Texas: Spring 2017

Spring 2017: 1 Mar–31 May

Eric Carpenter
[email protected]

Recommended citation:

Carpenter, E. 2021. Spring 2017: Texas. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-aiW> North American Birds.

Spring 2017 was considered average or even lackluster in the quantities of migrants seen, but there were a fair number of interesting sightings. Mild conditions may have contributed to a number of early arrivals as well as several late records. A couple of late cold fronts grounded more than a few birds for folks inland. Rainfall totals were mixed, though more areas seemed to need rain rather than get too much. The widespread use of eBird and various social media forums (e.g. various Texas bird-related Facebook groups) has certainly given us a lot of sightings and material to consider, but also seems to have lessened the birding community’s interest in other documentation avenues such as this column. Sightings for the Texas seasonal summary is now probably 90–95% driven by data from eBird and other sources, making it a challenge to “find” the good reports that we like to highlight. Still, it has brought to light significant sightings that may otherwise have never been known to the birding community (and NAB). There are several examples of that this season with the most outstanding one being Texas’s first Black-billed Magpie in 17 years.

Contributors (sub-regional compilers in boldface)

Chris Acree (CAc), Dan Allen, John Allendorf, Charley Amos (CAm), Helen Baines, Bob Behrstock (BoB), Dave Bengston (DBe), Kevin Bennett (KBe), John Berner (JBe), Brian Berry, Carol Besse, Brandon Best (BBe), Stephanie Bilodeau, Justin Bosler (JBo), Benji Brooks (BeB), David Brotherton (DBr), Laura Brown, Rob Brumfield, Kelly Bryan (KBr), Jimma Byrd (JBy), Donna Cannon (DCa), Kris Cannon, Blaine Carnes, Eric Carpenter (Central Texas, Trans-Pecos) Maggie Carpenter (MCa), Sheridan Coffey, Matt Colbert (MCo), Sherry Collins (SCo), Tom Collins, Greg Cook, Dennis Cooke (DCo), Mel Cooksey (MeC), Dominic Le Croissette (DLC), Neva Damron

Contributors (cont.)

Drew Dickert (DrD), Cindie Dillard (CDi), Sandy Dillard (SaD), Steve Dillinger (StD), Donna Dittman (DoD), John Dixon (JDi), Cynthia Donaldson (CDo), Kathy Donaldson, Diana Doyle (DiD), Ted Drozdowski, John Drummond (JDr), Maryann Eastman (MEa), Andrew Eberly, Gil Eckrich, Mark Edmund (MEd), Mark Elliott (MEl), Theodore Emery, Merriwood Ferguson (MFe), Joe Fischer, Mark Flippo (MFl), Tony Frank, Bert Frenz (East Texas), Charmaine Ganson (CGa), Kim Garwood, Raul Garza (RGa), Stephen Gast (SGa), Linda Gillespie, Steve Glover (SGl), Mike Goebel (MGo), Javi Gonzalez (JGo), Rod Goodwin (RGo), Greg Gook, Ashli Gorbet, Caleb Gordon (CGo), John Groves (JGr), Tim Guida, Mary Gustafson (MGu), Martin Hagne (MaH), John Hale, Linda Hale (LHa), David Hanson, Allen Hardee (AHa), Michael Hardee (MiH), Tanaya Harris (THa), Ken Hartman, Drew Harvey (DrH), Robert Hawkins, Dave Hawksworth (DHa), John Haynes (JHa), Susan Heath, Tim Hebert (TiH), Mitch Heindel (MHe), Thomas Hellwig (ThH), Anthony Hewetson (AHe) (Northwest Texas), Petra Hockey, Lee Hoy (LHo), Allison Huysman (AHu), Patricia Isaacson, John Karges (JKa), Donna Kelly, Randy King (RaK), Richard Kinney (RKi), John Kirk, John Kiseda (JKi), Kendra Kocab, Rich Kostecke (RKo), Lee Kothmann, Havey Laas, Sharon Lane (SLa), Tom Langschied, Laurie Lawler, Justin LeClaire, Daniel Leifheit (DLe), Duke Liebler (DLi), Susie Lower (SLo), Bill Lupardus, Jeanne-Marie Maher (JMM), Parker Majors, Michael Marsden (MMa), Steve Mayes, Michael McCloy (MMc), Mark McDermott (MaM), Molly McManus-Muldrow (MMM), Colette Micallef, Jennifer Miller, Andre Moncrieff (AnM), Arman Moreno (ArM), Tom Morris, David Moulton (DMo), Alan Murphy (AlM), Derek Muschalek (DMu), Gretchen Nareff, Midland Naturalists, Ron Newhouse (RNe), Raymond Nojek (RNo), John O’Brien, Michael O’Brien (MiO), Matt O’Sullivan (MaO), Brent Ortego, Amy Packer, Jay Packer (JaP), Dick Park, Richard Parsons (RPa), Jim Paton (JiP) (El Paso area), Bob Perrenot (BPe), Barrett Pierce (BPi), Kim Pierce (KPi), Randy Pinkston (RPi), Karl Poetzl (KPo), Elizabeth Poyet, Linda Price, Keir Randall, Ross Rasmussen (North-central Texas), Janet Rathjen (JRa), Pat Ravindran, Martin Reid, James Rieman (JRi), Cecilia Riley (CRi), Elizabeth Roberts, David Rosenbaum, John Rosford (JRo), Laurie Ross, Jethro Runco (JRu), Chris Runk (CRu), David Sarkozi (DSa), Erik Sauder (ESa), Kim Savides, Susan Schaezler (SSc), Darrell Schiffman (DSc), Eric Secker (ESe), Willie Sekula (South Texas), Cliff Shackelford (CSh), Julie Shackelford (JuS), Scott Shaw (SSh), Dennis Shepler (DSh), Aaron Shipe (ASh), Jana Singletary, James Sipiora (JSi), Nina Sitra, Brian Small (BSm), Christopher Smith (CSm), Sue Smith (SSm), Brent Spink (BSp), Peter Sprockel, John Sproul (JoS), Jim Stevenson (JiS), Harlan Stewart, Bob Stone (BSt), Allan Strong (ASt), Romey Swanson, Tom Taroni, Sandi Templeton, Robert Truss, Gustavo Valero, Mort Voller, Evan Ward (EWa), Jeremy Webster (JWe), Ron Weeks (RWe) (Upper Coast), Carol Wells, Gail West, Ed Wetzel (EWe), James White (JaW), John Whittle (JoW), Johnathan Wickham (JWi), Rick Wilde (RWi), Shirley Wilkerson (SWi), Kimberly Williams, Dick Wilson (DWi), Dale Wolck, David Wolf (DWo), Sam Woods (SWo), Lynn Wright, Matt York, Angelina Zappia, Barry Zimmer.

Waterfowl through Cranes

A Black-bellied Whistling-Duck in Amarillo, Randall 9 Apr (BPi) was indicative of the continuing march of the species northward. Good sightings for East Texas were a Cinnamon Teal just north of Texarkana, Bowie 7 Mar (RPa) and two at Lake Bob Sandlin, Titus 16 Mar (†AHe). Quite surprising was an American Black Duck at White Rock Lake, Dallas 2–21 Mar (CRu †ph., m.ob.), only the ninth Texas record and the first since 1999. Rare on the northern portions of the Edwards Plateau, a Mottled Duck visited Lake Travis, Travis 1 Apr (ArM, ph.). Up to 10 Northern Pintails remained at Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area, Freestone/Navarro through the season (RKi, PI). An estimate of 90 Greater Scaup at Bolivar Flats, Galveston 13 Apr (JBo) was an impressive count. A Surf Scoter found on a small pond just north of Choke Canyon Reservoir, McMullen 27–29 Apr (DSa ph., JO) apparently lingered longer as it was seen again during the summer. White-winged Scoters along the coast included one at Laguna Point Recreation Area, Willacy 16 Mar (RWe), another at Matagorda Island State Park, Calhoun 13 Mar (PH) and one on South Padre Island, Cameron 29 Apr–2 May (m.ob.).

A Long-tailed Duck lingered at the Mad Island Marsh Preserve, Matagorda 16–29 Mar (TG, m.ob.) while two stayed at Bolivar Flats, Galveston 6–15 Apr (MaH, AG ph., m.ob.) with one remaining until 13 May (PR ph., KBe). A Bufflehead still present at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 28 May (ST ph.) was exceptionally late. A Common Goldeneye at Hagerman NWR, Grayson 20 May (BBe, LL) was also considerably late. Two lingering Hooded Mergansers were just southwest of Beaumont, Jefferson 28 Apr (RB, CGo). A male Common Merganser at the Bustamante Water Treatment Plant, El Paso 6 May (JKi) was also late. Unusual for late spring were 10 Common Mergansers at Lake Meredith, Hutchinson 2 May (MEl) and two at Lake Rita Blanca, Hartley 8 May (TE). Up to 17 Western Grebes at Lake Meredith, Moore/Hutchinson 1 May+ (BPi, MEl, SSm) was a high number for the Panhandle. A Clark’s Grebe on Lake J.B. Thomas, Scurry 23 Apr (BC, GC, SGl) was farther east than expected while three at Lake Meredith, Moore/Hutchinson 1 May+ (BPi ph., MEl) were amongst the more expected Western Grebes.

Impressive counts of Red-billed Pigeons included 24 at Starr County Park, Starr 12 Mar (JDi) and 23 at Salineno, Starr 5 Apr (MGu). Out of range was a Band-tailed Pigeon at the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center in Langtry, Val Verde 6 Mar (LHo ph.). A nice find for the western Edwards Plateau was a Black-billed Cuckoo in Utopia, Uvalde 22 May (MHe). The Groove-billed Ani at Rio Grande Village, Brewster (m.ob.) remained until 19 Mar while another was at Black Gap WMA, Brewster 16 May (AnM et al.). At least two Lesser Nighthawks returned to north Austin, Travis 24 Apr+ (ArM, m.ob.) at a location where they were present the previous summer. Common Pauraques may be pushing north slowly; two were present in Bastrop, Bastrop 25 Mar (MGo a.r.). A vocalizing Mexican Whip-poor-will near Leakey, Real 14 Apr (BoB a.r., CGa) is one of very few documented in Texas away from the mountains of the Trans-Pecos.

A Broad-billed Hummingbird visited the Davis Mountains Resort, Jeff Davis 29–30 May (DoD ph.). A Buff-bellied Hummingbird just southeast of Comfort, Kendall 11 May (DP ph.) was farther north and deeper into the Edwards Plateau than expected for this species. Rare for the area were up to three King Rails at Richland Chambers Wildlife Management Area, Navarro 26 May+ (EWe ph., RKi). Sandhill Cranes are rarely detected over the Pineywoods, so 54 at Bringle Lake, Bowie 2 Mar (BSp ph.) and one northeast of Waverly, San Jacinto 15 Mar (KPo) were good finds. A migrant Whooping Crane was detected at Pampa, Gray 6 Mar (BPi) while a pair touched down on the south shore of Lake Belton, Bell 3 Apr (GE ph.); an adult, presumably from the Louisiana flock, stopped at the Nacogdoches sewer ponds, Nacogdoches 17 Mar (CW).

Shorebirds through Waders

Black-necked Stilts are rarely found in the Pineywoods, so one or two Black-necked Stilt at Eastman Chemical Ponds southeast of Longview, Harrison 28 Mar–5 Apr (MEd, DBr) and another in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 22–23 May (DWo) were surprising finds. A rare migrant through central Texas, a single Piping Plover stopped at Hornsby Bend, Travis 22 Apr (ph. KR). An exceptional count of 18 Whimbrel was impressive west of Alcoa Lake, Milam 30 Apr (BC, GC). Whimbrels also stopped at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves, with one 28 Mar (ph. PM) and three different sightings of a single bird there 16–26 May (MEa, CRi, JBo); another was near Happy, Swisher 11 May (BeB). Fourteen Marbled Godwits at Dell City, Hudspeth 30 Apr (JiP) was a very impressive Trans-Pecos tally.

A flock of 35 Dunlin was an unusually high count inland near the Trinity River south of Rosser, Ellis 4 Apr (TD). DWo noted that Baird’s Sandpiper was surprisingly the most frequently noted shorebird in the central Pineywoods throughout the season. Rare to casual in the Trans-Pecos, a White-rumped Sandpiper was near Dell City, Hudspeth 20 May (JiP ph.); on the early side were seven at White River Lake, Crosby 22 Apr (DrH, AHe, AZ). An estimate of 550 Buff-breasted Sandpipers from Pattison Road, Waller 30 Apr was impressive for the Upper Texas Coast (SGa). Always challenging as an inland migrant in spring, a Short-billed Dowitcher was in Bryan, Brazos 15–22 Apr (JH ph., †MaM, LHa); up to two were subsequently reported there through 6 May (m.ob.). Red-necked Phalaropes included one southeast of Eagle Lake, Colorado 9 May (DSh ph.) and another at Cattail Marsh in Beaumont, Jefferson 26–27 May (SM, HS ph., ThH).

Far from the coast, a Laughing Gull visited Richland Creek WMA, Freestone 11 May (RKi) while two were at Lake Trinity Sebastopol area, Trinity 5 Apr (SGl, GC, BC). Single California Gulls were noted on the north side of Amistad Reservoir, Val Verde 5 Mar (WS ph.), at Lake Benbrook, Tarrant 1 May (JA, ph.) and at Lake Meredith, Moore 27 May (BPi). An Iceland “Thayer’s” Gull was seen near Laguna Madre at the J. F. K. Causeway, Nueces 9 Mar (MeC ph.). A Lesser Black-backed Gull was near the spillway of Lake Livingston, San Jacinto 12 Mar (GC, †SGl, BC) and 19 Mar (†JBe). A Glaucous Gull was on South Padre Island, Cameron 28 Apr (GW); another was at Sea Rim State Park, Jefferson 13 May (SM ph.). A second-cycle Great Black-backed Gull seen around the Bolivar Flats, Galveston area 6 Apr–13 May (DBe ph., m.ob.) may well have been the bird found earlier in the winter at the Texas City Dike, Galveston.

A Brown Noddy was found in a mixed tern flock south of the Port Mansfield Jetty, Willacy 27 May (DR ph.). Two Sooty Terns returned to nest at Rockport Beach Park, Aransas 15 Apr+ (m.ob.). Single Sooty Terns were reported from Chester’s Island, Matagorda 31 Mar (BO) and near Green Island, Willacy 31 Mar (SB). An impressive inland count of 13 Least Terns was tallied at Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area, Navarro 27 May (DBr). Out of place was a Gull-billed Tern strangely inland at Richland Creek W.M.A., Freestone 30 Apr (EWa ph.). Unexpected in the central Pineywoods were five Caspian Terns at Alazan Bayou WMA, Nacogdoches 4 May (DWo). An early Black Tern noted from Tuna Road along the Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston 3 Apr was the earliest ever for the Upper Texas Coast (DSa).

Remarkable was a Red-throated Loon at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 3 May (BZ) and another flying over the Laguna Madre in Corpus Christi, Nueces 8 Apr (MR, SC). The wintering Pacific Loon at Lake Tawakoni, Van Zandt was last reported 21 Mar (RKi). The Upper Texas Coast had four reports of early Wood Storks in the first half of April, with the earliest being one in League City, Galveston 3 Apr (JRa). Brown Boobies continue to be seen in unprecedented numbers and at various inland locations as well; inland sightings include one at Stanmire Lake, Leon 22 Apr–10 May (BPe, CSm ph., CDi ph., †SaD). Along the coast, singles were at Crystal Beach, Galveston 18 Apr (MiO) and High Island, Galveston 21 Apr (ESe).

Inland Brown Pelicans seem to be a semi-regular occurrence in recent years; this spring one was at Trinity River NWR, Liberty 17 Mar (JaP, AP), two in San Antonio, Bexar 14 Apr (MR), two at Lake Tawakoni, Rains/Van Zandt 20–22 May (GG, RKi), and one at Lake Benbrook, Tarrant 29 May+ (CAc, m.ob., ph.). American Bitterns were nice finds inland, with one at Bringle Lake, Bowie 2 Mar (BSp), another at Alazan Bayou WMA, Nacogdoches 16 Mar (DWo), another at the Jenna Welch Nature Center in Midland, Midland 30 Apr (BL, MN), and two at Lake Aspermont, Stonewall 21 May (GC, SGl). A Little Blue Heron at the Jayton Water Treatment Ponds, Kent 23 Apr (BC, GC, SGl) was unseasonal.

An adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was at Ascarate Park, El Paso 25 May (JKi ph.). The season high count of White Ibis was 85 over Alazan Bayou WMA, Nacogdoches 30 Apr (DWo, RT) until an impressive 275+ showed up there 4 May (DWo, SLo). Nice inland records for Glossy Ibis included one at River Legacy Park, Tarrant 15–16 Apr (CAm ph., EWe), another at Lake Fort Phantom, Jones 22 Apr (JaP ph.), three near Temple, Bell 26 Apr (RPi), and one more at Hagerman NWR, Grayson 30 Apr (JS, KW, ND). Early and unexpected in spring were four Roseate Spoonbills near Lake Livingston north of Unalaska, Polk 12 Mar (†SGl, GC, BC) and another near Lake Somerville, Washington 31 Mar (†JaW).

Raptors through Falcons

A Swallow-tailed Kite over Hornsby Bend, Travis 15 Apr (MCo) was a late migrant a bit north of expected migration paths, and one on Matagorda Island, Calhoun 12 May (GN) was unusual for the date and location. White-tailed Kites seem to be on the increase through various areas in the state. Some notable finds include one at Southside Water Treatment Plant, Dallas 18 Mar (RaK, RR, BSt), one west of Strawn, Palo Pinto 27 Mar (JSi), and another south of Sierra Blanca, Hudspeth 29 May (DHa). Exciting was a pair of White-tailed Kites nesting near Blooming Grove, Navarro 2 Apr–18 May (SLa) though the eggs were thought to have been predated. Exceptionally early Mississippi Kites were singles at Dickinson Bayou, Galveston 6 Mar (BB ph.), at LaPorte, Galveston 8 Mar (LW), in Friendswood, Galveston (DCa) 8 Mar, and at Baytown, Harris 9 Mar (DH).

Definitely unseasonal, a female Northern Harrier was near Huxley, Shelby 30 May (CSh). Surprising and away from known haunts was a Common Black-Hawk near the north side of Amistad Reservoir, Val Verde 16 Mar (ASt ph.). Wandering Harris’s Hawks included one in Robert Lee, Coke 24 Mar (JBy) and another north-northeast of Midkiff, Glasscock 15 Apr (BL, MN). A pair of Harris’s Hawks set up a territory near Grassland, Lynn 25 Apr+ (JBo, AHe). Surprising away from the Rio Grande was a Gray Hawk at Lost Maples SNA, Bandera 8 Apr (MY ph.). Two Short-tailed Hawks were studied at Lost Maples SNA, Bandera 3 Apr (MHe) and may have been present at the end of the moth as well; another Short-tailed Hawk was present at Neal’s Lodge in Concan, Uvalde 16 Apr (BoB). A dark-morph adult Short-tailed Hawk near the top of Mount Livermore, Jeff Davis 24 May (RKo ph. et al.) was a good find in an area where other individuals have been found in recent years.

Typically, Swainson’s Hawks migrate farther west than singles seen in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 24 Apr (DWo) and 4 May (DWo). A Zone-tailed Hawk was near Clint, El Paso 23 Apr (BZ) where there are fewer than 10 county records. Other out-of-range Zone-tailed Hawks included two south of Center, Shelby 11 Mar (†DSc), one at Lake Waco, McLennan 25 Mar (†MY), and another near Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, Colorado 14 Apr (JWe). A Ferruginous Hawk near Dell City, Hudspeth 14 Apr (JiP ph.) was notably late. Even more so was one with a group migrating Swainson’s Hawks on west Galveston Island, Galveston 6 May (DH, MV, MiH, AHa). A Golden Eagle was southeast of its normal range south of Jolly, Clay 4 Mar (DrD), and another was unexpected at Hegar Lakes, nw. Harris 12 Apr (DrD).

A Barred Owl in Del Rio, Val Verde 23–28 Apr (RS ph.) was at the far western edge of its range. Two Long-eared Owls at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso 26–27 Apr (JoS) were in an area where they’ve nested before; another was in Madera Canyon, Jeff Davis 18 Mar (EC, MCa), also in an area where nesting has occurred in the past. More surprising was a Long-eared Owl at Dugout Wells, Brewster 29 Mar (DiD ph.). Additionally, three Long-eared Owls were at Buffalo Lake NWR, Randall 1 Apr (BPi) with one remaining through at least 21 May (BPi). Late to depart was a Short-eared Owl near Shallowater, Lubbock 23 Apr (DrH). Initially one, and then a pair of Northern Saw-whet Owls were in the Davis Mountains Resort, Jeff Davis 28 Apr–24 May, with one of the birds netted and banded 5 May (KBr ph.). Another Northern Saw-whet Owl was heard at Tejas Camp in Guadalupe Mountains NP, Culberson 20 May (CRu a.r.).

The Ringed Kingfisher present from the fall at Shangri La Botanical Gardens, Orange, Orange continued to be seen through at least 10 Mar (DSc). At least one of the wintering Lewis’s Woodpeckers in Midland, Midland continued to 23 Apr (m.ob.). A single Acorn Woodpecker northwest of Medina, Bandera 25 May (MY) was certainly part of the isolated group in that area. Always a good find as a lowland migrant, single Williamson’s Sapsuckers in far northwest Hudspeth 14 Apr (JiP ph.) and 6 May (JiP ph.) were the first documented in the county. A Pileated Woodpecker spotted at the Aransas NWR, Aransas 3 Apr (CB) was noteworthy for the atypical habitat and coastal location. Crested Caracara continues its push into East Texas with 2 southwest of Coldspring, San Jacinto 12 Mar (†SGl, GC, BC) and 1 northeast of Waverly, San Jacinto 15 Mar (KPo). A Prairie Falcon at Hagerman NWR, Grayson 9 Mar (JS) was a rare find east of its normal range.

Flycatchers

A Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet was well studied in riparian habitat along the Rio Grande near Quemado, Maverick 4 Mar (WS). A Tufted Flycatcher near Pinnacles Pass in the Chisos Mountains, Brewster 7 May (MFl, LB ph., DLe ph.) was the first to be found at high elevations in Texas. An Olive-sided Flycatcher near Dell City, Hudspeth 14 Apr (JiP ph.) was about two weeks early. The Greater Pewee at Bear Creek Park, Harris was seen until 22 Mar (DLi). At least one Dusky-capped Flycatcher was in Boot Canyon, Brewster 26 Apr+ (m.ob.); a pair was present in the Davis Mountains Resort, Jeff Davis 30 Apr+ (KBr). A county first Ash-throated Flycatcher was spotted well east of its normal range near the northwest portion of Lake Tawakoni, Hunt 31 Mar (RH ph.). Not one but two Great Crested Flycatchers were present at Sabine Woods, Jefferson on the early date of 2 Mar (JHa).

A Great Kiskadee was detected at Independence Creek Preserve, Terrell 12–13 Apr (RKo ph. et al.) while another was at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 8–12 Apr (JHa, JoW, StD et al.). A Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher was a one-day wonder at the National Butterfly Center, Mission, Hidalgo 6 May (JRo ph.). A vocalizing Tropical Kingbird at Chalk Park Bluff, Uvalde 1 Apr (JO, TF) was certainly an outlier but near a location where the species has been noted in the past few years; a pair at Blucher Park, Corpus Christi, Nueces 8 Apr+ (m.ob.) apparently nested nearby. A Couch’s Kingbird appeared in Lake Jackson, Brazoria 28 Feb and was joined by a second bird 15 Apr; both had departed by 14 May (TT); single birds strayed north with one at Nora Haney Park, Collin, 31 Mar–12 Apr (MMM, ph. m.ob.) and another at Village Creek Drying Beds Tarrant 28 Apr–1 May (GC, CAm ph.).

A rare migrant at the eastern edge of its range, single Western Kingbirds were reported at Alazan Bayou WMA, Nacogdoches 30 Apr (DWo) and Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 1 May (DWo). A surprising Gray Kingbird made only a brief appearance at Quintana, Brazoria 30 Apr (JF ph., SH, TM). Though it nests to within about 150 miles, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is less than annual in the El Paso area, so one at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso 13 Apr (JoS ph.) was notable. A Rose-throated Becard brightened Estero Llano Grande S.P., Hidalgo thru 15 Mar (ph. m.ob.).

Vireos through Blackbirds

Noteworthy Bell’s Vireos on the edge of their migration paths include one at Brazos Bend SP, Fort Bend 9 Apr (KPo) and another at College Station, Brazos 24 Apr (RNe ph.). Incredibly, a Hutton’s Vireo wandered well northeast of its expected range to near the Pease River southeast of Childress, Cottle 23 May (MMc a.r.); though this species has colonized the Edwards Plateau in recent years, one almost to the Oklahoma border is shocking. A Yellow-throated Vireo was seen west of El Paso, El Paso 1 May (JiP ph.) where the species are rare and less than annual. Yellow-green Vireos had a strong showing along the entire coast. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, single birds were at San Benito, Cameron 14 May (GV) and at South Padre Island, Cameron 23–24 May (MGu et al.) while one was on the central coast at Matagorda Island, Calhoun 24 Apr (PH). The real story was the Upper Texas Coast which had singles on West Galveston Island, Galveston 19 Apr (AlM), at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 23–26 Apr (ThH, CM vt., m.ob.), at High Island, Galveston 28 Apr (LR), and at Quintana, Brazoria (SH, DSh ph. et al.). Black-whiskered Vireos were also seen in surprising numbers with one on West Galveston Island, Galveston 20 Apr (BSm ph., JiS), another at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston 22 Apr–13 May (DW ph., KK, et al.), one at Smith Oaks at High Island, Galveston 29 Apr–1 May (JGr ph., SWo, m.ob.), and two at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 4–5 May (SM ph., DSh ph., KC ph.).

Perhaps the highlight of the season was a Black-billed Magpie on a private ranch north-northeast of Pampa, Roberts 10 Apr (RGo ph.); there are only four prior accepted records with the most recent one in 2000. After a good winter season for Red-breasted Nuthatches, one lingered at feeders in Douglass, Nacogdoches to the very late date of 16 May (CW); also late was one in a Lubbock yard, Lubbock 14 May (DrH). There was a pattern of late Brown Creepers this spring with the latest seen at Mahan Park, Galveston 23 Apr (ER) and Bear Creek Park, Harris 26 Apr (THa).

A Townsend’s Solitaire east of Hill Country SNA, Bandera 12 Mar (MR, SC) was the easternmost reported. A Wood Thrush wandered to a Lubbock yard, Lubbock 13 May (JM ph.). A Clay-colored Thrush visited Blucher Park, Nueces 14 Mar–28 Apr (JWi, m.ob.), and another was north of Lake Alice, Jim Wells 23 Apr (TL). Rare in the western Trans-Pecos, a Gray Catbird was near Dell City, Hudspeth 20 May (JiP ph.). A pair of Long-billed Thrashers was surprising at Black Gap WMA, Brewster 12 May (AnM et al.). Late and easterly was a Sage Thrasher southwest of Castell, Mason 10 May (LK ph.). An American Pipit found on the Katy Prairie, Waller 13 May was the latest ever for the Upper Texas Coast (JBe, HL).

East of their normal range, two Lesser Goldfinches at feeders in College Station, Brazos 10 May (HB ph.) provided only the third county record. A Green-tailed Towhee at Mad Island Marsh Preserve, Matagorda 10–12 Apr (KS et al.) was notable for the late date and location. A wayward Eastern Towhee was studied at Palo Duro Canyon SP, Randall 26 Mar (SSm). A Clay-colored Sparrow found at Alazan Bayou WMA, Nacogdoches 24 Apr (DWo) was a scarce migrant this easterly. A Lark Bunting was east of its normal range southwest of Denton, Denton 31 Mar (JK). Rare for the Trans-Pecos, a Fox Sparrow was at the Chisos Basin Campground, Brewster 31 Mar (DK). Also rarely found in the Trans-Pecos was a Harris’s Sparrow at Dugout Wells, Brewster 31 Mar (DiD ph.). A White-crowned Sparrow at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 13 May was the latest ever for the Upper Texas Coast (SM ph., ThH, et al.).

Bobolinks enjoyed a banner season in the eastern half of the state. A small number were found along the lower and central coast but the big story was inland. The Pineywoods had close to a dozen reports from 27 Apr–12 May highlighted by 100 south of Martin Lake, Panola 12 May (LP, LG ph.), while there were as many reports in north-central Texas during that same time period with a combined 800+ individuals tallied in that region (m.ob.). Lone Bullock’s Orioles were found at Sugar Land, Fort Bend 15 Mar (NS) and Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston 23 Apr (EP). Following on the heels of a county first this winter, a second Scott’s Oriole was present at a different location east of Buescher SP, Bastrop 5 Mar (DA ph.). A flock of 70 Rusty Blackbirds so late in the season at Alazan Bayou WMA, Nacogdoches 9 Apr (CW) was noteworthy.

Warblers through Buntings

Surprising and quite westerly was a Worm-eating Warbler at Dugout Wells, Brewster 3 May (JRu); rather early was one at Mad Island Marsh Preserve, Matagorda 13 Mar (AHu et al.). A Golden-winged Warbler near Dell City, Hudspeth 6 May (JiP ph.) was a county first; another at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston 23 May was the latest ever for the Upper Texas Coast (DCo, JRi). Rare and early, a male Black-and-white Warbler was west to El Paso, El Paso 26 Mar (JiP). A Prothonotary Warbler was rather out of place at Cottonwood Campgrounds, Brewster 20 Apr (KD ph., CDo). A Swainson’s Warbler in Carrollton, Dallas 1–13 May (BC, m.ob.) was a little west of expected breeding range. Exceptional in Texas away from the Trans-Pecos, a Lucy’s Warbler at Caprock Canyon SP, Briscoe 14 May (AE) was likely a first for the Texas Panhandle. A Virginia’s Warbler on the Texas Tech Campus, Lubbock 28 Apr (AHe) was a good find.

MacGillivray’s Warblers wandering east included one at Edith Moore Sanctuary in Houston, Harris 1–7 May (ESa, DLC ph., et al.) and another at Bob Woodruff Park, Collin 14 May (MaO ph.). Though rare in El Paso, an American Redstart near Dell City, Hudspeth 20 May (JiP ph.) and a different one there 28 May (JiP ph.) were county firsts. An early Cape May Warbler at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston 13–28 Mar may have wintered locally (PS ph., TiH ph., m.ob.). A Northern Parula was in El Paso, El Paso 18–19 Apr (BZ). A Bay-breasted Warbler at South Llano River SP, Kimble 2 May (DWi ph.) was possibly a county first and certainly well west of normal migration routes. A Blackburnian Warbler north of Centerpoint, Kerr 29 Apr (TC ph., SCo) was also farther west than expected. A good find for the Panhandle was a Chestnut-sided Warbler at Lake Meredith, Potter 27 May (BPi). Another warbler straying to the west was a Blackpoll Warbler north-northeast of Boerne, Kendall 15 May (DP).

Black-throated Blue Warblers had a strong spring showing in south Texas highlighted by one on South Padre Island, Cameron 25–30 Apr (m.ob.), a presumed different bird there 19–20 May (JL, MFe) and another in Weslaco, Hidalgo 8 May (RGa). A Palm Warbler in far northwest Hudspeth 28 May (JiP ph.) was record late for the El Paso area. A Black-throated Gray Warbler visited Corpus Christi’s Blucher Park, Nueces 25 Mar (DMu, KG, MeC, WS); one reported there 4 May (SSh) was very late. The overwintering Black-throated Gray Warbler near Jersey Village, Harris was last seen 7 Apr (KH). A male Townsend’s Warbler delighted birders at Port Aransas’s Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Nueces 8–9 Apr (m.ob.). Two Rufous-capped Warblers were at Dolan Falls Preserve, Val Verde 2 May (RS ph. et al.) with one still present 8 May (JKa).

An early Summer Tanager in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 9 Mar (JuS) may have wintered there. Farther west than expected were single Scarlet Tanagers along Musquiz Creek se. of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 8 Apr (CRi), at Cottonwood Campground, Brewster 26 Apr (JDr, ASh), and at Sam Nail Ranch, Brewster 2 May (JMM). A Western Tanager west of Egypt, Montgomery 5 May (†RNo) and another in Fairview, Collin 22 May (KPi) were east of expected migration routes. A pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks near Dell City, Hudspeth 20 May (JiP ph.) were a county first. Out-of-range Black-headed Grosbeaks included one near Cibolo, Guadalupe 13–21 Mar (SSc ph., m.ob.), one near Wixon Valley, Brazos 28 Apr (SWi ph.) and another in Palo Pinto, Palo Pinto 1–3 May (RWi ph.). Single Lazuli Buntings strayed east to High Island, Galveston 27 Apr (DMo ph., SWo), West Galveston Island, Galveston 30 Apr (JiS ph.), and Sabine Woods, Jefferson 7 May (TF). Rare for the barrier islands, a Varied Bunting was at South Padre Island, Cameron 3 Apr (MMa, JGo). A colorful male Passerina believed to be a hybrid Varied x Painted Bunting was present in early May at South Llano River SP, Kimble (ph. m.ob.).

Report processed by Kayla Jones, 11 Feb 2021.

Photos–Texas: Spring 2017

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