Bird (and nature) News Archive # 23
January 1 to June 30, 2015
Old Bird News XXIII

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 XXIII (#23) ~ 2015 - Jan. 1 - June 30

.... in reverse chronological order, unless you scroll to end and read from the bottom up.
~ ~ ~ June summary ~ ~ ~

We got more rain, seemingly 4" or so around the area in June, some places more, some less. Enough the keep the flowers going, which keeps the birds and butterflies going well. Lots of young birds out of the nests roaming around, most of the parents seeming to be re-nesting, reflecting the good conditions. Though a few are on their way south. I have seen a few Black-and-white Warbler move through the yard the last couple weeks, all southbound. A second batch of juvenile Black-chinned Hummingbirds were fledged too.

Birds were about 80 species total in immediate Utopia area in June. Surely another 10 to 20 are around, I am too busy to get out much. Not bad considering they are all locally nesting species in June. The highlight was the pair of Northern Parula (plus another male) that probably nested at Utopia on the River. They were territorial there for 6 weeks plus, there is no prior known nesting on Sabinal River or in the Upper Sabinal Drainage. Good numbers of Dickcissel nesting locally were also a treat, it has been 5 years since some stuck to nest.

Butterflies were about 46 species for me locally in the month, down from a high 58 sps. in May. But I couldn't get out much. Twice I had a Zebra Heliconian fly across yard, FOY and always a treat to see. Another FOY was Common Mestra the last two days of the month. Twice in the month I had pink hind-winged Catocala underwing moths as in Sweetheart or Darling Underwing, and once had the brown hind-winged type, cf. C. obscurus. Elada Checkerspot is always good to see too.

A couple good odes (dragonflies) were seen. A male Swamp Darner was at UR (on 7th), and then at UP (on 12th) and likely the same individual. Probably not 5 UvCo records, the first was at UP. A Cyrano Darner was at UP (on 19th) also rare, I only have a few records here. Orange-striped Threadtail were flying at the UvCo 360 crossing area, a highly localized south-central Texas specialty (in the U.S.).

I lit a bug light a night or two and there is a lot of activity out there unlike the last couple years. Other odds and ends were a couple sightings of the big S. gigas Cerambycid (pepsis wasp mimic) on the big pecan, and a Texas Blind Snake one day. If one was really able to be out there every day getting after it, I am sure a bunch of great finds would be turned up. I barely scratch the tip of the iceberg.

~ ~ end June summary ~ ~ ~

June 30 ~ A near miss with some rain cells, but we got some outflow which beat the heat for the afternoon. Walked down the road a bit to check some flowers for butterflies but the outflow hit and activity was minimal. A couple Eufala Skipper were the only thing different in butterflies. A Hooded Oriole chattered a quarter-mile from house, don't know if it was one of the feeder visitors or they are on the move. An Indigo Bunting singing was quite unusual, though they nest at UR, they are not usually in this section of river in June, not enough deciduous (big leafy) trees. Mid-day I heard a Hutton's Vireo in the yard, and later Kathy heard a Killdeer. Painted Bunting female feeding a juvenile out back in p.m. The outflow clouds blurred out the planetary conjuction at its closest point, nearly touching (besides the 500 million miles between them.)

June 29 ~ Saw my FOY Common Mestra butterfly, a nearly annual invader from the south that does not breed here. Also had a female Black-and-white Warbler later in day, and in a.m. a Dickcissel called as it went through yard. Were some scattered showers about but we didn't get any. There is a nice conjuction of Jupiter and Venus westward at dusk. That is Saturn to the SE over by the moon just after dark, the slightly yellowish one.

June 28 ~ The weak front washed out for the most part after it passed, by dawn it was calm and the dry northerlies were a fond memory. KVL was 69dF for 5 hours pre-dawn, we were about 70dF or so, pretty darn comfortable and amazing for late June. The long term forecast has us cooler than normal for the rest of the summer. We could stand a break after the last 6 summers of drought. The wet cycles feed on themselves, and so do the dry. This afternoon was hot and humid, no rain (was 50% chance for 24 hrs. now and nothing).

The highlight of the day, the best bird, was a Zebra, again. That is Zebra Heliconian (or Longwing), the black and yellow striped tropical butterfly we get some years (photo above in picture strip) here. Their wingbeat is fast and shallow so they appear quite different in flight compared to most of our regular butterflies. They almost seem to twitter as they flap as the color flashes in the light when say the far wing is up, so you get a dorsal view for a nanosecond, and then it is down so you can't see the color and pattern. Keep repeating fast. The effect is sorta like an old-time movie as they twitter by.

There was one other great animal, a Texas Blind Snake, or Plains Threadsnake as they are now called (also a photo in above pix). It was about 8" long moving out in the open on the patio and then sidewalk. I couldn't find it when I got back out with camera. Of course. Neat beast to have around.

The birds were the usual... two dueling Painted Bunting still singing vigorously is great, and same for Summer Tanagers. Chat hasn't let up much yet, and neither has Yellow-throated or White-eyed Vireo. Funny the Ash-throated Flycatcher that have taken one of the boxes have gone all but silent, for a couple weeks while incubation underway. Young should hatch any day.

June 27 ~ Was getting warm and sticky, about 90 by 1 p.m., and before 3 an outflow boundry hit from a big rain cell just west of us dropping us to 80dF or so for the rest of the day. We received no rain, but some spots in NW Uvalde Co., and Real Co. got 3-5". It just sat and hardly moved but we were in outflow range so got the cooling benefit without the rain. A very rare late June cold front was the forcing mechanism, which did pass here in the evening, bringing northerly flow for several hours, in late June!

First thing early there must have been something in the blooming mesquite as there was a Yellow-throated Warbler, a Black-and-white Warbler, Titmouse and Chickadee, all seeming to be foraging in it at once. A pair of juvenile Field Sparrow were feeding in the tall grass I am supposed to mow. They were un-attended by adults, so just recently fledged from a very nearby nesting. A couple juvenile Vermilion Flycatcher were flycatching from the fence line. A Caracara would have landed in the big pecan if it hadn't have seen me below it at the last second.

~ ~ ~ prior update ~ ~ ~

June 26 ~ I heard two Bobwhite calling at once this morning early at dawn, from pastures across river. Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo must be nesting adjacent to yard, they are singing right here at first crack of dawn. Painted Bunting, Chat, Blue Grosbeak and Summer Tanager all get going at first light and are nesting adjacent as well.

Saw the Zone-tailed Hawk in town, first at north end and later at south end. Bell's Vireo singing in mesquites at north end of town as usual. Little Creek Larry said the Poorwill were calling again over near his place. This weekend is the big EMS Bar-B-Q, rodeo and dance so park is packed. Next weekend is the Fourth of July holiday so will be a bazillion here then. Was about 92dF today, and humid, it feels like summer.

Vermilion Flycatcher feeding a young on the yard fenceline late p.m., still cuckoos around. The field of Mexican Hat with the nesting Dickcissels on 360 got mowed today, hope the young were out of the nests, I didn't hear the birds. Summer mowing is a common fate for field and pasture nesting birds, it is a major problem in some areas for some sps. like Bobwhite, Upland Sandpiper and Bobolink (the latter two not here).

June 25 ~ The family of four Great Crested Flycatcher were about yard quite a bit. It is great to hear all their different calls and singing all the time. The Vermilion is still in full flight song, often right overhead. Today a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher male was on powerline and even gave full song too. Thought I heard a warbler seet flight note. Eastern Screech-Owl going quite a bit again. Nice to see some flowers on the Mesquites.

June 24 ~ There were some sprinkles around dawn, a tracelet. Low in low 70's dF, high in upper 80's, man you would think it is summer. Our high is Phoenix's low, oh but it's a dry 115 dF heat there. It is amazing how often the hill country is cooler than 75-90% of the U.S. so many days in the summer. Yeah it's the humidity that keeps it from warming, but it's not like it's anywhere east of us, we are a category drier.

The Great Crested Flycatcher had a couple juveniles with it in the yard today so a successful nesting for them here. The adult was singing and calling its head off for quite a while. Great sounds. At the same time a transient interloper Ash-throated Flycatcher seemed to try to horn in on the pair at the nest box, it made a move toward the female and promptly proceeded to get its clock cleaned by the male mate.

June 23 ~ Amazing was seeing that the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains in west Texas photographed an aurora this morning. Barely, but absolutely. The activity was amazing across the U.S., and way far south, from a major CME (coronal mass ejection), causing some radio problems but otherwise not much. Auroras were photographed from WY to MT, to Cape Cod Mass., Colorado, NM, and even Texas. Incredible.

Space Weather Gallery is a good viewing site, often with photos uploaded right after they are taken (real time). Go back a few days to Jun 23 to see today's stuff from the U.S. locations. Their home page is worth a bookmark. A very active sunspot is facing earth right now.

The firefly show is past peak. Far fewer are out now than just a week ago. I noticed a few days ago it seemed on the wane, now it is obvious the season's spring flight is on the fadeaway. It started earlier this year, got going better than the last couple years, and is finishing sooner. Usually the last few days of June and first few of July is when the big decrease is noticeable. There is a minor late summer flight, but it is nowhere as big as the spring main event.

June 22 ~ We got another inch of rain overnight (pre-dawn) which was another good slow soaker. This was maybe a bit of Bill's moisture left over pooled up in south Texas, plus some of the former hurricane Carlos from the Pacific side of Mexico with a trough axis and low-level jet all mixing it up. We continue to beat the June heat as we did in May, still not a single complaint. We were in lowest 80's dF for a high today. Amazing. Same gang of regulars, see June 3 for a list of what birds are out there daily in or from yard.

June 21 ~ Happy Solstice! Summer is officially here, but it was a cool low to mid80's dF for a high. Rained a bit just before 2 p.m. which took 10dF off it instantly. Only a couple tenths but the outflow was enough to last the day. The dawn chorus is still pretty good, though not as intense as a month ago. There is another batch of juvenile Black-chinned Hummingbird out of the nest, must be over a hundred new ones again.

We took a nooner walk to the crossing getting back just before the rain hit and it was dripping muggy in the low 80's. But there were birds singing and butterflies and dragonflies to see so it was great. The adult male of the locally nesting pair of Cooper's Hawk was being mugged by a male Purple Martin.

The same gang of birds, Painted Bunting, Vermilion Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo and Warbler, Lark Sparrows, Chat, Cards, Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Great Crested Flycatcher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, the usual soundtrack here.

There were some insects of interest (butterflies and dragonflies) to be seen. In leps a couple Texas Powdered-Skipper were nice, a Northern Cloudywing, Desert Checkered-Skipper, a couple Buckeye, a couple Whirlabout, a few Erynnis sps., Phaon and Vesta Crescents, and an Elada Checkerspot.

At the crossing it was good to see American Rubyspot damselflies again, they have been absent a couple plus weeks since the big flood event. Other damsels were Blue-ringed, Violet, and Dusky Dancers, Stream and Double-sided Bluet. In dragons a pair of Banded Pennant were hooked up, a couple FOY (first of year) dragons were a male Comanche Skimmer and a Wandering Glider. Another Wandering Glider was in yard in afternoon. Also saw Green Darner and Red Saddlebags, plus Checkered, Swift, and Black Setwings.

June 20 ~ Wow the last day of spring. It rained a bit about 3 a.m., and a little noonish, together were about a quarter inch. Kept it cool, in lowest 80's dF, pretty nice for the date. Lots of the country is sweltering. We will be soon enough. It is interesting I suppose to get my first southbound fall migrant warbler on the last day of spring, a Black-and-white Warbler was in the yard about 3:30 p.m., headed southward. I have had them southbound as early as latest May, like Golden-cheeked Warbler and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, they arrive in early March and can bug out pretty quickly.

~ ~ ~ ~ June 19 update header ~ ~ ~ ~

HAPPY SOLSTICE! Summer is here! Biologically it has been summer for a few weeks already. Migration (northbound) is over, I wouldn't be surprised to see a southbound Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black-and-white or Golden-cheeked Warbler any day now. We can get a good solid couple weeks between north and southbound movements where there is a fairly low chance of a passage bird occurring.

Butterflies are really getting going (58 sps. in May, 56 sps. in April, and 45 sps. in a couple hours on April 25!). Lots of wildflowers are blooming including Prairie Fleabane, Coreopsis, Dakota Verbena, Mexican Hat, Indian Blanket, Navajo Tea, Huisache Daisy, Scarlet Pea, and tons of others. Breeding birds are singing. It's great out, come on down.

We have been getting lots of rain, the people are happy. A major event May 23 p.m. to the early a.m. 24th dropped 7-8 inches in the area and flooding many low-water crossings. In the two weeks prior to that there had already been 11 inches in as many days. With another 1.5" on the 29th we got 22+ INCHES of rain for May! The drought is busted. We will need a few wet years to recover biologically though. They don't measure the kinds of things I do, like presence of 5 butterfly species that were common pre-drought and absent since. I'll let you know when it is really over.  ;)

There are of course lots of Golden-cheeked Warbler at Lost Maples. I heard way over a dozen on each of a couple walks a several weeks ago, saw several each walk. Saw a few on a walk a month ago, young were not yet out of nests then, likely are now. Fair numbers of Black-capped Vireo are above the ponds up on the bluff tops if you can get up there. It is a strenuous half-mile, but worth it for the ease of seeing the vireo, the other 'up top' stuff, and the views. Black-capped Vireo can be heard at the day use area on slope west of the restroom there.

Here are the May (and spring) highlights...
A MacGillivray's Warbler was at Utopia Park (UP) May 1. May 5 there was a local fallout 14 species of warbler and 7 sps. of vireos! Including a Philadelphia Vireo and Mourning Warbler in our yard (and 9 sps. of warblers just in yard!). Two more Mourning were at UP the same day, as well as a Catbird there (plus another in yard), while a Blackburnian Warbler was at the 360 crossing and a Magnolia Warbler and Gray-cheeked Thrush were at Utopia on the River. WOW all in one day! That is how fallout, and migration, works. A CANADA Warbler (and another Mourning) were at UP on May 14. I taped a singing Mourning in our yard on May 15, at least my sixth male this spring. It was about the last bird of spring migration.

Dodging May showers is usually great birding locally. May 6 there was a singing male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in our yard, and on May 7 a Franklin's Gull and 7 Mississippi Kite went over. Four more Miss. Kite went over May 23 just in front of a wall of rain. Nothing better for birding here in early May than some weather to knock birds down. The rain lets us see what would otherwise be passing by undetected. Like a Coot at the park. Seems May 5-11 was the best week of spring here for the scarcer passage migrants.

May 11 I found (and photo'd) 3 HUDSONIAN GODWIT at a stock tank near Sabinal which were photographed again May 12 (Ken Cave). There was only one prior UvCo record of a single bird. An Avocet and a couple Black-necked Stilt were at a flood pond just NW of town in Bandera Co. late April (Hilbigs), more Avocet (6) and Stilt (2) were at South Little Creek pond in later May. Any rain pond can have a great shorebird in May. A Baird's Sandpiper was at water at the edge of the road behind the Pico (our gas station) on May 14! Darn thing is on its way from Argentina to arctic Canada and stopped to gas up in Utopia! Three rare in spring Upland Sandpiper went over at dusk on May 8.

The ROADSIDE HAWK was seen again on April 10 at park (when also heard calling) and out front of the park on the 14th, and April 18 from our yard again, a couple miles south of town. So it has stuck, but enigmatic in that it's movement patterns remain a mystery. Since Jan. 30 three detections at park area and 4-5 sightings a couple miles south of town along river habitat corridor where no open public access.

Zone-tailed Hawk, Audubon's Oriole, Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, Ringed and Green Kingfisher are all present locally in very low numbers. White-tipped Dove were present last year locally from at least late March or early April through fall, both at Lost Maples and around town, surely they nested locally. There are some being reported now again at Lost Maples this spring, and I am hearing one south of town. Check the trailhead parking lot feeding station at Lost Maples after seed goes out. I have missed them in three visits, but others were reporting them there.

There has been a very rare here dragonfly (Swamp Darner), and a few less-than-annual butterflies (Zebra Longwing, Soapberry Hairstreak, Sickle-winged Skipper, Arizona Sister) in the last couple weeks, so insect activity is on the gain after the rain.

~ ~ ~ end June 19 update header ~ ~ ~

June 19 ~ Another slug of rain from the tropical airmass Bill deposited in south Texas. It arrived just after dawn, moving south to north, very slowly, dumping about 1.75" from 7-11 a.m. So now we're at a bit over 2.5" from Tropical Storm Bill moisture so far.

Mid-morning the Carolina Wrens fledged from the nest right outside the bedroom window, an unused Martin box. The young are so vulnerable when they first depart the nest, as they can't fly properly yet and would be easy prey for anything, especially a cat. We saw for sure three young leave the nest. They have been our alarm clock the last month plus. I bet you can't sleep through Carolina Wren song 4' away at 6:15 a.m. I think it was a Blackfoot (Native American) name for Winter Wren that is also appropriate for Carolina, which translated to something like "makes an incredible amount of noise for something so small." Brilliant.

At the park there was a Cyrano Darner (yes it has a big nose), the second I have seen there, and another that was likely the Swamp Darner, so there are some good dragonflies around. And lots of water. Both were up in the swamp by the island. Only BB Whistling-Ducks for birds, everything must have been asleep, except the begging baby Red-shouldered Hawks from the nest across the river.

June 18 ~ Last night before and around midnight a big cell was parked just north of us, Lost Maples got a couple inches, town maybe an inch, we got a tenth or so. So with the tenth on 16th, and the half plus on 17th, have about .75-.80 of an inch of rain from Bill so far. Still could get more out of the wet tropical air mass yet as it reheats today. Some places eastward got 4-8", and some near a foot of rain from the tropical storm. We can hear the river is up, draining what fell up-valley overnight. An outflow boundry hit late in the day and cooled us off, but we only got a spritz. Nuthin' but the regulars in my breaks from the monitor. It is stuck-at-computer and phone Thursday. A single Cliff Swallow shot over again, southbound right at dusk, at treetop level. Sure like that male Painted Bunting on the seed tube.

June 17 ~ We got a few cells of T.S. Bill moisture, this time moving north to south in afternoon and evening from the back side of the system as it was in north Texas. A little over a half inch in the afternoon. Beat the heat again, though humid as can be. Something ate the two Clammy-weed I sprouted from seeds. I wanted a patch of that. It is so hard to grow stuff here, you almost have to have it in a greenhouse or screened to get it going to safe size. Heard a Great Blue Heron fly over after 11 p.m.

June 16 ~ Tropical Storm Bill making landfall near Matagorda this morning. We got one skimpy band with a tenth of an inch of rain, the wall of easterlies were pretty neat as it went by though. A sharp San Antonio birder went to Calaveras Lake and found a Sooty Tern, normally an oceanic species, surely blown in with the storm. Clouded Skipper (lep) on the Am. Germander (Wood Sage) and Purple Bindweed. Few Hackberry Emperor around.

June 15 ~ A balmy low, some sprinkles moving north mid-day, a rain cell just west of us dumped an inch or two in Real Co. and NW Uvalde Co. We caught the outflow boundry about 6:30 p.m. taking the oppresive heat away. Was about 90dF with 50-60% humidity, downright lethargy inducing. Saw my FOY just-fledged juvenile Common Ground-Dove today, juvenile Lark Sparrows still around.

I thought I heard a warbler flight note, then saw something fly off with wingbars and two white outer tail feathers, which looked like a Golden-cheeked Warbler. The note was not buzzed as in a Black-and-white. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher in the early morning at sunup. Saw another of the S. gigas Cerambycids. If I had the net in hand when it flew by porch I could have had it.

June 14 ~ We had a thunderstorm go over around 4 a.m. or so, that was said to die out before it got here, and didn't. I think it was a bit over .5" of rain. Southward got an inch, and more toward Uvalde. We needed a wetting to keep the dust down, it had been a dry couple weeks. The morning low was in uppermost 60's dF as a result too, nice.

The same old singers here, man I like that Yellow-throated Warbler in the big pecan. Blue Grosbeak pair was feeding out in the tall grass I am supposed to mow. A pair of Ash-throated Flycatcher seems to be taking one of our boxes. This is likely the pair that took that same box last year and were ejected by a pair of Brown-crested Flycatcher which did go on to rear young out of the box. Suspect these Ash-throats lost their prior nest over by draw somewhere, I never saw any young. Early enough for a retry. Some things will, some won't. The way the Chucks have shut up I don't think they are going to retry after likely losing chicks in the mega rain event of late May. Nighthawk still booming though.

We took a late afternoon walk to the crossing, it was dripping humid - 65% or so, after the pre-dawn rain. We saw a Green Kingfisher fly up river, which is still with an incredible volume of water running down it, methinks I need a tube. We had a flock of 75+ Black and 10+ Turkey Vulture right overhead as we left, seemingly coming up off a kill of some sort which must be just uphill behind us.

In odes there were Black and Swift Setwing dragonflies, a Blue Dasher, Green Darner, while damselflies were Dusky Dancer and probable Familiar Bluet. Weak, and no Rubyspots was weird. In butterflies there was some nice puddling at the wet potholes in the caliche (crushed limestone) road. A male Goatweed Leafwing, a Buckeye, a False Duskywing, a group of 5 Sleepy Orange with a Little Yellow, Desert and Common checkered-Skipper. Saw male Fiery Skipper and Whirlabout, Bordered Patch, Clouded Skipper, a skipperling got away, couple Phaon Crescent, Queen in the yard.

June 13 ~ I think it only dropped to about 73dF, not very low. I went to UR to try to confirm breeding Northern Parula warbler on the Sabinal River. It would be a first. A male and female were present for over a month, a second male was also territorial, both males still singing last week. I figured I better see the young before they fledge and depart the territory. Seems I was too late. The male with the female were gone, so either nest-predated, or more likely fledged young. All we are left with is most unsatisfying speculation. Seemingly unmated male #2 was still present and in territory of mated male, where it didn't used to go. The pair probably nested is all we can say. Certainly an attempt was made that lasted a month+. Likely some day during this past week the young fledged, and they left the immediate territory. But we needed to at least lay eyes on a parent feeding a young to confirm breeding, darn it. I have been too busy and was not able to keep checking or spend a half day watching them.

The Swamp Darner that was there last week was not, so then I suspect the one at the park yesterday was the same animal and it moved a couple miles upriver over a week. At the 360 crossing there was an Orange-striped Threadtail (Protoneura cara), the FOY for me. Also FOY was a Blue-ringed Dancer, my latest ever FOY for that sps., they are usually early, I have had then in February. Also saw Violet, and Dusky Dancer, Stream and Double-striped Bluet, and a Black Setwing was FOY too.

There is a Pumpkinseed (a Lepomis sunfish) at the crossing, a nice big one, and a Texas Cichlid, those two 8" long at least. Some smaller stuff like Longear and Red-breasted Sunfish there too. Was a Texan Crescent in yard again. The big Buttonbush at the draw is in bloom, and with crab spiders grabbing bees.

~ ~ ~ prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 12 ~ Low 70's for a low isn't very low. The best bird of the day was a Zebra. Sometimes the best bird of the day is not a bird. Shortly after 10 a.m. a Zebra Heliconian butterfly flew across yard, first I have seen since one visited the yard in June and July 2013 (see photo in strip of pix above). We haven't had a good invasion year for them since the drought started. The folks along the Rio Grande to our south and west are reporting some great rare butterflies so there may be an influx event in the making. One butterfly at Del Rio was a second U.S. record, just a week ago.

At UP there were not any unexpected birds, but another male SWAMP DARNER dragonfly was outstanding. Last weekend there was a male at UR, will have to check and see if that one is still there, it could be that it moved upriver a couple miles. It was in the swampy area by island in north end woods. There were also my FOY Widow Skimmer and Blue Dasher, and in damselflies my FOY Fragile, and Rambur's Forktails. Some odetivity. Been a long dry spell for them and great to see. Have not seen Orange-striped Threadtail yet this year. A Green Kingfisher made a flyby. There were 8 Bronzed Cowbird on the patio at the end of the day. One female, 7 males.

June 11 ~ Thursday so trapped at the monitor. There was a Caracara walking around over in the corral, a year-old, very worn brown. Yellow-throated Vireo still feeding a young here, two male Painted Bunting at once, they are sitting on tube seed feeder occasionally but not at the same time, one is sneaking in and out of yard. Blue Grosbeak feeding in tall grass in front yard I need to cut. Painted Buntings like to feed in it too. The pair of Vermilion Flycatcher feed every evening last thing on the fence by corral while I watch the firefly show. The fireflies seem to get a free pass from them and the Phoebes, the chemicals that make the light are also protection from predators. They are black and orange or red too ya know, which means DO NOT TOUCH in nature. Rough-winged Swallow was feeding a young out front over road today. Barely heard a Chuck but it only gave the last part of the call, wills-widow. They are losing enthusiasm quickly.

Put my 'bug' (coral) light out on a sheet since there are chances of rain overnight the next several nights so last chance for a week. Moved it to patio so I could leave it on and not keep wife awake. But it was too windy, so shut it down after a couple hours. Lots of June beetles (what month is it?). A couple more of the small Cicadas, a very thin 1.25" plus Cerambycid, all brown, lots of little Diptera, a few moths, but too windy at 10mph+.

June 10 ~ A nice cool morning in mid-60's dF felt great. Ran to town first thing, Barred Owl and Hutton's Vireo were it at the park, besides the usual stuff. In the afternoon a Zone-tailed Hawk circled the yard low for a couple minutes eyeing the feeder users. Nice when they do it during one of my breaks so I get to watch. Today the Seco Creek Weather Underground station gave out a 104 dF for the high! They must have it by a hot patch of cement. I barely got 91dF here on the porch, the station in town gave a 97 or so, also way hotter than here. There is 5-10dF difference between our shaded front porch and sunny south side back porch next to cement patio. This could be the situation with these two stations, in hot spots.

I think it was Mr. La Rue that told me he is seeing Green Heron down river locally. They usually are where the river has a pond or lake type effect, and not in the stream or river type habitats along the river. There is often a pair that nests on the island at the park and so they can be seen around park pond. They have been scarcer since the drought, like Whistling-Duck, so maybe we will see more of them again now.

June 9 ~ Nice cool low, clear at first, then the gulf low clouds arrive for a couple hours, burn off, and clear by 10 (holds longer if you are lucky, till noon). This is the standard summer drill here. About a 70-92dF spread. Bearable. A couple local WeatherUnderdground stations were showing 97dF so I put two themometers on the front porch which is shaded all but a couple hours first thing in morning. One got to 91dF, the other read 89. So the two most local WU readings are wayyyyy warmer than what we have here in the shade. Sure if I put them in the sun we could get a higher reading, but the front porch is warmer than the carport out back which is shaded all day and down along the river is even cooler than here. There is great variation very locally, based on where you are it can be 5-10dF cooler than what WU shows for Utopia.

Great birdsong outside. Seemingly nearly endless Yellow-throated Vireo and Summer Tanager, and you are glad when the White-eyed Vireo and Carolina take a break. Great Crested Flycatcher and Yellow-billed Cuckoo going all the time, as are Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, Black-crested Titmouse and Bewick's Wren. Cardinal singing less already, but Vermilion Flycatcher still going great guns, Eastern Phoebe hardly stops too.

Saw a dragonfly which I also saw yesterday, small and black, it looked like an Ivory-striped Sylph but it didn't stop, just went by porch again. Setwings and Clubskimmer are daily now, this was not those. Did hear a Chuck-wills-widow at dusk this evening. Should be 4 or 5 calling.

June 8 ~ The expected gang, there was a juvenlie Yellow-throated Vireo being fed by an adult in the big pecan. A wandering male Vermilion Flycatcher was dispatched by the local male in no uncertain terms. They did a high speed turn at waist height just 8' from me, underparts towards me, just right with that red.

The local Ladder-backed Woodpecker pair had two young in the big pecan. A Mockingbird moved by southward through river habitat corridor. I haven't seen one in the yard in a few weeks. It is one of those species that nest nearby, but not in earshot. I did not hear a single Chuck-wills-widow tonight, which is scary. They usually call until the second week of July when they abrubtly go silent (save begging young) a month before they depart. I think a bunch of them lost young in the mega rain event and are not retrying, it is too late.

Chiggers and skeeters are getting more numerous, as expected after all the rain. Fireflies are still going great, there are way over a hundred in the yard and for a half hour it sparkles. It is so awesome I watch until I can't take the mosquitoe bites any more. There were Checkered and Swift Setwing and Pale-faced Clubskimmer for dragonflies in yard today. One of the underwing moths with the brown hindwing (C. obscurus or somesuch) flushed off the big pecan.

June 7 ~ Nice cooler morning in upper 60's dF, quite nice early. Later morning I went over to Utopia on the River to check on the Parula warblers and get some better Dickcissel audio tape. The dang grasshoppers or somesuch are making taping hard unless you get out early. You can't hear them with your bare ear, but amplified with a mic it sounds like armageddon. Finally I got some bearable tape.

There are still 5 or so males singing, I saw a few females, right in front of UR on 360, nesting in a field of mostly Mexican Hat. Weird. Two mornings last week I had singles in the big pecan at dawn, that is, migrants on the move, northbound. After nesting here since it rained, they take off migrating north and catch another spring up in maybe Missouri or Kansas and breed again. Rain chasers.

Sounds like an Orchard Oriole is nesting out front of UR too, in the biggest trees on the road. Bobwhite is calling out in that pasture, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher nesting in the scattered mesquites. At UR I found both singing male Northern Parula warblers that were there a couple-three weeks ago. The one below their burn site is the one that had a female, which I didn't see, but since he is singing in same trees they are surely nesting there. Which is unprecedented in the upper Sabinal drainage. I don't know if the other male has a mate, it was in the same trees it was in two weeks ago as well, singing the same slightly different song I heard earlier. Visually, they are both good pure Northern Parula males.

Did not hear the Acadian Flycatcher or Indigo Bunting but it was noonish by time I got in there. Red-eyed Vireo of course never stops singing. There was a great dragonfly I got some poor docu shots (maybe) of, It was a Swamp Darner. There are maybe 3 prior UvCo records, two of them at Utopia Park which I found, one was the first UvCo record. The two I saw at the park were females, this was a male. Saw a Banded Pennant at UR too. There was another Orange-winged Blister Beetle on some Prickly Poppy along 360.

At the crossing there were a few odes, Pale-faced Clubskimmer, both Checkered and Swift Setwing, a couple Green Darner, and in damsels some Stream Bluet, Am. Rubyspot, Violet and Dusky Dancers. The river is still high, though well below bridge it is still roaring, it is a LOT of water going by. I might want an innertube after all. I could start by our place and have a half-mile to the crossing and another half down to Utopia on the River. Wonder if I could make 3 Mile bridge?

June 6 ~ SOS, same old stuff. See June 3 for the list of what is around. The Yellow-throated Vireo, Summer Tanager, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo in particular are in the yard much of the day. There were 3 Cuckoo in the big pecan at once this morning, maybe they got a young out already? A couple new young Cardinal are begging around. Got another nest box up, this with a coon-scluder, a false front, it ain't purdy but it works. A squirrel or coon can't reach into the box and still reach the nest.

Late afternoon there was a scolding event in the junipers over the north fence, I couldn't see what it was about, probably a snake. Wish I could have seen it. The likely Baird's Rat Snake here is a real pink and orange beauty. Took a good Red Harvester Ant sting or bite on the foot, holy cow they can get your attention. I've had less pain from a scorpion. Not as bad as a Red Gaviid (Hemiptera) but worse than a Yellow Jacket. Not as bad as a dysfunctional brother, and worse than an ex-wife. I'll be here all year....

At dark I put out a 'bug light' to see if things had gotten any better since last year's attempt was nearly depressing so little came in. I just use what is handy which means a four foot fluorescent fixture loaded with coral lights. A 6500 kelvin daylight tube and a 440 nanometer actinic blue tube which is just on the blue side of UV. Put this by a sheet hung up and let 'er rip. I need to set up one bank of just the actinic blue and one of the daylight, and compare results.

I only had a couple hours of real dark before I had to shut down as Kathy said it was like a spaceship was parked outside and too bright. Have to set up where light spray isn't hitting bedroom window. The results were great compared to a year ago. Lots of bugs came in, hundreds of little things I mostly ignore, probably mostly Mirids, and lots of other interesting things, though I am not entomologist enough to get much past order, family for groups I know a little bit. The blue light really messes up photos which will have to be fixed in photoshop, if I can with yellow. Lots of things come in only briefly, in many cases things I took pix of at 10 p.m. were gone at 11.

I did see a nice little Cerambycid of a different sort (ph.), and another odd beetle that may have been one. A Walnut Sphinx (moth) was great, I had one right after we moved here but not since. Means there are walnut trees around. Lots of moths came in, mostly small ones, micros they are called. Three of those Emerald Geometrids were nice. I photo'd nearly a dozen moths with either good color or patterns. A Treehopper came in, several of the leafhoppers, a couple things looked like Caddis Flies, an Ant Lion, a Staphilinid, an Acilid, a couple types of native cockroaches, some Scarabs of a small sort. I think male gloworm beetle was another, with the branched fancy antennae.

It was great action. I shot 30 some pix pretty quickly. Shoot first ask questions later is my policy when I don't know what I am looking at such as in this situation. A Reduviid came in late, after midnight (ph.), you know, a Blood-sucking Conenose (Triatoma). The tropical ones carry Chagas', these are said not to. It was surprisingly flighty, as well as quick and agile in the air. One long narrow hemip was weird (ph.) with flattened 'leafs' on hind legs (Coreid I presume). There was also a small cicada that was brightly colored and only an inch long. And a handful of skeeter bites while looking at stuff, note, do wear long pants and not sandals. I was out there in shorts and sandals like a tourist, getting eaten alive. Bug spray was safe inside the house here.

~ ~ ~ prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 5 ~ On Tuesday I put up one of the nest boxes that Mr. Waters gave me to put up in the area. Put it on a 3' dowel that I hose-clamped to a 4' T-post out by the gate. There is a young pecan that shades it in late afternoon right next to it, so a little tree adjacent, some shade. On Wednesday a pair of Bewick's Wrens had taken it. Less than 24 hours, fastest box acceptance I have ever seen. They went in and out all day, and the next.

It shows how there is a hole shortage for cavity nesters and having nesting habitat availability is a limiting factor for them. A good hole is hard to find. I often have to move a box a couple to few times to get birds to take them. Location, location, location. It is everything. I have two boxes up here not being used, which I have to move again (!) to try to find that magic sweet spot.

How predator proof the box is, is the number one determining factor to the birds. Raccoons and squirrels are the two biggest nest predators around, and many know nest boxes can have delicious eggs or nestlings. I have seen squirrels take a nearly fledged bluebird young out of a nest! If your boxes are not being used it is likely the bird sees a threat that you don't. Move it. If your box is on a tree trunk where a coon or squirrel can reach in, it will not usually be used, and if so, likely only once and never again. I am working on a page about nest boxes.

In town there was a great low flyover of a Zone-tailed Hawk at the post office. Point blank. Still exciting every time. If you need to see a Zone-tail, cruise town mid-morning, mid-day, and afternoon. Today the post office, a couple weeks ago the general store, watch for the "vulture" all the swallows and Martins are mugging. It or they hunt the fields around town daily, esp. at the north end, but even in town and around the park too.

There were some Chimney Swift displaying, rocking, and diving about in high speed tight circles putting on quite a show too. Thought I heard a Parula sing across the river at the park. A Red-eyed Vireo was singing across the river, unusual at the park. Yellow-throated Warblers gave good views. Thought sure I heard a Mourning Warbler, but couldn't dig it out of the flooded understory mess. Would not be too late for a first year female. One Green Kingfisher flew by calling. Some Clouded Skipper were in the woods. Dickcissel are still singing so presumedly nesting along 360.

Early in a.m. a Common Grackle flew down the habitat corridor at house. Saw another couple by Feller's (Waresville turn-off) where they nest. In the late afternoon I heard a just-fledged family group of Scrub-Jay just uphill behind us and moving over to corral. They nest nearby but are not regular in or from the yard. Was out of shotshell and the varmits seemed to know it. Picked up some rounds for the squirrel that broke the feeder, and none showed up all afternoon. In yard Swift Setwing (dragon) was my FOY, and later a couple Checkered Setwing were FOY.

June 4 ~ Low of about 70dF. Here we go summer, this is a normal low for much of June, July, and August. Sometimes we are lucky to get to that and 72 to even 74dF is not uncommon in warmer spells. During heat waves it only barely gets just below 80dF. Heard a Dickcissel again early this morning in big pecan. The Yellow-throated Vireo was in the pecan too, soaking wet, obviously having just left the bird bath. Which reminds me, yesterday Kathy saw the male Painted Bunting at the bath. I saw the female a couple times where we throw millet.

A squirrel that is not long in this universe broke one of our sunflower tube feeders yesterday, the one with the squirrel guard. Guard is fine, the plastic cylinder is not though. If there any little holes in the tube feeders in any of the photos on this site, you can be assured it was a squirrel that was shot off of them. I aim wide but still in order to get the vermin the occasional pellet or two hits the feeder. The other day one was trying to get out a 1/8" cable. Ridiculous. There is seed all over the place around yard, they should be satisfied. The feeders are where they clearly shouldn't even try to get to them. Hung on plastic coated metal clothesline wire, etc., so as to be squirrel proof, obviously, except to their lazy arses that refuse to go forage in the natural wild bounty out there.

There were a couple Great Blue Heron flybys today, probably the same bird going up and downriver. I do not see Cliff Swallows daily though they nest a mile away at the 3 mi. bridge crossing. Right before dark a group of about 6 of them was sprinting south or downriver at 30', just over treetop level, full speed ahead. I had no idea Cliff Swallow was capable of such fast straight-line level flight. I'd peg it at 50 MPH. I presume it was a hunting party racing back to the colony before dark. I was out in driveway watching fireflies so got on them inbound and got a great look as they rocketed low right overhead.

I saw one of the big Stenelytrana gigas Cerambycids (Long-horned Beetle) today, must be June. In flight they very well mimic Pepsis Wasp, but a big orange and blue-black beetle. Sure wish I could get a photo of one. At dusk out on the driveway I was watching the fireflies, and the Common Nighthawk. I saw a bug flying and as I wondered what it was and strained to see it in the fading light, a Green Darner dragonfly swooped in and took it right before my eyes. Solved that ID conundrum. Screech-Owls calling after dark, I think they have young out now.

June 3 ~ Here is a list of what is around the yard, or hearable from it now, so the local breeders within earshot. Great Crested, Brown-crested, and Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler and Vireo, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Summer Tanager, Lark Sparrow, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (adjacent), Bobwhite (nearby), Eastern Bluebird, too many of two species of Cowbirds, Mourning, White-winged, and Ground- Doves, Titmouse and Chickadee (Black-crested and Carolina), two woodpeckers (Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed) drum their songs out. Then at dusk Chuck-wills-widow and Common Nighthawk, and finally Eastern Screech-Owl after dark.

Daily I have Barn and No. Rough-winged Swallow, and Purple Martin overhead. Nearly daily I see Caracara, Red-tailed and Cooper's Hawk, and of course TV and BV (Turkey and Black Vulture) are daily. The Great Horned Owls are quieting down but near-daily, Barred I hear maybe once a week. Turkey have gone quiet, Whistling-Duck are near-daily going up- or down-river. This is the daily bread of May, June, and July here. About 30 sps. nesting real close visiting yard daily as part of their territories, and about 15 over or near yard daily or nearly so, so nesting in the immediate vicinity. Hooded Oriole visits near-daily as well, Dickcissel are nesting a half-mile away, Orchard Oriole probably too, as are many things not listed above like Chimney Swift and Scrub-Jay. This is just what I get without going anywhere. These are what is outside during my once-an-hour 5-10 minute lookarounds, for the last month and the next two.

The beast of the day was an Underwing moth. These are big fancy moths of about 3" wingspan when spread, in the genus Catocala. They are incredibly camoflaged when wings closed, as they hide on tree trunks usually in the day, invisibly. But the hind wings are bright pinkish red (other types are orange) barred with black. So when they fly they are stunning. I got a couple grabshots of it, it was under the carport awning where it stays cool as it is shady out back all day. Sweetheart and Darling Underwing are the two types it looked like, and if those names make you wonder about entomologists, another one is called Girlfriend!

June 2 ~ It was mid-upper 60's dF for a low, which is pretty good in June. SE gulf flow back with the typical low clouds in the morning. It is just the breeders now, and for the next couple months for the most part. In June the first post-breeding movements occur, with southbound Black-and-white and Golden-cheeked Warblers, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. By mid-July some more things can start moving, like Orchard Oriole and Purple Martin in particular. But mostly only locally breeding things, until July. I suspect with the rains and resulting flowers then insects, there will be many successful second and third nestings occurring locally this year.

Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatchers were singing in the yard at the same time this morning. Shortly after an Ash-throated was on the gate. I can barely hear a Chipping Sparrow singing a quarter mile away, probably the one that seemed to lose a nest here a few weeks ago.

Seeing the Hooded Oriole again regularly, I guess he was just not around during the heavy rain events, and currently he is not singing when visiting the feeders, the ingrate. If he wasn't so pretty... Odd was a Bullock's Oriole that stopped briefly in the big pecan out front when I was outside to hear (and detect) it. A flock of aerial insectivores went past in the afternoon, a tight group that included Purple Martin, Barn and Rough-winged Swallow, and Chimney Swift, all seemingly hitting a swarm of unseeable (to me) insects.

I got a great full-monty Common Nighthawk dive and boom right overhead at dusk, coming right at me (ok he was trying to impress the female between us) so you get a full volume version of the boom that you only get if you are right in front him when and where he does it. I guarantee I was way more moved than the female by the looks of it. As he dives I'm rootin' for him all the way down, go go go! Whatabird!

June 1 ~ Holy year blasting past, it is June! Only three weeks until the solstice and shortening days. KVL had a low of 59dF this morning, we were in low 60's and anytime you feel that without standing in the rain in June is great. We are forecast to dry out for a week, a welcome concept at this point. I was starting to mold.

Here is something kinda funny that happened nearby in the floods. Next canyon and river west is the Frio, with Leakey and Concan at the top and bottom (respectively) of the upper Frio drainage. It is super mega huge with tubers and kayakers (weekend warriors). We don't have that circus on the Sabinal. It's quiet over here.

I heard right before one of the big rain events (so probably last Saturday when we got 5" in the afternoon) a number of tubers on the Frio had parked their cars at this one regular spot on a gravel bar at edge of river, then they get taken up-river to a put-in point, and float back down 5 or 10 miles maybe, to their cars. I'm guessing they had a heck of ride down because some cars were innundated and not retreiveable for days when they got back to them. The impending major rain event could not have been more advertised and with all our 'connectedness' these days... a current radar image in every hand at any time here....

Heard a Ringed Kingfisher go over early, I bet they are glad to see the river finally cleared up. I don't know how they fish for the week it takes to clear. A Scissor-tail flew over calling just before sundown, which got the nesting male down the airstrip to sing so as to inform it flying southward was not a good idea. Heard the Bobwhite later in p.m., hope it attracted a mate. Eastern (texana) Screech-Owl calling at dusk as yesterday.

Saw Goatweed Leafwing and Questionmark butterflies today. Butterflies are always hard on the first, you were riding high on a great month just 12 hours ago, and now you got nuthin'. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Not a dang thing. It's back to zero. Even a Checkered-Skipper and a Pipevine Swallowtail are new today. You think of the slog it will be just to see what you saw last month, this month, in hotter heat, and you get tired.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ above is June, below is May

~ ~ ~ May summary ~ ~ ~

In a word May was WET! Somewhere near TWO FEET of rain fell locally in the month, the drought is busted. The aquifer still needs a lot of recharging (more rain) but on the surface things are much better now. The river is running and the land is VERY green. Wildflowers are going great.

In May butterflies I saw 58 species which is the best May diversity in the last 8 Mays, and a reflection of the great green-up and bloom that is ongoing. Best May diversity going back to 2007 before the drought got started when I recorded my record May of 61 species. So second best ever for me in a dozen years of keeping track.

Quite a bit of our spring butterfly show is immigrants from southward that move north in spring. Not just the Monarchs are doing this, many species are. Some get here as beat up as any fall butterfly, like Theona Checkerspot, Bordered Patch, Gulf Fritillary, and others. The flight of Red Admirals this year was amazing, hundreds on peak day.

Rarer highlights seen were a Sickle-winged Skipper, the first Arizona Sister I have seen locally in at least 5 years, as was a Soapberry Hairstreak which is very hard to come by locally. Those 3 were on UvCo 360. At Lost Maples I saw singles of Silvery Checkerspot, Little Wood Satyr, Mourning Cloak, Oak Hairstreak, and the usual large Swallowtails (Spicebush, Two-tailed, E. Tiger). Considering the many days of rain it was a great showing.

In May I saw 125 species of birds locally, all of that around Utopia, save one half-day at Lost Maples. Then another half-day at Uvalde provided an additional 28 or so brush-country and waterbird species I did not see up here in the hills. So about 150 sps. of birds in the area this month. With but a couple half-days of serious birding away from the immediate Utopia area, so mostly yard and a little bit of park. Frankly I think it is amazing diversity. If one birded instead of worked 6+ days a week probably 200 is possible in a good May locally.

There was one great day with 14 sps. of warblers and 7 sps. of vireos on May 5. There were days with lots of Nashville and Yellow Warbler prior to that, but not the diversity. The top spring highlight was three Hudsonian Godwit near Sabinal at a stock tank on May 11-12. Other less than annual goodies around Utopia were a Philadelphia Vireo, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Blackburnian, Magnolia, and Canada Warblers, 3 Upland Sandpiper, and a Cassin's Kingbird. Saw a half-dozen male Mourning Warbler but no females. The late May Black-necked Stilt (2) and 6 Avocet at the South Little Creek buffalo wallows were outstanding records (L.C. Larry). The Baird's Sandpiper behind the gas station at a roadside wet spot was pretty good too.

The total of 19 species of warblers for the entire spring migration is below normal, average is 22. Missed Tennessee (1st time in 12 years), American Redstart (2nd time missing in 12 springs), and Ovenbird (seen 50% of 12 springs). Missed as well were Eastern Kingbird, Willow and Olive-sided Flycatcher this spring. A number of Broad-winged Hawk were at Lost Maples for seemingly a couple weeks, including one rarer dark morph bird.

Between work and rain I did not much persue dragonflies this month, and didn't see anything out of the ordinary, just the expected lot. A Pronghorn Clubtail was nice on 360. Good numbers of Pale-faced Clubskimmer were nice to see. The firefly action really kicked into gear this month and has been quite the show since early mid-May. Areas with long grass are best. There was an Eyed Elatarid or two. The Coyote, Gray Fox, and Porcupine from the porch were nice.

~ ~ ~ end May summary ~ ~ ~

May 31 ~ An amazing low for the date of about 63dF, KVL had 61. Not to mention fairly dry air. Wow. Chamber of Commerce weather, the high in low 80's. On the last day of May!?! We skated through May on the temperatures, not to mention hitting the jackpot on banking some much needed water. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at river early in morning.

I am afraid I have to give up hope (or get out of denial) about some more migrants coming through. I figured with the showing of 6 male Mourning Warbler, some females would be coming through, as well as other late migrants like Willow Flycatcher. Guess they got by me undetected this year.

As it was the last day of the month and so many were rained out we took a 90 minute mile-and-a-third butterfly walk along the flower-lined dirt road out front. And it was great, besides the 85dF and dripping humidity part. Finally saw my first Metalmark of the year, a nice fresh Rounded (C. perditalis). And my first False Duskywing (Gesta) of the year, as well as first Southern Skipperling (2), Pearl Crescent, and Desert Checkered-Skipper (2) of May, and a Fiery Skipper. So added 6 species to the monthly total at the 11th hour, and now it is my second-best May total at 58 species. Best May in last 8, and all the way back to May of '07 which was best ever at 61 sps. The 90 minute mile-and-change walk itself was about 27 species.

Birds were mostly heard, the local breeders: Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatcher, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Lark Sparrow, Cardinal, the wrens, titmouse, chickadee, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, E. Bluebird, etc.

The river is still roaring, an amazing amount of water coming down, it is 120' wide at the 360 crossing and a few inches over the pavement all the way across. And it is running clear now, no more silt, it looks great. There is a big river-rock 'sandbar' now where there was not one before, and a huge logjam too that will be above water level when the river goes back down. The water sure scraped a lot of habitat bare in the channel.

At a wet spot in the road there was a female Common Whitetail and great was my first local Orange Bluet here. Can be regular at the park, but I had not detected one on or along 360 yet so new for my local list. Saw a Dusky Dancer too. Saw one male Orange-winged Blister Beetle on one of the last Prickly Poppy flowers. Heard my first of the year big cicada and katydid calling today.

May 30 ~ A muggy 70dF low, waiting for the front, an outflow boundry showered just a little bit before dawn ahead of it. Supposed to be a rain event today or tonight with the passage. I heard a Red-eyed Vireo sing in the yard early, must be trolling through. In the p.m. I heard an Eastern Wood-Pewee singing across the road, also likely an unmated troller.

Just after 11 a.m. we watched 3 Bewick's Wren leave the nest box. The second one was clearly pushed out by the last one. It is always great to see a set of young fledge from a nestbox you put up. After the House (English) Sparrows evicted some in-progress Black-crested Titmouse from the box I had to chase them away several times when the wrens were in it, so success at last is sweet. In the meanwhile got rid of the House Sparrows too.

It was in the upper 80's dF shortly after noon, we were saved by an outflow boundry at about 2 p.m. whence it proceeded to drop, by shortly after 3 it was in the low 70's. The line of storms that went by seemed to have a hole in it, a break which mostly went right over Utopia when the main big line went by. So everyone else got more than we did, but we didn't need any more at the moment. It was maybe .15 of an inch here. Got a little bit of weed whacking in before it hit. The firefly show continues to astound.

~ ~ ~ May 29 update header ~ ~ ~


Happy Spring! It is exploding green! Migration is tailing off (tee he he) if not done and gone. Birds were falling out of the skies for a while there. Butterflies are really getting going (56 sps. in April with 45 sps. in a couple hours on April 25!). Lots of wildflowers are blooming including Prairie Fleabane, Coreopsis, Dakota Verbena, and tons of others. Breeding birds are singing. It's great out, come on down.

We have been getting lots of rain, a major event May 23 p.m. to the early a.m. 24th dropped 7-8 inches in the area and flooding many low-water crossings. In the two weeks prior to that there had already been 11 inches in as many days. With another 1.5" on the 29th we are now pushing 22 INCHES of rain for May! So we surely are out of D1 on the drought scale by now. We will need a few wet years to recover biologically though. They don't measure the kinds of things I do, like presence of 5 butterfly species that were common pre-drought and absent since.

There are of course lots of Golden-cheeked Warbler back now at Lost Maples. I heard way over a dozen on each of a couple walks a few weeks ago, saw several each walk. Saw a few on a walk two weeks ago, young not yet out of nests. Fair numbers of Black-capped Vireo are above the ponds up on the bluff tops if you can get up there. It is a strenuous half-mile, but worth it for the ease of seeing the vireo, the other 'up top' stuff, and the views. Black-capped Vireo can be heard at the day use area on slope west of the restroom there.

All the migratory locally nesting species have returned and those that do are singing. Ruby-throated (a few nest sometimes) and Black-chinned Hummingbird, Chuck-wills-widow and Common Nighthawk, Purple Martin, Barn, Cliff, Cave, and N. Rough-winged Swallow, Vermilion, Scissor-tailed, Ash-throated, Brown-crested and Great Crested Flycatchers, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black-and-white and Yellow-throated Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat, Louisiana Waterthrush, Bell's, Red-eyed, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireos, Scott's and Hooded Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, Painted and Indigo Bunting, Dickcissel, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Toss in the Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo, and it is a great buffet of selections all breeding in one little area.

A MacGillivray's Warbler was at Utopia Park (UP) May 1. May 5 there was a local fallout with Philadelphia Vireo and Mourning Warbler in our yard (and 9 sps. of warblers just in yard!). Two more Mourning were at UP the same day, as well as a Catbird there (plus another in yard), while a Blackburnian Warbler was at the 360 crossing and a Magnolia Warbler and Gray-cheeked Thrush were at Utopia on the River. WOW all in one day! That is how fallout, and migration, works. A CANADA Warbler (and another Mourning) were at UP on May 14. I taped a singing Mourning in our yard on May 15, at least my sixth this spring.

Dodging May showers is usually great birding locally. I saw 14 sps. of warblers and 7 sps. of vireos locally May 5 in a few hours. May 6 there was a singing male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in our yard, and on May 7 a Franklin's Gull and 7 Mississippi Kite went over. Four more Miss. Kite went over May 23 just in front of a wall of rain. Nothing better for birding here in early May than some weather to knock birds down. The rain lets us see what would otherwise be passing by undetected. Like a Coot at the park. Seems May 5-11 was the best week of spring here.

May 11 I found (and photo'd) 3 HUDSONIAN GODWIT at a stock tank near Sabinal which were photographed again May 12 (Ken Cave). There was only one prior UvCo record of a single bird. An Avocet and a couple Black-necked Stilt were at a flood pond just NW of town in Bandera Co. late April (Hilbigs). Any rain pond can have a great shorebird now. A Baird's Sandpiper was at water at the edge of the road behind the Pico (our gas station) on May 14! Darn thing is on its way from Argentina to arctic Canada and stopped to gas up in Utopia! Three rare in spring Upland Sandpiper went over at dusk on May 8.

The ROADSIDE HAWK was seen again on April 10 at park (when also heard calling) and out front of the park on the 14th, and April 18 from our yard again, a couple miles south of town. So it has stuck, but enigmatic in that it's movement patterns remain a mystery. Since Jan. 30 three detections at park area and 4-5 sightings a couple miles south of town along river habitat corridor where no open public access.

~ ~ ~ end May 29 update header ~ ~ ~

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

May 29 ~ A big MCS hit just before midnight and rained pretty good for a couple hours, with a fair bit of lightning. By time dawn arrived it was in the low 60's dF! Sunny with blue skies is not something we have been seeing much of, especially at 62dF in late May! Total was about 1.5" of rain. Now we are pushing 22 inches of rain the last three weeks, with a cold front forecast to arrive tomorrow evening with more. We might make two feet for the month. I am hearing via weather news outlets things like "wettest May ever in Texas" and for the most part the drought has been busted.

A few pair of Chimney Swift were around town, the usual pair of Great-tailed Grackle near Pico did not seem to materialize this spring, I am not complaining, nor have I heard one. With the rain I thought maybe something could be at a pond so took a quick run to Haby's wet spot on W. Sabinal Rd., one White-faced Ibis was there. Nothing at the park, but lots of water going over the spillway.

Ran into Little Creek Larry at the store and he said a week ago at the south Little Creek buffalo wallow there were 6 Avocet and a couple Black-necked Stilt! WOW! Two records for each this spring. Knocked down by the rain no doubt. He also said there is one set of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck babies out of the nest over there. And he mentioned one day last week he had a small flock of a handful of gulls, which I would say were surely Franklin's, our default gull here.

Just before 4 p.m. I was on the porch and watched a Zone-tailed Hawk dive on something just in the corral, missed and pulled up right over the pumphouse and then went over yard at treetop level. I love seeing them in the yard. The Chimney Swift were checking out the chimneys here early in a.m., but both are sealed unfortunately. I need to build a Chimney Swift tower.

Saw the male Hooded Oriole come in to feeders late p.m., and heard a Couch's Spadefoot Toad before dusk from in the yard over by the cottage. There is a sort of hiccup sound before the long buzzy bleat if you are close enough. A friend showed me a photo of a Tarantula they saw on 337 on the way to Leakey. Spring after rains is the best time to see them, generally the males get out and move around looking for females. Now THAT is a (harmless) spider!

May 28 ~ A few spritzes in between partly sunny skies, warm and humid. Too busy Thursdays. Kathy saw the ad. ma. Hooded Oriole come in. I saw a pair of Chimney Swifts circling low on one check outside. Too many Brown-headed and Bronzed Cowbird hitting the millet here. Will work on that, and the yard if it quits raining and dries out. At least migration seems to have passed us by so I'm not feeling like I am missing much. The firefly show continues to be mind-boggling, the front yard sparks for a half hour of peak show. Right before midnight a MCS moved in from the NW. Wouldn't want to fall asleep would you?

May 27 ~ More of the same, muggy and 70-85dF, no migrants, it's over. Just the breeders now for the next few months. At least it is a great set handy. The Bewick's Wrens are feeding young fast and furious, should be getting them out soon. I am not hearing though Chuck-wills-widow as before the 8" event last Sat. and Sunday. There were 4-5 duelling singers in earshot, now I hear one. I think many lost their young which would have been maybe about half grown now. So they have to decide whether or not to try again, and meanwhile seem to be shocked into silence, save one bird. Common Nighthawk is still booming over the little hill just north of us. I could never tire of watching that dive with the pullout on bowed down wings followed by celebratory side to side rocking. An amazing display.

May 26 ~ About 70dF for a low, to upper 80's today, and no rain. So some drying out and the river is going down. Seems like a week now with no migrants. And two with only a very very few. If it is really over, it (spring migration) sure died a quick and sudden death. It seems it is just breeding species now for the next few months. I don't know how you will stay interested...

In butterflies I saw a huge sulphur today flying slowly, all floppy, like an Orange-barred, but it got away. Probably was one. Missed them last year (or two maybe). Goatweed Leafwing about, thought I had a Pearl Crescent but it too got away. Re-installed a couple bird boxes I had to take down to get rid of a pair of House Sparrow. I couldn't get close enough to get them with shot shell, these country House Sparrows are so wary it amazes me. Behaviorally they are not the same bird as the city ones. They certainly call differently as well. Which they can go do somewhere else. I didn't move to the country to listen to that, much less watch them evict native birds out of their nest boxes.

May 25 ~ There was a little bit of drizzle and light shower early but the cells mostly missed us this time, up-valley might have gotten a little, we only saw a tenth or so of precip. And the sun and blue skies in the afternoon. Just the breeding birds about now it seems. At least there is a pile of cool ones out the door so not all bad.

A Carolina Wren pair has a second nest in an unused stored Martin house on a shelf in the carport. Got used afterall. If you left a car door open Carolina Wrens would have a nest in there in no time. A while back that was what was roosting in the cab of the pickup on steering wheel and rearview mirror leaving droppings on the dashboard. Lovely, must be a birder's vehicle. I am now trained to roll the windows all the way up.

The Cuckoos are about quite a bit, saw one chasing the other as they flew not 8' past me on the front porch, later they went by again in tandem. They are amazingly quiet on the wing, you can't hear them flap. Whereas Cardinal and Cowbird are noisy as heck when they fly at a fraction of the size. Sure great to hear the cuckoos all day. There was a Juvenal's Duskywing butterfly on porch in afternoon.

May 24 ~ Sometimes I get to write about birds, other times the butterflies, flowers, or dragonflies. Today it is the weather. About 2 a.m. the third MCS to hit in 12 hours woke us with thunder, and ANOTHER 2.75" of rain. So since 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon to this morning we received 7-8" of rain locally (we have 8 here). Flooding is ongoing at low-water crossings and downriver cities like Sabinal are flooding seriously (flood stage is 12' and the river is at 18' there this morning).

We are fine where we are, I think it would take a 300 year flood or so for us to have an issue, and that happened in '02 so unlikely. We just have to take the 'back' way out of 360 to 1050 if we want to get to town. The 360 crossing is not usable. Glad I went to town early and got restocked before the weekend. Memorial Day weekend has a rain bullseye on it here. It seems to me over half of the last dozen have had serious rain events. It is like whatever weekend they have Utopiafest in fall, mark it for rain now.

I heard an off-sounding Chipping Sparrow type song but which was not a Chippy. Since there are no Junco here this time of year, I have to consider it was likely a Worm-eating Warbler, it sounded good for one too, a little thinner and tinnier. Couldn't find it across the road though. Which almost counts as a character for Wormies. We walked over there a bit later morning and went to river for a look. Didn't hear anything, but the roar of the river. Saw one of the Orange-winged Blister Beetles eating a Skeleton Plant flower. They sure like eating flower petals.

The river was up way high, out of normal bank on the low sides of channel, and clearly had gone way down since the deluge this morning drained. It is usally about 900' from our house, and looks like it was maybe 450' at one point, from the matted-down wildflowers. Would have taken more than another foot of rain to get it to us since we are much higher up.

I saw a Buckeye (butterfly) on the way over to river that was a Tropical Buckeye, it blasted when I pulled camera out. It is the first of that species I have seen on or along 360. Butterflies chase rain, this should be a great year for them. Around 3:30 we took a walk to the crossing to check the roadside wildflowers for butterflies and saw a Common Buckeye which made the Tropical this morning even more obviously so.

Then I found a Sickle-winged Skipper (Eantis tamenund) on some Texas Thistle (ph.). It was so fresh it still had the purple haze of the overscaling. This is also a new butterfly for my 360 list, and the first one I have seen in a few years, maybe since fall of 2012. It is usually a fall invader in the years it shows up (it is not annual), often only one per fall except the best couple years. I have a June record from Thunder Creek (the first Bandera Co record in 2004), but this may be my first May record for the species here. A good sign for butterflies to come when a vagrant is showing up already in May.

We saw a Goatweed Leafwing puddling on the wet road, as well as both Funereal and Mournful Duskywing, a few Reakirt's Blue, Red Admiral, and on flowers along road were the regular expected suspects, a Eufala Skipper was my first for the month, a couple Julia's were about, Fiery and Dun Skipper, Sachem, Celia's Roadside-Skipper, a bunch of Common or White Checkered-Skipper, only Gray for Hairstreaks, still no Metalmarks out. A few of the Orange-winged Blister Beetle were on Prickly Poppies.

In birds only the most persistent singers were still at it in the dripping 85dF heat of the day: Painted Bunting, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Vermilion Flycatcher, Lesser Goldfinch, Blue Grosbeak and Lark Sparrow. At the crossing ran into Earlynn Tompkins, a neighbor from just downriver a bit from us and she said they too had 8" of rain for the event, confirming what I measured total for the 3 MCS's that moved over from yesterday afternoon to this morning, in about 12 hours. WOW!

At 7 p.m. the first year male Hooded Oriole hit the hummer feeders. I asked Kathy yesterday if she had seen the adult male in the last few or several days and she said no. Neither have I. Maybe the bugs are so available they don't need it, or the rain has been too much, but usually when nesting they still come in daily. Hope nothing happened to him. Maybe we have just missed him. I heard a bird fly over calling after dark going north I sure wish I could have seen. Still can't place the call, but it was good and something new for me here if I had a name for it.

May 23 ~ The benign morning was deceptive. I heard a warbler just before some rain hit in afternoon so was outside with binocs when the first wall of water approached, with four Mississippi Kites riding the leading edge just ahead of it. Never did see the warbler I heard. The first big MCS of rain between 3 and 4 p.m. dumped 2.5 INCHES in an hour and change. The second one between 6 and 7, lighter till 8 p.m. dumped another 2.5+"+ more of rain! We received 5+" of rain this afternoon to early evening! It was torrential downpours, the river is roaring, surely all low water crossings were flooded. There are flood warnings at various spots on Nueces, Frio, and Sabinal Rivers, including at Concan and Sabinal. We are at or over 16 INCHES of rain in less than two weeks! Should mention as I keep forgetting, seemingly near daily there are Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks going over the house, dusk or dawn, sometimes both, usually just 2 or 4 at a time but neat to see and hear.

May 22 ~ SOS, same old stuff. Low in upper 60's was nice, and it warmed to upper 70's dF in afternoon. The cloudy overcast morning was almost foggy, partly sunny afternoon. No migrants. It is as if it is over. Say it ain't so. One Yellow Warbler was it for migrants in the last week. Depression can set in easily at this time, realizing 99.999% of the migratory breeding birds in North America are past you, and that spring is all but over as far as bird passage is concerned. The further south you are the earlier it happens, and seemingly the harder it hits. The upside is that if you find something late, it is often good. If you have the impetus to keep going. Which you should. Or you could quick fly a thousand miles north and catch it again up there. I haven't seen the Chipping Sparrow pair that was here for a week now, I suspect they lost their nest in the last week or two of rain storms.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 21 ~ A cold front came through after midnight last night and we got about 1.2 inches of rain, so we are around 11 inches in the last 11 days. Holy cow! Dropped temps into upper the 60's dF! The forecast is for another event over Memorial Day weekend so parks might not be the usual crowded this weekend. Today it barely got to low-mid 70' after yesterday's upper 80's dF. No migrants again today, including at the park which I checked when I ran to town for errands to beat the holiday rush tomorrow.

We lost a big willow up on the island, or at least it fell over into that great swampy bayou there, taking part of a mulberry with it, and blocking much of our view of the island mulberries from the (now former) best vantage point. Knowing willows it may well live, even though on its side.

The only thing of interest were Cliff Swallows gathering mud for nests along Main St. across from the P.O.. Don't know where they are trying, but the last several years of drought they have not stuck to nest locally around town except at the high bridges south of town (3 mi. and 8 mi. bridges). The low bridge crossings are all innudated now. A few Cave Swallow were among them offering roadside point blank views from the old water co. parking lot.

Where is that last hurrah of migrants we usually get after the main push? What I haven't seen is as interesting as what I have. No Tennessee Warbler or American Redstart, which if I don't pick up in the next week will be the first spring in 12 that I did not detect a Tennessee, only second time missed for Redstart. No Willow (!) or Olive-sided Flycatcher, or Eastern Kingbird, and no Lazuli Bunting this spring for me. Six male Mourning Warbler and no females? Seems like there should be another wavelet, please, one last pulse of things heading for cool climes.

May 20 ~ More of the same, cloudy overcast in a.m. with a few passing spritzes, very warm balmy afternoon. No migrants for the day again, save a worn Monarch butterfly. In that department also had a Texan Crescent, Tawny Emperor and Elada Checkerspot besides the regulars in the yard. It seems we are down to the breeding birds though I remain hopefull some flycatchers and maybe a late warbler or two will come through yet still. Perhaps the sub-tropical jet and wet West flow has kept much to the east this spring. Heard some more just fledged begging Carolina Chickadees today.

May 19 ~ Strong southerlies all day, maybe we will get some migrant birds tomorrow. Mostly sunny in p.m. after an overcast morning with a couple brief spits of precip. Kathy heard a warbler sing late p.m. she thought was a Yellow. Over the day I had a couple Orchard Oriole, the pair of Yellow-billed Cuckoo, all the regulars. Heard a White-tipped Dove again, seemingly near daily now from porch. Probably nesting over by river somewhere. A female Falcate Orangetip butterfly is probably my latest date for one of those. Must be well over a hundred firefly in front yard now. An awesome show.

May 18 ~ Balmy overnight but no thunder or rain, maybe the water will drop below the road level at the 360 crossing today? Warm and humid in the afternoon (60-70%) and 85dF is sticky if you are doing something besides guarding a fan in the shade.

No migrant motion in the morning. I really expected a wave when this broke and haven't seen anything. There has to be another wave (or two) as we haven't had but Least for flycatchers yet. Things like Willow or Olive-sided Flycatcher have not yet shown up. Hope we didn't miss them this year. The middle half of May is typically flycatcher time here (for the northerly breeders that just pass through) and there are usually some more stray warbler and other goodies too. Since many things were behind a bit this spring I think that they just haven't gotten here yet and we've still some migrant birds to come. In migration, as life, most people quit too early.  ;)

May 17 ~ Just before dawn another (!) MCS moved over which was about at San Angelo to Ozona at 11 p.m. It dropped another (!) 1.75" of rain! We are near 10 INCHES of rain since last Monday morning - in a week. Fortunately it has been in 2" bursts every other day or so, so lots of aquifer recharge resulting. Probably are some wells around the valley that have water now for the first time in way too long. Probably water at the Hwy. 127 bridge (at Pepper's) in Sabinal now.

Heard a couple Orchard Oriole in the morning but that was it for non-immediate-area breeders (they nest near, but not sure how near). Was going to tape some singing Dickcissel and check UR out but the crossing had 4" of water roaring over it and I chickened out. A Spotted Sandpiper was on the high curbs at the one section where they are. A Ringed Kingfisher flew by while I was there, looking for some clear water to fish in. One female Yellow Warbler was all I saw in the pecans in that area. They are done blooming for the most part and no longer the major drawing card they were save being a big leafy deciduous attractant (where all my local Chestnut-sided Warblers records have been, in pecans).

I found one of the neat black-bodied 'daddy long-legs' with some color in legs, the first I have seen alive, and got some poor photos. The only other one I saw was dead, under a Black Widow web where it no doubt lost its life. Not actually a true spider though superficially looks like one, it is in the order Opiliones (harvestmen and daddy long-legs) in the class Arachnida (which includes spiders, scorpions, ticks, etc.).

We took a late afternoon walk to the crossing mostly for butterflies, the roadside flowers are really getting going. We saw at least a dozen Prairie Larkspur, so will collect some seeds in a month or so. One Yellow Warbler, heard Scissor-tail, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting, Yellow-throateds in both warbler and vireo, but mostly the roar of the river. Saw a couple Tawny Emperor butterflies, a Fiery Skipper, and a Violet Dancer damselfly. We heard a White-tipped Dove calling.

The best find though was a pair of the Orange-winged Blister Beetle (Lytta fulvipennis), initially flying and not around poppies so looking more like the Pepsis Wasp it appears they mimic. On they way back I presume the same pair (male and female) were on some Prickly Poppy where you usually see them (or else on Mexican Poppy). The females are big beetles. Do not touch one of these beasts, the chemicals they squirt as a defensive juice blisters, and is said to be very very painful.

Here is a pic from 2010 so you know what not to pet.

Lytta fulvipennis

Orange-winged Blister Beetle (Lytta fulvipennis) A female about 1.5" long. DO NOT TOUCH!

A Monarch flew by late afternoon that I couldn't say for sure if it was a worn pale one or a new emergence, just that it was a Monarch, it went by too quickly. Also in the late afternoon a male Common Grackle flew over the house, don't see many from yard, though they nest at Feller's by the gun shop.

The firefly show before dark is amazing, there are surely way over a hundred in the yard, it is sparkling out there incredibly. They have peaked by time the Chuck-wills-widows start calling just before actual dark. The Eastern Treehole Mosquitoes tell me when it is time to get inside. They are small, fast, and vicious biters right at dusk. They are one result of rain, all the treeholes have filled up. Chiggers still aren't bad though, just stray singles so far. If it dries up a bit, watch out.

May 16 ~ Misty in the a.m., cleared in the afternoon, got up to low-mid 80's dF, and dripping humidity. No migrant movement. Finally late afternoon I had one Yellow Warbler. Went out and dug up a few native wildflowers and transplanted to house. Working on getting a good assortment of natives going for the butterflies. Found a Prarie Larkspur which may be new for my 360 area list, and in any case one of the prettiest flowers we have here. Trying to make it so there is a full enough selection of the native flowers that something is always blooming in the yard that is a butterfly magnet.

Best was a Soapberry Hairstreak (Phaeostrymon alcestis) butterfly photo'd at point blank nectaring on Mexican Hat. Which confirms Soapberry (their foodplant) here too since it was mint and fresh. The plant and the butterfly are both new species for my 360 list. They seem to have a brief flight period (the butterfly, not the tree) as I do not record them annually here, so a real treat to upgrade my photos. At some rain puddles in the road were over a half-dozen Duskywing (Erynnis) skippers. A couple Funereal, four Mournful, one Horace's and a Northern Cloudywing to boot. Good thing no one came along to see me using my bins staring at the puddles in the road right in front of me. A Texan Crescent was in the yard later. One probable Elada Checkerspot got away down on 360.

A male Orchard Oriole sang for a bit as it trolled through the yard in the afternoon. Never get tired of that. Heard White-tipped Dove calling over toward river again. Saw a Pale-faced Clubskimmer (dragon) in yard which briefly hung-up (perched hanging vertically as oposed to perching horizontally, certain dragon groups perch horizontally while others hang vertically) until it saw the 'go-get-camera' gleam in my eyes.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 15 ~ A big slow moving MCS moved over much of the night. Bad for sleep, good for the aquifer. Rained about a half-inch per hour for 6 hours, with a bolt of lightning every time you just fell back to sleep. LOL  Average totals around town seem to be about 3"! Some got a little less, some got near 4"! Which makes at least 6-7 and for some 8 inches of rain since Monday morning! GADZOOKS! A hot dry May wasn't in the cards. We might be nearing D1 on the drought monitor scale after all this.

Before 7 a.m. I had put out the hummer and seed feeders and tossed seed, went to look off front porch for a minute, and a Coyote walks right by down the road right past the gate. We hear them all the time but this is the first I have seen from the porch. Very neat if you ask me. I know a lot of locals are not crazy about them, but they are part of a healthy ecosystem, and are not over-populated unlike say introduced non-native axis deer or feral pigs which do nothing but damage to ecosystems (and taste great). :) We ought to be at war with the feral pigs. They are actually screwing the land and balance of nature up in ways most but the biologist can't imagine.

First migrant of day was about 11 a.m., a Least Flycatcher, at noon a male Yellow Warbler showed up singing, and at noon-thirty a male Mourning Warbler burst into song by the cottage. I got a little bit of audio tape of it singing, very cool to hear them sing down here, they don't sing much this far south of the breeding grounds (Canada). It is a couple buzzy intro notes followed by a jumble that sounds like a partial slower House Wren babble. Later I heard it while in the office.  ... just a Mourning Warbler singing while I work...

After 5 p.m. I went to UR to check the frostweed patch and pecans. Just about nothing. One Acadian Flycatcher singing is a new return (they nest here non-drought years). A Parula type warbler I heard singing was a couple hundred yards from where the pair has been, and was not singing either of the two (normal regular) songs that male has been singing. But I couldn't get an eye on him. It sounded like worth checking to make sure wasn't a Tropical as it was high thin and fast. There was nothing at the crossing pecans. The water was over crossing at some point, say the big branches on it. The Sabinal roars again! I heard at least four different calling Couch's Spadefoot Toad from the porch after dark.

May 14 ~ The cloudy with rain threat continues, we are about two weeks straight of it now, and the next week to ten days is forecast to be more of the same. Yesterday the high was only in the upper 60's dF! In mid-May! Another MCS is predicted to move over tonight. The rivers and streams are running at bankfull now. Our normally dry draw a hundred yards north of us was roaring yesterday morning to afternoon. No migrants moving through in a.m., probably most things are still being held down at departure source points.

If you aren't feeding hummingbirds, count yourself lucky. The weather has really cut down on their main food, small flying bugs, and they are for a couple weeks now (and the next), almost completely dependent on the feeders. But no you can't claim them. This is compounded by the huge numbers of juveniles that have just fledged, the first round of them. They have gray heads. We probably have over 500 birds at 3 feeders. I am hearing many locals saying they are seeing amazing numbers now too. If you are using a gallon of fluid a day, you likely have 500 too. You may see 25 at once, but they are changing every minute or two and in a half hour 20 sets of 25 have visited.

Due to rain forecast for tomorrow I made a dash to town this afternoon. And boy am I glad I did. I see a few birds were knocked down, probably in yesterday morning's rain, and were grounded so still about. A roadside wet spot in town (behind the Pico gas station!) had a Baird's Sandpiper! So I was surpised Haby's wet spot on W. Sabinal Rd. had no shorebirds. There are Grasshopper Sparrow singing in that area though, I have heard them both checks in the last week. I've yet to detect anything I would call summering or breeding Grasshopper Sparrow hereabouts, only passage birds so far.

A Zone-tailed Hawk cruised low right over Main St. about 4:30 p.m. At the park (UP) there were a few migrants. A Coot is always good here and so it must have rained. Up in the woods was a female Common Yellowthroat, a male Mourning Warbler, an Oporornis that got away (probably another Mourning), and a stunning male CANADA Warbler at point blank, as close as I could focus. OMG. One of my favorites, it is only the fourth one in 12 springs here, so quite a rary actually. Made my day. A Swainson's Thrush and Yellow-billed Cuckoo tried to get my attention but succeeded only momentarily. Interestingly there was only one UvCo record of Canada as of the 2002 Uvalde Co. checklist by Lytle Blankenship, June Osborne, et. al. All four of my local spring records are in the woods at north end of UP, and all fall between May 9 and 14 (with my first in 2004 on May 14 as well), a rather narrow window of passage dates.

Almost forgot, what with that fancy well-marked warbler, two featureless Warbling Vireo were together at the 354 pecans, staying very close together and seemingly like a pair. They were quite olive (not gray) as all here seemingly are, so then, Eastern Warbling Vireo. One other item was a dragonfly, a Band-winged Dragonlet at a flooded field on the east side of Jones Cmty. Rd at the Spring Branch junction. First of the year.

May 13 ~ We had a big MCS (line of rain cells) go by in the morning and got about 2" more of rain! So 4" in the last 3 days! I haven't seen the river running like this since the 6" event last May or June. The areas to our south and southeast have been socked in with weather several days now, likely precluding migrant departures, and so, any new arrivals here. There should be a good wave when it breaks enough for stuff to move, maybe Saturday?

There are a few new photos up on the Rarities page (link at the bird photos index page). Sylvia Hilbig has kindly allowed us to put up her photos of the Roseate Spoonbills last summer, and the Avocet and Black-necked Stilt she and Steve just saw in late April on W. Sabinal Rd. Also a photo by Ken Cave of 2 of the 3 Hudsonian Godwits at Sabinal May 11-12 by has been added. They are up near top so you don't have to scroll through the whole thing if you've been there, done that. Thank you very much to Ken Cave and Sylvia Hilbig! GREAT photos of great birds!

Off and on showers continued in afternoon, but little precip, I managed one migrant late about 5 p.m., a Least Flycatcher. Barred Owl calling over at river at dusk, but best was after dark the Couch's Spadefoot Toad was calling again. What a neat beast, a toad with vertical pupils like a cat, that can live a year (or two or more?) buried in the ground waiting for rain.

May 12 ~ A bit of showers overnight and in day, mostly just cooler (in 60's dF) and cloudy. No migrants going through. After not getting through yesterday I tried calling my friend Ken Cave in Sabinal and got him this morning. Woke him up. LOL That is the kind of friend I am. ;) Good thing I had an excuse. Told him about the Hudsonian Godwits there and in an hour or so he had e-mailed me better photos than I got of the birds. Awesome! That is what getting the word out can do. Not to mention turning someone on to something they too enjoy. Turns out he needed a break, and I called him just in time. LOL And now we have a two-day record, so far, and with better pics. One of Ken's pics is on Rarities photo page.

A pair of Cuckoos are again seeming to take up around yard and corral, moving through yard pecans a few times a day again. About 3:30 I walked off front porch and flushed a Zone-tailed Hawk out of the big pecan that is 10' off porch. It only takes one NBE - near bird experience - to make your day. What a bird to have sitting your dang porch tree. Bobwhite and Dickcissel singing across road in afternoon. An Orchard Oriole went through yard, a Least Flycatcher was out there a bit. A White-tipped Dove called a few times from over near river. The last hour of light is a great firefly display, now showing nightly.

May 11 ~ Got up to a big rain cell which dumped 1.5-2.5" of rain around Utopia! WOW! Delayed departure for Uvalde an hour to wait for it to get by us and Hwy. 90. Russ and Polly Boley and I birded Sabinal to Uvalde today, and had a fantastic great day, nice and rain cooled but didn't get wet, with good birds and good company.

We had an outstanding highlight first thing in the morning (9 a.m.) down near Sabinal at the 2730 stock tanks. Three HUDSONIAN GODWIT were among a few birds at the wet spot. I know of only one UvCo record (one, ph. at fish hatchery May 5, 2006) prior. I'd call it a near-mega (rarity status) here. We watched them feed and preen in the scope for a half hour. Awesome. Saw them again on the way back after 3 p.m.

In the morning at the tank there were 8 Wilson's Phalarope, 5 Lesser Yellowlegs, a Least Sandpiper, and a drake Shoveler. In the afternoon there were 2 new STILT Sandpiper, 11 Wilson's Phalarope, only 3 Lesser Yellowlegs, no Least Sandpiper, but the Shoveler continued with a number of Blue-winged Teal. Turnover in 6 hours. That's migration.

Lower Sabinal Rd. (aka Old 90) was a bit slow, especially for Painted Bunting but tons of Dickcissel along it. Saw a couple Curve-billed Thrasher along it. One field has still both singing Grasshopper Sparrow and Cassin's Sparrows. A couple Swainson's Hawks were along the road and we had a couple Lesser Nighthawk feeding along it too.

Cook's Slough had nothing but the expected suspects though Common Grackles nesting there again should be mentioned since a recent new phenomenon. The Uvalde Fish Hatchery had some birds though. A surprising number of waterfowl continue of the sort that are generally gone by now. A few Gadwall, at least 8 American Wigeon, two pairs of Redhead, and the usual dozen or two Blue-winged Teal. Quite a few Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, some of which just got their first young out of the nest in last day or two. One first year White-faced Ibis was there. For shorebirds besides the Killdeer there were a Spotted Sandpiper, a few Lesser Yellowlegs, some Wilson's Phalarope, a group of 3 peeps that consisted of a Baird's, a Least, and a Semipalmated Sandpiper. All three in great alternate (breeding) plumage, that SemiSand is a bit scarce here in UvCo.

May 10 ~ Guided some very nice folks, Russ and Polly Boley from CO and AZ, around today, mostly at Lost Maples, where you can't go wrong, even in the rain. On the way there a Ringed Kingfisher was flying downriver over the cypress trees in Bandera Co. near Corneilius Rd about 5-6 miles north of Utopia.

We got good looks at Golden-cheeked Warbler, though they are somewhat quiet now, young not yet out of nests and we did not see a female for instance. We did not go up top of bluffs above ponds but did have a couple close to trail Black-capped Vireo singing we did not see. A couple Broad-winged Hawk were interesting.

There were about zero migrants though. I heard at least 8 Yellow-throated Warbler singing. A dozen years ago there were none to be expected or found there. It is a remarkable expansion into habitat they were not previously occupying. Saw the regular stuff like Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Scott's Oriole, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Acadian Flycatcher, texana Scrub-Jay, heard Hutton's Vireo and several Louisiana Waterthrush, heard lots of Black-and-white Warblers, lots of Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireo. A couple migrant Kingbirds flew over high above the ridges that I couldn't get an ID on.

It was a bit misty, some brief heavier showers, but more often than not nice for being overcast. Despite which a few good butterflies were seen: a Little Wood Satyr, a Mourning Cloak, an Oak Hairstreak, and a Silvery Checkerspot, all four can be scarce here and not easy sure things every year. We had great looks at a Two-tailed Swallowtail, I saw a Spicebush Swallowtail briefly and a black form female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

There were no shorebirds at the W. Sabinal Rd. pond at Haby's or at the buffalo wallows on S. Little Creek Rd. We had a distant Kingbird at Little Creek that was not a Western. Probably a Couch's. At the park (UP) there were no migrants either. But we did have good looks at a Barred Owl. A Bobwhite is calling out front of Utopia on the River from over in pasture across 360, which I suppose could be the one I am hearing, but then it is really moving around. Loads of Dickcissel there too.

One female Yellow Warbler in the yard in afternoon really increased the migrant warbler total for the day, by a bazillion percent.  ;) The firefly show at dusk was great at least 5 dozen going off like crazy, amazing. A couple more Barred Owl were heard late in the evening from the porch. Three total for the day is good.

May 9 ~ The weather of the last week is predicted to be much the same the next week. Morning low stratus from the S to SE gulf flow, which varies from cloudy overcast to fog or mist, sometimes drizzle or a brief shower, and occasional sun popping out in afternoons. With various impulses of or from a low, low level jet, short wave, and front, etc. seemingly giving good chances for rain daily but as we have seen this week that doesn't mean we will actually get much. Next week is forecast to have potential for a real rain-maker, they say. We will see. Today was variously 40% chances or more and it was mostly sunny.

Again cleared up enough to see stars at dusk, and it seems like all the (migrant) birds left. Besides local nesters nothing moving in or through yard in morning so likely stuff was unable to move our way. Departures beat arrivals, all to none. It was a complete blowout. I hate when that happens. Often many nocturnal migrants still move during the day in the direction of their migration, but on the ground (in the trees). Particularly along river habitat corridors, which is why the park, or the yard, could be checked 3 times a day and have different birds each time. Or none. Point is something that made landfall after a night's flight a mile or two (or more) from you could work its way by in the afternoon. So while some migrants will stick in a favorable site to feed a few days while resting and tanking up, others keep going that are more rested and gassed up.

But a dozen yard checks today didn't get much of anything. One Dickcissel. Hear the Bobwhite across river, it is seemingly trolling and moving north. It started on east side of river near airstrip. Sang for a few days. Then moved across river and sang from those pastures for a few days. Now is is slightly up and across river nearing the country club and singing, so moving upvalley on foot trying to sing a mate in. Had a Monarch (worn pale) in the late afternoon.

At dusk from my station in the rocker on the front porch, I saw something moving up driveway coming right toward the stone steps leading to porch. An odd dumpy animal with a slow waddling gate. Finally after much straining to see it in the near dark, I could make it out at 25' or so, a Porcupine! I whispered trying to get Kathy's attention to come and see it but it heard me and turned around and left. New for my IN the yard list, I'd a couple over at the draw a hundred yards from the yard.

May 8 ~ I saw stars late last night and surely the birds did too, and so took off, the pair of Yellow, the male Wilson's Warblers, and the Least Flycatcher in yard the prior 3 days are all gone this a.m., as is the two-day Bell's Vireo. It did fog-mist back up and drizzling again by morning though. A Baltimore Oriole was out there early, the only migrant first 3 hours. Then a male Yellow Warbler moved in.

A quick dash to town hoping to beat the rain predicted for the afternoon. Three Yellow Warbler at the 354 pecans, 6 singing Dickcissel in the pasture. At UP there were two male Common Yellowthroat, a (different from Tues.) white Northern Waterthrush, a Swainson's Thrush singing, and thought I heard a Mourning Warbler from the island. One Yellow Warbler. Slow. On way home a Mourning Warbler was along the 360 just a couple hundred yards south of our place along the corral. A dozen Dickcissel are singing along the west leg of 360. Misted and drizzled a bit, but predicted afternoon rains never materialized.

I was watching the firefly show from the rocker on the porch during dusk, it was really getting going, at least 3 dozen - probably more, going off for a half-hour intensively. I love it. I was surprised to hear an UPLAND SANDPIPER call overhead flying due north by tracking the call, then another called behind it, and another behind that. At least three minimum different birds. Though common in fall, I do not record them here every spring, they are less than annual in spring, so a great bird. The normal edge of their spring path is east of us, they are regular at San Antonio while rare here in spring. I listened as hard as I could hoping to pick up some other grasspiper calling amongst them but did not hear anything else.

Then I caught some motion on the stone sidewalk right off the porch, not 10' from me, GRAY FOX! I had been still and it made a quick little jump when it detected me, but rather unconcernedly continued on its way out the stone steps and driveway. Like it owns the place. Always neat to see very close.

~ ~ ~ prior update ~ ~ ~

May 7 ~ More low clouds, fog, drizzle, mist, light showery and a 70dF low. In the morning the Bobwhite is still calling from pasture across the river. Seemingly holdovers from yesterday are the male Wilson's and 1st yr. male Yellow Warbler, the female Yellow Warbler, a Least Flycatcher, and, the Bell's Vireo is still singing in the mesquite. The former four all seem to be on their third days in the yard. Likely new was an Orchard Oriole and an adult Yellow Warbler, both of which sang.

The breeding bird dawn chorus is pretty strong now, with Great Crested Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, the loud Carolina Wrens (and Bewick's), Titmouse (Black-crested), Cardinal, White-eyed Vireo, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat, Painted Bunting, Vermilion Flycatcher, House finch, Lesser Goldfinch and Eastern Bluebird, all bordering on getting pretty noisy the first hour plus of light. Then a few dove sps., the other 2 Myiarchus, Turkey and Bobwhite. It is pretty impressive, and not a bad selection of singers, especially with a few passage migrants for spice.

The Hooded Oriole usually sings a little on the way in and out of the feeder but is not really part of the morning roar. There is a female, a first-year male, and the adult male coming in now. A lot of times the gives a single piping note that sounds like a beechei California Ground Squirrel.

About noon I had 3 Least Flycatcher in yard at once, two were apparently from that team, the fighting che-beks (their song). About 1:30 p.m. I spotted a MISSISSIPPI Kite outside, and scanning produced 5 more. Then another, a first-year, came by a few minutes later and while watching it a lone FRANKLIN'S GULL flew by! Had some Frankies over country club a couple years ago, this is the first from yard.

About 3 p.m. it was low 80's dF and very humid. Kathy spotted a White-crowned Sparrow at the bath which was a black-lored pink-billed leucophrys type. Ground-Dove count was 4 in yard, no Incas, lots of White-winged and Mourning, can hear Collared, at least I don't often have to see them.

A begging Black-chinned Hummingbird juvenile is likely my earliest ever date locally for a fresh just-fledged young. As if there are not too many hummers at the feeders already. They're killin' me, well indirectly anyway, my wife is going to kill me over them. Only keeping 3 feeders out and it is ridiculous, especially these rainy days when they can't get much for bugs.

An hour before dark I was out on the driveway and heard the Catbird over north fence at edge of the draw. Probably day 3 for it too. The pair of Vermilion Flycatcher have been feeding nightly from lowest branches of the pecans the last half-hour of flycatching light. The male still doing flight song at 9 p.m. when fully dark out.

May 6 ~ Cloudy all night, a few sprinkles, low in upper 60's dF. Bell's Vireo first thing singing across road in mesquites, not one of the five species of vireo I saw in yard yesterday (though had it down the road). Orchard Oriole singing too. Looks like same Yellow and Wilson's Warblers are still here that were here until dark. Later in morning a Catbird was calling over north fence, also likely the one I heard upslope last night an hour before dark. A Least Flycatcher likely an overnighter from yesterday as well. All of those stayed in or around the yard most of day. An Eastern Wood-Pewee and a few Dickcissel went through, but not much migrant motion. Probably stuff grounded at source, or cutoff enroute if it could move.

Wednesdays are nearly bad as Thursdays for me though, have to be on phone and computer most of day and couldn't look much, only listen through partly open windows. I do little 5 minute checks every hour but it was the same all day. Couple Chimney Swifts on one check. Finally after 5 p.m. I looked around a bit and there was a quiet-singing male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK out back over the shed. Only the second in yard, and didn't even see one locally last year. It is always a good bird here, and one of the most strikingly beautiful birds in North America if you ask me. They look like they are in formal attire, natty in black and white, with a huge unbelievably pink corsage mid-breast.

May 5 ~ Strong SE (Gulf) flow and low stratus clouds, balmy lows. Was pretty dead for migrants until about 9:30 when a group of them showed up. Best was a PHILADELPHIA VIREO, one of the pale (worn?) ones below with bright yellow in center of upper breast to lower throat. Nice narrow crisp black line through eye, what a beauty. Awesome point blank views from 10' in the big pecan right off the front porch and later the pecan out kitchen window. It and a Yellow Warbler chased each other. I have recorded them 6 of 12 springs here, but not in the last two. A new yard bird too.

There were at least 2 male and 1 female Yellow, and at least 2 male Wilson's Warbler, an Orchard Oriole, a Red-eyed Vireo, a Least Flycatcher and a Dickcissel. All at once. Topped off with a singing 1st yr. male Golden-cheeked Warbler in live-oaks upslope behind us and then in junipers along north fence. It was a real party goin' on for an hour, some seeming to hang out in yard.

Now is when to run to the local migrant traps like the park, UR, the 354 pecan patch, etc., dang struggle for the legal tender always getting in the way. ;) I would bet a good list of migrants could be worked up locally today. After the Philly V disappeared I walked over and checked the draw pecans quickly, nothing.

Quarter to noon another check around yard. Was light spotty showers. Seemed a couple of the same Yellows and a Wilson's. But new was the Nashville Warbler, a bright male Blue-headed Vireo, and male and female Black-throated Green Warblers together in the pecan out the kitchen window over the bird bath were awesome. The male sang once. Holy cow there are birds out there. I might have to ditch or play hooky for an hour or two. There were a couple new baby Chickadees, second clutch for the pair that got just one out a month plus ago.

No sooner than I write that and I see something bathing on the wet leaves right over the cottage, right behind the monitor. I grab me desk bins, and spy a male Mourning Warbler! FOS. Kathy got into office quick enough to get a look at the wet-leaf bathing too. Outfreakinstanding! Then Kathy spots a female Black-n-white Warbler! These early May ones are far north nesters, we get a regular wave of them long after the locals are in and nesting.

So at 1 p.m. lunch break I figure I have about 9 species of warblers and 5 species of vireos in the yard this morning. That is what here constitutes a fallout. Clearly beyond the normal level of migrants. Yeah sure mostly onesies, do ya think I care? It only takes one good bird to make your day. There is an event underway. So, hooky it is. I grab my rain jacket and head out to check some blooming pecans and mulberries. And boy am I glad I did.

A few Yellow Warbler on way down to crossing where I checked the pecans. Besides 10+ Yellow Warbler there was a first year male BLACKBURNIAN Warbler! Awesome. A Swainson's Thrush was my FOS, it chased another thrush away which I did not ID. One Wilson's and 2 Nashville there too, a Northern Waterthrush at the river-edge, plus a Green Kingfisher.

At UR there were 7+ more Yellow Warbler, the pair of Northern Parula, another Nashville, a Wilson's, and a male MAGNOLIA Warbler! Warbling Vireo sang, another Swainson's Thrush chased another thrush which stopped in a mulberry and was a GRAY-CHEEKED Thrush! Finally a singing Indigo Bunting back there. They cleared a nice path through the Frostweed on the east side so you can take a quick swing out through woods more easily without getting wet legs from the plants.

Went to 354 pecan patch just a couple hundred yards east of 187 a half-mile south of town. 6 Yellow Warbler at once. Probably more than that there. Lots of Dickcissel along the road. So went to UP. Two MOURNING Warbler were in woods at north end, a FOS CATBIRD was in the mulberries on the island, a white Northern Waterthrush was along island too. Male and female Common Yellowthroat were my first seen this spring (heard only in April). Another Black-throated Green Warbler sang.

I had to get back to the office, blew two hours in a few blinks. Heard White-tipped Dove from driveway when I got back at 3:30. Still 2-3 Yellow and the male Wilson's here until dusk. At about 6 p.m. another CATBIRD called from up the hill behind us. I must have missed at least a dozen warblers that shot off over all the various stops and day.

In total is was quite the day and fallout for way inland here. I looked only in yard a couple hours and a couple hours with 40 minutes each at three stops and 15 min at another. About 75 individual warblers of fourteen species (counting Chat) is a major happening here. Toss on 7 species of Vireo with a Philadelphia, Catbirds, a Gray-cheeked Thrush, and honorable mention for a Magnolia, 3 Mourning, and a Blackburnian Warbler.

It was a great day locally. If one could have spent all day going from here to Lost Maples and back they would have likely seen 20 species of warblers and 9 species of vireos today. Remarkable. Any time you see 10 species of warblers here you had a good day, and that includes the breeders. Today was 10 migrant species, plus 4 breeding species just in a few hours at a few patches of trees around Utopia. Amazing.

Surely the showers over the day totalled over a quarter-inch , likely a third-inch, of rain. It was wet to be out there, but as usual during peak migrant window, worth it! Temps stayed around 70 dF as a result of the contant mist and drizzle. And it's not like I could have been out there using the electric weed-whacker in it!

May 4 ~ So much for those great crisp lows last week. Sure was nice while it lasted, a great way to stretch spring. Here where you have a long hot summer, you try to keep spring going as long as you can. Into June if you can get away with it. This minor El Nino in the Eastern Pacific is usually a contributing factor to us having cooler wetter springs. This week there will be little temp change with a current predicted range of about 65-85 the whole week and rain chances every day. Usually that means a few showers will pass by, and most of the day, and much of the area, won't see any precip, or very light precipitation. And good birding.

Gulf flow and low clouds, no migrant movement out there through mid-morning but some streamer showers. After 10 a.m. had a Yellow Warbler, and at 11 a Dickcissel. A rain cell just missed about 4 p.m. with a trace here, but it appeared Garner S.P. got an inch, and Lost Maples got a half-inch. While I was typing these bird notes, right now (shortly after 5 p.m.) a Yellow-billed Cuckoo called and then flew right by the office window.

The male Summer Tanager bathed at bath, its departured followed almost immediately by a nice fresh Red Admiral landing adjacent to bath and imbibing on tanager-splashed water drops on the Straggler Daisy leaves. I presume it had been watching the tanager bathe, smacking its proboscis. About 6 p.m. a Warbling Vireo moved through yard. Sun came out for a quick bit, but strong southerlies never stopped.

May 3 ~ A 60dF low, southeast gulf flow, low morning clouds, but not much for birds going by. Figures, I have a couple hours to look around. Early through yard was 'nothers of Dickcissel and Least Flycatcher. Heard Bobwhite and Turkey again early.

The east leg of 360 between 187 and the river is lined with singing Dickcissel, at least a dozen, and there is at least one Grasshopper Sparrow singing in the pasture to south of 360 near Utopia on the River. At UR the singing male Parula warbler continues, it is a Northern, and today there was a female with it. Holy cow. There is no nesting record for them in the upper Sabinal River drainage. Frio headwaters at Big Springs is the only locally known nesting location.

One Yellow and one Nashville Warbler were it for migrants at UR. No Acadian Flycatcher yet, and surprisingly no singing Indigo Bunting. Red-eyed Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler seem on territory. One Eastern Wood-Pewee. Didn't see or hear a cuckoo. Numbers seem down for a lot of birds though. At the 360 crossing there was briefly a CASSIN'S Kingbird, which was in a big pecan and flew off shortly. I had a pair in the yard late last April, and a decade ago had one in Lost Maples (ph.) in early May. Have a Uvalde Fish Hatchery record too.

At about 12:30 p.m. an Arizona Sister flew across the yard northward, the first one I have seen locally in 5-6 years. Where did it come from? I saw a flattened one in front of Neal's Store in Concan a couple weeks ago. Butterfly species #82 for the yard. About 4:30 p.m. a singing Yellow Warbler was in pecans out front. That makes 3 today, only one Nashville, must be May. I looked along a mile and a half + of the river habitat corridor in total today, no tiny buteo love.

Saw the male House Sparrow go up to the Bewick's Wren's nestbox and get ejected from the vicinity in no uncertain terms. Last I saw as they headed up the hill into thick foliage, the wren appeared to be trying to take the sparrows temperature, in flight.

There were a couple dozen plus Firefly at dusk, one of nature's greatest shows on earth. Hearing Common Nighthawk nightly now besides the Chucks. Great to hear that booming again.

May 2 ~ upper-40's dF for a low, still dry, still great, warmed to low 80's or so. Not much migrant motion this a.m., a Yellow Warbler sang early, another Dickcissel stopped in the big pecan and sang. Heard both Turkey and Bobwhite early. I heard all the doves flush along with everything else so knew a hawk had dove on the patio. I walked around from front porch and saw a hawk fly off that was a tiny buteo. Surely it was the Roadside Hawk. Second time I have had it fly off by the cottage. A couple more Least Flycatcher went through yard over the day.

Third day of some serious weed-whacking trying to clean it up out there whilst retaining as much of the native wildflower bloom as possible. My arms are so tired I can't fly anywhere. I would have a beer if I thought I could lift it. Now I see there truly was an actual need driving the creation of those gravity-feed beer-holder hats. Hope there is nothing I need to lift binocs for.

~ ~ ~ prior update ~ ~ ~

May 1 ~ Oh my, it's May!?!?!? Next you'll tell me it is 2015! OMG, if true I am way further behind than I thought I was. In case any of you were wondering how weird it was that you read this website, in April there were about 3000 different visitors. That means you are in an elite group, of what I don't know.  :P   Probably people that need to be bored to sleep? LOL! Thank you all very much for your interest! It is very heartening to know something you do has value for others.

A third morning in the mid-40's dF and dry, it's like, well, utopia. Saw my FOS female Blue Grosbeak this morning, another Least Flycatcher out front, heard the Bobwhite singing again, which is great from the porch. Not a big migrant bird movement morning though. A Dickcissel and a Nashville was it the first 3 hours. After a few weeks without one, a Pine Siskin stopped briefly and called so I would notice it. Counter-singing Great Crested Flycatcher are neat besides Ash-throated and Brown-crested singing.

Town run today so a park check, never happens on the big fallout days, those are on days I have to be at phone and computer. OK, back, and well, not much for migrants at the park. A getting tardy Orange-crowned Warbler sang, as did my FOS MacGillivray's Warbler, which was a 1st spring bird. Pretty quiet is how I would describe it beyond the local breeders. Too bad they can't leave some of the wildflowers between river edge and where you park (up toward the shelters). It was looking great last week, a bunch of wildflowers starting to bloom, butterflies coming in, today I see it has been mowed down to the ground, and no butterflies where there were many. They are wildflowers, not weeds. Nice to see water pouring over the dam though!

Late p.m . about 7:30 I heard a Green Heron over by the river. They nest annually (wet years) up by the park, and surely more pairs in a number of places along the river, mostly where there is some pond type habitat and effect. It is only the third or so that I have had from the yard. Someone in town told me they had a foot+ long worm the other day while digging in the garden. I bet $10 to a donut it was a Worm Snake, aka Texas Blind Snake, and now Plains Threadsnake. Spring after rains is when they come up to and near surface from their subterranean lifestyle. I would love to see a foot-longer. I just keep getting them 3.5-8" or so.

~ ~ ~ April Summary ~ ~ ~

The big story this April was rain, lots of it, 6-7" locally, water is running over the spillway at the park dam for the first time since last June methinks. A great flower bloom is underway and will likely run a couple more months with all the water we got. A big wind storm though took out many of the pecan flowers too soon. We and the wildlife will pay for that this fall.

The butterflies were outstanding, particularly a pronounced wave that arrived and passed on April 25. That day I saw 45 species in a few hours, in less than a mile of W.360, with counts of over a hundred of multiple species, overwhelmingly in northward progression. I saw 56 species for the month, just one short of my best April ever here, 57 in 2004. In other words, it was my best April in over a decade for butterfly diversity. Amazing what a little rain can do.

Highlights were POLYDAMUS Swallowtail and DOTTED (A. eos) Roadside-Skipper. Prior I've only seen for sure one Polydamus here (+ a couple probables), and the A. eos was regular here in 04-08 period or so, and disappeared with the onset of the drought. This is the first one I have seen in five years or more. There has been a good movement of big pale worn (migrant) Monarchs from Mexico this spring, many more than I saw last year.

For birds it was a great month. I saw about 128 species locally, Lost Maples to Utopia in April. I know of a handful of others seen by others that I didn't see, and surely another handful went by undetected. A very birdy month. April might be the month with the most FOS's, lots of returning breeders as well as passage migrants showing up after many months far to the south of us.

The biggest thing was seeing three times again, the ROADSIDE HAWK, at the park on the 10th, at edge of town out front of park the 14th, and once more it flew by our place a couple miles south of town on the 18th. Best yet, I heard it calling at the park so got to experience and confirm another aspect of its characters. It doesn't sound anything like any North American raptor.

A LONG-EARED OWL calling the night of April 9 was my second best find. Another outstanding discovery was Steve and Sylvia Hilbig finding an AMERICAN AVOCET with 2 BLACK-NECKED STILT at the flood pond on W. Sabinal Rd. in Bandera County. Exceptional spring records in the Sabinal River Valley, the first I know of. Sylvia got great photos too. Multiple Broad-winged Hawks at Lost Maples was good, especially the dark morph bird. I heard a half-dozen AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER calling, nocturnal migrants on April 16, about the third time I have had them go over at night in spring. I have only had them on the ground in the day a couple times in spring in UvCo, both records a long time ago, 4 at a tank near Sabinal, and one at the Uvalde Fish Hatchery.

Odes are getting active again, just starting through April, but with at least 20 species flying in the month locally. A Pronghorn Clubtail on W.360 that Kathy found was likely the only scarcer type. But after winter it is great to see the common stuff again! Good numbers of Pale-faced Clubskimmer are great to see, they have been down, and Springtime Darner was out in fair numbers as well.

~ ~ end April summary ~ ~

April 30 ~ Man this is awesome, another low low, about 45dF! Clear, sunny, and dry, Chamber of Commerce why they call it Utopia weather. There was some bird movement through the yard early, would be a good day to get out, but a Thursday so I'm stuck at the desk. At least I can hear Painted Bunting, Vermilion and Great Crested Flycatcher, Chat, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Vireo and Warbler singing off and on all day, to take my pain away.... ;)

Very cool was a male Scott's Oriole singing in yard, which watched the male Hooded come into the hummer feeders. I hope he learned something but I didn't see him come in. Had to have seen the feeders though. Then while we get lots of Dickcissels through the yard, of a few this morning one stopped in the big pecan and sang. Too cool. A Least Flycatcher or two was out there again, several Nashville Warbler went through yard, heard a Wilson's sing, and something else went through giving just enough flight note to get me real interested and it shot north out of the big pecan.

A first-year male Hooded Oriole is now coming into the feeders besides the adult. Probably one of last years juveniles. It is a brown and orange type, not the green and yellow type of first year male. Walked to crossing late in p.m. trying one last time for a Buckeye which I noticed I was missing for the month. No Buckeye love. Flight song of Vermilion Flycatcher was the consolation prize.

I am not seeing the Inca Doves anymore. Their either left or the last two got taken by Accipiters. Started last winter with 8, only 2 made it to March, now they are gone. Hope they just went somewhere to nest but with the seed here kinda surprised they would leave it as the original pair fed daily all last year while they bred.

April 29 ~ An incredible low in the low 40's dF, holy cow! And dry. This will likely be the last batch of this for the next four months. A couple passage migrants were in the big pecan this morning (besides a few Nashville Warbler), a male Orchard Oriole and a Least Flycatcher both sang quite a bit for some time. That Orchard Oriole song sounds great as he looks. A Bullock's Oriole sang briefly from the big mesquites across the road as well.

Other things singing are a Painted Bunting right out the office window, Great Crested Flycatcher just upslope in the big live-oaks, Chat and Blue Grosbeak across the road, Cardinal and Carolina Wren are downright loud, Bewick's Wren and the two Yellow-throateds (warbler and vireo) are all going, Summer Tanager, getting to be quite the concert.

A few hundred Black-chinned Hummers at the feeders, at least a dozen male Ruby-throated, likely as many females, I haven't been paying close attention beyond looking or listening for anything that is not an Archilochus. There is a female Black-chinned with a white streak behind the eye made up of unpigmented feathers, so snow white, and superficially appearing as an eyestripe like some rarer female hummers have.

Barred Owl was calling about 10 p.m., Great Horned earlier, must be 5 Chuck-wills-widow within earshot. In flowers Coreopsis is starting to get going, so is Cardinal Flower, at least the males of the latter, Bluets and Blue Curls are going well too.

April 28 ~ Got down to about 50dF and 15-20 MPH northerlies so chills in 40's, wow! Great for late April, I recall a 95dF or so high temp last year at this time, we will top out at the mid-60's dF today! Probably for the last time in 4+ months. Sure feels great! But the northerlies shut down migrant progress south of us, there was nothing moving out there the fisrt few hours this morning that I could detect. Finally almost 10 a.m. there was a first year male Painted Bunting (1st in yard this spring) in lee of house just 8' from me and un-concerned while I was also hiding in lee of house. Later it sang a bit. A green singer is a first year male. Actually there is in some (like this one) the slightest bluish tint to the green so they aren't really the same exact version of lime green as the females. A male Orchard Oriole was in the trees later too.

First thing at 7 a.m. I toss seed on and off one side of the patio. Then I go out back and throw some on a stone walkway near the shed, and the rest at the fenceline at base of the laurel and live-oak hill out back. Usually a few things might flush that were foraging for leftovers while waiting for me. Today a Common Ground-Dove did not flush as I walked up within 10' and twice threw handfuls of seed. It immediately commenced to picking it off the stones as if a human wasn't there and didn't just make throwing motions in its direction. To it, it was just perfect out, raining white millet.

April 27 ~ I guess I shouldn't have said anything about the lack of rain and thunder during sleepytime in yesterday's post. Last night a MCS (mesoscale convective system - a long line of connected thundercells) hit just before midnight. It poured, outflow winds were at least 40 gusting to 50 mph, some pea hail (Leakey had quarter sized). It was buckets for 30 minutes, and medium rain for 30. I think it was about an inch here.

The gusts took almost all the pecan flowers down, likely nearly totalling our crop this year. Seems to me the most common reason for pecan crop failure, bloom-time severe winds the last week of April or early May, either with a frontal passage, or a MCS. We must be at 7" of rain for the last month now. And the morning was in the mid-50's dF with northerly dry winds, unbelieveable, Chamber of Commerce spring weather. Got up to 85dF or so, but dry and nice.

There were a Yellow and couple Nashville Warbler in the yard early, a FOS here Bullock's Oriole, a couple Dickcissel, heard Orchard Oriole. Then an amazing 3 adult White-crowned Sparrows at once on the patio! One had a big orange bill and gray lores, a gambelli, and two were with small pink bills and black lores, leucophrys. Awesome. Clearly some birds got knocked down by the weather. This is when you jump in the car and go check all your local patches for migrants, when there are 10 new ones in the yard in the morning. Except for that work thingie.

The blonde squirrels seem to be acquiring a new pelt and are losing the blonde color on their sides and becoming normally colored. Roughly half the blonde area has turned normal Fox Squirrel color now on one of them. Maybe they didn't realize it was their get out of jail free card?

Kathy found a 3.5 inch (baby) Texas Blind Snake (now called Plains Threadsnake) on the floor, in spring after rains is the time to see one. I put it outside. Mid-day I saw an 11-12" Western Ribbon Snake in the flower bed at front porch.

In the afternoon there was a Least Flycatcher and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo through yard. A Mockingbird sang 5 minutes from the top of the big pecan that was obviously a new arrival migrant. It did perfect Green Jay, Kiskadee, Paraque, Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrasher, an amazingly spot-on Scissor-tail, and a few other things I didn't recognize, probably Mexican birds. The Ring King was over at river.

April 26 ~ No thunder and rain wakeup overnight so that was nice. Upper 60's dF to about 85 was the spread, mostly cloudy with occasional sun. A singing Bobwhite from the porch first thing was great to hear. The butterfly movement was nothing like yesterday. The northward movement must have been held up a couple days by the low pressure system and when the cork blew they flew. One of the first ones I saw on the Mealy Sage at the porch was a Clouded Skipper, one I missed yesterday. Later I saw well fly-bys of Cloudless and Large Orange Sulphurs, both of which I had quick flybys of yesterday but didn't count in the 45 sps. total. Saw another Queen, a few more Monarch. The Mealy Sage patch at the crossing that had 30 species on it yesterday had maybe 5 sps. on it when I checked it today.

There were though a couple FOS birds: Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Utopia on the River (UR), an Eastern Wood-Pewee above the crossing, another at UR, and the first female Painted Bunting for me locally. The amazing thing was Dickcissels, they were everywhere. There were a dozen singing along 360, esp. across from UR, and they called from everywhere, even in the woods, there was a major flight of them that arrived last night or this morning. It was dozens of them. Very cool.

A couple Orchard Oriole were in the yard early, and I heard a couple more near UR and at crossing. Red-eyed Vireo seem back on territory at UR. A Parula (warbler) was singing there which I never saw but sounded like Northern. Besides the fast song, it gave the slow song which is four of the grinding notes slowed down to semmingly one-tenth speed of the fast trill. Sorta like a Cerulean but without the pretty high ascending final zzzraaaaaang note. A few Nashville were around and a couple Yellow Warbler, but very little warbler movement. A Turkey was drinking at the crossing.

An Eyed Elatarid buzzed around a bit, my second in a week or so. The big (1.5") black click beetle with big fake eyes on its thorax are regular enough to be no big deal here. The "Eyed Elater' name is dumber than any animal name I have ever heard. It is as I've heard a reference to how elated one is at seeing them. In other words, it's not about the animal, it's about you and your so important feelings. That is how we should name things? And I thought some bird names were poorly reasoned to stupid! They got nuthin' on the great kahuna bug name deciders. What are they going to do next, call something that bites or stings a bummer? That? It's a big bad bummer. Oh those? Those are make-me-happys. Elater!?!?!? GEEEEEZZZZ! It is like peta calling tuna sea kittens. Ridiculous.

April 25 ~ Overnight a severe storm cell ran east down Hwy. 90 from west of Uvalde to Hondo, dumping 2 to over 3 INCHES of rain down there, an inch several miles south of Utopia at the edge of escarpment. We got another half-inch or so a couple miles south of town, and woken up again at 3:30 a.m. by the thunder. It probably stopped migrant progress south of us though, finally near 10 a.m. I had my first migrant of the day, one Nashville. A Dickcissel briefly in yard shortly after. I suspect last night, yesterday's (passerine) stuff could see the stars through the fog like me, and left.

A pair of Scissor-tails was across road in big old mesquite, facing each other beaks just inches apart for five minutes. As they landed the male made a couple of the higher pitched buzzy downslurred notes that remind me of the sound of firing when playing the Asteroids video game from the 80's.

We took a nooner (11-1) walk down to crossing. Heard a Yellow Warbler, a couple Nashvilles, a Red-eyed Vireo was singing at crossing, Painted Bunting singing in corral, 3 female Scissor-tails were at edge of corral, they just got here, has been mostly males. One Lincoln's Sparrow, Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatchers, a few Yellow-throated Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, lots of Summer Tanager and a couple Yellow-throated Vireo singing. Yesterday was the big bird movement day.

Today's show was the butterflies. A massive movement was evident, just about everything seems to be moving from south to north. While some things are fresh, there are a good number that are beat and worn and obviously immigrants from southward. A Gulf Frit was as worn as any late November individual. Same for several other species (Theona, Vesta and Texan Crescent).

In the following paragraphs of butterfly discussion, for some I put a number in parentheses behind it which is how many I saw in total over the day.

We stood in the shade of a huge Cypress watching a big patch of Mealy Sage by the crossing for 25 minutes and saw 30 species! Best was a Dotted Roadside-Skipper (Amblyscrites eos), which I haven't seen locally in several years. They were common when we got here (04 was our 1st spring) and they disappeared after the drought started, by about 2009.

The patch also had a Texas Powdered-Skipper, Orange Skipperling (4), and Desert Checkered-Skipper (2), all three new for the month, the first two FOY. Funereal (2), Mournful, and Horace's (3) Duskywing were there. Other Skippers were Julia's (10), Dun (20), Fiery, Sachem, Nysa (2) and Celia's (5) Roadside-, and Common Checkered- (10). Where was last week's Clouded Skipper when you need it?

Then there were American Lady (75), Red Admiral (100+), Gulf and Variegated Fritillary, Snout(50-100), Elada Checkerspot (10), Vesta (50) and Phaon Crescent, Bordered Patch, Gray Hairstreak (10), Pipevine Swallowtail (100), Lyside (200+), Orange (75), and Dainty Sulphur (50+), Sleepy Orange (150), So. Dogface (200), and Checkered White (400-500). It was a real party goin' on.

Not all but most seem to be moving from the south, northward. The roadsides are loaded with butterflies and flowers now too, the whole three-quarters mile and back was solid action. Prairie Fleabane in particular is good now, as are rain puddles in caliche roads. Several Questionmark (7) puddling in mudholes in road as were a numbers of Snout and Red Admiral. When we got back to yard a Queen was in it, our FOY. A few more Skipperling checked along the road produced one Southern Skipperling, another FOY.

In yard saw a couple Monarch, a Reakirt's Blue, one worn Olive-Juniper Hairstreak and later another, a Tawny and a FOY Hackberry Emperor, Giant and Black Swallowtail. The real butterfly of the day was a Polydamus Swallowtail which I saw in the morning. A Gold Rim! I have only seen one other here for sure, which was here in the yard too, late July, 2013. I have seen a few that got away as probables. The different wing shape gets your attention when you are tuned into the normal regular swallowtails here, and further it has a different flight style than our regular swallowtails here so stands out for that enough to get your attention as well.

Then in the afternoon I realized I dropped my coffee cup out there somewhere, so was forced to walk back down to the crossing through all those flowers and butterflies again. It was so painful. But it was then 90+dF. Before I got out the gate there was a Theona Checkerspot on the Fleabane, along with a dozen Checkered White, another Nysa, another Reakirt's and a brown Juniper Hairstreak. Saw a different Texas Powdered-Skipper at a mud puddle on way. The Mealy Sage patch was dead for leps, only Bombyliads (bee flies) and Hymenops (bees and wasps) in the heat of the day. My cup was right where I bent and leaned to take the Dotted (A. eos) Roadside-Skipper photos.

At a shady spot at the crossing was the most worn beat Texan Crescent I ever saw, new for the day and month, I'll take it, thank you very much. Obviously not a local fresh emergence. Several more Elada were out, a couple more Theona seen, then another new one for month, a Pearl Crescent right on road out front.

I ID'd 45 species of butterflies today! Had a probable Painted Lady or two go by which I didn't count as well as fly-bys of what were surely Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphur, also not counted. Surely if I was chasing after leps at a few other sites (the park in town, Lost Maples, Garner) I could nose closer to 50 species for a single spring day here. Which in spring is outstanding. In fall fine in any good year, but in spring very very good.

There are only two Aprils of prior eleven that I broke the 50 species barrier for the whole month total. Today's FOY's or first of months, put me at about 56 sps. for this April making it only the third April in last 12 to reach 50 sps., and second best April. Only April 2004 was better, with 57 sps., my top April diversity total. Last April to see 40 species in total took the entire month. April 2011 as the drought set in, I only saw 36 species the whole month. So 45 sps. in a few hours today is off-the-charts awesome. There were hundreds and hundreds of butterflies, most going by northward. Surprising to not see a Leafwing today, and so far this year no Satyr or Metalmark yet, and only Reakirt's Blue.

Odes were out in numbers not seen yet this year too. For damsels there were hundreds of Bluets over the river, I presume many are Stream and Familiar. A number of Double-striped Bluet were about. Four or five American Rubyspot were dancing around the riffles. Argia Dancers were Dusky, Kiowa, Variable, and Blue-ringed. In dragons there were several Dot-winged Baskettail, one FOY Prince Baskettail, a Black Saddlebags, a Pale-faced Clubskimmer, Green Darners, Eastern Pondhawk, a pair of Red Saddlebags in tandem, and along the road on the way back Kathy spotted a Pronghorn Clubtail which is fairly scarce here (ph.). In p.m. over at draw I saw my FOY Roseate Skimmer. First day this season that I have seen 9 species of dragons, and 7-8 species of damsels, so there are likely at least 20 species of odes flying already and probably if one did some of the other nearby areas (habitats) 30 or more would not be out of the question or surprising now.

Late late afternoon to early evening hearing singing of Painted Bunting, Great Crested Flycatcher, Cardinal, Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler, House Finch, and heard Ringed Kingfisher over at river as daily. Gotta go look for a nest in that bank. A couple Orchard Oriole were in the yard pecans at dusk and just before dark a male Painted Bunting was where we toss seed along the undergrowth outback. Likely the singer, and a returning breeder.

The firefly show is getting going at dusk, just a half-dozen to a doz. so far, but nice to watch. A new frog began calling at dusk as well, which I believe is Cliff Chirping Frog. It is the one frog found in the area I don't absolutely know by voice, so that is what it must be. A nice series of high pitched chirps. And occasionally a frog trill thrown in. BTW, Barking Frog are common and regular. Saw a bigger bat also, not a Mexi-Braz. Freetail.

April 24 ~ We had a MCS move over during the night, worst of it about 3 a.m. and on for a bit, we received over an inch of rain. Some locals got 2". Timing seems to have been good for knocking some migrants out of the night sky. This morning there were four FOS species seen in the yard. A singing Warbling Vireo, a Least Flycatcher, an Orchard Oriole, and a few Baltimore Oriole. Plus a couple Nashville and one non-Nash warbler also went through. Thought I heard a Cuckoo too. I was stuck inside with business so probably a lot more out there. Fortunately a town run was required today. A Western Kingbird was on the fenceline along 360.

On 187 south of the country club and north of 360 in the pasture there were about 16 Cattle Egrets (FOS) around the horses. Then at the park there was a FOS Green Heron and my FOS Chimney Swifts here in town. I had seven FOS species today. The park also had a Northern Waterthrush, a Myrtle Warbler, an Orange-crowned Warbler, and about 5-6 Nashville Warbler. Thought I heard a MacGillivray's Warbler on the island but it is an island again so couldn't get to it. In fact the biggest news is WATER IS GOING OVER THE SPILLWAY at the dam in the park! First time since last July maybe? WEEWOW! Actually was probably late June when it last went over. There were a half-dozen whistling-duck in the dead cypress at the park too.

Then in the afternoon I received an e-mail from Sylvia Hilbig and she reported two Black-necked Stilts and an Avocet in the flood pond on West Sabinal Rd.! GREAT birds here in spring, and great in Bandera Co.! In the last dozen years I only have a single fall record for each (small flocks) at Utopia Park when it had islands several years ago. Wish I could have checked the South Little Creek ponds. Bet they had pipers today.

Heard Barn and Barred Owls after dark. Better was hearing a Couch's Spadefoot Toad in the front yard over by one of the horse troughs! We are at about 6" or more of rain in the last month. Usually it takes a 6" single event to bring them out. At 11:30 p.m. at my last check outside it was pea soup fog, but just on the deck, you could see stars above the low thick layer. A very low Dickcissel flew over calling, my 8th FOS bird species for the day.

~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~

April 23 ~ Foggy and about 70dF for a low. Heard a Nashville or two in early a.m. Had about 4-5 Monarchs go through yard over the day. In afternoon there were a dozen Chipping Sparrow in corral with 18 Lark Sparrow. Heard a Bunting, probably Indigo, but now is good time for Lazuli too so without seeing, just a bunting. Shortly before dusk my FOS Common Nighthawk called. Then the first mosquito to go after me at dusk on the porch showed up.

Even worse news was I am virtually sure I hear a Bullfrong calling over at river. There goes the neighborhood. Gawd I hope it doesn't get a mate. How did it get up here? They are abundant down in brush-country flatlands, but I have never heard one up here. Ask the fish hatchery what a disaster they can be.

April 22 ~ Happy Earth Day! To paraphrase John Muir, 'when one tugs on a strand in the web of life one finds that everything is connected'. That includes us and what happens on this blue marble we live on. You can pretend the 92dF water and subsequent coral bleaching in Fiji or severe cyclone season in Australia both going on right now doesn't affect you (it affects my business though), but what is causing that is affecting you too. We have record heat, record cold, record drought, and record floods here for instance. Do your part and reduce, re-use, and recycle. Don't be part of the problem but part of a solution.

A few Nashville Warbler went through yard in the morning, and a couple Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler over the slow day. A Zone-tailed Hawk flew by later morning, and just before noon Kathy spotted the FOS male Painted Bunting on the tube feeder. Even under the heavy overcast that lime green back was stunning. And so good to see, I've been waiting months, since the first week of last August, the last week was particularly hard. As territorial nesting birds we don't even have them for four full months and they are gone again.

I hadn't gotten a chance to get the ladder out and pull down the nest box the Titmice were in that the House Sparrows emerged from and must have punctured their eggs as the Titmice abandoned. Now the Bewick's Wren are in it. They'll just build over the old nest. It's on an unused satellite dish pole over on the cottage so 20' out the office window behind monitor, e.g., I can see it from my station at the salt mine. A Brown-crested Flycatcher showed up at the hole and luckily the Bewick's Wren was inside, it kicked that big slow flycatcher's rump off the front of his or her box in short order!

Between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. we got three-quarters to an inch of rain from a good cell that went over. Looked like Uvalde, Sabinal, and Concan all got it too. Outstanding! A pair of Whistling-Ducks heading upriver, which I keep forgetting to mention they have been regular the last week or two, every few days, a pair or two going up or down river. Wet years they can nest locally. The Chat is getting after it after dark now.

Northern Cloudywing on some Mealy Sage around porch. While it was not new for the month, should mention I did count up on Sunday the 19th since we saw a few FOY's that day, and it was 45 sps. of butterflies for April so far. Which is good. 50 would be great.

April 21 ~ Another nice cool morning, a nearby station had upper 40's dF for a low, I think maybe 50dF here, sure felt great. We cherish the last of these brisk mornings for several months. Heard a FOS Yellow Warbler sing a few times early this a.m., and a Nashville or two. The Blue Grosbeak was singing too, as were Chat, Summer Tanager, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo and Warbler, now if the Painted Buntings would get back.

A nice male Blue-headed Vireo was singing for a couple hours in the biggest thickest hackberry. A Clay-colored Sparrow was on the patio noonish. Couple more Nashville in later p.m., and a nice flyby of a female calling Ringed Kingfisher, which circled for extended viewing. Scissor-tail singing at end of day at front of yard. Couple Firefly at dark, Barred Owl calling about 10 p.m.

April 20 ~ The cold front came in overnight with cool northerlies and the 54dF or so low felt fantastic (and cooler than the 54). Early a.m. my FOS Wilson's Warbler went through yard singing, a few Nashvilles after that, and the first yard Blue Grosbeak of the year too. So a wee bit of migrant activity to augment the morning song show. At 9:20 a.m. a Golden-cheeked Warbler sang from the junipers along north fence. A trolling first year male. The male Blue Grosbeak is likely a returnee, out on patio seed.

Later p.m. about 4:30 on for an hour there were 8+ Nashville in the yard pecans plus one Ruby-crowned Kinglet and one Orange-crowned Warbler. Nice little group of birds. Was probably a good day for migrants locally. Follow the bloom, live-oaks are now finishing with pecans taking the lead. Four was my Chipping Sparrow count, of what is left in yard of the 125 strong winter flock. Hearing three species of Myiarchus from yard daily again now: Great Crested, Brown-crested, and Ash-throated.

In owls after dark I heard Great Horned, Barn, Barred, and Eastern Screech-. Chuck-wills-widow are going well now too with several countersinging in earshot.

April 19 ~ Didn't cool off much and got past 85dF, maybe hit 90dF in the afternoon. Still not much for migrant birds. We walked to the crossing and back and had 1-2 Nashville Warbler, whilst over a few hours about 4 went through yard. Several Brown-crested Flycatcher along river corridor, fair numbers of territorial Yellow-throated Warbler. No hawks. A couple Clay-colored Sparrow.

Saw a couple FOY fast Six-lined Racerunner (whiptail) lizards. Boatloads of flowers and butterflies. Saw 3 FOY: Elada Checkerspot, Clouded Skipper, and Nysa Roadside-Skipper. Also saw Celia's Roadside-, Dun and Julia's Skippers, a probable Fiery Skipper, Several Questionmark, Lyside, Dainty, Cloudless and Large Orange, and Orange Sulphurs, Dogface, Snout, Gulf and Variegated Fritillary, 6+ Monarch (worn pale migrants), Black, Giant, and lots of Pipevine Swallowtail, Sachem, Funereal Duskywing, Gray Hairstreak, Reakirt's Blue, Common-White Checkered-Skipper, loads of Vesta Crescent, a couple Bordered Patch, lots of Red Admiral and American Lady, lots of Sleepy Orange and Checkered White, and a Tawny Emperor which is my FOY up here, a bunch were out in Uvalde a few days ago. At least 30 species of butterflies around today in an hour and change of paying attention.

Around 5 p.m. a Tanager flew out of the big pecan and away that sure looked like a Scarlet to me it was so dark red. If I didn't have one on the yard list already it would have been very frustrating. After dark I saw my FOS flying adult Firefly.

April 18 ~ No rain since yesterday's afternoon to early evening event. Didn't seem much for action in the a.m. There should be a decent flight day or two right behind the system. Sometimes the first day after is too soon as the source areas were socked in for departures. Neat to see that flight display of the male Vermilion Flycatcher out the office window.

I can't believe all the wildflowers in the yard. It looks unkempt to the eye of those beholden to usually pesticide and fertilizer laden manicured lawns, but it is so full of native wilflowers it is mind-boggling. Thousands and thousands of them. We are trying to let the native wildflowers go to seed to thicken it up. It was obviously over mowed to death for years and they never got too. It only looked fullish on edge from the side driving by. It was lots of barren dirt if you got to looking down from in it. Now our third spring here and it seems the not over-mowing and allowing re-seeding is having great success so far. The natives are exploding and gaining ground on the non-native grasses and other invasives. We selectively pull and top those to prevent their reseeding.

With only a little bit of walking around the yard I saw Western Spiderwort, boatloads of Straggler Daisy, Prairie Fleabane, Deer Vetch and Tube Tongue, Rain Lily, Annual Pennyroyal, loads of Western Looking-Glass and Drummond's Skullcap, lots of Dakota and Texas Verbena, some Anemone still, dozens of Pincushion Daisy, lots of Yellow Wood-Sorrel, some White Rock-Lettuce, Parallena, Burr Clover, the beautiful Limestone Guara and Blue-eyed Grass, Crow-Poison, Silver Puff, and a few more I don't know.

Other things like say Mexican Hat and Zexmenia are growing well, but not blooming yet. The Mealy and Tropical Sage I transplanted into flower beds a couple years ago are blooming now too. Twenty species of native Texas hill country flowers (at least) in a couple minutes. Really quite amazing, not counting that I can ID 20 kinds of flowers. A migrant Monarch was nectaring hungrily on Pincushion Daisy and Prairie Fleabane for over a half hour. A couple more different ones (mig Monarchs) went through yard in afternoon so at least 3 by 5 p.m.

Lots of butterflies are out now too and there were several that were my FOY on the yard flowers: Dun Skipper, Fiery Skipper, Sachem, and Celia's Roadside-Skipper. Dozens each of Vesta Crescent, Dogface, Checkered white, and Pipevine Swallowtail. Olive-Juniper and Gray Hairstreaks, lots of Lyside and Orange Sulphurs and Sleepy Orange, Dainty Sulphur, Snout, Variegated Fritillary, numbers of Red Admirals, American Lady, Common-White Checkered-Skipper, a couple each Giant and Black Swallowtails. It was at least 22 species in the yard today, the highest diversty day so far this year, and a great improvement in individual numbers, hundreds of butterflies went through.

Shortly before noon the Roadside Hawk flew by just across road and just over mesquites, going down river habitat corridor. I had binocs on and got an ID look as it went by. It kept going and I lost it through and against the trees. The eye is lighter than it was in late January.

Barred Owl called from very close over in corral about 10:30 p.m.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below = April 17 ~ ~ ~

April 17 ~ Went to town 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. to get back before the rain started, sorta made it. There was a flock of a dozen warblers across the river from park in the willows. All I could get were Myrtle and Nashville, one each Orange-crowned and Audubon's, plus my FOS Blue-headed Vireo. A few more Nashville were in the woods at the north end of park. Heard what sounded like a Kentucky Warbler but couldn't find it. I flushed a duck from upriver of the island I would give a dollar to have seen properly. It was a small diving duck.

The Loggerhead Shrike continues just west of Utopia on the River on 360, and my FOS Western Kingbird up here locally was there too. Some Common Grackle as usual along 187 a mile south of town by the Gun Shop (they nest in Chuck's yard adjacent).

By 2 p.m. it started raining and did so most of a couple plus hours. We got at least an inch, again (!). Up at Lost Maples they got about 2.5 inches! I don't want to jinx it but the dry cycle seems broken. We have had four inches of rain in the last two weeks. Timing couldn't be better for plants sprouting, blooming, pecans growing leaves and flowers, etc. We will have a great spring for wildflowers, and chiggers.

Around 6 p.m. we got out the backside of the rain and there was 5 minutes of activity. At least 5 Nashville Warbler were in the yard, plus the local Yellow-throated. A Great Egret flew by over the treetops going upriver giving the perfect Audubon logo pose all the way. Then a male Indigo Bunting popped out. Though I heard a couple at Lost Maples a few days ago, it is the first I got to see well in binocs this spring.

Which reminds me Little Creek Larry told me he saw his first Painted Bunting this morning at his place. He also saw a Spotted Sandpiper on the spillway at park in the last week, and a Coot a couple weeks ago at the park. That must have the day after some nocturnal rains, how all of our Coots get here.

April 16 ~ I get a few days of recovery after four straight days of guiding. I am beat and glad to be stuck at the desk. But man it sure was fun. There are two really neat things about guiding people. One is turning them on to all sorts of cool stuff they haven't seen. The other is that you get to meet some really neat people.

Saw the Bronzed Cowbird in yard today, now that there is no one standing around that wants to see it. Heard a Gnatcatcher and a Kinglet go through yard. Did have a good rain cell go over dropping about an inch of rain in 45 minutes around 1 p.m., a bit of pea-sized hail fell too. Looks like up-valley they got an inch as well. Nashville Warbler singing in yard in afternoon. After 7 p.m. a male Black-throated Green Warbler was in the yard 15-20 minutes, mostly feeding in the barely leafing out pecans.

The birds of the day were at night, about 11 p.m. I was outside for one last sit in the rocker on the porch with the pipe. All of a sudden after a few quiet minutes what must have been a fair sized group of American Golden-Plover went over with at least a half-dozen different birds calling. I ran out into driveway to hear well enough to count calling birds and it was at least 6 and there were probably more, and likely a lot more birds in the group as the first and last birds were 75 yards apart. I have had them as nocturnal fly-overs in spring at least a couple times before, and have found them on the ground in the day at Sabinal and Uvalde in spring a couple times too. So rare but regular, and as likely to detect in dark as in daylight. But generally a tough UvCo bird to get.

April 15 ~ Can you say Happy Tax Day? I think it is illegal in most states? Today Bill and Dianne and I went to Uvalde and birded some south Texas brush country. We took Old 90 (aka Lower Sabinal Rd.) from Sabinal to Uvalde and it had lots of birds, but not as many as usual. Lots of things still aren't in, I was surprised not to see any Painted Bunting down there yet. Many residents seemed down too, like Curve-billed and Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow and Cactus Wren among others. I think the drought has taken a toll on populations.

Along Old 90 we watched skylarking Cassin's Sparrows in a field with singing Grasshopper Sparrow. White-crowned Sparrow were along the road still in good numbers, the usual Savannah and Lark too. Scope views of a male Bullock's Oriole were great. Several Fuertes's Red-tailed Hawk were on poles, numbers of Scissor-tails, and I heard then saw two very uncooperative Green Jay. Only heard one Cactus Wren and no Curve-billed Thrasher. Dianne saw what was likely a Scaled Quail run off roadside. We saw a couple Loggerhead Shrike along the road.

At Cook's Slough we saw a few Green Kingfisher, a couple fuzzy baby Black Vulture, some Verdin, heard Bell's Vireo and Kiskadee, saw a Couch's Kingbird, I had a quick look at a Bank Swallow. About 4 Wood Duck, a dozen Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, and one male Shoveler was the duck population, they're long gone. A singing Myrtle Warbler was nearly in full breeding plumage. It seemed like many spring things had not arrived yet. Saw a Sulphur-tipped Clubtail dragonfly. Sharp-shinned Hawk there too.

We checked just the bottom end of Memorial Park on the south side of Hwy. 90 nearly at city center in the megalopolis of Uvalde where the Leona River (a small creek) goes under Hwy. 90. At the south end of the park there is a little trail that goes a couple hundred yards along the creek in some willow forest. We found a couple Green Jay willing to show themselves, heard a Long-billed Thrasher, and a few warblers were a couple each Nashville and Orange-crowned. A couple Chimney Swift shot over. Don't under-estimate this park, Ringed and Green Kingfisher and Kiskadee are regular here. We heard a Bronzed Cowbird.

After a great Bar-B-Q lunch we went to the fish hatchery. I heard a Solitary Sandpiper and we saw a nice breeding plumaged Greater Yellowlegs. One Shoveler, four or so Blue-winged Teal, 6 Gadwall, a Verdin, heard a Bell's Vireo, was after noon and getting hot out though. Most of the ponds are dry, I presume due to water restrictions and the drought, with maybe a little sequester thrown in. Saw a Texas Spotted Whiptail lizard. Good odetivity though no time to check it.

We then checked UvCo 202 a couple miles west of town. I was amazed at all the dead trees along the river there since the drought. No water was running as I have heard has been the case lately. A couple low spots with enough water for a few odes were upriver, but didn't check. A couple Couch's Kingbirds were flycatching at the crossing, but little else, the heat of the day had set in and we didn't see any of the 'desert' species we were hoping for along 202.

We saw at least 4 worn pale migrant Monarchs over the day. A flattened Arizona Sister was on the pavement at Neal's in Concan, the first I have seen in a few years as they have been absent around Utopia for 6 years since the drought.

Later afternoon here at the house I had a Hooded Oriole and heard Ringed Kingfisher at the river, couldn't find either the last three days when trying to show them to visitors. It can take several days here to see everything.

April 14 ~ Today Dianne and I birded around town a bit hitting some of the local patches for birds. First thing out of the gate we went to the Bushtit nest and found it missing, the whole dang thing is gone. Had a storm taken it there would be remains. A predator made off with it. I thought I heard the birds but didn't see them. There goes my staked-out Bushtits. Didn't last a month. Had said to Kathy the nest was too exposed, too easy to see. Smart money is on Coons.

Then we went west out 1050 to Bear Creek Pond which had no birds but the new box culvert they installed just past the pond seems to have gotten some of its Cave Swallows back. We saw 11, so not half as many as before they, uh, fixed it.

We went west up and over the '1050 pass' as it is called locally, a half to one mile west of the pond and culvert. The former border of wildflowers along roadside going up the grade were all bulldozed for the road widening, so it is hardly recognizable. Some few wildlfowers are starting to come in at edges of the new wayside but is near hospital barren compared to the stunning show it was when going uphill on east side of pass.

The pee stop for cyclists is interesting, a lifer for me, I guess I don't get around much. I don't recall seeing such officially designated roadside bushes. Until I figured it out I thought it looked like a good place to pish, apparently I was off by a letter. Multiple trees I regularly saw Golden-cheeked Warblers in were removed for the improvements. In general the uphill side of pass where all the major construction took place seemed very devoid of birds compared to usual. It went from a ton of stuff to nothing. I could list a half-dozen species that I never stopped there without hearing, that I did not hear. Biologically it was not improved. But apparently it will get regular infusions of ammonia and nitrogen now.

Once over the top on the west downhill side of pass things still looked the same or close enough. There were a few birds in the blooming live-oaks just downhill a bit, including outstanding views of a singing male Golden-cheeked Warbler from the roadside. Dianne got pix. A few Field Sparrow singing on territory there as usual, texana Scrub-Jays, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Summer Tanagers, two each Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Orange-crowned Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet were likely all migrants. Up on the high point on the divide first thing early. Interesting.

The park was slow, no migrants this morning. Great views of Yellow-throated Warbler were had though. I heard a Northern Waterthrush, and we saw no Kingfishers. Out front of the park we checked the Hackberries and the big Mulberry on Cypress Street. I was surprised to see no birds in the Mulberry, until the hawk flushed out of the middle of it. The ROADSIDE HAWK! It flew across street and away through the trees. Landed briefly but as we approached it took off again across town. I just saw it well enough to say that was it. Without my 5 prior encounters in last 12 weeks it would have just been a hawk. Tawny patches in bases of primaries, scalloped whitish edges of uppertail coverts on dark rump, on a mini-tiny buteo. I had heard and glimpsed it again at park just 4 days ago. We worked around for it a bit but could not refind it. We saw 48 Cedar Waxwings in a nearby Pecan, waiting for the hawk to leave the mulberry is my guess.

We checked Judy Shaffer's feeders hoping for a Hooded Oriole since mine doesn't seem to be regular at our feeders yet. No oriole love, but an Inca Dove and some Lesser Goldfinches. We also had a pair of Bewick's Wren down the street a little, the male caught a worm and gave it to the female. Such a great provider.

We then went out Lee St. (355) to Little Creek where Dianne spotted one lone male Shoveler hiding up against the bank. We saw my FOS Blue Grosbeak, a singing male, talked in a Hutton's Vireo in the live-oaks just before the creek, saw Lark and Vesper Sparrow, I finally heard a FOS Clay-colored Sparrow, several N. Rough-winged Swallow, but still no Kingfisher love. Saw what appeared a Ring King hole in the bank though, that did not used to be there. Right where Little Creek Larry told me he saw them digging.

There was nothing at the buffalo wallows north towards 470 but a Killdeer, though they are holding enough water to get migrant shorebirds. Usually after night rains, early in the a.m. is the best time to look for those there.

We came back to town via 470 as if coming from Bandera and right at the junction with 187 where you turn left or south to get to Utopia we pulled over to the county maintenance yard at the west side of the electric substation. Yesterday on our way back from Lost Maples a Canyon Towhee shot across the road here and I figured with some trucks and equipment in the yard which they seem to like so much it would be worth a look. Took all of 10 seconds to see the Towhee again fly across 187 (at grill and bumper level) into the maint. yard. We got great looks under a truck parked just inside the fence. Their favored natural habitat. Anyway it is a spot to check for Canyon Towhee when in the area. Since ours left the yard and the ones up the road a mile (near the former Bushtit nest site) disappeared too, it helps to have another site for them. There was a Loggerhead Shrike on 360 just west of Utopia on the River.

Heard the Ringed Kingfisher over at the river at 1:15 and 5:30 p.m., seemed to be going downriver first and upriver later. Had a pale worn migrant Monarch in the yard about 5:30 p.m. and a different one at 7 p.m., and saw my FOY summer form Questionmark mid-afternoon. Two FOS species of birds occurred in the yard in the afternoon. First a Bronzed Cowbird, which Dianne wanted to see and we only heard. Then about 6:30 p.m. tied my earliest ever Great Crested Flycatcher spring arrival date (three Myiarchus sps. in yard today) with one vocally announcing his return for 10 minutes right uphill behind the shed. He wanted to make sure I got this date on him, after hurrying back and all.

The male Vermilion Flycatcher was feeding from the top of the big pecan late in day, and with the front the skies are cleared of humidity and blue as can be. Just right for setting that red off.

April 13 ~ We had an INCH of rain overnight! We have about two inches for the last few days. An amazing great total. The water is only an inch from going over the spillway at the park pond. By time this couple inches percolates down in a few days I would not be surprised to see it dripping over the spillway, finally, would be the first time in many months, maybe about 8.

Guided some very nice folks (Bill and Dianne Papet) from Florida at Lost Maples today. We had great looks at Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo, and Scott's Oriole too. Saw a nice Black-throated Sparrow up top above the ponds. A few Orange-crowned Warbler and a couple Nashville were it for migrants. A couple Indigo Bunting were singing which I didn't hear yesterday. Missed the White-tipped Doves again though. Heard a few Red-eyed Vireo, only two Yellow-throated Vireo, several Louisiana Waterthrush, heard Hutton's Vireo, saw a couple Yellow-throated Warbler, several texana Scrub-Jay and some Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

We saw 5 or 6 migrant Monarch butterflies. Also saw both Two-tailed and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies and some Disparate Forester moths. Saw a skipper briefly that looked like a Green. Plus a few of the regular expected things. In odes one Springtime Darner and lots of Dot-winged Baskettail, a pair of Aztec Dancer (damselfly) but still slow. Some great Claret Cup Cactus (or similar) is in bloom on top of the bluffs above the pond.

April 12 ~ We had a half-inch of rain overnight and still a bit drizzly. Guided some wonderful folks from California at Lost Maples today. Quite misty off and on until after noon, but quite birdy as usual too. This 80 year old guy went up the steep rough trail from pond to top of bluffs (where the Black-capped Viero is) with as little effort as me. A couple years ago I was huffin' and puffin' and thinkin I was dyin'. It might be a half-mile up to the top from the pond. And it sure seems more like 400 feet of elevation gain. They never cleaned the trail up after a major flood years ago so it is strewn with rocks. Used by many locals as their jogging and hiking for excerise trail regardless. It is a strenuous climb though. That half-mile takes a half-hour and 6 or 8 rest stops for me.

A Brit at the trailhead feeders said there were three White-tipped Dove there for a while when we were up the trail. We had great views of Golden-cheeked Warblers and heard lots of them as expected. We all saw Black-capped Vireo, two of us had a male singing up top of a bare snag above eye-level. I heard at least 5 of them, saw maybe 3. One was just before the second crossing up Can Creek on the right near powerline cut where always, but an impenetrable area.

When you concentrate on seeing "the warbler and the vireo" you go by a lot of calling things you don't make much effort to see. Of course call them all out so the folks you are guiding can say if they want to see it or not. I heard a Scott's Oriole (and it was also said to come into the feeders at trailhead), lots of Black-and-white Warbler, a Hutton's Vireo, Canyon Wren. Summer Tanager are in, a few Yellow-throated Warbler appear on territory again along Can Creek, several Lousiana Waterthrush were heard singing. Very few Yellow-throated Vireo and lots of White-eyed. Saw a single at eye-level above the ponds and then at trailhead parking lot a couple calling Broad-winged Hawks, one was a dark morph! Also an Osprey went over. A couple weird looking larger buteos went over as well, probably they were odd Red-taileds.

Interesting is what seems not there yet, no E. Pewee, Blue Grosbeak, Painted or Indigo Bunting, and Cuckoo of course. Migrant activity was typical, weak at best, with a Nashville and a couple Orange-crowneds I could hardly take the action. A couple warblers did get away in the rain. Good thing the place is wall-to-wall nesting Golden-cheeks, B&W's, and some Louisiana Waterthrushes for spice.

My FOS Red-eyed Vireo and Acadian Flycatcher were heard, the flycatcher surely my earliest ever. After noon we saw a Two-tailed Swallowtail and a Disparate Forester moth. The Mountain Laurels were still going and smelling great but fading fast. The Wafer Ash and some Texas Persimmon were smelling great too.

April 11 ~ Too much to do getting ready for guiding the next several days. Did have Nashville and Orange-crowned Warbler go through yard, and a male Hooded Oriole fed at one of the hummer feeders. Hope it gets addicted. Brown-crested Flycatcher still around. Bit of mist and drizzle.

April 10 ~ About 5:30 a.m. thunder announced an area of rain, which moved over west-to-east as most does here, dropping at least a half-inch here, finishing about 8:30 a.m. The low was in upper50's dF with some northeast wind, it felt like good bird weather.

Mid-morning I heard the FOS Yellow-breasted Chat, which then spent the whole day chattering from the center of last year's territory. So a returning breeder, not a passage migrant. Brown-crested Flycatcher around still too, also probably a returning local breeder, about 4 days here so far.

A town errand run in the afternoon so a quick look at the park. A couple Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were on far bank. A warbler or two got away, Blue Jay, Yellow-throated Warbler, the regulars.

From the woods at the north end of park came a very out of place raptor call. A long descending coarse note, repeated. Somewhat like an anemic Red-shouldered, but not so whistled. A pair of those are nesting across river just above park. This was much more throaty. I've never heard any hawk like it. I moved into woods slowly binocs half lifted to cut a second off raise time, while I fiddled with focus wheel nervously. I don't often hear something I have never heard. It flushed before I saw it and flew perpendicular to me, across an opening, then seemingly through the woods on the island, and presumedly out the other side since I couldn't refind it in the trees. It was a tiny buteo with big thick reddish horizontal bars on a cream background from breast to legs. It was the Roadside Hawk. It continues in the area. I think I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I may have seen it again. It is still around. Wish I had been with mic as it would have been easy to tape.

Something broke the biggest Texas Wild Onion flower stalk I ever saw, over knee high, probably a deer or person had just kicked it over. So I was forced to collect the voucher stems for research. Tonight some will be studied on top of some enchiladas. After I did a couple errand stops when I got back in the car I could not believe how strong ONION smell was. These are the best scallions I have ever tasted. An explosive herbal entry, followed by a long sweet middle, finishing strong with a pleasant bite and excellent crisp clean aftertaste.

April 9 ~ upper 60's to mid+80's dF temp spread. After today there are rain chances the next 7 or so. An event might evolve, or might not, NOAA says watch the weather. There was again a Brown-crested Flycatcher around calling this a.m. Last year they nested in one of our boxes. We have a box with Black-crested Titmouse nesting in it now. Another box remains un-chosen so far. I had to take one box down that House Sparrows took.

Heard a Belted Kingfisher go over, besides the Ringed at river, guess I should go look for a Green. It's Thursday, so it's manning the computer and phone for me, and hoping something shows up out the office windows, or in yard when I'm out there to detect it.

The wildflowers in the north yard are a virtual meadow of color, though most of it short and small. The first White Rock Lettuce was open, with a pair of flower Buprestids on it (ph.). Saw a FOY Reakirt's Blue butterfly on some Deer Vetch. At least a dozen Blue-eyed Grass (Iris) flowers now, the first Tube-tongue is opening, lots of Deer Vetch, Texas Verbena, a dozen plus Pincushion Daisy, still must be 750 Crow-poison, 6 dozen Pink Evening-primrose (white morph here). Numbers of Dainty Sulphur, a FOY Gray Hairstreak, several Vesta Crescent, Checkered-Skipper. A Julia's Skipper was on some just opened Mealy Sage.

After I thought it was all done for the day at 11:30 p.m. I went out one last time. Heard Great Horned and Barn Owl, texana Eastern Screech-Owl, and for over five minutes a LONG-EARED OWL called. The single long haunting hummed hoot. WEEWOW! I didn't bother to try to tape as my mic won't pick up low frequencies like that. It was up the road across the draw but I didn't want to go out with gun (pigs) and lights so just listened to it for five minutes.

April 8 ~ Balmy spring temps with a upper 60's to mid+80's dF spread. A spritz or two of mist. Drove my FOS Swainson's Hawks down no doubt, five of them in the a.m. going south low over tops of cypresses along river looking to go down somewhere. Very nice. Mid-afternoon saw my FOY Pale-faced Clubskimmer dragonfly (and a Dot-winged Baskettail).

Later p.m. my FOY Ruby-throated Hummingbird showed up at one of the feeders. Those males are just stunning with tail in full flare and glowing gorget, not five feet away. Today it was at least two Lincoln's Sparrows at once. The Chipping Sparrows number less than 25 now. Still a few Vesper over in the corral, and lots of Lark Sparrow. FLEDGED baby Carolina Chickadee chicklets in the afternoon! The first thing out of the nest this year. Also saw a FOY Disparate Forester, the black and white polka-dotted diurnal moth with fuzzy red-orange leg bases. A real beauty, check your blooming Texas Persimmons for them.

April 7 ~ Heard my FOS Brown-crested Flycatcher today, in corral, then yard, and across road in big mesquites. Wonder if it is the one that nested last year? A couple Ringed Kingfisher are cavorting over at the river. I'll have to do a nest check in the bank there, I hear them much of the day, every day. A couple more Blue-gray Gnatcats moving north, heard Scissor-tail over in corral, a Myrtle Warbler went by, the Lincoln's Sparrow continues. Great to be hearing daily singing of Summer Tanager and Yellow-throated Vireo in yard. Not sure any of the White-eyed Vireo are sticking yet, sorta seems maybe passing through mostly, a pair nested in the draw adjacent last year so were heard to death all summer.

April 6 ~ Heard a couple warblers go through yard this a.m. but could not lay eyes on more than fleeting glimpses. One sounded like a Black-throated Green chip. The Yellow-throated Warbler was at the bath early afternoon. More Blue-gray Gnatcats. Don't know if this is the same Lincoln's Sparrow every day the last two weeks or different ones moving through.

There was my FOS Hooded Oriole in the yard today in the biggest Hackberry, hoping it is a returnee of one of the feeder users. Judy Schafer had one almost two weeks ago, mine were obviously partying on the way back from Mexico. Heard Ringed King over at river this a.m. and p.m., need to go nest hunting. Chucks calling at dusk. Right before and at last light. That male Vermilion Flycatcher goes until dark as well.

April 5 ~ Something around a 57-77dF temp spread, mostly cloudy. Kathy and I walked up to the Bushtit nest and beyond a bit. The Bushtit pair was there and easy to see well. We could not find Canyon Towhee, so it seems the other pair we knew of nearby is also not where they were a couple weeks ago. While most books show them as residents, clearly there are at least local seasonal movements of them. I also missed the one that had been at the Ranch Outpost last week, maybe it left too.

A number of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were seen, probably 3 on the walk and 3 in the yard over the day, at very minimum. A couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet too. Missed Scrub-Jay which are around but quieter now that nesting probably. An adult eastern type Red-tailed Hawk went over with a heavy belly-band, quite unlike the nearly unmarked creamy white underparts of our local resident Fuertes' Red-tails. We saw four Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks heading downriver. Plus all the regulars.

The Mountain Laurels are still blooming but many are finishing. The earliest few Wafer-Ash are just starting to open the first few flowers as is Texas Persimmon or two. All three are worth a smell. We saw Blue Gilia, found a few Blue-eyed Grass blooms, Blackfoot Daisy are opening, Prairie Fleabane, Slender-stem Bitterweed, Parallena, Pincushion Daisy, flowers are starting to pop everywhere. Pecans are leafing out, the Hackberries and at least our male Mulberry are all but done blooming now. Cypress are getting leafed out along river, Mesquite starting to get some foliage now too. The Buckley Oaks (seemingly nearly Golden-cheeks favorite tree but Lacey Oaks they quite like as well) are finally getting leafed out.

Big pale worn (migrant from Mexico) Monarch #2 floated around a bit in later afternoon. A couple Chuck-wills-widows called at twilight.

April 4 ~ Pretty breezy from north in a.m. from the front, low in low 50's dF, high about 65dF or so, mostly cloudy all day but none of the predicted rain yet. Couple more Blue-gray Gnatcats went through yard. We walked to crossing and it was quiet, a few Yellow-throated Warblers chipping from Cypresses, a male Summer Tanager showed well, heard a Scissor-tail on other side of corral at airstrip. Lincoln's Sparrow in yard again, seems like daily now for a week. Chipping Sparrow numbers are down to about 35 or less. Twenty five Cedar Waxwing. In the a.m. there were two Sharp-shinned Hawks in yard at once, and in p.m. I saw one grab probably a Chippy out of the sky as everything flushed.

The real unfolding story is the Canyon Towhee pair that has been months in the yard is not here anymore. This is the third day without seeing them. They were singing, I thought sure they were going to nest somewhere here, but not enough understory I suppose? Major bummer, can't believe they left the seed. I'll check adjacent in draw and hope they didn&apso;t go too far. I hadn't taped the singing really as I thought it was yet to get going well. Because they were not on the breeding territory it seems now.

We did see a FOY American Rubyspot damselfly at the crossing. I saw a Sapsucker fly through yard, grabbed bins from inside and went after it and never could find it. Nice adult but I don't know what type, default here is Yellow-bellied, so that until proven otherwise, but even at that, only 'Sapsucker sps.' is proper until you confirm it is a Yellow-bellied.

April 3 ~ Another balmy low in upper 60's dF, but not as warm as yesterday, made the low 80's dF. A bit of mist over day. The front arrived about 6-7 p.m. with mild north winds at first, and cooling temps. Supposed to get some rain later, we'll see. Multiple Gnatcatchers daily going through yard now. Made a quick town run and stopped at park. Saw my FOS Nashville Warbler, and a Myrtubon's, e.g., a hybrid or intergrade Myrtle x Audubon's Warbler. I detect about one or two per year here.

As usual I am always glad when I run into Little Creek Larry as I get some bird info from the east side of the valley and Little Creek. He said before the Ring-necked Ducks left over there a couple pair of Bufflehead were around shortly. Those are great birds locally, I have only seen them here once in the last dozen years. He also reported seeing Ringed Kingfisher kicking dirt out of a hole (and told me where) so maybe we can get some hill country nesting documentation.

Finally there are some Barn Swallows as you drive Main St., and even better south of town along the road I saw at least four Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Mostly birds at or adjacent to trees that they regularly nest in (returning breeders, not passage birds). Saw a Blue Jay in town, heard another at park. Water is still 6" from going over spillway.

The flowers are really starting to pop. There were a couple very nice patches of Bluebonnets (Lupines) along the roads, Texas Onion is huge tall at the park. In our yard here there must be 700+ Crow-Poison now, it is a beautiful meadow. I keep forgetting to mention a few Pincushion Daisy have opened. Now lots of Texas Verbena is open, as is the Deer Vetch. Best was finding my first Blue-eyed Grass (a native Iris) in the yard. We had a great patch we nurtured into sometimes 60+ blooms at once up on Seco Ridge. A beautiful little miniature Iris.

Butterflies were another Lyside Sulphur, more Giant Swallowtail, lots of Red Admiral, a FOY Sachem, a few Comm. Checkered-Skipper, lots of Vesta Crescent and Pipevine Swallowtail, some Checkered White, saw yesterday's Julia's Skipper again, and a FOY Horace's Duskywing. Startin' to get goin'.

April 2 ~ Balmy lows in upper 60's dF, and high was 86 or so. Today was a big leap forward into spring with several FOS birds. Great were a singing male Summer Tanager, male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, a Northern Parula (warbler) in big pecan, and at dusk my earliest ever (last 12 springs) Chuck-wills-widow calling, might have been two of them. Four FOS's in one day shows how the season is progressing in leaps and bounds now. Got a good pic of the pregnant female Four-lined Skink on the back porch. Saw a Lyside Sulphur, a Giant Swallowtail, the FOY Julia's Skipper, and a Snout.

April 1 ~ I wish someone would tell me they are fooling, it is not really April yet is it? Already? At least a couple (at once) probably three Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through yard as did single Orange-crowned and Myrtle Warblers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Heard two Ringed Kingfisher over at river. The bird of the day was the FOS Black-throated Green Warbler in the blooming (male) Mulberry. Real werid was seeing the Black Rock Squirrel up in the Mulberry tree about 15' off the ground eating the male mulberry flowers.
~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ March summary ~ ~ ~

Broke free of the long cold winter, so far our last freeze was around 10-11 March and overall it was mild since. A little bit of precipitation was great and good timing for a spring bloom. Many wintering species of birds started departing, the first of the returning migratory breeding species are arriving. The first wildflowers are getting going as it turns from brown to green.

Looks like it was 25 species of butterflies for the month, which is decent average-ish diversity. Only 15 sps. was the high single day of diversity. A few things in small numbers like Pipevine Swallowtail, Checkered White, Southern Dogface, and Vesta Crescent. The first of year migrant Monarch returning from Mexico was March 30. Any month you can see Elfin and Orange-tip is a good month. I saw an Orange-tip taken as prey by a Robberfly.

The wintering Louisiana Waterthrush was last seen March 11 and a migrant was seen March 27-8. The wintering Rusty Blackbird was last seen March 5. Some of the early returning breeding species back in March are Golden-cheeked Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Vermilion Flycatcher, tardy Purple Martin and Barn Swallow finally made it back, but Scissor-tailed Flycatcher missed March this year.

Both Osprey and Verdin several times in March was good, Golden Eagle was probably the rarest highlight on March 7, finding a Bushtit nest was great, seeing Green Kingfisher carrying food is good too. A Greater Yellowlegs was also good heading north March 30, did not see one here last year.

So without really trying I saw 91 species of birds in the month, (plus three introduced non-natives) so a significant uptick in diversity from the three prior months of winter by almost 20 species. Mostly in the yard, along the road, and at park in town.

~ ~ ~ end March summary ~ ~ ~

March 31 ~ Too busy at the computer. Sure great to hear birdsong now. Yellow-throated Warbler and Vireo, Vermilion Flycatcher, lots of Cardinal and Titmouse, Bewick's and Carolina Wrens, Eastern Bluebird, it's getting downright noisy out there. Some Chipping Sparrow are even singing a bit. Gnatcatcher and Orange-crowned Warbler went through yard. There is a big fat pregnant female Four-lined Skink right off the back porch in the leaf litter in a flower bed. Can't wait to see those beautiful bright indigo blue-tailed babies.

March 30 ~ Overcast in a.m., low in upper 50's dF, feels like spring. Sounded like spring when a Greater Yellowlegs flew over calling. Only the second I have had here from yard in now two years and our third spring. It was moving north over river habitat corridor. Sure nice to hear a calling shorebird, we don't get a lot of that here besides Killdeer.

As an aside last week we marked two years down here on valley floor at edge of river habitat corridor. In those two years I recorded 195 native species in, from, or over yard, plus 3 introduced non-native species. So was a couple birds short of 200 in 2 years. Not bad. More than two got away un-ID'd, and obvously several went through unseen. There are a couple more species I saw in the draw less than a hundred yards away that didn't make the yard list.

To expand out of yard a little and complete the local picture better, I have additionally a total of 15 species seen along the road or across river at country club but not in yard, and 10 more just down the road at Utopia on the River from my decade of mostly spring coverage there. So the whole 360 area list is actually just a couple clicks under 225 species of birds.

March 29 ~ Had a 50-85 dF temp spread, getting warmish out there. Heard Ringed Kingfisher over at the river. The Yellow-throated Vireo singing in the big pecan out front sure is nice again. We walked to crossing and saw a hawk I couldn't put a name to for sure. It could have been the rare hawk seen this winter. Also had ad. and 1st yrs. of both Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks. At least 4-5 Yellow-throated Warbler were singing from Cypresses in a half-mile of river. Found a female Vermilion Flycatcher working on a near-finished nest. Odes were a female Kiowa Dancer at crossing (no Rubyspots yet) and a Baskettail patrolling road.

The corral had at least 4 Vesper, 15 Lark, 50 Chipping, and two Savannah Sparrow. The Savannah were both weird. One had a white head, a partially albinistic (leucistic is proper term) bird. The other was unlike the standard pale type we have here for the winter, but instead one of the dark overall with rufous and black types which I have seen before here in spring. Also heard Ringed Kingfisher over at river.

The big FOS for the day was afternoon when I finally saw a Barn Swallow go by. Latest ever arrival for me in 12 springs, usually they are here the first week of March, 3 years of 12 they arrived in late Feb., and never arriving later than 13 March. Over two weeks tardy.

The highlight of the day was a metallic iridescent gold Buprestid, that is, what I learned a long time ago as a Flat-headed Tree-borer and is now called Metallic Woodborer. A group of very colorful fancy beetles that can be tree pests. I got close macro photos of it on a stone step as we left for the walk. Nearly an inch long, and mottled dark and light posteriorly on elytra (the hard-shell wing coverings on beetles), but anteriorly was largely iridescent gold. It flew up and landed on the big pecan. He better not be messin' with the tree. We know those gigas Cerambycids live in it (another tree borer) already.

Some of the Mountain Laurels are really going now, the patch on the slope behind us has open flowers so when the wind blows right you just about melt into the incredible sweet smell. We saw some Parallena blooming and Texas Verbena which has been open a few days and I forgot to mention it. The first Texas Persimmon flower buds are almost nearing opening. The amazing Disparate Forester moths will be on them as soon as they open.

March 28 ~ Low in low 40's dF felt great, love those crisp mornings with birdsong. Had to make a dump run so snuck over to park for a quick look at about noon when I was done. I saw the waterthrush I heard yesterday and confirmed with great views that it was a Louisiana as ID'd by call, and it is absolutely not the bird that wintered.

Then downright rare was a singing first-year male Golden-cheeked Warbler at the north end of the loop road near screen shelters. Methinks this is the first spring migrant I have had at the park, they generally use the slopes and ridges moving north up valley in spring (and southbound in fall too for that matter). Consider I have found over 25 species of warblers at Utopia Park in spring, but not a Golden-cheeked before.

In odes a few more teneral damselflies popping out, but nothing I could put a name on past female dancer (Argia sps.). I saw TWO Falcate Orange-tip butterflies, one on the island, the other floating oddly to the ground. I got it in binocs and saw an Acilid (Robberfly) was sucking on it and clearly had taken it as a prey item. As I neared for a photo the killer fly took off and so I acquired a nice voucher specimen.

Saw some other butterfly I could not ID, like a miniature Sleepy Orange sorta above, with more black on borders, and sorta like a Pearl Crescent below (vhw). It got away without pix. There were Engleman's Daisy blooming out front by water co., the Spanish Buckeye are in bloom and Dewberry is too. Bushtit nest looked fine as I took a quick look. Still did not see any Barn Swallow or Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.

Had more Cranes going over northbound today, and a White-eyed Vireo at UP was my first there since last fall and so clearly a migrant or returning breeder. Saw my (2) FOS Giant Swallowtails.

March 27 ~ With the wind stopping and the cold air from the front filling in, we got down to uppermost 30's dF which felt great after a few balmy nights at about 60dF early this week. By afternoon wind picked up from south at times pretty gusty. One Pine Siskin here at tube feeder with a few American Goldfinch still.

Went to town and in that couple plus miles and back did not see a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher yet, or a Barn Swallow for that matter. Real weird on the swallows, the Scissors should be back any day though.

A quick park check but was hot at about 80dF in late afternoon so fairly deadish. There was a FOS spring migrant Louisiana Waterthrush, which is a very rare bird here in spring away from breeding grounds. This is prime-time spring arrival time for them returning to Lost Maples where they breed. The one that wintered was last seen March 11, so over two weeks and several checks for it say it is gone. The other item of interest was a male Green Kingfisher carrying food, so feeding a mate or young very nearby.

In butterflies saw my FOY Falcate Orange-tip, a nice male, one of my favorites with only a brief spring flight period for the whole year (like Elfin). Also saw a FOY Phaon Crescent. In odes saw a few teneral damselflies which are left un-ID'd In dragons a couple Springtime Darner were my FOY and another species with only a short spring flying period as an adult (but longer than Elfin or Orange-tip). Several Dot-winged Baskettail dragons were flying. A couple River Cooter turtles were not flying. Lots of Blanchard's Cricket-frog calling. Overall, the place is exploding in green. Water is about 6" from going over spillway.

The Pink Evening-primrose (we have white morph here) is blooming in the crack in the patio. Had a Mournful Duskywing in yard.

March 26 ~ A front came through before dawn, we got a tenth of precip maybe, mostly wind with 15-20 mph gusting to 25 and 30. Blew till late afternoon. Low was about 50 and it only got up to low-mid 60's dF. The Mesquite and the Cypress trees both have green leaves sprouting out now in a major sign of spring.

Birds the same as the last few days. Kathy saw the Merlin shoot through the yard. I saw a Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawk, Caracara, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks. Continuing parade of a few Gnatcatchers and Myrtle Warblers daily all moving north, Cranes still doing same overhead, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Ash-throated Flycatcher. Only 6 male Cardinals here now (as many females) so they are dispersing and spreading out for breeding. One without a tail must have given it (probably not willingly) to an accipiter. Chipping Sparrow numbers are decreasing. Where is that first Clay-colored? Hearing Ringed Kingfisher from river seemingly near-daily now.

Saw my FOY Four-lined Skink in the garden, the Prairie Lizard and Anole have been out and about for weeks if not a month. The two aberrant blonde squirrels continue in the yard.

March 25 ~ The FOS of the day was Judy Schafer reporting her first returning Hooded Oriole, thanks Judy! Smack dab on time, I have several return dates for them in prior years for March 25, 26, & 27. The Yellow-throateds continue (Warbler and Vireo) and White-eyed Vireo as well. These are the local breeders having returned to their territories here. A couple Ash-throated Flycatcher, more Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 4 Myrtle Warbler, a Lincoln's Sparrow, more Cranes going north. The aberrant Chipping Sparrow with the huge white throat and dark lower border continues. Saw the Black Rock Squirrel in yard, what a neat beast.

The interesting behavioral observation of the day was provided by the Armadillo. I spotted it hopping backwards in 6" to 10" jumps. Have you ever seen an Armadillo hopping backwards in about 8" increments? Seemed like something one might see in the Disney classic Fantasia. The odd thing was it appeared to have a soccer ball of something underneath it that is was moving. No I was not drinking before I saw the Armadillo hopping backwards.

Upon closer scrutiny I saw the dillo had a huge ball of dried hackberry leaves under itself, nearly as big as its body. It backed up in short hops with the ball of leaves for 20' and disappeared down its hole behind the cottage. It was nest building! I came in and told Kathy and a bit later she said "it's doing it again." We watched as it gathered all the leaves within reach of a single spot and worked them into a ball underneath it and hopped backwards with it. Gathered up all it could again, hop backwards with the growing ball of leaves, gather more, hop backwards, gather more, hop and repeat until a soccer ball sized ball of leaves is in possesion, and then hop backwards to and then down hole with them. It did this at least 4 times that I saw and likely several more I didn't see. I think someone is about to have a litter. FYI, in case you didn't know of their strangeness, the litter is always four pups of the same sex. Weird animal. Had I first seen it in a dinosaur book I would not have thought it out of place.

March 24 ~ Sure is springy when you get up and go outside and hear singing Yellow-throated Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo. Had some Myrtle Warbler move through, as well as a Kinglet and a Gnatcatcher, couple Ash-throated Flycatcher, a White-eyed Vireo, and more Sandhill Cranes going over northward. Turkey gobbling and Vermilion singing until twilight. Kathy saw the FOY Gecko, but the introduced Mediterranean, not a native.

Must be 300 Crow-Poison flowers on north side of house, and nearly as many Anemone on south and east sides. This is what happens if you don't over-mow not giving a chance for re-seeding. If we get anything near normal rain the next couple months (likely with the El Nino) we should have a great spring wildflower show. Which runs March to June here normally in a stunning procession of new beauties each month. FOS Tipulid (Crane Fly).

March 23 ~ A cooler low in the upper 40's dF felt great as the birdsong sounded. A couple Yellow Wood-Sorrel flowers opened this a.m. but better was around 11 a.m. hearing my FOS Yellow-throated Vireo. Funny how a somewhat mournful (slow descending) song can be so uplifiting and fill one with joy. Ahhh, for the love of birds. Surely this is the male of the pair that breeds adjacent to our yard, whilst feeding and singing in it daily from March to September, we see its just-fledged young in the pecans.

There was an aberrant Chipping Sparrow around I tried to grab a docu shot of, it had a huge snow white throat with a black lower border, and a dark mark in lower face where it shouldn't have. It flushed to corral before I think any decent images to study were obtained. Will try to find and photo for the abberant file. Yellow-throated Warbler is singing at the territory across the road that is occupied annually, probably 'our' bird that during breeding visits the yard pecans daily, brings its young here, etc.

Had a Pine Siskin in the a.m., and a White-eyed Vireo was singing in the afternoon. Cranes going over northbound. Temps made it into the low 80's dF! Quite a few Wild Geranium (nothing like domestic types) and some Straggler Daisy opening up. About a week now with no sign of the Junco, it was here over three months. Barn Owl after dark.

March 22 ~ A last cell from the system went over us last night around midnight, we got another quarter to third of an inch. So right about 2" for the whole event. Spectacular. A slow soaker with little runoff too, just right. Mostly cloudy till noonish then sun took over. Fair bit of birdsong in the morning. Sure like hearing that Vermilion Flycatcher every morning, that flight song makes them seem so happy to greet the day and blue skies.

I wandered around some of the mixed live-oak-juniper, with some Buckley Oak over grassland habitat. Live-oaks are mostly yellow and dropping leaves fast. Did not get lucky with a Golden-cheeked Warbler or Black-capped Vireo. Did get lucky though and found a pair of Bushtits working on an essentially finished nest! I'll come back another day and set up for some pix. Very cool. They give a Verdin a run for the money when it comes to ratio of nest size to bird size, weaving a ginormous foot-long pendulum like an oriole with a hole down on one side. Hope the cowbirds don't find it, it seems exposed for that. I once saw a miniscule Bushtit standing on the back of a (ca. 10 times its weight) baby cowbird while feeding it. We know what happened to the other baby Bushtits that were in that nest.

This is one of the if not the, most enigmatic locally resident birds. It is by sheer luck, chance, and good karma one runs into them most of the time. You can hardly go look for them, they find you when the dog deserves a bone. They are eternal roaming wanderers, save at nesting time when they go quiet and are not in sorta noisy flocks. There is often a pair around Concan, and one or two at Garner, and even some at Lost Maples, if you can find them. My last 6 trips to Lost Maples has not seen one there. Sorry, this nest is not at a public access site though if I were your guide I could show them to you.

I also had 2-3 Scrub-Jay, several singing Hutton's Vireo, singing Field Sparrow, several Purple Martins flew overhead low, a couple Ash-throated Flycatcher, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and the regulars like Titmouse (Black-crested), Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, etc. Then later at the crossing I heard my FOS Yellow-throated Warbler singing, this a breeder returning to territory, not a passage migrant. A singing warbler sure makes it sound like spring. Later in the p.m. I heard another from porch along river that is probably 'our' returning breeder. A flock of 20 Cedar Waxwing were around a bit today.

I saw 4+ Goatweed Leafwing my FOY for that butterfly, and fair numbers of other things already out and about. Late p.m. my FOY Northern Cloudywing was around the yard. Several Dot-winged Baskettail dragonflies were out, but I saw no damsels at the crossing just after noonish.

I saw some Prairie Fleabane flowers today, just a couple, and a magenta Anemone. Anemone come in white (most of them) and a dark lavender, as well as an intermediate lavender, and the lavenders seem a small percent of them here, <10%, probably <5%. I have seen perhaps one of the magenta ones prior, they are the prettiest ones of them all.

March 21 ~ Today is the first full day of spring, something about it arriving last evening, so it got here yesterday, but today is the first whole day of spring. It showered off and on all night and it seems like about 1.6 or 1.7" of rain. A great slow soaker, just what we needed. Much of the areaa just south of us between Uvalde, Sabinal, and Concan got 2.5". Perfect timing for spring wildflowers, I suspect a great show is on the way. It seems likely a wet pattern will continue through spring with the minor weak El Nino forming in the Eastern Pacific as that Pineapple Express moisture conveyor belt often feeds us lots of rain.

Another sign of spring was a flock of 10 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, my FOS this year, flying upriver over the cypresses fairly early a.m. They winter in the flatlands of the brush-country to our south, but not up here in the hills, at least in our area here. Maybe elsewhere in hills at some sewer, nature center, or city duck ponds, or maybe at a feedlot? But they do not naturally winter in the upper Sabinal drainage. They show up in spring to see if it is wet enough to risk breeding. We will know by if they stick. So far I think we gonna get a no. More rain could change that. They seem to hang around a month or more watching it and make a decision. Dry years the leave quickly. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher again.

March 20 ~ Balmy, feels like spring. In 60's and 97-100% humidity. We are allegedly going to have a big rain event tonight and tomorrow. The first cold air of the front hit about 1:40 and by 3:40 it was 15 dF cooler, in the 50's. A sub-tropical moisture tap has the warm moist air saturated and we will now proceed to cool it off quickly and see what happens. LOL ;)

A male No. Harrier flew north over yard early in morning, that is a migrant. Heard Ringed Kingfisher. Ran to town early and fast, was spritzing and no activity at park. Nothing. The Redbuds in town are really going now though. At least 5 American Goldfinch and a Pine Siskin were on the patio mid-day. Heard waxwings. Another Gnatcatcher went through and a Kinglet bubbled (sang).

March 19 ~ Another gray day in the 60's dF but got into 70's later afternoon. A little drizzle early. Gettin' green, feelin' springy. Found a lot of feathers on patio that indicate one of the Ground-Doves was taken this morning, likely a Sharp-shinned Hawk victim. There were four Ground-Dove here yesterday. Had a dozen Cedar Waxwing around a bit, and a Robin. About 7 p.m. 2 Ringed Kingfisher were having a disagreement over at the river. Sounded like twin-50's. One ended up flying out of the habitat corridor and coming right up to yard before turning around. Heard a Barn Owl after dark.

Singing this morning were Carolina and Bewick's Wren, No. Cardinal, Canyon Towhee, Eastern Phoebe and Vermilion Flycatcher, Black-crested Titmouse and Carolina Chickadee, Eastern Bluebird, Chipping, Lark, and Field Sparrow, Inca, White-winged and Mourning Dove. Turkey gobbled, and Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker were drumming (their version of singing). It is starting to sound like spring out there. The pair of Bluebirds chased a squirrel out of the yard.

March 18 ~ Mostly overcast, a little drizzle left over from the system, humid in the 60's most of the day. A little sun and blue sky peeked out in later p.m. Heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher first thing early. There are over a hundred Anemone (Wind-flower) open in front yard, and on north side of house 3 doz. Crow-poison have opened. Spring wildflowers! A couple Whitlow-grass were a foot tall and impressive, been small the last several years.

I am busier than a one-eyed flycatcher at the fruit fly factory so didn't get to look about much today. My one or twice an hour 5-10 min. stretch-and-listens didn't produce anything but the regulars. A couple of the Hackberry trees are really getting to blooming, others still with no sign of it. The first few small new green leaves on one Texas Persimmon are breaking out. No Junco.

March 17 ~ Happy St. Patrick's Day! May the luck of the Irish be with you! Drizzly and 60dF in morning, showers mid-morn, actual rain before noon, and supposed to get a bit. Just what we need for spring flowers. Heard a FOS White-eyed Vireo call a few times in early a.m., Vermilion Flycatchers around, Bluebirds checking the boxes out still.

In late afternoon a Merlin dove after a Cardinal that was up in top of a Hackberry, shooting overhead so fast I barely saw it, until it missed and swung back over to see if any other potential victims around the seed tube were within striking capability. It then flew to the big tall cypresses that line the river and landed up top, which was promptly followed by about 5 Black Vulture leaving their perches in adjacent trees. As if they didn't want to be around the little terror of a tyke. Two hours later I was out on front porch and it flew into yard and landed in the big pecan up top. Flicking and fanning tail while bobbing its head and watching all the birds in the yard depart.

By near-dusk we had received a little over a third of an inch of rain over the day. Just before dark I was on porch in rocker smoking a pipe like an old man. Some pigs were over in the corral, and one disturbed another which then let out a big squeal. To which a Turkey responded gobbling maybe 75 yards away, to which the Vermilon Flycatcher sang back. So the vocalization play went pig to turkey to flycatcher. Squeeeaaalll, gobble gobble gobble, ttttttrreeerr, tttttrreeerr. At my age I find this plenty amusing.

March 16 ~ Overcast and a mild upper 40's to upper 60's dF spread. Early this morning I heard a Black-and-white Warbler singing from upslope behind us. FOS. Didn't see it. That will have to wait for another bird. But sure great to hear that sound again! Heard the Ringed Kingfisher over at the river. A pair of Lesser Goldfinch were around and on the feeder, still just very few about yet this spring. Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Myrtle Warbler moved through yard in a.m. Roadrunner was singing (mournful cooing like a dog whimper) from over 15' up in one of the big mesquites right across from the gate. Couple Common Raven and a couple Caracara went over.

In the p.m. about 6 the FOS Blue-gray Gnatcatcher appeared outside the office window feeding in the mulberry buds just starting to peak out. Another Kinglet or two in the p.m. as well. And more Myrtle Warbler. Four hummer feeders out now with a building number of Black-chins, probably nearly a dozen female and twice as many males. Turkey gobbling at dusk and heard Barn Owl late after dark. Saw the male Slate-colored Junco today, but was last time, it left.

March 15 ~ Low 50's dF to mid-70's for a temp spread was nice. We walked about 1.5 miles each way to gate at the west end of the road which takes us through some juniper and live-oak grasslands and around a knoll, so a bit of slope, with a few Buckley Oaks and lots of Persimmon and Agarita. The Agarita was well in bloom, the Persimmon still leafless as were the Buckley Oaks for the most part. Only a couple were just barely pinkish from the buds sprouting, most with only nubs just breaking branches. They are behind, spring is behind. It looks fairly wintry still overall. The one Redbud tree we saw still did not have blooms open yet. The live-oaks overall are quite yellow and dropping leaves.

We did not see or hear a Golden-cheeked Warbler as I hoped, but it is a longshot for a transient probably except in the wettest years maybe some might breed here. There were 3-4 singing Hutton's Vireo along the road though. We had a pair of Canyon Towhee a mile from our yard pair, and a Bushtit called from very near road at one spot but we couldn't see it. Was in an area of very dense junipers where we had it last year and the year before. It shut up when I spissed lightly. A surprise since I do one heck of world class Bushtit. Probably one of a nesting pair, and so quiet and secretive now. Heard a Scrub-Jay and we watched a singing Field Sparrow. We had a dozen Sandhill Crane moving up-valley, and a couple dozen GEESE flying south down-valley, but too far away and in bad light for an ID. Of course any geese here are White-fronted until proven otherwise.

A number of butterflies were about, a dozen Pipevine and a Black Swallowtail, the FOY Mournful and Juvenal's Duskywings, a couple Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, an Elfin (Henry's), Orange Sulphur, Dainty Sulphur, Dogface, Red Admiral, American Lady, and a couple fly-by Painted Lady (FOY migrants), Checkered-Skipper, Snout, and in yard on our return a FOY Pearl Crescent! At least 15 species, the biggest diversity day of the year so far. Weak as it sounds, in the entire month of February I only saw 14 species, so it is a giant leap forward toward spring. Did have another Dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly.

At 9:30 p.m. I was outside and heard American Wigeon calling as the flew over northbound. Good yard bird. At 10:p.m. I heard a Barn Owl go over high up, northbound as well. One other thing... in the morning I saw a bird out the office window I thought sure was a Barn Swallow. Have not had one yet this year, they are late, and though it surely was, 99.999% doesn't make a data point. Almost forgot, also had a Black Rock Squirrel out front and in corral.

March 14 ~ A nice day ranging from low 40's dF to about 80! The male Vermilion Flycatcher that returned yesterday was displaying with flight song today, and against a bright blue sky is quite the sight. What a beauty, and such exhuberance. Late late p.m. a group of three Myrtle Warbler were in the tall pecan through last sun and took off due north together just before dark, they are going to fly tonight. A few butterflies came out in the warmth, including one Elfin that flew by, Snout, Dogface, Pipevine and Black Swallowtail, a Checkered-Skipper. The regulars like Caracara, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Black-crested Titmouse,

March 13 ~ Happy Friday the 13th! It got a whole lot more like spring this morning when I heard my FOS Ash-throated Flycatcher. Not my earliest but on the early end of the arrival window, and in sharp contrast to yesterday's latest spring arrival of Purple Martin. In the afternoon another FOS, the pair of Vermilion Flycatcher were in yard, I presume returners. Another FOS today was FEMALE Black-chinned Hummer, a few males have been around a week. Bird song is really getting going, great to hear spring getting underway.

Over the day I had 3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet go north through yard, they are on the move now. Saw 3 flocks of Sandhill Crane at once totalling around 100 birds going over northbound. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher over at the river, and more Purple Martin overhead. Saw three American Goldfinch and the male Slaty Junco.

A quick town run and stop at the park found no Louisiana Waterthrush. It is about time it leaves, they are early spring migrants, and its been here about 100 days that I know of. The female Yellow-shafted Flicker was still there. The Canyon Towhee was still around the outbuildings at Utopia Ranch Outpost on Main St. This time at N. end of the feed building in back. Might be a spot to grab one if you need it. They are around but not staked out easy "drive-by" birds. If it weren't for the pair in our yard I wouldn't otherwise know where to see one. When we lived in the hay house on N. Thunder Crk. they loved the open steel shed with pallets over there, nearly the same 'habitat' as the Ranch Outpost has. Urban canyons. The Redbud is in great bloom in front of the library now.

March 12 ~ Big temp spread today, 36 to 76dF, the warmth felt great. Thursday so stuck at the computer. Saw the male Slaty Junco, most of the rest was the regular offenders. The big happening today was finally hearing my FOS Purple Martin overhead. Has to be the latest arrival date I have for them, this is my 12th spring here recording such arcane data. Heard the Northern Rough-winged Swallow out there today. The other bird of interest today was hearing a White-tipped Dove call in the morning. I heard one in Jan. at the park. Also heard a Pine Siskin this afternoon. A couple of the hackberries are just starting to pop flower bud tips out. There were two small bats tonight hunting the area over the driveway for a bit at dusk, probably Free-tails. Live-oaks up the slope behind us are turning yellow and starting to drop leaves.

March 11 ~ Was in town briefly early so stopped at the park. The Louisiana Waterthrush continues, evading another attempt (!) on it, this by an Sharp-shinned Hawk. It has been doing this all winter! Great to get another date after I missed it last Friday. I saw the Osprey that was reported to me last week. The Hutton's Vireo continues territorily singing in the live-oak motte, at the north end of park, and a Barred Owl was hunting the backwaters up by the island. Couple Blue Jay were around.

Most interesting were 50 Turkey Vulture (TV) that were roosted in a few big cypresses. These are MIGRANT TV's, dates for which are very hard to get in spring. These are birds passing through, probably from Mexico or further south on their way to probably way further north. Our local TV's do not gather in groups of 50 and roost at the park.

At least a dozen Anemone (Wind-flower) were open in the yard, all white ones. A couple Agarita flowers are open on the one in the fenceline out back but the drought has really taken a toll on it. The yard is really turning green so fast it is amazing. I can't believe I'll have to be fighting it again so soon now. Sure was nice for a few months.

March 10 ~ Mid 40's dF to lowest 70's dF was a very nice spread. Saw the Junco still here, a couple American Goldfinch and a Robin. Heard Cooper's Hawk and Red-shouldered Hawk giving display flight calls. At dusk there was a Turkey gobbling right up the road, maybe 75 yards away. Also at dusk I saw my FOY Bat, it was small and looked like a Free-tail. Coyotes were going off lots after dark, must have been a couple kills. Sure love that sound.

March 9 ~ Drizzly and a shower or two but not cold, mostly in the 50's all day. Probably ended up with a half-inch since yesterday evening (overnight and today). Looks like a bunch of Anemone (Wind-flower) coming up in the yard. That means it was good winter rains, last year there were only a few. Maybe we will have a good bluebonnet (lupine) year too, last year was a weak showing at best.

Finally after 7 p.m. I saw a second Black-chinned Hummingbird, after the first one on Mar. 4. This last and several prior cold fronts made it to Vera Cruz and when that occurs it slows northward progress of migratory birds down. Good thing since it got down to 24dF here after the front passed.

I detected none of the typical 'first week of March' migratory returning breeders last week, so expect a wave this week as it warms back up. The first Vermilion Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Barn Swallow, Purple Martin, Golden-cheeked and Black-and-white Warbler should all be back any day now. A Golden-cheek was reported east of us so I would think the first few are back here. By the end of the week some numbers will start showing up. They are easiest to see their first month back when they are establishing territories (singing all the time) and the trees are not yet fully leafed out so they can't hide.

Too busy working, and since drizzling no sense it gettin' wet over it. Saw the male Slate-colored Junco that has been here months, I expect it will be leaving soon. Twice over an hour apart after dark I heard Barn Owls go over, one high up going due north, the other low and headed southeast, probably two different birds.

March 8 ~ Spent the day in the 50's dF, a chilly drizzly gray day. It had drizzled off and on overnight and by afternoon we probably had a quarter inch of precip. Supposed to be a real rain tonight or tomorrow. Chilly and wet so it is inside things to do today...

Male and female Sharp-shinned Hawks repeatedly diving on the seed-eaters here. Did have 9 male Cardinal at once still. The Canyon Towhee is really starting to do some serious singing on a stick pile in front yard. They make a crackling bag of chips sound that is very like that sound the texana Scrub-Jay makes. It also makes a hollow whistle that sounds like a kiddie toy train whistle. They have an amazing vocal repertoire. California Towhee is dull, boring and monotonous by comparison.

The hard freeze a couple mornings ago set back my Frostweed sproutling. But the Wood Sage (Germander) and greggii (Blue mist) Eupatorium coming up doesn't look fazed. Some other great but as yet to be ID'd flower which I transplanted some of last year is with new sprouts so they made it. It blooms in fall and smells like a cross between rose and carnation, it is a butterfly magnet. Heard a Barn Owl late p.m.

March 7 ~ Low was in 30's but no freeze, slow to warm too. We took a mostly sunny walk from 11:30 to 1 p.m. by which time it had become overcast. Nice to see some blue skies and sun. Hovered around 60dF much of the afternoon under overcast skies.

Some days there is not much to write about, I work all the time. Still then other days make up for it, I hope. Today was one of those where I hardly know where to start. But I got outside and around a little so scat happened. It only takes one good day to make a week.

Actually shovelled some scat today. I knew all along I would need that snow shovel from New Jersey in 1982, and boy does it work great for this. Went over to the corral to get a sack of fresh road apples for the nutrient starved flower beds here. About four of the mares thought my old birdseed bag now scat sack, was a bag of oats I guess. So they came over to watch closely following me very near as I went from pile to pile. They couldn't believe I was putting things in the sack, clearly no human had done anything but empty sacks in front of them. With a somewhat confused look on their faces after lots of watching me and looking back and forth at each other it seemed they determined I indeed was putting the used oats and hay back in the bag.

One mare walked right past me a foot away, stopping when her hind-quarters were just in front of me, oh, pretty near right about where the shovel and bag were, and can you guess what happened next? She proceeded to made a donation to my collection efforts. A tremendous donation I might add. It was a fountain of road apples, apparently she saw my 50 lb. sack was only half full. She is a keeper. It was chilly out so it was hot steaming fresh product. I briefly considered putting the bag over there to save the shovelling, but it is not the best time (and place to be) to startle a large animal which apparently had a half a bale of hay to get rid of. She looked proud for helping when she walked away, probably will be looking for some extra oats for that.... I backed up out of the fog hoping the steam wouldn't stick to my clothes. Next time I'll just bring the sack, elbow gloves, and follow the mares around.

The highlight for birds was an imm. GOLDEN EAGLE which worked its way north up-valley gaining altitude when last seen. We were along the airstrip on 360, it was pretty low at first sight and circled gaining altitude, then set sail due N. That is one big spring migrant. LTA (less than annual) here, most are in fall or winter, a good bird and date.

Interesting is that I actually have a prior, fairly nearish, springish record, in Medina Co., also an imm., just a couple-few miles east of Uvalde Co. on Hwy. 90, from I think early March, in 1989 (!). Kathy and I watched it go after and miss a Jackrabbit, I actually have a photo of that bird in an old bird photo collage a few feet to my right (so too a date in that period's notebook).

Saw our first two dragonflies of the year. Upslope behind us a Dot-winged Baskettail (Epitheca cf. petechalis) was patrolling in the live-oaks, then at the crossing was a fresh mint Variegated Meadowhawk male sunning on a rock. No damsels though. They probably froze in the 24dF yesterday morning.

A few flowers were nice to see, FOY Dutchman's Breeches, a Dakota Verbena, Whitlow-Grass, a Slender-stem Hymenoxys and a purple form Anemone were all nice signs of spring despite how gray and wintry it still looks overall. Butterflies were a couple American Lady, a Pipevine Swallowtail, a couple Checkered White, FOY Olive Juniper Hairstreak, and FOY Vesta Crescent. We walked upslope into the live-oaks and junipers and despite a fair bit of Agarita in bloom saw no Elfin (and heard no Golden-cheeked Warbler) but did hear singing Hutton's Vireo. The Buckley Oaks (like Agarita) seemed a bit behind, with bud-tips just barely breaking branches. They are often well out in full growth mode now, and when at that stage, the Golden-cheeks are back (in numbers).

A few Western Meadowlarks were singing more this morning. We saw in the corral over a dozen each Vesper and Lark Sparrow, a half-dozen Savannah and a couple Field (later I saw them all from front porch). Along the road we kicked up 150 Mourning Dove, must be migrants from soutward passing through northbound now. Saw a flock of 7 Sandhill Crane moving up-valley. Folks over near Austin and Bastrop had a thousand and almost 2 thousand cranes northbound today. I still have not heard or seen a Martin. We were out with ears on for 90 minutes and covered 1.5 miles plus.

We had an immature Red-tailed Hawk seeming like the Eastern race bird that has been sorta around, besides the nesting Fuertes' about. Also saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk. The Verdin was across the road in the big Mesquites again. Cool bird. Later p.m. a Zone-tailed Hawk flew by office window, and of course had the usual Caracara, plus Black and Turkey Vultures, a Roadrunner. A pair of Eastern Bluebird were checking out a box they got two young (plus a cowbird) out of last year, the male singing, be nice to have that daily again.

~ ~ ~ ~ update header ~ ~ ~ ~
(last updates: February 28, 20, 14, 8, 1, January 25, 18, 11, 4)

Winter is here but there are signs spring is itchin' to arrive. Besides junipers and live-oaks, there isn't much green out there, though some things are just starting to get going. Redbud trees are in bloom, and the first wildflowers are just poking out. No freeze forecast in the next 10 days, our average last freeze is about the first day of spring, March 20-21. Surely the first few male Golden-cheeked Warbler are back by now. I thought I heard a chip note of one today from yard.

You should be prepared for warmish, cold, wet, or wind, at any given time, or all at once. We had record heat (86dF) on Jan. 20, and a major (3.5+") rain event on Jan. 22 and upper twenties and record heat in Feb., record heat and cold again in early March too. Weather is a roller-coaster here in spring. The pollenating junipers have had hay-fever folk clogged or sneezing, they are on the wane now. But everything else will get going soon...

Typical winter bird species are around, in low numbers, like Robin, Cedar Waxwing, Myrtle and Audubon's Warblers, Vesper, Lincoln's, White-crowned, Chipping, Song and Savannah Sparrows, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Hermit Thrush, Spotted Towhee, American Goldfinch, Ruby-crowned and a few Golden-crowned Kinglet, Western Meadowlark, Kestrel, as well as others. Insects, as well as fruit (hackberries, juniper berries), mast (acorns), and nut (pecans) crops are all way way down and some birds seemed to move through, not sticking.

There are a couple new photos in the strip of pix below, including the wintering Lousiana Waterthrush, the wintering Rusty Blackbird, a male Ringed Kingfisher, and one of the blonde squirrel twins.

Recent local sightings include: returning Black-chinned Hummingbird from March 4 on; an Osprey at the park; a ROADSIDE HAWK at the park Jan. 30 and 2 mi. south of town Feb. 1 & 8 (+probably on 22nd); a LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH has been at park from early Dec. and continues Feb. 28 (photo below); a Merlin and a Zone-tailed Hawk are around; a surely returning wintering adult female RUSTY Blackbird in yard Dec. 3 - March 5 (was first heard in late Nov.); a TUNDRA SWAN flew over low calling after dark on Dec. 3! Nearby an imm. White-tailed Hawk was posted to Texbirds on Dec. 28 between Knippa and Sabinal (so probably on Hwy. 90?). A few Rufous Hummer wintered at feeders in town.

~ ~ ~ ~ end update header ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ back to the drivel ~ ~

March 6 ~ A chilly one, about 24-5 dF for a low, it was 22 in KVL and 20 in JCT. Had to thaw the bird bath, it was half ice. Made it to 40dF by 10 a.m., calm and sunny, blue skies and nice. Cardinal, Chickadee, Titmice, Wrens (Bew. and Caro.), and Canyon Towhee all singing. Spring is on the way. It got up to about 60dF in the heat of the afternoon.

In town I heard others too have seen their first hummingbirds back (Black-chinned). Also talked to someone that had an Osprey at the park, always a good bird to see locally. I saw a Pied-billed Grebe at the park and since none wintered we know it is a spring migrant on this date. A Lincoln's Sparrow was also a spring migrant. I did not see the Louisiana Waterthrush, but which doesn't necessarily mean anything, except that I did not see it. I also did not see any Purple Martin or Barn Swallow in town.

A great sign of spring this morning when a Western Meadowlark burst into song from airstrip, I got binocs and saw about five. I am still amazed how these sing so differently than coastal socal W. Meadowlark I grew up listening to. Then in town at the north end I saw at least 8 Eastern Meadowlark, so had both species here today. Always good to do here.

Another great bird locally was in yard when I pulled back in from town, a Verdin! I thought I heard one this morning. Later it was across road in the leafless big old mesquites. I just got my first one in the yard on Jan. 30, this is likely the same bird still around.

March 5 ~ It showered a bit overnight and probably another couple of tenths of precip, near a half-inch for the prior 16 hours as the front passed, and an inch for the last 8 days. Wind blew hard all night and into the afternoon before it finally started to lay down. The winds were why the morning was just above freezing but with chills in twenties F. Two pounds of birdseed seemed to dematerialze nearly instantaneously to the din of nearly a couple hundred seed-cracking bills all working overtime at once. They ate about 5 lbs. today, because I didn't throw out ten.

Since a Thursday (my crunch day) and blowing like heck I stayed hunkered at the monitor, by the heater. Did not see any hint of Black-chinned Hummingbird after the brief visit by a male yesterday morning. It must have tanked up and kept going. It was pretty ratty, I didn't want that one anyway, not like it was a keeper. ;)

March 4 ~ 60's dF, gray and wet. Fog, drizzle, overcast, with about a tenth (.1) of precip during the day, pre-front. This is about day 6 of this gray dripping event and we are likley at about a half-inch of precip from it the last week. The front got here around 5:30 p.m., we were 65dF and by 6:30 we were barely 50dF, by 8:30 we were 40dF. Winds were 20-25 sustained with gusts to 30 and up, Hondo had one 39mph. A good thunder cell hit before 10 p.m. and dumped at least a quarter inch of rain, fortunately still in upper 30's dF when it hit, winter storm watch or warnings in the area for later tonight and tomorrow morning after it drops below freezing.

The bird of the day was the FOS Black-chinned Hummingbird, a male. Which I saw early about 11 a.m. and not again the rest of the day. The other bird of the day was flowers. Wind-flower, or Anemone, of which about 3-4 popped open so Anemone wins the 'first real spring wildflower to open up this year' contest. Though maybe an Agarita got a flower open earlier that is a shrub rather than a wildflower and Redbud trees are trees so also not a wildflower. Straggler Daisy will bloom any and every month so I don't see it as a measure of 'first spring wildflower'. Oh yeah, Turkey were gobbling at dawn. The pair of Roadrunner were in the yard again.

Been seeing Armadillo regularly, pairs of Eastern Cottontail, and of Black-tailed Jackrabbit, still some racoon after dark, and we hear Coyote nearly nightly, mostly when a group makes a kill and they whoop it up with some call of the wild.

March 3 ~ low 50's dF, gray and wet. Fog, drizzle, overcast, about a tenth (.1) of precip. Glad not to see any hummingbirds back yet with the front headed in. Did have a single Robin today but the single American Goldfinch had already left by time it got here. The single Junco was around. I'm only seeing two Inca Dove now, started with 8 in the fall. Hope a pair makes it to breed to make more. Must be the accipiters.

March 2 ~ 40's dF, gray and wet. Fog, drizzle, overcast, about a tenth (.1) of precip. The male Slaty (Slate-colored) Junco continues, and has gotten much darker, nearly black, in face and adjacent areas of head over the last month. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at the river. Once I went outside and saw nothing for a couple minutes, then a big imm. fem. Sharp-shinned Hawk flew out of the Mulberry. After it left, a Golden-fronted Woodpecker that was on a very old wooden clothesline pole flew off. I had scanned right past it a few times looking around wondering where all the birds were. It was surely frozen and pressed up against the pole barely wider than it, hiding from the Sharpy so well that even though in view to me, I had scanned over it and missed it a couple times bare-eyed from 20 feet.

March 1 ~ MARCH!?!?!?!?!? Seems like we just finished New Years. The cold inclement weather and fronts forecast have me wondering how the first week of March will play for returning breeders. It is forecast to be below normal, with a couple fronts. That is, March is coming in like a lion. Typically we expect during the first week of March the first wave of returning neo-tropical migrant songbirds. Insectivores. Insect eaters that winter in the (neo)tropics and migrate here to breed, when there are bugs.

Normal arrival is the first week of March for Black-chinned Hummingbird, Black-and-white, and Golden-cheeked Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Barn Swallow and Vermilion Flycatcher to name six off the top of my head. Plus the Martins should be back since late. The first week of March is usually on average the first big show of diversity and return to the breeding areas amongst the earliest-to-return hard-core insectivore migratory songbirds.

It was maybe 40dF and fog, mist, and drizzling still in the a.m., warming to near 50 by noon, nice not to be in the 30's, but it won't last long. Stayed wet and gray all day. One of the imm. Sharp-shinned Hawks that is a regular landed in the mulberry, behind monitor so I saw it... Being wet it fanned its tail and shook out, holding tail fully fanned repeatedly, giving a great closeup binoc views of how utterly destroyed most of the terminal inch of rectrices (tail feathers) are. Shot. Torn and frayed. As bad as any cage bird I ever saw, worse than most. It reminded me of Kevin Karlson's Crane Hawk photo, tail spread trying to dry, all mangled at tips. After a long tough first winter hunting this is how that ends up. No one would suggest this imm. Sharpy is an escaped cage bird, yet birds with far less mangled tails have been accused as such. It is a normal thing that is part of why birds molt every year. Feathers wear out. Especially tails that stick out on predators that crash into things going after stuff.

~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~ ~

It was a chilly dry one, with only around an inch of rain. The first green sprouts start showing and the first Redbud trees got their first flowers open (but not full roaring bloom). There were weekly cold events which are a cycle of hard freezes. First pre-front there is a warm-up, then the front passes (most have been dry) followed by a too-windy period for a day, and when that stops it gets real cold for a few days, repeat. Until you can't stand it. LOL. Multiple days it never got out of the thirties dF. Based on the stage of plant growth I would say winter still has a firm grip on things and it looks like that damned groundhog was right.

The highlight of the month was seeing the Roadside Hawk at least twice south of town Feb. 1 & 8 (after the initial Jan. 30 find). With the combined three seperate observations I was able to see most of the key characters well, multiple times. There is no doubt as to the identification at a level that I posted it publicly (on Texbirds) so others could know, just in case some birder gets lost and ends up here outside of the March through June window of occurrence for birders here.  ;)

The other neat things were the continuing Louisiana Waterthrush at Utopia Park, and the Rusty Blackbird at the corral adjacent to our place (and sometimes in our yard). Both great birds to have around since essentially no field guides have them mapped for being here in winter. Well illustrating how little is actually known, versus what is pretended to be known by experts. A Poorwill was nice to see too, as were a few Lark Bunting.

Butterflies were not very evident due to the mostly cold conditions, but one warm day 10 species were recorded, an excellent total for a single Feb. day here. Plus a Lycaenid sps. that got away that day, so really 11 species were seen that day, only 10 ID'd. Methinks it was 13 sps. for the month, normal range is 10-20, so on the low end of the range. In 2013 February had 27 species of butterflies, so there can be in Feb. twice the diversity of this year. The individual numbers were between pitiful and woeful, mostly it was a few over-wintering singles seen repeatedly.

The only odes I saw all month were 3 Enallagma Bluet damselflies, I think maybe Stream Bluets. Some years there is a lot more odetivity in February. It was cold. But a few warm days brought frogs back out. Cricket, Leopard, Chorus, and Barking were all heard and or seen. Best mammals were Bobcat and Ringtail, both were heard this month, and the two blonde leucistic squirrels continue in the yard.

I come up with about 73 species of birds seen locally this month, plus four introduced non-native species. Another 20 species are around if all the various habitats (& micro-habitats) were checked.

~ ~ end February summary ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~ ~

Feb. 28 ~ Man that was a quick short month. It was just above freezing, and drizzling, all day yesterday, and I see .10 for a precip. total, and that continued overnight and through noon today. Cold, wet, wet, cold. Maybe .25-.3 by time we add it all up. Good for botanical purposes, namely the spring bloom. Warmed to low 40's dF in afternoon, and supposed to warm a few more dF overnight. Snuck a town run in during a lull. The Louisiana Waterthrush continues at the park and the Hutton's Vireo is still singing. A few Myrtle Warblers, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, but not much in the cold wet. The ad.fem. Yellow-shafted Flicker is still here, must be its 4th or 5th winter here. A Canyon Towhee was under the steel open building on the south side of the Ranch Outpost. That place might be able to hold one with piles of pallets, etc. It might be a spot to check for one on Main St. as a driveby if you are in the area needing one. The Redbud trees are getting going a bit better now and some pastures are turning green.

Feb. 27 ~ Another cold gray one, winter's grip remains intact. Possible snow today and tonight, still cold tomorrow, then a warmup Monday and by Tuesday about 80dF with thunderstorms, afterwhich we will freeze again. The late winter weather roller coaster. Early spring is the same, 40-50dF temp changes in a couple days are routine, and it is hard to know in advance which way it will be when you get here. Us locals just watch it go by, from inside more when it is cold, and have lots of warm things to wear for when we have to be out in it.

After 10 a.m. I was outside in the 35dF heat and heard LARK BUNTINGS! Eventually I saw at least four over in the corral, a great yard bird. I had a few single flyovers up on Seco Ridge I think all in fall. I saw them once on the 10 winter bird count days I did locally (was a half-dozen in Bandera Co. 3 miles north of town). Good numbers (flocks of hundreds some years) winter just south of us in the brush country flatlands. These are surely spring migrants as they are one of the earliest of the small landbirds to move north. Love that call, a low soft musical whistled pu-eee.

The Chipping Sparrow numbers have been increasing, today I counted 125 of the little piggies on the millet. Since it stayed in the 30's dF all day I threw extra rations out, a couple times. Saw the Junco, a couple American Goldfinch, the pair of Golden-fronts still heavily dependent on the sunflower seeds in the tube. Threw some crushed pecans out as well, starting a near-riot on the patio among the (Black-crested) titmice.

Feb. 26 ~ We froze, there was ice on the bird bath, again the Weather Underground (WU) station in town showed 37-38dF for a low, pretty far from what we have 2 miles south of town. Maybe it is near some concrete that retains heat? Anyway by noon local WU stations were showing 67dF in town and 57 at the Lost Maples station. Just ahead of the front arriving, gawd it felt great. An ice box is on the way in. We hit 70 about 1:30 p.m. and I saw it was low 40's with chills in 30's ca. 60 miles north in Junction. By 3 p.m. we were cooling down fast in strong northerlies. By 7 p.m. JCT was 31dF with a chill of 20 and we were upper 30's with chills in mid-upper 20's dF, and dropping!

Heard the Pyrrhuloxia tinking over toward the draw, higher, thinner, more musical, a slight ring to it, like a miniature bell, whereas Cardinal is deeper thicker, richer, flatter, with more timbre. Had the Rusty Blackbird again over in corral. They removed a few horses that were in a seperated section yesterday so will quit feeding that area, which was where the main flock of 350+ Brewer's spent most of their time.

A male Black Swallowtail flew by at peak heat, first for sure for the month, though thought I had one a few days ago. Considering the weather forecast it is likely the last new butterfly of the month. I can tally them up now, nothing will fly the next couple days. Saw that one Sceloporus lizard on the window screen so could see belly is turning orange (breeding colors). Not sure which lizard this is.

Feb. 25 ~ About 38-68dF for a temp spread today, the warm felt great! Birds were singing, but more cold is on the way. Yes we need it to be cold enough for enough days each winter, keeps the bugs down and in check, but I am not crazy about it personally. If we could just trade 10dF of winter cold to the summer, it truly would be Utopia.   ;)

The Rusty Blackbird was still over in corral, calling a bit the last couple days. Neatest thing was a Gray Fox in the late afternoon to early evening, making trips across the slope behind us, calling the single whistled note repeatedly. Always great to see them. Saw a pale morph female Orange Sulphur butterfly, and a Pipevine Swallowtail.

I see today there are buds that have broken the stems of the big male Mulberry tree. Wow. Spring is coming. The yard is now more green than brown from all the grass sprouting, mostly a plethora of non-native wicked stuff unfortunately, but greener than it has been since October. Be doing battle with it in no time....

Feb. 24 ~ Man it was a three dog night and a frozen bird bath morning, about 27-28dF in KVL from about 4 p.m. yesterday through 10 a.m.+ with chills in low 20's dF. We were about the same here, a little warmer yesterday afternoon and early evening, but in the a.m. upper 20's was it. Crispy and crunchy as I took hot water out to thaw the bird bath at dawn. Two American Goldfinch were among a couple hundred non-tax-deductable dependents about at early-thirty waiting on some sunflower and millet seed.

After noon we burst up to a hot 36+dF, maybe hit 42 in afternoon. There were 5 each American Goldfinch and Pine Siskin in the big hackberry about 1:30, not many of those two around this winter, like Robin and waxwing, just a few. Counted 110 Chipping Sparrow at once. Canyon Towhee starting to sing a bit, and the Cardinals were going pretty well too considering how cold and gray it was. Roadrunner and Junco (the male Slaty) were seen.

Feb. 23 ~ Cold and windy if you like that, we got it. Was in low 30's dF just above freezing this a.m., with a fair bit of wind on it, chill factors in 20's dF. Throw some drizzle on it and you can just imagine how nice it is. By late morning there were icicles 3" long hanging off roof edge of cottage. It will stay freezing or thereabouts all day and until tomorrow morning, so I'll guard this heater by the monitor, keyboard, phone and windows. The coldest part of the event then will be about 33-36 hours at or about freezing with chills in 20's dF.

Saw and heard the Rusty Blackbird so it is still around, slightly less 'rusty' in color and darker. The cold brings it in from wandering to a sure food source, the corral. Sharpy and Coop dove on sparrows and Cards in yard, I spotted the (ad. fem.) Sharpy watching the yard from a distant tree in the corral. Our yard is a bird buffet to them, but they seem to miss more than succeed. Those 6 brush piles are life savers.

Counted at once 10 male Cardinal and 13 male House Finch, there are as many females of each present as well. That is the most House Finch in a while. Chipping Sparrow numbers 105 or 110. Heard a Kinglet (Ruby-crnd) and a Myrtle Warbler. Saw a TV out soaring in the freezing cold, maybe it got blown off its perch.

At 4 p.m. Junction was reporting 28dF and chill factor of 17dF. Kerrville (KVL) was 29dF with a chill of 20. We were about a toasty 34dF at peak heat, if you can call 34dF that, and I doubt chills got out of upper 20's dF all day. Uvalde has a record for lowest high temp this date in the 40's, about 45dF. So today here surely was a record for lowest high temp this date. If we could just split the difference between winter and summer here for more of the year it would be... like Utopia.  ;)

Feb. 22 ~ Another balmy 60dF morning, this one with drizzle from the south ahead of arriving cold front. Was a bit breezy too, the cold air finally arrived about dark and it dropped fast. By 11 p.m. it was in 30's dF with chills in 20's, a 50dF drop in 30 hours since yesterday afternoon when record warmth.

The only thing of real interest beyond the regular stuff today was a hawk that seemed to flush from trees at edge of yard as I walked outside once. I only saw it three seconds as it flew perpendicular to me before it disappeard behind the cottage going across an open part of corral. It was not a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawk which I see multiples (multiple ages and sexes of each) daily in the yard. It was heavier bodied, longer winged and shorter tailed (proportionately). The rear part of the underparts was creamy, with very thick horizontal bars on lower belly. That was about all I saw. It was a small buteo was my ID. It was most likely the Roadside Hawk I have seen 3 times in last 3 weeks, but not since Feb. 8. It was the bird.

Feb. 21 ~ A low of 60dF was pretty balmy, then the afternoon heatup in front of the front took us to at least 86dF! Toasty! The record for the date in Uvalde was 84dF, so this is surely a record here. The first few puffs of northerly wind change were after 3 p.m., but the cold arctic air isn't getting here until tomorrow. The warm was dry too, about 20% humidity. Besides warm and dry, the southwest feel is enhanced by seeing Caracaras, Roadrunners, Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk, and Pyrrhuloxia in the yard today. The Ringed and Green Kingfishers over at river do however place one in Texas.

Lots of butterflies today, most of the year so far. There were three Pipevine Swallowtail, a Checkered White or two, a couple each Lyside (FOY) and Orange Sulphur, a Dainty Sulphur (FOY), at least a dozen Dogface, a half-dozen Snout, a Red Admiral and an American Lady, and a Lycaenid got away on a juniper that was likely an Olive Juniper Hairstreak. We looked for it a bit and couldn't refind it. It was able to anger me later again however when I realized I had 9 sps. of butterflies for the day, plus it.  ;)   Then about 5 p.m. I saw a Checkered-Skipper for a 10th species for the day. Also another Pipevine Swallowtail went over, and another dark Swallowtail that looked like a Black, not a Pipevine, but it was just a second short of a positive ID of a look. So it ended up 10 species plus a Lycaenid, and probably a Black Swallowtail.

We took a walk to the crossing for an hour or so centered on noon. In a couple minutes at the crossing we had a male Green and a Ringed Kingfisher go by in opposite directions, and 15 minutes later a female Green flew downriver like the male. No Belted, just the two most expected kingfishers here. Saw the first odes of the year, Enallagma (Bluets) damselflies, three of them, not sure what type, probably Stream.

The Agarita have some flower buds growing, a couple were almost open. Kathy counted 50+ Black Vulture in the flocks while most airborne overhead, there are probably 60+ here. Also saw an ad. ma. Sharp-shinned Hawk, heard a Red-shouldered, saw a Fuertes' Red-tail, but could not see if anything was on their nest. A couple each Common Raven, Turkey Vulture, and Caracara. Had the Merlin at yard in p.m. Kathy also spotted the Pyrrhuloxia again from kitchen window, and TWO Roadrunner in yard together, surely the local pair.

Barking Frog was calling in afternoon. Cricket Frogs were at the crossing. Had maybe one Myrtle Warbler and one Kinglet, not much for insectivore passerines. There were a dozen Vesper Sparrow in the corral, along with some Larks. Saw a Lincoln's and heard a Song Sparrow along river. Later about 5:30 p.m. three Robin landed in the big Pecan briefly.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 20 ~ Balmy overnight, in 50's dF, and got to mid 70's! A few American Goldfinch were in trees early, maybe 3-4, and about as many Waxwings late in afternoon. Lesser Goldfinch and ad. fem. Sharp-shinned Hawk in yard again. Saw the Roadrunner just south of house in p.m. There was a singing Hutton's Vireo, but I did not see the Louisiana Waterthrush at the park in town. Nor did I hear any Martins around town, though wouldn't be surprised if some are back. Saw Snout and Dogface butterflies at park, plus the first Checkered-Skipper of the year, which was Common/White type. And saw the Orange Sulphur in yard again.

No odes, some winter mayflies still, and the first Redbud flowers are opening on the trees at the Library. The Cypress trees are now really bursting forth with their grape cluster 'flowers'. Spring is on the way. New fresh vegetation, wow! Also noticed some things like Mexican Hat, and Tropical and Mealy Sage, have all quietly been putting some new leaves out the last week. One of my transplanted Frostweed has popped a sprout with leaves too, great to see that made it, as it seems a few of my Wood Sage (Am. Germander) transplants are sprouting anew too.

At dusk I was admiring the conjuction of the crescent moon, Venus, and Mars right above them with just a little light left in sky and a bird flew by that was a small nightjar. Which would be a POORWILL this time of year. In fact February is when they come out of what amounts to a 3 month hibernation here. I just saw it for a second and half as it flew across the open area between house and cottage, against twilight sky, just long enough to see it was a small nightjar by the way it flew and wing shape.

Saw 3 larval Firefly glowing in the grass after dark.

Feb. 19 ~ We froze here a couple miles south of town, whilst one of the WeatherUnderground stations in town only went to 36dF. What are they, next to a light or heater vent? There was ice on the birdbath here, which still requires 32dF. A Ringed Kingfisher flew downriver about 8 a.m. and one went right over house calling, high up about 300' above ground going north a half-hour later. Some birdsong in the a.m. was nice, again Turkey gobbling at dawn, and Barred Owl called before sunup. The regular gang was it over the day. Thursday so busy at desk. If it flies by the window I'll be right on it though, as long as it is fairly behind the monitor. Male Ground-Dove are wonderfully pinkish salmon below now.

Feb. 18 ~ We froze, upper 20's dF, bird bath frozen over about a quarter-inch thick. KVL was 26 and Junction 25dF, we hit 28dF briefly while I was outside waiting for sun to clear the hills on the horizon and watching thermometer. An extra cup of seed for the birds this morning. They Chippies make an excited trill when I appear and throw seed, different from song but similar. It is their "look he's tossing seed" call. Actually they also do it when they are in feeding frenzies in live-oaks as they bloom and the 'worms' (moth caterpillars) are out. It is actually a "FOOD!!" call.

Heard Turkeys gobbling at dawn, and a Ringed Kingfisher over at the river before 10 a.m., but too busy to look around. Keeping an hourly eye on the skies, but nothing different. Red-tailed Hawk, 2 Turkey Vulture, 30 Black Vulture, a few Caracara. Did see an Orange Sulphur butterfly, probably the same one as early in month.

Feb. 17 ~ Low was in mid-30's dF with breeze felt like the 20's. Warmed into 40's and felt like 30's. Should freeze tomorrow a.m. A hundred plus Chipping Sparrow counted, about 104 maybe when most hit the seed pile on the patio all at once so in the clear for counting, they can be invisible until they move in the grass. The male Junco (Slate) continues. Saw a Turkey Vulture or two again. Too windy most of the day, but great clear dark skies after dark, save the light pollution glow of San Antonio on the east horizon. Watch for Mars and Venus in conjunction to the west at dark. That is Jupiter in the east at dark, and high nearing overhead at midnight.

Feb. 16 ~ The cloudy daybreak low was about 62dF until the front hit between 7:30 and 8 a.m. and by shortly after 9 a.m. it was upper 30's dF with wind chills in the 20's! So it felt like a 40 dF drop in less than a couple hours. Bet that FOS swallow (N.R-w on 14th) is wondering why it just had to get here so soon. A little bit of recovery on temps over day but not much, and in afternoon quickly began dropping, with some light rain. After dark a shower or two went over and we got about two-tenths of an inch of precip.

About 94 Chipping Sparrow at one count on the patio. Among the flock of mostly Brewer's Blackbirds (300+-) feeding over in the corral daily, I presume spring migrant Red-winged Blackbird and Brown-headed Cowbird are showing up as their numbers are increasing. There are now over 50 Red-wings and over 60 Cowbirds. Saw both Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawk make failed passes at the seedeaters here in yard.

Feb. 15 ~ At 11 a.m. out the office window there were 2 FOS Turkey Vulture! Sure didn't see any yesterday or day before despite lots of looking. They are back! Right on normal average schedule. There were about 25-30 Black Vultures going down on something which the "TV's" were also coming in to. The two TV were around later in afternoon too. Saw the Merlin late in day dive through yard flushing the passerines. Heard the N. Rough-winged Swallow today. Late p.m. I heard a Ringtail (Cat (but it is not), or Cacomistle) call a few times.

Feb. 14 ~ Happy Valentine's Day! Give someone a good squeeze.   ;) Another sign of spring this morning, my first Lesser Goldfinch in months, surely a spring migrant. A few winter around thistle or nyger seed socks in town, which is a new phenomenon not near a decade old yet. My first several winters here they did not winter, and then returned in spring around Washington's birthday. Around '08-'10 Lesser Goldfinch started sticking for the winter in small numbers where humans put out thistle socks. So now only if you are away from that can you easily tell when spring migrants show up. Like here today. Been a couple months since one has been in the yard. Away from handouts of a particular sort, they still don't winter 'in the wild' (unaided by humans) here.

A Merlin landed in the big pecan while I was on side porch sorta hidden. Bobbed its head as it watched the feeder, and flocks of House Finch, Brewer's Blackbird, and Brown-headed Cowbird split the scene, Chippies and Cards dove for cover. Titmouse kept singing like Nero fiddling. After a couple minutes the Merlin took off, alarm notes all around as it shot away like a bullet. So small and so powerful. Whatabird.

Just after 11 a.m. another major sign of spring, a swallow! An insectivore! It was a Northern Rough-winged and likely a returning local breeder from the riverbank cut 8-900 feet away. It circled low over the yard for some time, just like it does all spring and summer, calling repeatedly, seeming happy to be back after 5+ months somewhere way down south Mexico way probably.

The FOS (first of season - or first of spring) Lesser Goldfinch and Northern Rough-winged Swallow today were for both my earliest ever spring dates in now 12 springs of recording that data. Will we have an early spring? I'd rather we get a couple more hard freezes and cold spells not to mention especially more rain. Saw the Merlin shoot over again late in the day when putting a birdhouse up.

Those resident cavity nesters especially get going right away and are site selecting now. Titmouse, Bluebirds, Chickadee, Bewick's and Carolina Wren all are in the mate selection process if not nest site selection already. Make sure your boxes are cleaned and ready for a new season now. While you are at it remember to get a hummer feeder out and cleaned, we could have the first Black-chinned back in a week and change.

I was outside late one last time after 11 p.m. and heard a BOBCAT! Followed by a bunch of suckling piglet squealing. Wonder what happened? Awesome! I can put it on the yard list now. It is one of the animals you know are around but they are hard to lay eyes on except by accident. We saw them in both our other yards here, on Seco Ridge, and North Thunder Creek.

Feb. 13 ~ Low in 40's dF, high in 60's, perfectly bearable considering they are too cold in the east and too hot in the west. We need more cold, and rain though. A town run in the afternoon, and so a park check. The water at the park pond did come up again, over a week after the main event which brought it up a little bit at the time. Now we are less than 2' from normal, that is, water going over the spillway. Several Blanchard's Cricket-Frog were calling, the first of them I have heard this year. A Roadrunner in the park is always a rare bird there though this is maybe the third time this winter, probably the same bird, as I only have 2 prior sightings there in a dozen years and a thousand plus park checks.

The cypress trees are just starting to put out the 'flowers' (don't look for flowers) , with their green grape cluster type of 'flower'. The Redbud trees at the library just barely have red buds breaking the branches, not even fully formed flower buds yet, they will be open in a week. The Agarita should have buds any day now too. Still just Black Vultures overhead, but lots paired up and in display flights.

Saw the Louisiana Waterthrush, so it is at 10+ weeks here now, a nice date spread on an overwintering bird. First time I wrote it down was Dec. 6, noting I had heard a different warbler I didn't see, which turned out to be this bird. I heard it Thanksgiving weekend (a week earlier) some time but didn't write it down because I had no idea beyond unknown warbler chip, it called once and disappeared. These winter individuals seem mighty skittish. Saw one Golden-crowned Kinglet, which is probably a northbound spring migrant by now, seems like I haven't seen one in a month or so. Sometimes you can catch a February or March individual singing if you are lucky.

My last look and listen outside at 11:45 p.m. was quite rewarding in that a Barn Owl called. The first one I have heard in months and probably a spring migrant. Don't think I have heard one since November. Certainly not in December or January.

Feb. 12 ~ A Red-tailed Hawk dove at a squirrel in the yard and shot by the office window just 30' away as the squirrel gave alarm notes. At least 2 dozen Cardinal still here, a dozen males seen at once. Saw the one male pearly gray Slate-colored Junco, 90 Chipping Sparrow, 10 Lark Sparrow, and an icky male House Sparrow. Thursday so at computer and phone all day. Great Blue Heron flying down the river corridor at dusk.

Feb. 11 ~ A front came in late in the evening, but dry, and not even very windy, but cooler and dry. A real sign of spring was just after 7:30 a.m. when a big flock of 300 White-fronted Geese flew over calling, due northbound. You could set your compass by them. One of the quintessential calls of the wild, a flock of migrating geese. Somehow they make it past us in fall almost undetected here, compared to the thousands that winter just south of us. We're lucky to get a flock or two in fall, they must mostly pass over at high altitude as they arrive in fall, probably at night as well.

Feb. 10 ~ A hot and cold 35-80dF temp spread for the day. Too much work but to keep checking skies over river corridor once or twice an hour. Nothing. Great Horned and Texican (mccallii) Screech-Owl calling after dark. The warmth can make one dream of returning spring birds that should start showing soon. Heard White-winged Dove sing today, first of that this year.

The first two returnees are long-distance migrants passing over, White-fronted Geese and Sandhill Crane, around mid-February. Then a few of the local breeders show up, Purple Martin and Turkey Vulture around mid-Feb, At about 3 weeks into Feb. usually Lesser Goldfinch and N. Rough-winged Swallow, and the last week of Feb. (lately) to earliest March Black-chinned Hummingbird and Vermilion Flycatcher. White-eyed Vireo, plus Golden-cheeked and Black-and-white Warblers all return the first week of March, just 3 weeks away now!

Feb. 9 ~ A nice upper 40's to low 80's for a temp spread. Some serious Eastern Phoebe and Bewick's Wren song this morning, both gave extended bouts of singing. One female Golden-fronted Woodpecker trying to discourage another female too. The breeding season is getting under way for local residents. Some Cardinal, Carolina Wren, Lark Sparrow, Titmouse and Chickadee song as well. This was the first day you could call it a wee bit of dawn chorus this year.

Made a post to Texbirds about the Roadside Hawk on the long shot that someone with a lens might get lucky and get a photo of it. I can only check so much, but I keep an eye on river corridor hourly off and on all day. Ringed Kingfisher was over there.

In butterflies saw a couple Sleepy Orange, a couple Dogface, a Snout, and an Orange Sulphur, for a whopping four species, probably the high diversity day for the year so far.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 8 ~ About 50dF and foggy this morning, got up to 82dF! Turkey again roosted in the big tall Cypresses along the river as they were gobbling at dawn. Couldn't see the trees in the fog, but could tell they were not calling from the ground. If you didn't know the trees were there and they roost 40' up, it would definitely be confusing.  ;)  Heard a Ringed Kingfisher fly by going upriver. A Dogface in late p.m. was the second butterfly of the month. Saw three Caracara and heard a Belted Kingfisher at dusk.

Back to late morning, it was clearing and I kept checking the skies over the river corridor habitat, that we sit at the edge of. About noon I spotted a small raptor already north of the house, circling and slowly gaining altitude slowly drifting north. Ran inside and got bins and in a few seconds was on it. It was the ROADSIDE HAWK! The bars on the belly are over one centimeter wide (!) messy broken big thick wavy edged horizontal reddish bars from breast to belly.

This time when it circled as it gave dorsal views I was able to see pale edges on uppertail coverts. Clearly scalloped at close range, but more a broken band of dirty white at more distance. I had it in bins well over a minute before it was too far to be of use. It is very quick and graceful of wing stroke. The buffy-cream tone of base color of all underparts was obvious, and clearly not white. Buffy-cream wing linings have dark freckling along rear edge and in axillaries.

Again as it circled it never opened its tail. It strikes you as a Cooper's Hawk soley due to size, but quickly one sees the comparitively shorter tail (though long for small buteo) and much longer arm part of wing, besides the much more substantial body of a small buteo. The undertail is pale with several narrow dark bars, uppertail fairly evenly width dark and light bars.

This makes 3 sightings in 10 days, two on private property without public access. One 2 miles north of those at the park, the only quarter-mile of public access around. Not particularly chaseable. Wish I would have spotted it a few seconds sooner south of house inbound as it was much lower at first sight, only 60' up. But, it is still around, and still not documented. Do you put an alert out? I hate these dilemas.

Feb. 7 ~ Low in upper 40's was nice but thick low overcast kept it cool until afternoon when it finally burned off and got to about 64dF and sunny for a few hours. Once it cleared I kept watching the river corridor for small buteo but nothing showed. Had at least one Ringed Kingfisher calling from river early in a.m., 6 bearded Toms in the corral at dusk, when the Chorus Frogs were calling again.

Besides our record high temp and record rainfall (for the dates) in Jan., it has been an amazing winter across the country for weather. Record heat in the west from California to Utah, Arizona, and in the mid-west, but where there is push there is shove. In the east and northeast in particular, record cold and snow. Boston with 4' in two weeks, Worcester with 5'! And it is staying cold so not melting. Half the country is hotter than ever, the other half colder. And it is all connected. We're in the middle mostly about average, but we actually need a couple more good freezes. Few things keep insects under control like some good freezes, and places that aren't getting as cold as they used to are seeing explosions of pest insects, some pine bark beetles in particular.

Feb. 6 ~ Still overcast and cool. Got a good Chipping Sparrow count when they all hit fresh seed thrown on the patio, there are 100. One male Slaty Junco, 30+ Cardinal, a couple each Inca and Ground- Doves. A pair of Common Raven flew over low just 50-60' up and one flipped over upside-down and croaked right overhead, while in slow straight-line flight. Then it did it again as it headed away. Some birds just want to have fun. Kathy spotted the Pyrrhuloxia again out the kitchen window feeding in tallish grass along fenceline.

Stopped at the park briefly on a town errand run, saw the Louisiana Waterthrush, and the local Red-shouldered Hawk. That was about it. Little Creek Larry said he has had some Ring-necked Ducks on Little Creek, up to a couple dozen, and he had one Wigeon.

Feb. 5 ~ The forecast was upper 30's dF and KVL was 32dF, we were just a little warmer but with the north winds from the front that came in last night chill factor in mid-20's dF. Another overcast longjohn day. Saw the male Slaty (Slate-colored) Junco on the patio first thing, must have been waiting for me to get out there and toss seed. One Robin to go with all the other things just singles of around. A bit later one Waxwing.

Feb. 4 ~ A cool cloudy day, 'nother front coming in tonight. Saw a Cedar Waxwing - one, to go with the one Junco, one American Goldfinch, and unfortunately 2 House Sparrow. Still a big herd of Cardinal sucking the seed down, and the Chipping Sparrows number about 85-90. Had the Rusty Blackbird again among the Brewer's, cold days it seems more likely to be with them, nice days not. A Caracara went by.

Feb. 3 ~ drizzle in a.m. turned to light showers for most of the day, we got a little over a half-inch of rain. The temp range for the day was about 38-44dF, a chilly one. Over 350+ Brewer's Blackbird were in corral, the Rusty with them, and a dozen Red-winged a few of which have started some singing. Over 30 Brown-headed Cowbird have taken to raiding the seed here, dang things. As if that weren't bad enough a male House Sparrow was here too.

Saw the Pyrrhuloxia out front, and seemed to be hearing another across road at same time, so maybe 2 are around. The one Junco continues, an imm. Cooper's Hawk dove on everything, wish it would take some Cowbirds. The Inca Dove group seems down to 3 birds now, from 8 at start of fall. Pair of Ground-Dove still about. Some Turkey were in the corral.

Feb. 2 ~ A chilly 35dF for a low, might have gotten up to 55. These darn Brown-headed Cowbirds have rounded some friends up and now there about 30. They were so tight at one point I was about to do a shotshell number, could have had 20 at once with no risk of anything else in line. But an aquarium on the patio might have gotten some spray and I couldn't risk it. The tank will be moved now.

Mid-day Kathy spotted the female Pyrrhuloxia at the bath again, and called me quickly enough that I got a brief look before it flew back towards draw. Needed it on my bathroom window list. I still am amazed how it is not hanging with the 40 Cardinals here, but coming in to the water semi-regularly. Later p.m. a Merlin shot over again, and I do mean shot, like a bullet from a gun.

February 1 ~ Wow, a month of the year gone by already, and this short one will go by faster! Drizzle and foggy in a.m., and warm, 55dF or so, then cleared fairly quickly, warmed up to about 75dF, with a front passing in the afternoon. I had too much to do to go to park and look for the hawk, we took an hour walk on road out front down to the crossing to stretch the muscles and bones a little.

Saw a number of Vesper, Lark, and Field Sparrows plus a few Chippy along road and corral. Heard a couple Rio Grande Leopard Frogs, and saw (!) a Chorus Frog. Across river at pasture were 11 Killdeer. No odes or leps yet. About noon-thirty in yard a Sleepy Orange (butterfly) went by, first butterfly of month, later two were seen.

So then this hawk comes along, moving over the river corridor south. I first think Cooper's Hawk based on size, thinking imm. female since it was messy below. Then I got it in bins. It was THE bird. The tail was proportionately far too short for accipiter. But long, and it was a tiny small buteo. It had hugely thick horizontal bars on belly, of reddish on buffy cream, with coarse vertical bars on breast. It circled a few times as it gained altitude and went down the valley. It never opened its tail even when circling and when it got against the light there were translucent panels of tawny at inner primary area. It was the Roadside Hawk. And it was heading south. Sayonara. I don't think this bird will be seen again. Chalk another unbelievable sighting up. I'm sure some experts will be along shortly to erase it. The type that never lived here but can tell you what you can't see here.

~ ~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~ ~

Well it was a wet January with three-quarters of an inch on the last day of the month, and a major 3.5+" event a week earlier, over 4" is a great start. There were a couple good hard freezes, and we also had a record warm day at about 86dF! Some of the first new green sprouts are breaking the surface, I see some Wild Geranium and others coming up now. Maybe we'll have Anemones this year?

For butterflies it was weak, with 7 species seen in the month. and not many more individuals than that! I did see an early Elfin on the 19th which was good, a day short of earliest ever. Early in the month (first weekend) I saw my only two odes (dragonflies) of the month with one each male Variegated and Autumn Meadowhawks. The last of last year's leftovers, odes are done now until the spring flyers emerge.

Birds were great considering I have no time to bird and mostly either watch the yard or stop at the park on my weekly errand runs to town. If I'm lucky I forget something and get to check it twice in a week. I saw about 74 species locally (around town and yard) in January by accident without trying. I know of another dozen (at least) in the area that are findable.

The best bird was the tiny buteo with thick wavy red bars on belly at the park on Jan. 30, surely it was a Roadside Hawk. I saw it a second time Feb. 1, 2 miles south of town heading south. Second best was getting photos of the wintering Louisiana Waterthrush, which I think might be the first Edwards Plateau over-wintering ever documented. Third was the continuing Rusty Blackbird in the yard and corral adjacent. A Verdin in the yard was outstanding, as were 3 Mallard at the park, and I heard a White-tipped Dove at the park on a warm day. Kathy saw a Pyrrhuloxia at the bird bath one day this month too.

Hearing Chorus Frogs is great, Mercury showed incredibly well this month as did the Comet, though we missed the Asteroid due to clouds the best night.

~ ~ ~ end January summary ~ ~ ~

Jan. 31 ~ The rain was tardy as the front was, hours behind forecasts, it just started light drizzle in the early a.m., and was off and on light all day, maybe a half-inch and change by dark. Temp range was 45-55dF. Hunkered in. Didn't see anything different in the few lookabouts I took outside. Mostly just pondering what to do about yesterday's hawk. Maybe I can sneak to park tomorrow for a lookaround after the rain stops.

Jan. 30 ~ The low stratus clouds made for another awesome red sunrise. Behind the big black trunks and branches of the tall Cypress trees along the river it was a beautiful stunning flaming red. The cold front was barely one, the winds were nothing as advertised, low only mid-40's dF and we had sun almost all day, nearly made 65dF. Quite nice.

Did see the Slaty (Slate-colored) Junco in the morning, one Pine Siskin, and one American Goldfinch. What a weird winter we are having. You just can't tell much from any one season or year. Or two for that matter. It takes ten to get a grip on things natural history.

The bird of the morning was a VERDIN in the yard, under 10' away, one of my favorite and one of the coolest birds, since unique (is in its own family) and I love an oddball. I have a few times thought I heard one across the road in the mesquites, and years ago we had one in the corral when we used to bird this road. But this is the first in the yard. Very cool. It never called, which is how one typically detects them. If I hadn't have been standing there looking stupid (which I do so well) I would not have seen it.

We only see a small percent of what is going by. It flew into the yard from over in the corral, went to some foreign vine on the garden fence, then quickly moved to the hackberrries in back and up the slope and was gone. If you weren't standing right there then, it didn't happen. As is the case with millions of birds all the time, everywhere, and a big part of what makes it great fun. Rule No.1 in birding is: Anything can happen. Anytime. Anywhere.

Did an errand run to town in afternoon and so stopped at the park. The Louisiana Waterthrush was calling as I got out of car. It was in the flooded area between former island and main bank, ankle deep, chasing Gambusia (mosquito fish) around in the shallows. I saw it get one. Then the hawk dove on it. OMG it just missed. The waterthrush shot under some thick bank-edge cover (a huge buttonbush) and the hawk landed right above it on a lowest cypress branch looking straight down, for it. I am 60' away watching my rarest bird of the winter, maybe year, about to get eaten.

I get the hawk in my bins, 3:30 p.m. sun on it from my left and unlike virtually all the hawks I see locally, I do not immediately know what it is. In fact, after checking the puzzle pieces, it is obviously something else, something different, something weird, something odd. You go into 'mental record' mode and look at and make mental note of every feature, everything you can see, and burn an image of it in your minds eye. Keep looking at parts of the bird describing it to yourself. Repeat. I should have grabbed a digi-bin photo but was too befuddled just trying to figure out what it was.

Note everything you can, like unmarked uniform brown upperparts save narrow pale covert edgings, most outstanding feature is belly with broad thick wavy-edged reddish horizontal bars on light buffy or creamy background, lowest belly unmarked, coarse vertical streaks on breast, etc. Size, shape and structure is that of a tiny small buteo, and clearly smaller than the local Red-shouldereds, roughly closest to female Cooper' Hawk size, but tail proportionately way too short for accipiter.

Initially I was baffled as none of what I was seeing was matching any of our local species we see daily, Red-shouldered and Cooper's Hawks were the two nearest things it was between but was neither. Red-shouldered because it was a buteo, Cooper's due to size. It was tiny for a buteo.

The waterthrush makes a break for it shooting across 60' of open, the hawk immediately dives after it, the waterthrush disappeared behind the visual footprint of the hawk, I thought it was a gonner, there was not 2' between them, but it barely made the thickets on the island the hawk couldn't fly into and the hawk peeled up at the last second and landed again on a low perch.

I got a good view of the shape as it flew and it was clearly a very oddly shaped (long tailed) very small buteo, not an accipiter. Tail was nowhere near long enough for a Cooper's Hawk, it was a small buteo. It was now in bad light, I moved to get good light and it took off across the river and that was that.

I don't know what it could have been but a Roadside Hawk. Which is one of those birds you don't say you saw without a photo. People will think you are nuts. I think the nearest accepted record is at San Ygnacio, 30 miles below Laredo, but of course there is essentially no coverage between here and there. Once prior here I saw what I am sure was one, flying over Seco Ridge several years ago, which was mentioned in this blog.

This is a birder's worst dilema. I don't claim an ID unless I am 1000% positive, and with something like this, this rare, and this hard to ID, one needs an extended study, not a quick look. I saw it very well, very close, but quickly, for just a minute. I can say unequivocally that it was not any of our regular species, all of which I have 55+ years of experience with.

It was also not a Broad-winged (rare) or Gray Hawk (accidental), the other two small buteos that barely occur (though not in winter so far) both of which I also have extensive experience with. It was roughly female Cooper's Hawk sized but not proportioned, it was a tiny Buteo, brown above with fat thick red horizontal bars on belly, not the thin fine red lines of Red-shouldered and Cooper's Hawks. And coarse vertical streaks on breast.

I think most of the accepted Roadside Hawk records are in winter, all in the LRGV with the San Ygnacio bird northmost. Now is when. Of course a boatload of formerly 'LRGV' species are occurring here now regularly and there is no reason to think some of the vagrants to there wouldn't occur here as well. The Rufous-backed Robin Kathy and I saw in Uvalde a few years ago was further from its home range in western Mexico than a Roadside Hawk here would be, by far.

Tomorrow (Sat.) is a wash, a rain day. Do you tell some others so they can look? I'm absolutely sure as can be that is what it was. There is nothing else it could be. I really don't have any time to look. There is 15+ miles of river corridor habitat in the valley and public access to a quarter mile at the park, and visual access for what a hundred yards at each river crossing on Hwy. 187? Unless it hangs at the park it will not be re-seeable. Like the Verdin in the yard this morning it was a million-to-one odds to see it, to see it again would be what odds? You don't want people driving (time, money, pollution) for something they are not likely to see. I think the proper technical term is AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHH!

Jan. 29 ~ Low in the 40's was nice and the front held off until after sundown to arrive. We got up to 75dF! Supposed to be a dry front, just windy all night, then something else comes over with some advertised rain for Friday night to Sunday a.m. Latest p.m. I heard the first couple roars of a Rio Grande Leopard Frog this year.

I saw likely the same beat worn Snout butterfly today that I have seen a few times the last week plus. New was a Pipevine Swallowtail, the first of year, which seemed a fresh emergence this third day of the heat spell. It came up out of grass and climbed thermalling up to 50+' altitude and drifted west. Remarkable. That makes 7 species for the month and it doesn't look good for butterflies the last couple days. My lowest Jan. totals are 4 species in '07, 6 sps. in '08, and 5 sps. in '10. The average is 11.8 species for the month (n~11 prior), so we are in the bottom of the range.

Must have been a half dozen Anole in the flower beds on the sunny side of the house. The two aberrant blonde squirrels are still hanging out, eating the bird's seed when they can. Saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk miss on an attempt for one of the seedeaters here. One of the main areas I toss seed is along a fence an accipter can't get through, but the Cards and Chippies can, and they know it.

Jan. 28 ~ Another warm one in front of the incoming system, got into upper 70's dF again. Sure is nice. The only different bird I saw was a small group of Pine Siskin in the yard, maybe 7 of them, which is about as many as I have seen at once all winter so far. Otherwise the same, so today it will be butterfly news.

In interesting butterfly news, the Giant Swallowtail has been split into two species, Western, and Eastern. It had also been put in a new genus prior, Heraclides, and I'll update the lists and photos here when I get a chance. Central Texas is the zone of overlap, aren't we lucky? To complicate things hybrids or indeterminate individuals are known.

So now we get to figure out what is going on with them here. Do we have both, or just one? If both which one is predominate and what is frequency of the rarer one? It is especially interesting to me because I noted a different underwing pattern on the hind wing than most photos in the popular books showed and had been collecting images of this common animal as I knew something was going on with them beyond what the basic standard field guides were telling me.

The common books mostly show Eastern and here we have Western. No wonder what I was seeing didn't match the books. Turns out it was way bigger than I thought, and others (real pro lepidopterists) were already on it. A quick review of a few of the photos I have handy shows ours to be the newly named Western Giant Swallowtail (Heraclides rumiko is the new binomial, the Eastern Giant is now Heraclides cresphontes).

There are always new things to learn right under our noses, if we just stop and smell the roses. Look at the common thing in an uncommon way. Do the common thing in an uncommon way. Get out of the dogma box with thinking, it will set you free. Here and now we have big flashy common butterflies and we didn't know what was going on with them still in 2010. An unknown and un-named species!

I don't feel too guilty, as I am only an amateur butterfly guy, and am mostly thrilled to find out there was a good reason for noticing my local pix were not matching the book pix. I'd feel dumb if I hadn't have noticed something was off. I was 'shooting' them far far more often than ID or photo docs required, as with several things here, I was collecting images of them. Figuring one day I will get time to compare a hundred of these and a hundred of those, etc. and something would become apparent, or more confusing. Everything has not been looked at hard and thought about by someone that knows their stuff. There is always much to learn.

Jan. 27 ~ Low in upper 30's and warmed to about 80dF! Must be another system headed in. Heard Ringed Kingfisher flying downriver just after sunup. Another nice red sunrise, yesterday's was nice too. Otherwise the regular gang. The birdsong is increasing ever so slightly, but the build-up has begun, they are getting started. A little Titmouse here, some Chickadee there, a bit of Cardinal, some Bewick's and Carolina Wren, the Canyon Towhee tuning up too.

Saw a small Scoliid wasp of the type with a couple pale yellow squares on metallic blue-black abdomen, the ones with the huge females. An Anole went after it, I presume until it recognized it when it backed off and decided to let it be.

Did have my first grasshoppers of the year, Short-horned (Acrididae) green-winged types. The Roadrunner must have found some too as it was hunting the yard for them with wing-flashing. Like Mockingbird, they move, stop, and quickly spread wings to try to flush something into moving. It also hit all three brush piles in the front yard doing the same wing-flashing, there no doubt trying to flush a lizard at the brush piles.

I saw a distant white appearing butterfly in the corral that looked like a Checkered White, but it was too far to call for sure. So it doesn't make the monthly list, just a probably seen mention.

Jan. 26 ~ Mid-30's dF for a low, didn't have to thaw the birdbath. A flock of 4 Caracara went over together, had the Rusty Blackbird, thought I heard a Pine Warbler, a few Waxwing, a few American Goldfinch, Scrub-Jay, the pair of Canyon Towhee, and the regular gang.

The best beast of the day though was a frog. I heard Chorus Frogs, our 'spring peeper', though not that exact species called by that name. I am not sure if these are Strecker's or Spotted but they are a Psuedacris sps. Chorus Frog. I think both types are found locally. I'll have to see if I can get some sounds on tape and then maybe an audio ID on-line. Last winter was so dry I did not hear any here.

We got skunked by clouds on the asteroid passing near Earth. I wanted to see it with my own eyes. Amazing they found it has a little 200' moon! I had done all the calculations on how much to lead it, wanting to see if I could hit it with my .22.   ;)

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Jan. 25 ~ We froze just barely this a.m., about 31dF. Went to the park to try once more and FINALLY got digi-scope pix of the wintering Louisiana Waterthrush at UP. Maybe my 28th or so visit since early Dec. when I first detected it (was heard only then). It is now the first known and documented over-wintering record for the Edwards Plateau. Outstanding. A relief to get the pix.

See one pic of it above in photo section. Note a few new pics were added including a pic of the Rusty Blackbird, a new Ringed Kingfisher pic, plus a couple grabshots of the aberrant leucistic squirrels we have here.

Also at park had male Ringed Kingfisher, a few Myrtle Warbler, Red-shouldered Hawk, a Song Sparrow, Yellow-shafted Flicker and Blue Jay, otherwise the regular cast. On 187 south of town a Roadrunner, well, ran, across the uh, road.

Heard a Barred Owl here from yard in a.m., upriver somewhere. Got up to low 70's dF this afternoon, pretty nice to not be cold in winter. We have a few days of the mild ahead. The river did come up a bit from the major rain event, it is likely less than 2' from going over spillway at park now. It had come up today over yesterday, as the water filters down.

After I uploaded the update, around 10 p.m. I was outside and a Great Egret flew over calling heading due S. down valley. If I may, a great winter record.

Jan. 24 ~ A hard freeze, we were about 28dF just south of town, KVL hit 26dF. The bottom of the valley is the coldest part. Spent 11 a.m. to noon at park and no waterthrush, no doubt since I had camera and tape recorder. Dang thang. Three wild MALLARD flushed, which are my first ever at park and quite rare here, it's been a few years since I've seen one locally, though Little Creek Larry told me he thought he had a couple in fall.

Jerry Schaeffer was at the park and said he and Judy have a few Rufous Hummingbird at their feeders as usual each winter. I received a pic of an interesting sapsucker from Sylvia Hilbig which I can't say for sure from the image, but it might be a hybrid Red-naped x Red-breasted. The white facial stripes seem too polluted with red. Saw the Loggerhead Shrike along 360 just east of Utopia on the River again. Heard Turkey gobbling at dawn.

A bit of birdsong, at the park the Carolina Wren was doing the e-oo e-oo e-oo song. A little Cardinal and Bluebird, and Chickadee and Titmouse are starting to utter some song too. I also heard a White-TIPPED Dove call, the first trace of them in a couple months. A couple Blue Jay were giving a Barred Owl lots of grief. Got up into mid-60's dF in afternoon.

Jan. 23 ~ Overnight and in the morning another quarter inch of rain, we are over 3.5", probably 3.75" for the event. WEEWOW! I talked to someone in town that said they had 4"! That was big. We ran about 35-45dF for a temp spread today, with northerly winds on it a bit chilly. I had a count of 19 male Cardinal at once on the seed, incredible, amazing. Must be 40 here total with the females....

Stopped at the park at noon and saw the Louisiana Waterthrush but had a camera memory malfunction and missed getting photos! Had it in the scope! Great looks, no pix and I am mad as a wet hen about it. I went back at 2:30 after getting groceries home, and heard it a couple times and it disappeared the next hour I spent looking for it. You would be amazed how mad a bird can make you. If I could get pix it will be the first Edwards Plateau documented winter record, and the furthest inland, and furthest NW in Texas in winter. They are rare along coast and in LRGV at this season, never up in the hills.

I did have a Zone-tailed Hawk and a Ringed Kingfisher which I did get good pix of. An Orange-crowned Warbler was nice too. Hardly any around this winter. Two Myrtle and a nice male Audubon's Warbler, and heard a Pine but didn't see it. Five or six Field Sparrow on the island was good for the park.

A number of Bluebirds (20+) south of town on 187 in the hackberries. On 360 about 60 Mourning Dove in one flock, about 8 Meadowlark, and 6 Killdeer. Several Kestrel were out, probably hungry after being stuck in shelter most of yesterday.

I saw one of my least favorite beasts at the park, a Nutria. One was there several years ago. Which I think was shot. Good riddance. I heard that one was introduced by someone wanting their 'water weeds' out of their swimming hole. I don't see how they could get here unassisted by man.

The hypothetical philosophical question is: If you don't want your 'water weeds' does that give one a right to introduce something that say swims downriver and comes into my place and destroys mine? Maybe I was trying to encourage aquatic vegetation to have more fish and dragonflies? Without aquatic vegetation (over a dozen species of aquatic plants here) there would be far fewer fish and dragonflies, among many animals, and the ecosystem would be worse off for it. And so would we. There would be more mosquitoes for instance.

I like the old 'freedom not license' view, which here would be something like, yes you have the freedom to remove your aquatic vegetation but you do not have license to remove mine. Which is what the introduction of a non-native animal like Nutria does. I hope someone shoots this one quickly too, they are a non-native invasive pest, of which we are already over-run with.

Everyone should read that book "Freedom not License" which is a real classic from maybe the early 1970's. The lesson is kinda sorta that you have the freedom and right to listen to any kind of music you want but you don't have license to make me hear it.

Jan. 22 ~ Well it rained off and on all night from midnight and through late morning, by which time there was over 3"!! I consider that a major event, especially in winter (our dry season). A bit of lightening and thunder, the water is just what the trees needed though. The ground is so bone dry it seemed very little runoff, most soaked in since it was generally slow and steady. I bet there are happy ranchers all over Texas today. After noon the frontal blow got going 15 gusting to 25 mph and temps dropped, chills in 30's dF. A great day to be stuck inside at the monitor by a heater. After late morning and through the rest of the day we added about another quarter inch of rain.

I couldn't put seed out first thing though, it was raining too hard. Nearly got bird-mugged when it broke enough to run out and spread it. Later morning counted 18 male Cardinal on it at once! What a beautiful sight. Crested Christmas ornaments all over the ground. As many female are about as well. The birds are sucking down the seed something fierce today. Here's a list.

About 75+ Chipping Sparrow, the 35-40 Cardinal (!), 4 Chickadee, 8 Titmouse, 4 Inca and a pair of Ground-Dove, one Slaty Junco, a couple dozen House Finch, as many Brown-headed Cowbird, one Red-winged Blackbird, the Golden-fronted Woodpecker pair on the sunflower seed tube. The pair of Canyon Towhee don't seem fazed much by it all, as too the resident pair of Eastern Phoebe (though I can't imagine what they were finding flying to eat). The few hundred Brewer's and one Rusty Blackbird were in corral, a few Black Vulture were about, as was the local resident Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk and some White-winged Dove. Thought I heard a White-throated Sparrow a couple times but didn't see it.

Jan. 21 ~ Though a mid-40's dF low, it only warmed about 10dF for a high, roughly 30 dF cooler than yesterday. A system is on the way in and forecast to bring us some rain, though nothing major by all accounts. It was the same gang around the casita, only seeing 4 Inca Dove now. Probably the immatures that are getting picked off by the Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks. About 20 White-winged Dove at one point. Saw the Roadrunner again, I guess it's going to try to stick it out down here on valley floor for the winter. The rain was light and didn't start until late late p.m.

Jan. 20 ~ Cool in 30's dF in the a.m. which didn't last long. Today was the big warmup day before the next system heads in. It got up to a record (methinks) 86dF or so! WOW! In 2008 at Uvalde this date recorded a record low of 18dF. Anyway, today we had a 50dF diurnal temperature range.

Early in a.m. a Ringed Kingfisher flew downriver above treetop level calling its measured chik chik chik as it went. Later some full-blown hard machine-gun rattling was going off, probably two birds present. Heard the first Bewick's Wren singing of the year.

In the heat of the afternoon I saw the Sleepy Orange (lep) again, a beat worn Snout (which I glimpsed but didn't note yesterday as I wasn't 100% on the ID), and a fresh mint Gulf Fritillary. So we shot up from 4 to 6 species of butterflies for the month today.

Jan. 19 ~ Bird bath was frozen over thinly so we were 32dF or below. KVL hit 31. Local Utopia stations showed 38dF or so, much higher than frozen water, again. In the morning there were 21 Cedar Waxwing and 8 American Goldfinch in yard, as many of either as I've seen at once lately. Also heard an Audubon's Oriole and a couple (texana) Scrub-Jay. Might have gotten a couple decent waxwing digi-scope pix.

The afternoon warmed to a toasty upper 70's dF, maybe 79! Gadzooks! I saw the Sleepy Orange butterfly again, about the third day in a row, surely the same over-wintering individual. Very exciting was seeing a NEW butterfly, one that just emerged, as opposed to most of our January butterflies, old beat worn over-winterers. This was a Henry's ELFIN, one of my favorites. I have a couple January records but usually the first ones pop are in February after a couple warm days. In 2012 I recorded one on a Jan. 18, so a day short of tying my earliest ever.

Henry's Elfin are the early bird of butterflies here and are typically out as flying adults only from February to earliest April at the latest, and that is it for the year. Key larval host plants (where they lay eggs) are the first two bloomers here, Texas Redbud and Agarita (aka Texas Holly), which should still be a few weeks away from starting. The early season warmth sometimes causes premature emergences, which are usually genetic dead-ends.

Saw both the regular yard lizards today as well, the Sceloperus of some sort, and a couple Anole. A gust of wind hit a Juniper and it looked like smoke, all the pollen coming off it. In case you were wondering why you were sneezing or coughing.

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Jan. 18 ~ Coolish in mid-upper 30's dF in morning. First thing early I heard Ringed Kingfisher over at the river, the first time I have heard it this year. I went to park just after 9 a.m. to be there before any people were there, to attempt getting documentation of the wintering Louisiana Waterthrush. Armed to teeth with telescope, camera, audio recording gear, the bird was not there. Did have single Killdeer, Hermit Thrush, Song Sparrow, Yellow-shafted Flicker, Blue Jay, Red-shouldered Hawk, Myrtle Warbler, but very little else. Fair number of winter Mayfly out over water.

At the cattail pond on the country club by the Waresville Cemetery there was a Wilson's Snipe. Otherwise nothing at the C.C. No sparrows in the taller grass areas, nothing in the hackberry patch. Overall I would call winter bird populations dismal. It is eerie there are so few birds out there. Did hear at park and at house here a couple Bluebirds giving a bit of song. Got up to near 70dF in the afternoon, what a nice break. Able to get some of that overdue outside work done.

Jan. 17 ~ Just above freezing at sunup, but in afternoon warmed to low 70's dF! Smokin' hot. What a nice break and treat. Saw a Sleepy Orange butterfly, the 3rd butterfly I have seen this month, all 3 of different species. Also saw a Sceloperus and an Anole, the lizards were liking the warmth too. Birds were the same gang. Heard a Pine Siskin in the a.m., haven't been many around. The Ruby-crowned Kinglets seem to have moved on as well, there were numbers in late fall and early winter, but very few remain around. No bugs. The Juniper (Cedar) are spreading pollen now, in case you are sneezing.

Jan. 16 ~ Wow it froze, bird bath was iced over, was about 30dF for a low, KVL got to 27dF, while a weather underground station in town said 35dF. Was sunny and warmed within a couple hours. Got into the low 60's dF for a nice afternoon. A few Robins and Waxwings went over, the Roadrunner walked within 2 feet of me, stopping and cocking its tail nearly at my feet. Saw a Red Admiral butterfly, first of the year, a worn and beat over-wintering individual.

A town run netted a stop at the park. This time I took scope and camera to get waterthrush pix. No bird of course. Dang thang. Heard the Downy Woodpecker across the river. Not much around, but a better number of winter mayflies was good to see. I imagine that is what the waterthrush is living on.

Jan. 15 ~ What a pleasure to wake up to 40dF and some sun! It was about 55dF by noon and warmed to just over 60dF in the later afternoon. About time! Looks like we have at least a few days of it ahead, so time to thaw and dry out. Didn't see anything but the usual birds around yard. An Anole was sunning in the p.m. warmth. The two blonde Foxish Squirrel were about.

Did count 8 Titmouse and 4 Chickadee at once hitting the seed tube, besides the Golden-fronted Woodpecker pair which have become regular customers. Last year when there was a pecan and hackberry crop they hardly touched sunflower seeds. This winter with no crop of either they are a major part of their diet. What are the ones away from feeders doing to get by?

Jan. 14 ~ The cold, gray drizzle continues, low in mid 30's dF and high not 10dF above that. I had to run to town early on an errand, and since drizzly and dark opted out of carrying the scope or camera, just brought the bins as I was just running in and out. Stopped at the park of course and besides a pair of Gadwall there was the LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH calling away on the other side of pond out in the open. It would have been easy to photo - if I would have brought the camera. So it is still here, and my 1 out of 4 visits detection rate stands. It is a tremendous wintering record best I can tell. Probably the first for the Edwards Plateau, and if I could get a photo, it would be one of few ever documented over-wintering in Texas.

Saw that big ugly sow again with 6-7 tiny piglets, hope that number keeps going down, was 8. There were 11 big bearded Toms (Turkey) in the corral which worked the oat-lines for scraps and then went to one of the water troughs. They are in great plumage now, amazingly metallic green and bronze, a beautiful beast of a bird.

Jan. 13 ~ Another cold gray one with a 34-44dF diurnal temp range with winds on it, chills in 20's most of morning. Don't care for it frankly, unless the birds are really really good. Too busy to goof off like that to find out what is hiding about. There were 16 Cedar Waxwing in the big XL hackberry today, wondering where the berries were no doubt. Otherwise just saw the regular gang. One slaty Junco, one Scrub-Jay.

Jan. 12 ~ Foggy and overcast in a.m., cleared and warmed to low 60's dF briefly in afternoon, then a front hit and it got cold again. Saw a flock of 20 Robin go over in a.m., the Roadrunner again in p.m., otherwise the expected regulars. The 400 Brewer's Blackbird are hitting the corral daily now, and bringing the dang 25 Brown-headed Cowbirds with them, which are now hitting the millet we put out for non-parasitic birds.

After dark I went outside to smoke my pipe for a moment and heard a noise on the porch with me. Yes an animal noise. Of course I had no light nor weapon, so slightly un-nerving. It was just a few feet away from me and definitely making sounds that could only be a mammal, in the dark, 2' away. Need I say I was back in the house in record time...... and back out with a flashlight in a few seconds, to see a Racoon running away. I aimed the flashlight to the porch and saw I had pulled the tube feeder down and brought it to porch but left it on a chair. There was seed all over of course, and while cleaning it all up I had time to ponder that the dang thing wasn't two feet from me when I initially walked out and heard it as I stood next to the chair it was making love to the seed feeder in.

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Jan. 11 ~ It warmed overnight from right around freezing all day yesterday, to nearly 40dF by dawn this morning. Weird when it gets warmer overnight, but I'm not complaining. Didn't really warm up until the heavy overcast burned off, after 2 p.m. when it got to about 55dF and sunny. Kathy pointed out the first loud Cardinal song we have heard this year. There will be lots of bird song from the residents soon.

The Roadrunner was over in corral and then front yard. Saw a Titmouse and a Chipping Sparrow without tails, surely both lost them to ice during the event yesterday. It is normal to see a few birds that got their tail stuck to a branch with ice and then lost it when they had to jump. Makes them easy accipiter prey.

We took a late afternoon walk to move some muscles and see blue skies, and as we used to say in socal, soak a few rays, while they were out. There was a nice flock of sparrows along the road and corral, especially where there were a few potholes full of water next to a leak in a horse trough hose. At least 50 Savannah Sparrow with a few each of Lark, Vesper, Field, and Chipping, plus 16 or so House Finch. One Lincoln's Sparrow.

I have yet to find any decent winter insectivore flock this year, here or at the park should both have one or two each. I heard two Myrtle, apart from each other but no Pine Warbler, no kinglet (was a Ruby in yard in a.m.), no bluebirds, and no hackberries. There were 6 Killdeer acros the crossing in a pasture, and a couple Western Meadowlark on the airstrip. A Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk flew over as did a few hundred Brewer's Blackbird.

One last tremendous flying object we saw today, or tonight I should say, was Comet Lovejoy. At low magnification it is a green fuzzy ball, you can't see a tail but if you google it you can see some pix of what it looks like in an astronomical telescope, and it is most impressive. Actually the FIFTH comet Lovejoy has found (!).

I could detect it with bare eye, and it is easily seen in binoculars, a scope at 20 power just made a bigger fuzzy green ball. Will try my 60 x lens but I think it will just be more bigger fuzzier. You need 200 power or more to get it good. Sky and has pix and links to maps showing where to look, it is between Orion and Tarus, nearing Tarus' rear spine now. Mercury was spectacular too, right after sunset as it gets dark, just below Venus, they set by time the sky is black though. Mars is there too, at 11 o'clock to Venus (above left) several degrees if you want a planet trifecta.

Jan. 10 ~ It rained overnight and showered a bit all day. Hovered around freezing, the precip was liquid but froze on branches so mid-day many of the trees looked like they were covered in water drops, but it was ice. Upper surfaces of horizontal branches in particular had a thin coating of ice. Kinda pretty but lotta cold. We got off light on the ice part. It showered more in the evening and I thing when all said and done it was .75"+ of much-needed precipitation.

At one point I watched a titmouse landing on a branch which was too iced for its feet to grip on, but had already locked on to it for landing. So its inertia carried its body forward and it went upside-down locked onto the branch, then had to flap to get itself back up and over, and upright on the branch. It was funny, woulda made a great video clip, the look on its face was priceless.

Did scope the (ad. fem.) Rusty Blackbird over in the corral with a few hundred Brewer's. A pair of Eastern Bluebird has been around the last couple days on and off, which might be our breeding pair. The wintering birds that arrive from elsewhere stay in flocks throughout their visit, whereas the local breeders will pair off and become an item without the flock quite early in the season, sometimes even in January.

Jan. 9 ~ A chilly day running about 32-42dF for not much of a temp spread, with a front and breeze on it. I made a quick check for the waterthrush at the park but it was raining, cold and wet, and I didn't see anything. Rained a bit in later p.m. too. In yard saw the Scrub-Jay and Slate-colored Junco, about 5 American Goldfinch, an ugly 25 Brown-headed Cowbird, but mostly the regulars.

Jan. 8 ~ It was a cold one this a.m. with a low about 25dF here. I saw a station near Vanderpool had 23dF and Lost Maples 22dF. Got up to a smokin' 41dF or so at peak heat of the day. Kathy saw the Pyrrhuloxia come into the bird bath in the afternoon, I missed it again. Interesting how it is coming into the bath for water but not associating as one of the flock of 29+ Cardinal hanging out eating seed here. I first saw it on Dec. 6 and have only thought I heard it sing a couple times since, but Kathy has now seen it twice in the last few weeks at the bird bath - a reward for doing dishes I suppose - which is out the kitchen window.

Some serious itching led me to two NEW chiggers today, so have three of the pesky beastlets now, an amazing tally in January, though not exactly a big win. Also amazing for January was a feral sow (pig) with 8 brand new little tiny sucklings. I don't recall seeing them starting to drop young in January before.

Jan. 7 ~ Not too chilly this morn, but a front was arriving in the morning. Before noon it was getting windy with 15-25 mph sustained and gusts to 30+. It did get up to upper 50's dF in the afternoon before the cold air arrived. I counted 12 male and 17 female Cardinal at once on the seed we throw out. Makes for a nice flock of birds. Crested Ground Grosbeak would be a good name for them. Haven't decided if the g-g part of that should be hyphenated or not. Cardinal is a name like Red-winged Blackbird, Pintail and Long-tailed Duck, and others, that only apply to the male, so probably not the best choice of a moniker.

A couple Myrtle Warbler were hitting the pecan scraps from last night's nut-cracking session. Besides Titmice, Wrens, and Chickadees, even a Golden-fronted Woodpecker was on the patio sorting through the shells for odds and ends.

Jan. 6 ~ The bird bath was frozen, and I'd guess about 29dF for a low, several dF lower than the WeatherUnderground shows from the Utopia station which reads 35dF this a.m. for a low. If it was 35dF my bird bath water wouldn't be frozen with over a quarter inch of ice solid across the top.

Did see a Sceloperus lizard in the flower bed enjoying the upper 60's dF warmth in the afternoon. Heard a few Cedar Waxwing today, and Robin, the Ground-Dove pair were about as were 5 Inca Dove. Heard an Audubon's Oriole too, saw Slate-colored Junco, Hermit Thrush, Scrub-Jay and otherwise the expected cast. Great Horned Owl calling after dark.

Jan. 5 ~ Shiver me timbers it was about 22dF this morning here! KVL tagged a 19 briefly, two local Weather Underground stations seemed to report much higher temps than we actually had here. Bird bath was frozen solid and so was I thawing it out. A bit of extra seed for them this morning. NOAA is advertising near the same for Thursday morning. Have your thermals handy for the morn!

The event of the day was seeing the planet Mercury so well. After sunset as the sky darkens if you look west the real bright object fairly low in the sky is Venus. Below that is Mercury, shining as brightly as I have ever seen it. They are going to get much closer in the immediate future, with a conjunction that is supposed to less than 1 degree of seperation. A degree is about a finger width at arms length. Right after sundown, before last light, before it gets totally dark is when to look as they both set fairly shortly after that.

Again I am not going to do the mock-pretend CBC I did for the first 10 winters we were here. To repeat last years' mention, we moved out of the circle I was using, and, an official count was begun up at Love Creek which covers Lost Maples and some of the upper valley. So the 10 years of just doing a day of working it is over. I have an excel file free for the asking of those 10 counts I did locally. It is also in old-school longform at the 'winter bird count' page, with a bit of discussion of highlights.

The most important thing I learned from it was that just a few counts, say 2-3, only tells you the residents and the common obvious numerous things. You really need to do 10 years to start to get a grip on the whole picture due to varagies of hydrologic cycles and resultant food crops (or not), not to mention effects of seasonal weather variations on the birds, and the counting.

That itchy spot I felt turns out to be the first CHIGGER of the year. I can't believe it in January. Did walk a bit in the grass, but barely.

~ ~ ~ ~ prior update ~ ~ ~ ~

January 4 ~ Sunny but cool with a cold front arriving in the morning, a high in the 50's dF with cold northerlies on it. Tomorrow morning supposed to be the coldest so far of the winter, in the low 20's dF, and a second arctic front is to hit Wednesday night and about as cold again Thursday morning. Nothing different for birds, the regular cast of 30-35 species. Too sissified to go out in the cold wind, would rather get work done and wait for a nice day for a walk.

January 3 ~ Great to wake up and have it be 40dF! Not to mention the sun showing up for the first time in 3 days. We got a little rain overnight, but most missed us as usual. Finally a warm day, but due to another front being inbound. It got up to a toasty 68dF in the afternoon (Sat.). Monday morning is forecast to be about 20dF. How's that for some temperature range? In case you couldn't have guessed, most people in socal hardly know what weather is.

I waited until today to do the town run as I thought the nice weather and sun might help me get a Louisiana Waterthrush photo. There was nothing at the park, I did not see or hear the bird. As has been the case on 2/3's+ of the dozen+ trips I made in the last month. So it doesn't mean it is gone, just have to wear the odds back down. I suspect it is moving up and down along the river, since only 4 of my last 14 visits have I heard (thrice) or seen (once) it. Did have Blue Jay and Yellow-shafted Flicker, always good to see. This Yellow-shaft is probably the same adult female for about four or five years now.

Also recorded the only two dragonfly species likely here in January, Variegated and Autumn Meadowhawk. Single males of each. After this next front with 20dF on Monday it may be the end of odes until spring. And saw a female Cloudless Sulphur, my first butterfly of the year. A few winter Mayflies were out, only a very few. An imm. Eastern Red-tailed Hawk was along west edge of town.

January 2 ~ Another cold drizzly day, though a few dF warmer than the last couple, mid-upper 30's dF for a low and maybe 42 dF for a high, with cold drizzle or mist most of the day. Three days we've been mostly in the 30's around the clock. Actual thunderstorms with moderate rain got here about 9 p.m., unusual to hear thunder and see lightening on Jan. 2 methinks. Might have gotten a couple more tenths and with all day drizzle probably another third of an inch, and a 3 -day total of 2/3 to 3/4 to nearly an inch of precip from the event, pending where you were locally.

In the cold drizzle today I saw a few of the semi-regulars I missed yesterday like Ground-Dove, Scrub-Jay, Cedar Waxwing and Robin, heard Pine Warbler and Rusty Blackbird, so about 34 species in two days in yard, and some things just are MIA, surely just trying to hide out for the cold spell, like Caracara, Kestrel, etc., and me.

January 1 ~ HAPPY NEW YEAR !! So what do we call it? 2K15? Twenty-fifteen? Or just 2-15? Well it started out cold and damp, just above freezing and drizzle, it did shower a brief bit overnight, we might have got a couple tenths of precip. Made it through the event seemingly without the ice in any significant way, though there was a bit just WNW of us in Edwards County.

There were at least 65 Chipping Sparrow here at once when I got a good count. I sure like having 6 male Cardinal at once on the patio, they are getting real red, the first-spring birds are not as bright as the older males. I heard one briefly do a bit of 'warmup' under-the-breath song this morning despite the cold. Some 400+ Brewer's Blackbird were in the corral mostly, but the yard too, at one point a dozen male Red-winged were on patio and even a couple on the seed tube. Counted 8 Black-crested Titmouse at once. The Eastern Screech-Owl was calling after dark. About 28 sps. were noted in the cold wet yard today mostly from warmth of the house.

One weather station locally reported .3 (3 tenths) of an inch of rain today, so I guess the little shower plus the tenth of drizzle all day added up. There was tenth the day before from the drizzle all that day, so about .4 for the last two days.
Above starts January 1, 2015, which is Bird News Archive XXIII (#23).

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