Bird (and nature) News Archive # 19
January 1 to June 30, 2013
Old Bird News XIX

Some commonly used abbreviations used are:
"in town" - means in Utopia
sps. - species
(ph.) = photo obtained
ad.=adult; imm.=immature; ma.=male; fem.=female; juv.=juvenile
odes=Odonata = dragonflies and damselflies; leps=Lepidoptera (butterflies)
FOS - "First of Season" (usually used for 1st spring or fall migrant to show up locally)
FOY - First of year - 1st one seen this year
FOF - First of fall
LTA - Less than Annual
UP - Utopia Park on 1050 just west of 187
UR - Utopia on the River
LM - Lost Maples SNA; GSP - Garner St. Pk.
SRV - Sabinal River Valley
SR - Seco Ridge a couple miles west of Utopia in Uvalde County
 (our yard March 2005 to Mar. 2013)
BanCo - Bandera County
UvCo - Uvalde County
WU = Weather Underground (sometimes local station readings referenced)

Bird News Archives Index

Bird News Archive XIX (#19) ~ 2013 - Jan. 1 - June 30 reverse chronological order, unless you scroll to end and read from the bottom up.
Note in this section the term YARD changes, as we moved. All yard references from March 26 onward are south of town a couple miles along river habitat corridor on valley floor. The 8 years prior yard references are for Seco Ridge a couple air miles west of town in upland slope habitat.

~ ~ ~ June summary ~ ~

Well that's it for June, seemed quick, and cooler and wetter than the last few Junes, a number of days it did not get to 90dF. Total was 49 butterfly species for the month, same as April for diversity, but numbers seeming to be picking up overall. An ORNYTHION Swallowtail was the highlight, first I've seen here in 5 years at least. The Stenelytrana gigas Cerambycid is pretty fancy, surely that is what the Golden-fronted Woodpecker thought when it flew off with one. Odes certainly are picking up, finally, with about 24 species seen in June locally, one Orange-striped Threadtail (Protoneura cara) probably the highlight on June 29.

For birds, earlier in month around town locally, the Olive Sparrow and one or two White-tipped Dove were highlights. Generally June is about breeding success for most local birds. Which with the rains in May and June (6"+), seemed to be good, lots of flowers and bugs are out. The other June event is the first finished and done (sometimes earliest are failed) nesters already departing the breeding grounds. The first ' fall migrants' heading southbound off the breeding grounds are Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black-and-white Warbler, and in the uplands, Golden-cheeked Warbler.

Surely lot's more good stuff is around. We're too busy to play. Saw about 77 species of birds in June, without a full day birding, without trying, of course all but a couple are nesting species. I can think of 15-20 more around I missed so an impressive 90-100 nesting species are in the valley/canyon.

~ ~ ~ ~

June 30 ~ An outflow boundry ahead of a cold front sagging down came through just after 7 a.m., taking it down to 72-74dF for the start of the day. Stayed 20dF cooler than yesterday all day. mid-upper 80's dF was high, and that was brief. Like dare I say utopia after yesterday. Got some audio tape of that funny singing Black-and-white Warbler finally, not much, not great, but something that will show how tonal quality changes from normal to a Yellow Warbler-like tone mid song.

Had a nice male Powdered Dancer over at the river, my FOY. Also Banded Pennant, and the common expected few regular zygops. A huge Eyed Elatarid (giant click beetle) buzzed us down at the river, almost landed on a big cypress trunk, but then continued on, they are deceivingly fast in the air.

Hummingbird numbers are decreasing, primarily the adult males and females leaving, but lots of the young of the year departing as well. It will get bad again soon enough, July is the beginning of fall migration for them. The juvenile males are starting to show the first dark feathers in gorget (throat), looking rather unshaven. The females are now showing more buffy sides, newly molted in body feathers that make them look quite different in fall than in spring when the warm color on sides is completely worn off and they just appear dirty white below without obvious buffy sides.

June 29 ~ Record heat today, broke the all-time June temp record at San Antonio with a 108, which was also the record temp in Del Rio, and was 108 in Uvalde too, we had a 105 on the porch which is well shaded. Someone left the oven door open. A few scattered thunderstorm cells moved around in peak heat, one just missing us.

I got a few digiscopes at the bird bath though if you like panting birds. Got the Black-and-white Warbler that has been around singing the funny song (first summer male), and a juvenile Vermilion Flycatcher. After I'd moved setup, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo came in so I only got grabshots of it through the bathroom window as it drank. They are loathe to come to the bath, unless it is a few dF over 100. But they sure know where it is when that happens. I think generally the big juicy caterpillars they eat all day provide enough moisture.

Flowers are fading now with the week of heat and no moisture. Butterflies seeming to be picking up though as are dragonflies. Went over to river at peak heat to cool off a little..... Caught a 22", 4.75 lb. Largemouth Bass! WeeWow! The funny part about it is that the lure I caught it with I found and cut out of a tree years ago, and had never used it. Had to bend the propeller so it would work right. The guy had a real good lure, he just didn't know how to stay out of the trees along the river, which is not always easy. Yes I collect found lures, then at some point repair as needed, and then catch fish with them. The great thing was that it was on the micro-rig with 4 lb. test, the fish had the advantage and had me running up and down river for some time, I can't believe I landed it. Neither can the cat.

The Five-striped Leaftail dragonfly was about again today, as was the first yard Checkered Setwing; a bunch of Swift Setwing are hanging out, saw a pair in wheel today. Both male and female Goatweed Leafwing (butterflies) were around again too. The Mestra was still around as well.

Just to update the Scorpion sting was fairly itchy inside the arm mostly today, more bothersome than the day-after was.

June 28 ~ You know it is going to be hot when before noon the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are all in the shadows of the poles. It hit 100dF on the porch today, not sure we had done that yet this year. Been baking under a high all week, today and tomorrow supposed to be peak heat.

Amazing some birds still singing at 99df, though many panting with wings held away from body to lose heat. I noted the singers at 4:30 p.m. and 99.5dF: Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow- billed Cuckoo (calling), Yellow-throated Warbler, Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, White-eyed Vireo, Bewick's Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee and Lark Sparrow. All territorial nesters still at it obviously. Cardinal and Myiarchus were quiet, as were House Finch.

Today the three dots showing where the scorpion nailed me are quite obvious, itch, and there is definite discomfort in the inside lower arm from them. There were two real quick, I guess warning salvos, quite close together, and then closer to wrist the bigger apparently more venemous injection to say "I said get your arm off of me " more convincingly. It certainly worked.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail went through yard, a male Goatweed Leafwing was probably the same one as yesterday. The Swift Setwing Dragonflies are still out on piles of dead branches. The ode highlight today was at UP I saw my FOY Protoneura cara, Orange-striped Threadtail, finally, a bit late this year.

June 27 ~ Today a Five-striped Leaftail was a new dragon for the yard, the Black-and-white Warbler continues passing through nearly daily, and some butterflies were around: Texas Powdered-Skipper, Desert Checkered-Skipper, and first a male, then later a female, Goatweed Leafwing. Red-winged Blackbird flew over late. Surprisngly my three Scorpion stings seemed barely noticiable today, hardly a thought given to them, besides the no pain aspect.

June 26 ~ Kathy spotted a nice male Widow Skimmer in the yard, one of my favorite dragons, they look so neat in flight with the black and white wings. Some butterflies were about too, a Buckeye, Olive-Juniper and Gray Hairstreak, Horace's Duskywing, and a Celia's Roadside-Skipper, lots of Pipevine and a few Black Swallowtail. A Common (Northern) Mestra was around as well.

The adreneline moment of the day came about midnight, as I rolled over in bed, my arm past the edge, apparently getting in the way of a Wood Scorpion, which took the liberty of three insertions just below the above the wrist on the lower arm. The bee-sting description I'd heard I would say is quite accurate for the initial sting part. Though I did not get any swelling, merely put benedryl anti-itch cream on it, killed a scorpion, and was back asleep in 15-20 minutes. I have had much worse reactions to bee stings, and am not sensitive to them.

June 25 ~ Three Swift Setwing in the yard today, and ol' funny song first year male Black-n-white Warbler singing again. The firefly show is fading, it is clearly not as intense as a week ago, I would say the first three weeks of June are peak, probably second week is best. There are still some, they are still going, but it is not like it was 20 at once for a half hour, with over a hundred going off under the pecans in front yard.

June 24 ~ All work and no play today, just the yard regulars. After dark I was on porch smoking pipe when I heard something rustle in the flower bed off porch. Figured it was the cat and then saw some gray, like the cat, move across the step and into other flower bed so I put my hand out toward it and said "is that you tissy?" to which the armadillo snorted and ran off.

June 23 ~ Had a Swift Setwing (dragonfly) in the yard, odes are finally picking up. Went back down to river for heat of day and of course wasn't about to get whooped by a three pound fish again. I caught my first Guadalupe Bass, a couple pounder.

June 22 ~ Amazing was an ORNYTHION SWALLOWTAIL butterfly floating about the yard for a minute, it came right over my head and lazily hovered around me (pipe tobacco?) giving great diagnostic views of the marginal spot-band not intersecting with the main band crossing both wings dorsally. I only have photos of one here in 10 years and that was in September, though may have seen another or two over the years. Most interesting is that later I found out one was seen down at Falcon Dam due south of us 150 miles, on this same day!

Photographed a couple lizards I am not sure of ID of, perhaps Prairie Lizard or some such? Will follow up when I make ID. The singing first-year male Black-n-white Warbler was about.

Went to river in heat of day, saw a Clubtail dragonfly that was probably an Eastern Ringtail, and saw a Dragonhunter. I lost an epic 15 minute battle with a 3 pound bass. I had to hold the rod while taking off boots, cargo shorts and shirt, then had to wade out into river after it, over waist deep, on the slippery silt- covered slick limestone bottom, it dove into a weed patch and we were at a standoff. As I made my move with the landing net it had less than a second before it was over, and it finally threw the hook. Bet it never bites a gold spoon again. Thankfully it is a private section of river so there was no one around to see me climb out of river in skivies, empty handed with tail between legs.

June 21 ~ Heard a Ringed Kingfisher out in river channel from porch. At UP there were some dragonflies finally, including a couple Widow Skimmer, some Checkered Setwing, Rambur's Forktail, a dragon with red abdomen that was probably Red-tailed Pennant, which is scarce up here, an unknown large darner was on other side of river too far to ID. A couple Chimney Swift were over town, and I received the gift of a big female Ox Beetle (live) at the general store .... at least they know which nerd to give that kind of stuff to. Took it home for some natural habitat photos. Put it in the ice chest for ride home, left it there for Kathy to find, and it did not even muster an eeek! Been too much of that by now I guess. Now all I get is an " uh, excuse me, I think you forgot something...."

June 20 ~ A couple fighting Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in the big pecan right out the front door were nice. A Zone-tailed Hawk flew up the river corridor, my first sure one in the yard. Another FOY beast was Spot-winged Glider dragonflies, about 8-10 feeding in the lee of the house, a couple Black Saddlebags too.

June 19 ~ Another southbound Blue-gray Gnatcatcher passed through, better was a family group of Painted Bunting, the first fledged young I've seen this year, with the adult male at the bird bath.

June 18 ~ The big gigas Cerambycid is still about. Saw the first Chipping Sparrow in yard in a month. Lizards are getting active with the heat, in yard today were Eastern Fence, Six-lined Racerunner, Four-lined Skink, and an Anole.

June 17 ~ I saw an inch-long gold-green Buprestid, probably Ash Borer or somesuch, Buprested are fancy metallic tree boring beetles. Also saw the gigas Cerambycid (Long-horned Beetle) again out in the yard. There was a big female Ox Beetle beheaded out by the shed, I suspect a Screech-Owl victim overnight. Today it was beetle news!

~ ~ ~ June 16 update header ~ ~ ~

(last updates: June 8, May 26, 17, 7, April 30, 20 )

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Butterflies are showing well, flowers are fantastic, birds are great, odes remain flat. All this and more....

Turn out the lights, the spring migration party is over. Sure was great while it lasted, saw 23 species of warblers.

Over Memorial Day weekend a rather unforecasted major rain event unfolded giving much of the area 3-4 inches of rain! The whole second week of June another system gave a couple inches of rain to much of the area.

Chiggers are back out though! Bug spray on pantlegs works.

Spring is quickly becoming a distant memory, only breeding species remain now, and that is what most of them are doing. The first finished and done breeders departing breeding grounds are starting to be seen, before the summer solstice. Many residents have fledged two sets of young already.

An OLIVE SPARROW was singing south of Utopia along river May 21. One has been reported at Lost Maples as well. At least one White-tipped Dove has been seen at Utopia Park, and along river south of town.

See April 17, 23, and 26 notes for some spring Lost Maples reports.

April, one or more White-tipped Dove was around the LM trailhead feeding station. Two were reported still there in late May. Black-capped Vireo is easy on the clifftops above pond. The 300+' elevation gain is tough though, use a hiking stick.

Sorta nearish-by a Tropical Parula is being seen at Concan where singing males troll the river spring-to-summer, annually. Note Neal's (Concan) now charges a daily fee of $5 for birding if you are not staying there. Rufous-capped Warbler is being seen at Park Chalk Bluff, ca. 16 or 18 mi. N. of Uvalde on Hwy. 55 ($8 per person entry fee). An apparent impure bird (hybrid) is leftward-south at pecan bottoms, a pure bird is around the boat ramp, or so seems the case. A PAINTED REDSTART is on private property near Hunt.

For visiting cell phone users, only AT&T works here, or Concan, and many local areas (Sabinal, Uvalde, etc.), wi-fi is available at the Utopia library, the store in Vanderpool has a sign saying they have it there too. State Pk. headquarters may have it?

~ ~ ~ end June 16 header ~ ~ ~

June 16 ~ Looks like the low is finally moving off and the end of this major weeklong rain event. Moisture kept it below 87dF here today. Another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher southbound through yard in the a.m. We walked to crossing a half-mile south late morn to early afternoon. Cloud cover held until after 2 p.m.

Best were a couple first of year (FOY) butterflies, Texas Powdered- Skipper and Marine Blue. There were male and female of the blues, and two Powdered-Skipper, plus later another at the house. Also later at house was a Streaky Skipper. We saw a couple Hackberry Emperor, a few Red Admiral on the Buttonbush in draw, Dun, and Julia's Skippers, Buckeye, Sleepy Orange, Gulf Frit, Giant and a bunch of Pipevine Swallowtail, Phaon, Texan, and Vesta Crescent, Common and Desert Checkered-Skippers.

Even better was a few odes! About time! It has been dismal. At the crossing there was male Widow Skimmer, male Five-striped Leaftail, (those two FOY) male Common Whitetail, 2 Swift Setwing, the FOY pair of American Rubyspot, Dusky, Kiowa, Blue-ringed, and Violet Dancer, and Double-striped Bluet, holy cow TEN whole species! Best day so far this year. Kathy saw a dragon in yard in p.m. which I only saw fly off, it was not any of the ones we had seen earlier. Been baskettails on lee of trees daily lately.

It was really a flower walk based on what you saw the most of. It is astounding, acres and acres of confusing yellow composites, great diversity all around though. To name a few, Scarlet Pimpernel, Scarlet Pea, Brown-flowered Psoralea, Skeleton Plant, Frogfruit, Huisache Daisy, Tube-tongue, Mealy, Tropical, and Cedar Sage, loads of Coreopsis, Slender- leaf Hymenoxys, and Slender-stem Bitterweed, Cardinal Flower, Lazy Daisy, Mexican Hat, Indian Blanket, Pincushion and Straggler Daisy, Texas Lantana, Sneezeweed, Bluets, Bluehearts, Buffalo Bur, Texas Bindweed, Green Milkweed Vine, Yellow Cow (Water) Lily in the river, Purslane, Indian Mallow, that neat Sensitive Briar, plus some I am forgetting, and others I don't know.

The begging baby Yellow-throated Warblers are here much of the day, the beg note sounds almost like a quick series of Verdin notes. Male keeps singing, even while feeding them, doesn't want 'em to learn that darn Chat. Painted Bunting was singing in the pecan at the same time as the warbler in the afternoon. Others present singing all day around the yard are Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Chat, Summer Tanager and White-eyed Vireo. The pair of Eastern Phoebes chased off the male Vermilion Flycatcher again. I am about to chase them off.

June 15 ~ Some light showers in a.m., but holy cow over in Eagle Pass, they had 16 INCHES of rain in 36 hours! We had 1.5-2" over a few days. I am amazed how this parked upper level low generated so much rain. In many areas S. and W. they got 2-5", long overdue badly needed drought relief, especially the western hill country and the interior south Texas brush country which were in a bigger hurt than us.

Interesting was a (the?) first-summer Black-and-white Warbler singing a song that started out with a couple high thin wee-see notes as usual, then changed tonal quality to a Yellow Warbler-ish sweet rich sound and finished with a sort of a 'real pleased to meet ya,' or 'you're so sweetsweet.' Obviously it learned some wrong song, sure like to get it on tape. It is half one song, and half another. No wonder I came in for binocs and went after it when I heard it. The ending sort of recalled Red-faced Warbler too, maybe that was why I grabbed bins. ;)

A Red-eyed Vireo was out there in the same tree with it. Maybe it wanted to see what warbler that was too. A House Sparrow flew over calling and into corral adjacent, the first I have seen here, and not sure I will count it, though it is on yard list now. Sure glad it wasn't a milestone number like yesterday's 125. Heard something go over calling, and just caught motion through the trees, that was something new and different whatever it was, a long-legged wader. Did have Great Blue Heron along river in p.m., but this was not that.

There is some insect calling now, a katydid, or some such (a grasshopper?) that I can't hear really with my ears, but when I use the amplified microphone, you can't hear the birds, so audio taping is all but out except real early. That was besides the new different cicada I heard, I think the third type this year. The fireflys are off the charts amazing in tall-grassy areas under a canopy.

June 14 ~ Sprinkled a bit overnight and in the a.m., but afternoon there was a couple good cells that went over, we probably got 3/4 of an inch. It just keeps coming. There was a funnel cloud near Knippa and lots of flooding Carrizo Springs to Eagle Pass, Ft. Clark Springs, etc., some areas south of Uvalde got 5 INCHES of rain! We have beat the heat out of a week of summer, and got a couple inches of rain over the event to boot. That water table might come up enough to get water going over the park spillway again yet.

Another female Black-and-white Warbler about yard this morn. Better was after 10 a.m. a male SCOTT'S ORIOLE singing, the first in the yard, a bird we miss after having a yard herd for 8 yrs. Was bird species #125 on the new yard list, a good one for that.

Then at UP, there was a calling WHITE-TIPPED DOVE, new for my park list, this seems to be quite the year for them up here. After my first spring record last year, there have been multiples at Lost Maples, I had one south of town, and now this at UP. It might be the next big invader from the brush country. A male Cooper's Hawk dashed through yard late in p.m., the first I have seen in weeks.

June 13 ~ Had the first-year male Black-n-white Warbler singing again, trolling the area I guess. Today we got a nice cell with almost 3/4" of rain, and a good cool down. Had the three regular Myiarchus calling in yard within a five minute period. The first- spring male Blue Grosbeak that is territorial about the yard has a little blue coming in on head now, finally. It still has none on body, just a few scattered darkish feathers which I do not see any blue in. When it arrived in early May it looked like a female, no blue, but sang. It seems mated as we often see the female about too. Chat at bath.

June 12 ~ A little bit of shower, just a trace in the p.m., most missed us, but cooled us down before peak heat. For the last few days, and the next couple, there is an upper level low parked over NE Mexico funneling tropical moisture up, keeping us cooler and damper than normal. Wish it would stay all summer, as the sub- tropical high we normally have parked there brings us heat and drought.

Probably both of the pair (at different times) of Yellow-breasted Chat that are nesting across the road used the bird bath today, neat bird to have splashing around out the window. Man they can put some water up. Being around them all day, I am amazed at what a shy skulker they are, especially for being so noisy, chat is a good name, they never stop. They seem smarter than a warbler, the group which they have been assigned to, though it hardly seems like one, and I for one am still not buying it being a warbler.

June 11 ~ Another southbound finished nester this morn, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Another Bushtit was in the yard early too, and again I had a first spring male Orchard Oriole singing out front. Some singing breeders around yard are Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Warbler, Painted Bunting, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Cardinal, Yellow-breasted Chat, House Finch, Carolina Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, and calling Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker.

I think a few things lost nests in the 50 MPH winds that took power out 9 days ago or so. Not hearing a few things since that event. That or they were unmated trollers and have moved on to other areas after not getting a mate in a few weeks. Not hearing the Pewee or the daily yard Yellow-throated Vireo, I hear one further away, but not our yard bird that spent an hour a day singing and foraging here.

Later p.m., about 5, a band of showers moved NW from coast over us, we might have gotten two tenths, but were sort of in a hole with more rain all around us. That darn Utopia rain kryptonite. Every bit helps the flowers and bugs, then birds.

Just before dusk heard a new yard bird, though thought I heard it a few times distantly before, as this was, sounding like it was across the river in the pasture, a nice long series from a calling Bobwhite. Heard is good enough for me when I'm on the porch.

June 10 ~ A first spring, or first summer, male Black-and-white Warbler was singing in the yard today, probably an unmated troller. The dawn chorus has REALLY quieted down, it is nothing like a month ago, and even much quieter than a couple weeks ago. An amazing difference already in reduction of morning birdsong. Another batch of Eastern Phoebe young fledged (3) I think Saturday the 8th, they were there Friday.

The highlight of the day was while I was clipping in the yard something mighty smooth wriggled between my toes (I was in sandals) and then out. It was a Texas Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis)! Maybe only 8" long or so, I probably had one once at Seco Ridge, but got great close repeat views of this one. It stopped under some Straggler Daisy cover giving great views. My first positive local sighting. Neat beast! Said to eat ants and termites, well there are plenty in the yard, termites and seemingly at least 5-6 species of ants.

June 9 ~ Another MCS migrated southeast out of west Texas overnight making the hill country, mostly up by Junction, but we did get a light shower with maybe a tenth of an inch of rain, and delightfully cool all morning. One Blue-gray Gnatcatcher moved through, southbound, a finished and done local breeder on the way out of town for the season. Did it's duty, probably been here 90 days or so and it's over.

I made a mile and half each way to the gate at the north end of the road late morning, early afternoon. A couple single Bushtit were found, and a Canyon Towhee was singing in the live-oak grassland, as was a Bell's Vireo. Flowers are off the charts, carpets of color, mostly yellow. See the list from last Sunday June 2, plus there was Navajo Tea, American Germander (Wood Sage), Indian Mallow, Barbara's Buttons, Ratany, Kidneywood (Bee-brush), Old Man's Beard, and a couple new un-ID'd ones were photographed. A huge Buttonbush is blooming at the draw. Did have a Pale-faced Clubskimmer (ode) go by.

It is interesting to see out in the center of the valley floor, along the river corridor cliffs of the main river channel there are Lacy Oak, Texas Ash, Escarpment Wild Cherry, Wafer Ash, Sycamore, Ashe Juniper, and Cypresses essentially right side by side. Amazingly diverse habitat. There are a few Bastard or Shin Oak up the road, but seemingly just not (thick) enough for Black-capped Vireo. Maybe in some areas away from the road it is thicker. Otherwise the density of Texas Persimmon and Agarita understory in some areas is very impressive.

At dark there were a over a hundred fireflys (a beetle) in front yard. The local Chuck-wills-widow male landed on one of the steel posts out front and commenced a 5+ minute call session, allowing me to walk out the driveway to within 30', crouched down I could see him heave with each belted song against the sky. Though we listen to them all the time, we don't persure them for looks, so nice to get them.

~ ~ ~ June 8 update header ~ ~ ~

(last updates: May 26, 17, 7, April 30, 20, 12)

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Butterflies are showing well, as are flowers, birds are great, whilst odes remain flat. All this and more....

Turn out the lights, the spring migration party is over. It's past us now. Sure was great while it lasted. Over Memorial Day weekend a rather unforecasted major rain event unfolded giving much of the area 3-4 inches of rain! Chiggers are back out though! Bugspray on pantlegs works.

Late spring highlights were May 23 a Mourning, and, a singing WORM- EATING Warbler at the park in town. The 24th singing Magnolia and a Chestnut-sided Warbler in our yard. On May 25 S. of town a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, probably heard a Kiskadee the 26th.

Earlier spring migration highlights were: May 1 a BLACK-BILLED Cuckoo in yard, at park a GRAY-CHEEKED Thrush and 10 (ten!) White-faced Ibis. May 4 a male Blackburnian Warbler, a BLACK TERN, and a White-tipped Dove, those all S. of town.

Good warblers this spring besides the aforementioned four rarer species were getting 5 American Restart and about 10 Tennessee over the spring, and two or three Ovenbird on May 12.

A late (male) Red-breasted Nuthatch was at UP May 1, 12, and 18! Outstanding was a male SCARLET TANAGER in the new yard on April 12. An OLIVE SPARROW was singing south of Utopia along river May 21. One has been reported at Lost Maples as well.

See April 17, 23, and 26 notes for some spring Lost Maples reports.

A WHITE-TIPPED DOVE was around the LM trailhead feeding station. Two were reported there in late May. Black-capped Vireo is easy on the clifftops above pond. The 300+' elevation gain is tough though, use a hiking stick.

Sorta nearish-by a Tropical Parula is being seen at Concan where singing males troll the river in spring annually. Note Neal's (Concan) now charges a daily fee of $5 for birding if you are not staying there. Rufous-capped Warbler is being seen at Park Chalk Bluff, ca. 16 or 18 mi. N. of Uvalde on Hwy. 55 ($8 per person entry fee). An apparent impure bird (hybrid) is leftward-south at pecan bottoms, a pure bird is around the boat ramp, or so seems the case. A PAINTED REDSTART is on private property near Hunt.

~ ~ ~ end June 8 update header ~ ~ ~

June 8 ~ Incredible low of ca. 62dF after the minor cold front of yesterday. Didn't think I'd feel that again until September, beyond outstanding. Kerrville spent 6+ hours in the upper 50'sdF until after 7 a.m.! A new yard bird was a Hutton's Vireo, calling in the big pecan early. Probably a post-breeding wanderer. Another just-fledged juvenile Yellow- throated Warbler was begging and being fed in the big pecan right off the porch. A Common Mestra (butterfly) was the first I've seen this year.

In the p.m. all I managed to muster was a Green Kingfisher down at the river, and a 16+" 2.5+lb. Largemouth Bass, and yeah, I'm darn proud of it.  :)   It was a (Shakespeare) micro (super light) rig, so the fish had the upper fin on me I thought. It was only a 5' rod, typically for sunfish or trout, with a little Mitchell Avocet (yes that's right) reel with 4 lb. test. The fish had me running up and down river for minutes. I can't believe I landed it. Lucky he swam up river where my net was. It was a 1.5" silver spoon it hit, on about the 6th cast dancing it past it. It had swam up to me a couple times in prior days, and again today, and looked right at me from 8' with one of those 'what do you have tough guy?' looks, followed by the usual bass 'you are not smart enough to catch me' gaze.

At dusk the fireflies along the river bank are out of this world, you can see what seems a hundred blink at once, there must be many hundreds..... it is an unbelieveable show, absolutely mesmerizing to watch when that many. Almost forgot, a Southern Skipperling I saw for the third time in a week, on the same Snow-on-the-mountain plant over towards the river.

June 7 ~ The third in four days, another Black-and-white Warbler adult female moved south through yard early in morning. We had a nice mid-morning rain event, two waves totalling about three-quarters of an inch, a good slow soaker, and a great cool-down, beat the heat all day. I'm not sure it got out of 70's today. The Uvalde pool test well shows water level in the aquifer here is WAY down below normal. We've had 6+ inches in the last 5 weeks, and water is still not going over the spillway at the park, that is how low the aquifer is. Nothing but regulars at the park in town, of course, it's June, a Zone-tailed Hawk was over town.

June 6 ~ A surprise was a couple juvenile Orchard Oriole in the yard in the morning. This means at least some are still nesting in the area and not being parastized by Cowbirds. Also heard another Black-and- white Warbler go south through yard. Saw an Underwing (Catocala) moth with brown hindwings (dorsally) so cf. obscurus or something similar. Also saw a big (giant) Cerambycid beetle that looked like it was probably Stenelytrana gigas. Thanks Mike Quinn for the help.

The highlight of the day was after dinner while on the porch in rocker. I heard a GREEN KINGFISHER, turned to look and saw a male flying nearly at me, that passed the porch perhaps 6' from it, called as it went by, and headed south into horse corral and pasture area! Yard bird! We are about two football fields from the river. I had one at the draw a 100 feet from property line a few weeks ago, but I was on other side of draw so no score. And that was in a (dry) creekbed. This was still a big surprise crossing the yard under the pecan canopy!

June 5 ~ Two new butterflies for the yard list were today's highlights. A Common Streaky Skipper was about, and a Goatweed Leafwing blasted by in the p.m. If something doesn't show up out the window behind the computer monitor I will likely miss it though. There are a ton of juvenile hummers about now, this years' young. I don't know how many you get to the ton, but we seem there. Tonight was the first Katydid calling.

June 4 ~ The big bio-news of the day was fall migration beginning. What you say, summer hasn't even started yet!?! For the adult female Black-and-white Warbler I saw heading south it is over and she is on the way out of Dodge. It flew into yard from the north and departed southward. Of course most call these post- breeding wanderers, but they are distinctly southbound, departing the breeding grounds. Like fall migrants. This is exactly the week of the year I often get the first one of these, they return in March and are done nesting and going, going, gone in June. The other two species that may show any day now in the same mode are Golden-cheeked Warbler and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Barely a week since the last northbound spring migrant warbler, and there are southbound finished breeders. The later spring migrants besides often being first-spring birds, are often the furthest north nesters, where it was still snowing a week or two ago. These southerly nesters can be done quickly. It seems when we get May rains more stay and nest again as they know there will be bugs for the babies (except the Golden-cheeked, they only rarely seem to breed twice).

June 3 ~ A couple of Bushtit were in the front yard early, and a Red- eyed Vireo was singing again, presuming the same trolling male. The highlight today was seeing the same fancy big beetle that I saw yesterday (and didn't mention in notes). It looks to me to be a Pepsis Wasp mimic, with orange-ish elytra and a metallic blue-back abdomen. It is very fast and agile in flight, and seems to disappear at will.

June 2 ~ Wow June 2nd already!?! The cold front got here about dawn, 6 hours later than expected, but it did cause some rain, perhaps 1 inch south of town a couple miles and down-valley, but more like a half-inch around town. Keep it coming, much needed and appreciated. We have to be at or nearing 6" since it started in early May.

I heard a warbler singing outfront early, which I think was a good one, but by time I got boots (too muddy to go out in sandals) and binocs on I only saw it fly off. Will listen to songs and see if I can ID. Once it seemed apparent it wasn't going to rain again, Kathy and I walked a mile up the road, north, first along river corridor, and then it bears west into some pretty nice oak-juniper-grassland. A Saddlebags dragonfly was the first of them I've seen here this year, and thought it was a Black.

The flowers are great, saw a few new ones for the area for me, some still to key out, but a large area of Angel's Trumpets was very impressive. Acres of Coreopsis and Slender-leaf Hymenoxys, lots of Greenthread, some Paralena, Blackfoot Daisy, White Milkwort, Western Horse Nettle, Silver-leafed Nightshade, Slender-stem Bitterweed, Nerve-Ray, a bit of Mountain Pink starting to show, lots of Mexican Hat, some Indian Blanket getting going, Texas Thistle, Tube Tongue, Zexmenia, Mealy Sage, and a bunch of others. A spectacular show now, and with the May rains in June it will continue to get better. I am reasonably sure of ID's for Bushy Skullcap and Texas Almond. The Wafer Ash has lots of wafers.

Best bird was a Pine Siskin flying upriver along the habitat corridor, calling as it did to make sure I detected it for the late date. Was hoping to pick up my warbler again but didn't. The rest was breeders. Painted Buntings and Field Sparrows (including a juvenile) were flycatching termites at a hatch. A juvenile just-fledged Chipping Sparrow was also seen. Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher were also eating termites. We had a Bushtit, which is twice in the area in a couple weeks. Maybe almost a stake-out for them. But didn't hear a Scrub-Jay, Golden-cheeked Warbler or Black-capped Vireo as I hoped. It was late, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. but the vireo would have been singing regardless. Was remarkably cool due to the morning rain which started day in mid-60's after a warm night in low 70's.

On the way back about a quarter mile from home, we met our new neighbor, which was great to finally do. The most amazing find of the day was on the sidewalk on the way out his front gate, a stonking male HERCULES BEETLE (Dynastes)! The first wild live one I've ever almost stepped on, or seen. Bill said they are regular, he had a light on last night, and voila! Too cool, I got a couple pix and and an offer to take it, so I did. Maybe I was drooling too much over it. ;) Wanted to observe it and make sure I have good wild pix (not on cement), and possibly voucher. For now it is in a dry betta bowl on the dining room table. What a beautiful beast! Spectacular.

Still a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird around, and probably a female.

June 1 ~ JUNE!?!?!? You know that means migration is over. At least for 99.99% of it, way down south here at 29 deg. N. There are still some birds moving around, but often not the long-distance migrants we see pass through. More like spring overshoots or misguideds, such as the Painted Redstart in Hunt, (Kerr Co.), the Green Violet-Ear somewhere towards Austin, Hays Co. I think. Keep an eye out for a big dark hummingbird folks, and holler at me when you get one locally (local#2349). Google Green Violet-ear (AOU recently removed the hyphen) to see pictures.

You have to adjust your rare bird radar with the season. Each has its own things they may produce. Virtually every month has a set of raries for which it is the peak time of possible occurrence. Summer is good for things from Mexico wandering a little northward, if you can take the heat. Keep your eyes peeled and your mind open, and study the possibilities. Opportunity (to find a rary) is when chance (cosmic karma that you and it are sharing visual connection) meets preperation (study to know what could happen and how to identify it).

One juvenile Red-tailed Hawk has fledged from the nest.

~ ~ ~ end June summary ~ ~ ~

Wow, May is over, and it was great. Black Tern, Black-billed Cuckoo, Blackburnian, Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, and Worm-eating Warblers, and not one Swainson's Thrush but did see one Gray-cheeked. Migration was good for diversity, but numbers seemed down for many things. A Red-breasted Nuthatch to May 18 was amazing too. Odes (dragonflies) are way down, downright scarce, you really have to hunt for them, and are lucky to find some; nothing like it was a few years ago and prior, before the drought. Butterflies were good with 47 species in May, just under April's 49 total, and not bad. Some days there were flights in the hundreds going by a yard in a day, of Lyside Sulphurs. Late in the month I saw my first freshly emerged mint Monarch of the year, perhaps from the eggs laid by the returning Mexican migrants.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

May 31 ~ Kathy spotted a different Underwing moth outside, and by time I got my camera battery charged it was gone, was not the ilia type of yesterday at park though. Sure enough there was a Yellow Warbler singing outside for a couple hours in the a.m. Besides that it is the breeders for birds now, so the regular crowd, which ain't bad. After dark I heard Gulf Coast Toad, Rio Grande Leopard Frog, Barking Frog, and Cricket Frog. The firefly show is very good at dusk, and later after dark the higher flying, bigger longer brighter burning one is out.

May 30 ~ Some more drizzle, maybe got to brief light shower status, about a tenth of an inch of wet. It all counts if you are a plant. In afternoon I had to run to town, which entails a stop at the park. Boy the wind tore it up, ball moss and broken branches (mostly dead) all over, the big Cypress at north end past shelter lost a huge branch, now over trail into woods. I'm not complaining, probably keep it cleaner up there this summer. There was a nice moth on one screen shelter, an Underwing, appearing c.f. Catocala ilia, the Ilia Underwing, with bright pinkish red hindwings (ph.). In butterflies, a Viceroy was my first of that species this year.

One female Mourning Warbler was the only migrant I saw, not without precedent here, a late late May female. Probably my last warbler of this spring migration. I'll get a Yellow now that I said that. A Green Kingfisher was calling but I didn't see it. A few Chimney Swift were over, and a couple Blue Jay were in, town. Vermilion and Scissor-tails were on fence and powerline out front this a.m. Common Ground Dove came in to one of the horse troughs in the corral next door late p.m.

Over course of day Great Crested, Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycs in yard as usual. Pretty hard to get better Myiarchus diversity anywhere in the U.S. They are all daily in the yard over a month plus now, since they got back, all having over-lapping nesting territories to a degree. Remarkable. Some live-oak-juniper meets the gallery forest corridor of mesquite and hackberry, pecan and cypress. Diversity!

Male and female Ruby-throated Hummingbird continue at yard feeders. The male is so paranoid about coming in when I am on the porch he will fly half way and turn around and go back to perch a couple times before he musters courage to come in when I am standing there 8' away, even though there are a dozen Black-chinned on the same feeders at the same time. That is how to key in and find him easily in the throngs of Black-chins. He's the chicken one. Yet in fall they totally dominate. It will only sit on the opposite side of feeder out of view when I am there, not so when I'm hiding inside. So, he will put up with my presence, if it is raining, as long as he can't, or doesn't have to see me, and there is nowhere more handy for a cheap fast quick sugar fix. This is why I miss him some days, he is ginchy.

May 29 ~ An MCS moved over early a.m. with a little rain, maybe a quarter inch, and a lot of wind, which took out power south of town from about 6 to 10 a.m. So more time spent watching hummer feeders, which turned up both male and female Ruby-throated Hummers, as well as one I thought was a juvenile Ruby-throated.

In yard had Great Crested and Vermilion Flycatcher, and Eastern Wood- Pewee all at once in a.m. Great Crested has a neat call (a song I think?) that is a musical almost laughing series of 5 notes, almost recalling Laughing Gull: whee whee WHEEEEE wee wee. Clear whistled musical quality, quite unlike anything any other U.S. Myiarchus do. I have heard this a couple times in CA in fall at Harbor Park in L.A., I still remember the first time in fall, probably Sept., about 77 or 78. It has a shall I say "crazy" laugh quality to it.

May 28 ~ Thick morning clouds with gulf moisture and flow as usual. One Yellow Warbler sang early. The trolling Red-eyed Vireo was about the yard singing again. A first-spring male Painted Bunting, this the salmon-colored underparts type, is about the yard, one of the prettiest plumages of any North American bird.

May 27 ~ Happy Memorial Day! Contrary to forecasts, we have heavy mist or light rain this a.m., and a bit breezy. Two IOI (items of interest) this morning. First I saw both male and female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, so had missed the male for a few days, but admittedly wasn't seriously watching feeders hard the last few days. Late p.m. a male Red-winged Blackbird was on the seed tube trying to figure out what the fuss was all about. It is the first one 'on the ground' in the yard, as opposed to fly-overs, or the singing we can hear from nesters across the river.

The other IOI was a bug, a Reduviid (Triatoma), aka Blood-sucking Cone-nose, on the front porch adjacent to the cat. When I smacked it a huge area blood spattered out of it. South of us these things can be a real problem. Kissing bugs is another name for them, they bite you on face and leave welts. The tropical versions can carry Chaga's disease, a type of trypanosomiasis. Which I think is believed to have been what killed Darwin. Ours are said not to carry it. I prefer to err on side of caution in such matters, they don't belong in the house, it was a foot from and headed toward the front door.

There were a few butterflies about in the p.m. when it cleared and the sun came out. A Two-tailed Swallowtail, a Red Satyr, some Queens, a Celia's Roadside-Skipper (new for yard), and numbers of the regulars.

A post to Texbirds noted two White-tipped Dove at Lost Maples this day.

~ ~ ~ May 26 header~ ~ ~

(last updates: May 17, 7, April 30, 20, 12)

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Butterflies are showing well, as are flowers, birds are great, whilst odes remain flat. All this and more....

Turn out the lights, the spring migration party is over. It's past us now. Sure was great while it lasted.

Over Memorial Day weekend a rather unforecasted major rain event unfolded giving much of the area 3-4 or more inches of rain! It is so green out there, and going to get greener with this! Chiggers are back out though! Bug spray on pant legs works.

May 23 there was a Mourning, and a singing WORM-EATING Warbler at park. The 24th Magnolia and Chestnut-sided in our yard. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher S. of town the 25th, probably heard a Kiskadee the 26th. There will always be some great stuff passing through as migration fades, after most have quit looking. The late stuff is often great stuff.

Earlier spring migration highlights were: on May 1 a BLACK-BILLED Cuckoo in yard, at park a GRAY-CHEEKED Thrush and 10 (ten!) White-faced Ibis. May 2 a male American Redstart in, and 3 Eastern Kingbird over yard, May 3 two Catbirds, May 4 a male Blackburnian Warbler, a BLACK TERN, a White-tipped Dove, and (at least) 5 Least Flycatcher. Rare here in spring single Upland Sandpiper flew over northward at dusk calling May 7 and 14. Late April a flock of 33 Franklin's Gull were south of town, not seen every year here.

Warblers were low overall, only mustered 19 species all spring by the 22nd of May, two below average. The surprise rain 23-26 May added FOUR species late in month. Bumping the spring total to the 2nd best in ten springs 23 species. Spring highlights were single Worm-eating, Blackburnian, Magnolia, and Chestnut-sided, then the 5 American Redstart, about 10 Tennessee, and what was probably three different Ovenbird at UR May 12 (at least 2).

A late (always male) Red-breasted Nuthatch at UP May 1, 12, and 18! Outstanding was a male SCARLET TANAGER in the new yard on April 12. An OLIVE SPARROW was singing south of Utopia along river May 21. One has been reported at Lost Maples as well.

As of April 17 at least, at Lost Maples, returning breeders like Acadian Flycatcher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo, etc. were back, a pair of Zone- tailed Hawk are around the ponds, lots of Golden-cheeks singing, See April 17 notes details. There are also notes from Lost Maples walks on April 23, and April 26 (Coral Snake!).

A WHITE-TIPPED DOVE was around the LM trailhead feeding station. Two were reported there in late May. Scott's Oriole can be heard singing on the ridges, in April I heard Audubon's Oriole. Black-capped Vireo is easy on the clifftops above pond. The 300+' elevation gain is tough though, use a hiking stick.

~ ~ ~ end May 26 header ~ ~ ~

May 26 ~ About mid-morning another MCS moved over from the west and dumped an inch of rain on us south of town, up-valley in Bandera Co. it looked like they got 2 inches! Now we're at about SIX INCHES of rain for May! Heard a warbler or two zing through but couldn't lay eyes on anything. One Least Flycatcher was on fenceline out front, a Red-eyed Vireo moved through yard singing.

First thing early before the rain I thought sure I heard a Kiskadee call a couple times. Then an hour later Kathy and I heard it again, she said 'what's that?', I said I thought Kiskadee. Shortly it began raining, and afterward we never heard it again. The rain made it easy to move a half-dozen Mealy Sage to the flower bed though. Was going to go wait at rivers edge today, for either a good bird to go by, or some fish take my bait, or as I call it, multi-tasking, but river is probably too muddy to fish now. It got a long-overdue flushing this week, that's for sure.

Did have at least one female Ruby-throated Hummer still at a feeder, but did not see a male again today. There was a just-fledged juvenile Yellow-throated Warbler begging and getting fed in the front yard pecans after the rains, the male singing at point blank is going to take a long time to get tired of. Great Crested Flycatcher and Eastern Wood-Pewee spent time singing in the big pecan. Some juvenile Cardinals are out and about too.

Saw the FOY Tawny emporer butterfly, with a messed up wing, looked like maybe the Eastern Phoebe clipped it. They do that to some they don't eat, like Pipevine Swallowtail, they will disable it, knowing they are not going to eat it. I have found a number around the yard and seen one of them do it. Perhaps they don't want it taking the nectar that it knows attracts the ones it does eat? They kill some butterflies they have no intent of eating.

Late afternoon walked the road a bit, had Olive Juniper Hairstreak at the draw, lots of Common Checkered-Skipper and Reakirt's Blue, a few Vesta and Phaon Crescent, lots of Pipevine Swallowtail and Lyside Sulphur, a Mournful Duskywing puddling at a muddy spot, a couple Gulf Fritillary, few Sleepy Orange, Giant Swallowtail, a few Checkered White, a Queen. A Swift Setwing (ode) was the FOY.

Got up to about 84dF at peak heat, and very humid. Near dusk a couple Chimney Swift passed over house calling. Almost forgot, had a Dickcissel fly over calling early in morning. The male of the pair Scissor-tails nesting just down the road along the pasture gave another male whatfer for getting too close to his female.

May 25 ~ Stayed nice and cool all day from the rains and wet ground, barely got to 80 in heat of day. The system slowly moved over to San Antonio and from midnight to noon or so the metro area got about 10 INCHES of rain, their biggest May rain ever, and 2nd biggest rain day ever period. The USGS SAT River gage hit over 50 feet, previous high was under 35 feet!

At UR there was a FOS YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER, and a Least Flycatcher, plus another Least Fly along the road near house. One Yellow Warbler early in yard, and at 6 p.m. a female Black-and-white moved north via the big pecan off front porch. That was it for migrants. A Common Grackle flew over house calling early in a.m.

Of interest was a Monarch, as it has been nearly a month since the last worn faded pale beat migrant was seen, and this one appeared mint, bright and fresh, as in a newly emerged Monarch. Surely the FOY new one from the spring generation eggs laid by returning migrants from Mexico in March or early April.

Besides Six-lined Racerunners, saw a lizard I think was Rose-bellied down at the draw, as well as Celia's Roadside-Skipper there too. Got a few chiggers from carelessly going through the knee high grassy areas on some deer trails. It seems the rains have brought them back out, after a couple years of being in very low numbers, presumedly from the drought. Did see some Green, aka Pearl, Milkweed Vine in bloom.

May 24 ~ Yesterday most of west Texas, the southern plains of the panhandle and eastward were under one giant storm cell, a hugely big MCS. In a completely unpredicted move it came south and early morning hit our area. In Real County from Leakey to Big Springs and NW of that they got 4-10 inches of rain! So by mid-morning it was flooding at Garner, Concan, and Hwy. 90 was closed 4 miles NE of Uvalde. WOW!

Every mile or so out here in the hills there is a low water crossing, a paved dip across a drainage. In a few spots you may get a few miles without one, but they are a dime a dozen. So when we get big events like this, if you are out and about you can get stuck at one. If lucky just an hour, maybe two if a real gulley washer, this one probably has people stuck. I'd guess at the moment we got at least 1.5", and maybe two inches in some areas. Looked like Lost Maples got 3.

It usually pours when it rains here, so floods, but briefly, as the ground is so porous an hour or two after you can hardly tell it rained. Until the sun comes out and bakes the 90% humidity to 90dF. Right now at noon it is about 67dF outside, and showing 64dF in Kerrville. WEEWOW! Might have gotten to 75dF. Wonderful. We need the water so badly. This makes at least 5 inches for May, above average, which we haven't seen in a long time.

First thing before the rain at 7 a.m. I have my first coffee (my first caffine shot) out on the front porch, sitting in the rocker like an old fart, and listen to the morning birdsong. Great was having in the big pecan an Eastern Wood-Pewee singing away, and did have two female Yellow Warbler move through the yard together, an adult and a first spring. It is a great morning chorus here, today's was nicely choreographed with thunder and lightning on the horizon, my idea of special effects. Rained from about 8 to noon, and when I checked the draw to see how high water was in the mud coming out of it were the tracks of two Turkey that had just been by.

Early afternoon a Red-eyed Vireo sang from the big hackberry, probably an unmated trolling male. About quarter to four I spotted a first year male American Redstart! Fifth Am. Redstart of the spring. Figuring there might be another warbler around I grabbed binocs and 10 minutes later had a FOS first spring male CHESTNUT-SIDED Warbler in the shorter pecans in front yard! Got Kathy but it disappeared.

Decided to check along the road and the draw, so as I got to the gate I heard a warbler singing in the draw. I thought it was the Chestnut-sided. Walked the 100' down the road hearing it sing the whole way, then had the hardest time finding it, par for them, in a leafy pecan. When I finally laid eyes on it, I realized I blew the song, it was my FOS male MAGNOLIA Warbler!

TWO new warbler species for the spring, in or from the yard! Was afraid I had missed both of them, both run about 50-50 chances of seeing any given spring here. Two new yesterday as well, which combined, four new warbler sps. for a spring on May 23-24, is amazing. The 24th is the latest date in a spring I have ever added a new one during the spring passage.

So with a Chestnut and a Maggie I walked the road to the crossing. Another FOS was had with a calling Willow Flycatcher. Had at least two and probably 3 Common Yellowthroat. I heard what had to be a singing Prothonotary over along the river, but couldn't spot it from road. Then I had a quick close look in flight and a second on a branch, of a warbler with a black cap and white cheek, all black and white, 2 big white wingbars, big white tail-spots. It called as it flew, I chased after it but it disappeared. It looked and sounded like a Blackpoll to me, best I can call it is hypothetical. A couple Yellow Warbler were along the road, and a troop of three little baby young-of-the-year Armadillo.

Oh to have been able to get out and hit migrant traps today. The system coming from the north, catching birds moving from the south is just what you want. Systems like this are very rare this late in the spring, so most late migrants pass over without being knocked down, or stopped. A system they can't fly through allows us a peek at what is probably regularly really going on late in the month.

In between the two FOS warblers, a Ringed Kingfisher flew right over the yard, 100' up, calling all the way. Found a neat shroom in yard (ph.), will check book, seen it before. Heard another zeet (warbler flight note) about 6:30, couldn't find it. There are migrant birds out there today.

Saw the first just-fledged Lark Sparrow I've seen this year so far. At least one ad. female Ruby-throated Hummingbird continues, I did not see a male today, or yesterday. A couple Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over yard in later p.m.

Went back out at 8 p.m. for an evening look about. Across road had two Least Flycatcher, one Willow Flycatcher, and over the open area between yard and river a number of Purple Martin were feeding. Three new yard birds came in for a few passes to see what they were eating, single Cave Swallow, Chimney Swift, and Lesser Nighthawk. What a day.

May 23 ~ An Eyed Elatarid (a big click beetle) was out back by the shed. Kathy got photos, I got an ant off it and moved it to a tree branch. While doing so it clicked a couple times, they have some real strength. I heard a warbler flight note but didn't see it. Kathy spotted a big Eastern Fence lizard here, new for the yard lizard list.

Gulf clouds hung in long, barely 90dF at 3 p.m., cooler along river. A run to town meant a look at the park. Astounding was a singing WORM-EATING WARBLER in the northmost live-oaks. The song is higher, faster, and thinner than a Chipping Sparrow. I couldn't believe it. One spring in the last 9 some occurred locally (about 3 at LM and 2 around town), 5 in one year, that is it. There was a Chalk Bluff late April record about 7-8 years ago which was likely the first in Uvalde County. It is a very rare bird here.

Then up in the woods in the frostweed patch was (finally) a beautiful male Mourning Warbler. Was afraid I was going to miss it this spring. Two migrants in the park, both good warblers. Probably been some things with the front the last couple days, but I couldn't get out. Puts the spring migrant warbler total at an exactly average 21 species.

The Zone-tailed Hawk was over town, a couple freshly-fledged Scissor- tailed Flycatcher were at north end of town. A juvenile Cooper's Hawk was south of town, and later I saw an adult and juv. together over the yard. No male Ruby-throated Hummingbird seen at our feeders today, for the first day in about 6+ weeks. At least one female still here.

On way to town from house had a Scrub-Jay just a half mile from yard, prior nearest was a mile, more than doubling its likelyhood to occur in my mind.

May 22 ~ The rain missed us, nothing even close. Forgot to mention a few just-fledged Barn Swallow are flying about, first young of the year I've seen in the air, been out for a couple days at least. A Lincoln's Sparrow on the seed was the only migrant in yard today. A female Dusky Dancer (damselfly) was out front, and late afternoon a Red Satyr (butterfly) flopped by, my first in the yard here. There are some gray-headed juvenile Black-chinned Hummingbird showing up at the feeders for a few days now, I forgot to mention.

May 21 ~ A bit of a trough from a system to north, lots of low clouds and gulf moisture flow, might get some thunderstorm cells tonight from it. A couple seperate warblers went through front yard early but both were flighty and zinged away, one flight note could have been a Yellow, but not absolutely, the other was not a Yellow, and in fact clearly a WOI, warbler of interest. Bird of the day gets away. In early afternoon a third warbler shot through yard, no ID again. I was 0 for 3 today. Struck out looking. Warblers 3, me 0. First warblers in a few days and I missed 'em all, painful for knowing that the late ones are often good ones.

But there was a good bird early, for 5 mintues just after 7 a.m. an OLIVE SPARROW sang from across the road, moving north to the adjacent draw, then up draw a bit, then continuing along road in river habitat corridor until out of earshot. Trolling with song, this far north. They've long been known at the edge of the escarpment, such as at Concan, around the mouths of the canyons for the most part. Now they are penetrating further into the hills. Like Audubon's Oriole and White-tipped Dove, it was long-considered a south Texas brush country bird. We keep seeing more and more of these birds, in the hill country now. It's an amazing expansion going on before our eyes. An Olive Sparrow was reported sometime this year at Lost Maples too. About 4 miles south of town in the mesquite patches on 187 is the furthest north I've had them regularly, territorial singing over extended periods, probably nesting.

May 20 ~ Nose in salt mine, but did see for the second day in a row saw something neat from the porch. Pompelids are wasps, often spider wasps, similar to Tarantula Hawk (Pepsis Wasp), most are metallic blue-black like blued gunmetal and flick their wings nervously, constantly. Some have orange parts and this one is a hefty one, 1.5" with a orange-red abdomen. I first detected it by the sound of its wings, in heavy lifting mode. I found it dragging and carrying across the ground a 2 INCH long big fat green Katydid, that must weigh several times the wasps weight. Two days in a row, same wasp, just feet off porch, two Katydids. How many is it doing in a day? They drag the prey to a hole, and usually lay an egg in it, that hatches and grows up feeding on the booty. These are just-maturing Katydids, not looking fully developed, and I haven't heard one yet this year. Apparently the wasp was waiting for them to get to eatin' size.

Near dusk we did hear the first Cicada of the year. With all this insect news, can you guess there were no migrant birds around the yard? Lizards were a couple Six-lined Racerunner and a Eumeces Skink. Found a real neat (dead) arachnid of some sort I've never seen (photo'd and voucher retained) which I'll get pix to my friend that wrote the new Spider Field Guide in case something of interest. I sure wouldn't know. It was in mint condition, and probably not a coincidence it was exactly dead center under the web of a Black Widow. The widow was subsequently dispatched, that voucher was not retained.

One of the last birds to call at dark was a Great Crested Flycatcher from near the top of the big pecan right out front door. It gave quite a few of the loud ascending 'greeep!' or 'wheeeep!' calls.

May 19 ~ Walked over a mile of the river corridor habitat, had a whopping one warbler flight note get away up in tops of cypresses. That was it for migrants. A first spring male Orchard Oriole sang in the yard a bit early, maybe a migrant, probably an un-mated troller. Otherwise the birds were strictly the local breeders, more of the same as in the yard or on the road out front.

Saw Painted and Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Vermilion Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, and White-eyed Vireo Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood- Pewee, Bewick's and Carolina Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Mockingbird, Lark Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, Black-chinned Hummingbird, two types of Cowbird, N. Rough-winged, and Barn Swallow, Mourning and White-winged Dove, Golden-fronted, and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Raven, House Finch and Eastern Bluebird.

Down by the river there was a baby bluebird on the ground, apparently just fell or was pushed out of nest, barely any feathers on it. Unless you have a frig full of meal worms, and are retired, you can't really save these, and often best to let nature take its course.

Saw what appeared a Springtime Darner, but very few odes overall it seemed. One Pronghorn Clubtail was nice, one Blue Dasher was in Lily Pads at 360 crossing. An odd Argia (Dancer) damselfly was at UR, which seemed to have a red thorax that wasn't mites. Abdomen segments were all dark, with pale rings at segment joins. One Cloudless Sulphur (butterfly) blasted past.

Fish were Channel Catfish, Largemouth Bass, probable Guadalupe Bass, Long-eared, Bantam, and Green Sunfish, a breeding pair of Rio Grande Perch (Texas Cichlid) with a thousand glue-head young (after hatching while absorbing yolk and growing for a few days they are head-stuck to a rock usually, while parents defend them), and a school of the common local native minnow, Texas Shiner. One green Anole lizard, and several Six-lined Racerunner were seen, lots of Cricket Frog.

I finally got out the Animal Tracks field guide to check those weird funny looking tracks I saw in the mud at the draw after the rain. There were White-tailed and Axis Deer, and lots of Raccoon, but one set was distinct, and different. It was a Ring-tailed Cat! The upside-down heart-shaped central pad is like no other. I knew it was different when I saw it a few days ago, but hadn't looked it up.

May 18 ~ An interesting phenomonon here is clear skies at dawn and sunup, followed shortly by overcast, due to SE flow from the Gulf of Mexico, arriving an hour after sunup. Sometimes the Gulf moisture and clouds get here at midnight, other times early a.m., and sometimes after sunup. Looked like it was going to be sunny, then nope. With higher Pacific moisture, clouds kept temps 8dF or so below yesterday's scorcher. Finally about 2-3 p.m. it barely broke 90dF for a few hours, bearable, though very humid.

Had a couple Yellow Warbler in yard first couple hours of light, then a group of 4 BUSHTIT moved by out front about 10:30 a.m., first for yard, and first I've seen ever on the valley floor in river habitat corridor. Three trips to Lost Maples in April did not net a single Bushtit. One Dickcissel flew over southward, as yesterday, local movement maybe. Across the road along draw in pecans there was a calling ALDER Flycatcher, the first positive Alder this year for me (4th Traill's type total).

Had to kill some rats in town so checked park, twice, once on way in, again on way out. Second trip netted two warblers not seen on first check: a singing first spring male Black-and-white, and a first spring male MacGillivray's Warbler. The latter still had an light ashy gray throat, though full hood, but only a sprinkle of a few black feathers at the lower edge, or bib, of the hood.

Best was the Red-breasted Nuthatch still being there, getting ridiculously late. A female Baltimore Oriole was on UvCo354 out in the thistles. No warblers in those pecans. UR had one Yellow Warbler for migrants. Worked the frostweed patch hard, it was dead. A Swainson's Hawk was off 187 at 1050 at the south end of town with a few Turkey Vulture.

Amazing is what I haven't seen this spring, still no Swainson's Thrush or Mourning Warbler, much less a Magnolia or Chestnut-sided Warbler, no Philly Vireo or Yellow-bellied Flycatcher either. Stuck at 19 sps. of warblers, average from prior 9 springs is 21 per spring, low is 16. Overall I'd call this spring a little weak, but perhaps it was more the result of our moving and my not being able to get out as much.

UP did have a 4'+ Indigo Snake very close, one mosaic type Darner dragonfly with blue eyes, which must have been an early Blue-eyed Darner (maybe my first May record), a Two-tailed Swallowtail, 2 Celia's Roadside-Skipper, and a Northern Cloudywing. At UR was Red Admiral, Bordered Patch and Giant Swallowtail.

In p.m. here at house on our potted Blue Mist Eupatorium there was a nice Mournful Duskywing for the yard list. Yesterday a Dun Skipper hung out on it, the day before a Queen spent hours on it. Yellow- throated Vireo singing in yard, nice to be part of its territory. Also heard the Eastern Wood-Pewee from porch, 100 yards away from the Cypress corridor, so it seems to be on territory, in earshot.

At dusk and after dark there were Common Nighthawk, Chuck-wills-widow, Eastern (mccallii) Screech-Owl, Barred Owl and a Great Horned Owl. Lots of bats (Brazillian (was Mexican) Freetail).

~ ~ ~ May 17 update header ~ ~ ~

(last updates: May 7, April 30, 20, 12)

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Butterflies are showing well, as are flowers, birds are great, whilst odes remain flat. All this and more....

Turn out the lights, the spring migration party is over. It's past us now for the most part. Sure was great while it lasted. Flowers are showing very well, as are birds, now overwhelmingly the breeders. A few more migrants will show, mostly first springs, maybe some flycatchers, but the peak is over. I saw 19 species of warblers this spring so far, hoping to add one more yet.

Some spring migration highlights were: on May 1 a BLACK-BILLED Cuckoo in yard, at park a GRAY-CHEEKED Thrush and 10 (ten!) White-faced Ibis. May 2 a male American Redstart in, and 3 Eastern Kingbird over yard, May 3 two Catbirds, May 4 a male Blackburnian Warbler, a BLACK TERN, a White-tipped Dove, and (at least) 5 Least Flycatcher. Rare here in spring single Upland Sandpiper flew over northward at dusk calling May 7 and 14. Late April a flock of Franklin's Gull were south of town, not seen every year here. Warbler highlights were a couple male American Redstart together April 28 at the 354 pecans, and probably three Ovenbird at UR May 12.

Late (always male) Red-breasted Nuthatch were 2 on March 16, a single on Apr. 5, 12, 17, & 28, and one May 1, 12, and 18(!) may be one lingering bird, or is it a few? Outstanding was a male SCARLET TANAGER in the new yard on April 12. Lots of Lazuli Bunting being seen, a big year for them locally. An OLIVE SPARROW was singing south of Utopia along river May 21.

As of April 17 at least, at Lost Maples, returning breeders like Acadian Flycatcher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo, etc. are back, a pair of Zone- tailed Hawk are around the ponds, lots of Golden-cheeks singing, Painted, Indigo, and Lazuli Bunting males at the trailhead feeders. See April 17 notes details. There are also notes from Lost Maples on April 23, and April 26 (Coral Snake!).

A WHITE-TIPPED DOVE is around the LM trailhead feeding station. Scott's Oriole can be heard on the ridges, heard Audubon's too, and Black-capped Vireo is easy on the clifftops above pond. The 300+' elevation gain is tough though, use a hiking stick.

Sorta nearish-by a Tropical Parula is being seen at Concan where singing males troll the river in spring annually. Note Neal's (Concan) now charges a daily fee ($5) for birding if you are not staying there. Rufous-capped Warbler is being seen at Park Chalk Bluff, ca. 16 or 18 mi. N. of Uvalde on Hwy. 55 ($8 per person entry fee). An apparent impure bird (hybrid) is leftward-south at pecan bottoms, a pure bird is around the boat ramp, or so seems the case.

~ ~ ~ end May 17 update header ~ ~ ~

May 17 ~ Only cooled to ca. 70dF, here we go with the summer heat. No migrants of course, it is all but over here, it's breeders now. I saw a 103dF for Sabinal and Uvalde, our porch read 97+. Good news is today is supposed to be peak for this round. Only four months to go. In a good year like this (maybe half of them, when summer doesn't get going in April, or March) summer is mid-May to mid-Sept. Though fall migrant birds are obvious by August, if you can take it.

Did have a Dickcissel, and a Chipping Sparrow in front yard today. Best bird was a bug, the FOS Eyed Elatarid, a giant 2" click beetle with oversized false eyespots on the thorax to intimidate with, was flying around the front yard mid-day. The firefly show is pretty good with a dozen at once blinking around the yard at dusk. Wow, it's better than Disneyland.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds of both sexes still present.

In the last two days Del Rio, Austin, and San Antonio (and many points around) have broken or tied all-time high temperature records for the dates.

May 16 ~ Still male and female Ruby-throated Hummers here, among a few hundred Black-chinned. In the afternoon I watched the yard pair of Yellow-billed Cuckoo copulate in the Hack/Mulberry (a single trunk it appears, but is both species). The male hovered foliage gleaning and grabbed a caterpillar, which was given to the female afterward, in the cuckoo manner. I have seen our other two members of the cuckoo family, the Ani and the Roadrunner do the same exact thing, the male acquires a food item, mates, then gives food item to female.

You can see how far we humans have evolved from birds, as now in people, generally the female makes sure to get dinner first. ;)

Late p.m. I had a Common Yellowthroat across the road and north a hundred feet at the draw. A near-miss for the yard list. Just after dusk I heard COUCH'S SPADEFOOT TOAD calling, the 2.5+ inches of rain here got them up! I thought I heard one last night, but it only called once. There were a half-dozen Barking Frog, well, barking, around the house last night and at 11 p.m. I saw one at the leaky spigot that let me put reading glasses on and lean down to it with flashlight for my best views ever, big dark eyes, a very cool animal. I rarely see this beast, though they are easy to hear. Kinda makes me not want to install the new spigot I just picked up.

Was a broiling 96dF or so here today, Del rio was a record 107! Spring is over, summer is here.

May 15 ~ Some cells trained right over the Utopia area overnight dumping 2 to 3 INCHES of rain locally! I haven't seen a town so happy since once when I was in Dallas and the Cowboys won. It was a great soaker, river flowing over spillway, and for the first time I could hear the river from porch. This will be enough for a 'second spring', the first round coming to a close. The early blooming flowers are mostly nearing done, most of the local resident breeding birds having gotten a set of young out of the nest already, and most of spring bird migration is past us. May rains ensure continued blooming, bugs, and breeding in June. We need more, and some in June for July. May and June are, or used to be, a couple of the highest monthly rain totals annually here, on average.

I was somewhat surprised at the lack of migrant action though in the morning, showing just how past peak we are. I had to run to town so checked a couple spots and mustered a few Yellow Warbler (3), 2 Least Flycatcher, and one ad. female Baltimore Oriole (354 pecans) for migrants. Otherwise it was strictly the breeders. Green Heron again at park. There was a green above/yellow below first spring male Hooded Oriole singing on Main St. in town, in trees in front of school (across from Outpost). There were a very few Chimney Swift flying about town early this morning. One passage bird in yard, about 5 p.m. when the first yard Killdeer flew over calling to make sure I saw it. Only one I've seen all spring.

May 14 ~ Got to upper 80's in front of a trough, strong SE flow, did have one Clay-colored Sparrow, a first spring, still about, the Ruby-throats, and the bird of the day was at 8:56 p.m., dusk, when another UPLAND SANDPIPER flew overhead northbound calling all the way. Second one this spring, miss it most springs. A MCS (Meso-scale convective system - a series of thunderstorm cells connecting into one giant thunderous marching beast) is bearing down on us about 11 p.m., finally. Shutting down and doing my rain dance.

May 13 ~ Another nice low, in low 50's, sure enjoy these last cool mornings for a few months. Heard a Catbird across the road early but no migrant action around yard. Yesterday there wasn't either, yet it was fair to good elsewhere, probably due to the lack of an understory here is the main reason. Hedgerows and cover left on fencerows make a huge difference with all manner of wildlife. Many birds especially need an understory, a ground layer of shrubs, for cover and forage.

Nice morning chorus from the local breeders though: Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren and Chickadee, Painted Bunting and Blue Grosbeak, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatcher, White-winged and Mourning Dove, Bewick's Wren, Lark Sparrow, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, Black-backed (Lesser) Goldfinch, distant Red-winged Blackbird, and begging young Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk and Common Raven at nests. Just out of earshot down the road two hundred yards are nesting Roadrunner, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Vermilion Flycatcher and Indigo Bunting, maybe Western Kingbird and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and probably Field Sparrow. I had Ash-throated Flycatcher late a.m. Not a bad crowd to wake up with.

Did not see a Chipping or Clay-colored Sparrow this morning for the first time in over a month, it appears they finally headed north. The new yard bird excitement today was a Hooded Oriole, first spring female at a hummer feeder. Looked like it got it, hope it makes a habit of it, and brings a male. Was a Pine Siskin, and a couple Cedar Waxwing.

May 12 ~ A bit of a NE wind overnight, coupled with the date means a shmattering of migrants. Four hours this a.m. and not a single warbler in the yard though looks bleak. Was better everywhere else. Had to go to town, so got to look around a little. A few FOS, and a couple good tardy sps.

At UP I heard the Red-breasted Nuthatch again, twice, two hours apart, still setting record late dates. Also late was a trio of Shoveler, 1 drake, 2 hens. There were a drake and 3 hen Blue-winged Teal with them, at one point the flock flushed and when it came into main park pond with wings set doin' 50mph dropping like missiles it sounded like a jet was crashing in the pond. Three more Blue-wings were at the Waresville turnoff pond.

At least 4 male and 2 female Common Yellowthroat were at the park, and a few more were at UR (Utopia on the River), a bumper crop day for them, prolly my high single day count here. The warbler of the day was OVENBIRD, with at least two, and it was probably three, in the frostweed at UR. The frostweed also had 6 Nashville, a couple Wilson's, and a Tennessee! It was the jumpin' spot today, even at a late 3 p.m. when I was there. A tardy Orange-crowned Warbler was amongst the flock too. Myrtles were at 354 pecans and UR. A Northern Waterthrush (white) was at UP, where there were a couple male Wilson's too. I heard a good warbler chip there but it got away. A Yellow here and there at each stop, and the nesting Yellow-throated, and Yellow-breasted Chat everywhere. It seems about 11 species of warblers today, yesterday had Redstart and Black-and-white, missed today, so 13 sps. from a couple hours today with the two from the yard yesterday. That is good here. Ovenbird was warbler species #19 for the spring migration here. One more to go.

A Warbling Vireo was singing at UP (audio tape), an Olive-sided Flycatcher was on snags at UR, a Least Flycatcher at each stop, and the yard, my 2nd and third of spring Traill's Flycatcher (Willow or Alder), one each at UR and UP, my FOS Baltimore Oriole was at the 354 pecans singing. Two other FOS at UP were Green Heron and Spotted Sandpiper, I must have missed the usual April Spottys. Odd was no Catbird, Thrush, or Mourning Warbler. A Zone-tailed Hawk hunted over the north end of town for an hour showing better than very well.

There was a male Green Kingfisher at the park, of which I got some good tape of flight call. At one point it flew up into a cypress 12' from me at eye level letting me slowly move binocs up to study. After a minute another called from down-river and his head snapped in the direction of the call, and he immediately bolted downriver to discuss something with the intruder.

Heard the Ringed King from porch again this morning, I bet they are nesting on the Sabinal River. There was an adult with a begging young at Park Chalk Bluff, I think last spring, which confirmed nesting in NW Uvalde Co., and at the edge of the Balcones Escarpment. I think they may be nesting in Junction on the Llano River, and at other more interior hill country sites, and they probably nest on the Frio too. Here in the upper Sabinal drainage, I have been unconvinced of anything but transient status save one wintering bird, for the last 9 years. But there is lots of river we can't see to check.

Another good bird today was a single Brewer's Blackbird that flew over the yard calling this morning. I couldn't believe it when I heard it, but looked up and there it was. The usual Common Grackle were at the Waresville turn area. A male Lazuli Bunting was at UR, they are still coming through. A House Wren was at UP.

The usual breeding Acadian Flycatcher at UR have not returned yet, which is not all that unusual, but starting to wonder when they will. Fewer Indigo Bunting, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher and Yellow-billed cuckoo too, things are down in numbers in many places, across the board, likely drought related.

I'm missing Chimney Swift most of my visits to town, they have been down for a couple years with the drought and depressed aerial insect plankton, used to be a boatload of them here for sure every summer. Barn Swallows are here but down too, Martins still seem fairly common.

There are still multiple male and female Ruby-throated Hummingbird at our feeders. I have no doubt these birds are breeding here with our peak of spring. One male has a little tiny ding in a corner of one rectrix so I know he has been here over a month. It is not all new birds all the time for 6 weeks. I suspect they go north after breeding here to catch another peak season and breed again elsewhere, as they depart mid-to-late May, females to early June sometimes, and aren't present again until late July, more often early-to-mid-August. Some are here for about 60+ days, then gone for 60-70+ until fall migration commences (if the same ones come through in fall). They are breeding here, and then leaving.

At dusk a Chuck-will's-widow flew right over my head out in the yard, set up in a live-oak and went to vocally duelling with its neighbors. Shortly after a female flew right over my head ten feet up, probably the pair I flushed across the road last week. I hear at least four at once, maybe 5, territories edge-to-edge. They make this amazing 'space' sound, my mic won't pick it up, most commonly given right when they T up to do battle, but also in flight. It is an other-worldly eerie reverberating deep slow zzwwoooowww zzzzwwoooooww. Like a sound-effect in a space movie, or some ginormous machine, and as if it is clearing its throat for the assault. It is an astonishing noise coming from a bird. It reminds me of some of the various Bird of Paradise's display sounds, it is one of the most incredible avian sonic discharges in America.

It was an unbelievable 86 species today in a couple hours at UP and UR, a cruise around the north end of town, and the yard. Amazing. It means if I had birded hard all day locally, I would have seen a hundred species locally. Remarkable if you ask me. Within a couple miles of town a bunch of things would have been easy to get: Black-n-white and Golden-cheeked Warbler, Cliff and Cave Swallow, Turkey, Roadrunner, Caracara, and there is over 90 without picking up any migrants.

The front took it down to the low 50's dF in the a.m., just fantastic, the high was 77 and in somewhat dry air was great. There was some overcast for the morning to early afternoon, cleared after 3 p.m., probably part of why bird activity was still good late.

In leps, a Mexican Yellow was at UR for a rare May record, another Mourning Cloak was at UP, Question Mark at UR, a couple Queen, several Southern Dogface, lots of Vesta Crescent and Pipevine Swallowtail. For odes it continues very weakly, but one Springtime Darner was still patrolling at UP.

May 11 ~ No more rain overnight, but a little cooling from it is nice. I think the frontal progress slowed liftoff from the south/source, as few migrants were around today. I only saw the yard as work had me busy, and besides a quick few passing migrants it was breeders today. Heard Ringed Kingfisher early.

The same or another Olive-sided Flycatcher was singing this morn, what a neat song. One Yellow Warbler seemed about most of the day, an Orchard Oriole was out there early, noonish a female American Redstart passed through, a couple hours later a female Black-n-white Warbler, about 5 p.m. or so a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. A nickel to know if it was north or south bound. There was one Least Flycatcher about a bit too.

Kathy found the real highlight of the day, a giant ant of some sort, at least a full INCH long. It looked like a velvet ant without most of the velvet, had ginormous jaws, and she got photos. I see there are roughly 282 types of ants in Texas, some 52 genera, and a quick look at photos showed nothing near what we saw. I tried to relocate it after the first set of pix, to get one with ruler, but couldn't refind it. It was a spectacular beast of an ant.

The male of a nearby nesting pair of Golden-fronted Woodpecker hunts the pecan bark incessantly for juicy insect morsels, no doubt to feed young. Funny too (does it know?) as he is protecting his future food. There is one branch over a foot in diameter with a large fissure in it, no doubt drought related, where the outer bark is cracked open almost an inch, for 16 inches. The bird detected something in there and went to work, poking in from top, then jumping backwards to bottom of fissure and poking from below, back and forth a few times like cat and mouse, and BAM! it pulls out what appeared a large Cerambycid (Long-horned) Beetle (my favorties I wish I had gotten a chance to see) and flew off towards nest with it.

May 10 ~ We got about a half-inch of rain overnight and early a.m. I heard the Ringed Kingfisher again in the morning. A Yellow Warbler, a Least Flycatcher were about it for migrants, except for my FOS Olive-sided Flycatcher singing "Quick! three beers!" I can't put my finger on why that song sounds so good to me. In the late afternoon a couple good cells went over and we got another INCH of rain! Yipee! Some spots on east side of valley may have totalled 2" and more. Best rain in a while, but it seemed to miss much of the upper valley in Bandera County, save a small area near B&R. An Audubon's Warbler flew into the big pecan just before sundown, and at dusk 8 Common Nighthawk were foraging over the yard at one time, my high count at the new place so far.

The rain should set the dirt back into the road, the heavy equipment turned it to dust, and maybe it will get some germination going in the bare scraped areas that were denuded for the cable laying. It was looking great for roadside wildflowers coming up, now it appears more a moonscape, scraped bare about 6' wide on one side or the other for a mile of road. It will be at least a couple years for it to get back where it was, more if drought continues.

May 9 ~ A little bit of drizzle overnight, a small group of warblers moved through pecans in a.m. including 3 Yellow, 2 Wilson's, a Tennesee, and one Blue-headed Vireo. A couple Least Flycatcher still about. The 3 expected Myiarchus flycatchers were all in yard over the morning, Great Crested, Brown-crested, and Ash-throated, late p.m. Kathy heard Eastern Wood-Pewee sing, a couple (B-b) Whistling-Ducks flew by, and I heard the Ringed Kingfisher late. It seemed one each male Yellow and Wilson's Warbler stuck around all day until late p.m. At least two Mourning Cloak emerged today and quickly left the area. The Eastern Phoebe hunts under the eaves, probably picking them off as they pop out.

May 8 ~ One more day of crew on road being near and loud, hope we make it. A small flock of warblers with 2 Yellows, a Nashville and 3 (!) Wilson's was about pecans for a bit. A Blue-headed Vireo was singing off and on. Had to run to town so a quick afternoon look at the park was had. A few migrant warblers, single Common Yellowthroat, Northern Waterthrush (wh), Nashville, and a tardy Orange-crowned Warbler. I heard both Green and Ringed Kingfisher. In the yard far fewer Clay-colored Sparrow, and Chipping, lots of departures on these southerlies. Still a few Siskin around, lots of Waxwings on the Mulberrys in town. 6 Western Kingbird were on the fenceline south of town. Still a siskin here.

~ ~ ~ May 7 update header ~ ~ ~

(last updates: April 30, 20, 12, March 30)

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Butterflies are showing well, as are flowers, birds are great, whilst odes remain flat. All this and more....

It's a new show changing daily now, new flowers, new birds, new butterflies, hopefully soon new dragonflies. It can hardly get more exciting than watching spring explode. Late March and early April have seen a couple inches of rain, just what we need for a good flower bloom, which looks to be in the cards, it is going very well so far. Bird migration is near overall average peak for here.

On May 1 I saw a BLACK-BILLED Cuckoo in yard, and at park a GRAY-CHEEKED Thrush and 10 White-faced Ibis. May 2 a male American Redstart in, and 3 Eastern Kingbird over yard, on May 3 two Catbirds, on May 4 Blackburnian Warbler, BLACK TERN, White-tipped Dove, and (at least) 5 Least Flycatcher.

A (few?) late male Red-breasted Nuthatch Apr. 5, 12, 17, & 28, and one May 1 (!) may be one lingering bird, or is it a few? Outstanding was a SCARLET TANAGER April 12, the same date I saw my first returning male Painted Bunting. Lots of Lazuli Bunting being seen, a big year for them locally.

As of April 17 at least, at Lost Maples, returning breeders like Acadian Flycatcher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo, etc. are back, a pair of Zone- tailed Hawk are around the ponds, lots of Golden-cheeks singing, Painted, Indigo, and Lazuli Bunting males at the trailhead feeders. See that date for details. There are also notes from there on April 23, and April 26 (Coral Snake!).

A WHITE-TIPPED DOVE is around the trailhead feeding station. Scott's Oriole can be heard on the ridges, heard Audubon's too, and Black-capped Vireo is easy on the clifftops above pond. The 300+' elevation gain is tough though, use a hiking stick.

Sorta nearish-by a Tropical Parula is being seen at Concan where singing males troll the river in spring annually. Note Neal's (Concan) now charges a daily fee ($5) for birding if you are not staying there. Rufous-capped Warbler is being seen at Park Chalk Bluff, ca. 16 or 18 mi. N. of Uvalde on Hwy. 55 ($8 per person entry fee). An apparent impure bird (hybrid) is leftward-south at pecan bottoms, a pure bird is around the boat ramp, or so seems the case.

~ ~ ~ end May 7 update header ~ ~ ~

May 7 ~ The utility construction crew is right out front laying cable so too loud for the birds, and us. There were a couple Yellow and a Nashville Warbler, a Least Flycatcher, and another singing Warbling Vireo, but mostly just the residents. A couple Mourning Cloak butterfly emerged in the 80dF heat and flew off. The bird of the day was at 8:56 p.m. when an UPLAND SANDPIPER called as it flew over going north. They are very rare here in spring, it might be about my second in ten springs now. The can be common at twilight and dawn in fall (August for them), and though common just east of us, they are scarce here in spring. Also late p.m. I heard an Eastern Wood-Pewee sing.

May 6 ~ Yard in a.m. had a few migrants, a couple Least Flycatcher, one Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Nashville and two Yellow Warbler, and two new (migrant) vireos for yard list, a Red-eyed and a Warbling, both singing. Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo were also singing but are nearby breeders. Four species of vireo in the yard is neat, and yesterday a Bell's sang around the yard all day, nowhere to be heard now. A pair of Vermilion Flycatcher were out in the pecans again, wish they'd take up residence. A Roadrunner was IN the yard (finally) in the p.m., it looked like it had been at the horse trough over the fence. They are laying fiber optic cable out on the road so too darn noisy, and likely a factor in reduced bird activity here today, and tomorrow. Had a quick look at what was likely that 1st spring Zone-tailed Hawk today from yard.

May 5 ~ Was 40 in KVL, probably about 41-2 here, chilly for the date. Only a couple Yellow Warbler and the singing territorial Yellow- throated Warbler were in the pecan early. Plus a Least Flycatcher. About 9 a.m. a dozen or more warblers moved through quickly, I couldn't get them all. 7 Yellows, a couple Nashville, and a few got away. I heard a Myrtle and a Black-throated Green chip amongst them so I chased them to the draw a hundred feet down road out gate, and saw the tail end of the last couple Yellows, that flock was on the move, likely migrants that just came down. It is as if they can't stop flapping at first, they are so jacked up. A warbler that spent the night after feeding for a day is far far more sedate, not zinging about.

There was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in the draw, but better was a GREEN KINGFISHER, female, in the dry (but lush) draw/creekbed, and a hundred feet from me having it on the yard list. I'd have heard it from the yard if I was in it! The river is 500' away or so, too far to hear them, so far. About 15 minutes later from the front porch I heard a RINGED Kingfisher out on the river. There were then 2 fighting Least Flycatcher in the big pecan, and a tardy Orange-crowned Warbler. By the shed about 10 a.m. I got my first yard Wilson's Warbler, finally. Warbler species #14 in yard. Presumedly the same female Lazuli Bunting was out there too. A trolling Bell's Vireo sang all around the yard, all day.

Went to the 360 crossing and had a little warbler flock with Myrtle Warbler, a couple each Nashville and Yellow, a Black-throated Green, and seperately a Northern Waterthrush, and a male Common Yellowthroat. Best was a lone Warbling Vireo, the FOS for me, singing. At the 354 pecans there was another Black-throated Green, an Orange-crowned Warbler, a female Orchard Oriole, besides some Yellow and Nashville Warbler, another Least Flycatcher, and a first spring male Bullock's Oriole. At the park (UP) there were 5 Blue-winged Teal, 4 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, a Least Flycatcher, another Black-throated Green Warbler (#4 today), another Northern Waterthrush, another male Common Yellowthroat, a singing Northern Parula, a Nashville and a Yellow. The park also had a Savanah Sparrow up in the deep woods with 2 Lincoln's!UR had a Least Flycatcher, Nashville and Yellow Warbler, another female Orchard Oriole, and a Grosbeak that got away but which sounded like a Rose-breasted.

With the breeding Yellow-throated Warbler and Chat, it was 11 species of warblers today locally for me, surely a few more were around, might be the peak day for warbler diversity this spring. Any time you break 10 species in a day here it indicates good movement. Of course one could easily have added breeding Black-and-white and Golden-cheeked at the 1050 pass at the furthest (of course some are very near but on private land). Might be peak day for spring migrant warblers, depends on last chance front next week.

Another Mourning Cloak was out, at the park where I have seen a couple over the years. For odes a Prince Baskettail and my FOS Checkered Setwing were flying. Almost forgot: a half-dozen male Yellow-headed Blackbird and 4 or 5 females were at the horse corrals on 360. A late p.m. walk to crossing had House Wren, a few Lincoln's Sparrow, 2 Yellow Warbler, and I saw the Ringed Kingfisher fly over the 360 crossing heading down to UR, where I don't have it on the 'grounds' list. Got up to about 80dF here today. Late afternoon I was across the road down the draw and flushed TWO Chuck-wills-widow together, so surely a pair, one has been singing from that area.

May 4 ~ Slower for warblers than last couple days, means major departures last night, and less inbound arrivals, though one good one was about. It was colder than yesterday morning, 34 in KVL, and records for the whole month of May EVER were broken at SAT and AUS. We were about 37dF, quite chilly for May here. The prior two nights had strong northerlies, last night was the first calm (or southerly flow, good migration weather, for the birds) in three nights, looks like they took off on it.

What looked like the same male Lazuli Bunting was on the seed, if so would mean day 4 for it here. In early a.m. in big pecan only a couple Yellow, couple Nashville, and one Tennessee. But a Least Flycatcher singing even across road was nice after not seeing one I heard call yesterday, now a yard bird, audio taped. When I walked across road I saw 2 of them, and saw some just-fledged Black-crested Titmouse with gray crests, looking like Juniper/Oak/Plain Titmouse.

Another male Orchard was out front by gate, I'll never get tired of them, I still remember my first at Aransas NWR, in 1966 (!). Mid-morning after breakfast we walked to the crossing and had at least 3 more Least Flycatcher, a bare-minimum total of 5 in a half mile!

The fanciest thing was down the road 500 yds. S., a male BLACKBURNIAN Warbler, and no wonder many think it the prettiest warbler in the U.S., hope it gets to our pecans while I'm in the yard. It was working a pecan with another Tennessee. That makes five out of ten springs that I've recorded it here. Kathy found a male Common Yellowthroat, there were a few Yellow and couple Nashville Warbler, territorial singing Chat and Yellow-throated Warblers. We also saw a Lincoln's Sparrow, couple Eastern Wood-Pewee, a first-spring Zone-tailed Hawk which I could have seen from yard were I in it, few Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Mourning Dove nest with two eggs, and seperately a just-fledged Mourning Dove, a few Indigo Bunting were singing along river, lots of Clay-colored and Chipping, and several pairs of Lark Sparrow. One Mourning Cloak butterfly was good, must be another source tree down the road. And of course some of the regulars like Vermilion Flycatcher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Vireo, Painted Bunting, etc..

Back here at the house in the p.m. a Western Kingbird flew over. Around 1 p.m. couple Yellow Warbler in pecan, a Nashville across road, not much for warbler action. Probably the same female Lazuli Bunting was around, and a couple Lincoln's Sparrows were in yard. One Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was about. Warmed to upper 70's dF, maybe 80 in hot spots.

The birds of the day happened late, first at about 6 p.m. I walked to cypresses along river and a White-tipped Dove flew by below canopy. Another near-miss for yard list. After dinner about 7:16:32 p.m. I was out front with binocs when I spotted something very oddly shaped, a lone BLACK TERN! My first in the Sabinal River Valley, have had them at the Uvalde Hatchery in spring before. It was following the river habitat corridor, wonder if it will stop at the park? A great record away from water.

When I was over at river after 6, I also had a little group of warblers with 2 Nashville, 2 Myrtle, a Yellow, and a FOS female Black-throated Green. I briefly saw a pair of dragonflies in wheel (hooked up) that looked like Bronze River Cruisers, but they got away. Late p.m. a Western Kingbird was on fence out front, and almost forgot, I saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet this a.m. in yard. At dusk at least 3 female Common Nighthawk were around yard area, and a male booming just north out of view.

May 3 ~ The bird parade continues, with obvious heavy migrant passage, and some have stayed a few days, such as the male Lazuli Bunting and the White-crowned Sparrow which are both on day 3 here now. Winds were down to about 10 mph by pre-dawn and for the first hour of light before they picked back up to 15+. Temps were low 40's dF, chills were in the 30's early a.m.! Holy cow for early May here!

San Antonio broke its record low for the date by 2dF at 45, Enchanted Rock was 34dF, and near Lost Maples recorded a 39dF at 7 a.m.! Add the wind and you are freezing, tough on insect eating birds. Warmed to the mid-upper 60's dF in the afternoon, quite nice. Last year was in low 90's this date. Winds finally got light late in p.m., and neared calm at dusk.

The first hour of light was great in the yard with 5 species of warblers in the big pecan at once, singing Black-and-white (first spring male), Black-throated Green male, a few Yellow, 1 Tennessee, and 4+ Nashville. A Western Kingbird was new for the yard, and a flock of 8 Kingbirds flew north that had to have been Eastern (saw no yellow), the only type one would see a migrant flock of here right now.

A bit later morn after breakfast a Bell's Vireo was singing out the office window (first in yard), and an Orchard Oriole was singing in the same hackberry, they were 6 and 8 feet over my head. The blending of habitats here has regular Great Crested, Brown-crested, and Ash-throated Flycatchers all in yard (calling). There were at least 25 Clay-colored, 15 Chipping, a few Lark and a Field Sparrow, female Indigo Bunting, a few greenie Painted Bunting (couple ad.males), heard Blue-headed Vireo.

Some baby House Finches begging at the seed, 3 juveniles at one ad. pair. The FOS female Lazuli Bunting came in to seed, thought sure I heard some Baltimore Oriole calls from the oriole in the top of the big pecan but didn't get a look past oriole species. The male Orchard Oriole in the morning hung around till afternoon, sang off and on, did the chatter that is a series of the chuck notes run together fast. Very cool, got some tape but not the best longest series he was doing. Besides a couple to few Yellows, the morning warbler flock in the yard was gone by 9-10 a.m. and not seen again. With the (breeder) Chat and Yellow- throated across the road it was 7 species of warblers.

Lots of Yellow-billed Cuckoo, thought I heard a Least Flycatcher but couldn't dig it out of the wind. It seemed two or three Yellow Warblers all day in the yard, and at 4 p.m. or so the same or another Black-throated Green Warbler showed up and spent the rest of the day in the pecans. Also a first spring male Blue Grosbeak was new.... About 5 p.m. I went across the road and saw two male Yellow Warbler, a FOS Catbird, and a FOS Traill's (Alder or Willow) Flycatcher. So I walked south down the road to the crossing a half mile.

Saw about five more Yellow Warbler, another Tennessee, a few Nashville, a Chat, a few male Orchard Oriole, 2 Western Kingbird on the pasture fenceline 1/2 mile south, a much bluer-winged and -tailed, female Lazuli Bunting (a second one), a sordid looking Pewee that didn't call, with an all dark bill and heavy breast-band, 2+ Lincoln's Sparrow, a House Wren, a few Painted Bunting, lots more Clay-colored and Chipping Sparrow, some Summer Tanager, several territorial Yellow-throated Warbler, more cuckoos.

A Black-bellied Whistling-Duck called as it flew over the yard about 6 p.m. single Yellow, Black-throated Green and Yellow-throated Warblers were in the big pecan at 7:30 p.m. At dusk a second Catbird called from southward, while I was on front porch, so a yard bird, and heard Common Nighthawk and Chuck-wills-widow; after dark, Barred, and Eastern (Tex-Mex mccallii) Screech-Owl.

A Mourning Cloak in the wash/draw just north up road 50 yards. At dark Kathy was on the porch and spotted a herd of pigs on the adjacent land, where the horses are. Was several sows and about 20 sucklings. Gadzooks! You know how much environmental damage that represents? I don't know how anything nests on the ground. After dark armadillo and raccoon were in the yard, love the dillo, they eat fire ant nests, the coon has to go.

May 2 ~ The rain from the front was minimal overnight, maybe a tenth or two, but the wind was bodacious, taking many of the pecan flowers down, probably mostly losing lots of the crop. I hear much of the hill country peach crop was shot by the late March freeze. It is amazing anything ever makes it with the weather roller-coaster here. It was surprising to see 3 Eastern Kingbird flying north into the 20-30 mph winds, maybe they went down in the live-oaks out back. Gusting up to 40 and more, temps are dropping. This will be hard on both the local nesters, and the passage migrants heading north. Next two mornings to be in high 30's, so it will be three days of reduced to very low insect activity (food). Hummers are swarming the feeders.

I heard a warbler singing, which I thought sure was an American Restart. Finally at 11 a.m. after four attemps to dig it out of the whipping trees, it flew from the hackberry over the outbuilding to the one out the office window, an adult male Am. Redstart for the yard list, and 3rd since Sunday! I've never had 3 ad. males in an entire spring here (now in tenth), much less in just five days (Rusty and I saw two together Sunday April 28). It is the 13th species of warbler in yard in 5 weeks, plus Audubon's. Have had Wilson's, Yellowthroat, and MacGillivray's elsewhere locally, so, thus far in spring 16 species have occurred locally, plus Audubon's.

Also outside was a Blue-headed Vireo, which had more yellow in vent than yesterday's so was not day four for one bird, and likely the fourth one in four days. Kathy beat me to the lunch table and spotted a male Lazuli Bunting on the seed, species #100 for the yard list, in 5 weeks and two days. Spectacular methinks. Could be the bunting we heard but didn't see yesterday. A male Blue Grosbeak was also down on the seed. What appeared yesterday's White-crowned Sparrow was on the seed again too (nominate leucophrys).

Just-fledged Carolina Wren were begging around the shed.

May 1 ~ WOW! What a great day for birds! If only I could have spent it birding! Hourly checks of the yard was most of it, but lucked in to having to go to town so got to peek at the park, though late afternoon. A lot of birds rode the southerlies ahead of the impending front, which will shut down movement. Often the rain day is the best, but a day or even two after is better sometimes, pending when the front hits, and other factors. It warmed to mid-80's dF!

Best bird was early in the a.m. here, a BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO! It flew from a huge dense hackberry into the big pecan, landing out in the open 20' away. When it flew I saw no rufous in wings, and when it landed I saw the mostly gray undertail with small white dots, smaller all black bill, but it didn't like the looks of me and flew shortly. We're covered in Yellow-billed, all day, every day for about two weeks now, this bird was immediately obviously not one, being more slight of build, compact (smaller), and slightly off-, not blinding-snow, white, below.

Then a couple Dickcissel flew over calling, a White-crowned Sparrow showed up on the seed, followed by a singing male Black-headed Grosbeak, which I don't get every year here. All three were yard birds. Another or the same Red-breasted Nuthatch tooted his little tin horn behind the shed, my first May record. Then in the afternoon another Black-throated Green Warbler showed up and it was still here at 8 p.m., 6+ hours later. Lots of Nashville, at least 4 Yellow Warbler, five Painted Bunting at once were on the seed, 2 male, 3 female, and taped a singing Blue-headed Vireo, either the third in three days, or one has stayed for three days.

I stopped at the park about 3:30 p.m., where 10 WHITE-FACED IBIS were on the far shore (200') across the dam at Audrey's! My first ever at the park. They were in great color, iridescent in the sun, and all White-faced, no Glossy.' There were two American Coot (two!) which are rare here in spring (especially lately in drought). I talked with Judy Schaeffer who said they were there a couple days, she also mentioned some others had seen Lazuli Buntings around locally too, so it is a banner year for them it seems. Not as rare as the Ibis, but less than annual, up in the woods I found a single migrant, a GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH! A lone late female Brewer's Blackbird was walking around the gas station, good in May. At the house there was an unseen Lazuli/Indigo Bunting buzzing.

I took a short walk on the road out front at dusk, saw a Wilson&aposs Warbler 50 yards from yard list, 3 Lincoln's Sparrow, 25 Clay-colored, some Lark, Painted Bunting, Yellow-throated Warbler sang till near dark. A Chuck was calling right across from the gate at twilight.

If someone checked everywhere locally today, I bet they would have built quite a list, surely there was lots of good stuff around. My best warbler fallout here ever was a May 2, a cold front with rain and drizzle, and 20 species of warblers knocked down locally. So keep your fingers crossed as this front passes, and check the pecans (they are the big bloomer right now). Forecast is for mid-30's with 20-30MPH northerlies, and some rain as it passes. Possibly the perfect storm for a fallout here, either during the event, or the day and two after when everything held up to the south gets to move again.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

April butterflies were good, with about 49 species seen, my highest April diversity in the last four years, back to 2009 when I saw 52 in April. Birds seemed good to great, odes are still way way down, presumedly from the drought. Flowers were fair to good considering the scant amounts of rain we've gotten. White-tipped Dove at Lost Maples might be the best bird around, Scarlet Tanager is very rare here in spring so that on April 12 is best migrant so far.

~ ~ ~ April 30 Update header ~ ~ ~

MOST RECENT UPDATE: April 30, 2013
(last updates: April 20, 12, March 30, 17, 8)

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Butterflies were out in great numbers (record species diversity) in Feb. and March, birds are up, whilst odes remain flat. All this and more.....

Wow, it's a new show changing daily now, new flowers, new birds, new butterflies, soon new dragonflies, every day! It can hardly get more exciting than watching spring unfold. Late March and early April have seen a couple inches of rain, just what we need for a good flower bloom, which looks to be in the cards, it is going very well so far.

In April, a (few?) late Red-breasted Nuthatch 5, 12, 17, & 28, may be one lingering bird, or is it a few birds? All male. A record-early Northern Waterthrush was at the park the 5th. Migratory returning breeders are showing up, Summer Tanager which I thought I heard the 1st, was singing the 2nd. Better yet a SCARLET TANAGER was here April 12, and that date I saw my first returning male Painted Bunting. My first male Orchard Oriole on the 13th. The neotropical migrants are just getting back and spotty as such at first.

As of April 17 at least, at Lost Maples, returning breeders like Acadian Flycatcher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo, etc. are back. A pair of Zone-tailed Hawk are displaying around the ponds, lots of Golden-cheeks singing, Painted, Indigo, and Lazuli Bunting males at the trailhead feeders. See that date for details.

March notes: we had our first of year singing male Golden-cheeked Warbler in the SR (former) yard March 8, and the first male Black-and-white Warbler there on March 5. First Flycatchers returning were Vermilion on March 9, and Ash-throated on March 10. Both Yellow-throateds, Warbler, and Vireo, were back singing at the park on March 16.

Second half of March arrivals were Clay-colored Sparrow on 22nd, Nashville Warbler the 23rd, Monarch the 24th, Hooded Oriole and White-eyed Vireo the 25th, and I saw the bird I heard the 25th, the FOS Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, on the 26th.

Sorta nearish-by a Tropical Parula is being seen at Concan where singing males troll the river in spring annually. Note Neal's (Concan) now charges a daily fee ($5) for birding if you are not staying there. Rufous-capped Warbler is being seen at Park Chalk Bluff, ca. 18 mi. N. of Uvalde on Hwy. 55 ($8 per person entry fee), go left to pecan bottoms.

For visiting cell phone users, only AT&T works here, or Concan, and other local areas (Sabinal, Uvalde, etc.) and wi-fi is available at the Utopia library, and the store in Vanderpool has a sign saying they have it there too.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

April 30 ~ A male Black-throated Green Warbler was quiet-singing in the pecan out front, first one I've seen in the yard. After yesterday's first, a second Blue-headed Vireo was in the yard, among a migrant flock of Nashville, and one Orange-crowned Warbler. One Great Crested Flycatcher was calling, besides the more numerous Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycatchers, all three hearable at once. Had a couple un-ID'd Orioles (likely Bullock's Orioles (could have been Baltimore but early for them here - Bullock's precedes them). I had 5 Scissor-tails at once out front late in the p.m.

April 29 ~ A Blue-headed Vireo singing out back was new for the yard list. Rusty had a Black-and-white Warbler out back early, and we had a singing first-spring male Orchard Oriole in the pecans, the regular Nashvilles, but he left for the flight home, so it was back to the salt mines for me and mostly just hearing the regulars outside, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Painted Bunting, Summer Tanager, Yellow-throated Warbler, did have a nice male Yellow Warbler in the big pecan. One Orange-crowned Warbler was singing a bit in short fits and spurts. Wasn't here much so either yesterday or today the Eastern Phoebes fledged from the nest over bathroom window.

April 28 ~ Showed Rusty the local Utopia birding stops hoping for some migrants, a few were about, but scratching for them besides Nashvilles, as usual. For the first time for me here I saw TWO adult male American Redstart at once, together (!) at the 354 pecan patch. The Bell's Vireo and Chat are back over in the mesquite past the field on north side of that road. Saw one Tennessee Warbler in the yard, another at UR. A dozen or more Nashville, a few Orange-crowned, a few Myrtle, really amazing was 4 male Common Yellowthroat, probably my local day record count of spring migrants, or ad. males. A couple Wood Duck were at the 360 crossing.

A couple Eastern Kingbird were by the storage spaces at point blank, always a good bird here, other FOS's were Chimney Swift, Dickcissel, a female Great-tailed Grackle, and at park I heard Least Flycatcher. We saw a Green Kingfisher at the park too (and heard a Ringed flying downriver from yard at dawn). A male Lazuli Bunting was in Bandera Co. out Jones Cmty. Rd., must be my 6th or 7th this spring, a great showing for them. The Cave Swallow culvert is active about 4 miles west of town out 1050 by the pond with the normal couple dozen birds.

The park didn't have warblers unfortunately, but there was another (!) male Red-breasted Nuthatch (or one staying all April?) for my latest date ever, for the fourth time this month, my first April records. All a week apart, and all with multiple visits between dates without detecting the bird. Was it four birds, or one that ranges so far up and down river that I'm only catching him there once a week. There was also a Great Crested Flycatcher there, and 2 Shoveler were knocked-down migrants. At the north end of town there was one White-crowned Sparrow, all but absent this winter.

Three worn migrant Monarch were seen, as many Question Mark (summer) and I saw one fresh Mourning Cloak leaving yard (just emerged). Late in p.m. from the yard I caught a flock of Brewer's Blackbirds heading over the river toward the corrals they are usually at. Some White Milkwort was blooming up the road a bit, and we found some type of borage, 6 purple petals, yellow center, low ground cover.

April 27 ~ Today Rusty and I went to Uvalde, via Old Sabinal Rd. to see some south Texas brush country. I hadn't been to Uvalde in some time, and was shocked and disappointed. The disappointment was the fish hatchery gate being locked, so no access. To bad they can't post a sign and tell us what is going on, they are (were) only open one day on the weekend, and that day the gate is locked. As the only shorebird spot around, it stinks to say the least. They reduced the heck out of the hours (cut in half compared to the prior decades) as it is, open only 6 hours on weekends when most people can visit, and no one can open the gate. AAARRRRGGGHHH!!!!!

Then at Ft. Inge I was shocked by the number of dead trees. It will not be the same in our lifetimes. Big old pecans, cypress, hackberries, 50-100 years old, right along the banks of a waterway, dead. And Uvalde folk voted away some of their water rights while these trees were dying due to drought? The number of birds was down tremendously, likely related to the loss of half of the vegetation (and insect life, cover, etc.) there. I didn't recognize the place.

There were a few Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, Great Kiskadee, we heard a couple Green Jay, but the place is a skeleton of its former self, biologically. The drought has been devastating here. Very sad to see, it was my favorite spot in Uvalde for passerines. I did glimpse and hear a White-tipped Dove there.

Cook's Slough has fared better, with more permanent water due to the water treatment facility. But still it seemed much quieter than usual overall, though was a very slow day for migrants. Heard Olive Sparrow, but did not see or hear Green Jay, Kiskadee, Audubon&'s Oriole, or even Long-billed Thrasher. Did have a couple Spotted Sandpiper, Verdin, Chimney Swift, Neotropic Cormorant, Coot, a Moorhen.

On the way down on Old Sabinal (Old 90) Road we saw singing Cassin's Sparrow, skylarking in the usual fields of tall grass with short mesquite. One male Bobwhite called in plain view after crossing the road (but we don't know why he did), lots of Scissor-tails, some Bullock's Oriole, fair numbers of Painted Bunting and Dickcissel. There seemed to me to be lots of White-crowned Sparrow for the late date, a few small flocks were flushed along road, probably 15-20 birds total. A couple Vesper, lots of Lark, Chipping, and Clay-colored Sparrow. Rusty had a Mississippi Kite while I was in a store.

April 26 ~ With my friend Rusty visiting from CA, birding it is, we went to Lost Maples. We saw a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a male MacGillivray's Warbler, the White-tipped Dove, 4 male Lazuli Bunting, a few Painted and lots of Indigos. The best and worst thing was a CORAL SNAKE, run over dying on the park road. We flagged down some folks and some nice people took a picture of it for me. First one I've seen in a decade, though the resident ranger says he sees them once or twice per year.

We heard a couple dozen Golden-cheeked Warbler, saw a good number very well, and I heard 6 Black-capped Vireo, we saw a few well. In fact I think they are more easily viewed here than at Kerr WMA, but you have to do the 300+' elevation gain climb up to the top of the cliffs over the first pond. So you can't drive to them and walk flatish ground like at Kerr WMA, but if you can do a 1/3 mile of steep up a roughish trail, they seemed easy as I've ever seen them up top. A hiking stick is handy (required for my carcass). We had one on the trail only a couple hundred yards up the trail, as is often the case, but viewing is so much easier on top it is worth the effort, just take some breaks. We had what was likely a Black-necked (I think it is) Garter Snake going up the trail. A big fat one.

Plus looking down on Zone-tailed Hawk is cool. We earlier had it calling overhead further up-canyon of the ponds, the same male as last week, it is nesting in the area. From the rim I spotted it below us and eventually it circled up to the clifftop, then flew right over our heads 20-30' above us. An incredible view is to be had looking down on pond, and, down canyon so you can see how the bottom of the canyon is lush eastern deciduous type forest and live-oak, and the top half is drier predominately juniper, with some Buckley Oak.

The vireo's preferred patches of Bastard Oak are smaller here, only 3' tall instead of 6+, and, are 10 feet across instead of 20 or more. So the birds are IMHO more easily seen, very easily. We had a few males countersinging, and one singing male moved through a juniper right below a singing Golden-cheeked Warbler! Would've made a nice video clip.

We also saw a nice yellow leech, and a blue crayfish. One ranger we asked said he had only seen the standard red crayfish here. Tony Gallucci in Hunt (Mr. Hill Country Natural History) said he sees some blue ones here in the hill country. Was a first for me. Flowers were great, there is a huge Sycamore Leaf Snowbell that has covered ground and water in fallen flowers, and is still covered, it is in the Witch Hazel area in narrows past second pond. Was a bit windy and cool for butterflies and odes. Did have juvenile Carolina Chickadees out of the nest and begging.

Really neat was in the afternoon south of town a couple miles on 187 near country club we found a flock of 23 Franklin's Gull circling up from low on a thermal, which then took off heading NE. Don't get them every year here. Saw some roadside Turkey along 187 south of Vanderpool. Finally, at the horse corrals on 360 there was a flock of 70 male only Yellow-headed Blackbird. On the way back on 187 in Bandera Co. we saw a Gray Fox cross the road near the historical marker.

April 25 ~ The male Rufous Hummingbird here for several days left this morning, was not detected after about 10 a.m. A couple fresh Mourning Cloak had just emerged, likely from the chrysalides under the eaves here. A nighthawk was seen at dusk, which seemed Lesser, but will remain nighthawk sps. My friend Rusty Scalf from California arrived for a visit in the p.m., and he, Kathy and I watched Gigantor, the huge bat foraging overhead for 10 minutes. Either Mastiff or Large Brown is my ID guess so far. Did you know there are 32 species of bats in Texas? Down the road Rusty spotted a FOS female Blue Grosbeak.

April 24 ~ Saw my FOS (and yard) Mississippi Kite (1) and Cliff Swallow (5) today. The regulars around, Painted Bunting, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, some Chuck-wills-widow calling at dark.

April 23 ~ Lost Maples, guiding a couple very sharp ladies from Vermont. We got great looks at several Golden-cheeked Warblers beyond the two ponds where canyon narrows. We also saw a White-tipped Dove, which is likely the first one known from the park or Bandera County. Someone e-mailed me and said they had FOUR there the 21st! These two sharp gals saw it the day before but hadn't ID'd it yet.

We had all the regulars, I heard a Black-capped Vireo up on a hillside, and saw a Wilson's Warbler, heard Marsh Wren and Yellowthroat in the cattails that are clogging the ponds. We need a major gully washer in the worst way. Saw a Plains Clubtail dragonfly, quite a few good flowers, cool and moist for insects overall though. Good looks at Canyon Wren Rufous-crowned Sparrow, and Zone-tailed Hawk, the regulars like Painted, Indigo, and Lazuli Bunting. Heard Scott's and Audubon's Oriole high up on the ridges.

Upon return home in afternoon I got my first yard Indigo Bunting.

April 22 ~ A couple sharp ladies from Vermont had an American Redstart this day at Lost Maples, the first I've heard of locally this spring, it is not a easy sure thing here in spring, more than one year I have scraped to get one.

April 21 ~ A great day for migrants locally, a good movement obvious. Good thing after writing/posting on the 20th it could be good today.

April 20 ~ Too busy and too windy, now 20mph from the south, which at least might bring some migrants. Too windy is one of the seasons here in Texas. It lasts most of the year. A few warblers passed through yard, Orange-crowned, Myrtle and Nashville, the standard. Brown-crested Flycatcher seeming to be prospecting the area. I'm hoping tomorrow might have a post-frontal wave come in.

April 19 ~ Wind blew most of the night, northerly, a migration stopper. One showed though, a Great Crested Flycatcher was the FOS in the front yard. A few Nashville, an Orange-crowned, and later in p.m. a Myrtle was singing, one Ruby-crowned Kinglet, one White-eyed Vireo, just a trickle of passage. A Pronghorn Clubtail dragonfly though was great in the yard, in a sunny wind-sheltered spot, it took an inch-long hymenop (wasp) for breakfast.

April 18 ~ The front hit at dawn with strong northerlies, a 15 deg.F temp drop in less than an hour, and it blew hard all day 20-30mph gusting higher. We might have gotten nearly a full tenth of an inch of rain. An Osprey was struggling north in the wind, I doubt it lasted long before going down for the day.

April 17 ~ Made up for yesterday's dearth of notes with guiding a great group from California to Lost Maples and saw a bunch of FOS (first of spring) species. We met at Utopia Park and I was a bit early, to get the worm of course, which was another, later date yet, for Red-breasted Nuthatch! That makes three this April, one a week so far. Remarkable, never had one in April before. We did get a look at a Barred Owl, and in the blooming live-oaks there were some Orange-crowned, Nashville, and Myrtle, and I heard an Audubon's Warbler.

At Lost Maples' feeding station at the overflow/trailhead parking area we saw male Painted, Indigo, and Lazuli Bunting, and Blue Grosbeak, the latter three were FOS for me, not to mention my color receptors nearly tilted. (I got a note later in the day the Steve and Sylvia Hilbig had Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak locally last week some time) They can be spotty as the first few show back up.

Up the ponds trail we heard a lot of Golden-cheeked Warbler, but they were not the most cooperative I've seen them, though lots of males are singing, spend the day and you'll see them. A Wilson's Warbler was my FOS, as were a couple Acadian Flycatcher (my earliest date), 2+ Eastern Wood-Pewee, and several Red-eyed Vireo.

There were at least a half-dozen Hutton's Vireo singing along the trail, only one or two Yellow-throated, a good number of White-eyed Vireo as usual. A couple Yellow-throated Warbler were near the pond, lots of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, some Black-and-white Warbler singing, and at least a three pairs of Louisiana Waterthrush, one pair prospecting for nest site, and I saw a couple instances of flight song, which is very cool, I love to see and hear that.

A number of migrant Orange-crowned and Nashville Warbler were about as usual this time of year. The best show was a pair of Zone-tailed Hawk around the ponds, the male in flight display doing the tightest pirouettes, corkscrewing downward so fast as to amaze, and for some time had a 3'+ stick in its talons, circling and dashing about with tail in an exaggerated fan, showing his flying skills and stick off, it was really spectacular. To see the common thing in an uncommon way....

We saw a foot long Ring-necked Snake in the path, with an orange ring around the neck, what a beautiful snake. Only a couple female Common Whitetail for dragonflies. Butterflies were a Sleepy Orange, a Eufala Skipper, and one Spicebush Swallowtail, but it was overcast and windy for insects. Lots of flowers in bloom, but it is just getting underway, and looks like it will be a good show for the next month plus. Send rain though.

When I was coming home I got out to open a gate a mile and half away, what sings but a Golden-cheeked Warbler, then when I got home Kathy said there was just a Golden-cheeked Warbler singing in the yard! Should note one of the Golden-cheeks at Maples had the funniest song I ever heard, surely a first spring male (which do vary and are often different from the classic norm, especially early in the season), I can tell you he is not going to get a mate until he gets a lot closer than that. I almost laughed when I heard his ending.

Speaking of sounds, one Acadian Flycatcher was giving the one-note very slightly downslurred 'peel' note, in between, 'wake-up's! Also heard a couple Hermit Thrush at Lost Maples, and oops, saw a FOY Prince Baskettail (dragonfly) at UP early in the a.m.

April 16 ~ I was so busy all day, I don't have a note, except a Desert Checkered-Skipper.

April 15 ~ First thing at early thirty, OK, about 7:10 a.m. I was on the porch with coffee watching sunrise and listening to dawn chorus when I heard a RINGED KINGFISHER! It was flying down the river 500' away just above treetops, and shortly after, a SECOND one, also calling, flew by! First time I've seen two together here, and obviously having some sort of interaction.

A Bullock's Oriole chattered from the mesquite across the road, the second in as many days. Kathy spotted an Anole, the first in yard, I saw one Sunday along the river. The old gray cat went after an adult Six-lined Racerunner (lizard), the cat didn't stand a chance of catching that 4 legged reptilian ground-rocket. Also saw another skink which when I touched its tail to get it to move so I could see it all, it shot into my sandal and hid on my foot, now completely out of view. Wiggling toes got it to dive deeper into my sandal, now I was stuck, by a four inch, half-ounce skink. Didn't feel bad though. Kind of like when the hummingbird stuck his tongue in my ear, or the time another did that to my nostril. After a minute it poked its head out and decided better things were elsewhere, no bugs there, and let me continue with chores.

Late in the afternoon I went out on porch and a small small buteo flushed from the big big pecan out front. It was not a Red-shouldered Hawk, far too compact and short-winged, had no pale crescents in outer wing. It was either a Broad-winged or Short-tailed Hawk. My earliest Broadies here are late April, whereas I have Short-tailed records for March and early April, so by date alone was more likely the latter. It looked more like a Short-tailed Hawk to me, but just wasn't a good enough look of it going away to call it, though it certainly did not have a dark frame around the underwing. The Ravens from the nest just across the road went after it and I never saw it again. It should be at Lost Maples in a day or two.

A Leaftail (dragonfly) flew across the yard late but I couldn't tell if it was Four-, or Five-striped, looked the latter. A few more migrant Monarch passed through, and new for the yard were my first summer form Question Mark, and a Giant Swallowtail. You have to work butterflies quickly as the Eastern Phoebes pick them off endlessly.

The ground is in places a solid cover of Tube-tongue, which seems a good attractant, apparently it has a nice drop of nectar in it. A few Pincushion Daisy are out, some Mealy Sage is blooming, saw a Cardinal Flower (female), and some Dodder is on the Water Willow (Justicia) of which some is opening flowers now. Twenty-four species of Dodder in Texas (!?!), Ill leave that ID to others. Quite a bit of Lazy Daisy open too.

April 14 ~ A nice flock of migrants in the yard in the a.m., several Nashville, a couple Orange-crowned Warbler, my FOS Bullock's Oriole was new for the yard too. We took a walk down the road to the river crossing and a bit beyond. Were more migrants in the yard. At least 75 Brewer's Blackbird were at the horse corral across the river, wonder how late they stay. No Yellow-headed Blackbird yet, should be showing up any time now.

In the river saw a Channel Catfish, a bass that looked Guadalupe, and some Longear Sunfish. Several Kiowa Dancer (damselfly) about, and one Stream Cruiser (Didymops - dragonfly) was cruising the stream.

Amazing was the bird total for the day, some 55 species (!), and without a drop of gas. It was 49 in or from the yard. Lots of the neotropical migrants are not back yet, didn't see Painted Bunting, and still no Indigo Bunting or Blue Grosbeak.

April 13 ~ A few FOS today, a male Orchard Oriole is my earliest spring return date, the other two FOS were Chimney Swift and Western Kingbird. A female Painted Bunting was the FOS female, accompanied by a nice male. Thought I heard a Bell's Vireo too, but it wasn't cooperative. Two male Vermilion Flycatchers went at it in the front yard for some time, over a female of course, looks like serious prospecting in the yard. Several Lincoln's and Clay-colored Sparrow were along the road out front, a pair of Caracara went over a couple times, and Kathy saw a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck fly by.

A few Nashville, and a couple Orange-crowned Warbler passed through, as did a couple more worn (migrant) Monarch. Almost forgot, the bird of of the day, a just fledged juvenile Common Ground-Dove, my earliest date by far for a fledgling. At least 3 Chuck-wills-widow were hearable at dusk from the front yard, while a dozen bats were hawking over yard. The Red-tailed Hawk nest in a huge Cypress maybe 500' from porch has a couple (at least) large white downy young visible in it. In town at least a dozen Common Grackle and twice as many Red-winged Blackbird in a yard.

April 12 ~ I found a code mistake I made so had to fix and re-up the page, so you get a morning report added in the meanwhile. Hopefully will have more in p.m. A great morning in the yard with some new migrants and a rary or two the first hour of light. The early bird gets the worm, and the early birder gets the early birds. First, while on the porch with coffee the FOS male Painted Bunting landed 8' from me, I suppose the plaid robe was of interest, my earliest arrival date in 10 springs, by 3 days. Since many visitors want to see this species (I wonder why?) you should know they are arriving. Then a pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew up-river, new for the yard list.

That was followed by a stonking male SCARLET TANAGER! I've only seen maybe 2 here in 10 years, qualifying it for rarity status, it was still here at 11:30, 4 hours later. It was one of the ones that are somewhat orange of tone, not the pure deep red with no orange tint. What a great yard bird here, in fact I am watching it from desk as I type this! As if that wasn't enough a Red-breasted Nuthatch moved up the river corridor calling to provide a new late date (for me anyway) here.

Others in the yard were the local Yellow-throateds, Warbler, and Vireo, a White-eyed Vireo, and Brown-crested Flycatcher. The Yellow-throated Warbler was on the pecan trunk 15' out the kitchen window. Migrants were 5 Nashville and a couple Orange-crowned Warbler, at least 4 Lincoln's Sparrow were on the seed. After two days with northerly winds holding migration up, there seems to have been a push overnight as could be expected.

A bigger dragonfly was the first non-Baskettail dragon in yard so far, but positive ID eluded me in the quick look, it was probably a Pale-faced Clubskimmer. Two Monarch (worn migrants) and a Queen passed through.

April 11 ~ Was in low 40's dF this a.m., but without the wind, nice. Two FOS species today, first a Brown-crested Flycatcher in yard in the a.m. which is my earliest spring arrival date up here in the hills. Then right at dusk (8:30 p.m.) two Chuck-wills-widow broke into song, great to hear them back, and right on schedule. A big Two-tailed Swallowtail nearly landed on a hummer feeder in the afternoon. A Golden-fronted Woodpecker was on the ground under the sunflower tube this morning. Yellow-throated Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo sang from the biggest Pecan out front, as did a Summer Tanager. A Dusky Dancer was a new damselfly for yard. Still a Dot-winged Baskettail or two (dragonfly) about, but no other odes, they are slow to get going this year or still way down from drought.

April 10 ~ Stayed warm all night and just before dawn the cold air got here, I think I saw both drops of rain. In Kerrville it was 43dF with a wind chill of 35 in 20+ mph gusting higher winds. After yesterday afternoon's 90's quite the drop of 50dF. Through April one must be prepared for too hot and too cold, often in the same 24 hours. Dang cat is lucky it is still alive, it killed a Western Ribbon Snake in the yard today (ph.). Another migrant Monarch makes 11 for the spring.

April 9 ~ Cloudy breezy a.m. ahead of inbound front due overnight. But when it finally cleared out after noon it got downright hot. Looking at weather sites, I saw 98dF for Uvalde, probably very near a record, 96dF in Hondo, and we broke 90 here by a dF or two. 'Twas 108dF at Laredo, 106 at Zapata, and 102 in Del Rio. Toasty.

While at work in the office, out the window under the awning I saw a Mourning Cloak larvae in the 'J' position ready to pupate into a chrysalis, it wasn't there in a.m., so I walked the eaves to see if there were more. On the out-building I found 12 in the 'J' position and three already done pupating into chrysalis. That is more Mourning Cloak than I have seen in 10 years here! Astounding. Wow! It is Mourning Cloak city here!

Three more worn migrant Monarch passed through, 10 now so far total. At least one female Falcate Orange-tip was about as well, maybe more.

Two new yard birds today were the FOS Bronzed Cowbird, and a Sharp- shinned Hawk passed over.

April 8 ~ A typical spring cloudy breezy morning, a little drizzle, partly sunny afternoon, warmed to 78dF or so. Fairly textbook. When the first break in the cieling came, a few Swainson's Hawk were in the blue hole in the sky. The real excitement of the day was about 5 p.m. when I found a Mourning Cloak (butterfly) larva in the yard. It was looking for a place to pupate, and Kathy got a couple docu shots. It is my first known larva = breeding here.

I'd sort of considererd it an invader species as so many sps. are here, not one of the local breeding species, since I don't see it every year, and have gone multiple consecutive years without seeing one. We had an adult in the yard the first day here, two weeks ago, but none since. Hackberry would likely be the foodplant here. In any case, this moved it into the documented local breeder category.

April 7 ~ We took our first walk along the road and habitat out front, was mostly cloudy, a little breeze, humid, but low 60's dF so nice. In just over an hour and a quarter, to crossing and back, we saw or heard about 34 species, mostly the same stuff we see or hear from the yard. Best was my FOS Northern Rough-winged Swallow, and my FOS Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, though Larry had them over at Little Creek a week ago. Still no Indigo Bunting or Blue Grosbeak back yet. Had a little group of passerine migrants: a few Orange-crowned and 2 Nashville Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the expected. Territorial singing birds included Summer Tanager, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, several Yellow-throated Warbler. Later at the house there were a couple Myrtle Warblers, a Swainson's Hawk, and I did get it or another N. Rough-winged Swallow for the yard list. Hit the uppermost 70's dF in the afternoon, lots of butterflies out, the regulars.

Some Rain Lillies up from the rain a few days ago, lots of stuff green and growing that will soon be blooming, it is looking very good. Most of the heaviest Texas Persimmon bloom is finishing up, some bigger bushes had several hundreds and even thousands of flowers. Saw some Silver Puff, the Cypress trees along river are really starting to look more green than brown, though pecans still mostly brown, some barely showing buds, bigger older trees have some little bit of foliage. Was a first spring Red-shouldered Hawk chased through by one of the pair (male) of nesting Fuertes' Red-tails. The nest is visible now but as the Cypress leaf out, it will likely not be.

April 6 ~ A Cooper's Hawk was species #60 for the new yard list. A pair of Vermilion Flycatcher were prospecting in the pecans. A pair of Lesser Goldfinch and one Pine Siskin were on the sunflower tube, besides a few House Finch, a couple Black-crested Titmouse, and a pair of Cardinal. Lincoln's Sparrow continues on the white millet seemingly a week now. Some Chipping and a few Lark Sparrow are hitting the seed too, one Clay-colored is in with the Chippies. After dark Barn Owl was calling a lot flying back and forth overhead, Barred and Screech- were calling too. Two male Ruby-throated Hummers at once on one of the feeders. Kathy saw a duck sps. go over.

April 5 ~ A chilly start in the low 40's, and very humid to make sure you knew. A few neat things today..... First the warbler I had chipping out back yesterday was back, singing now, a Yellow-throated. Another one was a mile+ from the river in a Ball Moss infested cluster of live-oaks. Typically they are restricted to cypresses in the river habitat corridors. A couple years ago I found the first sucessful nesting at Lost Maples, that in Ball Moss infested live-oaks. I think they are doing so well they are expanding into other Ball Moss heavy areas, this probably the furthest from the river I have had a singing bird. Though they also seem to nest in the huge dense Ball Moss infested live-oak acreage at the Buffalo wallows on 355 (aka South Little Creek at top end) in Bandera Co., that site only a half mile or so from Little Creek. Apparently Ball Moss is more important than Cypress or river to them. Amazing.

A brief run through the park in the late afternoon found my first ever April record of Red-breasted Nuthatch, how far south did it go? Of course my latest date for one here. At the other end of the scale was my earliest date ever here by THREE weeks (!) for Northern Waterthrush. I worked it over seven ways from Sunday, despite it being one of the yellow tinted below models, which only Northern comes in. It was a Northern. WOW! My earliest prior date was April 24. Louisiana is virtually absent in spring here, except on nesting grounds, headwaters streams like Lost Maples or Big Springs. Four big ducks showed me their south end as they flew north, flushed by a kayaker, they looked Shoveler from that angle.

Hard to believe after all that there was still another highlight today. A minimum FIVE FOOT (probably SIX!) Gopher Snake! Gadzooks it was a Texas-sized monster, and a rodent eating machine, they are sometimes called Bull Snake, or Texas Bull Snake for this flavor. It was the biggest I have seen in a long time. It went from the side of the (dirt) road to past the center, and was s curved back and forth the whole way like a long squiggly line. I pulled up to it angling away so it knew I was not coming at it, stopped with it right out the window, and using several different increments of measurement attempted to size it four times. Over 5', probably 5.5', maybe 6'. This from one whom kept snakes (including big Gophers) as a kid, and made high-end custom cabinets in another life, so, rather well trained with measurements by eye.

Another Monarch passed through the yard, #7 this spring. One more thing at UP, the first spring Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that wintered is still there in the same preferred trees on the island.

April 4 ~ A bit chilly, post frontal cold air advection took us to the low 40's for a low, today and tomorrow might be the last of these this year unless we get a late front. Singing Yellow-throated Vireo in yard this morning. Later in a.m. I had a warbler chipping in the live-oaks out back that was probably a Yellow-throated. Another Monarch passed through yard today, makes about 6 Mexican migrants so far this spring.

April 3 ~ A bit of drizzle still, then a second squall line passed in the a.m. bringing the system total up to about an inch of rain. Looked like they got about 2" up at Lost Maples and Big Springs. Add the 2/3 to 3/4 of an inch a couple days prior and we are nearly at two inches for the month, just what the flowers (butterflies, birds and all that depend on them) needed, a great wildflower show is just about guaranteed now. March was bone dry. High was in the low-mid-60's. Down off the escarpment in the brush country along Hwy. 90 there was a bit of hail, mostly small but a couple spots had one inch to 2.5 inch (tennis ball sized!) that broke windows near Knippa!

Found another Walnut Sphinx (moth) outside, clearly differently colored than the one two days ago. Do they use pecans here?

April 2 ~ The Monarch that roosted in the hackberry lifted off about 11 a.m. when it warmed up and cleared a bit. Heard a Black-throated Green Warbler again but didn't see it. The FOS Summer Tanager was singing, I thought I heard one distantly yesterday. At least 5 Orange-crowned Warbler were in the yard a once, clearly migration movement, there may have been 7. Saw a couple White-winged Dove, 8 Swainson's Hawks went over in a hole in the cloud cover. A few Caracara were seen, and along the river in a half-mile I heard two singing Black-n-white Warbler. The cold front made it here after dark with a MCS (squall line) and dropped over a half-inch of rain by midnight.

April 1 ~ A FOS male Ruby-throated Hummingbird was nice to see this morning, also for the new yard list Kathy spotted a Wild Turkey, I had Common Grackle fly over calling, and finally saw a Nashville Warbler. Also saw a couple Lincoln's Sparrow and after dark heard another Barn Owl. Some new yard butterflies were a nice Two-tailed Swallowtail, Texan Crescent, Little Yellow, and a female Falcate Orange-tip, but best was a wavelet of Monarch, obviously worn pale migrants from Mexico. There were at least three, but probably four total that I saw, barely getting to take peeks as I worked. As the clouds got thick later in p.m., one decided to stop and roosted in a big very leafy hackberry in the yard.

The big March event was our moving to the valley floor and river corridor habitat from up on the drier juniper slopes of Seco Ridge. March butterflies totalled 41 species, my record for sps. diversity in 10 Marches here. The prior high of 40 species in March was done twice, in '04 and '09. Hopefully this bodes well for a good season ahead.

Was working till late with light on outside and a beautiful sphinx moth came in, methinks Walnut Sphinx (Amorpha juglandis) it was.

~ ~ ~ ~March 2013 below ~ ~ ~

The big March event was at end of month, moving to the valley floor and edge of river corridor habitat from up on the hot dry rocky juniper slopes of Seco Ridge.

March butterflies totalled 41 species, my record for sps. diversity in 10 Marches here. The prior high of 40 species in March was done twice, in '04 and '09. Hopefully this bodes well for a good season ahead.

~ ~ ~ March 31 back to January 1 ~ ~ ~

March 31 ~ Heard a Black-throated Green Warbler chipping but too busy unloading truck and setting things up to chase it down and it didn't land in a tree over my head so I didn't see it. A male Vermilion Flycatcher was a nice yard bird. A front is coming in and ahead of it the trough brought some rain in the p.m. and overnight. I heard some around town had .7, others .9 inch of rain, I thought we were about 2/3". The neatest thing today though was a 2' Western Ribbon Snake on a dirt road, a very neat beast I don't see often here.

Little Creek Larry had four Black-bellied Whistling-Duck this day, the FOS locally that I heard about.

~ ~ ~ March 30 header ~ ~ ~

MOST RECENT UPDATE: March 30, 2013
(last updates: March 17, 8, Feb. 25, 16, and 2)

Wow, it's a new show changing daily now, new flowers, new birds, new butterflies, soon new dragonflies, every day! It can hardly get more exciting than watching spring unfold. And it is exploding!

They're back! We had our first singing male Golden-cheeked Warbler in the SR yard here March 8, and the first male Black-and-white Warbler was on March 5. I'm sure more are in at Lost Maples already. When the breeding warblers are returning, spring is on the way! Flycatchers are returning as well, Vermilion on March 9, and Ash-throated on March 10. Both Yellow-throateds, Warbler, and Vireo, were back, singing at the park on March 16.

Second half of March arrivals were Clay-colored Sparrow on 22nd, Nashville Warbler the 23rd, Monarch the 24th, Hooded Oriole and White-eyed Vireo the 25th, and I saw the bird I heard the 25th, the FOS Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, on the 26th.

February highlights were a Clay-colored Thrush/Robin at the park Feb. 1, 23, & 27; and a Sage Thrasher in SR yard Feb. 19. Early by about a week was the first returning Turkey Vulture which arrived on February 8. A female Black-chinned Hummingbird on Feb. 26 was the first one back this year, oddly beating males which are generally a week ahead of females. Purple Martin, Barn and Cave Swallow were back on Feb. 23, and three Zone-tailed Hawk were around town Feb. 24th. end March 30 header

~ ~ ~ ~

March 30 ~ First not-so-harried morning here at the new place, had a small group of migrant passerines go through yard early while gray and drizzly. Couple each Myrtle and Orange-crowned Warbler, and a couple that got a way that looked Nashville, 2 Ruby-cr. Kinglet, Blue-gay Gnatcatcher, White-eyed Vireo, nice little group of birds.

The Couch's Kingbird called close a few times, good enough to make it on the yard list, fifth day of hearing it. A Red- winged Blackbird flew over calling, thought I'd heard them the last couple days. Then the 3 FOS Swainson's Hawks moved over as the cieling lifted, followed by a pair of displaying Red-shouldered Hawk. Sure enough a Golden-cheeked Warbler is singing out back again, a trolling male it seems working the slope that ends out back.

During another run to clean up at SR saw two new butterflies for the month of March, a Red Satyr and a Eufala Skipper. The Audubon's Oriole seemed to complain about the missing bird bath. Then back here at the new place near sundown finally heard, then saw two White-winged Dove for the yard list, number 50, took 5 days to see one here, was the most common species in our yard on SR a few miles away.

The fifty species so far, after six days, most of which I was not here, and not a solid hour of binocs in hand, just catching what I can, er, on the fly, seems not a bad start. Another yard bird came after dark, a Barn Owl called and flew over low a couple times.

The most intriguing sighting of the day though was a butterfly that flew very close by me which I'd swear was a Giant-Skipper. These are very specialized (often yuccas) highly localized and seasonal skippers, I think only one kind is found here, books not handy yet.

The lizards in the leaf-litter outside are skinks, I think of the Four-, or Five-lined (Eumeces sps.) flavor. Kathy saw one with a bright metallic blue tail.

March 29 ~ Too much to do, barely looked around but Yellow-throated Vireo is singing nearby, a Black-n-white Warbler moved through, as did a few Myrtle, Blue-gray gnatcatcher and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, saw 8 Cedar Waxwing, and heard Couch's Kingbird again, still. Was a Golden-cheeked Warbler at SR, as I was mopping up departure, and Kathy thought she heard one here while I was out.

March 28 ~ Day 3 at the new place, at 7 a.m. there was an Eastern Screech-Owl calling from the live-oaks up the hill behind us. Yellow-throated Warbler was singing from the cypress corridor along the river out front. Heard Eurasian Collared-Dove, and heard better than yesterday, good enough to count now, Common Ground-Dove. A few more Myrtle Warbler, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, White-eyed vireo all passed through. Still looking for socks. Thought I heard Red-winged Blackbird across the river, and also thought sure I heard Pyrrhuloxia calling from the mesquites, but sometimes a female Cardinal can do a similar call so I like to see them when for a yard bird. Saw my first dragonfly in the yard today, a Dot-winged Baskettail.

Had to run to town so a quick look at the park which had a first-spring male Black-and-white Warbler, the FOS Black-throated Green Warbler, several Myrtle, and an Orange-crowned Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Belted Kingfisher and a Pied-billed Grebe with a 2.5" Lepomis sunfish. Heard White-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireos, and Yellow-throated Warbler the latter two sound like territorial locals. Also heard the Barred Owls. A pair of Scissor-tails were back on the fence just south of 354 on 187. While I was back at SR doing some last things, there was a first spring male Golden-cheeked Warbler trolling about with song. Saw some Spanish Buckeye in bloom.

March 27 ~ Day 2 at the new house. Didn't add much for new yard birds as was working at cleaning and looking for my socks. Of the funny things I heard about moving from a couple of the good ol' boys locally were "I'd rather take a whippin' than have to move" and "three moves equals a fire" (for getting rid of stuff). Ya gotta love that country wisdom.

New yard birds today were Carolina Chickadee, Orange-crowned Warbler, Lesser Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, and two Barn Swallow. Again I heard what sounded like a Couch's Kingbird up on the ridge. A few Ruby- crowned Kinglet moved through, a pairacara (two Caracara), and White-eyed Vireo was singing. The local Chippy flock visited, about 55 plus one Clay-colored, and a pair of Eastern Bluebird with them, a couple Myrtle Warbler moved through. Late, a hawk went over high going due north, a migrant, I could not make an ID on it, but it was good, and would have been a yard bird. :)

A few new butterflies were Checkered White, Gulf Fritillary, and my first Variegated Fritillary was eaten wings and all by one of the pair of Eastern Phoebe nesting here, right before my eyes. The positive ID made a second before it went down the hatch. One Disparete Forester (moth) came into the Texas Persimmon in bloom. There are a couple flowers left on the Mountain Laurel on the hill behind us.

March 26 ~ Our first day at the new place. We'll have to figure out what to call it for the record's sake, but from this day on anything reported as in the yard is not what in the yard was from yesterday before dark and prior. I saw 33 species of birds and 17 species of butterflies this first day here in the new yard. This I consider a very good sign.   :)

Best was a singing male Golden-cheeked Warbler on the hill out back, it was in the big live-oaks, then it came into the hackberry over the shed and sang and fed for a minute while I was under it. Would you think you maybe moved to the right place? A Blue Jay was good too, moving down the river corridor in the cypresses.

There was a female Double-striped Bluet (damselfly) for the first ode on the new yard list.

March 25 ~ OMG we moved today! I owe some big thanks to several people who helped me, thanks so much friends! As for us, we are no longer on Seco Ridge, up on "the hill." The Seco Ridge Bird Observatory is closed. It was 8 years of observation and study, and boy am I sure glad I made lots of notes with dates, and took lots of pictures.

We are now down on the valley floor at the edge of the river corridor forest, a completely different world, biologically speaking. New yard lists for birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and beasts of all manner could hardly be more exciting, though you always hate to give up on the one you were working on, especially after 8 years.

I'll check the figures for sure, but the final tally for the yard list was about 234 species of birds, essentially all from the porches, and 105 species of butterflies, will have to count the odes. Not to mention the only Pere David's Deer I ever saw, and six species of amphibians, on Seco (dry) Ridge. Virtually all species were seen in or from a quarter acre at the NE corner of the Taylor Place. Many good records were obtained over the years, a fair number of which, due to documentation, made it into the scientific literature or record, including birds, butterflies, and dragonflies. From a perspective of acquisition of new bio-knowledge, it was five-star fantastic.

Even in the heat of the move, one can still notice the birds, and two new FOS species today were a Hooded Oriole in the SR yard, and a White-eyed Vireo half-way down (or out) 357 on SR. Also thought sure I heard a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at the new place while moving but couldn't go look for it, would have been the FOS.

Though I saw a few species during a few trips I made moving in, Kathy and I got here at dark. The first owls here were at 10 p.m., I listened to a couple Barred Owls calling from the cypresses on the river.

Earlier in the day while running around I saw a Zone-tailed Hawk over 1050 just west of bridge, and saw the FOY Damianita flowers on SR. Also saw the first few bluebonnet (Lupine) flowers.

March 24 ~ Today I saw the first Monarch of the year on 187 just south of town, a very worn pale faded individual, obviously from the population of Mexican winterers. Front hit at 2 a.m. with some 40+mph winds and it blew hard all day.

March 23 ~ FOS Nashville Warbler in SR yard, also a Golden-cheeked Warbler which chipped for 20 minutes without singing which I suspect was a female. A Dun Skipper (butterfly) was the FOY for me here. Also had Two-tailed Swallowtail, Buckeye, and the FOY Hemaris diffinis, a type of Bumblebee Sphinx moth. I see, and better, smell, some Texas Persimmon flowers, oh man, go get ya a whiff of that folks, you only have a couple weeks tops. Look for Disparete Forester (fancy black and white and orange-red diurnal moth) on them. Was a nice warm day again in front of the front due overnight.

March 22 ~ Got 88dF in front of a front on the way. Hermit Thrush bathed, probably a winterer, the wintering Orange-crowned Warbler still here as are two Spotted Towhee. Audubon's Orioles bathed too. Heard the FOS Clay-colored Sparrow today out among the Chipping. Saw a Turkey Vulture without a tail, a flying wing. Butterflies were an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, a Gray Hairstreak, and a skipperling got away that looked Orange. The FOY White-lined Sphinx (moth) was about the Dakota Verbena. Great Horned Owl called after dark.

March 21 ~ Singing male Golden-cheeked Warbler at 10 a.m. in SR yard. Wintering Orange-crowned Warbler still here on peanuts. First Texas Onion flowers of year.

March 20 ~ Happy Equinox! It's spring! Now where is that Clay-colored Sparrow? The most amazing thing today was in town, often seeing the common thing in an uncommon way is as fascinating and interesting as it gets to me. As I walked up to a friends house in town I heard a Canyon Wren, looked up and there it was on the steel roof! Then it sang! On a house in town!?!?! It is the first Canyon Wren I've seen in town in almost 10 years here now. I have had a couple at the park and a couple times seen them at the spot upriver of the park a quarter mile (from raft) where the bedrock is exposed, those were all winter birds, as likely not from local populations is my guess. This a singing bird in spring in town seems fairly off-the-wall, perhaps in passage? Time will quickly tell. If it was a stone house I could understand, but that is not the case.

At the park there was a tattered winter form Question Mark and a Texan Crescent (leps), one migrant landbird for sure, a Lincoln's Sparrow. Some of the male Myrtle Warblers are really starting to look dapper as breeding plumage is molted in. Several Double-striped Bluet, and a Dot-winged Baskettail were it for odes.

A first-spring Red-tailed Hawk flew by the yard late in the p.m., which kinda seemed fuertesi to me, so perhaps from the area. First spring birds still have brown banded (not red yet) tails. Remember, most first-spring hawks look most like juveniles.

Still some Waxwing coming by the juniper with a few berries left. At least one of the wintering Orange-crowned Warblers continues.

March 19 ~ Twenty Pine Siskin are ravaging the sunflower tube. Nysa Roadside-Skipper was about again, also a Juvenal's Duskywing was confirmed, the FOY positive ID. More Vesta Crescent, and bordered Patch were on the Slender-stem Bitterweed, which also has at least 3 different native wild bees on it too. At least two, maybe three male Scott's Oriole are about, haven't seen a female yet. Hutton's Vireo still singing.

March 18 ~ A FOY Nysa Roadside-Skipper was nicea. Some dry SW flow took humidity down to 3% at Uvalde, and 7% at Kerrville, so we were likely about 5%. I think that qualifies for bone dry. It was a record 95dF in SAT and 90dF in Hondo today, so we were surely in record territory too, though probably about 88-89 or so. The wintering Orange-crowned Warbler continues, as do Spotted Towhee.

~ ~ ~ March 17 header ~ ~ ~

MOST RECENT UPDATE: March 17, 2013
(last updates: March 8, Feb. 25, 16, and 2)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Butterflies were out in great numbers in Feb., birds are up, whilst odes remain flat. All this and more.....

They're back! We had our first singing male Golden-cheeked Warbler in the yard here March 8, and the first male Black-and-white Warbler was on March 5. I'm sure more are in at Lost Maples already. When the breeding warblers are returning, spring is on the way! Flycatchers are returning as well, Vermilion on March 9, and Ash-throated on March 10. Both Yellow-throateds, Warbler, and Vireo, were back, singing at the park on March 16.

Wow, it's a new show changing daily now, new flowers, new birds, new butterflies, soon new dragonflies, every day! It can hardly get more exciting than watching spring unfold. Long-term record keeping with dates makes it infinitely more fun, enlightening, and interesting if not fascinating.

February highlights were a Clay-colored Thrush/Robin at the park Feb. 1, 23, & 27; and a Sage Thrasher in yard Feb. 19. Early by about a week was the first returning Turkey Vulture which arrived on February 8. A female Black-chinned Hummingbird on Feb. 26 was the first one back this year, oddly beating males which are generally a week ahead of females. Purple Martin, Barn and Cave Swallow were back on Feb. 23. Three Zone-tailed Hawk were around town the 24th, they're back too.

My TENTH (!) winter bird count was done Sunday January 6. Besides seeing (w/ photos) Woodcock (+heard a day-old report of 2 displaying in Bandera Co.!) the best bird was an unusual hawk (a rare Red-tailed subspecies - methinks a pale Harlan's), then 2 Wood Duck, 2 Pine Warbler, and the Black-n-white Warbler. A RINGED Kingfisher was had for count week on Jan. 9 at UP. It was about 61 species count day, and 70 count week. The winter bird count page has been updated with results.

~ ~ ~ end March 17 header ~ ~ ~

March 17 ~ Happy St. Patrick's Day! I wish the luck of the Irish to all, you may need it if you read this regularly!   ;)

Dawn chorus is really getting going, sooo great to hear. The resident breeders are full tilt, and the first returning migratory breeders are joining in a bit, like Ash-throated Flycatcher and Scotts Oriole. Some Chipping Sparrow are singing and the Rufous-crowned Sparrow too, Ruby-crowned Kinglets are singing as they pass through northbound. The white-winged Chipping Sparrow continues.

Kathy found the first Blackfoot Daisy flowers today, more Blue Gilia showing, and a fair bit of the (white form) Pink Evening Primrose is open, though small flower size indicates not the best of times for them.

March 16 ~ A warm spring day, about 84dF in the later p.m., had to find my shorts in the afternoon. Supposed to be near 90dF the next couple days! At UP there were spring breakers making noise, sure been nice since fall. In the woods there were a few good birds. There were two very good early dates for returning breeders, the FOS Yellow-throated Warbler, and FOS Yellow-throated Vireo both sang. It is my earliest ever Y-t Vireo, second earliest Y-t Warbler return. Then there were TWO male Red-breasted Nuthatch, first time in ten years I've seen two at once here, calling back and forth, moving together through the cypresses, feeding largely at their catkins, as were some Pine Siskin.

About 8 Myrtle Warbler indicates migrants are moving through. Kestrel was still out front of park, some Waxwings around town, male Common Grackle at north end of town, 3 Eastern Meadowlark near storage spaces, and a good number (100+?) of Sandhill Crane went north over the park about noon.

Caracara over porch early in a.m. Saw Vesta and Texan Crescent in yard, a Queen was on 357, Lyside at park. A few Dot-winged Baskettail (dragonfly) about, a couple zygops and a teneral anisop got away. A Southern Skipperling at UP was the FOY for them. Also saw a good patch of Dewberry in bloom on the island. The first Evening Primrose has opened in the yard, named Pink Eve. Prim., our color form locally is white, opening up right at dusk. FOY Texas Verbena flowers are open, and the FOY metallic green Halichtid was about the yard flowers.

March 15 ~ Both wintering Orange-crowned Warbler continue in the yard as of today. Cassin's Sparrow still hearable singing somewhere down across the draw. It is raining yellow live-oak leaves now, and I see the new buds of this year's leaves starting to show. About noon I saw a Falcate Orange-tip fly across the front yard, and about 3 p.m. a female spent a half-hour on some Slender-stem Bitterweed right out the office window. There was the FOY Giant Swallowtail, FOY Texan Crescent, a nice fresh Olive Juniper Hairstreak, a Lyside, and others about as well. Scott's Oriole gave a few bars of song, and the Audubon's Oriole were singing too, pretty hard to hear those two species singing at once in most places. This warm spell is really breaking the butterflies out. Numbers of Dogface, Variegated Fritillary, some Snout, Sleepy Orange, Common/White Checkered-Skipper, and others.

Was an Audubon's Warbler out back in the a.m. Still waiting for my first Monarch of the year, should be any day now. Four Brown-headed Cowbird in the yard were the first returns back in the yard this year. I left the porch light on a couple hours to see how the moths were doing and it seemed a fairly good showing. At least 60 moths at once, after a couple hours. A couple neat ones but I don't know them. There was my FOY antlion, and that fancy iridescent winged lacewing with the neat falcate wingtips. A few Dakota Verbena have opened flowers.

March 14 ~ The Disparate Forester moth still making passes through the yard. Probably at least a couple dozen Black-chinned Hummingbird are around now. Chippy flock is about 70 birds still, Pine Siskin numbers are 10-15. A good bit of Slender-stem Bitterweed is coming up with flowers now, something for the butterflies. Screech-Owl and Poor-will heard after dark. Wintering Spotted Towhee still here. An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail blasted through, Hutton's Vireo still singing. Kathy saw a bat at dusk, the first seen this year, thought I heard one yesterday evening. First Blue Gilia flowers.

March 13 ~ Early in the a.m. there were 3 American Wigeon at UP, if another sign of spring was needed, migrant ducks. A few landbird migrants were there, 2 FOS Lincoln's Sparrow and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. The Downy Woodpecker female continues, Red-winged Blackbird was singing, but no Ring-necked Ducks. Here at the hovel I still hear the Cassin's Sparrow singing, Hermit Thrush continue, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet are singing a little bit, and I heard a Golden-fronted Woodpecker. A dozen or more Robin were at the mudhole on north side of first loop on 357 early this a.m., and a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks were in the big live-oak that overlooks the wet spot, I presume nesting there. After noon came the real big FOS of the day, a male Scott's Oriole on the hummer feeder, I bet THE alpha male that owns that feeder. It is my second-earliest date in ten springs, March 11, '06 the only earlier. A neat beetle was at the gas station, probably a Cantharid, all black with a yellow V on shoulders, and yellow spots near tips of elytra. Haven't seen this one before. A Lyside flew across yard, the first this month. After dark I thought sure I heard a bat, would be my first this year.

March 12 ~ Another cool morning, mid to upper 30's, was made better by the FOS Blue-gray Gnatcatcher deflating psssss this a.m. in the yard. Maybe 'veeeee' is a better description of the sound. To my ear this note sure is different from the western Blue-grays, much more musical, less dry, almost with some tremelo or vibrato to it, nearly recalling the Hermit Thrush quavering hum note. A yellow-winged Flicker flew over due northbound late in the p.m., likely a migrant. Per a post on Texbirds, Judy Bailey had Sandhill Cranes going over this day, I seem to have missed them much of this spring so far.

March 11 ~ That Agarita (Texas Holly) sure goes fast, it is past peak on most bushes already, at least the ones on 357. Maybe higher up on the divides they are still going well. I saw mesquite buds today, the first of those, the Huisache and Redbud is still blooming well. Some Frostweed has sprouted at the park. There were a few odes (dragonflies) out at the park, a couple Dot-winged Baskettail were the only dragons, and for damselflies there were two FOY Double-striped Bluet, a FOY Fragile Forktail, and a couple Argia that got away. One winter form Question Mark was also there, Ring-necked Ducks were not, probably gone now. The a.m. low was about 33-34dF.

March 10 ~ Overnight we did get a squall-line from about 11p.m. to 1 a.m. or so, and perhaps 3/4" of much needed rain. Just what the spring bloomers need badly. In the a.m. the FOS Ash-throated Flycatcher was calling on the ridge. Post-frontal blow, was pretty breezy all day. Supposed to nearly freeze tonight, the winds will prevent the freeze.

March 9 ~ Drizzly all morning, cleared a bit in p.m., supposed to get rain tonight. At 3:15 p.m. it was 73dF in KVL and 88dF in Uvalde! At 3 p.m. or so I again heard 10+ minutes of Cassin's Sparrow singing from the front porch. FOY Dung Scarabs were about today. My FOS Vermilion Flycatcher flew by about 4 p.m., a nice male, what a beauty! Always the first flycatcher back each year, Ash-throated is second.

The rare birds of the day happened late, after 10 p.m. as the squall line approached perhaps 20 miles away still, lots of thick clouds, you could hear thunder and see lightening, and overhead shorebirds! Golden Plovers! A good number of them, I heard at least a dozen calling, so they were likely a good sized flock. They seemed confused, probably looking for a place to put down, obviously they cannot proceed on their northward migratory flight for a few hours until the front passes, then the northerlies might be too strong. This is one of the tough birds to see in Uvalde County, rare, but regular, I've heard more going over in the dark in spring than I have seen in the daylight on the ground in the county. Good thing I was out to baton down the hatches..... and before I was done my FOS Barn Owl called!

March 8 ~ It is a big day each year when you get your first returning Golden-cheeked Warbler, as we did today, a nice male singing around the yard about 11:30 a.m., what a welcome sight and beauty! The Hutton's Vireo was singing quite a bit, and Audubon's Oriole singing a little too. Then late in the afternoon I was working out in the yard and for 10 minutes listened to my FOS Cassin's Sparrow singing. A Forester moth flew by, Disparate methinks, FOY, and the Texas Persimmon is just budding new leaves. The Mulberry in town on Cypress St. is also sprouting new leaves well, and the Buckley Oak are really leafing out, some nice spring green patches on the hills.

The funny thing today was a male Kestrel landing on the Buckley Oak snag 100 yards south of the porch, so I pulled the scope out, sat in the chair to watch. First one Scrub-Jay came up to let the Kestrel know it was not welcome, this perch is the key lookout of this pair of Jays. The Kestrel could care less. After scolding a bit, and moving from branch to branch hammering them to show its formidible bill, the Scrub-Jay jumped on to the branch the Kestrel was on. Hard, as if to shake it off. The Kestrel gave the jay an " are you kidding me?" glare. The jay pounded the branch hard as it could like a woodpecker, just a few feet from the Kestrel. In a sort of " I am going to make this as uncomfortable as possible for you, until you leave" way. The Kestrel was still fairly un-impressed, though keeping an eye on wily jay. Shortly the mate showed up and the two jays began tag teaming, jumping on and off the branch the Kestrel was on repeatedly, in series, taking turns, in a manner as to really get the branch rocking. The Kestrel finally jumped off the perch. The jays screeched in victory, and after flying 30' the Kestrel turned around and came back and landed on the thickest branch, one they could not shake. And gave a "how do ya like them apples?" look to the jays. Which went beserk scolding but there was no way to get close on this branch, or do anything significant to it. They pounded branches with beaks to remind the kestrel how ferocious they were, and shortly dissolved back into the short juniper/live-oak forest below.

One last thing of interest was a Duskywing (Erynnis) butterfly that was a Mournful Duskywing. Probably my first March record for one. There have been Funereal, and Horace's or Juvenal&qpos;s around.

March 7 ~ Today I saw my FOY Bordered Patch (butterfly) on a Prairie Fleabane flower, captured and being eaten by my FOY crab spider. Best birds today were four Gadwall at the mudhole at the north side of first loop on SR, spring migrant ducks. Still a Kestrel in town, and saw one a few days ago on SR, they will be leaving soon.

March 6 ~ FOY singing Lark Sparrow out front this a.m., the first in yard in a few months. At least 5 Audubon's Oriole were about this chilly morning (about 31dF), mostly first spring birds with wings and tail (above) worn to sooty olive, and still olive napes.

March 5 ~ A great FOS today was a male Black-and-white Warbler in the live-oak out back, a spring migrant warbler! The earliest in 10 springs here, March 8 (09) was my earliest date for them. An Osprey was over the pond at the park, 3 Ring-necked Duck was all I saw, most probably departed northward now, one Great Blue Heron. A lone Pine Siskin was with the group of Titmice, Chickadees, and Myrtle Warblers in the live-oaks.

March 4 ~ We darn near hit 90 dF today in front of a cold front coming, the warm air from the south-southwest made it pretty toasty, and bone dry. Seems a couple male Black-chinned Hummingbird here, at least one female. Hutton's Vireo singing down draw, Kinglets passing through, Orange-crowned Warbler still on feeders. On 1050 near town I had a butterfly fly right in front of me I'm sure was a female Falcate Orange-tip. Saw the marbling on the ventral hindwing and greenish tint. Heard the FOY Chipping Sparrow singing today. Also had a flock of sparrows flush from roadside at north side of 1st loop on 357 that looked like Lark Sparrows, haven't seen any on SR in a couple months. One other thing at the park was a male Common Grackle, my FOS this spring, and a Mountain Laurel in the woods has some nice open flowers showing.

March 3 ~ I had a Dot-winged Baskettail in the yard today, after the first of year yesterday a mile away. Two of the all tan June Bugs came into porch light after dark, and a Green Lacewing, plus about a dozen different moths in no time. Poor-wills must be happy. I saw two different Harvestmen (daddy longlegs type spiders) today, one the regular white leg-jointed one the other with fine zebra bands on inner leg segments. Unfortunately I have a camera battery or charger problem and couldn't get pictures.

March 2 ~ At UP was the Cloudless Sulphur I saw a few days ago, again, 17 Ring-necked Duck, a singing American Goldfinch, and the big Sycamore that was across the dam which died year before last finally fell, presumedly from the 40-50mph winds we had a couple days prior. The FOS Dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly was over SR near the dump. I may have seen one in Feb., but this is the first for sure. Doing my duty recycling today, I got to find out Claudia Rogers saw bats yesterday evening between Bandera and Utopia around dusk. The date seems on the early side, and first I've heard of them this year. See how it pays to recycle. :)

March 1 ~ Started the month with a near-freeze, about 33dF this a.m., probably did hit freezing down on valley floor though. There were at least 10 Turkey Vulture over the park and town, more up on SR, they are back in numbers now. A whopping 8 species of butterflies today to start the new month list.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A remarkable record-breaking 28 species of butterflies were seen in February. Temps were often 8-10dF above average, it was quite mild, if not warm at times, and dry. The avian highlight was the Clay-colored Thrush (Robin) at the park Feb. 1 - 27 at least, probably the first ever known to winter on the Edwards Plateau.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Feb. 28 ~ The FOS male Black-chinned Hummingbird showed up today, two days after the first female, which is still about. Kathy had a FOS June Bug, the all tan 3/4" model.

Feb. 27 ~ Saw the Funereal Duskywing again in the yard. At the park was a Cloudless Sulphur, an immaculate mint fresh beauty too. I've thought I might have seen a couple this month, but this one landed a few times a few feet away by a mud puddle along river. Park had 14 Ring-necked Duck, the female Downy Woodpecker, a nice male Myrtle Warbler showing black alternate (breeding plumage) feathers coming in on underparts. Saw the Clay-colored Robin just south of the dam on park side under the big live-oak (with poison oak) right on road. Little Creek Larry said a couple days ago he had a Harris's Hawk pass overhead. Couple more different Barn Swallows are back in town. I saw some non-native Horehound in bloom too, with a couple Orange Sulphur on it. Oops, almost forgot, some Texas Shiner (Notropis amibilis) are showing in the pond at the park now, some adults over 2" long.

I lost count during the month but now have double checked my butterfly species monthly total. The Cloudless Sulphur was butterfly species number 28 for the month. And I surely saw a couple Checkered White I didn't count, drive-bys. The last three Februarys averaged 13 species, and my 9 year best was 19 sps. So this Feb. is 50% better than my prior best year, and double the average Februrary butterfly species diversity. Does it mean an early spring? Be interesting to see what happens.

Meanwhile the ode (dragonfly and damselfly) numbers are zilch, zero, nada. Some Februarys have a bit of activity, seemingly at the end of a few day warm spell, but usually nothing has been the rule this February. One day I saw 4 odes, that was about it. So whatever it is that made it good for butterflies (probably the warmth and mild temps) does not affect the odes the same way.

Feb. 26 ~ Wow, there are a couple purple Mountain Laurel flowers about to open out front on the laurel Kathy hatched. That seems early. The real early bird was the FOS BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD returning. Amazing was it being a female, as males are usually ahead of females a week or so. I think it my first February female, that is, my earliest ever female in 10 years. Heard Bushtits, and at least 200 White-winged Dove came in to the draw to roost, their evening chorus is awesome already. Heard Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Hutton's Vireo, and Audubon's Oriole singing around yard.

~ ~ ~ February 25 header ~ ~ ~

MOST RECENT UPDATE: February 25, 2013
(last updates: Feb. 16, and 2, Jan. 19, Jan. 12)

Finally got a good rain of 3" plus in mid-January. Late Jan. and Febrary have been mild to warm. The first flowers are starting to open, spring is on the way!

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Butterflies are out in great numbers in Feb., birds are up, whilst odes remain flat. All this and more.....

February highlights so far are a Clay-colored Thrush/Robin at the park Feb. 1, 23, & 27; a Sage Thrasher in yard Feb. 19. Haven't seen the WOODCOCKS since the river came up, but likely still around the park. Amazing is an adult female Black-n-white Warbler back for its FIFTH winter at park! This individual was an adult the first winter, and so is at least 6 years old now. You go girl! Early by about a week was the first returning Turkey Vulture, which arrived on February 8.

My TENTH (!) winter bird count was done Sunday January 6. Besides seeing the Woodcock (+heard a day-old report of two displaying in Bandera Co.!) the best bird was an unusual hawk (a rare Red-tailed subspecies - nearest a pale Harlan's), then 2 Wood Duck, 2 Pine Warbler, and the Black-n-white Warbler. A RINGED Kingfisher was had for count week on Jan. 9 at the park. It was about 61 species count day, and 70 count week. The winter bird count page has been updated with results.

I thought it two (!) Poorwill calling on Jan. 23! Saw a Woodcock the same day which qualifies for one of those hill country twilight zone combos, a tough one methinks. Purple Martin, Barn and Cave Swallow are back on Feb. 23. Three Zone-tailed Hawk around town teh 24th, they're back. Black-chinned Hummingbird returned Feb. 26, a female!

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Feb. 25 ~ Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk behind off lower 357 as I went to town. In town there were two (FOS) Starling on the lighted star on the pine tree in the town center square park, and a Killdeer flew over at the north end of town. The wind blew hard all day 20-25 mph regularly gusting to 35-40+ mph. Which was all it took to take out electricty here for a few hours, from Garner to Tarpley and Utopia in between. The valley was very dusty, smelled like between San Angelo and Lubbock. At the park were the first water lily leaves of the year, and some willow leaves on the shorter young Black Willow.

Feb. 24 ~ The amazing thing now is the Buckley (Spanish) Oaks are now showing buds, some have full blown leafs sprouted already! Most at 1550+-' have that pinkish-coral tint of budding, but multiples have full blown leafage! Typically this happens one week before the first male Golden-cheeked Warbler are back, from when I see Buckley buds. Down on the valley floor in town I saw blooming Huisache, besides a couple Redbud really starting to show well.

On the way to town at the east end of the first loop right over Morris' was a nice Zone-tailed Hawk. Then at the park were two more, one calling, a different adult then the one on 357, and a first-spring bird with a non-adult tail. Three Zone-tailed Hawk is a great quick total here, they must be back. A Turkey Vulture was over the park too, out-numbered by Zoneys.

Feb. 23 ~ A great day for FOS birds as I was down in town and saw three, all bug eaters. At the north end of town within a minute I had FOS Purple Martin (4+ males a few female types), and one each Barn, and Cave Swallow. When the bug eaters get back, you know spring is coming soon. It is my earliest ever Barn Swallow return, 2nd earliest Cave Swallow return, by one day. Another FOS was a Horace's or Juvenal's Duskywing (butterfly).

Then a quick stop at the park about 3:30 on my way out of town, maybe 10 Ring-necked Ducks grunting their way upriver, as if getting airbone is that laborious a task for them to complain about it. Outstanding was The CLAY-COLORED THRUSH/ROBIN down at a wet spot on the island providing stellar views. We can call this wintering now, over three weeks at the same area. I first saw it on February 1. Don't know where it is most of the time, probably across the river. It is somewhere between remarkable and amazing that Clay-colored Robin is now wintering on the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau.

In 1986 I think it was when I discovered them at San Ygnacio (between Laredo and Zapata) singing and territorial I had to have photos to prove such a northward occurrence away from known areas of presence in the far lower valley. That was 27 years ago, and now they are here.

At 8 p.m. I heard White-fronted Geese northbound over SR, sounded like must have been hundreds, at 9 p.m., more hundreds, and about 9:45 what sounded like thousands went over, much higher up than the earlier ones. I got the mic out to hear them better, it was a mega flight going over. Tonight must be the night. Not much for south tailwinds as they often like. Two or three Poorwill were calling under the nearly full moon at 9:45 as well.

The Agarita are really starting to get going now, some have lots of open flowers, as does the library Redbud. Both are where to look for Henry's Elfin (butterfly) now. More Prairie Fleabane is opening. Oh yeah, my first spring flock of Lesser Goldfinch was about 10 at the east end (north side of first loop) of SR.

Feb. 22 ~ The highlight today was an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, maybe my first February record, will have to check, amazing since I saw its bigger relative the Two-tailed Swallowtail on the 13th. This heat has the butterflies going off.

Feb. 21 ~ Today was the FOS Mosquito, a biggun', voucher taken, examined, however not retained. At least 5 Audubon's Oriole in yard.

Feb. 20 ~ Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in the juniper at corner of porch again. Drizzle, mist, a light shower briefly, maybe a couple tenths of an inch of precip. Good for the spring sprouting, nuthin' fer the (aqui)fer. Over a couple dozen Pine Siskin at once. When Kathy put the peanut butter out (we regularly smear an inch in ten places on some branches), in a minute it looked like a fantasy field guide plate, with Scrub-Jay, Cardinal, Audubon's Oriole, Chipping Sparrow, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Orange-crowned Warbler, Black-crested Titmouse all on it immediately, simultaneously. Carolina Wren and Carolina Chickadee wait politely for the pigs to finish, and their turn, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet makes a kamakaze run to a patch when open, grabs a mouthful and shoots off in a fidget.

Feb. 19 ~ At least 8 Audubon's Oriole at once around the sunflower tube, with 3-4 at once on it, 2-3 hopping around on ground under it like colorful towhees, and a couple cued above it. A great show of big black and yellow long-tailed seed eaters it was. I suppose it was the bit of water we gave it, but the juniper by the back porch still has berries on it, and the Mockingbird wintering here hits it regularly, so I was stunned to be standing there and all of sudden at a distant 6' away there was a SAGE THRASHER! Had a quick look at one out front on December 26, but not a sighting since. A very stealthy winterer or spring migrant? The Mocker flew into the tree while the thrasher was in it, probably running it off it's food source. Sage Thrasher is always a good bird here locally, a great bird in the yard, and at point blank, very neat. Eye was distinctly orange tinted, not clear yellow. One each American and Lesser Goldfinch.

Feb. 18 ~ At least 30 Pine Siskin out back in the a.m. was the biggest single flock of them I've seen this winter. Male Spotted Towhee still about. Saw a few Robin heading down SR in the a.m. too. There is a white faced and collared Chipping Sparrow about the last couple weeks, besides the white-winged individual, so two partial albinos present in a flock of less than 75 Chipping Sparrow. Saw the FOS Funereal Duskywing out front today.

Feb. 17 ~ The first positive Pipevine Swallowtail of the year was out front, and I had a quick look at a female Goatweed Leafwing which blasted past and didn't stop as usual. Both new for the month.

Feb. 16 ~ A near-freeze this a.m., maybe 33-4dF, saw a Black-tailed Jackrabbit out front. Heard the FOY Field Sparrow singing. A few Audubon's Oriole about. The white-winged Chipping Sparrow is among about 65-70 breathen now. Was on the front porch and saw the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flying inbound from a hundred yards away, it flew right over my head and into the juniper off the back porch again, which I did see some sap leaks in. Nice to have one visiting the yard regularly. At least 2 Spotted Towhee still around, as are Hermit Thrush and Mocker hitting the bath for water.

Feb. 15 ~ At a blooming Agarita on the back of SR slowed down to 10 mph and saw a Henry's Elfin on it, still only one showing good open flowers. Narrows down where to look. At the horse farm on 360 just before the river crossing there were about 300 Brewer's Blackbird and a few Brown-headed Cowbird mixed in.

Feb. 14 ~ Happy Valentine's Day! One of my true loves showed about 8:15 a.m., 'course I heard them first, the first spring migrant flock of White-fronted Goose heading north 1000' over Seco Ridge. You can check your compass by their heading, which could not be more dead-on due north. It was 175+ birds in a double V formation. Spring is in the air, and moving north. The other new first of year sighting was an Olive Juniper Hairstreak (butterfly), just emerged and as bright green as can be, what a beauty. I think butterfly species number 21 for February so far. In the last 10 years, the high count is 19 sps. for the month of Feb. so going well so far, no doubt due to the 8-10dF above average warmth the last 10 days. In the last three cold winter and tough drought years, 13 sps. was the most species in Feb.

Feb. 13 ~ A bodacious Two-tailed Swallowtail was out front mid-day, twice the size of the Black Swallowtail that circled it for a minute. Probably blown away by the size. This is my earliest date for a Two-tailed methinks. Shining Flea Beetle again out front. Eastern Phoebe was singing in town this morning. At the park was the Great Blue Heron, the Belted Kingfisher, 20 Ring-necked Duck, but no passerines, was mid-30's dF for a low, back to normal.

Feb. 12 ~ NOAA says the last week plus has been 8-10dF above normal across south central Texas. I could stand these temps all year. The immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is still hitting the juniper right off the back porch offering great close views.

Feb. 11 ~ The biggest bio news today was the first open Agarita and Redbud (tree) flowers I've seen this year. The library Redbud has a few branches with open flowers, the ones 150'+ higher at the back of SR barely have buds. The first few Agarita flowers were out 357 at start of back loop on SR too. Probably others opening around, just notice the ones I drive by first. Off the top of my head I'd guess the timing is spot-on average normal.

A quick run through park, best was a stonking male Wood Duck back by the island. We should have a Wood Duck nest box back there. There were Pine, Black-n-white, Myrtle, and Orange-crowned Warbler, a Belted Kingfisher, 22 Ring-necked Duck, Red-shouldered Hawk which seem to be nesting maybe in the live-oak motte across the river just upriver from the island, and no Woodcock which I haven't detected since the water came up so can't get out on to the island, but they are probably still there.

Feb. 10 ~ The neatest thing was the first Wild Geranium flower open in the front yard, since I miss them more than find 'em. A few Audubon's Oriole about, Hutton's Vireo singing, as it is. I guess you have to be a female Hutton's Vireo to hear its glory. At dusk there was the best White-winged Dove chorus so far this year with a dozen up and down the draw all going off together at once. What a great sound. Did not see yesterday's Junco.

A few more Paralena flowers are opening, the Dutchmans Breeches are really going well now. Texas Onion is sprouting, and some little grass is blooming that I've never been able to ID. Ya ever look at a grasses ID guide? Talk about boring! ;) That is where I draw the line. :) My hat is off to those whom can learn them! The ground is very green now in the first inch or two above ground level now, if you bend over and peek down through all the tall grass and weed stems. That 3" rain in Jan. saved it for the early-bird first sprouters.

Feb. 9 ~ We have thick fog-mist-drizzle, a cloud forest day. Great was a spring migrant, and the first of its kind here in six weeks or so, a Slate-colored Junco. None stuck the winter this year, so we can detect a migrant easily when it shows up. Some of them head back north early, in the past this is the time when we've had the first departures of known wintering individuals in Feb. It is good to get migrant dates of things that at times might be hard to detect. When you have a flock a migrant can slip in and out un-noticed, save uniquely marked individuals.

Feb. 8 ~ The big news today is the FOS Turkey Vulture, here over SR, surely a local returnee, a bit on the early side, about a week ahead of the last 10-years average return date. Late in the p.m. a flock of 65 Robin moved down the draw and eastward down SR, a few dropping out to come to the bath and drink. Four each Ground-Dove and Inca Dove, and the FOS Buckeye (Bfly) was out.

Feb. 7 ~ 3 male and 2 female Black Swallowtail, they are really starting to pop. About 10 Ring-necked Duck at park, no odes. Red-shouldered Hawk calling over SR, soaring up high, making sure the others know this territory is taken.

Feb. 6 ~ Hutton's Vireo singing one downslurred note now. I keep forgetting to mention Turkey are gobbling. One American Lady (butterfly) and the first Northern Cloudywing of the year. also first for the year was a Green Lacewing.

Feb. 5 ~ Heard a Bushtit. I think it hit 80dF today! Wow! Was at park at peak heat looking for first dragons of year and saw one fresh just emerged Variegated Meadowhawk, and another that got away that was maybe a Springtime Darner, and no zygops (damselflies). A Mestra at the park was the second one that made it this far through winter. The first Gray Hairstreak of the year was on juniper here, and 12 species of butterflies were out in the heat. Saw that same Funereal Duskywing again, and a few Black Swallowtails are emerging. Some of the Agarita has big buds, an Elfin magnet once it opens. Heard Rio Grande Leopard Frogs at the park, first of their roaring this year, and a dozen or more Blanchard's Cricket Frog were around a shallow sun-warmed backwater pondlet. The Strecker's Chorus Frogs are still going strong up on SR.

Feb. 4 ~ Kathy and I co-ordinated to count 9 Audubon's Orioles in the yard at once, the highest count for some time. Male and female Black Swallowtail today, and a Shining Flea Beetle.

Feb. 3 ~ Roadrunner singing, it only started bill-clacking a couple days ago. Usually it is a week from clacking to coooing. Hutton's Vireo doing full two-noted szzzur-ree song. First female Black Swallowtail of the year, and the yellow morph Lyside sat out back for a while. Spotted Cucumber beetle.

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MOST RECENT UPDATE: February 2, 2013
(last updates: Jan. 19, Jan. 12)

It's winter and feels like it! It snowed on Jan. 3! Finally got a good rain of 3" plus in mid-January. Late Jan. and early Feb. have been mild to warm. The first flowers are starting to open, spring is on the way!

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Odes are down, birds are up, whilst butterflies remain flat. All this and more.....

Outstanding was WOODCOCK at the park from Dec. 9 on, with TWO there Jan. 7! Amazing is an adult female Black-n-white Warbler back for its FIFTH winter at park! This individual was an adult the first winter, and so is at least 6 years old now. She's a smart one.

My TENTH (!) winter bird count was done Sunday January 6. Besides seeing the Woodcock (+heard a day-old report of two displaying in Bandera Co.!) the best bird was an unusual hawk (rare Red-tailed subspecies or morph - c.f. pale Harlan's), then 2 Wood Duck, 2 Pine Warbler, and the Black-n-white Warbler. A RINGED Kingfisher was had for count week on Jan. 9 at the park. It was about 61 species count day, and 70 count week. The COUNT page has been updated with results.

I thought it two (!) Poorwill calling on Jan. 23! Saw a Woodcock the same day, qualifies for one of those hill country twilight zone combos, a tough one methinks. A CLAY-COLORED THRUSH (was ROBIN) was at the park Feb. 1! The first returning Turkey Vulture arrived on February 8.

A couple good things not in the immediate area, but nearish enough to remind you to keep your eyes and mind open, are an Acorn Woodpecker in Laredo, a Phainopepla near Uvalde, and a flock of Red Crossbill in Kerrville. There are good birds all around.

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Feb. 2 ~ Happy Groundhog Day! Let me know if you see one locally, it would likely mean you had too much to drink!   ;)   Great was a Zone-tailed Hawk circling the park in the afternoon, a rare winter record, usually the local breeders arrive in late Feb. or early March. Perhaps more amazing was a Mexican Yellow butterfly at the park, surely my first Feb. record, the beast was a very worn overwinterer, and right exactly in the area I saw it at twice in December, so virtually certainly the very same animal. The Red-shouldered Hawks were making noises only heard when mating. This is the important useful kind of information you'll find lots of here.

One each Pine, and Orange-crowned, and a couple Myrtle Warbler, heard the Black-n-white Warbler, one Golden-crowned and several Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Belted Kingfisher, saw the Osprey upriver, 25 Ring-necked Duck, and thought I heard a Green Kingfisher but didn't see it. Couldn't spot a Woodcock to save my soul, gonna be tough now without being able to get out on the island. A male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, plus the female Downy, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, and a couple Northern Flicker.

I thought maybe in the peak afternoon heat of mid-70's dF there might be dragonflies, but NO odes out yet. Fair but not big numbers of mayflies out, and being eaten by the small passerine flock, which is nice to see after last winter's zilch. No wintering Black Phoebe continues. Butterflies (leps) were a few Sleepy Orange and Little Yellow, and Snout, the latter of which I saw a couple dozen at minimum today. Several Blanchard's Cricket Frogs were the FOY (first of year) for them. A bunch of River Cooter were sunning on every available emerged log perch, a couple were biggun's.

In yard saw at least 5 Southern Dogface butterflies today, and a Henry's Elfin flew right up to me again, and over roof again, just like 2 days ago, probably the same animal. I glimpsed a Skipper down at park that looked like Fiery, was a orange type skipper, but not sure to sps. ID, probable Fiery.

February 1 ~ 2 Audubon's Oriole, imm. at bath, ad. singing, also Mocker (Nothern Mockingbird), Spotted Towhee, and 2 Hermit Thrush at bath. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is still out back. You never know how lucky you are to have to run to town, and what you are missing not checking the park, but today was a good example. Up in the woods at the north end I found a CLAY-COLORED THRUSH (used to be Clay-col. Robin)! I have seen two at Cook's Slough, both the first week of February, though the only prior one at Utopia (in park!) was in May. Our 2011 Ft. Inge (Uvalde) Rufous-backed Robin was in February if you recall, 'tis the season for tropical robins northward.

This another of those birds like Green Jay and Audubon's Oriole that have long been considered 'deep south Texas only' birds, that are moving north further and further, as we are just a wee tiny bit warmer, the results are nearly immediate. Temperatures play a big role in the ranges of tropical and semi-tropical species. For many a generalzation could be made that the furthest north they go is the furthest south it hard-freezes, and that clearly is changing. In the last few years we have gone from no records, to spring and winter records for Clay-colored Thrush/Robin at Utopia.

From the woods where I flushed it up off ground it was in the short leafless thick understory stuff for a couple minutes before it moved up into open branches of a big cypress. Then it moved over to the island and chinaberries at south end of it, then it crossed river to big cypresses in the open again, finally then going south to the Ligustrum patch on opposite side of river even with and just south of the dam spillway, 50-75' back from shore. It looked like it knew where it was going, those Ligustrum are nearly black ripe now, and dripping berries at that particular patch.

Also had calling Barred Owl, maybe hard to get with a Clay-colored Thrush at the same time, the ad.fem. Black-n-white, few Ruby-crowned Kinglet, no Woodcock, 38 Ring-necked Duck, 1 Belted Kingfisher, the Pied-billed Grebe, a couple Lesser Goldfinch first spring males in town at seed tube, and on SR some nearing ready to open Agarita buds, though most aren't showing any yet, some are getting close to going. Henry's Elfins will be on them the second they open. Redbud won't be too long now. It's February!

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January butterflies were good with 16.5 species recorded, above average. Five new ones on the last three days of the month as the warm spell continued and new emergences are taking place. The half sps. was a quick look at a fly-by elfin, which I saw for sure Feb. 2. Highlights in January were a worn Mestra, one of few Jan. records (none in last 5 years), as was a fresh Queen, a yellow morph Lyside interesting, and the cat killed the wintering yard Red Admiral. All that research down the drain.   ;)

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Jan. 31 ~ After the front passed Tuesday, the wind blew for a day, and finally stopped last night so it could get cold and the low this a.m. was right about freezing, probably 32 down in town, maybe 33-4 up on SR here. Caracara went over SR again. The real action was on butterflies today as the warm spell really gets them going. First a Funereal Duskywing showed up, and then a male Black Swallowtail came in to my aggie rust colored shirt. Bet it was what I saw a couple days ago out the office window. Then what was surely an ELFIN flew right up to me and over the roof, brown above, some gray below, just the right size and shape, and the right flap. Other butterflies today were Dainty and Orange Sulphur, Sleepy Orange and Little Yellow, Snout, Gulf and Variegated Fritillary, for a whopping 10 species day in January. Outstanding really. Some Januarys I have only seen 5-10 sps. all month. Several of them stopped to nectar on open Dutchman's Breeches, and that popular Slender-stem Bitterweed. Screech-Owl going just after dark.

Jan. 30 ~ Today a Slender-stem Bitterweed flower opened, boy the early flowers don't have any problems attracting customers, with so little competition. Another Paralena flower has opened as well. A new freshly emerged Common Checkered-Skipper was my first of year, and also saw Orange Sulphur, Variegated Fritillary and Dainty Sulphur. We got to low 70's dF today, but Del Rio was a record 87dF! Audubon's Oriole at bath and singing.

Jan. 29 ~ Some around the area got some rain pre-dawn this morning, and the water is running over the spillway at the dam for the first time in many months, perhaps last April or May was it? Just dripping, not a lot, but flow, as if the river, were a river! The yard Sapsucker is still in the yard, and a park bird is still there, both Yellow-bellied. Kathy had 3 Lesser Goldfinch on the sunflower here today, sorta like FOS, as there haven't been any around here, maybe a few down in town. A fresh mint Queen was a great January butterfly to get, and a couple Little Yellow were around.

Jan. 28 ~ Adult Red-shouldered Hawk in display flight. The hi-lo temp spread today was an amazing 65-75. Some American Robin and Cedar Waxwings on the juniper berries around yard.

Jan. 27 ~ Screech-Owl going at dark. 15+ Siskin on suflowers. Lots of little low growing green things sprouting out front, the
? ground in areas is more green than brown now.

Jan. 26 ~ Still foggy a.m., 3rd day at least, 20+ Pine Siskin, heard Rufous-crowned Sparrow nearby, some Cedar Waxwing eating berries in the juniper right off corner of porch. Singing are White-winged and Inca Dove, Bewick's and Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Bluebird, House Finch, and a little bit of Rufous-crowned Sparrow. Soooo nice to hear some dawn chorus again!

Jan. 25 ~ Bluebirds are singing, a first winter Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is around the back yard in live-oak and juniper mostly, and a probable Black Swallowtail shot by the office window in the afternoon. Fog again in a.m., and a 55-77 hi-lo spread.

Jan. 24 ~ Foggy and 55 in the morning, got up to about 80dF in the afternoon! A Dainty Sulphur was on an open Dutchman's Breeches flower. They are about to really open up, just a few flowers open now yet. So while Prairie Fleabane and Paralena beat them with individual flowers, as far as the first mass blooming with lots of plants full of flowers opening, Dutchman's Breeches is the winner.

Jan. 23 ~ Another great winter day with a 40-70dF spread, ya gotta love these chamber of commerce winter days here. The cat got a wintering Red Admiral today, darn it. Had 18 Ring-necked Duck and one Woodcock at the park. That is all. The bio-event of the day was at 10:30 p.m. when I heard at least one, and I really thought two, POORWILL! Second place was getting Poorwill and Woodcock the same day.

This is the first January Poorwill I've heard in now 10 of them here. February is always the earliest I have heard them. We are having a warm spell, and as more known further west they might come out and call in winter. They are hibernating, in torpor, slowed down to nearly zero, waiting out the cold season, without the rigor and risks of migration. Long considered (and the first proven discovered instance of hibernation in birds) THE hibernating bird, it is really an amazing animal. How many are wedged into cracks and crevices in this perfect limestone habitat for them? Waking up if it gets warm enough for enough days in a row, to get out and snag a few moths for a few days, and then go back to sleep when the cold returns. Often for weeks. Wow! Feb. 7 and 13 are my two early dates of last 9 springs, most springs after 3rd week of February, some not until March.

Jan. 22 ~ The first big flock of Robin I have seen all winter was in the draw eating juniper berries, at least 150 took off and headed east down Seco Ridge, another dozen spent the day eating berries often right in the yard, including the junipers at corners of porch. I had a lone waxwing (Cedar) with them, at 6 feet. An American Lady butterfly was first since Jan. 6.

Jan. 21 ~ Roadrunner was around yard first time in a while, they take care to avoid all of count month, just to be sure. One lone Robin flew west to roost late p.m. The amazing thing was getting my first of year (FOY) CHIGGER!! In January!! I'll have to check my records, but I don't think I've had Jan. chiggers. Another new butterfly for the month, a male Little Yellow looked fresh, also had Red Admiral, Sleepy Orange, and 4+ Snout.

Jan. 20 ~ Love the mild pattern 40 to 64dF or so, and the birds seem to if judging by how their singing is increasing. There was an adult Caracara flying by again, Rufous-crowned Sparrow is singing, at least 4 Audubon's Oriole were about. For butterflies there was I think my first ever, I checked last 5 years for sure, Common Mestra in January. Been holed up through the cold? amazing. Single Sleepy Orange and Gulf Fritillary, and a few Snout were around. The Mestra was sps. #11 for the month.

Jan. 19 ~ I heard the Hutton's Vireo out front this a.m., which has been absent since a day or two before count week, the little stinker. Heard Spotted Towhee also, saw the white-winged Chipping Sparrow, Audubon's Oriole splish-splashed in the bath, a dozen Siskin, 35 Black Vulture in a single kettle. A Snout or two (butterfly) was around the house, and one Red Admiral was the first I've seen since about Jan. 1.

Jan. 18 ~ No freeze and low 60's, very nice. Some singing in the morning now from some of the local residents like Cardinal, Titmouse, Chickadee, White-winged Dove, Bewick's and Carolina Wren, and a little Audubon's Oriole. The amazing thing today was the juniper pollen. Especially the first half of the day, it looked like smoke on the knoll, and in the yard, but a yellowish tinted fog so thick as to decrease visibility significantly. It was breezy and when gusts hit the trees explode in a puff of pollen so thick one can hardly see the tree. The pollen scale goes to 12, the meter had to have been pegged, it was off the charts. You could see a solid yellowish haze all across the valley.

Jan. 17 ~ Ten Cedar Waxwing were about early, some dozen Pine Siskin can go through the sunflower seed, a first spring male Lesser Goldfinch was the first I have seen in almost a month, since before count week whence it was missed. The white-winged Chipping Sparrow was among about 60 of its normal breathen. Was about 33dF for a low and warmed to 65 or so, which brought out 3 new butterfly species for the year: singles of Gulf Fritillary, Snout, and a yellow morph Lyside Sulphur, and Variegated Frit was also seen. Makes a whopping 10 species for the year so far. I saw what looked like a Zonitrich sparrow, probably a White-crowned in the afternoon.

Late in the p.m. I saw another big sparky slow orange fireball, which like the one a few days ago was traceable back to the Quadrantid area.

Jan. 16 ~ A toasty 29-49dF spread for temps today, very chilly. I would have not guessed the neatest bio-activity I would see today would stem from throwing a rock. But such are the possibilities when watching the natural world. Sometimes the dumbest thing, can turn in to the most interesting thing. It is the being there observing, to see it, that is usually the hard part.

Not having gun or slingshot in hand I needed to move a rabbit off the bird seed I just tossed out. They are bird seed vacuums, on the level of an Electrolux, so I bent down, grabbed a fine throwing stone of about 2.5" x 2" in size, 5/8" thick, limestone, and fired it at the rabbit. Sounds innocent enough doesn't it? This was a 30' shot slightly uphill to about my eye-level, in a little open area.

The rabbit saw it coming and bolted, perhaps it had heard about me hitting his buddies? The flying object I'd sent proceeded on course to right where the rabbit was (honest) and hit the ground. The rock had legs and life in it, and it did a big 4-5 foot circle before it ran out of steam. Sound boring enough out here in the country? Right as it hit the ground, the rock was hit, attacked, by a Sharp-shinned Hawk. It saw the incoming flying object, and struck as it landed. It then chased it throught the tight highspeed circle the rock made, full wing and tail fan, turning on a wingtip at high speed, it was right on that rock's ass, pouncing on it as it finally stopped. Then giving the rock the kill squeeze to make sure it was dead, followed by a look of complete bafflement that this moving object, was inanimate.

It then jumped into a low juniper branch and visually traced the inbound trajectory, then the circle at landfall returning sight to stare at the rock it struck and attacked, and was pretty sure was dead, but equally sure it was inedible. It seemed to be having a hard time grasping how it could be. The thing was moving just like a critter, food. It sat there so long going over it, I went in the house, got the scope and camera, and got a couple digiscopes before all my commotion dragging scope and tripod out on back porch flushed it off. It was pretty neat.

Jan. 15 ~ Roughly a 28-38dF spread for the high/low today, with wind. No owls calling after dark. About 60 Chipping Sparrow. Thought sure I heard a Junco a couple times but didn't see it.

Jan. 14 ~ Low of about 28, with wind on it, so chills in low 20's. Brrrrr. Heated up to a toasty 49dF or so. Lovely. A few Audubon's Oriole were about. Great Horned the only owl at and after dark. Not even the Screech were calling, back to silent for them as they've been the last couple weeks, save when another owl was in the territory, as last evening.

Jan. 13 ~ The wind blew all night and most of the day, finally slowing down late in the afternoon. And you know what that means when the wind stops, it is going to get cold. They are advertising upper 20's dF for a low. Today low was about 35 dF due to the wind, and got to 52 or so. Carolina Wren was singing for the first time this year. Cardinal and Bewick's Wren have been getting going well the last week, singing quite a bit. Titmice and Chickadees less, but singing too, and White-winged Doves going off a bit, though reservedly still.

The bird even of the day was after dark when I went out on porch and heard something I've heard two hundred times before, but not here, and not in the last 10 years. A FLAMMULATED OWL. It was calling its single well-spaced low hoot note, and for the first time in 3 weeks I heard the mccallii Eastern Screech-Owl, which seemed to be agitated and aggresively reacting, as it has not been vocal. I ran inside grabbed my mic and it had moved across the draw, a car came, the neighbors dogs went off, another car came, and it called a few more times as it moved away from all the noise, but I don't think any of it (low freq.) could get picked up by my 8" dish.

The Screech-Owl really seemed to move in on where it was calling from. When it moved off the Screech-Owl shut up. I heard it call at least a dozen times, maybe 15 is more accurate, and every call I thought "Flamm" is all that can be. I've called them overhead into the tree my hammock was tied in to. This is a call and bird I know well. There are prior Uvalde Co. records. I went back out several times all evening and never heard it again after the first good session, which was right after first total darkness. All I saw later was a great huge slow orange fireball heading south.

Here is the Jan. 12 header for the archives.....

MOST RECENT UPDATE: January 12, 2013
(last updates: Jan. 12, Dec. 27, 15, 10, 2, 2012)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Merry Vagrants and Happy New Birds!

It's winter and it feels like it! It SNOWED on Jan. 3!

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Odes are down, birds are up, whilst butterflies remain flat. All this and more.....

Some late fall and early winter highlights were:

a SECOND TOWNSEND'S WARBLER at the park Nov. 2 (female) on island where also was Winter Wren, Red-naped Sapsucker and Red-breasted Nuthatch. On Nov. 8 what was surely a VARIED THRUSH flew overhead while I was on porch. Never saw it again. Judy Bailey reports a Black- throated Gray, and a Pine Warbler Thanksgiving weekend.

Five hard freezes in December have shut down the butterflies and dragonflies for the season, as usual. It's birds or nuthin' now folks.

Rusty Blackbird Dec. 1, 2, and 18 is likely a returning winterer. A White-tailed Kite over the yard on Dec. 8 was a first. Outstanding is a WOODCOCK at the park Dec. 9 into Jan., TWO were there on Jan. 7! Some Mountain Bluebird were reported on 355, an immature Broad-tailed Hummer was on Seco Ridge briefly in Dec. Amazing is an adult female Black-n-white Warbler back for its FIFTH winter at park! This individual was an adult the first winter, and so is at least 6 years old now. She's a smart one.

My TENTH (!) winter bird count here was Sunday January 6. Besides seeing the Woodcock (+heard a day-old report of two displaying in Bandera Co.!) the best bird was an odd hawk (a rare Red-tailed subspecies or morph) on SR, then a couple Wood Duck were the first on the count, 2 Pine Warbler, and the park Black-and-white Warbler. A RINGED Kingfisher was had for count week on Jan. 9, at the park. It was about 61 species count day, and 70 count week.

~ ~ ~ end Jan. 12 header ~ ~ ~

Jan. 12 ~ Early this morning the Rufous-crowned Sparrow was singing for the first time this year, after disappearing for count week, methinks with the Hutton's Vireo. Dense fog in a.m., drizzle, another front on way, this one without much rain, but will have winds and then cold temps (Mon-Wed lows in 20's) for next few days after today's pre-frontal warm up to 70dF or so. Here comes the cold again.

Two Caracara flew by, now that count week is over, they are back to commuting over the ridge here. Thanks guys. A few Robin were about again, eating juniper berries, and one male quietly singing. Always great to hear that. And the chorusing Chorus Frogs continue.

Jan. 11 ~ At least 6 Robin were about early, one singing quietly. A town run and stop at the park, but it had the afternoon deads. Heard the Black-and-white, no Woodcock. Some water has flowed into pond, river bank up 2' above where it was, and a foot plus below normal still, water still 8" from going over spillway, and not running below dam. A single small Paralena flower has opened, to become new flower sps. #2 for the year, Dutchman's Breeches seemingly will be 3rd, very shortly.

Jan. 10 ~ Blue skies and sun is sure nice to see! Maybe we will dry out? At least 5 Audubon's Oriole around the yard in the a.m. was the highest count I've had in a year. Now that count week is over, the Caracara flew by the porch in the afternoon. I can't say what I said to it. Saw the first Sleepy Orange (butterfly) for the year, species #7 so far. The Strecker's Chorus Frogs were at it, chorusing, today.

The bio-event of the day was a couple Prairie Fleabane flowers opening up! First flower of the year, not for the first time it beat the Dutchman's Breeches by a calyx. Or maybe it was a pistil and a couple stamens. The breeches have growing buds, but they are not yet open. For some reason the first new wildflowers of the year are an affirmation of the new year to me, as is everything biologically new in the season. It is a turning point from whence everything is no longer dormant.

Jan. 9 ~ Had to do a early run to town so slipped into the park for a quick look, last chance at count week birds, this the third day after the count. It poured overnight and there was a little break in the rain. Heard a new one as I drove in, a RINGED KINGFISHER! Haven't had one locally in a couple years, they are quite scarce here. Still no Green King for count week though.

Then I saw the Pied-billed Grebe out in the open, that dodged me twice on count day, the dirty rat. Saw the Winter Wren and Golden-crowned Kinglet, both missed count day at the park. Five Green-winged Teal were new for count week, as was an OSPREY that flushed off a cypress snag. Five count week birds in first 5 minutes. The Ring-necked Duck flock was a whopping 58 birds (22 on count), and a flock of 200+ Cedar Waxwing out front of park (3 on count) was the first sizeable flock I've seen all winter. Saw one of the Woodcock.

Up to about 10 count week species, perhaps 71 sps. for the week. I heard a few probables I let go though, a White-throated Sparrow, the mccallii Screech-Owl, and the count day Winter Wren. I heard them all twice, but like to hear things three times at least, to be triple sure. Double sure isn't good enough. :) When you get to double sure, throw it out, and start all over. Look for what you haven't seen, for what you missed, and especially consider everything and anything that could remotely come close. If you come to the same conclusion again, then you are triple sure.

Folks in town said anywhere from 3 to 4 inches of rain was the total, depending where you were locally. I see the NOAA radar amount given is only 2", we got way more than that. The water was a foot below the dam spillway still, maybe when it percolates down the pond will fill back up.

The biological highlight of the day was late late afternoon when the first CHORUS FROGS (Strecker's) of the year burst into, well, chorus. This is our "spring peeper" here, always a great sign of spring on the way, in January.

Jan. 8 ~ Rained lightly much of the day, and got heavy after dark.

Jan. 7 ~ Love that day after the count, you know, the day you go out on the porch and see a bird in the bath you couldn't find yesterday. There it was, a male American Robin, for count week. Then a Ground-Dove came in, which I got by the skin of my teeth on the way home yesterday, but missed these that use the yard. A flock of 40 Black Vulture lifted off the knoll, more than twice as many as I could find yesterday..... they must have been down on some road kill and not up soaring.

It didn't stop there, I had to go to town so a stop at the park got an easy Barred Owl for count week, and not one but TWO Timberdoodle!!! That's right, found one and 200' away, walked right up to another without seeing it first, and the first was still in it's place when I went back to it. TWO Woodcock! Heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch for count week but no Golden-crowned Kinglet, nor Green Kingfisher, Pied-billed Grebe, or Caracara.

At the north end of town was a flock of 34 Collared-Dove, where I only had 5 yesterday, and in town I found the flock of Myrtle Warbler I couldn't find yesterday, at least two dozen birds, with a stunning bright male Pine Warbler mixed in. It is likely the one I saw yesterday afternoon a block away on Cypress St., but not the one I saw in the park flock in the morning which is a much duller unimpressive individual. So there are two different, one is a super bright male. A flock of 22 Waxwing at front of the park was way more than the 3 I saw yesterday.

The SR White-winged Dove flock was flushed nearing dusk as they were gathered beginning to roost in the draw adjacent to the front yard, when a big adult female Sharp-shinned Hawk dove on them and after putting one group up, went over and flushed the other group. So I got a good count, of 250+ in the air at once overhead. You ought to hear the sound of 500 White-winged Dove wings at once! Awesome.

Jan. 6 ~ COUNT DAY! OMG, winter bird count number 10(!) is here! Ten years is a nice baseline data window. Since no one had done such a thing here before it really is useful to have something. Much of the value only comes with time, when it shows the changes. If only there was a decade of someone doing this 5 or 10 decades ago to compare with, this dataset would be of far more interest than meets the eye. But in the future they'll be glad any nerd was here doing it at all, ever. Baseline data. Ya gotta have it. The only way to get it is do the field work. It takes time, effort, and committment. Even in a decade, you can start to see changes, trends, and have real results to analyze. If you want an excel file of the 10 count results, e-mail me. It comes with a money-back guarantee. It's free!

It was somewhat abbreviated for coverage, in that it was strictly a very local effort around town this year, within a few miles at most. I covered SR, town, the park, out to Little Creek, north of town a bit, Jones Cemetery, 356, Cypress Hollow, and some West Sabinal Rd. Drove 39 miles total, house to out and about, and back to house.

Will have more details later, but the highlight was a buteo in a plumage I've never seen and can't identify since I don't know enough about it, whatever it was. I saw it closely, briefly. It was somewhere between a Krider's and a pale morph Harlan's, in general appearance, with a snow white tail with thick black sub-terminial band, without any pink blush, and a mostly white head with dark post-ocular line. Some odd rare type of Red-tailed Hawk methinks. Buteo sps. is what it will go down as.

It lifted off the SR west knoll at about 10 a.m., when it warmed to just cold. It was a stunning beauty. Tail was so white at first, besides structure, I thought White-tailed Hawk - until I saw diffuse nature of anterior side of the band, and the mostly white head.

The two best ID'd birds were a pair of woodies. First the Woodcock which I refound and digi-scoped at the park. Then two Wood Duck at the county line bridge-crossing. Both were the first time ever on the count.

Other good things were 2 Pine Warbler, and the 5th year returnee ad. fem. Black-and-white Warbler, a pair of Canyon Towhee pished up in a cactus patch off 187 in Bandera County (on the valley floor), the continuing long-term female Downy Woodpecker at the park, a day-calling Great Horned Owl (the only count I had it before the first crack of light, I get a daytime calling one I don't need!), then an imm./fem. Selasphorus presumed Rufous Hummingbird gnatcatching at Judy Schaeffer's yard (Thanks Judy! ;)) was nice, I lost my hummers up here on SR in Dec.

Misses were Green Kingfisher, Black Phoebe (not wintering this year), Turkey, Caracara, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, the Pied-billed Grebe that has been at the park (must be upriver now?), Hutton's Vireo, Winter Wren, Lesser Goldfinch, and some others.

Did get a couple Audubon's Oriole here at the hovel. Cardinals are way way way down, I saw a count in east (I think Palestine) Texas that had a way way high number. Hmmmmmmm. We don't think of them so much as being migratory here, but even locals have commented to me about Cardinal being absent or way down. Probably the poor forage from the drought got them to go look elsewhere, in droves.

Saw Little Creek Larry, he said his Brown Creeper is still around, and it was 28dF down in the valley this a.m.! Was about 30 on SR, and it warmed to a toasty 63 or 4, maybe 65dF in a couple hot spots. Sure felt GREAT after that cold and wet. He also mentioned seeing what he thought was an Osprey, hovering, and then it dove into Little Creek and flew off with a young Nutria! Awesome!

I ran into another guy that well-described 2 displaying Woodcock out on N. Thunder Creek, yesterday. Now is the time, at dusk (sometimes dawn too), they call like a Common Nighthawk - beer - repeated (or, peent), as they fly in an odd manner, in big circles, usually over treetop level, at twilight. Go out and have a listen, especially where there is a clearing near woods, especially near where there are draws or wet areas.

I didn't get up to the Goat Farm on 187 where there is a flock of blackbirds (avg. 300 Brewer's, some Red-wing and Cowbirds) so that cost 3 species (most years). Will have more on results when I finish compiling, and will get the count page updated..... Too early to say what was low or high for the most part yet. But can say about 61 species were seen on count day, all within 4 miles of town.

Butterflies today were 5 Red Admiral, 4 American Lady, 3 Dainty Sulphur, and one each of Variegated Fritillary, Orange Sulphur, and Checkered White. Six species, wow! A whopping two odes (dragonflies) were seen, a male Autumn, and a female Variegated Meadowhawk.

One other thing of interest was the hedgerows along the fencelines, which had small groups of Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch in them, in several places. There must be some type of seed crop in there that they like, better than sunflowers at feeders.

Jan. 5 ~ Per the forecast tomorrow will be the winter bird count. I've been watching the weather for 3 weeks now trying to second guess when the perfect nice day for a count would be, 10 days in advance. Most of the holiday season did not qualify, cold, wet, windy, and every kind of precip known to man, and a few perhaps undescribed. Now on high alert as 3 days before and after the count, comprise count week, for which all species count.

Great Horned Owl calling at dawn, in the bag for count week now. Saw Audubon's Oriole too, should try to get a few of the easy to miss things around SR today for CW, like Hutton's Vireo, Eastern Screech-Owl, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, etc. Saw 15 Pine Siskin, a Spotted Towhee, and a male Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk) was nice as it slowly soared over, hunting at treetop level on hills in juniper grassland. The Harrier and Owl are easy misses.

Finally saw the first two butterflies of the new year, this first sunny day of it, a Variegated Fritillary, and an American Lady. In the p.m. I caught a glimpse of a Variegated Meadowhawk dragonfly. It got up near 60dF after a freezing start, so quite nice after the last two days staying in the 30's. In the p.m. a Dainty Sulphur became butterfly species number three for the year.

Jan. 4 ~ Overnight more ice, frozen rain, sleet, snow, whatever it was, probably some more unknown precipitation in there too, there were patches of white stuff on the ground all over at dawn. Not a solid cover, but looked like patches of melting snow. In Utopia. Amazing. There were scattered occasional flurries of rain, frozen rain, and ice pellets over the day, and I see at NOAA, patchy frozen fog of which I think I can see some on the hills. Ya hardly ever get to enjoy that. Probably another tenth of an inch of precip, enough to make a difference for the plants, but not the aquifer. Nearly a quarter inch in last 3 days, makes a big difference for the wildflowers.

We need a lot more, but it is something, I see Dutchman's Breeches greening up, which will be the first thing to bloom usually. In a month Agarita will be flowering, and time to look for Elfin butterflies!

I see Bexar Co. (SAT) water district says they will stay in Stage 2 drought restrictions, and forecast for catching up doesn't look good at present, we remain un-recovered from what began in 2007-8. Last winter's El Nino saved us biologically from a catastrophic disaster, but did not recharge the aquifer before the rain tap turned off.

Late breaking news Friday, I see the Edwards Aquifer Authority has declared Stage IV restrictions for the Uvalde Pool users. This is the pool Uvalde sold off water rights to San Antonio last year! They were at stage 3 and selling off water rights!?! They used over their limit last year, and were selling rights! What are people thinking!?! Some guys sold the pipe dream of job creation to get water rights. Enough people are uneducated enough, to buy snake oil. Uvalde farmers now will have to reduce usage by 35%. Brilliant. So the jungle-like yards, grounds, golf courses and water features can stay lush in SAT. Pardon my outrage.

At I saw the list of the SAT top water users, the top 100 use as much water as over 1100 homes. These are wealthy folks with water features on their properties.One said "I have five water features, I can't help it if it is hot and dry in the summer." As if the water features are not the problem. Just because you can afford the features and the water, does not make it OK for farmers to not have water so they can have their water feature entertainment. Many need and use the corn for more important purposes than personal entertainment. People can't have gardens to grow vegtables unless they water illegally. Many regular working people are paying a premium for very little usage while waste is rampant.

Sorry about that, off my soapbox and back to birds.

It was all the regular birds in the yard, the couple Audubon's Oriole hitting the peanut feeder, peanut butter, and hummer feeder, as are a couple Orange-crowned Warbler and a few Ladder-backed Woodpecker. So cold (31-36dF range today) the Ruby-crowned Kinglet is eating the peanut butter now too, as are the Cardinals. The white-winged Chipping Sparrow still here among 50+ Chippies. Very few Pine Siskin and House Finch. Must be a good wild seed crop of something they eat somewhere locally.

Jan. 3 ~ There was some freezing rain and ice pellets, and sleet early in the morning, which became a great snow flurry around 11 a.m.! Big flakes, and yeah I got some pix. Came down pretty good for a while. Temp range for day was 32-38 dF maybe. Cold and wet. I think .10" precip, good for the plants, they need it badly. The mixed precip is always an odd type of weather event, changing back and forth pending temps aloft mostly. Twice I was sure, absolutely certain, I identified the very rare "unknown preciptation." I realize that is a tough call, probably one many of you can't make, but I have extensive field experience with this, trust me.;)

Kathy had to call a neighbor early, we were sure the donkey and 2 horses going down the road untethered were not supposed to be taking themselves for a walk, no matter how nice the snow was. They seemed to like it. An adult male Sharp-shinned Hawk missed at least twice on the seed- eaters out back.

Jan. 2 ~ A quick look at park and no Woodcock again, probably there still. Did see one Ring-necked Duck buzz the pond at 50 mph, heard Song Sparrow, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Black-and-white Warbler, saw a few Myrtle Warbler. Great Horned Owl duetting on SR in the evening. Looking sorta weak for the count, which I think will be Sunday the 6th now.

January 1 ~ HAPPY NEW YEAR! Wishing everyone happiness and good health in the new year, and hoping some good birds find you. Audubon's Oriole was the first bird I looked at this morning, on the hummer feeder. That is a good year starter. Interesting was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet nibbling at the peanut butter on a branch. The four Robin were about again, a few Pine Siskin, but otherwise the regular gang of a couple dozen. Not a single butterfly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

2012 Bird and Nature News

The 2012 butterfly list was 88.5 species seen. The .5 is for a sight ID of Rawson's Metalmark, which you can't be sure of, but I have gotten them right before. So, up over the last extraordinary drought year, but a far cry from great. There have been 90+- sps. months here, it took lots of effort to muster 88. A couple new forms were added, the black Bordered Patch and the black and white Phaon Crescent are both first-in-a-decade rare. A Purple-washed Skipper (Panoquina sylvicola) sight record was the best bug, but only a sighting so relegated to hypothetical status. Several species that were common in the wet cycle of 2003-2007 are absent now, like Arizona Sister, Crimson Patch, Dusky-blue Groundstreak, Carolina Satyr, Dotted Roadside-Skipper, and others.

December butterflies were off-the-charts good, with a record 42 species found, average is 21 sps., prior record was 31 sps. The new deco gardens that were part of the beautification project are the difference. If the butterflies get to vote, they are a landslide success. The Purple-washed Skipper was the 5-star bell-ringer for December, if only I could have gotten a photo.
Links to archived bird news pages below, broken into 6 month increments. Odd numbers are Jan-June, even July through December.

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