Utopia - Winter Bird Count Archive
Christmas Bird Counts as they are known, are a one day survey in a 15 mile diameter circle, held nearly the same day each year in early winter. A couple thousand are done nationwide. Some counts are a hundred years old! Here we are pretending, and doing an unofficial but similar winter bird count. The map roughly showing the circle is at the bottom of this page.

Circle choice is arbitrary, but I wanted to have the town and environs of Utopia, and our feeders, and Lost Maples, to get some habitat diversity. Also it maximized public road access (coverage possible) within the circle.

January 2013 marks the TENTH count (!) we have done here. Of course the numbers are a small fraction of what is actually wintering here, you would need to organize a small army of folks to really get accurate figures. However if the same methods (observers, skills, efforts) are used each year, the results are comparable and informative. We will eventually put this up in graph form but for now the old fashioned long-hand style will have to suffice.   :)   E-mail me if you are interested in an excel spreadsheet of the results.  It's free.  :)   Comes with a money back guarantee.

We think you can get a good idea of what winters in the valley, or what one might see in a winter day here, especially now with ten (!) counts. From all the ten years combined we have found 131 species of birds for the master "winter bird count list." As of first 10 counts, 126 were count day, 5 were count week only.

Some interesting things are: only 34 species (+-30%) have been seen on all of the first 9 counts, while 27 species (21%) have only been seen on one count. So the average count will find 3 new first- time recorded birds, which is enough to make you want to do it, eh? Of course that number will decrease in time. Some 50 species have been seen on 7, 8, or 9, of nine counts.

We put the most recent (Jan. 2013) count at the top for ease of finding the most recent news without scrolling through old stuff, but, note prior counts follow in reverse chronological order.

~ ~ ~ ~ The Utopia winter bird count ~ ~ ~ ~

The TENTH Utopia winter bird survey - Jan. 6, 2013

CW = Count Week, 3 days before or after the count day.
Rarities are in CAPS, (!) after number means high count.

Pied-billed Grebe, CW; Great Blue Heron, 1; Black Vulture, 14;
WOOD DUCK, 2; Green-winged Teal, CW; Ring-necked Duck, 22(!);
Osprey, CW; Northern Harrier, 1; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1;
Cooper's Hawk, 1; Red-shouldered Hawk, 1; Red-tailed Hawk, 3
(two Fuertes, one unknown, c.f. pale morph Harlan's type)
American Kestrel, 12; AMERICAN WOODCOCK, 1 (photos);
Eurasian Collared-Dove, 7; White-winged Dove, 210+(!); Mourning Dove, 22;
Inca Dove, 2; Common Ground-Dove, 4; Greater Roadrunner, 1, Barred Owl
Rufous Hummingbird, 1; Belted Kingfisher, 12; RINGED KINGFISHER, CW;
Golden-fronted Woodpecker, 18; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 1;
Red-naped Sapsucker, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 1; Ladder-backed
Woodpecker, 8; Northern Flicker (unk.type), 2; Yellow-shafted Flicker, 1;
Red-shafted Flicker, 1; Orange-winged hybrid Flicker, 1; all flickers
combined, 5; Eastern Phoebe, 12; Blue Jay, 2; Western Scrub-Jay, 6;
Common Raven, 16(!); Carolina Chickadee, 15; Black-crested Titmouse, 32;
Red-breasted Nuthatch, CW; Carolina Wren, 14; Bewick's Wren, 7;
Winter Wren, CW; Golden-crowned Kinglet, CW; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 8;
Eastern Bluebird, 43; Hermit Thrush, 2; American Robin, CW; Northern
Mockingbird, 30; Cedar Waxwing, 3 (low); Orange-crowned Warbler, 5;
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler, 26; Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler, 2;
Pine Warbler, 2; Spotted Towhee, 1; Canyon Towhee, 2; Chipping Sparrow, 169;
Field Sparrow, 8; Vesper Sparrow, 16; Savannah Sparrow, 15; Song
Sparrow, 1; Lincoln's Sparrow, 3; White-crowned Sparrow, 8(ties!);
Northern Cardinal, 22 (very low); Eastern Meadowlark, 6;
Western Meadowlark, 1 (low); Audubon's Oriole, 2; House Finch, 27;
Pine Siskin, 62 (!); American Goldfinch, 18; House Sparrow, 8.

Total of 61 Species plus 3 forms (subspecies) count day,
and a record low 923 individuals; 9 CW (count week) species,
for 70 total over count week. About 7 record highs, plus
two more tied record highs. Overall bird numbers way down,
forage is still depressed from the exceptional drought.

American Woodcock and Wood Duck were the two new species, first time seen in 10 years of winter counts. Whatever the weird white-tailed Red-tailed Hawk was is a new morph (subspecies) either or any way, no matter which it was (light morph Harlan's is my best guess). The returning adult female Black-and-white Warbler at the park is certainly a highlight, back for its 5th winter, and 6 or more years old now as it was an adult its first winter here.

Misses were Junco, Brewer's Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Lesser Goldfinch, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Say's and Black Phoebe, House Wren, Green Kingfisher, Turkey, Robin, Screech-Owl, Hutton's Vireo, Caracara, for a dozen+ easy ones off the top of my head. Many of these are low density or local things would be picked up if you had a team out looking. Canyon Wren was missed because Lost Maples skipped.

High counts were had for Ring-necked Duck (22), White-winged Dove (210), Great Horned Owl (2), Common Raven (16), Pine Warbler (2), Eastern Meadowlark (6), and Pine Siskin (62). Two more tied the prior high counts: Canyon Towhee (2) and White-crowned Sparrow (8).

Low counts were had for Black Vulture (14 - 25% of avg.), Mourning Dove (22 - 30% of avg.), Eastern Phoebe (12 - down 20% below avg.), Mockingbird (9 - avg. is 25), Robin (1 for count week, avg. is 91), Cedar Waxwing (3 - avg. is 83), Chipping Sparrow (169 - avg. is 262), Vesper Sparrow (16 - avg. is 46), and Northern Cardinal (22 - avg. is 71) is way way down. Western Meadowlark averages 9, had one, and un-ID'd Meadowlark species averages 68, I saw none. Brewer's Blackbird averages 300, saw none because I didn't go to the goat farm.

So about 10 things are up, about 10 things are down, missed 10 things, two new all-time species and one new all-time subspecies for the master list, fairly normal, and a smashing success to get to the milestone 10 year point in gathering baseline winter bird data here.

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The NINTH Utopia winter bird survey - Dec. 31, 2011

CW = count week (3 days before or after the count day)
If an (!) after number, indicates a high count.

Pied-billed Grebe, 1; Great Blue Heron, 2; Black Vulture, 42;
Gadwall, 20(!); Northern Pintail, 7(!); Green-winged Teal, 1; GREATER SCAUP, 1
Ring-necked Duck, 18(!); Northern Harrier, 1; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1;
Cooper's Hawk, 1; Red-shouldered Hawk, CW; Red-tailed Hawk, 1 (intermed. Western);
Crested Caracara, 5(!); American Kestrel, 4; WILSON'S SNIPE, 1 (ph.);
Eurasian Collared-Dove, 4; White-winged Dove, 45; Mourning Dove, 49;
Inca Dove, 8; Common Ground-Dove, 3; Greater Roadrunner, CW, Broad-tailed
Hummingbird, CW; ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD, 1; Rufous Hummingbird, 2(!); Belted
Kingfisher, 2; Green Kingfisher, 1 heard only; Golden-fronted Woodpecker, 19;
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, CW; Red-naped Sapsucker, 1 (imm. male); Downy
Woodpecker, 1 heard only (present months); Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 10;
Northern Flicker (unk.type), 3; Yellow-shafted Flicker, 1; Red-shafted
Flicker, 1; Orange-winged hybrid Flicker, 2; all flickers combined, 7(!);
Black Phoebe, 1; Eastern Phoebe, 28(!); Say's Phoebe, 5(!); Loggerhead Shrike, 1;
Blue Jay, 3; Western Scrub-Jay, 5; Common Raven, 2; Carolina Chickadee, 16;
Black-crested Titmouse, 36(!); Carolina Wren, 10; Bewick's Wren, 7;
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 3; Eastern Bluebird, 68(!); MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD, 9(!);
Hermit Thrush, 1; American Robin, 37; Northern Mockingbird, 30;
European Starling, 2; American Pipit, 90(!); Cedar Waxwing, 39;
Orange-crowned Warbler, 4; Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler, 14;
Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler, CW; Spotted Towhee, 5;
Rufous-crowned Sparrow, 2; Chipping Sparrow, 441(!); Field Sparrow, 46(!);
Vesper Sparrow, 48; LARK BUNTING, 6; Savannah Sparrow, 24;
Song Sparrow, 2; White-crowned Sparrow, 8; Slate-colored Junco, 15;
Oregon Junco, CW; Northern Cardinal, 112(!); Pyrrhuloxia, 16;
Red-winged Blackbird, 26; Eastern Meadowlark, 4; Western Meadowlark, 17;
Meadowlark sps., 40; Brewer's Blackbird, 118; Brown-headed Cowbird, 16;
Audubon's Oriole, 4; House Finch, 84; Pine Siskin, 22; Lesser Goldfinch, 2;
American Goldfinch, 15; House Sparrow, 52;

Total of 74 Species and 1795 individuals, 4 CW (count week) species,
plus 2 CW forms (subspecies).

Except Mountain Bluebird, the species in CAPS new to the count, first count
to record the species in nine years. All-time high counts
were had for Gadwall, Pintail and Ring-necked Duck, Crested Caracara,
N. Flicker (all combined), Eastern Phoebe, Black-crested Titmouse,
Eastern Bluebird, American Pipit, Chipping, Field, and White-crowned
Sparrows, and Northern Cardinal.

Low counts were Hermit Thrush, 1, avg. is 5, no juniper berry crop;
American Kestrel, 4, avg is over 12, nothing in the grasses to eat;
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 3, avg. is 12; Myrtle Warbler, 14, avg double that,
the latter two both insectivores, winter mayflies critical, and river
mostly gone and so are the birds that go with it.

Initially I balked at counting the Greater Scaup, but spent the next
two months flushing Ring-necked Ducks and am satisfied with what I
called it when I saw it enough to count it, and, it is likely the
bird of the count really, a very rare Bandera County record methinks.
The Anna's Hummer present a month in our yard is pretty nice too though.
Probably had both of them, but only counted one, though thought sure I
was hearing the other away a bit, while I was looking at the female close.
Also forgot to add in a Count Week Broad-tailed Hummingbird in my initial
tally, which I wrote on my desk pad for Dec. 28, so that too has been
added in for CW, since the first posting of the results.

It is the highest count day species diversity at 74, by one, remarkable
methinks and quite a good showing, all things (especially the drought)

Have only 4 CW species, and 2 CW subspecies (forms). I'm sure a couple
species might have been added at Lost Maples, but not much more than that
in all odds.

I drove only 50 miles or so, a bunch of that in circles, on all the
local roads from town north up valley, over about 8 hours afield and
4 more back here at SR. Had near record warmth in front of a big
system bearing down, hitting nearly 80 dF briefly in the late afternoon.
Missed Turkey and Roadrunner, both probably saw me.

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Winter Bird Count #8 - January 1, 2011

About 35 deg.F in a.m., warmed to ca. 62 in p.m.
1 observer in 1 party. CW = count week, 3 days before or after count day.

Pied-billed Grebe, 3; Great Blue Heron, 1; Black Vulture, 46;
Red-shouldered Hawk, 2; Red-tailed Hawk, 4; Crested Caracara, 2;
American Kestrel, 9; Wild Turkey, 52; Sandhill Crane, 11;
Eurasian Collared-Dove, 2; White-winged Dove, 82; Mourning
Dove, 9; Inca Dove, 4; Greater Roadrunner, 1; Barred Owl, 1;
Great Horned Owl CW; Selasphorus Hummingbird (prob.Rufous) CW;
Green Kingfisher, 1; Golden-fronted Woodpecker, 10; Yellow-bellied
Sapsucker, 3; Downy Woodpecker, 1; Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 2;
Northern Flicker, 2 (1 pure Yellow-shafted, 1 unkn.); HAMMOND'S
FLYCATCHER, CW; Black Phoebe, 2; Eastern Phoebe, 12; Say's Phoebe, 1;
Blue-headed Vireo, 1; Hutton's Vireo CW; Blue Jay, 1; Western
Scrub-Jay, 5; Common Raven, 3; Carolina Chickadee, 17; Black-
crested Titmouse, 24; Bushtit, 4; Brown Creeper, 1; Carolina
Wren, 14; Bewick's Wren, 10; Winter Wren, 1; Golden-crowned
Kinglet, 3; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 13; Eastern Bluebird, 58;
Hermit Thrush, 7; American Robin, 1; Northern Mockingbird, 32;
Long-billed Thrasher, 1; European Starling, 2; Cedar Waxwing, 5;
Orange-crowned Warbler, 3; Myrtle Warbler, 14; Pine Warbler CW;;
Black-and-white Warbler, 1 (3rd year here); Canyon Towhee, 2;
OLIVE SPARROW, 1; Rufous-crowned Sparrow, 3; Chipping Sparrow, 153;
Field Sparrow, 11; Vesper Sparrow, 19; Savannah Sparrow, 1;
Song Sparrow, 4; Lincoln's Sparrow, 3; White-crowned Sparrow, 3;
Slate-colored Junco, 4; Northern Cardinal, 58; Pyrrhuloxia, 19;
Red-winged Blackbird, 60; Eastern Meadowlark, 2; Western
Meadowlark 58; Meadowlark sps. 6; Brewer's Blackbird, 225;
Brown-headed Cowbird, 2; Audubon's Oriole, 3; House Finch, 52;
Pine Siskin, 20; Lesser Goldfinch, 16; American Goldfinch, 16;
House Sparrow, 33.

Total of 70 species, 1247 individuals, plus 5 count week species.

Photos from before and after count as well as sonograms proved Hammond"s ID correct.

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Winter Bird Count #7 - January 2, 2010

A chilly 26 deg. F in a.m., warmed to only 56 in p.m.
2 observers in 1 party, Kathy and I.

Pied-billed Grebe, 2; Black Vulture, 65; Northern Harrier, 1;
Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Cooper's Hawk, 1; Red-shouldered Hawk, 1;
Red-tailed Hawk, 4; American Kestrel, 16; Killdeer, 2;
Eurasian Collared-Dove, 42; White-winged Dove, 81; Mourning
Dove, 136; Inca Dove, 4; Greater Roadrunner, 2; Belted
Kingfisher, 1; Golden-fronted Woodpecker, 15; Yellow-bellied
Sapsucker, 2; Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 11; Northern Flicker, 2
(pure Yellow-shafted); Black Phoebe, 2; Eastern Phoebe, 21;
Say's Phoebe, 3; Vermilion Flycatcher, 1 ad.male; White-eyed
Vireo, 1 ad.; Blue Jay, 4; Western Scrub-Jay, 6; Common Raven, 2;
Raven sps., 2; Carolina Chickadee, 20; Black-crested Titmouse, 27;
Carolina Wren, 24; Bewick's Wren, 10; House Wren, 1; Ruby-crowned
Kinglet, 18; Eastern Bluebird, 38; Hermit Thrush, 3; Northern
Mockingbird, 25; Cedar Waxwing, 76; Orange-crowned Warbler, 1
(at feeders); Myrtle Warbler, 127; *Audubon's Warbler, 3;
Spotted Towhee, 4; Rufous-crowned Sparrow, 1; Chipping Sparrow, 314;
Field Sparrow, 8; Vesper Sparrow, 166; Lark Sparrow, 37;
Savannah Sparrow, 18; Song Sparrow, 4; Lincoln's Sparrow, 11;
White-crowned Sparrow, 4; Slate-colored Junco, 8; *Oregon
Junco, 1; * Pink-sided Junco, 2 (new to count); Northern
Cardinal, 40; Meadowlark sps. 78 (surely Western); Brewer's
Blackbird, 82; Audubon's Oriole, 5 at yard feeders; House Finch, 28;
Pine Siskin, 5; Lesser Goldfinch, 14; American Goldfinch, 6;
House Sparrow, 40.

59 species, plus 3 *forms (identifiable subspecies).

1679 individuals counted

Count week species 8:
Great Blue Heron; Eastern Screech-Owl; Merlin; Bushtit;
Canyon Wren; American Robin; American Pipit; and best, the
Black-and-white Warbler (returning ad. fem. winterer at park)
which I saw right before and after the count, but not count day.

67 species for count week total is on low side.

We skipped Lost Maples and did a little more working the roads up valley since LM really doesn't get many birds for the time it takes, unless you are there early in the day in winter. Eurasian Collared-Dove numbers were record high, as were Myrtle Warbler, Vesper Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch. The Vermilion Flycatcher was the only new different surprise we saw. It was good to get 5 Audubon's Orioles on the count though too. Missed Turkey, Caracara, Hutton's Vireo, and Green Kingfisher, for starters.

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Winter Bird Count #6 - January 1, 2009

CW means count week, the 3 days before or after count day.

Cold (35deg.F) and foggy early as almost always, warmed up
to mid-60's later in afternoon. Was very windy
at Lost Maples, not so bad around Utopia.

Gadwall-11; Wild Turkey-15; Pied-billed Grebe-2; Black
Vulture-17; Northern Harrier-CW; Sharp-shinned Hawk-2;
Cooper's Hawk-CW; Red-shouldered Hawk-1; Red-tailed
Hawk-3 (2 Fuertes, 1 Eastern); Caracara-2; American
Kestrel-10; Eurasian Collared-Dove-3; White-winged Dove-84;
Mourning Dove-61; Inca Dove-1; Common Ground-Dove-8;
WHITE-TIPPED DOVE-CW; Roadrunner-1; Eastern Screech-Owl-1;
Green Kingfisher-1; Golden-fronted Woodpecker-7;
Ladder-backed Woodpecker-4; Northern Flicker-2
(one Red-shafted, one hybrid); Black Phoebe-1;
Eastern Phoebe-15; Say's Phoebe-1; White-eyed Vireo-CW;
Hutton's Vireo-1; Common Raven-4; Chihuahuan Raven-2;
Blue Jay-3; Western Scrub-Jay-9; Carolina Chickadee-6;
Black-crested Titmouse-18; Bushtit-8; Carolina Wren-8;
Bewick's Wren-6; House Wren-CW; Ruby-crowned Kinglet-4;
Golden-crowned Kinglet-1; Eastern Bluebird-13;
Hermit Thrush-8; American Robin-21; Nothern Mockingbird-24;
Long-billed Thrasher-CW; Sage Thrasher-CW; Starling-4;
Cedar Waxwing-14; Orange-crowned Warbler-3; Yellow-rumped
(Myrtle) Warbler-5; Yell.-rump (Audubon's) Warbler-1;
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER-1; Rufous-crowned Sparrow-CW;
Chipping Sparrow-154; Field Sparrow-3; Vesper Sparrow-13;
Lark Sparrow-47; Savannah Sparrow-18; White-crowned
Sparrow-1; Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco-2; Cardinal-72;
Eastern Meadowlark-2; Western Meadowlark-2; Meadowlark sps.-100;
Brewer's Blackbird-400; Red-winged Blackbird-100;
Brown-headed Cowbird-6; Common Grackle-CW; AUDUBON'S ORIOLE-8;
House Finch-112; American Goldfinch-10; Lesser Goldfinch-8;
Pine Siskin-1; House Sparrow-50

63 species found count day
9 additional sps. count week only
72 species total count week

Was about the same coverage, 2 people, 1 party, about
75 miles and 5 hours in car (slow stop/bird), a couple
hours and miles walking at the various stops, and a
couple hours feeder watching the yard on SR.

Black-and-white Warbler was the rarest thing probably,
with only 2 prior Edwards Plateau single day winter reports,
and this bird present well over a month and wintering.
The 8 Audubon's Orioles were new for count day, finally,
having only recorded them count week before. The
White-tipped Dove was excellent for count week, but
Dec. 31 was the last day I saw it.

Amazing was missing Song and Lincoln's Sparrows, and barely
getting a White-crowned Sparrow. No Sapsuckers.
Belted Kingfisher was seen right after count week ended.
High winds probably cost a couple species at Lost Maples
like Canyon Wren and Spotted Towhee.

Unfortunately the Green Jays were a mile out of the circle.

Again, it is just a snapshot, but if methodology is consistent,
results are comparable. We can see an absence of some sparrows
for instance, which might lead us to look at wild grass seed
heads, and find there are none. Or in the last 6 years we
can see Lesser Goldfinch has changed status as is occurring
in many areas, whereas they are now wintering around Utopia
since the arrival of people feeding Nyjer (thistle) seed.
Sunflower seeds were not enough to keep them here in the cold.
Nyjer seed is. Many species of birds have moved their ranges
north, nationally, as a result of bird feeding, Cardinal being
one of the more obvious best examples. And systematic one-day
surveys at the same week each winter year after year, all over
the U.S. show us these expansions, or contractions, as the
case may be, as they occur. It's called field biology.

Go to the Cornell/Audubon Christmas Bird Count website
and you can search the whole database. I think it is at
www.birds.org or e-bird.org or some such. You can find
a bird count near your hometown, or ones around Texas.

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Winter Bird Count #5 - Jan 5, 2008

Well finally we did it, played hooky and put a whole day in
doing nothing but finding and counting each and every and all
the birds we could for a day from Utopia to Lost Maples.
Same coverage as prior years, about 90 miles in the car,
lots of going slow birding from it, mostly standing around,
at a lot lot of stops, and a couple miles slowly on foot.
Sunny, 35-65 deg. F.

There is always some great surprise, for your labors.
And equally for sure, on count day, you will miss some species
that are seemingly always easy, and only record them for
CW - count week (3 days before and after the count).

Here's this year's list: Pied-billed Grebe, 2; Black Vulture, 61;
Gadwall, 4; Green-winged Teal, 60; Osprey, 1; Northern Harrier, 2;
Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Cooper's Hawk, 1; Red-shouldered Hawk, CW;
Red-tailed Hawk, 9; GOLDEN EAGLE, 1 ad.; Crested Caracara, CW;
American Kestrel, 14; Merlin, 1; Killdeer, CW; Eurasian Collared-Dove, 14;
White-winged Dove, 26; Mourning Dove, 68; Inca Dove, 1; Common
Ground-Dove, CW; Greater Roadrunner, 1; Belted Kingfisher, 2;
Green Kingfisher, 1; Golden-fronted Woodpecker, 16; Yellow-bellied
Sapsucker, 2; RED-NAPED Sapsucker, 1; Sapsucker species, 3;
Ladder-backed Woodpecker, 8; Northern Flicker, 2; Yellow-shafted
Flicker, 1; Red-winged (hybrid) Flicker, 1; Black Phoebe, 2;
Eastern Phoebe, 9; Say's Phoebe 2; Loggerhead Shrike, 1;
Hutton's Vireo, CW; Blue Jay, 2; Western Scrub-Jay, 16; Chihuahuan Raven,
CW; Common Raven, 2 (Lost Maples); Carolina Chickadee, 12; Black-crested
Titmouse, 30; Verdin, CW; Bushtit, 1; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 2;
Brown Creeper, 1; Canyon Wren, 3; Carolina Wren, 38; Bewick's Wren, 12;
House Wren, 1; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 1; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 13;
Eastern Bluebird, 24; Hermit Thrush, 8; American Robin, 2; Mockingbird, 28;
Long-billed Thrasher, 1; Starling, 1; Cedar Waxwing, 131;
Orange-crowned Warbler, 8; Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler, 16;
PINE WARBLER, 1; Rufous-crowned Sparrow, 1; Chipping Sparrow, 193;
Field Sparrow, 2; Vesper Sparrow, 92; Savanah Sparrow, 12; Song Sparrow, 1;
Lincoln's Sparrow, 3; White-crowned Sparrow, 6; Dark-eyed (Slate-colored)
Junco, 5; Northern Cardinal, 90; Pyrrhuloxia, 1; Western Meadowlark, CW;
Audubon's Oriole, CW; House Finch, 44; Pine Siskin, 16; American Goldfinch, 24;
House Sparrow, 28.

67 species count day, plus 9 count week (CW) species equals
76 species for the count week. About average normal.
1187 individuals birds were found and counted on count day.
Down but mostly because no large flock of blackbirds was found this year.

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Winter Bird Count #4 - Utopia-Lost Maples - January 1, 2007

coverage "same as always": 2 observers, 1 party, 10 hours
a couple plus of which are working the feeders at home.
A few hours on foot, 6 or so by car - much at walking speed.

Pied-billed Grebe - 3; Great Blue Heron - 2; Black Vulture - 150;
Gadwall - 5; American Wigeon - 1; Green-winged Teal - 2;
Northern Harrier - 1; Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1; Red-shouldered Hawk - 2;
Red-tailed Hawk - 1; American Kestrel - 8; Wild Turkey - 18 (+2 shots);
Rock Pigeon - 2; Eurasian Collared-Dove -8 ; White-winged Dove - 75;
Mourning Dove -28; Inca Dove - 1; BROAD-TAILED Hummingbird - 1;
Selasphorus (ALLEN'S?) Hummingbird - 1 (2nd year returnee) ;
RINGED Kingfisher - 1 ; Golden-fronted woodpecker - 12; RED-NAPED
Sapsucker - 1 ; Ladder-backed Woodpecker - 4; Northern Flicker - 1;
Black Phoebe - 2; Eastern Phoebe - 13; Say's Phoebe - 2;
Couch's Kingbird - 1 ; White-eyed vireo - 1; Hutton's Vireo - 2;
Blue Jay - 2; Western Scrub-Jay - 8; Chihuahuan Raven - 2;
Carolina Chickadee - 13; Black-crested Titmouse - 20;
Verdin - 1 ; Brown Creeper - 1; Canyon Wren - 1;
Carolina Wren - 8; Bewick's Wren - 4; Golden-crowned Kinglet - 8;
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 26; Eastern Bluebird - 38; MOUNTAIN Bluebird - 2;
Hermit Thrush - 5; American Robin - 270; Mockingbird - 13;
European Starling - 1 (!); American Pipit - 2; Cedar Waxwing - 120;
Orange-crowned Warbler - 3; Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler - 35;
Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler - 1 ; Spotted Towhee - 1;
Chipping sparrow - 350; Field Sparrow - 19; Vesper sparrow - 18;
Lark Sparrow - 14; Savannah Sparrow - 53 ; FOX (Red) Sparrow - 1;
Song Sparrow - 4; Lincoln's Sparrow - 1; White-crowned Sparrow - 5;
Slate-colored Junco - 5; Oregon Junco - 1; Northern Cardinal - 35;
Western Meadowlark - 1; Meadowlark sps - 24; Brewer's Blackbird - 200;
Brown-headed cowbird - 2; Common Grackle - 2; House Finch - 22;
Lesser Goldfinch - 2; American Goldfinch - 1; House Sparrow - 30;

73 species found on count day (CD) plus 2 identifiable forms.

Twelve (12) additional species were seen count week (CW),
which is the 3 days before and after count day (CD):
Double-crested Cormorant; Mallard; Northern Pintail;
Ring-necked Duck; Crested Caracara; Great Horned Owl;
RED-HEADED Woodpecker; Bushtit; PINE Warbler;
Rufous-crowned Sparrow; RUSTY Blackbird; and finally
we got overdue Audubon's Oriole for CW (but still not CD!).

A total of 85 species were recorded CW. Interesting is the
4 year combined total of all species found on all 4 counts.
In other words, in 4 first-week surveys in early January, the
total is 120 species. A small army of experts could probably get
nearly a hundred in a day, in a good year, with good weather.

Best birds, or highlights, for this year ('07) were the following.
At our feeders, the Broad-tailed and pres. Allen's Hummingbirds
were great: the Allen's a returnee for its 2nd year, and the
imm. male Broad-tailed stayed until April! Our first Ringed
Kingfisher was at the expense of getting the other 2 more
regular species. The Mountain Bluebirds were another first.
Then the neatest and most surprising bird maybe, was the
Red-headed Woodpecker at Roy Heideman's place. You never
know what may show up, if you only go out to look and see,
and count and record while you're at it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Winter Bird Count #3 - Utopia-Lost Maples - January 7, 2006

low 34 high 76 clear 2 obs. in 1 party
5 hrs & 101 miles by car; 3 hours & 1.5 miles by foot
2 hrs. yard watching

Pied-billed Grebe 5; Great Blue Heron 1; Black Vulture 24;
Gadwall 4; American Wigeon 2; Mallard 1; Northern Pintail 4;
Green-winged Teal 7; Ring-necked Duck 1; Red-shouldered Hawk 1;
Red-tailed Hawk 1; American Kestrel 11; Killdeer 1; Rock Pigeon 2;
Eurasian Collared Dove 4; White-winged Dove 26; Mourning Dove 12;
Selasphorus HUMMINGBIRD (Rufous/Allen's) 1; Green Kingfisher 1;
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 6; Ladder-backed Woodpecker 2;
Northern Flicker 3; HAMMOND'S Flycatcher 1; Black Phoebe 1;
Eastern Phoebe 9; Say's Phoebe 1; Loggerhead Shrike 3; Western
Scrub-Jay 6; Blue Jay 3; Chihuahuan Raven 1; Common Raven 2;
Raven sps. 1; Carolina Chickadee 12; Black-crested Titmouse 12;
Bewick's Wren 3; House Wren 1; Carolina Wren 7; Ruby-crowned
Kinglet 7; Eastern Bluebird 24; Hermit Thrush 4; American Robin 82;
Northern Mockingbird 48; Long-billed Thrasher 1; rufous Thrasher sps. 1;
(I thought the bird was a Brown Thrasher, only seen in flight)
Eurasian Starling 10; American Pipit 71; Cedar Waxwing 18;
Orange-crowned Warbler 3; Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler 17;
Rufous-crowned Sparrow 1; Chipping Sparrow 178; Field Sparrow 4;
Vesper Sparrow 3; Lark Sparrow 16; Savannah Sparrow 13; Song Sparrow 2;
Lincoln's Sparrow 2; Swamp Sparrow 1; White-crowned Sparrow 1;
HARRIS'S Sparrow 1; Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco 6; Northern
Cardinal 54; Eastern Meadowlark 2; Western Meadowlark 1; Meadowlark
sps (prob. Western) 182; RUSTY Blackbird 1; Brewer's Blackbird 740;
Brown-headed Cowbird 10; House Finch 12; Pine Siskin 26;
American Goldfinch 46; House Sparrow 42;
69 species recorded count day

Recorded during Count Week (3 days before or after count day):
Greater White-fronted Goose; Turkey Vulture; Sharp-shinned Hawk;
Caracara; Inca Dove; Common Ground-Dove; Eastern Screech-Owl;
Roadrunner; Belted Kingfisher; Sapsucker species (Red-naped or
Yellow-bellied); Couch's Kingbird; Sage Thrasher; Bushtit;
Blue-headed Vireo; White-throated Sparrow; Pyrrhuloxia
16 species CW

85 species recorded count week

~ ~ ~

It is interesting to speculate on which or how many species winter in the valley.

We missed 10 "regulars": Turkey, Cooper's Hawk, Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl,
Barred Owl (local), White-eyed Vireo, Canyon Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet,
Spotted Towhee, Canyon Towhee,

= 95 species known minimum in circle right now.

+8 Other species seen in last two weeks probably or surely present in circle:
Redhead, Wood Duck, Northern Harrier, American Woodcock, Red-naped Sapsucker,
Hutton's Vireo, Pine Warbler, Curve-billed Thrasher

+9 Other species likely present in circle: Common Poorwill, Vermilion Flycatcher,
Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Rock Wren, Cassin's Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow,
Common Grackle, Purple Finch

= 17 other species possible to likely to find with intense or less effort.

= 112 species total approximate number of wintering species in circle.

Surely a few unexpected surprises would also be present so a fairer estimate
of the total possible species wintering locally would be in the 115-120 range.
Perhaps 125 species may be present in years of peak diversity.

With a dozen highly skilled birders, covering all the accessible areas
of the circle during the prime first 6 hours of light, I would think it
possible to record 100 species in a single day here at this time of year.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Winter Bird Count #2 - Utopia-Lost Maples - January 8, 2005

We were a little late getting it done this year, but finally,
we got a full day of coverage very similar to the year prior.
Here's the list with some notes.

At 7 a.m. it was 36F and clear. By 8 a.m. it was foggy and overcast.
Cleared mid-day to sunny and 70.

Black Vulture - 74; Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1; Red-shouldered Hawk - 3;
Red-tailed Hawk - 5; Kestrel - 16; Wild Turkey 4 males; Killdeer - 11;
White-winged Dove - 23; Mourning Dove - 10; Inca Dove - 2; Eastern
Screech-Owl - 1; Belted Kingfisher - 2; Green Kingfisher - 3;
Golden-fronted Woodpecker - 10; Ladder-backed Woodpecker - 4; Northern
Flicker - 3 (1 Red, 1 Yellow, 1 Unk.); Black Phoebe - 2; Eastern Phoebe - 15;
Vermilion Flycatcher - 1; Couch's Kingbird - 1; Loggerhead Shrike - 2;
Blue Jay - 2; Western Scrub-Jay - 5; Chihuahuan Raven - 4; Carolina Chickadee - 22;
Black-crested Titmouse - 23; Carolina Wren - 20; Bewick's Wren - 3;
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 4; Eastern bluebird - 12; Hermit Thrush - 2;
American Robin - 390; Northern Mockingbird - 13; Long-billed Thrasher - 1;
Cedar Waxwing - 351; Orange-crowned Warbler - 1; Yellow-rumped (Myrtle)
Warbler - 14; Northern Cardinal - 107; Canyon Towhee - 2; Rufous-crowned Sparrow - 1;
Chipping Sparrow - 334; Field Sparrow - 4; Vesper Sparrow - 9; Lark Sparrow - 3;
Savannah Sparrow - 32; Song Sparrow - 2; Lincoln's Sparrow - 1;
White-throated Sparrow - 1; White-crowned Sparrow - 6; Dark-eyed (Slate-c)
Junco - 2; Western Meadowlark - 1; Meadowlark sps. 87; black icterid - 500;
House Finch - 14; American Goldfinch 46; House Sparrow 25;

61 species and 2253 individuals on count day. (plus another sps. reported from
circle that day by others: Common Raven at LM = 62 species for day if others'
sighting added.

There were 13 additional Count Week species seen either 3 days before or after
count day: Northern Harrier; Zone-tailed Hawk; Cooper's Hawk, Eurasian
Collared-Dove; Common Ground-Dove; Greater Roadrunner; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker;
White-eyed Vireo; Hutton's Vireo; Bushtit; Pine Siskin; Great Horned Owl; Barn Owl.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Winter Bird Count #1 - Utopia-Lost Maples - January 4, 2004

This was an inaugaural, test CBC. The standard
15 mile diameter circle covers the upper
Sabinal River valley from Utopia at the
south edge to Lost Maples SNA at the north end.
See map of circle at bottom of page.

Two observers in one party. 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m..
Some birding and owling from porch/home. 5 hours and
101 miles by car. 4 hours and 2 miles by foot. 1 hour
and 0 miles owling. 2 hours yard watching.

Fog and drizzle at 66 F. in early a.m.; clear and warm
in early afternoon (76F); major wind shift 3 p.m.,
dropping to 56F near sundown; and 46F at 10:30 p.m.
when last new species for the day was recorded
(Great Horned Owl calling). (Three seasons in one day!)

~ ~ ~ ~

Count Day (CD) - 1/4/04 - Bird List

Pied-billed Grebe 1; Black Vulture 21;
Cooper's Hawk 2; Red-shouldered Hawk 2; Red-tailed Hawk 4;
Caracara 1; Kestrel 19; Turkey 38; Sandhill Crane 53;
Rock Dove (Pigeon) 2; Eurasian Collared-Dove 5;
White-winged Dove 72; Mourning Dove 180; Inca Dove 23;
Roadrunner 1; Great Horned Owl 1; Green Kingfisher 1;
Belted Kingfisher 2; Golden-fronted Woodpecker 20;
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 15; DOWNY Woodpecker 1;
LEWIS'S Woodpecker 1; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1;
Northern Flicker 3 (one each Red & Yellow shafted,
one hybrid); Black Phoebe 1; Eastern Phoebe 16;
Couch's Kingbird 2; Loggerhead Shrike 1;
White-eyed Vireo 1; Blue Jay 2;
Western Scrub-Jay 12; Common Raven 7; Chihuahuan Raven 2;
Carolina Chickadee 14; Black-crested Titmouse 24; Bushtit 10;
Rock Wren 1; Canyon Wren 2; Carolina Wren 20;
Bewick's Wren 5; House Wren 1; Ruby-crowned Kinglet 10;
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2; Eastern Bluebird 44;
Hermit Thrush 2; American Robin 21; Northern Mockingbird 14;
European Starling 10; Orange-crowned Warbler 3;
Myrtle Warbler 6; Spotted Towhee 5; Canyon Towhee 1;
Rufous-crowned Sparrow 2; Chipping Sparrow 247; Field Sparrow 4;
Lincoln's Sparrow 5; Vesper Sparrow 51; Savannah Sparrow 24;
Song Sparrow 5; White-throated Sparrow 2; White-crowned Sparrow 4;
Slate-colored Junco 8; Northern Cardinal 70;
Meadowlark sps. 100; Brewer's Blackbird 430;
Brown-headed Cowbird 3; House Finch 31; American Goldfinch 1;
House Sparrow 19.

69 species, and 1702 individual birds recorded CD,
plus one form (2 N.Flicker types).

Seen Count Week (CW)(within 3 days before or after
count day): Great Blue Heron, Northern Harrier,
Sharp-shinned Hawk, Killdeer, Common Ground-Dove,
Eastern Screech-Owl, Cedar Waxwing,
Lark Sparrow (6), Common Grackle.
9 additional species recorded CW.
One additional form CW - Oregon Junco.

= total of 78 species + 2 forms for CW

Near misses:
Barn Owl missed CW by one day, and Bobwhite missed CW by 100 meters!!!

~ ~ ~

Unusual species notes (*'s)

Sandhill Crane - This flock flew over our house
at 5:30 p.m. heading south.

Downy Woodpecker - This female is wintering in UP,
present about a month now.

Lewis' Woodpecker - Flew over road in front of us
at a Pecan Grove about 3 miles north of Utopia.
Refound 4 days later still present at same spot,
probably wintering. Apparent first Bandera Co. record.

Couch's Kingbird - one found nearly a month prior,
and two found just before count, wintering at UP.
Probably the first record of them wintering in the
hill country on the Edwards Plateau proper.

White-eyed Vireo - at Lost Maples, probably the
first winter record there, however two others
wintering in Sabinal River Valley (one at UP, and
one at our house) missed count day.

Blue Jay - up to 4 known locally in UP area.

Chihuahuan Raven - 2 seen harrasing raptors with
4 Common Ravens, I first thought were Crows they were
so small next to Commons. However upon getting them
in binocs, they were clearly Chihuahuan Ravens.
First I've positively ID'd locally here (though I thought
I had some before).

Golden-crowned Kinglet - 2 at Lost Maples were with
a winter flock of Chickadees, Titmice, Ruby-crowned
Kinglet, Orange-crowned Warbler (and White-eyed Vireo).

Canyon Towhee - this bird at our seed pile since 1/1/04.

Meadowlark sps. - I've ID'd both species here prior
to count, but did not positively ID either sps. CW.

CW - Eastern Screech-Owl - calls almost nightly from
our front yard, refused to do so CD! &%#!*%$!

CW - Common Grackle - a male left over on 1/1 from a
group of 25-30 present in Utopia most of Nov.-Dec.

~ ~ ~ ~

First count afterthoughts

With 69 sps. found by one party on CD, and 78 for CW, I'd expect over 80 could be found by a small group of good birders (8-10 in 4-5 parties) on a good day. Maybe even 90 species if you got lucky and didn't miss any of the regularly known present species, plus found a few rarities, like the Lewis' Woodpecker, Couch's Kingbird, etc. Heck, a hundred species is not out of the realm of reality if you had a small army of good birders out there, during the right (an exceptionally good) year.

And I know, I should have gone out and ID'd both species of Meadowlarks DURING count week!

The area is essentially unbirded in winter, save a few cursory looks at Lost Maples SNA. I haven't seen a birder here in two months, and don't expect one in the next two months. Clearly much could be gained from a little serious field work here, especially in winter. I would also imagine over time, with access gained to some spots along the Sabinal River, even more things could be found, and found out.
First year ('04) was 69 count day and 78 count week species.
Second year ('05) was 61 count day and 74 count week species.
Third year ('06) was 69 count day and 85 count week species.
Fourth year ('07) was 73 count day and 85 count week species.
Fifth year (08) was 67 count day and 76 count week species.
Sixth year ('09) was 63 count day and 72 count week species.

The six year total species recorded for all CD and CW's is now ca. 128.
Plus three ID'able forms.


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