the draw. I still cannot get over we are seeing them in our yard! For me, this is the stuff dreams are made of. Heard a couple Pyrrhuloxia over in the corral late in afternoon.

For the photo break this week you get what is often considered one of the most dull and unimpressive of warblers, that hides a secret. Seeing the common bird in an uncommon way is every bit as rewarding as any super-mega rarity.
orangecrownedwarbler

The Orange-crowned Warbler was named after the part you are least likely to see. Normally the orange feathers are concealed under an outer layer of olive crown feathers. Your best chance to see it is when they bathe. This is the full monty of orange, and crown. The BurgerKing style crown effect is a fluke of bathing. The wet head feathers when seperated to wash, buff and polish the orange fuzz ball of a pileum, turned into an actual crownish type affair. This photo shows maximum orange, and crown. You can see hundreds over years and not see this much orange, or crown. This is apparently the king of Orange-crowned Warblers.


and because one is not enough...
orangecrownedwarbler


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Nov. 20 ~ Low was about 60F, some low stratus, breezy southerlies. Saw the skunk go into a burrow under the old unused well at dawn. After 10 a.m. I heard both Green Jay and Audubon's Oriole upslope behind us in the live-oaks and juniper. They went silent after a Sharpy dove and missed on the sunflower feeder. Town run, so a park check. Four Myrtle Warbler, a couple Kinglet (Ruby) and one Hutton's Vireo was it for the park. In town on Cypress St. a Green Jay flew across the street in front of me, just north of Jackson. So they are in town! Weewow! Little Creek Larry said out on 355 (Lee St.) he has had a Harris's Hawk, and a couple Pyrrhuloxia.

Nov. 19 ~ It was mid-50's at midnight, and almost 60 at dawn with some low stratus. Last step outside at midnight last night the Striped Skunk was scavenging sunflower seeds under the Mulberry by the cottage. I love seeing them. What a beautiful animal. I heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at the river first thing early. Looked like 4 White-crowned Sparrow out back. A couple Robin, a half-dozen Pine Siskin, a Myrtle Warbler, the regulars. In the afternoon a Hermit Thrush was eating the Lantana berries at the front porch. First of that I have seen. Seems a bit quiet out there. Maybe some accipters around again.

Nov. 18 ~ Wow it froze! Low was 30F here! NOAA progged KERV for 40, off by a category again! I told Kathy last night at 9 p.m. it was going to get way colder than they said. Bummer was finding a dead imm. White-crowned Sparrow out back by the fenceline. Especially since it was an orange-billed, gray-lored, Gambell's (western) type. Thought I saw an orange bill on one of the immatures the other day but it flew off quickly. This is not the way I wanted to photograph it. Then in the afternoon Kathy saw an orange-billed gray-lored adult White-crowned Sparrow at the bath. So there were probably two Gambell's here at once. On the orange-billed birds, the bill is much deeper at the base, so more of an equilateral triangle. The usual and more common here pink-billed black-lored eastern type (leucophrys) has a much longer thinner-based bill. The Gambell's seems fairly regular here (most years I see a few) in low numbers. More as you go south and westward into the brush country. Scarce in the hills.

Nov. 17 ~ Low of 38F, dry, clear and crisp, great. Kathy spotted a Striped Skunk out back right before I went to toss seed before 7 a.m. Sure would like a good pic of one. What a beautiful animal. At least a dozen Pine Siskin on the sunflower seed. Heard one of the White-crowned Sparrow giving a couple intro notes of song. Four ought to be enough for a chorus. Mid-morn a flock of 25 Cedar Waxwing were my FOS, though thought I might have heard a single a couple times in last week. A dozen Robin were with them. Not much for Hackberries here for them. Some Junipers have decent berry crops, but many around us do not, presumedly from that hail storm in May that wiped out the Pecan and Hackberry crops locally. In the afternoon an American Pipit flew low over the house calling, looking like it was going to go down on the grass airstrip maybe. Saw 3 imm. White-crowned Sparrow at once, so with the two adults, there are 5 here. It's a flocklet! We did not see any hummingbird today. Heard a Kinglet (Ruby). Kathy killed a record-late I think Scorpion tonight.

Nov. 16 ~ I saw 34F at 7 a.m., KERV hit 31 at 7:30 so it may have been colder than what I saw here. Sunny and clear, without the stiff breeze and so pretty nice. Got up to about 74F. White-crowned Sparrows still out there. The Pine Siskin flock was 11 birds in the afternoon. A few Robin around. Heard a Verdin about 3 p.m., saw two American Goldfinch. Mostly too busy at the desk. Saw a Reakirt's Blue and a Mimosa Yellow on the Blue Mist Eupatorium. Still a couple Lesser Goldfinch around, several House Finch are about as well. Saw an Anole take a Cucumber Beetle.

Nov. 15 ~ Front hit after midnight sometime. Low was about 55F, with 10-15 mph northerlies, gusting 20-30. Shoulda run out yesterday, too much work. It is rough birding when all the trees are shaking. I know I have said it before but the two things we tend to use and key in most on for avian detection are sound and motion. Lots of wind kills both. Toss in falling leaves in fall to add to the confusion, and the birds themselves hunkering down in it, and detection can become a challenge. You have to reset your filter for avian motion only, and work the lees.

We had 4 White-crowned Sparrow at once at the bath, 2 ad. and 2 imm., so it seems they are kinda sorta sticking. It is the stick piles we have around the yard since no understory for most of it. Just enough cover. Did not detect the Ruf-All Hummer again today. We walked over to and around the river from here and at least moved for a mile. There is a low spot that always has water in an overflow channel we checked. There was a patch of still-blooming Aster and Bluehearts there that had butterflies. At least 5 Mestra, an Orange Skipperling, a False Duskywing, several each Vesta and Phaon Crescent, Sleepy Orange and Little Yellow, Lyside Sulphur, Vareigated Frit, one Ceraunus Blue, numbers of Snout, a Queen. A nice little patch of action.

Then over on the river a pair of Wood Duck flushed before I saw them durnit. Watched them fly away upriver, where they went down around the corner. They have been absent, as usual when we are in drought. These surely are migrants from northward and not local birds. A great FOS date for them. In wet times when we have some locally, you can't easily tell when the wintering birds from northward arrive. We also had a sapsucker that was an immature Red-naped. It may have been the one that was in the corral Friday. A Golden-fronted Woodpecker kept displacing it, not too happy about its presence.

Late afternoon I heard Verdin out front, which I have not been seeing lately. Grabbed binocs, it was TWO Verdin! Twice as many as I have ever seen together here. One was flitting its wings at the other, as they called lots, while on either side of an old Lesser Goldfinch nest. I'd love if they made a roost nest here. A couple Caracara flew by. Just before last sun a Gray Fox worked across the yard, haven't seen one in a while. Now that it is cooler in the day, they can be active before dark.

Nov. 14 ~ Low was 68F with some fog-mist early. Did not cool off last night. Was busy with biz work in the office so no out and about. Saw those 6 big bearded Toms (Turkey) over in the corral. They walk around like it is not November. Kathy saw the Lincoln's Sparrow at the bath. I heard Kinglet (Ruby) and Myrtle Warbler. Butterflies were good in the 80F afternoon heat. First of month was an Orange Skipperling on the Blue Mist Eupatorium which still has a few flowers, and Anoles hunting them. Also saw a Fiery Skipper, a Sachem, a Mestra, great was a late Soldier, even if the smallest one I have ever seen. Saw Gulf, and Variegated Frits, Large Orange and Lyside Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, So. Dogface, Snout, and a big Swallowtail that got away which looked like a Ruby-spotted. That one sorta stings. The mccallii screech-owls were calling after dark. I did not see or hear the Ruf-All Hummer today.

this week you get a couple moths ...

ObscureSphinx

This is an Obscure Sphinx (Erinnyis obscura) moth.
The orange-red is the hindwing, only a bit of the base shows.
In normal perched posture the wings are closed over them,
imagine trying to spot that on a tree trunk.


TexasWaspMoth

This is a Texas Wasp Moth (Horama panthalon texana), a moth that
mimics a wasp. Most would be hesitant to grab this harmless moth.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 13 ~ Happy Friday the 13th! In 2020, what could go wrong? Low about 54F, some clear in skies at first, but only for an hour or so, whence clouded up. Saw the hummer this morning, but not well enough to tell anything new about its identity. Saw a couple Jays fly from the big live-oaks behind us towards the draw. Was bad light but they looked like Green Jays, and seems like if they were Scrub-Jay one would have called when they flew. Edit update: flight was level and entirely powered, not undulating with close-winged glides, so they were Green Jays. Then had a sapsucker which flew over the house and into the Mulberry, then into corral. Where I found it mining sap wells in a Hackberry. It is another (!) first-fall (hatch-year) Red-naped Sapsucker. It is not the one I had earlier which was more advanced of pluamge. It is likely that other sap I have seen zip around a few times but not gotten a look at yet.

Town run so a park check. There was a great chorus of Red-winged Blackbird out front of the park on Cypress St. in the big XXL Mulberry tree. At park in the woods there were a couple Golden-crowned Kinglet, a Ringed Kingfisher upriver of the island, a Zone-tailed Hawk circled over the woods when I was in them, and a sapsucker got away that looked like another (!) first-fall Red-naped. An Audubon's Oriole called from the willows across the river just above spillway. I heard a Green Jay up on the island right when I got out of the car, then as I was leaving I heard a Green Jay across the river. Also heard Blue Jay as usual. Nice list of birds for a quick stop. There were at least 4 Myrtle Warbler in the trees around Rosie's taco trailer, recorded as part of my ongoing research at that site.

Nov. 12 ~ Low was about 57F, low clouds, some mist. Heard the hummer again, only. Saw 15 or so Robin, heard an Am. Goldfinch, I presume the one here several days now. Heard Siskin squeak over. Still raining leaves. A couple White-crowned Sparrow are an ad. and an immature. Saw the Texas Powdered-Skipper again, a couple Monarch went through, one Orange Sulphur, a couple Sleepy Orange, a couple Queen, probably the same Vesta Crescent and Comm. Checkered-Skipper as the last couple days. Not much left flying out there now. It got up to about 80F, but nice since dry, in the afternoon. One accipiter-induced flushing of the Chipping Sparrow flock seemed like 50 birds now. At least a half-dozen Field here, one Lincoln's and no Lark Sparrow. Time for a White-throated and a Swamp.

Nov. 11 ~ Low was about 48f! I saw KERV was in upper 40's from midnight to 7:30 a.m. Refreshing. Heard the hummer fly off early but did not see it, again. Had to run to town early, which is great, it means a couple of Rosie's egg, chorizo and cheese breakfast tacos to bring home, and a quick look at the park. Saw a Belted and heard a Ringed Kingfisher upriver. Couple Myrtle Warbler. Nearing leaving time I heard two Green Jay across the river in the Cypresses. I saw branches moving but could not spot them. Anyway at least two are still there, and great to get another date for them. Heard Blue Jays in the woods. A couple dozen Robin scattered along the way. Was too busy here to look much all day. Had a Monarch at the park, and one here. Kathy saw a White-crowned Sparrow come into bath, so at least one of them still here. Heard a Kinglet (Ruby), at least one Myrtle Warbler here too. At times it was raining leaves pretty seriously. The Hackberry and Pecan trees in particular are shedding heavy now.

Nov. 10 ~ Was clear and dry at midnight, low clouds and mist at dawn. Low about 64F. Front due in by noon whence northerlies. Heard a hummer fly away again, still have not seen it. As the front was approaching, about 11 a.m. I saw NOAA readings for Del Rio were 22 percent humidity behind the front, whilst in Uvalde it was 100 percent in fog. We cleared about noon. Finally about 3:p I saw the hummer just enough to say it is a Rufous or Allen's type of Selasphorus. Nice Selasphorus wave here lately after the last Ruby-throated left. First a Calliope Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, then a Broad-tailed Nov. 4-6, and now a Ruf-All Nov. 8-10 so far.

In the afternoon there were 6 Turkey in the corral. A Texas Powdered-Skipper was on the few Blue Mist flowers left. Saw a Vesta Crescent, a Checkered-Skipper (Common), Sleepy Orange, Variegated Fritillary, a Monarch, a Mestra, it is fading fast folks. Watched the 3 hummer feeders at last sun and saw nothing. Two imm. Sharp-shinned Hawk were in yard. One Cooper's soared over high, likely a migrant. Late 7 Sandhill Crane flew over silently southbound.

Nov. 9 ~ Low of 66F is a bit balmy for November. A few specks of mist in the low stratus, and a bit breezy. The front yard pecans are yellow now, they were green last Monday. In one week. Of course lots of wild (natural) ones are already fairly leafless. The Hackberry are really dropping leaves now, and what leaves are still on the Mulberry are at peak yellow. Some of the Cypress along the river are in full flaming rust, but not dropping needles (leaflets) yet, so look great. It looks like winter is coming with all the bare trees. We remain on the mild side for temps though, still in mid-to-upper 70's to 80F or so lately, and for this week again per forecast. Benign is fine. Heard a hummingbird and did not see it, again. A Kestrel was across road over in river habitat corridor. Otherwise it was the same gang. Contra the forecast, it stayed cloudy all day, just a few peeks of sun late in day.

Nov. 8 ~ Again was clear and 55F at midnight, and nearly foggy and 62F at dawn. The gulf flow. It actually misted a few times early. Second day without a hummer or nuthatch sighting here. The Broad-tail did 3 days, just like the Calliope a couple days before it. Enough time to pack some pounds, er, nanograms, on for the next flight leg. Which BTW, why do they call flight segments, legs? Kathy has some hay fever or something bothering an eye, so I went to park myself, dirty thankless job and all that.

Got about the best new park bird I could ask for. GREEN JAYS! With poor docushots, but a GJ pic in the park. First I heard some across the river near top of the island. I took a long distance shot of one in a pecan across river, whence it promptly took off, flew over river straight at me and landed in a Cypress right over my head. At least two more quickly followed into the northmost end of the natural area in the woods. All kinds of calling, the full monty of vocalizations as they foraged in the trees kibbutzing. I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing. Standing in a spot I stood a couple thousand times, without any Green Jays except in my dreams. And there they were calling seemingly every call type including the hawk imitation call. As they moved away I counted four birds. They went north into the (private prop.) big live-oak motte adjacent north of park. I went south through woods to main park area, where there were two more Green Jay in the live-oaks there in main park area. But only two. So it seems like there were six total. I don't see how they would have split up, and two got that far that fast, without me hearing them on the way. While I was trying to get a docushot of those two, an adult Zone-tailed Hawk flew over. Can't help but wonder if it is the immature that wintered often roosting in the park last year. When I first got to the park, I watched an 5.5 foot Indigo Snake swim across the river from the island to the other side. It was amazing how fast it was in the water.

The golf course pond by the Waresville Cmty. had nothing but 20 Red-winged Blackbird and a couple Dainty Sulphur. A distant flock of Meadowlark was on the driving range area. Heard a couple Audubon's Oriole at the 360 xing. At last light I heard a hummingbird fly off a feeder here, but did not see it. Is the Broad-tailed still here or is there something else? Stay tuned, don't touch that dial!

Nov. 7 ~ Low was about 52F for a few hours after midnight, but was near 60 by sunup, the Gulf flow return of low stratus. I did not see any hummer early, nor did we detect the Nuthatch today. There was a FOS American Goldfinch at the sunflower tube, so I am beyond sure that is indeed what I heard across the road yesterday. Some Robin around for a bit, the two Scrub-Jay showed, a couple Kinglet (Ruby). Best bird though Kathy saw at the bath, a Nashville Warbler. A great late date, only a very few early Nov. sightings. Had work biz to do so didn't get out. Otherwise was just the repeat offenders in the yard. Will make sure to sneak out tomorrow.

Green Jay

This is a Green Jay at Utopia Park Nov. 8, in bad light.
Surprisingly easy to overlook, especially when silent.
It is species #270 for the park list, in 15 acres. There
were at least four, probably six that day. Two were heard
across the river from park on Nov. 11. The yellow is
the underside of the tail.


a bonus pic...
Green Jay

This one was at our birdbath Oct. 21. Green Jay is a bird worth seeing.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 6 ~ Low about 55F, some low stratus from the Gulf. Saw the hummer early, and it finally called, but not until after I could see it is absolutely a Broad-tailed, now on day 3. A kinglet (Ruby) was on the edge of birdbath a few times briefly. It looked three White-crowned Sparrow out back, so, still, for about 4 days now, as with the half-dozen Pine Siskin. Kathy heard the Nuthatch. Afternoon one (2nd winter) Audubon's Oriole came in for a quick drink. Town run so a stop at the park. Only new item was a FOS Golden-crowned Kinglet, always great to hear. Barred Owl was there and called a bit for ambiance. Little Creek Larry said he had some Gadwall there last weekend one morning. He also said he has never seen a Cactus Wren locally here, to put that rarity in perspective, and he has been here forever. Thought sure I heard an American Goldfinch across the road in the draw a few times. Thought I might have heard one yesterday too but blew it off since distant.

Nov. 5 ~ It was about 51F at midnight last night, and was 62F at sunup this morning. The south Gulf flow and low stratus is back. Saw the hummer early, before good light, but it is a Broad-tailed. Big as an Anna's, bright green, peach wash on sides, big tail extends past wings. Had another brief look in afternoon, still looks Broad-tailed in better light, and still has not called. About 6 Pine Siskin came in to sunflower seed feeder spillage. A Robin was in the pecan squawking, the Red-breasted Nuthatch was around a couple times at least. Still White-crowned and Lincoln's Sparrows to go with the Chipping and Field. The slow fall defoliation continues. Got up to 80F at some WU local stations, was 76 in shade on front porch. Monarch was on the Blue Mist, plus a couple Queen. Caught the Lincoln's Sparrow inside the cottage and let it out. How does one come about to repeatedly flying into a (an admittedly rustic) building with a door open? Distance from bird: in hand. Which I wish to report was distincly better than two poor looks in the bush.

Nov. 4 ~ Low was 38F, still nice and dry and sunny, but we need rain. Kathy saw the Nuthatch come in to the bath a couple times between 9 and 10. Not seeing any hummingbird though. Still at least a couple white-crowned Sparrow. At least four (big bearded toms) Turkey over in the corral. In the afternoon I was in the cottage with door open getting birdseed to toss and a Linclon's Sparrow flew in the doorway into the room, circled around me and flew back out, landing on the patio just off the step, which was when ID was made. ?A Hermit Thrush was at the bath, which is likely one hanging around, some junipers right over the fence have berries. Later Kathy spotted a hummer at the feeders a couple times late in afternoon. It must have just showed up, we were 48 hours of hummer free since the Calliope left Monday afternoon. The light was bad but it looked like a Broad-tailed. Was an imm. male. I silently begged for it to call as it flew off, but noooooo.

Nov. 3 ~ Low was 33F, sunny and dry, wonderful. Early saw the Red-breasted Nuthatch but not the Calliope Hummingbird. I think it left yesterday but as quick-of-visit as it was, it will take a couple days to be sure. There were two Scrub-Jay at the bath, we haven't seen or heard more than one in about a month. Kathy saw a couple White-crowned Sparrow come into the bath too. Couple Turkey in the corral. Nearing noon and over 70F, I saw a Julia's Skipper and a Mimosa Yellow on the Blue Mist Eup at front porch. Then an Ocola Skipper came in! A couple Queen, a Gulf Frit, Large Orange Sulphur, Dogface, Sleepy Orange, but leps are fading fast.

Nov. 2 ~ I saw 36F but 30 min. before peak low, when KERV hit 32 briefly, it probably hit 34 here. Dry and sunny, great. Saw about 35 Robin go by early. The Red-breasted Nuthatch is still here, as is the Calliope Hummingbird and 2 Pine Siskin. Two Audubon's Oriole came in to the bath. These are 2nd winter birds, which superficially look like adults, but the black head is not complete and the underparts are very worn pale year-old feathers, not the yellow of adults. Missed a shot though since cold, window was closed. These are the same two that have been visiting the bath every few weeks for the last three plus months, so watching them change is great. When I first got here 17 years ago I thought these were first winter birds, they are not, they are second winter. The standard field guide's coverage of the plumages besides adults, has been weak at best. I had to learn them myself by watching them, lots, closely, and taking photos to study, for years. But which is about the funnest thing you can do birding. Discovery.

A quick run to town before noon and a check of the park. The woods had a couple Lincoln's Sparrow, and heard at least one Sapsucker from the island, neither were detected yesterday. Even better was the first WINTER WREN I have seen in a few years. Calling to get my attention, feeding amongst big water lily leaves that are on bare mud now. Staying in the shade of course so only barely an ID docushot. Heard a Belted Kingfisher and a couple Myrtle Warbler, saw at least 5 White-crowned Sparrow at the entrance deco garden. A couple Autumnal Meadowhawk were at top end of island, after a probable FOS yesterday.

Back here there were at least 3 White-crowned and 2 Lincoln's Sparrow besides the usual Chippy and Field Sparrows. One local Red-tailed Hawk in the afternoon. A Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak came into the Blue Mist Eup., fresh and mint, as was a Funereal Duskywing that stopped by briefly. Sachem and Fiery Skipper, Little Yellow and Sleepy Orange were there too.

November 1 ~ Ten down and two to go. Low was 42F. Nice sunny morning, but nothing different for birds first few hours. Save some Robin going over, a dozen or two, one came down to the bath like it knew it was there. Heard a few Siskin. We did a couple and a half hour spinabout to see how it looks post front. Yesterday was the annual parade and dinner at the school, and Halloween, so this morning the annual town TP job was evident. There were a few Robin everywhere, we saw over 50 total. Saw a couple Flicker near the 360 xing, one was a good Red-shafted, the other we leave as Northern Flicker. Water flow at the 360 xing looks about 100 gallons per minute, tops. A rivulet.

We checked the park, the woods were dead. A flock of about 15 Common Grackle flew south on other side of river. One Ringed Kingfisher flew by at north end of island, that was it. Maybe it had been accipitered recently. I heard a pipit fly over town that sounded a Sprague's. Will let it go but it probably was. Then we checked the pond by the W'vl Cmty. On UvCo363 on way there was an orange-billed gray-lored Gambell's White-crowned Sparrow, a western type. At the pond still a few dozen Red-winged Blackbird, 3 Savannah Sparrow, one male Vermilion Flycatcher continues, a couple Mockingbird, 6 Robin, a White-crowned Sparrow, and the bird of the day. Kathy spotted it inside one of the two little Hackberry adjacent to pond, a CACTUS WREN. They are very rare here, I have had a couple poor looks in 17 years, despite being common just south of us down in the flatlands of the brush country. Got a couple docushots. There are lots of extensive patches of Prickly Pear here, that do not have any Cactus Wren. Also at the pond had a quick look at what surely was an Autumnal Meadowhawk dragonfly. Very few odes left out there after the last week of cold mornings. One, first-year (a foot-long) W. Ribbonsnake was in the pond.

Then we went down to UvCo 361 and cruised the first mile-and-a-half. Kathy saw a Vesper Sparrow, and we saw one lone Chipping Sparrow. There were a hundred Meadowlark, they looked Western to me but none ever called, they are in fresh plumage when hard to tell and I wasn't in a meadowlark mood. Best was after a couple Mockers seeing a SAGE THRASHER along the road, my first in a few years locally. Got a poor docushot. Didn't see anything in the pastures though, and no hawks or Say's Phoebe.

Then back here at the hovelita in the afternoon. After lunch Kathy had a glimpse of a what she thought sure was a Red-breasted Nuthatch at the birdbath. A couple hours later it returned and drank. FOS. We did not record one last winter, they are less than annual here. About 2:30 I saw a Great Spreadwing damselfly, I think the only one of the year, they are less than annual here for me. It kept moving and so no pho(to). Just before 4 p.m. I was near the front porch when the Calliope Hummingbird flew in and tanked up! Where is it spending all but one minute of the day? Two days in a row. About 4:30 a Zone-tailed Hawk flew low over the yard and worked upriver, only hawk of the day. A couple Pine Siskin were on the patio. Half-dozen Field Sparrow still here. Saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk later in day. At last sun about 5:30 (!) the Calliope Hummer came back.

What a selection of birds here today. The male Cardinal are bright as heck again. Fair numbers of Eastern Bluebird are around, it seems some winterers from elsewhere have added to numbers. Saw a few Golden-fronted and a couple Ladder-backed Woodpecker, lots of Black-crested Titmouse, a few Carolina Chickadee, lots of Carolina Wren, a Caracara, and Turkey were in the corral late. The goodies list today was amazing: Cactus Wren, Sage Thrasher, Calliope Hummingbird, Zone-tailed Hawk, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Ringed Kingfisher, Gambell's White-crowned Sparrow, a Common Grackle flock, and a male Vermilion Flycatcher.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ October summary ~ ~ ~

It was a dry one, the .65 of an inch late in month was it. Was a little on the warmish side to go with it. Fall flower bloom was very weak due to the drought conditions. The river is at least three feet below the spillway overflow. Trees are drought stressed, we lose some every big wind now. Saw a Ringtail here this month.

Butterflies were few on the grand scale, but there were some great things seen. There was a little bit of movement from the south. A Purple-washed Skipper was probably best, on the 1st. My third here, the only 3 UvCo records. I likely saw it again subsequently a day or two later. A Coyote Cloudywing was first in 4 years, and a White-patched Skipper was one of only a few in the last five years. The Zebra Longwing from late Sept. stayed 9 days to Oct. 6, it was first in 4 years too. Anything less than annual (LTA) is always great to record. Soldier showed well, over a half-dozen stopped on our Blue Mist Eupatorium.

The Blue Mist saved our butterfly fall here. It's the Blue Mist man. When I was a kid it was the Purple Haze. Now I am all grown up, and it is the Blue Mist. It was awesome, whilst the local deco gardens and even the library butterfly garden were all but dead. We have one big Lantana, some Red Turkscap, a Frostweed, the Frogfruit finished first week of month. So not much, but there was so little blooming out there it was a major magnet. Some days had 25 species at the front porch, and it was where all the rare stuff was seen. The visual net cast is of course a big factor, I check it once or twice an hour all day, every day. I count 50 species, essentially all were seen from the front porch! Up 4 from Sept., but making August at 57 sps. the best lep month this year. A couple Texas Wasp Moth showed well, and an Obscure Sphinx (moth) was photographed.

Odes were weak. They were shot for the year early this year. The drought is killin' 'em here literally and figuratively. Much of the river is dry. It was only the most common regular species, and in general very few of them. Did get an October Thornbush Dasher at the Waresville golf course pond. The rest was very unremarkable. It was a dismal 13-14 species for the month. Last Pepsis Wasp was early in month. A Hister Beetle was nice to see, came into a night light. Firefly flamed out early, it was a poor fall flight, a few larvae seen late in month, last few adults were early in the month.

Birds were great, they always are in fall, especially in Sept. and Oct. when everything is on the move. There were two outstanding finds this month. Three GREEN JAY visited our yard for a week Oct. 19-26. First locally since the only area other record, winter of 2008-09. Then at the park, a calling CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER on the 14th is my first photo record locally, have seen a couple prior but no pix. An imm. male Red-NAPED Sapsucker tied my early date Oct. 4. A CATBIRD was in our yard Oct. 24-26, and tardy Calliope Hummingbird showed up Oct. 31. A Western type Yellow-breasted Chat, late, on Oct. 23 is noteworthy. Might be the first ever of that type I have postively seen here. I count a hundred species I saw very locally around Utopia. Others saw a few I didn't.

~ ~ ~ end October summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ October update header archive copy ~ ~ ~

October! The first good bird of the month is a butterfly. On Oct. 1 a PURPLE-WASHED Skipper was at our Blue Mist Eup for photos. Very rare this far north, with only a few county records. My FOS House Wren were two on Oct. 2. A bunch of FOS birds on Oct. 4: Black-throated Green Warbler, a record early Red-naped Sapsucker, a Kestrel, and a Marsh Wren. Oct. 5 brought my FOS Orange-crowned Warbler and a heard southbound Greater Yellowlegs. In the last week the Hilbigs had Sandhill Crane, Northern Harrier, and a female American Redstart at their fountain the 7th, out W. Sabinal Rd. A White-patched Skipper on the 8th on our Blue Mist is a rary here. The Zebra from late Sept. was last seen Oct. 6th. Lots of Monarch in the park woods. My FOS Sharp-shinned Hawk was Oct. 11. Oct. 12 we had Sandhill Cranes southbound on the northerlies. A Coyote Cloudywing (butterfly) on Oct. 13 is the first I have seen in four years. A CORDILLERAN Flycatcher at Utopia Pk. Oct. 14 is a very rare find. Oct. 16 the day after a big frontal passage brought several FOS sightings of winter type birds: Northern Flicker, Hermit Thrush, White-crowned Sparrow, and American Pipit. Oct. 17 two FOS Spotted Towhee were in our yard. Oct. 18 we saw FOS Vesper and Savannah Sparrow, and Eastern Meadowlark. A Ringtail (Cacomistle) on Oct. 20 was nice, as were a couple FOS Pyrrhuloxia that day. Three GREEN JAY went through our yard most days Oct. 19-26 so far! Mostly just 5 minute visits, but we'll take it. My FOS Pine Siskin were 6 in the big Pecan the 23rd, an hour later a dozen flew by. Later on the 23rd there was a FOS female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in the front yard, a male Yellow-bellied Sap was in the yard the next day. My first and only Catbird of fall was Oct. 24-26 in yard. The first sub-freezing chill factors were Oct. 27, the whole day spent in the mid-30's F, with chills in upper 20's. Weewow! Oct. 29 there was a FOS Robin. Closed the month out with a one-minute-wonder Calliope Hummer on the 31st.

~ ~ ~ end October update header archive copy ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~

CactusWren

This is the Cactus Wren that was at the pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cmty. Nov. 1. Bad light, I know, but my first local Cactus Wren photo. Rare bird here.




Green Jay

Here is one of the 3 Green Jay that visited our yard on Oct. 19, 21, 22, and 23 so far. Whaddabird! Winter '08-09 some small flocks invaded north into the plateau getting up to Leakey and Bandera, at least. That was the winter Syd and Jackie Chaney had a few coming in to their corn feeder a mile south of town.

Green Jay

One pic just isn't enough. Don't worry, if I get them in the sun, you will get to see more ...




~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ above is 2020 ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~

July through Oct. 2020 is now at Bird News Archive 34.
Bird News Archive XXXIV
July 1 - December 31, 2020

January through June 2020 is now at Bird News Archive 33.
Bird News Archive XXXIII
Jan. 1 - June 30, 2020


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.



The older weekly break bird photos are now at the 2020 photos page. 2020 pix

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

To Top of Recent Bird News

Back to Top
~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Links to all 17+ 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 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 XXXIII
January 1 - June 30, 2020

Bird News Archive XXXII
July 1 - Dec. 31, 2019

Bird News Archive XXXI
January 1 - June 30, 2019

Bird News Archive XXX
July 1 - December 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
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