Bird (and nature) News Archive # 41
Jan. 1 to June 30, 2024
Old Bird News XXXXI

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 XXXXI (#41) ~ Jan. 1 - June 30, 2024

.... in reverse chronological order, unless you scroll to end and read from the bottom up.
BIRD & NATURE NEWS 2024

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. Usually a few daily yard notes is all the drivel you get. Ready, steady, go!



Jan. 1 to June 30, 2024
(through March so far)

Read from bottom up to view in chronological order.

~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ the old news ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ March summary ~ ~ ~

It was on the dry side, but at least had a little rain. River is much higher than a month and two ago, but still not going over spillway at park at end of month. We remain at D2 (severe) level drought. Rain totals vary greatly, incredibly locally here. We only had 1.25" all month. Average is around 3". This no doubt reduced the flower show so far.

Pretty sure it is the first March in 20 in which I did not see an ode of any sort: NO dragonfly or damselfly. Butterflies picked up over the month as expected with some warmth and the first few blooming wildflowers. Spring is not a time for rare types, just great to see everything flying again, especially the ephemeral early spring-only fliers like Elfin and Orangetip. Only three northbound Monarch seen in March. It was 24 species of butterflies over the month.

Birds were of the expected types as well. In March we see departures of wintering birds and arrivals of the early neo-tropical migrants returning for breeding, or passing through to nesting grounds far northward. Mostly all quite predictable. The only unusual bird was a Couch's Kingbird early on March 15. Many things were tardy, behind schedule, like Barn Swallow, Turkey Vulture, and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I saw about 62 species over the month. With hardly looking outside yard or park.

~ ~ ~ end March summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ March update header archive copy ~ ~ ~

March ~ Oh boy, a whole month of FOS birds. My FOS Purple Martin was on the 1st at Utopia Park. Kathy heard FOS northbound Sandhill Cranes also on the 1st. My FOS Hummingbird was a male Black-chinned on the 2nd. My first Mountain Laurel flower was also the 2nd. The 4th produced my FOS Vermilion Flycatcher. The 6th saw FOS White-eyed Vireo, at least two Pine Siskin, and Henry's Elfin (butterfly). The 12th my FOS Yellow-throated Warbler was singing along the river. Later on 12th I had FOS Northern Rough-winged Swallow, though thought I heard some a week ago. Finally the 13th I saw my FOS (3) Turkey Vulture. The 14th heard my FOS Ash-throated Flycatcher. The 15th provided my FOS Yellow-throated Vireo at the park. Also the 15th, had a FOS Couch's Kingbird calling out front and in corral and which was present on the 22nd again. The 17th had a FOS Blue-gray Gmnatcatcher. On the 23rd there was FOS Lark Sparrow and Barn Swallow. The 29th had my FOS Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, and Bell's Vireo (5!), both in town. The 30th were FOS Nashville Warbler and Clay-colored Sparrow.

~ ~ ~ end archive copy March update header ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ back to the daily drivel ~ ~ ~

March 31 ~ Flatlined around 64F all night, some mist in morning. Late afternoon got partially sunny and 82F or so. Thought I saw a Giant Swallowtail blast past. Lyside Sulphur numbers are a couple dozen per day going by mostly to the NE. Cooper's Hawk made a couple dives on things. Might be a dozen Chipping Sparrow left, tops. Nice to hear them sing, plain as it is, it is perfect. Heard the pair of Red-tailed Hawk over at the river in the area they nest. Also a pair of Red-shouldered Hawk are noisy nearby every morning. Not getting why I am not seeing hardly any Turkey or Black Vulture. Even if one of a pair is incubating, we normally have numbers overhead every day. Almost no TV's, and very few Black.

March 30 ~ Flatlined around 62F all night. Not very low. Mostly cloudy and breezy all day. Thought I heard Nashville Warbler outside (calls not song), and Kathy thought shee saw one maybe two at the birdbath. Probably will put it down as the FOS. Also heard what surely were a couple Clay-colored Sparrow flight notes out there. Been hearing it and or them most of the last 5 days or so. N. Rough-winged Swallows overhead. Some calm and sunny would be nice for a change.

lazydaisy

This is methinks Lazy Daisy. The flowers of Prairie Fleabane look about the same. Pretty sure this is Lazy Daisy, as they do not open until later morning (their lazy trait). They are a low ground cover, often in patches of a hundred or two, in sunny somewhat dusturbed ground.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 29 ~ I think we were about 55F for a low. Another windy day and a town run. Ruby-crowned Kinglet in yard first thing. Out by gate was my FOY White Rock-Lettuce flower, and a big patch of either Lazy Daisy or Prairie Fleabane opened up. Hundreds of little white daisies with yellow button centers. Finally saw my FOS Scissor-tailed Flycatcher by the big Pecan in the pasture east of the park ballfield, where a pair always nests. Around town I had five FOS Bell's Vireo. First one was the usual bird at the Post Office. Three more were in Hackberry rows around NW corner of town where always in spring-summer. Still did not see or hear a Barn Swallow on Main St. Incredible. At the park there was nothing new or different. Still have not seen a dragonfly. River has come up a bit and flow is better, but still not going over spillway at park. Saw some Texas Onion blooming in the woods. The Live-oaks are in bloom now.

Mar. 28 ~ Low about 40F, KERV had 39. Was too busy at the desk to look much. The dawn chorus of Cardinals is pretty impressive, I heard a half-dozen at once, at least. Did have 2 Lincoln's Sparrow. In butterflies saw a FOY Dun Skipper, some Checkered White, and a third Monarch of the spring (all in last 3 days). One Turkey Vulture at end of day flushed out of the big dead Pecan where it was going to roost apparently. Thought I heard Clay-colored Sparrow call (flight) notes (no song) which are obviously different from Chipping Sparrow.

Mar. 27 ~ Early morn some light rain showers were off and on from an upper level trough. Low was around 47F, but likely colder as KERV had a 42 in wee hours. We were about 50F just after sunrise. The record temp hi-low spread for today in SAT is 29-100F! Later in afternoon I saw a second Monarch after Kathy's first yesterday. Also a Common Checkered-Skipper. Bees are on the Straggler Daisy in the mornings. Some Tube-tongue opening up, a nice patch of Prairie Fleabane or Lazy Daisy going well.

Mar. 26 ~ Low about 45F, KERV had a 42F so we may have been cooler briefly. Does not seem to have been much for migrant movement last night. At least nothing here. Did have my FOS Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and a Cloudless Sulphur (butterflies). In the afternoon Kathy had a glimpse of what surely was a Monarch, and the FOY. It is the time for the northbound spring migrants coming out of Mexico to show up. Often we get one earlier, but a fair bit seems late this spring.

Mar. 25 ~ We got a brief band of rain overnight as the system went by, and a rain-cooled low of 53F. Morning was calm but the post-frontal blow got going to advisory levels for afternoon. Looks like about 17-18mm of precip, or about eleven sixteenths of an inch, just under three-quarters. A good soaking we needed since a dryish March. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher calling out there early. Wind blew hard all day, nothing new. The Red Harvester or Leaf-cutter ants are back out now after their winter underground. Walking off with the white millet. Saw my FOY Pipevine Swallowtail, though thought I have seen a few blow by. Today an adult, and a caterpillar looking for a place to pupate were seen.

Mar. 24 ~ Low about 58F, cloudy a bit of breeze. Our rain chances for today went way down overnight, but misting and wet out by mid-morn. So stayed in and dry. Always a mountain of things to do anyway. Was only 66F about 4 p.m., but bumped up to 71F last hour or two of light. Saw some FOY Crow-Poison flowers open. Heard Lark Sparrow again out back. Seems even fewer Chipping Sparrow around, most of the wintering birds have departed. Should be Clay-colored here any day (often FOS is at equinox).

Mar. 23 ~ Low maybe 47F, KERV had a quick 44. Was northerly all night. Was probably two different Blue-gray Gnatcatcher through yard in morn and noonish. One doing some sorta singing. Also heard Ruby-crowned Kinglet, one mid-morn, one after noon, probably two. After noon heard my FOS Lark Sparrow. Also heard FOS Barn Swallow go over, finally, in later afternoon. Sometime between 6 and 7:30 p.m. a Eurasian Collared-Dove was plucked out in the yard. Probably one of the Cooper's. Hawks. Have not seen a Sharpy for a couple weeks now. Daily singing Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireo are surely territorial, as are the couple Yellow-throated Warbler I hear singing. We worked on some yard and garden things. I got some fencing around the two Mealy Sage left and the Woolly Ironweed the deer keep eating. Kathy planted some stuff, mostly for vermin to eat is how it usually plays out.

mealysage

This is Mealy Sage. Deer ate our biggest one, all 3 dozen flower stalks!


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Mar. 22 ~ Maybe hit 52 early a.m. but was 54F by dawn. Some Dakota Verbena now showing purple in the yard. As I left for town the Couch's Kingbird was calling toward river across from the gate. It was gone all week and here it is again. Was late so missed a park check. P.O. said their Barn Swallow are not back yet, nor did I see any on Main St. Saw Leeann Sharp and she said she had a Baltimore Oriole already, which is very early so a good bird. Hardly see any Turkey Vulture around still. The Mesquite are exploding in spring green now. Was breezy from north today.

Mar. 21 ~ Flatlined about 58F for the night. A little mist and drizzle, it's wet out. Heard two Yellow-throated Vireo singing. Heard some swallows overhead that sounded like Bank, not N. Rough-winged to me. Would be early and did not see them so letting it go, but, those were not Rough-wing sounds. Higher, thinner, more metallic and sharp. Saw a Falcate Orangetip go by. Two FOY (first of year) flowers were an Estragalus sps. Vetch, as c.f. Deer Pea Vetch, and a few Prairie Fleabane. Both nice to see. A few White-eyed Vireo around.

Mar. 20 ~ Low was about 42F around 3 a.m. but was about 50F by dawn. Still overcast and very humid. I still hear two Lincoln's Spoarrow in the big pile of fallen Hackberry out front. One did some of that pre-song gibberish they do before they start actual real singing. A year or two ago one actually was singing here before it left. Mid-morn a Yellow-throated Vireo sang through yard. Second one this spring and first in yard. Mighta hit 62F, cool all day.

I can't believe what surely was a deer destroyed our best Mealy Sage overnight. Ate all the flower buds and leaves, the whole thing is just 30 stems now. Stripped bare. This will cost us butterflies in the immediate future. We had never had one eaten. With all the green grass and other stuff growing, they had skipped these before. Heartbreaking. No foot long spears of purple flowers now! A couple much smlller specimens are still OK so far.

Mar. 19 ~ Happy Spring! The equinox is here, the sun is over the equator. Due to Leap Year we get an early one. A post-frontal low of 45F was brisk, I do not think we hit 60F today. still lots of clouds and damp out. Lots of Cardinal song and hummingbirds (all Black-chinned so far). Not seeing anything new show up yet. Still under northerly flow. Need some warmth and southerlies. At least we got some rain the last few months so should get a bloom this year.

March 18 ~ Some post-frontal windage got going overnight, bringing some cooler air and a low of 52F. Off and on passing sprinkles over day and breezy so coolish and damp. With north winds last night I did not expect any migrant action. And there was not. Red-winged Blackbird still singing up in the top of the big now dead Pecan tree. The Titmice (Black-crested) are singing up a storm now too. Some Chipping Sparrow song here and there.

There is a big very old Hackberry out back that is losing branches too. We already lost the biggest Hackberry in the yard a couple years ago, this is the second biggest now. These two surely were old original climax specimens that had dodged all the cutting of the last hundred years. Finally going. This drought has been a killer. Between 20 and 25 of the last 35 years have been in severe, extreme, or exceptional (D2, D3, or D4) drought. These old trees grew up and lived in a different environment and climate than we have here now, and simply can't take the new hotter dryer one. It is one thing to see way over a hundred newly dead big old trees at Lost Maples in the last 20 years. It is another to lose the three biggest oldest in your yard (these two Hackberry and the Pecan).

March 17 ~ About 60F much of night, dipping to 59F briefly. Were some sprinkles, showers, but the brunt of nearby thundercells missed us. Enough to dampen ground and hold the dust down for a day or two maybe. In the morn a FOS Blue-gray Gnatcatcher moved thrugh yard calling, Psssss. like an air leak. Heard the lone Sandhill Crane flying around again. More mist and some sprinkles over the day so mostly only out there to toss seed. Mighta hit 64F, but not for long. Looks like 7-8mm or about five-sixteenths of an inch of precip for the whole event. Over a quarter but less than a third, of an inch. Good timing for the coming soon flowers.

Mar. 16 ~ Low in low 60's F with some sprinkles, mist, and drizzle much of the day. Heard Purple Martin, an Ash-throated Flycatcher, and a Yellow-throated Warbler, ahhh birdsong! In the afternoon I heard a Sandhill Crane fly over low, seeming to move from airstrip area to pastures across river. The Mealy Sage is growing bloom spears, I can't wait. Still a few Laurel flowers in yard in scent, but going to have to find some elsewhere soon. They finsih fast. We totalled just a few hundredths of an inch of precip over the day.

clouds

This is a photo of no significance whatsoever.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Mar. 15 ~ Flatlined at 69F all night. Was a thunderstorm north of us about 4 a.m., dry here. Cloudy and might rain. Heard the Ash-throated Flycatcher early morn. A pair of N. Rough-winged Swallow were over yard early. Town run and park check. Heard at least 4 Yellow-throated Warbler, and a FOS Yellow-throated Vireo was nice. About 5 Myrtle Warbler is more than have been there and surely some migrants coming through now. Also 5 Ruby-crowned Kinglet are spring migrants heading back north, there have been none there all winter. No swallows in town yet, Barn is tardy. About 4:15 p.m. a FOS Couch's Kingbird was calling out front and over in the corral. There are flowers on some Cypress trees now. There are acres of Dakota Verbena blooming making for some pretty purple pastures. Interestingly today and tomorrow we actually cross the luminox, when the photo period is 12 hours each day and night. Today daylength is 11 hrs and 59 min. long and tomorrow is 12 hrs. and 01 min. long. Usually it is within a few days of the equinox, whence daylength is actually longer than night. Oops, a couple add-ons almost forgotten. Kathy saw an FOS Skink (Four-lined). I saw an Orange Sulphur, and a Falcate Orantetip. A Dainty Sulphur out by driveway too.

Mar. 14 ~ Flatlined at 68F all night. We sure lose the cool nights early here. Near noon heard my FOS Ash-throated Flycatcher. Were some Brewer's Blackbird up in big dead Pecan besides the male Red-winged and some Brown-headed Cowbird. In addition to the Am. Goldfinch, I thought sure I heard the explosive squeal of a Pine Siskin a couple times.

The Mountain Laurel are odd. On the one big low sprawling good bloomer this year, only half of it put out flowers this year. Another one, we planted so know it is 7-8 ears old, bloomed the first time last year, and did not bloom this year. Another young (6 yrs.?) smaller one put out its first flower this year, one cluster. They do not seem to function like most of what I am used to. Said the clearly botanically ignorant fool.

Mar. 13 ~ About 63F all night, and nearly foggy in morn. Got sunny around noon, and warmed to 85F or better. Lots of lime green new leaves breaking out all over. Did hear the Yellow-throated Warbler sing over at the river this morn. Finally saw FOS Turkey Vulture, three of them went over together. Seemingly just arriving back in the area. Nearly a month later than average arrival has been the last twenty years, around Valentines Day. Am. Goldfinch still here, as is the one male Red-winged Blackbird. Heard the Western Meadowlark singing again. Heard a snake in some leaf litter, likely a W. Ribbonsnake, our common gartersnake here. Bees are still in the Hackberries, wish I would see some on the native Plum flowers.

Mar. 12 ~ Just after midnight heard a Barn Owl go over. Likely a migrant as we do not have winterers around. Low was in upper 50's F middle of night, but flatlined at 60F from about 5 a.m. through late morn. Before 9 a.m. I heard my FOS Yellow-throated Warbler singing in the Cypresses over at the river. Welcome back! Great to hear a singing warbler! Later in the afternoon a couple Northern Rough-winged Swallow went over calling, which I will note as FOS, but I thought sure I heard some two different days a week ago. Heard a Ground-Dove over in corral again.

Mar. 11 ~ Clear and about 39F for a low is still winterish. From late morn on was cloudy and breezy. Heard two Vermilion Flycatcher out there. Still at least one Lincoln's Sparrow here, but migrants can show up by now so will lose track of it. At leat one pair of Field Sparrow still here. Chipping Sparrow numbers seem to be falling, methinks departures are underway. Still have not seen a Turkey Vulture!?! What happened? Heard the American Goldfinch, and one male Red-winged Blackbird from the golf course keep showing up. A few icky Brown-headed Cowbird about. Screech-Owl calling after dark.

Mar. 10 ~ Low about 38F here, KERV had 36. Sunny first thing but quickly got partly to mostly cloudy. White-eyed Vireo over at draw singin is likely our local breeder, 3rd morn in a row there. The honey bees are really hitting one of the Hackberry trees hard. Must be a spot of pollen in those flowers. A few Laurels out back are going well, the smell is fantastic. The Mulberry has green (not yet open) flower buds out. The Black Rock Squirrel is eating some Hackberry flowers. As soon as the Mulberry opens it will be eating them. Male tree so all we get is pollen, no fruit. I saw a few flowers on a Spanish Buckeye we planted, about 8 years ago, its first ones ever. It is fenced, as deer ate the priors.

March 9 ~ Low about 40F but wind blowing as it did all night northerly at 15-20 mph gusting to 25 mph. So chills in 30's F. Nothing new or different here around house. In later afternoon as wind let up a little, we walked a half-mile uphill behind us into the Live-oak, Juniper, and Agarita habitat. The Agarita is mostly done and over. A few still blooming. A few Mountain Laurel in bloom too. Two FOY flowers were Dakota Verbena and Paralena. Saw a few butterflies but only 62F and still breezy so not much out. Kathy saw a few Dainty Sulphur. Lots of yellow Live-oaks about to drop leaves. A Buckley (aka Spanish or Red) Oak was in bloom. Heard about 3 Bewick's Wren and that was it for birds. Earlier in day in yard Kathy saw a Checkered-Skipper. One male Red-winged Blackbird continues visiting for seed.

mountainlaurel

This is a Mountain Laurel. Now is the time to take a whiff of that sweetest smell. Some are done already, but some are still going. To my admittedly somewhat unrefined sniffer it is as if a cross of Rose and Sweet Pea.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Mar. 8 ~ Was in mid-60's F much of the night, until some rain passed over about 5 a.m., then dropped to about 54F for a low. A system just grazing us, a post-frontal blow is inbound shortly. We got a quarter-inch (.25) of precip out of the deal. Heard a White-eyed Vireo over in the draw. Wonder if it is our breeder back? Town run and park check. By time I got there near noon the winds had begun and it was blown out and quiet. There was an Inca Dove calling in the park acrosss from the general store. For the first time in months there were some travel trailer tourists in town, spring break for some has begun.

Mar. 7 ~ We did the 65F flatline last night. Overcast and a few brief showerlets. Busy desk days on Thursdays anyway. I see flowers on the Hackberry trees, and hear bees on them too. I hope some bees find the native Plum which is blooming. Last year it bloomed when too cold out still, so no fruit. Kathy had about 8 Cedar Waxwing in the afternoon. Maybe they are noting the Hackberry bloom for next winter.

Mar. 6 ~ Low about 50F, briefly. Cloudy early clearing noonish, light breeze. Great was a FOS White-eyed Vireo across from gate about 8:30 a.m. Around 10:30 there were at least two, maybe three, Pine Siskin. I saw only one all winter, a one-hour wonder, back in December. In butterflies a FOS Henry's Elfin came into water, and a FOS Orange Sulphur was around. Black Swallowtail still here. Did absolutely get two Lincoln's Sparrow at once today. So that was a near-miss the other day with the Sharpy. First time two stuck to spend the winter on white millet. Also the result of the big dead Hackberry and messy jumble of fallen branches I leave creating perfect cover for them, to avoid accipiters.

Mar. 5 ~ Flatlined around 53F all night. Sunny and a big warmup today. Anole are out early. The one so far blooming Mountain Laurel is really getting going with a dozen open flower clusters. It is a low sprawling one we toss seed under so is the most fertilized specimen in yard. Noon some Sandhill Crane were going north overhead. Heard a male Black-chinned Hummer doing its display dance, which is usually in front of a female, so I presume one of those is present now too. Seems at least a couple males here now. Kathy had a five-count on Eur. Collared-Dove.

No power here from 2 p.m. to almost 3:30. Now with the new and improved fiber optic connectivity system, we lose the phone when no power, unlike primitive copper which allowed us to say make an emergency call, or call neighbors. They called it progress. Went off again just after 6 p.m., just long enough to shut computer down in a way that seemed to anger its maker. Which begs the question, why is there not a battery backup built into a desktop?

Mar. 4 ~ Flatlined at 65F all night. Fog and drizzle in the morning, but just a trace. Heard the Western Meadowlark again over at airstrip, about a hundred yards away. It gave some rattled drrrrrk calls besides song. As yesterday thought sure I heard the brrrrt of N. Rough-winged Swallow a couple times. Had a few of what I would call FOS spring migrant Brown-headed Cowbird. A few winter locally, but this is when the spring migrants return. A month before Bronzed return. Later in the afternoon my FOS Vermilion Flycatcher was on the corral fenceline. That is what I call a spot of color! And a cheery sound of spring. Pretty sure it was two Lincoln's Sparrow at one point this afternoon. A few Cedar Waxwing were around late afternoon.

In amphibious news, heard my first of year Barking Frog calling weakly this evening. With the Blanchard's Cricket-Frog, and Rio Grande Leopard Frog, three species of frogs calling tonight. Have not heard our 'spring peeper', Strecker's Chorus-Frog this year, again, maybe the fourth year now but not too late, may still get it.

Mar. 3 ~ Near foggy with overcast, flatlined about 61F all night. Great not to be burning heat. So is smelling a Laurel when I toss seed at sunup. Wonderful hearing a FOS Western Meadowlark singing from the airstrip. I have not seen the usual meadowlark flocks this winter, the pastures have been fairly bare, so this could well be a migrant. Stayed mostly cloudy all day. Was going to walk uphill to Agaritaville but no sun for butterfly photos so passed. By next weekend Golden-cheeked Warbler will be back!

Mar. 2 ~ Low about 40F, so cool but not cold. On our way to 80F today! About noon I heard my FOS hummingbird, male Black-chinned of course. Kathy had an Olive-Juniper Hairstreak at water on the patio, and a FOS Northern Cloudywing. I saw the Black Swallowtail again. Great was my first Mountain Laurel flower of the year, and yes I bent down to take a big hit off it. It was awesome. Heard Red-winged and Brewer's Blackbird flocks over in Cypresses along river. I see some first flowers on the native Plum today. Hope some bees find it! Did see one large Bumble Bee today, methinks FOY.

moth

This is another unknown (to me) moth species.


~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

March 1 ~ If the month comes in like a lamb, it was a cold one. KERV had 32F, I think we were 33-34F, just missing a freeze. Still feels like winter out there in the morn. Not for long is my guess. FOS Chereckered White butterfly. Town run and park check. Best was a FOS male Purple Martin calling high over the ponk pond. The woods had a couple Myrtle Warbler and some singing Black-crested Titmouse. No Ring-necked Duck, they have departed for the year. Water level in pond is still 2 FEET below the spillway overflow. Mulberry trees are showing green leaf buds starting to pop out. Many live-oaks are yellow and now dropping leaves. Kathy heard FOS Sandhill Cranes going north whilst I was in town. Got up to upper 70's F! Pretty nice out.

~ ~ ~ February summary ~ ~ ~

It was a fairly wintry February, with freezes at start, middle, and finish, but generally mild in between. Rain was 3.5", a great Feb. total. Water two feet from spillway overflow at park pond. Drought stage is D2, with D3 just east at Medina-Uvalde Co. line.

No odes this February, as usual when a chilly one. Butterflies were about five species, the most expected ones. Black Swallowtail was the first new emergence, and late in month saw a Falcated Orangetip, but not an Elfin.

Birds continued mighty weak this third winter in a row with NO wild foodcrops. The first migrant was White-fronted Goose, a small V going north on the 6th. I did not hear the Long-eared Owl this month, has me worried about those Great Horned. The Say's Phoebe at the airstrip continued to late in month. The UP wintering Ring-necked Duck flock departed just after mid-February. NO Turkey Vulture for the first February in twenty for me here. I saw about 47 species this month.

~ ~ ~ end February summary ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ February update header archive copy ~ ~ ~

February ~ The FOS White-fronted Goose was a small V going north morning of 6th. Also the 6th was my first Barn Owl in a couple months.The FOS fresh new emergence butterfly of the year was a Black Swallowtail on Feb. 11. My first native wildflower of year was Whitlow-Grass on Feb. 21. Then the 22nd was Anemone flowers, and the 23rd Yellow Wood-Sorrel. First of year Blanchard's Cricket-Frog was the 23rd as well. Agarita showed here on the 24th. Saw a couple Lyside Sulphur, which I think a few have gone by in the last few days. Also saw Pipevine Swallowtail, both flying adult and a caterpillar looking for a place to pupate.

~ ~ ~ end February update header ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ back to the drivel ~ ~ ~

Feb. 29 ~ And so we meet again, what's it been, about four years? Happy Leap Day, take a big jump! About 42F all night, and only going to about 52F at peak heat. Overcast so kinda winterish. Breezey too until late afternoon when it calmed. So, getting cold tonight. The same birds are here, nothing different yet, still. Still no Turkey Vulture! This is the first year in the last TWENTY I did not see one in February. And it even had an extra day! Clean and ready your hummingbird feeders, they could be here any day now. Also get any birdbox servicing done as local cavity nesters like bluebird, chickadee, titmouse, plus Bewick's and Carolina Wren, are making those decisions now.

Feb. 28 ~ Was about 61F all night. The front got here about 5 a.m., at 8 a.m. it was 50F. Wind blew all day, 15-20 mph gusts to near 30. Lots to do inside at desk anyway. Had one Lincoln's Sparrow but did not confirm two still here yet. One Red-winged Blackbird still comes by from the golf course for a shot of white millet. Never did make it back up to 60F. The birds sure shut up in the wind. I see leaves breaking stem on Texas Persimmon now.

Feb. 27 ~ Was in low 60's F all night, foggy in morning. Last warm day, a cold front hits tonight around or after midnight. Saw the upper 80's F in the afternoon, nearing record highs as yesterday. Still the same as it ever was out there. Waiting for spring to go boing! Seems less Chipping Sparrow around, but we will see the next two days when it gets chilly of high temps again. The Leopard Frogs were roaring after dark.

Feb. 26 ~ Low about 50F, and maybe the hottest day so far this year so far is in store. In the last several days I have seen several of our wildlfowers breakimg ground and now growing leaves: Mealy and Tropical Sage, Frostweed, Am. Germander, and our Blue Mistflower Eupatorium. An imm. fem. Sharp-shinned Hawk made a dive on a Lincoln's Sparrow, sure hope it didn't get it. Heard two early morn, one in the afternoon, need to hear two at once again now. Haven't heard the Myrtle Warbler in a few days, so wondering if it departed. Still no new migrants detected.

Feb. 25 ~ About 52F for a low, and foggy early, soon burnt off and sunny. Did a few more things in yard. Got warm, about 84F in the afternoon. Dry and nice. At the blooming few Agarita up the road Kathy saw a FOY Olive-Juniper Hairstreak, as well as a couple Red Admiral. I went up and looked later and saw 1 Red Ad which looked more like a fresh one than an over-wintering worn animal. I saw two Olive-Juniper Hairstreak but no Elfin yet. Need to walk up the hill behind us to Agaritaville and see how it is doing.

Feb. 24 ~ Low about 40F. Breezy southerlies most of the day. Outstanding was a FOS male Falcate Orangetip butterfly. Which has been scarce in our recent drought regimen. At dusk Kathy saw three bats, which are the first of the year. Red or Freetailed? Did some yard work, got poked hard in an eye by an errant branch. Got up to about 75F in the afternoon. Saw all three of the wildflowers I saw the last few days. Kathy also saw one Agarita in bloom up the road too.

anemone

This is an Anemone (Anemone heterophylla) which is called Wind-Flower if you like that sort of common Name. They are mostly white here, but in some spots there are violet ones, and rarely a magenta pink color variety. Black-chinned Hummingbirds use the fuzzy seed cotton to line their nests here.



~ ~ ~ last update below ~ ~ ~

Feb. 23 ~ Low about 53F, clear and dry. Town run and park check. Nothing there. The ducks have been MIA my last two visits so I think they likely departed for points northward and their winter here is over. Singing Bewick's Wren all over town. Heard my first of year Blanchard's Cricket-Frog at the 360 x-ing. Saw some Yellow Wood-Sorrel, the third species of wildflower to open blooms the last three days. Kathy heard the Robin nearing dusk so it is still in the area. The American Goldfinch was around in the morning, also still here. Heard my first Chipping Sparrow song of the year today.

Feb. 22 ~ Hovered around 61F all night. Bit of fog and mist. Which gave way to sunny and warm. Again heard the Say's Phoebe at the airstrip. In the afternoon some local WU stations were showing 85F! We had 81 on the shady front porch, a couple or few warmer in the sun. Toasty! Heard a Field Sparrow, and the 2 Lincoln's continue. The big FOS of the day was some Anemone flowers (white). The second native wildflower we have seen in the last two days. Spring is coming! Saw the worn old Sleepy Orange, and the newer Black Swallowtail today. A few Leopard Frog were roaring late in evening.

Feb. 21 ~ Maybe hit 54F in wee hours but was 58F and foggy at dawn. Nice to not be cold. Saw a Lady (butterfly) that looked American, likely the one we have been seeing. Several accipiter flushings of the doves and sparrows. Still no Turkey Vulture. Any day now. Today there must be four dozen of the Whitlow-Grass plants in bloom. Nice little patch just off patio in a very hot sunny spot. Saw the Black Rock Squirrel, it has been out and around since it warmed up.

Feb. 20 ~ Low about 38F, chilly. Warming up fast, sunny and dry. A spring-like forecast the next buncha days is a welcome respite from the cold. Some flowers and butterflies will pop. It hit 80F out there in the afternoon! The birds looked the same. I saw the winter form Questionmark butterfly. It was leaving the mulch pile out back behind the shed where tasty treats. Kathy saw a medium all yellow one which shot by quickly but looked maybe a Cloudless Sulphur. My first native wildflower of the year was a small group of a dozen blooming Whitlow-Grass (Draba cunefolia), which is a mustard family forb. I have not seen it in at least a couple years, methinks due to drought. A good sign for the spring bloom.

Feb. 19 ~ Barely froze at 32F early. Sunny and calm, so 50 by 10 a.m. Nice. Might have hit 70F at peak heat. Even though it is the same birds, at least there is some birdsong out there now. Still stuck in the same groove with the couple dozen species that wintered around the place. Waiting for spring. Turkey Vulture is running a bit tardy so far, shoulda had one by now. I see new Cattail shoots in the tub pond. No rain or freeze on the ten-day which takes us to the end of the month on Leap Day.

Feb. 18 ~ Low about 29F, KERV had 28F. We froze. A brisk morn. Suspect we are not done freezing yet, early for that. Might barely hit it tomorrow morning. The record hi-low spread for this date at SAT is 96-19F. What a spread! Including the frenzied seed-eating, I saw nothing different out there today. A butterfly got a away though. Got up to about 56F.

Feb. 17 ~ The pre-frontal warmup of yesterday was long-gone this morn. Winds got here overnight, 10-15 mph northerlies and about 38F gave us a freezing chill factor if not temps. Fortunately plenty to do at the desk. Heard the American Goldfinch out there today, and more House Finch. A lot of sunflower seed was eaten. Nothing different though, and much hunkered down like us it seemed. The wind blew all day until nearing sundown. Tomrrow morn we will have sub-freezing temps.

blackswallowtail

This is a closeup of the central hindwing area of the
male Black Swallowtail which is still around the yard.



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Feb. 16 ~ Was about 60F most of the night, dipping to maybe 58F at dawn. Early in morn the Robin was back for the first time in a couple weeks. Also heard the Say's Phoebe over at the airstrip. When I opened the gate to go, I saw the Black Swallowtial again out in yard. Town run and park glance, but lots of people, and they were burning leaves there so very smoky and skipped it. Nothing on the pond. If you don't beat the people there, it will often be empty. We had 72F on the front porch about 1-2 p.m.! That male Lesser Goldfinch is still out there and the singing sure is nice.

Feb. 15 ~ Low about 56F in fog and a wee bit of drizzle. Saw the Anole again today, and the Black Rock Squirrel which Kathy has been seeing several days now. It eats some sunflower seed on the patio. Heard a Myrtle Warbler. Maybe it is 80 Chipping Sparrow now. They have been increasing this last month. Great hearing those Cardinal singing. Mid-60's F was it for a high.

Feb. 14 ~ About 40F for a low, KERV hit 37 in wee hours, we may have been colder too. Cloudy and cool. The bird list remains the same. No spring arrivals yet, but Turkey Vulture should show up any day now. The bird of the day was my first bright green Anole (lizard) today. They have been in the cracks in the stone exterior of the house all winter. A beautiful beastie. Saw the Black Swallowtail again. Also noted the first sign of buds breaking stem on a tree this year, on the big male Mulberry.

Feb. 13 ~ Low about 32F, just barely a freeze. KERV had a 30F. Clear, dry, and sunny, warmed to about 66F or so. Quiet out there for the most part. One Red-winged Blackbird was here. A couple accipiter flushings of all. Heard a White-winged Dove give a fair song. E. Bluebird, N. Cardinal, Carolina Chickadee and Black-crested Titmouse all singing more now, and great to hear some cheer out there. Saw the Black Swallowtail butterfly again today, as well as the leftover lady, and a very worn Sleepy Orange. We are now one HOUR longer of daylength than we were at solstice. About 55 days to add an hour, or lose one if on the other side of the change.

Feb. 12 ~ Low about 38F, breezy until the afternoon. Might have hit 62F for a high. Nothing new or different out there today. The same gang of few birds i\ continuing. Though, Chipping Sparrow seem to be adding up, maybe 70 now? Heard the American Goldfinch out there. A few accipiter dives flushing everything. Less than a month until hummingbirds, martins, and Golden-cheeked Warblers. Hang in there baby. Saw the Sleepy Orange butterfly around.

Feb. 11 ~ Was 65F most of the night, though post-frontal blow began lightly about midnight. Around 5 a.m. the cold air got here it it went from 65 to 48F by 8 a.m.. And a breezy day. Great was about noon and 62F seeing the first new freshly emerged butterfly of the year. A Black Swallowtail. Which is not an unusual first in February. The few butterflies around overwintering here are last years' leftovers. This is the new years' growth and a new cycle starting. Henry's Elfin and Olive-Juniper Hairstreak are the other two most often 'first new' butterfly of the year, in February.

Feb. 10 ~ Happy Chinese New Year, the year of the Dragon! Said to be a year of good luck. From about 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. we got some, in the form of 2.5" (!) of rain! WeeWow! So over 3.5" for the month, a very high total for an typically very dry month. Just what we needed for a spring bloom. Agarita and Redbud will be going off within a couple weeks so the timing is perfect. Maybe we will get Anemones this year. Cloudy all day but no rain, maybe hit 68F. Was a bit mucky of ground out there though. Heard a Belted Kingfisher over at the river. Heard some Brewer's Blackbird over in the corral.

blackswallowtails

This is a male Black Swallowtail. The first butterfly that is a new emergence I have seen this year, on Feb. 11. It led me to my first flower, but which is non-native. Henbit is European, but naturalized throughout America.



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Feb. 9 ~ Low about 60F and foggy. Balmy for the date. The Eastern Bluebirds are really singing intensively now. What great beautiful sounds. Had the handful of Cedar Waxwing again. Town run and park check. A couple dozen Ring-necked Duck on the park pond, and 2 Myrtle Warbler in park woods. That is all. It is so dismal, it is dismal. A Pacific cold front is on its way and overnight through tomorrow night we should have some rain, then followed by some chilly temps, but not freezing.

Feb. 8 ~ Low was in 50's so great. No heat burning. Birds were the same gang as is that season. One Eastern Phoebe was singing up a storm. Great to hear. Lots of work at the desk so not much looking besides seed tosses and a few 10 min. breaks.Got up to 72 maybe, very nice out. Pretty green of yard too. February is usually when our coldest temps happen so watching and hoping that Jan. event was the worst of it.

Feb. 7 ~ Was about 44F in wee hours but 50F by dawn. Windy out of south at 15 mph gusting to 25 mph made for a very breezy day. But not very cold. Had the two Lincoln's, heard a Field, and about 60 Chipping Sparrow. Never saw so few Cardinal here. Plenty of doves, and a couple or few accipiters come by for their daily dive. Heard a Myrtle Warbler. Couple Ladder-backed and a Golden-fronted Woodpecker working the dead trees.

Feb. 6 ~ Low about 38F, sunny and nice. Shortly after midnight so early this a.m., I heard a Barn Owl, which is the first in a couple months. Maybe a spring migrant? About 9 a.m. a small flock of White-fronted Geese called as they proceeded northward in their V. First migrants of the spring. Just a couple dozen. The male Lesser Goldfinch is out there singing a bit. So, maybe more like an arrival than a winterer? Kathy had a lady butterfly, which is most likely an American now.

Feb. 5 ~ Low maybe 48F, but the winds picked back up about midnight and blew all night, and day. Not as strong as yesterday but still another blower unil later afternoon. We should see Turkey Vulture and White-fronted Goose soon. Which will win the 'first migrant' race this year? The historical average spring return for TV was Valentine's Day, but lately they have often been a bit earlier. Soon as these northerlies turn around, watch. Both have occurred rarely as early as late January. Saw 65F mid-afternoon, dry, felt great. One Red Admiral is likely the same wintering individual that has been around.

Feb. 4 ~ Temps in low 50's most of the night. The upper low that just passed has given way to a surface low with NW winds 20 mph gusting over 30. Which lasted all day, it was a blowout. The small group of Cedar Waxwing were back around in the afternoon again today. Nice to hear since a winter without them. One American Goldfinch in the morn. Some accipiter flushings. Same as it ever was.

Feb. 3 ~ Low about 48F. Yesterday evening after update posted, we got line of rain cells with thunder. Was about 27-28mm. Just over an inch, about 1.1". Outstanding. Mostly clear by midnight but a few spritzes in morning. By later morn the post-frontal blow had begun, a windy afternoon it was. Only one different item in birds, a small group of Cedar Waxwing. First of them in over a month, and only a handful. Plenty of work at ye olde desk anyway.

This is Texas Bindweed, which is in the Morning Glory family.


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Feb. 2 ~ Flatlined about 58F all night. Overcast and humid, supposed to rain this evening and overnight. The Flicker was in the big live-oaks adjacent uphill behind us early. Love hearing that call. Town run and park check. One Carolina Wren in the woods. Above the island in river were 5 Gadwall and a dozen or so Ring-necked Duck. They flushed and one duck called that I would swear was a Mallard, though I did not spot it through the trees. It was that quintessential duck quack of a Mallard all the way. They are pretty rare here. Otherwise nothing different.

Feb. 1 ~ Low about 45F, overcast. Any time we are not freezing is great in winter. About 60 by 11, might have hit 70F later afternoon. Heard the Ground-Dove again. Lots of Mourning and White-winged here, probably two dozen of each, our biggest eaters. Hear a Eur. Colldared-Dove but distantly, thankfully. Might be more than a dozen House Finch now. The two Lincoln's Sparrow still sneaking around. Saw my first butterfly of the month, a winter form Questionmark. Heard Leopard Frog again this evening.

~ ~ ~ January summary ~ ~ ~

There goes the first month of the year. Here we had 2.25" of rain, which is a great January total. We had some extended hard freezes with temps in teens and at least one day with zero dF chill factors. We continue in D2 level (severe) drought, which is an improvement. River is a few feet below the spillway at the park pond, water table remains far below normal, very little flow and lots of the river is dry above ground above town.

There were no odes (dragonflies) seen this month, as usual and expected. A whopping four species of butterflies were noted, the most expected four. Birds remain very depressed of numbers and diversity, likely due to failure of natural food crops again this year, like Pecans, Hackberries, Juniper berries, wildflower and shrub seeds, etc. Not seeing any Kinglets, hardly a Myrtle Warbler or few, and so on. The only rare bird is the continuing Long-eared Owl which was heard weekly or so through most of month. Only thing we had lots of was onesies. Interesting was one Sandhill Crane on 7th. We had one Pine Siskin on the 15th. One Robin and one American Goldfinch visit our yard a couple times per week or so. One male Lesser Goldfinch on the 22nd is a month earlier than our breeders return, and likely a wintering bird. Literally scraping for birds here. Can't wait for spring migration and the return of our migratory breeding species. Which will start in earnest in one month. The 42 species I saw this month is about as diversity challenged as it gets here, I hope.

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~ ~ ~ archive copy Jan. update header ~ ~ ~

January ~ First mentionable bird of the year is Long-eared Owl, heard again both on Jan. 6 and 9. A lone Sandhill Crane on Jan. 7 is odd locally. One Pine Siskin this winter, on the 15th. Jan. 15-18 we had lows in teens, and low single digit chill factors. Be prepared for the arctic. Up to 40 or more Ring-necked Duck are often on the park pond. A male Lesser Goldfinch on Jan. 22 & 26 is the first I have seen in a couple months. A Say's Phoebe was at the 360 airstrip on the 24th. Incredibly early Rio Grande Leopard Frogs were heard Jan. 29-31 when 70dF days.

~ ~ ~ end archive copy Jan. update header ~ ~ ~

~ ~ back to the drivel ~ ~

Jan. 31 ~ Low about 36 or 37F, KERV had a 34F methinks. Chilly, but sunny and dry continues with a good afternoon warmup. May have hit 70F again at peak heat. One Amerian Goldfinch still visiting. A couple Red-winged Blackbird came by. The rest was the same gang. Couple accipiter flushings. Maybe 60 on the Chipping Sparrow count now. The woodpeckers seem to just be hitting the sunflower feeder when cold out. These warm days they are up in the trees but not going to feeder. Freezing days they are on it. The Leopard Frogs were heard again tonight.

Jan. 30 ~ Low about 35F, KERV had 33. Sunny, dry, no wind, a chamber of commerce day. A pair of Ravens around a lot lately, I presume looking for a nest site. Hope its not in earshot... those young! If it was my kids, ok, fine... Was the same gang around the yard, save one bird. My first of year calling Common Ground-Dove over in corral. Here a couple accipiter flushings as usual. Might have hit 70F, and felt warmer in the sun, and dry. Yard is pretty green considering the date. Heard the Rio Grande Leopard Frogs again after dark, at least two again. Today is a half-hour longer of daylength than at the solstice.

Jan. 29 ~ Another frost but not freeze, we were 33 or 34F, KERV had 32. Sunny and no wind so very nice. The Great Horned Owl pair is calling in the middle of the day now. Which means they are full speed ahead with their breeding season. Was wonderful in the afternoon, near 70F, dry, sunny, no wind, awesome. We could stand that all year. Nothing different on the bird front. Quite a surprise to hear Rio Grande Leopard Frogs after dark, at least two. Never heard them in January before. They were at the watering tanks in the corral.

Jan. 28 ~ Low about 34F, KERV had 33. Frost but no freeze here. Early morn heard the Say's Phoebe at the airstrip and the Robin in the corral. A Raven squawked quite a while from the big Pecan again. Seems we picked up a few Chippies that last cold spell. I think over 50 now. About a dozen House Finch too, aka sunflower suckers. Not many Cardinal though. Maybe two dozen Mourning Dove, and some White-winged were trying to sing, seemingly as if they forgot how. It might have hit 70F at peak heat later afternoon, and felt warmer out in the sun with no wind. In the evening about 9:30 and 11 p.m. I heard the Long-eared Owl, besides the pair of Great Horned.

Jan. 27 ~ Was about 54F at midnight, a cold front arriving before dawn when 47F. Windy but a dry passage, and allegedly no freeze on way. Nothing different in birds. Pretty breezy until later afternoon. Seems more House Finch around. Best was at dusk under the sunflower feeder Kathy saw scavenging, a Gray Fox. Slow day for birds. Just one more month before migrants start showing up.

This is a Scrub-Jay. Often called Blue Jay but that is a crested jay with white spots on wings and tail. Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay is the proper correct name currently, which hopefully won't last too long. The Texas subspecies, texana, is unique and in several ways obviously different from other Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay of the interior mountain west. It should be called Texas Scrub-Jay as this subspecies is found nowhere else, and is an Edwards Plateau endemic subspecies. One day it may get its due.



Jan. 26 ~ Was about 48F around midnight, but rose to about 54 by dawn. Overcast, bit of fog. Not cold and wonderful birdsong. Town run and park check, to no avail. Seemed bird-free to me. Had the male Lesser Goldfinch here in the afternoon. The rest all looked the same gang. The winter doldrums are here. We are about five or six weeks from Golden-cheeked Warbler returning. I hope I make it. Eight months is a long dry spell.

Jan. 25 ~ Was 54F and still a bit of drizzle at midnight, 44F and sunny at dawn. The upper level trough has passed. With the .5" of precip last night I would say we are about 2.25" here for the month, which is great for January. Looks like that will be the final total. Comparitively lots of birdsong, several Cardinal, Bewick's and Carolina Wren, Black-crested Titmouse, E. Bluebirds too. They all sound thrilled to be out of cold and wet and see the sun as we are. Some accipiter flushings over the day as usual. Heard a Myrtle Warbler, but no Kinglet in weeks now.

Jan. 24 ~ Flatlinin' in the mid-50's F. Way better than the mid-30's. A bit more drizzle and a showerlet overnight, now .2 including the .1 yesterday. A fifth of an inch over the two days. Misting still early. Kathy counted five Eurasian Collared-Dove out back on seed early. She also spotted an Opposum eating seed, sunflowers no doubt. I heard the Say's Phoebe over at the airstrip again. It is likely the same bird as last month, and is wintering around airstrip and the big pasture adjacent. Saw a couple attempts by a Sharp-shinned Hawk on seed-eaters. Might have gotten something on second one. About 8 p.m. a band of thunderstorms moved through. We got a hair over a half-inch, others more lucky got more. So we are up to about .75 the last three days.

Jan. 23 ~ Was about 56F all night, and so, foggy in morning. But not cold so great. A bit of drizzle and showerlets totalled .1, just over 2mm, a tenth of an inch. Something anyway. Heard the Flicker just uphill behind us, so it is still around. Heard the Robin too. Otherwise it was the same gang. Cardinals singing (tuning up) a bit more. Bewick's and Carolina Wren both occasionaly bursting out with more songs. They sure don't sing when it is freezing. Waste of energy when burning everything to stay warm in sub-freezing temps. Heard Screech-Owls after dark. The Great Horned Owls are daily.

Jan. 22 ~ It was in upper 30's before midnight, then rising to 45F by dawn, and 50F by noon felt great. All these days in the 30's is getting old. A band of light rain moved over after midnight and we have a quarter-inch here in the morn. A wee bit, but all helps. In the afternoon a male Lesser Goldfinch was the FOS, and first I have seen in a couple months since the last ones left in November. They used to arrive around Feb. 22 after the 3-4 month winter absence. This is a month earlier than former average spring arrival. Is it one of the very few that winter locally at places with a nyjer seed feeder? If it disappears, I'd say a winterer wandering around. If it sticks, my guess would be a new record early spring arrival. Daylength is now a whopping 20 minutes longer than at solstice.

Jan. 21 ~ Low about 34F with some mist. Supposed to rain and get up to 40F. I'll be working inside. This makes these last three days spent in the 30's F, with a day of warmup prior to that, and four more whole days of freezing prior to that. So seven of last eight days were spent at best in the 30's F all day. That is a LOT of cold for here. The average winter daily hi-low temp spread here is 60-30F. Totally bearable. Nothing different for birds, the same gang continues. Did not spend much time in the cold mist to look though. Three seed tosses, which disappears fairly quickly. Might be near four dozen Chipping Sparrow.

Jan. 20 ~ Low about 24F (KERV was 23), and high about 40F. Some breeze and very chilly, feels like winter outside. Saw and heard nothing different in birds. Eastern Bluebirds singing in the freezing morning makes it better. Carolina and Bewick's Wren both singing more now. Still not much, but some bursts here and there. Same for Carolina Chickadee and Black-crested Titmouse, bursts here and there. N. Cardinal still tuning up mostly.

sorry about the repeat... since had one lately...

This is Say's Phoebe. Usually on a fenceline at edge of pasture, present only in winter (late fall to early spring). Note no streaking on underparts as female or imm. Vermilion Flycatcher, though Say's is mostly here when those are not.


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Jan. 19 ~ Another cold front arriving pre-dawn, bringing cold air back. Low about 36F so great to not freeze, much warmer. Sunny, but a blower of a day. I will be inside working nearish a heater. Got up near 50F in the afternoon, but with the wind on it, never felt it. Another hard freeze inbound tonight. Did not see anything different today, as expected. The winter doldrums are much worse than the summer doldrums for species diversity. At least in summer there are 50-60 breeding species around. Wind finally died around dark, which means an ice box in the morning.

Jan. 18 ~ About 27F for a low, but the warmup before the front day. Since the only nice day this week, did the town run today. Nothing in the park save about 40 Ring-necked Duck on the pond. Saw no landbirds. A few Red-winged Blackbird around house in morning. It got up to a blazing 75F in the afternoon! Opened up and aired out, warmed the house and cottage. Back to cold tomorrow, just a one-day respite of warm air being sucked up from south in front of next system. After 5 p.m. I heard our loyal Robin out there.

OT rantlet: The car battery died at the Ranch Outpost. In a stroke of cosmic karma, where I bought it just three months ago. I usually use the car one day a week on my town run day. Five starts. Kudos to the Ranch Outpost, as I got a warranty replacement. I added more to get a bigger one, but had to do the old parking lot swap. At least I had the tools and was where I bought it! That part was good. But when a battery is $200, you would think you would get more than three to four months out of it! They used to cost $50 and lasted 5 years! I easily could have been a mile from nowhere, on a cold or wet day.

Jan. 17 ~ It was about 14F here this morn. I can't find my fern, it musta froze off. At least the wind is not blowing. KERV had 13 and Hondo 15F. Still some single digit chill factors around south central Texas this morning. Hopefully it will be the coldest day of this winter. Tomorrow will be the warm day before the next front arrives. Got up to about 44F but with breeze never felt it. Broke freezing anyway. Incredible cold spell. It was at or very near records. Some Red-winged Blackbird were around again. The rest was the same. Plowing through seed. Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpecker hitting the sunflower seed feeder, means it is bad out there for natural food sources. Looks like we got through the worst of it without any burst pipes. Just frozen ferns and keisters.

Jan. 16 ~ Low was 15F (!) as KERV, where wind chill was ZERO, 1, and 2F. We likely had 0F wind chills here too. Incredible cold. A second reinforcing Arctic front came through with lots more seemingly polar wind. Sun is mostly out anyway. So cold the windows condensed the moisture out of the air in house, and froze it, so we had iced windows. Around ten per Kathy's count, Red-winged Blackbird were hitting the seed in the afternoon. I heard a Pine Siskin, which is the first one in over six weeks since the only one I had all fall on Dec. 1. Barely broke freezing temps but not chills, a couple dF for a couple hours at best. Last super-cold night and morn for a bit inbound tonight. It is frigid out there. Probably been putting out a couple extra pounds of birdseed daily these sub-freezing days. Disappears lickety-split.

Jan. 15 ~ I saw 18F this morn on front porch, northerly winds about 15 mph, chill factors low single digits. Lovely, come on down. Some freezing drizzle overnight and invisible patches of ice on the patio. Unfortunately I cut the Frostweed stems less than 2 weeks ago, as they get a bit ratty looking as they dry up, and the stubs left made ribbon ice. DANG now I wish I would have left them. It would look incredible. You need super cold to get it. Most years we don't see any. Today if I don't see the bird as I am running by tossing seed, it will not be noted. Tomorrow looks the same. We are trapped for days in an Arctic icebox of air. At 3 p.m. it was 24F at KERV, and about 32F here.

Jan. 14 ~ Was about 40F at midnight, and about 28F shortly after dawn. At 9 a.m. KERV showed 23F! At 11 a.m. they were in fog at 21F and a wind chill of 11. Rocksprings and F'berg show wind chills of 10F. Overcast with occasional mist. We had some freezing mist at 29F at 11 a.m. This is going to be a major cold event. Extra seed rations, but I won't be doing a lot of watching, as all the windows are fairly sealed (blocked) against the cold. Hovered around 32F much of day. There was a small flock of Red-winged Blackbird around a bit. Likely those golf course birds that we know visit occasionally.

Jan. 13 ~ Low was about 26F, very cold. NOAA had KERV for a 33 still at midnight, I told Kathy it was getting way colder than those amateurs at NOAA were calling it whilst I undid hoses and covered spigots. KERV had 24F this morn, near a category off! NOAA's super-computers, vs. one dummy that don't even have a weather app! Today daylength is 10 hrs. 24 minutes, so TEN minutes longer than at solstice three weeks ago. Gaining almost a minute per day now. Got up to about 60F which felt great. Did some more insulating of things as a multi-day sub-freezing major cold event begins tonight. Here we go again. Did have the two Am. Goldfinch and two lincoln's Sparrow.

ribbonice

Here we have some ribbon ice, from when the Frostweed burst due to cold on Jan. 15. Unfortunately I had cut ours as it looks a bit ratty as it dries, so we only got little stubs left. I knew I should have waited to see if we would get a 20F morning. It takes extreme cold to get it to pop out. Being white it is incredibly hard to photograph.



~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 12 ~ The northerlies of the front got here around midnight, when it was still 60F! Just after dawn it was 45F and had been blowing 15-25 mph gusting higher all night. And still going strong. Behind this front is polar air for Sunday through Wednesday. The current 45F feels about 10 lower in the wind. Town run so a look at the pond. I didn't bother the woods in the wind. Counted 32 Ring-necked Duck on the water. Saw a Little Yellow here in afternoon, the fourth butterfly species of the year. Sleepy Orange, Questionmark, and then Red Admiral, were first three. Wind finally calmed in the afternoon. We hit a toasty 60F.

Jan. 11 ~ Low about 30F, barely froze, for about 6 hours. KERV had a 28F. Major front inbound tonight with high winds and extreme cold behind it for several days. Getting up into the low 70's F was fantastic. Opened up, aired out and warmed house up. Kathy saw the two Lincoln's Sparrow together. Great hearing some little snippets of birdsong here and there, local resident breeders are just starting to get tuned up. Saw a Red Admiral out in the heat.

Jan. 10 ~ A hard freeze, was 30 by midnight, low about 27F here, KERV had 26F. At 10:30 a.m. there was still a quarter-inch of ice on the bird bath. I had to run to town early. There were a couple dozen Ring-necked Duck on the park pond. On 187 was roadkill with probably most if not all of the local wintering Black Vulture around this year, 60+ birds. Has been over 150 in the past. Far less roadkill out there these days. Less animals and less people on road. A Raven was calling perched in the big dead Pecan. They hardly ever landed in it when it was alive. Kathy heard the Robin in the afternoon. I heard at least two American Goldfinch.

Jan. 9 ~ Calmed down to 10-20 mph by morn, low about 39F and felt colder. Some central Texas sites had 50+ mph! We had 40mph or more. There is a little bump (the end of the ridge behind us) and a thick tree line (climax Junipers) along it adjacent on north of us, so the full brunt of northerlies is deflected over us a wee bit, making a huge difference. We can hear it howling at the river Cypresses. Heard the Long-eared Owl about 9 p.m. in evening. That was the only thing of note today. One Sleepy Orange butterfly.

I have been remiss not to mention the Juniper pollen. Yesterday with the winds, air is getting in house, it set Kathy's Juniper pollen detectors off. So, 'tis the season! We saw and noted the first rusty-orange tint of male buds a few days before the end of the year, about Dec. 28 we talked about seeing that color again. Forgot to mention it last trip to store and town how orange the Junipers were. They are open season now. As Carl Sagan woiuld say, billions and billions, of pollen specks.

Jan. 8 ~ Some drizzle and light showers overnight. Was lower 50's at midnight warmed to 60F by dawn. About 7mm of rain, a bit over a quarter-inch, five-sixteenths. The wind got going as the front went through. We had sustained over 20 mph and gusts over 35 to 40 mph! Spent the day in the 50's F, but did not feel it. Did not see anything different for birds. Sounded like two Lincoln's Sparrow again. The wind will keep it from freezing tonight. It howled at 20-30+ mph much of the night.

Jan. 7 ~ Another freeze, probably hit 30F here, KERV had 28F. A chilly one. Interesting was a single Sandhill Crane flying over low north, as in a local movement. It got separated and seemed to be calling for others. Nearest flocks are in corn stubble fields around Sabinal area. Kathy heard Bewick' Wren sing. The Eastern Bluebirds are really getting going with song. Great sounds, as from anything in the thrush family. The common three-note call sounds like 'drink your beer'. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Some mist starting late in evening.

Jan. 6 ~ Froze again, maybe 30F, KERV had a 29F. Sunny and warmed well though, I saw 66F in the afternoon. Felt great and did some airing out. At the 7 a.m. seed toss I heard both the Long-eared and Great Horned Owl calling. Had not heard the Long-eared in a couple weeks. It must move up and down river quite a bit. Kathy saw the first snake of the year, a couple months early, at least. It was a foot-long (young) W. Ribbonsnake. The common small 'garter' snake here. I saw my first winter form Questionmark butterfly of the season. The Golden-fronted Woodpecker is hitting the sunflower seed feeder again. Explaining why it was messed up yesterday. Late afternoon our one loyal Robin called from the Pecan. Kathy thought she heard it last week over in the draw. At 8:30 p.m. the Long-eared Owl was calling over toward river. So cool to be able to hear one long term. Heard it again at 10 p.m. further downriver.

commonraven

This is a Common Raven. Too bad about the branch, eh? The white is wet or something, it looks disheveled, and is shiny reflection. It is not a White-necked (now Chihuahuan) Raven.



~ ~ ~ last prior update below ~ ~ ~

Jan. 5 ~ Low about 40F. Was some light drizzle overnight. From all day yesterday and overnight it was about an eighth of an inch (3mm). So an inch for the year so far. Good start. Nice to see the sun this morn. Town run and park check to make sure still nothing there. About a half-dozen Ring-necked Duck upriver of island was it. No landbirds. The river has come up a little bit since the Cypresses have dropped leaves and gone dormant. Town was amazingly quiet, just like last week. Again, you can back out onto Main St. at 1 p.m. on a Friday and there are no cars the whole length of it. Where'd they all go? Got up to about 63F which felt great. Also produced the first butterfly of the year, a Sleepy Orange of course.

Jan. 4 ~ It dipped into the 30's F overnight for a bit but was about 40F by dawn. Never did get to 50F, maybe 46F at most. A little mist here and there, rain predictions way down but still supposed to get some overnight. Went out several times over the day and looking about, did not see anything different. A couple dove flock flushings due to accipiters. A chilly gray day. We are adding over 30 seconds to daylength, daily, already!

Jan. 3 ~ Low about 40F, and humid from the rain, so chillyish. Another day with a case of the accipiters, and abnormally quiet out there. Nothing new or different. Might have hit 50F if we were lucky. Cool and overcast, more rain on slate for tomorrow. Chickadees and Titmice are hitting the sunflower seed feeder with a vengence. Must not be much else out there for them to eat. There are seemingly less than a dozen Cardinal around. Normally we have a couple dozen at least, and in a good year have had forty here at once in winter!

Jan. 2 ~ Low about 44F, only going up a few dF over the day. And 'tis a rain day. I'll be inside looking out. At least two American Goldfinch were in yard early in morn, and may have been three. Such excitement. Only different thing was a male Brown-headed Cowbird Kathy saw. We had a decent round of rain early afternoon. We did not hit 50F all day. A chilly wet one. As of dark it was seven-eighths of an inch of rain. A good start to a normally dry January.

January 1 ~ Happy New Year! Here we go again! What a wild ride the last one was. I keep thinking, it can't get worse, and I keep being wrong. :) Low about 40F, sunny in afternoon and maybe hit 64F. In morn there was a Cooper's, and a Sharp-shinned Hawk in nearby trees having a talk about whose hunting ground this is I suppose. Quite vocal back and forth between them, which is something I do not normally encounter. To assuage any fears, the Sharpy did not seem whatsoever intimidated. Otherwise the same stuff.

~ ~ ~ 2023 summary ~ ~ ~

That was some year eh? As far as the animals and plants are concerned it was a brutal one. The third year in a row spent mostly in extreme or exceptional drought. Much of summer was spent at or above record high temperatures, again. Third year in a row with little to no wild food crops. And it shows. Trees are still dropping, very reduced wildflower blooms (and seed crops), little to no fruit or nut crops, reduced numbers of fledged juvenile birds, and so on. Ecologically the environment is taking a beating. How long is it sustainable?

I am coming up with 38+" of rain at our place for the year. Which is a wet year. We used to average 30", but lately have been nearer 20" at best, often much less. The issue is that being in exceptional drought for most of a couple prior years so water table so low, it did not bring us back up to snuff. We're still in trouble. But it was enough to break the extreme dry cycle. Probably kept a lot of trees from dying, despite all the ones that did. It would have been much worse. Fifty year old Cypress and Sycamores along riveredge were lost, too far gone.

Odes, e.g. dragonflies and damselflies were pitiful. Their numbers are so low I can hardly believe it. I used to see 15-20 species in a good walk. Now I am lucky to get 15-20 in a month. In both May and August I saw only 6 species (!?!) and in June I saw 8 species. There used to be big fall flights of Gliders and Saddlebags, just a few this year. I did not see a number of formerly regular species, as for instance Rubyspot damselflies, were NONE! On June 30 a Turquoise-tipped Darner at the park was good as less than annual here. A Comet Darner on July 30 was maybe the ode of the year, though it was at the Waresville golf course pond where a very few have been seen repeatedly the last several years seeming to indicate locally hatched individuals. Only a very few Orange-striped Threadtail were seen at the park, they seem to be fading away, they were still numerous 10 years ago, and common 20 years ago. I count 9 species of Zygops (ddamsels), and 23 sps. of Anisops (dragons), for a 32 sps. total for the year. Very poor. Lots were MIA. Around half of my best year here, maybe.

Butterflies were weak at best. Numbers way down, and the potential annual highlight of a fall invasion from the south did not materialize, again, so fall was particularly slow, when it should be a riot out there. Only one Zebra Longwing was seen, in June. A Coyote Cloudywing July 30 on Bluehearts at the Waresville golf course pond was the first in a few years so a good find. Only very low numbers of N. Mestra this year. A Tailed Orange Nov. 15-16 was my first in several years and great in the yard. A Great Purple Hairstreak Nov. 24-Dec. 1 provided my first December record. Just one Ocola Skipper this year, in November. Hardly any Clouded Skipper this year. A Great Southern White Dec. 19 is up there with Tailed Orange as butterfly of the year. Both are far less than anuual here. Many things were MIA. No Viceroy or Sister! No Crimson Patch, Theona, or Soldier. No type of any of the long-tailed Skippers. I count 75 species for the year, way at the bottom end of totals, only matched by the worst of drought times. And so it was.

Birds were way off too, of course, still, also surely due to years of exceptional drought. I think migrants just overfly areas that look like we do from the sky. Dessicated. They know there are no fruit, seeds or bugs. A Hooded Warbler April 30 was great, as far less than annual. Some were also seen at other area birding hotspots (Concan, Lost Maples, Junction) as well. Also in April great was Sylvia Hilbig saw a male Varied Bunting a few miles NW of town. A GRAY HAWK was photographed at Lost Maples in April (ebird). A Tricolored Heron at the park July 28 was nice, only my 3rd one here in 20 years (and the other two were together). All juvs. Peregrine Falcon and Long-eared Owl were the August highlights. The Owl back for its third winter here, and ridiculously early (nesting failure?). It had been last recorded March 24 in spring. It continued to be heard monthly through end of year. A fall migrant Swainson's Thrush is very rare here so a good find Sept. 30. Four Mourning Warbler is about average for lately, but can be better. Brown Creeper at park in March, and another in Dec. was good as LTA - less than annual here. Worst thing was finding out about a Painted Redstart at Utopia Pk on Jan. 29, long after that. With friends like that...    I count 165 sps. of birds I saw locally, essentially without going anywhere. Only the slightest amount of extremely local looking a few times on a few roads, mostly in yard or at weekly (more in spring) park checks.

In odds and ends... A Javelina (Collared Peccary) and a Coral Snake in the yard were a couple highlight yard beasties. Maybe the bug of the year was a Giant Cicada (Quesada gigas) which used to be only found down along Rio Grande in far south Texas. It was heard in late July and late August. South continues its march north. I heard one in Uvalde about five years ago, now one made it here. They sound like a fighter jet idling on the runway.

The pickens were slim, but as always some interesting discoveries to be made. The army of birders at Concan and Lost Maples in spring turned up a number of great finds too, especially some eastern type warblers like Blue-winged and Cerulean. See ebird for reports at those areas.

~ ~ ~ end 2023 sumary ~ ~ ~

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Links to last decade of old bird news pages below,
broken into six month increments. One day I'll quarter it
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Odd numbered archives are January through June.
Even numbered archives are July through December
(except a couple when the split missed, probably due
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Bird News Archive XXXVIII
July 1, 2022 - December 31, 2022

Bird News Archive XXXVII
January 1, 2022 - June 30, 2022

Bird News Archive XXXVI
July 1, 2021 - Dec. 31, 2021

Bird News Archive XXXV
January 1, 2021 - June 30, 2021

Bird News Archive XXXIV
July 1, 2020 - Dec. 31, 2020

Bird News Archive XXXIII
January 1, 2020 - June 30, 2020

Bird News Archive XXXII
July 1, 2019 - Dec. 31, 2019

Bird News Archive XXXI
January 1, 2019 - June 30, 2019

Bird News Archive XXX
July 1, 2018 - Dec. 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

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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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