Bird (and nature) News Archive # 30
July 1 to December 31, 2018
Old Bird News XXX

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 XXX (#30) ~ 2018: July 1 - December 31 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!

July through Sept. so far...

~ ~ ~ below is 2018 ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ 2018 annual summary ~ ~ ~

These are brutal, I know, and you don't have to read it. It is as much for my purposes as any, to have a quick easy reference of the highlight sightings in the upper Sabinal River drainage for the year. It was a very wet year with nearly four feet of rain locally for many. Two feet just in September, and a half to a foot in October alone. This helped knock down migrants, and provided flood ponds for some of them. Overall bird and bug numbers remain low, suppressed since the 7 year drought. We have gotten rain for 3 years now, but the animals are yet to recover. Especially migratory breeding birds are thinner than they used to be, such as at Lost Maples. Which by the way continues to lose trees at a frightening rate. Large flying insects in general seem way down.

Odes were 60 species so great for diversity. However the individual numbers were down. Places like the pond at the park, or the Lost Maples ponds, never got covered in them they way they did pre-drought. As always a few neat things though. There was a great Band-winged Dragonlet invasion after the May rains with a hundred at two Bandera Co. ephemeral ponds. A Twelve-spotted Skimmer was photo'd in BanCo again, in Oct. at the S. Little Crk. Rd. pond. A few Pronghorn Clubtail were seen in April. An Eastern Amberwing in May at the park was likely an emergence, not an immigrant, and the first of that I have seen here. A Rivercruiser in May was nice to see, they have been scarce. A great highlight of the year was a Slaty Skimmer photographed at Utopia Park, probably the second UvCo record. A probable Blue-faced Darner was at Lost Maples, I have yet to pull frames out of a few second vid to get a positive ID. A few Flame Skimmer were at Lost Maples as usual. Saw Ivory-striped Sylph and Orange-striped Threadtail also as usual.

Butterflies were 80 species, which is very low. Way more flowers than butterflies. Actually lower diversity this year than all but one (the most severe peak) of the recent seven year exceptional drought we just got through. The water is back since then, but the butterflies have yet to recover. Same goes for moths and many other insects, as well as the birds that depend on them. There was only a very limited fall invasion from the south this year, which is when and where our rarities come from, so there was none of that. June and July had apparent Rawson's Metalmark.

The biggest fall invader was Vesta Crescent, numbers were off the charts, 400+ in a day. There was a major Snout flight of millions over a week in late Sept. after the two feet of rain. The Monarch migration was mostly west of us this year, only small numbers were seen, no big flights. The last new butterfly species of the year was my only Crimson Patch of the year, on Nov. 17, in mint condition. There were virtually no Hackberry or Tawny Emperors locally this year. Beat up worn ones from somehwere else were seen one time each in fall. No Mourning Cloak this year, they seem biannual here. Carolina Satyr remains absent since the drought, though finally this year Arizona Sister and Dusky-blue Groundstreak both seemed to be slowly making a comeback.

An Imperial Moth was seen in June, a caterpillar of one was seen in October. A Lassaux's Sphinx (moth) was photographed at our porch light Aug. 30. It came into my pipe tobacco, and fluttered against the back of my head. It was a lovely light cavendish blend with just a light wisp of maple-vanilla. Only saw one Texas Wasp Moth and one White-tipped Black all fall. In beetles Eyed Elaterid made a decent showing, and in Cerambycids saw a few of the Stenelytrana gigas and only one of the Stenapsis vertailcalis insignis. Night lighting was absolutley pitiful the response was so bad. Tepid would have been exciting. I have never seen anything like it. It used to be that when you turn on a dang light at night, you got bugs and lots of them.

Birds were great this year, if they weren't it is because you did not get out and bird enough. Probably in large part because I drove around quite a bit more this year checking more bushes and trees more often. Whereas the last six years my total driving (all - personal, biz, and pleasure) has been about a thousand miles per year, this year it was probably more like 1600. When you just bird local though, that is a lot more pokin' around, or standing around doing nothing with binoculars and camera, gazing about like a bewildered lost tourist.

For the upper Sabinal River drainage, I saw about 210 species this year. That is Lost Maples to Clayton Grade. But actually only south to UvCo 360 a couple miles south of Utopia, nothing different down-valley. Very close to the last two years totals for a local only number (207 in 17, 212 in 16). I am sure if one was retired and could bird every day they could see 225 or maybe even 250 species locally (upper Sab. Riv. drainage) in a year. But I am a workin' stiff. I get a couple or few hours a day boldly looking and listening where few have gone. Plus actually birding a little here and there.

The highlight of last winter was a Great Kiskadee at Utopia Pk. in February for a couple days. In late April I had a brief four second look at 2 Black Swift flying north low as a strong western weather system cleared. In May we had some rain and grounded shorebirds in the resulting flood ponds. Probably the first documented Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Phalarope, and Pectoral Sandpiper (all 3) in Bandera County. Plus a couple Baird's Sandpipers in UvCo on a flooded golf course fairway.

The breeding season highlight was Eastern Wood-Pewee feeding young at Utopia Park, a first for me there in 15 years. In June Kathy had an adult and juv. Golden-cheeked Warbler at our bird bath. Still together they could not have nested too far away (Kathy's docu grabshots were enough for me to age them). In fall the Sept. American Bittern in Bandera Co. was the best bird probably, seemingly another BanCo first. A Sept. Least Sandpiper on the golf course (again a flooded fairway) was only the second I have seen here, the first juvenile. Late October a Red-breasted Nuthatch showed up which was joined by 2 more over November to late December. December had adult males of Wilson's Warbler at Utopia Park and Townsend's Warbler at Lost Maples, both are very rare winter records. The Wilson's appeared to be a western chryseola type, which is accidental at best, IF recorded, in Texas.

It was a great year overall with lots of fascinating observations, and lots more great documentation. Still have tons of pix to go through of all kinds of stuff. What cold, wet, windy days are for. It is always especially interesting once you have made all your notes to step back and see how they fit in the big picture over time. It is great to have notes. Remember you can never take or make too many notes. Take more notes.     ;)

~ ~ ~ end of 2018 annual summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ OMG not another summary! ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ December summary ~ ~ ~

It was a wet one with about 4" of rain for the month, and it was a cold one, though not record cold. It is often a somewhat benign month weatherwise, it was fairly active. Lots of fronts and wind though the biggest rain event was not frontal passage related, it was the convergence of two systems from the south of us.

Butterflies were 18 species, the statistically most likely, nothing but the last few flying of the most common things. The last Monarch and Mestra, last few Queens, the last Texan Crescent, etc., etc. Odes (dragons and damsels) were a whopping 2 species. Variegated Meadowhawk was the only dragonfly, and an Argia sps. Dancer (probably a Dusky) was the only damselfly. So the bugs are all but over until next year's flight season begins in spring.

Birds were good with 90 species that I saw locally, not getting out much. The surprising highlight for December was two warblers. An adult male TOWNSEND'S WARBLER at Lost Maples the 2nd, and an adult male WILSON'S WARBLER at Utopia Park Dec. 14-31, are both great late records. The Wilson's had orange lores and forehead and was likely a western chryseola subspecies. Which would be an accidental occurrence in Texas methinks. A Blue-headed Vireo Dec. 2 in the flock with the Townsend's Warbler was good, only one I saw all fall. A Grasshopper Sparrow up on top of the plateau above Lost Maples the same day was nice. An all dark chocolate (western) Red-tailed Hawk (small male) Dec. 2 north of town is a rarity here.

A pair of Pintail at the S. Little Crk. Rd. pond was very good locally. A Brown Creeper was seen at the park a couple times. The Red-breasted Nuthatches in our yard numbered 3 at once in early December, at least two continued all month off and on. An imm. male Red-naped Sapsucker was at 3 mile bridge. A couple Vermilion Flycatcher appear to be attempting to winter around the golf course and UvCo 360. Four Turkey Vulture together appeared late migrants on Dec. 26. An adult female Rusty Blackbird on 360 is surely a returnee for her 6th winter here.

~ ~ ~ end of December summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ back to the current daily drivel ~ ~

Dec. 31 ~ Weewow, New Years Eve. This is the day we have a contest to see how much nog we can drink, right? Last chance to do all those things you said you were going to do this year. Hmmm... think I should go birding, since I can't lose 16 lbs. today. It was about 35dF and gray, a few traces of precip overnight, but a chilly morn. Over the last two days it might have totalled .2 of an inch. So we can call it 4" for December, and a wet one. Finally hit about 55dF by 12:30 and sun trying to peek out. Heard a nuthatch, and Roadrunner bill-clacking outside in afternoon.

After lunch I took a spin around to enjoy the sun and warmth. Kathy had other things to do. Must have got up to 66 or 68 dF at peak heat, pretty nice to open up and air out. At the park saw the Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, finally maybe got a decent Wilson's Warbler photo, Great Blue Heron, a male Ringed Kingfisher, a dozen plus Myrtle Warbler, a few Kinglet (Ruby), a Cooper's Hawk, and the usual residents. Lots of Mayfly emerging. One Starling at the north end of town.

The pond on the golf course at Waresville has the continuing adult male Vermilion Flycatcher, and five male Red-winged Blackbird. Best was one Marsh Wren. Good bird here any time, but especially now. Then I looked at the wet spot on 361 again below the three mile bridge and a mile west. A couple Killdeer, one Wilson's Snipe was nice, have not been seeing any. A few Vesper and Savannah Sparrow, the Say's Phoebe, some Cedar Waxwing. A small barely visible pond south of the road had a Pied-billed Grebe on it. On the way back home here on 360 after I crossed the river and headed up our side, four Wood Duck flushed right where road closest to river. A half-mile below our place. Sure love to see them from the yard.

Dec. 30 ~ About 34-40dF for a temp spread, low overcast, some mist and drizzle here and there. Glad I am not doing a CBC in this. Kathy heard one of the nuthatch on a trip outside. All I saw was the regulars. The male Golden-fronted Woodpecker was on the sunflower feeder for the first time this fall or winter. So you know it is cold out. Saw the Canyon Towhee. Eastern Phoebe ate some hackberries, so you know it is cold out. I wonder if they ever eat juniper berries? As yesterday the imm. male Sharp-shinned Hawk keeps diving on everything. Saw a couple White-tailed Deer eating Juniper berries right off the tree.

Dec. 29 ~ A cold gray day, low about 38dF, might have reached low 40's for a high, northerlies about 10 mph so a chill factor too. Plenty to work on inside luckily. Nothing like cold to bring the whole Chipping Sparrow flock in, there were at least 75. Three Lark Sparrow were among them. The couple dozen American Goldfinch were on the sunflower seed. Heard a nuthatch and a robin. The rest was the regulars from what I saw during seed tosses and out the windows.

This is the male Wilson's Warbler that was at the park
Dec. 14-31. Note orange in forehead and lores. This is a
character typical of chryseola (western subspecies) Wilson's Warbler
As of Oberholser's 1973 Bird Life of Texas (BLOT), the bible of
Texas birds, he listed no chryseola records for the state. The chip
note call was obviously the flatter dryer western type chit to my ear.

You can see the color break between forehead and lores,
and the post-ocular portion of supercilium which is pure yellow.
Note it is orange anteriorly, yellow posteriorly.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 28 ~ Low about 37dF, but clear, dry, and sunny. One last decent day before a cold weekend. And I gotta work. Heard a nuthatch, saw the Canyon Towhee, couple dozen American Goldfinch, 4 Chickadee and 8 Titmouse at once. Town run for supplies. The male Wilson's Warbler continues at Utopia Park. Two weeks now, obviously attempting to overwinter here. Amazing. Heard a Green King, saw the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe, about a dozen Myrtle Warbler, 3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet and the usual residents. Great was a Checkered White, a new butterfly for the month. Back here at the hovel there was a Queen around in the afternoon. Heard a few Cranes overhead here about 1 p.m., saw a Caracara go by, and a few Raven (all Common here).

Dec. 27 ~ Low in low 40's dF, clear and Sunny after the frontal passage last night. WNW flow, dry, but the ground is soaked, it's a mess out there. At least the air is dry, low humidity is always a treat here. It warmed up wonderfully, probably hit 70dF on the sunny south side of the house. We have a gray, windy, cold, wet, weekend forecast, so appreciating airing everything out in the warmup. Didn't see anything but the usual suspects out there today. Still a Thursday so at the desk working, though without the ususal mayhem. Took one last look and saw the Comet 46B/Wirtanen in the scope at 20 power. Just a smaller green fuzzy dot now. Didn't pop in the higher power zoom eyepiece. It is was much smaller and duller than a week ago, already fadin' fast.

Dec. 26 ~ Happy Boxing Day for all you boxers and box lovers. Drizzle and light showers off and on all night, temps held level around 60 dF all night, the warm before the next front. About noonish we were at .75" of precip. Heard a nuthatch, saw the Canyon Towhee, about 25 American Goldfinch, and the regulars. A well-predicted line of severe thunderstorms rolled over just after 9 p.m., we got another .75 or so from it, so 1.5 for the day. Wow, a wet December, about 3.75" for the month now so far.

I ran to town for a pickup at the P.O., didn't even check the park since it was so late in day. On the way there were four big bearded Toms (Wild Turkey) crossing 187 a half mile south of town. On the way back there were FOUR Turkey Vulture together over 187 that looked like a migrant group. Boy they sure evolved fast. I have not been seeing the tardy one that was with the Blacks that roost at the park lately. These acted like migrants looking for a place to go down for the night. I have never seen more than single TV's in Dec. or Jan. here, that did not stick, and that only about 4 winters out of the last 15. So four together here at this date is remarkable.

Dec. 25 ~ Merry Christmas! Hope you had a good one and the elves were good to you. We laid low and worked on stuff here. Was fog mist drizzle (wet) until the afternoon, ran about 50-60dF all day. Heard at least two Nuthatches out in the yard, might well have been three. One Pine Siskin still with the American Goldfinch flock. The Chipping Sparrow flock has hit 50 birds now. A couple Robin and Waxwing briefly went through. The Canyon Towhee was around. About 20 Mourning Dove at once was a bigger flock than we have had. The male of the local resident pair of Red-tailed Hawk was overhead briefly. The same gang.

Dec. 24 ~ Was 32 or lower, there was thin ice on the bird bath early. Mostly overcast, breezy first half of day, barely hit 60dF. At least 25 American Goldfinch on the seed in the morning. The robins and waxwings have not been around much, I think the weak hackberry crop is not going to hold or keep anything long this season. The Canyon Towhee was around, as was the rest of the usual suspects. A female Ladder-backed Woodpecker is hitting the sunflower seed daily now. The Golden-fronts have not been at it this season, so there must have been enough pecans for them to stash, so far.

Dec. 23 ~ Went upper 30's to lower 60's dF for a spread today. In morning a minor frontal passage, dry, but with 15+mph winds gusting higher until late afternoon. Field and Vesper Sparrow along corral. Heard a nuthatch. One lone male Lesser Goldfinch was interesting. They formerly did not winter on the plateau. It was where I toss seed at edge of bushes out back, not at the feeder, nor have I seen one on the feeders. At least 20 American Goldfinch are seemingly hooked on the sunflower handouts though. For some reason I was looking for the hummer, which I haven't seen in weeks now, and then I realized...  I had a dream last night I saw it again! Too funny. Here I was looking for it despite its 3 weeks plus of established goneness. The amazing power of the subconcious mind.

Dec. 22 ~ NOAA called for a 40dF low, it was 30dF, some local sites lower! A category off! They just don't get the lows well here. The temp spread was amazing as it got up to 82dF in the afternoon, a 50dF range! Great diurnals! There was ice on the birdbath first thing. The yard was the same stuff. Kathy spotted a Hermit Thrush at the bath in the afternoon. We took a quick spin around noonish. The pond on the golf course by the Waresville Cmty. had a dozen Red-winged Blackbird, 10 male, 2 female. Also an ad. male Vermilion Flycatcher was there, and an imm. male Vermilion was at old Waresville proper. Amazing two are trying to winter here. No snipe or passerines in the reeds.

At Utopia Park we saw the male Wilson's Warbler, wouldahada great shot if not for auto focus. A pair of Wood Duck flushed from the, er, woods, up at the top end of the island. Heard a Flicker, saw some Myrtle Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, one Orange-crowned Warbler, the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe were upriver of the island, a couple Lincoln's Sparrow were in the streamside veg below the spillway. As yesterday I saw an Argia sps. Dancer (damselfly) flush off the trail as I was walking. Looked like a Dusky at a glance. Lots of Eastern Phoebe everywhere.

Here is a pic of fall, it was on a Tuesday this year...
This is 'the 1050 pass' 4-5 mi. W. of town.
All the hills here look like this every year late November to early-mid December.
The Buckley Oaks (aka Spanish) are a sure thing for a color show unlike the Maples.
Some years they are cherry red, others more orange, and this wet year lots of yellow.
Golden-cheeked Warbler nests on this slope, but never sees it like this.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 21 ~ Happy Solstice! We are there! It is winter. Something neat about an event that has been noted as being very special by mankind across cultures and continents for thousands of years. My understanding is that due to our slightly elliptical orbit the shortest daylight duration day is not neccessarily the earliest sunset day, by a day or two. Today and tomorrow are shortest daylight duration day, but I think Sun. will have the earliest sunset.

NOAA said 33 for a low at KRVL, it was 28dF here, and there, 5dF is the difference between a freeze and not. Heard a couple Nuthatch out in yard in morning. Good was a male Slate-colored Junco, only the second time I have seen one this season. Wonder if it was the same one as three weeks ago or a new different bird? Probably the latter since I have not been seeing the first one around. Got up to the upper 60's dF in the afternoon heat, pretty darn nice out.

Town run. Too many errands to look around much, but over the holiday should get some time. A quick stop at the park saw the Coot, a Green Kingfisher, and the male Wilson's Warbler continues at the south end of the island where still greenery. I am amazed it is still here, now on day 8, at a time when in general they are done migrating. They are on the winter grounds now. I should mention the forehead and lores are orange, in contrast with the yellow posterior supercilium, as in fresh basic western chryseola subspecies. Which might make more sense for a wintering bird here anyway. I wonder what types generally winter in Texas? Has anyone worked them lately (since Oberholser and BLOT) to see what they are down in the valley for instance? Flushed a Dancer (damselfly - Argia sps.) off the trail in the woods at park, looked a Dusky.

Dec. 20 ~ Was about 48dF for a low, calm early for a few hours. Then the northerly winds hit from a dry frontal passage, and it blew all day 15-20 mph gusting to over 30. Kept seeing that imm. male Sharpy (Sharp-shinned Hawk) diving on the seed eaters around yard. Maybe 20 Am. Goldfinch hitting sunflower seeds. The rest was the usual, was too dang windy until dark when it finally laid down.

Dec. 19 ~ More pea soup fog this a.m., less than a quarter mile visibility. About 50dF for a low. Today is the day before the front, so the warm-up day. Fog burned off by 11 or so, dry air started filtering in and it got up to a smokin' 75dF or so! Only the lightest of occasional breeze, amazing for the date. We'll pay for it tomorrow with wind all day again, but likely another dry frontal passage. Heard at least two and very probably three Red-breasted Nuthatch at once out front noonish. At least 15 American Goldfinch at once on the patio. Saw a few butterflies in the searing heat, a Queen, a Red Admiral, a Gulf Fritillary, a couple Sleepy Orange, and several Snout. All looking worse for the wear nowadays.

Dec. 18 ~ Was about 35dF at midnight last night, and by 7 a.m. it was 47dF and pea soup fog. Weird weather here. Cloudy all day and maybe hit 60dF peak heat. The yard was the same gang. Heard Red-breasted Nuthatch and Canyon Towhee, some waxwings and Robins, a Field Sparrow was out there. I have been forgetting to mention the Juniper (cedar) pollen. I saw male flowers (rusty orange trees) on Dec. 2 at Lost Maples and by the 7th there was pollen out. A couple of the town's super high tech pollen sensors were triggered (like Shirley at the store - LOL) which let us know it is happening long before most of us can tell. And which has increased more since as they are actually really getting going already. This is much earlier than they used to get started. Used to be later December before you saw it, and early January before it got really going. Some sensitive folks are already sneezing. Way early. For the times they are a changing...

Dec. 17 ~ Overcast and 40dF for a low. There were 30 American Goldfinch on the patio at once this morning, a big increase in their numbers. Heard one Pine Siskin and heard a nuthatch or two. Had a quick town run at noon. Saw the male Wilson's Warbler at the park, now day 4 for it that we know of, got a docushot, oh boy something to analyze. Even more fun for me since I had heard and not seen it a couple weeks ago, was the Brown Creeper! Not a sure thing annually here, so always a great bird to see. Took over 10 minutes for me to find it after hearing it, and when I pulled my camera up it flew over to the island. Also one Golden-crowned among several Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe. Back here at the casita counted 8 Black-crested Titmouse in the yard at once. Between eating and stashing they can go through some sunflower seed over the day. I wonder if they have noticed those yankee (vocally and geographically) nuthatches have been stealing their stashed seeds?

Dec. 16 ~ Another cold one at 28dF, but was 58 or so by noon. At least 60 Cedar Waxwing were in the big pecan mostly hitting some junipers along north fence, and the bath. At least one, probably two Nuthatch (R-b) still here. A Hermit Thrush was in the biggest Hackberry. The bird of the morning was a House Wren in the brush pile next to the bird bath. A herd of waxwing scared it away, but that is a very rare bird in a yard without any understory. Mid-afternoon there was a Golden-crowned Kinglet over the shed out back. There has been a baby Gulf Coast Toad around the back porch the last couple months, now nearing 1.5". I saw it covered in fire ants, so grabbed it, and pulled off at least 30 of them until it was ant-free, and moved him away into flower bed. It was a gonner. Yesterday a deer, today a toad.

Dec. 15 ~ Low of about 28dF, chilly and 5 lower than NOAA said it would be. Saw the comet again last night late once the moon set. Once I located it, I could detect it bare-eyed, barely, only knowing what to look for and where. It would be easy to overlook. Did a dump and recycle run so went to park to look for the little 'chitter' I heard yesterday. Took dang near an hour but finally found it, a male Wilson's Warbler. Which is astounding, the first I have seen later than mid-October here, outside the window of occurrence by two months. Did not get a great study of it, and it disappeared quickly. The tangle gave me an OOF - out of focus - picture of it. There was also a Pine Warbler in the woods (not, probably ad. female) along with about 8 or so Myrtle Warbler (one an intergrade) a few Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and the usual Chickadees, Cardinals, Carolina Wren and Titmice, Golden-front and Ladder-back Woodpeckers. Great big Mayfly hatch going on in the warmth and the birds are happy. There were four Inca Dove on the log in front of Judy Schaffer's place.

Went out to South Little Creek to check the pond there and after much searching (didn't bring scope) way over on the far side under the big live-oaks, was the pair of Pintail Little Creek Larry reported the prior couple days. Great bird locally. Also saw two pair of Wood Duck hidden in the shade under the big live-oaks. A good bird here was a single Water Pipit foraging out on the grass islets. You can miss them any given year locally remarkably easily. Here at the house was the regular gang, a nuthatch or two, 8-10 American Goldfinch. In the later afternoon I heard a couple Sandhill Crane overhead, my first of the fall, but a NMD - not meaningful date, as others reported them 4 and 6 weeks ago locally. For some reason I had not yet heard a single measure of that 'call-of-the-wild' yet, and was really feeling slighted.

Now for the big story of the day... On the way outta here to the dump I took the back way on west 360 over to 359 and 1050 since closer thataway. Out in the middle of nowhere off the side where fence is not right against road (by the caliche quarry gate) there was a deer in the fence hanging by one hind leg upside-down, appearing dead. Maybe 2-3 points on each side, a young buck. I have seen a few dead deer that mis-judged fences, probably in the dark at speed, and that was the end. This one looked that way, a hoof stuck in two top wires, its body hanging vertically downward, just its neck and head on the ground. I got out and took a couple pix from just a few feet, it did look fresh dead, eyes looked kinda glazed, tongue hanging out a bit. No movement with me standing next to it.

As I was getting back to car it snorted. It was alive still. First I tried to pull the wires apart but his 150+ lbs. rendered them immobile. They were hooked too tightly right above the hoof with all his weight on them. I grabbed the best I had on me at the time, a small 8" pair of vice-grips I carry. It was eighth-inch thick hog-fence wire, that stuff can break mere mortal pliers. Using the crusher at back of jaws and with lots of elbow grease workin' it baby, I finally severed the key strand, just when it seemed like the vice-grips were about to explode. When that wire snapped, the deer fell to the ground and bolted as if it were launched for orbit. Amazingly all his legs were fine, and he was good to go. It stopped at about 50 yards which was like 2 seconds, and turned back to look at me, by then wide-eyed, mouth open, jaw on the ground, not my best look, before turning and continuing on. No telling how long it was hanging there, and it was getting hot in the sun. Lucky the Coyotes hadn't found it!

Here is the deer before I cut the strand that set it free.
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Dec. 14 ~ Wind blew all night and day, but backed off a little. Over the day it was often 15-20 mph gusting to 30. Unbirdable. Temp range was 38-58dF. I forgot to mention I saw Carla Nuckles the other day and she said upvalley in a pecan orchard there were over a hundred Raven. Today Little Creek Larry said he had 20+ at once together playing in the howling wind yesterday, appearing to be having fun and enjoying it. He also had an Eastern Towhee over there near Little Creek today, and yesterday and today a pair of PINTAIL are on the flood pond up the road. Pintail are hard to come by around here.

Saw the Coot at the park. Bird of the day got away, up in the woods I heard a dry chit note that was likely a Pacific Wren. The western Winter Wren, now a full species. Sounds just like a western Wilson's Warbler (which is impossible this time of year here), only one single dry chit note of a certain special unique quality and tone, heard it three or four times. I think it went over to the island. Will have to come back tomorrow when not on an errand run with schedule, and no wind. UPDATE: Nov. 15 - I refound it, it is an unprecedented Wilson's Warbler in winter.

One last item of interest in case you don't know... I told Kathy today that last night about midnight I saw a comet. She asked if I saw Donner or Vixen. I had to explain...  ;)  There is an actual comet visible now. Was about straight up at midnight last night. No head or tail, just a green fuzzy round area a quarter degree wide. If you know where to look easily findable with binocs. They say it may be bare-eyed visible in dark skies. It is Comet 46P/Wirtanen. It is in Tarus, and the astronomy sites on my link page will have maps where to look, and pix, as at One of the 10 closest since 1950, but a bad angle, we're looking down the tail from behind.

Dec. 13 ~ Low about 45dF and calm first couple hours of morn. The winds arrived from the front about 11 a.m., and will blow until tomorrow evening! A day and a half blow. They are 20-30 mph sustained, gusting 40 and higher. By 3 p.m. there were 48 mph gusts recorded at Uvalde and Hondo. I heard that go over here. There is a teeny ridgelet just on NW side of yard, so we get a wee bit sheltered and do not take a direct hit when N or W winds. Heard Nuthatch or two early morning, saw a Vesper Sparrow on the patio again. As the wind hit I saw a Painted Lady briefly caught in an eddy on lee of the house before it got blown away. Otherwise it was the expected gang o'suspects. Thursday so stuck at the desk, and once the wind hit was glad to be. Went to the garden tub (about 3 x 6 feet) to grab the few last tomatoes, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet flew out of it. It was about half covered in plastic because I had opened it up. Looked pretty lush and maybe buggy ... to a Kinglet. Amazing how it keyed in on it so quickly.

Dec. 12 ~ About 49dF for a low was a welcome respite. Cloudy and humid. Had a quick town run this a.m., saw the Coot at the park pond. Little Creek Larry said he saw a Brown Creeper there on some big cypress trunks last weekend, maybe the 9th. Recall I heard one there Nov. 30. I saw the Turkey Vulture at the main Black Vulture roost tree in river upriver of main lake. Which means it is attempting to winter, a very rare phenomenon here. I saw it mid- and late November, and figured it would soon depart. It must have other ideas. Saw two Red-breasted Nuthatch at once in the big pecan again today. Saw the Orange-crowned Warbler by the cottage again, so it is sticking too. It must have seen I was cameraless the way it danced on the ends of close bare branches in great light.

Dec. 11 ~ Another 26dF for a low, another frozen birdbath to thaw first thing before sunup, when so nice out. Did not see last evening's White-crowned Sparrow today but was chilly and busy. Seemed like it knew where it was going when it hit the seed straight from a brushpile 75' away. Still no hummer, last seen on the 4th, a week ago. Did have two Red-breasted Nuthatch at once again though. Had a quick errand run to town, saw the pair of Green Kings at the park. They get started on breeding activity like pair bonding behavior about as early as owls (e.g. now). I saw the male trying to entice female with a fish. I told my wife who said she hoped Ms. KF told him that she is a kingfisher and can catch her own fish anytime she wants. That was pretty much the highlight of my day.

Dec. 10 ~ I saw 27dF at 7 a.m., so probably hit 26, Seco Crk. WU staion had 25, and Kerrville 28. Cold. Sunny and no wind though. Heard a nuthatch this a.m., after not all weekend. About 10:30 it worked the pecans for 20 minutes during which it never called. Twas the ad. male. Some American Goldfinch and Pine Siskin, Robins and Waxwings to go with the chill. Canyon Towhee. Only different thing was an adult White-crowned Sparrow that came into the seed at dusk. A Pipevine Swallowtail (lep) was my first of the month, and pretty beat and worn. Saw a couple Sleepy Orange and a Dogface.

Dec. 9 ~ We were 32dF at 7 a.m., and still some breeze from north, so, cold, but sunny. Still no hummer, now day four without seeing it, and no nuthatch since Friday either. Same gang in the yard. About 3 p.m. it warmed to 50dF and the wind slowed to under 10 mph so we took a quick spin out. Some Field Sparrow along the corral as we left. There are Brewer's Blackbird along 360 east of the river, and I saw a female Rusty Blackbird with them, which surely is the same one that has wintered in the area the last five years, often visiting our yard when they hit the corral next to us.

We went to the 3 (or 4) mile bridge (heard it called both - it is 3 (or 4) miles south of town), a Sabinal River high bridge crossing, and checked around it. There were at least a half-dozen Lincoln's and one Song Sparrow there, one House Wren along the fenceline, and best a first winter Red-naped Sapsucker in the Cypresses on west side of bridge and river. I do not get them every winter, they are not a sure thing annually here. Any LTA - less-than-annual, is a good bird to see. A Loggerhead Shrike was working the fenceline along the access road on SE side of crossing.

Then we went out UvCo 361 since we hadn't done that a while. A half mile south of the crossing, it takes off to the west. The low spots have water. I wish I had been checking it during fall shorebird season, we never had one before so I didn't think of it. There were at least 11 Killdeer at various wet spots along the road. One flood pond area had a small group of birds around it including my FOS Say's Phoebe, finally. Saw about 5 Vesper and 4 Savannah Sparrow, 5 Kestrel, a couple hundred Brewer's Blackbird around the corrals, a Great Egret hunting one of the wet draws, a second Say's Phoebe, several Eastern Phoebe, a dozen Eastern Bluebird, and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker working a roadside fencepost, some more Lincoln's Sparrow, a few Mockingbird. Saw one imm. or female Vermilion Flycatcher. Nothing rare, but great to get out and see some sun and birds though, and take a few pix. On way back here, on 360 east of river where has been one, there was an adult male Vermilion Flycatcher. Rare in winter here, this one has been around a month or more and seems to be attempting to winter so far.

Dec. 8 ~ The wind from the front is finally here. Only a little light rain over night, that part is done, we have 2.25" at minimum here for the event. This a.m. it is low 40's with 15 mph northerlies, gusting higher, chill factors just over freezing. Only going out to put more seed out, so did not see squat. Might have gotten to 47dF peak heat, but the wind blew all day, chill factors might have broken 40 briefly, maybe. It was yucky. Heard everything flush as in an accipiter attempt late in day. That is all.

Ahhhhh grasshopper... when you can identify the sparrow...
This was at the rest area just north of Lost Maples Dec. 2.
Pardon the fuzzy and pixels, was a long-range high-mag grab.
Grasshopper Sparrow.
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Record early record cold in mid-Nov., with 20dF (!) here the 14th. Nov. came in like a lion. Seems to be leaving like a lamb. We have not been able to get out as usual, bad weather or windy conditions rear their ugly heads every time they see I might be able to sneak out for a few hours. Landbirding in the wind is tough. A second RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH has shown up this week and been seen with the first one around the yard through the 29th. The first one has been here since Oct. 30. An EASTERN TOWHEE was on UvCo 359 on Nov. 1. One SPRAGUE'S PIPIT flew over calling Nov. 7. A Rufous-Allen's (prob. Rufous) Hummingbird was at our place Nov. 7-30. One or more usually winter at Judy Schaffer's heated feeders in town. My FOS Golden-crowned Kinglet showed up Nov. 15. A flock of five Audubon's Oriole were in our yard the 16th. My FOS Pine Warbler was Nov. 22nd. Two Townsend's Solitaire were at the 1050 passlet about 5 mi. west of Utopia on Nov. 24. My FOS Junco (Slate-colored) was Nov. 27. I heard a Brown Creeper at Utopia Park Nov. 30. The Buckley Oaks are showing good color now for a nice fall look.

In October we weren't able to get out much with rain almost every day, and muddy everywhere when not. Had first of fall American Wigeon and Orange-crowned Warbler on Oct. 12, Oct. 19 a 2nd (different) Ibis at the same Bandera Co. floodpond and a tardy Mourning Warbler at Utopia Park. My first N. Flicker and Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler were Oct. 21. A male-female pair of Downy Woodpecker were at Utopia Park that day as well, maybe first time I have seen a pair together here in 15 years, haven't been seeing them in Nov. though. My earliest ever in 15 falls American Goldfinch showed up Oct. 25. Robin and Cedar Waxwing showed up Oct. 29, a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH on Oct. 30.

A few of the better things in Sept. were: on September 1 FOUR Mourning Warbler at Utopia Park. On Sept. 7 there was a LEAST SANDPIPER at the golf course, and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was in our yard, plus a seemingly different Yell-bell Flyc. here on the 9th. Also on Sept. 9 there was an AMERICAN BITTERN on S. Little Creek Rd. at the southerly smaller floodpond, but in Bandera County. Sept. 14 there was a Black-crowned Night-Heron at Utopia Park up on the island, and, an adult male MacGillivray's Warbler went through our yard the 14th as well. An ad. male Broad-tailed Hummingbird was at our feeders a bit Sept. 15-17. A White-faced Ibis was in Bandera Co. Sept. 23 at the W. Sabinal Rd. floodpond. A couple Long-billed Curlew flew over southbound Sept. 29. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet showed up on Sept. 24.

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~ ~ ~ back to the drivel ~ ~ ~

Dec. 7 ~ Rain started sporadically pre-dawn, a cold front is moving in, temps dropping after about 3 a.m., so moisture being wrung out. We needed it, was gettin' dusty already. But cold and wet out. Did not see the hummer this morning, again. Had to wait for a break in the rain to do a town errand run, too cold, wet, and muddy, to bird. In a flooded pasture on UvCo 360 just east of the river there were a hundred Robin on the ground. Only thing I saw at the park was a male Green Kingfisher on the spillway. Not complaining. Missed the Coot at the park, so know if you chase it, might take a couple tries. Rained all day, we are at 2" at 5 p.m. Heard a nuthatch.

Dec. 6 ~ Thursdays at the desk. Did not see the hummer again today for the second day. Did hear nuthatch a couple times. Saw 10 American Goldfinch at once, most so far this season. Just a few Pine Siskin. Had to be 6 or more Titmouse (Black-c), and at least 4 Carolina Chickadee. At least 30+ Chipping Sparrow hitting the seed, Canyon Towhee still around. A few Myrtle Warbler, some Eastern Bluebird, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, at least 30 Cedar Waxwing in one flock, couple dozen Robin. Might have hit 60dF at peak heat.

Dec. 5 ~ About 45dF for a low, overcast, humid, cool and damp, maybe got up to 54dF for a high. Did not see the hummer, or a nuthatch, but Wed., so stuck at the desk and computer. The Sharpy was out there, it was kinda quiet the times I got out for a stretch, listen and lookabout. No bees or butterflies today. Oh for that nice warm sunny Sunday with a Townsend's Warbler. This is why it is important to make those memories on days off. So you have some awesomeness to consider whilst at the salt mine.

Dec. 4 ~ We had about 36dF for a low, but I saw 33 at KRVL and Seco Crk. WU stations. The Hummer was out there this morning before sunup, after being absent the last two days. At least a couple nuthatches, was not paying attention. A quick dash to town, saw an Inca Dove with about 1 tail feather. The park had the Coot and Pied-billed Grebe, heard a Green Kingfisher. Just the regulars in the woods. Best was two butterflies: a Monarch and a Mestra. The Monarch will likely be the last of the year for them, a tardy straggler over 6 weeks behind the peak of the passage bell curve. Then here at the casita a Texan Crescent flew by. In early December you scrape up your last sightings of the year for many of the few species that remain flying. Got up to lowest 60's at peak heat.

Dec. 3 ~ About 45dF for a low, cloudy and overcast. Did not see the hummer again this morning. Two mornings, no bird. It already got down to 20dF here in Nov. so it would be wise to go. Heard a nuthatch distantly. At least 4 Myrtle Warbler went over. Before noon I had two nuthatches in the pecan, after 1 p.m. all three were there again. Looked like an ad. male, an ad. female, and an immature. In other words, they each appear different in the new pix I got. They are still finding stashed sunflower seeds in the bark crevices. Had 4 Pine Siskin and 5 Am. Goldfinch come to the feeders. Probably 35 Chipping Sparrow, saw the Canyon Towhee, counted 6 Titmice and 4 Chickadee at once, and a single flock of 25 House Finch was in the top of the big pecan. We have only been having a few around.

Dec. 2 ~ We got up earlyish to sneak a walk in at Lost Maples since it had been a couple months and I was startin' to get withdrawal heebie-jeebies. In case you wonder what is outside here at 6 a.m. in the black, the answer is nothing. But Leo is at zenith. Got colder than they said, was in the upper 30's dF here, I saw 36dF for NOAA at Kerrville and at the Seco Creek WU station. From about 7:40 to 8 a.m. there were THREE Red-breasted Nuthatch in the yard at once! THREE!!! Amazing! I kept going back and forth with them until two were on the same branch and another calling from a tree behind me, which then flew into the big pecan as well. Weewow!

Swung through park on way by town but no ducks on the pond, so kept going. No birds in the woods early, too cold still. On 187 just east of the W. Sabinal Rd. cutoff there was a small male chocolate morph (western) Red-tailed Hawk. All dark chocolate brown. These are pretty darn scarce here, I have only seen a few. Some sparrows were along road, as well as meadowlarks in some pastures. Got to Lost Marbles about 8:35, it was already busy. We generally avoid it during leaf season as the trails are often too noisy to bird. It is apparently still leaf season. Though only a very few maples have anything left on them, some Buckley Oaks still look good. Most on the slopes up there have lost there leaves though. The 1050 pass west of town has more color right now.

Coming out of HQ I heard a few birds at the east end of the circle so after taping the permit in the window we walked over thataway to see if there was a flock. A lot of winter birding is finding flocks. Doesn't matter if you just hear chickadees, titmice, or kinglet, go check it out. There is often other stuff with them. First I see a Hutton's Vireo, then a Blue-headed Vireo, the only one I have seen all fall. There were a couple titmice, a kinglet, and a bird flies across an opening one juniper to another. As I am getting on it Kathy says look at this bird in an imperitive sorta way. By time she gets done saying that, I called adult male TOWNSEND'S WARBLER. It was not very cooperative, but I did manage a docushot of it (below).

My first in BanCo, though there is an old prior park record, I think from maybe 20 some years ago, maybe another more recent. I do not see one listed in ebird for the Lost Maples list. I have seen 4 in Utopia (UvCo) in 3 falls over 15 years, so missed it 11 falls locally. Plus we found that hybrid Hermit x Townsend's at Garner S.P. one year. I told Kathy right then, the day was going to be downhill from there today. First thing, hadn't moved the car from where we parked to grab the entry permit. It was over. There were also single Orange-crowned and Myrtle Warbler heard in the vicinity. The flocklet kind of melted up the slope and we lost them. There was LOTS of traffic going by entering park.

Again we did not do the trails, but worked the main canyon floor a mile or so. It was not particularly birdy, but there were tons of people, it was packed and a pretty noisy. Surprising it was still soooo busy. Saw Scrub-Jay, a couple Lincoln's Sparrow, 3 Lesser Goldfinch and the rest was the regular expected stuff, Cardinal, Chickadee, Titmouse, Ladder-back, Carolina and Bewick's Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Raven, etc.. Anothers of Hutton's Vireo and Orange-crowned Warbler at the day use area, where more titmice, chickadee, kinglet, and Cardinal. We went back to HQ around 11 and could not relocate the little group of birds. Probably when first sun hits that open bowl at canyon mouth around the HQ is when to look. There were some mayflies along the creek, which is THE critical wintering insectivore passerine sustenance here.

We went up the grade north from the park to get up on top of the plateau at a nosebleeding 2300' for a peek and stopped at the rest area about a mile or two up 187. There is a Rufous-crowned Sparrow stationed there (usually - it called when we pulled in) and were some Vesper Sparrow across the road. I walked over to get a better look at the Vespers and a GRASSHOPPER Sparrow flew up out of the roadside verge and into a bush. Got docushots of it. I virtually never see them in winter around Utopia so a great bird to me, though likely good numbers are in all these grasslands we can't get to. Always a treat to see, one of the most beautifuly colored and patterened sparrows. You will be seeing a poor pic of it one of the weekly breaks no doubt.

A Roadrunner popped up into a bushlet 125' off the road to see what or who was pishing off the side of the road. One of very few of those I ever pished up. We would never have seen it if it didn't respond to the ruckus I was making. You can't blame the bird though. It was seduced by my patented and copyrighted full flock mob scene imitation which is custom tailored to fit the appropriate scolders at any given location. If you want to have some fun, tell those hotshots you run into that you are pishing for Roadrunners. Then tell me how hard they laughed. Think you are a hot Johnny Pisher? Can ya get a Roadrunner up?  ;)

As we were nearing home back at 1300' my ears popped. Just barely, but it happened. From that 1000' climb. Amazing. We don't get no altitude here. Back at the hovel in the afternoon I did not see the Rufous-Allen's Hummer all day, nor did I see it in the morning as usual. Temp got up to about 75dF here with little to no wind! Weewow! It was very nice out. A pair of Variegated Meadowhawk (dragons) were in the yard. At dusk a Ringed Kingfisher went off over at the river. Some butterflies we saw today were Dainty Sulphur, a Queen, Red Admiral, Gulf Fritillary, Sleepy Orange, Variegated Fritillary, Common Checkered-Skipper, So. Dogface, and one Reakirt's Blue.

Dec. 1 ~ Ran about 60-75dF for a temp spread, dry front passed, was windy all day at 15 mph gusting to 20-25, but not cold. Too windy for me to enjoying birding for landbirds in trees. Dutifuly worked on my fall report. Had a nuthatch and the hummer, some robins and waxwings, Chippies and the imm. Sharpy. Did I complain about the wind yet? Forecast looks good so tomorrow we will try to get up Vanderpool way, after noon since a Sunday, for a b-double-e-double-r-u-n. I mean to Lost Maples for a bird walk. Just a coincidence, at a cosmic level, that we should finish up on a Sunday, and be at a place at 11:59 making beverage selections of the sort they can sell when the clock strikes 12 on Sunday.

Here is a pro tip for visitors: the Shiner (native Texas) 6-pack called Brewery Tour is very interesting with six different examples of their specialties, including a Wicked Ram Ale (IPA) (I sixer those anyway), an interesting cream ale, some other type so Texan it has Jalapeno in it, and I found the Black Lager fascinating. UPDATE: Not all the Brewery Tour 6 packs are the same, there are multiple versions, so you may want to check for the Wicked Ram IPA for instance, or get a six of them anyway. The Black Lager and Cream Ale was in all of the few I checked though.

This is the adult male Townsend's Warbler Kathy and I found
near HQ at Lost Maples SNA Dec. 2. Sorry it is fuzzy, it shows
the bird for the record, was a miracle to get an image. I got six
with nuthin' but fuzzy junipers, one nice sharp one with its
head turned away, and this. Note it has a prey item at the tip of
bill, looks like a small spider maybe, the only reason it slowed
down enough for me to get a pic.
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~ ~ ~ November summary ~ ~ ~

We had record early record cold, hitting 20dF on the 14th, and the lower 20's 3 mornings straight. An early hard freeze. Lots of frontal passages, but no significant rain, very dry, just cold and wind. River still high from the 20-30" of precip in Sept. and October. A weak pecan and hackberry crop will not likely hold birds in the area very long into winter. Seed crops are good though. A Rough Greensnake was one of my favorite highlights for the month.

As can be expected with an early cold, insects flamed out fast. Odes were 11 species, and barely that, just the last few of the last things flying. Nothing unusual, the 11 most likely, always nice are a few Autumn Meadowhawk as expected. Butterflies were better with 44 species, but nothing new after the 17th. That Nov. 17 bug was the butterfly of the month, my first and only CRIMSON PATCH of the year, in the woods at Utopia Park, in mint condition, landed in the sun briefly. The runner up was my only Great Purple Hairstreak of the year, on Nov. 4, which also saw my only White-tipped Black (moth) of the year. It was very good the first week of November with a limited southern origin fall invasion, but between the 7th and 9th a front hit and it was about over. Dribs and drabs for a week until the deep freeze hit and that was it save stragglers.

Birds were good though, for the little looking had. I count 87 species and we didn't make it up to Lost Maples so missed a few easy things. It is pretty crowded there on weekends in November for the leaf thingie. The trails are often too loud for birding. November is the tail end of fall migration, and the leading edge of winter birds showing up. An EASTERN TOWHEE on the 1st was great, LTA - less than annual for me here. Was an ad. female, but which I'll gladly take. A SPRAGUE'S PIPIT on the 7th was good, they too are LTA for me, easy to miss if you don't just spend all of Nov. in green sprouting fields. Five Horned Lark on the 22nd were about as rare here. For some reason the field birds are tough here.

A Rufous-Allen's Hummingbird spent the month at our place, which is very unusual for us. The big Nov. surprise show was Red-breasted Nuthatch. One showed up the end of October, I thought I heard two mid-November, finally saw two together at once in our big pecan on the 26th, and Dec. 2 had THREE at once in our big pecan. That explained my confusion ageing and sexing what I was seeing. It is an adult male, ad. female, and an immature. First time I have seen more than a single here, so pretty remarkable. Two Townsend's Solitaire were at 1050 pass 5 mi. west of town up at the top of the pass, which are not a sure thing annually, so always great to see.

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~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~

Nov. 30 ~ It was clear and about 50dF at midnight last night, at 6 a.m. it was 60dF and fog-mist, so the low was at about 12:01 a.m. Weird weather they got here in Utopia. The hummer was around but didn't hear the nuthatches. The rest was the usual gang. On 360 the male Vermilion Flycatcher continues along the pastures east of the former Utopia on the River. At the park was the Coot and a Pied-billed Grebe. Can't help but wonder if the Coot is the one that wintered last year. I heard a Brown Creeper but could not find it. Methinks it flew or was flying over to the island when I heard it. Do not see them every year here so that kinda stung, but not as bad as the bee yesterday. Also there and the first I have seen locally in weeks, was a Turkey Vulture, presumedly a tardy migrant. Little Creek Larry said he had a couple Snipe at the So.Little Crk. pond this past week.

Nov. 29 ~ We had a 37dF low, Seco Crk WU station showed 38, and Kerrville 45. Again way colder than forecast. But sunny so got nice. Saw the hummer and heard the two Red-breasted Nuthatch again. Both are still here, hope they stick all winter, wish they would find the sunflower feeder. The first one has been here a month so far. Too cool, I love 'em. Whatabird. The hummer is at three weeks. Other than that the same old stuff all day. Thursday so at desk. At dusk there was a House Wren jeering over in the corral. Saw a Buckeye (butterfly) besides the expected half-dozen types still flying.

The bees are swarming the hummer feeders now that there is no nectar or pollen out there. Two flew into my shirt, one on my chest I felt crawling, pulled the shirt away knowing what that feel was, and it flew out. The other went under from below and was discovered by the sharp stinging sensation on my stomach. Nothing this stupid should be allowed to have a stinger. Luckily it hit me right in the fat and so was not nearly the bother a sting usually is. The evidence is clear, I was saved by beer!

Nov. 28 ~ We had a 36dF this morning, the Seco Crk. WU station showed 37, and Kerrville low 40's, so the city heat island kept them much warmer than we were. Heard the nuthatch and saw the hummer. About 23 waxwing and 44 Robin flew over. Great was my FOS Slate-colored Junco out back on the seed, a sharp lookin' male. My latest ever date for a 'first one of the fall' arrival, except the year I did not see one all fall and winter. In the afternoon I saw an ad. ma. Sharp-shinned Hawk coming in over the corral trees out front. A Mourning Dove bolted from a water trough seeming to aim to be behind the Sharpy after it passed. The Sharpy wheeled on a dime, gave 9 cents change and grabbed the dove as it was climbing. You heard about 6 wing-whistles of climbing dove and then silence. Lotta weight for a little Sharpy. Saw a few butterflies: Vesta Crescent, Dainty Sulphur, Little Yellow, Queen, a Fiery or Whirlabout Skipper, couple Dogface, some Snout. It is fadin' fast.

Nov. 27 ~ It was 26dF here on porch this a.m., Kerrville was progged for 32 by NOAA, they had a 26, as did the Seco Crk. WU station. The R-A Hummer was out there before 7 a.m. before sunup. About 50 Robin and 20 Cedar Waxwing were eating some hackberries early. Had 4 Pine Siskin at a seed tube, most for me so far this fall. The imm. Sharpy dove on everything and missed again, it is going to be around doing this all winter. The Canyon Towhee was out there and is apparently getting a bit territorial. Some waxwings and robins were coming into the birdbath for a drink and the Towhee displaced a perched waxwing by flying right at it, flushing it. Then as a robin departed from a drink heading back to the junipers, the towhee flew right on its arse for 20 feet and sounded like it was mumbling something all the way. Can't wait to see what it does when a few hundred each waxwings and robins show up. Mighta gotta waxwing drinking shot.

Nov. 26 ~ About 45dF for a low with some cool north wind on it. The R-A Hummer still here. A Merlin shot over early. Hutton's Vireo was out there. Outstanding was having TWO Red-breasted Nuthatch AT ONCE together in the big pecan right off the front porch. Finally got a usable pic of at least one of them (below). Interesting was that twice it pulled a sunflower seed out of a bark crevice. The seed-stashing Chickadees and Titmice must hate these guys being here. This is why it keeps returning to the big pecan. He thinks it is a magic tree. Just like me. I wonder if it thinks when pecans get big they have sunflower seeds in the bark crevices? Of course this is the first time in 15 years I have seen two together at once here, generally as you get near south Texas you only see singles. I do not see them here more years than I do, by far. So two at once, in the yard, is somewhere between fantastic and awesome. I had a quick town dash at noon, at the park had the pair of Green Kings on the island, Blue Jay, Red-tail and Red-shouldered Hawk. A new guest that was not there Thurs., Fri., or Sat., was a Coot. Got a winter plumaged Myrtle Warbler pic while a group was working the run-over pecans in the streets of town. Which fills a gap on the warblers page since it is actually the most-seen warbler plumage around town, a winter Myrtle.

Nov. 25 ~ Upper 40's dF for a low, maybe got to 62dF or so. But the front got here (dry) with 15mph gusting over 20 northerlies, too windy to bird. So worked on stuff here. Glad we took a spin around yesterday. Had the hummer and the nuthatch early, as well as a Hutton's Vireo, plus all the regular gang. A dozen Robin and 3 Waxwing were in the big pecan. Saw the Sharp-shinned Hawk terrorizing things. Heard a Field Sparrow. Canyon Towhee was about.

Nov. 24 ~ About 41dF for a low, overcast until the afternoon. Sun came out about 3 p.m. and warmed to low 70's. A nice little flock was here mid-morn. At least 6-7 Myrtle Warbler and one Orange-crowned, 3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and my FOS Hermit Thrush (2) were in the same Hackberry with the warblers. Finally on them. The R-A Hummer and the R-b Nuthatch were both out there at the same time as the winter flock. I did not see the imm. White-crowned Sparrow that was here at dusk.

We took a drive around noonish to peek about a little. Our annual trip this weekend to go see fall. We go out 1050 to the 1050 pass, 4-5 miles west of town. Don't worry, it is not a pass like you think of. It is no Donner or Tioga Pass. More like that Frontierland train ride at Disneyland kind of pass. It is the lowest thing I have ever heard called a pass. It is a little mini-pass I guess. A passlet. There is one formal pullout, and a wide shoulder on the way up it (westbound side), so you can get out and look and listen in a few spots. When no traffic it can be ok. Great color now, sometimes some birds, Golden-cheeks breed on these slopes. We just heard a Scrub-Jay this time.

At the Bear Creek Pond just before the passlet there were ducks! Counted 11 Gadwall, 18 American Wigeon, 3 Ring-necked Duck, and best, one wild Mallard, which are very rare here. There was one blonde frankenduck on the pond, someone's easter duck, a new addition. We did find and see fall, had great views, got photos of it. The pass has very nice color now from the Buckley Oaks, the slopes are covered in yellow, orange, rust, and a little red. The maples are a crapshoot any given year, the Buckley Oaks a sure thing. Should last a couple more weeks at least, sometimes some through December. I saw some Brickelbush that had gone to seed, but so it bloomed this year.

Right as you top the passlet I had a brief but close bare-eyed view of two Townsend's Solitaire on the powerline. Stopped at the first wide spot right at top and they flew as I moved to get out. Could not refind them. Surely my earliest record locally, but I think others have had them at Lost Maples around Thanksgiving in some years in the past. Just the other side of the crestlet we saw my two FOS Spotted Towhee (finally), both females. At the park in town was a female Green Kingfisher on the island. Heard Blue Jays. Two different pastures had flocks of 50 meadowlark each. The ones on 360 looked Eastern, the ones at the north end of town in the Blackbuck pasture looked Western. None called, since a birder was listening. A Merlin stooped on the 360 flock but I think us approaching or the stock fence made it decide to call it off. What a bullet of a bird.

Here is one of the Red-breasted Nuthatch around the yard now,
caught red-handed stealing a stashed sunflower seed out of a
crevice in the bark of the pecan. The chickadees and titmice
are not likely as thrilled about our new visitor as I am.
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Nov. 23 ~ Foggy and about 50dF this morning. Early I had the R-b nuthatch I missed yesterday, the R-A hummer, some Robins, and a couple Myrtle Warbler. Sunny by 11 a.m., and the afternoon got up to at least 71 or 72dF! Nice to open up and air out. Town run, nothing much moving but since the flowers are cooked, it was mostly errands. Thought I heard a Hermit Thrush on the island at the park but couldn't coax it into view. That was too an errand. Had to make sure there were still not any new park birds there. On the way back just south of the corral on 360 I had to hit the brakes and run off edge of the dirt road to avoid a snake. Missed it thankfully, a 20" Rough Greensnake. Which looks and feels smooth as silk. Has to be my first November record. Got a couple (now I see exposure-messed-up) photos, dang white balance or digital metering can not handle caliche. Has to be my first November record. What a beautiful animal. Heard a couple Waxwings here in the trees mid-afternoon. Right before dusk I saw my FOS White-crowned Sparrow out back office window on the seed, an imm., finally. I have thought I heard them a few times in the last couple weeks but hadn't seen one yet.

Nov. 22 ~ Happy Turkey day turkeys! Mid-to-upper 40's dF for a low, overcast and humid. Got up to about 60dF at peak heat. Saw the hummer out there, missed the nuthatch today. Didn't hear or see any Turkey, had a couple stuffed Cornish Gamehens though. Might be my favorite bird. Tonight it is. Mid-morn a flock of 5 Horned Lark flew over coming up off the grass airstrip, good thing a couple called. Only maybe the 2nd or 3rd time I have had it from the yard here. They are regular in the ag fields down around Hwy. 90 but rare up here in the hills.

We took a couple hour lookabout around noon since we had a break. This is the only Thursday of the year that can happen. A flock of sparrows along 360 had 35 Chipping, some Lark, a Field or two, and a couple Lincoln's were in the same area. Some Myrtle Warbler, a dozen Cardinal. A flock of 20 some Cedar Waxwing flew over calling, my first flock of the fall, had only had a single. Near Utopia on the River there was a adult male Vermilion Flycatcher. The park had a couple Blue Jay, and heard a Green Kingfisher. Saw an(other?) Vermilion Flyc. on the way back on 187 over a half mile from the one on 360. I guess if it is moving around a lot it could be the same bird. A half-mile in under an hour seems a lot compared to what I am used to from them but my observations are mostly during nesting season when tethered. Also on the way back at the 360 crossing a decent flock of E. Bluebirds, a few Myrtle Warbler, and my FOS Pine Warbler, a bright adult male. Had a glimpse of what surely was a White-throated Sparrow at the crossing too, thought sure I heard one call at UP as well. Still no Hermit Thrush.

There is some great color going on now. Anywhere there is good color on the hills, you are seeing Buckley (Spanish) Oaks. Oh maybe a few other things here and there have some, but 99% of the color now is Buckley Oak. And they are beautiful. Some very nice yellows, oranges, pinks, reds, they are the best sure thing color show in fall here and should be good a couple or few weeks at least now. The divides (higher ground between the river valleys) are covered in them. Mostly tied to slopes, thickest on steeper ones, they like an altitudinal gradient. These are a favorite tree of Golden-cheeked Warblers.

Nov. 21 ~ I saw a 38dF before 7 a.m., later saw KRVL had 32 and Seco Creek WU station 34. Maybe it dropped a little after I looked, it happens if you check early at dark-thirty. Overcast and humid so chilly. After 8 a.m. heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at the river, and a flock of 60+ Robin dropped in across the road. After 10 a.m. there was a little sparrow party on the patio. The 20 Chipping is my highest count so far this fall, a thrill which doesn't last very long. There were also 5 Lark, and best 1 Vesper Sparrow! The Vesper came right up to the back porch steps just feet away. The real fast tail flick they do as they forage flashes the white outer tail feathers. Heard the hummer and nuthatch out there.

With a little free time over the last week I did my need-it-or-not once-every-five-years update to the warblers page (at the bird photo index). Added and refined text here and there, and added some photos to better illustrate our warblers. Besides feathering in some of the weekly update break warbler photos that were not there, a couple new ones are not anywhere else on the site. I am partial to that Black-and-white near the end without full tail.

Nov. 20 ~ About 40dF for a low, chilly. Eventually warmed to the mid-60's dF in the afternoon which was quite nice. Saw the R-A Hummer, the R-b Nuthatch, and the Canyon Towhee, the rest was the regular gang. Some butterflies came out in the heat. A Red Admiral, couple Gulf Fritillary, few Sleepy Orange, at least 2 So. Dogface, a Vesta Crescent, a Fiery or Whirlabout Skipper, and best, a Texan Crescent flew by - only my second for the month, plus one Dainty Sulphur. Was swamped having to get biz done as our normal peak busy day is a holiday this week so all has to be done early.

Nov. 19 ~ About 45dF for a low, cloudy, humid, a bit chilly. Got up to about 57dF under overcast skies in the afternoon. Heard the Nuthatch early, saw the Canyon Towhee. About 11 a.m. I saw the R-A Hummer after not seeing it for a couple days, again. Must be visiting someone else's sweet stuff, the two-timer. Counted 16 White-winged Dove on the seed, and maybe as many Chipping Sparrow, which is double what there has been. A flock of big fat finches flushed out of the big pecan before I saw them, that I wish I could have ID'd. Was over a dozen. My impression was crossbills. A couple Lesser Goldfinch were around.

Nov. 18 ~ A dry front came in before dawn with northerly winds. It dropped from 55 to 44dF between 5-9 a.m., chill factors with winds are in the high 30's dF. Only barely broke 50dF at peak heat, maybe low 40's chill factors. Worked on stuff inside. Thick cloud layer but no rain. Knew not to get up and look for Leonid meteors in advance. Here, apparently 'meteor shower' means cloudy with no chance of stars. That is how the overwhelming majority of them play out here. Canyon Towhee is out there, did not see the hummer yet at noon and missed it yesterday. There is an imm. Sharp-shinned Hawk harassing the seed eaters all day missing repeated attempts. So just the regular repeat offenders sneaking in on the seed as they can.

Nov. 17 ~ Foggy and in the 40's dF for a few hours early. Did not see the hummer, but had the Nuthatch and a Golden-crowned Kinglet again (maybe yesterday's?). The rest was the regulars in the yard. We looked around a couple hours around noon. The golf course pond at Waresville Cmty. had a couple dozen Red-winged Blackbird fairly evenly split of sexes. There was finally my FOS Savannah Sparrow there as well. At Utopia Park we had single Great Blue Heron and Great Egret at the pond, up on the islad was a male Green Kingfisher, in the woods were Carolina Wren, Titmice and Chickadees, a few Cardinal.

Best bird was a bug, a CRIMSON PATCH butterfly flew by and landed right in front of us in the sun for a few moments at the edge of the woods. It quickly took off and disappeared whilst I fumbled with camera, which made a bad heavy ker-plunk sound and voila! the lens goes in and out again. We know it will break again quickly. It is the first Crimson Patch I have seen all year, it was in immaculate mint fresh condition as if a fresh emergence. What a beauty! May well be the last new species of butterfly for my local butterfly year list. We are having a very weak year for diversity locally, at drought levels.

We drove out Jones Cmty Rd. to check the wet spot on W. Sabinal, where there were 7 Killdeer, probably migrants from northward. Heard a couple more Savannah Sparrow, saw a L. Shrike, a few Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk, 4 E. Bluebird, but not a lot. Coming back just before the house along the corral there were some Field and Lincoln's Sparrows. Saw a couple Monarchs out there, and a few minor butterflies, but flowers are toast now. Frozen in time and place.

Theona Checkerspot

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Of course I am always looking for a few good bugs... What appears to be only a second Uvalde County record, a Slaty Skimmer was at Utopia Park July 13-14 (ph. below). What looked like a Blue-faced Darner (C. adnexa) was at Lost Maples July 29. Haven't gotten to working with the poor pix yet. An apparent Lassaux's Sphinx Moth was at the porch light for photos Aug. 30. A Twelve-spotted Skimmer was in Bandera Co. at the S. Little Crk. Rd. pond Oct. 5 (ph.).

There is a RIVER! And it is mighty high. We have had repeated rain events for most of the last 8 weeks. Major events Sept. 2-10, and the 15th-16th. Minors in between, it rained most of September, yet no one complained. It has rained much of October so far as well. Many local reports are of in the area of TWO FEET of rain in September. We have had about 7.5" in Oct. so far. So we have a fall flower bloom. But so far few butterflies. It also got cold early with a four day event with highs in the 40's dF last week, three days in the 50's this week, winterish high temperatures. And 80dF today.

So much for that D3 we were at the USGS drought monitor, Couch's Spadefoot Toads were calling. If you can hear them, there is no drought. Oct. 1-2 there was another 3.25" for us here, but it was 5" and more upvalley, all the low water crossings were flooded, locals were calling water levels epic. Then Oct. 15 we got another 2.75", low-water crossings down again. The rain just won't stop. The ground is so saturated it is all runoff at this point. Still some chiggers and skeeters out, that would love to see you.

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Nov. 16 ~ NOAA had Kerrville at 37dF for a forecast low last night. We had 27 here. Off by a category. They had 29 there. Last three mornings here were in the 20's, and last four froze. The R-A Hummer and R-b Nuthatch were both out there early. There were 6 American Goldfinch, had only been seeing 1-4. Better yet, was a flock of 5 Audubon's Oriole working the yard for a while around 9:30 a.m. Mostly in the Hackberries, and working the ball moss clumps particularly. Wish they would take to a hummer feeder here like the Seco Ridge birds did. Guessing the hummer would not be as excited about that as I. About 10 a.m. I saw my FOS Pine Siskin in with some American Goldfinches on the patio.

Town run. At least two FOS Song Sparrow were at the 360 x-ing. A Zone-tailed Hawk was in a tree just south of town, and a male Green Kingfisher was at the park, but that was it. The hard freeze cooked all the remaining flowers at the various gardens around town. Normally this is a great week or two for vagrant butterflies from the south as we finish the fall bloom, that appears shot now. There were a few things about, mostly singles, and little to nothing to nectar on. Perfectly good flowers nuked. Saw a couple ea. Vesta and Phaon Crescent, one Theona Checkerspot, couple Dogface, couple Large Orange Sulphur, 1 Orange Sulphur, a couple Little Yellow, American Lady and Red Admiral, Pipevine Swallowtail, a Whirlabout, 10 Sleepy Orange, a few Gulf Fritillary. It is fading fast now. One female Variegated Meadowhawk dragonfly, one Blue-ringed and one Dusky Dancer in damselflies.

Nov. 15 ~ About 26.5 for a low here, KRVL had 26, Seco Crk WU station, 25dF. Chilly willy. Got up to the lowest 60's at peak heat. The Pigeon spent the night in the big pecan, then fed with the White-winged Doves on the patio early, then took off with some White-winged Dove heading north toward town, to go party with its new friends. I heard back from the American Racing Pigeon Union people, the bird is from Kerrville. At least the owner knows he has a carouser now. It was born this year so still inexperienced. Heard the Nuthatch, and a Hutton's Vireo, saw the Ruf-All Hummer, probably a Rufous. An Audubon's Warbler moved through the yard, looked ad. female. Saw my FOS Brewer's Blackbird when five flew over calling. Then I had my FOS Golden-crowned Kinglet upslope behind us, a couple Ruby-crowned were out there too.

Saw a few butterflies. One Monarch, a couple Gulf and one Variegated Fritillary, a few Sleepy Orange, a Vesta Crescent, a So. Dogface, a Red Admiral, an American Lady. Amazing this stuff can take 20dF! The tomatoes we had left, and covered, couldn't take however cold it got in the makeshift greenhouse. Looks like most have met a premature demise. Not fried, but frozen green tomatoes.

Nov. 14 ~ If there was any doubt winter was coming the record lows this morning should remove that. We had 20dF! Kerrville had the same and the WU station at Seco Crk. reported 19dF! The historical record low for Uvalde for this date is 37dF! Yesterday's low (28dF) and this morning's (23dF), both broke hundred year old records at San Antonio. The panhandle of Texas had 10, 11, and 12dF! It was a killin' freeze. Lots of purple leaves out there. Temps got up to freezing about 9 a.m. Some of our Frostweed stems blew open and froze their ribbons of paper-thin ice, something you usually see in later Dec. or January. We got up to about 55dF on the cool shady front porch, probably near 60 on the sunny south side of the house.

First thing early there were a HUNDRED Robins in and around the yard. First big flock of the season. Hadn't had a full handful yet prior. I heard one Waxwing in with them. All the puddles along the roads were frozen, bird bath was too, had to use warm water on it twice before it quit refreezing. There were a dozen Vesper and a couple Lark Sparrow along the corral early. Canyon Towhee was around. The Rufous-Allen's Hummingbird was out there flycatching after not seeing it the last couple days. So it is still here. Heard the Red-breasted Nuthatch out there. Saw Meadowlarks over on the airstrip.

A few butterflies popped out when it got over 50dF: one male Fiery Skipper (not the female skipper of yesterday), one Red Admiral, one Gulf Fritillary, two Sleepy Orange, two Vesta Crescent, one Clouded Skipper, one American Lady, and late one Queen. The Pigeon looked fine today after being in the cottage a couple days and eating seemingly a couple pounds of seed in two days, so I put it out on the patio. It flew up to roof of cottage an hour, then sat in the Mulberry an hour, then it was gone. I recorded the band info so I can report it and maybe find out where it was from. It was the pigeon people's plastic bands, not a USFW aluminum type for wild birds of course. Dang thing has shown back up now at sundown. I tried to coax it into the cottage but gave up. It is roosting in the big pecan.

Meanwhile Kathy found a barely moving bat on the front porch. We brought it in and warmed it, took pix, took it back out just before dark and it flew off, not particularly strongly. It did not look to be in great shape. I do not know what it is eating these last couple or few nights. Probably starved? Never a dull moment here. On another subject, the deer and horses are sure hitting the fallen Mulberry leaves as annually. They both appear to relish the fresh fallen Mulberry leaves, must be something good in them they want.

Nov. 13 ~ The winds blew all night, still 15-20 gusting to 30, the low temp was 30.5dF here, wind chills around 20dF. Winter is here. An early first fall freeze. Might be some record lows around the area for the date. Winds finally laid down near the end of the day, and you know what that means. Tonight to tomorrow morn, it gets real cold, as in low-to-mid 20'sdF. There goes the last of my Blue Mist Eup flowers. A few Robin here again in the morning. Thought I heard the nuthatch from inside. There was a Sharp-shinned Hawk bothering the seedeaters. Amazing was at peak 45dF heat a skipper (butterfly) was out, a female Fiery or Whirlabout. Only butterfly I saw today, no surprise.

Nov. 12 ~ It was in the low 50's dF in the early morning. That was the high for the day. Mid-morn the northerlies started puffing and were howling by noon, continuing to do so all day, and they say much of the night. So temps dropping from about 9 a.m. on. Was often 15-20 mph gusting to 30. Tomorrow morning will be the first freeze of the season. Early. I did not see the hummer in the morning, maybe it was smart enough to go yesterday afternoon. The little passerine flock was around early before it got bad, and included the Red-breasted Nuthatch (which makes two weeks here now). Of the few I have seen here prior, none have stuck around more than a day or few at most, so this is a treat. Loosely associated with the Bluebirds, Chippies, Myrtle Warbler were 3 Robin and 3 Lesser Goldfinch.

Right after the front started blowing out of nowhere was something I have only seen a couple times from the yard, a Pigeon! As in Rock Dove, Feral Pigeon. Nearly at my feet. A nice fairly natural colored (checkered) type. I caught it, it didn't look real well, put it in the cottage, so it could crap all over in there, it ate a bunch of seed, and is banded! Haven't gotten the number off it yet but clearly it is a pet bird. So, a lost banded pet pigeon makes landfall during intense storm front at a birder's place with large bags of seed and shelter. If you made it up they would say it is too corny. Bet it's glad to be indoors tonight.

Nov. 11 ~ About 45dF for a low, misting a bit early. Chilly. Got up to a smokin' 55 or so for a high, but still drizzly. The R-A Hummingbird was out there early. I heard the Red-breasted Nuthatch right over the shed out back, close, and swear there was a second distant bird calling at the same time. We have to get stuff done here before the big hard freeze next week. The lows Tues. through Thurs. are progged to be below freezing, with mid-20's on Wed. morning peak cold. Likely near records for the date. Every day for the last five, the NOAA forecast is a degree colder for next Tues.-Wed.-Thurs. mornings.

Not a lot of bird activity around the yard though. Racoons and squirrels decimated what pecan crop there was here, and the hackberry crop is weak. Seed crops seem good though, and that is a lot of what most attract to yard feeders. There are four each Carolina Chickadee and Black-crested Titmouse hitting the sunflower tube pretty hard all day. Not even a dozen Cardinal, the Canyon Towhee, maybe 8 Chipping and a few Lark Sparrow, the pair of Common Ground-Dove, a few Mourning and less than 10 White-winged Dove. A female Ladder-backed Woodpecker was on the pole next to the sunflower feeder watching stuff use it, but did not go to it. A few Eastern Bluebird, a Myrtle Warbler, a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet, heard a Flicker.

Nov. 10 ~ Cloudy in a.m., sunny a few hours late afternoon, temp range of 45-53dF, if you can call that a range. Not much of one. Humid, and chilly. Not much bird action around yard, probably a Cooper's Hawk hiding nearby the stuff has seen. Saw the imm. ma. R-A (Rufous-Allens) Hummingbird at all three feeders over the day, so it is still here. I heard the Red-breasted Nuthatch but didn't run out to see it. When the sun came out and it 'warmed' up I saw 4 butterflies: 2 So. Dogface, a Gulf Fritillary, and a Common Checkered-Skipper. Worked on stuff inside, nearish heat. Hard freeze next week.

Spinyback Spider
This is a Spinyback Spider (Gasteracantha cancriformis) female.
It is about a half inch across, males are little tiny things.

Spinyback Spider
This view gives a better idea of the amazing bright yellow coloration.
There is another color form with a white sheild with red spiny points.
That is a hard protective exoskeleton on these neat beasts.
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Nov. 9 ~ A few spits of rain overnight as the front arrived but just a trace. Was about 48dF for a low, but with 15-20 mph northerlies on it, gusting higher, it felt more like upper 30's. Birds seem pretty hunkered down. Next week we are supposed to freeze or so a couple mornings. At the park in town there was one Great Egret, and at the island a pair of Green Kingfisher interacting, probably the local breeder pair. A couple Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Myrtle Warbler, heard a Blue Jay, Cardinal, Chickadee, and Titmouse was about it. Didn't bother looking for butterflies, too cold for them. On the way back on 360 there was a flock of a dozen Eastern Bluebird, and an imm. ma. Vermilion Flycatcher. Did not see the Ruf-All Hummer here today.

Nov. 8 ~ About 60dF and soupy again, a little drizzle here and there. Saw the Rufous-Allen's Hummingbird early after not seeing it all afternoon or at last light yesterday. Noonish a little flock was around the yard and in the corral. Was a few Eastern Bluebid, a couple Myrtle Warbler, a handful each of Chipping and Lark Sparrow, a Hutton's Vireo, the Red-breasted Nuthatch, and a Nashville Warbler. I would guess the Nashville is the same laggard I saw two days ago in the corral. Canyon Towhee was out there as well. There was a Desert Checkered-Skipper out in yard too, but only a very few butterflies on the fading Blue Mist due to cool moist air.

Nov. 7 ~ It was cooler at midnight than at 7 a.m. when 70dF, and foggy. Sunny afternoon, 75dF on cool shady front porch, 80 in the sun and at some local stations. A front is to arrive tonight. Heard the R-b Nuthatch again in the early a.m. Great was an imm. Rufous-Allen's Hummingbird in the morning, which I did not see yesterday. So still the odd stray hummer out there migrating that needs a refuel station. Looked like probably an imm. male. A real surprise was a single pipit that flew over, called a couple times, heading for the grassy airstrip it seemed, which was a SPRAGUE'S Pipit. Now is prime-time for them, and any single lone pipit right now is more likely not a Water Pipit. But hearing it call removes any doubt. A Ringed Kingfisher flew upriver high over the cypresses 'chakking', at last sun.

Had a weird pale Duskywing (butterfly) on the Blue Mist for a couple hours. Got a few Mavica pix, hopefull will be enough to ID it. I know the usual regular ones here fairly well after 15 short years, and did not recognize this beast. I guess it could be a very pale worn Mournful, but the trailing edge of ventral hindwing was not typical of that species (no sub-marginal white dots).

Nov. 6 ~ A low of 52 and sunny. Just right. To the east where more humid was a fog advisory, it didn't make it here. Got up to 80dF in the heat of the afternoon. Saw a Julia's skipper on the Blue Mist Eup, and a dozen Queen. Heard the Red-breasted Nuthatch go through the yard again, wish it would spot the chickadees and titmice at the sunflower seed feeder. The rest was the expected. Late afternoon I took an hour walk through the Huisache Daisy patches in the corral for butterflies. Not as warm tomorrow and rain chances, so strike while the iron is hot. The bummer of the day was while trying to shoot some butterflies, the camera lens malfunctioned and the SX40 seems bricked until I can get it to a Canon repair shop. Major bummer. Lens won't go in and out, apparently came out of the track. Scat. No it was not banged. It had happened a couple times and moving it in and out it got back on track.

Heard the nuthatch over by the river, saw a few Vesper Sparrow, and best was a very late Nashville Warbler, maybe my first November Nashville, and two American Goldfinch. A couple new butterflies were a Checkered White, and a few Whirlabout. Otherwise it is amazing how much things change in a couple days since I was last there. Here is a list. At least 30 Pipevine and 2 Black Swallowtail, single Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphur, 60+ Sleepy Orange, 60+ Dogface, a few Little Yellow, one Lyside, the Checkered White (missed it in Oct.), 20 Gray Hairstreak (no Mallow Scrub-), 1 Dusky-blue Groundstreak, no blues, one Fatal Metalmark, 20 Theona Checkerspot, 50 Bordered Patch, at least 500 Vesta, 15 Phaon, and one Texan Crescent, 4 Red Admiral, 1 American Lady, 35 Monarch, 20 Queen, 1 No. Mestra. For Skippers it was 15 Sachem, 12 Fiery, 3 Julia's, 1 Dun, 3 Whirlabout, 4 Eufala, and 10-20 un-ID'd were mostly Sachem or Fiery types. Single bushes had dozens of butterflies on them, it is an outstanding show.

Also a few metallic green native halichtid bees, and some of the black-n-white bees, and some bicolored red-n-black Sphecids. A couple of the 1.5" black with pale yellow bands on rear sides of adbomen scoliid wasps. A pair of mating Soldier Beetles (Cantharidae), that gold Meloid (blister beetle) that is common in fall on sunflower types. Tons of flies (Diptera) of various sorts I try to ignore.

Nov. 5 ~ Only 58dF for a low, overcast and humid, the southerly Gulf flow is back. The Red-breasted Nuthatch came through the yard again in the morning. Same route as before, Mulberry to kitchen Pecan to porch big Pecan, toward river via a Mesquite across the road. Same bird, now since Oct. 30, makes a week. I have heard more 'nyets' in the last week than in the prior several years. What a great little bird they are. I heard it again about 11 a.m., and again about 1 p.m. it was in earshot. Otherwise it was just the regular suspects over the day. It only takes one good bird to make your day. If it is good enough it can make a week or month.

Some butterflies on the Blue Mist, Salvia, and flying by. A couple Monarch, 8 or so Queen, a dozen each Dogface, Sleepy Orange, and Vesta Crescent, some Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphur, another crab spider (#5), Pipevine Swallowtails, a Mestra, nothing unusual, but some stuff to watch. The Texas Powdered-Skipper showed again, a Fiery Skipper stopped briefly, as did a Common Checkered-Skipper. The flowers are past peak but at least some are still going bringing things to the porch.

Nov. 4 ~ A dry front passed, we had northerlies for most of the morning, then easterlies, it finally laid down late afternoon. Heard a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Hutton's Vireo, a couple Myrtle Warbler, saw the Ground-Doves and Canyon Towhee. No hummers again, the last two left Friday Nov. 2 after the morning sometime. We worked on stuff here until peak heat and took a walk through the Huisache Daisy (an acre's worth total) patch mostly at the far end of the corral for butterflies. Saw a pair of female Ladder-backed Woodpecker goofing around real close. Also 5 Vesper and a Lincoln's Sparrow, an Vermilion Flycatcher, 50 Black Vulture, no Turkey Vulture they are gone for the most part. Two Red-tails were the local breeder ad. Fuertes, and probably their young they fledged, but which is not welcome in these parts any longer. I heard one loud 'nyet' that surely was the Red-breasted Nuthatch, but it never called again so I let it go.

Butterflies were pretty good for limited diversity. At least there are numbers of a few things. Interesting how some are amazingly fresh, mint condition, and others amazingly worn, within any of the species we saw. Vesta Crescent is the most abundant with 300++ of them still, saw 1 Pearl Crescent and maybe 15 Phaon Crescent. Very nice was a Texan Crescent, which I did not see in October! Fifteen Pipevine and a pair (male and female together) of Black Swallowtail. A few Large Orange Sulphur (saw Cloudless at the porch Salvias today). One Lyside, 10 Dainty and 1 Orange Sulphur, 8 Little Yellow, and at least 75 So. Dogface. Great was a GREAT PURPLE HAIRSTREAK, first one I have seen this year I think, was a female (ph.). Probably 20 Gray Hairstreak, a Dusky-blue Groundstreak, no metalmarks or blues. A couple American Lady and a couple Red Admiral, 3-4 Buckeye, a No. Mestra, 40 each Gulf, and Variegated Fritillary, 2 Theona, (both ph. - one all orange type), 20 Bordered Patch is a big increase in them, 7 Monarch (another 5 in yard and went by over day), and 30 Queen. In skippers there were 10 Common Checkered-skipper, 1 Clouded, 2 Eufala, 10 Sachem, and 16 Fiery Skippers, and one Orange Skipperling. One White-tipped Black moth was my first of the fall (ph.), not a sure thing annually, and a pretty bug.

Off to a roaring start for November butterflies since I got to look at flowers little each of the last three days. You have to get all you can quick and early as when the first hard freeze hits, it is all but over until next spring. The Texas Powdered-Skipper was on the Blue Mist Eup at porch today again. A whopping 40 species for the month now, on the 4th. Amazing. But which means I won't be adding many more. There were a dozen Queen at once on our Blue Mist when we got back from our walk. No Firefly tonight.

Nov. 3 ~ We had 40dF for a low here, so chilly. Got real breezy out of the south early though, 15+mph. Warmed to about 74 or so. I went to town earlyish for the annual town craft fair (I think always first Sat. of Nov.) but at 9:30 a.m. the jelly lady was already out of Agarita. This is second year in a row of very poor crops for them and supplies are short. Especially for people at my part of the totem pole, the part below the ground. Got a couple others... and I gotta say I had no idea there was jalapeno everything jelly. Made off with a breakfast Taco from Rosie and went birding. Went to stop for more for lunch on the way home but the line was too long. Saw a Painted Lady in town on Judy Schaefers white (Boneset?) Eupatorium, among many butterflies.

At the park there was a Green Kingfisher and a Blue Jay. It was still coolish but on the flowers out front at entrance another Theona, 12 Phaon, 20 Vesta Crescent, and one Fatal Metalmark. A couple Dainty Sulphur, a Little Yellow, one Yellow-margined Flower-Buprestid. Too windy at the garden at north end of town. Went out W. Sabinal Rd. for a bit, to sneak a peek in Bandera County. At the wet spot by Haby's my FOS Merlin landed and was walking over to the water, no doubt to bathe. Just as I got my camera up and out a Kestrel stooped on it and flushed it away. Near Roy Heideman's place on the Fisher Rd. section there was my FOS Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in the trees along the road with a group of Chickadee, Titmouse, Myrtle Warbler, Cardinal, and I thought sure I heard a White-crowned Sparrow or two. Also heard one loud 'nyet' contact call of a Red-breasted Nuthatch but never could find it. At the Fisher gate there were a couple (FOS) Northern Harrier hunting in the pasture there.

Drove a couple miles up W. (Lower) Sabinal Rd. to the crossing where there was a Texas River Cooter. Just a few of the regular expected things: E. Bluebird, N. Cardinal, Car. Chickadee, B-c Titmouse, Bewick's and Carolina Wren, numbers of Mockingbird. Heard a Western Meadowlark sing from a pasture. On Jones Cmty. Rd. just south of W.Sab.Rd. there was a small group of Meadowlark at least one of which looked Eastern. On 360 just west of 187 by the corrals there was an ad. ma. Vermilion Flycatcher, the first of that age-sex class I have seen in a couple weeks. Neither of us saw a hummer here at the house all day. None at closing time yesterday either. They are gone. First day without a hummer here since March 2. We will keep at least one feeder up through the winter in hopes of Audubon's Oriole or a stray vagrant hummer.

Nothern Harrier, formerly called Marsh Hawk, often drifts slow and low over pastures and fields
dropping quickly on anything tasty. They have a white rump or uppertail covert area above.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Nov. 2 ~ Probably the coldest morning since early April if not March. We had 39dF here, I saw KRVL had a 37 and the Seco Creek WU station a 38! Chilly, but sunny and warming up to 70dF or so. Saw two hummers in the morning, might be the only ones left. Around 9:30 a.m. I was outside and heard a distant Red-breasted Nuthatch calling repeatedly. The Russians are coming! Nyet, nyet, nyet, nyet, nyet. So either the one from two days ago is still around, or another one is. Then 10 minutes later I heard an Audubon's Oriole. Is this utopia or what!?! A great combo, sub-tropics, meet coniferous. Generally where one of them is, the other is not. Its like getting Scorpio and Orion together. About 10:30 the Nuthatch went through the yard, again hit the Mulberry, the kitchen (N.) Pecan and the big Pecan off front porch, got a docushot. Same route the one two days ago took, probably the same bird. When it flew across road over the gate it then landed in a Mesquite. They sure look funny in a Mesquite.

Town run, park had a Ringed and a Green Kingfisher and that was it. Couple Myrtle Warblers around town. At the garden at the curve at north end of town was a Theona Checkerspot and a Metalmark that looked Rounded, I'll have to study pix to ID. A few Monarchs were seen floating around, and we had two on the Blue Mist here for a while. Also here at the porch were single Dun, Clouded, and Julia's Skippers Not seeing any hummers this afternoon or at the evening last chance time, those last two might have split today. Almost forgot, near the golf course entrance a Canyon Towhee flew across 187 in front of me on the way home. The individual here in our yard was present as well.

There WERE two new crab spiders that showed up on the blue mist and took a couple butterflies, a Sleepy Orange and a Vesta Crescent. They eat on them for a while, drop 'em, and go back to set-trap position. When there is a week or two of food in the one they just killed and dropped, ate for an hour and now its not fresh enough? If I wasted food like that it would cost ten thousand dollars a month to feed me. I don't know what they thought I was running here but this is a butterfly refueling station, not a spider smorgasbord. With apologies to my spider expert friend.

Docushot of the Red-breasted Nutchatch in yard Nov. 2.
So pale below not a male, I would guess female, maybe an immature.

November 1 ~ Clear and cool after the frontal passage yesterday evening. Low was about 44dF with 10+mph northerlies on it, chilly. I had a quick town run before noon, went out the back way to UvCo 359 and 1050. Just south of that intersection on 359 a female Eastern Towhee flew across the road right in front of me. First one I have seen in a couple years at least. They are pretty scarce here, Spotted outnumber them about 100 to 1. You can easily go a few years without seeing one locally. Whereas Spotted are common in winter. So a great bird. A Ringed Kingfisher was at the park. Nothing but the regular residents in the woods. Saw a few Monarchs but did not have time to look at the flowers and it was still pretty chilly. Nothing through the yard either. Did see one Monarch, a couple Queen, few Dogface and Vesta Crescent, no skippers. There were about 4-5 Ruby-throated Hummingbird still here in the a.m., but I only saw one late in day, so they probably mostly departed today on the northerlies.

~ ~ ~ October summary ~ ~ ~

Another wet month, we had 8 inches of rain at our place, others around more and less an inch and two, pending how lucky you got with the biggest cells. More than double average Oct. rainfall. After a two foot September. The river is running high and mighty. A Coral Snake and a 6' Indigo Snake were a couple highlights of the month for me.

Butterflies picked up with 52 species and so the best month of the year for diversity. It was almost all invaders from southward, and so far this years' fall invasion has been rather limited in species diversity compared to really good years. Nothing fancy rare, but when everything is scarce, anything is good to see. Saw an Imperial Moth caterpillar at the park (thanks Lou). The bazillion kagillion Snout flight of the last week of September thankfully faded away in October, but numbers were still good early in the month.

After the Snout flight, the most common butterfly was Vesta Crescent. I saw over 400 in less than an acre of Huisache Daisy at once late in the month. No big Monarch flight this year but over 125 in the same Huisache Daisy patch late in month for a couple days was nice. A couple Western Pygmy-Blue were nice, but most obvious was all the stuff not present. Just a few Bordered Patch, almost no blues, no metalmarks, very few hairstreaks, only a few Phaon Crescent and barely any skippers, big or small. Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphur made a fair showing this fall. Mestra were here but in low numbers. A couple Ailanthus webworm moths, one Texas Wasp Moth.

Odes were pitiful. All the bad weather made it rough for them. I saw only about 16 species the whole month. They are all but crashed for the year. A few Autumn Meadowhawk showed up late in month as expected. Best maybe was a Twelve-spotted Skimmer in Bandera Co. (ph.) where rare. I saw what looked a male Ivory-striped Sylph on Oct. 30 floating around yard but it disappeared when I got back out with camera.

Here is a docushot of the Twelve-spotted Skimmer in Bandera Co.,
taken from 75 yards, at least, maybe 85 yards. It is surely my
longest distance dragon docushot. Pardon the pixels. Oct. 5, 2018
Birds were fair, nothing real rare though. It was about 82 species for me locally this month, tying a weak August. The 106 species in between, in September, shows what a movement month that is here locally. Too much rain and work to make it to Lost Maples this month so missed a few sps. there. Bird of the month was a Red-breasted Nuthatch in our yard Oct. 30. The second Ibis of the fall at the W. Sabinal Rd. wetspot was good Oct. 19, 4 Greater and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs there were even better. Two Coots together at the S. Little Crk. ponds was interesting. In general some wintering type things seem a bit slow to arrive, but an American Goldfinch was record early Oct. 25. A pair of Downy Woodpecker at the park was the first time I have seen a pair here. A juv. Broad-winged Hawk is rare to see in here in October, especially on a roadside fencepost. Am. Robin and Cedar Waxwing both showed up early, Oct. 29. A late Mourning Warbler on Oct. 19 was very nice.

~ ~ ~ end October summary ~ ~ ~

Oct. 31 ~ And there goes another month! I guess them flying by is better than the alternative. About 68-75dF temp spread, overcast, mist, drizzle, a showerlet early afternoon. Hearing thunder about 4 p.m., by 5 we had rain, by 7 or so it was .75 of an inch. Another band or two just spritzed us, maybe .80 now. Once the front passes this evening we are in for northerlies and cooler temps.

Nary a nuthatch to be heard today, it was here until dusk last night so I was hoping it would stick. Heard the Hutton's Vireo out there. The fairly small but big highlight of the day was a Spinyback Spider (Gasteracantha cancriformis), a nice yellow form female. What an awesome animal, amazing structure, I don't see many here. If any of my shots turn out will post one. Had another crab spider on the Blue Mist Eup, which I can assure you was not the one yesterday that had the Vesta Crescent.

Oct. 30 ~ About 65-75dF for a temp spread, overcast in a.m., sunny in afternoon. Bird of the day was a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH in our pecans mostly, in the late afternoon for over an hour. Great to hear that call! Sure glad I was out on the porch stringing the whacker. Second time around an hour after first encounter I got a docu shot of it. Pretty sure Putin must have sent it, as it kept saying 'nyet, nyet, nyet, nyet, nyet'. Those Russians are everywhere, even in my Nuthatches!

Also great was a Dusky-blue Groundstreak butterfly, first of the month at end of month, with rain predicted tomorrow is likely the last new one for October. Saw the Texas Powdered-Skipper again. Otherwise had a few Myrtle and the Orange-crowned Warbler, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and the rest was the regular usual. But a new butterfly for the month and a nuthatch makes a great day! Four or five Firefly at dusk. I heard Hackberry pits raining down on the carport for over an hour after dark. The Ringtail is up there again...

Oct. 29 ~ Low was low-mid-50's and overcast, a bit of mist in morn. It is getting yellower of leaves out there. Lots of pecans have no leaves along 360, the Cypresses are mostly rusty along the river, Sycamores are mostly dropped already. Looks pretty fallish. There are still a half-dozen Ruby-throats around the feeders. Heard the Hutton's Vireo, and Canyon Towhee. A few Myrtle Warbler stopped by. The big surprise was first hearing, then seeing a FOS group of 4 Robin and 1 Cedar Waxwing up in the big pecan. They went over to a juniper with berries just over the north fence. There does seem to be a fair juniper berry crop this year.

Saw a couple Monarch hit the Blue Mist, one Orange Skipperling was nice, only 2nd this month, saw the Celia's Roadside-, and the Julia's, Skippers. A big dark skipper flew by, either Cloudywing or Duskywing. That hurt, any duskywing would have been new for the month. A few Firefly at dark. Heard a Great Horned Owl calling at dark before dawn.

Oct. 28 ~ A crisp 48dF for a low was nice, KRVL had a 45! Blue skies, clear and dry. Like fall. Finally a couple sunny days in October. Too much to do though now before it gets cold. Heard a Hutton's Vireo, a Myrtle Warbler, and the Orange-crowned Warbler, but no migration motion. There are still 4-6 Ruby-throated Hummingbird here, all imm. males. The Blue Mist Eup. had a couple Monarchs on it for much of the day, 8+ Queens, and a dozen Vesta Crescent. What looked the same Texas Powdered-Skipper was here again, three days out of last four.

We took a late afternoon mile walk through the Huisache Daisy patches in the corral for butterflies. Saw my FOS Vesper Sparrow (2). The following estimated numbers are very conservative and surely undercounts. There were well over a hundred Monarch nectaring, maybe 125. Probably 50 Queen. The most common butterfly was Vesta Crescent with 400+ at minimum, probably 500. Only saw a dozen Phaon and no Pearl Crescent. At least 50 Variegated and 25 Gulf Fritillary, 4 Buckeye, 1 Red Admiral, 1-2 American Lady, at least 100 So. Dogface, a dozen Pipevine Swallowtail, one No. Mestra, 20+ Gray Hairstreak, no blues, 10 Sleepy Orange, 2 Orange Sulphur, 4 Dainty Sulphur, 3 Little Yellow, a couple Cloudless and one Large Orange Sulphur flew by, 10 Fiery Skipper, 4 Common Checkered-Skipper, 1 Sachem, and 1 Bordered Patch. It was probably a thousand butterflies, in an hour, of a couple dozen species. Mighta gotta coupla shots. I lived and worked in N.Y.C. and north Jersey a couple years so can legally talk like that.

Oct. 27 ~ Another 50-80dF temp spread and mostly sunny skies, just about perfect. Heard a Kinglet and a Myrtle Warbler early, and the Orange-crowned Warbler which I think has mostly been one bird, one that wintered last year. A small bit of Monarch lift-off going on as soon as it hit near 60dF. After 10:20 or so, 5 in a couple minutes, then 5 more in a few more minutes. Most movement I have seen all fall here. All thermaling gaining altitude to fly for the day. Noonish we headed out to look at some flower patches.

The single most loaded spot was a patch of Huisache Daisy at the far end of the corral adjacent to us. There were well over well 100 Monarch, probably 125+, nectaring on it. Saw one Buckeye (ph.), lots of Vesta and small numbers of Phaon Crescent, Gulf and Variegated Frits, Queens, but very few small types, mostly big stuff. One Black Swallowtail. Heard and glimpsed what seemed a White-crowned Sparrow there too. On the way back from town right near that patch of daisies, a female Indigo Bunting flew up off the ground, getting late.

Around town we checked all three of the deco gardens, one each at north and south ends of town, and the one at the park entrance, plus the library garden and woods at the park. Only thing at the park was a 6 foot Indigo Snake sunning. Very nice. It shook its tail at us, that real fast quiver, for making it move out of the sun methinks. At the entrance garden there was an Orange Skipperling, which is new for the month, yesterday's Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak was still there, as was an all-orange (where color) Bordered Patch. A Western Pygmy-Blue might have been the one of last week at the other garden two hundred yards away? Must have been 50 Vesta, and 25 Phaon Crescent, just at the park garden, about 100 and 50 for totals. A couple Ceranus Blue were nice. A couple dozen Dogface at the park garden, a few dozen more at other patches, we probably had a couple dozen go through our yard as well. Lots of Variegated Frits especially at the south end of town garden with the windmill, and the corral, total was 45 or so, many were very fresh.

Monarchs were at all stops and often going by as well. A few dozen were seen besides the herd in the corral. Saw one fresh American Lady, two Orange Sulphur, several Large Orange, and several Cloudless Sulphur, Dainty Sulphur, Little Yellow, Sleepy Orange. A few Reakirt's Blue, 10 Gray Hairstreak. In skippers there were some Fiery, a Whirlabout, Eufala, Julia's, Dun, and Sachem. Nothing rare but nice to see several hundred butterflies finally. We saw about 35 species in a couple hours and change. Mostly the common bigger stuff, very few of the smaller things. Library garden was dead, that orange-ish yellow smallish sunflower composite is what most is on at the deco gardens, or Huisache Daisy if you can find or access a patch. One more Yellow-margined Flower-Buprestid too.

Juvenile Broad-winged Hawk, wondering why I just have
to take its picture when it is all wet and trying to dry out...
~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Oct. 26 ~ Low 50's and fog early, but getting sunny by mid-morn. Heard a Screech-Owl at 7 a.m. before sunup but getting light out. Got warm in the afternoon with local reports of 79-82dF! And the people were happy. We need to dry out. Town run, so a stop or two around errands. OK, more like 5 stops around 4 errands, but we shouldn't quibble. As I turned into the park a small buteo flushed off the entrance sign which looked like a juv. Broad-winged Hawk, but it got away, never saw it again. The park had one Gnatcatcher, one Myrtle Warbler, and a huge green caterpillar I hope to get an ID on (ph.). Lifer cat for me whatever it was. Nothing in the woods, but a few male FOS Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies in the slough. Must be autumn.

A big uptick in butterflies though, at the entrance garden. A Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak was my first of month, but most amazing was 40 Vesta, 10 Phaon and 2-3 Pearl Crescent. A crescent invasion. Also there was Reakirt's Blue, Gray Hairstreaks, lots of Dogface, couple Variegated Fritillary, Eufala and Fiery and Common Checkered-, Skippers, Dainty Sulphurs, Little Yellow. I'll have to check all the flower gardens tomorrow when hot and I have time to goof around without a to-do list and time constraints.

The W. Sabinal Rd. pond had two Caracara walking around knee-deep in the water like a couple goofy waterbirds, but they moved away before I got camera up and out. The S. Little Crk. Rd. pond had the same 3 Pied-billed Grebe, a couple Killdeer, and 50 Barn Swallow. Little Creek Larry said he heard Geese (White-fronted) calling overhead in the dark yesterday morning before sunup. In total driving around I saw a half-dozen Monarch scattered about.

The Blue Mist Eupatorium around the porch here was pretty good again. Nearing late dates for Julia's Skipper and Celia's Roadside-Skipper, the rest was more of the same as yesterday, including the Clouded Skipper and the Texas Powdered-Skipper. It musta been a dozen Vesta Crescent, and a dozen Dogface.

Oct. 25 ~ Near 60dF for a low, 5-10mph northerlies, some fog early but cleared by 10a.m., revealing what I think is blue sky and a bright object, perhaps the sun. We are alleged to dry out for a week or so, which we now need as badly as we needed rain two months ago. I am starting to mold. About 30-32 inches have fallen in 8 weeks now. Which used to be the average annual rainfall here. Welcome to our brave new all-or-nothing world.

Birds were few, single Myrtle and Orange-crowned Warbler, a Gnatcatcher and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet were about it for transients. But one FOS flew over calling, an American Goldfinch. I actually thought I heard one a couple days ago, but didn't see it, was only one measure of calls. I let it go. This is 3 weeks earlier than average fall arrival. My prior earliest ever was Nov. 2, next earliest Nov. 10, and 11. So this is a week earlier than my prior (outlier by a week) early date.

It got into the low70's dF in the afternoon, man that felt great, and the butterflies thought so too. Had Clouded, Fiery, Julia's, Dun, and Texas Powdered-, for Skippers on the Blue Mist Eup. Some Queens, a Red Admiral, Gulf Fritillary, some Dogfaces and Sleepy Orange, Pipevine Swallowtail, a half-dozen Vesta and one Pearl Crescent, Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphur, and one metallic green Halichtid (small native bee). Next couple even warmer days should be great at the flowers.

Oct. 24 ~ Light rain off and on overnight, about a third of an inch, so we have an inch since yesterday. Temp range for the day low to high 50's dF. Some days it is better to be stuck inside working at the desk at the box o'bolts. By the end of the day it was 1.25" now for the last couple days of light rain. So we are about 7.5" for the month. Because 24" wasn't enough in Sept. Saw a few Firefly at dark.

Still a half-dozen Ruby-throated Hummer around, and the Canyon Towhee. Did not see much else though. Ran to town late and quick about 6 p.m. On the back way out nearish 359 I saw my first two Yellow-shafted Flicker on the ground under a live-oak. Heard my FOS Sunday the 21st, these the first I have seen, so nice. At the park there were 2 Cave Swallow feeding low over the water, nothing in the woods, an imm. fem. Vermilion Flyc. at the entrance area, and about 35 White-winged Dove in town. That is all.

Oct. 23 ~ Cool and damp, occasional mist and drizzle. Another gray day. From late yesterday to this morning there was about two-thirds (.65) of an inch of precip to add to the total. The main event ahead is tonight and tomorrow, then we are alleged to see the sun and dry out. The highlight of the day was my first flock of Yellow-rumped Warbler in the yard of the fall. We saw some Sunday, but had yet to have one in the yard. Ten fed in the pecan with the most nuts for a half-hour, darn near silent. If I had not been out there, they would have been un-noticed. There were 8 Myrtle, 1 Audubon's, and one hybrid Myrtubon. Which was a neat one with a snow white throat, the shape of an Audubon's throat. Have seen this before and pretty neat if you ask me. Also among them was a Gnatcatcher, and one tardy Nashville Warbler, which will likely be my last for the fall. Hutton's Vireo and Canyon Towhee were in the yard. Still maybe 6-8 Ruby-throated Hummer here. They will blow out as soon as it clears, Thursday methinks.

Oct. 22 ~ About 55dF for a low and not going up too much, NOAA mentions possible record low highs for the date today. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher at dawn over at the river. Which is still high, but cleared up fairly well now, at least for their fishing. A tardy Indigo Bunting called from the yard early morning. Had 3 silent Ruby-crowned Kinglet in just half of the crown of the Mulberry. I didn't know you could get 3 of them together at once and not hear a 'chiddit'. By afternoon the light rain was making it to the ground, it had to moisten up the atmosphere to make it down, took most of the day. They say we will have a dry spell, and are even threatening sun, starting Thursday, but rain the next couple days. What a surprise. In the a.m. counted 11 Queen and 1 Monarch on the Blue Mist. A few Firefly still.

Oct. 21 ~ About 52dF for a low, cloudy but a drier atmosphere. Had two Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at once together in the a.m. so some movement happened. Was broken clouds, stars, and light northerlies last night. Had a glimpse of what seemed a Sharpy (Sharp-shinned Hawk) shoot by, and heard and glimpsed what seemed a White-crowned Sparrow out back where seed tossed. Heard the Canyon Towhee out back, maybe a half-dozen Ruby-throated Hummers around still. We went out for a mid-day couple-and-a-half hour roll around the area to see how things have changed since the big chill this past week. Saw on the Lost Maples webpage all the trails there are closed right now, so just the mile of main canyon bottom area where driveable is open.

At Utopia Park we saw no landbird migrants but a pair of Downy Woodpecker is the first time I have seen two together here in 15 years, and a pair at that, is pretty nice. I heard that flush call Wood Duck makes whilst hearing a or a couple ducks flush, up in the woods by the island. Missed seeing it or them. Saw one Barred Owl there. Saw only two Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, those at the golf course where also an ad. ma. Vermilion Flycatcher. We had a group of 6 FOS Myrtle Warbler around the county line crossing bridge. Another imm. male Vermilion Flyc. was at Jones Cemetery. There was a little group of birds at the entrance road turn into the cemetery, with a couple Orange-crowned and a few Myrtle Warbler, a Gnatcather, some Chipping Sparrow and Eastern Bluebird.

The only bird at the W. Sabinal Rd. floodpond was a Pied-billed Grebe, the first time I have seen one in that shallow mudhole there. The ibis, egret, and yellowlegs were gone. Over at the S. Little Crk. pond there were 3 Pied-billed Grebe, and 1 Coot. Maybe 40 or so Barn Swallow. Nothing at the library garden, the hot spot was the garden at the southwest corner of the 187 x 1050 junction. There were 3 first-of-month species (all ph.): Phaon Crescent, Western Pygmy-Blue, and Desert Checkered-Skipper. At least 8 Vesta Crescent, one probably Pearl Crescent, a couple Common Checkered-Skipper, a few Little Yellow with one a pale morph female (ph.), Fiery Skipper and Whirlabout, Cloudless Sulphurs, Pipevine Swallowtails, a Gray Hairstreak, a Sachem, a Mestra, a Variegated Frit, a Monarch and some Queens, one Yellow-margined Flower-Buprestid (ph.).

At the old Preston Place another Phaon and a few more Vesta Crescent were in the Frostweed patch, but no birds. At the golf course pond there were 3 Red-winged Blackbird, nothing else but another Monarch. We heard our FOS N. Flicker out on the course somewhere. The golf course entrance garden had a Buckeye, a couple Sachem, a Giant Swallowtail and more of the same butterflies. Over the couple-and-a-half hours and about 10 mile loop were maybe 10 or 12 Monarch total. Another was here on the Blue Mist Eups with a dozen Queen when we got back. More Vesta Crescent here too. A few Firefly at dusk.

Oct. 20 ~ Maybe a 55-67dF temp spread for the day. Lots of threat, but no rain. Had the Canyon Towhee after it not being around the last 5 days during the cold and rain. Or at least not being seen nor heard. Which is not like them. Did not hear White-eyed Vireo, but the Orange-crowned Warbler was around. No migrant motion, seemed kinda dead so worked on stuff here. Tomorrow supposed to be nicer so will give it a day to turn over. Some butterflies finally came out. Six Queen on the getting beat up Blue Mist eupatorium. Saw three Crescents together at once, two were Vesta, one a Pearl. A few Pipevine Swallowtail, a Gulf Frit, couple Dogface and Sleepy Orange, Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphur, but in total individual numbers, that 4 days in the 40's with chills around freezing on a couple of them took a toll. Same for odes, many fewer dragonflies around now. I did see a half-dozen Firefly at dusk though, a few of them made it through it.

Texas Coral Snake is a stunning beauty. Always remember there are a dozen
harmless snakes with red, black, and either white, cream, or yellow bands.
They are all but one, harmless and beneficial. On all but one the red bands
touch black bands. The only dangerous one is also beneficial as it is beautiful.
It is the only one where the red bands touch yellow bands. It is only dangerous
if you pick it up and play with it, as their mouths are too small otherwise.
So look but don't touch. And remember the old saying:
Red next to black is a friend of Jack,
red next to yellow will kill a poor fellow.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Oct. 19 ~ A quarter inch of rain overnight, but low in 50's dF so an improvement in temps. In a.m. .75 counting yesterday, now 3.25" for the last 4 days, 6.25+ for October so far. It is a mucky mess out there. The afternoon saw temps in the 60's, we had 67 (!), the warmest it has been since last Sunday. Finally, a few butterflies even came out briefly. The 360 x-ing was a too dicey for me in our small truck and no weight on back wheels. It had 5-6" roaring hard and fast over it, while the next three crossings northward (1050, county line, and Fisher (couple miles north of town on 187) were all dry. The 360 should have been raised a few inches more when it was raised. It is often marginal when those three are dry.

Saw a FOS Lincoln's Sparrow along the corral as I was leaving, and another along county line road just NW of town. Also had a glimpse of what was likely a White-crowned Sparrow on county line. Did not see any Scissor-tail or Vermilion Flycs along the roads. The park is a muddy mess along the river, especially the woods. I only saw one bird in them, but it was good, an adult female Mourning Warbler, which is surely my latest fall date for one. Still no Yellow-rumped Warbler. Then over to the floodpond on W. Sabinal Rd. by Haby's, in Bandera Co., which was great. A different Plegadis Ibis than the one prior was there, this an adult, the prior an immature. White-faced is the default here and out of breeding plumage it is a dicey ID to make. Also there was one Cattle Egret there, and best, 4 Greater and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs. Wow man, BanCo shorebirds on the ground in fall. Awesome. Hard to come by in the west end of the county or the upper Sabinal drainage.

With that, a detour, and back to town via the S. Little Creek floodpond. It had a Belted Kingfisher, a Great Egret, a Great Blue Heron, two Pied-billed Grebe (accidental there), and 2 Coot. Also a hundred Barn Swallow, at least a few Cave in with them. Another hun or two of Barns were scattered over pastures around the area. Then right where 355 hits (or leaves) Little Creek at the 90 deg. corner, there was a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk on a fence post at road's edge! I stopped just in time, got a couple shots through the window, it flew to the dead snags over the floodwater just west of that bend, along the live-oak treeline. Got a few more shots with the window down now. I virtually never see them here in October, much less on the ground. Great bird. Never did stop drizzling the whole couple-and-a-half hours I was out.

Oct. 18 ~ About 49dF for a low, very humid, light breeze, so chilly. Late afternoon and early evening about a half-inch of rain fell. Puts us at 6" for the month and 3" for the week. Not much bird action out there. Have not seen or heard the Canyon Towhee all week, which is quite off considering the cold and rain. Hope a Cooper's Hawk didn't take it. Saw a dozen or so each of Cardinal and Lark Sparrow out there, the pair of Ground-Dove. Orange-crowned Warbler around, and heard White-eyed Vireo still.

The ad. ma. Ruby-throated Hummer is still here with a half-dozen immature males. Waiting for a break to bolt no doubt. It is important to keep feeders up, especially when extended rains in fall, as their main food source, bugs, are not available as usual. This allows them to still build reserves to burn, and keep the tank full and be able to go when they get a chance. We have hundreds of Black-chinned here all summer every year. None ever stayed the winter despite the feeders being there. I have no records Nov. - Jan., only a few records in October, earliest returns are latest February. We have hundreds of Ruby-throats here every fall, none ever stayed the winter Nov. - late March, despite feeders being there.

Having feeders out does NOT keep migratory birds from migrating. This is a myth. They all go, every time, all the time. None of either have ever wintered here. Just like no American Goldfinch or Pine Siskin summer at your feeders here. If one didn't migrate, there is something wrong with the migratory bird. Other hummers have shown up in fall and wintered, cold hardy types (Rufous, Broad-tailed, Anna's), but neither of the two abundant ones that are most commonly present have ever stayed. Despite the free bottomless sugar water special we offer, at your choice of four well presented easy-to-use feeders. By the thousands they leave the feeders every year, like clockwork. To migrate. Because they are migratory birds. It is what they do. See what happens when I can't get out to bird enough?

Oct. 17 ~ Still chilly, damp, and gray, but at least the wind laid back a bit, and we spent much of the day in the lowest 50's dF, so warmer than the last two days. No rain today, but more is inbound. Lots of flooding up on the Llano and Guadalupe Rivers to our north where the rain bomb that hit drained. Also southward on the Nueces below Uvalde it was flood stage from the Real and Edwards Co. rains. Couple rough days out there. Avg. high in Hondo this date is 90dF, today it was lowest 50's at best.

Saw the flock of Lark Sparrows again, and the ad. male Ruby-throat is still here, but I think some hummers took off in the break yesterday. There are fewer around today. Maybe 6 or so it seems. Third day now without a butterfly, dragonfly, or even just a fly. Since I have heard it mentioned, yes there is a lull in the numbers of birds around right now. All the migratory breeding birds are gone for the year. The wintering species have not generally showed up yet. The resident species in fall often leave the feeders for wild food crops. Fall is when fruit, seed, and nut crops ripen and so the birds key in on these at this time. Things like Cardinal, Chickadee, and Titmouse, all regular feeder users, are around far less than normal now. I saw a flock of 75 Lesser Goldfinch on a wild seed crop recently, none at the feeders. Usually it means good food crops and it is not cause to worry. Actually them being at the feeders now would be.

Oct. 16 ~ Stayed in the low 40's dF over night, and we had another rain, and more is to come. I see 2.5" now here, in 24-30 hours. We are at 5.75" for Oct. so far. There was and-or is, some flooding along Nueces and Guadalupe Rivers where they had 5-8" and more. Yesterday later in day Vanderpool and Lost Maples areas were listed for minor flooding (low water crossings out). Likely more of that ongoing with the overnight addition. The river is a lot louder this morning than it was yesterday. We have had 30" of rain since Sept. 2, close to the annual average, in 6 weeks. All I am seeing outside is hummers at the feeders. Had a good count of 14 Lark Sparrow at once on the seed out back. Since I haven't been seeing but a very few, for weeks now, as if the local birds weren't around, I can't help but wonder if these are from elsewhere.

Oct. 15 ~ The front arrived about 1 a.m., light rain and stronger winds. By dawn it was 42dF, with 15-25mph northerly winds, chill factor was about 33-34dF. A big drop from that 85dF yesterday afternoon. I heard of some upper 20's chills up near Vanderpool. It was 32 or so up in the pandhandle early, by 11 a.m., upper 20's dF! Rocksprings was 37 with 15-20 mph winds in rain. Incredible. The record low for Hondo this date is 54dF, so we are over 10dF below the record. Average there is 90dF for a high this date! This is WAYYYYYY early for such an event. At 3:22 p.m. peak heat, Leakey was 39dF with a 31 chill factor. By about 5 p.m. we had .85 of an inch of precip so far. Not much. Must be a dozen Ruby-throats as one feeder is packed (8 ports), the other three seem to be being guarded. Don't know if I will see much through the foggy windows today. Had to find some long pants, moccasins, set up heaters in the fish tanks, and will have to relearn which knob it was in the shower that has hot water.

Oct. 14 ~ Still balmy, which will end late tonight when the front arrives. Last warm day in front of it, and last chance to get anything done to prepare for cold, wet, and windy. They are talking chill factors in the 30's dF tomorrow! This is way early for a few-day period of high temps in the 50's dF. No birds ahead of the front it seemed. The Orange-crowned Warbler around the yard the last 3 days is likely the same bird. Heard the White-eyed Vireo still out there. Had to do a bunch of stuff to get garden and house cold ready so didn't get out. At least a dozen Ruby-throated Hummers around, and saw the ad. ma. in a.m.

Got up to 85dF or so. Watching the Blue Mist Eup I saw a Celia's Roadside-Skipper, a Clouded Skipper, 24 Queens and finally late in day a Monarch, a few Sleepy Orange, Dogface, and Gulf Fritillary, Giant and some Pipevine Swallowtail, a few each Large Orange and Cloudless Sulphurs, and a Vesta Crescent (ph.). A male Little Yellow flew by. At 11:30 p.m. the winds were still out of the south here and no rain yet, but it is coming. Radar showing leading edge of rain and front at northern Bandera Co. and Real Co. nearing Lost Maples.

Oct. 13 ~ Still balmy, low 70's to low 80's dF for a temp spread. A few spits but no real rain as advertised, so far, and they have backed off of chances for tomorrow. Had the Orange-crowned Warbler around yard in morning. Heard a chup that sounded a Black-throated Gray Warbler but could not find it. Had one Nashville. Went to town for a look around. The park had one Common Yellowthroat, nothing else, but a real squeaky alarm note I wish I could have seen the source of, out on the island. The corn field out on Jones Cmty. Rd. just past the cattle guard had 700-800 Barn Swallow over it. Nothing at the W. Sabinal Rd. pond. Nice to see some Shrikes and Kestrels around. Saw the male and female Vermilion Flyc. on the E. side of 360 again, and a few Scissor-tails around.

The pond on the golf course by Waresville Cmty. had at least 5 Thornbush Dasher dragonfly around it, 2 Common Yellowthroat, and one Red-winged Blackbird. At some flower patch stops saw a couple Bordered Patch butterfly, had only seen one this month, a Tawny Emperor (ph.), a Red Admiral, a Eufala Skipper, and a first of month (or three) Common Checkered-Skipper was great, lots of Noctuid (False Underwing) moths. The Clouded Skipper was still on our Blue Mist Eup here (+ 2 doz. Queen). A Vesta Crescent was in the yard late in day as well.

In the afternoon there was a notable uptick in Ruby-throated Hummer numbers here at the hovelita. It was well over a dozen here, maybe 16 or 18, when it had been 4-6. One was an adult male, so clearly new since none in prior 4+ days. A pair of adult Caracara were feeding their single still begging young in a far corner of the yard late in latest afternoon. That red face can really incredibly bright when they are in the mood, or food. Great Firefly show at dusk, which will be over when the cold front hits tomorrow night. So I am taking skeeter bites to enjoy the last couple days of it until April. After the weak flight and early flameout in spring (late May-early June), and almost none all summer, it was great to have a good fall flight in the yard.

Harris's Hawk
The camera dial had moved off of my standard settings so the image is messed up, sorry.
But I liked it anyway for what it showed. This is a sub-adult Harris's Hawk.
I love tweener plumages. The barred feathers are those of an immature. The solid
colored ones (rufous and brown) are those of an adult bird. Tweeners allow you to
see how the molt actually progresses (taken Sept. 7, 2018). And taking photos
gives you a chance to study it at length, leisure, and detail not possible in a
flyby view. Sure there were imm. and ad. feathers, but which was which specifically?

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Oct. 12 ~ Low 60's for a low, rain in forecast daily for the next week. A real cold front progged for Mon.-Thurs. keeping temps in the 50's dF! Town run fer stuff. The only thing at the park was a (Texas) Coral Snake, which is as pretty a beast as there is, my first in the park. I got a shot or two, but its head was already hidden. There was nothing at the W. Sabinal Rd. pond but cows. At the S. Little Crk. Rd. pond there was a Green Heron (definitely a migrant there), my FOS American Wigeon (1 male), and a Great Egret. Little Creek Larry mentioned a week ago he had seen a Great Egret around. Lots of pastures had swallows over them. In total I estimate 400-500 at least, and all I saw were Barn. There was a male and female Vermilion Flycatcher on E. 360 over nearish the former Utopia on the River. On W. Sabinal Rd. there were 4 male Scissor-tails together near the pond. About 3 p.m. or so I had my FOS Orange-crowned Warbler in the yard, finally. Heard an Indigo Bunting out back, where seed tossed. Monarch and a couple dozen Queen on the Blue Mist Eup., one Clouded Skipper. The great Firefly show continues, still about 50 going off in or adjacent to yard last half hour of light.

Oct. 11 ~ Low about 60dF, KRVL hit 56! Cloudy in morning, sunny in afternoon, about 76dF or so for a high. Feels like fall. River quieter, but still pretty noisy this morning, after the last couple days of roaring. Maybe by tomorrow the 360 crossing will be usable. At least we have a 'back way' out of here for that. One Hutton's Vireo in the big live-oaks upslope out back, and one Gnatcatcher went through in morning, another in the afternoon. A handful of hummers is all that remain, all imm. male Rubies, in other words, fighters. Some few Turkey Vulture going over southbound. One Monarch, 24 Queen, single Fiery and Clouded Skippers, 2 Mestra. The Firefly show continues at dusk.

Oct. 10 ~ A fantastic low of 57dF with clear dry skies is great. Feels like fall. Ran up to town early, had to go out the back way, the 360 crossing is not doable now. Nothing at the park. The 1050 bridge was obviously covered yesterday, flood debris on edges still. In the pasture with all the cows on Jones Cmty. Rd. south of W. Sabinal Rd. there were 6 Cattle Egret. Nothing on the W.S.R. pond but it looks great again for a couple more weeks. There was a FOS group of 6 Meadowlark, at the north end of town, which looked Western to me. As I pulled back in here shortly after 9 a.m. there were three Nashville Warbler in yard, and about 10 I heard a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. So there is some migrant motion, it set my migrant motion detector off. But alas it is Wednesday, whence I am hitched to the box o'bolts all day.

Got up to about 78dF in the afternoon, warmish. Saw one Monarch, a couple dozen Queen, a couple Celia's Roadside-Skipper, one Julia's, a Fiery and a Dun Skipper, one male Black and a couple Giant Swallowtail, the Snouts have finally relented. Saw one of the sphinx moths with burnt-orange hind-wings, smaller than a White-lined, not sure of type, and it would not stay anywhere long. It briefly hit the Blue Mist Eups, but was more interested in the Wood-Sorrel. There were maybe a half-dozen Ruby-throated Hummingbird here today, all imm. males. Most of the time there were not any at the feeders. Seems dead out there now. Checked a number of times for some hawk flight behind the front as can happen, I saw nothing. A few Turkey Vulture was it.

Oct. 9 ~ A few little showers overnight off and on, but some real rain arrived in the morning. We got 2.5" in just over an hour. We had .75 since yesterday, so now 3.25" for about 24 hours. There had about 5" or more upvalley around the Sabinal River headwaters and Lost Maples area according to the radar totals. The river was already roaring, but about 11 or noon the water got here and it was major. Out of banks, the 360 crossing down, the river was 100 yards across in spots it is normally 10. Amazing. The front passed by earliest afternoon, skies cleared, dry air filtering in, and wonderful.

The only avian action though was the hummingbird departure. There were three to four dozen here in the morning, and not a dozen in later afternoon, maybe a half-dozen at sundown. They blew out. The northerly winds did not much turn around with frontal passage until much later, after dark. It just cleared, and the southerly flow stopped. They left anyway. I knew they were just tankin' up waiting for the moment to make the move. And they did.

Oct. 8 ~ Some light rain in morning, about two-thirds of an inch. Camp Wood 30 miles west had 5" overnight. Around Lost Maples they got 2-3 inches this morning. One Gnatcatcher in yard. In the afternoon fairly quickly the river got very loud, a rush of water from the rain upvalley this morning was moving downriver. It got way high, a neighbor called and said the crossing was out of the question. We had less than an inch, but the couple or few they got upriver is still mostly all runoff at this point, and many low-water crossings upvalley were not passable obviously. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at the river in the late afternoon, probably complaining about the water levels and speed making fishing hard. Great Firefly show at dusk. One Monarch and 25 Queen on the Blue Mist. Snouts finally relenting, only a hundred today. Ad. ma. Ruby-throated Hummer still here with a couple dozen immatures, mostly males.

Oct. 7 ~ Threatened to rain all day but didn't, 70-85dF temp spread. Finally 5:30 or so a near-enough cell gave us a good outflow cooldown, and a couple spits. In the a.m. no migrant motion through the yard. A FOS Swainson's Hawk moved south down the ridge to our west. We walked to the crossing and up the other side of river a bit checking flowers since there weren't any birds, save one male Vermilion Flycatcher and a couple Scissor-tails at south end of corral and at airstrip. No butterflies either. Saw one Eryngo bloom, and a Palafoxia. Lots of Zexmenia, Mealy Sage, Huisache Daisy, Frostweed, and almost nothing on any of it. Heard a Field Sparrow later afternoon. The great Firefly show at dusk continues, at least 50 in yard going off for 20-30 minutes.

Oct. 6 ~ About a 70-85dF spread again, and no migrant motion here in yard, or at the park in town. The Rufous Hummer is not here this a.m., so it did depart yesterday afternoon some time. Canyon Towhee still around out back. A Gnatcatcher went through yard mid-morn. Great was a Two-tailed Swallowtail here on our Lantana in the morning, a Northern Cloudywing too. By the Med. Ctr. at the north end of town was a free roaming male Blackbuck! I was trying to sneak up on it for a photo, but it would have none of that. It ran at times jumping with all four legs in the air at the same time, boing, boing, boing, bouncing along making amazing progress, appearing as if it belonged in a Dr. Suess cartoon. I had to rub my eyes to make sure I was awake and not seeing things. Then I remembered, I was in Utopia, where you see crazy shat all the time.

Not a dang thing in the park but heard a warbler chip I couldn't find that was interesting. Sometimes that is all you get. Something to make you say "boy I would really like to see that" in a real serious fightin' words kind of tone. In other words frustration. But no one does it for that...  Not hearing any Yellow-throated Warblers along the river for a week or nearing two now. W. Sabinal Rd. pond had nothing, but the flock of Lesser Goldfinch was still where it was yesterday, 60 at least at once that I saw today. There were also 75 Barn Swallow feeding low over the corn that is now trying to grow in a field by the W. Spring Branch Rd. turn.

So butterfly flowers it is. The library garden had a Rounded Metalmark and a Theona Checkerspot, plus a Monarch, besides a few regulars. Lots of False Underwing moths (Noctuids) everywhere. The deco-garden at the golf course entrance had Fiery and Eufala Skippers, a Sachem, and a Vareigated Meadowhawk dragonfly. Saw one of the Yellow-margined Flower-Buprestid beetles at the garden at the junction of 1050 and 187. I got a count of 31 Queen at once on our Blue Mist Eup. The patches at the library garden, and the 1050x187 garden are both shot, eaten up like ours was the last two years. Still thousands of Snout out there, but certainly less than there were the last week.
Painted Bunting
Be careful throwing seed out, you might catch one of these.
This is one of three plumages you may see on a first spring
male Painted Bunting. Most, look like females, all green, and
paler below, some of which have molted back into brighter green
as this bird. Then there is a type with some blue in head which
increases over summer, and which are brighter yellow below.
These salmon below types stay this way all summer and never get
blue on head while here. Note the back, scapulars, and maybe
some wing coverts are not the dull original juvenile feathers
like head, wing, and tail, they have been replaced, are fresh, and
bright lime green. Some of this type are more evenly salmon below.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Oct 5 ~ Still balmy 71dF for a low, clouds in a.m., sunny and warm (85dF) in p.m. No migrant movement around yard. Town run, the park remains remarkably dead. Out Jones Cmty. Rd. past the cemetery and 2nd cattle guard I had a single flock of 75 Lesser Goldfinch going down in some weeds that looked sorta like beggars ticks but weren't. There were also a dozen Chipping Sparrow which seemed like migrants to me, new arrivals. Nothing at the W. Sabinal Rd. pond. The S. Little Creek Rd. pond though had one Greater Yellowlegs, a very good fall bird here on the ground, plus 4 Killdeer. Also there and great was a male Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonfly, my FOY, and scarce in BanCo. I saw several hundreds of Black Saddlebags while driving around, there must be thousands going by. Finally saw a Hackberry Emperor (lep) on the patio early that was so beat and worn, it obviously wasn't from around here. Queen count on the Blue Mist peaked at 25 at once. There was one new Monarch here, and two at the library garden, where there was also my FOY Texas Wasp Moth. The Rufous and the Ruby-throated Hummer continue here at the hovel, besides a few dozen imm. Rubies, seemingly males. Only thing flying south at dusk was a half-dozen Barn Swallow. Firefly show continues to be great, 50-60 just in the front yard is awesome.

Oct. 4 ~ Maybe 70dF for a low, some low clouds, humid. Great to hear some Scissor-tails calling lots early. But which means they will be gone in a couple weeks. No migrants through yard. Been seeing high-flying southbound Turkey Vultures for a week now, some of which I suspect are migrants. Lots of Black Saddlebags dragonflies still, like hundreds must be going by. A few Red mixed in and the occasional Green Darner. A Green Lynx Spider was on the big pecan trunk (ph.). In the morning I counted 23 Queens on the Blue Mist Eupatorium about 10 a.m. All hail the mighty Blue Mist. Our patch is maybe 14 square feet, on either sides of the steps up the front porch. It has over a hundred stalks with flower heads now, finally, for the first great bloom in four years (but so far in a bad fall for butterfly diversity and numbers). Those dang caterpillars destroyed it the last two years, so we are enjoying this. The Red Turks Cap and Tropical Sage are still going, but past peaks. Lots of Straggler Daisy blooming, and over in corral Huisache Daisy is going well.

One interesting event was a communal butterfly roost. There is a spot with some dead branchlets on a pecan where often Pipevine Swallowtails hang up and roost. I have had 5-10 fairly close together doing this regularly. Nearing last sun, I watched a Monarch fly over to that tree and hang up. Thought it was near where the Pipevines do that so walked over and sure enough in a couple cubic feet was 3 Pipevine Swallowtail, 1 Queen, and the Monarch. So three species hanging up to roost, together. I did not keep an eye on it to see if more Queens went there but saw another spot on a Hackberry where a number of Queen were hanging up.

Oct. 3 ~ Low scattered clouds, humid, 71dF at daybreak. Heard Hutton's and White-eyed Vireo, one Gnatcatcher. Great was a Black Rock Squirrel out back (ph.), what a beautiful animal. Interestingly the locals in general are mostly fairly down on them since they burrow and undermine things like sheds and such. I wish the Fox (tree) Squirrels had the decades of population pressure put on them that the Rock (ground) squirrels have. The tree (Fox) squirrels are the ones living on bird eggs and young all summer, and whose populations are unchecked and out of control.

The Snout flight continues to wane, but still hundreds going by eastward. I counted 19 Queen at once on the Blue Mist Eup, nary a Monarch or Soldier to be seen. Did see a Speckled (marcellina) Cloudless Sulphur, a Red Admiral was new, and the female So. Broken-dash continues, Gulf Frits, the odd Lyside and Dogface, a dozen plus Large Orange Sulphur, a few Giant Swallowtail, a Julia's Skipper (ph.) late in day. Overall though, butterfly diversity is still WAY WAY down for fall, hopefully an invasion of something besides Snouts will happen. We have the bloom goin' now, but few butterflies.

An adult male Ruby-throated Hummer was the first in a couple weeks, a new arrival. The imm. ma. Rufous type is still here beating stuff up. Had one Gnatcatcher, one warbler seet was likely a Nashville, a buzzy one was not a Yellow but got away. Again a couple Chimney Swift went over at dusk. The Firefly show is great, at least 50 were going off in or adjacent to the yard at dusk.

Oct. 2 ~ Still about 70dF for a low, 83 for a high. Dryish in afternoon after some mist and sprinkles in the morning. Nothing moving for birds early. A Gnatcatcher at noon. Canyon Towhee still around, Kathy saw it at the mirror of the big truck out back. Perhaps Narcissus would be a good name? Most of the action was bugs. I saw a group of 50 baby grasshoppers all together on one of our corn leaves, but they exploded off of it as I approached with camera. They were edge to edge like sardines, and half the leaf was missing. When they all jumped all that was left was frass. Hmmmmm.... A Field Guide to Frass. Got a nice ring to it.

Lots of Black Saddlebags dragonflies, like hundreds still. Mostly it was butterflies at the flowers around the porch. Sure great to sit in a chair and watch a show on my breaks outside. Had Monarchs #6 and 10 both continuing, and #11 and 12 went by heading southwest, as all, and any migrant. The Soldier was still around, 13 Queens was peak count, two female Southern Broken-Dash, a Celia's Roadside-Skipper, 2 Dun Skipper, couple Giant, one Black, and a dozen or two Pipevine Swallowtail. Still hundreds of Snout but the flight is easing. Thousands went by over the day surely, but not like it was. A dozen Large Orange Sulphur, a couple stopped on the Lantana, couple So. Dogface, and the usual stuff like Gulf Frit, Sleepy Orange, etc. Three dozen plus Firefly at dusk is a nice show. Eastern Screech-Owl calling after dark.

October 1 ~ Gadzooks it is October!?!?!? The 69dF low felt nice. One migrant early in yard, an Orchad Oriole. We are on the second, or back, half of fall migration. The main bulk movement of neotropical migrants that pass through this area has passed. Things are still good on the coasts, but way inland here August and September are really the biggest months for that sort of movement here. October sees the tail-end of that, but more is the arrival of species that winter this far north or nearly so. The mostly insectivores going way way south, are mostly south of us now. It is a great month for strays though so keep yer eyes peeled and fingers crossed.

Heard White-eyed and Hutton's Vireo. In the late afternoon an imm. male Rufous or Allen's Hummingbird arrived and promptly proceeded to kick 6 Rubies arses off a feeder, apparently it is one of those that likes to drink alone. Two-thirds of a Monarch continues here now on day 5. Then the 10th one of the fall showed up later in afternoon. Saw the female Southern Broken-Dash and the female Whirlabout again today as well, a male Black and a couple Giant Swallowtail, and probably the same Soldier came in again too. Another Danaus trifecta day. Nearing last sun at least two Chimney Swift went over calling.

~ ~ ~ September summary ~ ~ ~

In a word, wet. On average about two feet of rain fell locally in September. Some places were 22", we were closer to 26" at our place. It was a gully washer and drought buster. River is roaring again, there is a fall flower bloom. It is greener than it has been in months. Temps were often in the low 80's dF, about 10dF under average for much of the month. And not one person complained. All the rain beat the summer heat outta here early.

Butterflies were very weak though, partly due to rain, and not being able to get out, me or them. But many common things are missing. No Hackberry Emperor, no Common Checkered-Skipper, no Bordered Patch. Stuff that is usually abundant, is just plain missing. I saw 36 species locally for the month, 2nd worst Sept. ever, only at peak of drought in worst year ever here (2011) was worse.

Same for dragonflies, too much rain for them. I only saw 18 species over the month, way down in diversity. Nothing but the most common expected types too. Variegated Meadowhawk was the one new thing I saw that hasn't been flying here all summer, at the W. Sabinal Rd. floodpond. Fair numbers of the migrants, Wandering and Spot-winged Glider, Red Saddlebags, and most numerous was Black Saddlebags. Some Green Darners too. Orange-striped Threadtail were still flying at the park mid-month.

In birds there were 106 species for me locally. Again, outings were severely hampered by rain events most weekends of the month. But the rain knocked down some very good birds too. An AMERICAN BITTERN was likely the bird of the month, since seemingly a new BanCo record. Second place goes to the LEAST SANDPIPER on a flooded fairway at the golf course. Great birds locally. A Black-crowned Night-Heron at the park was my first ever there. An Ibis, presumed White-faced, at Haby's W. Sabinal Rd. floodpond was great, though actually others have seen Ibis at that pond in fall before. A couple Long-billed Curlew, a Solitary Sandpiper, and a Coot were also all LTA - less than annual - things not sure to see here in fall here so good birds locally. Was my earliest fall Coot date locally by a week.

Warblers have been weak at best so far, still a few Black-n-white, one Northern Waterthrush, some Yellow, Wilson's, and Nashvilles. No vireos but the local types. One sub-ad. Harris's Hawk was nice. A good showing of Mourning Warbler, maybe 7-8, was nice but not out of the normal range of numbers. A male MacGillivray's is only my third fall MacGill here. Probably two Yellow-bellied Flycatcher were in the yard, which is another LTA treat for me here.

~ ~ ~ end September summary ~ ~ ~

Sept. 30 ~ Wow, seems like we just started the month and its over. We went to Lost Maples since we were rained out all month. Checked the W. Sabinal Rd. pond on the way, nothing there, a couple Kestrel and 3 Scissor-tails in that area. Lost Maples was very slow for birds. The migratory breeders are essentially all gone, and the wintering species have yet to arrive, so it is an inbetween time for two of the big groups of birds that use the park, breeders, and winterers. Though it is a great time for a vagrant, we did not see any. Just a few of the residents. Flowers are great though.

We mostly birded the lower parts of the main canyon and did not go to ponds and beyond as usual. We did the Maples Trail and beyond that a ways (where good flowers), the first third mile of the ponds trail, the HQ and Day Use areas, the campground, etc. In fall often birds collect more in lower parts of canyons, upper parts can be emptyish. I did not see any Mayfly hatch going on, which is usually where the best fall action is. The heavy rains probably washed everything away. The feeding station is decomissioned I presume for the season so deader than a doornail there. It was too cool most of the time for leps or odes, mostly it was just a bunch more Snouts. I am sure if you went there from 1-5 p.m. you would see bugs.

Best bird was a fungus. The youngest freshest ones were a shiny bright red looking drippy wet, lacquered, and which was sticky. A look at my Field Guide to Fungus (shroom guide) suggests it was one of the genus Hygrocybe. See a pic below. Saw a nice Green Sunfish at the first crossing past HQ. Maples are still nice and green, usually Nov. for them, but many Sycamores are yellow to brown and dropping leaves. Saw one really good Clammy-weed in bloom. One Northern Cloudywing and one Variegated Fritillary (butterflies).

For birds it was slow. Heard a FOS Common Yellowthroat, had a couple maybe three Nashville Warbler, that was it for warblers. Maybe 2-3 each Summer Tanager and White-eyed Vireo, plus one Hutton's, which was it for vireos. Heard 2-3 Scrub-Jays, a Rufous-crowned Sparrow, saw a Canyon Wren, some Cardinals, Titmouse (Black-crested), Carolina Wren and Chickadee, Bewick's Wren, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, heard Inca Dove, Red-shouldered Hawk, Turkey and Black Vulture, Common Ravens, Chipping Sparrows (some singing), Lesser Goldfinch, House Finch, but nothing unexpected. Great to finally be able to get out and walk around without being rained on. A couple miles was much needed. Did not detect Olive Sparrow or White-tipped Dove. They can get quiet after breeding season.

Saw one Monarch on the way home at a Frostweed patch. Back here at the hovelita, the two-thirds of a Monarch is still here. There was another female Whirlabout, and two Southern Broken-Dash. The female was wing-flicking at the male, he was slowly circling her, and then, then, he went to a flower! What a dingbat. If they had ears and could hear I would have yelled at him " can't you see her flicking her wings?!"

Sept. 29 ~ What a surprise, some showers. Before sunup, while still dark out I was on front porch and a skunk (Striped) walks by about 5' away. Part of you thinks you should run away, but I thought jumping up might startle it, you know what could happen. So I froze, it stopped and turned, looked at me, and kept going. But I guess due to the light rain, it STUNK to high heaven. I have had them walk by and barely detected anything. Maybe it had applied a squirt or two recently. Before you know it the smell is inside the house... and doesn't seem to be going away. When the air is saturated with moisture the stink really has some serious hang time, and seems to really stick. If you want to perform a highly technical test to illustrate that complex scientific priciple, go fart in the shower.

Didn't amount to much, maybe .15-.2" or so. Best was at 9 a.m. hearing Long-billed Curlews! It was (at least) two birds calling in light showers heading toward airstrip and pasture adjacent. The valley is mostly pastures so just a matter of them choosing which. I ran out and as they moved south I could tell calls were coming from two not-identical directions. Great bird from the yard here, had one a couple times Oct. 2013 that was hanging out in the area a couple weeks.

Put a half-dozen Blacktail Shiners and a couple Red-breasted Sunfish back in the river. I got to watch a pair of the Shiners I caught last year, spawn repeatedly all summer until they expired, from it, I suppose. I can attest professionally, they were happy fish. I had caught these others going after some Mexican Tetra I missed. Need to keep room open in case those get dumber or I get smarter and catch some. The Sunfish you can only keep one to a tank if males. They are mean as Texas Cichlids (Rio Grande Perch) to each other. Like Bettas, but worse. So I saved the meanest bastard of the bunch and put the others back. But he's real pretty. I was going after Bantam Sunfish when I caught the Red-breasts, and Mexican Tetras when I got the Blacktail Shiners. If a guy was this bad at catching the right thing in a fish warehouse he'd be fired. P.S. I used to work, catching fish in a fish warehouse.  ;)

Took a spin around since I was out freeing Willies at the crossing. Nothing on golf course, nothing at the park, nothing over town, or at north end, at the library garden - nada, and the wet spot on W. Sabinal Rd. - had zilch, zip. Struck out swinging. Best bird was the Curlews from the desk in the morning. Though not one to come home empty handed, I noticed Big Ern's B-B-Q shack was open, because my rictal bristles twitched as I drove by earlier, and sure enough they still had pork ribs. Guess what we are having for dinner. When you got these, you don't need no stinkin' birds. Still lots of Snouts today, especially when sun was out, north of town in BanCo. Many many thousands again. The Monarch #6 which is only two-thirds at best of a Monarch is still here at porch flowers on day 3, and #7 showed up. Saw the Southern Broken-Dash again, and the Celia's too.

Hygrocybe species
Methinks this mushroom is one of the Hygrocybe genus (maybe cf. punicea).

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Sept. 28 ~ Another 60dF low is fantastic, oh to feel cool air. Surprised still no real migrant movement after the front. At the park there was one Yellow and one Mourning Warbler. That was it. Nothing at the W.Sabinal Rd. or S. Little Creek ponds, save 2 Killdeer and a Gnatcatcher at the latter. No Vermilions along 10 miles of roads and fences. They are outta here. Best bird was at dusk, now at 7 p.m.(!), three Chimney Swift flew over, luckily one called. Probably migrants from way north somewhere. Heard an Indigo Bunting and a Least Flycatcher out front last light.

Among 13 Queens today was the same worn, torn and frayed Monarch missing half both of its left wings, but no Soldier today. Also had a Southern Broken-Dash, Clouded Skipper, and a Celia's Roadside-Skipper in porch flowers. The Snout flight has calmed down a bit, yesterday hopefully was peak, it and the day before were off the charts. Millions of them had to have gone by. I have no clue how wide or long the movement was, but when it takes three days to pass point x, it was a snotload of Snouts, especially on the windshields and radiators.

Sept. 27 ~ WeeWow we just got on the low side of 60dF, maybe 59.5 or so for a low this morning! Probably the coolest it has been since April, in five months. OMG. KRVL had a 56dF low! If you heard some whoopin' and hollerin' it may have been me. Nice dryer north breeze on it too. Wow. A couple Kestrel flew over northbound, low and slow, they probably just got here. Heard the Hutton's again. No Ruby-throats, about 20 or so immatures that seem mostly or all male. No migrant bird movement. Thought there might be with the northerlies, but before midnight clouded up at altitude so likely shut it down north of us. Maybe tomorrow? Hoped the eternal optimist birder.

We are now at a kagillion Snouts. Blew right past a zillion, and a bazillion, to a kagillion. There are a couple or few thousand in the yard. I watched one dragging tongue across and probing at the pecan leaf, clearly attempting to imbibe the sap (ph.) the leaves secrete. It was forging around walking leaf to leaf repeatedly probing with proboscis. In the afternoon among a dozen Queens on the Blue Mist Eup., I finally saw my first Soldier of the year (ph.). A female Black Swallowtail was on the Lantana. In the afternoon two Monarch showed up, #5 and 6 in five days now since the first. One was in good condition, one horribly worn (ph.) missing almost half of left fore, and hind wings, and some of the rights. So had a Danaus trifecta with all 3 milkweed butterflies here today: Monarch, Queen, and Soldier. Got some more yard work done late.

Sept. 26 ~ A balmy 73dF for a low, supposed to rain later. Got up to 85dF or so in afternoon. Today is an anniversary of sorts, it was 15 years ago today I rolled into town, 3 days after leaving L.A. Three because I birded a few hours each morning on the way, despite having told my wife I was coming straight here. It was really weird how when I got up each morning I was at some awesome amazing birding place, in late September. What was I to do?  ;)   Leased the N. Thunder Creek 'hay house' today, 15 years ago. It was another month before we got here with the big truck, but this was the day we knew where we were going to park it. Time sure flies out here. In the big city it goes slower because you are watching the clock so much, waiting for the bell to ring. So you can go get in line some more again.

Couple Nashville Warbler went through in morning, heard a Hutton's Vireo toward the draw. A couple warbler seet notes went through I missed. Probably more Nashville. No male Vermilion, it is gone. Sure was nice since March. Still Scissors flying back and forth daily calling often, but these are not local breeders, they are a fall staging population that comes in from elsewhere. Three Ruby-throats in the morning, saw none in p.m. Though with the afternoon frontal arrival seemed to be a wave of new immatures and maybe 18 or so are out there again.

Still a bazillion Snouts going by. Vector is a little south of the due east of yesterday. The front got here about 2 p.m. with a nice outflow boundry, a couple spits of rain, and breezy NE winds. Monarch #4 (in four days) was here an hour in the afternoon, nectaring on the Blue Mist Eup and the Lantana, but passed on the Frostweed. Two Giant Swallowtail were out there, and a male Black. The porch flowers are working. Ten Queens. More yard work before last light. A couple dozen firefly made for a nice show at dusk. Since the spring flight was weak and burned out early, very nice.

Sept. 25 ~ Gulf flow and moisture returned for a balmy morning again. Today is the hot day ahead of another front. The only movement in yard in a.m. was Snout butterflies, lots of them. Hundreds as soon as it started to warm, and it seems yesterday's flight will continue. They are rain chasers. They are moving around lots on the pecan leaves, I presume they are getting some of the sap on the leaves. Which are quite sticky and even drip during nut grow-out.

The other thing out there is a couple begging just-fledged Cooper's Hawks, often following an adult. So they got a second brood out this year. Though the first was just one. I heard one yesterday, but this is likely why there are fewer birds around the yard the last few days. Had some kind of flycatcher fly by when I was out there about 11 a.m., maybe an Olive-sided. Also had a quick look at what surely was a Merlin as it shot by, but not enough to give it the FOS date. Surely it was one.

Turned out a major Snout flight day. Many tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands. One time Kathy watered the patio (not to grow it) and hundreds were on it nearly immediately. Hundreds on the pecans appearing to be trying to imbibe some of that sticky nectar off the leaves. Clouds of Snouts. Monarch #3 for the fall (in last 3 days) was on the Blue Mist Eupatorium among 8 or so Queens. It hit a Lantana as well, as did a nice male Black, and a Giant Swallowtail. Celia's Roadside-Skipper still around.

At least a dozen Firefly last night and tonight, which is nice considering how weak the spring flight was, and how quickly it burned out. I turned the porch light on for an hour and half at dark. Got two small uninteresting moths and a Mirid. Give me a break. OK, there were some gnatish things, a Snout butterfly and two little tiny scarabs. It is amazing you can turn on lights outside at night and not get covered in bugs. I wish someone had a good explanation for me. It has been like this most of the summer. Nothing compared to usual. Most of the avian insectivores left early too. For bugs, turns out the good old days were just a few years ago.

Sept. 24 ~ A nice dry low at 67dF felt outstanding, northerly flow. A wee bit of movement in the a.m., a couple or few Yellow Warbler went through, a couple seet notes got away, a Gnatcatcher, an imm. Indigo Bunting and about 10 a.m. the nervous excitement of fall arrived, in the form of a FOS Ruby-crowned Kinglet! A way down south, you know it is fall ... when you hear an RcK chididitting for the first time in months. Not hearing or seeing my male Vermilion today though, it might have departed. That is why it was singing a lot the last few days. They increase it after a fairly quiet period, the last few days before they leave the breeding territory for the season. Lots of birds do this.

Probably a dozen or so Ruby-throated Hummingbird left, at least one is an adult male. Cooper's Hawk diving on stuff, probably why it is a bit slow at the seed lately. Just a few Lark Sparrows around, and a few House Finches, and a fair number of Cardinal (a dozen plus), and the doves have been mighty skittish.

In leps a female Whirlabout was on a Lantana here today, first of the month, there have been very few skippers around. Celia's Roadside-Skipper was on the Blue Mist Eupatorium, as was a Texas Powdered-Skipper. In the afternoon a thousand plus Snout went by, west to east. Giant Swallowtail was around, a few each Orange, and Large Orange Sulphur, a Lyside, couple Vesta Crescent, Gulf Fritillary, a Mestra, a few things anyway besides the Queens on the Blue Mist. Fair bit of sun, dry, pretty darn nice out. Late afternoon a very beat and worn Monarch was around briefly, second one of the fall after the first yesterday.

Sept. 23 ~ Overcast and northerly flow, but it did not get down into the 60's as advertised. River still roaring. A couple Yellow Warblers early. About 11 a.m. I went out to check a few spots. Right out the gate in front of the corral there were a couple FOS Clay-colored Sparrow right on time. A couple Indigo Bunting in the grasses there too, and several Orchard Oriole. Heard Least Flycatcher, the male Vermilion sang a few, and a Scissor-tail also called.

At the park there were no migrants. Little Creek Larry said he had Belted Kingfisher yesterday at his creek. At the pond near Haby's on W. Sabinal Rd. there was an Ibis, which are default White-faced here until proven otherwise. Good bird here. There was nothing at the S. Little Creek Ponds but a small group of Chipping Sparrows there may have been migrants, instead of the locals. At some stop there was a FOS House Wren calling jee-jee-jee, and at the bend on 355 at the deer farm a pair of Canyon Towhee again. Nothing on the golf course. At the Frostweed patch at the old Preston Place there were 3 Nashville Warbler, and a Yellow-throated Warbler was in the big Cypresses. Plus my FOS Monarch butterfly, finally. No early ones this year.

Since it is roughly the equinox, I went out Seco Ridge to the magic Evergreen Sumac bush and sure enough one of the metallic green and orange-red Cerambycid beetles was on it (Stenapsis verticalis insignis). Checked a number of them, they seem past peak bloom already, nothing on 'em but bees. Which were also all over the Bee-brush (aka Kidneywood) which is going full bore since the rains. While I was gone Kathy had a couple Nashville, a Yellow, a Wilson's, and a Black-and-white Warbler go through the yard.

Sept 22 ~ Happy Equinox! I had everything in perfect balance for at least a minute or two. There was a half-inch of rain here overnight, and the river is roaring again, so up-valley must have gotten a good cell. I heard later Sabinal 20 mi. south had 4" from it. The actual front got here this morning. It was 72dF all night until 6 a.m., and by 7 it was below 70, at 9 it was 65dF with 10-15mph northerlies on it. It feels like fall!

But no migrants. They must have been grounded north of us. All I had was a Yellow Warbler and a Least Flycacher that are likely ones that have been here. That means tomorrow there should be a push behind it said the eternal optimist birder that is usually wrong predicting migration events here. Got some yard work done though.

Outstanding was a photographed Piratic Flycatcher at South Llano River St. Pk. near Junction. This is a mega-rarity vagrant from Mexico or further south. I thought I had one once out on Seco Ridge, and a buddy and I saw one at Falcon Lake St. Pk. in early August about '96. It is a species I actually mention on the Utopia Park bird list page, as an idea for something super mega-rare that maybe could possibly occur.

Stenapsis verticalis insignis
One of my favorite Cerambycids (Longhorn Beetles)
Stenapsis verticalis insignis on Evergreen Sumac
on which they meet to eat flowers and mate in September.
But only certain special "magic" chosen plants that
they use year after year, generation after generation.
Body and antennae each are nearly 2" long.
Sorry about having to shoot against white sky.
You take these any way you can get them.

~ ~ ~ archive copy of update header - partial ~ ~ ~

Things change fast all fall. By the end of August the Black-chinned Hummers have blown out, and have been replaced by Ruby-throated which were thick a couple weeks but have mostly departed already. Blue Grosbeak and Yellow-breasted Chat also mostly depart in later August. Some long-distance migrants arriving or passing recently are: Yellow Warbler and Upland Sandpiper (Aug 11th), and Least (Aug 12th) and Willow (Aug 15th) Flycatcher. Birds are on the move. These can only be termed 'fall migrants'. They breed far to our north and winter far to our south. A Broad-winged Hawk was here on August 30. Blue-winged Teal was reported Aug. 29th. On September 1 there were FOUR Mourning Warbler at Utopia Park. Sept. 3 I saw three first of fall sps.: L. Shrike, Spotted Sandpiper, and two Wilson's Warbler. My first Nashville Warbler showed up Sept. 6. On Sept. 7 there was a LEAST SANDPIPER at the golf course, Blue-winged Teal at the S. Little Creek ponds, and a Harris's Hawk on 187 at the golf course entrance. A Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was in our yard Sept. 7, and seemingly a different one on the 9th. Sept. 9 there was an AMERICAN BITTERN on S. Little Creek Rd at the southerly smaller floodpond, in Bandera County. Sept. 14 there was a Black-crowned Night-Heron at Utopia Park up on the island, and, an adult male MacGillivray's Warbler went through our yard. An ad. male Broad-tailed Hummingbird was at our feeders a bit Sept. 15-17. Solitary Sandpiper and Northern Waterthrush and a Coot showed up on Sept. 21. Clay-colored Sparrow, White-faced Ibis, House Wren showed on the 23rd. A big (for its size) sign of fall was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet Sept. 24.

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

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Sept. 21 ~ Still on the balmy side, come on cold front. Not much for migration motion in yard, seems like a blowout last night and nothing new. Maybe 50 Ruby-throats out there, but less than half that at once. Town run fer shtuff. Did not see the swallows at the north end of town, they could have been out feeding. At Utopia Park there was an imm. Green Kingfisher, a Green Heron, and my FOS Northern Waterthrush. At Haby's W. Sabinal Rd. wetspot there was my FOS Solitary Sandpiper, and at the bigger pond on S. Little Creek, there was one single Coot, my FOS, and an early date for them.

South of town along road was a group of 20 Turkey, a couple hens and the rest poults, young of the year, now well-grown. Heard a Least Flycatcher out front later in afternoon. A group of 5 Scissor-tails flew over northbound about 4 p.m., methinks the fall birds that stage here for a month, and which are from elsewhere. Lots of pecan trees are turning yellow and many have dropped lots of their leaves already. Looking more and more like fall out there, and just in time, it starts tomorrow. Still waiting for the advertised rain. A minor front, but a front, is supposed to arrive tomorrow morning now. Might be good for birds out there when it hits.

Sept. 20 ~ Another 71dF warmish low, can't wait for the 60's to return, they say next week a weak cold front should bring them. Slow in the yard, yesterday was the movement day. One Yellow Warbler, the same Wilson's on day 9, a Gnatcatcher, and a Scissor-tail were around. The male Vermilion still here, and it sung a few measures at dawn. Canyon Towhee still out there. Maybe 50 Ruby-throats left, though I only saw a couple dozen at once, tops. There were a half-dozen Turkey in the corral, saw a Chimney Swift (called) at last sun. Flushed an Obscure Underwing moth. Saw the Pearl Crescent I saw yesterday again today in yard, they are a beauty. Better was a Dusky-blue Groundstreak of which I haven't seen one in a couple months.

The Blue Mist Eupatorium is starting to get going, several Queens out there already all the time. We planted patches on either side of the steps at the front porch. The bloom the last two years was shot due to a caterpillar of some sort devastating it. I hand-picked 150+ of the little bastards off it those two years and barely saved the two patches. So the last good bloom was 4 years ago, and it is finally looking good-to-go again. It is magic butterfly honey. A couple dozen Large Orange Sulphur went by over the day. Been seeing a couple Orange Sulphur here and there. Hopefully we will get a good fall southern invasion from Mexico this year, last year there was none.

Sept. 19 ~ A balmy 71dF for a low, low stratus and humid. Last sunny warm day before another rain event is set to start for the weekend. Which will continue the streak of every weekend this month. And lots of between. There was migrant movement last night, wish I could go birding. Wed. and Thurs. are pretty well out of the question for me, I have to be at the desk and computer.

Heard the male Vermilion sing a few measures, and a Scissor-tail gave one measure of song. Early there were Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, a couple Gnatcatcher, and all at once in the kitchen window pecan, 2 Nashville, 2 Wilson's, and a Yellow Warbler. One of the Willys was the same half-capped bird, still here, day 8. Mid-morn a Dickcissel. Heard the Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireos. Saw a Pearl Crescent butterfly.

In morning no hummers but Rubies, after not hearing either the Rufous or Broad-tailed in the afternoon yesterday (only heard the Rufous in the morning). The Broad-tail must have left the afternoon before. There was a huge major departure today. After a fair number left yesterday and the day before. It is not 400-500 anymore of this past weekend, was maybe only 300 yesterday. This morning it was about 250, and at the end of they day it wasn't 50. A couple hundred departed today. It is as if someone turned on a Ruby-throat vacuum.

Sept. 18 ~ Still in drying out mode here. Nice to get a break, supposed to get a few more days of rain this coming weekend. Better than 95dF anyway, was about 85dF today, not bad, but humid. Same migrants: Baltimore Oriole, Yellow Warbler, the first fall Wilson's Warbler on day 7 here, a Gnatcatcher, Least Flycatcher, and best was hearing a Blue Grosbeak. Our local breeders have been gone a few weeks now, so a transient. A couple Field Sparrows I have been seeing or hearing nearly daily the last couple weeks may be local breeders. Saw one of the big black Caterpillar Hunter Carib beetles. Saw a male Black and a Giant Swallowtail, Orange and Lyside Sulphur, a Celia's Roadside-Skipper and a Texas Powdered-Skipper. The Rufous Hummer was here early, but not the Broad-tailed, neither were here in the afternoon. They are gone. And so are many Ruby-throats. Depatures are underway.

Sept. 17 ~ No rain today, finally. River still roaring, and over some crossings, like ours. A great showing of Wood-Sorrel has popped from the precip, and some Crow-poison is going too. The whole yard came up in Straggler Daisy which is a great leafy little ground cover. Tropical Sage is blooming well now, and the Frostweed is going. Birds were about the usual same. Amazing is that half-capped (probably a first fall male) Wilson's Warbler is still here, now on day 6! Heard the Yellow-throated Vireo. Male Vermilion still here. A couple Baltimore Oriole, a couple Yellow Warbler, a couple Gnatcatcher, couple Least Flycatcher, seems like the Orchard Orioles have mostly passed, the Broad-tailed and Rufous Hummers continued. Some Rubies are leaving, numbers going down. Some Upland Sandpipers at dusk taking off for their night flight, I wish I could find the pastures they go down in for the day.

Saw two and got fuzzy photos of the neat black, red, and white, Opilionids, which are Harvestman, aka Daddy Longlegs. Which are not spiders though most think they are. Note they have one body segment, head to abdomen is all one piece. True spiders have a cephalothorax (thorax with head as one piece) and an abdomen, two body segments. Insects have three body segments, head, thorax, and abdomen (and six legs instead of the eight of arachnids).

Sept. 16 ~ Another half-inch of rain overnight. More to come today they say. We are just over 4" for this event so far, from late Friday evening to early Sunday morning. And we are now at TWO FEET of rain for September, so far. We can hear the river roaring, so will have to go out back way to get out. A few birds were around the yard mid-morn. Single male Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, a couple Yellow Warbler and Least Flycatcher, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, an imm. or fem. Indigo Bunting, heard the Yellow-throated Vireo so it is still around, just being quiet in all the rain. The ad.fem. Rufous Hummer is out there. Finally about 3:30 p.m. I heard the male Broad-tailed Hummer out there. Guessing over 450 Ruby-throats out there.

Noonish I was out front and had in a half hour at least 6 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a different fem. Indigo Bunting, an ad.fem. Baltimore Oriole, one of those beautiful brightly colored imm. Bell's Vireo, and a Nashville Warbler. After lunch we took a spin around to check the flood ponds. The main 360 crossing was not doable, went around the back way. Park pond is fullest I have seen in a long time. Only the highest spots on the island are above water. The northerly bigger of the two S. Little Creek ponds is over 10 acres now, pushin' 20, but had nothing but two Cattle Egret on a dead tree on far side. The golf course had bluebirds, a couple Baltimore Oriole, and a Yellow Warbler.

About 4: to 6:p.m. we had another torrential downpour as another band of INVEST 95L moved over. At one point we got an inch in a half-hour. By 6 it was 1.75" more! Gadzooks! So 26" and counting for the event now, and 6" for this weekend, from a different system that caused the 20" in the 10 days prior. At dusk to rub salt in a wound, after looking at hundreds of acres of pastures as we drove around today and seeing no grasspipers, at least 3 single Upland Sandpipers called from low and clearly were just getting up to fly for the night. They were out there, I just couldn't find them.

Sept. 15 ~ A little bit of light showers overnight, some real showers mid-morning were over an inch, then more in the afternoon. Yard had a couple Least Flycatcher, and a Yellow Warbler but that seemed it. Ran over to golf course noonish while rain was light, nothing there. On way back though on 360 out front of the former Utopia on the River there was my FOS Olive-sided Flycatcher on a powerline. By 4 p.m. here we were at 2" of rain for the day, minus the quarter-inch that was there from yesterday. What a surprise, another wet one. Now at 22" for the month here at our hovel.

At 4 p.m. I repeatedly heard a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird around the feeders and Turks-Cap. Feeders are hung in the worst way for observational lighting so I only saw it fly off a couple times, but with that great cricket trill of flight, there is no doubt what it is. The cloud of hummers (Rubies) when the rain lets up is amazing. Hundreds, it sounds like a B-25 bomber is on the porch. Probably nearly 500. The Rufous or Allen's is still here, I saw the throat patch well, it is an adult female. Here, default is Rufous until proven otherwise.

Another band of rain came in around 7 p.m. and by time it was past 1.75" MORE had fallen. So 3.5" for the day, and 3.75-80 counting the evening prior's quarter-inch plus. This weekend's rain is a tropical wave that tried to gain circulation before and after it made landfall. A week ago it was off Yucatan, crossed the Gulf over the week and had it been going 5-10 instead of over 15mph it would have been a named system, instead of INVEST 95L. Spiraling bands of heavy winds and rain at times looked just like the hurricane logo-icon. A lot of the central coast got 4-8" from it.

Oak Hairstreak
(Southern) Oak Hairstreak

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Sept. 14 ~ Scattered showers around, as of 4 p.m. we had only a brief passing one. Yard had a couple Yellow Warbler, Kathy saw the same male Wilson's Warbler here its third day now. I saw it later, and heard it again, it does not have the usual dry dchit note for a call but something nearer a Myrtle Warbler. No Yellow-throated Vireo or Warbler, they may have departed. Heard a Least Flycatcher and a Hutton's Vireo. Did the town run errands thing. There were 6 Common Grackle that flew over town, and which may be migrants from elsewhere. The 80+ swallows at the north end of town appeared to be gathering grit, just NW of the gas station. Half each Barn and Cave.

Checked the wet spot on W. Sabinal Rd., one Cattle Egret was there (ph.), nothing was at the S. Little Creek ponds. Little Creek Larry said one day last week after the rains he had 75 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck there. At Utopia Park there was an ad. BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (ph.) which is a new park bird for me, and the list. I had a few once in spring at Utopia on the River a decade ago. Yellow-crowned is the default Night-Heron here. Saw my FOS Kestrel on W. Sab. Rd.

Shortly before 2 p.m. I was outside and heard a warbler a few times, went in for binocs, moved back out toward where I heard it. A warbler pops up off the ground into the lowest leaves of a Hackberry about 4' above the ground. A beautiful male MacGillivray's Warbler! Big bold thick white eye crescents above and below eye, well broken fore and aft of eye, nice black patch across breast. Wow! Only the third fall record I have here, they are more regular (nearly annual) in spring. Great yard bird! Gnatcatcher and Least Flycatcher out there as well. Here is a rain cell is about 7 p.m.... add another quarter inch and change.

Sept. 13 ~ About 68dF for a low this morning. Clear at first, then clouds showed up shortly after sunrise. At least a couple Yellow Warbler in the morning. Two Wilson's Warbler also, one was the male from yesterday, the other a female. Heard a bunting that sounded Painted but didn't see it to confirm. A few Baltimore Oriole, one nice ad.fem. right out office window eating Hackberries. One Rufous or Allen's Hummingbird showed up in the afternoon, and quickly is slugging it out with a few hundred Ruby-throats. Either an ad.fem, or imm. male. After it is done feeding, it picks a fight or two on the way out. Methinks an immature male?

Two Least Flycatcher were disputing hunting rights in the pecans out front. At noon, and again later we had a couple showers totalling about a centimeter, or three-eighths of an inch of precip, just to keep the humidity up. Seemed like it was about to drop below 90%, the rain got here just in time. It has been so wet, seeds have sprouted on a backporch carpet remnant mat I wipe my feet on it to not bring seeds into the house after I have been out tossing it, especially when the ground is wet. This is how wet it has been, algae and sprouts on a carpet remnant outside.

Sept. 12 ~ Low about 69dF, was clear all night until right at sunup when gulf low stratus got here. At 6:43 a.m. the first bird to call was one measure of Scissor-tailed Flycatcher song. Haven't heard it in weeks here, the local birds have been gone. Quick early check of the park had nothing. There were 80 swallows sunning on the powerlines across from post office, just north of gas station. Half each Cave and Barn. Three Scissor-tails along the roads are likely newly arrived migrants from elsewhere. Four Blue-winged Teal were on the W. Sabinal Rd. wet spot pond.

Here at the casita it was slow, a couple Yellows, a couple Orchard Oriole, heard a couple Baltimore, but no major movement. In the afternoon a Hutton's Vireo was out there, later Kathy found a Wilson's Warbler in the pecan out the kitchen window. NO greenies today, first day without a Painted Bunting here since April. WOW. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at the river. A small short-winged Chaetura swift buzzed upriver just before last sun. Chimney until proven otherwise here, but it sure didn't look like one to me. Date is all wrong for a vagrant Vaux's, but I never thought Chimney at any moment watching it. After dark I heard a Green Heron over at the river, a tough to get bird from the yard.

Sept. 11 ~ Well we made it through a night with just a trace of precip, and no waking to booms. NOAA for KRVL showed a 66dF and WU at Seco Creek a 67dF low, we were more like 68, maybe it was cooler earlier. But some dryness. Saw a couple Baltimore Oriole early, and a couple Yellow Warbler in the morning. Afternoon added a few Orchard Oriole. Slow compared to the rain days. Saw a Zone-tailed Hawk go by. The mesquites are being denuded by leaf-cutter ants. Under many of them is a pile of freshly cut leaves. Nothing else is being hit like the 'squites right now. Drive down the road and there are a dozen of them fairly denuded with a shadow of fresh-cut leaves on the ground under the canopy. One greenie imm. Painted Bunting left here. Was one at the park too. Still several Couch's Spadefoot Toad calling. There is a new just-fledged begging and being attended Lesser Goldfinch.

Sept. 10 ~ A 67dF low, and you won't believe what happened overnight. It rained. Again. By time it let up around noon we were at 7 cm, or 2.75", putting us well over 19", probably 20", in 8 days and still raining. Forecast shows it lightening up in afternoon, and lesser chances through the week, but still chances, and more next weekend. Talk about snapping out of summer. We have not reached 90dF since the afternoon of Sept. 2nd. Been raining ever since.

Slow around yard except for Ruby-throated Hummers which are off the charts. Hundreds. Used almost a gallon of fluid today, so likely 350-400 or so. Saw one adult male Black-chinned, which is the first adult in over a week, so a migrant on the move. For passerine migrants in a.m. saw a Yellow Warbler, an Orchard Oriole, and a Gnatcatcher. The skeeters are making a showing now, on day 8 since the rains started for those keeping score at home. On the flipside, it mostly killed the flies which were getting thick.

In the afternoon as the skies broke and cleared a bit there was some activity. A half-dozen Orchard Oriole included 2 males, a couple imm. or fem. Baltimore Oriole, probably 5 Yellow Warbler, 1 Nashville Warbler, couple Field Sparrow, a Least Flycatcher. Saw the Vermilion Flycatcher, the Canyon Towhee and the Yellow-throated Warbler all still here, and the Yellow-throated Vireo finally sung for the first time in 3 days. I got a call about a flock of a few dozen smaller raptors over toward Little Creek. Great time for Mississippi Kite now. I went out several times as it cleared and scanned skies, nothing my way. Heard a Great Blue Heron repeatedly calling, or croaking, which apparently landed up the slope in a live-oak as it was stationary.

Sept. 9 ~ 69dF low. A bit of rain overnight, .75" or so, so with the quarter over the day yesterday, adds an inch to the event total since yesterday morning, which is now 16"!!! Since late late last Sunday evening when it started. A week. Amazing. Kathy saw two Canyon Towhee this morning, so a second bird has showed up. Light showers continued through morning, no migration motion. River still roaring. Another quarter inch by 2 p.m., just light constant, enough to make ya wet.

In the morning about 11 besides a Yellow Warbler, I saw some movement across road from the gate, I was on the porch. With bins, as it is that time of year. Male and female Orchard Oriole were great, male still in great breeding plumage. Then an ad. fem. Mourning Warbler was in a Texas Persimmon, moved to a Juniper that went to the ground. I got great looks of it on open branches, if a bit distant. Awesome, from the porch.

About 3 it finally let up for the most part and we took a spin around to see whaddup. The 360 crossing (our usual) was flooding a foot over the bridge at least, and roaring. So we went out the back way. One male Baltimore Oriole on 359. The 1050 bridge was fine, but at some point water was over it. We went to the golf course to check for grasspipers, it had none. Some Vermilion Flycatchers and Eastern Bluebirds, a Yellow Warbler, and another Baltimore Oriole was it, and lots of Black-tailed Jacks.

I decided to try the South Little Creek ponds first, and then to the W. Sabinal Rd. wet spot. Yellow Warbler along 355 on way out of town. We hit the jackpot at the smaller wet spot on S. Little Creek Rd., the one right against the road just north of the Thunder Creek Rd. turnoff about a half mile, and in Bandera County. An AMERICAN BITTERN! Out in the open, only bird there, and yes, photos. Incredible. That is why you go check the wet spots when it rains. After getting home and checking ebird, it shows no report ever of one in BanCo, so it may well be a first county record. Awesome. My first upper Sabinal River drainage record. In other words a new bird for the local area list. A local mega. It is very rare in winter at Uvalde where marshy ponds as at fish hatchery and Cook's Slough. This date is very early too, my couple Uvalde sightings are in Nov. and December.

The bigger north pond another half mile up the road looks fantastic but there was nothing at it. There will be. Wish is wasn't so far from our house, ca. 6 miles one way maybe, less than 5 in the air. When we lived on N. Thunder Creek I checked it all the time, when it was wet. It will hold water and pull birds down for weeks as it is now. We tried to get to W. Sabinal Rd. but the river was a foot deep and moving at Fisher Crossing (the first crossing north of Utopia on 187). So we went back to town to see the county line bridge and Jones Cemetery Rd., it was worse of course. Then to the park. It has been washed out and will be nice and clean when it dries. No migrants in the woods but 2 imm. Pied-billed Grebe were my FOS and appeared to be wondering what the heck was going on. Had Gnatcatcher and Hutton's Vireo on the west end of 360 coming home in the back way.

Late afternoon here were a couple Yellow Warbler, a couple Orchard Oriole, Yellow-throated Warbler, and a Gnatcatcher. Later more Yellow Warbler and Orchard Oriole, and best, another YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER! I say another as it does not look like the one here Friday (2 days ago), and I worked the yard a lot on Saturday and did not have it. It is virtually certainly a second bird. Couch's Spadefoot Toad calling from within the fenced garden right outside the office window! Awesome soundtrack!

Sept. 8 ~ There is a front bearing down on us, NOAA could not say when it would pass, overnight or today. It was clear at midnight last night. We were awakened by some very close lightning, like blown out of bed close at 4 a.m., which took out electricity. It had been pouring, and continued to do so, it was the last big bolt of the cell. Called Bandera Electric and went back to bed. Then got up late since we could see no clocks, at 8. Was 68dF. A check of rainfall showed 3 more INCHES overnight! And over the next couple hours, over an inch more, so at least 4" so far today! Which makes 15 INCHES this week, the last 7 days! Another quarter-inch fell over the day. Since the ground is saturated though, it mostly just ran off, and the river is roaring again.

It seemed everything bolted on the clear skies last night as there wasn't much for migrants in the yard today. A Yellow Warbler was it, and likely a new bird. The male Vermilion is still here but I haven't heard the Chat in a couple days now. Is it the rain, or is it gone? Canyon Towhee was out there, just 2 greenies (imm. Painted Bunny), Yellow-throated Warbler. Would like to go check for grasspipers but I think maybe wait and take a chance and do it tomorrow. Give another day for things to move and maybe collect. The 360 crossing was over the bridge and not safe for a while. When we can hear the river roaring, it is not doable, we have to go out the back way and hope 1050 bridge is ok. I saw a few trucks turn around to do just that. Take the long way around. Likely well over 100 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the feeders now. They are packed with more waiting.

OMG, a big bonus break this week with TWO whole pictures!
Both of these birds were certainly brought down by the rain event
last week. They were at high magnification, so a bit fuzzy, sorry.
When documenting something rare or unusual, it doesn't matter.
Can you ID it?, is what is important when rarity documentation.

Least Sandpiper
This is a juvenile Least Sandpiper, only the 2nd Least I have seen
here (the 1st juv.), on a flooded fairway at the golf course Sept. 7, 2018.
Likely the first photo of one in the upper Sabinal drainage.

American Bittern
Maybe the first American Bittern ever documented in Bandera Co.,
on Sept. 9, 2018 at the flood ponds on S. Little Creek Rd.
Normally in a patch of reeds where nearly invisible, it usually
takes a pro to spot one. But not this one, which was a drive-by.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Sept. 7 ~ Just a trace of precip overnight. We need to dry out a bit. About 72-82dF for a temp spread today, and the 82 was probably the humidity too, it was dripping. Birds moved though. It cleared last night, by 11 p.m. it was all stars so I am sure there was migrant movement. Early there was an Upland Sandpiper flying around low calling and looking for a place to go down. Looked like maybe over at the golf course, or pastures to south of it. It was right over yard at one point. Will be checking on my roll to town. In the a.m. here in yard there were 4-5 FOS Baltimore Oriole, finally. Ruby-throats and Baltimores, it's fall! There were a couple Yellow Warbler that were flighty as in just came down from flying. A Yellow-throated Warbler was an imm. male with buffy flanks. An interesting Empidonax got away. Inca Dove in the driveway.

Town run, so looked over the golf course on the way. At the entrance a totally far out sub-adult Harris's Hawk flew up off a pole and circled over 187. It had both adult and immature feathers in the wings, body was adult. Great plumage! Could not find an Upland Sandpiper, but on a flooded fairway there was one juvenile LEAST SANDPIPER, which is wayyyy rarer, a mega here. It is only my second record here in 15 years, the first juvenile. An early July adult is my only other, at Utopia Park. To give an idea of rarity here, locally in the last 15 years I have seen more each of Short-tailed Hawk, Green Violetear, Tropical Parula, Rufous-capped Warbler, and Clay-colored Robin-Thrush, than Least Sandpiper here, to put it in perspective for you. I had a mess up with the camera and the pix of the hawk and piper are not right. The dial rotated off of A or P either of which would have been fine, and I was on some setting I don't know or use. Give me my dang Exacta or Miranda back. A Gnatcatcher was the only passerine migrant I saw at the good tree patch with Cedar Elms there.

Then just north of the 354 turn, a half-mile south of town there was a FOS for me Eastern Kingbird on the fenceline. Three good birds before I got to town! I went out to W. Sabinal Rd. and checked the wet spot, nothing there but has water, and looks good. Then over to the S. Little Creek ponds. They looked fantastic, very well flooded. Saw one Killdeer and my FOS (22) Blue-winged Teal. Little Creek Larry had some over a week ago at his creek. The (muddy) water was going over the spillway at the park, the pond is at bankfull and we have an island again. Only bird in the woods was an ad.fem. Mourning Warbler. Aw shucks. Like our yard, you have to be there over hours to see what is really going through. A spot check is a very hit or miss proposition at best in migration. But you can get lucky anytime. Rosie's Taco trailer had an Inca Dove and 3 Chicken Fajitas.

Back here at the house after lunch there was a Least and a YELLOW-BELLIED Flycatcher in the yard. Yell-bell is a good bird here, LTA - less than annual, far from a sure thing to see every year. The Bell's Vireo was still singing here this a.m., as is another across the river near the crossing in a mesquite patch it has been at for a month or two, maybe nesting, or another troller. Three greenies still here.

About 4 p.m. Kathy spotted two Nashville Warbler and an Orchard Oriole in the pecan out kitchen window. Then we saw a few Yellows out there too, and the Least Flycatcher. I think it is the sap on the pecan leaves, it both attracts, and traps, insects. They are gleaning the leaves. Must be a hundred Ruby-throated Hummers here now. That didn't take long, they got thick fast. Maybe a couple dozen a week ago.

Sept. 6 ~ We had more rain last night, just a slow soaker. The total from the .2 yesterday and this .7 overnight puts us at over 9" from the event since Saturday night! Probably near 9.25", and maybe a wee bit over that. And better than 50% chances for the next 4 days through Sunday! The 10 day does not have any 90dF temps for us on it. OMG. Maybe summer is over? Which is essentially a hundred days at a hundred here. Except for any rain events. Which had been scarce as frog hairs lately. The days it doesn't hit 100dF, it still feels like it.

Not much for bird passage early. The rain has been scattered well to our north, best is if it is clear north of you so that stuff is moving, and it hits weather right on you. A Hutton's Vireo was out there, a couple Yellow Warbler. Nearing 10 a.m. I saw my FOS Nashville Warbler out the office window. Nice. A couple Orchard Oriole went by. Bell's Vireo and Canyon Towhee are out there. Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo still singing. Three greenie imm. Painted Bunnies, 11 male Cards out an office window at once.

About 3 p.m. we had another brief but heavy rain shower, and another 15mm, or three-fifths of an inch, and about 9.8" for a running total now. Gadzooks! It is not even a front or a system causing this. Just the Gulf and Pacific sub-tropical or tropical moisture plumes converging because of big strong highs to the west and east. Add daytime heating. A few little tickles from the low level jet stream has been the only forcing mechanism. To look at it, you would think this should not have produced 10" of rain. But that little tiny bit warmer atmosphere holds LOTS more water.

Well it wasn't over. Another cell hit just before dark and it poured, 46mm, about 1.7" more, so about 2.3 or 2.4 for the afternoon to early evening! So we now sit at over 11", likely near 11.5" for the event since late Sunday evening. Holy water rainman! It is all or nuthin' now. Heard an Upland Sandpiper go over as it was clearing up late evening.

Sept. 5 ~ Maybe a tenth of an inch of rain overnight, just a bit. At least another tenth in the early evening. More after dark, will figure it out tomorrow morning. A flock of 22 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks flew over calling before 7 a.m. as I was getting seed and feeders done. It was clear late last night, and seems stuff blew out at the sight of the stars. A few Orchard Oriole and Yellow Warbler went through, one Gnatcatcher, I am sure they were all new different individuals. There are over 50 Ruby-throated Hummers here at the feeders, and at least two imm. Black-chinned are still here. Had 4 greenies (imm. Painted Bunting) today. Now 10 Brown-headed Cowbird here, surely migrants from elsewhere as our local breeders have been gone over 6 weeks.

The Bell's Vireo was still singing today though after a day of silence yesterday, Canyon Towhee was around too. Both were MIA yesterday. Yellow-throated Vireo, and Warbler both still here, the Chat chattered a bit, it will leave very soon. A nice Eastern Tiger Swallowtail floated by and landed on a hackberry for photos, or maybe to dry out. Too bad the sun wasn't out, but then it wouldn't likely have landed, it was soaking wet. Near last sun a group of 5 Summer Tanager together was 3 male and 2 female, 1 male going nuts singing I think was the yard breeder. A few more Orchard Oriole were loosely associated with them.

Sept. 4 ~ We woke up a few times due to hard rain overnight. Got up to find about 4" since 10 p.m. last night when this round started and the first inch fell. We we are now at 7.5+" for the event since Saturday evening when it started. It was 69dF for a low, and there is RIVER!!! We can hear it! For the first time in months! I could barely hear it at 6:30, at 7 it was more detectable, by 8 there was no doubt, the river was running. Between 9 and 10a.m. it went to a mild roar as the water from very heavy rains upvalley got here. We rolled down to the 360 crossing to have a look (.75 of a mile). The water was 5-6" over the bridge and not safe to cross for a small pickup truck without 500 lbs. in the back. There was a bigger truck on the other side waiting. Too dicey. He had a long wait, it was still coming up.

A touch of irony in that the town was amazingly quiet this holiday weekend, due to the lack of water, and no river or swimming, which translates to no tourists on Labor Day weekend. It was great to be able to go bird the park and not have it be overun this weekend as most years on Labor Day. Now today we are throwing water away, have more of it than we can use at the moment. Until leaf lookie-loo season starting in mid-to-late October this is a great time to visit, the crowds are gone with the higher temps.

And there were migrants around the yard, and on the road to the crossing. Yard in morning had 4-5 Yellow Warbler (4 at once), 4-5 Orchard Oriole, a greenie imm. Painted Bunny, at least one Least Flycatcher, one Empidonax sps., and more of the first three were along the road along corral. Later morning heard a Red-eyed Vireo singing out there, an off-the-breeding grounds migrant, but still has some song left in 'em. But I have to work of course, after the holiday break lots of catching up to do. The Yellow-throateds (Warbler and Vireo) were both out there. Did not hear the Bell's Vireo today.

It rained lightly for a few hours late morning to mid-day adding another 16mm, or five-eighths of an inch to the total, now over 8"!!! In the afternoon there were 3 greenie immature Painted Bunting within a square foot on the patio, I had just thrown white millet down, and was not back in the cottage yet (!), so about 10' away at most. They were just waiting for me to do it and go. Another half-dozen Orchard Oriole went by. Was briefly sunny a couple hours in mid-afternoon, then another spritizing later afternoon.

After 7 p.m. I was on back porch and had 6 greenie imm. Painted Bunting on the patio eating white millet at once. I have only been seeing one, so I think some migrants from elsewhere have shown up. Whereas the dozen-and-a-half Cardinals are surely all the yard birds and their young of the year that are still around. Yesterday the Canyon Towhee was around, fighting itself in a mirror, but today did not see or hear it. Late at last check outside there were FOUR Couch's Spadefoot Toads calling at once! Amazing, I love 'em. Often drowned out by a few Rio Grande Leopard Frogs which are roaring now too. Somewhere in the yard I managed to find a couple chiggers today.

Sept. 3 ~ Happy Labor Day to all who labored. Another line of cells went over from before dawn to early morning, tapering off mid-morn. Another 36mm or so since the 55mm last night. So another 1.35" on top of last night's 2.2", and we are over 3.5+" so far for the event. OMG. And we are progged for rain all week. Yard had Gnatcatcher, Orchard Oriole, Yellow Warbler, Least Flycatcher, a greenie or two (imm. Painted Bunny). A Chimney Swift here was best, and surely a migrant since the ones in town have been gone some time now.

Took a spin around to see if any migrants knocked down. The rain started right at dark and extended north a bit so I didn't expect much. On 360 just west of the river was my FOS Loggerhead Shrike. At the golf course there were some flooded fairways but no grasspipers. One Yellow Warbler, one Least Flycatcher. At Utopia Park there was a FOS Spotted Sandpiper, and 2 FOS Wilson's Warbler, a male and a female. Also two Yellow Warbler, another greenie, heard a Louisiana Waterthrush. Water came up a little bit. Best was seeing a juvenile Green Heron, so they got at least one young out of the nest this year. No water at the W.Sabinal Rd. wetspot, and the S.Little Creek wet spots were dry as well. Little Creek got some water too, but nothing there. Did see a couple Scissor-tails in 10 miles of rolling around, and quite a few Barn and some Cave Swallow.

Saw one of the pinkish brick Summer Tanagers, a molting adult male whence as the red body feathers fall out it goes from bright solid saturated red to a light pinkish brick red due to all the pale feather bases being exposed by all the missing feathers. You can see this in Painted Bunting, Northern Cardinal, Vermilion Flycatcher, and probably any bird with red underparts if you catch them at the right stage of body molt. They don't put the funky ones in the books. Hmmm.... Field Guide to the Funky Birds of North America. That sounds right up my alley, amirite?

Shortly before dusk two Common Nighthawk were beating tracks south down the river habitat corridor. Migrants. Forgot to mention lots of Mockingbirds moving today. They were everywhere. About 10 p.m. another rain cell found us and dropped another inch in an hour. So by time I gave up we were at 4.5" so far for the event, just before midnight. Outstanding was at last look outside, hearing a Couch's Spadefoot Toad calling! Awesome! A several second long braying bleat somewhere between a kid goat and a toy dull metallic buzzer. A call of the wild.

Sept. 2 ~ About 73-93dF for a temp spread, and very humid. Mostly hid from the heat working on stuff here, and waiting for rain. In yard besides residents, saw a couple Yellow Warbler (ph. of male below), a Least Flycatcher, a few Orchard Oriole, one Gnatcatcher, and one juv. Hooded Oriole (a transient). Bell's and Yellow-throated Vireo still singing territorially. Barely heard the Chats. Lark Sparrows are many fewer than they were, either they are departing the area, or moving to a newly available food source elsewhere, as can happen in late summer and fall as seeds ripen. Did have Chat at dusk. At dusk also counted 17 Cardinals at once out back on the seed.

Some rain to the west at Garner, Leakey, etc. about 6 p.m., as it approached I heard an Upland Sandpiper go over about 7 p.m., some outflow hit about 7:20-30 and dropped us from 90dF to 82. That was great. Waiting for rain... it is barely moving, but our way. Oh, there is is. From 8 to 9 p.m we got 1.75"! By 11 it was 55mm about 2.2"! OMG! R-A-I-N is how you spell relief here nowadays. No dust for a week at least now.

September 1 ~ OMG, it is September! Climatalogical summer is over! Sacred bovine, there is hope for it to end! Low was 71.5dF but it got hot in the afternoon. A few Orchard Oriole went through yard early, one Yellow Warbler, two Gnatcatcher. An Audubon's Oriole worked the slope uphill in the big live-oaks just behind the house. Haven't had one in a while here. Noon we did an hour park check. Great without people there on a Labor Day weekend. There is often a rodeo here this weekend as well, this year there is not. Town was uncharacteristically quiet for a Labor Day weekend Saturday. Park pond is stagnant, not enough water to be safe to swim, and lots of the river is dry, so more no swimming at many of the local rental sites, so very few tourists. My holiday started early!

Outstanding was FOUR Mourning Warbler up in the understory of the woods. Two adult female nearly together, and two juveniles at opposite ends of the woods. Amazing, what a haul! Have had at least 3 there at once before. Walked by three of them without detecting them, before I found the first. Then ended up with four! They see you coming long before you see them, duck for cover, and can be more than quite furtive. One flew at arm's length right past Kathy's head. A couple Black-n-whites were there too, plus singles of Yellow Warbler, Orchard Oriole, and Eastern Wood-Pewee. A couple locals were a Field Sparrow, Blue Jay, and heard an Inca Dove, which is tough to get in the park. At least a half-dozen Orange-striped Threadtail damselflies, some were ovipositing (ph.).

~ ~ ~ August summary ~ ~ ~

It was mostly hot and humid, but bone dry for precip save a 2.5-3" event Aug. 11-12. We are in drought stage D3 now, and were D1 in July. The river is not flowing in many places, bugs are few, plants are stressed, things are rough all over out there. Temps were mostly about 5dF above average, upper 90's for highs instead of average of lower 90's.

Butterflies were weak like the flowers, with a measly 40 species seen over the month. Lowest August species diversity in the 15 years I have been keeping track here. Had I gotten to Lost Maples early in the month I may have added a couple that flamed out by late in month. In general there were no true raries, but a Rawson's Metalmark or two at Lost Maples the 26th were great. Many formerly common species were MIA. Finally got a Clouded Skipper for the year on the 31st.

The best lep (lepidoptera: butterflies and moths) of the month was a moth, a Sphinx moth on the 30th, a group which I am fairly fond of. It appears it was a Lassaux's Sphinx (Erinnyis lassauxii), will correct if the photos don't prove it, but my initial round of online research indicates that is the beast in question.

The ode show of July faded away to about nothing fast. About 25 species was it. Several Red-tailed Pennants are around, but likely due to drought, many things are not. Good numbers of migrant Red, and Black, Saddlebags, Wandering and Spot-winged Glider, and some Green Darner are all from somewhere else. Some Orange-striped Threadtail still at Utopia Park, and a Comanche Skimmer there is a rare bug in the park.

Birds were fair, nothing special, all but two were the expected most likely 82 species. Likely the weakest month of the year here. Lots of the local breeders are done and gone by the end of the month. The two best birds were merely brush-country denizens that move north into the adjacent hills as part of their post-breeding wandering: a Lesser Nighthawk on the 11th, and a Verdin on the 24th. The typical August arriving migrants like Rufous and Ruby-throated Hummers, Least and a Willow Flycatcher, Upland Sandpiper and Dickcissel all showed up as expected. Last Painted Bunting was the 14th, a bit late, most were already gone a week earlier.

~ ~ ~ end of August summary ~ ~ ~

Yellow Warbler
Here is a fall male Yellow Warbler. The streaks on the
underparts are flaming scarlet red spring to summer.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Aug. 31 ~ Only 73dF for a low. No morning low clouds means a fast start to the heat. Lots of Red Saddlebags still, several dozen just in yard, and they are everywhere you look. Snout (butterfly) are also numerous, I saw a hundred in the yard yesterday, today going to town and back several hundred. A few more hummers today, after a week of very very few. Ruby-throats are showing up. I saw 5 at once, haven't seen an Black-chin in a week now. Still a few imm. Black-chins around, but Rubies are the more numerous hummer here now. They should build for a couple weeks from now until the first good front of fall in mid-September.

First couple hours had a Yellow Warbler, Gnatcatcher, and a couple Dickcissel go through southbound. Summer Tanager did some quiet singing. Roadrunner was around the house. There is a break in the sear progged for next week, with low-end rain chances and easterly winds for 5 days or so starting Saturday with easterlies, and Monday with maybe rain chances. Then some are looking bullish on real rain the next weekend. All this could mean some fall migrant birds might get knocked down, said the eternal optimist birder.

Town run had about nothing of interest in birds. Inca Dove and best, 3 Chicken Fajita Tacos, both at Rosie's Taco trailer. Don't know what kind of chickens they were. But they were good ones. The park had 3 Yellow Warbler and one greenie imm. Painted Bunting, Green Heron still there, a Common Grackle might be one of the family that nested. Best were a couple butterflies, a Southern Broken-Dash and finally my FOY Clouded skipper. In dragons, a couple Red-tailed Pennant, Wandering Glider, both common Saddlebags, Green Darner, Blue Dashers, Black, Swift, and Checkered Setwing, and one Orange-striped Threadtail.

The pond is drying up fast. Good thing they dredged it last time it was dry. Several feet of mud on the shores visible now, water lillies laying on it. The park was devoid of the usual Labor Day crowd of campers due to the lack of water and it being stagnant now. Quiet for a holiday weekend, quite nice to me. A couple other butterflies were a Common Checkered-Skipper at the Sabinal Cyn. Museum as well as a Mournful Duskywing. Four new-for-the-month species on last day of month is awesomeness. No Hackberry Emperors all year though, what the heck is going on?

Little Creek Larry said he had Blue-winged Teal on Little Creek on Wed. the 29th. He also said he has some small white egrets (not Great) there, which means either Snowy or white (imm.) Little Blue Heron. They are very similar in general appearance.

Aug. 30 ~ Very roughly, about 71.5396821 dF for a low this a.m., just a few low stratus for a few hours. Hit 80 by 10 a.m., 90 around noon. In morn, an Orchard Oriole went by, that was it. About 9 a.m. saw a FOS Broad-winged Hawk just clearing trees that probably roosted in the draw pecans. It was coming up out of them, circled low right over the mesquites across from the gate, gaining a bit of altitude and drifted north low. Later a couple Red-shouldered were screaming southward a half-mile. Saw the imm. fem. Coooper's out there too, I wish it would depart the fledging territory already. One greenie imm. Painted Bunny. They are about gone now too.

A Texas Powdered-Skipper was a new butterfly for the month. A Gulf Fritillary was on the Red Turk's Cap, the patch has about 40 flowers now. Half-dozen Queens on the Blue Mist Eupatorium (gregii). Least Flycatcher and Yellow Warbler around yard in afternoon. At dusk I ran to crossing for a few minutes, saw a couple Yellow Warbler ont the way. At twilight, when barely any stars visible yet, I heard four Upland Sandpiper go over southbound in short order. Those spent the day in pastures just upvalley a bit as they were still quite low. They will be in Mexico well before sunrise. Had a Sphinx moth come into a light which I got a grabdocushot of that hopefully we can make an ID out of. Medium sized 4" spread wingspan, all dark camo brown, a type I have never seen before. A quick look at resources and photo on Friday suggests it was Lassaux's Sphinx Moth (Erinnyis lassauxii), which might be a UvCo first record and a new 'furthest west' location for Texas.

Aug. 29 ~ About 73-96dF spread again, barely any of the low stratus, lots of Red Saddlebags Dragonflies. Had an Empidonax briefly that I would have liked to study, since it was not a Least. One Gnatcatcher went by, not much for migrant motion. The imm. fem. Cooper's Hawk is terrorizing the place. Saw the Zone-tailed Hawk go over early. Had a Least Flycatcher after noon, it was not the Empi I saw and heard earlier.

The Bell's Vireo is still singing, I just love that twangy rubberband with a mouth full of marbles song. Especially in the yard. In the western part of their range, from here to California, Mesquite Vireo would have been a good name for them. That is where and what they are.

Aug. 28 ~ A 73-96dF spread, low clouds (gulf stratus) got here and kept sun at bay a few hours. Was just a few of the same things. A Gnatcatcher, a Yellow Warbler, an imm. Indigo Bunny, and the half blue ad. male which is now a third blue maybe. Heard a Least Flycatcher, Bell's and Yellow-throated Vireo still singing. Saw a couple male Black and a Giant Swallowtail, a Lyside Sulphur, Celia's roadside-skipper, Vesta Crescent, and some Snouts.

For the last week there have been lots of dragonflies, mostly Red Saddlebags. Some Black Saddlebags with them, and lower numbers of Wandering and Spot-winged Glider, a few Green Darner. About 10 p.m. I saw a great big close green meteor out front. Having missed the Perseids due to the rain event, it was nice to see a good one. I guaranty you could not find anyone in the area that would have rather gotten up in the middle of the night to see a meteor shower than slept and gotten 3" of rain that weekend.

Aug. 27 ~ Only 74dF for a low, a bit balmy. Gnatcatcher and Orchard Oriole went through yard southbound early, the Bell's and Yellow-throated Vireo are still singing. Vermilion calling only, same for Chat, no song. An imm. Indigo Bunting was at the millet tube, Canyon Towhee was around. One Least Flycatcher out by gate. The ripe Persimmons and the angle of the sun tells me Baltimore Oriole should be showing up soon. One Yellow Warbler around most of the day. Heard a Dickcissel in the Mulberry. White-eyed Vireo and the Yellow-throated Warbler still out there. So a sprinkling of the usual expected suspects. A nice selection of birds to be stuck with.

Aug. 26 ~ Got up earlyish and went to Lost Maples to get an August trip in. Been too busy lately. Here getting ready, there is no dawn chorus left, even the Vermilion Flyc. has quit, the Chat called a couple times, mostly just Carolina Wrens, so more a racket than a chorus. In town on the way there was an Imperial Moth at the gas station. The 4" yellow and pinkish rust beast, one of our silk moths. Over 30 Cave Swallow were sunning on the powerline just north of the gas station at first sun. Nearing Vanderpool there was a DOR (dead on road) Gray Fox.

At Lost Maples, I can't believe how fast it changes how much. It has cleared out of lots in the way of the neotropical migratory breeders. The feeding station at the trailhead parking lot is not being stocked anymore this season apparently, so it has no birds. On the way in I heard an Olive Sparrow along the road but did not see or hear any on the trail. No White-tipped Dove either. Heard a couple Scrub-Jay, a few Canyon Wren, several Hutton's Vireo, only one Red-eyed, and two Yellow-throated Vireo. A few Gnatcatcher still there, couple Louisiana Waterthrush heard, a few Summer Tanager, a hatch-year (imm.) Green Kingfisher. Heard about four Black-capped Vireo, glimpsed two of them. Late in season, and in drought, they move into canyon bottoms more, especially higher up the canyons. One is working around the main big pond and not hard to see now.

Not seen or heard were Acadian Flycatcher or Eastern Wood-Pewee, and as expected at this late date no Golden-cheeked Warbler or Black-and-white Warbler, no Indigo or Painted Bunting, or Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Warblers are gone too. Heard a Rufous-crowned Sparrow, did not see one, heard Red-shouldered Hawk, saw the Fuertes Red-tail and 2 Common Raven. One Yellow Warbler was it for migrants. There were no vagrants or raries, megas or minors. But it was as always a great walk. About four miles and four and a half hours. Back to car about 1 p.m. and it was just under 90dF still up there.

What is considered the main canyon, the Sabinal River, which is where the 'Maples Trail' is, is dry now from above the day use area, per the main man there. No water up that canyon now. Whereas, as always, Can Creek to the ponds and beyond has water. Most of it anyway, there are a few short dry runs from parking lot up to the high point spring a mile behind the ponds. Still more big old trees falling, it has not stopped since the drought started 10 years ago. It is much thinner of woodland and canopy that it was a decade ago. There is nowhere you can stand and not look around and see some to many recently dead trees. The habitat is changing.

There are some flowers since the rain a couple weeks ago, and the Frostweed looks like it will start blooming soon, doubt it would have bloomed without that rain. Buttonbush is mostly done, still a few blooms, lots of Snapdragon Vine flowers, like spring for them again, the Lindheimer Senna though short, is blooming well too. Lots of nice Cedar Sage patches, lots of Broomweed, a few Texas Milkweed far up trail. There are some very small grapes but not a lot, no cherry crop, a few Persimmons, and one shrub with small fruit I didn't know (ph.). The White Heliotrope was thick along the paths higher up canyon, saw one good Clammy-weed open, and a nice patch of Purple Milkwort was outstanding (ph.). A little bit of the Boneset Eupatorium was open.

In odes, dragons were weak compared to a month ago, as the situation is around town as well. The July wave is over, waiting for a new one. One female Flame Skimmer was maybe the best, otherwise it just a few of the very most common types. In damsels there were only a few, I saw single Kiowa and Dusky Dancer, a couple Springwater Dancer. Neat was one of the Red-spotted Ant-mimic spiders, which mimic a velvet ant, running around fast and high off the ground just like one, red abdomen, black in front. They are just about too fast to photo. Also saw one of the presumed Dolomedes sps. fishing spiders at the high water spring, and one big Pepsis Wasp.

Butterflies were kinda slow too. On the way up the trail it was overcast and there were about none, same as odes, until 11:00 or so when the sun came out. Most common butterfly was Two-tailed Swallowtail, we saw probably 8 of them. More than Sleepy Orange. No Spicebush flying now though, they are over. One Arizona Sister, a couple Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, Celia's and Bronzed Roadside-Skipper, and a couple Metalmarks, one of which (if not both) appear to be Rawson's (ph.).

I heard a small snake slither away in the leaf litter, but could not locate it. Saw one hatch-year Anole, and a nice Texas Spiny Lizard. A big (over 12") Softshell Turtle was in the upper pond. There are two, foot-long Snappers in there too but we didn't see them. I have kept and handled fair numbers of both and would rather handle the Snapper, and let you do the the crazy mean pissed-off Softshell. A 4-incher will gladly put a big hurt on you.

Here at the hovel late in day I was over in the cottage feeding fish and the Yellow-throated Warbler was right out the window I was next to. The Lost Maples birds are gone but our breeder is still here. Shortly before last sun the big imm. fem. Cooper's Hawk must have been hiding up inside the crown of the big male Mulberry. A White-winged Dove flew in and as it was descending and slowed down, the Coop shot out and plucked it out of the sky, looked like it was snowing, dove feathers all over the patio.

Aug. 25 ~ About 72dF for a low, a little bit of low clouds for a few hours before the daily broil begins. Over the first couple hours of morning there were Yellow Warbler, Orchard Oriole, Gnatcatcher, Least Flycatcher, and Dickcissel. Same as it ever was these weeks lately. One juv. Eastern Wood-Pewee was new. One greenie imm. Painted Bunny. Yellow-throated Warbler and Vireo, and heard the Bell's Vireo still singing over in corral. No Black-chinned Hummer, a couple Ruby-throated, a few to several imms. of both.

Very cool was seeing two Chats over by the Red Harvester ant trail that one was dining at the other day. One went down and grabbed a bunch of 'em again! One at a time, of course. Antbirds! An hour later I saw it or another back at it popping more like candy. I can not recall ever seeing anything eat these here, and have wondered why not. Except I have been bit and they pack a Texas-sized punch. It was bare-eyed so could not age or sex the chats to see which individuals they were and if the second one was the same as the first one, or two are doing it now. Very neat behavior to see. It sits on a stick a few feet long a few inches off the ground next to the ant trail. Selects its next snack, tenderizes it a wee bit, down the hatch, and back to watching for the right one to go by again. I am unable at this point to report on what criteria is used for ant selection.

Yellow Warbler
This is a female Yellow Warbler at our bird bath.
Much nicer not shooting through an old rusty window screen.
The bright lines on breast and throat are reflection from
the ripples it just made bobbing down into the water.

~ ~ ~ prior update below ~ ~ ~

Aug. 24 ~ The 71dF felt nice at dawn. the ad.fem. Yellow Warbler is still here (day 5), it landed 2' from me at one point. Another went through yard southbound. Canyon Towhee and Roadrunner out there too. Might have gotten a shot of a female Yellow Warbler at the bath with a male Summer Tanager at the same time. Couple Orchard Orio went through too in a.m., same imm. ma. Dickcissel on day 4 on the patio millet spread. Bell's Vireo still singing out there.

The weekly town run to make sure post office and general store are still there. Right as I hit town a Zone-tailed Hawk soared low over Main St. No swifts or swallows, and the butterfly garden at the library got its annual over-butchering. No butterflies there now. The park had Great Blue and Green Heron, and a few Yellow Warbler. A Comanche Skimmer was nice, a very scarcely seen dragon there.

The bird of the day was at the mesquite patch at the north end of town at the curve, a Verdin. Probably my earliest fall record locally. As with Pyrrhuloxia I can only guess but they move into the area after nesting, from somewhere else, either from the west, or south of us. Both are also cases where the maps show them as resident within their range (as Canyon Towhee), but there are lots of local movements. Verdin and Pyrrhuloxia do not nest here, and are not present spring to sometime in fall after breeding.

On the way back right at the 360 crossing a Green Kingfisher flew over the bridge less than 10' in front of the truck, at bumper height, again. In case you are ever are behind me thinking I am going slow there. It is so dangerous, there should be a greenking crossing warning sign there. I have just the pic for it.

Aug. 23 ~ A nice 70dF low was great. Gnatcat in the morn, the ad.fem. Yellow Warbler is now on day 4 here, the Dickcissel on day 3. One greenie imm. Painted Bunting. No Black-chin Hummer, only was Ruby-throated. Very few hummers, the Black-chin blowout has occurred. Heard and glimpsed an Empi around that looked and sounded more like a Dusky than a Least, but never got good enough looks at it. The Canyon Towhee was back out there today after missing the last couple days after it first showed up. Must have been about 4 Gnatcatchers through the yard over the day, and at least as many Orchard Oriole. Zone-tailed Hawk went over high about high noon. Then at last light, the last 45 min. or so, another Gnatcat, 2 more Orchard Orio, and 3 Dickcissel together at once on a juniper just over the north fence. Two flew up the draw.

Aug. 22 ~ About 71dF for a low, briefly, upper 90's in the sun in afternoon to early evening. Outstanding in the morning was a brief look at (and a listen to) a Black-capped Vireo right over the shed low in a hackberry. I heard the 'ruby-crowned kinglet-ish' dry fast did-it-it call at first. A slope ends at the back yard and the understory below the big live-oaks is covered in Mountain Laurel, Agarita, and Persimmon. Three key Black-cap bushes. They nest less than a mile from here, but virtually never occur in the yard. I had one crummy look once before.

Also had Bell's, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated vireos in yard today. A Ringed Kingfisher flew over calling early, followed by an Upland Sandpiper doing the same, except going south instead of north. A couple Orchard Orio went by. The female Yellow Warbler is on day 3, the imm. ma. Dickcissel is still here too, day 2, and the half-brown Indigo Bunting is about day 8 or 10 here. Inca Dove was out there at last sun. Saw an Empi about 6 p.m. but it got away, it was not a Least.

Aug. 21. ~ A 73dF was a little better this morning. A few Orchard Orio went through early, more later. The Chat was on the ground, hunting and eating Red Harvester Ants! So that is it! They are antbirds! The bird gurus just changed the taxonomy on them, made up a new family just for it. Which seems to have been the result of a contest for stupidest most confusing possible name for a new family. It was working a trail of these big Texas-sized Red Harvesters leaving the patio with white millet. It repeatedly grabbed one, took it to a low stick on the stick pile, tenderized it a bit, and ate them, maybe 5 or 6 over 3 minutes. I got a distant docu shot or two.

Yellow Warbler and Bell's Vireo are likely the same ones as yesterday. Mid-day the Chat took a long bath. Was 96dF at peak heat in cool shade, over a hun in the sun. Kathy saw the Roadrunner, I saw one greenie imm. Painted Bunny. About 6 p.m. there was the Inca Dove and an imm. male Dickcissel eating seed on the patio. Way way less hummers around, did see an Black-chinned still here. At least a couple Ruby-throated, a few imms. and a couple dozen maybe barely tops imm. Black-chinned here. Amazing was hearing a Barn Owl about 11: p.m., the first in a couple months. Maybe a fall migrant?

Aug. 20 ~ Only went up 20dF over the day. Problem was it started at a low of 76dF. Early morn a Gnatcatcher, a few Orchard Orios, and a calling Great Crested Flycacher. The half basic (winter) plumaged Indigo Bunting has acquired a mostly brown crown and back over a week. Wonder if the half-dozen Bluebirds going over the last few morns are the local yard breeder pair with some of the young of the year? Few more Orchard Orio mid-day, and in afternoon a male Yellow Warbler in the pecans. Kathy heard a Bell's Vireo. Yellow-throated Vireo still singing in big pecan and around yard. Way less hummers, has been a major blowout of Black-chins.

Seeing the little sunfish I caught yesterday a bit calmed down, I'd say at least 2 and maybe all 4 are Red-breasted, Lepomis auritus, which become quite the beauty when they grow up. They are only 2.5-3" now, but 2 show a little color. They move to chase the shiners and it is like a tank trying to catch a sports car. One seems mean as heck already. If you live around Rio Grande Perch (Texas Cichlid) I suppose you have to be.

Aug. 19 ~ About 71dF for a low. Nothing singing at 6:35 a.m., hummers aren't even showing up until almost 7. Over the next half hour heard Cardinal and Carolina Wren, but no Vermilion Flycatcher or Chat. Yellow-throated Warbler here has not sung in two weeks now, seems finished for the season. Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo both sang a bit after 7. Summer Tanager called but no song. Heard a couple Orchard Oriole. Great was a Canyon Towhee, the first here since the yard wintering male left in spring, and on the heels of having one last week over near the golf course, a half-mile across river from here. Will see if it sticks, or is a transient. Could be the one that wintered (and lost mate to accipiter late in winter) returning. Saw the Inca Dove again on patio. Juv. Indigo. Did a quick park check before noon and people. There was a greenie Painted Bunting in the woods, and a Great Crested Flycatcher on other side of river working willows. In odes saw Red-tailed Pennants and Orange-striped Threadtails. I caught four small 2.5-3" sunfish which are tanked here now. Can't ID yet. Wanted Bantams, these are not those. Man those little suckers are fast and smart. I know it is not that I am an old slow dummy.

Aug. 18 ~ A 70dF low felt great, Seco Creek station at WU showed 68, Kerrville 72 (a heat island from all the pavement). In the a.m. there were a few Orchard Orios and a Gnatcatcher that went through southbound. Heard a Bell's Vireo. It got hot though, about 95dF in the shade, hotter in sun. I did an hour of yard stuff around noon and surely lost a quart. Saw one female Black Swallowtail on the Tubetongue blooming from the rain last week. Another was probably also a Black but a bit off so will have to study the pix. As bird books, butterfly books often show one average individual, when often there is much tremendous individual variation. The internet is great for being able to check series of photos of species far beyond anything almost anyone (normal) would have. Flushed the Roadrunner just off the front porch, only thing there is the hummer feeders, fortunately all up real high. Bad for viewing lighting on the birds, but good for their safety. Still one Black-chinned here. Kathy saw the Inca Dove again. Way less hummers today. Must have been a big blowout yesterday.

House Finch
Here is another little illustrated plumage you may see now.
This is a young of the year male House Finch maybe about
90 days old or so and just beginning to acquire its first
red feathers which will soon connect across the breast.
So they look like a female with some pale red at first.
By fall and into winter it is red like an adult male,
but a much paler shade of red than adults.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Aug. 17 ~ A 71dF low felt great. Was sunny at sunup, and an hour later the low clouds got here from the Gulf to keep sol at bay a bit. This is a common phenom here, the question is whether or not the clouds make it this far inland (they usually do), and if they get here before dawn, or after. Singing a bit in morning were Chat, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo, Cardinal and Carolina Wren. That was it. And Collared-Dove, but one can hardly call that a song, as much as moaning in pain. That's what it makes me do.

In the early a.m. had a few Orchard Orio go through yard, and a Gnatcatcher. Still at least one Black-chinned Hummer here, Ruby-throat here too. Town run fer stuff. A Zone-tailed Hawk was at Waresville Rd. 363 and Hwy 187 on the way to town. No Chimney Swift or Scissor-tails, Martins long gone now. The library garden was full of vireos though. Just standing there a few moments I had singing Bell's and White-eyed, plus transient Red-eyed and Yellow-throated in the big pecan. Flowers are low now, and few butterflies. At the park there was a Ceranus Blue puddling at river's edge. There was a Louisiana Waterthrush up by the former island in the mud around it, a couple Green Heron, heard a Yellow Warbler and a Great Crested Flycatcher called from across the river. They usually whistle back pretty well if you can do a good loud forceful wheeeet. This one sure did. They don't respond to sissy whistles though.

Still plotting on those Mexican Tetras there. A cast net might be the way without a second person on the other end of the seine. The one kind of hand net I don't have. They were plankton feeding. Having over 50 years experience of keeping and feeding fish literally and no exaggeration, of every 'ivorous' flavor they make, this was plankton feeding. From a big tetra. It was awesome. Which means a very high micro-organism count in the water. I should throw some on a slide under the microscope. Probably scare ya. Which since no flow and very warm makes sense. Frankly a bit dicey for swimming, I suspect lots of 75dF and some 80dF in sunny open area surface waters. Dicey for the locals... though its fine for the tourists.  :P   Pro tip: most locals stop swimming in it when water quits going over the spillway.

Little Creek Larry said the water was 2 FEET below the spillway overflow before the rain, and it got up to 20" below or so now. Nothing is running above ground below the spillway. There were still a pair of Orange-striped Threadtail damselflies flying in tandem at the park. Lots of Saddlebags dragonflies today, like hundreds, mostly Red and many Black too, also some Wandering and Spot-winged Glider, Green Darner. One Red-tailed Pennant at park. Add-on: forgot to mention, lots of Mockers moving today, everywhere.

Aug. 16 ~ Low 70's dF and low clouds, the standard mix in the morning here. Heard Orchard Orioles and a Least Flycatcher. The yardish territorial Yellow-throated Vireo is still singing (= nesting), it had a good bout of countersinging with another going down the river habitat corridor for 5 minutes. Saw a third different adult male Indigo Bunting today, about half way into basic plumage with mostly brown underparts. So there is one ad. in breeding, one in winter, and this one is almost halfway between. Saw a couple greenie imm. Painted, but no adult male, again, as yesterday, 14th was last so far. Heard an Upland Sandpiper at dusk, which must have spent the day on a nearby pasture. A Celia's Roadside-Skipper was on the Lantana by the front porch. A Giant Swallowtail bounded by.

Aug. 15 ~ 72dF and low clouds in the morning, keeps the heat at bay for a bit. Male Orchard Oriole in Mesquites by gate. I did a park check early, to little avail. Heard Green and saw Ringed Kingfisher. Heard Louisiana Waterthrush and Common Grackle. Squirrels were alarming as when the Barred Owl on the prowl, but I didn't see it. Water is still over a foot and a half below the spillway. Sometimes a few days after a big rain, it finally percolates down and then the water comes up magically, seemingly out of nowhere. The Cenizo is starting to bloom again in response to the weekend rain. They are about as fast to respond as Rain Lily, which are popping in the yard. Snow-on-the-Mountain is getting going here and there, some nice ones, but not an abundant year for them around here.

Saw alternate and ad. ma. basic (summer and winter plumage) Indigo Bunting, plus a juvenile (ph.). Also saw ad. ma., ad. fem., and juv. Blue Grosbeak. Later afternoon an Inca Dove was on the patio, first I have seen here in months. We had a flock that got up to 8 but was taken one at a time over a winter (before last) by Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks. Saw an Black-chinned Hummer still here today. Only one though. Did not hear a Rufous.

Nothing through the yard in the way of tansients during my hourly checks until about 4 p.m. I was sitting on a chair on porch and saw something flycatch from the low bare dead branches of the furthest yard pecan, about 125' away. Eastern Phoebe and all ages and sexes of Vermillion Flycatcher use the same perches some of every day. But it didn't look right for either. I was thinking about going inside, getting binocs and walking out there to check it when it flew directly at the porch and landed less than 15' away in the closest lowest bare branches of the big pecan, about 8' off the ground. Bam! FOS Willow Flycatcher. Had great close views and saved me the walk out there.

Aug. 14 ~ Low of 72dF, some clouds, humid, but no more rain. Only got up to about 90dF, so very bearable for mid-August. But here comes the sub-tropical high back. Kathy saw the male Blue Grosbeak out there again, still, but it is not singing any more. I heard a Yellow Warbler zzeet and an Orchard Oriole. Saw the male Indigo Bunting on the patio again, presumedly the one that has been around. Whatabird. Late in day there was a winter male Indigo, and an ad. male Painted. Besides the male, saw a female Blue Grosbeak, and an imm. Indigo. Only a few greenies (juv. Painted) left. Kathy saw the Roadrunner out there. Still Black-chinned Hummer here. One Rufous Hummer here in morning only. Saw a big Eyed Elaterid (click beetle) buzzing around out front.

Aug. 13 ~ Still overcast, but no more rain it seems, low of 72dF. Looks like 3.15" or so for a two day event total. It will make for a fall bloom, and the growing pecans needed it as badly. Lost Maples got about 2.5" per my call to HQ. Heard Yellow Warbler and Orchard Oriole go through yard southbound early in morning. Saw a juv. Blue Grosbeak on the patio, Kathy thought she saw a male fly off. The juv. fem. Cooper's Hawk was out there eyeing doves methinks. Heard the Ringed Kingfisher at dusk flying down the river.

Aug. 12 ~ About 72dF for a low, and only a tenth or .15 of precip overnight, some light showers in a.m., nearly a half-inch from overnight and morning around noonish. Topped out about 82dF for the second day in a row, what a break! There was a termite hatch with lots of stuff flycatching on the road and fence right out front. My FOS seen and heard Least Flycatcher was out there calling. After lunch I went over to the golf course again to look for grasspipers to no avail. Just one Canyon Towhee was it for an item of interest. On the way though, right out the gate along the corral on 360 there were at least 8 greenie imm. Painted Buntings in the weedy seedy. One male Yellow Warbler, 4-5 Orchard Oriole, and two more Least Flycatcher. Another Least was at the golf course, for a total of four today. When it rains, it pours, birds.

After a early evening smaller cell a good cell hit about 10 p.m. with almost .75" which put us up to 35mm for the day total, about 1 and three-eighths inches for the day. And so about 3 and an eighth inches for the event since Saturday. But which also mostly wiped out our chances of seeing the Persius meteor shower this weekend. I saw a NOAA report of 10-11 inches of rain in NW Uvalde Co., 30 miles or so west of us, between Chalk Bluff and Camp Wood, there were flood warnings on the Nueces. Cleaned it out real good I'm sure.

Aug. 11 ~ Rained a bit overnight, woke up to about 69dF and 1.25" of precip showing. Another half-inch fell by noon so 1.75" so far. Supposed to get more still this afternoon to evening and overnight. That sucking sound is the ground getting water. It appears as though was little to no runoff, a good slow soaker, just what we needed, badly. Rain, and a break from heat, is quite a treat. We only barely broke 80dF for a high today!

Yellow-throated Vireo singing in pecans for an hour early. A Gnatcatcher went through soutbound early. I saw my first ad. ma. Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the fall, at least one Black-chinned is still here. Saw a different from the earlier one imm. ma. Ruby-throat, and the Rufous I am seeing is the imm. ma. of the last couple days. Saw an Painted Bunting on the patio noonish. Kathy saw what may have been an Empidonax out the kitchen window, it is about that time. A group of 5 Orchard Oriole went by.

Noonish I heard a suspicious chip, looked over at the wet muddy spots in the corral and there was a Louisiana Waterthrush working them. Got an ID shot or two. Not the first one we have had right there doing the same thing. Just a little rain is all it takes, during the right window of opportunity. For me, one fun yard bird. Better look than we had a couple weeks ago (when heard only) for 4 miles of hiking at Lost Maples. Watched it 5 minutes working the water in the corral for a couple hundred feet, just over the other side of the fence.

Went over to the golf course after lunch figuring no one did a round on the wet, was hoping for grasspipers. No luck. Lots of dragons out over the grass though, mostly Wandering and Spot-winged Gliders, Red, and Black, Saddlebags, and a few Green Darner. At a pond saw (ph.) one Black Setwing, one was at the park yesterday too. A Bell's Vireo was still singing along Waresville Rd. On 360 here by the crossing within a quarter mile of it, I had three FOS Yellow Warblers, all males, and a Red-eyed Vireo. Went to the park for a quick check, nothing there. Did see one Scissor-tail along 187.

Had a quick look at what looked to be a Least Flycatcher out front but lost it. Saw the juv. fem. Cooper's Hawk make a dive on one of the Eastern Cottontails in the yard. That would have been interesting. Just before 6 p.m. saw my fourth Yellow Warbler of the day in the yard, when it rains it pours, migrant birds. About 7 p.m. I had another group, this of 4, Orchard Oriole move by southbound, one was a male. At least ten went through that I saw today. Then a FOS Upland Sandpiper flew by calling, so low it had to be a local flush.

Then since I hadn't had enough action for the day, I was out in driveway at dusk as I like to do. At 8 p.m. 5 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew up the river corridor. Ten minutes later 3 Common Nighthawk flew down it. Another 10 minutes and a LESSER NIGHTHAWK flew by northbound, just over the treetops almost stalling a couple times as it grabbed things right past the gate. It is a great bird here anytime, though regular down in the brush country, it is rare here in the hills. Maybe westward they are more in the hills, but not here. We get them as a few spring overshoots, often in April, and before Commons arrive, and then late summer like this. Barking Frogs are noisy this evening.

Fuertes' Red-tailed Hawk
This is a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk of the fuertesi subspecies,
which is the type that breeds locally. They are very pale
below compared to many other types of Red-tails. Note how
it shows the dark patagium (inner leading edge of wing) of almost
all Red-tails. Also note the strong belly band like Eastern
types, which it loses as it matures becoming creamy white and
fairly unmarked below, save the odd streak here and there.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Aug. 10 ~ Low of 73, some outflow washed out just north of us at dark last night. Cleared late, now clouds from the south in the a.m. and supposed to get a rain event over the weekend. Saw one Black-chinned Hummer in the morning. About 5 Orchard Oriole went through the yard early, that's more like it. Saw the imm. fem. Rufous in the morning. Kathy saw an ad. ma. Painted Bunting. Only saw one pair of Barn Swallow in town. No Chimney Swift. Amazingly there are still at least two Common Grackle at the park, the ad. fem. and one juv. molting into first basic. They have always departed immediately upon fledging in the past. In June. With the drought, the (former) island area remains the best Common Grackle habitat around.

There are some Mexican Tetras there I might have to go in after... and below the spillway some Bantam Sunfish, a few of which are in good breeding color and pretty nice looking. Pale with a half dozen blackish vertical bars and red fins. So if you see a middle-aged, slightly overweight, balding dude down there with a bucket, seine and other nets... I keep forgetting to mention many of the cypresses below the spillway where no aboveground river have already turned color and are rusty. I noticed them starting to turn July 27 (!) actually, and am seeing more now where no surface water along river, spots of rust are showing. Some Boneset Eupatorium is just starting open in the understory of the woods.

No Scissor-tails around. Saw what looked like two Eastern Kingbird flying out of the park across the ball diamond. A dry outflow boundry passed from rain to the north. At 6 p.m. it was 94dF, 6:30 was 90, and by 7 p.m. it was 82dF, at 8 it was 78, raining at Lost Maples, and I felt a couple spits here. What a break, over 10dF below recent avg. at 7pm is a treat. It's the little things... Right after I posted the update was out on front porch at last light and a Chuck-wills-widow flew across the yard low. Saw the Red Bat, and the Barking Frogs were really going off after the spritzing we got, maybe a tenth or two.

Aug. 9 ~ About 70.5dF for a low, on the edge of coolish. Another front is sagging over north Texas, which may bring us some precip over the weekend, maybe some migrant birds too. Yellow-throated Warbler was a foot from the millet tube, almost went for it, scared by a House Finch. Roadrunner still hunting juvenile birds. Everything goes off in alarm mode when it shows now. Hope it didn't get any of the juv. Painted Buntings. Only a couple left here now. Did not see an adult again today. Nor a Blue Grosbeak. Kathy spotted a juv. Cooper's Hawk (female) at the bath late at last light, I got a few grabshots though my screen porthole. Only saw the imm. male Rufous Hummer today.

Aug. 8 ~ A balmy 73dF low. The Rufous Hummer I saw first thing was an imm. female without any dark feathers in throat, there are absolutely two different birds here. Yesterdays bird was an adult female. Then this afternoon I saw ANOTHER different Rufous Hummer, this appeared an imm. male with scattered dark gorget feathers in throat. That is three different Rufous for sure in the last 24 hours. Saw an imm. male Ruby-throated again. Did not see an Painted Bunting today. Kathy saw a male Blue Grosbeak though. The migratory breeders are fading fast. Have not seen an adult cowbird of either species in a week, only a few unattended juv. Brown-headed.

Aug. 7 ~ We had 69dF for a low, at WU Seco Creek showed 67, and at KRVL the heat island effect kept them up at 72dF. No migrant motion in morning still. The red-backed male Painted Bunting was on the millet tube, the only male I saw today. It has been here since before July 3 when photographed, so over a month! I did not see it in May or June, it was not one of the yardish breeders that was hitting the seed through nesting season. The pattern of green framing the red back with an intrusion of green at bottom center toward middle of back identifies it as the same individual. The two different with some yellow on underparts seem gone but were here a couple weeks. A couple greenies were around. Today I hear quite a bit and see a few times a Rufous Hummer which looks like an adult female with a well defined pyramid of gorget feathers. I am sure the one yesterday had no dark in throat, so there must be two here. A couple Black-chins still.

Aug. 6 ~ Only 72dF for a low. Saw a Nighthawk real low again first thing before sunup, but going away, not an ID look. Common until proven otherwise here. Thought sure I heard a Rufous Hummingbird outside early in the morning melee at the feeders. Orchard Oriole and Gnatcatcher went through. Watched hard all day for a male Painted Bunting, nuthin', then Kathy caught one at the bath at last sun. Couple or three greenies still. At one point today I thought sure I heard a Calliope Hummer, again, as I did yesterday once as well but didn't mention. Last hour of light sure enough, a Rufous Hummingbird came in. I did not see any dark feathers in throat, as in an imm. female. Now if I could just see that other delicate soft squeaky call I am hearing that sounds like a Calliope.

Lots of dragonflies out in the yard, a few dozen, and as many heading over southbound. Was the usual Wandering and Spot-winged Gliders, and Black, and Red, Saddlebags for the most part. A Ringed Kingfisher called from river the last half-hour of light. You would think they would run out of breath, clearly they can breathe fine when firing off two-minute long 50 cal. salvos. I don't see how it could be all just on one breath, they have to be inhaling and exhaling while calling. Or they can hold their breath way better than humans, and all that noise takes no effort whatsoever.

Aug. 5 ~ Got down to 69dF for a cool feel briefly first thing. Some clouds from the coast kept it a bit cooler for a while. Got up to about 86 just before 1 p.m. when a little rain cell hit and dropped it to just over 80 by 1:30. Another cell hit about 2: and by 2:30 there was a quarter inch total, and it was 75dF! Nice break from the burn! After the unpredicted rain occurred NOAA put a 20 percent chance in the forecast. That took a college degree? Any rancher on a tractor could have done better than that! Got back up to 87 at 5 p.m. peak heat, but which is a category cooler than what it has been averaging. Yer dang right I'm happy about it.

Early in the morning I had an imm. male Ruby-throated Hummingbird, my first this fall. I was alerted by sound, it grinded out that deep hard guttaral mechanical grackle-like clicked 'djergk' very unlike anything I ever hear from a Black-chinned. I have not heard this noise in the last 70 days. It was as close as I could focus bare-eyed, looking at my red t-shirt, I guess that is what he was croaking about. Saw his red gorget feathers in throat coming in. In the afternoon I got an email from Judy Schaffer that she had a Rufous Hummingbird today! So we are done with 'just Black-chins' and now again have three species of hummers around the area. Later I thought I heard a Rufous here, and thought I heard a Calliope, but saw neither.

Heard a Red-eyed Vireo out front in the morning, and a Gnatcatcher. Yellow-throated Vireo is still singing, Chat barely so, White-winged, Mourning, and Ground-, Doves are all still singing. One Painted Bunting, a couple or few greenies. Roadrunner was at the bath in the morning. At last light I saw a Nighthawk fly over low, presumed Common, the default, but did not get an ID look. It had to climb to get over the big pecan, was just over Mesquite treetop level.

Aug. 4 ~ We had 70dF for a low, those 60's were nice while they lasted. Still no real migration motion, just the expected Gnatcatcher and Orchard Oriole. Did a dump run so stopped by park. Besides Green Heron and Kingfisher, there was a Gnatcatcher, and a Black-n-white Warbler. Lots of yearling Long-eared Sunfish, and people. One of the juv. Common Grackle was there, now molting into first basic, getting its first adult-like black feathers. Another of the same was at the Waresville pond on the golf course. A fresh set of fledling Red-winged Blackbird were there with ad. female, no males. Just a very few of the common dragonflies. A Zone-tailed Hawk was soaring around over town. I tried to get under it for shots but everytime I got lined up it moved another block. After a dozen attempts I gave up.

~ ~ ~ big bonus version of the weekly break ~ ~ ~

I am amazed at the variation in Painted Buntings, even in adult males. As they molt their body feathers there are a few versions it is possible to see besides the type with yellow shown a few weeks ago. We do not even get to see them in the heat of heavy molt for the most as they leave here before they get in the thick of that. We just get the front edge of it as it is starting right before they go, on some of them.

Painted Buntingxxxx
Adult male Painted bunting. When in body molt they can become completely pockmarked with pale spots as this bird is begining to show. When enough red feathers drop, the pale bases are exposed of the ones that remain. Their entire underparts can look like the breast on this bird.

Painted Bunting
When enough red feathers drop evenly, they can appear
fairly pinkish brickish red below, quite unlike the
bright saturated usual red. I didn't get the front of
this bird, but they can be entirely like the paler posterior
abdomen shown here. A paler muted pinkish brick red.

Painted Bunting
Here is another example with much pale pockmarking, this on lower underparts.
Several I have seen in later August or September have been very pale below,
and or very heavilly pockmarked throughout underparts with pale spots.
This is normal appearance due to molt, it is not diet or captivity, it is natural.
They are not discolored. You can see this on Vermilion Flycatcher and Cardinals,
which BTW get much worse as they molt, and since they don't leave, we see it
all the way through with them.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ long one this week with monthly summary and a Lost Maples walk ~ ~ ~

Aug. 3 ~ Another 66dF for a low, KRVL and Seco Creek a dF or two cooler. Makes for a wonderful morning on these hot summer days. Couple Orchard Oriole went through, heard a Gnatcat, saw the red-backed male Painted Bunting and three greenies. Heard a Hutton's Vireo out front mid-morning, which I did not have a few days ago when there were 4 sps. of vireo in the yard. Field Sparrow still around, so is a female Blue Grosbeak that I think is the nester. Heard the Bluebirds this morning, they have been gone since they got their last 3 out of the box.

Saw my FOY Snow-on-the-Mountain with some open flowers. It must be early August. Does not look a good year for it though. In town I saw no Purple Martin, no Chimney Swift, no Cave and only one Barn Swallow. Aerial insectivores are gone. Cicada Killer at the gas station. Little Creek Larry (LCL) said he drove to Sabinal and then the back road to Uvalde and saw no Scissor-tailed Flycatchers the whole way and back. That road is usually lined with them. Gone. No bugs to eat. In case you have not heard the term being used by those that study insects in some places, the new buzz word (for insects, get that?) for an apparent dearth of insects is bugpocalypse. Which will be followed by pocalypses of ecosystems, and then humanity. Maybe Monsanto (now Bayer) and Dow sold enough Glyphosate, chlorpyrfos, and neonicotinids to saturate with aerosol the entire atmosphere?

LCL also said a few days ago he had a Harris's Hawk out UvCo 355 (Lee St.) a mile or so east of town this week. I saw nothing at the park, the island is not one now, the river continues to drop, some muddy bank edge now exposed. Heard a Green Kingfisher. A Rounded Metalmark and a Eufala Skipper were it for butterflies at the library garden.

Aug. 2 ~ An amazing 63dF low here felt great. I saw KRVL had 61, and Seco Creek WU station 62dF. Incredible for earliest August. Surprised again by there not being any migrant motion on the northerly flow behind this first front, weak as it was. One Gnatcatcher. Maybe stuff up north is largely still breeding? Was hot, about 97dF or so in afternoon, in the cool shady. Saw two Painted Bunting today, one the red-backed bird. Found an odd molted wing feather out back, will have to work on it. Not from any of the common stuff we see all the time. Maybe a Chuck-w-w? I love a good puzzle. Whatever your field of nature study, it is the ultimate never-ending puzzle.

August 1 ~ A 66dF low is a great way to start August! I saw KRVL and the Seco Creek WU stations both reported 64dF! With dry northerly flow on it. Weewow. But mid-90's for a high. I did not see any passerine migrant movement in the morning, which was somewhat surprising. Three Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flew upriver early, haven't been seeing any around lately. Saw the red-backed male Painted Bunting (and 2 greenies) which looks like the one photographed a few weeks ago. Same green frame on sides of a big red back patch. More molted and paler below though. Was out there without the camera though so no shots. Couple Orchard Oriole went through in the afternoon. At dark I saw my first two 'fall' firefly of the season. Haven't seen any since early in June.

~ ~ ~ July summary ~ ~ ~

It was a hot and dry month for the most part. We had 2.5" of rain the 4th to 9th, and then about .35 of an inch on the 31st. So just under 3" total. We remain in D1 level drought, but it seems worse than that biologically speaking. Very few flowers and butterflies, very few insects. Lots of young birds out though many species seemed to have small broods, especially insectivores, often only one or two young. Those using feeders and seed which were well fed had bigger broods. Many things seem to have quit early, likely due to the lack of rain = bugs.

Butterflies were weak. About 49 species, and overall very low numbers, almost nothing unusual whatsoever. No Viceroy still this year. Did see Southern Skipperling, a couple Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak, False Duskywing, a Bronze Roadside-skipper (at Lost Maples), and a couple unknown Amblyscrites sps. there too, Celia's Roadside-Skpr here at the hovel. Saw a few Red-spotted Purple. Besides Fatal and Rounded, I had one Metalmark that was not, and surely Rawson's. Very few flowers with nectar. Buttonbush was the best thing going.

About 31 sps. of Odes with a couple good ones made up for the weak butterflies. If worked harder I am sure one would have seen 35+ sps. locally. This is almost by accident while birding and butterflying, not dedicated ode searching. The 4 usual July migrants started showing in small groups: Wandering and Spot-winged Glider, and Black, and Red, Saddlebags. The UvCo highlight was a Slaty Skimmer at Utopia Park (ph.) for my first local (upper Sabinal River drainage) record. It is perhaps the second UvCo record ever. It was there July 13-14. At the lower end, but not always around, a couple Red-tailed Pennant and a Carmine Skimmer were at Utopia Park.

Even rarer, at Lost Maples in BanCo there was an apparent Blue-faced Darner (Coryphaeschna adnexa) at the upper pond of the two main ones. Apparently will be a first for BanCo, if my poor photos show the critical features. A 'bridge' camera is not good for moving dragonflies. Also what appeared a Tawny Pennant was there which would too be new for BanCo. I have not had a chance to work on the pix I got yet, will correct these if ID in error.

It was about 90 sps. of birds for me locally this month, same as last month. The regular standard expected breeding assortment. I know of a few other sps. that were seen by others. And others no one saw. So there are a hundred plus sps. around. Oddly saw my first Dickcissel of the year this month, missed them this spring. Had a couple go through yard. July 3 saw an ad. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, probably the one seen in June. By the end of the month only a few Black-chinned Hummers are still here.

Painted Bunting peaked the third week of July, about the 16th to the 20th, when we had 7-8 daily in the yard. They bugged out early this year. Saw the first fall migrant Louisiana Waterthrush the 28th at Utopia Park, a Chuck-wills-widow was there the same day, a transient on the move, and my first ever seen in the park. A White-tailed Kite a few miles north of town in BanCo on the 31st was a great bird. Seeing Ringed Kingfisher at Lost Maples that same day was nice, my first one there, finally.

~ ~ ~ end July summary ~ ~ ~

July 31 ~ A balmy overnight, just over 75dF before 7 a.m., but shortly light northerly winds arrived from the tail end of a front in the Mississippi valley. We caught the edge of a band of rain that was mostly westward, and got about .35 or so of precip over an hour and the temp dropped to 70dF! Holy cow, a cold front on the last day of July! That is normal right? Then we had nice northerlies. Only about 77dF at noon. Amazing. Only got up to upper 80's for a high. Wonderful for a day. I would not be surprised to see a wave of birds behind this tomorrow. Time for an Upland Sandpiper, Rufous Hummer, Least Flycatcher, and other early-bird first fall migrants.

The birds loved it and were making lots of noise, bathing on wet leaves, etc., they seemed thrilled about it as we were. No dust for a day or two. Heard a Red-eyed Vireo in the yard, another transient. Saw a red-backed male Painted Bunting on the feeder, will have to see from the grab shot I got if it was one of the ones here earlier this month. Two greenie Painted Bunting, male Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak was here. Orchard Orio went through about noonish, another later. Heard the Bell's Vireo over in the corral again, so with the Yellow-throated and White-eyed, four species of vireos here today.

I saw one of the immature female Cardinals with a yellowish beak, need to get a pic. As they change from the juvenile black beak to the adult red beak there can be a week or two when the beak is fairly horn pale, then yellow, then orangish, before finally getting red. These get called (and entered into ebird as) Pyrrhuloxias because on them, the yellow bill is a key feature. This is why you cannot make proper identifications based on one field mark. You have to use a suite of characters, unless you absolutely see a mark known to be definitive. Since a Card can have a yellow bill for one week of its life, the yellow bill of a Pyrr is NOT a definitive mark.

Also Pyrr has a dark bill as a juvenile which turns light. This is why you should always triple check everything anyway, all the time, everytime and make sure multiple marks all match correctly to make a proper ID. Never use one mark. Their bills are shaped completely differently (Pyrrhuloxia is named for its rounded bill). So an ID on shape and structure of bill alone will always be correct regardless of color. Structure don't tell no lies, color can fool you. Such as now when there are juv. fem. Cards out there with yellowish bills, and juv. Pyrrhuloxias with dark bills like juv. Cardinals. I know of no summer Pyrr records locally except in ebird. We get them fall to spring, mostly it is a winter bird here.

July 30 ~ Only about 73dF for a low, and about 91dF at noon. Another hot one, was about 97dF in the shade at peak heat. Saw a male Painted Bunting fly across the yard, but never saw it on the seed or at the feeders. Only one greenie at a time today, maybe two birds at most. Not hearing the Blue Grosbeak sing anymore but the Yellow-throated Vireo still is. A Bell's Vireo sang from over in the corral, so still trolling going on with them. One Gnatcat went through. Saw a Bordered Patch butterfly which have been scarce, it came into sprayed water. Roadrunner walked right by me 8' away on the patio while I was sitting on back porch. Kathy had something fly over in the twilight I suspect was a Chuck-w-w.

July 29 ~ Got up early to get at least one July visit to Lost Maples in. Been too busy to get away lately, sometimes you just have to make some time for a hike. No matter how hot it is. Calling it dawn chorus now is an exaggeration, here at the house anyway. Vermilion Flycatcher was the primary song early at first light, some Chat and Yellow-throated Vireo. Very little else, the thrill is gone. No Painted Bunting song sure makes it quiet out there. For about 90 days there are 3-4 singing at once, all the time, from late April. It is a major part of the soundtrack outside. Fini. Until next late April.

Some Cave Swallows were on the powerline across from the post office sunning first thing early as we headed north through town before 8. A great bird was a White-tailed Kite on the way up-valley, in BanCo, just north of the W. Sabinal Rd. turnoff, heading west. It flew right over the road in front of us. No Scissor-tails the whole way up the valley from here.

Got to Maples shortly after 8 when office opens and while getting out of car at HQ a calling Ringed Kingfisher flew up the canyon over Hwy. 187 and turned around at the big incline just north of park entrance. My first one there in over a hundred visits, though I know others have gotten lucky. Pretty small tight creeks for RingKings up there. We went straight to the trailhead parking lot to try to beat the heat up the canyon. Right when we got out of the car the RingKing flew over calling again, flying up the main (Sab. Riv.) canyon, over the day use area towards the Maples Trail.

Betweeen HQ and the parking lot, slowly cruising the road I heard a group of begging juv. Yellow-throated Warbler, and a couple Olive Sparrow. Some juvenile Rufous-crowned Sparrows were at the feeding station, with ads., and more were up the trail. It was soooooo quiet for birdsong going up the canyon compared to the prior few months it was amazing. A little bit of song here and there, but not much. Still a few Indigo Bunting singing, saw one greenie Painted, no adults, a handful of Red-eyed Vireo and White-eyed Vireo singing, 3 Hutton's, but not one Yellow-throated Vireo was heard. A Blue Grosbeak looked like it was still involved in nesting. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was the most numerous of the migratory passerine nesters there, a dozen or so total, one family group of just fledged young. One Black-and-white Warbler sang a bit, sounded like a first summer bird to me. I heard one begging warbler event far up a hillside that surely was Golden-cheeked, but I couldn't see them. HQ said someone had one or some yesterday (28th) still. Heard a couple Louisiana Waterthrush chips, but did not see one. Heard a Black-capped Vireo way up a hillside. No Acadian Flycatcher (early for that), Ash-throats gone (normal for that), heard a bunch of Canyon Wrens, saw one well on cliff at the main pond, hunting the underside of an overhang, while hanging upside down with the ease of it being rightside up. A few Eastern Wood-Pewee still, heard two White-tipped Dove. Did not see a Zone-tail, heard only a Scrub-Jay. The bird of the day that got away was likely a Least Flycatcher I only saw for a moment. Would have been a first of fall. Have had them in latest July locally.

The water is low, very low, flowers were pitiful, only a few butterflies. Some Buttonbush is still going, but past peak, a few Snapdragon Vine, some Cedar Sage, and a few Texas Milkweed far up the canyon. Three Spicebush and a Pipevine were the only Swallowtails, a few Sleepy Orange, one Dogface, a Snout or three, same for Gulf Fritillary, two Red-spotted Purple were nice, a few Queens. There were a few Roadside-Skippers, one Bronze, and a couple I am not sure about. Finally got some better pix though. One Northern Cloudywing. Did I mention how dry it is? Bone dry. The crossing between the two ponds is the dryest I have ever seen it, there is no water above the road, that last little spot where it ponds up is dry. I wonder what eats the Witch Hazel? Something uses it as a larval foodplant. I couldn't see anything on it where it was ravaged.

As can happen in later summer, dragonfly activity picks up. Drought reduces available water and concentrates them wherever it is. Lots of the rarities here occur in drought periods. The fun thing is that no matter if you watch birds, butterflies, or odes, vagrants happen. The more you know the common stuff, the more likely you are to detect them. Stray waifs are some spice of life in natural history study. Mostly odes were just a few of the regular things, one setwing was so covered in mites its lower half looked red. Damselflies seemed few, but I didn't work hard for them. A Red-tailed Pennant is always good there, as were a dozen plus Wandering Glider, and a few Spot-winged, since in BanCo. In general it is too cool for them on the way up the canyon, and you are too hot to stop for all of them on the way down.

The highlight was at the second pond, I am pretty sure was a Blue-faced Darner (Coryphaeschna adnexa) patrolling and everything there was messin' with it. These were only first found in Texas along the Rio Grande about 2004, and then scarcely from 2009 and after. The first ones found in Uvalde Co., were about Sept. to Nov. 2009 Ft. Inge. Kathy and I saw those that fall. but I have not heard of many north of the LRGV since then. I have thought I had them up here a couple times over 15 years but they always got away. I do not think there is a Bandera Co. record. So a pretty fancy beast of a bug.

I got one fuzzy shot of 50 that shows the blue face but have not had a chance to work and process the pix yet. Until these get overheated when they hide by hanging up in vegetation, the dang things do not land, or even hover in one place as many dragons do. They are constantly on the move, and they are fast. The other good dragon was probably a Tawny Pennant which do sit and let you take all the pics you want, no matter how long it takes you to get freakin' auto-focus to figure out what the subject is. Have I told you how I hate that lately? By time I got it to figure it out the bug moved to the shady side of the reed and I could not shoot the dorsal surface. But I think there are shots to get an ID from.

Heard a couple things slither away in the leaf litter that were likely Four-lined Skinks. They had that silky slithering skink sound to them. No herps seen though besides one Six-lined Racerunner. We got to the spring at high-water spot a mile past the ponds and took a shady sandwich and coffee break. Kathy seems to feed much of hers to the Mexican Tetras, creating a full blown fish boil. Again. There was a big exoskeleton (molted as they grow) from a spider of some sort which I photo'd and will send to my spider expert friend.

The animal interaction of the day was only positive for one of the members. I was watching some big yeller Texas sized Bumblebees on a Buttonbush. As one left a big Robberfly (Acilid) flew out and grabbed it, landing in adjacent tree foliage with it. The bee quit buzzing almost instantly, it was over. The Robberfly was much longer than the Bumble, with a thin abdomen, as in Promachus sps., very unlike the big fat fuzzy black and yellow bee mimic and bee-eating Mallophora sps. types. Got shots.

We were back down at about noonish, when 90dF or so, but hotter in sunny sections on the trail. About four hours and 4 miles. Saw an adult male Painted Bunting in the yard in the afternoon, the first one in four days. Only a couple greenies about the yard. At last light twice I saw a Chuck-w-w fly right over house low. Lots of bats out there still, a Red or two, a dozen Brazillian Freetail.

July 28 ~ Though KRVL and Seco Creek read upper 60's for a low I only saw 71dF here. Couple ea. Gnatcatcher and Orchard Orio went through yard southbound early. Heard the Pewee. Easing the pain of there being no ad. ma. Painted Bunting already, was a transient male Indigo Bunting on the patio eating millet. The local breeder male Blue Grosbeak landed very near it, blew my blue receptors out. Had to run to town briefly. Nothing at the library garden but a couple Queens (the butterfly), Little Yellow and a Fatal Metalmark. A line of 45 Porsches cruised through town. One Euro imported old racing model, maybe like 1960 Carrera was very nice. I forgot to mention a couple weeks ago I saw a group of a dozen Ferraris go down Main St. Either group could have probably bought the town?

The park was great fun though for just a few birds. Green Heron and Kingfisher, the latter of which was a juvenile (hatch-year bird). One juv. Painted Bunting up in the woods is a bird on the move. A first-of-fall migrant Louisiana Waterthrush is likely a fairly local breeder. Best was a Chuck-wills-widow I flushed up in the thick stuff in the woods. It landed in a willow, I lifted camera and it flew over into the dense stuff on the island and I lost it, just missed a shot. Dang I wish I could have spotted it on the ground before it flew. Harder to see than a Woodcock as the shape blends in to the leaf litter better. It is the first one I have flushed off the ground in the day in the park in 15 years. Heard them from the park at dusk and dawn, but never saw one on the ground in it. Red-tailed Pennant (dragonfly) was out over the pond.

Well Doc, this is how I blew my blue receptors out.
Blue Grosbeak in front, Indigo Bunting in rear, both males.
This does not begin to do justice to the instensity of blue.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

July 27 ~ I had to read the thermometer twice, figuring I must have died and gone to heaven, it was 64dF before 7 a.m.! KRVL also had 64, the WU Seco Creek station (which reads way too hot in the day) had a 62dF low! Might have been nearer 60 at Lost Maples! NOAA called for low to mid- 70's for lows, off by a category! In late July?

Early a Gnatcat went through, then a Pewee was out there, which could have been one hanging around. A Red-eyed Vireo was a passage transient though. No Painted Buntings. They usually are here to Aug. 7-10 or so, they bugged out way early, on the order of 10-14 days. Saw a female or juv. Blue Grosbeak with a white upper wingbar. Yellow-throated Vireo still singing. I think a major lack of insects (presumedly due to drought) has shut lots of the usual late summer nesting activity down.

Town run and park check. Green and Great Blue Heron at the park. Heard a Great Crested Flycatcher across the spillway. Water is dropping fast, looks about 8" below the overflow. Still Orange-striped Threadtail flying, and saw a Carmine Skimmer. Orange Skipperling, Fatal Metalmark and Julia's Skipper at library. For the third week in a row I had no Chimney Swifts over town. It is eerily quiet. Another sign of no bugs. No Scissor-tails going there and back as well. While some might say they wouldn't miss bugs, if you took the people off the planet, it would do fine. Remove the bugs and it and you, would not survive as we know it. Pesky as many may seem at times, the numbers of those you don't see that are doing you good are astronomical in comparison to the pesky few you notice.

July 26 ~ Wow, a 68dF low, 10dF lower than yesterday morning! Felt great to cool off. Gnatcat early. Did not see an adult male Painted Bunting in the morning, but some greenies still here. They are blowing out early this year. Too hot and dry for them. Did see a Barking Frog early, they are one of those neat, easy-to-hear-but-hard-to-see beasts. For several days now there have been flowers on the Mesquites from that last rain a couple weeks ago. Forgot to mention last week all the Cenizo around was in bloom from the rain as well, it was beautiful, the famous 'purple sage' that is not a sage. The well-named Old Man's Beard is also blooming well now, that white fuzzy lookin' stuff on the fencelines and hedgerows. Late afternoon I had a male Orchard Oriole go through yard southbound which stopped in the pecan 10 feet away and gave me a good lookin' over, which I joyfully returned.

Watched my pair of wild caught and reared Cyprinella sps. minnows spawn today, a whole new genus and group for my watched-em-spawn in my aquaria list (over 100 species). These are supposed to be Blacktail Shiner (C. venustus) but differ from prior ones I had that were absolutely those. Have to pull the male and photo now that he is in spawning colors.

July 25 ~ A full solid 78dF for a low, warmer than yesterday's warmest-so-far-this-year low. Too high for a low if you ask me. Was a cooler (!?!) 95dF today, so a break from the searing heat of the last few days. A Gnatcatcher or two in the a.m., couple more late afternoon. Maybe the same Eastern Wood-Pewee around. Blue Grosbeak still here and singing (nesting) as seems Chat, but the Painted Bunting are bugging out fast. The main male that sings from the big pecan right off the front porch is gone. I only saw 2 adult males today, and a half-dozen or so immatures. A week ago there were 8 adult males and over a dozen juveniles on the seed. It happens fast. We already passed peak Painted Bunnies. Common Nighthawk at last sun.

July 24 ~ A low of 77dF is our warmest so far of the year, after yesterday's hottest day of the year so far. I saw 101dF on the front porch in late afternoon. Had to be 105+ in the sun. Besides a Gnatcatcher a couple Orchard Oriole went through yard early, you would think it is late July. An Eastern Wood-Pewee was calling up in the big pecan, then later an Ash-throated Flycatcher was there. Saw one of the ad. Yellow-throated Warblers at the bath. Couple more Gnatcats in the second half of the day. The Painted Buntings are buggin' out, obviouisly fewer birds around, especially adult males. No Chucks calling.

July 23 ~ Wow a 70dF low just before 7 a.m. felt great after yesterday. Today is progged to be peak heat of this round, they say. At around 5 p.m. I saw 102.5 dF on the cool shady front porch, so a few hotter in the sun, at least. I saw some local WU stations reporting 104-106dF, a 108 in Medina, etc. A couple stations in hot spots were over 110. It has been running 10-15dF above normal average daily highs (which is e.g., 93dF at KHDO Hondo). Which of course serves to dehydrate and exacerbate the drought issues. Japan broke its all time high temp record with 106dF today. Just a short while back I saw it was an unprecedented 44dF AT THE NORTH POLE! That won't keep an ice cap. Where will Santa go?

Gnatcatcher through yard southbound early morn. Saw one of the juv. Yellow-throated Warblers, now with some yellow on throat, at about 2-3 weeks out of the nest. Birdsong is really quieting down out there and it is not just the heat. For many species the nesting season is over. Brown-headed Cowbirds numbers are down, they are bugging out now. Bronzed Cowbird stays to predate the late summer nesters. For all the juvenile birds around the yard we get amazingly few attended cowbird juvies. They stray here from elsewhere, but are not being attended by the local breeders.

Later evening Kathy caught another Triatoma (Kissing Bug, aka Blood-sucking Conenose - Reduviadae) in the house, the third one so far this year. Brings me the bug in a jar, is she great or what?   :)   Took it out and killed it. Then over in the cottage I found one caught and dead in a little tiny spiders web, so fourth of the year. The one bug that seems up in numbers, is not a desirable one.

July 22 ~ A low of 76dF bodes well for the day - not. That is the warmest low so far this year. Was 90dF at noon, 99 at 3 p.m. That is on the cool shady front porch, it was low huns in sun. A juv. Yellow-breasted Chat was in yard mid-morn, so they got another young out, and seemingly another one-young brood. An Eastern Wood-Pewee was flycatching around yard an hour or so mid-morn as well. Male Blue Grosbeak still here on the seed, bunch of Painted Bunnies, another one with some yellow and pale spots in areas different from the other yellower one. At last light I saw a Chuck-w-w fly across the yard but did not hear one.

Went for a swim in the peak heat hour, sure breaks it up to cool off. Spent a little while and caught 5 young smaller minnows with large dipnets (2 at once method). The big ones with red in fins (Mexican Tetras) were staying too deep for my seine, where the water is cooler. Now back home and in a tank I see they are all Blacktail Shiners (Cyprinella venusta). I am amazed at how starved they are, there must be little to nothing to eat in the river here. In the fish biz we would call their bellies nearly pinched, with no fat whatsoever.

July 21 ~ We briefly hit 71dF at about 6:45 a.m., but it didn't last. Couple Gnatcatchers and an Orchard Oriole went through early. Field Sparrow doing funny trill noises unlike the standard song, bubbly, almost wrenish. In the afternoon there was a Black-and-white Warbler on the big pecan right off the front porch. Heard a Great Crested Flycatcher. I saw several stations in the DFW area reported 109dF today as did Hondo (KHDO). We had 98dF on the cool front porch, so low huns in the sun. I keep forgetting to mention, this years young male immature Black-chinned Hummingbirds, now nearing 80-90 days old are starting to show some dark feathers in the throat. I have been seeing it for about 7-10 days now. Heard Common Nighthawk at dusk, but no Chucks.

Slaty Skimmer
Here is the Slaty Skimmer at Utopia Park on July 14, 2018,
which appears to perhaps be the second Uvalde. Co. record.
Tripp Davenport found the first at Cook's Slough, Uvalde, in 2009.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

July 20 ~ Low of 73dF, About 98 at 3 p.m. in the cool shady parts, over a hun in the sun. A couple Gnatcatcher went through yard in the morning, better was a Red-eyed Vireo, another post-breeding wanderer. Doing some bubbling trill weird sounds. Did my town run for supplies, where Zone-tailed Hawk. Little Creek Larry said someone told him they saw a black colored Hawk take a Hummingbird! Surely was a Zoney. Musta had a sweet tooth. He also mentioned he saw a couple Western Kingbirds, and a male Ruby-throated Hummer this week. I have twice had mid-July adult male Ruby-throats here. Latest July or early August is typical fall return. Some quit early and get a headstart back. No Chuck-w-w calling at last light.

In the park there was Green Kingfisher and Green Heron, the juv. Eastern Wood-Pewee that fledged there was still there, eating a big brown Katydid on the same branch I photo'd it on two weeks ago. A male Painted Bunting in the woods is a transient, they don't nest there. A couple of the juv. Common Grackles that fledged there were still in the willows. Heard a Downy Woodpecker call from across the river, very rare in summer here, I presume the male that has been around off and on a bit.

The Slaty Skimmer dragonfly was gone, the pewees probably ate it. Orange-striped Threadtails were 8-10' up in the Mulberries. One Texan Crescent (lep) in the woods. A guy had a 5 lb.+ Largemouth Bass on a stringer, and a nice school of Mexican Tetra was there too. We only get those in the pond when the river is very low. Water is not going over the spillway now, which is the great measure of if we need more rain very badly. Means the water table is way low.

The Library butterfly garden had a Vesta Crescent butterfly, again no Brazillian Skipper after the late June sighting. Was still hoping to get a photo of one in focus. Oh well. Singing Bell's Vireo and a juv. White-eyed Vireo there. Lots of flowers and it looks great, finally, hope they don't butcher it again. They often cut too much, and some things at not the right time. As if it is done because of a day on the calendar, its that time again, not based on what needs to be done when. And they just need a big pile of cuttings to show for it.

July 19 ~ Thursday at the desk and monitor. So here is an idea of the days temps. Before 7 a.m. it was 73dF for a low, hit 82 around 10:20, 90 by noon, and at 4 p.m. it was 98 on the cool shady front porch, over a hun in the sun. About 9 p.m. it drops below 90dF so 9 hours or so of real hot. They are calling for Sun.-Mon. to be peak heat with this session, so it will go up a bit yet over the weekend into Monday. Gadzooks! No rain in sight, the sub-tropical high is also preventing the usual morning low clouds from the Gulf getting here. After the first few nice hours, mostly I just go out and toss seed every few hours, and get back inside.

Still two begging Yellow-throated Warbler out there early, and the two each begging Vermilion Flycatcher, and Carolina Wren, but just seeing one Bewick's beggar. We are covered in baby birds. Over a dozen each of just fledged young around of Cardinal, Painted Bunting, House Finch, and Lark Sparrow, and a half-dozen Chipping Sparrow juvies. Well yer tax judge honor, they seemed like dependents... There was 50 of 'em. Heard a Chuck unenthusiastically call 6 times and quit.

The adult male Black-chinned Hummingbird numbers are way down, they are blowing out. Lots of the females and immatures seem to be leaving as well. Still good numbers but not like it was two weeks ago, and much lower numbers of ad. males. We are entering the prime time window for something good, or at least something else. I am probably very close to a hundred pounds of sugar so far this year. By keeping it down to four feeders (32 often full ports), averaging about 5 lbs. per week. Put me down for a couple hundred more dependents.

July 18 ~ The 72dF felt better for a low, but it got hot, was 96dF on the cool shady front porch, surely the hot patio was over a hundred. I saw the KHDO station reported 111! Covered in baby birds of all manner. The Summer Tanager was singing after a couple weeks of just begging young (that seem kicked out of the territory now), so will likely attempt breeding again. Saw a Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak on the Frogfruit. Wed. so busy with work at the desk.

Bare-eyed a funky weird vireo I couldn't name right away, so I just grabbed some docushots quickly, which was a good thing, it soon bolted. But now at least I have something to study later. In birding, shoot first and ask questions later is the proper approach and thing to do if and when seeing anything whatsoever out of the norm. You might not need to know what it is right now, as badly as you might need to prove what it was later. Because if it was anything rare, there are guys waiting to say "no it wasn't". Shoot first, ask questions later, then you can study it as long as you want. Now with the magic of mega-pixels, and a better study than I could obtain trying to see it at the time, I see it is an incredibly worn Yellow-throated Vireo with absolutely no wingbars left! All dark wings.

No wonder I could not put it together bare-eyed. This bird could really throw people. Likely the local adult female breeder. The tail is so worn and frayed in California they would call it a cage bird. Generally since the female does most of the incubating it is the one that shows the extreme tail wear this time of year after probably doing at least two if not three rounds of incubating by now.

July 17 ~ 75 to 95dF in the shade for a temp range today. Amazing how long this set of Yellow-throated Warbler young are being allowed to hang and beg. Early broods get booted to the curb in a few days as the parents are anxious to do it again. Later season young get more time with the parents, and probably have higher survival rates. These like the recent Summer Tanager young begged and got attended for two weeks. Both of these first broods were kicked out of the territory in a week. I have seen the same thing with Wrens, Carolina in particular. First set gets a couple days, last set, weeks. In different butterflies (besides the common) I saw an Orange Skipperling, and a fresh Olive Juniper Hairstreak, of the flavor WITHOUT the white basal spots as most are here. These are a different type. Kathy saw a crescent of some sort, probably Vesta.

July 16 ~ Hot and hazy. Low about 75, high over 95dF, and one of the hazier days I have seen here, due to Saharan dust! For those that don't think we are all connected on this blue marble. The begging Yellow-throated Warblers are still squawking incessantly. Field Sparrow still singing, I saw it briefly on the patio. Gnatcatcher went by. Heard a warbler flight note several times that surely was a Golden-cheeked but I could not pick it up as moved through the dense trees. At the last seed-eating frenzy I counted 7 adult male Painted Bunting at once, none were the the red-backed bird, so at least 8 are around, since I saw it earlier today. Heard two Chuck-wills-widow briefly at the last crack of light.

Too hot to hang outside, so you get some random thoughts and ideas. Warning, thoughts and ideas ahead! Besides seeing the red-backed male Painted Bunting again, I saw a couple with many pale areas where red feathers have molted away, as well as one with a fair bit of yellow on the underparts, of which I got photos and will post one. Often when red underparts molt they expose pale bases of remaining feathers which are normally all covered. So the overall effect is a much paler bird. Sometimes the so many pale feather bases are exposed to create entirely pale-spotted underparts, or ones that are fairly evenly dull pinkish red.

Many don't realize the variation in a species, even one seemingly as straightforward and simple as a Painted Bunting. Then add the variation over the year from feather wear. Sure you can still ID it, but it looks totally different if you observe details closely. For most birds the field guides show one type, a perfect one, an average one, and typically a bright male at max color. Not a worn one. Not a dull one, not a molting one that looks rode hard and put up wet, not all the variations.

In Painted Buntings for instance one would be hard pressed to find a field guide in the last century that mentions the males with bright neon sun YELLOW underparts and eyering (replacing the red). Painted Buntings seem to have 2 plumages in the books, green and the fancy adult male. Reality is there are at least 3 types of adult male plumages (4 counting the red-backed ones!), 3 types of first-spring male plumages, female, and juvenile plumage, at least, (I think there are 2 juv. plumages, perhaps sexable) but anyway EIGHT plumages at minimum, maybe 10, whilst field guides show two. So if you want to really learn and know the birds, you have to do that yourself once you get past the basic identification the field guides are for.

Lots of red birds are now getting very pale and speckled with pale areas below as they molt. Besides noticeably dull male Painted Buntings, Cardinals too are nearing their dullest, some are amazingly worn and dull now. Vermilion Flycatcher as well are much duller red now, showing some pale areas where underparts are molting. This is standard on red birds in later summer to early fall when they molt their body feathers. They actually wear into their brightest plumage, timed to be during mate selection, in early spring. After the wear and tear of nesting the feathers need replacing, which can be quite worn and dull. The difference is tremendous, going from knock your eyes out flaming neon red, to dull pinkish red with dirty white areas everywhere.

July 15 ~ A 75dF low was not very. The juv. Yellow-throated Warblers still begging and being attended around yard as. are the two juv. Carolina Wrens. I was standing on the back porch and a fledgling Bewick's Wren flew up to me and landed on my camo cargo shorts. Looked like a bush. Field Sparrow singing just over north fence toward draw, I suspect it is nesting very near now. Not seeing the Scott's Orioles. Generally they bring young to the feeder, and when they disappear without notice, they got predated. Did not hear a Chuck at dusk, methinks they are done.

Went for a swim in the afternoon, had two Green Kingfisher at the river. Had a great time with nearly 100 Mexican Tetras. Forgot my seine, dipnets and fish catching bucket. You have, eh? A sunfish of some sort swam up to me and tried to take a piece away, it was little 3" job, a yearling with an attitude, not a breeder defending nest. Saw a grass carp too, which suck, a non-native that should not be allowed in waterways. I don't trust the sterile claims, and they destroy fish fry and dragonfly and other insect larva hiding places by eating all the vegetation. This upsets the balance of nature. It is not a no consequence act, they do not just remove vegetation. They remove all that lives in and with it.

Why is it that man still thinks they can fix or improve everything? Sometimes by introducing non-native alien species!?! Have none noticed the track record for that? If you think the ecosystem is better off with non-native Nutria or Grass Carp, you should not be allowed to play with the environment. Yes it does affect us all, less baby fish in the shallows, and less dragonflies and damselflies means more mosquitoes. Less mayflies means lower survival rates of wintering birds, which eat your worms and weed seeds. Everything is connected. Tug on a strand in the web of life and you will find everything is connected. Don't fool with mother nature. There is this thing called the balance of nature. Non-native alien introductions invariably upset it. See Australia or Hawai'i, or a pure Guadalupe Bass if you can find one.

July 14 ~ About 74dF for a low, and last several days no morning clouds so straight to solar heating early. I had to run to town so went back to the park despite the zoo of people. Gnatcatcher in the a.m., and heard a Dickcissel. My pix of the Slaty Skimmer yesterday were blown out, burnt with overexposure, the gray bug looked white. The miracles of digital sensors and imagery. Luckily it was still there on the same twig, and I got some shots that show it is gray. Nice beast. I can think of a couple dozen birds I saw that I wish were on the same twig the next day for photos! The library garden is looking pretty lush now for butterflies. Here at the hovel nothing different. Yellow-throated Warblers still attending the two young in the yard. Two new fledgling Vermilion Flycs, so more of them out too. Saw two big Tom Turkey over in the corral. The Carolina Wrens have two new begging just-fledged young in tow now.

Painted Bunting
Here is another variation you might see in Painted Buntings that
is not well-illustrated in the field guides, those that show
yellow on underparts. There is a very rare type where yellow
replaces all the red including eyering. These partially yellow
ones are more regular, but I only see these in late summer when
body molt occurs. I do not see this type in spring or early breeding
season, but there are some like this every late summer to fall.
In California the bird record cops say anything but immaculate red
is discolored - probably due to diet from captivity. These are
obviously wild, normal, natural, and not cagebirds. They are not
discolored, it is not due to diet, or captivity. Variations of this is
a normal plumage I see seasonally year after year in a few birds.

~ ~ ~

P.S. I replaced the photo break below with 2 male Painted Bunting
at the feeder with an image not taken through the screen door.

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

July 13 ~ Happy Friday the 13th! Hope you had a good one! Low of 73dF, the party is over, back to the heat. After this weekend we are at the half-way point of climatological summer, which is June, July and August. The dog days lie ahead. Six weeks down, six to go. Which of course the back side heat runs closer to 8 weeks, to mid Sept., but if we get lucky and start getting fronts early, the heat is broken, and days are way shorter. Saw my first of year juvenile Cooper's Hawk this morning, one big female.

Don't think I mentioned this year the bank apparently washed away the Cave Swallow nests as they were getting going so they are not there this year. A few are around, but that colony is not happening. Bummer. I checked the butterfly garden at the library hoping to refind the Brazillian Skipper since my photos were out of focus two weeks ago, no such luck. Did have Rounded, Fatal, and a likely Rawson's, in Metalmarks, all on Zexmenia. One Large Orange Sulphur, and a Celia's Roadside-Skipper which is scarce there.

The park was overrun with hominids. The adult and 3 juvie Common Grackle are gone. Had both adult Green Heron up on island, both out in day seperately means they have young to feed. Saw one juv. Green Kingfisher, first juvie I have seen this year. Best though was a new dragonfly for my upper Sabinal drainage and Utopia Park lists, a Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta), which is a rary in Uvalde Co. Only a handful of records. So a dragon saved the day. Pays to have varied interests, you never know if the lep, ode, or bird is going to be the highlight that makes your stop and walk. The more interests one has, the better odds of having a highlight. Usually with those three, every stop or walk will be good. Because those are the three most obvious easy to see and learn things.

July 12 ~ Third day in a row, 69 dF for a low, feels great. The Yellow-throated Warblers are still feeding their two pre-Yellow-throated young around the yard. Two male and a female Blue Grosbeak on the seed, they are still breeding, yesterday a male landed on the seed tube which I have never seen before. They are very ginchy about people. Couple more new Chipping Sparrow fledglings, more new Lark Sparrow and Painted Bunting juvies too. Been tossing an extra cup of seed the last hour of sun so they can all pig out one more time. One rather unenthusiastic Chuck calling at last light. Lots of bats though.

July 11 ~ Another 69dF low is fantastic. Makes a big difference starting out just a few degrees cooler in the morning. Great-tailed Grackle in town. The Yellow-throated Warbler babies (2) are still being fed and attended around the yard. A couple Gnatcats went through, and an Orchard Oriole. Heard a distant Great Crest, maybe with the rain they will nest again. Five male Painted Bunting at once on the patio sure makes a nice view. I was stuck out front and couldn't move without flushing them so could not see out back if any or how many were on that seed. I was in shower at Chuck calling prime time, which is down to about a 2 minute window now, so missed them tonight. They are worn out and about done.

July 10 ~ The 69dF low felt great. Back up to 90dF today, the break was nice while it lasted. Here comes the heat. Heard Ringed Kingfisher early over at the river. Also had a few Chimney Swift flying over low early, and a pair at dusk. Birds were the same gang, didn't get much chance to look around but once an hour checks of the yard and there was just the usual suspects. Sure wish the sound of all these hummers would bring something besides the couple or few hundred Black-chinned in. Tis the season for a vagrant hummer. Rufous usually show up in later July, often one of the first long-distance migrants we get back. Time to start paying attention, listen for something different sounding. Two Chucks called at dusk.

July 9 ~ We hit the jackpot this morning with some bands of rain, totalling about 1.1"! This brings us to a total of about 2.5" since the 4th. Totals are very spotty here though, some got an inch more, others an inch less, just up or down valley a bit. Anyway at least we got something in the ground this last week! I will have a couple acres to mow again in a couple weeks is the downside.

A couple new just-fledged juvie White-eyed Vireo were begging around the yard with parent in the morning. At least one Orchard Oriole, but may well have been two. Another Gnatcatcher went through southward in a.m., another late p.m., Yellow-throated Warblers still feeding begging young around the yard as well. A Frogfruit patch in the driveway had 6 Reakirt's Blues and my FOY Southern Skipperling on it in the afternoon (leps). Heard a couple Chucks at dusk, and a Common Nighthawk.

July 8 ~ Only 72dF for a low, mixed clouds and sun, humid, supposed to rain. Gnatcatcher out there early. Before noon we had a quick little shower, a couple more later afternoon, maybe a tenth of an inch. Outflows kept it in the 80's all day, a nice break from the heat. Couple Orchard Orioles went through yard in afternoon. Heard a Hutton's Vireo over in the corral. The rest was the breeders. Saw a Cardinal get a Cicada, geez that must be loud in the head when you have one in your beak and they are buzzing. Celia's Roadside-Skipper on a Wild Petunia. In the afternoon I heard the or another Dickcissel up in the pecans. Had an Eastern Wood-Pewee too. Must be some 'worms' (caterpillars) up there now. We worked on stuff here, last day of the big holiday week. The local recreation sites will be cleared out comparatively after today and much less busy until Labor Day weekend.

July 7 ~ Weewow 68dF for a low! Amazing! And NE flow. In July. Holy cow. Only Chuck and Chat making noise at 6:a.m., Vermilion Flycatcher next but they can sing off and on all night. Blue Grosbeak was the first diurnal singer to go off. Couple Gnatcatchers went through over the day. Still baby Yellow-throated Warblers begging and being fed around yard. Kathy spotted the Indigo Snake at the bath, I got a couple shots methinks. Couple good butterflies were Orange Skipperling and False Duskywing, both of which I did not see in June. A couple rain cells missed us but some nearby areas got some precip, and we stayed below 90dF for the day. Nearing dusk Common Nighthawk boomed a couple times, haven't heard that in a while, maybe they will nest again now after the rains. Rain in later June and early July is what determines additional nesting attempts for many species here. Rain = flowers = bugs. A Chuck-wills-widow flew across yard while light enough still to see it well.

Painted Bunting
Ever see one of the red-backed Painted Bunting males?
They are around, one of 7 males now in yard is one.
I see at couple or few at least every year. I do not know
what the story is with them, just that they are, and neat
looking. I hate to lose that green I love, but still nice.
You should get an extra point for every plumage type you see.
Then you find out who the real sluggers are. Got one of the
bright yellow below adult males? 'Nother point.   ;)

~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

July 6 ~ The 70dF low feels great. A band of rain just SE missed us here in the morning, but the cloud shield kept the sun and heat at bay. Orchard Oriole and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher through yard in a.m., must be July. From 11 to noon we had a nice light shower, with about a half-inch of precipitation! So we are at 1.35-40 or so for the last three days. More termite emergences, Cardinal, Mocker, and Chickadee are all what I would grade as very poor at the flycatching thing, they manage but it requires much effort. None do the bombing runs Carolina Wren makes, seemingly hoping to miraculously collide with something.

Town run for supplies was late though as I wanted to be able to check the park so waited for rain to pass, I thought. Devil fools with the best laid plans. I got rained on at the library garden and at the park, saw just about nuthin'. Heard a Green Heron and saw a Green Kingfisher, that was it. Lot of water in the driveways in town. E. Pewee in the yard later afternoon, Yellow-throated Warbler still feeding young here too. A few more spritzes in afternoon, one cell may have hit town, another cell was southeast of us, and another looked like it hit Lost Maples. We can hope. Nearing last sun my FOY juvenile Bell's Vireo moved through, northward. One of the nice colorful ones. A Common Nighthawk flew by at dusk.

Turned porch light on to see if any bugs. Nope. It is astoundingly devoid of insects out there. Scary. Couple June Bugs (that lost their calendars), a moth, couple little things, pitiful. Another Triatoma sps. (kissing bug aka Blood-sucking Conenose - Reduviadae) which was dispatched to the great packrat nest in the sky. Did have in the day a Tawny Emperor butterfly.

July 5 ~ Heard a little rain overnight. Woke up to 70dF and five-eighths of an inch of new rain to add to the quarter inch we got late yesterday! So seven-eighths so far and misting and drizzling a bit still. We needed this badly. The birds are happy too, rain initiates ground-termite emergences. Saw a Common Nighthawk fly by in the misty drizzle in a.m. taking termites. Golden-fronted Woodpeckers were actively taking the termites too. Got up to mid-80's late afternoon when the sun came out, so pretty sticky. Did hear a Chuck at last light in the evening. Kathy spotted a big Prionus Cerambycid beetle under the porch roof (ph.).

Amazing was my first Dickcissel of the year, after missing them in spring for the first time in 15 years. It is likely either a fledged juvenile, or post-breeding wandering adult. Two were reported on the Breeding Bird Survey on UvCo 361, 4-5 mi. SSW of town, I think in late May or early June. Those are the only I know of this year locally. They are absent from all the usual sites this year like 360, 354, all along 187, etc. It was around all morning, I heard and saw it 3-4 times up to noonish but never well enough to age, just bare-eyed in bad light up in the pecans. Saw a or the Black-n-white Warbler again. It could be the same bird hanging out. We had a singing first-year male summer here once.

July 4 ~ Happy Independence Day! Funny how we celebrate a revolution while generally wanting everyone to maintain status quo and stay in line with the program. Had a Black-n-white Warbler at the bath early, which is likely the one I had at last sun last night. Maybe this is a post-breeding wanderer hanging out for the water? Not seeing the Cuckoo, I suspect it fledged a young, as they disappear shortly (as in immediately) after.

Amazing was a bit of rain about 5:15 p.m., a low coming from the east, moving west. Was off Louisiana a couple days ago, gave Houston 2.5 to 5" today. It took the heat off right at peak, it went from 97 to 77dF in a half hour. Might kill the dust for a couple days. About a quarter inch the first hour and change and at this point thrilling. Lots of birds went to singing, and bathing, in the rain. Those wingpits hadn't been wet in way too long. After dark it was clear the Barking Frogs approved as well.

July 3 ~ About 75dF for a low and not much for morning clouds, a hot one. Heard a Ringed Kingfisher over at river early, which I have not been hearing the last month since it fledged two young. Must go somewhere to ditch the young, I missed it in June. Heard Orchard Orio out there again. Mid-day a Black-and-white Warbler moved around the yard. Boatloads of baby seedeaters out there, going through lots of seed. Only counted 6 male Painted Bunting at once today, but they are hard to see in the bushes where we throw seed out back.

At last sun there was begging baby Yellow-throated Warbler being fed by an adult in the Pecan and Hackberry. At dusk I was on the front porch and heard and then saw an adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron flying downriver seemingly coming from the pond behind the Barham's place, where I saw one going into a few weeks ago, surely the same bird. A great 'sittin' on the porch' bird.

July 2 ~ Low of 73dF was a little better, but not much. Not much for morning clouds either. In a.m. heard singing the Indigo Bunting across road in draw, an Eastern Wood-Pewee and an Orchard oriole in the yard, and a Field Sparrow over at the draw, which was on patio later. Didn't see the Oriole to age it, was in the big thick hackberry. Probably that trolling first summer male I have seen off and on lately. Saw a Gray Fox out back.

Some more new Lesser Golfinch juveniles to go with all the other juvies out there. Caught the Roadrunner seemingly stalking the juvie pile on the patio. There are two dozen mixed juveniles of Lark Sparrow, House Finch, Painted Bunting, and Chipping Sparrow out there. So I flushed the Roadrunner away, like just another unwanted bird already on your list. Of course I felt guilty but I also know it would take a juvie Painted Bunting before a juvie House Finch. We had one once taking hummers at the feeders up on Seco Ridge, had to move the feeders. They live on Chippies all winter here.

Around mid-afternoon I had 5 adult male Painted Bunting at once again outside. Shortly after 7 p.m. there were SEVEN adult males at once outside on the seed! Looks like party confetti out there. Plus more than twice as many greenies - females and immatures. I may have to rest the color receptors in my eyes now. Just before last sun I saw a Ringtail (Cacomistle) over in the corral. To be out in the day in this heat, it must have young to feed would be my guess. Heard one distant fairly un-enthusiastic Chuck-wills-widow at dusk. They are about done calling for the year.

July 1 ~ Well that was a quick first half of a year, eh? I am just barely used to writing 18, and it is July!?!?! For a temp spread today We ran about 75dF to 98! A hot one. Didn't see anything unusual or different around today. We went for a swim in the afternoon peak heat to cool off. Over at river had singing Blue Grosbeak, more begging young Summer Tanager, Scissor-tails, couple Pewee, the usual assortment. Kathy found a school of about 75 Mexican Tetra which we hung around a while, a few were 3"+! A nice native! Here at the hovel at varying times I saw 3 and 4 male Painted Bunting at once. The pair of Scott's Orios hitting the hummer feeder lots, must have young in nest. Haven't been seeing the Hooded much lately though.

Above is 2018 (besides prior end-of-year summary)

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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 XXIX
January 1, 2018 - June 30, 2018

Bird News Archive XXVIII
July 1, 2017 - December 31, 2017

Bird News Archive XXVII
January 1, 2017 - June 30, 2017

Bird News Archive XXVI
July 1, 2016 - December 31, 2016 (July through November so far)

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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