The story was the same in much of the western U.S. and far northwestern part of Mexico where not only did it not rain, but there were also plenty of fires as well. By 1 Dec, much of Nevada, at least one-third of Colorado and virtually all of Arizona were ominously categorized as in Exceptional Drought (the worst category); other regions/states where spared that designation though much of Nevada, large portions of Oregon and a good slice of Northern California were categorized as in Extreme Drought. In addition, wildfires blazed far and wide starting in the summer (and in some places earlier) across large swaths of the western U.S. In Colorado, the Pine Gulch Fire (started 31 Jul, burned over 139,000 acres), the Cameron Peak Fire (started 13 Aug, burned over 208,000 acres) and the East Troublesome Fire (started 14 Oct, burned over 193,000 acres) were the three largest fires ever recorded in that state. On the west coast, numbers of fires raged starting in the spring with particularly large fires starting in late Jul through early Sep; all told more than 10.2 million acres burned across California, Oregon and Washington. Dry conditions, howling winds and high temperatures were certainly key culprits in all this happening. It makes sense that birds and other animals needed to flee these conditions.
Though it doesn’t explain everything, the dry conditions and the fires likely pushed most of the unusual birds into Texas both 1) earlier than typical and 2) in unprecedented numbers. Certainly, we have experienced extreme drought conditions in the past so it is possible that there are other less understood factors that caused Fall 2020 to be so unique in comparison to past seasons/decades.
Mother Nature also affected the story in Texas via one of the strongest tropical storm/hurricane seasons ever in the Atlantic. As mentioned in our Summer 2020 summary, Hurricane Hanna making landfall south of Corpus Christi on 25 Jul certainly had lingering effects on some displaced birds into early Aug. Hurricane Laura breached U.S. soil in Cameron parish, Louisiana 27 Aug as a powerful Category 4 and proceeded to travel northward near the Texas-Louisiana Border before weakening and heading northeast a day later. Tropical Storm Beta made landfall in Matagorda 21 Sep and quickly weakened. Hurricane Delta also hit coastal Louisiana, on 8 Oct as a Category 2, weakened quickly and headed northeast, having a lesser effect on Texas than the others. Hurricane Laura had the most obvious direct effects on birds, particularly displaced coastal birds into the Pineywoods as noted below.
Besides the overall lack of rain, mild conditions prevailed. One memorable event was a significant cold front 10–11 Sep that hit the Trans-Pecos. This precipitated a rare desert “migrant fallout” and was possibly responsible (along with the drought/fires) for historically large numbers of some early migrants during mid-Sep. Lifelong Texas birder Mark Lockwood from Alpine remarked “Passerine migration in Sep through the central Trans-Pecos was the most astounding I have ever seen and there is not a close second. I estimate that I saw over 1000 Wilson’s Warblers during a three-week period and had 33 species of migrants in my small backyard. Truly unbelievable and I was lucky to be able to really experience it.”
Regardless of the causes, Fall 2020 was certainly one for the record books for even the longest seasoned members of the Texas birding community. Unbelievably, everything mentioned below happened in just a four-month period. Kudos to all the sub-regional compilers that tried to keep up with it; the diversity of species and the sheer numbers are overwhelming. You may not be able to get through this report in one sitting.
Contributors (subregional editors in boldface)
Craig Allen (CAl), Ty Allen, John Allendorf, Charley Amos (CAm), Meredith Anderson (MeA), Susan Andres, Keith Andringa, Connie Andrus (CAn), Marlin Andrus (MaA), Noah Arthur, Erik Atwell, Colby Ayers (CAy), Bob Bagwell (BoB), Kristy Baker (KBa), Jeremy Ballard (JeB), Gail Barnes (GBa), James Barnes (JaB), Byron Barton (ByB), Bill Beaty (BiB), Ryan Behrens, Susan Bergeson (SBe), John Berner (JBe), Brian Berry, Brandon Best (BBe), Peter Billingham, Stephanie Bilodeau (SBi), Aaron Boone, Justin Bosler (JBo), Mike Bradham, Kathryn Brautigam (KBr), David Brotherton, Holly Bundock, Brian Burgoyne (BBu), Geoff Butcher (GBu), Jimma Byrd (JBy), Delmar Cain (DeC), Ryan Call (RyC), Kris Cannon (KrC), Emily Card (EmC), Steve Cardiff (SCa) (eastern Trans-Pecos. email: firstname.lastname@example.org), Lorie Carnes (LoC), Daren Carpenter (DaC), Eric Carpenter (ErC) (Central Texas. email: email@example.com), Karen Carpenter (KaC), Jayton Carroll (JCa), LaDonna Castanuela (LaC), Roland Castenada (RoC), Lynn Chapman (LyC), Evan Chastain (ECh), Anand Chaudhary, Jack Chiles (JCh), Hongyang Choa, Cathy Cochran (CCo), Joe Cochran (JCo), Jordan Cochran, Whitney Cochran, Sheridan Coffey (SCo), Graeme Colmer, Keith Combs (KCo), Greg Cook (GCo), Dennis Cooke (DCo), Mel Cooksey (MCo), Nathan Cowan, Brent Cox, Jim Crites (JCr), Melissa Crookshank, Cinda Crosley (CCr), Cathy Cuddihy (CCu), D. D. Currie (DDC), Thelma Dalmas (ThD), Christopher Daniels, Tucker Davidson (TuD), Charlie Davis (CDa), Liz DeMoultrie, Dennis Devlin (DDe), Nancy Devlin, Donna Dittmann (DDi), David Dolan (DDo), Samantha Dominguez, Matt DuRoss, Alice Le Duc (ALD), Greg Duncan, Betty Dunn, Marc Eastman (MEa), Maryann Eastman, Dennis Edgar, K. Dean Edwards (KDE), Wyatt Egelhoff, Bill Eisele, Michael Emenaker (MEm), Eric Enders, Mark Esparza (MEs), Paul Fagala, Stephen Falick (SFa), Frank Farese, Margaret Farese, Jackie Farrell (JFa), Eddie Farrey (EdF), Kris Farrey (KFa), Braden Farris (BFa), Tim Fennell (TFe), Christian Fernandez (CFe), Erich Fickle (ErF), Luella Fickle, Andy Filtness, Ellen Filtness (ElF), Charles Fischer (CFi), Joe Fischer (JFi), Todd Fitzgerald (TFi), Sarah Flournoy (SFl), Kevin Floyd (KFl), Tony Frank (ToF), Brush Freeman (BrF), Timothy Freiday (TiF), Bert Frenz (Central Oaks & Prairies. email: firstname.lastname@example.org), Bob Friedrichs (BoF), Bob Galley (BGa), Alan Gann (AGa), Charmaine Ganson (CGa), Kerry Gardner (KeG), Kim Garwood (KiG), Lindsay Gedacht, Mike Gfeller (MGf), Richard Gibbons (RGi), Corina Giron (CGi), Nick Glover, Steve Glover, Javi Gonzalez (JGo), Rod Goodwin (RGo), Peter Gottschling, Bernd Gravenstein (BGr), Michael Gray (MGr), John Groves (JGr), Auliya Gurzenda (AGu), Martin Hagne, John Hale (JHl), Lyle Hale (LyH), Matt Hale (MHa), Lawrence Haller (LaH), Derek Hameister (DHa), David Hanson (DHn), Karen Hardie (KaH), Warren Hardin, Black Harrell (BHa), Curtis Hart (CHa), Ken Hartman (KeH), Drew Harvey (DrH), Michael Harvey (MiH), John Haynes (JHa), Susan Heath (SuH), Meredith Heather (MeH), Sheila Hebert (ShH), Rhandy Helton (RhH), Craig Hensley (CHe), Randy Hesford (RaH), Anthony Hewetson (AHe) (Panhandle and South Plains. email: email@example.com), Marla Hibbitts (MHi), Troy Hibbitts (THi), Jim Highberger, Barbara Hines (BHi), Jim Hines (JHn), Jim Hinson (JHi), Jennifer Hoffman (JHo), Tim Hoffman (THo), Derek Hogan (DeH), Peter Holder, Joan Holt (JoH), Scott Holt (ScH), Bob Honig (BHo), Alec Hopping (AHo), Daniel Horton (DaH), David Hunt (DHu), Gary Hunter, Layla Huntsinger (LHu), Tom Huston (THu), Kathy Imel, Jeffrey Jackson, Henry Jerng, Adrian Johnson (AdJ), Cameron Johnson, Sam Jolly, Austin Jones (AuJ), Dan Jones, Rich Kaskan (RKa), Vaishali Katju, Laura Keene (LKe), Daniel Kelch, Tiffany Kersten, Peter Keyel (PKe), Simon Kiacz (SKi), John Kiseda (JKi), Ethan Kistler, Phillip Kite (PKi), Chris Knight, Brian Kolthammer, Jennifer Kolthammer (JKo), Ad Konings, Rich Kostecke (RKo), Lee Kothmann (LKo), Sandy Kroeger (SKr), Michael Kuzio, Sarah Kuzio (SKu), Harvey Laas, Justin LeClaire (JuL), Mark Lear (MLe), Cin-Ty Lee (CTL), Rob Lee (RoL), Josh Lefever (JoL), Jason Leifester (JaL), Clayton Leopold, Ryan Levine (RyL), Duke Liebler (DuL), Dell Little (DeL), Alan Livingston, Mark Lockwood (MLo), Scotty Lofland, Marilyn Long, Lorrie Lowrie, Barry Lyon, Alberto Manterola (AlM), Gabriel Mapel, Advait Marathe (AdM), Britney Marchan (BMa), Jean Martin (JMa), Linda Martin-Rust (LMR), Steve Mayes (SMa), Kathryn McAleese (KMc), Beth McBroom (BeM), Michael McCloy (MiM), Donna McCown (DMc), Wendy McCrady, Mark McDermott (MaM), Steven McDonald (SMc), Todd McGrath (TMc), Adam McInroy (AMc), Jon McIntyre (JMc), Mary McKeown-Moak (MMM), Bonnie McKinney (BoM), Anita Meagher (AMe), Brittany Meagher (BMe), Sean Mecredy (SMe), Moses Michelsohn (MoM), Jennifer Miller (JMi), Vicki Milne, Tyler Miloy (TMi), Derrick Mims (DMi), Iliana Mock, Kassie Moore (KMo), Arman Moreno (AMo), Suzanne Mottin (SMo), John Muldrow (JoM), James Muller, Jane Murtishaw (JMu), Derek Muschalek (DMu), Janet Neath (JaN), Noah Nei, John Neill (JoN), Stuart Nelson, Bruce Neville, Laura Newsom, John O’Brien, Kyle O’Haver, Ellen O’Neil, Pat O’Neil, Suzanne Odum, Carolyn Ohl, Dale Ohl (DOh), Doug Orama (DOr), Andrew Orgill, B. B. Oros (BBO), Brent Ortego, Dora Ann Ortego (DAO), Dylan Osterhaus (DOs), Tira Overstreet, Amy Packer, Jay Packer (JPa), Greg Palko (GPa), Barbara Pankratz, Skyler Parks, Jim Paton (JiP) (El Paso and Hudspeth Counties. email: firstname.lastname@example.org), Dina Perry, T. Peterson, Thomas St. Pierre (TSP), Geneva Pigott (GPi), John Pike (JoP), Randy Pinkston, Chris Pipes (CPi), Charlie Plimpton (CPl), Jane Poss (JPo), Nina Rach, Rhett Raibley (RhR), Ross Rasmussen (RRa) (North-central Texas. email: email@example.com), Fay Ratta, Robert Reed (RRe), Martin Reid (MaR), Michael Retter (MiR), James Rieman (JRi), Cecilia Riley (CRi), Colton Robbins (CRo), Alisa Roberts, Joanna Roberts (JoR), Ed Robinson, Gabriel Rodriguez (GRo), Steve Rogow, Jack Rohrer (JRo), Chris Runk (CRu), George Russell (GRu), Tammy Russell, Kelley Sampson, Ben Sandstrom (BSa), Laura Sare (LSa), David Sarkozi (DSa) (Photo editor. email: firstname.lastname@example.org), Robyn Savage, Jonny Scalise (JoS), Jeff Schaberg (JeS), Bobby Schat (BSh), Dennis Scheef, Mark Scheuerman (MaS), Bill Schneider (BiS), Micah Schulze (MiS), Brady Schwab (BrS), Tyler Scott, Willie Sekula (South Texas. email: email@example.com), Paul Sellin, Jeff Sexton (JSe), Cliff Shackelford (ClS), Colin Shackelford (CoS), Bob Shackleford (BoS), Sheila Shallcross (SSh), Brad Shine (BSi), Matthew Sim (MSi), John Smelser (JSm), Brooke Smith (BSm), Doug Smith (DSm), Howard Smith (HSm), Sue Smith (SSm), Leonardo Sonoqui (LSo), Lucy Spade (LSp), John Sproul (JSp), Greg Steeves (GrS), Denise Tabony Stephens (DTS), Barbara Stern (BSt), Galen Stewart (GaS), Harlan Stewart (HSt), Rose Marie Stortz (RMS), Johnny Stutzman (JSt), Michelle Summers (MSu), Simon Tan, Jessica Tanguma (JTa), Dorothy Tate (DTa), Clay Taylor (CTa), Linda Taylor, Marianne Taylor, Quentin Thigpen, Diane Thomas (DTh), Anne Tindell, Zachary Tonzetich, Jen Tooley (JTo), Peggy Trosper, Robert Truss, Christine Turnbull (CTu), Gustavo Valero, Vince VanderHeijden, John Vanderpoel, Darlene Varga, Carl Walker (CaW), Christian Walker (ChW), Daniel Walker (DWa), Liz Walsh (LWa), Pullen Watkins, Nick Weaver, Jeremy Webster (JWe), Ron Weeks (Upper Texas Coast. email: firstname.lastname@example.org), Bert Wessling (BWe), Ed Wetzel, Todd White, Deborah Whiting (DWh), Steve Whitmer (StW), Sue Whitmer (SuW), Greg Whittaker (GWh), John Whittle (JWh), Brad Wier (BWi), Glen Wilbur (GWi), Jay Wilbur (JaW), Judy Wilbur (JuW), Hannah Willars, Joanna Willars (JoW), Marta Wnorowska, David Wolf (DWo) (East Texas/Pineywoods. email: email@example.com), Mimi Hoppe Wolf (MHW), Cheryl Wolfe (CWo), Liam Wolff (LWo), Janey Woodley (JWo), Brenna Woods (BWo), John Yochum, Matt York, Kay Zagst, Angel Zakharia, Lena Zappia, Barry Zimmer, Ted Zobeck.
Waterfowl through Swifts
Up to seven Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in Hereford, Deaf Smith 15–25 Aug (MiS, ph.) and three at Dimmitt City Park, Castro 19 Sep (PT) were holding steady at the northern extreme of the species’ range. After a seven-year hiatus of Ross’s Goose sightings in the Central Brazos Valley, this season brought over two dozen reports 21 Oct–28 Nov in Brazos, Lee, and Robertson (m.ob.). As many as 115 Greater White-fronted Geese at Winchester Lake, Haskell 30 Sep (BSa) was a large group for early in their migration window. With Mexican Duck only recently being elevated to species status, we are still learning how far the species ranges; singles or the same bird in Lubbock, Lubbock 22–28 Oct (PKe, m.ob., ph.) and 22–24 Nov (JCr, DrH, ph.) were likely at the northeastern edge of where they can be expected. A pair of Canvasbacks at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 3 Oct (JiP) and two more at Lake Rita Blanca, Hartley 4 Oct (AHo, ph.) were on the early side. An apparently over-summering female Greater Scaup on the Katy Prairie, Waller 7 Aug (ph. BHo, JBe) was the first summer record for the Upper Texas Coast (hereafter, UTC).
Surf Scoters made a noteworthy showing inland with 20 individuals comprising 14 different sets of observations and locations in the northern two-thirds of the state 16 Oct–20 Nov (m.ob.). Rare in the Pineywoods, single birds were in southern Bowie 30–31 Oct (ph. DB) and in Lufkin, Angelina 15–17 Nov (DWo, m.ob., ph.); one at Lake Bryan, Brazos 4 Nov (RhR, ph. SKi) was just the second for the county. The only inland White-winged Scoters detected were a likely county first at Granger Lake, Williamson 16 Oct (ph. RKa) and another bird that lingered in San Saba, San Saba 24–30 Oct (ph. ErF, LF, m.ob.). A female Black Scoter dropped in at Keystone Heritage Park, El Paso 28–29 Oct (ph. MiH, m.ob.); there are fewer than five records for El Paso. A Black Scoter at Lake Bryan, Brazos 29 Oct (ph. SKi, ph. MaM) and two on Lake Waco, McLennan 1 Nov (ph. CWo) were both county firsts. The female Hooded Merganser at Leroy Elmore Park, Lubbock from Jul continued until at least 11 Aug (BSi, m.ob., ph.). A lone Common Merganser made it as far east as Tejas Camp, Williamson 12 Nov (SMc, RKo). An impressive count of 46 Red-breasted Mergansers on Lake Bryan, Brazos 29 Nov (SKi) was indicative of the strong showing the species had in the Central Brazos Valley.
In the Trans-Pecos, a minimum of four Least Grebes included a long-staying individual at Christmas Mountains Oasis, Brewster 31 Aug–17 Nov (ph. CO, m.ob.), separate individuals nearby at Terlingua, Brewster 25 Oct–13 Nov (ph. DOh, ph. CO) and at Lajitas, Brewster 13 Nov (ph. SFa), and one farther west on the Rio Grande at Candelaria, Presidio 10 Nov (ph. DDi et al.). The easternmost Western Grebes were singles at Miller’s Creek Reservoir, Baylor 13 Oct (ph. BSa) and on North Buffalo Creek Reservoir, Wichita 11 Nov (ph. BSa). Noteworthy counts included 6–7 Western Grebes at White River Lake, Crosby 12–20 Nov (MLo, JMi, LZ, ph.) and six more at E.V. Spence Reservoir, Coke 15 Nov (JCa). Possibly a first for Brewster, a Western Grebe was at Fort Peña Colorado Park 1–4 Nov (ph. CO et al.).
A Band-tailed Pigeon at the Artist Boat Coastal Heritage Preserve on west Galveston Island, Galveston 26 Nov (DuL) was just the fourth UTC record and the first since 2007. A Common Ground Dove north of Millers Creek Reservoir, Baylor 24 Oct (ph. SL) was one of the northern-most sightings in the state ever; another Common Ground Dove at Village Drying Beds, Tarrant 16 Oct+ (CAy, m.ob., ph.) was joined later by a second bird that persisted through the end of the season. Ruddy Ground Doves staged a strong movement into Arizona, New Mexico and southwest Texas that would continue into the winter season. A female Ruddy Ground Dove in an El Paso, El Paso yard 21 Nov+ was joined by a male 26 Nov+ (ph. BZ) while a different pair was in west El Paso 29 Nov+ (ph. JiP). A male Ruddy Ground Dove brightened Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley SP, Hidalgo 15 Nov+ (ph. JTa, m.ob.), the first in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (hereafter, LRGV) in a decade. Singing White-tipped Doves were noted for the third fall in a row at San Bernard NWR, Brazoria with two birds heard 2 Aug (JFi) and one bird heard 3 Aug (SuH).
A Groove-billed Ani was present at Fort Peña Colorado Park, Brewster 8–27 Aug (DDC, DeL, audio CFe, ph. BeM, m.ob.); there are relatively few previous regional occurrences, most of which are concentrated at Big Bend NP and vicinity. Black-billed Cuckoo is a tough fall migrant in much of Texas, especially in the western half of the state, so noteworthy were singles in Midland, Midland 9 Sep (ph. BWo), at Laredo, Webb 11 Sep (ph. LHu), and at Aztlan Park, Lubbock 16 Sep (BSh). A Chuck-will’s-widow at Galveston Island SP, Galveston 30 Nov (KO) was late. A sizeable group of 45 White-throated Swifts at Caprock Canyons SP, Briscoe 21 Nov (GCo, SG) was encouraging as this is perhaps the only semi-reliable location for the species in northwest Texas.
A rare visitor to far west Texas, an immature male Rivoli’s Hummingbird visited an El Paso, El Paso yard 6 Sep (JKi). Anna’s Hummingbird showed up early with at least four Aug records in El Paso, El Paso (JKi, AK, BZ), spanning the entire month, where they are usually expected only as early as the third week of Sep; in the Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis a couple Anna’s stayed the summer so were still there when this season started. Numbers increased in other Trans-Pecos locales through Sep and the first bird east of the Pecos River was one in Salado, Bell 5–20 Sep (ph. CPl, ph. NN, ph. RP), a county first. By the end of the period, there would be close to 36 locations reporting Anna’s Hummingbirds outside the Trans-Pecos in all subregions except for the far north Panhandle and the northern Pineywoods. Some of the more notable reports along the eastern and southern edges of the Anna’s Hummingbird invasion include one near Possum Kingdom Lake, Palo Pinto 24 Oct–20 Nov (PG, ph.); another in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 25 Nov (ph. JRo) which was the first in the Pineywoods region since 2011; one more in Navasota, Grimes 25–28 Nov (ph. KS); one in The Woodlands, Montgomery 19 Nov (ph. BGa); one on South Padre Island, Cameron 27–28 Oct (ph. JGo) followed by 1–2 there 11 Nov+ (ph. JGo, m.ob.); and an amazing four at Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary, Brazoria 29 Nov+ (RW, et al.). An adult male hummingbird identified as a hybrid Anna’s x Rufous was documented at Limpia Crossing, Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis 29 Aug (DeL, DDC, ph. MGr), a similar-looking individual was present a few miles away at another location west of Fort Davis 21 Sep–10 Oct (ph. LL), while another visited a Harlingen, Cameron yard 8–9 Sep (ph. SBi, JuL).
A male Costa’s Hummingbird found at Alpine, Brewster 5 Sep (ph. GD, ph. TZ) may have been the same bird subsequently found in the same area 22 Sep–13 Oct (ph. CO, m.ob.). An immature male Costa’s Hummingbird was in an El Paso, El Paso yard late Oct–13 Nov (ph. JKi). Calliope Hummingbird had a footprint this fall a bit smaller but very similar to that of the Anna’s Hummingbird invasion. Exceptional numbers of Calliope Hummingbirds moved through the Trans-Pecos highlands, peaking during early Aug–early Sep and with conservative daily high counts of up to 30 individuals at some feeding stations in the Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis. Observers from the Panhandle south to Midland, where Calliope is a somewhat expected migrant, also noted that this was the strongest fall movement many could remember (m.ob.). The first birds reached the rest of Texas by early Sep and kept coming through the end of the season. Calliopes were noted in at least 25 locations in the southeastern half of the state including two birds at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, Bexar 29 Nov (ph. ZT, ph. DMi).Rufous Hummingbirds are rarely mentioned in this column as they are a regular fall visitor to most regions of the state.Without a doubt, it would be a daunting exercise to put a cap on the number of Rufous Hummingbirds that passed through Texas this fall.Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but it seemed like that if you hung a hummingbird feeder up this season, you would have a good chance at hosting one if not more Rufous for a period of time.A few Allen’s were noted at some of their expected locations and undoubtably there were more left unidentified in the swarms of Rufous Hummingbirds.
Broad-tailed Hummingbirds also came through in larger numbers than usual. A Broad-tailed Hummingbird in a Raisin, Victoria yard 2 Aug (BO, DAO) was an early outlier with other birds not reaching the southeastern half of the state until the end of Aug or early Sep. Drawing a line from Corpus Christi to Del Rio and including all of Texas northeast and east of the line, there were close to three dozen reports of Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, mostly single birds but also a couple locations that held two birds at a time. Noteworthy on the northeastern edge of the irruption were two at Nederland, Jefferson 18–19 Oct (ph. JWh) and one in Kennedale, Tarrant 3–4 Oct (ph. MW); one persisted as far north as Lubbock, Lubbock until 9 Nov (ph. LyH). A bit mind-boggling, at least 15 Broad-billed Hummingbirds were documented in the state this fall, easily a record number! Two Broad-billed Hummingbirds were in El Paso, El Paso: a male 20–22 Aug (ph. JKi) and a female initially 18–29 Oct and then 13–18 Nov (ph. LWa). In the rest of the Trans-Pecos, no fewer than seven Broad-billed Hummingbirds were reported. At least six were at scattered locations in the Davis Mountains west of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 1 Aug–21 Sep (ph. CRi, ph. SCa, DeL, m.ob.), including an amazing three at one yard 9–21 Sep (ph. LL). More unusual farther southeast was one northwest of Big Bend NP, Brewster 6–9 Sep (ph. BHi, JHn). This species is far less than annual outside the Trans-Pecos so even more impressive were the following singles: in Midland, Midland 13 Sep (ph. DWh); at South Padre Island Convention Center, Cameron 16–20 Oct (ph. GV et al.); another 10 miles southwest of Rocksprings, Edwards 4–7 Nov (ph. JoR); a male that wintered in northwest Austin, Travis 3 Nov+ (ph. LaC, m.ob.), which was an overdue first county record; another male that returned for a second winter to a Mont Belvieu, Chambers residence 15 Nov+ (ph. PF, et al.); and another male not far away in Baytown, Chambers 24 Nov+ (ph. DHn, et al.).
A female White-eared Hummingbird in the Davis Mountains west of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 6–25 Aug (ph. BeM, m.ob.) was likely the same individual present since 30 Jun. A presumed second female was seen sporadically at another location a few miles away 15 Aug–12 Sep (LL et al.). A Violet-crowned Hummingbird at Limpia Crossing, Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis 9–22 Aug (BL, ph. BSm et al.) may have been the same bird reported in that area on 27 Jul. A second bird at a different location west of Fort Davis 16 Aug (LL, ph. BP et al.) was possibly the same bird seen at the same feeders off and on 20–28 Jul and at another nearby location 25 Aug (BeM). A Buff-bellied Hummingbird wandered northward to Canyon Lake, Comal 3–5 Sep (ph. GrS).
Rails through Terns
King Rail has a patchy and irregular distribution away from the coast and coastal plain, so most sightings are noteworthy; one was heard at Village Creek Drying Beds, Tarrant 8 Aug (EW) while another was vocalizing in urban College Station, Brazos 26–28 Oct (MiM, TS, LSa). The unseasonal Virginia Rail in Andrews, Andrews from mid-Jul continued and more careful study revealed at least three birds there 1 Aug (JBo). Not quite as out of season, another Virginia Rail at Devine Lake, Williamson 23 Aug+ (EO, PO, ph. m.ob.) was also a bit early. Yellow Rail sightings away from very localized areas on the Upper Texas Coast are almost mythical so two inland sightings this season were amazing: one at close range in broom-sedge at Lake Gilmer, Upshur 14 Nov (DB) and another flushed 8 miles south of College Station, Brazos 16 Oct (JHl). Migrating Whooping Cranes included four at Lake Arrowhead, Archer, 20–23 Oct (SL, ph.), two at Granger Lake, Williamson 24–25 Oct (ph. TFe et al.), a different bird there 14 Nov (ph. RKo), six in a flock of Sandhill Cranes over Lake Bastrop, Bastrop 24 Oct (ph. JaL), three almost 5 miles east of Newport, Montague 29 Oct (ByB, ph.) and potentially those same three on the same date over Joshua, Johnson (TA, ph.).
A count of 209 American Avocets at Lake Bryan, Brazos 16 Oct (MiM), was a local high count; late for so far north were 11 at Lake Rita Blanca, Hartley 20 Nov (KI). American Golden-Plovers were seen in more locations and in higher numbers than typical fall seasons in Texas. The westernmost birds included one in Dell City, Hudspeth 24 Sep (ph. JiP) and one near Fort Hancock, Hudspeth 4–10 Oct (KiG, ph. WS) that was joined by a second on the latter date (ph. CL, JSe). Impressive counts included seven southwest of Markham, Matagorda 24 Oct (GCo, SG) and an amazing group of 39 at North Fork Buffalo Creek Reservoir, Wichita 4 Oct (ph. SL). A single Mountain Plover at Miller’s Creek Reservoir, Throckmorton 26 Aug–6 Sep (SL, BSa, ph.) was one of very few ever found in north-central Texas. Some notable inland migrant Snowy Plover sightings included as many as four that stopped at Hornsby Bend, Travis 14–19 Aug (AMc, m.ob.), up to 10 at Stillhouse Hollow Lake, Bell 31 Aug–2 Sep (ph. RP), and two west of Bryan, Brazos 5–8 Sep (MiM). A Whimbrel found at the Toledo Bend Dam, Newton 27 Aug (ph. GCo) after Hurricane Laura moved over the area was only the third fall record for the Pineywoods. Quite rare in the western third of the state, a Ruddy Turnstone was at Crane, Crane 17 Aug (ph. RMS); two were at the Toledo Bend Dam, Newton 27 Aug (GCo) after Hurricane Laura. Casual inland in Texas, a Red Knot was a real prize at Lake Benbrook, Tarrant 9–12 Sep (SO, SSh, ph. m.ob.).
Westerly reports of Sanderlings included up to four at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 12–19 Sep (DDC, DeL, SFa), one at Red Bluff Reservoir, Reeves/Loving 19 Sep (ph. GCo), and five there on the Reeves side 20 Sep (ph. MiH). An unusually high number of Dunlin were in the Central Brazos Valley highlighted by six at the Lake Somerville SP Nails Creek Unit, Lee 7 Nov (JaL), and 3+ at The Falls in Marlin, Falls 20 Nov (RKa). A westerly Buff-breasted Sandpiper near Dell City 10 Sep (ph. JiP, BZ) was the second for Hudspeth; impressive was 1080 Buff-breasted Sandpipers counted in Matagorda 18 Aug (BO, DAO). An early Wilson’s Snipe was at Sandia Wetlands, Balmorhea, Reeves 18–27 Aug (ph. DDi et al.). A few Red-necked Phalaropes wandered east with one west of Bryan, Brazos 23 Sep (ph. RhR, MeA, CGi, ph. MiM, MaM, ph. TS), up to three at the Dallas Water Treatment Plant, Seagoville, Dallas 24 Sep–1 Oct (RoC, m.ob., ph.), one at Bryan Beach, Brazoria 29 Sep (JFi, ph. MH, et al.) and another at Quintana Jetty, Brazoria 20 Nov (JFi). A Red Phalarope was at the Rio Bosque Wetland Park and Jonathan Rogers Wastewater Treatment Plant, El Paso 7–8 Nov (PH, ph. KFl). In a season of many highlights, a Pomarine Jaeger on Granger Lake, Williamson 1–2 Sep (ph. RKa, m.ob.) and another on McGee Lake, Potter 15–16 Sep (DaC, KDE, DSm, ph.) are as impressive as any other sighting, being the least expected inland jaeger in Texas.
Perhaps slightly above average, nine Sabine’s Gulls passed through Texas 10 Sep–17 Oct including one at Lake Bryan, Brazos 24–25 Sep (CGi, m.ob.), one at Lake Benbrook, Tarrant 12 Oct (JA), and a bird seen offshore from South Padre Island, Cameron shoreline 3 Oct (NG). Totally inexplicable was a Bonaparte’s Gull reported from the Falfurrias Gravel Pits, Brooks on the amazingly early date of 30 Aug (JMa, CCr). A juvenile Little Gull was found at Packery Channel, Nueces on the shockingly early date of 13 Oct (ph. LoC). A striking adult Heermann’s Gull, just the sixth record for Texas, was a great surprise at Kirby Lake, Taylor 21–22 Nov (ph. JCa, m.ob.). Casual was a Mew Gull at Lake Benbrook, Tarrant 25–28 Nov (JA, DTS, ph.). An apparent first-cycle Western Gull seen briefly on O.C. Fischer Lake, Tom Green 30 Nov (ph. CD) will be reviewed by the TBRC. Different individual California Gulls were noted at Bolivar Flats, Galveston 24 Oct (ph. CTL, ph. RGi, et al.), along the Galveston seawall, Galveston 12 Nov (ph. JFa, JMu), at Follett’s Island, Brazoria 20 Nov (ph. JFi), and at East Beach, Galveston 29–30 Nov (ph. JRi, DCo). Notable inland Lesser Black-backed Gulls included one at McGee Lake, Potter 16 Sep–25 Oct (KDE, m.ob., ph.), a second-cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull at Granger Lake, Williamson 16 Oct (TFe, ph. SMc), and an adult there 7–16 Nov (ph. AMo et al.).
Two storm-driven Sooty Terns were at the Toledo Bend Dam, Newton 27 Aug (ph. GCo) as Hurricane Laura moved north, while another at Powderhorn Ranch, Calhoun 21 Sep (ph. DWa) was likely due to Tropical Storm Beta. A Bridled Tern offshore from Port Aransas, Nueces 25 Oct (ph. JMc) was noteworthy as no organized pelagic trips took place this year/season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Up to seven Least Terns at Lake Bryan, Brazos 1 Aug–12 Sep (CGi, ph. JHl, m.ob.) was a good count while three in Cove, Chambers 4 Nov were very late (DHn). Two Common Terns were amidst other terns at the Toledo Bend Dam, Newton 27 Aug (ph. GCo) and 28 Aug (ToF) as Hurricane Laura passed northward; confirmed records of this species in the Pineywoods are few, though it is perhaps a regular migrant. At least 17 Royal Terns were found on Toledo Bend Reservoir, Newton 27 Aug (GCo) as Hurricane Laura passed northward; 12 were still present the next morning (KA, EA, CJ). Singles were also seen at the Sam Rayburn Reservoir dam, Jasper 27 Aug (GCo) and 28 Aug (ToF). A lone Royal Tern at Lake Bryan, Brazos 30 Aug–3 Sep (ph. RhR, m.ob.) was also attributed to Hurricane Laura. Two were seen off the Texas 147 causeway on Rayburn Reservoir, San Augustine 23 Sep (DWo) after Tropical Storm Beta. A Sandwich Tern was amidst other storm-deposited birds at the Toledo Bend Dam, Newton 28 Aug (m.ob.) the day after the passage of Hurricane Laura, just the second time this coastal species has reached the Pineywoods.
Skimmers through Kites
The first record for Brazos since 1977, a juvenile Black Skimmer west of Bryan 1–4 Aug (ph. RhR, †BN, m.ob.) was perhaps pushed inland by Hurricane Hanna. Five Black Skimmers cruising over the small pond at Cuero’s Municipal Park, DeWitt 25 Oct (ph. TMi) must have been a strange sight with Cuero being at least 50 miles inland from the nearest bay and a solid 70 miles from the Texas coastline. A Common Loon on Lake Buchanan, Burnet 16–25 Aug (LKo, JBo) was likely an over-summering bird, as was one at Red Bluff Reservoir, Reeves/Loving 19–20 Sep (ph. GCo, ph. MiH). An impressive count of 67 Common Loons was made at Goose Island SP, Aransas 28 Nov (JMc). Contending for “bird of the season,” a Yellow-billed Loon found at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 28 Oct obligingly remained through 5 Nov (ph. SFa, m.ob.). This represents the seventh Texas occurrence and the third from Balmorhea Lake and the Trans-Pecos. Band-rumped Storm-Petrels seen offshore in Nueces waters included a single bird 25 Oct (JMc) and three more getting late 12 Nov (ph. JMc). Two Wood Storks at Smith Point, Chambers 30 Nov were late (DHn). A total of 102 Magnificent Frigatebirds were counted at Morgan’s Point, Harris 26 Aug during the passage of Hurricane Laura (ph. JBe, ph. DSa); at one point, 88 birds were in view. A bit surprisingly, the only Magnificent Frigatebirds carried into the Pineywoods by Hurricane Laura were singles at the Sam Rayburn Reservoir Dam, Jasper 27 Aug (GCo) and at the Toledo Bend Dam, Newton 28 Aug (KA, EA, CJ). More puzzling were scattered inland sightings of lone Magnificent Frigatebirds later in the season at Lake Theo, Briscoe 17 Oct (ph. CDa), at Twin Buttes Reservoir, Tom Green 4 Nov (ph. LaH), northwest of Dale, Caldwell 4 Nov (ph. JoS), at Reimers Ranch in far west Travis 6 Nov (JJ), at Lake Waco, McLennan 6–7 Nov (ph. BHa), over Lady Bird Lake, Travis 21 Nov (ph. RyL), on Lake Murvaul, Panola 22 Nov (ph. LWo), and over Granger Lake, Williamson 24 Nov (ph. RKo). It seems plausible that at least the Austin area sightings mentioned here could have been the same individual.
A Masked Booby appeared on North Padre Island, Nueces 8 Aug (ph. AO). The Brown Booby numbers at Pleasure Island, Jefferson peaked at a staggering 44 on 19 Sep (ph. HSt). This accumulation was believed to be due to tropical weather, but as many of 30 lingered at this location into Nov. The Brown Booby found during the summer returned to Lake Grapevine, Denton/Tarrant 25 Sep–13 Oct (CAy, m.ob. ph.). Another Brown Booby was discovered at Joe Pool Lake, Tarrant 25 Nov (CaW, ph.). Also of note were six Brown Boobies reported offshore from Port Aransas, Nueces 12 Nov (ph. JMc) while four were in Aransas Bay, Aransas 22 & 27 Nov (TW, ph. MMM). The farthest inland Brown Pelicans were one at Lake Bridgeport, Wise 13–15 Aug (MSu, ph.), and another at Trading House Creek Reservoir, McLennan 31 Oct+ (JoM, ph. MY). Following after the landfall of Hurricane Laura in Louisiana, a single Brown Pelican noted the same day at Calaveras Lake, Bexar 27 Aug (ph. AB) was soon joined by several others that came and went at the lake and nearby Braunig Lake until at least 23 Nov (m.ob.), with four being the most observed at any one time. Another Brown Pelican at the Falfurrias Gravel Pit, Brooks 30 Aug (JMa, CCr) and 26–27 Nov (SG et al.) was noteworthy for an inland location with a very limited number of bodies of water. The Brown Pelican at Granger Lake, Williamson from mid-Jul remained there until at least 11 Sep (m.ob.).
Early was an American Bittern at Clapp Park, Lubbock 18–31 Aug (JCo, JMi, m.ob., ph.). Always good finds on the Edwards Plateau, an American Bittern was just east of Llano, Llano 14 Sep (SCo, MaR) while another showed up in Boerne, Kendall 31 Oct (ph. LSp). An American Bittern at the Zapata Library/City Park, Zapata 19 Oct (JM) was also out of place. Rarely reported in the El Paso area but likely overlooked, four Least Bitterns were calling near dusk along the Rio Grande in central Hudspeth 9 Sep (JBo). An adult Little Blue Heron wandered north and west to Maxey Park, Lubbock, Lubbock 20 Aug (AHe). The most westerly dispersing Tricolored Herons included one at the Pecos River overlook, Val Verde 8 Aug (BL, BSm), another at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 7 Aug–2 Sep (ph. MLo, m.ob.), and one more along the Rio Grande in central Hudspeth 9 Sep (JBo). Reddish Egrets well inland included one at White River Lake, Crosby 12–14 Nov (MLo, JBo) and another at Kirby Lake, Taylor 22 Nov (JCa, SFa). There was a push of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons to the west with one at Ascarate Park, El Paso 4 Aug (ph. JKi), up to six at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 13–30 Aug (ph. MLo, m.ob.), one at Christmas Mountains Oasis, Brewster 19 Aug (ph. CO), another at Van Horn, Culberson 21 Aug–6 Sep (ph. WS, KiG), one more near Maple, Bailey 22 Aug (JBo), and two near Dell City, Hudspeth 15–16 Sep (ph. AK, JiP). Five of the Balmorhea Lake Yellow-crowned Night-Herons were immatures, including at least one individual still sporting downy plumes on the head, possibly suggesting that it was raised locally. An adult Glossy Ibis was at the Village Creek Drying Beds, Tarrant 2–8 Aug (ph. CAm et al.).
At least six nests of Roseate Spoonbills were found in a large mixed rookery on a private reserve near Point Blank on Lake Livingston, San Jacinto in early June. It is not known for sure how many young fledged, but at least 40, including juveniles, remained in the vicinity into the early fall (GRu). This is certainly the first breeding record of Roseate Spoonbills for the Pineywoods and may be the farthest inland that this species has nested in Texas. It may also account for other reports of spoonbills in the general vicinity, including 32 counted near Trinity, Trinity 8 Sep (FF, MF) and 35 in this area 17 Oct (GCo, SG). Also noteworthy were 11 seen on upper Toledo Bend Reservoir, Shelby 26 Sep (JSm) and two still present lingered in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 25 Oct (DWo). White-tailed Kites on the northern edge of their range included one near Shallowater, Lubbock 22 Aug (JBo) and another southeast of Holliday, Archer 3 Oct (ph. SL). The species of the season for many birders in north-central Texas was Swallow-tailed Kite, with up to five individuals that graced the skies of Collin and Grayson. The first was one over Connemara, Collin 11 Aug (HC, ph.) and the last two at Fairview Park, Sherman, Grayson 1 Sep (AR, m.ob., ph.). Another was far off-course in northwest Amarillo, Potter 1 Sep (CAl, ph.). Other notable Swallow-tailed Kites include one west of Calvert, Robertson 22–31 Aug (AlM) and another over Salado, Bell 9 Sep (ph. CPl).
Eagles through Woodpeckers
Casual to rare in north-central Texas, Golden Eagles made a good showing there with an adult over Village Creek Drying Beds, Tarrant 19 Oct (GCo, SG), another over Lake Benbrook, Tarrant 13 Oct (BoB), and an immature over Joshua, Johnson 17 Oct (TA, ph.). At the Hazel Bazemore Hawkwatch, Nueces two Golden Eagles reported 18 Sep (TuD) along with a single bird 22 & 23 Sep (DaH, TuD) were notable and early. An adult Common Black Hawk soared over west El Paso, El Paso 4 Oct (ph. JiP); there are fewer than ten county records. Although not so far “as the hawk flies” from breeding areas in the nearby Davis Mountains, an adult Common Black Hawk at Balmorhea 21 Aug (ph. AMe) provided the first hard evidence for the species in Reeves. Harris’ Hawks along the northern edge of their range included one at Smith Point, Chambers 19 Sep (DHn), another at Trading House Creek Reservoir, McLennan 19 Sep–4 Oct (FR, ph. MY) and one more at MacKenzie Park, Lubbock 14 Nov (PKi). An immature White-tailed Hawk was just north of Granger Lake, Williamson 10 Sep (ph. GaS) while an adult was detected in nearby Thrall, Williamson 30 Sep (ph. TFe); up to two were sporadically seen just southwest of Lake Bryan, Brazos 30 Aug–29 Nov (ph. SKi, m.ob.). Red-shouldered Hawks made a good showing in the Trans-Pecos with one at Fort Peña Colorado Park, Brewster 20 Sep (ph. THi), one in Dell City 17 Oct (ph. ChW) that was a first for Hudspeth, another southwest of Fort Stockton, Pecos 8 Nov (ph. SuH), and one more southeast of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 26 Nov (ph. AZ) which was at the same location where a bird was reported in late 2017 and late 2018.
Zone-tailed Hawks continue to show signs of expansion with one near Granger Lake, Williamson 6 Aug+ (ph. SA, m.ob.), one near Buffalo Gap, Taylor 23 Aug (JCa), another at Clapp Park, Lubbock 13 Sep (AHe, KBr, AL, KMo, ph.), and one in Falls City, Karnes 16 Nov+ (ph. ZT, m.ob.). This species is also becoming more common on the UTC with immatures at Cullinan Park in Sugar Land, Fort Bend 14 Sep (ph. HJ), at Sienna Plantation, Fort Bend 4 Oct (ph. RGi), and at Brazos Bend SP, Fort Bend 29 Oct (ph. ST); an adult was at Brazos Bend SP, Fort Bend 15 Nov (ph. JWo, TP). A Rough-legged Hawk near Claude, Armstrong 11 Oct (DTh) was, by contemporary standards, a very early report for the Panhandle. A Ferruginous Hawk in Dell City, Hudspeth 3 Oct (JiP) was about two weeks early. Rare east of their core range was a Ferruginous Hawk over Nora Haney Park, McKinney, Collin 5 Nov (BrS, ph.), and another over the Dallas Wastewater Treatment Plant, Seagoville, Dallas 29–30 Nov (MD, ph. EW).
Multiple Flammulated Owl reports hinted at an irruptive event that perhaps went largely undetected given the species’ secretive nature. El Paso had three or four; the ones in Memorial Park 27 and 28 Sep (ph. JGr, m.ob.) were thought to be different birds and separate El Paso yards hosted singles 30 Sep (ph. BZ) and 30 Sep–1 Oct (ph. MiH). Single Flammulated Owls from Lubbock, Lubbock were brought into the South Plains Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on 14 Oct (BSi) and 25 Oct (GBa), while one at a day roost in Midland, Midland 25 Oct (ph. KaH) was a nice prize. A Western Screech-Owl heard near Leakey, Real 26 Nov (CGa) was on the very eastern edge of their expected range. Providing proof of the species’ continuing persistence there, a well-documented Spotted Owl was found in the Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis 18 Sep (CRi, ph. MGr). A Long-eared Owl in northwest Hudspeth 3 Oct (ph. JiP) was clearly a migrant whereas one at Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, El Paso 21 Nov (KFl) was at a regular wintering location; in north-central Texas, one at Arcadia Park Trail, Tarrant 24–26 Nov (JTo, DTS, ph.) was a notable find. Rather early was a Short-eared Owl at Hagerman NWR, Grayson 12 Oct (JCh, ph.). A female Elegant Trogon, the eighth record for Texas, was a major highlight of the fall season at Estero Llano Grande SP, Hidalgo 23 Nov+ (†THi, MHi, ph. m.ob.). A Ringed Kingfisher seen in Lake Jackson, Brazoria 2 Nov (BK, JKo) was just the third record for the county.
Early single Lewis’s Woodpeckers at the Farwell Country Club, Parmer 1 Oct (MoM, ph.) and in El Paso, El Paso 4 Oct (ph. JiP) teased that a bigger movement was coming. However, the only subsequent reports were one detected at Harper Park near the community of Water Valley, Tom Green 15 Nov (ph. CD) and two located at Guadalupe Mountains NP, Culberson with one at McKittrick Canyon 16 Oct (ph. CHa, LG) and the other at Frijole Ranch 5 Nov (ph. JSe et al.). Wandering Red-headed Woodpeckers included one south of Lorenzo, Crosby 7 Oct (ph. MLo), three near the community of Sloan, San Saba 19 Oct+ (ph. JBy), one in a Lubbock yard, Lubbock 19 Oct (PKe, ph.) and up to two birds 10 miles northwest of Jackson 9 Nov+ (ph. BoF et al.). Surprising was an Acorn Woodpecker at Cave Without A Name, 10 miles northeast of Boerne, Kendall 6–7 Nov (ph. DeC). There was an exceptionally strong irruption and lowland presence of Williamson’s Sapsuckers across the western portion of the Trans-Pecos, with the earliest at Pine Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains NP, Culberson 6 Sep (MLo) and in the Davis Mountains west of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis on the same date (MEa, ME). There were at least eight El Paso records 10 Sep–25 Nov (ph. EE et al.) and three records for Hudspeth of five birds 24 Sep–18 Nov (ph. JiP) almost doubled its previous total for that county. At least seven made it as far southeast as Brewster, including an early male at Alpine 8–10 Sep (ph. LN et al.), a female south to Christmas Mountains Oasis 18 Oct (ph. LSo), and a male there 23 Oct (ph. CO). Quite unexpected were records east of the Trans-Pecos: one at Palo Duro Canyon SP, Randall 6 Nov (DSm, ph.), another near Ingram, Kerr 11–12 Nov (PS) and one more southwest of Spicewood, Burnet 14 Nov (ph. BSm, BL) were certainly among the most easterly ever found in the state.
A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Bastrop SP, Bastrop 12 Sep (VV) and another at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston 23 Sep were early (KrC). Red-naped Sapsuckers made it as far east as Hitchcock, Galveston 30–31 Oct (ph. KrC, ph. SKr, DCo, CL) and Cypress, Harris 26 Nov (ph. THi, MHi); the most southerly outliers were one at the Falfurrias Cemetery, Brooks 24 Nov+ (ph. TO et al.), and another at the San Juan Wetlands, Hidalgo 19 Nov+ (ph. BWe, m.ob.). There are just a handful of Downy Woodpecker occurrences for the eastern Trans-Pecos, so two during fall 2020 was fairly remarkable and involved singles at Devil’s Hall Trail, Guadalupe NP, Culberson 14 Sep (NG) and at Mentone, Loving 31 Oct (ph. GCo). In Northwest Texas, a few westerly ranging Downy Woodpeckers appeared to be of the Rocky Mountains subspecies (D. p. leucurus) including one at Lake Rita Blanca, Hartley 4 Oct (ph. AHo), one at Farwell Country Club, Parmer 18 Oct (JBo) and another in Texline, Dallam 19 Oct (ChW). A Hairy Woodpecker at Quitaque, Briscoe 12 Oct (AP, JPa) was a good find.
Caracaras through Empidonax
Three northwesterly-wandering Crested Caracaras, all along Highway 385, included one northeast of Fort Stockton, Pecos 26 Oct (BBO), and individuals south of Marathon, Brewster 8 Oct (JoN) and 15 Nov (ph. TR). At least one Aplomado Falcon was detected at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves on three dates from 10–18 Aug (ph. BMe, ph. BSm, DDi et al.). A Prairie Falcon eating a songbird in an open field near Dawson, Navarro 5 Nov (ph. AGu) was on the eastern edge of the species’ expected range; another on South Padre Island, Cameron 23 Nov+ (ph. MT) was unusual for the barrier island. It was a fall to remember for Rose-throated Becard in South Texas. A handsome male was present at Falfurrias Cemetery, Brooks 20 Nov+ (ph. WS, KiG, m.ob.), another male was at Santa Ana NWR, Hidalgo 22 Nov (ph. GBu) and a female was at Salineno, Starr 28 Nov+ (ph. GCo, SG). A Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet was present at Falfurrias Cemetery, Brooks 21–23 Nov (WS et al.). With the first sighting 12 Nov, single Dusky-capped Flycatchers set up shop for the winter at six different Hidalgo locations; normally only a single bird or two will winter in the LRGV. Lingering Ash-throated Flycatchers well inland include one at Benbrook Lake, Tarrant 17 Nov+ (ph. EW, m.ob.) and two different birds on the west side of Bryan/College Station, Brazos 16–21 Nov (ph. SKi, BE) and 16–17 Nov (SKi, et al.). Three Great Crested Flycatchers in El Paso was an excellent showing: Rio Bosque Wetlands Park 5 Sep (ph. RaH), an El Paso yard 13 Sep (ph. BZ), and Memorial Park 3 Oct (ph. KFl, VM). Another Great Crested Flycatcher at Davis Mountains SP, Jeff Davis 11 Sep (ph. THu) was also a good find for the eastern Trans-Pecos; one at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley SP, Hidalgo 26 Nov (ph. THo, JHo et al.) was exceedingly late. A Brown-crested Flycatcher was out of range in Memorial Park, El Paso 15–18 Aug (ph. BZ, m.ob.) with likely the same one there 24 Aug (GWi, JaW).
Great Kiskadee is widespread enough now in the southern half of the state that we don’t mention it that much here in recent years; still, a count of five together just southeast of Junction, Kimble 26 Aug (ph. RhH) is impressive. Another at Hagerman NWR, Grayson 21 Nov (AGa, ph.) was well north of any “expected” expansion. Tropical Kingbirds are showing signs of expansion on a few fronts. The nesting Tropical Kingbirds at Ascarate Park, El Paso lingered through at least Sep (JKi, m.ob.). Lone silent Tropical/Couch’s Kingbirds about 10 miles away in west El Paso 27 Aug (ph. LWa) and 27 Sep (ph. AK) hinted at an expanding foothold in that area. A voice-confirmed Tropical Kingbird at Sandia Wetlands near Balmorhea 11 Sep (ph. MLo, ph. CRi et al.) was only about the third confirmed for Reeves. A pair of vocalizing Tropical Kingbirds in Rankin, Upton 31 Jul–4 Aug (ph. audio JBo) and another lone bird in McCamey, Upton 5–12 Aug (ph. JBo) were also in new areas. Brazoria’s first Tropical Kingbirds were a pair first identified at Quintana 1 Aug and seen through 30 Aug (ph., audio RW et al.). There were no further sightings there despite much checking until a “trilling bird” was photographed 15 Oct (ph. NR, ph. TO). Interestingly, Jefferson’s first record was of two seen and heard on 2–3 Aug at Sea Rim SP (ph. ShH, JWh, ph. SMa, JHa, audio, ph. JBe); a silent bird photographed in the same area 27 Aug was thought to be one of those same two birds (TiF, IM).
Northerly Couch’s Kingbirds included one in Rotan, Fisher 2 Sep (JPa), another in Belton, Bell 26 Sep (DOr), and two that returned to the Baylor University campus, McLennan 24 Sep–30 Oct (AC) where they had resided the previous winter. A single bird was noted at two different nearby locations in College Station/Bryan, Brazos 17 Oct (ph. WH, et al.) and 20 Oct (ph. MeA). A Couch’s/Tropical kingbird found at a flycatcher roost in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 3–4 Sep (ClS et al., ph. LWo) could not be identified to species. A Western Kingbird that visited Diboll, Angelina 19–20 Oct (RT) was a rare fall find for the Pineywoods. An Eastern Kingbird at Fort Peña Colorado Park, Brewster 13 Sep (ph. MHi, THi) was the only report of the season for the Trans-Pecos. A handsome Fork-tailed Flycatcher was found at Eagle Lake, Colorado 4 Nov (ph. SMe) while another bird was present near Edna, Jackson 11–12 Nov (ph. BoF, RW). Totally unexpected was a Tufted Flycatcher in the Davis Mountains west of Fort Davis 13–14 Aug (ph. JSe et al.); there are only five previous Texas occurrences, with this representing the first for Jeff Davis and the first from the period between early May and late Oct. Late was an Olive-sided Flycatcher at the Lubbock Cemetery, Lubbock 9 Oct (ph. DrH) and another in El Paso, El Paso 16 Oct (ph. LWa). A Greater Pewee at Alpine, Brewster 20 Aug (ph. CoS) was one of very few Trans-Pecos occurrences of a fall migrant away from the main mountain ranges. A Western Wood-Pewee was carefully studied at Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary, Brazoria 23–26 Oct (ph. SR, ph. BiS, ph. RW, ph. MC, et al.). A wood-pewee, presumably Western, at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso 6 Nov (JSp) was notably late.
A silent Acadian Flycatcher in El Paso, El Paso 4 Sep (ph. BZ), extensively photographed and independently identified by multiple experts, was just the third record for the El Paso area. Rather late was a Least Flycatcher in El Paso, El Paso 1 Nov (ph. BZ). Hammond’s Flycatchers also pushed east. Five reports of single birds from Lubbock north through the Panhandle 12 Sep–5 Oct (m.ob.) were above normal for what is perhaps the eastern edge of their migration path. Out of place was one at Colleyville Nature Center, Tarrant 29 Sep (ph. KCo) providing the first record for north-central Texas; another was well studied at Estero Llano Grande SP, Hidalgo 20 Nov+ (JY, ph. DJ, m.ob.). Gray Flycatchers were in the same boat; six found in the Lubbock area and the Panhandle 1–29 Sep (m.ob.) were well above normal numbers on the eastern edge of their migration route. A Gray Flycatcher was quite out of place on South Padre Island, Cameron 30 Sep (JGo, BMa). With only one prior fully documented record in the state, Pacific-slope Flycatchers staged an unexpected and major dispersal into Texas this fall that would continue into the winter. An unprecedented two birds each were documented with audio recordings at both Southside Lions Park in San Antonio, Bexar 16 Oct+ (ph. audio BWi, audio MaR, m.ob.) and in Falls City, Karnes 8 Nov+ (ph. audio WS, audio MaR, m.ob.). A couple others followed with one in Goliad, Goliad 14–25 Nov (ph. WS, KiG) along with a bird at Quinta Mazatlan, Hidalgo 28 Nov + (TMc, m.ob.). A couple other candidate birds were never heard and/or audio was never captured so are best left as “Pacific-slope/Cordilleran” but very well could have been additional Pacific-slopes including one at San Bernard NWR, Brazoria 31 Oct and 7 Nov (ph. WM).
Phoebes through Creepers
Two Black Phoebes at Reynolds Creek Park, Lake Waco 10–11 Nov (ph. JeB, NC) was only the second record for McLennan. Following up on a Jul report, two Vermilion Flycatchers in northeast El Paso, El Paso 4 Sep (BZ) strongly suggested nesting. Vermilion Flycatcher is a local nester in Hudspeth but, despite much apparently appropriate habitat, there are no known El Paso nesting locations. Very exciting was a fall migrant Black-capped Vireo at Davis Mountains SP, Jeff Davis 26 Aug (ph. DaH), representing one of the only well-documented Trans-Pecos occurrences away from breeding areas. A White-eyed Vireo in a Lubbock yard, Lubbock 15 Sep (ph. HB) was out of place; a singing bird at Fort Peña Colorado Park, Brewster 14–27 Aug (JBo, SFa et al.) was presumably the same individual documented there in late June. Bell’s Vireos on the eastern edge of their migration route included singles at Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary, Brazoria 20–23 Sep (ph. MC, et al.), at Houston’s Bear Creek Park, Harris 21 Sep (JHi, SN), in College Station, Brazos 29 Sep–2 Oct (VK, ph. CJ, †MiM), and southwest of Millican, Brazos 10 Oct (JHl). To the northwest, one near Maple, Bailey 1 Sep (JBo) and another at Lake McClellan, Gray 7 Sep (SG) were also notable. A Bell’s Vireo that lingered late in an El Paso, El Paso yard 21 Sep–7 Nov (ph. JiP) was at least six weeks past expected departure dates. A Hutton’s Vireo at Christmas Mountains Oasis, Brewster 16–19 Aug (ph. CO) may represent the first well-documented lowland occurrence for the Trans-Pecos outside of a couple of El Paso sightings. Other outlier Hutton’s Vireos were detected 10 miles southeast of Gillett, DeWitt 2 Nov (DMu) and in Sonora, Sutton 6 Nov (ph. CFe).
Less than annual for the El Paso area, a Yellow-throated Vireo at Memorial Park, El Paso 7–8 Aug (ph. SD, m.ob.) was very early and a first for Aug, and a second was in El Paso, El Paso 8–18 Sep (ph. JiP). At least seven Cassin’s Vireos were detected in the Panhandle and Lubbock area 1–29 Sep (m.ob.), another indicator of western birds pushing east; one studied at Green Hill Cemetery northwest of Hebbronville, Jim Hogg 3 Oct (ph. MaR, SCo) was a good find. Outlier Plumbeous Vireos included one in northwest San Antonio, Bexar 27 Oct (SCo, MaR) and another at the Falfurrias Cemetery, Brooks 20 Nov (WS). Late Warbling Vireos included one in an El Paso, El Paso yard through 29 Oct (ph. MiH), another at Clapp Park, Lubbock 31 Oct (AHe), and one at Fulshear, Fort Bend 12 Nov (JoW, HW). At least nine Red-eyed Vireos were detected moving through the western Panhandle and Lubbock area 31 Aug–22 Oct (m.ob.), an exceptional number for those areas; further west where they are rare, two El Paso, El Paso records were both on the late side: 2 Oct (ph. JiP) and 22–24 Oct (ph. MiH). A Yellow-green Vireo was far astray from any other prior Texas records and an exceptional find in Midland, Midland 26 Aug (ph. GPa); another at Quintana, Brazoria 27–29 Sep (ph. MaS, ph. SMo, JeS, JFi, MC) was of few fall records ever for the UTC. The Yellow-green Vireo back for its third summer at Fort Peña Colorado Park, Brewster and first reported 3 May, was last documented 12 Aug (ph. TFi, BL, BSm).
Early singleton Pinyon Jays at Thompson Grove, Dallam 4 Oct (ph. JBo) and another 10 miles southeast of Alpine, Brewster 5–9 Nov (ph. EmC, JSt et al.) were initially assumed to be just the first signs of an anticipated irruption into the state, but ended up being the lone reports for the season. Blue Jays are seldom reported in the Trans-Pecos, so one at Fort Stockton, Pecos 30 Nov (ph. SCo, MaR) was noteworthy. Starting with a lone bird in Texline, Dallam 30 Sep (SJ), Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays had a minor irruption into Dallam/Hartley with small groups of birds found at scattered locations through the season; twelve in Texline, Dallam 13 Oct (JiP) was the highest count and other groups of 4–6 birds were reported at times. By contrast, the irruption into the El Paso, El Paso area was rather muted with the first one 27 Sep (JGr) being late and only a very few seen thereafter. A real head-scratcher, a lone Mexican Jay appeared at Lake Amistad, Val Verde 17 Nov (ph. ML), quite likely only the second documented Texas record of the species away from its Chisos Mountains stronghold. Two single observer records were made in late Sep of Clark’s Nutcracker in El Paso for very rare El Paso records: 29 Sep on the west slope of the Franklin Mountains (JPo) and 30 Sep along the east side of the Franklins (BZ). Another in Alpine, Brewster 29 Nov–6 Dec (ph. BoS, ph. CO, ph. DDo, m.ob.) was enjoyed by many during its short stay there. Impressive numbers of Chihuahuan Ravens are known to stage in fall in the agricultural fields around Dell City, Hudspeth, as indicated by the 850 carefully counted from photographs 5 Sep (ph. AK).
A Violet-green Swallow was an unexpected find at Caprock Canyons SP, Briscoe 11 Oct (AP, JPa). Mountain Chickadees moved into the Dallam/Hartley corner of the Panhandle in very low numbers, starting with two birds at Thompson Grove, Dallam 4 Oct (ph. JBo) which remained through the period. As many as three were in Texline, Dallam 6 Oct+ (AHo, ChW, m.ob., ph.), and one was sporadically seen in Dalhart, Hartley 19 Oct+ (ChW, ph., EK). As many as eight Bushtits found sporadically at Lake Six and the nearby Lubbock Cemetery, Lubbock 4 Sep+ (PKi, PKe, DrH, m.ob., ph.) were noteworthy as the species has mostly pulled out of that region in recent years. In comparison to several other species, Red-breasted Nuthatches had an understated irruption into the northern two-thirds of the state. The earliest signs were one in Dell City, Hudspeth 3 Sep (JiP) and another east of Crosbyton, Crosby 7 Sep (SBe). The first one reported on the coast was at Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary, Brazoria 22 Sep (ph. MC) and if you drew a line from there to San Antonio, the majority of sightings the rest of the season were north of that line. Most reports were of 1–4 individuals but 21 tallied on a 10 mile stretch of the Sam Houston NF, Montgomery 10 Oct (RyC, ECh) is a good indication of how many were present. A couple southerly outliers were one at South Padre Island, Cameron 16 & 21–23 Sep (TSP, ph. KBa et al.) and another at the Hazel Bazemore Hawkwatch, Nueces 10 & 24 Oct (BB, DaH, CTa). By far the rarest nuthatch in El Paso, a Pygmy Nuthatch was in west El Paso 25 Oct–8 Nov (ph. JGr, AK). Brown Creeper made a good push in El Paso in the second week of Oct with at least six reports 10–17 Oct (m.ob.) and a few continuing into Nov.
Wrens through Evening Grosbeaks
A wandering Rock Wren was a rare observation north and east of normal range southwest of Benbrook Lake, Tarrant 8–11 Nov (ph. ChW et al.). A Winter Wren on the Texas Tech Campus, Lubbock 2 Sep (AHe) was exceptionally early. Likely birds wandering from westerly locations, outlier Cactus Wrens in the Panhandle included up to four at Plum Creek on the southern end of Lake Meredith, Potter 1–5 Aug (RGo, DSm, m.ob.), three at McGee Lake, Potter 23 Aug–4 Sep (KDE, BFa, m.ob., ph.), and two at Cedar Canyon on the north end of Lake Meredith, Hutchinson 19 Nov (JBo). An astounding 85 Eastern Bluebirds were tallied west of Lake Bryan, Brazos 29 Nov (SKi). Western Bluebirds wandered eastward into the Edwards Plateau and areas north and east of there in higher numbers than usual and were still being found at new locations as the season ended. Notable were nine birds at Fort Hood, Coryell 6 Nov (ph. NN et al.) and up to a dozen west of Andice, Williamson 18 Nov+ (ph. RKo, m.ob.). At least five at the Bryan City Cemetery, Brazos 26 Nov+ (SKi, m.ob.) were real outliers to the east.
Mountain Bluebirds made a much more impressive push east and north than Western Bluebirds with many large groups reported and numbers still increasing into the winter season. The first sign was a lone bird southwest of Amarillo, Randall 27 Sep (PT) followed by ever increasing numbers in the Panhandle as well as sightings in many easterly/southerly locations seemingly bordered by a line from Wichita Falls to Dallas to just north of Austin. Some notable reports include an amazing 80 west of Perryton, Ochiltree 16 Oct (DOs), 20 at Fort Hood, Coryell 14 Nov (ph. NG), up to 20 at Trading Creek Reservoir, McLennan 27 Nov+ (ph. MY), and as many as 40 west of Andice, Williamson 7 Nov+ (ph. RKo, m.ob.). Notable outlier reports were one near the Brazos River southwest of College Station, Brazos 28 Nov+ (ph. JHl, m.ob.), as many as 10 at Falcon SP, Starr 29 Nov+ (MEm), and another that was a county first at John Paul Landing Park, Harris 30 Nov (ph. HSm, JHi). A bit surprising is that Townsend’s Solitaires did not seem to irrupt eastward like the bluebirds did. A couple early birds were reported 10 Sep at both Davis Mountains SP, Jeff Davis (ph. StW, SuW) and at Palo Duro Canyon SP, Randall (DSm) but there were only a small number of Panhandle reports and only a couple birds reached the western portion of the Edwards Plateau. Still, a Townsend’s Solitaire at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Galveston 31 Oct (ph. GWh) was quite exceptional and the first ever for the UTC. Veeries are tough fall migrants in Texas so seven sightings along the UTC 21–26 Sep (m.ob.) was noteworthy.
Of the handful of Swainson’s Thrushes in El Paso El Paso 11 Sep–7 Oct, at least three were of the “Russet-backed” form, C. u. ustulatus (ph. JiP, ph. BZ). A late Swainson’s Thrush was at Sugar Land’s Cullinan Park, Fort Bend 25 Nov (ToF). An early Hermit Thrush was in Cullinan Park in Sugar Land, Fort Bend 12 Sep (JaB). Remarkable was a very late Wood Thrush discovered at Marathon, Brewster 19 Nov (ph. CO, DOh, m.ob.); the bird remained through the end of the period and appeared to be attempting to winter. A lone Clay-colored Thrush well to the north at South Llano SP, Kimble 20 Nov (ph. ALD) and another in Yorktown, DeWitt 21 Nov (ph. BB) were surprising finds; three at Del Rio, Val Verde 27 Nov+ (ph. ErC, ph. WS, KiG) were not too far from where 1–2 individuals were present during Jan–Feb 2019. A Varied Thrush at Surfside, Brazoria 13–29 Oct (ph. QT, m.ob.) was a first county record and just the eighth for the UTC. Over two dozen Gray Catbird reports from the western Panhandle through Lubbock and the Trans-Pecos were an exceptional number with the earliest coming at Thompson Park, Potter 29–30 Aug (DSm, SSm, m.ob., ph.). At least seven Brown Thrashers were found just in Jeff Davis, including separate relatively early individuals in the Davis Mountains west of Fort Davis 30 Sep and one at Davis Mountains SP 25 Oct+ (m.ob.); other notable sightings in the Trans-Pecos include lone birds near Dell City, Hudspeth 3 Oct (ph. JiP) and 22 Oct–17 Nov (ph. JiP).
Sage Thrashers do occasionally irrupt into the middle third of the state and beyond some falls but this season saw perhaps the biggest movement in many years. Early harbingers of what was to come include one at Commons Ford Park in west Austin, Travis 17 Aug (ph. JoL), another at Thompson Grove, Dallam 29 Aug (ph. CK), and one more at Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 3 Sep (ph. CPi). By mid-Oct and continuing the rest of the period, Sage Thrashers wandered almost as eastward as a line drawn from Fort Worth to Austin to Corpus Christi. Two or three birds were occasionally seen in close proximity while counts of 10 at Seminole Canyon SP, Val Verde and 11 at Reimers Ranch Park, Travis 11 Nov (AMo, AdJ) were notable exceptions. Some outliers include single Sage Thrashers at Village Creek Drying Beds, Tarrant 4 Nov (ph. AuJ), at South Padre Island Convention Center, Cameron 29 Oct (ph. JGo, BMa), and at Rosehill Cemetery in Corpus Christi, Nueces 27 Nov (ph. JMc). A Phainopepla was a great find at Caprock Canyons SP, Briscoe 15 Aug (CAn, MaA, ph.). An American Pipit at McAlister Park, Lubbock 31 Aug (JBo) was exceptionally early. Rather early Sprague’s Pipits were one on Padre Island NS, Kleberg 23 Sep (DeH) and another near Granger, Williamson 30 Sep (TFe). Lone Evening Grosbeaks, widely scattered in Dalhart, Dallam/Hartley 19 Oct (ChW, ph.), 10 miles south of Robert Lee, Coke 14 Nov (ph. DWh), and at Pine Spring, Guadalupe Mountains NP, Culberson 17–21 Nov (ph. MGf, RhH, MiR, ph. MHa) were the only ones reported.
Purple Finch through Fox Sparrow
The first Purple Finches were two at White Rock Lake, Dallas 29 Oct (PB) and they would come in large but regular numbers into the Pineywoods with the bulk of the birds state-wide falling east of a line from Wichita Falls to Waco to Houston. Unusual finds west of that boundary included one near Mico, Medina 11 Nov (ph. LKe), another southeast of Blessing, Matagorda 16 Nov (ph. RS), one at Clapp Park, Lubbock 20–21 Nov (JCo, BSi, m.ob., ph.), and another 10 miles southeast of Mertzon, Irion 28 Nov (ph. SFl). Cassin’s Finches had a good showing in the Trans-Pecos with one (ph. JiP) and two (ph. BZ) in El Paso, El Paso 27 Sep being the earliest. Fair numbers appeared as anticipated in both the Guadalupe and Davis Mountains but there were also a few lowland reports including up to two at Van Horn, Culberson 31 Oct–5 Nov (LMR, KZ et al.), 1–2 at Christmas Mountains Oasis, Brewster 14–25 Oct (CO et al.), and up to three at Alpine, Brewster 30 Nov+ (CO et al.). There was a hint of an irruption in Dallam/Hartley in the far northwest Panhandle with one at Thompson Grove, Dallam 4 Oct (JBo, ph.), one in Texline, Dallam 6 Oct (AHo), and another in Dalhart, Hartley 19 Oct (ChW); more distant individuals in Lubbock, Lubbock 18 Oct (JCr, ph.) and at the Farwell Country Club, Parmer 24 Oct (JBo) might have been related to that push. Farther south and east, exceptional finds were one in west Austin, Travis 15 Oct (ph. AF, ElF), two about 15 miles southwest of Rocksprings, Edwards 23 Oct–5 Nov (ph. JoR), one north of Sherwood, Irion 1 Nov (ph. DTa), up to three near Buffalo Gap, Taylor 10 Nov+ (ph. JCa, ph. JPa), and one south of Kerrville, Kerr 20 Nov (ph. DHu).
Red Crossbills were largely missing from the large multi-species irruption event with just a handful of reports limited to the Trans-Pecos. There was a major flight of Pine Siskins, starting with a lone bird at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 13 Aug (ph. MLo), quite early for a lowland location. More birds followed with small numbers reaching the middle of the state by mid-Sep and making it all the way to the Nacogdoches and Angelina 14 Oct (MHW, LWo), only the third time in the last 50 years that siskins have appeared in the Pineywoods that early (fide DWo). Flocks between 50–150 birds were common in the northern two-thirds of the state with a few reports of loose flocks exceeding 300 in some locations. Lesser numbers made it all the way to south Texas with dozens of regular reports through the latter part of the period in Cameron/Hidalgo (m.ob.). The easternmost Lesser Goldfinches were one in College Station, Brazos 6 Nov (ph. VK) and two at Lake Somerville SP, Lee 6 Nov (JWe). The Lawrence’s Goldfinch irruption in southeast Arizona only managed to trickle into far west Texas with just two birds: a lone female delighted many at Franklin Mountains SP, El Paso 22–26 Oct (LD, m.ob., ph.), and a male that was a one-day wonder along Highway 90 south of Van Horn, Culberson 14 Nov (ph. BD). Exceptionally early and slightly east of expected range was a Thick-billed Longspur at Hagerman NWR, Grayson 28 Sep (JCh, ph.). A juvenile Black-throated Sparrow in an Amarillo yard, Potter 28 Aug (DSm, SSm, ph.) and an adult at a different Amarillo location, Potter 29 Aug (KDE) were surprising so far north in the Panhandle.
Lark Buntings pushed east in impressive numbers, making it as far as a line from Wichita Falls to Fort Worth to Houston including a handful of individual birds found in Brazos 16 Oct+ (m.ob.) and one at John Paul Landing Park, Harris 24–29 Nov (JHi, HSm, et al.) being the easternmost sighting. Impressive counts in areas where none or very few are usually seen included more than 50 south of San Antonio, Bexar 6 Nov+ (ph. SCo, MaR, m.ob.), and at least 35 south of San Marcos, Hays 26 Nov+ (ph. ErC et al.). Exceptional numbers of Clay-colored Sparrows moved through the Trans-Pecos with many relatively early observations and high counts. Earliest were several individuals in the Davis Mountains west of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 21–31 Aug (CRi, DDC, DeL), followed by a major influx from 2 Sep into early Oct, with many counts into the dozens at feeding stations and oases (m.ob.). Similar early movements and high counts were also noted in the Panhandle and Lubbock area. Brewer’s Sparrow made an early push in the Trans-Pecos with one in El Paso, El Paso 16 Aug (BZ) and at least 10 reports from Culberson, Reeves, and Jeff Davis 20–30 Aug (m.ob.). Small numbers pushed into the eastern edge of the Edwards Plateau and beyond with notable sightings including one about 10 miles southeast of Gillett, DeWitt 15 Oct (DMu), another at Reimers Ranch, Travis 11 Nov+ (JJ, ph. AMc), up to two west of Andice, Williamson 19 Nov+ (BrF, ph. RKo), one at Jackson Nature Park near Stockdale, Wilson 26 Nov (ph. WS) and one more south of San Marcos, Hays 27 Nov+ (ph. CRo, ph. ErC). A single Brewer’s Sparrow was still as far north at Abernathy City Park, Hale on a late date of 1 Nov (GCo, SG).
With only one prior documented “Slate-colored” Fox Sparrow in the state, at least seven different birds this fall was nothing short of amazing. Several were in El Paso: one in an El Paso yard 7–9 Oct (ph. JKi) and one in a west El Paso neighborhood 19 Oct (ph. AK) with two near there 31 Oct (ph. JO, DSa). Two were confirmed at separate locations about 2 miles apart in the Davis Mountains west of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis, one on 8–9 Oct (ph. LL) and the other on 18–20 Oct (ph. MEa, ME). Another was at Pine Springs, Guadalupe Mountains NP, Culberson 4–6 Nov (DMu, ph. JSe et al.). The most surprising bird though was one that made it to Baylor Lake, Childress 22 Nov (ph. GCo).
Juncos through Grackles
Dark-eyed Juncos seemed to show up early and with an above-average eastern push of “Gray-headed” and “Pink-sided” subspecies as well. A Dark-eyed Junco at Quintana, Brazoria 1 Oct (MC) is the earliest known fall record for the UTC. The first Dark-eyed Junco this fall in the Pineywoods was a vagrant “Oregon” in Cushing, Nacogdoches 17 Oct (DS). In El Paso, although there was some confusion with “Gray-headed” Junco by some observers, a number of records of Dark-eyed “Red-backed” Junco (J. h. dorsalis) were documented. The earliest there was 4 Oct (ph. JiP), the high single site count was four on 5 Nov (WE), and some birds remained through the period; there were very few previous El Paso records of this subspecies. A significant outlier was a single Dark-eyed “Pink-sided” Junco seen on South Padre Island, Cameron 31 Oct (ph. GV et al.), the only junco reported south of Karnes. At least two, and perhaps four, Yellow-eyed Juncos were recorded in El Paso, El Paso, which had only one previous record: 26–28 Sep (ph. BZ, m.ob.), 17–26 Oct (KFl, JGr, JKi, m.ob., ph.) with one at this site 15 Nov (ph. AK) thought by the observer to be a visually different bird, and one or the same about a kilometer away 30 Oct–3 Nov (JBo, m.ob., ph.). Less than annual in the state, a Golden-crowned Sparrow in an Amarillo yard, Randall 30 Sep–1 Oct (ph. DSm) was an outstanding find and the earliest fall record for Texas by at least three weeks. Rather early was a White-throated Sparrow at North Fork Buffalo Creek Reservoir, Wichita 20 Sep (ph. SL).
Rarely detected as a fall migrant anywhere inland in Texas, Nelson’s Sparrows are real prizes. Great luck was had this season with one in College Station, Brazos 16–17 Oct (SKi, ph. RhR, m.ob.), another at Granger Lake, Williamson 2–3 Nov (ph. RKo, SMc) and an incredible two birds at Lake Somerville SP Nails Creek Unit, Lee 7 Nov (ph. JaL). A Henslow’s Sparrow at Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, Colorado 17 Nov (ph. JRi) was a noteworthy find for the westerly location. Green-tailed Towhees made a push into coastal South Texas with up to four birds present in Cameron with the most notable seen at the Convention Center at South Padre Island 29 Oct (ph. JGo, BMa). Elsewhere, easterly wandering Green-tailed Towhees included one near Shipp Lake, Bastrop 30 Oct–1 Nov (†KeH, †BGr) and another at San Bernard NWR, Brazoria 29 Oct (ph. WM). The earliest lowland/migrating Spotted Towhee was one outside Kress, Swisher 12 Sep (CAn, MaA). A Yellow-breasted Chat was quite late, lingering on the Texas Tech Campus, Lubbock 28 Sep–18 Oct (AHe, JMi, m.ob., ph.). Yellow-headed Blackbirds are regular fall migrants but were unprecedently widespread and abundant this fall in the eastern Trans-Pecos, especially during the period 1–24 Sep when there were at least eight reports involving concentrations of 100+ individuals, including an astonishing 1500 at Balmorhea, Reeves 11 Sep (MLo, ph. CRi) and 360 at El Carmen Conservation Area, Brewster 24 Sep (ph. BoM). A Western Meadowlark heard calling on the Katy Prairie Conservancy’s Indiangrass Preserve, Waller 30 Sep (JBe, HL, BHo) was a new early date for the UTC.
An immature male Bullock’s Oriole seen at Houston’s Rice University, Harris 27 Sep (CTL, BSt, JaN) was the first of six reports for the UTC and a precursor to a spectacular winter for the species. A Baltimore Oriole at the Dallas Wastewater Treatment Plant, Seagoville, Dallas 18 Nov (ph. MD) was late. There are surprisingly few occurrences of Baltimore Oriole in the Trans-Pecos, so five this season was remarkable. First was an adult male at Alpine, Brewster 10 Sep (CoS) amazingly followed by an immature at the same yard 1–4 Oct (ph. CoS). The others involved two in the Davis Mountains, these possibly the first documented for Jeff Davis: at the Davis Mountains Preserve 17 Sep (ph. MLo) and at Limpia Crossing 23 Sep (ph. CRi), and one at Fort Peña Colorado Park, Brewster 21 Sep (ph. MLo). A Scott’s Oriole discovered at the South Padre Island Convention Center, Cameron 6 Oct (ph. DJ) provided a rare record the LRGV; another at Pine Springs, Guadalupe Mountains NP, Culberson 1–8 Nov (ErC, ph. DMu, ph. THo, m.ob.) was rather late. Hazel Bazemore Park, Nueces seemed to be the epicenter for Bronzed Cowbird this fall with 367 birds there 13 Oct (TuD, DaH). A lone Bronzed Cowbird at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 5 Nov (WE) was about six weeks late. A Rusty Blackbird at Marathon, Brewster 31 Oct (ph. BD) and another at Cook’s Slough in Uvalde, Uvalde 8 Nov (ph. GrS) was well west of their expected range. At least three Common Grackles at Alpine, Brewster 30 Nov–14 Dec (ph. DOh, ph. RP, ph. JBo et al.) were surprising given the lack of other occurrences from the western portion of the region during the period.
Ovenbird through Black-throated Gray Warbler
Single Ovenbirds at Clapp Park, Lubbock 14–17 Sep (SP, m.ob., ph.) and 19–21 Oct (JC, WC, m.ob., ph.) were good finds for the Lubbock area. Farther west, one was at Fort Peña Colorado Park, Brewster 2 Sep (ph. MLo), another at nearby Marathon, Brewster 14 Sep (JV), and one more was found in El Paso, El Paso 16 Oct (MiH). Adding to the few previous occurrences for eastern Trans-Pecos, a Louisiana Waterthrushes in Jeff Davis at Musquiz Creek southeast of Fort Davis 15 Aug (ph. JSe et al.) was possibly the same bird previously found there 26 Jul, while another was in the Davis Mountains west of Fort Davis 22 Aug (DDi, SCa, ph. BeM). A Golden-winged Warbler was a rare find in Plano, Collin 30 Aug (RRa) while another well to the west at Smith Springs, Guadalupe Mountains NP 25 Sep (CRu) was possibly the first fall occurrence for the Trans-Pecos and a first for Culberson. The only Golden-winged Warblers reported this fall from South Texas were two present at Blucher Park, Nueces 20 Sep (ph. WS, KiG, MCo) and a very late individual seen at Laguna Vista, Cameron 16 Nov (ph. BiB). A Blue-winged Warbler was west to James Kiehl River Bend Park just east of Comfort, Kendall 25 Sep (BD). Truly remarkable was a lingering Prothonotary Warbler nicely photographed in Marshall, Harrison 26 Nov (ph. KaC); this species is quite unexpected in Texas away from the coast after Sep. Out of place was an injured Swainson’s Warbler picked up in Boerne, Kendall 31 Oct (ph. RRe). Ranging far to the west, El Paso, El Paso had two records of Tennessee Warbler: 10 Sep (BZ) and 20–25 Oct (ph. LWa); one at Lake Jackson, Brazoria 22 Nov was late (MeH).
Three relatively late Colima Warblers were encountered in the vicinity of Boot Spring, Chisos Mountains, Big Bend NP, Brewster 13 Sep (NG). A Nashville Warbler seen north of Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 13 Nov (DWo) was the latest for the Pineywoods apart from a very few winter records. Unusual numbers of Virginia’s Warblers were detected in the Trans-Pecos lowlands 18 Aug–13 Sep, with seven reports from the Balmorhea area (m.ob.), including at least eight individuals there 11 Sep (MLo), and one as far northeast at Crane, Crane 3 Sep (ph. JoP). Virginia’s Warblers on the eastern edge of their migration route included one in Rankin, Upton 12 Sep (SG) and another in Midland, Midland 14 Sep (ph. GPa). A MacGillivray’s Warbler in Irving, Tarrant 3 Sep (ChW, ph.) was a rare fall find while a late male was well described from Resaca de la Palma SP, Cameron 4 Nov (DHa). A late Kentucky Warbler was at John Paul Landing Park, Harris 20 Oct (MK, SKu). A male Hooded Warbler was a great find in an El Paso, El Paso yard 12 Sep (JGr); quite late was another at the Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary, Brazoria 29 Nov (JFi, MH, RW). A female American Redstart at South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, Cameron 11 Aug (ph. TFi) was a bit early. On the UTC, Cape May Warblers showed up at Quintana, Brazoria 25 Sep (JFi), one to two at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 17–23 Oct (ph. MLe, ph. SMa, JWh, JHa, CFi, et al.), and a different bird there 30–31 Oct (JHa, JWh, ph. SMa, et al.). In the rest of the state, single Cape Mays were in Bastrop, Bastrop 6 Nov (ph. KMc), in Sweetwater, Nolan 11 Nov (ph. JBo), at Hornsby Bend, Travis 14 Nov (ErC) and in a Harlingen, Cameron yard 23 Nov+ (ph. DMc).
A Cerulean Warbler was a nice fall find at Valley Land Fund Lots, Cameron 20 Sep (ph. DJ et al.). Westerly Northern Parulas included one below Lake Six, Lubbock 29–30 Aug (PKe, BSh), one in El Paso, El Paso 16 Oct (JiP), and another near Lorenzo, Crosby 19 Oct (MLo, ph.). A Magnolia Warbler was well out of its migration path in west El Paso, El Paso 20–25 Oct (LWa, m.ob., ph.); another at San Bernard NWR, Brazoria 24 Nov was rather late (ph. WM). A westerly wandering Bay-breasted Warbler at Franklin Mountains SP 25 Oct (ph. KFl) was a first for El Paso. A Blackburnian Warbler was west of typical migration routes at Clapp Park, Lubbock 11–12 Sep (RoL, AHe), as was another in El Paso, El Paso 13 Sep (ph. BZ) where there are fewer than 10 records. A well-documented Blackpoll Warbler was a nice find north of Wink, Winkler 1 Nov (ph. JPa, AP); the species is exceptionally rare in west Texas, especially in fall. Only a handful of Black-throated Blue Warblers turned up this fall, all singles: a female in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 9 Sep (ThD), a female at Blucher Park in Corpus Christi, Nueces 30 Sep (GPi), a female in far southeastern Camp 4 Oct (DB), a female at Quintana, Brazoria 24 Oct (MB), a male at Valley Land Fund Lot on South Padre Island, Cameron 1 Nov (ph. DJ), and another male at Slaughter Park in Laredo, Webb 11 Nov (PW). A bright “Yellow” Palm Warbler of the hypochrysaea subspecies was at the Texas 147 causeway on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, San Augustine 30 Oct (ph. DWo); most inland sightings of Palm Warbler are of the duller “Western” palmarum subspecies. A Pine Warbler east of Guadalupe Mountains NP at the Pine Springs Rest Area 6 Nov (ph. WE) was possibly a first for Culberson, and another was documented at Cottonwood Campground, Big Bend NP, Brewster 24 Nov (ph. JuL).
A Yellow-throated Warbler found at Fort Peña Colorado Park, Brewster 19 Nov (ph. CO et al.) and last detected 15 Dec (ph. SFa) was one of the only well-documented late fall occurrences for the region. A rare bird on the Edwards Plateau, a Prairie Warbler wandered to the Junction Wastewater Treatment Ponds, Kimble 2 Sep (ph. RhH). Three Grace’s Warblers in El Paso was an above average showing for this rare lowland migrant: Memorial Park 3 Sep (AK), El Paso 5–8 Sep (ph. JiP), and near Fabens 23 Sep (ph. MSi). A Grace’s Warbler at Christmas Mountains Oasis, Brewster 31 Aug (ph. CO) was also noteworthy as a lowland bird. Quite exceptional was a Grace’s Warbler in Bastrop, Bastrop 4 Nov (ph. BBu). Black-throated Gray Warblers were spectacular and out of control! It is unlikely that there has ever been or will ever be as many Black-throated Grays in Texas as occurred this fall. In their expected migration route of much of the Trans-Pecos to western parts of the Panhandle, there was an excess of what is usually detected and birds lingered into late Oct and early Nov (m.ob.). In Central Texas, at least 21 birds were detected where perhaps only 1–3 in a really good year might be found. On the UTC, as many as six different individuals were seen (m.ob.). In South Texas, going from Val Verde to Matagorda and everything south of there, birds were detected in at least 58 locations! Several heavily-birded locations had multiple birds show up at different times of the season and some had as many as two or three at any one time, sometimes even in the same tree! Many of the birds were still present at season’s end and new birds were discovered into the winter season. Of all the superlatives that went on this season, Black-throated Grays numbers may just have been the best of the best.
Townsend’s Warbler through Crimson-collared Grosbeak
Townsend’s Warblers had an impressive season of their own even if it paled in comparison to Black-throated Gray. Usually a regular migrant in the Trans-Pecos and to a lesser degree the western Panhandle and Lubbock area, numbers were amplified in those places, perhaps most noticeably in the Panhandle and Lubbock areas with over two dozen reports including a couple sightings of four or five individuals. Out of range birds that wandered to central and south Texas included singles at South Padre Island, Cameron 27 Sep (ph. MEs), at Old Tunnel SP, Kendall 5 Oct (DDe, ND), at Stillhouse Hollow Lake, Bell 12 Oct (ph. DK), at South Llano River SP, Kimble 13 Oct (ph. RB), at Laguna Vista, Cameron 14 Oct (BiB) and at Canyon Lake, Comal 19 Oct (ph. DV). Repeating a similar story with a smaller footprint were Hermit Warblers, which are usually restricted to the Trans-Pecos, and in small and irregular numbers at that. They were seen in incredible, unprecedented numbers in El Paso with dozens of birds seen mid-Aug through Oct and up to four recorded at one site; a typical fall will see just one or two records. One at McNary Reservoir 14 Oct (BZ) was just the second ever for Hudspeth. In the rest of the Trans-Pecos, about 20 individuals were detected 14 Aug–12 Oct. As expected, most were at higher elevations, but more than average were also found at relatively lower elevation sites including at Marathon, Brewster 14 Aug (JBo), Fort Peña Colorado Park, Brewster 23 Aug (EdF, KFa) and 25 Aug (SFa), Christmas Mountains Oasis, Brewster 23 Aug (ph. CO), Alpine, Brewster 17 Sep (ph. CO), Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend NP, Brewster 27 Sep (BBe), and, more exceptionally far northeast, at Fort Stockton, Pecos 12 Oct (ph. EA et al.). There are also surprisingly few occurrences for Guadalupe Mountains NP, Culberson, so singles there 14 Sep (NG) and 5 Oct (ph. WS, KiG) deserve mention. Real prizes and perhaps less than or barely annual in fall outside the Trans-Pecos, singles were discovered at Rankin, Upton 12 Sep (ph. SG), at Anahuac NWR, Chambers 18 Oct (ph. JH), at Cibolo Nature Center, Kendall 19 Oct (ph. CHe), at the South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center, Cameron 20 Oct (ph. GRo, JGo et al.), in Midland, Midland 22–23 Oct (ph. GPa), and at the McAllen Nature Center, Hidalgo 16 Nov+ (ph. TK et al.).
A Black-throated Green Warbler was early at Thompson Park in Amarillo, Potter 29 Aug (DSm, m.ob.) while another in El Paso 13 Sep (ph. JGr) was likewise a bit early for the El Paso area. Getting a bit late were single Black-throated Green Warblers at Marathon, Brewster 1 Nov (ph. CO, DOh), and at Chisos Basin Loop, Big Bend NP 21 Nov (ph. GC). Very exciting was a Rufous-capped Warbler at Del Rio, Val Verde 27 Nov+ (ph. ErC, ph. WS, m.ob.); this represents one of the only regional occurrences away from Dolan Falls Preserve and Big Bend NP. A Golden-crowned Warbler was present at Brownsville’s Gladys Porter Zoo, Cameron 27 Nov+ (DE). One of the rarest warblers in El Paso, El Paso this fall was the Canada Warbler at Memorial Park 8 Oct (ph. AK, m.ob.). Two Red-faced Warblers in El Paso were the first in El Paso in many years but fit perfectly into the typical Aug window: 1 Aug (ph. JKi) and at Memorial Park 14–16 Aug (KeG, m.ob., ph.). At least three Painted Redstarts visited El Paso, El Paso with one in a yard 23 Aug (ph. BZ) with the rest at Memorial Park 4 Sep (ph. SD), 9–13 Sep (KFl, JGr), and 27–28 Sep (ph. JGr). A Painted Redstart at McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains NP, Culberson 15 Sep (NG) was the first there in several years. Perhaps even more unexpected, however, were lowland migrants at the Highway 90 pecan orchards south of Van Horn, Culberson 31 Aug (CTu, DP, BeM) and at Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend NP, Brewster 27 Sep (BBe, AdM). Far flung and totally unexpected were singles at South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center, Cameron 5 Oct (ph. LyC et al.), in south Austin, Travis 9 Nov (ph. NW), and on the west side of Houston, Harris 17 Nov+ (ER, JBe, et al.) for a first county record and just the seventh for the UTC.
Hepatic Tanager is always notable in El Paso as a rare lowland migrant, with one to three reported most falls. This fall saw record numbers with at least a dozen 9 Sep–24 Oct, with most sightings being in late Sep. The high count was three in Memorial Park in late Sep (ph. JGr). Three in Hudspeth, with one in the Indio Mountains 27 Sep (ph. MiH), and two in Dell City 3 Oct (KiG, WS), added to the handful of previous county records. Far wandering birds included one at Thompson Grove, Dallam 12 Sep (WE), another at Reimers Ranch Park, Travis 8 Oct (JJ) and one more in north Austin, Travis 19 Nov (ph. CCu). A lingering Summer Tanager was in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 30 Oct+ (LWo) while a different bird elsewhere in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches Nov 26–28 (ph. AT) was also a bit late. Another still on the Texas Tech campus, Lubbock 24–25 Oct (CCo, m.ob., ph.) was also quite tardy for such a northerly location. A rather late Scarlet Tanager at the Lubbock Cemetery, Lubbock 23 Nov (JC, m.ob., ph.) was the only one found in the western half of the state during the season. A Western Tanager at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 2 Aug (JHa) was the earliest ever fall record for the UTC and the first of at least seven reports of this western species in that subregion. Crimson-collared Grosbeaks started a mini-invasion into South Texas late this fall that would continue into the winter season: a female visited a yard in Port Aransas, Nueces 17–20 Nov (JoH, ScH), up to three birds were at Quinta Mazatlan, Hidalgo 27 Nov+ (ph. GCo, m.ob.) and another bird at Estero Llano Grande SP, Hidalgo 25 Nov+ (ph. NA, m.ob.).
Pyrrhuloxia through Dickcissel
A Pyrrhuloxia in northwest Amarillo, Potter 19 Oct (KDE), one near Glenrio, Deaf Smith 18 Nov (JBo), and another in Pioneer Park, Collingsworth 22 Nov (GCo, SG) were all at/beyond the northern limit of where this species can be found. Westerly Rose-breasted Grosbeaks included an early or summering male in west El Paso, El Paso 21 Aug–13 Sep (ph. LWa) that was likely the same bird found about 2 kilometers away in Jul, an immature male in Dell City, Hudspeth 11 Oct (ph. GCo), and a late female in El Paso 11–18 Nov (ph. JKi). Elsewhere in the Trans-Pecos, there were singles at Christmas Mountains Oasis, Brewster 21 Oct (ph. CO), at Trap Spring, Big Bend NP, Brewster 25 Oct (GM), and a very late individual at Limpia Crossing, Davis Mountains west of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 30 Nov–5 Dec (ph. DeL, DDC). An immature male Black-headed Grosbeak at Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary, Brazoria 12 Oct (ph. MC, et al.) was the first of seven reports of this western species on the UTC. Other Black-headed Grosbeaks to the east included one in College Station, Brazos 21–28 Nov (ph. BC, m.ob.) and another west of Waco, McLennan 29 Nov (ph. LT). At least nine different Black-headed Grosbeaks were in South Texas this fall where only a couple of individuals are seen in typical falls.
A female Blue Bunting visited the Birding & Nature Center at South Padre Island, Cameron 4 Nov (ph. JGo et al.); several more would irrupt into South Texas in Dec. Two Blue Grosbeaks found deep in the Pineywoods in Lufkin, Angelina 4 Nov (GH, ph.) were noteworthy on that late date. A Lazuli Bunting at the Trinity River Audubon Sanctuary, Dallas 25 Sep (ph. TZ) was unexpected for so far east, as were two in Fulshear, Fort Bend 29 Sep (JBe). Painted Bunting was another species present in exceptional numbers this fall in the Trans-Pecos, with counts of 10–20+ at many feeding stations and oases 1 Aug–3 Oct (m.ob.). An impressive 1,830 Dickcissels were counted at the Hazel Bazemore Hawkwatch, Nueces 11 Sep (DaH, TuD); a lone bird still in El Paso, El Paso 27–30 Oct (ph. BZ) was late.
Report processed by Kayla Jones, 4 Mar 2021.