Texas: Fall 2017
1 August – 30 November
Carpenter, E., et al. 2020. Fall 2017: Texas. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-8YF> North American Birds.
The big story for the fall season was Hurricane Harvey, the first major hurricane to impact South Texas in a number of years. After decades with no major hurricane impacting the central coast, our collective luck ran out with this one. On the evening of 25 August, Harvey came ashore near Rockport as a Category 4 storm and slowly made its way towards San Antonio before reversing tracks and heading back offshore again (and then eventually back on shore a couple days later). Property damage in and around Rockport and Port Aransas was catastrophic, as was habitat destruction. The storm and its aftermath appear to have wiped out a number of resident birds especially in Aransas, Refugio, Goliad, and San Patricio Counties. The high winds took out a lot of trees but it is perhaps going to be the associated storm surge that left huge swaths of coastal habitat submerged in salt water for days that will have an equal negative impact. The Port Aransas migrant traps – the Birding Center and Paradise Pond – along with Charlie’s Pasture were severely impacted. The Birding Center was pretty much wiped out while salt water intrusion at Paradise Pond killed most of the willows. The live oak trees in Aransas Pass and Rockport were pretty much completely denuded of leaves and smaller branches. Goose Island State Park was severely damaged; Blucher Park in Corpus Christi was impacted mostly by stripped leaves and vegetation along with felled trees. It will take some time for habitats to recover and it will take a number of years for resident bird populations to bounce back.
Away from the coast, from San Antonio to Austin to the College Station area, Harvey brought excitement with more storm waifs than are usually associated with hurricanes that make landfall in the state. Birders headed out to area lakes starting the morning of 26 August, and encountered several normally coastal birds over the next few days, with most of the birds retreating by 29 or 30 August.
The most noticeable and numerous species were Magnificent Frigatebirds and Royal Terns, each found on perhaps a dozen or more different lakes and reservoirs. High counts for Magnificent Frigatebirds was 15 on Walter E. Long Lake, Travis and 16 on Lake Fayette, Fayette; highs for Royal Terns included 4 on Braunig Lake, Bexar, 5 on Granger Lake, Williamson and 6 at Mitchell Lake, Bexar. Laughing Gulls were also scattered about with a high count of 4 on Fayette Lake, Fayette. The most notable Least Tern tally was 12 birds on Belton Lake, Bell. Brown Pelicans were only reported on the Bexar lakes with just a couple birds being seen. Perhaps the best prize was a Sooty Tern on Walter E. Long Lake, Travis 28 Aug, a first for the county. A Sandwich Tern on the same lake/date was the only one found inland due to the storm.
Contributors (subregional editors in boldface)
Dan Allen (DAl), Rodney Allen, John Allendorf, Dean Anderson (DAn), Kenny Anderson, Bob Baez (BBa), Bill Beaty (BiB), Grant Beauprez (GBe), Bob Becker (BoB), David Bell, Chris Benesh, David Benn (DBe), John Berner (JBe), Chuck Berthoud (CBe), Brandon Best (BrB), Stephanie Bilodeau, Ronnie Blount, Aaron Boone (ABo), Justin Bosler (JuB), Jessica Bowman (JeB), Gailon Brehm (GBr), Amanda Brochu (ABr), David Brotherton (DBr), Marcy Brown, Kelly Bryan (KBr), Winnie Burkett, Kathy Busbey (KBu), Raymond Van Buskirk (RVB), Greg Butcher (GBu), Bryan Calk (BrC), Steve Cardiff (SCa), Blaine Carnes (BlC), Eric Carpenter (Central Texas), Cameron Carver, Daniel Casey (DCa), Katherine Cavazos, Steve Chapman (SCh), James Childress, Jack Chiles (JCh), Mike Chiles (MiC), Sheridan Coffey (SCo), Matt Colbert (MaC), Greg Cook (GCo), Dennis Cooke (DCo), Mel Cooksey (MeC), Michael B. Cooper (MBC), D.D. Currie (DDC), Greg Custer (GCu), Julie Custer (JCu), Jim Danzenbaker, Ian Davies, Teri Dickinson, Cindie Dillard (CiD), Sandy Dillard, Chris Distel (ChD), Donna Dittmann, Bob Doe, Gerald Duhon, Kathy Mihm Dunning (KMD), Gil Eckrich, Mark Edmund (MEd), Frances Edwards, Jon Edwards, Wyatt Egelhoff, Shelli Ellerbe, Mark Elliott (MEl), Dodge Engleman, Darrell Fellers, Shawneen Finnegan, Tad Finnell (TFi), Joe Fischer, Charles Dean Fisher (CDF), Karl Flocke, Terrie Ford (TFo), Tony Frank (TFr), Bert Frenz (Central Oaks & Prairies), Bob Friedrichs, Anna Galvan, Ross Geredien, Corina Giron, Steve Glover, Javi Gonzalez (JGo), Bernd Gravenstein, Mike Gray, John Groves (JGr), Martin Hagne (MHa), John Hale, David Hanson, Jan Hanson (JaH), Drew Harvey (DrH), Dave Hawksworth (DHa), Lynn Hay (LHa), John Haynes (JHa), Susan Heath, Mitch Heindel (MHe), Thomas Hellweg (ThH), Tiffanie Hendrix (TiH), Richard Hermosillo (RiH), Ernesto Herrera, Randy Hesford (RaH), Anthony Hewetson (Northwest Texas – Panhandle and South Plains), Petra Hockey, Lisa Holmes (LHo), Joan Holt (JHo), Bob Honig (BoH), Ben Horstmann (BeH), Mark Hunter (MHu), Dave Irons, Pat Isaacson, Sally Jameson (SJa), Dan Jones, Sarah Jose (SJo), Joe Kennedy (JKe), Peter Keyel, Simon Kiacz, Richard Kinney (RKi), John Kirk, John Kiseda (JKi), Amy Kocurek, Rich Kostecke (RKo), Mark Kulstad, Sharon Lane (SLa), Mark Lanham (MLa), Laurie Lawler, Crystal Ledezma, Cin-Ty Lee (CTL), Tony Leukering (TLe), Duke Liebler (DuL), Rel Limpsomb, Dell Little (DeL), Mark Lockwood (MLo), Tim Long (TLo), Susie Lower (SLo), Andrew Lydeard, Alberto Manterola (AMa), Gabriel Mapel, Michael Marsden, Terry Martinez, Ray Matlack (RaM), Steve Mayes (SMa), Richard Mayfield (RiM), Liam McGuire, Jon McIntyre (JMc), Stennie Meadours (SMe), Anita Meager (AMe), Colette Micallef, Paul Micallef, Jennifer Miller (JMi), Arman Moreno (AMo), Derek Muschalek, Marie Nelson, Ronald Newhouse, Ann Nightingale, Cody Norris, Vincent O’Brien, Kyle O’Haver, Carolyn Ohl-Johnson (COJ), Brent Ortego, Greg Palko, Arvind Panjabi, Jim Paton (JPa) (Trans-Pecos), Randall Patterson (RPa), Larry Persico, James Peterson (JPe), Kris Peterson, Barrett Pierce, Randy Pinkston (RPi), Sumita Prasad, Niler Pyeatt, Ryan Rachunek (RyR), Ross Rasmussen (RoR) (North Central Texas), D. Michael Ray (DMR), Martin Reid (MRe), Albert Ribes (ARi), Jaxon Rickel, Barrett Riess, Cecilia Riley (CRi), Anona Roberts (ARo), Rich Roche (RiR), Mike Rogan (MRo), Cindy Rubens (CiR), Chris Runk (ChR), Bill Sain (BiS), Ben Sandifer, Ben Sandstrom (BeS), Laura Sare, David Sarkozi (DSa), Mark Scheuerman (MSc), Susie Schneider (SSc), Willie Sekula (South Texas), Paul Sellin (PSe), Cliff Shackelford, Ryan Shaw (RSh), Dennis Shepler (DeS), Yvonne Shifrin, Don Shipp (DoS), Dean Silvers (DSi), Sue Smith (SSm), Pam Smolen (PSm), Eric Spink, John Sproul (JSp), Denise Stephens (DSt), Jim Stevenson (JSt), Harlan Stewart, Byron Stone (ByS), Michelle Summers (MSu), Bill Supulski (BSu), Romey Swanson (RSw), Art Tawater, Kent Taylor (KTa), Margaret Kirby Taylor (MKT), Lila Theis, Kristi Thomas (KrT), Carol Thompson, Kenneth Thompson (KTh), Herb Thron, Jane Tillman (JaT), John Tischler (JoT), Robert Truss, Robin Tucker-Drob (RTD), Gemini Twins, Tim Vasquez, Megan Villarreal, Darrell Vollert, Christian Walker (CWa), R.D. Wallace (RDW), Robert Wallace (RWa), Kent Warner (KWa), Maria Watson (MWa), Mike Wease (MWe), Nancy Webber, Jeremy Webster (JWe), Ron Weeks (RWe) (Upper Texas Coast), Carol Wells (CWe), Angie Westmoreland, Ed Wetzel, Bob White, James White (JWh), Timothy White, Kimberly Williams (KWi), Mary Ann Wilson (MAW), Dale Wolck, David Wolf (DWo), Janie Woodley (JWo), John Yochum, Lisa Young, Barry Zimmer.
L.R.G.V. (Lower Rio Grande Valley); U.T.C. (Upper Texas Coast).
Waterfowl through Doves
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks near Sabinetown, Sabine 19 Aug (DB) were noteworthy. Rare in Angelina, a Ross’s Goose was with Snow Geese over Boggy Slough 31 Oct (CS). Rare in the El Paso area, up to 6 Cackling Geese were at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 10-19+ Nov (ph. JGr, JPa). A Canada Goose was an oddity in Harlingen, Cameron 3 Aug-3 Sep (JY, SB). An adult and immature Tundra Swan were at the Fort Worth Nature Center, Tarrant 26-30 Nov+ (ph. CN). A count of 12 Cinnamon Teal at Cattail Marsh in Beaumont, Jefferson 27 Nov was exceptional (ph. HS).
An early Surf Scoter was on White Rock Lake, Dallas 13 Oct (ph. AG) while the summering Surf Scoter near Choke Canyon, McMullen was last seen 6 Aug (ph. WS). Single White-winged Scoters appeared at Lake Benbrook, Tarrant 6 Nov (JA, EW), Hagerman N.W.R., Grayson 9 Nov (ph. GCu, JCu), and near Riviera, Kleberg 11 Nov (ph. WS, MM). Single Long-tailed Ducks were studied e. of Jeddo, Caldwell 11 Nov (LS), near Kaufer-Hubert Memorial Park, Kleberg 11-12 Nov (ph. WS, m.ob.), at Southside Water Treatment Plant, Dallas 14-15 Nov (BS, ph. EW), and at Lake Fayette, Fayette 16-18 Nov (JWe, BG).
A Least Grebe at Hueco Tanks State Historical Site 19-31 Aug (JGr, ph. RiH) was the first in El Paso since 2006. An injured immature White-crowned Pigeon picked up near the Galveston Ferry, Galveston 7 Oct (TLo, SP, SMe) was quite surprising; it is only the second documented record for the state. A pair of Common Ground-Doves were notable at Hueco Tanks State Historical Site, El Paso 19 Aug-16 Sep (JGr, RiH). An intriguing heard-only White-tipped Dove was described along the Lost Mine Trail, Big Bend N.P., Brewster 25 Aug (ChR).
Cuckoos through Cranes
A tough fall migrant in central Texas, single Black-billed Cuckoos were detected in Cedar Creek, Bastrop 9 Sep (BG) and in south San Antonio, Bexar 12 Sep (MRe). A Groove-billed Ani at Hueco Tanks State Historical Site 22 Oct (ph. RiH) was the first in El Paso since 1995. A Lesser Nighthawk was unexpected at Granger Lake, Williamson 28 Aug (ph. RKo). A Chuck-will’s-widow was at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 20 Nov+ (JHa); a Whip-poor-will was also there 20-21 Nov (JHa, DSa). Two Chaetura, presumably Chimney Swifts, were an unusual find for Davis Mountains S.P., Jeff Davis 14 Aug (ph. AMo).
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds made their best ever showing in the El Paso, El Paso area with up to 7 individuals 30 Sep-28 Oct (ph. BZ); the same was true in the Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis with 10-12 individuals visiting feeders there during the period (KBr). Costa’s Hummingbirds were in El Paso, El Paso 29 Sep+ (ph. BZ), at the Chisos Basin sewage ponds, Brewster 18 Oct (ph. EC), and at the Christmas Mountains, Brewster 4-9 Nov (ph. COJ). A male Allen’s Hummingbird was studied briefly at the Chisos Basin Sewage Ponds, Brewster 21 Oct (ph. EC). The Broad-billed Hummingbird from the summer at Davis Mountains S.P., Jeff Davis continued through at least 18 Sep (ph. m.ob.). Elsewhere, 2 were in El Paso, El Paso 14 Sep (BZ) and 6-20 Oct (ph. JKi) while another was in the Christmas Mountains, Brewster 26-30 Sep (ph. COJ). The only White-eared Hummingbird this season was in Boot Canyon, Brewster 3 Aug (ph. RVB).
A Yellow Rail was an exceptional find at Argyle, Denton 6 Nov (TiH). A Purple Gallinule was at Gibbons Creek Reservoir, Grimes 1 Sep (SD, CiD). A Whooping Crane was moving with Sandhill Cranes by the Smith Point Hawk Watch, Chambers 28 Sep (BBa, TFi). Two Whooping Cranes were over Winscott Plover Road, Tarrant/Johnson 5 Nov (AL) and 7 were over Weatherford, Parker 16 Nov (AT). Two Whooping Cranes touched down and overnighted s. of Lions Park, Temple, Bell 8-9 Nov (ph. RPi). A Whooping Crane was at the Ida Lake Overlook, Potter 17 Nov (GBe, SSm, ph.). A Whooping Crane visited the Oso Bay area of Corpus Christi 21 Nov for a rare Nueces record (ph. SJo, MeC).
Lone Piping Plovers were detected at Hornsby Bend, Travis 3 Aug (MRo) and near Twin Buttes Reservoir, Tom Green 3 Sep (ph. KTh). Whimbrels at Richland Creek W.M.A., Navarro 12 Aug (GBr) and over Utopia, Uvalde 7 Nov (MHe) were good finds. Most unusual for fall were 6 Hudsonian Godwits reported over the Knolle Ranch area, Nueces 6 Nov (LP). A Ruddy Turnstone appeared at Gibbons Creek Reservoir, Grimes 26 Aug (ph. SK, CG), perhaps a by-product of Harvey.
An impressive 321 Red Knots were tallied 22 Oct at Padre Island National Seashore, Kleberg (MRe, SCo, WS). A Dunlin was at Dell City, Hudspeth 15-17 Oct (ph. JPa) while 8 were at Eastman Chemical Talley Bottoms, Harrison 6 Nov (†MEd, †DBr). A Buff-breasted Sandpiper near Dell City, Hudspeth 17 Sep (ph. JPa) was thought to be the first for the Trans-Pecos.
Single Pectoral Sandpipers were in Dell City, Hudspeth 7 Oct (JPa) and 17 Oct (ph. PSe). A Semipalmated Sandpiper was notable at the Fort Hancock sewage ponds, Hudspeth 6 Sep (JPa). A late Semipalmated Sandpiper seen at Southside Water Treatment Plant, Dallas 20 Nov (ph. ChR). Eight sightings of migrant Short-billed Dowitchers in north-central Texas was well above average (MWe, ph. JCh). An American Woodcock was at the South Padre Island Convention Center, Cameron 12-20 Nov (ID). Red-necked Phalaropes were found near Yorktown, DeWitt 29 Aug (DM), 2 at Mitchell Lake, Bexar 29-31 Aug (ph. BD, m.ob.), one at Sugar House Pond, Hidalgo 5-8 Sep (ph. DJ), and 2 again at Mitchell Lake 14-15 Oct (DE).
Skuas through Terns
Exciting was a South Polar Skua seen on a tuna trip in Calhoun waters 15 Oct (ph. DSa, BF), only the second documented record for Texas. A Long-tailed Jaeger was surprising at Hornsby Bend, Travis 30 Aug-1 Sep (MAW, TM, ph. EC, m.ob.). A Black-legged Kittiwake was seen at Crystal Beach, Galveston 3-4 Nov (ph. RB).
Sabine’s Gulls were widely reported this season, highlighted by an adult at South Padre Island, Cameron 2 Sep (TW), 4 juveniles at Tornillo Reservoir, El Paso 6 Sep (ph. JPa), and another at the Kemah Boardwalk area in Galveston, Harris, and Chambers 17-19 Nov (ph. GT et al.). An impressive 953 Laughing Gulls were counted at Hargill Playa, Hidalgo 4 Aug (DJ). An early Franklin’s Gull was spotted at Lake Lewisville, Denton 9 Aug (KC, ph.).
Up to 46 Ring-billed Gulls were noteworthy at Lake Meredith, Hutchinson 1-30 Aug (MEl, m.ob. ph.). Two Herring Gulls were early at Lake O’ the Pines, Marion 26 Aug (†DBr). Lesser Black-backed Gulls were in Amarillo, Randall 21 Oct (ph. BeS) and near Panhandle, Carson 22 Nov (ph. GCo). A Great Black-backed Gull was reported from the Texas City Dike, Galveston 14 Nov-8 Dec (DuL, ph. PSe, m.ob.).
Hurricane Harvey displaced a Sooty Tern inland along Davis Estates Road, Fort Bend 26 Aug (ph. RWe, MSc, JBe); another was grounded in Galveston, Galveston 30 Aug (ph. TLo). A Bridled Tern was seen on a tuna trip in Calhoun 14 Oct (BF). A Common Tern was at Lake Bryan, Brazos 3 Aug (ph. RN) and 3 were at Lake Somerville, Washington 27 Sep (†JWh). Two Royal Terns at Sims Lane, Brazos 28 Aug (ph. JH) established a first county record. A Royal Tern was at Trinity River N.W.R., Liberty 7 Oct (SE). A Black Skimmer found in Victoria, Victoria 28 Aug was pushed inland by Hurricane Harvey (BO).
Loons through Pelicans
A Red-throated Loon was at Lake Benbrook, Tarrant 18 Nov (ph. GCo, JA). A Common Loon was an odd sight at Santa Margarita Ranch Bluffs, Starr 11 Nov (MHa et al.). An immature Jabiru found along F.M. 1985 in Chambers 1-3 Aug was the easternmost ever for the state (DH, ph. JaH, m.ob.); another (or the same one?) was seen briefly northwest of El Campo, Wharton 6 Sep (ph. RyR). A Wood Stork was sighted at Hagerman N.W.R., Grayson 2-3 Aug (KBu, KWi, JCh, ph.).
The Brown Booby from the summer season at Canyon Lake, Comal was seen sporadically through 15 Nov (m.ob.). A Brown Booby was at John D. Parker East Texas Fish Hatchery, Jasper 29 Aug-12 Sep (ph. AK). Another Brown Booby was seen on Lake Buchanan, Llano 13 Oct (ph. JoT). Two Brown Boobies were found at the Baytown Nature Center, Harris 18 Nov (SE, TFo, LHo, MKT). Perhaps related to Hurricane Harvey, an adult Brown Booby lingered at the John D. Parker East Texas Fish Hatchery, Jasper 29 Aug – 12 Sep (ph. AK). A juvenile Red-footed Booby was encountered on a fishing expedition southeast of Port Aransas, Kleberg 2 Nov (ph. JMc), only the fourth state record.
Two Neotropic Cormorants were at Leroy Elmore Park, Lubbock 1 Aug-30 Nov (GCo, SG, m.ob. ph.). A juvenile Double-crested Cormorant was unexpected at Lake Casa Blanca S.P., Webb 26 Aug (MeC). Out of normal range were 2 Anhingas at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 26 Nov (JuB). Noteworthy Brown Pelicans were 2 at Hagerman N.W.R., Grayson 12 Aug-30 Nov+ (FE, JE, JCh, ph.), Lake Palestine, Henderson 5 Sep (TD), and Lake O’the Pines, Marion 13 Oct (ph. KrT).
Herons through Spoonbills
An American Bittern was early at Alazan Bayou W.M.A., Nacogdoches 11-12 Sep (CWe, CS) and seen again 1 Oct (DWo, RT). An American Bittern was at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso 24 Oct-2 Nov (JSp). An injured Least Bittern at Ascarate Park 28 Sep (ph. JKi) was the first El Paso record in many years. A Great Egret lingered in Amarillo, Randall through 18 Nov (DrH, AH, RSw, ph.).\. A Little Blue Heron was at Leroy Elmore Park, Lubbock 6-20 Aug (GCo, SG, m.ob., ph.) while a Tricolored Heron was at the same location 9 Aug-2 Sep (DrH, PK, m.ob., ph.).
Incredibly, 3 Reddish Egrets were studied at Imperial Reservoir, Pecos 24 Aug (JuB). A Reddish Egret was found at Canyon Lake, Comal 1 Sep-7 Oct (GCo, DeL, DDC) while another found initially at Hornsby Bend, Travis 16 Sep (MaC) was later seen nearby along the Colorado River, Travis 1-3 Oct (AMo). The 2 Yellow-crowned Night-Herons present in summer in w. El Paso, El Paso were last reported 7 Aug (JGr).
A White Ibis was at Leroy Elmore Park, Lubbock 10-17 Aug (PK, LM, JMi) and another was near Cone, Crosby 12 Aug (AH). Two White Ibises wandered to just east of Ingram, Kerr 20 Aug-26 Nov (ChD, ph. PSe). Up to 3 Glossy Ibises were reported from late July through 9 Aug (ph. EW, †RKi, PI) at Richland Creek W.M.A., Navarro. Late were 6 White-faced Ibises near Floydada, Floyd 19 Nov (DrH, AH, RSw, ph.). A Roseate Spoonbill flew over Central Heights, Nacogdoches 16 Sep (DWo) while another was in Slaton, Lubbock 25 Sep (ph. SCh).
Osprey through Hawks
An Osprey reached Gibbons Creek Reservoir, Grimes 26 Aug (†SK, CG) and another arrived at Lake Somerville, Burleson/Washington the same day (†GCo, BlC, †SG). Late Ospreys were along the Rio Grande near McNary, Hudspeth 5-11 Nov (WE) and in El Paso, El Paso 26 Nov+ (ph. JPa). West of normal were Swallow-tailed Kites south of Presidio, Presidio 30 Aug (KF) and at Cook’s Slough, Uvalde 2 Oct (RG). White-tailed Kites staged an invasion into north-central Texas. An amazing 12 were reported with up to 9 seen daily along Winscott Plover Road, Tarrant, Johnson and adjacent roads in Parker 9 Oct-30 Nov (JA, EW, m.ob., ph.), 2 along Wolf Springs road, Ellis 22-23 Oct (ph. RL) and one at Clymer Meadow Preserve, Hunt 14 Nov (AP, GBu et al.). Nesting by Mississippi Kites was confirmed in Carrizo Creek, Nacogdoches with adults tending a fledgling 13 Aug (SLo) while from 1-4 birds were seen regularly over parts of Nacogdoches town from Jun-early Aug (DWo, m.ob.). By mid-Aug Mississippi Kites were also becoming widespread in areas of Angelina.
An early Bald Eagle appeared at Lake Palo Duro, Hansford 8 Aug (ph. MEl). A brief encounter with a Northern Goshawk was documented at Pine Springs, Guadalupe Mountains N.P., Culberson 22 Nov (DeS). Rather late was a Common Black Hawk along Limpia Creek in the Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis 7 Nov (MLo). Totally unexpected in north-central Texas was a widespread invasion of at least 10 Harris’s Hawks with the first at Hagerman N.W.R., Grayson 24 Sep (RPa, MiC, ph.) and the last was a group of 3 in Navarro 30 Nov+ (SLa). An immature Harris’s Hawk was seen near the County Road EE Wetlands, Lynn 19 Aug (BrB, AH) and another was near Groom, Carson 8 Oct (DMR). On the U.T.C., Harris’s Hawks irrupted with 14 tallied at Smith Point, Chambers between 5 Sep & 19 Nov (DH, JKe et al.). Other singles were noteworthy at Sheldon Lake S.P., Harris 11 Oct (MB) and in Beaumont, Jefferson 28 Oct (JHa, SMa, et al.).
Up to 3 White-tailed Hawks were present southwest of Coupland, Travis 14 Oct+ (ph. AMo, m.ob.). In north-central Texas, White-tailed Hawks were seen along I-35, Denton 26 Sep (ph. MN), along F.M. 2475, Van Zandt 9 Nov (RKi, PI, ph.), and along Winscott-Plover Road, Tarrant/Johnson 11-13 Nov (EW, ph. m.ob.). A Gray Hawk was at the Hazel Bazemore hawk watch 19 Aug (ph. JPe), providing a first documented record for Nueces. A Broad-winged Hawk was near Dell City, Hudspeth 30 Sep (ph. JPa). The Broad-winged Hawk migration was exceptionally late at Smith Point, Chambers with counts of 361 on 9 Nov (Smith Point Hawk Watch staff) and 93 on 19 Nov (JKe). Unusually late was a Swainson’s Hawk north of Dayton, Liberty 30 Nov (†CM, PM).
A Zone-tailed Hawk was at the San Jacinto Battleground S.H.S., Harris 16 Oct (ph. DW). Single Rough-legged Hawks were seen at Hagerman N.W.R., Grayson 4 & 29 Nov (RoR, JK) and along State Highway 373, Cooke 14 Nov (DCa et al.). A Ferruginous Hawk at Clymer Meadow Preserve, Hunt 14 Nov (AP, GBu et al.) was well east of normal winter range. A Golden Eagle was seen over Winscott-Plover Rd, Tarrant 29 Oct (MSu). Golden Eagles at the Smith Point Hawk Watch, Chambers included 2 or 3 immature birds 28-29 Oct and 10 Nov (Smith Point Hawk Watch staff, TFr, WB, PSm, DH).
Owls through Falcons
A heard-only Northern Pygmy-Owl was described in McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains N.P., Culberson 24 Oct (PH). Rare throughout most of the Central Brazos Valley, there are a few records of Burrowing Owl in Robertson, yet the 21 Nov (ph. AMa) sighting near Calvert is still noteworthy. A pair of Spotted Owls in the Davis Mountains northwest of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis were quite actively calling until mid-August then went quiet until an adult and presumed juvenile were heard interacting 20 Oct (KBr). Always a tough bird any time of year, a Long-eared Owl was a nice surprise at Mitchell Lake, Bexar 10 Nov (BD). A dozen Long-eared Owls found on a private hunting lease in Grayson 29 Nov (LL, JCh, ph.) was an awesome find. The first area sighting in 20 years applies to a Short-eared Owl found in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 9 Nov (CDF). At least one Northern Saw-whet Owl first detected in late May at Tejas Camp, Guadalupe Mountains N.P., Culberson was present until 3 Sep (WE).
A lone Lewis’s Woodpecker was west-northwest of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 20 Sep (CRi, ph. MG) while up to 4 were at Frijole Ranch, Guadalupe Mountains N.P., Culberson 28 Sep – 25 Oct (ABo, ph. m.ob.). Wayward Red-headed Woodpeckers included 2 at South Llano River S.P., Kimble 17 Oct (NW) and one in Big Lake, Reagan 21 Oct – 22 Nov (RiR, ph. TV). Something was a-miss with Acorn Woodpeckers. Not prone to much wandering, wayward birds were at Copper Breaks S.P., Hardeman 23 Sep (JaT, ph.), at Dickens Springs Park, Dickens 1 Oct (JA, GCo, SG, ph.), and in Seminole, Gaines 20 Oct (ph. DHa).
An out-of-range and probable first county record for Houston, a Golden-fronted Woodpecker was carefully described 24 Nov (†BR) at County Road 2210 north of Wheeler Springs. Westerly Red-bellied Woodpeckers included one at Thompson Grove, Dallam 24 Nov (GCo, ph.) and another in Floydada, Floyd 26 Nov (PK). A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker near Dell City 12 Nov (ph. JPa, BZ) was an overdue first for Hudspeth. Rare for the Trans-Pecos, a Downy Woodpecker was at Dell City, Hudspeth 26 Nov (ph. DAn, KA). A male Hairy Woodpecker near Dell City, Hudspeth 10 Sep (ph. JPa, BZ) was a county first; it or another was in Dell City 25 Nov+ (ph. DM, WS).
Crested Caracaras are still a rarity in much of East Texas and a sighting 11 Nov (†BW) near Alto may be a first record for Cherokee. The few other caracara reports this season in East Texas were in Rusk, Henderson, and Bowie where they have been seen previously. A Crested Caracara along the Rio Grande southeast of McNary, Hudspeth 5 Nov (WE) was about the fifth county record. A Prairie Falcon at Pleasanton, Atascosa 30 Aug (ph. KWa) was very early.
Flycatchers through Vireos
A frequently calling and singing Western Wood-Pewee delighted birders at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 24-28 Sep (audio, ph. SMa, ThH, et al.). Likely the same Black Phoebe that visited the Brazos Center, Brazos 18-23 Feb returned to the same park 23 Oct (HT) and has stayed through the period (ph., m.ob.). A Say’s Phoebe found at McFaddin N.W.R., Jefferson 23-24 Sep was east of normal (ph. TFr, et al.). Another or the same Say’s Phoebe that spent the winter last year along F.M. 1480 east of the Sabine River Authority, Rains was found along the beach east of its normal locale 19-20 Oct (RKi). Two locally-rare Vermilion Flycatchers that visited last winter at Old Sour Lake, Hardin have turned up again since 30 Sep+ (ph. RSh). Also rare in the central Pineywoods, a male was near Huntington, Angelina 7 Oct (ph. JC) and an immature male was at the Texas 147 Causeway, Lake Sam Rayburn, San Augustine 11 Oct (DWo).
A Great Kiskadee took up residence at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 14 Aug+ (JHa, ph. ARi, et al.). Adding to an ever-increasing range expansion in South Texas were 4 Tropical Kingbirds seen and heard at Lake Casa Blanca S.P., Webb 26 Aug (MeC). An occasionally vocal Tropical Kingbird was a great find for Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 8-21 Nov (AMe, MLo, CRi). Widely disbursed out-of-range sightings of calling Couch’s Kingbirds include 3 at Katy Prairie, Waller 15 Oct (†BoH), 2 at the Stephen F. Austin State University campus, Nacogdoches 4 Nov (†DWo), and 5 at Brenham, Washington (†DV). A Cassin’s Kingbird found at Flour Bluff, Nueces 8 Oct provided for a rare Coastal Bend record (ph. MeC). A female Rose-throated Becard visited Santa Ana N.W.R., Hidalgo 11 Nov+ (RWa, RDW et al.); another female was at Inn at Chachalaca Bend, Cameron 25 Nov (ph. RTD, MWa).
Rare, mostly in fall and winter, lone Hutton’s Vireos were in El Paso, El Paso 3 Nov (ph. JPa, BZ) and 10 Nov+ (ph. BZ). Single early South Texas Blue-headed Vireos were reported from Weslaco, Hidalgo 6 Sep (BSu), McAllen Nature Center, Hidalgo 9 Sep (MV, JR, EH), and Laguna Vista Nature Trail, Cameron 12 Sep (BiB). On the U.T.C., an early Blue-headed Vireo was at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 10 Sep (SMa). A Blue-headed Vireo near Dell City, Hudspeth 30 Sep (ph. JPa) was only about the third county record; one was banded northwest of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 20 Sep (ph. KBr). A good find was a Plumbeous Vireo at Sabal Palm Sanctuary, Cameron 10 Nov (ph. ByS, BiS, DBe, MSc). A rare fall migrant so far west, a Philadelphia Vireo was a great find near Frijole Ranch, Guadalupe Mountains N.P., Culberson 8 Oct (ph. WS). Rare but regular migrants through northwest Texas, 2 Red-eyed Vireos were at Camp Rio Blanco, Crosby 27 Aug (AH) and one was at Clapp Park, Lubbock 5 Sep (JMi).
Jays through Bushtits
Starting with 2 on 5 Oct (SJa), Steller’s Jay staged an impressive invasion into El Paso, El Paso with several hundred likely present in the city through the period and favored neighborhoods hosting dozens. One in northwestern Hudspeth, at an isolated roadside grove surrounded by desert grassland, 12 Nov (ph. JPa, BZ) was a county first. Another was in Dell City, Hudspeth 12 Nov+ (JPa, BZ). Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay was in El Paso, El Paso in small numbers starting in mid-Sep with a few through the period. At least a few are present around El Paso most falls and this year did not stand out as being different from long term norms. A Clark’s Nutcracker northwest of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 25-27 Oct (ph. DF) and at least 6 near the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains, Brewster 28 Oct (MHu) hinted a possible irruption that never materialized.
Tamaulipas Crows returned to South Texas after a several years of absence in the state. The first bird was spotted on a fishing boat 43 mi south of Port Aransas, Kleberg 2 Nov (ph. JMc). The next bird was spotted on South Padre Island, Cameron 5 Nov (DI, SF, AN, JD). The traditional spot for this species, the Brownsville Landfill, got in the act 10 Nov with 2 birds present (RVB, GM); before the month was over, up to 6 birds there delighted birders with at least 2 staying through the end of the fall season. In addition, 3 Tamaulipas Crows were discovered at Laguna Atascosa, Cameron 12 Nov (CB). This irruption of Tamaulipas Crows extended all the way to the U.T.C., with single birds at Bodekker Road in Galveston, Galveston 26 Nov (MHa, audio, ph. DSt, audio, ph. KO, CL) and at San Luis Pass, Brazoria and Galveston 27 Nov (DSi, ph. DCo, et al.). This may have been the same bird as the Bodekker Road bird could not be found 27 Nov. It or another bird showed up again in the Bodekker Road area 1-5 Dec (m.ob.). Both birds represented first county records.
The first documented Fish Crow for Brazoria was found feeding in garbage dumpsters at San Luis Pass 8 Nov (ph. JSt, RiM). A nice tally of 33 Chihuahuan Ravens was made in Zavala 27 Aug (GCo, BlC, SG). Further east, one photographed at Goose Island S.P., Aransas 6 Nov (ph. BeH) was a very rare occurrence for anywhere near the coast. A Common Raven east of its normal range was identified in Marlin, Falls 6 Aug (†AW).
A Violet-green Swallow was a great find at Hornsby Bend, Travis 10-11 Sep (ph. DAl, ph. AMo). Almost accidental in the region in recent years, a Carolina Chickadee at White River Lake, Crosby, 9 Sep (AH) was a nice find. A few Mountain Chickadees moved into the lowlands of El Paso and Hudspeth, with 2 at Hueco Tanks State Historic Site 21-22 Oct (RiH) and 2 to 3 in Dell City 17 Oct+ (ph. PSe) respectively. Three to 4 Bushtits in El Paso 4 Nov (JPa) were the first in many years for El Paso.
Nuthatches through Thrashers
With the first reported 1 Sep (SSc), Red-breasted Nuthatch invaded El Paso and Hudspeth in good numbers. In northwest Texas, early reports there also hinted at an irruption with 3 Red-breasted Nuthatches in Texhoma, Sherman 12 Sep (TLe, KMD, ph.), and one at the Wagon Wheel Ranch, Randall 27 Sep (MLa).
White-breasted Nuthatch staged perhaps its best ever invasion into the El Paso area. Two at Memorial Park, El Paso 2 Sep (ph. JPa) were the first and birds were reported through the period from numerous sites with a high count of 3 at Hueco Tanks Historical Site 16 Sep (JGr, RiH, JKi) and at Memorial Park 24 Sep (JGr, JKi). In Hudspeth, which had only 4 prior records, one was in the northwest part of the county 30 Sep (ph. JPa) and one to 2 were in the Dell City area 10 Sep+ (ph. JPa, BZ, m.ob.). A Pygmy Nuthatch in El Paso, El Paso 28 Oct (JGr) was the only record for the El Paso area this season. A Brown Creeper near Dell City 12 Nov (ph. JPa, BZ) made for a rare Hudspeth record. Even with a non-invasion fall a Brown Creeper managed to show up at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, Cameron 19 Nov (ph. JGo).
There were 2 reports of lone Golden-crowned Kinglets in El Paso, El Paso where rare and irregular; more unusual was one along the Rio Grande southeast of McNary 5 Nov (WE) for the third Hudspeth record. Extremely early Ruby-crowned Kinglets included 2 seen at El Franco Lee Park, Harris (RA) and another at Kleb Woods, Harris 4 Sep (CiR); this is the second earliest date ever for the U.T.C.
A Townsend’s Solitaire in Texline, Dallam 30 Sep (BrC, CC) was pretty early. A Wood Thrush near Dell City 15 Oct (ph. JPa) was a first for Hudspeth while one in s. Austin, Travis 20 Nov+ (MRo, m.ob.) was out of place and perhaps a bird trying to settle in for the winter. A Rufous-backed Robin was quite unusual and out-of-place at Palo Duro Canyon S.P., Randall 28 Oct (ABr, CWa, ph.), just the second record for the Panhandle with the first at the same location in October 2013. A Varied Thrush was a great find in Canyon, Randall 1 Nov (RaM, ph.). A Brown Thrasher visited South Padre Island, Cameron 11-17 Oct (JGo et al.).
Finches through Blackbirds
The only Evening Grosbeak found in this seemingly irruptive finch season was one northwest of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 26-27 Oct (ph. KBr). Cassin’s Finches invaded the Trans-Pecos in above average numbers starting in early October and continued through the period (m.ob.). Groups of 20+ could be found in the lower elevations of the Guadalupe Mountains, Culberson with perhaps as many regularly seen together in the Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis. They were also regular in El Paso through the period and one in Sierra Blanca, Hudspeth 10 Nov (ph. DHa) was a first for that county. The Chisos Mountains, Brewster held a few Cassin’s Finches in the last half of October but no subsequent sightings in that mountain range. In the Panhandle, 4 Cassin’s Finches were in Randall 19 Nov (BP, ph.) and one made it to Thompson Grove, Dallam 25 Nov (BP).
Red Crossbills staged a large irruption/invasion across the state that would continue to burn strong into the winter season (to be covered in that summary). The earliest reports came from El Paso, El Paso 8 Oct (JGr) and by 28 Oct, other birds were noted in north-central Texas and the area around Lubbock, Lubbock. One was found as far south as just east of Castroville, Bexar 31 Oct (ph. BD). Some notable counts included 28 at the Highway 144 Midway Pines RV Park, Hood 11-14 Nov (GCo, m.ob.), 15 at a Stephenville residence, Erath 17 Nov (CT), 19 at the Lubbock Cemetery, Lubbock 4-5 Nov (PK, m.ob., ph.), 35 Red Crossbills in Randall 19 Nov (BP, ph.). A Red Crossbill in a row of pines near McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 3 Nov (ph. JPa, BZ) had grown to a staggering 47 by 11 Nov (DHa) with 20+ at this or another nearby line of pines through the period. Early American Goldfinches were single males 21 Aug (ph. DoS) in Nash, Bowie and 26 Aug (ES) in Texarkana, Bowie.
A well-described Chipping Sparrow was an early surprise on South Padre Island, Cameron 23 Aug (SK, CG). An early Clay-colored Sparrow was at Central Heights, Nacogdoches 8 Sep (DWo). The only other Clay-colored reported passing through East Texas was a late one 4 Nov (AL) at Mineola Nature Preserve, Wood. A LeConte’s Sparrow was very rare visitor to Lake Meredith, Hutchinson 18 Nov (DrH, AH, RSw); likewise, a surprising find was one northeast of Van Horn, Culberson 26 Nov (ph. WS). A Song Sparrow in a Corpus Christi, Nueces yard 7 Oct (KTa) was very early for the area. Early for the central Pineywoods was a White-throated Sparrow 22 Sep (DB) at Sabinetown, Sabine. Very unusual for the Davis Mountains, 2 Harris’s Sparrow were n. of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 25 Nov (ph. DD, SCa).
A Bobolink seen and heard flying over Rice University in Houston, Harris 24 Sep was a rare fall record (CTL). Only a very rare visitor to the Davis Mountains, a nelsoni Hooded Oriole was a nice find northwest of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 11 Aug (ph. KBr). An Audubon’s Oriole visiting a yard in w. Austin, Travis 22 Jul – 8 Aug (ph. YS) was just the second for the county. A male Scott’s Oriole returned to an El Paso, El Paso yard 21 Nov+ (ph. BZ) where it overwintered last year. Rusty Blackbirds continue to be seen somewhat regularly in northwest Texas with 2 near Petersburg, Hale 19 Nov (DrH, AH, RSw), 4 near Gruver, Hansford 24 Nov (GCo, ph.), and 13 Rusty Blackbirds along F.M. 759, Ochiltree 25 Nov (GCo, SG, ph.).
Warblers through Grosbeaks
An Ovenbird dropped in at Hueco Tanks Historical Site, El Paso 7 Sep (MLo). A Worm-eating Warbler found at Blucher Park, Nueces 27 Aug managed to survive Hurricane Harvey’s onslaught (WS). Excellent for fall, a Golden-winged Warbler was studied in south Austin, Travis 6 Sep (MRo). A somewhat early male Blue-winged Warbler was seen 27 Aug in Blucher Park, Corpus Christi, Nueces a day after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Central Coast (WS). A late-departing Prothonotary Warbler was at Lake Wright Patman, Bowie 11 Sep (†SH).
Even with the negative impact on the trees and vegetation to Blucher Park, Nueces from Hurricane Harvey it still provided enough cover and food for a migrant male Prothonotary Warbler seen there 1 Oct (ph. WS, MRe, SCo). A Swainson’s Warbler present on South Padre Island, Cameron 27-28 Aug (ph. JGo) was a local fall rarity. A Tennessee Warbler at the Plainview Apartments Playa, Hale 9 Sep (NP) another at Tahoka Lake Pasture, Lynn 17 Sep (AH), and one in Midland, Midland 19-25 Sep (ph. GP) were all farther west than expected. Even more out of place was one in El Paso, El Paso 30 Sep (BZ) and another banded northwest of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 24 Sep (ph. KBr). Westerly American Redstarts were in El Paso, El Paso 7-14 Sep (ph. JPa) and near Dell City, Hudspeth 10 Sep (ph. JPa, BZ).
Two Cape May Warblers present at Blucher Park, Nueces 22 Oct (ph. SCo, MRe, WS) were notable for the double number plus for the species being a fall rarity. A stellar find of the season in north-central Texas was a Cape May Warbler at Casino Lake Park on Lake Worth, Tarrant 28-29 Oct (ph. JeB, ph. JA). On the U.T.C., one was seen 8-16 Nov in Randolph Park, Harris (CBe, ph. MK, et al.) while another was on West Galveston Island, Galveston 27 Nov (ph. JSt). A good migrant for central Texas, especially in the fall is Cerulean Warbler; 2 individuals were found this season – one near Cibolo, Guadalupe 3 Sep (ph. LY) and the other at Hornsby Bend, Travis 4 Sep (ph. KP). A Tropical Parula at Commons Ford Park in far w. Austin 18 Sep (ph. JuB) was perhaps the first for Travis to be photographed. A male Tropical Parula was found 27 Aug in Blucher Park, Corpus Christi, Nueces a day after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Central Coast (ph. WS). Out of place was a vocalizing Tropical Parula along Hwy. 17 n. of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 5 Oct (BiS, ph. CRi).
Of note for the date and location was a Magnolia Warbler that was spotted at La Paloma, Duval on 22 Aug (JHo); also early was up to 3 Magnolia Warbler at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 8-9 Sep (JHa, ThH, et al.). A female Black-throated Blue Warbler graced the South Padre Island, Cameron 27 Sep (ph. DJ), while a male was at Hugh Ramsey Park in Harlingen, Cameron 12 Nov (m.ob.). A stunning male Black-throated Blue Warbler was notably west in McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains N.P., Culberson 9 Oct (ph. WS). Scattered inland Palm Warblers included singles at San Angelo S.P., Tom Green 5 Nov (ph. RaH), near Shiro, Grimes 8 Nov (ph. †CWa), and at the O’Donnell Playa, Lynn 25 Nov (AH, ph.).
A Pine Warbler at Lake Lewisville Park, Denton, 11 Sep (AL, ph.) was early for north-central Texas while on just east of McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 3-5 Nov (ph. JPa, BZ) was just the second record for the county. Out of place was a Yellow-throated Warbler at Lake Nasworthy, Tom Green 24 Aug (ph. TV). A Prairie Warbler found at Pollywog Pond, Nueces 14 Oct (WS) appeared to be on wintering territory since it was reported at the same location later into December.
Early was a Black-throated Gray in a Littlefield yard, Lamb 27 Aug (ARo). A bit east was a Black-throated Gray Warbler in far northwest San Antonio, Bexar 16 Sep (ph. LT); strangely, it or another Black-throated Gray was at the same location 21 Nov (ph. LT). On the U.T.C., single Black-throated Gray Warblers were found at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 7 Sep (ph. MBC, JHa) and 29 Nov (SMa, ph. GD), at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston 30 Oct (ph. BoB, DuL), and in Richwood, Brazoria 14 Nov+ (ph. LHa, et al.). Always a nice find for central Texas, a Townsend’s Warbler stopped over at Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, Bell 23-25 Sep (ph. GE); one at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston 17 Sep (ph. KWa, ph. JWo) was also out of place. Rarely seen or documented in Texas, an apparent hybrid Townsend’s X Hermit Warbler was quite a surprise in Midland, Midland 17 Sep (ph. GP). A late migrant Black-throated Green Warbler passed through Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 8 Nov (CDF).
A Rufous-capped Warbler was present near Dolan Falls, Val Verde 24 Oct (ph. RKo) at the same location where two birds had been seen during the spring. A male Canada Warbler seen at Pollywog Pond, Nueces 13 Aug was on the early side (WS). Well west of its usual migration route was a Canada Warbler in McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains N.P., Culberson 5 Oct (BF). The only Red-faced Warbler report came right in the expected migration window, with one in Pine Canyon in the Chisos Mountains, Brewster 14 Aug (ph. JF, SH). Though Slate-throated Redstart has almost become an annual visitor to the Davis Mountains, a juvenile in Tobe Canyon, Jeff Davis 13-31 Aug (ph. RPi, m.ob.) was highly suggestive of local breeding which has yet to be documented there or anywhere else in the state.
A semi-cooperative Hepatic Tanager was well east of expected range as it lingered at Commons Ford Park in far w. Austin, Travis 17 Oct – 23 Oct (ph. VO, m.ob.). Easterly Western Tanagers included one at Lake Fayette, Fayette 9-16 Sep (RKo, BG) and another west-southwest of Stockdale, Wilson 23 Oct (DM). El Paso, El Paso had two records of Rose-breasted Grosbeak 8 Oct (JKi), and a much more unusual record of a late bird that remained into winter 27 Nov+ (ph. BZ).
Report processed by Byron Swift, 11 Oct 2020.