Bird (and nature) News Archive # 21
January 1 to June 30, 2014
Old Bird News XXI

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 XXI (#21) ~ 2014 - Jan. 1 to June 30 reverse chronological order, unless you scroll to end and read from the bottom up.
These three photos were on bird news page for the winter.

~ ~ Winter 2013-14 highlights ~ ~

All three of the below species were around all winter of 2013-14.

Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird in fog 150' from porch, Dec. 9, 2013.
This bird was around through January into February.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker adult in yard, Dec. 2013.
Some discussion on black malar on Jan. 21, 2014 below.
This one spent the winter drilling our yard pecans.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler on patio eating millet seed, Dec. 22, 2013.
Best year for them wintering locally in last 11.

~ ~ ~ June summary ~ ~ ~

We turned greener than we have been in a year from the big rain in late May, and got a couple more inches over June. Spring wildflowers like Coreopsis finally came up. Most birds seemed to green-light another nesting attempt.

Butterflies were down from 40 species in April and May, to only 36 species recorded for the month. Weak. But, a ZEBRA Heliconian in the yard was a treat and gives hope for a good southern invasion this summer and fall.

A few Green Kingfisher are along the Sabinal River, I saw one Ringed Kingfisher this month. White-tipped Dove continues at Lost Maples and around Utopia, surely they are nesting. As are Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, and Audubon's Oriole which are all in the area as well.

Numbers of Golden-cheeked Warbler were still feeding young on June 29 at Lost Maples SNA. Either re-nests due to failure, or second clutches, somewhat rare for them. Just-fledged begging young at the end of June were eggs laid at the end of May after the big rain event, by which time most had already gotten a clutch out.

Mostly June is about breeding season and fledging nestlings. The first few post breeding dispersants start appearing, all invariably working southward, like Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black-and-white, and Golden-cheeked Warblers in particular. Chuck-wills-widows have almost shut up by the end of the month.

The firefly display is great this year, peak starts just before the solstice and they roar through the end of the month. Odes (dragons and damsels) started showing a bit better in June but are still a fraction of what they were pre-drought. This drought-or-flood hydrologic cycle wreaks havoc with them. A Swamp Darner spent most of June at Utopia Park in the, er, swampy area, by the island in the woods. Perhaps the third UvCo record, within 100' of where the first was 5 years ago.

~ ~ ~ ~ end June summary ~ ~ ~ ~

... and now back to our regularly scheduled drivel....

Just for the nesting record, here is what I saw or heard June 27-29 either in or from yard, in town, or at Lost Maples for five hours on the 29th, without any special effort to 'see everything'. These are the species that are breeding locally.

Wild Turkey
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Zone-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Crested Caracara
Eurasian Collared-Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Common Ground-Dove
White-tipped Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Ringed Kingfisher
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher (heard)
Eastern Phoebe
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Bell's Vireo
Black-capped Vireo (heard)
Yellow-throated Vireo
Hutton's Vireo (glimpsed briefly)
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Western Scrub-Jay
Common Raven
Purple Martin
N. Rough-winged Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Cave Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Black-crested Titmouse
Canyon Wren
Carolina Wren
Bewick's Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
N. Mockingbird
Golden-cheeked Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Yellow-breasted Chat
Summer Tanager
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle
Bronzed Cowbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Hooded Oriole
Audubon's Oriole (yard)
Scott's Oriole (LM
and yard)
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
House Sparrow
76 species (2 introduced non-native)

There were 14 known-to-be-present-locally misses over those 3 days: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Bobwhite, Poorwill, Roadrunner, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Green Kingfisher, Western Kingbird, Bushtit, Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Canyon Towhee, and Orchard Oriole. Probably Wood Duck and a few others here too.

So again I come up with about 90+ species of birds that are nesting in the fairly immediate local area. Again I wonder where the term 'summer birding doldrums' came from. Other than peak days in spring migration, it is our peak bird diversity plus we have all the beautiful neotropical migrant songbirds here and singing. Indigo and Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, warblers, vireos, orioles, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Martins, Chucks. It really is an amazing gang of breeders here with outstanding diversity!

June 30 ~ Just the yard full of the regular usual, the male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was hunting from the top of the big pecan for a bit in the afternoon. A male Cooper's Hawk flushed the feeder gang. Brown-headed Cowbirds are thinning down, a few left, but Bronzed still hanging on feeder here. There were good numbers of Wandering and Spot-winged Gliders around this a.m., the annual summer march of the odes seems to have begun. Some Saddlebags mixed in too.

June 29 ~ Today I guided some fine folks from Alamo Heights at Lost Maples SNA. We saw several juvenile Golden-cheeked Warbler, I glimpsed a couple adults as they shot in or out of feeding the young ones. At least three widely seperate spots along the trail had begging juveniles being attended by adults still. I probably saw 6 birds total. Now, listen for the metallic bk bk bk begging of the young, (which will run together into a trill when they see an adult with food) and just wait for the adults to show up to feed them.

We also found a begging young Yellow-throated Warbler being fed by an adult, past the ponds. All the begging warbler 'bk' notes are alike, Black-and-white too is the same bk bk bk. Yellow-throated Warbler has only nested at Lost Maples a very few years, about three, and only a couple times have young been positively confirmed that I know of.

We saw a White-tipped Dove at the feeding station at the trailhead, surely these have nested here this year, keep your eyes out for a juvenile, they have rufous or cinnamon edged upperparts, wing coverts and tertials (feathers). Please let me know if anyone sees a juvie. These birds are on the cusp of becoming the first proven Edwards Plateau or hill country nesting of the species.

I heard a Scott's Oriole up on the ridge, but missed Zone- tailed Hawk (though had one at the house in afternoon that was going to land in the big pecan until it saw me) and Green Kingfisher is still a no-show in the cattail filled ponds. Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak were still around in numbers, we saw one Louisiana Waterthrush, I heard Acadian and oddly a couple Great Crested Flycatcher (most years recently none are there in summer), we heard Yellow-billed Cuckoo, saw Canyon Wren very well and Black-and-white Warbler. As we admired a beautiful orange-winged Acridid (short-horned grasshopper) flying, a male Summer Tanager picked it out of the air right in front of us.

There was lots of Texas Milkweed (Asclepias texana) along the trail above the ponds, I have not ever seen this come up like this here before. A few Spicebush Swallowtail were on it. The neat Pearl Milkweed (vine) was pretty showy with all the pearls reflecting in the sun. One stand of the Indian Blanket right as the first pond becomes visible has some of the all red flowers, without yellow.

There were a couple Neon Skimmers (odes) up at the highest water spring up Can Creek, saw one Leaftail, a Red Saddlebags, a couple Prince Baskettail, one Dot-winged Baskettail, Aztec and Kiowa Dancer damselflies, but it was a bit cool and cloudy still most of the way. We also saw a Greater Earless Lizard (Cophosaurus texana) that let us photo it closely before it shot off at light speed.

There is always so much to see there, you just can't go wrong taking a walk here. Especially the area past the ponds where the canyon narrows and up to the spring at the headwaters, is a very very nice area. Something is eating the dickens out of the (also lost) Witch Hazel up there. Most of the cherries look like a wash for a good crop this year as did the Canyon Mock-orange.

June 28 ~ Nice coolish a.m., though humid, I will take that and the low clouds over sunny and hot. At 11 a.m. while in the rocker on the porch (like an old man) an Audubon's Oriole sang. A few minutes later a Zone-tailed Hawk flew by getting mugged by Martins all the way. Might as well stay seated here, I could bird like that a long time, maybe all day.

Had to go to town though. A Cuckoo was calling from the hackberries along Hwy. 187, right across from the UvCo 360 junction. In town a couple Chimney Swift, then a number of Scissor-tails and Barn Swallows at the north end were mugging a Cooper's Hawk. The Great-tailed Grackle pair continues in their natural habitat, across from the Pico (gas station with dumpster). Bell's Vireo and Painted Bunting males singing at mesquite patch at the curve at the north end of town. At noon it was still too cool for butterflies at the gardens.

Well it was neat to see a couple Eastern Bluebird juveniles fledged today, though a bummer to see a Brown-headed Cowbird with them. Two bluebirds and a cowbird for a clutch this go-round. I love that juvenile bluebird plumage with the fine white marks and spotting on upper and underparts.

Back on the porch at about 8:30 p.m. making sure rocker was in the best position for the firefly show, a Ringed Kingfisher flew down the river corridor calling, that or it was firing a large caliber semi-automatic.

June 27 ~ All work no play, a short spritz today in the cloudy a.m., got warm - 90 and humid in afternoon. Funereal Duskywing was on porch. Some Zexmenia and Frogfruit opening in yard, great to see, as are the first couple Blue Mist Eupatorium (greggii) flowers.

Still singing (nesting) are Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Vireo and Warbler, Brown-crested and Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, Vermilion Flycatcher, Cardinal, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Chickadee and Titmouse, White- eyed Vireo, Summer Tanager, Field Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, Eastern Bluebird, and a few others.

But haven't heard a Cuckoo since they disappeared overnight a couple to few weeks ago, just like last mid-June. If they had fledged young, they would have been around with them, I bet they got predated, again. Four Hooded Orioles still coming in daily, and singing a bit too.

I set up a light on a clothesline out back with a sheet hanging down to see if any bugs might come in. Probably the very windy conditions helped with what seemed a fairly weak response, but some things came in anyway. I used what was handy, a 4' fluorescent fixture loaded for basic corals, so it has a 6500 kelvin daylight tube and a 440 nanometer actinic blue (just this side of UV) tube. Need to try just the actinics some time and see what happens.

There were a few mosquitoes and midge-flys, a dozen or so micro moths, a couple of which were attractive, though I took no pix. A couple 1.5" elatarid click beetles, a few fireflies, a Tipulid, some Mirids, Green and a couple tiny jeweled type Lacewings, a large dark and a small green "leaf hopper" Homopterids, (the biggun might be a sharpshooter), and a bunch of stuff I don't know, including a few smaller beetles and some moths bigger than micros. One of those Emerald Moth thingies.

June 26 ~ Nice low temp, it might have been about 69dF, KVL got down to 67 in the rain-cooled aftermath of last night. A great cool start of day, and it probably didn't get to 90dF again. This will all end soon, that is why we are enjoying it. The birds sang lots more this morning than yesterday morning, after that rain yesterday evening no doubt cheered them up. There is a juv. Bronzed Cowbird around, though not being attended, so don't know what raised it. Heard a Black-and-white Warbler go through.

June 25 ~ Still cloudy and coolish until afternoon when it gets near 90dF. Some areas nearish-by had lots of rain, SAT was over 3" in lots of places, right at morning rush hour, surely it was a blast with the level of runoff you get with all that pavement and concrete. We got a cell to find us about 7:30 p.m. which in a little over a half hour dropped a little over an inch, probably 1.25" on us, the birds and people rejoiced.

A Large Orange Sulphur butterfly was the first of that sps. I have seen this year, finally. The day after the first Zebra. Rain attracts butterflies, sometimes unfortunately a billion Snouts, hopefully we won't get that again this year.

The firefly show at dusk is outstanding now, there are at least a hundred goin' off incessantly in the too-long grass in the front yard, last 45 minutes of light and first 30 of dark are probably peak. The numbers peak these couple weeks from just before the solstice to about the first week of July. Then I will mow the lawn.

June 24 ~ Muggy overnight, maybe 74dF for a low, and about as humid. Another Blue-gray Gnatcatcher moved through yard in a.m., they are picking up southbound steam, another (the same?) Green Heron called from river corridor, probably nesting nearish-by.

The highlight of the morning was the first ZEBRA Heliconian (butterfly) I have seen in two years (ph.). Their lighter-than-air delicate flight style coupled with a beautiful bold black and yellow zebra striped pattern is enough to make people understand butterfly watching or study, at least a little bit. I am fascinated by their status here, which is highly erratic. The last one I saw was June 13, 2012, and that was the only one I saw that year. I saw none in 2011, in 2010 only one again, and none in 2009. So three single sightings in the last 6 years since the drought started. The last year I saw them here in multiple numbers daily was back in 08 when there were five you could see nearly at once in the woods at Utopia Park. 2007 was a minor invasion year, 2004 was the real big invasion year.

June 23 ~ Still low clouds, a sprinkle or two maybe a hundredth of an inch or two. A Goatweed Leafwing butterfly was dashing about the yard much of the afternoon, a nice fresh bright male. Saw a male Dogface too. Finally some juvenile Great Crested Flycatchers about the yard, the Brown-crests are harrassing them but adult Great Crests intervening effectively. What a Myiarchus mess in the yard here. I am glad they are as obnoxiously loud as they are obnoxious tyrants. I hear Ash-throated calling up the draw at the same time.

June 22 ~ This run of short waves, troughs, and nearish lows is keeping us cool in the mornings (low-mid 70's dF), and with afternoon highs in the mid-80's, and very humid, but which seems better than 95 and dry frankly. Sure you drip if out in sun exerting, but clouds holding till noon daily makes hot part of day only half of it.

The highlight of the day was the FOY fresh mint Rounded Metalmark (Calephelis perditalis) right by the porch steps on our planted- for-the-butterflies flowers, which the deer are browsing. Actually this is my first Metalmark of the year here (!) which though exciting actually indicates something is ghastly wrong, to have gone through spring and not recorded a single Calephelis.

June 21 ~ Happy Summer Solstice! We meet again, the longest daylight day of the year, it is a big hump. You may not notice the change at first but you soon will, the hot days will start getting shorter. Due to the thick clouds and heavy soil moisture we are in a cooler spell, high again today about 85dF, amazing for summer, we have skated through June on the cool side of the range. A third Blue-gray Gnatcatcher moved through yard southbound, breeding season is over already for lots of birds.

Had to go to dump and recyling center and as Kathy noticed there was as much recycling, in volume, as trash. Do your 3R's part to not be wasteful with resources: reduce, reuse, and recycle. It does make a difference, there are not infinite resources, and making a new bottle, new paper or cardboard etc., takes more than re-using what we already made. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Saw three juvenile Scissor-tailed Flycatcher together just south of town on the fenceline where a pair always nests. There were some juvenile Cave Swallows on the wires near the Med. Ctr. at north end of town. A Zone-tailed Hawk was hunting over town.

The various gardens around town look good after the rains, their first good bloom of the year, but little was out, mostly Dainty Sulphurs and Checkered White. The good beastie was Elada Checkerspot, of which there were about 8 at the park entrance deco garden. I have never seen more than 2 in a day here in the last 10 years, this is for me unprecedented. Also saw a very large Bombyliad that was red, orange and yellow, big and fancy, obviously a wasp or bee mimic.

A nice male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher spent some time flycatching from the top of the big pecan right off porch in the afternoon. What a great bird! I never could get enough of them, had to take a few digi-scope pictures.

In flowers a lot of Frogfruit is opening, and Scarlet Pea, finally whole fields of Coreopsis are up and open, Engleman's Daisy are open at the park, Some Low Wild Petunia is opening, we'll have a good bloom for a bit now with the recent rains, we should be good well into July for flowers. Buttonbush also going well at park.

June 20 ~ A sprinkle or two went through, to keep the humidity up, but probably only got to 85dF. Pretty good for later June. Any time you beat 95dF in June, July, and August, you can't complain. Didn't see a thing in town, the park was dead, but for that weird darner (dragonfly) I can't ID with the downcurved abdomen tip. Bigger than a Springtime, and darker too. A Blue Dasher was out, and no Orange-striped Theadtail yet, but was a bit coolish for odes still at noon.

The firefly show at dusk is amazing now, great numbers are out now, we are nearing their peak of the year. tonight from the porch I could look around and see 50 going off, surely if I went to river I could see hundreds if not thousands. One of the greatest shows in nature if you ask me. At the same time though I am amazed at how quiet the Chuck-wills-widows have gotten, I heard one distantly at dusk. I wonder if the big rain caused some mortality of young.

I ran into Little Creek Larry and he said within a few days of the big rain in late May, Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks had clutches of teeny downy babies out on the newly just-filled ponds on South Little Creek. The buffalo wallows. So they had to have started nesting there when the pond was still bone dry. As Larry said, they must have known we were going to get rain a couple weeks before us. He also said Bravo Creek is running again, besides Little (Thunder) Creek going well for the first time in a long while.

June 19 ~ A few showers totalled about an eigth of an inch more of rain this morning, so were at 7/8" for the two days. And another day in the 80's dF, what a great break, humidity and all.

Another (the second this June) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher moved through yard southbound in the afternoon, a finished breeder departing. Even the earliest nesters aren't nesting before mid-March, so some of these birds aren't here 90 days. Amazing. My feeling the early departures are birds with poorer nesting success, the ones getting young off will keep trying. Some will stay the next month and get a third brood out.

June 18 ~ In the evening we finally got one of the rain cells to hit us and we got about 3/4 of an inch of rain, outstanding. Kathy spotted the highlight of the day, a Black Rock Squirrel, the first we've seen in the yard. I think Rock Squirrel is the more widely known name, but we (south central Edwards Plateau at least) have the black morph, the coolest ones of them all. In most of their range they are brownish gray and most un-impressive compared to these black beauties we have. Generally they are considered vermin for their burrows which undermine foundations so have been widely persecuted for years.

Garner State Park has a fair population, and there are some at Lost Maples too, you might see one anywhere hereabouts, but they are often away from roads and trails. They are usually very human wary in general, in fact, seeming more so than any other squirrel. They don't climb trees and eat your nuts, nor hunt bird nests in the trees, are far more strictly herbivirous so not the problem overpopulated Fox Squirrel presents. And being persecuted they are closer to fairly uncommon, rather than obscenely abundant.

June 17 ~ Still very humid, mostly cloudy, cooler highs in the mid-80's dF, balmy overnight lows in low 70's dF. The Bell's Vireo is still singing out in the mesquites. The Brown-crested Flycatchers fledged young today, and there are a couple juvenile Vermilion Flycatcher young out on the fenceline too. Still haven't seen Great Crested juveniles out yet this year, but early for them yet.

The cuckoos have disappeared from the yard, a few days ago, as I have not heard the daily calls since about the 12th or 13th. I sorta doubt they got young off, but rather got predated, or they'd still be around. Coons or squirrels, take your pick.

June 16 ~ I see juvenile Red-tailed Hawks have fledged. A Zone- tailed Hawk was moving down and over river corridor habitat, a couple Martins diving on it, and from up high, and Scissor- tailed Flycatcher dove on it, right over my head when I was out on the driveway! It looked like the Scissor was going to ride it out of Dodge! They were so low you'd have had to been in the treetops to get a picture showing it, from my angle the Flycatcher disappeared behind the Zone-tail, just its long tail feathers sticking out behind the Zone-tails. What a sight.

June 15 ~ Took a heat of the day walk to check river for odes. 4 p.m. to about 5:30, and there was some ode activity which was nice to see for a change. Most of the butterflies had already checked out for the day it seemed, though there was a Texan Crescent in the draw. At peak heat though most birds are not singing you can always count on vireos: Bell's, Yellow-throated, and White-eyed were all going at it, as was Yellow-throated Warbler (several territorial males), Summer Tanager, Painted Bunting, and Yellow-breasted Chat.

At crossing at least two Green Kingfisher gave great close views, an adult male and an immature were seen closely for sure together, but in all the back and forth it seemed three or more birds were around, likely from a successful nest before the flood. Also a Zone-tailed Hawk soared over. Any day you see those two species it is against the law to complain about anything.

For odes, in dragonflies it was a couple Comanche Skimmer, a few Checkered and one Black Setwing. For damselflies there were Blue-ringed, Powdered, Violet, Dusky, and Kiowa Dancers, Double-striped and another type of Bluet, a Forktail got away. In the yard were both Red, and Black, Saddlebags. So broke the 10 species barrier anyway, even though common stuff, good to see some of it making it through drought and floods. No Leaftails or Gomphids was surprising, as was no Rubyspots.

There was a DOR (dead on road) Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus) near the crossing, a foot long pencil-sized young of the year, bummer. Photo'd since new for my yard and local area list. Then on the patio at heat of day I found a Western Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis proximus) in what looked like writhing in pain, mouth open, twisting over on back, appearing to be biting self, I thought ants had it. I picked it up and it played dead. Put it in shade in garden away from ants, got photos and Kathy. A short while later it crawled away seemingly fine, no doubt thinking "dumb humans!".

Couple male Black Swallowtail crossed yard. The Hooded Orioles are still coming in daily, Painted Bunting still singing. A pair of Blue Grosbeak are loving the seeds of the long grass I was supposed to mow. The male is a first-summer with only blue on front half of head, and barely some on very far sides of breast, otherwise sill all brown drab as a very worn first winter bird. But it seems he has a mate and does sing a fine song.

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in the yard about 5:30 p.m. moving south was the first of them I have seen since spring migration, now the finished breeders and young of the year start departing. Also heard at least one, maybe two Black-and-white Warbler along river, which now are also departing post-breeding adults or young of the year. Fall starts before summer does.

The Mexican Hat had a good bloom but seems past peak now, lots of stuff is just starting to go from the rain, like Slender-leaf Hymenoxys is going off now, some Rock Flax, a few Zexmenia starting as well as the first few Frogfruit, lots of Mealy Sage and Lazy Daisy, some Scarlet Pea, a bit of Cedar Sage still going, a few Wood Sage or American Germander starting to open, a few Indian Blanket are findable as are its kissin' cousin Pincushion Daisy, a bit of Coreopsis, and lots of Two-leafed Senna and Sida opening, and some Tube-tongue is still going. I checked a few Prickly Poppy for the big fancy Meloids (blister beetle) but didn't see any, though some flower heads looked like they have been devoured by them.

June 14 ~ Back to the summer spread of low 70's dF to low 90's. We often get the Gulf clouds showing up right after sunup, slowing daytime heating a few hours, keeping it below 80 till after 10 a.m., 11-noon if you are lucky. It really helps for getting some things done early, not to mention having a full 12 hours below 80 to cool off.

Bell's Vireo across from gate singing in big mesquites today, first time I've heard that in weeks. Wonder if it is the same bird still trolling up and down river habitat corridor? Been hearing Scissor-tailed Flycatcher every day this week, just behind those mesquites on a powerline. Good riddance squirrel #25. It has become obvious that if me and my ammo lasts, I can get 100 out of one tree. Isn't that a major statement about how out-of- control they are?

June 13 ~ Happy Friday the 13th! Good luck! Texas Powdered-Skipper was my highlight, a favorite butterfly due to its super camo, and weird scalloped hindwing shape, very cool and first for the month. Dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly in yard. There was a family group or two of Purple Martin overhead for some time this late afternoon and evening. Nice to see fledged young and family groups out. It means they too will be leaving soon.

~ ~ ~ ~ June 12 update header ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


(last updates: June 1, May 25, 16, 7, April 28, 20)

Sayonara Spring! Hope you enjoyed it, summer is all but here! Local breeding is in full swing, spring migration is done and over. Bird numbers are down, just like the flowers, insects, and the water table, surely the effects of drought.

We got an inch of rain May 12-13, and nearly as much again May 24, then a major event on the 25th and 26th which for most was 7-8" locally, some got 10 to 14 INCHES! Some flowers are starting to pop (not as soon as the mosquitoes) and more flying insects (bird food) will soon follow the flowers.

You may want to scroll down to the date of the last update you read, and scroll or read UP day-to-day to read in chronological sequence, some references might make more sense that way.

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Some April internet postings reported Tropical Parula at Concan, Acorn Woodpecker, White-tipped Dove and Painted Redstart at Lost Maples, and a Rufous-backed Robin unseen but photo'd with a critter cam in Edwards Co. Apparently Rufous-capped Warblers are back at Park Chalk Bluff or Chalk Bluff Park, whatever they are now. So keep your eyes and mind open while you're out there.

As spring becomes a memory, here were my local May FOS (first of season) sightings as a reminder how fun spring was.

May 1: Lazuli Bunting
May 2: Northern Parula (others saw 1 end of March at LM)
May 3: Eastern Kingbird, MacGillivray's Warbler
May 4: Common Yellowthroat, Olive-sided Flycatcher
May 11: Swainson's Thrush, first 5 chigger day
May 14: Mourning Warbler, Willow Flycatcher (sang)
May 15: Ovenbird
May 16: Philadelphia Vireo
May 19: Chestnut-sided Warbler, Warbling Vireo,
     (and 'nothers of Mourning, Ovenbird and No. Parula)
May 23: 'nother Chestnut-sided Warbler - at our bird bath!
May 25: Magnolia Warbler, late-ish Tennessee Warbler and No. Waterthrush

RECENT RARIES: May 27 a CERULEAN Warbler; May 22 a raptor not of the normal expected avifauna moved north up river corridor just south of Utopia. If you are in the area, triple check any less-than-large buteo sized raptor you encounter. On May 5 a male HEPATIC TANAGER bathed here, and April 26 for 5 minutes at least, a PAIR of CASSIN'S KINGBIRD were in our big pecan calling up a storm.

Locally there are Ringed and Green Kingfisher, Olive Sparrow, Zone-tailed Hawk, Long-billed Thrasher, a White-tipped Dove at the park (two at LM), and some Audubon's Oriole around, if yer lucky, or know someone.   ;)

~ ~ ~ ~ end June 12 update header ~ ~ ~ ~

And now back to our regularly scheduled drivel.

June 12 ~ back to the low 70's dF for lows, warm moist Gulf flow, a couple boundries are around, a short wave to cross over, and rain predicted this afternoon or evening. Uvalde got to 105dF! Here it got about 100dF, and I saw heat indexes before the dry line got here were 110 in some spots. The cloud sheild from the front bearing down saved us in late afternoon, the rain got here about 8 p.m., but the heavy rain cells split and went around Utopia, we got maybe .2, about a quarter-inch. Over at Garner to Concan it looked like they got 2.5 inches or more as did areas near Uvalde. A Tornado or funnel cloud was seen 10 miles north of Leakey in Real County, near Big Springs.

A Cloudless Sulphur butterfly was my first in a month or so. A nestfull of Eastern Phoebe fledged too soon, they were running around all over the ground, can't get into bushes, etc. I caught a couple and put them in a bush, but sorta doubt this batch will make the night. My guess is the oldest one jumped and when a parent fed it down on ground, all the others followed. There were at least four, maybe 5 juveniles. (update: sure enough next morning, no young)

June 11 ~ A quick run to town early morning found a singing Acadian Flycatcher at the park up in the woods at the top end of the island. One year of last 10 one was singing here a couple weeks in June, in fact then a pair seemed to be prospecting, was another year when it was very wet and swampy due to big rains. I suspect this likely a trolling unmated male. It often gave a quick series of d-d-d-d-d-d-d notes much like an Eastern Wood-Pewee every time it landed after a sortie. Then sang some more. Very hard bird to get at the park, the local breeders obviously don't make a habit of stopping there or I'd get migrant records. A Swift Setwing on the garden fence was the first of that dragonfly I have seen this year. The morning was low 60's dF again, what a treat we won't likely see for several months now.

June 10 ~ Front passed overnight and woke up to low 60's dF temps, it has to be near a record low for the date, maybe 62-3dF here, Kerrville had a 59! It felt great, crisp cool dryish air, in June. As the front finished we might have gotten a tenth of an inch of rain in the morning. It's the breeders for birds now, and I hate to bore you to tears with the same stuff every day. There is a partial list on June 7 below of some of the daily yard fare. Been getting the three Myiarchus (Great Crested, Ash-throated, and Brown-crested Flycatcher) here daily now for a week. All are nesting nearby.

June 9 ~ A front is threatening to pass, some boundry layers causing scattered precip in other areas around us, but clouds kept highs in 80's dF, but humid. A Question Mark and a Funereal Duskywing were a couple of the leps today.

June 8 ~ some morning low clouds turned to a showerlet, while we were out walking of course. Before the walk there were two juvenile GOLDEN-CHEEKED Warbler in the yard, young of the year dispersing off the breeding grounds. When we returned I heard them at the draw, 90 minutes after the first sighting. My first off-the-breeding grounds sighting for the year, and always a five-star yard bird.

My first Spot-winged Glider (dragon) of the year was in yard about noon. Been a few Red and Black Saddlebags around too. Don't think the high was 85dF, but with humidity the heat index was 90. Still not bad with a cooling breeze for June.

June 7 ~ Too busy to bird. At least there are a bunch of cool things in the yard over the day. Painted Bunting, Hooded Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-throated Vireo, Great Crested and Vermilion Flycatcher, Purple Martin, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Bluebird, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Cardinal, Black-crested Titmouse, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and others..... enough nesting close enough around to be interesting most any time you walk outside.

June 6 ~ A quick town run found nothing at the park, a few Cave Swallows are up at the north end of town among the Barns across from the storage place, apparently nesting under the eaves of one of the houses there. Chimney Swift was seen on 360 right in front of UR, maybe a pair is there or at one of the other nearby residences. We've got that 70- low 90's dF spread going on with morning low clouds so entirely bearable until noon or so. A darner at the park was maybe a Springtime, but not sure.

June 5 ~ Too busy to look, the Great Blue Heron flew by office window behind monitor, so I saw that. Surely it is nesting locally, I see it every couple days. The Bronzed Cowbirds are now a flock of 5, which is 5 too many. Still Chucks goin' off at dusk in a big way, and booming Common Nighthawk too. A fair number of juvenile Black-chinned Hummingbird are showing up at the feeders.

June 4 ~ We seem back in the morning low clouds from the Gulf regimen, which is great, keeps it cooler longer in the a.m. Too busy to look much. Had a male and female Mournful Duskywing (lep) come to water out front, photo'd the male yesterday evening, the female this morning. It was a great study to have them together. Also had a Tawny Emperor out back, a Black and a few Giant Swallowtail, the usual Nysa and Celia's Roadside- Skippers on the Mealy Sage around the porch. Snout, Queen, Gulf Frits, Lysides, Sleepy Orange, and the most numerous is Pipevine Swallowtail. A Pale-faced Clubskimmer (ode) was feeding in the lee of the pecans.

June 3 ~ Gulf flow and morning clouds back, keeps the start of the day cooler a bit longer. Even had a tenth of a hundredth of a showerlet. Mostly, I have these Harverster Ant bites on my feet. Got them two days ago while working in garden. Normally they leave you alone, but one got caught under top of sandal, on BOTH feet, and I guess wanted to let me know to let them out, fiercely. Both feet are swollen, left foot amazingly so, both itch like he!!, can't wear sandals now, shoes are murder, forget that. Lots of Bendadryl, witch hazel, and might have to resort to internal applications of alcohol taken orally.

Once I saw a report on the pain of stings and bites, where the foolhardy researcher/suckers/voluteers, envenomated themselves with various stings and bites, recording levels of pain for each and developing a scale of pain. This is important work. A bee is a 1, and as I recall Black Widow (spider) was the worst, at 5. A Scorpion was a 3, I think fire ant was a 2-3. Red Harverster ants beat all but the widow with a solid 4. I'm talking serious professional level pain here folks. That's what I got. Makes ya wish there were some birds goin' by I would talk about? Best bird today was a warbird. I heard the rumble and bolted for a spot with some airspace view and there it was, it turned just south of me, a B-25 Mitchell, one of my favorite bombers.

I forgot to mention yesterday, squirrel #23, he no longer be. And today, #24, ain't no more. Only cause I missed, #25 is still alive. And they just keep a comin'. Bird nest hunters is what they should be called, perhaps then people would better understand the magnitude of their overpopulation problem.

June 2 ~ It must be June, I heard my FOY cicada around noon. A week since the mega rain event, and the yard is greener than it has been in the last year. We only water minimally for half the pecan trees, some potted (and deer fenced) veggies, and some butterfly flowers around porch, most of the yard is rain-only water. The firefly show is picking up, June is peak month, tall-grass (un-mowed) areas around big leafy trees are favored.

Just the breeders now. I keep forgetting to mention there are definitely two male Painted Bunting here, they were both on the tube feeder outside the office window at the same time yesterday, which of course doesn't last long enough for a picture. Funny how whilst we sit in awe of their beauty beyond belief, once on breeding grounds two males can't stand the sight of each other from April to August. They can't even sit on opposite sides of a feeder at the same time!

Appears there are two female Hooded Orioles coming in now, one first-summer with mostly worn off wingbars, and one older adult (ASY - after second year) with nice neat wide wingbars. Besides the two males, one full adult, one first-summer with molting tail. So probably four birds here now, and probably at least a half-dozen visits per bird per day to the feeders.

The natural history highlight of the day was a pair of mating Texas (or Eastern) Spotted Whiptail lizards. The male was all colored up, salmon throat, blue belly, partly metallic, but this one with no green above, and tail dull, not the orange type. One of the fanciest lizards in America, and yes I got pix of the male, will put one up shortly, they broke up before I got there with camera. They live in a hole in the patio, which I won't plug now. Binomial is Aspidoscelis gularis, it was formerly the genus Cnemidophorus, but which now are Aspidoscelis.

June 1 ~ JUNE !?!?!?! OMG! Migration is over! What are we gonna do? It's nuthin' but breeders now baby! Which is fine since we have such a great selection of them here. A Great Crested Flycatcher rode a juvenile Black-crested Titmouse to the ground in front yard. They don't call them tyrant flycatchers for nothing. Brutes. Both this morning, and late late afternoon, I heard Chimney Swifts.

The Vermilion pair seems to have picked another location for their second nesting, to the south in the corral maybe. They started a nest right across from our gate last weekend, but perhaps the traffic during the week (rush hour = one vehicle, plus the ranch hand's trip back and forth) was too much. Just as well, the chosen branch fork was too close to the road anyway. Kathy didn't like it. Said it was no good. She knows these things.... there go my yard nesting Vermilions, again, defeat snatched out of the jaws of victory.

I did snag a couple good digiscopes of the Yellow-breasted Chat today as it was singing up top (35'+ up) of the big pecan just off the front porch. Will put at least one up soon. It and the female use the bird bath daily. Sure love that flight song, and I like birds that sing in the dark. I'm guessing Mockingbirds have taken a lot of heat and blame for Chats over the years.

The interesting bird action of the day was a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks soaring overhead with a begging juvenile. The adults were calling. The Mocker which is nesting nearby was singing from the tall pecan. First he quits doing his routine and normal repertoire, and imitates the adults, pretty well, and corrects it, practicing, changing it, to make it right, while he is listening to the adults. Then the Mocker changes to make the juvenile begging call, also changing that sound in progress, adjusting tonal quality to get it just right, comparing it against the original it is copying, altering more. It was an amazing sequence, to hear it 'sing along', and alter what it was doing to better mimic more exactly. Very cool. Wished I had tape running for it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ May Summary ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

While it seemed a sleeper going into it, things started to pop later in the month. We had a major rain event, the biggest in a year, and one of the few biggest in the last 5 years. But too much at once (7-14")! The biological benefit will not fully be felt as the total may indicate, much of it ran off. Still it was a life saver, just in time, and will make a big difference in the immediate short term. We needed it bad. Hopefully the live-oaks will decide to finish leafing out now. Perhaps it will stave off the desertification of the Edwards Plateau for a bit.

Much of migration seemed to stay east of us this year, surely we appear very brown from the sky with all the dead trees. Numbers for most passage migrants seemed low, though the measurement of warbler movement intensity here, the Nashville, seemed normal, as did Yellow Warbler. These the two overland inland (circum-Gulf (of Mexico)) migrants are our most common migrant warblers.

With lots of effort and an ear, one can muster a decent warbler list over the course of the spring. It was about 21 species of migrant warblers detected around Utopia for me this spring. The 10 prior years average was 22, and if the insanely great year (31 sps. in 2011) was tossed out, 21 would be average. So diversity was there, but barely, it was scratching for them. All but three, 18 sps., were in the yard. I missed a spring migrant Golden-cheeked this year, only seeing them on breeding grounds.

Butterflies were down in May, numbers way lower than they should have been, but the flower bloom was the worst I have seen in May, much just did not break ground. Maybe some will now. I saw only 40 species in May, which is low, only the worst butterfly year of 2011 was worse. Isn't it interesting that in the last eleven years the best spring migrant warbler year (31 sps.) was the same year as the worst butterfly year (only 68 sps.)?

Several good birds appeared over the month, May is perhaps the best month in spring, maybe the year, for knowing surely some rarities will be detectably passing through. Best bird was a raptor I am afraid to say I saw for fear of losing any credibility I might have. Then in the maybe they'll believe it department there was male Cerulean Warbler and Hepatic Tanager. A May Peregrine is pretty nice, so was a singing Philadelphia Vireo, a couple each of Mourning, Chestnut-sided, and Tennessee Warblers, and a Magnolia.

Low was only one Swainson's and no other thrushes, no Pheucticus Grosbeaks (Black-headed or Rose-breasted), no Baltimore Oriole (one was seen locally), or Catbird, no "eastern" Empidonax (Yellow-bellied or Alder) Flycatcher, and only one Olive-sided. It was scraping for everything this spring.

Admittedly I don't have time for birding now save the few hours a day I get in the yard. But which being tapped into the river habitat corridor traffic has changed the game quite a bit as the warbler diversity indicates. I see more species in a spring in the yard here, than in 8 years on Seco Ridge.

Perhaps if I would have had more time for the park there would have been a few more warblers, and maybe some other stuff, but most of my stops there it was nearly dead. To give it proper coverage you would have to be retired, or live in town, so you can check it a couple or few times a day. It is easy to stop in and not see much, and an hour or two later things be there as birds move along the river corridor through the morning.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ end of May summary ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ back to the regularly scheduled drivel ~ ~ ~

May 31 ~ Still in 60's in a.m., and cherishing it, I know it won't last. No migrants again this morning, a Yellow Warbler on the 28th was the last one I saw, so far. A flycatcher wouldn't be out of line late yet, and I wouldn't be surprised at another Yellow or two as well. But it will shortly be southbound Golden-cheeked and Black-and-white Warblers for the predominate warblers-on-the-move locally.

Had a new yard bird about 11 a.m., a Long-billed Thrasher in the yard. About time, overdue frankly, surprised it took this long, considering I had them up on dry juniper slopes at Seco Ridge, and know they breed down here on valley floor. Good one though, and something else moving about, likely an unmated bird trolling, like the Olive Sparrow two days ago. I heard a Red-eyed Vireo singing outside heat of the day, also a trolling bird, the first in yard all spring, though they nest on the grounds at Utopia on the River. Got some great Great Crested Flycatcher calling tape today. They can make a very long series of sorta quiet 'wee wee wee wee wee' musical piping notes, without doing any long drawn out ascending weeeeep notes, for minutes.

Dawn chorus is awesome now since the rain event, 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. is just world class great. The stuff is saying, we are good to go and going to nest again. I have seen young out of the nest of most of the regulars now: Painted Bunting, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Carolina Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Phoebe, Chipping, Field, and Lark Sparrow, Cardinal... Red-tailed Hawk, White-winged, Mourning, and Ground-, Doves, Black- chinned Hummingbird, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Barn Swallow is most of 'em.

What I haven't yet seen fledged young for are Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Hooded Oriole (surely some have fledged by now), any Cowbird, Red-winged Blackbird, any Myiarchus (Great Crested, Brown- crested or Ash-throated) flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Indigo Bunting, Red-eyed or White-eyed Vireo (surely some White-eyes out by now). I might have had a young Scissor-tailed Flycatcher near town the 30th.

May 30 ~ Mid-60's dF low gave way to about 90dF for a high, with plenty of humidity. No migrants through yard again, and none at the park. Turn out the lights, the party is over. It is just the breeders now folks, and enjoy them because too, soon the migratory ones will be departing. I suspect with the rain many things will renest that would not have, and in part judging by the upsurge in dawn chorus. It is a roar at 6:15-6:45 a.m., much more than has been going on.

Had to run into town, found out that some folks locally, within a few miles of town, had 10 and 14 INCHES of rain from the event! Many had 8, I thought the event dropped about 7.5 on us south of town, but perhaps it was more. Anyway, as usual here, due in part to the hilly terrain and orographic effects, the totals vary wildly in a very small area. Also whether or not you were directly under one of the major cells, and for how long, is a big factor. Lots of downed branches from it, and it sure is nice to see a river going over the spillway, though now it is back down to normal levels, at least pre-drought normal bankfull. The mosquitoes from the ponds now in the flood zone and all the full treeholes will be out in 4, 3, 2, ....

The female Great-tailed Grackle was foraging behind the gas station, in its natural habitat near the dumpster, and surely has a nest nearby again. Our local population for 10 years has consisted of one pair that arrives in April and departs by October, and which have fledged young.

For odes, at the park I saw my FOY Widow Skimmer - a nice male, and a FOY Blue Dasher (up here in hills, had seen it at Uvalde already). Not much else though. Skeeters starting to show more already.

May 29 ~ Nice low in low 60's dF, high in mid-80's dF and very humid. No migrants, it is going to be nuthin' but nesters now for a while. I suspect lots of things will renest now with the rain, knowing there will be a bug hatch shortly. Julia's Skipper, Celia's and Nysa Roadside- Skippers, Goatweed Leafwing, Gulf Fritillary, seems to be a hatch or emergence already starting. Today I saw a mint fresh Monarch. Not a ding in it, just out of the paint shop. So was it the alleged local population of non-migratory Monarchs, or, was it an egg dropped by a female on the way back from Mexico, and the new generation that will continue north? It is my first Monarch this year that is not an obviously worn pale migrant.

The first-summer (immature, or second-year (SY)) male Hooded Oriole has some new adult black central tail feathers, so the tail is now black above, as that is what shows when tail folded. But from below it still looks juvenile, olive yellow. The outer tail feathers have not yet molted, so are still original feathers from last year when it left the nest, and olive yellow, or yellow olive.

May 28 ~ Some morning clouds but all the rain is eastward now, very humid of course, time to dry out a bit. Winds turned to north in afternoon, got up to upper 80's, feels like summer is on way. One Yellow Warbler was the only migrant I heard today, the rest was the local breeders. It's about over, we were lucky with the big system and rain to get a flurry of late season migrants, essentially saving the spring for spring warbler migration, taking it from weak and dismal to fine to very fine.

Saw a party of 3 Ground-Dove today which is surely a young tagging with a couple adults. Also have the 3 Hooded Orioles hooked and coming in repeatedly all day to the hummer feeders. One fully adult male, one first-summer (aka immature, or second year (SY)) male, and a female that I'd say is a full adult (or after second year, or definitive, whichever terminology you prefer).

May 27 ~ A brief sprinkle in the morning but mostly it slowly gradually cleared out over the course of the day, blue skies by 4 p.m. or so. No migrant warblers or anything else went through yard in morning. A Northern Parula in afternoon was unusual.

At dusk I heard 5 species of amphibians calling, the rain hath brought them forth. You know we had 6"+ of rain because the Couch's Spadefoot Toad is calling. The others were the regular cast: Rio Grande Leopard Frog, Blanchard's Cricket-frog, Gulf Coast Toad, Barking Frog, and I may have heard a Cliff Chirping Frog as well.

May 26 ~ After I updated this birdnews page yesterday (Sunday) evening the 25th, it really began to rain, about 9 p.m., we got over two inches in the next hour, and near a couple more between 10 and midnight. Just the evening total was four inches plus about an inch earlier in the day!

That brings us to this morning, when another slow moving cell went over, dropping over two more inches between 9-11 a.m.! We are about 7 (!) inches for just over 24 hours. So it is just running off now. From the NOAA storm total radar it appeared Lost Maples got 4+" maybe 5". The Sabinal River is a roaring river again. WOW! The high temp today here was about 75dF! Has to be near a record low high temp for late May.

Before this morning's round and couple more inches of rain, at 6:45 a.m. as I was putting out seed, and over the next 15 minutes I heard an American Redstart chip 3 times, but never could find or see it. It was the obvious distinctive can-only-be-a-redstart sharp sharp loud metallic inflicted diagnostic chip note. This one I will count for the spring season's FOS for me. I heard a couple probables so far, this was the absolutely diagnostic call so gets to make my spring warbler list. Not the first time I have gotten one for a spring in late late May here.

We walked to the crossing to take a couple pix of the impassible bridge. The volume of water in river is incredible, we haven't seen it like this in a year, and probably one of the bigger rain events in a couple if not few years. This is major. Saw 3 Yellow Warbler and 1 Least Flycatcher, plus a warbler and an Empidonax that got away.

And we had the first fall migrant of the year. A southbound adult female Black-and-white Warbler. I have seen them and Golden-cheeked Warbler in late May moving south down-valley, done breeding and departing nesting grounds. Some of these two species arrive in early March, departing in late May. Fall migrants. Some may say they are post-breeding wanderers, but, they are migratory warblers that have completed their spring migration northward, nested, and are moving south away from the breeding grounds. Like fall migrants. All my late May and early June Black-and-white Warblers (or Golden-cheeks) out of breeding territories here are southbound along ridges, or river habitat corridor.

One other noteworthy thing was my first Wandering Glider of the year, three at least, patrolling a flooded field by the airstrip.

May 25 ~ The tail end of a band of rain swept by in the morning, we got a half inch. Then more in afternoon was another half, at least. Hope it keeps up. A soaking wet male Tennessee Warbler was out front just after 9 a.m., trying for my latest spring date maybe. It was 8' from me in lowest pecan branches right off porch. Probably a good day to look around, save it is opening weekend of weekend warrior season, plus the rodeo at park has that packed with people.

We took a walk to the (360) crossing. Watched a male Vermilion try to talk a female into a fork right across from our gate. Sings and calls from the fork as he rubs back and forth on it, to show the female what a perfect nest site it is. Five hours later I saw him doing the same thing at the same fork. Tough sell apparently.

In a half-mile saw 6 Yellow Warbler, plus two were in the yard for a total of 8, which is high for the late date. Didn't add the 2 seen late p.m. in yard. We had a Northern Waterthrush at the crossing, also late, and a white type, as seems the norm with the late ones, and one female Common Yellowthroat. After coming home I ran over for a quick look at UR, but got rained out. The Northern Parula continues singing there, present a week now.

About 5 p.m. a couple just-fledged un-attended Yellow-throated Vireo were in the big pecan, with just a couple barely yellow patches on breast, and no yellow throat yet. Mis-ID's waiting to happen. While watching them, about 5:15 a female MAGNOLIA Warbler pops out, about 15' away in lowest branches, got it in the scope! My FOS and only of year so far. Interestingly last year my only one in spring was first-spring male singing here, on May 24. Today's is migrant warbler sps. #19 for this spring here for me.

Two other warblers recorded this spring were not migrants. The wintering Pine were here into March, but those weren't migrants, and I only saw Golden-cheeked on breeding territories, no spring migrants detected.

Today then there were for migrant warblers Yellow, Tennessee, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Waterthrush, and Magnolia, and territorial breeders Yellow-throated, and Yellow-breasted Chat, plus the present- a-week-now Northern Parula at UR, makes 8 species of warblers, a good total for the date. Obviously up at 1050 pass if not within a mile, one could add breeding Golden-cheeked and Black-and-White, and at Lost Maples add Louisiana Waterthrush. So 11 species at least were possible locally today. Again, good for the late date, it is the weather that knocked them down so we could see what was goin' by. Bet at least another one or three migrant species were around too, when you have 5 sps. of migrants in a few hours in one little area.

May 24 ~ No migrants through yard in a.m., despite strong southerlies, and a bit of sprinkles, a few hundredths at least by mid-a.m., migration is er, uh, well, tailing off. Both the SY male and the female Hooded Oriole visited the feeders again today, We'll have 'em hooked in no time. The male sang a bit, showing this is part of his territory. Eastern Wood-Pewee trolling over in river corridor, probably the same one here in yard yesterday morning.

May 23 ~ A bit of overnight sprinkles, a few hundredths. At 360 crossing one Yellow Warbler and one Lincoln's Sparrow, no migrants in morning at UR or in the yard. It's too late baby, it's way too late.... A trolling Eastern Wood-Pewee moved through yard early in a.m. Heard a warbler in late afternoon in yard I wish I could have seen, it sounded good, but I missed it at 4 p.m. Then at 5:30 Kathy spotted a male Chestnut-sided Warbler at the bath, which was just finishing but we got great looks in the big pecan right off the porch. Was a first-spring bird, and my second of this spring. Always a fancy bird to see.

Also at crossing were a couple territorial male Green Sunfish, not fully colored up yet, but getting nice, and man they are thick of body, the bulldog of the sunfish. I caught a couple at the park several years ago, and I thought I had something way wayyyy bigger on the line than what came up. Pound for pound, IMHO the toughest Lepomis sunfish. And tasty too.

There were a half-dozen each Dun and fiery Skipper, and one Southern Broken-Dash nectaring on the Water Willow (Justicia). One nice male Black Setwing dragonfly posed for photos, hope I got the metallic violet forehead to show, what a stunning beauty. A few Kiowa Dancer (damselfly) were about.

Also at crossing a new reptile for my local list, Texas Spotted Whiptail (lizard), which I've seen down in the flatlands of the brush country, but not yet up here in the hills. The breeding colors of the male are spectacular, this one was yet to color up, still early in the season for them. Squirrel # 21 is done.

May 22 ~ At Utopia Park there was an Empidonax flycatcher that splash-bathed in the river, ever try to ID them when not just silent, but wet too? Methinks it was a Willow. Was definitely a "Traill's" type (Willow or Alder). Again heard a WHITE-TIPPED Dove there too. No warblers.

In town I saw Little Creek Larry and he mentioned having just seen a Meadowlark locally, within the last week. Recall Moe Bell saw one when he was visiting (up 187 just N. of 470) in early May. So two sightings this month of what were surely Eastern Meadowlark is exciting in what is their breeding season. Larry said someone has some white peacock out 355 at the edge of town, when I mentioned the one I saw a male at the park.

In the yard I heard a warbler chip that surely was a Parula, but didn't see it. The female Hooded Oriole was here in the morning, I think she is taking to the feeders, yipeee! Mid-late afternoon I heard an Audubon's Oriole up the hill behind us. Then during dinner a female Orchard Oriole was 'chuck-'ing on the powerline 10' from the feeder bank.

The mind-bender of the day was a raptor over yard in the afternoon, which I couldn't identify without research. It was very low when first spotted, I got binocs on it quickly, it was fast, graceful, and agile. It executed a dive on something near (in?) tops of cypresses at river that was most impressive. Then it drifted toward me, low and right over yard. Some Martins chased and scolded it a bit on the way, then it climbed up on a thermal right overhead, slowly moving north up the river habitat corridor. I have seen all the U.S. raptors, in every plumage and color phase (save white or black Gyrfalcon). It was not any of the normally occurring U.S. species.

I can hardly recall seeing anything so well, that was so well-marked, and not knowing immediately what it is, except when a species I have never seen. That is the only time this happens. I did consider the species I am now certain it was at the time of the observation. First though I eliminated what it was supposed to, or should be, based on size, shape and structure: either an accipiter, or a small buteo. When I eliminated those two possibilities, I knew I was on to something I had to look real real hard at. Fortunately it was low, close, and in perfect sun.

I observed it until it moved out of view, a couple minutes from when I first saw it, mostly it circled right overhead. It was the kind of bird that if you said you saw one, you would be disbelieved without photographs, at a level that your reputation would likely suffer. So it is best to swallow pride and excitement, let discretion be the better part of valor, and keep your big mouth shut. At times like this I remember the words one of my mentors, the great pioneering birder Jim Lane said to me when I was about fifteen. "Mitch, you keep birding and you will see LOTS OF THINGS they will say you are crazy for seeing."

A Funereal duskywing was my first positive ID this month on the flowers around porch. If I could just keep the dillo out. Squirrels #19 and 20 removed.

May 21 ~ One Yellow Warbler in yard in morning was it for a migrant today. Not hearing the Bell's Vireo, I think it might have not attracted a mate and moved on after nearly a month of daily singing? I miss it already. Cuckoos still around. Great Crested Flycatcher was calling and singing its head off all morning all around yard, seemingly trying to get mate to pick nest site. In p.m. got pix of it when it came down to a sprinkler and bathed, often landing in the tall wet grass and standing a few moments in the sprinkler spray, before rising 6-8' to a branch to shake and preen, calling up another storm, repeat ten times. A great show.

The olive green back, stem to stern, crown to rump, is all you need to see to eliminate Brown-crested or Ash-throated which don't have olive green upperparts. The tone of color itself is much much darker, like the gray throat and breast is too, for this interior forest bird. Note bright rufous inner webs to outer 5 tail feathers with dark chocolate outer webs with the color split always EXACTLY ON THE SHAFT (Brown-crested color split is on inner web, inside the shaft). The belly is bright kingbird yellow from undertail-coverts to breast, evenly, without any paler areas centrally or elsewhere, all the way to the upper breast. Not brighter yellow rearward, fading anteriorly. The line of color demarcation from bright yellow lower breast to medium (not light) gray breast is straight, sharp, and clearly delineated, not fuzzy and weakly fading from one (light pale yellow to light pale gray) color field to the other. At the sides of the breast right on the line of color demarcation, one can often see areas that appear olive green. Whether that is some mixing of gray and yellow feathers, or some green feathers, I don't know. But the other U.S. Myiarchus certaily never show this feature, whilst Great Crested usually or almost always does. Some field guides show it, some mention it, most don't. Look for it and you'll see it.

Brown-crested Flycatchers have thrown out the Ash-throated Flycatchers that were in the the box the Bluebirds just finished with. The Ash-throated pair seems to have moved on.

May 20 ~ No migrants in yard this a.m., maybe heard a Yellow Warbler over in corral. At least there is a bunch of pretty interesting stuff to see regardless of migrants..... Strong southerlies all day until late afternoon, warmed to upper 80's dF. Around 6 p.m. there was a warbler out front that got away, I heard it chip a few times, and watched it fly across road and disappear. If forced to guess I would say it was a Canada Warbler, but it will remain another one that got away.

May 19 ~ We went over to Utopia on the River early to meet our guests for breakfast. There was a Northern Parula singing on the grounds for over an hour that I didn't hear yesterday. Then I heard and got a quick look at a Chestnut-sided Warbler, one of the LTA (less than annual) spring migrant warblers here, so always a prize. Most of my records are in these pecans on the UR grounds the middle two weeks of May. There is a Vermilion Flycatcher nest in a mesquite about 50' from the lodge. There were a couple Yellow Warbler there, and a couple in our yard later in morning. Then my FOS Warbling Vireo was in yard noonish. So some obvious movement, but it's back to the salt mine after a couple days of goofin' off...... unless I can run us out of something I just havvve to go to town for. ;) Hmmmmm I wonder how much toilet paper there is???????

May 18 ~ The gulf flow was back thick enough to make a little mist for a bit. We looked at the park briefly with our guests, and again an OVENBIRD sang so either the same bird has been here 4 days, or there were two this spring. Since I checked it in between (on Friday) and did not see or hear it, and since conditions have been the type birds move on (clear evenings with south winds) I sorta think it was two birds, will have to vacillate on it for a bit. A male Mourning Warbler was not to be outdone showing beyond well by breaking into a measure of SONG! It is the first one I have heard sing here in now 11 springs. Made my day. Four Black-bellied Whistling-ducks were there.

The mulberries were great. We were the four big kids eating them off the trees. The weird thing we saw was a pair of Indian or Common Peafowl, that is, Peacocks! The amazing part was the male was a pure snow white albino! WEEWOW! Gadzooks!! So if you lost one..... if they didn't go off about 5 a.m. every morning, would be nice in the yard. Down on the coast I knew people that kept them for waterbug (cockroach) control, said they couldn't be beat.

We stopped at Waresville Cemetery where there was a singing imm. ma. Orchard Oriole, a nice male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was out on the driving range, and a Zone-tailed Hawk soared over for minutes with a prey item in its talons. Had a good patty melt at the cafe in town.

We also flushed a pair of Wood Duck over at the river by house, I hope they are nesting in the area somewhere. Upriver a bit we flushed a Great Horned Owl. Heard the usual Chucks and Nighthawks at dusk to dark.

May 17 ~ No migrants through yard in a.m., just in case one needed jolting into the realization spring migration is about over here. There will still be a few goodies trickling through, but the bulk of it is over and gone. We have out-of-state guests inbound today so too busy to bird.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ May 16 update header ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(last updates: May 7, April 28, 20, 18, 11, 4)

Happy Spring! Now playing everywhere! Summer is on the way! Local breeding is in full swing, migration will be winding down very shortly for us way down south here below 30 deg.N. Dawn chorus is a mild roar, though as Kathy has noted, much quieter than normal. Bird numbers are down, just like the flowers, insects, and the water table, surely the effects of the drought. We got an inch of rain May 12-13 so some flowers should pop the next few weeks.

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Some recent internet postings report Tropical Parula at Concan, Acorn Woodpecker, White-tipped Dove and Painted Redstart at Lost Maples, and a Rufous-backed Robin unseen but photo'd with a critter cam in Edwards Co. Also apparently Rufous-capped Warblers are back at Park Chalk Bluff or Chalk Bluff Park, whatever they are now.

For a couple months each spring a great thrill can be had quite cheaply, by recording FOS (first of season) spring returnees. They are near-daily for some time, and years of doing so reveals them showing up in a pretty normal unfolding of spring, very close to the mathematically predictable sequence and timing. Here are my FOS Spring arrivals for the Utopia area 2014:

Feb. 16: Purple Martin, Lesser Goldfinch, Brown-headed Cowbird.
Feb. 18: Turkey Vulture and bat.
Feb. 23: Black-chinned Hummingbird and No. Rough-winged Swallow.
Feb. 26: Vermilion Flycatcher (male)
Feb. 27: White-eyed Vireo, 'nother Black-chinned Hummer.
March 1: female Black-chinned Hummingbird
March 5: Barn Swallow
March 6: Dragonfly (Dot-winged Baskettail)
March 9: Black-and-white Warbler
March 12: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
March 17: female Vermilion Flycatcher
March 20: Ash-throated Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler, and SPRING!
March 21: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (prob. heard earlier)
March 23: Clay-colored Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow
March 24: Louisiana Waterthrush
March 25: Monarch (worn migrant from Mexico), Rufous or Allen's Hummingbird
March 30: Springtime Darner (dragonfly)
March 31: Black-throated Green Warbler, Swainson's Hawk, Brown Creeper
April 1: Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Nashville Warbler, Indigo Bunting
April 3: Summer Tanager
April 8: Blue Grosbeak (earliest in 11 springs)
April 9: Brown-crested Flycatcher (earliest in 11 springs)
April 10: first mosquito bite finally!
April 11: Yellow-breasted Chat, Bronzed (Red-eyed) Cowbird
April 12: first chigger yipeee!
April 13: Painted Bunting
April 15: Orchard Oriole
April 17: female Painted Bunting and singing from the male, female Blue Grosbeak
April 19: Grasshopper Sparrow
April 20: Dickcissel, Bell's and Blue-headed Vireo
April 22: Wilson's Warbler, Common Nighthawk, flying ad. Firefly
April 23: Yellow-billed Cuckoo
April 24: Great Crested Flycatcher (prob. earlier)
April 25: Tennessee Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Western Kingbird
April 26: Northern Waterthrush, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee
April 27: Bullock's Oriole (female)
April 28: female Orchard Oriole
May 1: Lazuli Bunting
May 2: Northern Parula (others saw 1 end of March at LM)
May 3: Eastern Kingbird, MacGillivray's Warbler
May 4: Common Yellowthroat, Olive-sided Flycatcher
May 11: Swainson's Thrush, first 5 chigger day
May 14: Mourning Warbler, Willow Flycatcher (sang)
May 15: Ovenbird (one May 19 likely a second one)
May 16: Philadelphia Vireo
May 19: Chestnut-sided Warbler ('nother May 23), Warbling Vireo

Fascinating isn't it? Most amazing is that most years the sequence, and timing, would be uncannily similar.

Recent raries: a male HEPATIC TANAGER was in yard on May 5! A PAIR of CASSIN'S KINGBIRD was in our yard on April 26. A NORTHERN GOSHAWK climbed on a thermal right over yard and eventually sailed off due north, on March 19. The only Brown Creeper I have seen in about a year was in the yard for a half-hour plus on March 31 (ph.).

Locally there are Ringed and Green Kingfisher, Olive Sparrow, Zone-tailed Hawk, a heard White-tipped Dove at the park, and some Audubon's Oriole around, if yer lucky, or know someone.   ;)

A post on the ABA website said the Rufous-capped Warblers were back in Uvalde County. I don't think there has been enough proper coverage to assert with any degree of certainty that they ever were gone, but that is another issue. I presume this means at Park Chalk Bluff, or Chalk Bluff Park, the name has changed multiple times and since we moved here..... It is on Hwy 55, NW of Uvalde 20 some miles heading toward Camp Wood. They have an $8 per person entrance fee to bird, last years birds were at boat ramp area, and pecan bottom to left, or downriver. One was believed a possible hybrid, or somesuch as I recall so make sure you see both, or hear the one you see sing a good Rufous-capped Warbler song.

~ ~ ~ end May 16 update header ~ ~ ~

back to our regulary scheduled drivel.....

May 16 ~ About 60dF for a low, but before 9 a.m. the south wind picked up to 10-20mph, makes for tougher birding. Before 7 a.m. a female Lazuli Bunting was on the millet seed. Had only seen one male this spring so far. About 8 a.m. a first-spring male Orchard Oriole was singing from the hackberry, this one with nearly no bib, much much less than normal for a nearly one-year old by now.

Had a town run today, so a quick look at park. No Ovenbird. One Mourning/MacGillivray's Warbler got away, best bird was a singing FOS Philadelphia Vireo. Otherwise a couple Lincoln's Sparrow were it for migrants, yesterday's Common Yellowthroats were gone too. Appears everything rode the south winds out of Dodge, what is here is probably new and just showed up. Did see a couple Chimney Swift again over town. At least one pair is around. Blue Jay at park.

In butterflies a Goatweed Leafwing was in yard in afternoon, and near last-sun a Red Satyr flopped across yard.

May 15 ~ An awesome low of about 42 or so is near record cool, and with the dryness, outstanding. Chamber of Commerce day here. I guided some fine folks from the Houston area around a bit today. We went to Utopia on the River just after sunup and it was still cool, too early, hadn't warmed up yet, so a Yellow Warbler was it for migrants, though all the regular breeders were around.

Then a look at the park in town. There were a pair each of Black- bellied Whistling-Duck and Blue-winged Teal, finally my FOS Green Heron locally, and a Spotted Sandpiper. A couple Common Yellowthroat were along the river, couple Lincoln's Sparrow but again, still cool, both sites better later in the morning when warmed up a bit. I did my patented Barred Owl imitation once and one immediately flew in, and seemingly also in response, an OVENBIRD sang! They got on the owl and I moved back-trail a short bit and there it was 10' away at first non-chalantly foraging as they do, bobbing as they walk and cocking their tail, as if we weren't there oogling it. One of the neatest warblers, my FOS, one I don't get every year, and to get hear it sing!!! It did not sing again after the initial response to my one loud Barred Owl call. Too cool.

Then we went to Lost Maples. Mostly it was the same parade of regulars, with again, no sign of an Acorn Woodpecker or Painted Redstart. We did see one and hear another White-tipped Dove just up-canyon of the trailhead parking area. I heard only a Scott's Oriole, several each Canyon Wren, Acadian Flycatcher, and Louisiana Waterthrush. Missed Zone-tailed Hawk, still not seeing Green Kingfisher. Had great views of an adult male Golden-cheeked Warbler as it preened just after bathing, and heard a few. Did have a couple territorial male Yellow-throated Warbler and a flyby Yellow Warbler. A Caracara soared over, actually a tough bird to see in the park.

Plus the usual breeders like Yellow-throated, White-eyed, Red-eyed and Hutton's Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black- and-white Warbler, heard singing Painted Bunting, saw Common Ravens, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Summer Tanagers, you know the gang...... Saw several Prince Baskettail and a couple Flame Skimmer dragonflies, a pair of Black Saddlebags and a Pale-faced Clubskimmer.

Here at the house just before dusk, as I walked out and a Green Heron alarm call came from right over patio, it was only 35 or 40' up, it looked like it just left the top of big pecan. A new yard bird, I just checked, it is #180, in less than 14 months. Just had my FOS locally this morning at the park, when stuff hits, it hits. Kathy had a Blue Jay today here at the house, I heard one at Lost Maples today, my first ever there.

Celia's and Nysa Roadside-Skipper (butterflys) were on the Mealy Sage around the porch.

May 14 ~ A low of 46dF in KVL, we were probably 47-48, and it was great! Wind finally stopped sometime overnight, but forecast called for it to pick back up by 10 a.m., and it was actually at 9 when it struck, 10-20 mph, with higher gusts, from N. to NW, the post- frontal blow. Apparently it lightened up enough, early enough in the evening, that birds moved last night, as there are new migrants around today.

I had to run to town early so a quick look at UP, and then on the way home a check of UR. The park had a Mourning Warbler (I'll count this as the FOS - but glimpsed one earlier), 3 Common Yellowthroat, a Yellow and a Nashville Warbler, 2 Least Flycatcher, 2 Lincoln's Sparrow, and a heard (call and song) FOS Willow Flycatcher. Clearly some migratory movement behind the front at first chance to proceed after being grounded. The Yellow-throated Warbler have begging young out of the nest that they are feeding. I heard a WHITE-TIPPED DOVE call from the (former) island, a good bird at the park, maybe my third. A couple are at Lost Maples, who knows how many are around. Probably a good number.

At UR there was a singing male Black-throated Green Warbler, and male Wilson's and Yellow Warblers. Regular breeders there were Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Summer Tanager, Indigo Bunting, and I may have heard the Acadian Flycatcher.

Yard saw a Yellow Warbler and Least Flycatcher for migrants, but I was gone peak hour. But for the wind it would be a good day to work it hard. If I had time I would check UR and UP later morning, and in afternoon or early evening, there is turnover as birds move along river corridor during day. Some find a good spot and stick to it, others keep moving direction of migration for some time over the morning, and even afternoon sometimes. In afternoon there was a first-year male Hooded Oriole in yard, it sang a little, hopefully that female has brought him here to show him the feeders.

May 13 ~ Nice cool morning felt great, perhaps about 55dF, though the rain passed over, still under cloud deck, very breezy from the north, and since the wind direction change and precipitation hit right after dark, there seem to be no migrants knocked down. Over eastward where it hit mid-night, like at SAT, AUS, Bastrop, etc., they got migrant warblers from it. We got short-strawed on some migrants, but we got some rain, so can't complain. A post to Texbirds reported a Baltimore Oriole by Judy Bailey this date. At 11 p.m. I heard a Vermilion Flycatcher singing, in what sounded like flight-song. It was pretty bright of moon out.

May 12 ~ Not much for movement out there, a couple Yellow Warbler were about it for migrants in the yard today, save one male Black- throated Green Warbler.

A couple other good birds were had, and sticking with the green theme. First, at early-thirty an Olive Sparrow sang from across the road. Nice to hear from porch at sunup. Then mid-morn a Green Kingfisher called from across the road toward draw, perhaps 200' away. I once had one fly across yard, and heard them over at the dry draw before too, but has been a while, and always a good yard bird when you can't see the river (700' away).

We had a cold front come in with a MCS (big line of thunderstorms) just after dark, it looked like town got an inch of rain, we were a little over a half from the initial cells, and then a quarter inch more plus a little, over the rest of the night and into the morning of the 13th, pre-dawn. Up-valley Lost maples it looked like they got maybe 1-1.5" or so. East a few miles along Seco Creek there was 2.5"+! I would call it at 7/8" for us here, and the best soaking in about six (!) months.

With the rain a few days ago, it gives Lost Maples about 2.5" for the week. I can't tell you how badly that was needed. It will make a big difference in flowers, bugs, and bird breeding success. It was clearly much greener on the 15th, than the 3rd.

I saw a note that so far this year, as of May 11, pre- this storm, San Antonio has only had 2.6" of rain, since Jan. 1. Less than a quarter of normal? That whooshing sound was the ground sucking up water. We needed this one in the worst way. We are still in extreme drought, about D4 or so by the national drought monitor scale. The Edwards Plateau is in worse shape than everything around it per this weeks map. Only the panhandle has it as bad in Texas.

I was sitting on porch mid-day when plopsplat something hit the stone walkway in front of the porch. There was the greenest, I mean neon, dayglo, fluorescent green Anole I have ever seen. Way way markedly greener than normal Anoles. Must have been the one Kathy saw on same tree yesterday. I looked up to measure how far the fall was, the nearest branch above where it landed was 20 FEET up, onto stone! It ran over to the trunk and headed right back up. Talk about getting back on the bike! I went inside to grab camera to document its incredible greeness. A big Fence Lizard came partway down the trunk before I went in for camera. I came back out and the anole was brown. So you will have to imagine this green. ;) If you know the neon green of the group of lizards called Day-Geckos (not from U.S.) that is what it reminded me of.

One last great beast for the day was in the house, and likely flushed out by the rains lately, what was formerly known as Texas Blindsnake is now called Plains Threadsnake (Leptotyphlops dulcis), which I caught, photographed, and released outside. They only have vestigal eyes, a couple skinned-over dark spots, and are ant and termite eaters. Most folks that see one think they saw a worm.

May 11 ~ Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there. Had to make a town run to haul a load from the storage space over. A year plus now and still moving in. A quick look at the park netted one female Common Yellowthroat, and 1 Nashville Warbler for warblers, and a single Swainson's Thrush was heard singing, that was it for migrants. Six Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were at the pond. A couple Chimney Swift flew over, as did a Blue Jay, Great Crested Flycatcher was singing (the crazy laughing) too.

Half a dozen Texan Crescent (butterfly) and as many Queen were nectaring on the American Water-willow (Justicia) which was in good bloom. And which now I see the first bit of Dodder on. That is the orange stringy parasitic plant that lives off other plants, vining over and sucking the life out of them. Also at park one green Anole (lizard), and Kathy saw one here at house she said was super bright green. One Yellow Warbler in yard for migrants.

May 10 ~ the low was 56dF, KVL had 54, nearly 10 below forecast, neither I nor anyone else is complaining, fantastic, dryish air. Saw my FOS Prince Baskettail (dragonfly) by the corral this a.m. A quick run to town mid-morn found a dead Coot along road right at south end of town where 1050 hits 187 (Main St.) at a little rain puddle in front of church. I get about one per year here, looks like this year it is a DOR - dead on road. No doubt knocked down (grounded) by one of the cells that went over. Could have been a powerline strike.

Finally saw a couple Chimney Swift in town, but that was it, a couple, ran into Judy Schaffer at P.O., she said she hasn't been seeing them either. There is no aerial plankton up there folks. Back at home before noon there was a female Hooded Oriole in yard that came into and used one of the hummer feeders. I wish we could get some to take up here, I miss them something fierce, not having a herd of orioles in the yard all the time, all spring and summer. Was one Yellow and one Nashville Warbler in yard much of day. Nice big male Eastern Fence Lizard (7+") on Pecan, and a Four-lined Skink came and drank at bird bath.

May 9 ~ A storm cell moved across Bandera Co. west to east in the morning, the bottom edge just grazing town, we just got a few spits a couple miles south, though the outflow and 10dF temp drop was nice. Looked like maybe upvalley and Lost Maples got some, as well as B & R and Thunder Creek Rds. This just in from NOAA, the cumulative total from Wed. evening to today (Friday noon) was an inch upvalley, and upriver in Bandera County, including Lost Maples. Along the County line was about a half-inch and below that only a trace to a tenth or so. Looked like Love Creek area got 1.5" or so! The upper Medina River drainage and headwaters needs the water badly as we do. Early afternoon another cell went by below us, Uvalde and Sabinal got it, we only got another spritizin'. Maybe it got us to a good solid .10, a tenth of an inch of precip today.

In morning saw a Yellow or two, one missed non-Yellow-or-Nashville warbler sps. got away, one Least Flycatcher singing, an Eastern Wood-Pewee moved through, around an hour singing. Cuckoos are still around, hope they stick to nest again. After noon a Nashville showed up for a few hours. The cloud sheild and rain cleared with a dry line about 2:30-3:p.m., and right behind it a PEREGRINE FALCON came over, circled nearly right overhead on a thermal, gaining altitude then heading north. Was a nice adult, only the second one over yard, and always a great bird to see.

The male Yellow-throated Vireo was leading the female around from tree to tree, shopping for a nest site. Singing "Is this one good enough? Look how nice it is." Much like home shopping, from the look on his face he seemed to have showed her half the trees in the valley, twice, trying to find one that to her has just the right branch with just the right nest-concealing foilage right over the perfect fork, 15-25' above the ground. Not just any tree will do. The song over time started to sound like " what is wrong with this one?" and "I suppose this tree won't do either?"

May 8 ~ Maybe 2 Yellow Warbler was it for migrants. Saw the Cooper's Hawk sneaking down the fenceline. We missed the rain all around, some to north and many to east got some. 50% chance means you are as likely not to see any. We remain bone dry.

My daily bird. The early May daily yard list now is composed almost entirely of local breeding species or those attempting to do so: Black and Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Eur. Collared-Dove, White- winged, Mourning, and Inca Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chuck-wills-widow, Ruby-throated and Black-chinned Hummingbird, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Vermilion, Great Crested, Ash-throated, and Brown-crested Flycatcher, White-eyed, Bell's, and Yellow-throated Vireo, Common Raven, Purple Martin, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, Bronzed and Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, and Lesser Goldfinch. About 40 species daily singing in or flying over yard.

The last 3 weeks seen not quite daily, most every 2-3 days: Wild Turkey, Common Ground-Dove, hear Roadrunner, hear Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned and Barred Owl, Common Nighthawk, Crested Caracara, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Barn Swallow. These ten species are nesting very nearby.

If I walk the dirt road out front a half-mile in either direction add: Eastern Wood-Pewee, Ash-throated Flycatcher, texana Scrub-Jay, Northern Mockingbird, and likely a few others. There are then about 55 species breeding either within an earshot or two maybe three at most, of the yard, or going over it daily as the vultures and Caracara. The peak of a pretty impressive dawn chorus is 6:30 to 7:30 a.m., the half hour either side of sunrise, though some are going by 6 a.m., and some even earlier.

A few non-breeders, that is, passage migrants, or in the case of waxwings lingering winterers, have been daily the last three weeks: Cedar Waxwing, Nashville and Yellow Warbler, Clay-colored and Lincoln's Sparrow, and some few migrants will continue as spring passage winds down.

May 7 ~ One Yellow Warbler was the only sign of migration by 10 a.m. It well shows how fast it is over here, this far south. While folks up north are getting geared up for the heat of it, we are done. There will be a little trickle this next week, then a last few drips the week after, but most of it is long past us now. We should still see some flycatchers, and some first-spring warblers, especially if we get some weather (rain). IF an overnight rain would happen now we actually could see a very good day yet. It is nearing last chance for a real good day this spring, hopefully the system alleged to be inbound will materialize some precipitation and we'll get lucky. Later I did get a first spring male Wilson's Warbler about 5 p.m.

So far spring has been weak probably because we look drier from the sky to a migrant bird than we do on foot down here at ground level. I imagine the park has been OK, it usually is good when there is no other water around, but I just haven't had time to work it this spring. I have only seen 16 species of migrant warblers so far this spring, tying my low (average is 22 sps. per spring) though often a species or two shows up at the tail end of migration, which is the next 10-14 days. It is the best window for the 'less-than-annual' things like Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Blackburnian, or a rarer Prothonotary, not to mention something actually really rare. Two of my best spring warblers here, Connecticut and Black-throated Blue, were both AFTER May 15. I am still on the fence about counting the Mourning I saw last Sunday, though I have no doubt that is what it was. I'll get another anyway. We're just getting into the good time for them.

The behavioral item of interest today was seeing a Carolina Chickadee hiding sunflower seeds. This is a behavior that typically starts when the breeding season is over. So is it? Are there so few bugs out there that they aren't going to try again? They did get at least one young to fledge already, not sure it was two though. Normally they would be fattening up and re-nesting now. Not hiding sunflower seeds as if done nesting for the year and winter were coming. I have never seen this during the breeding season, only after it. It hid 6 in crevices behind lifted edges of the bark on the big main trunk of the biggest pecan, in 5 minutes, as if working with a deadline.

Just before sundown my FOS Chimney Swift flew around for a bit, finally! I have not been seeing them on my recent quick trips to town, and numbers have spiraled down each year of the last 4-5. I suspect a few pairs are around, I just haven't been in town enough, but, there used to be dozens of pairs you could not avoid seeing on any trip into town in April and May, pre-drought.

May 6 ~ A first spring male Orchard Oriole was in pecans early, a Nashville, a Yellow or two, a couple warblers got away with flight notes to irratate me with. Great Blue Heron flew by, likely nesting somewhere in the area, I see it once a week as it commutes up or down river corridor. Twice I heard a Canyon Towhee calling across the road, surely the bird heard a couple days ago just down the road a piece. A male Red-winged Blackbird was odd on the sunflower tube.

There is still at least one pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbird here, which seem the same birds for most of nearly two months now. There was no big wave this spring, it got to maybe 5-6 males, and as many females, briefly in mid-April, but for weeks it has mostly seemed this same male and female but there may be two pair, and surely they are nesting, like so many species, during peak productivity here during drought times, early spring.

Mid-day a Brown-crested Flycatcher rode another Myiarchus 100 feet across the yard, with a beak full of back feathers and clawing at rump the whole way! They were both flapping, barely a foot off the ground for 100' as one was ejected from a territory in no uncertain terms. You shoulda heard it too! (UPDATE! ADDED AFTER POSTED - This was likely the event in which the Brown-cresteds were evicting the Ash-throateds out of the nest box. I didn't realize at the time, but shortly after, there were no more Ash-throats at the box, and instead a pair of Brown-cresteds!)

At 6 p.m. a fully chestnut (ASY - after second year) adult male Orchard Oriole was in the biggest hackberry chucking, double-chucking, and chattering, but did not sing. I will never see too many of them, and would sure love to have a pair take up in yard.

Again saw Clouded Skipper, Texan Crescent, Celia's Roadside-Skipper on our blooming Mealy Sage. Some of the wildflower seeds we planted to get a butterfly garden going are starting to sprout. We have some Red Turk's Cap starting to come up, as well as a few Lantana, some Thoroughwort Eupatorium, some "Magic Hairstreak, Blue, and Metalmark" Aster, and about 4 so far of that great orange-gold sunflowerish butterfly magnet composite from the new deco gardens. If I can just keep the bugs off of them until they get some size, Katydids and grasshoppers seem the problems.

A squirrel went near the steel (T) fencepost the bluebird box is attached to (via another 3' of 1" steel round pole) so it would be pretty hard for a squirrel to get up it I think. The male Bluebird doesn't care to find out, it went bonkers on the squirrel giving the full monty of whatfer. Repeatedly diving on it, hitting it in the back so hard I could hear the thump and the beak snap, looked like he was gettin' fur. While the squirrel ran like a maniac from the fence to the big pecan, perhaps 40', the bluebird thumped and pecked it 4 times. The squirrel looked mortified. I tried not to laugh. A different squirrel (#15) was removed from the genepool later, and they just keep a comin'.

May 5 ~ Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Nice cool morning, about 60F, a couple Nashville and Yellow Warbler went through, but little else. Mostly it was all the regulars, which now are the local breeders. Sure great to have all the neotropical migrants back about the yard, Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, 3 species of vireos, Chat, Yellow-throated Warbler, Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatchers, not to mention Vermilion constantly displaying either over yard or adjacent. It's like utopia man.

Late in day I looked out bathroom window to check birdbath and couldn't believe what I saw, a male HEPATIC TANAGER! Brick (to liver) red, nothing whatsoever like the color of a Summer Tanager, not even a wet one, which we see daily in the same bath. This had a huge gray flank and sides of belly area, a smaller (than Summer) all lead gray and black bill, dusky grayish auriculars, the upperparts were more dusky-gray than red. A textbook male Hepatic Tanager! It was there 15 seconds and jumped up into pecan, shook and preened some, then flew off to junipers just outside yard.

We have a breeding Summer Tanager pair as daily visitors to the bath, so I look up and see one a dozen times every day. When I saw this bird my first thought was "that is NOT a Summer Tanager" before I could even think of what it was, because what it was not is such a daily part of life. I have seen Hepatic before locally, at least three times and probably four. I went and looked for it but could not refind, presume it flew out the back side of the junipers as I approached them. It swooped in and took the "bird of the spring so far" title, at least for me, not to mention great for the bathroom list.

A Barn Owl called four times as it went over at 10:30 p.m.; it was up high and going ENE. Not sure what to make of it, I have virtually no summer records, maybe one, so tend to think it was a migrant. Surely it was not at a local commuting altitude.

A Clouded Skipper was my FOY for that butterfly, a Julia's skipper, and the regular Celia's Roadside-Skipper were also on the Mealy Sage. A Queen and a Question Mark were on the water sprayed about. A Texan Crescent stopped briefly on Straggler Daisy. A Pale-faced Clubskimmer (dragon) was also cruising yard. I have seen a good number of them this year for some reason, more than the last couple or few years put together, at least a dozen so far.

May 4 ~ 'Nother nice low in 50's, you cherish these last ones for 5 months. A few Nashville and couple Yellow Warbler went through yard early, one first spring male Orchard Oriole, which sang a bit. Nice dawn and early a.m. chorus from the regulars. The pair of Inca Dove is still about, as is the pair of Great Crested Flycatcher.

Took a mid-morning walk down to the crossing. A couple more Nashville, a Yellow or two, 2 Lincoln's Sparrow, nice looks at an Eastern Wood-Pewee close at eye-level. Heard my FOS Olive-sided Flycatcher sing, Kathy spotted my FOS Common Yellowthroat, a female. I saw a warbler come up from water to low cypress branches that was either Mourning or MacGillivray's, but could not see eye-crescents. It flew into tall grass on other side of river. We walked out on crossing and shortly it flew right by going upriver 120' and dropping into tall stuff again. Though not a great view did not see eye-crescents, it looked like a male Mourning in my best look which was of it flying close past me in good sun. I would have seen crescents if they were there. Twice I heard a Canyon Towhee call 'yelp' but persue it.

A few Chucks (-wills-widow) were calling around the yard at last light, one landed on an old post 15' from me and went at it, then flew by the porch to another tree and kept at it, so close, what an awesome bird call.

May 3 ~ A cool 50dF low was great. Before 6 a.m., just after the very first light in the sky (Astronomical twilight), Lark Sparrow, Cardinal, and Chat all called.  I guided a very sharp nice guy at Lost Maples to find "THE" warbler and vireo. We had great looks at both, besides a good selection of the regulars. No sign of the previously reported (by others) Acorn Woodpecker, Painted Redstart or White-tipped Dove.

I still am blown away by the comparative desert the place is due to drought, and the consequent incredibly low numbers of birds overall. The numbers of things like Yellow-throated, White-eyed, and Red-eyed Vireo are all way down. So is Indigo Bunting, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and many of the insectivores. There just aren't any flowers or bugs either one, at an astounding level I have never seen.

On the way up 187 just north of town there was Eastern Kingbird on the fenceline, my FOS. After Lost Maples at the park in town here we had my FOS MacGillivray's Warbler, but it was a dead day for migrants today, no others at the park, and none at Lost Maples, just waxwings at the Cypress St. Mulberry. A few Yellow Warblers along 360. The other bird on the want list was Couch's Kingbird, which Uvalde usually has nesters at watered sites, so we went.

Our first stop was Cook's Slough where formerly nested annually. We didn't hear any, also did not hear an Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher or Kiskadee, though it was noon and warm. We did watch a Green Jay displace a just-bathed male Orchard Oriole that was trying to preen. Saw one Spotted Sandpiper, couple Yellow-billed Cuckoo, a few Yellow Warbler. So then over to the fish hatchery, which again was not open on Saturday per their posted hours, so we couldn't get in. Though a little walking around out front and found a pair of Western, and a pair of Couch's Kingbird in the big trees around the former residences.

On the way back on the 200 yard long road that connects 127 and 187, I saw my FOS Chimney Swift, where a pair has long nested in an old chimney there. At that same cutoff at 127 junction was a nice male Pyrrhuloxia. One other bird of note for the day was Moe (whom was a sharp obvserver) saw a Meadowlark on 187 just above the 470 cutoff to Bandera. Which would just about have to be an Eastern at this date, the wintering Westerns are all long gone. Will have to check the area, maybe we'll have summering Eastern again, it has been since pre-drought that I had a May through August or September Eastern locally.

We ended our half-day with 74 species, a hundred is doable here in spring if you have all day and work hard. I had a half dozen more at the house before and after, so was 80 sps. for the day. What great diversity!

May 2 ~ Third morning with lows in 50's dF, feels great! There were several Nashville Warbler in the big pecan this a.m., and the Yellow Warbler is on day 5 or 6, while Mr. Myrtubon's is on day 7 here! Undertail pattern is Audubon's, chip can be towards either, sometimes sorta Myrtleish, other times distinctly Audubon's, face and throat are first spring male Myrtle. It has molted quite a bit while here actually, but the dinged up back of the head leaves him well marked.

A couple Killdeer flew over calling, going up the river corridor, first I've seen in a while, are they migrants? Besides the fully blue adult male Blue Grosbeak, there is a blue headed one with some blue to uppermost chest, and a blue-faced only one, both first spring males. A couple females seem to be around. The Lincoln's Sparrow was still on the seed out back, but no White-crowned. One Least Flycatcher continued.

A quick run to town saw my FOS Western Kingbird, still no Chimney Swift, but no time to look around.  A Great-tailed Grackle flew over the post office. The bird of the day was in the yard at 3 p.m., and I hadn't heard it earlier, a singing Northern Parula. You are lucky to see one per spring here, and this was my FOS, though one was seen in late late March, I think at Lost Maples.

Moe Bell from AZ reported a Mississippi Kite from 187 between Sabinal and the escarpment this evening. I have missed them so far this spring.

May 1 ~ Wow! Happy May Day! A third of the year is gone already! A male Lazuli Bunting was pretty exciting, but it didn't stick. My FOS though some have been seen at Lost Maples. Probably the same two Least Flycatcher were in yard all day, occasionally fighting, and singing. The same Yellow Warbler continues, day 4 or 5 now, probably 5. A male Wilson's Warbler hung all day, and a couple Nashville went through as did a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a singing Blue-headed Vireo.

An adult White-crowned Sparrow was a yellow-orange big billed Gambell's, I did not see the small pink-billed one that was here for four days. Clay-colored Sparrow still singing, a Lincoln's was around, plus the breeding Lark, Chipping, and Field. The pair of Inca Doves was still about. Interesting was my first Hackberry Emperor (butterfly) of the year, missed my April list by one day. Four Brewer's Blackbird flew over calling, it is nearing tardy for them to still be around.

The daily territorial singing local (adjacent to yard) nesters seem to be Vermilion, Brown-crested, and Great Crested Flycatchers (but no Ash- throats stuck this year in yard), Painted Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-throated Warbler, Bell's, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo, Eastern Bluebird must be nearing fledging young from our box, Summer Tanager, and then the residents like Cardinal, Chickadee, Titmouse, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, etc. It is a bearable assortment of interest.

~ ~ ~ ~ April summary ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The dry continued, we are parched and while some wildflowers are showing, it is weak at best. Even at Lost Maples, one of the lusher spots around, I have never seen so few flowers at the end of April. I recorded 40 species of butterflies for the month, on the low side, and a far cry from say April 2004 when I saw 57 sps. in the month. Numbers certainly were not high for anything. A walk up Can Creek at Lost Maples did not produce a single Arizona Sister. A couple of Elada Checkerspot were good, not sure I have April records.

Most of April is about returning migratory breeding birds, and some passage migrants on the way to points northward. There are still a couple of those yankee Blue Jay around, a Ringed Kingfisher was seen for the first time since Dec., Green Kingfisher is still un-recovered from the last few cold winters, scarce and hard to find.

The best bird was a PAIR of CASSIN'S KINGBIRD calling and flycatching in our big pecan for 10+ mintues on April 26. I have a photo record from Lost Maples May 2007, and saw one (spring) at the Fish Hatchery in Uvalde. That's it. So not new for the upper Sabinal drainage, but the first pair, and the first multiple bird record locally I know of.

A Texas Coral Snake was maybe my favorite find though, on April 13. A few good birds in the vicinity seen by others this month were a Painted Redstart a couple weeks at Lost Maples the last half of April, an Acorn Woodpecker there on April 25, and as last year, a couple White-tipped Dove. Tropical Parula is again being seen at Concan, and Rufous-capped Warbler at Park Chalk Bluff.

Saw about 110 bird species locally in the month, a few were only at Lost Maples, but most were around yard or a few looks in town.

~ ~ ~ end April summary ~ ~ ~

April 30 ~ A couple Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew by while I was out at my first 7 a.m. lookaround. The Myrtubon's Warbler is still here, now on day 5, and a Yellow Warbler is on day 3 at least, may well be Day 4 for him and his funny song variants. Also a first spring male Audubon's Warbler showed up, as did a pair of Inca Dove. A White-crowned Sparrow was about day 4 for a pink-billed adult. At least one, probably two Least Flycatcher were about yard too.

April 29 ~ Mr. Myrtubon Warbler was here day 4 now, and a male Yellow is on day 2 or probably 3 actually if the same one as Sunday..... Pink-billed leucophrys White-crowned Sparrow still around.

~ ~ ~ update header April 28 ~ ~ ~

A few quick news items..... the short version..... Some recent internet postings report Tropical Parula at Concan, Acorn Woodpecker, White-tipped Dove and Painted Redsatart at Lost Maples, and a Rufous-backed Robin unseen but photo'd with a critter cam in Edwards Co. Also apparently Rufous-capped Warblers are back at Park Chalk Bluff.

FOS (first of season) spring returnees are near-daily, showing up in a pretty normal unfolding of spring, very close to the mathematically predictable sequence. It is interesting to see species arrival chronology.

Feb. 16: Purple Martin, Lesser Goldfinch, Brown-headed Cowbird.
Feb. 18: Turkey Vulture and bat.
Feb. 23: Black-chinned Hummingbird and No. Rough-winged Swallow.
Feb. 26: Vermilion Flycatcher (male)
Feb. 27: White-eyed Vireo, 'nother Black-chinned Hummer.
March 1: female Black-chinned Hummingbird
March 5: Barn Swallow
March 6: Dragonfly (Dot-winged Baskettail)
March 9: Black-and-white Warbler
March 12: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
March 17: female Vermilion Flycatcher
March 20: Ash-throated Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler, and SPRING!
March 21: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (prob. heard earlier)
March 23: Clay-colored Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow
March 24: Louisiana Waterthrush
March 25: Monarch (migrant from Mexico), Rufous/Allen's Hummer
March 30: Springtime Darner (dragonfly)
March 31: Black-throated Green Warbler, Swainson's Hawk, Brown Creeper
April 1: Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Nashville Warbler, Indigo Bunting
April 3: Summer Tanager
April 8: Blue Grosbeak (earliest in 11 springs)
April 9: Brown-crested Flycatcher (earliest in 11 springs)
April 10: first mosquito bite
April 11: Yellow-breasted Chat, Bronzed (Red-eyed) Cowbird
April 12: first chigger
April 13: Painted Bunting
April 15: Orchard Oriole
April 17: female Painted Bunting and singing from the male, female Blue Grosbeak
April 19: Grasshopper Sparrow
April 20: Dickcissel, Bell's and Blue-headed Vireo
April 22: Wilson's Warbler, Common Nighthawk, flying ad. Firefly
april 23: Yellow-billed Cuckoo
April 24: Great Crested Flycatcher (prob. earlier)
April 25: Tennessee Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Western Kingbird
April 26: Northern Waterthrush, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee
April 27: Bullock's Oriole (female)
April 28: female Orchard Oriole
May 1: Lazuli Bunting
May 2: Northern Parula (others saw one end of March)
May 3: Eastern Kingbird, MacGillivray's Warbler
May 4: Common Yellowthroat, Olive-sided Flycatcher

A pair of CASSIN'S KINGBIRD was in our yard a couple miles south of town (Utopia) on April 26. A NORTHERN GOSHAWK climbed on a thermal right over yard and eventually sailed off due north, on March 19. The only Brown Creeper I have seen in about a year was in the yard for a half-hour plus on March 31 (ph.).

A note on the ABA website said the Rufous-capped Warblers were back in Uvalde County. I don't think there has been enough coverage to assert with any degree of certainty that they ever were gone, but that is another issue. I presume this means at Park Chalk Bluff, on Hwy 55, NW of Uvalde 20 some miles heading toward Camp Wood. It is an $8 per person entrance fee to bird, last couple years birds were at boat ramp area, and pecan bottom to left, or downriver. One was believed a possible hybrid, or somesuch as I recall so make sure you see both, or hear the one you sing give a good Rufous-capped Warbler song.

~ ~ ~ end update header April 28 ~ ~ ~

~ ~ back to our regularly scheduled drivel ~ ~

April 28 ~ Finally some cool air, low about 60dF felt great after 95 yesterday. Got to low 90's again, but will be cooler tomorrow. The obviously unique plumage shows Mr. Myrtubon (an intergrade Myrtle x Audubon's Warbler) continues, this his 3rd day here now. Yellow Warbler and Bell's Vireo sang from the pecans all day. A female Orchard Oriole was in big pecan, my first female of the year, and a couple each Nashville and Yellow Warbler went through. The pair of Chats were working the fence line. About 7 p.m. I finally heard a Cuckoo, it gave the cooing call. Almost 8 p.m. Kathy spotted the first Little Wood Satyr I've seen in yard, only Red here prior. Early, at about 7 a.m. I was surprised to see a Chuck-wills-widow fly across the yard, it was so light out already.

April 27 ~ warm low in upper 60's dF, and warmed to about a toasty mid-90's dF. Early in a.m. my FOS Bullock's Oriole was in yard, a female.  A Bronzed Cowbird came by, Bell's Vireo is still singing in mesquite across road, Great Crested Flycatcher calling a lot, seems like the Brown-crests moved on. An odd first spring mostly Myrtle Warbler was in the yard all day yesterday, and today. It's call note is closer to Audubon's. Chuck-wills-widow stopped calling at 6:30 a.m., must have been 4-5 hearable at dusk in evening.

Guided some sharp guys from the Big Apple at Lost Maples today, but they drove from Austin this morning so a late start at 9 p.m. Still a fair bit of activity, it is Lost Maples. We saw a few Golden-cheeked Warblers, heard a dozen, heard a few Black-capped Vireo, one of the guys and I got great looks at a male up on top of bluffs over pond. It is a tough slog up the trail, I couldn't do it without my hiking pole, but great habitat, quite different from anything in the canyons. Scattered 3-5' high mix of Shin-oak, Persimmon, and Mountain Laurel, with the occasional few patches of Buckley Oaks here and there.

Did not detect the recently reported Acorn Woodpecker, Painted Redstart, or White-tipped Dove, late start hopefully the factor, as opposed to say incompetence. We had great looks at regulars like Scott's Oriole, Canyon Wren, Painted and Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Rufous- crowned Sparrow, texana Scrub-Jay, and saw a Zone-tailed Hawk, but no Green Kingfisher. A couple each Orange-crowned and Nashville Warblers were about the only migrants seen.

A few butterflies were multiple Two-tailed and Spicebush Swallowtails, single Little Wood and Red Satyr, but since bird finding was tough going I couldn't pay much attention, however there wasn't much to look at. Did see for odes several Pale-faced Clubskimmer, Roseate and Flame Skimmer, a male Common Whitetail and didn't have luxury of looking for damsels. Also saw some blooming Scarlet Clematis and Snapdragon Vine. Saw at least three Texas (Greater) Earless Lizard going up vireo trail. One Black-capped Vireo was singing just behind compost restroom at pond.

Can Creek is dry in many places, I've never seen it so low, or dry, in as many spots actually. The insects seemed to be quite down, as did the birds, and perhaps connected. I have never seen so few flowers at this time of year, not even close, it is a desert compared to what I consider normal. I have birded this trail over 100 times over the last 11 years, and 3 years in late 1980's each with multiple trips. After many conversations with them there are some trees I know very well personally, which are in worse shape than I have ever seen them. Lots are in drought survival mode, in scary bad shape. I've never seen so many fallen trees either, all from the last few years of drought too.

It looks to me like the desertification of Lost Maples. The drought is taking a major toll on the populations. The cattails have taken over most of the upper pond, and a bunch of the main big pond, due to siltation, due to lack of gully washers, due to drought. The upper pond in particular was always a favorite of Green Kingfisher, and is becoming (if not already) marginal habitat, unless you are a Red-winged Blackbird.

On 187 south of town at the Waresville turnoff there were a couple Black- bellied Whistling-Duck at the little pondlet, and right after the hard right on 187 at the dogleg at north end of town, there were 2 male and 4 female Bobwhite that looked good south Texas wild Bobwhite to me. A little further after you finish the dogleg going north again there was a Loggerhead Shrike (!) on the fenceline. Besides the few down near Sabinal that have nested, I have never had summering Shrike up here, this surely my latest record. Further north on 187 it was mind- blowing to see open space where that neat historic (Stagecoach?) Inn used to stand. Wow! Even the Martin House is gone, site of my earliest returning Martins here.

April 26 ~ The fourth good morning for migrants in a row, based on the Nashville scale, and I got to take a walk down road mid- morning. It was overcast with strong southerlies, the semi-front washed out over us and moving back north, but tonight supposed to be rain, which could mean a great tomorrow.

Yard had 8+ Nashville Warbler, an Orange-crowned, a Dickcissel, and some that got away early. Down the road there were 15++ Nashville, a Black-throated Green, a couple 1st spring male Myrtle, and a few male Yellow Warbler. Also my FOS Eastern Wood-Pewee, FOS Least Flycatcher, and at crossing FOS Northern Waterthrush. A dozen plus Clay-colored, a couple Lincoln's, and one ad. (leucophrys) White-crowned Sparrow were seen.

Back in yard at noon a 3rd 1st spring male Myrtle Warbler, and a 2nd Least Flycatcher, and more Nashvilles. Several Yellow- breasted Chat and Yellow-throated Warbler along river singing are breeders, as are the Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, and maybe Bell's Vireo, of which I had great looks close. A couple Great Crested Flycatchers along river and one in yard were likely passage birds, they are just showing up.

A male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher out front was chasing another away from his female, diving from a perch high up in crown of a Cypress tree and as it buzzed the intruder it came to apex of dive and pulled out right over my head coming straight at me. At that exact point, there was a trilling sound, reminiscent of a Screech-Owl or Lesser Nighthawk whinny, and of a Common Nighthawk boom, but higher and thinner, and which did not seem to be vocalized, but rather mechanical. Was it the tail feathers, or the primaries? Will have to look into this. The pitch and tonal quality was not the same as any vocalizations I know, having lived within earshot of breeders. This was mechanical.

The Texas Persimmon is about done blooming, as is the Wafer Ash, the Mealy Sage is getting going in spots, the bird action though is almost all in the pecans, now blooming near you. Some Prairie Fleabane is opening now, I forgot to mention.

I was surprised with all the movement and a couple hours looking through it, that I didn't have anything better, until 7:10 p.m. I went on porch and heard a funny squeaky Kingbird type call. Grabbed binocs moved out from underneath the biggest pecan backing away, and 40' up at top was a PAIR of CASSIN'S KINGBIRD! They flycaught a few times, and squeakily squawked back and forth. I ran inside for scope, camera, and Kathy, she got out and got looks but when I put scope on them, they flew off. First time I have seen more than a single locally, and only the 3rd and 4th individuals in 11 years, all in spring. One photographed at Lost Maples, and one flyby at the fish hatchery in Uvalde has been about it for them. It is a very good bird here.

April 25 ~ More movement this a.m., at least 12 Nashvilles on the the scale. Great were the FOS Tennessee Warbler, and FOS Yellow Warbler, both singing males. Another Blue-headed Vireo was singing, as was an Orchard Oriole. A Kinglet was about, a Dickcissel and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, there was real action. But I had too much to do to go look. Male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher hanging out at far front corner of yard, I would love for them to nest in scope view.

Out back on seed was the FOS first-spring (or SY - second year) male Blue Grosbeak, which only had blue on sides of head, it otherwise had the body plumage of a female, so a Blue-faced Grosbeak. A quick run to town for some supplies saw my FOS Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (4) at the park pond, nice to see, but didn't have time to work the woods for warblers unfortunately. An ACORN WOODPECKER at Lost Maples was posted to Texbirds today, a good find locally.

A Red Satyr (lep) was sunning in front yard in afternoon peak heat at 85+dF. A Pale-faced Clubskimmer (ode) cruised the yard, my FOY. Six-lined Racerunner was running around. There is some Prairie Fleabane opening and some Coreopsis, more Tube Tongue, and quite a bit of Mealy Sage in some places. Still some nice Bluebonnets (Lupines) along roads. At dusk a Chuck-wills-widow flew right over the house barely clearing peak of roof, and giving a good look against the still lit sky.

April 24 ~ A bit of movement as measured by the Nashville, the standard measuring unit of bird movement here. This morning it was 6 Nashvilles of movement. Here the Nashville is to warbler movement what Scovilles are to a hot pepper. It wasn't exactly hot as a habanero out there, except for the temperature. It soared to past 95dF, the first real hot day so far this year.

Another Blue-headed Vireo, having a good wave of them this week. Kathy heard the Cuckoo again, twice, I still haven't heard it. She also saw a Roadrunner in the yard.  A male Indigo Bunting sang from the big pecan a few times, neat to hear their jingly- jangly song in yard. At 8 p.m. the FOS Great Crested Flycatcher let loose with the full monty of definitive vocalizations, the great laughing (like a flycatchers version of Laughing Gull) and the rising wheeeep notes.

April 23 ~ Some Nashvilles going by in a.m., more movement. I can't get out to check but what passes through the yard once an hour. A Blue-headed Vireo was singing a bit (audio taped) but the Cardinals are so loud I'm sure it was all but ruined, unless you wanted more Cardinal, not likely if you have been recording in Texas. Twenty-some Waxwing, they are mostly at the Mulberries by now, which still have only unripe red fruit yet.

We only have a male Mulberry in yard, I have to get some females. They are a spring migrant bird tree deluxe. Tried to clone some switches last year and was not successful. The ideal bird garden has just like a good butterfly garden, a continuous succession of blooming (or fruiting) trees. The birds really key in on it when refilling the tank during migration. They are all in the Live-oaks for three weeks while they bloom and as they fade the Pecans open up and everything moves to them, and to the Mulberries which are also then getting ripe.

Fisherman say follow the hatch. To find migrant birds, follow the bloom. If you ever spent much time in the mountains you figure it out quickly, the birds move upslope in spring with the bloom, which is where the hatch. A narrow zone will have a disproportionate number of the birds, the bloom zone, where spring is. In fall it is the Cedar Elms that can have all the birds, so find and mark your patches. Ya gotta know these things to be a good bird hunter. And even on flat ground knowing to find the bloom is useful.

A FOY Celia's Roadside-Skipper was on the Mealy Sage by porch, which has its first flowers opening. About 10 of 12 we transplanted made it well the first year, now we'll have more butterflies from the porch. A dozen of the Tropical Sage are doing well too, but are months from flowers, and it and the Mealy seem to attract two entirely different sets of butterflies. Also today was my FOY Six-lined Racerunner, the pretty green striped lizard that is faster than you.

At 11:30 p.m. Kathy got the FOS Yellow-billed Cuckoo calling outside.  Which reminds me, the Chat has been going for 3 nights now after dark, and the Lark Sparrow too has belted out the occasional long passage, long after dark, at 10 p.m. yesterday. FOY Soldier Beetle (Cantharid), the common yellow one with black marks on elytra.

April 22 ~ Happy Earth Day! It's the only one we got, may as well take care of it! You don't want to be the one that the people that come behind you say "boy they really trashed this place" Conservation is to conserve what we have, and not waste or squander it, which in most circles is considered wise. The air, land, and water being clean are critical to our well-being.

A band of thunderstorms was just to our north yesterday evening from dark on, a good light show was to be had, but it didn't have the legs to make it here, though some strong northerly outflow boundry gusts and a few sprinkles hit just after midnight. Then in the morning there were warblers. Mostly Nashvilles as usual, but I saw a dozen, and another dozen were heard as they moved by north up river habitat corridor. That was just from a half dozen 5 min. or so lookabouts the first three hours or so of the day. It gets real slow real quick when it gets warm, the birds move to more interior (cooler) habitats, so we lose them. How quickly it happens depends on if morning low clouds and overcast are present, if the clouds stick around it can still be moving at noon.

Also out there were 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Bell's and Blue-headed Vireo singing, Orange-crowned Warbler, an adult (leucophrys) White-crowned Sparrow on the seed is new. Would be great if you could get out and bird it today. Me, I gotta work. Fortunately there is sometimes something to see out the office window. Though I can hear him all the time, When he gets over to this corner of his territory I can see the flight display of the male Vermilion Flycatcher out the office window. Interesting out the other office window was seeing the male Painted Bunting sing repeatedly from the ground while foraging on the tossed seed. At least three Scissor-tails were on the powerline out front. Male Indigo Bunting was around too.

Sheez, even in the 85dF or so heat in mid-afternoon there were still a few warblers moving, must have been a lot of them today. A couple more Nashville, another Orange-crowned and a FOS Wilson's were about between 3 and 5 p.m.! Turkey was over in the corral. At 7 p.m. the White-crowned Sparrow was still on the seed, it spent all day here, and a second one showed up, also a pink billed eastern leucophrys type. At dusk Kathy got the FOS Common Nighthawk, I heard one a half- hour later when about 4-5 Chuck-wills-widows were going, one just 50' up the slope behind the shed in the big old live-oaks.

For butterflies today there was my FOS Red Satyr at live-oak slope in back this a.m., then in yard in p.m., Gray Hairstreak, a pair of Julia's Skippers, a few Gulf Fritillary, Giant Swallowtail, worn pale migrant Monarch #6, a Queen, Painted Lady and Red Admiral, my first of month Cloudless Sulphur, dozens of Lysides, several Dogface, lots of Sleepy Orange, Dainty Sulphur and Vesta Crescent, some Checkered-Skipper, and Checkered White, a ton of Pipevine Swallowtail, it is the abundant big black one. Later afternoon I had a Desert Checkered Skipper, and a Variegated Fritillary. So it was a 20 species day. Did not count it but had a quick glimpse of what looked like a Mourning Cloak.

A female Common Whitetail dragonfly cruised through the yard and at dusk I finally saw my FOY flying adult firefly! They will be a show real soon.

April 21 ~ Another drizzly misty first half of day, and too much to do to go look further than the yard. A number of Nashville Warbler went through, one Myrtle, a Kinglet, a Gnatcatcher or two, the regulars. A big tom Turkey was displaying as it walked down the road right out front at the gate, Kathy spotted it from couch as we drank coffee. Two Blue Jay were around in the afternoon.

Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher singing from corral next door. Hope those red feathers I found outside were a Cardinal. The male Indigo and Painted Bunting were about the seed as was Blue Grosbeak, the Inca Dove again, 15 or so Chipping and a few Clay-colored Sparrow. The singing Chat and Yellow-throated Warbler are likely local nesters, as are the Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo, probably the Brown-crested Flycatcher too, a pair seems fairly daily mostly over in corral where mesquites and some big pecans.

A summer form Question Mark butterfly was my first of the year. They sure are pretty when they are fresh! After dark heard four species of owls: Barred, Barn, Great Horned, and Eastern Screech-Owl. I presume the Barn is a transient.

April 20 ~ Heavy low clouds with some mist, which turned to light showers by mid-morning. There were a half-dozen plus Nashville Warbler through the yard the first couple hours, so clearly movement, the birds have been knocked down. Sitting on the couch with second cup of coffee at 8 a.m. a small white egret or heron was flying upriver over the cypress. Ran out and got bins on it as it flew away, I did not see yellow feet, the bill looked slightly decurved instead of straight-edged, and though there was no dark in the plumage on the bird, it was likely a white Little Blue Heron. Which I have for the yard, I need a Snowy Egret. Both can occur in spring here, though just less than annually for the Heron, Snowy Egret is much much rarer with only a couple spring sightings in 11 years.

Great was a singing Dickcissel in the biggest Hackberry for a half-hour this morning, my FOS. Then my FOS Bell's Vireo was singing and moved by up the river habitat corridor early in the morning, later morn my FOS Blue-headed Vireo was singing in yard.  About 5 hours later I saw one behind the shed on the slope, which came to close-as-I-could-focus distance for a good view of me. Don't know if it was a 2nd bird or not. One or two Ruby-crowned Kinglet also went through. White-crowned Sparrow still here.

A couple male Indigo Bunting were on the seed when a male Painted landed in between them, almost hurt the color receptors in my eyes. For all the color of the Painted, those Indigo males are still pretty impressive next to them. Clay-colored Sparrow was singing in yard, 25 Chipping, a dozen Lark, and 1 Lincoln's Sparrow. Male Blue Grosbeak around, displaying Vermilion Flycatcher, a Chat was singing in the draw, which could be last year's nester returning. An Inca Dove was on the seed, been months since one in yard, and in afternoon a pair of Blue-winged Teal shot by.

A couple Blue-gray gnatcatcher, of which migrants at this time of year are probably the far north nesters. Our local breeders return in March. Passage migrants now are northern birds that still have a 1000 miles to go, to where it is not yet spring. If you pay attention you will note a big major wave at the crack of spring (local breeders) in March, which is followed by a lull in them, and them a second smaller wave in last third of April and early May, which is the northern nesting birds.

It was just misty and drizzly enough all day that you'd have been soaking wet if you weren't in the gortex or somesuch waterproof outerwear, and waterproof shoes. Very common situation here in spring you should always be prepared for if a visiting birder in particular. It is still warm enough and the birds stay active in the fog/mist, if you can keep your binocs dry, and stay dry yourself so as not to become uncomfortable. We probably got a tenth of an inch and change over the whole day, maybe .15, a couple times it was a light shower.

April 19 ~ A quick run to town, saw 15 Blue-winged Teal at the park, and four Egyptian Geese. On 360 just west of Utopia on the River there was a Grasshopper Sparrow on the fenceline, my FOS, and prime-time for them passing through. Had a few Nashville Warbler here in yard and one at the park. The usual April returning Great-tailed Grackle was seen flying over Pico (the gas station) and the Post Office.

April 18 ~ A few Nashville Warbler went through the yard. The pairs of Blue Grosbeak and Painted Bunting were around. Seen briefly in early poor light from behind a silent Myiarchus appeared a Great Crested Flycatcher, which would have been my FOS if so. It looked green of upperparts, which even without color is a darker tone than the brown of Brown-crested or Ash-throated, besides them each having unique combinations of size, shape, and structure. This one matched Great Crested. I just like to see green upperparts, or extent of yellow underparts or hear it for my official FOS I log. Tertial fringes were very narrow, Brown-crested can have bright white contrasting tertial edges too, but they are broader and slightly more diffuse of inner edges.

Sure neat having Vermilion Flycatcher in flight song outside daily. Heard the Gambell's White-crowned singing the first few intro notes over in the corral, Clay-colored Sparrow singing too, and maybe 22 Chipping Sparrow in yard. So few I think the Harvester Ants are grabbing more seed than them. They must have a ton.

In some local news via the interweb, a Tropical Parula was reported at Concan last weekend, they have been annual there for several years. A pair of White-tipped Dove are around the feeding station at the Trailhead (or Overflow) Parking area where they were last year. A Painted Redstart was reported from Lost Maples, with no specific location. Unseen by human eyes, a critter cam in Edwards Co. captured a Rufous-backed Robin! A couple years ago Kathy and I found Uvalde County's first at Ft. Inge in Uvalde (sketch above).

April 17 ~ Strong southerly flow, and a whopping couple Nashville and an Orange-crowned Warbler, one Orchard Oriole, some movement out there. Thursdays are my crunch day for biz so can't look much. Heard my first of year singing from a male Painted Bunting, just before I saw my first female of the year. They moved around yard hitting the spots where we throw white millet seed, appearing to know what they were doing, and so likely our breeding pair back. The male Blue Grosbeak was on the millet too, hopefully he'll summer around the yard again this year as well.  One Indigo Bunting passed through yard.

April 16 ~ Another low in upper 30's dF, KVL again hit 31 or so! We'll be wishing for that in a couple months. No migrants this a.m. despite winds turning around overnight. Later in afternoon I did hear a Scott's Oriole singing though, but down here on valley floor they are just rare transients, they are hill-slope birds for breeding. We were covered in them on Seco Ridge, none here.

April 15 ~ Finally calm in morning, and in the upper 30's dF! At NOAA site KVL is credited with 31dF for a low this a.m., a freeze! We were a bit warmer, I think about 35-37dF or so, and very dry. The green trees and blue skies look great! Once the zonal (off the Gulf) flow sets in for summer the humidity precludes this clear blue sky. The northerlies which besides being very strong extended far to our south, so surely mostly shut down movement last night. No Robin singing, methinks he finally gave up and left.

The first few 5 minute standarounds early outside only saw a few birds besides the residents, one was my FOS Orchard Oriole (male of course), one of my favorites among my favorite birds. That chestnut color is just amazingly beautiful in a spring green treetop against a deep blue sky. A pair of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher were on the powerline by the pole out at road, an Audubon's Warbler moved through the big pecan and one of the yankee Blue Jays was around, kindly donating some noises to my audio tape avian sound file library.

I watched one of the nearby nesting Raven pair soar up on a thermal and turn upside-down and dive over a hundred feet at an 80 degree angle, on its back, before it turned over and opened wings. It soared back up and did it again, and again. I had to get back to work so couldn't keep watching, but there is something about a bird diving at high speed, upside-down, belly up and beak to the sky, it gets me every time, like something made up for a cartoon. This one didn't but I've seen them call as they do this. Showing off to the vultures no doubt.

In the afternoon the pair of Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk were overhead, as the smaller male was closely approaching the female from above, she did a 360 degree lateral barrel roll, dropping one wing and following it all the way around, going upside down and continuing back to rightside up. A very impressive move.

April 14 ~ Front hit at 7 a.m. with winds of 20-30 mph, gusting to over 40. Was almost 70dF at 7 a.m., upper 40's by 10 a.m. with chills in high 30's. Blew hard all day, in evening it laid down a little. A brief spritzing of maybe a tenth of an inch was all we got, the wet cells missed us.

There Was an eclipse overnight of the 14-15th, but middle of sleeptime, maybe I'll catch it on that interweb thingie at a reasonable hour. Mid-morning a pair of Four-lined Skink were mating by the shed, the male in nice breeding color with that salmon flush to gular area.

April 13 ~ Warm humid southerly flow continues ahead of a front on the way down, which is supposed to bring us a near-freeze Tuesday morning, and frost Wednesday a.m. Hope we don't freeze now for all the stuff sprouting, not to mention everyone's tomatoes. Some brief mist in morning but the traces of rain all missed us.

Mid-morning the FOS male Painted Bunting showed up in the yard. Now motivated, we took a walk down the road to the crossing. There wasn't much else out there.   :)  Funny how it can work like that. There was however one of the coolest things on the planet, certainly the prettiest snake in the U.S., at the crossing was a Texas Coral Snake (Micrurus tener). It disappeared into the leaf litter before I could get a picture of it, we saw parts of it a few more times but it is generally not advised to go poking around in leaf litter you can't see into, for coral snakes. We could be walking by a lot of them for all it was visible. A stunning beauty of an extremely poisonous beast, they are cobras, it could well be named American Cobra.

There were a good number of Clay-colored Sparrow, at least a dozen and likely 20 or 24, around and in the corral, a dozen Lark Sparrow, a few Lincoln's, and best two White-crowned Sparrows with orange-yellow bills, Gambell's, a more western flavor than our typical winterer the pink-billed eastern leucophrys. Both were first spring birds. I have noticed a small blip of spring Gambell's White-crowned Sparrows moving through here regularly, clearly migrants as they are in areas where it was known none wintered.

The normal contingent of wall-to-wall Yellow-throated Warbler territories along the river, ringing out from the tops of the Cypresses. A few Summer Tanagers singing, and the Robin stopped a while to sing from our big pecan, turned out to be his last day. Heard Scissor-tailed Flycatcher singing, saw Vermilion.

There was a Red-breasted Sunfish defending nest and starting to show good breeding color, one of America's most beautiful fish. Some Long-eared Sunfish and Texas Cichlid, and a Largemouth Bass were some of the other fish at the crossing. Under overcast and breezy the low 70's dF was too cool for odes, we didn't see any. The pigs are sure rooting up all the understory along river edges. I don't know how ground-nesters like Turkey or Chuck-wills-widow can even make it for the feral hogs.

A few FOY wildflowers are starting to show, but most are still only recognizable if you know the leaves. There were some stands of open White Rock Lettuce, Cedar Sage, a little Mealy Sage was open, lots of Lazy Daisy, some Paralena, some Slender-stem Bitterweed and Slender-leaf Hymenoxys, one each Bluehearts and Zexmenia, and a couple I have to ID yet. It is just barely starting to get going, the best is yet to come, late April and May into June is usually very impressive flower-wise here.

The Texas Persimmon has begun to bloom, standing downwind of a good bloomer will do you some good now, it will be going for a few weeks, and is good for Forester moths, Duskywing butterflies, and other things. Best of all was some Wafer Ash in bloom. It has a unique wonderful spicy sweet scent that is out of this world. It is like light Mountain Laurel with cinnamon. I'm planting some seeds just to have one to smell a couple weeks each year. The small flowers would be easy to overlook were it not for their odor, I suppose the point.

April 12 ~ Strong southerlies most of the day, threatened to drizzle, we might have gotten a hundredth or two. Not even a leaf-washer. Some Nashville and Orange-crowned Warbler, and Clay-colored Sparrow about. Only 17 Chipping Sparrow left in the flock here now. Over 225 Waxwings were in the big pecan. A few male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were at feeders in evening, 3 at once, and one bird looked to be a female Ruby-throated.

Planted a bunch of native wildflower seeds we've collected from all the best local bushes, flowers, and shrubs. Still have a bunch more to plant, got a bit of it done. Hope to get a decent native plant butterfly garden going. It was so hectic when we got here we only did a little bit last year, it was too late by time we had time. But the Mealy and Tropical Sages we did (dozen of each last spring) are doing great, as are the two colonies of Blue (it's purple) Mist-flower (Eupatorium greggii) we planted.

Now just add water and hopefully we'll soon have Buttonbush, Red Turks Cap, Zexmenia, some blue Aster I call Magic Hairstreak Aster it is such a magnet for them, Thoroughwort Eupatorium, native and the Sr. Center pink and yellow Lantana, and that gold sunflowerish composite at the new deco-gardens in town that is butterfly honey.

The idea is to always have some of the local natives in bloom, to attract whatever happens to be out moving around. Plus the hill- country natives are usually fairly drought resistant, note the success of the fairly untended new deco-gardens at the town entrances. You barely have to water them, or not at all, if properly planned. They also provide great bird habitat as the undergrowth layer is often a key habitat component that is missing locally.

April 11 ~ A warm low of about 62dF, finally the winds calmed down by morning, but picked up again later by afternoon, when 85+dF. The FOS Yellow-breasted Chat was calling across the road, and later the FOS Bronzed Cowbird was calling, still need a good cut of that on tape, it is some wild sounds. A Northern Cloudywing (lep) glimpsed the last couple days finally showed well enough to claim an ID. A nice cluster of Pincushion Daisy is open, one of the metallic green Halichtids (little bee) gathering pollen on them, been seeing them a couple weeks now at least. A White-crowned Sparrow sang a bit at dusk. Had one of those yankee Blue Jays go through yard. A Clay-colored Sparrow was on the seed with the Chipping that are left, but they have evacuated this week. There were 50-75 last weekend, less than 50 early in the week, now maybe 20 or so left? In afternoon saw my FOS female Summer Tanager. Got a positive ID on my FOY Dun Skipper, which I am sure I saw a couple days ago.

April 10 ~ Just a few a migrants through the yard, a Gnatcatcher, 2 each Nashville and Orange-crowned Warbler, and heard a Myrtle. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher over at the river again, I presume it is last year's breeder, back on territory. At least 3 Chuck-wills-widow were calling at dusk, about the time I got my FOY mosquitoe bite. Wamed to upper 80's dF today.

For butterflies a Texan Crescent was about again, and a FOY was a Sachem (Field Skipper). Also had Giant Swallowtail, Orange and Lyside Sulphur, a couple Duskywings looked like Funereal and Horace's, a probable N. Cloudywing, loads of Pipevines, some Gulf and Variegated Fritillary, Dainty Sulphurs.

Some Tube-tongue is opening, and there is lots of Lazy Daisy in the barer sunny areas blooming, still a couple dozen Crow-Poison, and now a few Texas Onions (though they seem mostly not used by butterflies). Some Silver-puff (also not used by butterflies) is also blooming.

The Persimmons are leafing out, Hackberries are well-leafed, Pecans just getting going, green flower buds out but not open, live-oaks putting out flowers and new leaves (they are the happening tree for migrants when they do this), mesquites thinly green now, and all the cypress green with new growth. A green revolution has taken place the last two weeks, known to many as spring.

April 9 ~ It was cooler than forecast, in the high 30's dF, and dry, wonderful. After yesterday's earliest ever FOS Blue Grosbeak was today's earliest ever FOS Brown-crested Flycatcher (calling). I have had them in the flatlands brush country of Uvalde earlier, but not up here in the hills. Earliest ever means of the 11 springs I recorded spring arrivals here. A couple Nashville Warbler and a Gnatcatcher went through yard. The newly arrived returning local breeder Summer Tanager, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireo were all singing quite a bit.

Some butterflies were 2 Julia's Skipper, and probably a Dun Skipper that I'll say got away was FOY, though surely that is what it was. Pale worn migrant from Mexico Monarch number 5 went by. Also had Checkered White, Giant Swallowtail, American Lady, more Lysides, lots of Vesta Crescent are out, some Dainty Sulphur.

In town were a few Common Grackle, this is when the local breeders return from wherever it is that they go, and nest here. Not a dozen pairs in total around, here April to August, though sometimes departing in July, or September, and seemingly disappearing all fall and winter before showing up in March or April to breed again. I suspect the occasional wintering birds we get are completely unrelated to the few locally summering nesters.

April 8 ~ Front came through, 15-25 Northwest winds, pretty breezy for birds. During breakfast Kathy spotted a male Blue Grosbeak on the patio eating millet. Not only FOS but the earliest date I have in 11 springs here. Might have seen one Friday over at Utopia on the River, but was only in flight going away, so can't count it as FOS earliest ever. Need a rock-solid look for that. A Summer Tanager was singing in the biggest Hackberry, so you know summer is coming, that is one of the sounds of it here. An Audubon's Warbler flew over northbound mid-morning, into the wind, calling as it did to make sure I would know what it was. At almost 11:30 p.m. one last listen outside was great with my FOS Chuck-wills-widow calling.

April 7 ~ Cool and clear, then cloudy, then clear, then cloudy, finally in the afternoon we got a shower of a couple tenths of an inch of rain. Great for the flowers. In the morning a Double-crested Cormorant steamed over northbound, new for yard list; I checked and the Brown Creeper last week was #175. In one year here. Then I saw a fresh mint Large Orange Sulphur, my first this spring, and surely a fairly local emergence to be so pristine. In the afternoon a RINGED KINGFISHER called from the river, the first I have heard since December when they seemed to vacate as it got real cold. A Kinglet, a Gnatcatcher and a Nashville Warbler went by in afternoon, I was too busy to look, the above was from my requesite 5 min. per hour lookabouts. After dark I heard a Turkey gobbling, presumedly from up in a tree where they roost, and heard Eastern Screech-Owl and Great Horned Owl.

April 6 ~ Drizzle and mist in a.m., then overcast, finally later afternoon cleared, dried out, got breezy until dusk, damp until later p.m. It was the same ol' stuff, but heard another Summer Tanager, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Turkey, Kathy says there are too many hummers, likely 200 is my guess on the Black-chinned, a few ruby-throated males, might have had a female of that today. Had a Lincoln's Sparrow and a White- crowned was singing over in corral. A couple swallows looked like Cave, which I missed any worthwhile early date on, and haven't been to the traditional local nest sites yet this year.

April 5 ~ Too much to do, turning soil for some native wildflowers and butterfly bushes, a piece of plumbing, barely had time to notice anything but the regulars. A Clay-colored Sparrow was among 75 Chipping. Turkey still gobbling in distance. A Kinglet and couple Gnatcatcher moved through, a Myrtle Warbler, couple Caracara flew over, a Cooper's Hawk, Mr. Robin still singing from the top of the tallest pecan. A male Yellow-throated Warbler is again feeding daily in the yard now, surely last years local breeder, goes through yard a couple or few times a day, brings the begging young here, and is more than welcome.

April 4 ~ A dryline and front came through overnight, wonderfully removing humidity like a magic wand, and dropping low to 50dF or so, 20dF lower than yesterday. It was a bit breezy from north overnight and all a.m. Over at Utopia on the River this a.m. I heard a Summer Tanager and Karyn spotted what seemed the same flock of 10 Tom Turkeys we've been seeing at our place upriver a short ways. There are some Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) going off along the roads now offering some nice viewing, and some roadside fields of purple Dakota Verbena look good as well.

The difference in the last week is astounding, virtually all the Cypress lining the river have green now, some are very green, the Hackberries are getting fairly leafed-out, the pecans are popping green flower buds and leaves, the mesquites are even almost all showing green leaves. Lots of wildflowers growing, though only a few types blooming yet so far.

I saw my third migrant (Mexican winterer) Monarch of the year today. Saw two Robin today, but wasn't able to sex the second bird. At least 400 Cedar Waxwing in yard today, maybe 450, until they flushed. Later saw an Cooper's Hawk. American Goldfinch have mostly departed over the last week, or are hitting something besides the sunflower tube, I am just seeing a very few now, and the bright males are gone. You can tell when they are going to leave by when they start to get looking good.

April 3 ~ Low might have been about 70dF, and muggy, gulf flow, a bit of mist. Several Blue-gray Gnatcats, a Nashville Warbler, heard a Black-n-white, saw a Robin, while the male was singing in another direction, so 2 are here. In the a.m. heard the FOS Summer Tanager call "pick-it-up" a couple times.

The Yellow Evening Primrose growing out of the crack in the patio now has two open flowers at dusk. Of course our type here is the white form, we drew the short straw on that one. In yard there must be a hundred Crow-Poison blooming now, and the first Texas Onion have opened flowers. There are hundreds of Lazy Daisy near the road in a ruderal part of yard. I took a walk through them in peak 80+dF degree heat in afternoon and in five minutes counted 35 Vesta Crescent, and one Elada Checkerspot! Surely my earliest ever Elada, there have been a few years of the last 10 I did not record one, this must be a local emergence.

April 2 ~ A couple Yellow-throated Vireo went by, a few Ash-throated Flycatcher, a Black-n-white Warbler, more Gnatcats. One Dot-winged Baskettail (dragon), for butterflies more Lyside Sulphur, a Queen, Checkered-Skipper, a duskywing sps., Gulf Fritillary, lots of Pipevines.

April 1 ~ Overnight lows in the 60's dF are pretty spring-like. A bit of drizzle, and strong SE winds most of the night perhaps was what brought a few new arrivals. A male Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 2 Nashville Warbler, and an Indigo Bunting, all FOS. Some Gnatcatchers went through too. Way over a hundred Black-chinned Hummer, 200+ Cedar Waxwing and the singing male Robin.

Today I realized the red spot with the boil on it on my arm came from that moment 4 days ago I said to myself " that was a spider bite." It wasn't painful, just a pin prick, and Kathy asked me about the red spot a few days ago, I didn't connect the dots, until this festering boil reminded me, it is right where something nailed me last Thursday or Friday when I was moving some stuff outside.

In butterflies a Giant Swallowtail was my first of year.

~ ~ March recap ~ ~

Wow, another month gone by, a long one, still went in a flash. A quarter of the year is past! Spring bursts forth in March here, not a moment too soon after a long cold winter. A couple little showers gave some botanically valueable precip, but there was little for the aquifer. Some of the earlier rains though finally filtered down and brought flow and levels up a little in some parts of the river.

Twenty-nine species of butterflies for the month was below average, 2nd worst in last 6 years. Surely the cold was a factor. The usual early flowers went off about normal. The deciduous trees are flowering or breaking leaf buds now, save the live-oaks which are doing their annual dropping of leaves.

The March bird arrivals were pretty much average by the book from my 10 years of data. Though I still am too busy to get out much save at our home station, being in the river corridor habitat we catch movement when it happens. The NORTHERN GOSHAWK (19th) had to be the far and away highlight, the BROWN CREEPER (31st) a close second. The probable Allen's Hummer March 25-26 was pretty good too. Thundersleet on the 3rd was interesting as well.

~ ~ ~ end March summary ~ ~ ~

March 31 ~ low in 50's dF, like spring, SE winds blew all night, Gulf moisture and clouds back this a.m., even a little fog-mist. The blooming male Mulberry is 30 feet out the window right behind the monitor I am at all day, and everything is nibbling the flowers, plus they attract insects so most of the migrants that go through the yard go through this tree, and now is prime time, no leaves, just flowers.

This mornings treat in it from the desk was a FOS Black-throated Green Warbler, which looked to be an adult female. Last week of March is normal arrival time here for them. I went out twice to look for it, never seeing it besides through bins and window, but a little over an hour later a MALE was there! It moved to a blooming and leafing out hackberry which had 4 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in it. Thought I heard a Nashville upslope in the live-oaks, the male Yellow-throated Warbler then came in to glean the Mulberry flowers as well.

Over 200 Waxwings hit the bath, a 14" terra cotta dish, with no drip, just refilled daily, cleaned every few. There were at once 30 waxwings at it, working in shifts in 5 mintues a quart of water was gone and so were the birds. Ol' orange-tail was there facing straight away giving great views since I didn't have the camera in hand.

Heard a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher singing from the airstrip just the other side of the corral where a pair nested last year, will be nice to be hearing that daily again. After noon I saw a FOS Swainson's Hawk going over high, north, with high-flying (migrant) Turkey vultures. Some of our local male TV's are dropping outer primaries now, molting, replacing flight feathers. I do not believe females start molting until after eggs are laid and recovered from.

About 6 p.m. I was outside when a Brown Creeper shot by me giving one single squeezed 'sleet' note as it did (Eastern). First one ever in the yard, and there were not been any all fall or winter, as posters on Texbirds from all around the state have mentioned, few or none southward. It was out there a half hour working Pecans, the big Hackberries, I even got one poor docu digiscope, but they just don't stop moving, so very hard to get when actively feeding. A moving piece of bark they are, and a most wanted for the yard list. It is last chance time for winter birds, soon it will be wait until next winter for a shot at Green-tailed Towhee, Sage Thrasher, etc.

Before the Creeper I heard a White-crowned Sparrow over the fenceline clinking away, and yesterday's two Clay-colored Sparrows were on the seed with the Chipping Sparrows this morning. I saw at least 6 Lyside Sulphur (butterfly) today, the first I think all year maybe, certainly the first this month.  The Eastern Phoebes got two of them.

I heard what at first I thought might be a Selasphorus hummingbird which then I realized was a warbler in the pecan, I saw wingbars, yellow in throat and breast, a very very short tail, and it shot off showing short white tail spots, looking for all the world like a Northern Parula, it absolutely was not the Yellow-throated, but got away.

In E-bird a couple Northern Parula have been reported locally, one at Lost Maples on March 25, and earlier, March 22 to 30 one or more were reported at Concan around Neal's Lodges.  Which is also where Tropical Parula often shows up annually in late March or early April.

March 30 ~ Mid-40's dF this a.m. felt great, some clouds early, but quickly sunny. Got breezy mid morning as is often the case, you really have to get out early to be sure to beat the breeze. It makes spotting motion, one of our key visual methods, much more difficult when all the branches and leaves are shaking. From late morning on it was 15-20 mph, gusting 25+, and 80dF in afternoon.

Some of the hackberries and pecans are nicely spring green with leaves coming out, some still look 'winter'. Some Mesquite is starting break green buds now, and one 12' Laurel out back has a half-dozen flowers open, too high to smell. There are a couple laurels upslope out back that are 12 FEET tall, they must be ancient, growing essentially out of rock, surely a hundred plus years old.

Not a lot of movement through yard this a.m. as yesterday. Yesterday was the first day after the front and northerlies, so birds could move after being shut down and stacked up, so a big wave. Today not so much. At least two, probably three Blue Jay moved through yard, the yankees, which I wonder if they might stick? It would likely be the first new genes in the hill country populations since their founding in 1977. Oh sure maybe in some prior flights since the original '77 one some stayed, but I'm lacking evidence of any major flights into the hill country in the interim. If someone knows something about that, please let me know.

Took a walk up the road mid-a.m. to noon-thirty. There is a spot we can be on a cliff edge 40 feet above the floor of river corridor looking into treetops of huge trees at eye-level, very cool. There were a couple Yellow-throated Warbler there (and another 4 along a half mile of river) in the closest Cypress branches, working the ball moss as usual offering killer point-blank views. A few Redbud were in bloom along the cliff face. One Scrub-Jay was where a pair has been a half-mile up road, the mate is probably quiet on nest now. One probably first spring male Northern Harrier flew over northbound.

We went to a wind-sheltered area with some blooming trees and saw the lightest sprinkle of migrants; a couple each Kinglet, Gnatcatcher, Myrtle Warbler and 1 Orange-crowned Warbler. A Hutton's Vireo may be a local breeder. Flushed a Great Horned Owl, and in front of the Barham's place in the wall of Plumbago was a Spotted Towhee. In the river edge habitat the Spanish Buckeye was in good bloom, a couple Disparete Forester moths were on it, and on cliff-edge the Wafer-Ash is just putting out flower buds, keep a nose out for that. Actually the Spanish Buckeye too is a pretty nice sweet scent if you get close, but watch for bees, you wouldn't want to snort one.

Saw a damselfly (finally!) but which I could neither ID nor get a photo of. A few dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly were out. One Painted Lady butterfly, a Goatweed Leafwing, quite a few Pipevine Swallowtail now, a few Olive-Juniper Hairstreak that were fresh and bright green. A Rose-bellied Lizard (Sceloperus sp.) in the river bed was just starting to get color, enough to ID it (ph.).

A couple skinks (Four-lined) in yard here are tail-less, which I suppose the cat is likely responsible for. About 4 p.m. saw my FOY Springtime Darner (Basiaeschna janata) patrolling low over green yard, furthest one I've ever seen from water (the river is 700' away), and the first actually IN the yard. I keep a seperate list for yard proper vs. at river only, this moves one out of the river only column to the yard column. It is 23 in yard now, plus 19 more species over at the water (river).

About 7 p.m. I saw a couple Clay-colored Sparrow in the yard with the Chipping flock. The male Yellow-throated Warbler was in the yard then too. A quick tally shows 45+ species of birds today in yard or down road and in river corridor habitat. A few easy things I can&apo;t recall for sure from this morning, like Barn Swallow, Caracara, Lincoln's Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, Turkey, you don't always pay attention to common stuff, until you count up at the end of the day and can't remember if the Turkey was this morning, or yesterday.

A real surprise was late in the day a begging fledgling Carolina Chickadee getting fed by an adult, probably the earliest I have noted a fledgling out of the nest, and just one.  Incidently the Mockingbirds that wintered here seem to be gone now, there were a bunch singing, lots around, a week and more ago, and now there are very few, some but few, shortly I suspect some local breeders will arrive. Some of them seem resident, most don't.

March 29 ~ Low in the low-mid-50's dF, dry, brisk, dang near perfect. Counted 5 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at once in the yard, and a couple more in the corral, they must be pouring through. An Orange-crowned Warbler went through as well, a couple Myrtles, some Kinglet, Ash-throated Flycatchers, White-eyed Vireos, some movement. An imm. ma. Sharp-shinned Hawk dove on the Chipping Sparrow flock, and missed. Saw my FOY Tube Tongue and Lazy Daisy flowers, a FOY Phaon Crescent on the Daisies. Several small Acilid (Robberfly) were in yard, a couple singles were seen the last couple weekends prior. A big yellow Carpenter or Bumble Bee flew around quickly, it looked more Bumble than Carpenter, but I am pretty bumbling with my bees.

March 28 ~ This a.m. I heard another Yellow-throated Vireo singing over near river. A couple Ash-throated Flycatcher called too. Still numbers of Gnatcatchers going by, some Kinglets, Mr. Robin sings, a couple hundred Waxwing, a pair of Vermilion Flycatcher, heard an Orange-crowned Warbler, a couple Myrtles, saw a Lincoln's Sparrow on the seed. Hermit Thrush at bath. After dark was the FOY Rio Grande Leopard Frog calling (besides Blanchard's Cricket- Frog and Barking Frogs). I guess we just don't get the Chorus Frog here, they were hearable up on Seco Ridge, off the north side, NE of 3rd (back-mini) loop.

Chipping Sparrows number about 75-80, so departures underway, the adults first, and which are fully chestnut of crown now, the first spring birds still streaky on head, just getting some chestnut in crown. A few of the male American Goldfinch are really getting bright yellow now, almost to the point of stunning. Fancy bird. They leave before they fully acquire their brightest best plumage.

Just before dark I had a second Monarch, another pale and worn migrant, earlier in afternoon saw one Dot-winged Baskettail (ode).

March 27 ~ Drizzled a bit overnight and all morning, pretty soppy out, the high yesterday was about 58dF, at sundown, and it rose a degree or two overnight. The pair of Eastern Bluebirds seems to have taken up in box#2, after I had to remove #1 due to House (English) Sparrows. The lone male Robin here seems to think no female is coming because he isn't singing enough. He has really turned it up and on. Eastern Phoebes still chasing the pair of Vermilion Flycatcher around, which clearly want to be here.

Later in p.m. had Barred Owl call in afternoon, then after dark heard a Barn Owl go over, Great Horned Owl called, as did Eastern Screech-Owl. I stuck my hand out to a Disparate Forester moth as it fluttered around me and it landed on it! I almost got into house with it. Lincoln's Sparrow and Gnatcatchers in yard.

March 26 ~ A cool drizzly one today, likely only a tenth or two at most, great for wildflowers. Looked like Uvalde to Sabinal etc. along Hwy. 90 got a half inch in the morning.  Pretty breezy on top of it. Thought I saw a Nashville Warbler quickly in the flowering Mulberry early, a few Gnatcats and Kinglets, an Orange-crowned, a Myrtle or two, and the singing Yellow-throated Warbler, 200+ waxwing, the singing Robin, a Clay-colored Sparrow in with Chippies in yard that sang a bit. The only different (?) passerby was an imm. fem. Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Lots of hummers - at least, probably well over, 100+ Black-chinned, likely 200, and the one ad.fem. Rufous-Allen's continues. I heard it call and to me the chip is higher, thinner as well as lighter, than Rufous. It lacks the timbre of Rufous, without the woody quality, leaning toward a Calliope. It also seems very tiny, and another quick look at spread tail when spread at feeder in defense showed extremely narrow outer rectrices. It looks and sounds like an Allen's to me, which would be an extraordinary record if proven, snagging a spring migrant, from where? That question stands regardless if Rufous or Allen's. If say from Gulf Coast then they are flying due west before turning north later, which could make sense considering spring hitting the desert southwest now.

~ ~ ~ March 25 update header ~ ~ ~

MOST RECENT UPDATE: March 25, 2014
(last updates: March 16, 7, Feb. 26, 20-21, 10, 1)

Happy Spring! Coming soon to near you!
Redbud is open, Agarita is finishing, Elfins are out!
Buckley Oak, Hackberry and Pecan are starting to open, and dawn chorus is becoming a mild roar.

You may want to scroll down to the date of the last update you read, and scroll or read UP day-to-day to read in chronological sequence, some references might make more sense that way.

A few quick news items..... the short version..... We had a long, very cold winter, but spring is now playing. Grasses, forbs and tree leaf-buds are sprouting as are some of the first wildflowers. Some early butterflies are emerging, and among birds the first migratory insectivores are returning. When bug-eaters return spring can't be far behind.

FOS (first of season) spring local breeder returnees are showing up in a pretty normal unfolding of spring.

Feb. 16: Purple Martin, Lesser Goldfinch, Brown-headed Cowbird.
Feb. 18: Turkey Vulture and a bat
Feb. 23: Black-chinned Hummer and No. Rough-winged Swallow
Feb. 26: Vermilion Flycatcher (male)
Feb. 27: White-eyed Vireo, 'nother Black-chin Hummer
March 1: female Black-chinned Hummingbird
March 5: Barn Swallow
March 6: Dragonfly (Dot-winged Baskettail)
March 9: Black-and-white Warbler
March 12: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
March 17: female Vermilion Flycatcher
March 20: Ash-throated Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo,
    Yellow-throated Warbler, and SPRING!
March 21: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (prob. heard earlier)
March 23: Clay-colored Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow
March 24: Louisiana Waterthrush
March 25: Monarch (migrant from Mexico), Rufous/Allen's Hummer
March 26: Yellow-throated Vireo, Monarch #2

Golden-cheeked Warblers are back at Lost Maples, and White-tipped Dove was reported there as well, at the trailhead parking lot feeding station.

A NORTHERN GOSHAWK climbed on a thermal right over yard and eventually sailed off due north, on March 19.

~ ~ ~ end March 25 update header ~ ~ ~

March 25 ~ Low 40's dF this a.m., about 5 or 6dF colder than they said. Around 11 a.m. saw the FOY Monarch (butterfly), clearly a torn and worn migrant from Mexico. Just saw a post on TX-butterfly that some had reached central Texas, north of us, a few days ago. Haven't seen any Antelope Horns sprouting yet, but it should be soon.

Same ol' stuff, Gnatcatchers passing through, though finally at 7 p.m. an ad.fem. Rufous-Allen's Hummingbird showed up. Spring migrants are pretty rare here, I do not get them annually. The brief but very close look (4') at the spread tail made me want to get a picture, the outer tail feathers looked quite narrow. All here are Rufous until proven otherwise with photos of spread tail, unless a fully green backed adult male.

March 24 ~ Upper 40's dF for a low, overcast.  At first light I was changing some hummer feeders and heard a sharpish warbler chip, from the ground. FOS Louisiana Waterthrush, and first IN the yard! It was out there 15 minutes before it moved up hill and on, probably my going around throwing seed and swapping feeders flushed it. A great new addition to the yard list, the first I have seen away from water locally, they are actually fairly rare away from breeding territories, like Acadian Flycatcher. Admittedly we do have the sound of running water outside due to the circulation of (salt) water in tubs with live rock.

Heard another Ash-throated Flycatcher and a male Yellow-throated Warbler was in blooming Hackerries first thing too. Couple hundred waxwings, still one singing male Robin, a Hermit Thrush at bath is likely one of our winterers, a movement of Kinglet and Gnatcatcher all day, at one point in afternoon one tree had 3 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at once, so they are coming through well.

March 23 ~ Another front rolled in after midnight, winds not as strong as last one, just 15-20mph, and not so cold right away, the morning low was the high, in upper 50's, dropped a little by 8-9 am. and stayed there all day, a bit breezy, threatening to shower, doubt we'll get lucky, we can hope.

Sapsucker still gone, day 3, so is gone. It arrived late November, and was here March 20 in a.m., not thereafter. Hate to see him go, thanks for the pix buddy, hope you liked the pecan and hackberry syrup from your wells. It is really great to get a late date for a known wintering window of an individual. I have long suspected the April, especially last half of April, Sapsuckers we see are migrants from further south passing through, this helps support that idea. During a warmer milder winter it likely would have departed earlier in March.

The only way to acquire this type of data is to babysit one all winter taking notes. The last week I was writing 'sap' every day I saw it, on my deskpad calendar, because I had an inkling it was leaving soon. It spent a week under 4 months here. Yes I reveled in it. Now its on a long journey north for the breeding season!

Walked around a little, besides some Gnatcatchers and Kinglets, an Orange-crowned Warbler was surely a migrant in a treeline along a pasture. A few Myrtle Warbler, but in several hundred yards of river-edge knee-high not a single Song Sparrow where several wintered, they have departed now as well.

Not a hundred yards down the road out front was a first spring (imm.) Gambel's White-crowned Sparrow with its orange bill and pale lores, clearly a migrant here, and 2 FOS Clay-colored Sparrow was nice, right on time, one singing a little, several Savannah Sparrow on the airstrip, most Lincoln's Sparrows were where clearly migrants as those locals that have been along riveredge were absent. Some Field, Lark, and lots of Chipping Sparrow. Even had Linc. and Sav. in yard with Chippys.

A half-dozen Yellow-throated Warbler were in cypresses along river, Three male Vermilion Flycatcher were along about 600 yards of road and river corridor habitat. After 3 p.m. the flock of 10 big tom Turkeys walked right down the fenceline to the slope with big live-oaks behind us, first 100' out kitchen window, then 50' out office window! Their heads are really colored up now due to mating season.  Amazing 10 birds walk by and it is 200+ pounds of birds!  That is a lot of bird!

March 22 ~ Low above 60dF (!), muggy fog-mist-drizzle in the a.m. There was a singing Yellow-throated Warbler all day out at river, a returning breeder no doubt. The Vermilion Flycatcher sang all day too, with full flight song display right over patio. Later audio taped a little Robin singing, most have moved on a few remain, one singing early and late from the biggest Pecan. The hackberries and the male Mulberry are really opening their flowers now, birds and squirrels are going after the greenery (eating it), the first available in months.

In afternoon I walked upslope a bit after the drizzle stopped. There were a few Mountain Laurels with flowers, less than 10% of them, and those only with few flowers, not covered like usual. Only about 10% of Agarita still have flowers, they are about done, but we appear to be on for a good crop in a few months. I saw about 5 Disparate Forester moths on them, but they were all real ginchy, flushing easily and not allowing close approach. Saw a couple Elfin but they too weren't feeling photogenic apparently. One Hutton's Vireo was singing in the now very yellowing and leaf-dropping live-oaks. Some Ground-Doves, Lark Sparrow, Bewick's Wren.

Some of the Buckley (Spanish) Oak have opened flowers, which means it is now Golden-cheeked Warbler time, but didn't see any. An Olive- Juniper Hairstreak and a Northern Cloudywing were on Mountain Laurel. Lots of Checkered Whites, one female Falcate Orange-tip crossed yard, at least 6 Vesta Crescent. A little bit of Paralena has bloomed, and I saw some more Dakota Verbena, forgot to mention I had some of that open here on the 15th.

Quite a few Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher passing through now, more White-eyed Vireo too. I saw one big Cypress tree that has put out its first green leaflets of the year. Spring is roaring upon us now. Finally about 7:30 p.m. there was a nice male Yellow-throated Warbler feeding in a flowering Hackberry by shed. Still no sign of the yard wintering adult male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, now last seen morning of Thursday the 20th.

March 21 ~ A warm low of mid-50's, and got up to upper 70's dF A quick town run saw my FOS Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, a female, at one of the regular nest sites. Thought I heard one calling the last two mornings from porch. The water at the park is now 18" or so below the spillway, it has amazingly come up a little over winter, with just a couple or few inches of rain the last few months. Normally it should be pouring over.

A Mountain Laurel was in good bloom down the road a bit, it seems most did not put out flowers this year, too dry to try, which is scary. The Redbud in town is blooming well still. Town square park across from store was carpeted in blooming Crow-Poison, I have had two open in the yard the last couple days. A couple dozen Anemone (Wind-flower) have been open in the yard too. The first few Pecan leaves have broken stem and are starting to unfurl on one tree.

Heard Yellow-throateds (Vireo and Warbler) from porch this morning, the sounds of spring and summer here. These moved on so were not our local returning yard breeders. Heard a Belted Kingfisher from river too. But no Sapsucker in yard today for first time in a month, it was really hanging out a lot lately, tanking up apparently. It has been in yard a couple hours or more every day the last month working the wells it drilled, morning and afternoon.

March 20 ~ Happy equinox!  It's spring! A low of 36dF was a bit chilly, but it didn't stop the migrants. The morning had three FOS harbingers of spring: Ash-throated Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Yellow-throated Warbler! What a welcome to hear them again! Thought I heard a Scissor-tail this morning too but didn't see it. Also the first Roadrunner singing of the year, and first in a four+ months here. Of late I have pondered their situation here.

Frankly I think the roadrunners migrate off valley floor for the winter and move up into hills and higher ground where warmer. In 10 years all my winter roadrunner sightings are off of the flat valley floor. All. In other words I suspect they migrate, on foot, to the locally warmer spots upslope onto ridges (Seco etc.) divides, foothills, etc. Need to tag one with a pinger to prove it. It is degrees colder on valley floor than even 100-200' higher altitude on e.g., Seco ridge. Incidently, if you haven't read in past years, the most common food item I have seen Roadrunner take in winter here is Chipping Sparrow. They seriously stalk the flocks.

I had to take down the bird box the bluebirds had taken, as a pair of House (English) Sparrow found the box and threw the bluebirds out. The Sparrows are non-native introduced vermin mean enough to throw peaceful bluebirds twice their size out of their nest.  So down comes that box. The non-native sparrows are not long on this earth.

Two male Vermilion Flycatchers were in front yard vying for the attention of one lucky female. All at once in one leafless younger pecan I had pairs of Cardinal, Vermilion, and Eastern Bluebird. Heard a goofy sounding Blue Jay or two, some of the yankees still here, as were 400 Cedar Waxwing.

Was an adult Four-lined Skink in a flower bed today.

Here is the list of birds in or from the yard this first day of spring. Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Wild Turkey (some on the shelf too), Cooper's Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, missed the Zone- tailed, Caracara, Eurasian Collared-Dove, White-winged and Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Roadrunner, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe, Vermilion and Ash-throated Flycatcher, (probably heard a Scissor-tail call a few times), White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue Jay, Common Raven, Barn and No. Rough-winged Swallow, Purple Martin, Carolina Chickadee, Black- crested Titmouse, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, N. Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Myrtle and Yellow-throated Warbler, Chipping, Field and Lark Sparrow (don't know how I missed Lincoln's), Northern Cardinal, Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, Lesser and American Goldfinch, House Sparrow (shot at and missed).

A whopping 48 native species (+2 introduced) with once an hour 5-7 minute checks over the day (my work breaks to get away from screen and stretch), and a little more with coffee early, and later in day. Thought I heard a couple other things too like Black-n-white and Orange-crowned Warblers.

Saw a Duskywing butterfly that was Horace's or Juvenal's, looked like male Juvenal's from above but didn't see ventral hindwing to confirm. A Disparate Forester was flying around again. What a beautiful moth that is.

March 19 ~ Two great sightings today. First a couple Savannah Sparrow were in the yard late p.m. which we can be sure are migrants. If you see some in a field now how do you know if they are winterers or migrants? Here in the yard we know there haven't been any here in months so their status is quite obvious, transients, a good date to get for known migrants.

A cosmic mind-blower from the one-minute wonder department was a N. GOSHAWK which approached just over treetop level, then hit a thermal and gained altitude circling, then moved due north. I thought it was an odd weird buteo at first due to size and long wings, I couldn't see tail at first look it was so low and coming towards me. Then it grabbed a thermal and circled so I saw the stovepipe tail, and realized it was a huge accipiter. One of the ones you think is a buteo at first it is so big and long winged, without rounded tips. Light was bad, but size, shape, and structure left no doubt as to its identity, there is only one species it could be, there isn't anything structurally shaped like them.

A Texan Crescent was the first of that butterfly I've seen this year. A fresh Cloudless Sulphur blasted by, as did a Northern Cloudywing.

March 18 ~ A 40-80dF temp spread felt spring-like. The Live-oaks are turning yellow now, getting ready to drop leaves, then bloom, whence they are the best tree for migrants for a couple weeks in April. Always follow the bloom for birds. Lots of birds are hitting the buds as they open on the Hackberries, the Mulberry, and many other trees. The first good green food in months for many.

When the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker first showed up in the yard in Nov., the Golden-fronted Woodpeckers were harrassing it regularly. Perhaps defending the pecans? Now the Golden-fronts are methodically hitting the sap wells Mr. Sapsucker drilled, and feeding at them. So are Black-crested Titmouse. There were no wells in any of the yard trees when we got here a year ago, several have good series now.

March 17 ~ Happy St. Patrick's Day! May the luck of the Irish find you when you are birding! We froze here this a.m., there was a thin layer of ice on the birdbath, KVL reported 33dF. Saw my first female Vermilion Flycatcher of the year, and I guess the male saw her too as it was the first time I heard him sing this year. Saw probably my earliest ever 'first-year' male Black-and-white Warbler. Had an Elfin (butterfly) flying around yard in the afternoon. They are the first species to be done flying for the year, usually by early April here in our area. Orange-tips can be had to late April.

March 16 ~ The front arrived before dawn, dry, 15-25mph gusting higher. If you are stuck out birding (like that can happen) in a big blow, the thing to do is to find and work lees. A patch of trees, bushes, or even weeds, has a lee side, that is where everything will be. Any topography will also create a lee spot where birds will congregate.

In the lee at the end of a ridge adjacent on north and northwest side of us, mid-morning it had 2 Myrtle Warbler, 4 Ruby-crowned Kinglet and two Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, none of which were there early in morning. After noon, a couple Barn Swallow shot by screaming all the way, nice to have that again, as is calling Purple Martin overhead. Zone-tailed Hawk went by. Black-chinned Hummer numbers picking up at feeders. Oh that purple.

A post to Texbirds reported 2 White-tipped Dove at Lost Maples SNA and a couple Golden-cheeked Warbler on this day.

March 15 ~ Only 60dF for a low, another front on way to hit about midnight tonight, and blow hard all day tomorrow. An unseen predator (probably accipiter or Merlin) flushed all the waxwings in yard at once (that is the only thing that gets that reaction), so a good count was obtained: 350-400 birds! My high count for the winter. They often build up in spring, not unusually peaking right around the ripe mulberries in late April to early May.

The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at first light was likely the one at dark since they are diurnal migrants. Heard an Olive Sparrow in yard out back by shed. A Belted Kingfisher that flew over very high was likely a migrant since at 500+', local movements barely over treetops. Still haven't heard a Ringed King since late December, nearly 3 months. Maybe they bugged out for the cold?

March 14 ~ Low in upper 40'sdF, low clouds, kinda springy. Heard Killdeer and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher early, Turkey were gobbling at dawn but too far off to tape, heard 2 Blue Jay, Sapsucker still in yard (ph.), a few Robin, maybe 175 Waxwing, the Zone-tailed Hawk flew over. The birdsong is really getting going great. Field Sparrow going lots more now. Before noon two flocks of 35+ each Sandhill Crane went over northbound. Another Gnatcatcher was around just before dusk. Couple Kinglets (Ruby-cr.) passed through.

After I had brought it up a couple times last week, Kathy spotted a nice orange-tailed Cedar Waxwing among the crowd at the bird bath. They drank about a half-gallon today! I don't understand how the orange is diet-related as I have heard, when only one in 200 has it, seems there would be some other factor to make that one bird suceptible, as they all seem to be eating the same berries (or other food).

A male Vermilion Flycatcher was in the yard early too, until the Eastern Phoebe nesting pair chased it out. Those Phoebes could not possibly do anything to make me like them less. Last year they chased them off when the pair was prospecting here, Vermilions would nest in yard if it weren't for the colorless Eastern Phoebes.

In the morning a Vesta Crescent (lep) was the first one this year. Took a quick walk upslope through some Live-oak and Agarita, saw an Elfin but no photo op, single Gray, and Olive Juniper Hairstreaks, a couple American Lady, lots of Pipevine Swallowtail, a few each Dogface and Sleepy Orange. The Agarita is fading fast, the Laurels don't even have flower stalks (racemes) sprouted, the Buckley Oaks are still un-opened of leaf. Things seem a bit behind this year, no doubt due to the long cold winter. One big armadillo up the slope.

About 6 p.m. the FOY Forester (a fancy diurnal moth) flew around yard, which appeared Disparate rather than 8-spotted, but could not be positive from flight views. It is the time for them. At dusk had a bat again.

March 13 ~ You know what happens when the wind stops, it gets cold. KVL was 31dF, we were probably 32. Any freeze now could be the last one of the year, though we've had them all the way to late April. Where is a crystal ball when you need one (for planting gardens)? Trying to keep an eye on a chrysalis about to pop, looks like a Pipevine Swallowtail, but would like a series from an emergence.

Heard cranes going over late morning, didn't look to count, and an hour later went out and heard them again, wonder how many went over in between? In 15 minutes around noon I had 3 flocks of 75 or so, 2 flocks of 50, and a flock of 125, for a total of at least 450 birds, and with the 1st flock an hour earlier, surely 500 went over, not counting the hour between observations. It was likely a boatload, today seems big crane departure day.

An American Pipit flew over calling mid-morning, my FOS, and 2 more Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through yard during day. Nearing 7 p.m. two big Turkey (toms) walked down the fenceline real close. A few Robins, fair number of Waxwing, heard two Blue Jay and two White-eyed Vireo, heard a Killdeer or two.

March 12 ~ North wind blowing 20mph gusting to 35, NOAA said it is northwest TX dust in the air here today. Probably stinks, don't sniff it. ;) Vanderpool (near) had a 38mph gust and Hondo got a 45. FOS Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was in yard around 9:30, seeming to be catching bugs in the lee of the ridgelet, White-eyed Vireo was hanging there as well. Blew all day, fortunately I am stuck inside at the computer working. Warmed to mid-60's. Supposed to be mid-30's for a low tomorrow morning.

On the way back from town I was riding shotgun with a friend, had no binocs, and on 360 right before river crossing a pair of bluebirds flushed off the fenceline. I saw no rust color whatsoever on either in excellent light and they were a different color of blue than Eastern Bluebird. They flew over a tree line and out into another pasture, and due to time constraints I couldn't stop, besides having no binocs. Surely they were Mountain Bluebirds, but will have to let them go as probable. Ouch!

In yard saw a Northern Cloudywing (butterfly) which was my FOY, and a Common/White Checkered-Skipper zipped, er, skipped about.

March 11 ~ A pre-frontal warm-up, with a low in the 50's dF and it got up to at least 81dF here in the afternoon. Wow! A wind advisory in effect from midnight to afternoon tomorrow, so if birds are migrating into it they will be shut down when they hit the northerlies in the middle of the night. With the pre-frontal southerlies there could be some movement knocked down. A narrow band of clouds or drizzle even better in front of it is what you really hope for, that knocks 'em down for sure. This passage is dry, but the winds strong enough to shut down northerly progress, if anything is moving.

Saw the first Wind-Flower (Anemone) open, several of them popping today. Also an unknown little yellow job (ph.) I'll work on an ID for it. One of the Anemones had a black and yellow striped Flea Beetle (Chrysomelidae) with an orange thorax, as I neared with lens it rocketed, those hind leg femurs are all muscle. All you see is a blur when they launch, too fast for the human eye.

There were at least threeeeee gobbling gobblers (tom Turkeys) this morn at dawn, fairly near, within a hundred yards or so of the house, neat. Now I'll have to get up earlier and try to get some audio tape. Lincoln's Sparrow still in yard, as is Sapsucker, some Robin singing, Waxwings, heard the N. Rough-winged Swallows out front. Must be a lot more Black-chinned Hummers around than it looks, two (of 3) feeders were drained. No migrants noted today, the Ash-throated Flycatchers should be back shortly, could be any day now, surely within a week, Gnatcatcher any day now too.

After lunch I took a quick short walk up the hill into Agaritaville hoping to get better Elfin (lep) pix, saw one but it was too ginchy for photos. Also saw 2 FOY Mournful Duskywing, a 3rd Erynnis got away. One fresh bright Olive Juniper Hairstreak was a stonking green beauty. Other butterflies: Variegated Fritillary, Checkered White, some Dainty Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, several Dogface, Black and Pipevine Swallowtail. Many were hitting the Dutchman's Breeches, some the Agarita. A female Falcate Orange-tip was in the yard briefly in the a.m. The Buckley Oaks are still not burst of leaves, here anyway, maybe up on higher divides they have unfurled already.

March 10 ~ Drizzle, fog, and mist much of day, finally in late p.m. the low went over and we got a couple tenths of an inch of precip. Nearly a half-inch in two days, right when we need it for flowers. Was just the regulars in yard, but should mention the rufous crowns of most adult Chipping Sparrows are really looking good now, and the male American Goldfinches are starting to show some yellow.

March 9 ~ All morning, since yesterday evening wind still blowing hard from north, upper 30's dF, chills below freezing, winter. Warmed past 55dF in afternoon before some spritzing showers. A Lincoln's Sparrow (presumed from yesterday) took a bath this a.m. Still some Robins and waxwings, the Sapsucker, a couple Lesser among a couple dozen American Goldfinch.

The highlight of the day was the first spring migrant WARBLER of the year, a male Black-and-white Warbler! YAHOO!!!! So I made a quick afternoon check of a few Buckley (Spanish) Oaks upslope behind us and they remain just barely with leaf buds breaking stems, still not Golden-cheeked time. I can't believe how done and gone so much of the Agarita bloom was since a week ago. Half of it is over and done. The bees were busy on it last week and this, so should be a good berry crop this year.

Saw a Black-tailed Jackrabbit a couple times today. Put a third hummer feeder out as a male is defending the back porch one already. Soon there will be too many for him to do that, serves him right. So now there are three feeders being defended by three birds. Jerks. You can only get a drink there if you wiggle your tail right.

March 8 ~ Fog and drizzle in the morning, warmish at upper 40's dF, the front is inbound this afternoon. Probably got to upper 50's or low 60's before it hit, whence there was some more drizzle, a light shower, maybe all told we got a tenth of an inch. Every little bit is botanically critical at this time of year for the spring bloom (= spring and summer insects, and as or more important, fall seeds, which = winter bird food). The wind became strong in the evening and blew all night. Same gang o' boids, the Zone-tailed Hawk flew over in the drizzle. A Lincoln's Sparrow was in yard, surely a migrant.

March 7 ~ Roughly a mid-40's to mid-60's spread for temps, with strong southerlies all day, up to 20+ mph. Heard a flock of cranes I did not go check to count, the second flock was 110 birds. The regular gang of a few Robins, lots of waxwings, some Yellow-rumps, etc. continue. The Redbud tree at the library is going great guns finally. Mulberry buds are starting to break the stems, as are more hackberries. I saw my FOY Anole (aka American Chameleon) today, a yearling.

March 6 ~ Don't know how cold it got something broke my themometer last night, a bunch of stuff knocked over on porch, looks like another Racoon needs to be disappeared. Maybe was about upper 30's dF, and in afternoon got to low 60's dF. I heard the Pine Warbler today and the regular gang was about the yard, too much to do to watch much. In the afternoon I saw my FOY (first of year) Dragonfly, finally! Was a Dot-winged Baskettail (Epitheca petechialis) as is the usual first dragon. Heard a Blue Jay and the White-eyed Vireo.

March 5 ~ Warmer low than predicted, forecast 33 at Kerrville, and was 41dF! missed by 25%! We were about 42 and high was about 62dF, late in afternoon. A dozen Robin, 100+ Waxwing, a Pine Warbler (imm. fem.) the ad. ma. Yell-bell Sapsucker, some Myrtle and an Audubon's were all about the yard. Flocks of 52 and 35 Sandhill Crane flew over northward. While looking at them my FOS Barn Swallow flew into my field of view.

The butterfly of the day was the first of year Eastern Tiger Swalowtail! A huge beast of a stonking yellow and black beauty! Fancy butterfly, and a quick check shows it the earliest FOY in at least the last 6 years. I don't have butterfly and dragonfly spreadsheets for spring (and fall) first of year sighting dates like I do for birds. Have the data, but not the time yet to compile it into a more useful format. It is still mixed between being here as part of my nature notes and in longhand logbook notes, so have to comb both sources, a real pain. You want migrant bird dates though, quickity split in my excel files.

March 4 ~ A bit warmer with a 33-56dF spread for the day. The ice from the thundersleet yesterday evening was still piled up where it stacked as it fell off roof, some still there at 11 a.m. I saw a dull imm. female Pine Warbler, the ad. ma. Sapsucker continues in the yard too, there were about 125+ Cedar Waxwing, only a few Robin. Same gang, and I'm too busy to look. Barred Owl called at 4 p.m.

March 3 ~ A hard freeze at 22dF this a.m., slowly warmed to 44 or so. Kerrville was 21 with 10dF chill factor in the morning, we were mid-teens of chill. A few Robins, a hundred waxwings, the regulars was all I could see through the fogged up windows. The flock of meadowlarks was over on the airstrip. Sapsucker still out there.

After dark, shortly after 7 p.m. a thunderstorm cell built up from Concan or so and hit us with lightning, thunder, a half-inch of rain, and a fozen precipitation of uncertain identity. I will use the term NOAA used in their forecast for tonight, thundersleet! That is a hard one to tick off on your weather experiences list. Very cool. They got it all in Utopia. They were nearly 1/4" ice pellets or balls, and got thick enough where they fell off the roof to almost look like snow on the ground. Amazing.

March 2 ~ Warm low in 60's dF ahead of incoming cold front. At noon as it arriving in our area Hondo was 80, Kerrville 44, Junction 34dF with chills in upper 20's. A few hundredths of a trace of rain fell in the a.m. ahead of arrival. The first northerlies got here about 11:40 a.m., you could feel an instant 10dF drop, though briefly, as after the first wave passed it got calmed and warmed a bit again, quick make sure you baton down the hatches, here comes a big blow and cold.

We took a short walk up the slope into the live-oak grasslands adjacent. The Agarita (aka Texas Holly) was at full blooming roar, I guess ours down in the colder valley floor is a little behind the rest. They were so thick you could smell it in places, a unique fragrant herbal scent. It was like, Agaritaville. We saw a couple Henry's Elfin (butterfly) on the Agarita, probably got great photos of one of them in fresh mint condition right out of the box. The scalloped hindwing is really something, and the tails giving away its hairstreak affinities hadn't broken off yet. Fresh right off the line, just out of the paint shop.

We also had Spotted Towhee (female) among a Chipping Sparrow flock (50), around which were Titmice, Kinglets, Eastern Phoebe, and Bewick's Wrens. A flock of Waxwings shot over, maybe a dozen, with something not that much larger in hot pursuit. Of course accipiters (Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks) don't even try for waxwings in flight since they are so agile and fast.

But a MERLIN does! It literally accellerated into the flock! The waxwings pulled a hard hard right doing a 270 degree loop back over and across their path, the Merlin was going too fast to make the corner and blew past, stalling right overhead and looking down at us as it glided away 'empty-footed' but providing a great brief view. What a bird. It goes after flying flocks of waxwings! Accipiters can get them if they jump and surprise them, but a Merlin isn't afraid to advertise it is inbound, going after them out in clear airspace.

This bird was a very dark one, clearly far too dark for the Prairie richardsoni type in any plumage, and probably then one of the dark eastern types, though perhaps suckleyi from the west could be a possible vagrant here in winter.

The Chipping Sparrow flock in the afternoon in the corral (which is our yard flock) was out in the open and easy to count, 150, plus 15 Lark Sparrow. Saw some distant swallows too-far-to-tell what type, Barn and Cave could be here any day now.

The other spring bloomer going well is Dutchman's Breeches, which some years has been my first spring flower. There is a fair bit of it on the slope, and it is in good bloom, a few Dainty Sulphur were nectaring on it. A few of the Buckley (Spanish) Oak up on the slope have just the first vestiges of leaf buds breaking stems. When those leaves pop open, Golden-cheeked Warblers appear like magic.

March 1 ~ FOS FEMALE Black-chinned Hummingbird, the male was doing dive display to her. The Redbud at the library is opening, and at our house the Agarita has open flowers. You'd think it was spring, except Monday morning when it will be in upper 20'sdF. This is the hot day before the front. I also see a Henbit (non-native) with flowers, and a few Whitlow-Grass. The White-eyed Vireo continues, surely the returning breeder. The ad. ma. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is also still here.

About 1:30 I heard cranes and quickly saw 13 rising up on thermals, headed due north, 5 mintues later a big flock of 100 did the same. They can look almost white as they reflect sun off the gray plumage. That was the largest single flock I've seen here going north.

Some butterflies were out in the heat including Goatweed Leafwing, some Checkered White, probably a female Falcate Orange-tip, lots of Dogface, a Cloudless Sulphur, maybe two. At the ditch south of town a half-mile, just south of 354 what had to have been a MOURNING CLOAK butterfly flew across the road right as I passed over the ditch. I saw the all dark brown color with crisp pale yellow-buff margin.

There are some buds just breaking stems on a couple of the Hackberry trees, so they will be popping flowers or leaves soon. We have a couple day chill ahead that will put everything on hold that long. The first Straggler Daisy flowers were open today, last year I saw them here in the yard when I looked at the place on Feb. 15, two full weeks earlier, and being able to know that now is part of what makes keeping dated records so interesting.

~ ~ Above is March 2014 ~ ~

~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~

February was very cold the first half, then warmed up the latter part of the month, overall it was very dry, we had some drizzle and traces, only one one-half inch rain event. By the end of the month the ground layer is definitely decidedly greener than it was in many places. Sprouting of the grass and forb layer is occurring.

I saw 18 species of butterflies in the month, which is above average, my third highest Feb. in 11 years. The best one was my first Feb. record of Great Purple Hairstreak, which was at a Mistletoe (the larval foodplant) and undoubtedly had just emerged. Would have made a pristine specimen if it wasn't 25 feet up in tree.

Too busy to goof off birding, so birding is yard and adjacent road, no time to dig and scratch all the local county roads. February is about three things: 1) resident species starting their new breeding (singing now) season, 2) continuing winterers, and 3) the first few returning breeders the last half of the month.

A few of the invader Blue Jays were still around, the Robins (150) and Waxwings (up to 250) stayed another month, as did the male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, some Pine Warblers, the Zone-tailed Hawk, one Green Kingfisher, and an Olive Sparrow.

First of season returnees were about average for the new normal in Feb., Purple Martin, Turkey Vulture, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Black- chinned Hummingbird, Vermilion Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo. These are all returning breeders, not thru passage migrants. Some 71 sps. of birds were in yard or along road (seen afoot) or river out front during February, a few higher than January.

Local residents are now singing heartily, there is nice birdsong to be heard, many are becoming very territorial, beginning the nesting cycle, choosing mates, sites, and some likely already with eggs. Eastern Bluebird, Cardinal, Titmouse, Chickadee, Bewick's and Carolina Wren, White-winged Dove, are all in breeding season mode. The Great Horned Owls likely have young by now, Barred and Screech- likely not far behind. The Ravens have taken their nest from last year back and are active at it again, as are the local Red-tailed Hawks. It is winter, and, the breeding season, for some species.

~ ~ ~ end of February summary ~ ~ ~

Feb. 28 ~ A 42-82dF spread for temps. Another male Black-chinned Hummingbird showed up and seems to be staying. A Golden-crowned Kinglet was in yard, other wise the regulars. Quite a few butterflies out in the heat, including a Goatweed Leafwing or two, both sexes of Black Swallowtail, a few Checkered White, a probable Falcate Orange-tip female, and a probable Mexican Yellow. The Agarita is nicely budded but not open yet. The White-eyed Vireo continues. I heard an Orange- crowned Warbler in town near the general store.

Feb. 27 ~ Post-front, a chilly 28dF this a.m. and bird bath frozen. A great early date was a FOS White-eyed Vireo, clearly a spring migrant, and my earliest date for one which I am sure was a migrant. Then a Hutton's Vireo sang for a while, mostly in the live-oaks up the slope behind us. It is the first one I've seen this year, they have been absent a couple months.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker continues, and a couple Western Meadowlark were singing early in the morning, they sure don't sing like coastal socal (southern California) Western Meadowlarks. I keep forgetting to mention over the month that neat pretty yellow puffball lichen (often on Agarita) has been going through its reproductive cycle, whatever it is that it does.

Feb. 26 ~ Pre-dawn it got cold enough to wring some moisture out of the air as the winds picked up, from about 4 to 10 a.m. we got about a half-inch of slow soaker, just what we need for some good spring bloom. Was 40dF at 7 a.m., and by 9 a.m. about 37 with chills about 29.Will not rise today either. Some days it is good to be stuck inside working at the computer.

Had one of the super dull immature female Pine Warblers in the big pecan seeming to be successful hunting the ball moss clumps. They are so dull as to appear mostly gray and dirty white, hardly warblerish. The throat and uppermost breast has a dull buffy-pale-yellow wash in good light at close range, and a barely discernable olive tint is present on the unmarked back at close range as well, the two white wing bars are present and undertail is all white. It could easily be glanced-off as a Myrtle, generally gray and white, though the slow methodical working of the big thick branches is a tip-off. Details of face and marks around eye differ upon scrutiny.

It is also a good late date to get for Pine Warbler here. The adults seem gone, I suspect the ads. have departed the winter grounds already, as probably the earliest spring migrant eastern warbler to move in numbers. The $64K question is "where do our wintering Pine Warblers breed?"

Right before dark a great FOS appeared out the office window 8 feet away in the hackberry, a male Vermilion Flycatcher! If that isn't a sign of spring I don't know what is, a flycatcher! It is supposed to be 28-30dF, a freeze, tomorrow morning.

Feb. 25 ~ Another foggy and fifty (dF) morning, clearing and up to 70's in afternoon. Threatened to rain all day but didn't. The front didn't arrive until late in evening, and then only light northerlies until past midnight, with a 10dF temp drop.

In the a.m. the pairacara (pair of Caracara) went over again, they are essentially daily. A Great Blue Heron flew south down-valley. The Sapsucker was out there, and all the Robins, Waxwings, etc. Some firefly larvae were glowing after dark, the White-lined Sphinx (moth) continues, daily the last week now. Ground-Dove pair.

Feb. 24 ~ A warm muggy low in 50's, and got to mid-70's dF. A weaker front with a small rain chance is forecast for tomorrow. We need the water in the worst way, and now is critical for the spring bloom, since it was so dry all fall and winter so far. We are at about D-3 or so for official drought stage, it is parched. So better than the D-4 and -5 that we were, but still bad drought.

A pair of Collared-Dove are singing over in the corral, they better not get an ideas. As I was getting myself steamed up over the thought of jalepeno sauce and dove breast, I heard House Sparrows, gadzooks, a pair of them at one of my nest boxes. I ran for the pellet gun and they quickly flushed when I came back out toward them, these ginchy country sparrows are wily compared to them dumb city sparrows. We won't be hosting any non-native House Sparrows in our nest boxes. I need a little sign with a picture of one on it with a circle around it with a slash through it, that I can order on-line to affix to the nest box so they know?

Estimated 125 Robin, 225 Waxwing in yard, for a couple hours in a.m., they go through some water, like way way over a quart, nearing a half-gallon. Hackberries ought to be planted everywhere by now. I can't figure out how the Waxwings are shooting them onto the covered porch though. They sit up in the big pecan preening and passing pits, part of which is over the fully covered porch.

I find the pit and stains sometimes well over a foot from the edge, which has a roof over it past edge a couple inches on all sides. I suppose when they squeeze the hackberry pit out it might shoot in any direction, like a watermelon seed from your fingers. Some apparently think it a game as there are stains and pits nearly 2' from covered edge. It is truly a remarkable skill, and probably why they tend to sit at one level when they perch to preen and pass pits. Lookout below, incoming. It has been raining pits for over 2 months, maybe 3 now, will miss them when they are gone. Got some audio tape anyway.....

Feb. 23 ~ upper 50's for a low, wow, and got up to 84dF for a high! First thing when I went out a hummingbird flew up to the spot I meant to put a feeder at yesterday, and it flew off. Never saw it again all day, however we can count FOS Black-chinned Hummer! Then, after thinking I heard one a couple times during the week, on the way back from a walk, Kathy and I saw the FOS Northern Rough-winged Swallow on the wire where the local nesters sit, so a returning breeder. Those were the two big FOS's for the day. Two pairs of Brown-headed Cowbird here early were my first surely local breeder type spring returnees.

Another great Robin, Waxwing, Goldfinch show in the yard, at least 100 Robin and 200 Waxwing. Sapsucker still here, did not get a Pine Warbler though. Waxwings were flycatching again in the afternoon. Did see a couple Agarita with open flowers along the road out front! A glimpse of something that jumped into the water at the crossing was likely a Blanchard' Cricket-Frog. No odes still, yet.

A couple Common Checkered-Skipper and a Variegated Fritillary were new for the butterfly list this month, at least 8+ Dogface were seen, Gulf Fritillary, Pipevine Swallowtail, some Dainty Sulphur and Sleepy Orange, Snout, Painted Lady, Orange Sulphur, and which likely makes the first day this year to record 10 whole species worth of diversity. Feb. monthly list is about 17 sps. now.

Kathy spotted an Eastern Fence Lizard on the big Pecan out front. We both saw White-lined Sphinx moth, which I saw yesterday and Friday briefly. Squirrel #14 went to heaven. The Red- tailed Hawks are about their nest. The Red Harvester ants broke their hole entrance through the ground and were out and about today for the first time in months, since November.

Feb. 22 ~ Lower 40's was crisp enough in the a.m., got to ca. 74dF, but was 80dF down in Hondo. Another Yellow Wood-Sorrel flower has opened, the second flower of the year here. For four hours in the morning there were 150 Robin and 250 Waxwing in the yard, for a first class show, the Robin's caroling hit a mild roar. The most Robins or Waxwings in weeks, and they were all repeatedly hitting the bath 15 feet out bathroom and kitchen windows.

A Zone-tailed Hawk soared low overhead for a minute plus, noonish. The ad. ma. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was about, heard Belted Kingfisher and Turkey. A Cooper's Hawk was seen nearby, Kestrel at south edge of town. 50 Meadowlarks on 360 near 187, and some were here at house early too, heard one singing Western here this a.m. A Vesper Sparrow was along road by corral. The Redbud at library is just about to open flowers up, but still just buds. We have certainly had years where it and the Agarita are open a week or two earlier than this cold winter.

May have had an Orange-tip (butterfly) fly by.

Feb. 21 ~ A mid-30's dF low, and got to about 68dF for high. Lots of Turkey Vulture sightings overhead, had one Blue Jay doing a Red-tailed Hawk (the locals only do Red-shouldered), and the same Robin, Waxwing, American Goldfinch melee at hackberries, junipers, and bath. About 1:30 p.m. a flock of 32 Sandhill Crane called as they proceeded northward high up on the strong southerlies. Spring migrants. Some Turkey were in corral at dawn, must have roosted right here very close by.

Butterflies were female Black, and Pipevine Swallowtail, Red Admiral, Dainty and Orange Sulphur, So. Dogface, and Sleepy Orange, one probable Elfin blasted by the Agarita, which has growing flower buds but is still not open. Wonder if they are up on the warmer high spots such as Seco Ridge, 1050 pass, etc., where not as cold?

Feb. 20 ~ Several times today I walked outside to see Turkey Vulture soaring over the house, likely more than one bird has returned now. None are missing any primaries, wing tips are full and complete. Another front started blowing in around noon, no rain, warm and dry. For leps I saw Pipevine Swallowtail, Red Admiral, Southern Dogface, and a Duskywing (Erynnis sps.) skipper, probably Juvenal's. Was another 55dF foggy morning early, sunny and 80dF in afternoon heat, and will nearly freeze overnight, for three seasons in 24 hours.

Feb. 19 ~ Checkered White butterfly in yard, and a Sphinx Moth came in to my pipe at dusk, looked like White-lined but not a good enough view to say for sure. Was another foggy drizzly morning in 50's with a sunny warm afternoon to mid-70's dF, rather spring-like.

Feb. 18 ~ Mid-50s for low again, and to upper 70's in afternoon. Almost feeling springy. Overcast mornings, sunny afternoon, and the ever-present breeze. At least two Blue Jays were along the river in the a.m., first in weeks, and calling those odd yankee sounds, clearly the irrupters from northward and not local residents, and nice to have some still around. Still Pine Warbler here too. Also had a, the, single Rusty Blackbird fly over calling late afternoon. Three key winter indicators remain present. A Lincoln's Sparrow in the yard could be a migrant, there haven't been any here in a while, though common in taller weedy stuff along road out front. Now is the time when they start moving.

In the afternoon I thought sure I heard No. Rough-winged Swallows, repeatedly, grabbed binocs and went to scan the skies, came up empty, except for the FOS Turkey Vulture. These first early returnees are the local breeders, the passage migrants going far to the north come much later. Another FOY today was a BAT at dusk! I thought the Mexican (Brazillian now) Free-tailed migrated out of here in the winter, and this would be a bit too early for returns? Which would mean this is some other species? Wish I knew my bats better. Saw the Striped Skunk at dawn this a.m., it went under the cottage using the hole at the west end, which I've seen the dillo go down! Is there a sign down there that says skunk/dillo with arrows pointing them their seperate ways? A skunk and a dillo using the same hole seems awfully odd to me. I better not be seein' any striped dillos or armored skunks!

Feb. 17 ~ Another warm (55dF) foggy morning, burning off after noon, and got up to about 78dF. Weewow! The only thing different in the yard today was a new butterfly for the year, and yard. And a fancy favorite. I was looking at the biggest hackberry and saw 30' up in crown at the mistletoe clump an all-dark appearing butterfly! Ran in for binocs because that could only be one thing. Refound it in short order perched in the Mistletoe, which is the larval foodplant, a Great Purple Hairstreak! It must have just emerged in the heat of the day, was about 3:30 p.m. It flew in and out and around the mistletoe, landing at least 4 times, then it flew off. Wow! It is my first February record of one and not sure I have one in March. Must have been eggs laid in that clump last year, will probably get some more emergences, the clump looks pretty chewed up. The Barking Frog is going at it again this dusk and early evening. The first new flower of the year was one Yellow Wood-Sorrel out front, which a Sleepy Orange butterfly nectared at.

Feb. 16 ~ The gulf flow made it back, warm and foggy, a little mist and drizzle, somewhere around 50 for a low. After it dried a bit, noonish, we took a walk along road to the river crossing. Got great looks at the OLIVE Sparrow again, and lots of Field Sparrow including some gray ones, one+ Pine Warbler, a dozen Myrtles. A hybrid Myrtubon's, different from ones seen earlier this winter, was in yard upon our return, flycatching, as were many Cedar Waxwings, there was something in the air, a hatch I couldn't determine. The male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was here when we got back as well.

The big sign of spring was in the blackbird flock across river, which was about 300-400 Brewer's, one Starling, a couple dozen Red- winged, and it had at least 150 Brown-headed Cowbird in with them. Which have not been there all winter, only a small handful of 10 or so had been in the flock the last two plus months. It is the first big wave of obvious spring migrants this year, and not likely our locally breeding birds, but ones going much further north as mass association with blackbird flock indicates, transients, though locals will soon show up. A pair of Lesser Goldfinch were sorta around the sparrow flock down the road a bit, which may be spring migrants. Before a few became winterers here (after 2004 or 5, maybe 6) due to human feeding they returned in spring in the last half of February.

Still no Purple Martin or Turkey Vulture (TV) return, any day now. The LDSO (large dark soaring object) situation is so easy in winter when Zone-tailed Hawk is the only one of it and TV around. You are not having to look all the time, if you saw something that looked sorta TV'ish, it was going to be the Zone-tailed, since November. That reminds me a couple Caracara flew over in the heavy fog this a.m., they must have been soaked.

Some good morning song going from Carolina Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Bluebird, Bewick's Wren, No. Mockingbird, Carolina Chickadee, House Finch, White-winged and Mourning Dove, and the few Robin left are caroling a bit. A Black-tailed Jackrabbit was out in the a.m., soon as the yard sprouts they will be regulars again. Saw a FOY male Black Swallowtail in yard.

On Monday the 17th, after I wrote the above bit about no Purple Martin yet, I see a post to Texbirds from Judy Bailey just WNW of town by La Hacienda that on Sunday the 16th she had 4 Purple Martin, the FOS locally that I've heard of.

Feb. 15 ~ No freeze finally, about 34-5dF for a low, and got up to 75dF! Del Rio hit a record high in low 90's dF! We get a week now with no freezes, which will be the first of that since October. To reinforce the spring thing, besides some butterflies about today, I saw my FOY snake! Was a youngin' about 10" long, and from the quick look I got it was probably a Black-headed Garter-Snake. A Gulf Fritillary was the only different butterfly today from yesterday.

Got one more bird nestbox refurbished, refitted, and installed. Predator proof is everything, and location often determines that. If you put one on the side of a big tree trunk, any possum, coon or squirrel can reach right in and grab the eggs or nestlings. One way to exclude them is put a false front in front of the front, using long screws, attach it so it is 3/4" off the real front. Often I mount them to poles, wood or better steel, 3-5' long and then screw-clamp that to a T-post or other vertical base.

Often I also screw over-sized false backs or tops on, to shade the box if in the sun, to make it hard for predators to reach in from the roof, and besides for overheating it also helps for rain. Always make sure there are plenty of ventillation holes on sides and back if flow hits it, so box does not overheat. I drill them at 45 degrees so rain doesn't get up them. One of these days I will get some pix of them up. They are not fancy, generally made with scraps is my m.o., but most have been used quite a bit. The key is location, location, location. Can a predator easily access it, is the number one question the birds ask. If birds aren't using a box where it is, they probably don't feel safe about it's location, move it. I've put several up I thought were in the right place, but the birds didn't agree, moved them and they were quickly taken.

Feb. 14 ~ Happy Valentine's Day! A hot and cold one too! Started out 31dF this a.m., 8dF lower than forecasts! Then we went to 84dF, about 5dF over forecasts! How can you be that far off on both ends? It was record or near-record heat. At 4 p.m. Hondo was 94dF, hottest spot in the state at WeatherUnderground. Sabinal was 90, Vanderpool 80, just 30 miles apart on Hwy. 187, which well shows the difference between up in the hills above the escarpment, and down in the flatlands brush country. Porch here was 31-84, we had a 53 dF temperature spread today, astounding.

Lots of butterflies were out, comparitively speaking. A half-dozen or more So. Dogface, a few Sleepy Orange and Snout, a Goatweed Leafwing or two, a Pipevine Swallowtail, an Orange Sulphur or two, and a Painted Lady. A whopping 7 species over the day. Surely 10 were about.

The bird bath was a show this a.m., with all the Robins, Goldfinches, and Waxwings, deciding to go at once. A couple dozen Robin and Waxwing spent much of the day eating juniper berries and visiting the bath to wash them down. Generally when they depart bath they gain the 4' to get over the hog fence (which is 6" wide x 7" tall squares) and back to the junipers.

I'd guess Robins departing bath are doing 20 mph or so when they fly back to trees from bath. I was surprised to see one Robin only gain 2' altitude, lined itself up enroute, closed its wings, and shot right THROUGH the 6" wide fencing square, at flight speed as if it were nothing. That is how passerines get away from accipiters, thread the needle between the branches where Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks can't go. This one apparently just showing off to the flock, no others did it.

Turkey still gobbling at dawn, Belted Kingfisher flying high northward might be a spring migrant. Should hear some geese within a week, Turkey Vulture should be back any day now, Poor-will will likely wake back up this week, probably calling in the hillier areas, tonight the first best night this year. Heard my FOY Barking Frog tonight. Can't hear Chorus Frogs yet or from here, not sure which, but by now they are usually calling up on Seco Ridge.

Feb. 13 ~ NOAA called for 29 at KVL, was 25dF, and we had 24 on the porch. Off by about 20%. Nice and sunny and warmed to upper 60's dF, which on the south sunny side of the house felt mid-70's in the sun. Saw a Pipevine Swallowtail and a Gray Hairstreak for butterflies, give this heat a day or two, we will see more. Heard a Flicker out front.

Feb. 12 ~ About 26dF for a low, but sunny so warmed up nice, to 62 or so. Got fully thawed out, and the 10-day has forecast showing no cold fronts, with temps mostly in the 70's for the duration! The down-side is that it means no rain for sure, but it will kick-start spring, Agarita and Redbud will open soon from the warmth. Elfins and other butterflies will be popping all over the place. Might even get an ode before it's over.

A few Robins still about but way down, like waning Waxwing numbers, as the hackberry crop dwindles. Singing is getting more intense, and the warmth ahead will certainly increase that. Time to get the nestboxes cleaned, or up, Titmouse, Chickadee and others are ready to choose. Heard a Field Sparrow give a bar or two of song today.

Feb. 11 ~ A cold wet one, with some ice, hi-low spread was about 28-33dF, with winds keeping chills in 20's, drizzle, icicles at roof edge, frozen bird bath, etc. The salt mine at the computer doesn't seem so bad with a heater next to me.

Two things of nearby interest I picked up on-line...., a Brown Creeper was reported to E-bird from Garner St.Pk. in early February, I have not seen one this fall or winter. A Hooded Oriole is being reported multiple times, I presume coming to a feeder, in Uvalde, a good-to- excellent wintering record in the county, if correctly ID'd.

Feb. 10 ~ Another front arriving this a.m., cold northerlies, drizzle, here we go again for a few days, supposed to warm up late in week. The Zone-tailed Hawk flew over just above treetop height, every so often seeming to cruise through hunting for a victim from the flock here. All the birds bolted, even the Cedar Waxwings don't trust it. A male Northern Harrier flew upriver first thing early in the morn.

Feb. 9 ~ NOAA called for 37dF low in KVL, was 31dF there, and here. When you miss making a sale by that far you get nuthin', the weatherman still gets his check.  :)   So. Dogface and Sleepy Orange butterflies were out, didn't see any odes yet at the river, some years I have seen the first of year damselfly in early Feb., not likely this year. There is more water moving now below 360 and it has come up a little bit at the park the last couple weeks, I guess some of the prior rains are filtering down to us.

Went for a noon walk along road and river to stretch and see if we could get overheated and thawed out. Best bird was an Olive Sparrow, a good winter record, 10 years ago they were just to Clayton Grade as residents, several miles south. Two or three Pine Warbler were among 3 Audubon's and a dozen Myrtle warbler, plus one Myrtubon's hybrid with a Myrtle undertail pattern and an Audubon's throat color. A Western Meadowlark was singing by the corrals on west side of the 360 river crossing, at least a dozen meadowlark were there, the only one I saw well was an Eastern. The usual Song and Lincoln's Sparrows were along river, a Red-shouldered Hawk was soaring high calling, proclaiming his territory. Again a brief view of what looked like a House Wren in about the same spot as the last two times, down near the crossing. One chipping Sparrow gave a few brief bits of song, the FOY for hearing that.

Judy Bailey posted to Texbirds a Canyon Towhee at Lost Maples on Saturday, Feb. 8, and at her house again a Zone-tailed Hawk just NW of town, likely the same one I keep seeing here a couple miles south of town, and in town working the river habitat corridor. This is my first good surely over-wintering record of one bird in the same places all season with a good string of dates all winter.

An Eastern Screech-Owl was calling about 10 p.m., and Great Horned Owl going at it too. The last thing of well, interest I guess, is a warning to be careful with that coffee outside. I just put a half-teaspoon of sugar in a cup, and the bees are hungry. I was in the rocker on the porch (sounds 'old' doesn't it?) with my cup of coffee and pipe. I took a fair sized drink of coffee and as I savored the flavor, I felt something in my mouth. Having a probably good idea of what it could be, I spit the mouthful of coffee onto the porch. There was a live bee, in the throes of death, my wife's coffee had killed it nearly instantly. She's been giving me the stuff for 30 years, I must be immune. Actually of course the bee likely drowned. It was a close call.

Feb. 8 ~ Holy cow 22dF this a.m., apparently what I get for complaining. But it warmed up quickly, was 50dF by 11 a.m., warmer than the last few days, and got up to upper 60's. Heard a couple Blue Jay upriver in a.m., the first and only in a week plus. Wonder what they are eating now that the pecans are gone, which got them through their first 2+ months here. There was a winter form Question Mark in yard, and a FOY Syrphid, or bee fly, of a black and white banded variety. 'Twas the same avian gang about the yard..... but fewer Robin and Waxwing.

Feb. 7 ~ Another 25dF morning, some frozen drizzle, ice on the thermometer, frozen birdbath, this has been one chilly week. Saw the ad. ma. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker hitting his spots today, the rest was the regulars. Barely got 35dF for a high, with wind chills freezing or below all day.

Feb. 6 ~ About 25dF for a low, plenty cold for me, the high was about 40dF. The Striped Skunk was wandering about early at dawn as I was throwing bird seed about. At dark the dillo was about, I guess that casing of a hide they have makes for good insulation. Kathy had a Flicker of some sort in the yard briefly. At least 200 Brewer's Blackbird flew over westward from the pastures toward roost site presumedly higher up in hills.

A small group broke off the main flock and circled back around and down some landing in the pecans in front yard, others on a power line in the corral next door. Eventually one female Red-winged and one female Brewer's came down to the seed pile and ate with the Chipping Sparrows and House Finches. First of either of those blackbird species actually on the ground here in the yard, heck a Rusty beat them on that count! I suspect if you asked a bunch of experts which of Brewer's, Red-winged, or Rusty Blackbirds would be first on the ground in a yard in Utopia, Rusty would be by far the least given answer, if at all.

Feb. 5 ~ Another cold front hitting just after dawn, blew hard and got colder all day. Glad to be stuck working at computer next to heater.

Feb. 4 ~ Both adult and immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker were in the biggest hackberry, with some vocalizing. A couple blackbirds flew over that looked and sounded like Rustys to me. A Checkered White butterfly was out in the 70dF peak warmth.

Feb. 3 ~ I see the Agarita buds are still growing, nice and red, soon to be the first open flower of the year. We'll need some warm days for them to pop, it won't be happening this week per forecasts. The pair of Common Raven is hanging around their nest site of last year now, and doing the throaty chuck chuck chuck hollow knocking call.

Feb. 2 ~ Front starting to blow at dawn, temps in low 40's, the high for the day. As I stumbled around in my sleep getting bird seeds together Kathy said there were two skunks out there. It is just barely getting light, so I didn't see the one until I almost hung
the sunflower tube, 'the' Striped was right near that, only 10' from me before it saw me and moved. It went over to the hole on the south side of the cottage and went in, that is the den, a yard resident. Then I spotted another skunk over in the corral.

It came running over, under the fence and was completely snow white dorsally, a Hog-nosed Skunk! It went over to the den entrance the Striped just went down, sniffed, and moved off away from me and up the slope behind us. Wished I had my camera instead of this cup of bird seed in one hand and sunflower tube feeder in other. Lots of people have lots of ways of measuring success, for me, having TWO species of skunk in the yard in a minute, close enough to get shot by them, is the very pinnacle of it. Hog-nosed Skunk is an awesome beast! Rooter Skunk was another name used for them in some circles.

By 8-9 a.m. it was mid-30's dF, chills in 20's, winds were 10-20 mph gusting 25+, lovely! Only late in the afternoon did the sun break out as it struggled to 42dF. The little ridge that ends right behind us puts us in a slightly sheltered wind shadow and eddy when compared to out in the open 100 yards away in any direction, during these hard northerly blows, so we don't take a direct hit. The birds really like the trees on the south/lee side of the ridgelet during these events, a couple dozen Robin and 125+ waxwings can't be wrong. But of course they're stripping these hackberries.

There were probably 10 hackberry with good crops in or adjacent to yard, and hundreds in adjacent river corridor which the birds move up and down all day. Not having ever lived in a hackberry grove before, I must say it is great for having winter activity out the window or in the yard. Hard to believe that pit with a skin of a berry is so important, the key winter food in many areas for thousands and thousands, and in the big picture, probably millions of birds.

Early afternoon one Rusty Blackbird flew over calling, surely the same bird seen a couple times each in Dec. and Jan., still in the area and sometimes catchable as it commutes about.

February 1 ~ The month came in like a lamb with a 55dF low temp, southerly flow, overcast and humid, later with a high around 72! Cold front on way, to hit after midnight tonight, we might get a tenth of a spritz. Cricket was calling again this evening. It was about 20 Robin and 80 Waxwing that flew over in one flock this morning.

We walked to river crossing noonish, mile and half round-trip, gotta stretch the legs and move bones before the next cold front comes in. Along corral a couple to few Vesper Sparrows were nice, been missing them, but did not see the White-crowneds, and for a couple weeks now. Lots of Chipping, some Field and Lark Sparrow, at river Song and Lincoln's. Saw Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawk. The corral east of crossing had 500-600+ Brewer's Blackbird, and some Red-winged mixed in, perhaps a couple dozen. Heard a Belted Kingfisher and Pine Warbler from along river. The regular Robin, Waxwing, Bluebirds, Myrtle Warbler gang.....

A male Myrtle Warbler had a dark slate auricular (cheek) patch, so molt into alternate (breeding) from basic (winter) plumage now underway. The male Audubon's around is far more advanced with large black patches on sides of breast a week ago, the Myrtle barely any black there yet. Audubon's arrive earlier in fall by a couple weeks too.

~ ~ January summary ~ ~

Boy that was fast, yet the cold seemed like it lasted forever! How does that work? Surprisingly I eeked out 18 species of butterflies on the half-dozen warm days. That is my second highest January species diversity total of 11 now, though only beat third highest (last year, Jan. 2013) by one.

Was too busy working to do any birding but around yard and on road out front a little bit. Been nice having all the Robins and Waxwings around, but the hackberries are getting light of fruit now, Robins seemed to have mostly moved on, Waxwings will likely follow soon, and Blue Jays seem to have departed as well by the end of the month, just about no pecans left on the trees.

Nuthin' blooming yet, but some new fresh green grass is just starting to sprout, Jan. was very dry, the river remains in critical. Some songbirds like Bluebird, Cardinal, Chickadee, Titmouse and Wrens, are now territorially singing in the mornings in particular. I saw about 62 species of birds in January, either in yard, or afoot on road out front, that is, green, no gas. I don't think I added anything on the town runs, the park is dead this winter and I don't have time to lollygag local roads besides mine.

~ ~ end January summary ~ ~

Jan. 31 ~ Wow, a whole month gone by already, and Happy Chinese New Year! Same gang o' birds in yard. Bummer, no Blue Jays all week now. Low was in 40's dF and high got up to upper 70's! Darn near got completely thawed out. An afternoon errand run to town didn't net any birding time, but mail are groceries are nice. Best was the 6-pack of Sierra Nevada Torpedo a friend picked up for for me on a big-city run. If you like hops, get ya some Torpedo. Tacos and a Torpedo for me tonight! Heard a Field Cricket at dark.

Did look at the galaxies M81 and M82, but just at 20x so the new nova in M81 is far from visible, just ID'ing them was good for me, and again proof how just studying pictures ahead of time (in this case on-line) can make you an ID. Yes I had seem them before, but in a ten inch astronomical super scope, not found them myself with a 20x spotting scope. From what I saw, I kinda don't think even the 60x eyepiece will resolve me the nova.

Jan. 30 ~ A toasty 33dF for a low, and hit upper 50'sdF in p.m. The highlight of the day was a brown butterfly. Elfin! It flew right up to me, and then up and over house, but was clearly a brown Lycaenid, and a Henry's Elfin. I checked the Agarita to see how it was coming and the first trace of red bud-tips are just breaking stems. Birds were the same in yard, too busy at computer.

Jan. 29 ~ A brisk 19dF this a.m., slowly warming to 43dF in p.m. Too cold, fortunately I'm stuck at the computer next to a heater. Same cast of avian characters....., but heard Red-shouldered Hawk calling from up high somewhere soaring, and proclaiming territory. American Goldfinch numbered 25-30, they can eat some sunflower seed.

Jan. 28 ~ Oh about 27 this a.m., with enough wind to have chills in the teens. Peak heat about 33dF, a hair over freezing, but chills never broke freezing. The same gang of birds for the morning. No Blue Jays for a few days now. Wow it is cold, but don't worry, tomorrow morning will be colder. We missed the precip though, bone dry frontal passage here, just got the cold and wind, as is far too often the case lately.

Jan. 27 ~ Front arriving shortly after sunup, northerlies, and cold air advection, gusting to 30+mph. Was 52 at 8 a.m., 42 a couple hours later, and 32 by dark, went down all day, totally bass-ackwards to my brain. The great morning hackberry and seed frenzy was typically outstanding. I don't seem to be tiring of it whatsoever.

Jan. 26 ~ Compared to yesterday, a toasty 32dF this a.m. was warm, and clear sunny skies are nice too. A big warmup to the upper 70's today! Get that outside stuff done while you can, it means a cold front is coming. Another 'wintry mix' forecast ahead.

I spent an hour and change on the front porch over the first few hours of light and sun. Here is what I saw. Pine, Myrtle, and Audubon's Warblers, Ground-, Mourning, and White-winged Dove, Caracara, Raven, Ladder-backed and Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Robin, Waxwing, Eastern Bluebird, Lark, Field, and Chipping Sparrow, American Goldfinch, House Finch, N. Mockingbird, N. Cardinal, Eastern Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, Bewick's Wren, Black Vulture, Hermit Thrush, plus a heard Flicker, and two (!) species of Meadowlarks!

One of my porch checks I heard a Western Meadowlark song. The meadowlark flock was in and around the yard, and over 60 strong! Since birds learn songs (calls are inherited) and there are known cases of Eastern singing Western songs, I faced the prospect of having to scope through all 65 or so of them to see if there was a Western amongst them. Oh great. So I did. Because I didn't have a Western on the yard list yet, I had no choice. It didn't take that long, I found TWO Western Meadowlarks, among 60 some Easterns. Outstanding! Yard bird. Heard both call too. After a half hour when they flushed they flew all the way across the river and over to a pasture, over 300 yards, at minimum, probably 400.

A few butterflies were out in the heat, a mint-fresh just-emerged Gray Hairstreak was my FOY and butterfly species #17 for the month, destined not to be a breeder, a genetic dead-end. I call them false hatches, these warmth-induced too-early emergences. No food plants, no mates. Lots of freezing temperatures ahead. Sometimes being first is not good if you are way too early. Seventeen sps. so far is one of my higher January totals (with a few days to go), and surprising considering the extreme cold. The first Elfin of the year is just around the corner, maybe the most likely next one. Watch the Agarita, it will start to bloom in the next week or two, and there will be the Elfins.

Jan. 25 ~ Wow, 18dF this a.m., and KVL showed 19! Two Audubon's Warblers were in the yard early with 'the flock', plus one Pine, and the regulars. The male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was about, a Flicker flew over in a manner I was unable to determine wing color, so unknown type, but with the Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed, four species of woodpecker in yard. The Bluebird pair seems to have taken the box, the male flew out of it around sunrise, and is singing a fair bit. They are my bluebirds of happiness. Yes I realize I can't hide my excitement, they are my first. Up on Seco Ridge that box has had successful Ash-throated Flycatcher, Bewick's Wren, and Black- crested Titmouse sets of young fledged out of it, though I had built it for bluebirds. It was fully refurbished, retrofitted, and certified earthquake and hurricane safe to the latest code, by Mr. Nest Box himself, .... that would be me.

Had a town run for supplies so a quick look at the park in order. Some winter mayflies good to see, far from pre-drought numbers, but some are there. Nice was male and female of good pure Yellow-shafted Flicker, and two male Barred Owl counter-singing from each side of the river. I'm amazed that this winter we have no Pied-billed Grebe or Ring-necked Duck at the park. There was a Red-shouldered Hawk there.

Best though was as usual, bird behavior. There were 8+ Carolina Chickadee fairly close proximity, 5 at least right overhead in the Cypress trees, going bonkers vocally, as in yard a couple weeks ago, it is apparently mate pickin' time. Two, presumedly males, fell from 20' spinning like a leaf, all locked up, claws on each other, beaks pecking each other, flapping madly and screaming the whole way down, until they FELL IN THE RIVER!! As they were falling I was thinking 'you better let go, you're going to hit the water, repeatedly, but it was of no concern to them, and did not much put a damper on activity, as they continued to flap madly, claw and peck at each other as if they were on the ground. Then I was thinking about the 5-10 lb. Largemouth Bass I've seen in there, they seemed less concerned than me about that as well. Finally one broke free and using wings like an Osprey trying to get back out, and no doubt kicking, it motor-boated nearly two feet towards shore before it finally got up and airborne, they other quickly did the same. They were 4' from the bank in a few feet of water! The whole thing lasted less than a minute, but it was one heck of an astounding one I won't forget. They went right in, they didnt care it was water, to let go was to lose, and they floated surprisingly well, very bouyantly, though tails were fully in water. They are lucky some of those bass weren't there, they'd be gone.

Nature observation is filled with such magic moments. No matter how long you do it, every time you go out, even at your local patch, you can see something that is blow-your-mind amazing. To me the way the birds actually live, the stuff they do, from how they molt to migrate, or pick mates, is far more interesting and enlightening than how many you can see. Compared to actual observation and study of the animal, listing is a silly game man figured out, so they could compete another way. How many is more important at a location level to me, like how many are found in Uvalde County, or Utopia, or the upper Sabinal River drainage.

Did have a Variegated Fritillary (lep) today, my FOY.

Jan. 24 ~ A bit of ice out there this a.m., I was hoping for snow. Low was 21dF, and a thin coat of ice on ground, roof, etc. The birds were hungry. As the rooftop ice melted we got nice rows of icicles along edges of house, some got 4-5" long by 11 a.m., when it was still below freezing. Had to thaw the bird bath a few times.

Jan. 23 ~ The front that was supposed to arrive pre-sunup did not yet, it was over 50dF in the early morning. Still a winter storm watch for tonight for snow and sleet, I hope the former, snow is way easier to deal with. The temps dropped all day as the front comes through. A Northern Harrier (was Marsh Hawk) cruised by in the a.m., only the 2nd or 3rd I've seen from yard. The birds seem to know the front is inbound as they are eating like pigs this morning.

About a hundred each Chipping Sparrow and Cedar Waxwing, about 20 American Goldfinch, a gaggle of White-winged Dove, handfulls of Chickadee (Carolina) and Titmouse (Black-crested), a few Yellow- rumped (Myrtle) Warbler, one Pine Warbler, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, some Eastern Bluebird, near a dozen Northern Cardinal, and 20 House Finch, is enough for at least some mild amusement.

It was freezing before dark, and some form of frozen precip fell a few times in the evening, was more snow-like, dry and powdery, than wet and sleety. The wind blew most of the day at 15-20+ MPH with gusts to 30-35, so chill factor was sub-freezing most of the day. By later evening Junction and Kerrvile were single-digit chills, we were only a couple degrees warmer at best.

Jan. 22 ~ A chilly 22dF this a.m., NOAA called for 28 in KVL and was 24dF there. Will get to upper 60's in afternoon ahead of the next inbound front which arrives Thursday (tomorrow) morning, and which is a cold one and might bring us a dusting of snow.

New yard birds are a thrill and today the first Downy Woodpecker came through, a female. I haven't been seeing the one that had been a long-time (2 years+) resident at the park, they are quite scarce here. A good bird anytime you see one locally, but especially in the yard.

Jan. 21 ~ Cold front and air moving in, but low was warmer, in the 40's dF, breezy cool northerlies. Same gang for the most part. A Flicker was running around on the ground hunting insects in corral. It had orange wings and so was a hybrid. Also of interest was the ad. male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker came through hitting four exact spots it had been drilling successively, so surely the same bird. Now the black line bordering red throat on its right top side has molted back in completely, so is again a nice thick complete black frame as it should appear.

Note in the picture of it just above the black line is incomplete on the right side (left side looking at photo) along top of ruby throat. It was complete in late Nov. when it arrived, incomplete in December, and complete again in January. A recipe for mis-identification since completeness is a key ID mark - incomplete means Red-naped Sapsucker. The field guides don't tell you Yellow-bellied molts that mark, much less when, and that for a short while it may not be complete as that molt takes place. Some birds have probably been called hybrids as a result of this temporary incomplete appearance, that are perfectly good pure birds, just in molt.

Late p.m. about 10:30 I heard a Barn Owl call a couple times.

Jan. 20 ~ The local winter flock was in the yard first thing, but most of the Robin seemed to have moved on. Good was a Golden- crowned Kinglet, a male Pine Warbler was under the truck, and the pair of Bluebirds seeming to be hanging out, the male singing quite a bit early. Speaking of which, there is some morning song goin' on again, not really a dawn chorus per se, they are little slow about how early they start as well as intensity, compared to a month and more from now, but several species are really getting tuned up and into it with prolonged bouts of territorial singing.

Northern Cardinal, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, Bewick's Wren, House Finch, and Eastern Phoebe, with solos by Bluebird, and bottom end held down by White-winged and Mourning Dove. So nice to hear birdsong again, a breath of fresh ear. It is a rough few months for me from fall to mid-Jan. when there is none. These resident species start breeding season early, in winter, many often making first nesting attempts in February.

Early attempts are dicey due to weather of course, but many of the resident species try. As long as there is no major ice storm or several day freezeout, they can pull it off. By April they will have a second set coming out, another in June, and if there were spring and early-summer rains, often another in August! Many if not most of the residents make at least 3, often 4 nesting attempts in a season, if conditions are good (= rain). With many of these types of birds they fledge three or four young, so times 4 nests equals 12-16 young generated by one pair/season. That is a heck of a lot of caterpillars, bugs and worms, skeeters, spiders, moths and wasps eaten. You could not find as many as they eat.

Low was upper 30's, and high was around 79-80dF (!) ahead of a cold front that slowly moved in after dark and overnight. Around 1:30 p.m. (and over 75dF) the Cloudless Sulphur butterfly that had roosted under a leaf for last 8 days (since Monday afternoon the 13th) finally took off and flew around for a while, before disappearing. Hope the Eastern Phoebes didn't get it. An Orange Sulphur was a new species for the month, #15.

I found a cold Gecko which I photo'd in hand, and which was a Mediterranean House Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus), a non-native species common across much of south and east Texas. I wonder how much they have displaced our native Texas Banded Gecko?

Jan. 19 ~ Mid-30's for a low, got up to 70-72 in the shade for high, pretty darn nice. We took a nooner walk down the road to river crossing. Mostly the same things as in yard, likely the same Bluebird, Waxwing, Chipping Sparrow, Pine Warbler flock down the road a bit, probably 6 Pine Warbler, 15+ Eastern Bluebird, but only a few Robin now. A dozen+ Field Sparrow, a couple were the gray morph types, with very reduced rufous. Did see the/an Orange-crowned Warbler, and 2 Audubon's among 15+ Myrtle, the male Audubon's now with big black patches on sides of breast, alternate (breeding) plumage now molting in.

In the taller weedy stuff near water there were a handful of Lincoln's Sparrow, and at least 4 Song Sparrow, plus one that I only saw fly off that sure looked like a Fox Sparrow. Likely the same female Green Kingfisher showed well for a bit at the crossing, perched, calling, love that shade of green.

Some new butterflies for the year must have popped in the heat, a Gulf Fritillary, a Pipevine Swallowtail, a Checkered White and a Goatweed Leafwing were all new for the year, so fourteen sps. now. A dozen Dainty Sulphur were seen, and nearly as many Snout. That Cloudless Sulphur is now in day 6 at the same roost in flower bed under a (Purple Wandering Jew type ornamental) leaf. The south side of the house had to be over 75dF, it is still not going anywhere.

Very neat was a pair of Bluebirds that spent over an hour on, in, and around one of the boxes I put up last week. Singing quite a bit (got some on tape) too, sure would love to have 'em nesting here. Some White-winged Dove are starting to get some hints of pale blue around the eyes and in lores, besides belting out some "Who cooks for youuuuuu"s. Did have a couple Blue Jay around this morning.

Jan. 18 ~ A chilly 28dF for a low, but warmed to mid 60's in p.m. The Cloudless Sulphur butterfly was still at the roost it landed at in the flower bed on the 13th! A few Pine Warbler were about, no Blue Jay for second day in a row, gonna miss having them around, no matter how raucous they are.

Jan. 17 ~ A nice 35-65 dF spread, had to be nearly 70 on the warm side of the house. Yet, the Cloudless Sulphur (butterfly) remains in the same exact spot it landed at on Monday afternoon, 4 days ago. Another Bluebird, Robin, and Waxwing drinking melee at the horse trough in the a.m. The local resident pair of Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk were in flight display, love is in the air.

Jan. 16 ~ Another colder than forecast low, about 26dF on porch, about 5dF lower than three weather outlets called it. The Utopia Air Force (Black Vultures) flew over mid-day, I counted 48 birds total, likely the whole locally wintering flock this year. A pair was in courtship flight together.

Jan. 15 ~ About 30df, and got up almost to mid-60's for a high. Despite which the Cloudless Sulphur that landed in a sheltered spot in flower bed two days ago, remained put again today, been in the same spot since Mon afternoon, this is Thursday. Weird. A Red Admiral was about, and the tenth butterfly species I've seen this month (and year) so far, a Common Checkered-Skipper.

The local frugivores stopped by for some Hackberries and a bath this a.m., mostly using a horse trough in the corral along the fenceline. Cedar Waxwings and Eastern Bluebirds were splash-bathing (besides drinking) hitting the water in flying dives. A fair number of Robin, Chipping and Lark Sparrow, a dozen American Goldfinch, were also in the melee. One nice male Pine Warbler was with them, heard a second unseen one. A Sapsucker moved through the yard quickly, but flew off when I came back out with binocs so was unable to see if it was the same male that was around, or a passerby. Heard a Flicker and Ground-Dove calling.

Barred and Great Horned Owl called at dark, the Great Horned have been quite vociferous for a month now and likely have nesting underway. I'm not seeing any Roadrunner the last two months at least. All my time is now on the (colder) valley floor. They are regular up on the ridges and divides in winter. So, beginning to wonder if they move (migrate - walking in this case) to the highlands (slopes and divides) for winter, where warmer and more insect (e.g., grasshopper in winter about the only terrestrial invertebrates in any numbers) life, ergo food potential. A couple Roadrunners I once knew well ate Chipping Sparrows all winter.

Jan. 14 ~ Low of 25dF was 7dF lower than NOAA forecast, again, for the second time in a week, they missed by 7dF. Considering it is the difference between a hard freeze and not, it seems pretty major to me. For many, knowing for instance whether or not to leave drips on the faucets, or cover plants, is critical. Then we got up to at least 73dF, at least 5dF higher than forecast. Then late afternoon or early eve, a second weak front came through.

A winter form Questionmark butterfly was the first one of the year, as was a Sleepy Orange. Most surprising was the Cloudless Sulphur that went to roost mid-day yesterday while it was still peak heat, spent all day today at that roost, never leaving. Though air temps 73dF, it was on the hot sunny wind-sheltered side of the house and much warmer than that where it was, yet it never moved all day. It looks fresh and fine. A few dainty Sulphur were about.

Same old gaggle of Robins, Waxwings, no Blue Jay though today, four Golden-fronted Woodpecker at once, a single Lark and a hundred Chipping Sparrow, and one Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk. A Caracara cackled as it ejected a tresspasser from the territory, they can sound like an automobile crusher at work.

Jan. 13 ~ Front came in overnight, N to NW winds, a warm nearly 50dF low, warming to mid-60's, quite nice out. A Sharp-shinned Hawk dove on the Chipping Sparrows and missed, an imm. female. At least a dozen American Goldfinch around. Golden-fronted Woodpeckers being a bit raucous, as in pre-breeding season oats. The pair of Ravens stopped by their nest for the first time in 6 months. I can hear at least 6 Cardinals singing around, they are starting to get territorial. Carolina and Bewick's Wrens both singing more now too. The occasional White-winged Dove can be heard belting out a "who cooks for you?" as well.

Probably less than a month to Agarita and Red Bud flowers. A fresh just-emerged Southern Dogface was a new butterfly for the year, also saw a couple Snout and another Dainty Sulphur. A surprise was a fresh male Cloudless Sulphur which went to roost in a clump of low stuff in a flower bed (ph.).

Interesting was a Titmouse giving alarm calls for a Ground-Dove that was coming in fast and low along a fenceline. Now all the other birds know that Titmouse can't ID a Ground-Dove.

Jan. 12 ~ Forecasts were for 38dF low, was 31! Pretty big difference if you ask me, considering a team of people with a billion dollars of computers. High was about 64, several dF lower than forecast as well, and pretty breezy. There were several Blue Jay in the yard early, 4 maybe 5. In the afternoon the lone Rusty Blackbird flew over calling. Otherwise the same gang and work.

The Mesquite are about done dropping leaves. They must be the last tree to start to drop, about or after mid-December they go yellow and then drop. We're down to live-oak and juniper for green. Many cypress still have brown 'needles' (actually leaflets) but many are bare now too. The juniper smoke has begun, that is, pollen so thick when the wind hits the tree it looks like it is on fire with a puff of smoke so thick as to obscure the tree, but it is pollen. So if you notice many folks sniveling or with dry scratchy throat this could be it, for the next month plus.

Jan. 11 ~ A chamber of commerce day, with a 40-75 dF spread, almost warm in afternoon. Got a couple bird boxes fixed, cleaned and up since nice enough to work outside. Time to do that folks, I heard the first Purple Martin returned at Seguin already. Ours up here are pokey, knowing how cold it still is and how few bugs are out yet, they don't arrive until February. At least two Lesser Goldfinch were the first in weeks, and only we've had so far this winter here. Heard a Flicker calling from cypresses along the river. Saw my first Red Admiral (lep) of the year (worn faded), and my first lizard, a Sceloperus of some sort, probably a young Eastern Fence. Warm enough for Poor-will tonight, if you are where any are.

Jan. 10 ~ A nice 40-70 spread, it darn near got warm in afternoon. In the a.m. a big female Cooper's Hawk jumped the White- winged Doves here, and took one about 12' off the groud as it was climbing. A cloud of feathers rained down right out the window behind the monitor, and I thought, it got it. Ten minutes later I went out on back porch and as I opened door I heard heavy lifting wingbeats. I was backing through door and by time I turned around it was gone. I looked down and there was a big pool of blood and a pile of dove feathers (ph.). The Coop was plucking it on the porch!

Haven't seen the Sapsucker all week, I think the Golden-fronted Woodpecker were finally successful in chasing it away. It should have been obvious to them it wasn't eating the pecans, and no direct competition, since that is all the Go-fros are interested in now.

~ ~ ~ Jan. 9 update header ~ ~ ~

(last updates: Dec. 31, 19, 11, 4, Nov. 27, 20, 15, 7)

Merry Vagrants and Happy New Birds!

You may want to scroll down to the date of the last update you read, and scroll/read UP day to day to read in chronological sequence, some references might make more sense that way.

A few quick news items..... the short version.....
Winter officially started Saturday Dec 21st, though it has felt like winter since mid-Nov.!  Butterflies, odes, and flowers have all but crashed for the year. Winter bird species are in. All this and more.

The river is mostly not running, the drought remains severe. At the park the former river is 5+' below normal bank, and from going over the spillway as it used to. Water is not running below 1050, 360, or at Cypress Hollow, etc.

Some migrant yankee Blue Jays showed up late Oct., perhaps knowing something about the coming winter that we don't? Pine Warblers are more numerous than any winter in last 10.

Recent highlights are:
Jan. 8 ~ another Townsend's Solitaire
Dec. 29 ~ Harlan's Hawk
Dec. 9 ~ Rusty Blackbird
Dec. 3 ~ Townsend's Solitaire
Nov. 28 & 30 ~ Fox Sparrow
Nov. 24 ~ Snow Goose
Oct. 7 ~ Chestnut-collared Longspur
Sept. 25 ~ Townsend's Warbler

Locally there are Ringed and Green Kingfisher, Olive Sparrow,
Zone-tailed Hawk, and some Audubon's Oriole around,
if yer lucky.

~ ~ ~ end Jan. 9 update header ~ ~ ~

Jan. 9 ~ A foggy morning, but not cold, so great. I heard the Blackbirds flying overhead in the pea soup, couldn't see them, they can't see a thing either, flying blind, but are doing the morning commute from roost sites up on ridges down to ag fields on valley floor for the day's feeding, as if there is no issue.

I'm skipping the winter bird count this year, we are just too busy. The last 10 years we have done a mock pretend Christmas Bird Count here. We moved out of the circle I was using, and a new official count started (Love Creek-Lost Maples) that overlaid the circle as well. Add in that I just don't have time for it now, and it's a pass this year.

The winter bird count page has the ten years of our count results on it, and is in my view very fascinating and enlightening when it comes to winter birds here. Certainly no such detailed view otherwise exists, save in these bird news pages. I may do it next year, we'll see. A reminder that if you want an excel file spreadsheet of the results, send an e-mail. It is free and comes with a money back guaranty.

Jan. 8 ~ Mid-30's dF, fog, no freeze, what a break finally. Only got up to 52 or so, but at least not freezing anymore, for a bit. Heard a couple Blue Jays in yard, all the regular gang was here. I heard another TOWSEND'S SOLITAIRE fly over southward calling as it went but didn't see it. They have a completely unique voice among U.S. birds. The Chipping Sparrow flock on the scattered seed now numbers a hundred.

Jan. 7 ~ Coldest morning of the winter so far, 13.5dF at 8 a.m. here on the porch, was 14dF at 7a.m. but wasn't done going down. Barely a toasty freezing by 10:30 a.m., had to melt ice in bird bath three times. Was the same regular gang and crowd but I didn't have a Blue Jay today. Seems like as the pecan crop fades so are they. I see plenty of acorns dropped and a good crop it appears, maybe they will hit them now. Heard Ground-Dove calling in the freeze.

Jan. 6 ~ Shiver me timbers, it was 22 on the porch at 7 a.m., with winds that made it about 10df! Saw it was 19 in KVL and 18 in JCT, with windchills of 8 and 6dF, and this morning Hondo had Light Snow! Tomorrow morning to be colder, but will lack the wind. The good news is that both Intellicast and the Weather Underground show no freeze for the next 10 days after tomorrow morning, and lots of highs in 60's as in a normal average winter. Remember those? We'll need the break to thaw out.

The birds hit the yard in force early and went through a few pounds of seed in no time. An Pine Warbler was on the stepping stones right off the porch, while I was on it. I had to go out a few times to put hot water in the bird bath to melt the ice.

I couldn't believe it, once when I went out, I flushed that flock of 25+ Eastern Meadowlarks that has been around, some were right off the porch! This is part of why I wanted to leave some grass long and let it reseed (bird food) and go fallow naturally. To create a different habitat than "groomed and manicured". I actually went out after the meadowlarks with my binocs in the teen chill factors, since I don't have a Western on the yard list (an excellent reason to freeze) and of the dozen I got in my binocs, I still don't have a Western. Took ten minutes to thaw out.

If anything shows up where I can see it out the window from the desk and monitor by the heater, I'll be sure to be right on it.

Jan. 5 ~ Front blew in some time before dawn, and was 20mph gusting to 30 much of the day. High was maybe 44dF, and winds kept activity down, and us hunkered inside as well. The seed eaters ate a lot today, they will need to burn it tonight, supposed to get to low 20's or maybe high teens tomorrow morning.

While we shiver, a reminder folks to not confuse weather with climate. Remember what global warming is, or what the result of it is, and that is climate change. Climate change will include all kinds of changes, like hotter in some places, and colder in others. Sometimes both in the same place. Drier in some spots, wetter in others, more extremes across the board, more powerful storms, worse floods and droughts, etc. So because we are colder than normal and average for our local temporary weather, this does not mean there is no warming. In fact, cold can and will be in some places, a direct result of warming, just as will be droughts and floods. The world is pretty much a roulette wheel as to whom is going to end up with what.

Jan. 4 ~ About 36dF this a.m., twice as warm as yesterday felt great! So did the nearly 65dF high, tempered with knowing the front must be nearing. Supposed to hit after midnight tonight, Monday and Tuesday mornings the coldest. Oh boy, can't wait, not.

A town run so a check of the park mid-morn, one Pine and a couple Myrtle Warbler was about it. Didn't see any of the winter Mayflies (there were some near UvCo360 on the first), and barely a bird there as has been the case all winter. Without the normal river and water it is a different place ecologically.

In butterflies there was a Snout or two in the yard, and one fresh American Lady, probably a false hatch from the warmth. One Dainty Sulphur.

Jan. 3 ~ Holy cold frostman, we had 18dF on the porch thermometer! KVL was 21. I'm tellin' ya, we're in a cold low spot, which is of greater value in summer, less so now. An irrigation type hose blew over at the corral fenceline and besides real neat ice on the fence, there was a big stream in corral. For a couple hours all the Robins and Waxwings around were having the time of their lives in it. A Pine Warbler was hunting the ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata) in the big pecan, they key in on these clumps, as do chickadees, titmice, and others. The ball moss moss balls seem to be great insect (and probably other inverts like spiders, etc.) habitat and farms.

A couple male Eastern Bluebird were hover-displaying to a female. Time to clean your boxes if you haven't. Besides bluebirds, several of our local residents like Titmice and Chickadee can start nesting by February, best to have the boxes cleaned and up by mid-Jan. so your boxes get selected.

Jan. 2 ~ Front blew in after midnight last night, wind blew all night until mid-day. You know what that means, get ready for the cold. The regulars today, best was one of the nearly colorless imm. female Pine Warblers on the patio 8' away from me, it must have seen I did not have the camera at hand.

January 1 ~ WEEWOW 2014! Happy New Year! I was outside spreading seed at the first crack of light at 7 a.m. and heard a new yard bird, something I did not record here last year, as we moved here March 26 and they had already flown north, White-fronted Geese! It sounded like a small flock heading south. A new yard bird before sunup is how to start the new year!

I guess I will have to keep a 12 month list to see what we get here the first year, at the end of March. I think this makes for #171 in the yard so far, plus a couple introduced sps., a good buteo that got away, and an un-ID'd duck species, so really about 175 so far.

It was a chilly 29dF early, got up to about 59dF in the afternoon sun, which felt great. We took a nooner walk over to the county club. We walked a half mile up the road and since river low, cross it and be on the back side of golf course. We walked some tall-grass fields and checked the water features. The bird of the day was a Marsh Wren at the pond by the Waresville Cemetery, my first winter record up here in the hills. I was 'clicking' back at it when it flew up out of reeds to about 6' high, over them so it could see us, and dropped like a rock back down into reeds. It just had to see us.

We also had a Zone-tailed Hawk hunting the course which flew over low. The tall grass had about 4 Savannah Sparrow and a Black-tailed Jack. I tried to talk Kathy into an old defunct earth-mover for a picture to send her mom to show what she is doing in Texas, but couldn't. A couple Song and a Lincoln's Sparrow were along the river and a winter flock of Chickadee and Titmouse had at least one female or imm. Golden-crowned Kinglet in it that worked undersides of branches while upside-down straight overhead so we could see its crown patch.

Other odds & ends were one Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk over the golf course, a Kestrel, a Shrike on fenceline to south, a single flock of 37 Black Vulture plus 5 seperately, and on the same snag the black Buteo was on a few days ago, an Eastern Red-tailed Hawk. Between the yard and the walk it was about 40 species today.

Butterflies seen today were one Painted Lady and two Dainty Sulphur. The only dragonfly was one male Autumnal Meadowhawk at the river. I heard a lizard run through some leaves at side of house but didn't see it, probably one of the yearling Anoles again, I saw them a few times in December on warmer days.
Above starts Jan. 1, 2014, which is Bird News Archive XXI (#21).

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