Bird (and nature) News Archive # 27
January 1 to June 30, 2017
Old Bird News XXVII

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 XXVII (#27) ~ 2017 - January 1 - June 30 reverse chronological order, unless you scroll to end and read from the bottom up.

Notes without location cited are in or from yard which is a couple miles south of town at edge of the river habitat corridor. If it doesn't say where it was, it was in or from the yard. Often a few daily yard notes is all the drivel you get. Ready, steady, go!

Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat, a bird that perhaps has defied taxonomic understanding
as well as any breeding North American species. Classified with warblers
for some time, but it is not one. I wondered why it was in with them when
I was 5 years old. A fairly common breeder locally, heard more easily than seen,
and often sings (or makes loud chattering noises and whistles) at night,
for which more often than not the Mockingbird takes the heat.

Just to have this handy again for reference, recent prior updates:
May 12, 5, April 28, 21, 14, 7, March 31, 24, 17, 10, 3, February 24, 17, 10, 3

You may want to scroll down to last prior update (marked) and scroll
up to read in chrono order day to day.

**!! HEY!!! SPECIAL NOTE: There is again a NEW page, this of photos from 2016! 2016 pix
A dozen more new pix were added Sept. 22.

And now for something completely different... I will probably make some changes yet, I was looking for some more pix, but anyway meanwhile at least the basics are up... Here is a new page with some photos and discussion of hybrid Cliff x Cave Swallows:
Clave Swallows

~ ~ ~ finally, current bird news from the greater and lesser Utopia area ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ June summary ~ ~ ~

It was a hot one, often 10dF above averages for the dates. There was 5" of rain at our place but totals around the area vary a couple inches either side of what we got. It all fell on a couple days at start of month and one day at end of month, mostly it was bone dry. Water table is still way low. Flowers dialed back quite a bit compared to March, April and May.

Butterflies were a very weak 38 species. Only once in the last 9 years did I do worse, and that was 2011 at the peak of the drought. It was mostly just the sundry stuff too. Best thing were some Amblyscrites Roadside-Skippers that are not Celia's and are probably Bronze (ph.). I have to get expert ID confirmation on the photos yet though. A couple that got away as probables (not counted in total) were two Great Purple Hairstreak and an Ornythion Swallowtail. Saw a few Northern (Common) Mestra.

Odes were fair, with 12 species of Zygops (damselflies) and 19 species of Anisops (dragonflies) for 31 species total. Not bad. Great was a male Ivory-striped Sylph that floated right past the front porch whilst I was on it wishing something would fly by. Blue eyes, white headlights, an awesome beast. A Black-shouldered Spinyleg was my first in 7-8 years or more. It was promptly dispatched by a Summer Tanager. Overall numbers are way down though, like other insects since the drought.

Birds have a big diversity drop from the roar of migration of course, but the full roar of breeding season peaks. It was about 96 species for me locally in the upper Sabinal drainage this month. Big letdown from the 125 or so in April and May. But not bad considering that was all either from the yard, at the park or in town, or on one hike through Lost Maples. That is, from just a few spots along the Sabinal River. And almost all with just a very few exceptions, are breeding locally. Probably 90+ species of upper Sabinal River drainage breeders. It is remarkable breeding species diversity. I missed a few things, there could be a hundred species nesting locally!

The earliest migratory returnees finish up and are leaving nesting territory in June. Golden-cheeked Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Black-and-white Warbler are the big 3 migratory breeders that finish first, returning in March, and most are done and departing in June. It is over so fast I can't believe it. Many resident species have fledged two sets of young already and are on their third.

In raries, the best thing was a male Lucifer Hummingbird at a flowering Century Plant Agave a couple miles south of town on June 23. Checked it a few times since and didn't see it again. A late warbler was a Chestnut-sided singing on June 2. Nearish was a male Prothonotary singing between Camp Wood and Chalk Bluff mid-June (Mary Gustafson), a great find.

For our yard a singing Black-throated Sparrow the 16th was new, and of interest at edge of river corridor habitat. My first local June Catbird was great at our birdbath on the 8th. A yard Long-billed Thrasher on the 29th was the first in yard in over a year. Besides the vagrant hummingbird, the best thing of the month was finally seeing a begging streaky juvenile Olive Sparrow at Lost Maples, which was outstanding. Probably a first Bandera Co. known nesting, and now a new dot must be placed for the furthest north known nesting of the species. No juv. White-tipped Doves yet, but looking, they are to be expected. The male Varied Bunting singing there June 18 was likely the one seen May 21, so it has trolled quite a while.

~ ~ end June summary ~ ~

~ ~ ~ the regularly scheduled drivel continues below ~ ~ ~

Velvet Worm

I think this is a velvet worm. They look like a slug,
but are dry with no mucous, except a scant trail, and
they look remarkably like velvet.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 30 ~ Only 75dF for a low is not very, when you wake up to that, you know it will be a drippy day. I had two Black-and-white Warbler chasing each other around the yard in the a.m., and after noon. One I heard singing, the other looked like a juvenile female but not sure. Anyway, neat to have a couple around the yard. Another Gnatcatcher went through too.

Had a town run to get supplies before the city people get here for the holiday weekend. Was nice and quiet still just before noon. Heard a couple Bell's Vireo singing at NW corner of town in their usual spots. No flowers at the county line curve garden at the north end of town, and though the library garden has some flowers, there were no butterflies, but one Black-n-white Warbler. At the park were two more Black-n-white Warbler for a total by noon of 5 of the little beauties. Heard the Green Heron at the park, and Little Creek Larry said he is seeing one over on Little Creek going in and out of Bulrushes, so they must be nesting over there too. Barred Owl and Blue Jay at the park. Zone-tailed Hawk over 187 a couple miles south of town. I have missed any Cave Swallows at the bank a couple visits lately. Don't know if they are all out feeding, or done and gone.

June 29 ~ About 70dF for a low, and here comes summer. Next couple days are forecast for 75dF lows. It sure was a great break we had for a few days while it lasted, and the couple and a half inches of rain was beyond badly needed. Saw a couple Gnatcatcher out there first thing in the morning. Heard the Indigo Bunting, but morning birdsong is really fading fast. Partly due to many having fledglings just out right now. Hopefully things will go another round (rain often incites such) and we will get another batch out of everything.

Kathy saw a female Black-n-white Warbler bathing at the bath, and she saw the Cuckoo right out bathroom window. I saw a Long-billed Thrasher in the Hackberry and Mesquite (joined) at the gate out at the road. Haven't seen one here in the yard in over a year. In leps saw another Mestra and another Large Orange Sulpur, a Funereal Duskywing, and the usuals.

June 28 ~ Another 69dF low is nice, it won't last long. I forgot to mention a week ago I saw my first juvenile or immature male Black-chinned Hummingbird that had acquired its first purple gorget feathers. That is, this years' young, the earliest ones, probably from late April, are now getting purple gorget feathers. About 60 days. Now I am seeing a half-dozen or more of them at the feeders. In the afternoon a Gnatcatcher and a Black-n-white Warbler went through the yard. Ring King calling over at river. Saw what looked like a juvenile Cuckoo following an adult around flopping through the pecans in the yard. The male Blue Grosbeak eating seed on the patio is sure neat.

Best was two Common Mestra, I have only seen one this year, on June 6. Three Large Orange Sulphur went by in the brief spells I was outside looking, a big uptick, been none. We should start to see more of the annual southerly invaders showing up now, especially since we had rain.

The pair of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers fill their throats full of sunflower seeds from the feeder and commute back to the nest with them. Which seems maybe to be in that nearest big 50' Cypress the Yellow-throated Warblers nest in. At least they fly into the same tree in a direct shot just the same. What is interesting is that they leave the feeder at 5' above the ground and fly to the big 40' Pecan. Usually landing 15-20' up on the main trunk. Then they climb up the tree gaining 10-15' more altitude on the tree. Then they launch out of the tree for the 500' flight to the big Cypress. Every time. So it is easier and less effort for them to gain the altitude needed to clear the big climax Mesquites across from the gate using the legs, instead of the wings.

June 27 ~ The rain-cooled low of 69dF felt great, and there won't be any dust for a couple days. It was 2.5" yesterday evening, most (2") fell 7-9p.m., with the last bits after midnight last night. The moisture saturated atmosphere kept us at 85dF or so again for a high. A rain cell passed just south of us giving us a great outflow cooldown around 7 p.m. it dropped to 74dF. Between wonderful and outstanding for the date.

I saw a Yellow-throated Vireo feeding a juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird. Dang. That is two in two days with the Bronzed being fed by a Cardinal yesterday. Still parasitism incidence has been very low so far this breeding season. Just one of each cowbird sps. so far, and it's latest June. One at the park a couple weeks ago or so was Brown-headed fed by White-eyed Vireo. Many vireos get hit hard as they do not really hide their nests well, or at all. Black-capped Vireo does though, and it still gets cowbird predated, heavilly in some areas. Had a Ring King flying downriver. Chuck-wills-widow gave two calls from the draw, Common Nighthawk still booming nightly, I love that.

June 26 ~ Only 74dF for a low, still rain in forecast, but that doesn't translate into actual real wet H2O and rain. There was a male Black-and-white Warbler singing outside this a.m., it could be a first-summer troller, we had one show and summer for a June a few years ago. I was sitting on porch about 8 a.m. and the Ash-throated Flycatcher (which I think might have settled on a box on the north fence) shot down across yard to chase another bird. The Ash-throat broke off, and I lost sight of the chased bird behind the big 3' diameter pecan trunk. It must have landed in the second pecan. So it was bolting across yard being chased, and when it went behind the trunk it never came out. It must have perched for 15 seconds. Just as I was about to get up and move so I could see what it was, a GREEN KINGFISHER flies out of the lowest pecan branches, across yard, and through the trees in the corral. It is the second one I have seen cross the yard, both in June. A 5-star porch bird being chased away by a measley lowly Ash-throat. The river is about 400-500 yards away.

Bummer seeing a baby Bronzed Cowbird being fed by a female Cardinal. I presume it is hers. There have been at least a dozen new juvenile Cards so far, we are covered in them, they have been doing great. It is the first juv. cowbird (of any sort) I have seen in the yard this year. Which considering everything is on its second if not third brood, we are doing fantastic this breeding season so far. Later afternoon there were a few Chimney Swift flying around, and a dozen Purple Martin, must have been some good aerial plankton.

Topped out at about 86dF (in shade) and muggy as can be, when finally a rain cell got near enough to give us an outflow cool down. Then after 7 p.m. it blew up into a full fledged rainmaker. By 9 we had over 2 inches, by 10 p.m. about 2.3, and a little more around midnight, by morning it was 2.5"! Finally! Three days at 50% chances and nothing but smells of rain on outflows. The water table still never got back to full since the drought, and any shallow ponds around the valley are dry, we needed this badly. We still need another 6". A few days later I talked to a rancher from just northwest of town and they only got .2, two tenths of an inch from it! So very spotty.

June 25 ~ Clear and 70dF this morning is nice, still not supposed to get hot and supposed to get some rain yet. I am still waiting. Saw a female Black-n-white Warbler again this a.m., just like yesterday's it landed on the clothesline we have feeders hanging on to see what all the action was about. Funny bird to have on your clothesline. For any city youngsters out there, people used to hang clothes on a line and dry them without thrashing them to death, using energy to do so. Some old folks that live in places where that has not been outlawed still do this.  ;)

The rain cooled air from the front kept us down to about 85dF for a high, which was a great relief, again. A cell went by in the afternoon, town might have gotten some, but it split in two as it passed over us and we were in the dry slot. But got the cooling outflow and smelled rain. The juv. Yellow-throated Warbler came into the bird bath, as did the male Scott's Oriole, which they only very rarely do. Heard the Indigo Bunting still out there. Saw the three local male Scissor-tails join together again to chase another hawk off which I couldn't get an ID look at. Saw the ad. fem. Cooper's Hawk on the fence later, but what they chased was not an accipiter. At dusk a group of 20 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over, likely a couple or few family groups joined together.

June 24 ~ A not very low of 75dF. Last night about 9 p.m. I was setting a bug light and sheet up and heard some odd cracking sound. Over a minute or two, a huge 10" daimeter major branch of our biggest bestest hackberry slowly broke, still connected but the foilage is on the ground now. It had nearly full sized green berries on most of it. Something is killing the tree, many branches are dead. It provided at least a thousand square feet of shade, and tens of thousands of hackberries in a good year. It hurts to watch it go. It was capable of feeding 500 waxwings and 500 Robins both, all winter. It will be an irreplaceable loss for the yard, besides making it hotter.

There was a female Black-n-white Warbler in the broken Hackberry branch early in the a.m., mid-morn a male was singing in the junipers over north fence, and in the Mesquites across road to east. Maybe we have a trolling first-summer around? I heard it a week ago, if the same bird. The pair of Brown-crested Flycatcher were sitting on one of the nestboxes, one they have used before.

The cold front is semi-stalled to our north but sent an outflow boundry down our way so we stayed below 85dF all day. A June cold front is 85dF. After the last three days with heat indices at 105dF, knocking 20dF off is a major relief. Didn't get any rain from it, but smelled some. That is how rain often is in much of Texas, you don't get any but at least you know someone else somewhere else DID get some.

As for last nights bug light there was more activity overall than a week ago, in total individuals maybe, but still not like it should be. One stick insect had one of the little 1" cicadas resting on it. Nothing remarkable, no Cerambycids this time, way fewer June Beetles, one big Coreid. The item of interest was about 5 or 6 Dusky-blue Groundstreak, a small hairstreak butterfly (ph.), of which I did not know I had that many here. Sometimes some butterflies will come in to a light after dark.

Ironclad Beetle

A fancy Ironclad Beetle (family Tenebrionidae), most are just black.
They can bend mere mortal insect pins in case you wondered.
I believe this is Zopherus haldemani or something similar.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 23 ~ Low of 74dF is 10 higher than yesterday morning. What a drag, drag, drag. Saw 98dF on the front porch at 5 p.m. Supposed to maybe get a cold front the next couple days and possbily rain they say. Believe it when you see it. I heard a flattish sharp (you can actually describe a bird call as such) warbler chip outside this morning I thought sure was a Louisiana Waterthrush. Couldn't find it though. Ad. ma. Painted Bunting feeding a fledgling on patio. In the afternoon there was a juvenile, and a singing ad. Field Sparrow, and an unattended juvenile Yellow-throated Warbler.

The bird of the day was on the way to town about 11 a.m., a couple miles south. There is a century plant type Agave with a big stalk and some yellow flowers just opening on it. Sunday as we drove by I said to Kathy that it should get orioles and hummers. As I putted up to it a bigger hummer chased two regular appearing (Black-chinned) hummers away and went back to a flower to feed. By then I had stopped and was 12' from it. Male LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD! Bigger than the Black-chins, long nicely decurved bill, splayed at corners of extensive purple gorget, a tinge of rufous on sides, big long black forked tail, OMG. It is my second one locally, the other appeared June 29, 2011, at our Seco Ridge feeders and stayed for 5-6 days.

In town saw only a few Cave and Barn Swallows, only a few Martin, and heard the Bell's Vireo at NW corner hackberry row. In the park there was a juv. Barred Owl up in the woods, ad. and juv. Blue Jay there too, and best, a male, female, and juv. Common Grackle. I only saw one juv. (ph.), but so they were successful. There is now a pair of Eastern Wood-Pewee there, one of which ran an ad. Blue Jay off, which is interesting as I have yet to see Pewee nest there in 13 prior summers. Some Orange Bluet (damselfly) are flying at the park.

June 22 ~ Wow, we had an amazing 64dF for a low, Kerrville was 61dF! Incredible what a little radiational cooling can do. The typical Gulf flow and moisture prevents this most of the summer. It got up to about 96 on the cool shady porch, over 100 at lots of local stations. Was 111 in McAllen! Brutal. Average for the date at Hondo is 90dF, it was 102 there today. Great was a male Bullock' Oriole out front in the a.m., but it only stuck around a couple minutes. Nice to hear though. Second one I've seen in a week, the other up in BanCo the 18th. Otherwise it was the usual regulars. A Southern Broken-Dash was a good Skipper (lep) on the Lantana.

The best bird of the day was a bug, a dragonfly, an adult male Ivory-striped Sylph! It slowly drifted by the porch at eye level, I saw the aqua blue eyes and two white headlights on the thorax from about 3' away! We spray some water around to keep it cooler in heat of day, and run a sprinkler sometimes, which I imagine might be an attractant. Brings butterflies in for sure. Saw a couple Spot-winged Glider today as well.

The adult female Yellow-throated Warbler did a great spinning chase to take something about 4' from my face as I was standing on the front porch. It then cleaned it for a minute on a big pecan branch. Then it flew about 500' to what I think is the nest tree, the nearest big 50' cypress. The male had been singing in it the whole time. One direct non-stop flight, nearly two football fields, carrying food. Both of the pair are in the yard pecans near-daily, bring the young here, sometimes use the bath.

June 21 ~ Happy Equinox! The longest day (light). We made it. Summer is here! Another 68dF low is a great way to start summer. It got up to a hot 94 on the cool shady front porch, hotter in sun. A couple adult with 7 juvenile Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over early. These are surely locally bred just-fledged young. Heard the Hutton's Vireo again, Brown-crests still around too. The bird of the day was at 7:30 p.m., a male Orchard Oriole was feeding in the flowering Mesquites across the road at the gate. It was alone, and I don't hear one singing near enough that this is a nesting bird out foraging. Most now are feeding young, so suspect it was a failed nester, or cowbird predated, and so done and gone. The Mesquites started a week ago with the first few flowers a week after the last good rain. Now you can hear the bees humming at them from 200'. Noticed the state high and low temps today were 60dF at Marfa and 107 at McAllen. Remarkable was a Monarch, very fresh and flying north, which I presume was from an egg laid by the ones that just passed through in spring. I have checked a number of Antelope-Horns this spring and not found a single cat(erpillar) yet.

June 20 ~ A low of 68dF was a treat, what a difference a few dF makes. We were hitting 80 by 10 a.m. though, very little in the way of morning clouds from the Gulf, which is of course why we cooled. Few more Gnatcatchers went through southward (3 by 1 p.m.). Three male Scissor-tails were dive-bombing a small buteo that went over. I did not get an ID on the small buteo. Statistically it was a juv. Red-shouldered, but it didn't look like one. Looked smaller for starters. Oh well, you have let it go if you didn't get a good enough look. Whatever you do, don't try to make stuff into shat, 'cause that is what you end up with when you do that. Neat how these Scissor-tails each are all nesting in the immediate area, defending their territories against each other, but when a universal threat appears they join together to run it off.

Heard the Hutton's Vireo out back in the big live-oaks again. Red-eyed still singing too. Besides the Ash-throat pair and the Great Crested Flycatchers, a pair of Brown-crested Flycatcher was prospecting around the yard this morning. There are a couple open boxes, they have nested in one of them before. Begging young being fed in the yard include 2 Vermilion Flycatcher, 2 Carolina Wren, 2 Carolina Chickadee, a few Lark Sparrow, a bunch of House Finch and No. Cardinal, a Yellow-throated Warbler this morning, a couple Summer Tanager and at least a couple White-eyed Vireos. The pair of Eastern Bluebirds I think have their second set of eggs now. Had what appeared an Ornythion Swallowtail flying around yard for a minute or two. Didn't stop though.

June 19 ~ The 72dF low felt nice after yesterday's 100+ heat indices. A juv. female Black-n-white warbler came in to see what all the birds were fussing with at the feeders, landing on the wire the feeders hang from and watching before moving to the Mulberry. Saw a Gnatcatcher fly through yard southbound. A bit of cloud cover held into the afternoon and at 3:30 it was only 89dF, though a bit muggy. I saw at WU Hondo was 102dF yesterday, average for the date is 90. We have been running nearly 10dF over normal here lately. Another Gnatcat flew through in afternoon. Hear the Scissor-tails over at the airstrip, the Red-eyed Vireo and Indigo Bunting are still out there. Hear some begging young Summer Tanager. This successful pair's male is a red and mustard first-summer bird.

Kathy pointed out the Opposum here is missing any external sign of a left ear. Boy it just figures we get a defective one-eared possum. Man life is rough. Goes with our Ringtail with a bad leg. Did someone paint on the back of the shed "send me your wounded"? It looks to me as if the 'possum has a distended pouch, so, a pregnant or carrying female is my guess. Hope the young have two ears.

June 18 ~ Was only about 74dF for a low at 6-7 a.m. early thirty. Can't believe how light it is at 6 now! Still some good birdsong going, but not the roar it was in April and May. You can tell it is dialing back. Especially up at Lost Maples. It was only about 71dF or so up there early. That felt great. Only a couple Scissor-tails along 187 Utopia to there. Way low. No Western Kingbirds around, still, since drought. In the late afternoon we hit 95+ on the cool shady front porch, had to be a hun in the sun and heat indices worse.

Which made a morning at Lost Maples a treat. We did about 4 miles in as many hours, which is about my standard birding speed in well-vegetated habitats. Actually we did the 2 miles back down in an hour, so it was 3 hours doing two miles on the way up the canyon. I know many go much faster, but I think they are missing birds. You have to stop and listen and look and listen. You are a noisy beast walking on a rocky dirt road. Especially when in a canyon where noise amplified and echoed. Stuff is ducking for cover as it hears you approach. How often are you alerted to a bird due to an alarm note when you are the only thing around being alarming? How many skulk away quietly?

Usually it's only a couple minutes of quiet and still needed, and things start moving normally again, and calling other than alarm notes whence going into hide mode. So make lots of quick 'quiet stops' along the way. Like at first shade right after any even minor uphill section.  ;)  Always in the shade. Your visibility will be better. If sunny line up a thick branch or trunk to shade eyes and you will see better. Or wherever heavy vegetation and habitat, like for instance where minor side drainages meet more major ones. Always at any watered areas.

We did the Can Creek trail past the ponds to the spring. Figured it was going to be one last look while breeding season still underway with at least some vim and vigor. Overall numbers are still strikingly down for many breeders there since the drought. It is not back to normal. Just a few pairs of Summer Tanager and Yellow-throated Vireo for instance. One Eastern Wood-Pewee (carrying food).

Some things have finished nesting and much of their breeding population have already departed for the season. Like Golden-cheeked Warbler, of which I heard no singing, heard one set of flight notes from one, and finally after over 3 hours and zeroing in on a seet and chip I heard, we had point blank views of an adult female in heavy molt. Just barely stubs of new tail feathers coming in. This was past the second pond. We are out of the sure-thing window for viewing them now. If you spend a whole day, you can likely still find one, if you are lucky you might get one in a half-day. Work the watered areas wherever you can. It is not unusual, in fact almost regular, to get stray individuals the next few weeks, to almost mid-July. But most (99%+) of the breeding population is gone and any you see might as well be transients from elsewhere passing through on their way off of the plateau.

There were still a few singing Black-n-white Warbler, and begging young being fed, and an unattended juv. female, but most are gone. Same for Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, still a few, most have departed. Heard one and saw (ph.) one White-tipped Dove. Saw at least two Olive Sparrow, one of which was a JUVENILE with streaks on underparts and weak crown stripes, as well as sporting a fairly fuzzy appearance. It was following the adult around begging. Perhaps the first known Bandera Co. nesting. I couldn't get a pic though. The White-tips would be a BanCo first too if someone could get a shot of a juvenile. Look for buffy cinnamon edges to the wing feathers on a juv. White-tip.

I heard a Varied Bunting singing far up one of the slopes of the canyon, but I couldn't pick it up from where I was due to visibility. It was a quarter mile below the ponds (above which where a male was in late May), e.g., just above 3rd crossing, on opposite side as trail way up the slope, in that drier juniper zone they like. There were a few Indigo still singing (nesting) along the creek, and some Blue Grosbeak still nesting too. Heard Black-capped Vireo, Canyon Wrens, Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

Saw a couple Texas Scrub-Jay, a few Acadian Flycatcher, a few Louisiana Waterthrush, including begging young, fair numbers of Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireo, heard a few Ash-throated Flycatcher, saw one Green Kingfisher between the ponds, and at the trailhead parking lot right when we got there and out of car, a nice low flyover from a Zone-tailed Hawk trying to sneak by with a TV. Couple singing male Yellow-throated Warbler still may be nesting, Chipping sparrow feeding young, same for House Finch. Heard begging juv. Red-tailed Hawk, but gone from nest, and heard Red-shouldered Hawk, but no other small buteos.

In other stuff... on the way upcanyon when the morning low clouds present you see very few butterflies, dragonflies, or reptiles. On the way back down (after 11 or so) you hit 90dF, the sun burns off most of the clouds, you see fewer birds, and more other stuff. In lizards I saw a 6-line Racerunner and a Texas Spiny Lizard, Kathy saw an Anole. In dragons we saw a few male Comanche Skimmer, two male Flame Skimmer, two Leaftail sps., a probable Sulphur-tipped Clubtail, a couple Dot-winged Baskettail, a Pale-faced Clubskimmer, two Swift Setwing, and a Blue Dasher. The only damsel of note was the Springwater Dancers in the usual spots. There is one 60 foot long (top secret) spot there where this animal ALWAYS is, during flight season.

For butterflies it was slow, none of the big yellow swallowtails, no Satyrs, Blues, Hairstreaks, and no Sister or Red-spotted Purple flying now either. Still a number of Spicebush Swallowtail, one nice male Black. Saw a couple more of the Amblyscrites Roadside-Skipper that is not a Celia's in the usual spots. I think maybe Bronze. Got pix a couple weeks ago, again, and will put out for expert ID. Also had a Celia's as usual. Much of the spring bloom is over and out, though some is still going. Ya gotta be tough to wait for it to heat up and then spend your four hours working the flowers. I used to be that tough, but fear I am getting old and soft. About an hour of it on the downhill return leg is fine for me when it is pushin' 95dF.

On the way home about 1.5 miles north of town (in BanCo) on the straightaway where lined with Mesquite a male Bullock's Oriole flew across the road. They are very scarce in summer here, though common off the plateau in the brush country just south of us. I do not know of nesting in the upper Sabinal drainage, but it is possible.

June 17 ~ About 74-95dF for a temp spread today, a hun in the sun. Morning clouds so bearable to noon, oppressive hot humid afternoon to sundown. There was a singing Black-n-white Warbler out back mid-morning. Best thing today was a Smoky Rubyspot damselfly in the yard, just off the front porch. Almost got pix, but missed, it kept flushing everytime I got close. Any new yard damsel is awesome. Saw a Wandering Glider out over driveway. A few days ago there were a couple dozen dragons out in far corner of yard that looked a mix of Wandering and Spot-winged Glider, but I didn't walk the 250' to make an ID. Was all the usual expected regular birds. Worked on stuff here and tried to avoid the heat.

Springwater Dancer
Damselfly - Springwater Dancer (Argia plana) at Lost Maples May 29.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 16 ~ Mostly the SOS - same old stuff. A couple more Gnatcatcher went through the yard. Zone-tail went over again. Had a town run for some supplies and a look at the park, where Ringed and Green Kings, Blue Jay, Chimney Swift. Interesting was an Eastern Wood-Pewee that did the oft-seen tyrant flycatcher behavoir of driving a small bird to the ground. The small bird was the female Black-and-white Warbler that is summering at the park. Which interestingly now has new primaries. It has been there a month, appeared a first-spring with very browned primaries when it first showed up in May. A local there mentioned the Green Heron being around. It was still overcast so I saw no odes.

The bird of the day was as I was getting in car to head to town, a Black-throated Sparrow sang thrice to get my attention, from the top of a Mesquite adjacent to the north yard fence. When I first heard it I knew I had just heard this in the last month but could not put a name to it immediately. After the second song I remembered what it was, and spotted it in the Mesquite. Got on it momentarily but it flew quickly. First one in the yard in four + years at this bird observatory, I mean yard. Kathy and I saw a pair feeding young a half-mile away last year. But away from the lusher river habitat corridor in uplands where drier with lots of Agarita and grassland. Having just watched one singing a month ago at Lost Maples was invaluable in figuring out what it was. You have to repeatedly and constantly reinforce things, even stuff you know, seemingly particularly with audio. Eventually it will sink in, but repeated exposure is the key. I am just learning this Texas Black-throated Sparrow song.

June 15 ~ A low of 74 is not very. The cool shady front porch was 91dF or so, I saw local stations in mid-90's. It was hot. Heat indices were over 100dF. It is stuck-at-the-desk Thursday. Did steal a couple more digiscopes of the male Vermilion while I was on breaks. One young was with the male hunting the yard, one hung with the female working very different habitat in the corral. I wonder if they are each with the young of their sex? Maybe probably? Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk soar over yard a couple times mid-day. 'Nother Gnatcatcher. Very few fireflies left flying, they are about done. It has been just a few nightly since before Memorial Day. They peaked way early, after starting way early. Wonder what will happen with the timing of the smaller late-summer flight?

June 14 ~ Not very low of 74dF but at least the Gulf clouds got here and kept the sun at bay until after noon. Down at the crossing there were two Green Kingfisher sitting on the concrete bridge. There was a Black-n-white Warbler singing over in the Mesquites across from the gate. Heard the Indigo Bunting and Red-eyed Vireo still singing, the juv. Hutton's Vireo still out there. 'Nother Gnatcatcher moved through.

We had to make a run to Sabinal in the afternoon to get a vehicle inspection (can't get one in Utopia anymore), passed thank you. We did a twofer and hit that new Family Dollar store they recently built there for stuff that is higher here. Astounding was the relative lack of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher along Hwy. 187 between here and there. I did not see a dozen, in 20 miles. Ridiculous. Fifty to a hundred would be normal. And only two Western Kingbird the whole way. Incredible. There is a big, large flying insect shortage going on. Whaddup? Did see a Roadrunner, some gone-to-seed Basketflower, a fair bit of Purple Horsemint and Indian Blanket still blooming.

Fantastic was a note from Mary Gustafson who is an expert bird guide (mostly down in the Lower Rio Grande Valley) about a singing male Prothonotary Warbler along the Nueces River above Chalk Bluff and below Camp Wood on UvCoRd 411. I think nearest known nesting is on the Medina River in SW Bexar Co. Probably the first June record in Uvalde County? My 14 springs here have produced 3, all in May, so about twice a decade for me so far. There are always some of a population that are pushing the limits of range, generally unmated males trolling for a female. Remember a few years ago there was that summering Hooded Warbler at Lost Maples, keep your ears open. Thanks Mary for sharing your great find with us!

June 13 ~ Low was 72dF, high was 92 or so, it feels like summer. Too busy to see much. The Vermilion Flycatcher pair now has two young they got out of the nest, fantastic. Saw a juvenile (unattended) Field Sparrow in yard. Indigo Bunting and Red-eyed Vireo still singing, Cuckoo nesting nearby somewhere, a couple juvie Carolina Wrens being attended. Another Gnatcatcher through yard moving south like all of them. There has been a major blowout of Black-chinned Hummingbirds. I would call it the departure of the second batch of young they have gotten off.

June 12 ~ Got the 70-90dF temp spread thing going, for the next 3 months, 95 if you are in the sun. The morning was overcast with the low clouds from the Gulf, and so we are barely breaking 80dF noonish. We get a half day of bearable if there are morning clouds. Heard a Gnatcatcher out there mid-morning, and the Indigo Bunting still trolling up and down the river habitat corridor. A Mockingbird in the big pecan is doing an excellent Groove-billed Ani call. Wish he would bring one in. Don't laugh, last year a Kiskadee came in to a Mocker imitiation, producing one of my favorite best yard bird records ever. Had a FOY Soldier (lep) fly around the porch a minute or so.

The Chuck-wills-widow has shut up prematurely. I am guessing the nest or young got predated. Normally they are vociferous until July 10 or so. It is like a switch was flicked, I only hear a distant bird, there is no local calling adjacent to the yard for three nights now. Silence. This is a major bummer, I was supposed to get 30 more days of it, then begging young, etc. I set up a bug light and sheet for a few hours for the first time this year to help get over it.

Overall I would say bug numbers are very low. There were a couple neat things but it was fairly underwhelming in general. The best bugs were 'bycids. Cerambycids, Longhorn Beetles. Three different ones. Awesome was a big female Neoclytus sps. (perhaps c.f. mucronatus) which as quickly as I got a shot it flew off into the dark. Then a second Cerambycid came in, 1.75", mottled, unknown and new to me, and I got some shots to work on an ID later, possibly an Ataxia sps. Finally one of the brown ones with two yellow dots on each elytra came in. Maybe Eburia mutica or something similar. Late in day saw one of the S. gigas Cerambycids too, so had four good 'bycids today, weewow!.

Otherwise slow, lots of the big brown June Beetle, an Ant Lion, some Sharpshooters, a Katydid, some crickets, the small Cicada, a few flies and hymenops, very few small moths, and some other little things, but nowhere near the numbers you would expect in June. Biologically, clawing your way back from a drought takes years and years. This is the third year with rains since the 7 year drought, and numbers are still way way down, birds to bugs. And so surely lots else is, that we aren't keeping tabs on.

June 11 ~ Back to 70-90dF spreads in shady areas, hotter in sun. Saw the juvie Hutton's Vireo again, likely the one I saw about 4 days ago. The usual singing Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated all present, so 4 vireo sps. in yard today. The Mocker does a good Bell's, but that doesn't count. Had three (!) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher move south through yard today. Still catching up on chores here. No Chuck calling at dusk?!?

June 10 ~ A 69-89dF temp spread today. Since I spent too many (actually not enough) days bird guiding in April and May now I have to catch up on all the spring stuff I was supposed to be doing all those weekends. Two weeks and no Lost Maples, feels like cold turkey. I need to get up there and see the juvenile Olive Sparrows, and White-tipped Dove, both of which are nesting (heard the juvie Olive Sparrows) and both need photo documentation of young for new Bandera Co. nesting proof.

Had another Gnatcatcher go through yard, these are local breeders departing breeding grounds already. That is about the fourth one in a week, they are all moving south through yard. Heard the singing Blue Grosbeak and Red-eyed Vireo still out there. But at dusk the Chucks were already not as loud as three days ago. Prolly have young to feed.

White-tipped Dove

One of the White-tipped Dove at Lost Maples this spring,
this at the feeding station, and which are surely breeding.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

For archives sake, here is a final of the section of the update header pertinent to spring arrival dates...

Spring is that exciting time of year when every day can have a local FOS - first of season - report. I love watching spring unfurl. Following are my local FOS (first of season) arrival or passage dates. An (e.e.) behind the name means it is my "EARLIEST EVER" spring arrival date in 14 springs of recording that data locally. We expect a few (e.e.) in any given year. This year that frequency is off the charts. Of the 37 species listed below Jan. to April 13, FOURTEEN were the earliest ever I have recorded them. Update: fifteen of 42 sps. as of April 21 are (e.e.), plus two ties.

June 8 - a second Catbird - surely my last spring migrant
June 2 - Chestnut-sided Warbler
May 27 - Cicada
May 23 - Katydid
May 22 - Black-billed Cuckoo
May 21 - Varied Bunting
May 20 - Lesser Nighthawk
May 20 - Lazuli Bunting
May 19 - female Mourning Warbler
May 19 - Eastern Kingbird
May 16 - Mississippi Kite
May 12 - Catbird
May 7 - Mourning Warbler
May 4 - Rose-breasted Grosbeak
May 2 - female Common Yellowthroat
May 1 - female Indigo Bunting
April 30 - Yellow Warbler
April 30 - Olive-sided Flycatcher
April 30 - female Blue Grosbeak
April 28 - Least Flycatcher
April 28 - Swainson's Thrush
April 28 - American Redstart (others saw - 2 males!)
April 28 - Baltimore Oriole
April 28 - Orchard Oriole
April 27 - female Hooded Oriole
April 27 - Mourning and-or MacGillivray's Warbler
April 25 - female Painted Bunting
April 23 - Acadian Flycatcher
April 23 - Indigo Bunting
April 21 - Common Nighthawk
April 21 - Bullock's Oriole
April 19 - Wilson's Warbler
April 19 - Dickcissel (e.e.)
April 16 - Eastern Wood-Pewee
April 16 - Painted Bunting
April 16 - Blue Grosbeak
April 15 - Yellow-breasted Chat
April 14 - Chimney Swift
April 14 - Northern Waterthrush
April 13 - Yellow-billed Cuckoo (e.e.)
April 11 - Great Crested Flycatcher (e.e.)
April 8 - Red-eyed Vireo (e.e.)
April 7 - Chuck-wills-widow
April 4 - Ruby-throated Hummingbird
April 3 - female Summer Tanager
April 3 - Short-tailed Hawk (2! at Lost Maples)
April 3 - Broad-winged Hawk (e.e.)
April 3 - Louisiana Waterthrush
April 3 - Nashville Warbler
April 2 - Black-capped Vireo
April 2 - Bronzed Cowbird
April 2 - Clay-colored Sparrow
March 31 - Brown-crested Flycatcher (e.e.)
March 28 - Firefly (e.e.)
March 26 - Golden-cheeked Warbler (migrant off territory)
March 24 - Bell's Vireo (e.e.)
March 24 - Summer Tanager (e.e.)
March 21 - Monarch (butterfly)
March 18 - Great-tailed Grackle (ties e.e.)
March 16 - Yellow-throated Vireo (ties e.e.)
March 15 - Cave Swallow
March 11 - Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
March 3 - Northern Rough-winged Swallow and Wood Duck
March 2 - Yellow-throated Warbler
March 1 - Ash-throated Flycatcher (e.e.)
Feb. 28 - Black-chinned Hummingbird
Feb. 26 - Common Yellowthroat (e.e.), Purple Martin and Blue-headed Vireo (e.e.)
Feb. 25 - Sandhill Crane
Feb. 24 - Barn Swallow and Vermilion Flycatcher (e.e.)
Feb. 12 - White-eyed Vireo (e.e.)
Jan. 31 - Turkey Vulture (3)
Jan. 14 - White-fronted Goose (e.e.)

A couple rare things have been detected recently. While guiding some fine folks at Lost Maples SNA April 3, I found TWO SHORT-TAILED HAWKS! We had great views over the pond area. One was photo'd on April 5. One was heard and glimpsed April 30. Bob Behrstock had another one over Neals Lodge parking lot in Concan April 16. Tropical Parula is being reported (as annual) at Concan, as well. A male VARIED BUNTING was at Lost Maples May 21; a BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO was heard calling from our yard May 22. A Chestnut-sided Warbler singing in our yard June 2 will likely be my last migrant of the spring. Oops spoke too soon, a Catbird was at our bath June 8.

~ ~ ~ end update header spring arrival section ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

June 9 ~ About 69dF for a low this a.m., and 90dF in the shade for a high, hotter in the sun. Just the usual suspects in the yard. Supply run to town, so a lookabout. Still hearing a couple Bell's Vireo singing in the hackberry row at NW corner of town. They will sing and breed into August. Some Cave Swallow around the bank. At the park there was the ad.fem. Black-n-white Warbler again, a Ringed Kingfisher, one Eastern Wood-Pewee. As I neared home and went over the low-water crossing on 360 a Green Kingfisher made a last-second correction to avoid hitting the truck. I can't get over how few Scissor-tails are along Hwy. 187, and around the area in general. Their numbers are much reduced, there is a larger flying insect shortage.

In odes at the park I saw a few Orange-striped Threadtail (Protoneura cara), my FOY, and FOY Checkered Setwing. Saw Widow Skimmer, Red Saddlebags, Black and Swift Setwing, lots of Bluet damselflies of some sort out over the water, and a Fragile Forktail up in the woods. Just before dusk two male Painted Bunting were on the millet seed tube at the same time, opposite sides of course. Saw a Red Bat flying around at dusk, and a lone Whistling-Duck went over.

As a reminder Utopia Park is now $10 per person per day to enter unless you have a Utopia or Vanderpool addressed ID. While we are on public service messages, there is a biz called Clear Springs Lodging locally that has a dozen or so different rentals they handle in the area. I have no financial interest, standard disclaimer applies. Almost forgot, had a Red Bat in yard at dusk, besides lots of Brazillian (was Mexican) Freetail.

June 8 ~ Another cool dry one at 63dF this morning. Weewow! Up into the 90's dF though, so afternoons feeling like summer. Very surprising was my first June record ever of Catbird! At the bird bath about 10:30 or so. This is at least two weeks later than my prior latest spring record. In the afternoon another of the S. gigas Cerambycid beetles was out front, they are quite the Pepsis Wasp mimic. Wish I could catch or photo one.

Had to run to the P.O., so snagged a peek at the park. There was a Ringed Kingfisher up on the island, as well as a, or the, Black-n-white Warbler, a female that is not a juvenile. Also Blue Jay, and an Eastern Wood-Pewee. A pair of White-eyed Vireo were attending a juvenlie Brown-headed Cowbird. One Celia's Roadside-Skipper and a couple Dusky-blue Groundstreak in the woods. Just south of town I heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher along the river, another post-breeding wanderer. Took a couple pix of the Ringed Kingfisher hole in the bank, but it appears they are out of it already. Maybe they'll nest again this year, we'll see.

June 7 ~ Holy guacamole, it was 62dF this a.m., KRVL had 60dF! Clear, dry northerly flow, C of C weather. Got up to 90dF on the front porch. Too busy at the desk today to see anything but the usual gang. 'Tis that time of year where the species diversity stays somewhat stagnant, good thing it is a 5-star assortment in the yard for my 5-10 min. per hour lookabouts. Which was not an accident if you were wondering. Did have a juvenile Hutton's Vireo for a while out front. I got a pic of a Catocala (c.f. obscurus) Underwing moth today, my FOY. This is one with brown hindwings, lacking the fancy orange, red, or pink of many its congeners.

At dusk I had a Chuck fly by so close I heard its wing stroke. And they fly quietly. After stopping in one of the big Mesquites across from gate to call a bit, it then flew back down driveway where I was and across the yard again. Now, 10 p.m. it is belting out of one of the big ancient live-oaks right out back. It is nesting real close by. In a month they will go silent, or nearly so. Only 90 days of territorial calling each year so I cherish every day of it. But which is longer than most Golden-cheeked Warbler sing. We get about 100 days out of Painted Bunting here. Whereas White-eyed Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler both sing 150+ days while they are territorial here for their breeding season.

June 6 ~ Another 64dF low feels great as the dry light north flow. Incredible for the date, though June on average is a wet month and so can have some surprisingly comfortable periods around the rains, when we get them. Heard a Black-n-white Warbler upslope in the big live-oaks behind us. Saw Mrs. Scott('s Oriole) at the hummer feeder. The male is there often, the female is likely in nesting mode now so not seeing her as much. They are surely nesting nearby now. Helps make up for the loss of our Hooded Oriole pair, which never did return. One first spring male Hooded is coming in, probably one of the juveniles from last year. Almost forgot, had a FOY Common Mestra (butterfly) today.

June 5 ~ About midnight last night another line of cells went over and dumped another .7 (tenths) of an inch of rain! So .9 the last two days, 2" the day before that puts us at just under three inches in three days, and for the month. I am seeing the first fledged Vermilion Flycatcher out front following the male around. Saw another S. gigas Cerambycid beetle in the big pecan out front, as always too high to even consider netting. Everytime I put out old banana for bait the ants run it over and ruin it.

The Ash-throats and Eastern Bluebirds are fighting over nestboxes. The Ash-throats ran the bluebirds out of the box they just fledged 4 young from. So I put up another box 125' down the fenceline at other end of front yard. The bluebirds were at it in an hour. That was over a week ago, the fighting has not stopped. They keep going back and forth between the two boxes, constantly chasing and displacing each other. Whilst an unused box sits on another fence 150' away. The bluebirds have used that box before too, why don't they just move to it? There was a branch that had grown down to fairly near the top of it, so I went out and cut that off. Now I see the male bluebird at that box, trying to call the female over. Wish they would take it and get the next set underway. The Ash-throat can't be in both boxes on the front fence, why is it defending both? It doesn't want the bluebird there I presume. Tyrants.

Another post-breeding wanderer today in the yard, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. On the way to becoming a fall migrant. Like the Black-and-white Warbler last week, these are surely local nesters (returning in mid-March) that are done and finished. They will now drift around the breeding grounds while they molt for a couple weeks before heading somewhere. For some the breeding season is already over, before summer starts, and is timed to match peak spring.

After dark scavenging where we throw seed was Racoon, Opossum, and a Gray Fox. Heard Coyotes going off across the river. Barn Owl called a few times. Had another tenth of an inch of rain in the late afternoon, so that makes an inch in the last two days and three in 3 days.

June 4 ~ Nice low in low 60's dF, and we got another .2 (tenths of an inch) of rain over the morning. Outstanding! With the rain threat decided to stick close, and some cells were close, but nothing major, though a few miles east over at Seco Creek some areas got 3 inches! We checked a couple spots locally and didn't have anything besides the expected. At the 360 crossing there were a couple Smoky Rubyspot damselfly amongst a number of Americans. Some Kiowa and Violet Dancers, couple Black Setwing, Pale-faced Clubskimmer.

Upriver a bit on private property, I inadvertenly flushed a teneral dragonfly. One that has just emerged, the wings are soft and shiny, they do not have full flight capability yet. I got it in binocs in the grass 12' away and saw it was the first Black-shouldered Spinyleg I have seen since the drought and trout (at Utopia Park). Probably 7-8 years since they disappeared locally. So nice to know some are still around, in areas most can't get to most of the time. So I took a step to try to grab a shot of it. It flushed, I tried to keep an eye on the area it landed a hundred feet away. As we approached a male Summer Tanager flew up out of the grass with it in its beak. There goes that one. We felt bad, but there was nothing we could do to avoid it. Actually at the park when they were common I saw many tenerals of them taken by you guessed it, Summer Tanager.

Four Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over at dusk. Great hearing Common Nighthawk booming nightly.

June 3 ~ A real rain maker MCS went over about 4-5 a.m. with lots of lightning. We got 2"! So now were are at 3" for the week. Low about 64dF was great too. 'Twas the regular gang about the yard. The bright limey first-spring male Painted Bunting is getting a wee bit of the salmon color on the underparts now, which it did not show when it got here a few weeks ago. Red-eyed Vireo still here, should go look to see if it has a mate and is nesting.

I meant to mention a week ago, but sorta morbid, and weird, so was hesitant. I am just the observer and messenger. A female Bronzed Cowbird had an accident here, colliding with a recently discharged projectile, perhaps a pellet. It fell and died over in the coral, whence two males promptly flew down and copulated with the body. I have actually heard of this behavior prior, with a roadkill incident.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

June 2 ~ Rain at dawn, a light slow soaker which we need. About 6 to 10 a.m. it was five-eighths of an inch. Great! So with Wednesday's rain we have about an inch this week. Some areas more, others less. I finally saw my FOS local Green Heron at the park. It was breaking willow twigs for nest material. No passage migrants there. Did have a just-fledged begging young Summer Tanager. There were some Chimney Swifts flying up to the big tree-like hunting blind at the Ranch Outpost, hovering at the shootin' holes, I could have caught one with a butterfly net. Spectacular views at point blank. Couple dozen Cave Swallow around town. I thought sure I heard a Golden-cheeked Warbler at the park but couldn't find it.

Had a Zone-tailed Hawk go by the yard in the afternoon. Bird of the day was about 1:p.m., a singing and calling Chestnut-sided Warbler! My only one this spring, so a miracle this late. That big pecan right off the front porch is so leafy, they can't resist when passing by. It is about the third one in it now. I get them locally every-other year on average in spring. That will be my last migrant warbler of the season. Numbers of begging House Finch, Lark Sparrow, and Lesser Goldfinch are around yard now.

June 1 ~ OMG, it's June! Migration is past us now, it is the summer doldrums. A birding term I never understood, when all the breeding activity is at a fevered pitch. All the migratory breeders that are gone most of the year are present. What is doldrums about it? Some of the migratory breeders on territory within earshot, most of which spend at least some of the day in the yard right now are: Blue Grosbeak, Indigo and Painted Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, and White-eyed Vireo, Scott's Oriole, Scissor-tailed, Vermilion, Great Crested and Ash-throated Flycatchers, Purple Martin, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, belting Chuck-wills-widow and booming Common Nighthawk. I am looking for the doldrums but can't seem to find them for all the beauty and birdsong. Did see a herd of just-fledged White-eyed Vireo, 5 birds, so if both adults in group it was 3 young fledged. Saw a couple just-fledged begging and being fed Carolina Wren in the big pecan right off porch.

~ ~ ~ May summary ~ ~ ~

Well that went quickly. Temps were about average, maybe just a bit on the cool side, only lowest 90's a few days. Precip was light, less than 2", which is nearing half of normal for May. The lack of rain really dialed back the bloom, and insects still seem way down overall.

Butterflies were 53 species, plus a couple that got away. Only one better than March, and less than the 60 in April. Everything was the most expected 50 species. The only odd one was a Marine Blue on May 29, my FOY. A Little Wood Satyr was good, but expected at Lost Maples. One odd Amblyscrites Roadside-Skipper (ph.) will require study to see if I can put a name to it. Probable Julia's Skipper and a Duskywing that was Horace's or Juvenals were un-counted.

Odes were 26 species, 10 Zygops (damselflies) and 16 Anisops (dragonflies). Again like butterflies, it was the 26 most expected species. Late in month added one Widow Skimmer, Swift and Black Setwing, and finally one Smoky Rubyspot. Very few Prince Baskettail, and still no Black-shouldered Spinyleg since the drought and trout.

Birds were a great 125 species locally (Utopia to Lost Maples) for me. Best bird was the Black-billed Cuckoo that called just over fence from the yard on May 22. Second best bird was the male Varied Bunting at Lost Maples May 21. So the tail-end of passage period had the best birds. May did show a few of the usual scarcer passage migrants like a Catbird, some Mississippi Kites, a couple Rose-breasted Grosbeak, an Eastern Kingbird, some Mourning Warblers.

Warbler migration was weak as can be, I think the whole spring only totalled 13-14 migrant species I saw locally. Pitiful. No numbers of even formerly common species like Nashville and Yellow, again. I saw no Tennessee Warbler again. There were about 5 Redstarts reported locally this spring that I know of, I saw two. Mourning Warbler I saw at least 6 of.

No Willow Flycatcher again either. And since the drought Western Kingbird has never re-colonized the valley. There is a large flying bug issue. There aren't any. Or at least very few. Numbers of breeding birds at Lost Maples are still down since the drought as well, not yet anywhere near the pre-drought numbers of breeding birds or territories. I was there 8 times in April and May, and there were times every trip I could not believe how few birds were singing of many species.

It appears White-tipped Dove is nesting at Lost Maples though, and May 29 I heard begging juvenile Olive Sparrow there. It seems a pair of Broad-winged Hawk are there again, and it seems the nesting pair of Zone-tailed chased the pair of Short-tailed Hawks off the hill they were showing interest in. Most of the sets of warbler young I saw at Lost Maples this spring consisted of one fledged young. I saw this in Louisiana Waterthrush (multiple), Black-and-white (multiple), and virtually all the Golden-cheeked Warbler young this year that I saw were only singles fledged.

~ ~ ~ end May summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ regular daily drivel continues below ~ ~

May 31 ~ A nice cool 64dF for a low is outstanding for the date. Only got up to mid-70's for a high! Rain cooled air all around even though we hadn't received much ourselves. Finally a couple small cells found us and over half the day we got a half-inch of much needed wet stuff. 70dF at 3 p.m. on the last day of May is awesome.

The bird event of the day was seeing that Mr. Scott, the oriole, brought a soon-to-be Mrs. Scott with him to the feeder! He sung one in! We have been hearing and seeing him about 10 days now, and now he looks to have a mate! She is a beauty too, an ASY (after second year), 'full', or definitive, adult.

One of the two male Painted Bunting has molted some of the lime green back feathers and so much red is showing in back, probably nearing half, it appears more red than green. A couple weeks ago I saw the two males in a round of the toe to toe, beak to beak, clawing and pecking whislt hovering face to face, slowly falling toward ground. Over whose turn it was at the feeder. What a flurry of color that was.

May 30 ~ A low in the upper 60's dF with a high in the lower 80's dF on this date is fantastic. Supposed to be about like this all week into early June. Amazing. You will not hear a single complaint anywhere. Out west in California migration sorta ends with a big bang around Memorial Day with a flurry of rare eastern vagrants occurring. Here Memorial Day drills home the fact that spring migration is over. It is just the breeders now. I think the Mississippi Kite last Friday May 26 was the last passage migrant I saw. Over the weekend we had weather that would have knocked migrants down, if there were any still going by.

I saw an adult female Black-and-white Warbler just off the patio in the Mulberry, probably looking to see why a bunch of birds were at the feeder there. I bet it is a finished breeding female that will now wander the area while it molts for a few weeks before it heads out.

May 29 ~ Happy Memorial Day! We snuck out early and went up to Lost Maples for a walk. On W. 360 we had a Western Kingbird in a pasture, and listened to an Orchard Oriole singing while we checked the kingbird. Low was in upper 60's dF. Being the last day of a holiday weekend with rain, we figured it would have cleared the place out. Hardly saw anyone until noon. Most of the morning we were the only ones on the trail, it was like the good old days, or the off-season, not a holiday weekend. Staff said they had .75" of rain yesterday. Ranger Bill said he saw a Large Brown Bat recently there, about 2 p.m.

Only heard a few Golden-cheeked Warbler, and finally watched a just out-of-the-nest juvenile being fed by male and female quite close. They are fading fast. They are already much less apparent, and a much less prominent part of the avifauna there now. Many seem to have left. Generally there are some present and findable through June, and even into early July, but often you might find only one, or a few, and it can take time. Seeing them now is not the gimmie it is all spring from mid-March through May.

We saw two White-tipped Dove, one at the feeding station (ph.) at the trailhead parking area, and another way up the trail a mile away. I heard begging juvenile Olive Sparrow. Last early June I chased the exact same sound down, a mile from our place just south of Utopia, and it was begging juvenile Olive Sparrow. This was too far off trail and too thick to see to confirm visually. It is likely the first report of nesting at the park or in Bandera Co. We also heard at least one, then later heard and saw another (I whistled back and it came in) Audubon's Oriole singing, way over a mile apart, so at least two birds minimum. We saw a couple Green Kingfisher, one was a begging juvenile. They probably nested there this year.

The Fuertes' Red-tail juvenile is about to fledge, now below the nest on the cliff face ledge. I heard Red-shouldered Hawk, and heard a begging juvenile Broad-winged Hawk, which I could not see. We saw a male Scott's Oriole in the Musk Thistle at parking lot, I heard another way up the canyon high up on a ridge. I heard about 3 Black-capped Vireo, but didn't persue seeing any of them. Heard about 4 minimum Yellow-throated Warbler singing, and watched one young being fed at the main big pond. Heard 5 territorial Acadian Flycatcher. But only one Eastern Wood-Pewee, only a few Summer Tanager, only a couple Ash-throated Flycatcher, bigger flying insects are still way down.

Singing Black-n-white Warblers still fairly numerous, a few singing and several begging young Louisiana Waterthrush, and still a number of Gnatcatchers. The usual soundtrack of Carolina and Canyon Wren, Indigo Bunting, White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireo, played throughout. Some texana Scrub-Jay, heard Rufous-crowned Sparrow, heard a few and saw one Hutton's Vireo, lots of Titmouse and Chickadee (Black-crested and Carolina).

Since it was coolish and overcast there was no reptile and little insect activity. In butterflies we saw a few Spicebush Swallowtail, one Red-spotted Purple, one Little Wood Satyr, an odd Amblyscrites Roadside-Skipper (ph.), plus a few of the common things like Sleepy Orange, Pipevine Swallowtail, a Queen, etc. In odes there was a Prince Baskettail, Aztec and Springwater Dancer.

Finally, in the bird-of-the-day-always-gets-away category, we heard a singing Worm-eating Warbler but couldn't get to where it was, much less see it. Chipping Sparrow sings quite a bit there, as in our yard, and they do vary, but there are limits. The Worme is slightly faster, thinner, more metallic, and sounds like a warbler, or insect, more than a sparrow. The individual notes of the trill are not so thick, full, rich and round as in a Chipping Sparrow, so thinner and more insect-like. I was certain that is what it was whilst we were hearing it, Kathy agreed, not a Chippy. We hear them all the time. This was so obviously different. Later checking the song at Xeno-Canto proved it a Worm-eating Warbler to my satisfaction. Used to hear them a lot when we lived in Jersey. I called Worme first time it sang.

May 28 ~ Another 73dF low, and humid, but not supposed to be as stiffling as yesterday. A front is on the way, allegedly, and rain is advertised this afternoon or evening, and then for much of the next week. Even if they are wrong most of the time, we should still get some. We need it badly. It is dry out there. Last week I bought a Rainbird sprinkler, which I know you won't believe this, but it made it rain. That little two-thirds of an inch last weekend? Bought the sprinkler Friday. Boom! Rained Sat. and Sunday. It was a Rainbird. Did not know they worked like that. Didn't even have to hook the dang thing up. Just took it out of the box, put it out in the grass, and in a little while it started raining.

As far as migration goes here, it is all but over. I might hear the big girl warming up. There should still be a flycatcher or two. I have not seen a Willow or Alder yet, again. A late warbler is possible, but chances are fading fast. Nearing time to turn out the lights, the spring party is about over. Fortunately we have a great assortment of nesting species locally, which are at peak activity generally through June, and a month or two longer than that if we get rains.

It was about 90 on the shady porch and oppressively humid, until about 5:30 an outflow boundry cooled us down to 75 by 6 p.m. The rain seems all north of the county line and town so far, but it seems some areas 15 or so air mi. NW got around 4 INCHES. We got cooled off. I kept checking as it approached, sometimes outflows can have birds on them. One check had a singing Orchard Oriole troll through the yard. Fine by me. Can hear an Indigo Bunting singing out there across draw just to north. Ended up with just a trace, the cells split around Utopia as so often happens. Perhaps it is something about the topography, but the upper Sabinal River drainage gets missed in many a rain event that hits everywhere around us.

May 27 ~ A not very low of 73dF here, and humid. Only four months to go. No migrants here in yard, or along 360 best I could tell. Couple singing Indigo Bunting down the road a bit now. On UvCo 354 the Orchard Oriole pair continues, as does one singing male Dickcissel, which must be mated with nest. A few Red-winged Blackbird nest far out in the pasture in the Musk Thistle patches. At the mesquite patch a half mile down the road on left you can hear the usual Bell's Vireo and Yellow-breasted Chat, both of which nest there. There were at least one pair of Common Grackle, likely nesters, and a Hutton's Vireo at the park. So with the Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, and White-eyed in yard, 5 species of vireo today. Could have walked a mile and heard a Black-capped. Too hot. Was 90dF on the shady porch, heat indices of 105+ reported.

Four local FOY odes were seen, a male Widow Skimmer at the park, a Black Setwing at the 360 crossing, a Swift Setwing in the yard, and a Smoky Rubyspot among a dozen American at 360 xing. Turned on the sprinkler in heat of afternoon and a bunch of hummers took baths. A male and two female Great-tailed Grackle were by a corral on W. 360, I wouldn't be surprised if these are the same ones I saw at the Waresville pond at golf course. I heard my FOY Cicada today, right across from our gate. Summer is a comin'.

Texas Spiny Lizard
Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus olivaceous).

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 26 ~ Town run day, trying to be ahead of a big weekend locally. The first rodeo of the summer is this Sunday I think, so lots of visitors besides just the usual Memorial Day weekend flood. We will mostly try to hide out from it all. Unlike the forecast it was drizzly all morning, surely over a tenth of an inch fell. Low was only 73dF, high about 90, summer is here.

The park has a new deal I don't know the full extent of, but which seems to eliminate birders stopping in for a quick check as had been generally possible. They want $10 per person to enter now if you are not a local resident. A quick bird check seems to not be a reason to not pay from what I gather so far. It has been overun lately with folks from neighbor towns, essentially making it un-usable to the locals for whom it primarily exists.

Only migrant I saw today was right at the junction of Hwy. 187 and UvCo 360 in a dead snag, in the drizzle, a Mississippi Kite! They always make my day, even if it is just one and it is not even flying. What a cool bird. I looked around a bit in nearby trees but did not see any others. Only takes one good bird to make your day anyway. Later afternoon the Red-eyed Vireo was singing out there, so still around. Imm. Cooper's Hawk keeps diving through yard, missing.

May 25 ~ Still cool and dry in the a.m., about 53dF for a low, but it got hot, 89dF on the cool shady front porch, worse in the sun. Thursday so mostly stuck at desk. Ring King at river early morning. One of the pair of Great Crested Flycs that nest adjacent spent a couple hours around the pecans calling and singing, in between bug-slaying. The Ash-throats that took the gate bluebird box never showed, though are there. Ash-throats prolly know that big bright one can kick their rumps. Saw my FOY Stenelytrana gigas Cerambycid beetle, a pepsis wasp mimic. Grabbed the net but it was too high and disappeared.

May 24 ~ The cool air behind the front got here with an incredible low of 49dF this morning. Likely the last of that until September. And it was awesome. Dry too. Heard a Yellow Warbler in the a.m., and something else I wasn't sure of and couldn't find to see. Yellow-billed Cuckoo around yard lots again today, close, and is likely one of the pair that nests adjacent. An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (lep) was nice. Heard a couple Ring King at river. The adult male Cooper's Hawk got something, maybe a Mourning Dove.

May 23 ~ Overcast and muggy ahead of approaching cold front, the rain missed us though. By afternoon stiff northerlies at 15-20 for a while and clear. Ring King, Scott's, Orchard (2), and Hooded Orioles, Indigo and Painted Buntings, the usual gang. In a fit of bravery I moved and cleaned a nest box the Red Wasps had again taken over. Must have been a dozen of them. Ringtail was out back eating sunflowers in afternoon, it is wounded and has a bad right front leg. Maybe from the fight I heard it in, with another. Saw my FOY fledgling Lark Sparrow being fed. Two Barn Owl after dark. Another FOY this evening was a calling Katydid. A serious sign of summer.

May 22 ~ Nice to be back at the desk working, my feet and legs need a break after yesterday's 5 miles or so. Cool morning after the rain yesterday later afternoon, low 60's dF with a light northerly wind on it. At noon it was barely 70dF! A bargain in late May. A second cold front is supposed to pass tomorrow, Tuesday, and keep it cooler for a few days.

Ring King or two over at river early in morning. One lone Cedar Waxwing was in the big Hackberry. Can't help but wonder if it is one that has been here in prior winters, and checking for crop (the green berries are showing well now). Two warblers were in the yard, a singing Black-and-white up the slope in the big live-oaks out back, which I was too busy to look for to age, likely an unmated imm. male is my guess. Then later a singing Yellow was in the pecans out front. The rest was the regular gang of distractions. The male Scott's Oriole hitting the hummer feeders is great, an immature male Hooded is doing so as well. Not seeing any adult male Ruby-throated Hummers now. They did their 6 weeks, and have gone north for another round of breeding where peak flower bloom is going.

The highlight of the day was about 5:45 p.m. when I heard a BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO sing or call, whatever you call it. The coo-coo-coo-coo Least Bittern type vocalization. It was just over the north fence between it and the draw where thick, and no easy way to go after it. So I just listened to a few rounds of call and basked in the pleasure. After dark a Barn Owl or two called.

May 21 ~ Back to Lost Maples early for another try, with Chuck and Rhonda Gay from Houston. Perfectly dodged the rain and we had a great walk. Did Can Creek to the ponds, the top of the bluff above pond, and then the mile of the canyon past the ponds to the headwater spring. Rhonda found the best bird, a male VARIED BUNTING, the first I have heard of locally this year, and I would call it less than annual here.

So with the Lazuli I saw yesterday, add the several each of Painted and Indigo we saw, plus the Varied, and it was a Bunting Slam in the last two days at LM. The place is great. We came across three or four begging juvenile Golden-cheeked Warblers we got to watch parents feed. One group had male, female, and 1 juvenile. In fact all only had one juvenile. We also saw Black-and-white Warbler feeding a begging juvenile. One. The Louisiana Waterthrushes I saw feeding young last Monday, each had one juvenile. So to me, clutch sizes seem small this year.

Bug count seems low too. Hardly any Ash-throated Flycatcher this year (missed it again), only a very few Summer Tanager, both eat bigger end bugs. Warblers eat smaller end. All bugs remain down since the drought, despite this being our third year of recovery. Speaking of misses no Scott's Oriole or White-tipped Dove today. Should mention Chuck and Rhonda saw a Zone-tailed Hawk up the East Trail near Monkey Rock yesterday. I had a quick look at a Broad-winged Hawk today, back above the headwater spring up Can Creek. We saw a couple of the Millipedes that are dark brownish-black with narrow red segment-join bands, one was over 4".

We had great views of a few Acadian Flycatcher, and Common Raven with a couple young in a nest in a Sycamore. I think it was a stolen hawk nest. The Red-tailed Hawk (Fuertes') nest has at least one young. Some great fun was had up on top of the bluffs above the pond, where the Black-capped Vireos are most numerous. We saw a few and heard more of them. Eventually great looks were had at multiple males, and I saw an imm. male too. A Black-throated Sparrow was singing, and could well be breeding up there. These are very small and dark Black-throated Sparrows. Rufous-crowned, Field, Lark, and Chipping were all up there too. Pretty good for breeding sparrows.

Once you get up to the 'top of the plateau' above the pond (more easily said than done) you are roughly at a nose-bleeding 2250' altitude. Right after the bench if you walk out to the edge of the cliff you look down on the main pond, and there are vireo territories right below you. The little buggers are still hard as heck to see, but with some time, good views can be obtained. This is where Rhonda spotted the Varied Bunting in the top of a juniper downslope just a little bit. You would not have seen it from the pond trail way below, unless perhaps scoping the junipers. She also spotted a Wilson's Warbler, which was another 1st spring male.

Along the second smaller pond I flushed and heard a Mourning Warbler but we just saw movement as it skulked away. We heard a Common Yellowthroat out in the cattails of the second pond, and they said they had one yesterday at the main bigger pond. There was a Canyon Wren going in holes right above the Red-tail nest with something in its beak. Probably a pretty safe place there?

I checked the park on the way home but saw no migrants. There was a juvenile Green and 2 Ringed Kingfisher there. Just as I got home after 2 p.m. it started sprinkling again. They say we are in for some rain overnight. About 6 p.m. I have a Cuckoo out the office window as I type these notes. Was a bit under a half-inch total for rain over the day. Probably two-thirds of an inch total event.

May 20 ~ Was going to do Lost Maples but got rained out quickly. Had a brief glimpse of a male Lazuli Bunting, the only one I have seen this year. Also heard an Olive Sparrow, but didn't want to get back in the canyons with lightning strikes nearish. Didn't see anything at Utopia Park in a.m., but later about 2 p.m. I saw juvenile Green Kingfisher there. At a private spot on river there was a female Common Yellowthroat, and later in yard a Yellow Warbler sang. Had some brief pea hail in afternoon, but most of the rain so far missed us, about a quarter-inch here at the casita, just a leaf-washer.

~ ~ ~ archive copy of spring header ~ ~ ~

(prior updates: May 12, 5, April 28, 21, 14, 7, March 31, 24, 17, 10, 3)

NEWS FLASH! Some recent news highlights, the short version.

Spring is roaring past! It could be 90 or 55dF any given day. Be prepared. Average daily temp spread is running about 70-90dF now. The bulk of bird migration is past us, but there are usually some sweet goodies at the, er, tail-end of it. It is good and green, lots of flowers and butterflies are out.

Spring is that exciting time of year when every day can have a local FOS - first of season - report. I love watching spring unfurl. Following are my local FOS (first of season) arrival or passage dates. An (e.e.) behind the name means it is my "EARLIEST EVER" spring arrival date in 14 springs of recording that data locally. We expect a few (e.e.) in any given year. This year that frequency is off the charts. Of the 37 species listed below Jan. to April 13, FOURTEEN were the earliest ever I have recorded them. Update: fifteen of 42 sps. as of April 21 are (e.e.), plus two ties.

May 20 - Lazuli Bunting
May 19 - female Mourning Warbler
May 19 - Eastern Kingbird
May 16 - Mississippi Kite
May 12 - Catbird
May 7 - Mourning Warbler
May 4 - Rose-breasted Grosbeak
May 2 - female Common Yellowthroat
May 1 - female Indigo Bunting
April 30 - Yellow Warbler
April 30 - Olive-sided Flycatcher
April 30 - female Blue Grosbeak
April 28 - Least Flycatcher
April 28 - Swainson's Thrush
April 28 - American Redstart (others - 2 males!)
April 28 - Baltimore Oriole
April 28 - Orchard Oriole
April 27 - female Hooded Oriole
April 27 - Mourning and-or MacGillivray's Warbler
April 25 - female Painted Bunting
April 23 - Acadian Flycatcher
April 23 - Indigo Bunting
April 21 - Common Nighthawk
April 21 - Bullock's Oriole
April 19 - Wilson's Warbler
April 19 - Dickcissel (e.e.)
April 16 - Eastern Wood-Pewee
April 16 - Painted Bunting
April 16 - Blue Grosbeak
April 15 - Yellow-breasted Chat
April 14 - Chimney Swift
April 14 - Northern Waterthrush
April 13 - Yellow-billed Cuckoo (e.e.)
April 11 - Great Crested Flycatcher (e.e.)
April 8 - Red-eyed Vireo (e.e.)
April 7 - Chuck-wills-widow
April 4 - Ruby-throated Hummingbird
April 3 - female Summer Tanager
April 3 - Short-tailed Hawk (2! at Lost Maples)
April 3 - Broad-winged Hawk (e.e.)
April 3 - Louisiana Waterthrush
April 3 - Nashville Warbler
April 2 - Black-capped Vireo
April 2 - Bronzed Cowbird
April 2 - Clay-colored Sparrow
March 31 - Brown-crested Flycatcher (e.e.)
March 28 - Firefly (e.e.)
March 26 - Golden-cheeked Warbler (migrant off territory)
March 24 - Bell's Vireo (e.e.)
March 24 - Summer Tanager (e.e.)
March 21 - Monarch (butterfly)
March 18 - Great-tailed Grackle (ties e.e.)
March 16 - Yellow-throated Vireo (ties e.e.)
March 15 - Cave Swallow
March 11 - Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
March 3 - Northern Rough-winged Swallow and Wood Duck
March 2 - Yellow-throated Warbler
March 1 - Ash-throated Flycatcher (e.e.)
Feb. 28 - Black-chinned Hummingbird
Feb. 26 - Common Yellowthroat (e.e.), Purple Martin and Blue-headed Vireo (e.e.)
Feb. 25 - Sandhill Crane
Feb. 24 - Barn Swallow and Vermilion Flycatcher (e.e.)
Feb. 12 - White-eyed Vireo (e.e.)
Jan. 31 - Turkey Vulture (3)
Jan. 14 - White-fronted Goose (e.e.)

A couple rare things have been detected recently. While guiding some fine folks at Lost Maples SNA April 3 I found TWO SHORT-TAILED HAWKS! We had great views over the pond area. One was photo'd on April 5. Bob Behrstock had another one over Neals Lodge parking lot in Concan April 16. Tropical Parula is being reported (as annual) at Concan, as well.

A Black-necked Stilt called a few times northbound in the dark Mar. 25, over our yard. An adult Goshawk circled and climbed on a thermal over our place on Mar. 27. It was watched in scope! A Lark Bunting was in the yard on Mar. 28. A pair of Broad-winged Hawk at Lost Maples (ponds area) are likely the ones that nested the last couple years. A Worm-eating Warbler was listed on e-bird for Lost Maples. A Gray Hawk was also reported there on e-bird in mid-April. A Least Grebe was at the Uvalde Nat. Fish Hatchery April 29, on NW-most pond.

Of expected but scarcer or local things around, there are the usual: Zone-tailed Hawk, Canyon Towhee and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, a few Long-billed Thrashers, Ringed and Green Kingfisher. Some few Audubon's Oriole are around, like Bushtit, you could see one anywhere anytime, or nowhere at no time. It's birding!%^*@%! Again some White-tipped Dove and Olive Sparrow have been at Lost Maples, and around Utopia, the new normal.

A few chiggers are out, bug spray on pantlegs usually keeps them off. If it is only gonna be one or two, why bother? Benadryl anti-itch cream is however a must-have item here.

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~ end spring header archive copy ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 19 ~ Low of 74dF isn't very low, kinda summery. Rain has been much-advertised, and is much needed, it has been a long dry spell now with very little, some grasses are brown. Normally we get about 3" per month, and have not had an inch in 5 weeks or so. Due to the porus substrate, everything here is geared to the constant regular replenishing rains and when it doesn't happen it is amazing how quickly it dries up. If we get a few-inch event as often happens in late May or June, everything will explode again.

Hear the Red-eyed Vireo out there singing, I wonder if it is trolling, or mated? Have not had one nest in earshot yet. Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo are out there as usual. Scott's Oriole hitting the hummer feeder first thing early. He's hooked. The rest was the usual dull stuff like Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Cardinal, Summer Tanager, Vermilion Flycatchers tending nestlings, Chat, hear an Indigo Bunting singing across and down the road.

A flock of 8 first-spring Common Raven was interesting. Likely non-breeders still, and so flocked at a time of year when breeders are not. Here, last year's young appear shot full of holes in their first spring. They are in heavy molt with holes everywhere, wings, tail, lots of missing feathers. In good light they will also be distinctly browner due to nearly a year of feather wear. In direct comparison, they can also still appear smaller than an adult. Adults molt after breeding in fall and are in generally very good plumage condition in breeding season.

Town run so a peek at the park for migrants, which was not disappointing. On the way just east of the 360 river crossing on the pasture fenceline was my FOS Eastern Kingbird. Snagged one by the skin of my snagletooth this spring. At Utopia Park there was Blue Jay, Yellow-throated Warbler feeding young, Common Grackle, a begging young Green Kingfisher with an ad. fem., and a Ringed Kingfisher. One 1st spring male Wilson's Warbler was bested by TWO female Mourning Warbler. Outstanding close views and at one point I had them both in the same binocular field. On the way back on E. 360 just past the cattle guard and a quarter mile south of our casita was another Mourning Warbler, which was also a female. Three Mourning Warbler is a good day. I think that makes about 6 so far this spring, plus the indeterminate individual.

Also at UP saw a first spring Black-n-white Warbler, which seemed like the same one seen last Friday. Perhaps it is an unmated female summering? About 2 p.m. there were two female Yellow Warbler bathing in our bath together! Five species of warbler is good for the date, only Yellow-throated surely a breeder. It appears the Orchard Orioles are again nesting on 354, singing male was taking food into a dense hackberry, probably feeding an incubating female. At a mud puddle in town I saw a Cassin's Sparrow (!) plus a pair of Blue Jays with 3 just-fledged young. Weird combo of birds there...

May 18 ~ More of same, still overcast and muggy, low about 70dF, summer is working its way here. A few spits of precip overnight, a tr of a trace. Had ad. ma. Scott's, imm. ma. Hooded, and a couple Orchard Oriole today. Heard a Least Flycatcher out on the road out front. Spotted the Vermilion Flycatcher nest from the porch so set the scope up on it. It is in a clump of ball moss in a pecan just over the fence in the corral. Sure great having them feeding all day in the yard, not to mention the male's flight song display, which you hear even at night in the dark. At 6 p.m. I saw my FOY Eyed Elatarid, the big click beetle with the false eye spots on the thorax. After dark heard a Barn Owl.

May 17 ~ Got warm, almost 90dF in the afternoon, mostly cloudy and humid. Two male Indigo Bunting were trolling the river habitat corridor across the road in the morning, one was back in the afternoon. Two Orchard Oriole were out there as well, one singing, looked like a prospecting pair. The pair of Blue Grosbeaks is prospecting the hood for a nesting spot too. One good warbler flight note got away. Saw three juvenile Titmouse being attended by adults, I think from the box on the north fence. At dusk again had a super close flyby from a Chuck-wills-widow whilst I was on the driveway. Two Common Grackle (male) flew over just before dusk.

May 16 ~ Overcast and humid, threatened to rain but never did. About 1:30 p.m. a group of at least 6 Mississippi Kites went over. My FOS. Might have been 8 birds. Did not otherwise detect any migrants. Heard the Ringed King over at the river, and after dark a Barn Owl called. Male Scott's Oriole using the hummer feeders regularly now, I think we have one hooked.

May 15 ~ Overcast day, not a low low, but not a high high. Guided Stan Blackstone for a walk at Lost Maples. We had a great time and saw or heard most of the usual suspects. We had great looks at a fledged (unattended) juvenile Golden-cheeked Warbler besides a nice male, and heard a good number sing. Also watched a couple just fledged Louisiana Waterthrush being fed. Still numbers of Black-and-white Warbler, heard a couple Yellow-throated Warbler sing. Migrant warblers were 2 first-spring Wilson's and a first-spring male Common Yellowthroat. Heard White-tipped Dove, Olive Sparrow, plus Scott's and Audubon's Orioles sang. Had Hutton's, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, and White-eyed Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Painted Bunting, a couple Orchard Oriole, no hawks but Red-tailed.

I found remains (partial pile of feathers) of a warbler, no body, but some rectrices (tail feathers). Update: Have researched the pattern of white on the feathers of interest (Curson, Quinn, and Beadle, 1994, New World Warblers) and it was a Golden-cheeked Warbler.

On the way back just before quitting we checked Utopia Park about 1 p.m., there was a first-spring male Mourning Warbler on the island. It had no black in the face whatsoever, and the black breast bib at lower edge of gray hood was much reduced and not fully formed. It gave just one snippet of song. Then about 4:30 p.m. there was a first-spring male American Redstart at our bird bath. My second one this spring, and fourth I know of locally this spring, plus another or two were in e-bird locally methinks. But no Tennessee so far, again. Interesting to note I saw five migrant warblers today, and ALL were first-spring males. They migrate later than adults and so apparently that seems to be where we are now in migration.

May 14 ~ Low about 65dF, will be bird-guiding tomorrow so did yard and house stuff today. Was a bit windy much of the day anyway. Got up to 90dF at 4 p.m. No migrants detected. But the male Scott's Oriole came into the office window hummer feeder! So he knows it! Hope he makes that a habit. I was at computer (where I can't see that feeder) and it landed on the garden fence about 2' from the window and 6' from me.

So yesterday it seems the Eastern Bluebirds fledged out of the gate nest box. I see a pair of Ash-throated Flycatcher have taken over the box already today! Soon as they were gone. I finally caught the family together and it was 4 young fledged! Awesome. But the dang Ash-throats. Last year the bluebirds raised 3 sets of 3 out of that box. Now it is off limits. Hope they take one of the other boxes around yard and stick for their next sets.

May 13 ~ The low of 50dF felt outstanding. Dawn chorus is a mild roar from 5:45 to 6:45 or so. It is still going after that, but not as intensely. Still good, but not as overwhelming. I heard a Wilson's Warbler sing over in the draw. Taped a little and the extra boost of the mic allowed me to hear an Eastern Wood-Pewee singing over at the river. We went to Lost Maples for an early walk in the cool. Did a couple miles of the East Trail (to the steep climb part) and back.

We had incredible views of a perched in the sun preening and singing male Golden-cheeked Warbler. Which sang an odd song variant. Saw a few and heard a bunch. Heard one Black-capped Vireo I didn't go after in the wash not far past the end of the Maples Trail, likely an unmated immature male. We heard at least 3 White-tipped Dove. Probably 5 Acadian Flycatcher, a couple Louisiana Waterthrush. A couple migrant warbler flight notes got away, one was soemthing good. One Nashville sung, it and a Least Flycatcher were the only ID'd migrants.

The rest was the expected, texana Scrub-Jay, Canyon Wrens, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed, and White-eyed Vireos, Black-n-white Warblers, lots of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting, Zone-tailed Hawk, and my personal record orangeist throated ever, Yellow-throated Warbler.

I mention on the warblers photo page about how these Yellow-throated Warblers can have some orange in the throat. One pic even suggests a hint of it. This bird we had at point blank in full sun, and the anterior half of the yellow throat-breast patch was orange as an orange. The whole throat was orange, and only the upper breast was the standard yellow patch. It was nearly Blackburnian orange (seen duller burns). Clearly distinct from the remainder of yellow, clearly bicolored. Not all show this. Could it be only old ones? It is also ephemeral. Only at peak spring do you see it. Is it possibly a brief stage in the wear of the feathers? It coincides with breeding season. I have seen it on a number of birds here, and never on any other Yellow-throated Warblers east of the Edwards Plateau (which is most of their range - maybe 1% are way out west here on the Edw. Plt.). Nor have I seen it mentioned in any literature. These are different Yellow-throated Warblers than the rest, in song, plumage, and habits, being a strict Ball Moss specialist here.

After 4 miles total and about 4.5 hours, and no Scott's Oriole, we get home and one sings from the pecan, and later the live-oaks upslope out back. Sure would be great if he figured out the feeders. Heard Barn Owl after dark, couple Chucks nearby doing vocal battle is great. The firefly show is still pretty good but past peak, and way way early for that. The numbers are clearly declining now. They were out of the gate weeks early, and now are flaming out early.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 12 ~ Northerlies, a dry frontal passage, and a low of 57dF felt great. Heard a Bullock's Oriole sing from the big Mesquites across the road. Weird was a Swainson's Hawk moving south on the northerlies early in the morning. Heard Ring Kings at river. In the afternoon at 4 p.m. a Scott's Oriole sang from the front yard while I was at desk. At dusk I was bringing in feeders and a Chuck-wills-widow flew right over me whilst on the patio, low and close.

Noonish run to town for stuff. The northerlies blow out the UvCo 354 pecan patch. The Chimney Swifts over town are sure nice. The park had Ringed and Green Kingfisher, I watched the male Green catch a fish and feed it to the female. Great was my FOS Catbird finally, in the Mulberries of course. Actually for rarity the adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was the best bird I saw. A first-spring female Black-and-white Warbler was good, and likely a far-north nester at the tardy end of passage. Young Carolina Chickadee and Wren were begging, as were juv. Yellow-throated Warbler and White-eyed Vireo. Heard an Eastern Wood-Pewee sing, Blue Jay, and Barred Owl.

I almost hit a Green Kingfisher today. On the way to town just down the road from the house as I drove over the bridge at the river crossing, one shot over the hood! Between the windsheild and the grill guard. It was going upriver and must have pulled up to go over the bridge and we met at the exact same time. It could not have been three feet from the windsheild.

May 11 ~ Still overcast with low-end rain chances, good birding weather, if you can get away from the desk. The ad. White-crowned Sparrow is still here. Best was another Rose-breasted Grosbeak, in the big pecan right off the front porch. I miss them some springs. A Bell's Vireo sang much of the day in the big Mesquites, but also came into yard pecans. A pair of Cuckoos interacting may be our near-yard breeders back. The rest was the regular gang.

One Eastern Bluebird was box-tapping, so I suspect the young will fledge tomorrow. The male was flying up to the box with food, and just tapping it, and turning around flying away with the food item. A technique they use to inspire fledging. Once the Mockingbird came to close and the bluebird pair launched a co-ordinated attack diving from 20' away, that placed both their beaks in the Mockers upper tail coverts at the same exact time. The Mocker disappeared quickly.

May 10 ~ More drizzle, mist, the occasional spitting and threat of rain, and heard a few migrants go through yard. Baltimore Oriole and Yellow Warbler seem the two most likely lately. Had both, and heard an Orchard Oriole. What is likely the same White-crowned Sparrow as a couple days ago is still here on the millet seed. One first spring male Wilson's Warbler was around briefly. An immature Cooper's Hawk dove through yard and is probably a fresh local fledge.

May 9 ~ Some drizzle and mist, and a few migrants, wish I could get out birding. Tuesday to Thursday it is not an option, it has to show up in the yard those days, and best if outside office windows or I will likely miss it. Saw a couple Yellow Warblers move through, one Baltimore Oriole, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Saw my FOS first-spring male Painted Bunting, one of the super-lime types. Some 1st springs are the same green as the female but sing. Others are a brighter, limer, and distinctly more iridescent green. This one had no salmon on underparts whatsoever, in fact there may have been a bluish patch on underparts, which I can't explain. Will be trying to photo. The Ring Kings were over at river. Someone said they saw three of them together which could well mean there are fledged young out of nest already.

May 8 ~ Low 60's to low 70's dF for a temp spread, mostly cloudy, a few spritzes and mist. Heard a warbler zeet but didn't see it. In afternoon was a singing Bell's Vireo in yard, which I saw again at 7 p.m., whence there was also a singing Yellow-throated Vireo, and singing Baltimore Oriole. The rest was the regular coots. Painted Bunting, Great Crested, Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycatcher, Blue Grosbeak, White-eyed Vireo, Chat, Summer Tanager, Vermilion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Lark Sparrow, Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Caro Chickadee and Black-crested Titmouse, Cardinal, Eastern Phoebe, Ground-Dove, and both Cowbird sps., Ruby-throated and Black-chinned Hummingbird.

A note on the hummers. There are at least 500 Black-chins here now, with a humongous wave of freshly fledged juveniles draining feeders at lightspeed. Can't wait until they go away. In Ruby-throated there are still some males around. But, the one guarding the front porch feeder for the last 3+ weeks seems to have left as that feeder has gone communal. It was guarded early April to early May by one male Ruby-throated. Surely a bird remaining a month like that is mating here. I see a very few female Rubies, but have not had time to watch the feeders, can barely keep up keeping them with fluid. I think the Rubies get here, breed, and first the males and then the females, leave and go north chasing summer and breed somewhere else in the summer.

May 7 ~ About 52dF this a.m. felt great. No migrants around yard. An Indigo Bunting was singing along the road out front, prolly same one as yest' afternoon heard from porch. We checked the park, no migrants there, but saw the Green Kingfisher. Some fisherman asked about the big crested bird with a bill like a loon, perched high on a cypress snag, making lots of noise, gray above with rufous below. So the Ring King was there before we were. A pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck were upriver of the island. Grabbed some of those delish wild scallions. Saw another begging Yellow-throated Warbler out of the nest being fed.

Over at the 354 pecans were a Yellow Warbler singing, and a first spring male Baltimore Oriole. The rest is probably breeding there. A trio of Orchard Oriole, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, Painted Bunting, and a few Dickcissel nesting there as often, Blue Grosbeak. No Cuckoo or Great Crested Flyc., both of which usually nest there.

Then we checked a private property on the river I have permission to access. Another big worn pale Monarch, #16 for the spring was nice. One Northern Waterthrush and one FOS male Mourning Warbler were good. An Indigo Bunting might be nesting in the Frostweed, Yellow-throateds: Vireo and Warbler, were singing. Best was finding what looks to be a very recently if not currently active Ringed Kingfisher nest hole. The bird seemingly exploded out of a real high cut bank, in which I then found a nice big fresh beautiful RingKing hole. I have seen a couple of their holes along the river (and one on Little Creek), and I have seen begging young chasing adults up and down the river. So surely they are nesting. But if active, the hole needs to be photographed with a bird at it, which then might represent the first proven nest on the Edwards Plateau.

Late afternoon about 4:45 the Ringtail came out and was eating sunflower seeds. I mighta got some better pics, just through the screen, with no window fuzzin' it up. What an amazing beautiful animal. The high temp on front porch was lowest 80's dF.

May 6 ~ Another chilly morning, 47dF on front porch, and about 45dF at Lost Maples this morning. Saw the usual stuff there. Golden-cheeked Warbler, Black-capped Vireo, Louisiana Waterthrush, Acadian Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, texana Scrub-Jay, Ash-throated Flycatcher, etc. For me best bird was a quick glimpse of a male American Redstart, my only one this spring so far, but at least the third I know of. Odd was no White-tipped Dove, not even one heard, after four last week. Did hear one and see another Olive Sparrow though. A couple Nashville Warbler were the only other migrant warblers I saw. I heard a good one that got away though, a super high thin series song that I thought sounded like a Bay-breasted. The other best bird was a Texas Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus. olivaceous)(ph.).

At Utopia Park there was a male Common Yellowthroat, which may well have been yesterday's bird again. Heard Ringed and Green Kingfisher. An Olive-sided Flycatcher was at the 354 pecan patch. First year male Orchard Oriole was at Waresville Cemetery. At the pond on the golf course there by the cemetery are a pair of Great-tailed Grackle which appear to be nesting in the cattails, a first for the site that I know of. Late in afternoon at house was a singing Indigo Bunting over at the draw adjacent, a Least Flycatcher, and a male Yellow Warbler in the pecans.


This is the answer to last week's photo quiz.
Taken through a window and a screen from the office.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

May 5 ~ Holy cow the cold air behind the front got here and it was 46dF this morning. And dry. I am gonna miss this all too soon. There was a first-spring male Orchard Oriole out front, heard an Audubon's Oriole out back up in the live-oaks upslope, and a Least Flyc. by the gate. Still Blue-gray Gnatcats heading north through yard too. Amazing was the Ringtail out in the daylight scavenging sunflower seeds again at 10:40 a.m. Kathy saw this last Saturday. This time we got some pix. Unbelieveable. What an animal. It was not 20' out the office window, at times 15' or less!

Town run for errands and supplies. At the 354 pecans there was a singing male Yellow Warbler, and an Empidonax flycatcher that was likely an Alder. But can't say for certain. It got away. One Clay-colored Sparrow there. At a nest I was watching the Barn Swallows have fledged some time in the last week. At the park there were two Swainson's Thrush, a male Common Yellowthroat, a Northern Waterthrush, a Green Kingfisher, and fledgling Carolinas: Chickadee and Wren. One warbler got away. After dark, and the update was posted, about 10:30 p.m., I heard a Golden-Plover call is it flew overhead northbound.

May 4 ~ About 56dF for a low, the northerlies blew all night. Another cooler drier nice spring day. Another Least Flycatcher, a couple Dickcissel, an Orchard Oriole or two, another oriole sounded Balitmore (was Northern type), and had a Hooded too. Best was a heard only Rose-breasted Grosbeak, which I do not get every year. So much leafage now they can be hard to find. The sneakers on gym floor call is distinctive to my ear. Pale worn migrant Monarch #15 this spring in afternoon. Canyon Towhee was singing around the yard. It is in and out. Here one day, not the next.

The male Scissor-tail was in the big pecan for a while, calling. Way up top 40' off the ground in a bare snag. This recently arrived Mocker flies up from 150' away, and perches a few feet from it. It appears to size it up... well yer tail is kinda long, but the peach is kinda purty... And henceforth commenced to unleash upon it all manner of noise. After a minute the Scissor moved a few feet away to another snag. Guess who jumps over to be near and pour forth with everything but the kitchen sink. It was the Pepe LePew of Mockers... It gave it all it had, every imitation spot-on perfect, flawless as the Petersen record: Curve-billed Thrasher, Green Jay, Western & Couch's Kingbird, Long-billed Thrasher, Kiskadee, Cactus Wren, Bell's Vireo, Chat, and probably a few things I wished I knew. It did not do a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. It was rapid-fire like a machine gun on a loop, it went on for minutes without any apparent gasp for breath by the Mocker. Unimpressed, or unable to withstand the audio assault any longer, the Scissor left. It was clearly audio assault in the first degree.

May 3 ~ A bit of movement this morning, wish I could go bird. One Least Flycatcher in the yard in the morning, two in the afternoon. A few Dickcissel in the a.m., an Orchard Oriole or two, and my FOS Baltimore Oriole finally, a Clay-colored Sparrow was on the patio, a couple Cuckoos went off close by, hope they are our breeder pair. Saw a fledgling Titmouse begging today, and 3 Eastern Phoebe fledged today. A Monarch, #14 this spring, flew by late in afternoon. Had a glimpse of what looked a Zone-tail go over the yard.

May 2 ~ 50dF for a low was nice. One Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a Nashville Warbler went through yard. Still a Red-eyed Vireo singing within earshot. Great Crested Flyc. right out office window while I was working. Had a quick run out and at the old Preston Place was a male Indigo Bunting and a Yellow Warbler. Some singing Dickcissel, singing Orchard Oriole, and a Monarch (#13) was at the 354 pecan patch. UP had 2 Northern Waterthrush, a female Common Yellowthroat, a Green Kingfisher carrying food or fecal sac, and a male Wood Duck. Also a just-fledged Red-shouldered Hawk was begging from an adult.

May 1 ~ OMG it is May! An amazing low of 40dF on the front porch, Kerrville hit 38 briefly! Weewow! A Least Flycatcher was singing early out front. A Yellow and a Nashville Warbler were around briefly, and another warbler flight note got away. A Bullock's Oriole sang and chattered a bit. An Orchard went through too. Saw my FOS female Indigo Bunting. Very neat was at 10:30 p.m. hearing an Orchard Oriole sing, which sounded like it was in flight. The Vermilion Flyc. is going off after dark regularly.

~ ~ ~ April summary ~ ~ ~

Well it was a great month, especially for the color green. We had about 4" of rain here, but totals vary quite a bit very locally. Were you under the big cell or not? Like they say here in Texas, if you don't like the weather, hang around 10 minutes, or go across the street if you can't wait. And so go rainfall totals. Birds, butterflies, and flowers were all most excellent. Late in the month odes picked up, especially down Uvalde way in the brush-country flatlands, where the flatlanders live.

Butterflies were great though not any but the expected. The 60 species seen locally is my record April total. Average is about 44. All four months so far this year we broke my records for number of butterfly species flying. And I think it safe to say we also broke the record for average temperature records those same four months. Everything is connected. A boatload of earliest ever spring migrant bird species recorded this year also adds support to the idea that something major is going on.

Actually let a couple probable ID's get away on top of the 60 absolutely positively certain sps., there were 4 more sps. seen down in the flatlands at Uvalde this month. It is great to see good numbers of Arizona Sister again, multiples daily all month. The Red Admiral migration was yuuuge, many hundreds flying NE over the month (since late March). Lots of Lysides on a few days too (00's). From later March when the first went by, by the end of April it was a dozen worn pale Monarch I had seen passing NEward locally. So they seemed to have a fair showing this year.

Odes were fair, nothing fancy or rare, just the usual expected spring fliers locally. The couple good things of interest were down at Uvalde off the plateau in the brush-country where the season is a couple weeks advanced compared to that up here in the hills. Down there I saw Great Pondhawk, Band-winged Dragonlet, and Thornbush Dasher, only the Dragonlet was seen up here in hills. I saw 12 sps. of damselflies locally (+1 more at Uvalde). I saw 16 sps. of dragonflies locally (+7 more at Uvalde). So it was 28 sps. of odes locally, 36 if counting Uvalde, in April. By accident.

Of course a lot of the excitement for birds in April is recording all the migratory breeding species return dates. Which becomes fascinating over time. This year we saw an abnormally high number of early returns. After an abnormally mild winter, with an abnormally early last freeze date (early January).

The best birds locally this month were hawks. First a pair of Short-tailed Hawks at Lost Maples. Then a Gray Hawk there is actually much rarer, and about the third upper Sabinal drainage report I know of. And it appears the nesting pair of Broad-winged Hawks are back at Lost Maples as well, this will be their third year now here.

April was again generally poor for the more eastern type migrant songbirds, like warblers in particular. Very weak so far, and pullin' teeth for the common stuff again. A Worm-eating Warbler was reported on e-bird at LM, which is less than annual locally. Two male American Redstarts seen in one day here is nearly unheard of, someone must be living right, it wasn't me. I have missed it in spring here, it is not a absolute sure thing.

The birds I have seen fledged young out of the nest of by the end of April are Carolina Chickadee, Mourning Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Chipping Sparrow. Within the first three days of May add Red-shouldered Hawk, Black-crested Titmouse, and Eastern Phoebe. All of which likely had stuff out in April. Ten species.

~ ~ ~ end April summary ~ ~ ~ regular drivel below ~ ~ ~

April 30 ~ Wow, what a day. The front blew all night, with a brief spritzing of rain. Blowing still in the morning, it was under 50 on the front porch here at 7 a.m. With 15 mph winds, a bit chilly. Patrick, Joni and I did Lost Maples. And I mean did it. According to Jonie's watch she made over 21 THOUSAND steps. About a mile and half each (one-way) of both of the main two canyons. Probably a good six miles plus. I usually feel like I saw a quarter of what was there.

We had great views of a foraging female Golden-cheeked Warbler, heard a few males, you just have to put time in on the trails, and it helps to know what to listen for. So you know when to go on high alert. We watched a Black-and-white Warbler feeding a just-fledged juvenile at point blank. We saw a few Nashville Warbler (migrants), and some of the now regular Yellow-throated Warbler. For which another birder mentioned they found a nest. We saw three seperate Chipping Sparrows feeding fledlings.

At the trailhead parking lot there was a male Scott's Oriole and a female Hooded Oriole feeding on the Musk Thistles. A White-tipped Dove came in while we heard a couple more calling, and heard at least one more in another canyon later for at least 4 minimum. Saw my FOS female Blue Grosbeak, along with a male of course. A couple texana Scrub-Jays obliged, a Rufous-crowned Sparrow, but oddly no buntings at feeders.

I heard a snippet of Black-capped Vireo song from uphill of the restroom at the pond (usual area). Above the second pond we enjoyed the every-bit-as-lost as the maples Witch Hazel, and the Canyon Mock-Orange is still in bloom. A few Prarie Larkspur were open, what a beauty, and lots of Scarlet Clematis. Had a quick flyover of a ratty Broad-winged Hawk, methinks a first year bird. Over nearing the end of the Maples Trail I heard an Olive Sparrow tik tik tiking. We heard a good bird that for now will remain unmentioned. There were two FOS Olive-sided Flycatcher seen.

In bugs We saw a bunch of Red-spotted Purple (butterflies), some Spicebush, Two-tailed, and Tiger Swallowtails, a couple Arizona Sister, Southern Broken-Dash, but I was not working for them so things like Duskywings were left un-checked. In Odes only a few obvious ones were noted. Saw Prince and Dot-winged Baskettail, one Springtime Darner, lots of Common Whitetail, a few Aztec Dancer.

Later in the day we made a stop on the Sabinal River at one of my secret spots and watched a Yellow-throated Warbler feeding a just-fledged juvenile. Baby warblers out of the nest before May. Amazing. At about 5:30 p.m. in the yard was my FOS male Yellow Warbler. It was another great day in paradise, which is near Utopia, you know, just down the road a piece from Comfort.

April 29 ~ Went to Uvalde with Patrick and Joni Thevenard. Had to work for it, but had a great day. There was no passage migration evident whatsoever, and Cook's Slough remains eerily quiet. Not a single Bell's Vireo singing in all those acres of mesquite, in two two-mile walkarounds this week. Only heard one Verdin. Did not hear a single Cuckoo today, nor a Myiarchus, where are the Brown-crests? Major weird. Whaddup? Did see a pair of Great Kiskadee which was nice, heard Olive Sparrow sing, saw some Painted Buntings, 3 Black-crowned Night-Herons. Lots of Common Sootywing butterfly flying, none five days ago on Monday.

On the way down at the 2730 stock tanks there were again a few shorebirds. Four Pectoral and at least 3 Baird's Sandpiper, a Spotted and a Solitary Sandpiper, 4 Wilson's Phalarope, and a couple Killdeer. Lots of Dickcissel and a Bullock's Oriole there too. Along a couple roads we had Harris's Hawk, and on Old Sabinal Rd. we had a pair of Canyon Towhee, out in the flatlands brush country, not a canyon in sight. Did not see the Shrikes of last Monday. Mid-morn we went by the secret Lesser Nighthawk spot and had views of the male and incredible, crippling, face-melting looks at the female which is now there too.

After lunch we went to the fish hatchery (U.S. Nat.) and the water was up at most ponds so only a couple shorebirds, a Spotted Sandpiper and a Solitary Sandpiper. Plus the usual Killdeer. There were about 30 Ibis, I checked every one, they were as usual (always for me) all White-faced. A few Wigeon, Gadwall, a couple Shoveler, some Blue-winged Teal were the ducks. Over a dozen Coot, a pair of Common Galinule, and the highlight was a Least Grebe on a pond. We saw it make a couple brief flights and saw the big white wingstripe. Very cool. Out at the gate, again a Couch's Kingbird was amongst all the Westerns. The ad. ma. Orchard Oriole is still singing there and will likely nest in one of those dense trees on either side of gate.

Went out 481 to the Nueces River crossing about 4-5 mi. west of the hatchery. A good Cliff Swallow colony is under the bridge there, but it was heat of the day and otherwise quiet. Except the butterflies puddling along river under and near the bridge. A hundred Snout, a couple dozen Reakirt's Blues, Red Admirals, Lyside and Orange Sulphurs, and Sleepy Orange, it was amazing. So were a couple hundred Snout on a blooming Acacia of some sort there. I found a Dusky-blue Groundstreak dead in the water so we got to see the dorsal side which is normally only in viewable in flight since it sits with closed wings. Absolutely beautiful butterfly.

There was lots of ode activity but I couldn't really work them, only seeing the obvious. As last week there were Thornbush Dashers at the hatchery. A Giant Pondhawk there was also for me an early date. At least one Four-spotted Pennant was flying, and saw a Red-tailed Pennant as well. One Leaftail flyby looked like a Four-striped to me, very green of thorax. Good numbers of Eastern Amberwing, Roseate Skimmer, a few Desert Firetail at the city park in town. There are lots flying now down below 1000' altitude.

At the Memorial Park in town on Hwy. 90 where the Leona River starts, the Sailfin Molly (probably introduced at this site but are the native wild type as in Nueces River drainage and south Texas) seem to be doing well. The males are in great color now. Lots of odes but no migrants in the woods. At Uvalde it was 91dF and humid as physically possible at the hatchery and slough. The porch thermo read 85dF when I got back here. Six degrees, Uvalde to Utopia (900' to 1350') and every one counts when it is hot and humid!

An hour before we got back to Utopia, Kathy saw the Ringtail out back, in the day, about 3 p.m. or shortly after! When we pulled in the driveway, the pair of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher were prospecting in one of the outer pecans, going branch to branch looking for the right one for the nest. They never choose the yard, but a guy can dream, right? What does the grass airstrip have that I don't, besides regular mowing?

mystery eyes

This is a photo quiz for those guys that put up the
ID quiz photos with one obscure mark barely showing.
Something like the bifurcated scutes on the metatarsals.
So for you guys. Take this! Hint for the rest: mammal.
Now what do you wanna bet one of those smart alecs
will e-mail me with the correct ID. I tried to shoot it
with flash but too far so mostly just got some eyeshine.
Probably ID-able though.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

April 28 ~ A not very low of about 68dF. Heard a FOS Baltimore Oriole out in yard early this morning, a couple Dickcissel went through, heard an Orchard Oriole sing, my first locally this year, and a Cuckoo called (Yeller-bill). Kathy spotted a White-crowned Sparrow around, which was another leucophrys, but not the one here on Monday, none were present the last three days. Heard the Canyon Towhee out there early. I had to run to town for errands and on 360 had a half-dozen Clay-colored Sparrow in a flock on the fence.

Met a couple birder friends in town at the park to plan for tomorrow. They had seen a male American Redstart at Lost Maples this morning, at the turnaround on the Maples Trail. After we parted I sent them to Waresville Cemetery to see the Martins. They saw ANOTHER male American Restart there! Holy cow, two in a day locally! The only migrant we saw at the park was a FOS Swainson's Thrush. We heard the Barred Owl, saw Blue Jay, and a couple White-eyed Vireo. In the afternoon at the casita I had my FOS Least Flycatcher. Heard the Ring King again over at river, and heard it this morning too.

April 27 ~ We dipped to 47dF for a low this morning, felt outstanding. But the breezy picked back up fairly soon. About 10 a.m. I heard the first Canyon Towhee in the yard in 6 months or so. It came into garden and was singing all around the yard. Hope it found enough seed to want to stick.

Astounding was a warbler at the bath about 9:30 a.m. or so that was likely a hybrid MacGillivray's x Mourning Warbler. It surely could not be claimed as either, though was obviously one or the other, or both. Male, with just a few feathers of white at rear of where Macs upper eye-crescent would be, and a few more feathers of white at the rear of where the lower crescent would be, and thick like a Mac. Otherwise face was all black with no white. Just a couple small white areas at the rear of where eye-crescents should have been on a MacGillivray's.

Bill was small (Mac), undertail covert projection was short (Mac), tail then longish (Mac), and chip call note was MacGillivray's. So it was mostly a Mac, but with an all black face, except thickish white dots the width of a Mac eye-crescent above and below eye at rear of what would be the eye-crescent areas on a Mac. It was nearly surely a hybrid. Unfortunately my Scan-o-Matic 2000 DNA scanner is on the fritz. It could not be properly recorded as a MacGillivray's or a Mourning. I will have to decide whether it will be Mournivray's or MacGourning Warbler. Or maybe "former Oporornis sps."... I might have some sort of image through the bathroom screen.

Finally saw my first Hooded Oriole of the year, a female, on one of the hummer feeders. Did not see it well enough to age it. Thought I heard a Yellow Warbler distantly again. Ringed Kingfisher called from over at river before dusk. At dusk I thought I heard a distant Paraque vawheeer a couple times. Don't know what else it could have been. Barn Owl after dark. About 140 Firefly.

April 26 ~ Another dry front rolling through, arriving about 9 a.m. just as it was about to get foggy from the gulf flow. Northerlies blew like heck all day at 15-25 gusting higher. Mostly it was the regulars. In butterflies saw both Hackberry and Tawny Emperors. Birds were the residents, no movement with the winds. Which finally laid down just before dark.

I was out on the driveway for that last half hour of light, trying to get a good firefly count (150). A Chuck-wills-widow was calling over across the draw, still a fair bit of light, and a Chuck flies right at me 8' off the ground, pulls up to snag a bite to eat so close I could have caught it with a butterfly net. Full spread eagle pose as it grabbed whatever, 6' away! It spun on a dime and flew back down driveway , over gate, and turned down the road, without signaling. I saw it was a female due to lack of white in tail and barely paler buffy corners. In the next ten or 15 minutes I saw it, the male or both fly across the yard three times. Awesome Chuck show!

April 25 ~ Went to bed early and slept in to 6:30. That was nice. Needed some battery recharge time. Was about 55dF or so early at sunup. Nothing going for migrants through the yard this a.m. I had to get back to the desk and work and catch up before I do this again next weekend. It is migration prime-time, and ya gotta fish when the birds are bitin'! The new bird of the day was a FOS female Painted Bunting. Thought I heard a Yellow Warbler sing distantly.

At dusk a Chuck-wills-widow was moving around the permiter just outside yard calling. It uses a snag in the draw on which the perch spot is too low for me to see from the driveway. It fluttered up and caught moths a half-dozen times though and every time it did it breaks treeline and I can see it in the fading light. At least 125 Firefly in the yard at dusk yesterday and today. Common Nighthawk called "beer, beer", and heard a Barn Owl after dark.

April 24 ~ Left at 7 a.m. with Ted and Leslie for a day of some brush country birding down Uvalde way. It was a cool 43.5dF on the front porch here! Amazing! In areas the flowers along 187 from the escarpment dropoff at Clayton Grade down to Sabinal are either already going great, or will be shortly.

Since it rained recently a few times I was excited to check the FM2730 stock tanks. These are a couple miles west of Sabinal between 127 and 90, on 2730. There may be a million tanks around but we can only see a couple good ones from public roads in the county. We were not disappointed, they had water, and shorebirds!

One American Golden-Plover was best, a couple Stilt Sandpiper were great, about 3 Solitary and 4 Spotted Sandpiper (one of each landed in the road for a while!), 8 Lesser Yellowlegs, a couple Killdeer, a nice female Wilson's Phalarope, one Least and one Semipalmated Sandpiper. Some Blue-winged Teal too. Three times I heard an Upland Sandpiper call from out in the pastures but the grass was too tall to see into. A getting nearly tardy Merlin shot by as well! Dickcissel numbers along the road were in the several dozens, a mild roar. It was bird city.

We worked down Old Sabinal Rd. (aka old 90) and had great looks of a Mockingbird playing pinball, himself the ball, a Harris's Hawk the bumper he was trying to move. The Mocker won eventually. It was his tele pole after all. Literally bouncing off the hawk with its claws, a dozen times. Saw Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrasher shoot across the road, which was lined with singing Dickcissel. A few Bullock's Oriole as usual, and lots of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, but no Cassin's Sparrow yet in the couple good fields they regularly use. A few Loggerhead Shrike were along the road.

We took a walk around Cook's Slough first. It was weirdly quiet, I think the resident nesters are incubating by now in many cases, and they go fairly quiet then. Only heard one distant Kiskadee, no Green Jay. Did hear Olive Sparrow, saw a couple Neotropic Cormorant, 2 Shoveller, and best, had great looks at singing male Painted Bunting. Heard a few. Heard a couple Nashville and an Orange-crowned Warbler but it was weirdly all but dead for migrants. More Dickcissel too.

At the City Memorial park on Hwy. 90 we saw a Green Kingfisher. We saw the male Lesser Nighthawk at the spot just off of Hwy. 90 a hundred yards. Then had lunch and went to the fish hatchery. There were a hundred Black-bellied Whistling-Duck. A few other ducks too, a couple Gadwall, a pair of Ring-necked Duck (lateish), a few Am. Wigeon, a pair of Cinnamon Teal, some Blue-winged Teal, a dozen Coot, three White-faced Ibis. Again another 8-10 Lesser Yellowlegs, a few Spotted and a few Solitary Sandpiper, 2 Wilson's Phalarope, one Long-billed Dowitcher, and some Killdeer. In the trees at the entrance we found a singing male Orchard Oriole (had heard and glimpsed one earlier) and finally a Couch's Kingbird among the Westerns. Scoped two male and a female Bobwhite on a dike. It was an amazing day, loaded with birds, great fun, and company.

Interesting at home in the later afternoon was an adult White-crowned Sparrow, which is a new migrant to show up. It was the more expected pink-billed black-lored leucophrys.

April 23 ~ Up at zero-dark-thirty to go bird guiding. Wow, Cygnus at zenith, Scorpius to the southwest, holy cow. We will soon have the summer humidity issue, so these last good drying northerly blows each spring are much appreciated. Though wind calmed last night at dark, it picked back up by 10 p.m. with still northerly, but lighter, but northerly, and still blowing lightly at dawn. So probably not much migration motion was my thought.

I met some fine folks in town at sunup for some birding, Ted Jarvi and Leslie Hall from Arizona. Chimney Swifts over Main St. at first sun. First we checked the park, nothing moving, a couple Black-bellied Whistling-Duck were on the other side of pond. We headed up to Lost Maples for a hike to the ponds, and maybe a warbler or something. Checked the HQ at opening and a few things there, but was still early and a bit chilly. Kerrville was 44dF this morning! I think at the casita we were 48, methinks it was 45 or so at Lost Maples at 8 a.m., it felt great.

We went to the trailhead parking lot and I threw a cup of seed out at the feeding station (sometimes it is best to take things into your own hands). When you have to get up the trail early, you can't wait for the help to show up with seed. The birds see someone spreading seed at the spot and it is like the bell rings as they see things moving in.

We saw the usual mostly, Blue Grosbeak, Scott's Oriole, and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, texana Scrub-Jay all showed well. As did a White-tipped Dove, of which we saw and heard more of up the ponds trail. Going up the trail to the ponds we saw most of the expected usual like Indigo Bunting, Summer Tanager, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo, Common Raven, at least one Broad-winged Hawk. On the way back down we heard an Olive Sparrow sing just off the trail, just above the first crossing leaving the parking area.

Fewer singing male Yellow-throated Warbler than a couple weeks ago. A couple Nashville, a couple Orange-crowned, and one Wilson's were it for migrant warblers. We saw a couple Black-and-white very well. Saw my FOS Acadian Flycatcher in the woods below the ponds where they always nest. Some heard-only species were an Eastern Wood-Pewee, a couple Louisiana Waterthrush, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Canyon Wren, and Black-capped Vireo. We did not go up to the bluff-top above the pond for them.

We had extended point blank views of a female Golden-cheeked Warbler with a mouthful of green bugs and still hover-gleaning more! Means young are hatched. Later we saw a male as we almost got back to the car. It sung with a buzzy whistled trill I have never heard. It learned something wrong. Otherwise heard a half dozen singing but now much quieter of song since in full nesting mode.

In butterflies I saw a Little Wood Satyr, several Spicebush and a couple Two-tailed Swallowtail, a Red-spotted Purple, an Orange Skipperling and a Southern Broken-Dash, besides the more usual common stuff. Didn't pay attention to any but obvious odes, a Prince Baskettail was my FOS, lots of Dot-winged Baskettail, Common Whitetail, and Common Pondhawk flying. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher from the porch at dusk.

April 22 ~ Happy Earth Day! Overcast humid summerish morning, it was 70dF at 7 a.m.! The dry sorta-cold front hit at 8 a.m. with 15-20 mph northerlies, at 10:30 a.m. it was 60dF, by 11 it was upper 50's. Holy cow. You get way more weather for your money here. I was hoping the northerlies would hit us while still dark and knock migrants down since it was clear with southerlies at midnight.

Another Bullock's Oriole in the yard in the morning. About 9 a.m. I walked out on back porch and a Chat was in the little leafy pecanlet a few feet to my left. Three male and a female Bronzed Cowbird at the millet feeder. They commute here from the golf course, you can watch them fly in and out. Sure hope that female doesn't have an accident. Worked on the yard since cooler and I have a couple days of birding work ahead.

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

April 21 ~ I have thought I heard a couple chatter in the last week, but this morning there was a FOS singing male Bullock's Oriole in the yard. There was a male Common Grackle around briefly as well, a Nashville Warbler went through (surprise). Town run for supplies, another Nashville up in the woods at the park, and a Great Blue Heron, but that was it. In afternoon a Monarch butterfly passed through yard (#10 this spring). Just before 7:30 p.m. a silent FOS Common Nighthawk flew by. Glad I was out there to see it, as I did not hear one all evening. Was over a hundred Firefly in yard, maybe 120, what a show.

April 20 ~ Too busy Thursdays. Nashville and Gnatcatcher (warbler and Blue-gray) through yard again today. A Bronzed Cowbird hit the millet seed tube. A Nysa Roadside-Skipper was on the Mealy Sage in the porch flower bed. Clearly we are over a hundred on the Firefly count at dusk. Another 25 across road and over in corral. Barking Frogs doing a lot of, well, er, barking now. Hearing Blanchard's Cricket-Frog out in front yard a bit too.

The male Painted Bunting is around but I still haven't heard it sing yet. This is normal for many species here. When they first arrive back on territory they do no immediately go to singing. It takes days in most cases. They call a lot so you know they are around, but they don't sing. Not full song. Blue Grosbeak, Great Crested or Vermilion Flycatcher, Chat, they all return to the breeding territory and do not start full territorial song immediately. Generally a few days on average I would say for most, some longer. Of course they know there are no females here yet, and they likely need a couple days of some serious eating first thing on arrival after the trip.

April 19 ~ Another earliest ever spring FOS date, a Dickcissel flew over calling at 9 a.m., northbound. Then at end of day at 7 p.m. my FOS Wilson's Warbler sang a few times. Barn Owl after dark, and hit a hundred Firefly in the yard at dusk, and likely a couple dozen outside yard but adjacent. It is an awesome show already the last half hour of light. A few Chuck-wills-widows serenading at dusk now too.

April 18 ~ The back side of the front cooled us down to about 53dF this morning, very nice. A House Wren and a Lincoln's Sparrow in yard were migrants passing through, as were a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Back to daily Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, the Red-eyed Vireo or another singing, as is the Chat. Sounds great out there. Toss in the Great Crested, Vermillion and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo, plus the residents. It is music to my ears. I see four Chipping Sparrow, likely local breeders nesting nearby. A Monarch went by, I think #9 for the spring. The Coyotes went off quite close after dark. At least a dozen Blue-eyed Grass (the Iris) flowers in a patch in the yard. Still just 90 Firefly in yard.

April 17 ~ We had a rain event overnight, and a little shower in the day, total of about 1.25-1.5", right when the leaves need it for their growout. Male Blue Grosbeak on the seed is likely the local nester that sings daily around the yard. The male Painted Bunting is on the millet tube again, until early August. A female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, I haven't had time to work the hummers past keeping feeders with fluid. Thought I heard an Indigo Bunting distantly again, but still no sighting yet this spring here for me. Red-eyed Vireo singing, so is the Chat, and clear passage migrants were a Nashville Warbler and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Did have a FOS Swift Setwing dragonfly. Firefly count was 90 in yard, and 20 or so within sight outside it. Gray Fox on the patio after dark.

April 16 ~ Mostly overcast, threatened to rain but didn't. We did some of the river corridor habitat above and below us for a couple hours. About 4 Nashville Warbler, heard a Myrtle and an Orange-crowned. The Chat is across the road in the usual main territory singing-tree. Kathy pointed out a calling FOS Eastern Wood-Pewee. One Lincoln's Sparrow along road, another came into our birdbath. A couple more Blue-gray Gnatcatcher too.

In the later afternoon again today another FOS showed up, a male Painted Bunting! Again, we know it hasn't been here or around and was not here earlier in the day. It showed up just before 6 p.m. and went straight to the white millet seed feeder it knows and loves. Like the Chat yesterday, a late afternoon arrival.

Also in the afternoon I saw my first Disparate Forester moth of the year. Usually I see them in March on the Agarita but not this year. This is the day-flying moth that has white polka-dots on gun-metal blue-black wings, with furry orange on body and legs. Google that name for better pics than I have, most locals have probably seen them and wondered what they were, besides a striking beauty.

April 15 ~ More low clouds with occasional mist in the a.m. Breezy too. Noonish we walked to the crossing to get a mile and half in (roundtrip) and cover some river habitat corridor to see if any migrants moving. There were a few. At least 5 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (these are passage birds headed further north now), 3 Nashville Warbler, one first spring male Black-n-white Warbler, a House Wren, a Lincoln's Sparrow, and a Broad-winged Hawk. Plus heard my FOS Blue Grosbeak call a few times. Definitely some migration motion. Saw a couple Yellow-throated Vireo and one Red-eyed Vireo was singing.

Amazing was the FOS Yellow-breasted Chat which is surely the one that breeds across the road and uses the birdbath. It showed up later in afternoon, singing from the main tree it uses all summer. It was not out there at 4 p.m. but was at 5 p.m.! Since I was out front every hour all day, and we took a walk down the road right through its territory it is more than safe to say it was not there earlier.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

April 14 ~ More mist in the morning, some scattered showers, but nothing serious here. Ran to town for some supplies and checked the park. Lots of people and noise with the holiday weekend already starting. Saw my FOS Northern Waterthrush, always a nice migrant to see. A couple Nashville Warbler were in the blooming live-oaks. One Green Kingfisher up by the island. Also there was a migrant Hermit Thrush, the first I have seen locally in over a month. The wintering ones are long gone. A few FOS Chimney Swift were over town, nice to hear them back. Bell's Vireo singing along the road behind the gas station at NW corner of town. Also about 20 Common Grackle over there by the retention pond behind the storage spaces.

April 13 ~ Typical low clouds, almost misty, had a few drops of rain overnight, but it missed us. First thing early there was a FOS Yellow-billed Cuckoo cooing over in the corral. Doing the 'rain song'. It is my earliest ever spring date, for the 14th time this spring. Remarkable. Three, or maybe in a 'early spring' year there are five, 'earliest evers', out of 10 or more years of good spring arrival date records.

We are at FOURTEEN 'earliest evers' this spring! Plus two ties. Most of the early returns are local breeders arriving on territory. So it is very telling. The first wave of most migratory breeders like say Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Black-and-white Warblers are the local nesters. So it goes for most species. The individuals of the same species that pass through in late April or early May are the ones on the way far to the north. Where you can't nest in April. Our local breeders can get going in March, most are in full roar in April. These more southerly breeders return as soon as they can of course. This year a third have returned earlier than ever before. It might not sound like much, but it is a monster big change.

April 12 ~ Had to run to town early, stopped at park. Saw a migrant Louisiana Waterthrush, which is scarce here in spring. Also one Nashville Warbler sang in the live-oaks. Otherwise quiet save a few residents. Englemann's Daisy getting going, and saw my first flowers of Prickly Pear, and Prickly Poppy. Now 50 (!) Firefly at dusk over yard. You might think I should have something more important to do than count fireflies at dusk? Well you would be wrong!  LOL I don't. This is heavy science man. Don't be fooled just because I don't have to say "hold my beer" to conduct it! Nine of fourteen prior springs (2 out of 3) I had not even seen ONE yet by this date! Fifty at once already!?!?! Astounding.

April 11 ~ There was between a quarter and a third of an inch of rain overnight. North side of plateau had some wet spots with inches but it mostly missed us. Best was my earliest ever (14th spring) Great Crested Flycatcher. Thought I heard an Indigo Bunting sing a few times distantly... but not good enough for an absolute FOS date. Betcha it was though. Ring King flying high over cypresses along river. Now 40 Firefly at dusk over yard.

April 10 ~ Just the regulars today, too busy working. So nice to have birdsong going on outside again though. So from the desk, here are the migrant breeders I hear territorially singing now. Yellow-throated, White-eyed, and the last few days a Red-eyed Vireo (but Red-eyes never stick to nest here), Vermilion, Scissor-tailed, Ash-throated, Brown-crested, and Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Summer Tanager, and a few times a day I will hear Purple Martins overhead. Then all the residents are going full bore now too. Heard the Ringed King over at the river, saw the Ringtail after dark scavenging sunflower seeds. Did some more yard work, saw a Scarlet Pea flower, and some Bluehearts. Counted 30 Firefly at dusk over yard.

April 9 ~ Misty much of the morning. Trying to catch up on some yard work before it gets hot. A bunch of weekend days mid-April to mid- May I will be bird guiding so have to get the spring cleaning done now. I was resting on the front porch in the afternoon and watched a male Scissor-tail fly down into the path I cut to the wellhouse and grab a bug off the ground. So neat to have on the ground in the yard! Male with a full tail, and all that orange. What a bird. Saw 20 Firefly at dusk over yard.

April 8 ~ Trying to get caught up on the spring cleaning stuff, yard work, etc. I saw three male Ruby-throated Hummingbird at once on one of the feeders, so they are in good numbers already. Bird of the day was a singing Red-eyed Vireo, my FOS, and my earliest ever in this 14th spring of recording such stuff. Couple Barn Owls called after dark. Saw 10 Firefly at dusk over yard.

Pine Warbler

Here is the north end of a south-facing Pine Warbler,
the male that wintered and is presumably a returnee
visiting the yard regularly for at least 3 winters now.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

April 7 ~ About 42df for a low, got up to mid-upper '70's. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher over at river early. Did a town run and had a Green at the park. Only migrant was a male Myrtle Warbler in mostly alternate plumage, and a Kinglet (Ruby). Saw a summer form Questionmark (butterfly) here at the house. Otherwise it was the regulars, no migrant birds went through that I saw or heard but an Orange-crowned Warbler and a Kinglet. I'm too busy with work.

At dusk though a most welcome FOS, a calling Chuck-wills-widow! Awesome! We get about 90 days to soak a whole years' worth in, and that is it. That is 10 days less than adult male Painted Bunting are present on territory here. Of course the Chucks are still here longer than 90 days, but that is all they call for. Besides begging young they are mostly silent the last month of presence.

April 6 ~ Holy cow 39dF on the front porch this morning! KRVL had a 37! Outstanding. We will soon wish for such cool air. Thursday so stuck at the desk getting a peek here and there outside. I am starting to wonder about our Hooded Orioles. They should have been back by now and have not yet returned. Got me worried. They are a late March returner. Ours are MIA. Sure nice to hear Summer Tanager singing out in the yard again.

April 5 ~ Wind blew all day from a dry frontal passage, 48-88dF temp spread. Would have been tough birding out there, 10-20 mph, gusting higher. I was too busy working to see anything but the usuals. There were 16 Lark Sparrow and 5 Chipping Sparrow on the patio late. Heard the Scissor-tail singing. Brown-crest too. Ash-throats interested in the box on the corral fence. They have used it before, as have the Brown-crests. After dark I heard something fly over northbound calling that sounded like Redhead (ducks). Sure wish I could have seen them.

April 4 ~ We were 45-85dF for a temp spread today. Couple Caracara went over, they are nesting nearby. Counted 14 Lark Sparrow on patio. Best was my FOS Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycatcher around. Saw a big fat pregnant female Four-lined Skink, a Horace's Duskywing, and a couple Monarch. That makes about 7 migrant Monarch so far this spring for me here locally. Which is good. Still Kinglets going by.

April 3 ~ It was a great cool 45dF for a low this morning. Today we four (James Smith, Jim Cain, Alan Cohen, stuck with me guiding) birded Lost Maples. It did not disappoint. Though some things are not in yet, it was still pretty birdy. In the area of the trailhead parking lot (bring your own cup of seed if you are going to be there early before they put it out) when sun first hits the hillside to south there is lots of activity on it. We watched a singing male Scott's Oriole there for a bit. Two White-tipped Dove came into the seed I threw out in fairly short order, a male displaying at and chasing a female around. Surely they are breeding here now.

We heard lots of Golden-cheeked Warbler singing along Can Creek (now called the East-West trail) on the way to the ponds. We saw a few, finally one showed better than well, carrying food, presumedly feeding an incubating female. We heard a few Black-capped Vireo, and got some looks up on the bluff over the pond, a couple males and I saw a female. Heard lots of Canyon Wren, a couple Rufous-crowned and an Olive Sparrow. Saw a couple FOS Nashville Warbler, a Blue-headed Vireo, heard Hutton's Vireo, lots of Kinglet (Ruby). We saw a number of and heard lots of Black-and-white Warbler, heard a couple Louisiana Waterthrush. Lots of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher on territory. A few Yellow-throated Vireo. Amazing is the number of Yellow-throated Warbler which were all but accidental there 10 years ago, there were at least 6, maybe 8 singing males.

As is usual and normal for the early date, a few things are not there yet, like Blue Grosbeak, Indigo (or Painted) Bunting, Red-eyed Vireo, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, to name a few off the top of my head. It is still early. James had a pair of Texas Scrub-Jay at the pond while we were uphill on the bluff.

The highlight of the day was as we approached the pond. I spotted two small buteos that were snow white below soaring a couple hundred feet up, over the area of the pond. SHORT-TAILED HAWKS! We got great looks as they soared around, seeming to be interacting, they drifted away, and then came back reappearing even closer, and disappearing again. While we were watching them, two adult BROAD-WINGED HAWKS appeared! They were really interacting, as a pair would, and clearly seemed such by the size difference. I suspect they are the pair that nested here the last two years. At one point both pairs were overhead in the airspace above the main big first pond up Can Creek at the same time. Between the ponds we had a first spring Red-shouldered Hawk fly over. The Fuertes's Red-tailed Hawks seem to be at that cliff nest along trail on way up between 1st and 2nd water crossings again.

Butterflies were great, with about 5 Two-tailed and 4 Spicebush Swallowtail, 3 Little Wood Satyr, a Monarch, and lots of the usual for the date things. A fair number of Aztec Dancers (damselfly) were out. Flowers are just getting going, besides the early ones done already like Redbud, Agarita and Mountain Laurel.

Late in day in yard, what is probably the local nesting pair of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher landed in the big pecan right off the front porch and called a bit, did a sortie or two. Great to have them back! Kathy had a Monarch at the house during the day too.

April 2 ~ We had a MCS move over in the pre-dawn and shortly after. We got just over 2&aquot; (2 and an eigth) of rain here about 7-9 a.m. After the rain, I birded a half-day around the town and vicinity guiding visitors Jim Cain (ID/MT), Alan Cohen (OH) and James Smith (AZ). They stayed at the Utopia River Retreat cabins which seemed a workable solution for a local room. We had my FOS Clay-colored Sparrow there. And we had a great time birding around the area.

They saw Ringed Kingfisher yesterday late afternoon at the park. We saw a male Green Kingfisher there. Heard the Barred Owl and a White-tipped Dove called from upriver, a Whistling-Duck (B-b), but no migrant landbirds. There were over 160 Cedar Waxwing near the fruiting Mulberry on Cypress St. out front (east) of park. More than I have seen all winter.

We birded a bit on a private area near my casita and heard an Olive Sparrow singing right where they nested last year. At the same spot we heard and I briefly saw a male Black-capped Vireo. But they are not any more willing to be seen than ever. A few Blue-gray Gnatcatcher there too, where I suspected breeding last year as well. We also heard an Orange-crowned Warbler. A flood pond on the golf course had 5 Blue-winged Teal, and a Brozned Cowbird there was my FOS. Over the gas station was a Zone-tailed Hawk circling low which we got great looks at. Cave Swallows are working on nests at the bank now.

April 1 ~ Was too busy trying to get ahead, or actually caught up, which is ahead in my case. A couple Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through yard northbound. What seemed 'the pair' of Yellow-throated Warbler were about the yard a fair bit and the male took a long bath in the afternoon. First female I have seen this year and they were closely interacting. Both Ash-throated and Brown-crested Flycatcher were in the yard calling.

~ ~ ~ March Summary ~ ~ ~

It was about 3.5" of rain for the month, not bad, and a bit above average. Temps were way over normal, we did not freeze. We frosted once or twice, but no freeze in March. Incredible. Our last hard freeze was in January as we had none in February! It may seem nice on the surface but freezes are about the number one thing to keep pesty bugs in check.

As one might expect with warmer than normal temperatures, we had a record breaking month for butterfly species diversity. The average for the last 8 years is 30 species in March. Highest ever were a 40 (2009) and a 41 (2013) species March. I saw 52 species of butterflies this March. If I would have been able to make it to Lost Maples late in the month on a nice day, it would have been 55 or more. At 52 sps. it breaks the prior best 41 by 25%. It is more than 70% above the average 30 sps. of diversity for March. That is such a radical change it should scare you. It is wholesale level change. Look out.

Odes, dragonflies and damselflies, were better than Feb. of course, but it is still slow in March as usual. It was about 14 sps. total for the month. There were some days with over a hundred Enallagma Bluets out over the pond at the park. Lots of Dot-winged Baskettail, some Pale-faced Clubskimmer, Common Whitetail, a few Variegated Meadowhawk, a Green Darner, Red Saddlebags, couple Springtime Darner, Fragile Forktail, Kiowa dancer, American Rubyspots, the expected. A Pronghorn Clubtail was nice.

Birds were outstanding with a major movement of migration motion. I saw about 99 species locally this month, without trying, mostly just park checks on my town runs, the yard, and puttin' around the very local vicinity. We saw a few other species down in brush country toward Uvalde. Mostly the bulk of March new species is returnees, that is migratory breeders that winter southward and return in March. A few good things went by.

Best birds were a flurry at the end of the month... a binoced and scoped adult Goshawk on the 27th, a nocturnal calling Black-necked Stilt on the 25th, and a Lark Bunting on the patio on the 28th. A Common Yellowthroat on the 25th, and a Marsh Wren on the 26th were both of interest in March.

~ ~ ~ end March summary ~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~


Mudbug if you are in Cajun country, Crawdad in
most places, or Crayfish to be most accurate.
Barred Owl and Red-shouldered Hawk seem particularly
fond of them. I once knew some Pied-billed Grebes
that lived on them.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 31 ~ The 45dF low was outstanding. Clear, dry, more chamber of commerce weather. Hot and dry in the afternoon, 82-85 pending where you were. Incredible was a Brown-crested Flycatcher calling around the yard for an hour in the morning. It is my earliest ever, and first ever March record. Wow. Had to run to town. Bell's Vireo still singing at the north end curve mesquite patch. At the park there were no migrants, but a Summer Tanager was singing, the first of that I've heard in 6 months. A male Green Kingfisher was on the other side of the river above island. A few Yellow-throated Warbler are singing territorily there now. Looks great but slow for birds.

Best was on the way home the open Mealy Sage flowers by the corral had some butterflies. A Nysa Roadside-Skipper was new for the month locally, as was a Northern Cloudywing! New for the month butterflies on the last day of the month are always particularly welcome. A female Whirlabout was my first fem. for them this year. Lottsa Dun Skipper.

The No. Cloudywing had a broad (.25") pale margin to the distal VHW (ventral hindwing), as I see on a very very few, often in March or April. I might have gotten a shot to show it. These look intermediate between normal typical individuals, and albosuffescens, tending toward the latter. Most here do not show this obvious distinct character.

March 30 ~ With the passage of the front we had a great low of about 51dF with some nice dry light northerly flow. Getting up to maybe 80, in a bout of what they call Chamber of Commerce weather, just perfect. And exploding green everywhere you look. Another gnatcat sung its way through the yard northbound this a.m., and a male Summer Tanager stopped in briefly too. Chipping Sparrows now number less than 20. It has been a very early blowout of them this year.

Butterflies were great in the afternoon wawrmth. Three first of year species were nice enough to fly around the porch while I was out there. A Painted Lady, a Mournful Duskywing, and best a Red Satyr flopped by. Over a hundred Lyside went by in fairly short order. Lots of Red Admiral on the move now too.

After dark a couple times the coyotes must have made a kill, as they went off totally bonkers nuts howling, very close. Screech-Owl was calling lots late. I saw another firefly, #2 for the year, which is amazing in March!

I looked for the comet with binocs late but didn't spot it. Maybe will scope tonight. Should be a fuzzy green dot as if above the pan of the big dipper (or so). They say barely below or just at naked eye detectability, so binocs should get it. Have to study the charts again and better before looking tonight. Can't remember if I looked at the charts at or Sky &, both should have good locator sky charts. Spaceweather has good pics of it in the comet photo gallery, no tail really, just a neon green fuzzy pinhead. Maybe after parhelion we'll get to see a tail?

March 29 ~ An amazing 47dF for a low after it rained last night. About midnight to 1 a.m. lots of lightning, thunder, a bit of hail, I think we had about 1.1" total, some locally had only .75. There was a Ringed King at the river, and a high-flying Belted was likely a migrant. A singing Blue-gray Gnatcatcher went through yard northward. A quick town errand, only saw a Summer Tanager male at the park. Great to have them back! A few butterflies in yard were Arizona Sister, Queen, 2 Goatweed Leafwing, a Texan Crescent, Giant Swallowtail, and lots of the usual stuff. A Zone-tailed Hawk went by.

March 28 ~ Overcast, fog-mist, about 65dF for a low. A few spritzes in the a.m. After breakfast I walked out on back porch. There is a little 10' pecan treelet against the house a few feet to left. A Lark Bunting flew out of it! Female or immature plumage. It landed in the Mulberry, then went over into corral. I have had them in the yard at least three times now in March. This is when they are on the move. The real big highlight of the day was my FOY FIREFLY! Which is my first ever MARCH record. A week earlier than my earliest prior. My average date for first one is MID-April! So this is two weeks ahead of my average 'first firefly'. Wow!

March 27 ~ Got up to 90dF again in the afternoon, and so lots of butterflies were about. I briefly saw Monarch #3 for the year, a Reakirt's Blue was around, great was my FOY Orange Skipperling, more Giant Swallowtail, over a hundred Lyside Sulphur, a Gray Hairstreak, Dun Skipper, it is starting to get going for leps. Kathy pointed out a Scrub-Jay calling from the junipers over the north fence.

The bird of the day was mid-day, I spotted a raptor circling over the house and could not immediately pin it down. Which is good. Ran in for binocs and watched it a minute as it circled and gained altitude, an adult GOSHAWK! Ran back in for scope and got it in scope for another minute before it got too high up. Holy cow! We had one here three times last late Feb. to early May, an immature. March of 2014 we had an adult move north overhead much like this one did. Was a miracle I went outside for 5 minutes right when it was low over the house, and the thermal it climbed was right overhead giving me time to get binocs and scope on it.

March 26 ~ About 55-85 for a temp spread, getting warm in the afternoons now. We went to the park before noon as often if you beat the lunch rush there it is still quiet, except holidays. On the way a Green Kingfisher flew across the road at the crossing as we left. Then another was up at the park around the island. The mulberries there are just starting to get some fruit, but worth watching all spring. One Celia's Roadside-Skipper was my FOY, also saw a Fragile Forktail (damselfly). About 6 singing Yellow-throated Warbler along length of park.

The library garden has a few flowers, not much for butterflies yet, but in the one big still-blooming Redbud in the parking lot was a Henry's Elfin. Lots of Martins overhead around town, and Cave Swallows, haven't heard a Chimney Swift yet. We did hear a couple Common Grackle in town which are new arrivals that just got here (from where?).

We stopped to admire the Purple Martins at the Waresville Cemetery house (by the C.C. pond), they are in good number. I love that style of house, cute as it is clever. The pond had a Savannah Sparrow and a Marsh Wren. Which is a good spring migrant to snag here, and probably my earliest. A male Common Whitetail dragonfly was nice too.

Then over at Berteau Park (private) besides the Yellow-throated Warblers, we heard a singing Golden-cheeked Warbler! It was on the other side of river and we couldn't spot it, but heard it sing a nearly a dozen times. Awesome! This is about a half mile upriver from our casita, dang thing just went by. I actually have a yard record of a singing male from this date, four years ago.

Finally, on the way out of the country club, nearing Hwy. 187, along south edge on the power line we saw our two FOY Scissor-tailed Flycatcher! You might drive by a lot of them April to mid-October, but you always stop to binoc and drink in that first sighting each year. Yeah baby. They're back!

March 25 ~ The 45dF low felt great at early-thirty. Some good dawn chorus going (for how many of the regulars are not here yet) at 7 a.m., but still too dark to bird by sight. Heard Turkey gobbling up the hill behind us. A White-crowned Sparrow was out back in the morning, wow a migrant. After finishing fixing some bird nest boxes we put them up in the oak-grassland behind us. Had one Hutton's Vireo singing, a couple migrant Orange-crowned Warbler, but was the heat of the day so quiet overall.

In butterflies about 4+ Theona Checkerspot were my first of the year, a half-dozen Elada were nice too. Did not see the Crimson Patch. Had a couple Arizona Sister, Black Swallowtail, and the regulars. In the late afternoon at house I saw my FOY Pale-faced Clubskimmer dragonfly. Saw the Ringtail after dark. At least 500 Crow-poison open in yard. Great was seeing a fair bit of Blue-eyed Grass (the little Iris) scattered about, including a half-dozen open in yard.

The bird of the day was about 10 p.m., I was outside and heard a BLACK-NECKED STILT fly over calling! Who knows how many, but at least one called a couple times so you could tell what it was and that it was northbound. Great yard bird. In L.A. I had it as a nocturnal calling flyover on my yard list, regularly.

Texan Crescent

Here is the Texan Crescent we saw at the park in
late January, probably my first ever in Jan., and
obviously a mint fresh individual.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 24 ~ A front came through in the a.m., lots of clouds, a good tenth or so of an inch of rain, maybe .15 total. Keeps the dust down. Town run so checked the park. Best was a male Summer Tanager, my earliest ever, by over a week! First week of April is normal arrival. Then up at north end of town in the mesquites, there were two singing Bell's Vireo, also earliest ever by over a week. Pretty amazing. Three Giant Swallowtail (lep) were my first of the year, and a couple female Cloudless Sulphur went by. Saw a male Green Darner dragonfly too. Speaking of which lots of Dot-winged Baskettail were out and a bunch of Bluet (Enallagma) damselfly were over park pond. A couple Myrtle Warbler at park are in heavy pre-alternate molt. Perhaps winterers getting ready to go?

About 45 Cedar Waxwing were in the now fruiting Mulberry on Cypress St. out in front of the park. A second female Monarch was in yard in the afternoon. Still no Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, at least I didn't see any along roads, and asked a couple folks that also said, nope, haven't seen one yet. Any day now. Nice to hear Purple Martins over town again though. More Cave Swallows are back around the bank. Bob said the P.O. loading dock pair of Barn Swallow returned last Saturday the 18th. Oh yeah, there were single Green, and Belted, Kingfisher at the park. I thought sure I heard a Parula Warbler sing a couple times but could not locate it. Here it is only marginally, and debatably, barely more likely Northern than Tropical.

Occasionally we get these car clubs touring that plan to be here for lunch. Today a Porsche club was at the cafe, must have been 25 models parked out front, looked like a museum collection of them, every model. One vintage cabriolet was very nice. Since I figured the rare Porsche record committee would reject my sighting without documentation, I took photos to prove it.  ;)

March 23 ~ Too busy Thursdays... blew like heck all day out of the south at 15-25 mph with gusts to 35 mph so just as well. Had an Ash-throated Flycatcher around yard that acted like it might be one of the breeders that has used the boxes. The Ring King was over at river. In butterflies a Gray Hairstreak was my first for the year for sure, and a male Large Orange Sulphur was my first this spring. Saw Dakota, and Texas Verbena flowers open in yard today, hundreds of Crow-Poison and Anemone, as well as Yellow Wood-Sorrel. One purple Anemone was nice.

March 22 ~ All morning overcast, fog-mist as they call it here, a bit drizzly. Got to 84dF in the afternoon though. One female Cloudless Sulphur was about for a bit, and one Orange Sulphur too. Saw the Ringtail after dark. The male Golden-fronted Woodpecker barely missed being taken by an imm. Cooper's Hawk by inches, I thought it was a goner. Somehow he climbed, twisted, and dodged the strike in flight. Lots of Bordered Patch (butterfly) around, and lots of stuff flying by, lots o'Lysides, Red Admirals, Gulf Fritillary, some Buckeye and American Lady, Pipevine Swallowtails.

March 21 ~ The big news today was the first Monarch of the spring. A big female in good condition but obviously worn as these that have flown to Mexico and back are. And so the cycle starts again. Chipping Sparrow flock is down to about 50-60, definitely fewer, departures have begun for this wintering group. About four Lark Sparrow are regularly around again now, presumedly our local breeders.

March 20 ~ Happy Spring! It's here! It was overcast all morning, sun came out late afternoon for a bit. Saw an Arizona Sister (butterfly) go by, and a Texan Crescent, several Bodered Patch. A couple Ringed Kingfisher over at river, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Warbler, both singing again all day within earshot, which is great to hear... something besides a White-eyed Vireo. The male Vermilion Flycatcher occasionally punctuates it all with flight song display over the corral adjacent.

March 19 ~ Overcast all morning, but got up to about 80-85dF locally in the afternoon. We were in the live-oak and juniper grassland behind us putting a few nest boxes up and had a Rufous-crowned Sparrow, but no Black-capped Vireo yet at last year's territory. There is an acacia blooming that is real sweet. It had two CRIMSON PATCH butterflies on it, nice fresh mint beauties. Probably my earliest date ever for them. Must be a food plant in that area I do not know. It is the same place we had them last spring and summer. Butterflies were out in numbers in the warmth. We saw a couple dozen Bordered Patch, four Arizona Sister, an amazing four Elada Checkerspot, and Kathy spotted the FOY Queen flying by. Plus lots of the common usual stuff out already.

Heard Turkey gobble in the morning here from yard, later we saw a couple up in live-oaks of which one Tom was strutting. I give him a 10 on posture. Had a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and an Orange-crowned Warbler up in the now blooming live-oaks. There were a couple Pucoon flowers open, and some Blackfoot Daisy were open. The Buckley oaks are well underway leafing out, Golden-cheeked Warbler should be getting thick quick. Heard a Barn Owl after dark. Just before midnight I heard my FOY Barking Frog give some chirps.

March 18 ~ Only about 60dF for a low, and overcast until latest afternoon, a bit of mist off and on. Great to hear the Yellow-throated Vireo singing outside in the morning, and the Yellow-throated Warbler over in the Cypress at river. Turkey gobbling. Ring King shuts up everytime I pick up the mic and recorder. Sometimes it even shuts up when I get up to make a move for recorder.

Had a dump and recycling run so ran by park. Counted at least 25 vehicles and at least 100 people. No birds save a Green Kingfisher at top of the island. Did have a sprig from one of the Texas Onions, best scallion I ever had.

A FOS at the north end of town in the usual spot north of the gas station was what is likely the, our, same (annual here) male Great-tailed Grackle. I can't believe we a) have just one pair here and b) they keep returning year after year. They have nested successfully and fledged young at least a few times.

Spotted another Red-tailed Hawk nest today that I hadn't noticed before. We also have the usual pair nesting in a big cypress we can see from our front porch. These Fuertes Red-tails are beauties, so clean and creamy below.

In butterflies I saw a Sachem in yard, and the (I presume, the) winter form Questionmark around patio again. It won't last much longer. After dark I saw the Spotted Skunk again under the carport. It seems to be able to dig in this hard substrate more easily than I with hand implements. The holes in the ground are about 4-5" across maybe.

I keep forgetting to mention the wintering Mockingbirds are gone. Been about a couple weeks since they departed. There has been a dearth of Mockers in the last couple weeks, during the window after the winterers depart and before the breeders arrive. I saw one new arrival singing today, so there will likely be lots again very shortly. But for instance our wintering yard individuals have been gone a couple weeks, we have been weirdly Mocker free. There have been a few scattered around locally, but for the most part, there is underway an often overlooked changeover in their population taking place from late February to late March.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren, which does not have spotted wings.
They have a spotted lower back, which you will hardly
ever see. This cold one has its wings tucked up tight,
and under its back feathers which are draped over the
wing, making it superficially appear as though the
wing is spotted. It pays to know all the parts.
The Sibley Guide is the one book in which I have
seen this character this well-illustrated.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 17 ~ Happy St. Patrick's Day! Lots of overcast, humid, breezy lately. Springy. Not too hot, not too cold. Did get up to 80-84dF locally today in later afternoon. Ringed Kings still squawking over at the river daily. Ran to town noonish, did a quick park check but found not much. It is spring break and a few people are around in the area, noise and all. There was an Ash-throated Flycatcher, a Hutton's Vireo, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Blue Jay, and the usual Cardinal, two Carolinas, chickadee and wren, some Black-crested Titmouse, Yellow-throated Warbler, and a couple Kinglet (Ruby). The highlight was a Downy Woodpecker, actually a scarce irregular bird here.

There are some big Texas Onion blooming up in the woods. Saw a FOY Eufala Skipper on it, and a Dun Skipper. Also saw a big yellow swallowtail that was either Eastern Tiger or Two-tailed. After seeing my FOY Lyside Sulphur yesterday I saw 50 today. Saw a female Falcate Orangetip again in yard. Must be a couple hundred Anemone flowers open in the yard and at least 300 Crow-Poison. The wildflower meadow thing is starting to get going.

At 7 p.m. I was out in driveway and a very dark Merlin shot by at eye-level, maybe 15' away, ploughing hard and deep making about 40-50 mph at least, flying low across the whole yard, it had to climb up to get over the corral fence. It was obviously not the usual normal pale richardsoni Prairie Merlin that is the standard Merlin here. I presume it was an eastern type, which can be very dark, and of which I have only seen a few here.

March 16 ~ Coolish and overcast with off and on stiff southerlies, sun came out last hour or two of day. Best was first thing in the morning finding a FOS Yellow-throated Vireo in the blooming (male) Mulberry. Ties my earliest ever (14th spring here) arrival date. Heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher out there early too, and thought I heard a seet that sounded like a Nashville Warbler but never saw it. The rest was the same. The Ring Kings were going off again this morning over at river, but shut up when I went out with mic to record. Saw a female Falcate Orangetip (butterfly), and a FOY Lyside Sulphur flew across yard late in the day. Now 150 Crow-Poison flower stalks with open flowers on the north part of the yard. Heard a Barn Owl after dark.

March 15 ~ Had a quick run to town in the a.m. early. Nothing at the park for migrants, but great close looks at Yellow-throated Warbler and a Blue Jay. At the bank the first few Cave Swallows were back. Should be more soon. Here in the yard saw one Robin, maybe that one is still around, and 26 Waxwing. A couple Kinglet (Ruby) went through, a few are daily now, they are on the move. One Henry's Elfin butterfly fluttered around. About 60 Anemone (Wind-flower) open around yard today.

March 14 ~ One Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew over first thing before sunup. A couple Kinglet (Ruby) went through, and a couple Myrtle Warbler. Good were a couple butterflies. Great was the FOY Arizona Sister, the FOY Dun Skipper was not quite as exciting. Love them sisters. A male Black Swallowtail, and a Buckeye were about as well. After dark I saw the Ringtail. At dusk I heard at least a couple Green-winged Teal call as they flew north pretty low. No way to guess how many there were, but at least two called. I think it is a new yard bird, will have to check.

OK, checked, yeppers, new, Green-wing Teal is yard #214 NIB. For you less than hardcore bird listers... NIB means no introduced birds (are counted in that total). They are an appendix essentially. And like an appendix introduced birds are something you don't need and will probably cause you trouble one day. ex. 1 & 2: see Starling and House Sparrow. An additional 3 of these troublesome introduced non-native species have been seen in yard.

March 13 ~ A flock of about 45 ducks were flying south early early morning, which looked like wigeon, but I could only bare-eye them against overcast skies. Kerrville had a low of 39dF briefly, we were low 40's dF, and it was quite nice. We will be wishing for that soon enough. A few butterflies were out in the warmth, saw a Whirlabout, Funereal Duskywing, and Phaon Crescent, besides the common already stuff. A nice fresh Olive Juniper Hairstreak was around too. About 50+ open Anemone flowers now.

March 12 ~ We took a walk to the crossing, there were at least 3 singing male Yellow-throated Warbler on territory. A male Myrtle warbler responded to the song by flying 150 FEET directly at it, and proceeding to have a scrap with the singing male Yellow-throated Warbler. The song of these 'edwardsplateauensis' Yellow-throated Warbler is actually suggestive of the Yellow-rumped Warbler basic oscillating song.

We saw the FOY American Rubyspot damselfly, and 3 FOY Bordered Patch. There was a Pipevine Swallowtail that pupated on some chickenwire we have to protect flowers in beds around front porch, oh, about last October. The photos I took are dated, I will check. But today we watched it after it emerged, as it pumped itself up. A Hutton's Vireo was singing over in the draw.

March 11 ~ It was misty to drizzly much of the a.m. The front hasn't passed and we are overcast with half a chance at rain, so not going birding, working here, and recovering from yesterdays run to Uvalde. There were a couple Ring Kings in flight display out front early, calling while diving from great height, doing twists and turns at high speed, quite the show, and wow are they manuverable aerialists. Must be nesting very nearby.

Didn't see much but the regulars, though there was one FOS, the bird of the day was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. It was actually in the yard at sunup. Considering they are diurnal migrants, it surely roosted within spittin' distance and was here yesterday at dark. March 11 is the earliest day I have for them here, and have achieved that now 3 times. It is peak early Blue-gray Gnatcatcher here. I also have 2 March 12 FOS dates for them. So this is right at the leading edge of their arrival window opening. See how interesting phenology is?

Per wikipedia, Phenology is "the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate, as well as habitat factors (such as elevation)." So then, dates of things like flowers opening, trees leafing out, birds arriving, nesting, or departing, flying periods for adult dragonflies or butterflies, can all add data points to the big picture. Which then can tell us things about what is going on. Like winter is shorter, or spring comes earlier, summer is longer, etc. This concludes our lesson for today...   ;)

Nysa Roadside-Skipper
This is a Nysa Roadside-Skipper from a couple years ago.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 10 ~ We did a Uvalde run for supplies, but had no time to goof off birding. On the way was the best bird of the day, on Old 90 (or lower Sabinal Rd., which runs from Sabinal to Uvalde, south of Hwy. 90), a young half-grown BOBCAT out in the road. We got a great close look before it darted into roadside veg. Any day you see a Bobcat is a good day.

Along the road there were several Loggerhead Shrike, lots of Mockingbird, but no Scissor-tailed Flycatcher yet. I had drive by looks at Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrasher, Cactus Wren, and we saw at least a half-dozen Harris's Hawk, maybe 7 total. Most of them though were a group of 4 at the first high spot about 5-6 miles N. of Sabinal on Hwy. 187. A pair and sometimes family group is often in that area. Mostly for migratory breeders, it still seemed like winter along the roads.

We went to the Fish Hatchery to stretch out and take a bird break. It was a bit muddy, which usually means Cook's Slough will be very muddy, so we passed on the slough. The main pond at NW corner of hatchery had a great assortment of waterfowl, obviously migrants are on the move. That one pond at once had 6 drake and a few female Cinnamon Teal, twice as many Blue-winged and three Green-winged Teal, 20 Am. Wigeon, 4 Gadwall, 3 Pintail, 14 Ring-necked Duck, 4 male Redhead, so that was fun. More ducks than I have seen all winter.

As if that weren't enough, there were shorebirds! That is right, migrant shorebirds! Only a couple, but like ducks, a thrill to see for a Utopian. There were about 4 Greater Yellowlegs, a Long-billed Dowitcher, and 2 Stilt Sandpiper. The couple Wilson's Snipe and Killdeer could be migrants, or left over winterers still. Also around in other ponds were another couple dozen Wigeon, and a Lesser Scaup. I heard a Common Yellowthroat and a Lincoln's Sparrow, but there were no migrants or other migratory breeders seen. Heard Verdin and Curve-billed Thrasher, both local breeders. Two good butterflies there were a male Falcate Orangetip at arms length, and my FOS Nysa Roadside-Skipper.

Latest afternoon after we got home there were 20+ Cedar Waxwing in the big pecan. There had been a rain shower here while we were gone, there was a third of an inch for us, but others locally had anywhere from a tenth, to a full inch, depending your luck.

March 9 ~ Too busy Thursday... was the same gang of usual suspects. Ring Kings over at river, not seeing the Robin for a week or so now, and the same for the few waxwings that were around. Hackberries are in full bloom and buzzing with bees. Getting daily a few Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet going through yard northbound. In butterflies I saw single Texan and Phaon Crescent in yard.

March 8 ~ Occasional mist, overcast, light northerlies in the a.m., southerlies in the p.m. Was the regular cast, Ring King, Purple Martin, White-eyed Vireo, 3 Myrtle Warbler went north together, as did a couple more Kinglets (Ruby). A couple Lark Sparrow around are probably returning breeders, and a few Black-chinned Hummers here, the male Vermilion is in flight display regularly again now... gotta love that. The Cardinals have gone territorial and dispersed, but the singing is great to hear.

March 7 ~ More mist most of morning, never did get sunny as forecast, the front slowed and we stayed cloudy until after dark. Supposed to have a brief drying out. What seemed 3 Ringed Kingfisher flew downriver in the morning. I didn't see any sneak back by to go twice. At least 3 Myrtle Warbler flew north early in a.m., saw a pair of Lesser Goldfinch on sunflower feeder. Best was my FOS female Black-chinned Hummingbird. Males typically beat females back by a week or so. True for many species besides hummingbirds, especially migratory songbirds. Saw about 5 Turkey Vulture today, including one that is now missing one right primary. Our local breeders start molt shortly after returning.

March 6 ~ In the mist at 7:15 a.m. I heard a FOS Greater Yellowlegs flying upriver, a great spring migrant to hear. Saw a real small female Checkered White butterfly which stopped to taste Crow-Poison, at least a dozen of which are open now, and as many Anemone too. In dragons, I saw a Gomphid which was surely a Pronghorn Clubtail, one of our spring-only fliers here.

March 5 ~ A little mist yet but mostly the rain is done and over. It was about 1.35" total, nice and mucky out there now. We walked around uphill into the live-oak and juniper grassland a bit. A few Hutton's Vireo, but no migrants. The Buckley Oaks have some flowers out, but no leaves yet.

March 4 ~ Turkey gobbling at dawn. Ringed Kingfisher flying upriver early too. It was a rain day... about an inch fell from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but so the day was a wash. Lots of indoor work done. Saw what was likely a Peregrine go over. Nice to have Vermilion Flycatcher singing out there again.

House Finch
Here is another example of how red a male House Finch
can be here. Ross Silcock of Nebraska took this photo
at Lost Maples in February. We have a similar bird here
in yard among a couple dozen. Note the extent of the red on
underparts, for which one gets no idea can occur from
the field guides. Thanks for letting us share the pic Ross!

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 3 ~ Low was about 35dF here, and KRVL had a 31dF for a short bit. A little cool air. The Hackberries are blooming, and some Mulberries are putting out flowers too. Tomorrow is supposed to be a wash, er, a rain day. Did the town run thing... Only thing I had at the park was a nice male Wood Duck, a spring migrant. It was in the swampy area up by the island, right where it belonged. What a beautiful bird! It may look the same as one in a city park pond, but it feels different to see it in a natural setting with fallen logs in a backwater with lillies...

On the way home on the wire right next to the yard was my FOS Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Little Creek Larry mentioned he saw one a few days ago, but no exact date. Saw about 5 male Vermilion Flycatcher along the roads to town and back, plus my FOS female, and imm. male.

March 2 ~ About 45dF this morning with the northerly flow felt great. I was shocked to see what is surely our yard-using local breeding male Yellow-throated Warbler this morning (FOS). It was in the Mulberry by the cottage exactly where I last saw him last September. He then flew down to the patio, then right at me, landing on the edge of the metal roof. He then leaned over going upside-down with front half of body to look under the roof edge, looking right at me from 3' away. Just like he did when I last saw him his last day here last September. He did the same exact thing, again.

So what was he thinking when he leaned over the roof edge upside-down to look at me? You're STILL here? Haven't you moved since September? I have been to southern Mexico and back! You are still standing ya old fart? I see you have less hair, are you molting? Don't you have something to do besides stand on the back porch?

This is the type of behavior that can only be seen by long-term observation at a single site of the same bird. Be there watching when a migratory breeder leaves, and be there to witness the return. And note it flew directly at you, landed in the closest place, and went upside-down to get a good look from 3' away, twice, at the same spot, 6 months apart. The day it left and the day it got back. Birds never cease to amaze me.

I am quite fascinated by these sorts of behaviors actually. And of course as long as one is running around chasing new birds these are not the types of things one sees. These types of observations require a different type of looking. Sure we can only guess at what the bird thinks, but we can see and record what it does.

Great Crested Flycatcher becomes amazingly vociferous the last few days before it leaves its territory in fall. You can tell the last 3 days, by sound from a half mile. They get nuts about singing again after quieting down for a couple weeks whilst getting rid of the last set of young (and probably some serious molting).

You can also see some of these things with winterers too. Kestrel can make a very impressive flight display calling and circling, diving, making an incredible scene, right when it departs its winter territory in the spring. Again, long term daily observation of individual birds and territories is the only way to detect these behaviors.

Heard Sandhill Cranes, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and saw a Merlin ploughing northward early. One big yeller bumble (bee). Some butterflies were a Funereal Duskywing, Orange Sulphur, a Checkered-Skipper and a record early FOY Whirlabout. Not sure I have ever seen one in March, maybe maybe late in the month.

March 1 ~ A dry front came in, early in the morning, blowing lightly out of north all day. The male Black-chinned Hummingbird was still around. A Sharp-shinned Hawk sat up top of the big pecan for a long time watching the feeders and feeding areas. Amazing was my earliest ever Ash-throated Flycatcher, a week early. Heard a Ringed King or two. Saw the winter form Questionmark again today. I keep forgetting to mention the live-oaks are really yellow now and dropping leaves fast and furious. Ringtail out there after dark.

~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~

Well it was a wet month with 4" of rain, above average. And it was surely a warm one, without a hard freeze the whole month! It was way above normal temps on average. Warmer and wetter. Could make for a good spring, but if we get a late freeze will wreak havoc with all the flowers or in some cases forming fruits or seeds.

Galveston set 31 high temp records in the Nov. to Feb. period that used to be winter. Winter sea surface temps in the Gulf were also highest ever, they never got below 73dF. Record. One Austin station (Mabry) hit 70dF 35 of first 60 days of the year. The climate is changing before our eyes. Will anybody see it? Will we do anything about it, or is being in denial or fatalistic too much easier? Did I mention Antarctica also just broke its record for highest temp ever? This is not a drill, a liberal plot, or a hoax.

Go to youtube and watch the 1958 Bell Science Hour educational film I saw in elementary school as a kid called The Unchained Goddess. Note Bell Labs were amongst the most respected of science and engineering labs in America at the time. At the :50 min. mark their 1958 science film talks about how manmade climate change will occur from putting large amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere. 1958. Bell Labs. Not the liberals or the Chinese, but America's best scientists. Before politicians politicized science. This is not a hoax, or new, a liberal plot, or something being sold by people making money off it. It was considered proven science sixty years ago. The ones now saying it is not, are the ones selling something, and it doesn't smell too good.

Sorry, off my soapbox, I was reading Feb. climate data to see how other places compared with us here for perspective, and consequently having a cow. 67deg. F in Antarctica!?!?!?!

Whilst Redbud and Agarita are expected to open in mid-Feb., the Mountain Laurel is really ahead of schedule. I hear some areas nearer Austin have reported Bluebonnets! That is how much warmth there has been. The butterflies were a record 31 species in the month, about double average. Always great seeing Henry's Elfin and Falcate Orangetip, two quintessential signs of spring here. A big yellow (Tiger or Two-tailed) Swallowtail was record early.

Only a very few odes were seen, but the two typical early spring ones were out: a Springtime Darner and several Dot-winged Baskettail. Also a Red Saddlebags was seen, and a probably Green Darner. In damsels, Fragile Forktail was first ID'd type. A bluet was probably Familiar, and a Dancer looked Kiowa but both are only positive ID's to genus. Any Enallagma (bluet) in Feb. is good.

Birds were good though we are so busy we didn't get to look much besides around 360 and a bit in town. A few good things make it through or over the yard regularly, if I just had some sky cams, a bird bath cam, a couple for where we toss seed, all scanning, I'd get a lot more data. It was about 80 species by accident. The amazing thing was the number of record early first of spring dates. Every year you expect a few. But when 6 of 8 of the 8 species that are normally the first to arrive, are record early, it bears consideration.

On top of confirming our first ever wintering Common Yellowthroat, we had our earliest ever migrant Yellowthroat and Blue-headed Vireo, both on the 26th. A nocturnal calling Long-billed Curlew the 24th was going north, and my first Feb. record as well. A White-tailed Kite over the yard the 26th was a new yard bird. No major raries, but we were too swamped with work to do much besides look around yard or at park and a few local roads. Work now, bird peak spring.   ;)

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Feb. 28 ~ Low about 60dF and fog mist, feels like spring. Mid-morning I saw my FOS Black-chinned Hummingbird, a male of course. He beat March back. Also saw a male Lesser Goldfinch, heard the White-eyed Vireo, and the Robin went through. The Vermilion Flycatcher was doing flight display with song, and at twilight I heard some Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, my FOS this spring. Amazing was a big yellow Swallowtail butterfly which was either an Eastern Tiger or a Two-tailed. I thought the latter, but will probably just put it down as either-or. In any case it is an amazing February record. Usually after mid-March is the first for either.

Feb. 27 ~ 60dF and fog mist in a.m., up to 80dF in p.m. One Robin still passes through most mornings, stopping in the big pecan for some calling. The White-eyed Vireo is getting louder and more incessant of singing. Heard a Lesser Goldfinch, and later afternoon heard a Purple Martin from the porch, first over yard this spring. What a great sound to hear. The one I saw yesterday didn't call. Over on other side of river on W. 360 I saw a Roadrunner.

There are a half-dozen Crow-Poison now opened up in the yard, there will be hundreds soon, like Anemones. A few Straggler Daisy are opening, and I even saw the winter form Questionmark (butterfly) land on one to nectar! Saw a couple Buckeye, a few Red Admiral, a Duskywing was probably Funereal, and the grasshoppers are really getting going now. Making it incredibly hard to audio tape bird song.

Feb. 26 ~ A female Lesser Goldfinch in the yard is a new arrival, right on time. I had to run to town so looked around a bit. At the north end there was a tight group of 5 Savannah Sparrow which were surely migrants. A flock of 35 Eurasian Starling indicates their return or passage. It is almost as many as I have ever seen here, only a very few winter, and not every year.

At the park were Green, Ringed, and Belted Kingfisher. No waterthrush, since Dec. 30 now, it must have been picked off. Saw some open Dewberry flowers. Below the spillway, just above 1050 along the river where a few trees there was a Blue-headed Vireo. I know of one winter record here in Utopia, a dozen years ago, and a report or two semi- nearbyish. I have checked this area multiple times this winter and not seen it, so suspect it is a spring migrant pushing northward.

At the pond on the country club by Waresville there was one male Purple Martin back at the house there, my FOS. Also a second male Vermilion Flycatcher was back there. Outstanding was an immature male Common Yellowthroat in the reeds around the pond. It has not been there this winter and so surely another migrant, at a ridiculously early date compared to all my others, a month+ early. It has a pale barely yellow throat so clearly not the bird we have had along the river a mile away the last month.

About 6 p.m. a White-tailed Kite flew right over the house northbound. Probably had been in the pasture just to our south. Had just stepped outside for a minute and bam! Good new bird for the yard list. OK, I just looked. It is #213 for the native species yard list in now a month short of 4 years. Plus the 3 introduced non-native vermin, House Sparrow, Eurasian Starling, and Eurasian Collared-Dove. I wouldn't even give Egyptian Goose the dignity of being on the list, though have them occasionally fly by. Nothing more than a barnyard or duckpond domestic. Might as well count Chicken and Emu.

Feb. 25 ~ Still northerlies and about 44dF in a.m., but felt cooler. By later afternoon it was southerlies, but only got into 60's for a high. Ring King again first thing early. Counted 30 House Finch at seed in the afternoon. A male Kestrel was hunting the yard from one of the pecans.

Noonish we walked a mile and change up into the live-oaks and agarita upslope behind us. Saw a few Checkered White butterfly, one Olive Juniper Hairstreak, couple American Lady. At a wet spot in the draw there was an Enallagma Bluet damselfly, probably a Familiar. We heard singing Field and Lark Sparrow, and 27 FOS Sandhill Crane flew over northbound. A few Mountain Laurels have a lot of flowers, as do some Agarita, but most are yet to open. Saw one Anemone (Wind-flower) just about to open, a nice purple one. The most heart-starting moment was when we jumped a boar. When something that big gets moving fast, it doesn't matter that it is going the other way at first detection.
Spotted Skunk Spotted Skunk
On left is the business end of the Spotted Skunk that is around the house a bit.
Sometimes in the shed! I hope you appreciate how brave I was to get these photos.
Of course had I gotten sprayed it would have been how stupid I was. Funny how results
have great bearing on our perception of actions. The yellowish circle on right photo
is the flashlight beam, oops and sorry. Trying to get autofocus to focus.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 24 ~ A dry frontal passage in the a.m. so most of the day it was 10-15 mph northerlies, gusting to 20+ occasionally. First thing a Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver calling. There were 6 American Goldfinch at the feeders. The morning highlight was looking over into the corral and seeing a, likely the, probably our, male Vermilion Flycatcher right where one sits daily for the last 4 years. Two days earlier than my earliest prior FOS return. Then a Horace's Duskywing butterfly came by, my first of the year.

Had a town run so a stop at the park. Added Phaon Crescent to the monthly butterfly list, and saw my second of year Falcate Orangetip there. Saw a Dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly, and in damsels, a Bluet (Enallagma sps.) of some sort got away, and saw a couple Fragile Forktail. Saw Blue Jay and Hutton's Vireo.

Watched Red-shouldered Hawks copulate. I didn't really have anything better to do at the time. Not too long after though, a pair of Ringed Kingfisher was interacting, quietly (for them) chattering back and forth whilst sitting only a couple feet apart at very close range. They were moving around a bit and when I walked back through the woods I saw the female had a 5" sunfish (Red-breasted) she was beating against a branch which I think the male gave to her. A male Green Kingfisher was there too. Then at the north end of town were my FOS (3) Barn Swallows over the mesquite patch. No Martins were seen or heard yet.

At last sun I stepped off back porch and a Yellow-shafted Flicker flushed out of the big pecan, northbound. Late at 10:30 p.m. I was outside and heard a Long-billed Curlew call as it flew over northbound. Near midnight a Barred Owl was going off over at the river. Forgot to mention, had my FOY of the orange-winged Acridid - short-horned Grasshopper.

Feb. 23 ~ Just another 42-90dF day in February. Gadzooks! Laredo, Zapata and other parts of south Texas hit 100dF today! The first few Texas Persimmon leaves are breaking stems, as are a few Hackberry trees, and the Mulberry tree buds are just about to break the stems. It is about to explode green.

I saw an article in the Austin Statesman about the Lady Bird Johnson Flower center saying many flowers were blooming a month early or so already, including some Bluebonnets and Spiderworts. Due to the warm winter. The last freeze was in early January! Of the first 50 days of the year, on 35 it hit 70dF in Austin! Holy cow. Does that sound like winter? Nothing to see here, move along folks.

In leps the Questionmark was out there again, and so was the Funereal Duskywing. Better was a Dusky-blue Groundstreak out front. Great was mid-afternoon when my FOY Falcate Orangtip landed on the only open flower in the front yard, my FOY Crow-Poison. I saw a few butterflies around the muddy spot by the water tank in the corral so walked over. There was my FOY Juvenal's Duskywing!

Most excellent, we are now in record species diversity territory for the month of February, at 28 species with a few days left. Not that the driving forces causing these changes are good. But it is always good to know what is going on, regardless of where the chips may fall. January and Feb. I broke my butterfly species diversity records for those months (14 years of records). Clearly it is warmth connected. They are almost all fresh emergences that had a circadian clock that calculated the warmth and # of days of it, and determined it was spring and time to emerge.

Feb. 22 ~ Happy Birthday to that dude that could not tell an alternate fact. Kinda suprised I did not come up with that myself when I was oh about a teenager. We had a 42-90dF temp spread today. We need more cold, not 90dF in February. That was on the cool front porch. In the sun it was 5dF hotter. Amazing. At dusk this evening I received my FOY mosquito bite. I'd have to check my notes but it is surely one of my earlier FOY's for that.

Heard the White-eyed Vireo around, one each Robin and Waxwing, 4 American Goldfinch, and a winter-form Questionmark (lep). Heard my FOS Lark Sparrow singing, probably a new arrival. Best was at dusk a Spotted Towhee was in the thick stuff across road at the gate. Also then, two types of bats were flying around. Two were Brazillian Freetailed, and the other was probably a Red Bat, and likely the beast we saw a week ago. Much bigger and more robust with a much slower wingbeat.

Feb. 21 ~ With the clear skies and light northerlies it cooled down to about 40dF in the a.m. felt great. Heard the White-eyed Vireo all around the house, gotta be the male of the local breeding (draw) pair. Saw the Rusty Blackbird fly over calling, heading about due north. Wonder if it was on its way out of here? Late at night, just before midnight, the Barred Owl was calling over at the river. Screech-, and Great Horned earlier around house. Ringtail was barking (squirrelish yapping) out there too.

In leps I saw my FOS Henry's Elfin fly around the porch a bit in the afternoon. Lots of Dogface, some Black Swallowtails, Olive-Juniper Hairstreak on the Agarita on fenceline out front. Some Laurel flowers out back on the slope, it is way early for that. Vareigated and Gulf Fritillary, Red Admiral, Sleepy Orange, a possible Cloudless Sulphur again, two Duskywings were seen, one a Funeral, the other may well have been Mournful. Female E. Fence (Prairie) Lizard in afternoon.

Feb. 20 ~ By dawn the rain was all at SAT and eastward, we ended up with 1.75", which is fantastic, and now are in what can be called a wet February with ca. 4" total so far. Heard the White-eyed Vireo in the morning over in the draw. Not seeing the yard-visting Pine Warbler though, I think it has departed. Saw a Goatweed Leafwing (butterfly). After the rains, the Chorus Frogs were loud today.

Was a good day for mammals in the yard. Saw Racoon, Opossum, Striped Skunk, Ringtail, Armadillo, and watched the Gray Fox pee on a tire, better than the cats in the city anyway. Heard the Coyotes behind us. Should have opened the shed to see if the Spotted Skunk was there. Saw Cotton Rat (Sigmodon). Since the Ringtail (or 2) have been hanging in the yard the numbers of White-footed Mouse seem way way way down. But it seems like they are not taking the Sigmodon.

Feb. 19 ~ First thing we have coffee in the living room and look out the windows into the yard. The Turkey were running down the road pretty fast but they didn't appear to be speeding so I let them go. Heard White-eyed Vireo over in draw early. Wonder if this is one of the breeding pair here? Must be the male.

In the afternoon I finished fixing up the now clean nest boxes, and re-upped a couple. Had to go into the shed for some screws. Surprise! The Spotted Skunk was in there. It just climbs behind boxes and moves away. So I hastily grabbed my screws and left. Can't smell anything of it. Also saw my FOY 6-lined Racerunner (lizard) which was a first spring bird, not an after-second year adult (IOW - less than a year old, a little one). After dark a good band of rain moved through and in 90 minutes we had over 1.5".

Feb. 18 ~ Heard Turkey gobbling early thirty. Actually there was a nice bit of dawn chorus from the local resident gang. Cardinal, Titmouse, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Mourning and White-winged Dove, House Finch, Chickadee, and heard a White-eyed Vireo.

Went to the crossing after breakfast to look for the Common Yellowthroat I heard yesterday. Can't have loose ends like this. Not knowing for sure if it is the bird we saw in late January and therefore our first ever wintering record... I refound it 100 yards above the bridge. Got great point blank views. It is the same immature male we saw in latest January, and can therefore comfortably be called a wintering individual. Which is the first one I know of here in 14 years. The black in the mask has filled in quite a bit in the nearly 3 weeks since we last saw it.

So whilst it may be called a Common Yellowthroat, it is not common here in winter. Annually wintering warblers here are Audubon's, Myrtle, Orange-crowned and Pine Warbler. That is it. Four species. There are a few odd records of single birds. Such as... a Black-and-white returned for 5 winters, and a Louisiana Waterthrush returned for 3 winters. Once a Yellow-throated wintered (which was not the local Hill Country type), and a one-day wonder Tropical Parula (thank you bird gods). So a Common Yellowthroat is scarcer than all that here in winter. I saw it take a couple of the winter mayflies that are the wintering migrant passerine's fuel of choice here.

Then I putted up the road through the junipers out west leg of 360. Had texana Scrub-Jay and Hutton's Vireo, no sparrow flock. Nothing on the Chinaberry or Ligustrum, the Turkeys were at Berteau Park by the corn feeder, not a surprise. Saw a Redbud with a few flowers starting to open and several Agarita had flowers open! One had a bunch, with an American Lady, Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, Dogface, Variegated Fritillary, but no Elfin yet. Saw a Checkered White, a few Buckeye, a Texan Crescent, and this before it heated up and noon. Also saw a couple FOS Dot-winged Baskettail dragonfly up in the junipers, after yesterday's probable at the park.

Later afternoon in 84dF heat, we walked up the hill behind us into Agaritaville. It is mixed live-oak-juniper grassland really, and with a few scattered Buckley Oak, the Golden-cheeked Warbler's favored tree of choice. Their leaf buds are just breaking stems so will be opening soon. When they do, the warblers are back. The acres of Agarita were just getting started blooming, only a few are going, mostly just a very little bit yet.

Amazing was a Dusky-blue Groundstreak (butterfly)! Very early. A couple Olive-Juniper Hairstreak but did not see an Elfin. Saw a couple more Dot-winged Baskettail, so four FOS of them today. A couple Mountain Laurels on the slope behind us had a few flowers open, and a few Dutchman's Breeches were open as well. There were honeybees on the Agarita, plus a couple native bees including the metallic green Halichtid.

After dark the Striped Skunk and a Racoon were foraging for fallen sunflower seeds under that feeder, shoulder to shoulder. Then later when I went out, there are a few pallets leaning against the side of the cottage. The Ringtail was sitting on top of them lounging like a cat!

Black Rock Squirrel
Black Rock Squirrel is a terrestrial (ground) squirrel
rather than an arboreal (tree living) type like Fox Squirrel.
Though rarely you might find one up in a tree.
(Taken through old grayed window and screen)

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 17 ~ So uh, happy 02172017. Pretty sure I never had one of those before. Amazing was as I was heading to town, a Common Yellowthroat called as I was on the bridge over the river. It was just 10-15' away, I tried to to pish and chip it up, but it wouldn't come out. I suspect due to rarity right here right now it was the same individual Kathy and I had a couple weeks ago and it can be called a "wintering" individual. Sure would like to visually confirm it is an immature male though. It is our first wintering record.

At the park I saw no waterthrush, Dec. 30 remains my last encounter. I did see a House Wren which is likely a spring migrant this time of year. More interesting were a couple new odes flying. In dragons, a FOS Springtime Darner is a great sign of spring. Another dragon got away which was probably a Dot-winged Baskettail. Then I saw about 3 Fragile Forktail, my first positive ID on a damselfly this year. Which was followed quickly by a Kiowa Dancer. Zygops! Zygoptera is the group, sub-order methinks in this case, damselflies are in. When you see zygops, spring can't be far behind.

Lots more Redbud and Mountain Laurel flowers open on the ones around the library parking lot. Black and Pipevine Swallowtail were on the Laurel. Also saw those beautiful, fast, metallic turquoise native bees. Laurel Bees I call them, as that is where to see them. They are big as the standard Euro Honeybee. They are so fast and agile, they are very hard to photograph. No Elfin I could find.

At 9:30 p.m. I went outside and the last bit of seed thrown out did not get consumed due to accipiter pressure. There was eating sunflowers a Racoon, an Opossum, and the Ringtail! That Ringtail is amazing. The other night there were two chasing and squeaking loudly, they ran up a small pecan and I heard them run right over the office on the roof! I forgot to mention, later last night the Coyotes made a kill and a dozen or more went bonkers calling for 5 minutes as they do. And yesterday early a.m. saw the Gray Fox outside. I love all the wild mammals here.

Feb. 16 ~ Another chilly morning, about 36dF, nice to feel some winter still. In the far part of the yard, perhaps 200' from the porch, past the pecans, there are open skies over grass, some of which I leave taller. I saw a Harrier hunting low over that area for a minute or two. Heard a Belted Kingfisher over at the river, certainly the scarcest of the 3 kingfisher species along this section of the river. Saw what was probably an Elfin blast past. Will wait for a sure look to call an FOS though...

Feb. 15 ~ The northerlies brought some cooler air, it was about 37-38dF this morning. Almost like winter. Heard two Ringed Kingfishers first thing about 7 a.m. over at the river. Sounded like a 50 cal. shootout. Had a quick town run early and at the park was a Green Kingfisher, the waterthrush is still MIA. Some of the Black Willows are sprouting leaves now in another sign of spring approaching. I heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet moving around the yard a few times mid-morning. Haven't had one in a while a nd I suspect this is a spring migrant. It is that time for them.

Feb. 14 ~ Happy Valentines Day! Our gift was thunder at about 3:30 a.m. and more rain. We got about 1.25 from this second band and so a total of 2 and an eighth inches with last nights' 8 p.m. band of rain. Outstanding. Now northerlies and almost like winterish. The water is great for February as so many things approach grow mode and it has been dry overall the last couple months. Now we have a couple inches at least each in Feb. and January. So much of spring here starts in March, the Jan. and Feb. rains are actually very critical to a good growout for the early spring first starters.

Feb. 13 ~ Seven Turkeys were in the yard in the a.m. again. Big bearded Toms. And tell the whole truth, crapping all over the patio. Watch what you wish for. So you ask, "wouldn't it be neat to live with Turkeys in the yard?"  Yes, until they eat all your chili pequins off the bushes, and show up at the seed tray and throw dirt all over the patio, then make some rather substantial deposits before they go.  ;)  I know, ya gotta love 'em, they are so big, and soooo beautiful, that green and bronze iridescence at point blank is just dazzling, and hearing them converse endlessly (about the hens?) is cool too.

Heard the White-eyed Vireo out there again today, in the corral. I had to run to town quickly in the afternoon. No waterthrush at the park again, I am afraid we lost it. Turkey Vulture, Ringed Kingfisher, and best, I heard a squirrel being taken. Up at the farthest part of the woods I flushed a big female Cooper's Hawk with a Fox Squirrel in its talons. It could barely fly with it. Went about 30' and landed on a branch. I backed out as I didn't want it to lose the prey trying to cross the river with it. I am amazed how these big female Coops can take a Fox Squirrel. Second time I have seen it here.

Some Meadowlarks were along road, and the Shrike was on W. 360. One of the big major signs of spring is now showing, right on time. The Redbud flowers are opening on a couple of them at the Library. Mid-Feb. is just right at average for the first ones. But there was one Mountain Laurel with open flowers already, which I have never seen in mid-February here. March is usually when they go. That is how warm it has been. We need cold.

A couple Pipevine Swallowtail and an Olive Juniper Hairstreak were on the Redbud flowers, but no Elfin. A Hairstreak got away that was likely a favonius (Southern aka Oak). It flew into the adjacent live oak. About 8 p.m. the first band of rain ahead of a cold front came through and in 40 minutes we got seven-eighths of an inch.

Feb. 12 ~ A surprise in the a.m. was my FOS White-eyed Vireo calling! It is my earliest spring arrival date locally ever, though Leslie Calvert had one on the 13th last year, which was then the earliest we ever had. We showed our guests the Buried Lies Cemetery over at Waresville, and walking the pond there again flushed a Wilson's Snipe, so it spent the winter. I was surprised to see a Red Saddlebags dragonfly, which is a new fresh emergence. Later in the afternoon Kathy and I walked to the crossing and had a Black Swallowtail, but few birds. Needed the good leg-stretch though.

Feb. 11 ~ Got up to about 80dF today, a front is working its way here, so the standard pre-arrival warmup. Saw the Ringed Kingfisher flying upriver over the Cypresses early in the morning. Also saw my first Eastern Cottontail of the year. Where do they go in winter? Watched the Sharpy take a House Finch up top of the big pecan. We had a quick look at the park but only saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. We had guests visiting today so not much time out looking. At dusk we were on the patio and saw our FOS bat fly over! It might have been bigger than a freetail, not sure of species.


Western Ribbonsnake. It is one of the Gartersnake group.
The dorsal stripe can be cream, yellow, orange, or even red!
I saw a stunning red one off of S. Thunder Creek Rd. once. Most here look like this one.

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Feb. 10 ~ Cooler a bit finally, only in low to mid 70's dF. Breezy in afternoon though, 15 gusting to 20mph. Yard was the regulars, one Waxwing came by for a bit. A few American Goldfinch too. Heard a Hutton's Vireo in the big yard Hackberry in the afternoon. Checked the park during a quick town run and saw nothing but the regular expected suspects. Missed the waterthrush again, but they are still cutting trees on the private properties on both sides of the river above the island where it hung out. I presume it is upriver. Sorry but had a bunch of work to do this week so short on notes.

Feb. 9 ~ Too busy Thursday... Saw a Vesta Crescent (lep) today, as well as a Checkered White and an Orange Sulphur, plus all the expected things flying now. Late p.m. a Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver high over the cypesses. Saw the Ringtail again tonight, this time I got Kathy over to the door quickly enough that she got to see it too as it sat on the old original (unused) wellhouse. Too cool.

Feb 8 ~ Was about 42-85dF for a temp spread today. Amazing for early February. The Funereal Duskywing butterfly was out there again today. Also saw Red Admiral, American Lady, Variegated Fritillary, an Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, Sleepy Orange, Dogface, a Pipevine Swallowtail. After dark I had great looks at the Ringtail around the patio and on the cottage. It made a call I have never heard, a cackling chatter, or a rattled chirping, very interesting. What an incredible animal.

Feb. 7 ~ Holy cowfish it got warm this afternoon, it was about 85-86dF! Hondo had 89dF, their record this date was 82 in 2008. The magnificent 7, bearded Toms (Turkey), were all over the yard and patio this morning. Saw what was likely the same Funeral Duskywing (butterfly) that was here Jan. 29. A seemingly fairly unskilled immature male Sharp-shinned Hawk is missing on hunting attempts on the seed-eaters about every hour all day. Cardinal, and Bewick's and Carolina Wren are really starting to get some singing going. They are starting to feel it now. It seems a little reluctant as they first get back at it. Add a little warmth and you can feel it now.

Feb. 6 ~ Just the regular stuff, its Monday back at the salt mine so can't look around too much. Yard flocks are about 125 Chipping Sparrow (and one Lark), 25+ Cardinal, 50-60 Morning and 25-30 White-winged Dove, 8 Ground-Dove, and 30 House Finch. We have some serious dependents here. The Titmice seem to be thinning, probably spreading out as breeding season approaches. A couple Golden-fronted Woodpecker still daily on the sunflowers. The Chickadees are duetting a fair bit now, the super high thin "see you, see mee" song, occasionally interspresed with some hoarser "sweeeet ba-by" from one of them.

Feb. 5 ~ Another gray drizzly day, but a bit warmer, maybe 55-65dF for a temp range. And there were a few brief holes in the overcast but not much for long. About 9 Robin were around for a bit in the morning. A few Waxwing too. I got my high count for Ground-Dove, EIGHT at once on the seed!

We walked to the crossing noonish. A Chippy flock on the way there had Field Sparrow in it. Had a House Wren which are scarce here in winter, and a male Green Kingfisher when we went over to the river about half way to crossing. At one point it perched 18-20' over the water on a pretty thick cypress branch. Like where you would see a Ringed. There were a few Myrtle and a heard Pine Warbler, Kinglet (Ruby), and the regular residents, Cardinal, Chickadee, and Titmouse. In the corral on the way back there were 3 Vesper and a, or the, Lark Sparrow. Later the Lark Sparrow was on the patio. One lone bird wintering here this year. You think of them as being a fairly social sparrow.

Feb. 4 ~ Another cold gray drizzly day, maybe 45-55dF for a temp range. Worked inside. The 7 Turkey came by the patio. I tried to get a couple shots of the Pine Warbler when it was down with House Finches. They don't sit still. Will show if anything comes out worth it. I would be OK with 125 count on the Chipping Sparrows now. I counted 15 male House Finch at once, there are as many females. Most males are flushed very red on the back now, quite unlike most field guide illustrations.

Their dull winter plumage is wearing away revealing much brighter mate selection attire. Most often think that bright breeding plumages are acquired my molt, and they can be, they are with some types of birds. But, they are also just as often the result of feather wear. They molt in fall after breeding, and have just the right amount of dullness at the tips of the feathers to make them less conspicuous all winter, which by time it wears off in spring reveals a brighter breeding plumage, without molting into it just then when for many species they have to be expending all their energy into migration.


This Anole took this Pipevine Swallowtail right off
a flower. Pipevines are alleged to be distasteful,
like Monarchs due to what the caterpillar eats,
Pipevines. Unfortunately I couldn't follow the
lizard for a day or two to ask it if it got indigestion.
It took hours but it worked the wings off and ate it.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 3 ~ A cold gray day, about 40-50dF for a temp range. I saw two Green Kingfisher at the park, but no waterthrush still, been since latest December when I last saw it. Hope it wasn't taken and it is just the month of tree-trimming noise. There were two Turkey Vulture on some roadkill between the spillway and 1050, along with 40 Blacks. Saw about 5 Myrtle Warbler, all males.

The ad. male Pine Warbler here is so bright I can not get over it. Every spring, I can't get over it. It will leave before the end of the month. No one has a clue where these Pine Warblers that winter here, go to breed. Interesting is how when it is on the ground I could see pale diffuse, almost hidden but present, veiled dusky lines on the back. When it was at eye-level I could not see them. Only when it was on the ground and I was looking down into the back were they visible. This of course at less than 20', I am not sure from how far they would be visible. Generally Pine is considered to have an unstreaked back, and it does usually appear that way. But it can appear to have faint diffuse pale dusky streaks that form lines in the back. At least these can, at this time of the year.

Feb. 2 ~ I think it was 45-65dF or so today. Too busy working on biz at the computer. I did notice the 7 Turkey that spent an hour on the patio and cleaning under the seed feeders. I see a Cardinal without a tail that probably gave it to an accipiter. I think it is about 120 Chipping Sparrow now, still 30 Cardinal, at least 50 Mourning and 30+ White-winged Dove. Talk about dependents! Just when I was thinking how much those Chippies eat, the Turkeys showed up. In the afternoon a Lincoln's Sparrow went through the yard, there has not been one here in the yard in some time, like maybe since late November.

February 1 ~ OMG, February! I am not ready for this, can someone slow this ride down? It was about 36dF this a.m., again several dF colder than forecast. Then it got up to 85dF! Within a dF or two of record territory, and 50 deg. diurnals! Amazing. A few butterflies were out in the heat, nice since it was back to zero on the monthly total. One Checkered-Skipper got away that may have been a Desert. There was Sleepy Orange, Gulf Frit, Red Admiral, Dogface, and a few Snout. Pine Warbler worked the sunflower bits under that feeder.

So at last lookabout outside at late thirty I heard some weird noises, grabbed flashlight and saw one of the (Striped) skunks moving over toward cottage (where den hole). I did notice a strong scent in the air. Must have been some sort of altercation and it had just let loose a wee bit. Was not real stong, or so it seemed. But apparently there was a fair bit floating around in the air and in the process of going in and out, the breeze wafted according to my better half, a significant volume of fresh skunk scent into the house. Yup, stunk the whole house up. Yer welcome. It still stunk skunk in the morning, and for half the next day. It wasn't even that strong outside. I cannot tell an alternate fact, I did that.

~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~

I can not believe we have blazed through a month already. We have either entered a time warp, or I am getting old. I fear the latter. Overall the month was warm and mild. But there was a cold spell with a 15dF, and 18dF lows to freeze yer ferns. It was dry, about 2" of rain for the month. At least everything got some water, the river is still high.

Butterflies were outstanding, by species diversity count, but which is not necessarily an indicator of something good. It could be bad that a record number of species were seen in the month. It was a record 26 species for the month, about double the average January species count (n~14). Even in February I have only exceeded 22 sps. for the month one time. Lots of warmth and so lots of early mis-timed emergences were triggered. Most are genetic deadends. There is nothing to eat, or mate with for most. So it is not good for the butterflies themselves. It also could be indicative of a bigger problem, that might affect us, who knows. Then someone would give a hoot.

Dragonflies and damselflies were weak as expected, only leftover Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies were seen, and a few flushed but not ID'd damselfies were glimpsed. Mammals made up for it though, with in-the-yard Ringtail, Spotted and Striped Skunk, Gray Fox, and hearing Coyote nightly. The warmth also had a few reptiles out this January, saw a Western Ribbon Snake, around house Anoles were regular on warm days, early was one E. Fence (Prairie) Lizard for the month.

Birds were great, though we were too busy to look much. It was about 85 species locally this month, which does not count anything below Clayton Grade (or 361 actually). Strictly locally around Utopia, without any special effort, or much time for that matter. Probably saw another 6+ sps. down in the brush country flatlands.

A Neotropic Cormorant at UP Jan. 20 is my first on the ground here (one prior flyover record) and a great winter record. A White-tailed Hawk was described by Leslie Calvert 4-5 mi. SSW of town off UvCo 361 New Years Day. Based on which I added it to the hypotheticals under main hawk section on the bird list page. I saw one S. of Sabinal down in the flatlands below Hwy. 90, Jan. 21, still in UvCo where a rare bird with less than 10 records. A couple Least Grebe were at the Frio River crossing way south of Sabinal on Hwy. 187, wish we could get one at the park pond.

A Common Yellowthroat Jan. 28 is my first winter record here in fourteen years. What may be my first overwintering known Dec.-to-Jan. Turkey Vulture was good too. Three TV's on Jan. 31 was unprecedented, presumedly early returns. On Jan. 1 a sparrow got away that I thought was a Baird's, again. A few Black-throated Sparrow were seen, as well as some Bushtit which have been scarcer since the drought. Lots of White-fronted Geese flying north Jan. 14 is a couple weeks earlier than usual.

~ ~ ~ end of January summary ~ ~ ~

Jan. 31 ~ Bird bath frozen again, another 29-30dF low! In the afternoon it was 78-79 on the patio - near a 50dF diurnal temp range! A few butterflies were out, I saw a Pipevine and Kathy saw a Black Swallowtail. Saw American Lady, Dogface. Wish I could have run off and looked for one more butterfly sps. for the month. Especially an Elfin, a sps. I have had in January a number of times, usually on Agarita or Redbud waiting for it to bloom. Was warm enough today to get one if any are out yet.

The birds of the day were just before last sun, three Turkey Vulture flew downriver looking like they were looking for a place to roost. I have about 3-4 records in the December to mid-February period. This winter one has been overwintering quite unusually. Three at once in January is unprecedented. Normally it is Valentine's Day or so on average when the first one returns, and after mid-Feb. for three at once. So this is wayyy early.

Kinda like how the northbound migrant ducks and geese strike me. We will have to wait and watch to see if it is a thing this year, and or if something is going on. Observe and record. This is they key. Names, dates, and numbers. Get data. Have numbers, will crunch.

Jan. 30 ~ Bird bath frozen again, about 29-30dF or so, and got up to lower mid-70'dF in afternoon. Amazing spread. Too much work and not much looking. Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks making visits all day. The ad. ma. Pine Warbler was out there again in the afternoon under sunflower feeder scavenging bits. Nice bird to have around the yard if you ask me. Some real color here in winter when everything is brown. Saw the Turkey Vulture, and a Zone-tailed Hawk go over in different directions at the same time. A group of 40 Black Vultures went over. Once Ground-Doves flushed and it was at least 6 of them! Might have been 7. Forgot to mention, the resident yard pair of Eastern Phoebe are messing around their nest the last week.

Jan. 29 ~ Bird bath was iced over, was 29dF this morning, KRVL had the same. Got up to about 70dF in afternoon. Noonish we went to the park, but were late and someone had already been up the trail into woods, we missed the waterthrush. It seems to flush out if anyone has been up that trail. The amazing thing was a few new-for-the-month butterflies. I saw two winter form Questionmark. Two others were likely my first ever January fresh emergence records, a Phaon Crescent and a Texan Crescent. The Texan was quite yellow where usual white areas (ph.). Will have to give that a hard study when I get the pix off camera. Three new for month species in a hundred yards or so is amazing. Then back home for lunch and a Funeral Duskywing flew up to, and then away from me. So four new butterflies for the day, surely the last day of the month I will get any time to look around, so a nice finish.

And which pushes the total for butterfly species for the month into record territory: 26 species. Never before in a January, and only once in a February have I recorded 26 species. January average over 14 years is under 14 sps. per month. The last ten years it is under 12 species per January on average. So over double the prior ten year average = very significant. I would guess all the warm days triggered circadian alarm clocks and therefore emergences were at a much higher than usual rate. Almost all the different ones were not worn individuals left over from last year, but fresh (mis-timed) emergences.

After lunch we went down to UvCo 361 and gave it another try. But peak heat of the day and it was deadish. None of all the raptors we saw a couple weeks ago but one Red-tail and a few Kestrel. I had a glimpse of what looked like a Sage Thrasher but it got away into a brushy wash. A couple Hermit Thrush and some Eastern Bluebird were along the road. Also some meadowlarks I could not settle on an ID for, at point blank range. Is that ridiculous or what? They can be tough visually in veiled winter plumage. Have you ever wondered if Lillian's (Eastern) Meadowlark could occur here? I have. The Pine Warbler was on the patio in later afternoon.

Jan. 28 ~ Didn't get as cold as forecast, was maybe 40dF for a low. There were a few sprinkles late last night, but a spit or two was it. They were calling for a chance of sleet or snow to the west and north of us overnight last night. We took an hour walk to the crossing and back, about 11 a.m. it was 50dF but the off and on light wind was cold. We saw something I keep forgetting to mention, the last couple or few weeks, there have been pair bond flight displays by Black Vulture, showing overhead daily on clear days. Do not underestimate the love flight of the Black Vulture. It can be mighty impressive.

Twenty Chippies, a Vesper and a Lincoln's Sparrow along the corral, and a dozen each Cardinal and House Finch. At the crossing there was a Song Sparrow, and amazingly, a Common Yellowthroat. It was an imm. male, and the first winter record I have for the upper Sabinal drainage. Like Blue-gray Gnatcatcher they winter off the plateau in the brush-country flatlands, but not up here in the colder and less buggy in winter hills. For Bandera Co., e-bird shows none from 1st week of December to third week of March. It is absent in winter locally. Here in winter Common Yellowthroat is a most uncommon find. I do not think I have seen one locally from late October to latest March for fourteen years. Generally late fall to spring there are 5 months or so we are Yellowthroat free, this is in the middle of it. A great record for a 'common' bird. Kathy saw the Gray Fox today (and yesterday). Barn Owl after dark.

Pine Warbler

Probably the same adult male Pine Warbler here now,
this pic taken a couple winters ago on the patio.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 27 ~ A chilly day, overcast, about 35-50dF for a temp spread with a light north wind on it. In the morning there were two male Lesser Goldfinch here, which is amazing. While watching them, two Audubon's Oriole called, a warning, they were the first to note a sneaky incoming accipiter. Tipped everyone off with their sharp eyes. The park had a Ringed Kingfisher, couple Blue Jay, and a Hermit Thrush. No waterthrush again. Still noisy over the fence though with blaring radio and chainsaws. Red-shouldered Hawk out front of park in pecan in pasture.

One Savannah Sparrow in front of the school landed on the low wire fence next to a dozen Cedar Waxwing. I forgot something so had to run back to town about 4 p.m. and checked the park again. It was a real honest forgetting, it's not like it is spring migration or something.  ;)  The Turkey Vulture was with several Black Vultures coming in to roost as they do in the big Cypresses. A corral on W. 360 had a couple hundred Brewer's Blackbird, 40+ Red-winged, mostly females, and a dozen plus Brown-headed Cowbird. The W. 360 Loggerhead Shrike still in its pasture.

Jan. 26 ~ We were about 35dF this morn, it hit 31 in KRVL. There now that feels like winter. The male Lesser Goldfinch was out there again today. They used to arrive the 3rd week of February after being absent since November, and most still do. Only a very very few winter, around feeders. Almost the same period of absence exists with Turkey Vulture, absent late-Nov. to mid-Feb. in general. With just two or three winter records over 14 winters, despite all the roadkill. Today the Turkey Vulture that seems to be wintering this year circled over the yard low. Has to be the same bird seen in Dec., and earlier in January. Saw the Rusty Blackbird today too.

Jan. 25 ~ The dry front blew light northerlies all day, Saw a report of a Purple Martin down on the coast today. A week or more early. They can arrive down there in the warmer buggy flatlands a month before they do up here in the colder hills. Nearly a dozen Robin stopped by briefly. Between 35-40 waxwing were around for a couple hours, on the one juniper with berries, and twice all coming in to the bird bath for drinks. Whence we get great point blank views out the kitchen and bathroom windows.

Saw at least 5 Ground-Dove at once when an Accipiter flushing took place. The different bird of the day was a male Lesser Goldfinch. They did not winter in the hill country prior to thistle (nyger) seed feeding (by people). Three tom Turkey spent a couple hours around the yard and on the patio eating little tiny white millet seeds, deftly I might add. Big ol' dang bird eating the tiniest of seeds with amazing precision. Barn Owl after dark.

Jan. 24 ~ Was a 42 to 82dF spread today, nearing record heat for the date. Further south they had 90dF! A flock of about 35 White-fronted Geese went over early in the morning. As can happen in the heat, two new for month butterflies were out, a Checkered White, and an early Olive Juniper Hairstreak. They are so green, slightly iridescent, when they are mint fresh right out of the package, er, chrysalis, when no one has scratched the paint yet.

Had a couple Robin, couple dozen Waxwing, couple Myrtle Warbler, the Lark Sparrow, some Ground-Dove, 50+ Mourning Dove now. Nearing last sun a Ringed Kingfisher flew up the river calling. At twilight about 6:30 p.m. I heard a single Wigeon call and shortly heard duck wings, then spotted a flock of about 35 or so heading due north, probably going to fly for the night. Heading north already like the geese. Seems early to me.

Jan. 23 ~ I told Kathy last night it was going to get colder than the forecast. NOAA had KRVL for 39dF low, then latelate showed 37, it got 33 there. WU showed us for 42 or so, it was 35dF here. At least the wind finally stopped. There were the couple dozen waxwings out front early, and a couple Robin with them. Afternoon got up to about 75dF and popped a couple new for the month butterflies out. A Black Swallowtail and a Sachem (skipper) were both FOY - first of year. As was a West. Ribbon Snake which may have obliged for pix, we'll see when they come off of camera. Nice 27" or so beauty, looked fat like a pregnant female.

Jan. 22 ~ From dark yesterday, all night, and all day today, the wind blew 20-30 mph gusting to 40! I can't get up for land birding in a gale so worked on stuff here. In the afternoon I saw the male Pine Warbler on the ground under the sunflower feeder with the House Finches. The one Lark Sparrow continues. Near sundown a Merlin flew into the big live-oaks up the slope behind us looking like it was coming in to roost. At dark the winds finally decoupled and laid down. It was a 24 hr. hard blow.

Jan. 21 ~ Boy you sure get a lot more weather here for your money. It was foggy this morning. Then mid-day it got sunny, and warm, up to 80dF! Then late afternoon about 5 p.m. the winds hit, 20-30 mph west to northwest, and gusting higher. Supposed to blow all night and all day Sunday. Three seasons in one day. Welcome to Texas.

Noonish I did a b double-e double-r u-n, down to Sabinal. Actually I wanted to do some ag field and brushcountry flatlands hedgerow birding, and look for hawks. Dirt fields and telephone poles, how exciting can it get? Particularly White-tailed Hawk I mentioned to Kathy, since there seems to be an inland movement this winter. Kathy had other stuff to do here more exciting than dirt clods and tele poles. Usually there are hawks, cranes, geese, sparrow flocks, and if lucky Mountain Plover or a longspur.

The 18 miles south to Sabinal was uneventful. Then I did about five miles of Old Sabinal Rd. parallel and south of Hwy. 90 running west from Sabinal to Uvalde. Amazing was the lack of sparrow flocks along the road, usually it is loaded. One Savannah, one Vesper, two White-crowned, and that was it. Heard some Pyrrhuloxia, saw a couple Verdin, two Harris's Hawk, best was a Greater Yellowlegs at a stock tank. A good bird at a random tank in winter here. Saw one Checkered White butterfly.

Then I went south on Hwy. 187 from Sabinal to the Zavala County line, and poached a couple miles past it. About 9 miles south of Sabinal I found an adult WHITE-TAILED HAWK out in an ag field, way out. It was hovering, then landed in a short tree, so I got to scope it though it was distant. Then it got up and flew around and gave a good show of the crisp ink black band near tip of all snow white tail and rump, rusty shoulders, pointed wings, what a beautyo of a buteo. Up until as recently as after 2005 there was only one Uvalde Co. record, from 1985, filmed taking bats at the Frio Cave. Since then there have been a handfull of reports, but still there are less than ten county reports. One was photographed near Sabinal I think last year, near Hwy. 90. It is my first in UvCo and the semi-longshot hoped-for target I was really most after.

There were about 4 more Harris's Hawk along 187 south of Sabinal (so 6 total) and several Caracara, a few Red-tailed Hawk, one of which was a belly banded eastern type, rest were resident Fuertes's. Always interesting are Turkey Vulture south of Sabinal. I had a dozen. They do not usually winter 20 miles north of Sabinal up here in the hills (though we have one this year) at Utopia while they are regular down there below the escarpment in the warmer brush-country from Hwy. 90 south.

There is some good looking habitat at the Sabinal River crossing way south of Sabinal on 187, maybe about 12 miles or so. Better is the habitat at the Frio crossing a few miles further south. There was a bit of water at both crossings but some fisherman had flushed anything at the Sabinal xing. At the Frio crossing there were a couple Gadwall, one Green Kingfisher, and two LEAST GREBE, one in each pond on either side of the road.

Somewhere along the road I heard a Long-billed Thrasher. But overall there was a dearth of passerines. I looked in a lot of fields and hedgerows along roads around Sabinal over a few hours and saw no cranes, geese, plovers, longspurs or any significant sparrow flock. I heard a Horned Lark but didn't see it. No Lark Bunting or Say's Phoebe either.

Way down 187 I saw a hawk on the pole just a hundred yards over the Zavala Co. line so continued into the foreign county to see what I could poach. A nice tame Harris's Hawk, and a bit further a Caracara in the first mile. Then at the junction of Hwys. 187 x 140, a dozen Scaled Quail flew across the road! For a whopping three species in Zavala County, where I am now probably firmly in last place. As I returned home with my trophies, a UvCo White-tailed Hawk and a dozen skunky Coronas, at the 360 xing there was another Green Kingfisher.

White-tipped Black

There was a bit of an invasion of White-tipped Black
moths this past fall. They are LTA - less than annual, here.
Neat how I cut off one of the white tips on the White-tip.
Call for free tips on how to screw up photos...

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 20 ~ An amazing high of 80dF was above expectations. Darn near warm out there. The yard seemed the same gang. A town run netted a stop at the park though. Where you just never know what might be there. No waterthrush but chain saws were going over the fence again. Heard a Green Kingfisher. The prize was a NEOTROPIC CORMORANT! First on an emerged log at top of island, then it swam down to the pond, and when I got back down there, it then flew back upriver. I have had just one in the prior 13 years (only in flight) locally in the upper Sabinal River drainage. This is the first on the water, and the first in a decade. A few are regular at Uvalde, but up here in the hills is a different story. Would not have thought January was when to see one here. It was an ad. not an immature. I heard one of the thunderstorms that went by this week caused vehicle damage up around Vanderpool near Lost Maples, from 2" golfball sized hail.

Jan. 19 ~ About 45-75dF for a temp spread, and humidity got down to 30%, felt great. Yard is turning green fast. Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks hitting the seed eaters. A few butterflies were out in the heat. Amazing was a Vesta Crescent, my FOY and maybe my first January record. A few Sleepy Orange, a Dogface, Gulf Fritillary, couple Red Admiral, and Kathy thought she had a Mestra fly by. Heard a Barn Owl after dark hunting over the grass airstrip just south.

Jan. 18 ~ Nice and wet out there from the rain last night, and cool. A couple inches will keep the dust down for almost a couple weeks. Plus I was going to have to wash the trucklet, and now I don't have to, just in time. Dodged that bullet. The Pine Warbler was back down on the seed with the House Finches. When the sun comes through that olive back it can really light up green.

Amazing was a huge flock of ducks at a distance unfortunately that precluded positive ID. There were a couple hundred, they looked big. Just behind them I picked up a second flock of a couple dozen, again too far, but they circled back and looked like Shovelers, as did the first group. Then at dark another flock of a couple dozen big ducks flew over in very little light, they too looked like Shoveler. It is the only big duck we have in numbers here, Pintail and Mallard are scarce.

After dark I heard a squeaky squabble going on outside, grabbed flashlight and went over to the old unused wellhouse. Behind it were two Striped Skunk. Don't know if it was love or war. But one went back under the cottage, so was our local resident, and the other sauntered across the yard toward road out front. At least they didn't spray, must be a gentleman's agreement they have with each other. More civil than some people.

Jan. 17 ~ Low 50's dF, gray, spotty showers and drizzle, and staying like that all day. Might get some more precip. Cooper's Hawks made attempts on the seed eaters a few times in the morning. There are over a hundred Chipping Sparrow now, and at least 25 House Finch. At one point there were a dozen House Finch under the sunflower feeder with a Pine Warbler foraging for bits of broken hearts among them. Kind of a funny flock. Also saw Common Ravens, Caracaras, a N. Harrier, local resident pair of Red-tails, a couple Cooper's Hawk, heard Kestrel and Western Meadowlark, had a couple dozen Waxwings a couple times. Barred Owl was calling over at river after dark.

We got a quarter inch of precip over the day, then later after dark, another half inch. So .75 for the day, with the just under 1.5" day before yesterday and the event was about 2.2" total. Amazing, we needed it badly, all the frontal passages have been dry the last month plus. The ground will turn way greener in a few days. It is already greener than usual due to lack of consistent cold, stuff is sprouting.

Jan. 16 ~ Happy MLK Day! It was about 45dF here this a.m., whilst forecasts said low 50's, off by nearly a whole category. Felt great, nice and wet from the rain last night. We needed it, was getting dusty out there. Lost Maples looked like it got 2-3 INCHES! The river will stay high. The grass in yard is already greening up, some birds are singing. Ringed Kingfisher calling over at river early in morning for an hour. The regular imm. N. Harrier went over low early, looked like it was eyeing feeders and areas of seed closely.

Heard my first White-winged Dove song of the year. BTW, we heard our FOY Chickadee song on Jan. 1! In the last two weeks there has been a noticeable increase in song from Carolina Wren especially, but also N. Cardinal, Bewick's Wren, and heard a Black-crested Titmouse sing a couple days ago. Nearing a month since the solstice. Just a little increased daylength and on nice days we get some birdsong to get us through winter.

Just after 11 p.m. I heard this constant yapping outside the office window. Somewhere between a squirrel and a small dog. The RINGTAIL! I went outside and actually got a great close look at it, perhaps 6-8 feet away at closest! The camera didn't work so I missed my photo. But at least I got a point blank view! One of the neatest animals there is is if you ask me. Seems like there would have to be a couple around for it to be communicating?

Jan. 15 ~ Sprinkles on and off all morning into early afternoon. Maybe a quarter inch total. We need rain, supposed to be an event overnight tonight. We hope. Finally in afternoon it broke a bit and we went out around 360 and walked the knoll looking for the probable Baird's Sparrow we saw a couple weeks ago.

Along the back of 360, north of the knoll we had a small flock, of about 16 Field Sparrow, and I heard a Black-throated Sparrow. This was right where the same two species were a couple weeks ago. Also loosely moving with them was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Hutton's Vireo, an Orange-crowned Warbler, and a Bewick's Wren. Saw a couple Dutchman's Breeches with flower buds just about to open. They are one of the first ones to go off.

Up on the knoll we criscrossed lots of the chigger grassy area where the Baird's Sparrow was a couple weeks ago and could not kick up anything. But a FOY Roadrunner, one N. Harrier hunting juniper-oak-grassland, and four Caracara. On the south base of the knoll we found another flock of Field Sparrow, at least another dozen, with at least two Black-throated Sparrow in with them. This was very near where the pair of them nested last year. We got great close looks, what a beautiful bird. Heard another Hutton's vireo, saw a couple Titmouse, another Kinglet, and another Bewick's Wren. On the way home we stopped for a quick peek at the 360 crossing, there was a male Green Kingfisher where yesterday's female was, just below the bridge.

Over the course of the day we got about three sixteenths of an inch of rain, nearly a quarter. Then after dark the predicted MCS ran across plateau west to east. In a half hour we had an inch more, and a bit after that another few sixteenths. Total was about one and seven sixteenths. Sorry about the fractions, can't use slashes here easily, it messes up the code... and I don't know my metric sixteenths well.

Jan. 14 ~ Holy cow, two weeks into the new year already. It was off and on showerlets most of the morning. We are supposed to get a rain event tomorrow. So after lunch when it cleared enough and we went out for a couple hour putt around. We went south down-valley for a change. At the 3 or 4 mile (heard it called both) bridge on 187 it was as dead for birds as I have seen it. But one House Wren was nice, though heard only. A Cardinal and a Kinglet (Ruby) were the only other birds there. I did see a Blanchard's Cricket-Frog, my FOY.

Then we cruised the couple miles of UvCo 361 just south and west of that crossing. Best was finally seeing a Say's Phoebe this winter. Total of about 10 Savannah and 1 Vesper Sparrow. Heard a Pyrrhuloxia, saw a dozen Eastern Bluebird, a few Mockingbird, and 8 Raven. A flock of a couple hundred Brewer's Blackbird had 3 Starling, 20 Brown-headed Cowbird and a dozen Red-winged Blackbird in it.

Saw a bunch of raptors, there were a couple Caracara, 5-6 Red-tailed Hawk, a Cooper's Hawk, a half-dozen Kestrel, a N. Harrier, and a White-tailed Kite. One of the Red-tailed Hawks was a belly-banded Eastern type, the rest resident Fuertes'. Also saw one Pipevine Swallowtail. But no White-tailed Hawk. There are reports of 5 White-tailed Hawks further north than normal in Bexar Co. right now, so a northward movement is apparently indicated this year. Keep your eyes peeled, maybe you can get lucky like Leslie did. On the way home as we went over the 360 crossing there was a female Green Kingfisher hunting next to the bridge, and one Song Sparrow.


Hey can you pick those leaves off that for me?
Porcupine gets a bit ratty during late-summer shed.
They drink like dillos, ten minutes at a sitting.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 13 ~ Happy Friday the 13th! The low was 66dF, and yesterday's was about 65. These are average high temps for the date. Just getting up to mid-70's dF, and very humid gulf flow. Some scattered sprinkles in a.m. Across the road caught a glimpse of a small hawk as it flew into the corral, which looked like the Roadside. Then the electric company tree trimming crew showed up and it got beyond very noisy with chain saws and a tree shredder. A Pipevine Swallowtail in yard was a fresh emergence, fooled by the 75dF warmth lately. A lot of these first-of-the-year eager beavers are genetic dead-ends. No food and nothing to mate with, plus likely to freeze. Got a bad bio-clock.

Had a town run so checked the park. The tree trimmers there were not cutting, but lots of branches down on the adjacent property to north, and across the river too, so clearly it has been very noisy there this week. No surprise no waterthrush. About 5 Myrtle Warbler, 4 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, some Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee and Wren, a few bluebird flew over. Great was a treetop view of a Zone-tailed Hawk soaring right overhead low as could be up in the woods. Also saw Green Kingfisher and the Pied-billed Grebe. Was sprinkling a little in town.

Jan. 12 ~ Thursday, my stuck near phone and monitor day. The Rusty Blackbird was in yard early in the morning. Later in afternoon I saw a Turkey Vulture which I presume is the one seen in December and so likely a very rare here wintering record (once in prior 13 winters). I also heard an Audubon's Oriole up in the live-oaks out back. There was an amazing burst of Ringed Kingfisher machine gun fire call for a couple minutes. There were two initially and what I presume was the dominant male went off after displacing the other bird. It was full volume .50 caliber for two minutes almost without stopping, finally he ran out of either ammo or steam. Also had a Pine Warbler in yard.

After dark I heard something banging around out under the carport out back of house. Grabbed gun with a shotshell .22 round and flashlight. Took minutes of poking my head in a out of boxes and stuff on the shelves before I found the culprit. Not 2 feet from my face when I spotted it, a 10-12 inch long, SPOTTED SKUNK! Must be a yearling or so? First one I have seen here. The one that has a den under the other side of cottage is a Striped Skunk, the common skunk here. Two species of skunk in the yard!

It was an awesome black and white beauty. Went back in house and traded gun for camera and got a poor docu shot, but it was fast and wouldn't stop moving in and out of boxes and junk. It was cute as can be. About 10-12 inches and as much tail. It looked at me with that skunk - what are you gonna do, grab me? look. No fear. Too cool. My first local record for the species. The beast of the week by far.

Jan. 11 ~ Had a quick errand in town early so ran through the park. There were tree trimmers on the other side of the fence from the woods blaring a radio to make sure it didn't get quiet when the chainsaw stopped. I got to hear five minutes of high volume radio commericials. My research indicates folks that can stand listening to that all day are less intelligent than those that can't. Did finally see the Pied-billed Grebe, and found out later I obtained three chigger specimens, currently being housed under the skin at waistband.

To finish the list of winterers in the last two day's posts... Monday the 9th lists the 66 sps. I saw the first 9 days of the new year. Yesterday, the 10th, I listed 17+sps. seen the last 10 days of last year that are surely around still. Today here is the list of 17 more species that are surely around now. Generally these are localized low-density species and-or habitat specialists. Bobwhite, Audubon's Oriole, Canyon Towhee, Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, the park Pied-billed Grebe, Swamp and Lincoln's Sparrow, Say's Phoebe, White-throated Sparrow, White-tailed Kite, Canyon Wren, Verdin, Wood Duck, and maybe Red-naped Sapsucker, House or Winter Wren, for a few examples off the top of my head. Leslie Calvert recently reported a few of the above south of town.

So the 66 seen, this year, plus the 17 seen the end of last year, and the 17 we know are around but I have not seen in the last month totals about a hundred species around locally now. Which is about normal average for winter diversity in the upper Sabinal River drainage. There are probably 10 more rarer things around in low single digit numbers, if you could find them.

Jan. 10 ~ We were about 45-75dF for a temp spread today. Nice. Too busy working but did see a couple Pine Warbler in the yard in the afternoon, working the ball moss clumps in the big pecan and the biggest hackberry. Two Myrtle and an Orange-crowned went through as well. The single Lark Sparrow continues. Heard the Sapsucker.

To add to yesterday's list of 66 sps. I have seen so far this year, to more complete the picture of what winters here... Here are 17+ species seen the last ten days or so of last year that are surely still around. Gadwall, Am. Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Zone-tailed Hawk, Merlin, Wilson's Snipe, Barred Owl, Blue Jay, Bushtit, Louisiana Waterthrush, Pyrrhuloxia, Rufous-crowned, Savannah and Fox Sparrow, on Dec. 22 the Roadside Hawk, on Dec. 21 Audubon's Oriole. Plus Jan. 1 a probable Baird's Sparrow.

Jan. 9 ~ A low about 44 felt great, so nice to get out of thermals and open the house up in 65dF heat. Today I added a Golden-crowned Kinglet out back of house in the afternoon. Here is a list of what I have seen locally so far this year to give an idea of what is around. Wild Turkey, Great Blue Heron, Black Vulture, N. Harrier, Sharp-shinned, Cooper's, Red-tailed, and Red-shouldered Hawks, Crested Caracara, Am. Kestrel, Killdeer, Eur. Collared-Dove, White-winged, Mourning, and Inca Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Barn Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Selasphorus Hummingbird sps. (probable Rufous), Ringed, Belted, and Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted, Ladder-backed, and Downy Woodpecker, N. Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Texas Scrub-Jay, Common Raven, Carolina Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglet, N. Mockingbird, Eur. Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Orange-crowned, Myrtle, Audubon's, and Pine Warbler, Spotted Towhee, Chipping, Field, Vesper, Lark, Song, Black-throated, and White-crowned Sparrow, N. Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern and Western Meadowlark, Rusty and Brewer's Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, American Goldfinch, and House Sparrow. So I have seen 66 species so far, and haven't really been able to get out and bird more than a five or six hours.

Jan. 8 ~ We had 15dF for a low here this a.m.! Which is plenty cold for me if you don't know. By 10 we had warmed up to freezing. NOAA said this was the strongest front here in south central TX in 6 years. Froze down to the LRGV. One hemispheric satellite map I saw showed it made it all the way through Mexico to Central America! It should send some rare birds to Texas from southward. Winds turned back to south in afternoon, but it was polar air still and quite the cold breeze at 10+mph. The peak-heat mid-40's F felt like the mid-upper-30's.

We took a spin around about 1-3 p.m. to see what we could see while being kept warm. The park was dead, a couple Myrtle, an Orange-crowned, a Kinglet (Ruby), and that was it. Went to Little Creek to see if that pond below where 356 meets it had any waterfowl. A couple barnyard geese and 9 domestic Mallard. Not good countable wild Mallard. A Belted Kingfisher was up-creek a bit on the powerline. A N. Harrier was in the pastures to south of 356. On 356 just east of town after the first dip and draw with a brushy section there was a small group of 3 White-crowned Sparrow, a Spotted Towhee, and a couple Titmouse.

Otherwise We saw a few Red-tailed and a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Caracara and a couple Kestrel, one Vesper Sparrow, some Meadowlarks, and in town a few Eastern Bluebird with one Waxwing, some Chippies, and 4-5 Myrtle and one male Audubon's Warbler. I saw an imm. or female Selasphorus Hummer as we cruised by Judy Schaffer's feeders. Probably a Rufous. Here at the house it was the usual, the Lark Sparrow was around, 4 Ground-Dove. There were liberal extra seed rations the last three days of this icebox living.

Jan. 7 ~ We had about 17dF for a low here in our cool spot. KRVL briefly had 13 and 14dF. Bird bath frozen solid. By noon it was above freezing and felt warmish. By peak heat in afternoon the cool porch was 45 and the sunny warm south side of the house was every bit of 50dF. Supposed to be in teens again tomorrow morning. So we worked in house.

Watched the couple dozen House Finches for a while, and have not reseen Mr. Super Red (scroll down to second pic below to see a pic of him), but saw one with the least amount of red I have ever seen, restricted to throat and only barely to upper breast. Missed getting a pic of it though. It is an individual I have not noticed here prior, and think it is obviously different enough that I would have. If you actually study your House Finches you will see a) they are not always all the same individuals, b) there is way more variation than you think, and c) you aren't as House Finch smart as you thought.  ;)  I have seen two very odd ones that stood out as being very different in the last 10 days.

The only other interesting thing was watching the Orange-crowned Warbler follow an ad. male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker around from tree to tree, working each sap well it dug or worked immediately after the Sapsucker left that part of the tree. The rest was the usual suspects. That same Myrtle Warbler was eating millet off the patio again.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

This is one of our dependents on the sunflower feeder.
It is not unusual for a male to have some red feathers
in the orange nape patch. (Golden-fronted Woodpecker)

~ ~ ~ last prior update ~ ~ ~

Jan. 6 ~ Got up to a frozen bird bath, and about 26dF with 10-15 mph winds, and gusting higher, on it, so chills in low teens. KRVL had 22dF with 15-20 mph winds and a chill factor of 11dF about 9 a.m. It's lovely out come on down. We got above freezing barely for a couple hours at peak heat, if you can call it that. A Myrtle Warbler was on the patio eating white millet seeds with the Chipping Sparrows and House Finches. At last sun, a Pine Warbler appeared on the patio and ate some white millet. That is how cold it is.

Had a town run, several around the area said they too had 26dF. There was a Ringed and a Green Kingfisher at the park. There was a small group of Spizella along the river in some grass which was 6 Field and 3 Chipping Sparrow. Field are hard to get in the park. Best bird though was a female Downy Woodpecker, a scarce bird here. Little Creek Larry said he had continuing Spotted, Canyon, and an Eastern Towhee where he puts scratch out. I saw about a dozen Eurasian Collared-Dove in town.

Jan. 5 ~ Cool, about 40dF, gray, and damp in the a.m. gave way to warm and sunny in the afternoon, probably hitting 75dF here! Not gonna last. The front got here after dark and a three day cold spell is in the cards. By 9-10 p.m. it was 50 and falling fast, 20 mph northerlies, and supposed to get down into low 30s or upper 20s by tomorrow morning, with wind on it. How lucky this hit for the couple days I might be able to go out and poke around a couple hours.  :)   It was lovely out the last three days I was stuck at the monitor.

Counted 20 House Finch, 10 were males, jockeying for position on the sunflower tube. Thought I heard a Junco fly off when everything flushed due to another accipiter attack. Have not seen one for sure all fall, but thought I heard them a couple times. Several per day of the accipiter flushings. A big imm. female Cooper's Hawk was chasing a squirrel around a tree trunk right out the office window. I was on the hawks side all the way but it saw me through the window and split. About 23 Robins flew over early. The rest was the expected gang.

Jan. 4 ~ Upper 30's to 56dF or so, little north cool wind. Too busy at the desk. Great was a Spotted Towhee in the yard, which was in the Mulberry and Hackberry over patio and cottage, and later out where we throw seed by the only understory along the back fence. Love to get one to stick around. Later in day there were about 30 female Red-winged Blackbird around the edge of patio where the millet tube hangs. Well over a hundred Brewer's were in the corral, a few Brown-headed Cowbird, and one Starling.

A Red-tailed Hawk was going over about 1000 feet up when one of the local nesters began giving that classic call we hear in movies and on TV, from over where the pair nests in big cypresses at the river. Which of course there are variations of the call, and probably we can't tell differences that the birds can. This version apparently was the one that clearly in no uncertain terms meant " don't make me fly up there and chase you away." Because the one going over immediately turned around and flew away exactly the way it came. The one on the ground chased it out of the territory without a flap, even when it was at a thousand feet up, just with THE call. That call. It was amazing to watch and listen to it as it happened. It only takes one good bird moment to make your day. To see the common thing in an uncommon way, it doesn't get any better than that.

Jan. 3 ~ We had about 38 to 76dF temp range. Cold in a.m. but still warmed up. Cold is on way. Which good, we need it, I see green grass growing out there it has been so warm. I saw what seemed the golf course flock of 8 Killdeer flying from the country club across the river, down the river habitat corridor, and over to the grass airstrip just south of us. So they are commuting a mile or so anyway. Otherwise it was the same gang, some of which is 35-40 Cardinal, 75 Chipping Sparrow, and 10 Black-crested Titmouse. A couple Robin seem to have stuck and are about daily, as are a few American Goldfinch. Still no Siskin, must be good food crops up north. Mourning Dove count is about 40 now coming into the seed. Add about 25 White-winged Dove and its a herd of seed suckers.

Jan. 2 ~ Warmed up into mid-70's dF in the afternoon, amazing. Had 8 Common Raven that went over at once early. Lots of hawks... Red-shouldered, Red-tailed, Cooper's, Sharp-shinned Hawks, plus Caracara, and a Kestrel was heard. Great Blue Heron, heard a Flicker, likely that male Yellow-shafted, the Orange-crowned Warbler continues going through yard as do a few Myrtle Warbler. Had some Red-winged Blackbird hit the millet seed on patio. The Brewer's were over in the corral, and wouldn't be caught dead doing such a thing.

I got a note from Leslie Calvert whom is a few miles SW of town. She saw what sounded like it was probably an ad. White-tailed Hawk, I think Jan. 1. She also has seen a Wood Duck, Long-billed Thrasher, Verdin, and says Pyrrhuloxia are in good numbers over her way. Thanks for the news! Folks, keep your eyes out for soaring buteos with a short broad snow white tail with a black band at tip.

January 1, 2017 ~ Holy cow I can't believe I just wrote that. Happy New Year! The good news is that last years' rolly coaster is over. Hope this next ride isn't so bumpy with so many hard turns. I'm getting old for this, the teacups are sounding good to me, but I think that sign we just passed said "Mr. Toads Wild Ride."

After breakfast we putted down to the crossing, couldn't find a flock there and back. Just a few of the residents. Then up E. 360 to a Chinaberry, and a Ligustrum tree near Berteau Pk., no rare Robins. Further out E. 360 along north side of the 1500' knoll a small flock of sparrows was along the road. We had mostly 20 or so Chipping Sparrow, a few Field in with them, and the beauty of the bunch, one Black-throated Sparrow, which disappeared quickly. There were both the gray type, and the rusty-buffy type of Field Sparrow, and a Bewick's Wren.

We went up on the knoll and still can't find a Spotted Towhee, and did not see any Bushtits. But did have one Texas Scrub-Jay. The bird of the day, got away. We repeatedly flushed a sparrow in the thick grasses on top that we could never get a good study look at. In flight as it flew away and turned I saw it had mostly ashy white outer tail feathers. Not snow white, but clearly mostly barely off-whitish. It had a big head and fat body, tail was shortish, and it would not allow views. Every time it flew it landed in a short thick patch of Agarita and wouldn't flush until you stepped on it. Over and over again for 15-20 minutes. Lots of flight views flying away. In which it most closely resembled a Baird's Sparrow to my eye. Behavior was right. We were a half mile or so from where we had one a couple winters ago. Impossible to see is a character of Baird's Sparrow. So we start the year with a great one that gets away. We will look some more, but the last one was just like this bird, no way to see it properly, except the one time when lady luck flew it up into a tree.

It got up to just about 80dF in the afternoon heat, amazing for New Years Day. As were the dozen species of butterflies that were out in it. Large Orange, Orange, and Dainty Sulphur, Little Yellow, So. Dogface, and Sleepy Orange for 6 Pierids. Then 6 brushfoots were Snout, several Variegated and 2 Gulf Fritillary, Buckeye, 3 Mestra, a female Goatweed Leafwing, and later the male in yard yesterday showed back up too. I have had whole Januarys that did not have a dozen species. So this is pretty remarkable. Like all the green grass growing, and some Paralena and Straggler Daisy have both put out flowers.

~ ~ ~ above is 2017 ~ ~ ~

House Finch

Here is that House Finch from Dec. 29 with an extreme
amount of red on underparts coupled with a very reduced
amount of streaking on sides and a bold upper wingbar.
Rear flanks and thighs are streaked or marked, as in a
House Finch.

~ ~ 2016 summary - The Year in Review ~ ~ long and boring ! ! ~ ~

Wow man, holy cow, a whole dang year has gone before us. Seems like I just did this? These are brutal, the annual summary. But it sometimes makes it easier for me to look stuff up, like the monthly summaries. Especially for items that don't make one of my excel files. They also help me put records in perspective. And each year adds another layer or level, of observation, and therefore understanding. We finished 13 years here in late Oct., and are now on our 14th Nov., January, etc. WeeWow.

It was our 5th year of not driving a thousand miles all year, all driving total. Most of which is just town and back runs for supplies, mail, etc. Which is remarkable methinks. That includes a few big city runs to Uvalde for supplies @ 100 mi. ea. Total birding miles is a couple hundred of the less than thousand. I guess one could say I am in a fairly sedentary phase.

I have always preferred concentrating lots of effort in a small area. It seems to yield more results than little effort in lots of places. Maybe not a bigger species list, but those are not the results I seek. I want to discover something new, something that we don't know. Chasing already known discovered birds does not provide that for me.

This year my Upper Sabinal River Drainage (USRD) total was 368*. ;) The area is from a couple miles south of Utopia where we live up the valley and canyon to the Sabinal River headwaters at Lost Maples SNA. Of course all the way 9 miles south of town to Clayton Grade and the escarpment I consider the USRD. I just did not see anything south of 360 that was different this year.

*My USRD 2016 total works out like this:
212 species of birds
104+ sps. of butterflies
 52 sps. of Odes (dragonflies and damselflies)
368 total - LOL

I think it is the first time I have broken 200 on a bird year list just up here in the USRD. The year I did 279 in Uvalde Co. I birded the Uvalde area and everything between way over a dozen times. Considering it was a poor passerine spring and fall migration here it is a pretty amazing total. The river is a creek, and there are only a couple weak stock tanks for ponds, not any real lake. I hadn't counted all year and so was shocked when I hit 200 and still had orioles and finches to count. I am usually more like in the 170-80's for the year up here locally.

There were about 8 more sps. of birds, a couple butterflies, and a couple more odes, seen down at Uvalde not included in total which is strictly the local USRD list. The 104 sps. of butterflies locally is second only to a 108 year in prior 13 years. Odes were lackluster overall and remain depressed still since drought. Most of the great fall butterfly show is immigrants from elsewhere (southward primarily).

There was nearly FOUR FEET of rain locally this year, it was a wet one. But most was in brief periods during major events, with dry spells between them. All or nuthin' in other words. The Persimmon and Hackberry crops were wiped out by the couple feet in spring, and a major wind event took out the pecan flowers at just the wrong time so there was only a very very minor pecan crop. Seed crops however faired well. Flower blooms were great.

Best butterflies were the second UvCo record for Purple-washed Skipper (Panoquina lucas) in Nov. again, just like the first I found a few years ago. A Malachite was outstanding at the park. Both are Mexican origin vagrants. I saw a couple Adelpha sisters that were not Arizona, one looked Spot-celled, another looked Band-celled. I only counted Adelpha sps. (non eulalia), besides Arizona. Dang things won't stop. A Mourning Cloak is always good here, not a sure thing every year.

Many butterflies occured that I had not recorded in a number of years, often going back to the start of the drought. Like Julia, Empress Leilia, Tailed Orange, Tropical Leafwing, Coyote Cloudywing, Zilpa Longtail, Rawson's Metalmark, a Polydamus Swallowtail, (a couple probable Ornythion got away), and a Brazillian Skipper. Scarce still but not firsts in such a long time were lots of Orange-barred Sulphur, numbers of Ocola Skipper, a dozen Crimson Patch, a Dark Buckeye, a handfull of White Peacock, and it was a big invasion year for Mestra, but only a very few Zebra.

Misses were no rare whites, Great Purple Hairstreak (!), no Dorantes or Longtailed Skipper, no Wood-Nymph, Mexican Frit, Tailed-Blue. Read the Sept., Oct., and Nov. monthly summaries for amazing numbers of things like Bordered Patch, Theona Crescent, Sachem, and many others. The fall invasion was outstanding. We missed any major Monarch flight this year, but in Sept. had a week-long flight of a billion Snout.

A photo was shown to me of a Calleta Silkmoth caterpillar, from late Oct. in town, the first I know of that species locally. Some good bugs were a couple Eyed Elatarid, one Stenaspis Cerambycid, (those two are on the 2016 photos page), Wheel Bugs, a Hister Beetle, a few S. gigas Cerambycid, a Banded Sphinx ad. on porch, and a couple of the cats on Ludwigia at the park.

The few good odes were a Blue-faced and a Swamp Darner, a few Ivory-striped Sylph, Halloween, Red-tailed and Four-spotted Pennant (all 3 scarce up here), some Band-winged Dragonlet, a few Orange-striped Threadtail, Springwater Dancer at Lost Maples, but generally lackluster. No Amberwings, Comanche or Twelve-spotted Skimmer, and Black-shouldered Spinyleg that was common 03-08 remains absent since the drought and dredging of the park pond.

Best birds were the Roadside Hawk last winter, now back again, for its third winter. The Green Violetear (now called Mexican Violetear) at Sabinal River Lodge in May and June was outstanding, and one of the birds-of-the-year. Certainly the rarest documented. The Short-tailed Hawk in late September was another great Mexican origin vagrant and record. Perhaps the first fall Edwards Plateau record? Tropical Parula were at Concan as usual in spring, but I did not get one here. A Common Crow was a mega-rare vagrant here this year as well.

In spring an immature Goshawk was seen several times from late Feb. to early May. The couple Harris's Sparrows that overwintered into Feb. were good too. A Great Kiskadee in the yard in May was, uh, great, as were a couple Philadelphia Vireo. It was a weak spring for warblers and eastern passerines (songbirds). Even Nashville Warbler numbers were way down.

In summer finding nesting Olive Sparrow just south of town was outstanding and maybe the furthest north known nesting at present. Also a family group of Black-throated Sparrow were a nice find. A juvenile Broad-winged Hawk in July in our garden indicates they nested somewhere very nearby again this year. White-tipped Dove surely must be nesting in the area, numbers are regular spring to fall at Lost Maples now.

August from or in the yard we had a couple Roseate Spoonbill seen flying downriver, a Townsend's Warbler, and a couple late Golden-cheeked Warblers. Plus a couple Acadian Flycatcher off breeding grounds in river habitat corridor. September had the Malachite (butterfly), a Philly Vireo, and the Short-tailed Hawk. October saw the return of the Roadside Hawk, one Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Sprague's Pipit, and a great total of 77 species of butterflies for that month.

November had an amazing calling Eastern Wood-Pewee on the 11th at the park, and a Common Crow flew over the yard on the 23rd, my first in Uvalde County. December provided a Bald Eagle, Fox Sparrow, and I saw the Roadside Hawk again, on the 22nd.

So it may often seem light and slowish at times, but there are always some incredible exciting things to be found. Surely we miss more than we see and there is lots going by un-detected. When you add it all up at the end, it was a great year out here with lots of outstanding finds. You just have to keep ploughing. The more you cast your visual net, the more you catch. Always, some of it will blow your mind.

~ ~ ~ end 2016 summary ~ ~ ~

Back to Top
July to December 2016 is Bird News Archive XXVI (#26).
January to June 2016 is Bird News Archive XXV (#25).
July to December 2015 is Bird News Archive XXIV (#24).
January to June 2015 is Bird News Archive XXIII (#23).
December 2014 and prior back to July 1, 2014 are Archive #22.
January-June 2014 is Bird News Archive XXI (or Old Bird News #21).
All are linked below.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Read UP from bottom to go in chronological sequence.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Index page with links to all 'Old Bird News' pages ...

Bird News Archives Index

Links to earlier archived bird news pages below, broken into six month increments. One day I'll quarter it out by season as well, so all years of each season are together, perhaps making say, searching springs easier.

Odd numbered archives are January through June.
Even numbered archives are July through December
(except a couple when the split missed, probably due
to excessive amount of drivel in spring).

Bird News Archive XXVI
July 1, 2016 - December 31, 2016

Bird News Archive XXV
January 1, 2016 - June 30, 2016

Bird News Archive XXIV
July 1, 2015 - Dec. 31, 2015

Bird News Archive XXIII
January 1, 2015 - June 30, 2015 (Jan.- May so far)

Bird News Archive XXII
July 1, 2014 - December 31, 2014

Bird News Archive XXI
January 1, 2014 - June 30, 2014

Bird News Archive XX
July 1, 2013 - December 31, 2013

Bird News Archive XIX
January 1, 2013 - June 30, 2013

Bird News Archive XVIII
July 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012

Bird News Archive XVII
January 1, 2012 - June 30, 2012

Bird News Archive XVI
July 1, 2011 - December 31, 2011

Bird News Archive XV
January 1, 2011 - June 30, 2011

Bird News Archive XIV
July 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010

Bird News Archive XIII
January 1, 2010 - June 30, 2010

Bird News Archive XII
June 1, 2009 - December 31, 2009

Bird News Archive XI
January 1, 2009 - May 31, 2009

Bird News Archive X
July 1, 2008 - Dec. 31, 2008

Bird News Archive IX
January 1, 2008 - June 30, 2008

Bird News Archive VIII
July 1, 2007 - Dec. 31, 2007

Bird News Archive VII
January 1, 2007 - June 30, 2007

Bird News Archive VI
July 1, 2006 - Dec. 31, 2006

Bird News Archive V
January 1, 2006 - June 30, 2006

Bird News Archive IV
July 1, 2005 - Dec. 31, 2005

Bird News Archive III
January 1, 2005 - June 30, 2005

Bird News Archive II
June 1, 2004 - Dec. 31, 2004

Bird News Archive I
Winter 2003-04 Summary Notes
and Mar. 31 - May 30, 2004
Go, look, see, take notes and pictures, boldly nature nerd where no one has before. Few things rival the thrill of discovery. Besides having fun and learning, you will probably see some things people won't believe without photos.  ;)
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