Texas: Winter 2016–17

Winter 2016–17: 1 Dec–28 Feb

Eric Carpenter

Randy Pinkston

Recommended citation:

Carpenter, E., and R. Pinkston. 2021. Winter 2016–17: Texas. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-a3K> North American Birds.

Some incredibly mild conditions, even by Texas standards, lasted all season long throughout the state. Rainfall for the most part was average and temperatures almost across the board were a few degrees above average. Yes, there were some cold snaps as there always are, but, in between, it seemed like fall just lasted longer than it usually does around here. Insectivores (swallows, flycatchers, warblers, etc.) that usually might linger only into mid or late December were present into mid or late January; a few late season discoveries may have spent the entire winter well north of expected ranges. Long-tailed Ducks and Common Mergansers had noticeable irruptions of sorts but little else did. The Lower Rio Grande Valley which can sometimes have many ABA rarities to offer visitors during winter was certainly a little lackluster with a lone Rose-throated Becard as perhaps the (only) enticement in this department. The overall theme that we deliver to you here is one of a winter that didn’t seem to be, or at least the birds didn’t think so.

Cited observers (subregional editors in boldface): Ray Allen (RAl), John Allendorf, Charley Amos, Gordon Atkins, Mike Austin, Ruben Ayala (RAy), Jennifer Backo (JeB), Peter Barnes, Steve Barr, Grant Beauprez (GBe), Mikael Behrens, Bonnie Bell (BoB), David Bell (DBe), Chris Bergmann (CBe), John Berner (JBe), Brian Berry (BBe), Brian Borgoyne (BBo), Justin Bosler, Claire Boulton (CBo), Justin Bower (JBo), David Bradford, Kathryn Brautigam (KaB), Gustavo Bravo (GBr), David Brotherton (DBr), Luanne Brotherton, Charles Brower (CBr), Kelly Bryan (KeB), Jimmy Byrd (JiB), Winston Caillouet, Bryan Calk (BrC), Mike Cameron (MCa), Martin Campbell (MaC), Skip Cantrell (SkC), Steve Cardiff (StC), Blaine Carnes (BlC), Eric Carpenter (Central Texas, Trans-Pecos: 674 Goodnight Trail, Dripping Springs, TX 78620. email: ecarpe@gmail.com), Larry Carpenter, Cameron Carver, Terry Carver, Sheridan Coffey (SCo), Fred Collins, Barbara Conway (BCo), Greg Cook, Dennis Cooke, Greg Cooke (GCo), Mel Cooksey (MeC), Michael Cooper (MCo), Paul Crowe, Mary Curry (MCu), Drew Dickert (DrD), Aaron Dickey,

Cited observers (cont.)

Nan Dietert, Cindie Dillard, Sandy Dillard, Mike Dillon, Donna Dittman (DoD), Gerald Duhon, Betty Sue Dunn (BSD), Marc Eastman, Maryann Eastman (MEa), Gil Eckrich, Mark Edmund (MEd), Wyatt Egelhoff, Shelli Ellerbe, Stephen Falick (SFa), Jackie Farrell (JFa), Marianne Feeney (MaF), Tim Fennell (TFe), Merriwood Ferguson (MeF), Joe Fischer (JoF), Jason Fisher (JaF), Susan Foster (SFo), Tony Frank (TFr), Bert Frenz (BeF) (East Texas: 221 Rainbow Dr., #12190, Livingston, TX 77399-2021. email: bert2@bafrenz.com), Bob Friedrichs, Stephen Fuqua (SFu), Tony Gallucci, Stephen Gast (SGa), James Gil (JGi), Jim Giocomo (JiG), Steve Glover (SGl), Javi Gonzalez (JGo), Caleb Gordon, Mark Gray (MGr), Mary Gustafson (MGu), Martin Hagne (MHa), John Hale (JHa), Betsy Hall (BHa), Debra Halter (DHa), Andrew Hamlett (AHa), Michael Hardee (MiH), Peggy Harding (PHa), Susan Heath, S.K. Hebert (SKH), Linda Hedges (LHe), Matt Heindel (MHe), Philip Henderson (PHe), Randy Hesford, Anthony Hewetson (AHe) (Northwest Texas: 4407 36th St., Lubbock, TX 79414. email: fattonybirds@gmail.com), Jim Hinson (JHi), Petra Hockey (PHo), Dave Holderman, Tania Homayoun, Ben Horstmann (BHo), Daniel Horton (DHo), Lee Hoy (LHo), Joanie Hubinger (JoH), Mark Hubinger (MHu), Brian Hughes (BHu), Jesse Huth (JeH), Will Jaremko-Wright (WJW), Trey Johnson, Dan Jones, Ashley Jordan, Larry Jordan, Teresa Keck, Peter Keyel (PKe), Richard Kinney (RKi), Raymond Kinsel (RaK), John Kiseda (JKi), Phillip Kite (PKi), Jo Knopf (JKn), Alan Knue, Peter Koper (PKo), Rich Kostecke (RKo), Sandy Kroeger, Tom Langschied, Rick Laughlin, Sarah Laughlin, Jason Leifester, Javier de Leon (JdL), Leslie Linehan, Brad Lirette (BrL), Bill Lisowsky (BiL), Mark Lockwood, Chuck Lucas, Alberto Manterola (AlM), John Mariani (JMa), Lisa Marler (LMa), Amy Martin (AmM), Linda Martin-Rust (LMR), Steve Mayes, Beth McBroom, Mark McClellan, Todd McGrath, Liam McGuire (LMc), Jon McIntyre (JMc), Patrick McMahon, Candy McNamee, Arman Moreno (AMo), Geryl Mortenson, Karen Moulder, Jane Murtinshaw-Lindsay (JML), Derek Muschalek, Janet Neath (JNe), Ron Newhouse (RNe), Joyce Niemeier (JNi), Raymond Nojek (RNo), Dominic Norris, Patrick Nowlin, John O’Brien, Vincent O’Brien, Robert Opperman, Andrew Orgill, Brent Ortego, Sue Orwig, John Park (JoP), Sandy Parker (SaP), Sheryl Parker (ShP), Skyler Parks (SkP), Jim Paton (JiP) (El Paso area: 4325 Boy Scout Lane, El Paso, TX 79922. email: jnpaton@att.net), L.S. Paulson (LSP), Brandon Percival (BPe), Barrett Pierce (BPi), Randy Pinkston, Jelmer Poelstra (JPo), Carl Poldrack, Gene Prejean, Linda Price, Niler Pyeatt, Chris Quezada, Keir Randall, Barbara Rapstein, Ross Rasmussen (RRa) (North-central Texas: 1325 S. Goliad St. Apt. 1302, Rockwall, TX 75087. email: ross.rasmussen@att.net), Richard Redmond (RRe), Martin Reid (MaR), Michael Retter (MiR), Albert Ribes, Cecilia Riley (CRi), Colton Robbins (CRo), Philip Robinson, Dave Robinson-Ruffle (DRR), Julie Robinson-Ruffle (JRR), Michelle Romedy (MRo), Chris Runk (CRu), David Sanderson, Ben Sandifer (BSa), David Sarkozi (DSa), John Savage (JSa), Robyn Savage (RSa), Jeff Schaberg (JeS), Don Schaezler (DSc), Lynne Schaffer (LSc), Mark Scheuerman, Jonathan Schmitt (JoS), Willie Sekula (South Texas: 7063 Co. Rd. 228, Falls City, TX 78113-2627. email: wsekula@copper.net), Paul Sellin, Cliff Shackelford (CSh), Tom Shaughnessy, Dennis Shepler (DSh), Jim Sinclair (JSi), Letha Slagle (LSl), Eileen Slider, Charles Smith (CSm), Gregory Smith, Brent Spink (BSp), John Sproul (JSp), Ruben Stoll (RSt), Byron Stone (BSt), Mary Beth Stowe (MBS), Ellen Baker Tarbox (EBT), William Tarbox, Kent Taylor, Richard Taylor, Nancy Thaden, Carol Thompson, Jane Tillman, Barbara Tompkins, Zachary Tonzetich, Connie Unsicker, Tom Unsicker, Darrell Vollert, Ellis Vonasek, Christian Walker (CWa), Jeremy Webster, Ron Weeks (RWe) (Upper Coast: 110 Indian Warrior, Lake Jackson, TX 77566. email: ronweeks@sbcglobal.net), Ed Wetzel, Sandi Wheeler (SaW), Bob White, Alan Whitehead (AWh), Lee Wilbeck, Rick Wilde (RWi), Dan Wilkerson (DWi), Shirley Wilkerson (ShW), Annelia Williams (AWi), Kimberly Williams, Stephen Williams (StW), Catherine Winans (CWi), Dale Wolck (DWo), Angelina Zappia, Melissa Zelaya (MZe), Bob Zeller (BZe), Barry Zimmer (BZi), Marian Zimmerman (MZi).

Waterfowl through Nightjars

A Brant was a great needle in a haystack find south of Farwell, Parmer 24–25 Dec (†GBe, JL ph.). Thirty-three Cackling Geese at Fort Hancock Reservoir, Hudspeth 5 Feb (JiP) eclipsed the total number previously reported in the county. A further 3 at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 28 Dec (ML) were also unexpected. An adult Trumpeter Swan was a county first northwest of Montague, Montague 20 Dec (TJ, PHe ph.). A Tundra Swan east of Sonora, Sutton 4 Jan (ML) was an unusual sight.

One Blue-winged Teal in Lubbock, Lubbock 16 Jan (JB) and four in Hale Center, Hale 18 Feb (NP) were noteworthy for the winter season. A count of 1154 Ring-necked Ducks on Heath area ponds, Rockwall 20 Dec (RRa) was high for north-central Texas. Single inland Surf Scoters were in McKinney, Collin 1 Dec–15 Jan (BHa ph., m. ob.), near the northeast arm of Lewisville Lake, Denton 26 Dec–14 Jan (GM, m. ob.), at White Rock Lake, Dallas 28 Dec (CRu ph.), and at Lake Holbrook, Wood 30 Dec (SGl ph.). A White-winged Scoter north of Laredo, Webb 17 Dec (MGu, SFo, TK) was a great find while two at Packery Channel, Nueces 20 Dec–1 Jan (ND, m. ob.) were a bit more expected. A Black Scoter at Highlands Reservoir, Harris 17–19 Dec was a rare inland find (DrD, JBe, DSa, AWh) while two visited Goose Island S.P., Aransas 13–24 Dec (MM, BHo ph.), and another was in Nueces Bay, Nueces 2 Jan (SkC). Long-tailed Ducks had a great showing this season. Single birds were at Delta Lake, Hidalgo 14 & 24 Dec (MGu, JdL), north of Laredo, Webb 17 Dec (TK ph., MGu, SFo), on Granger Lake, Williamson 20 Dec (TFe), and at Braunig Lake, Bexar 28 Dec–12 Feb (LC, m. ob.). A pair were at Southside W.T.P. in Dallas, Dallas 1 Jan (EW ph.) with one staying through 8 Jan (CWa).

Common Mergansers staged an impressive irruption in north-central and central Texas. Continuing from the fall, four were at Lake Benbrook, Tarrant through 19 Jan (JA ph., m. ob.) while the one along the San Gabriel River, Williamson was last seen 18 Feb (m. ob.). Other notable sightings include singles at Lake Lebanon, Denton 1 Dec (WC), at White Rock Lake, Dallas 24 Dec (BSa), at Canyon Lake, Comal 20–25 Dec (SCo, CRo ph.), on Lake Travis, Travis 4 Jan+ (KR ph., m. ob.), and at Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, Bell 25 Jan (GE ph.). Two were at Lake Johnson, Palo Pinto 4–5 Feb (RWi, CC et al.) while much farther east, two more were detected on Cherokee Lake, Rusk 14 Jan (†PHa). Three Red-breasted Mergansers were at Lake Six, Lubbock 13–17 Dec (PKi ph., m. ob.).

As many as eight Least Grebes stayed the season at Tyrell Park in Beaumont, Jefferson (m. ob.), with singles at Flat Rock Lake, Kerr 29 Dec–6 Jan (AWi ph.), Pedernales Falls S.P., Blanco 1–5 Jan (AMo, CSm), and in Marble Falls, Burnet 30 Jan–17 Feb (CWi, m. ob.). A count of 64 Horned Grebes at Meredith Lake, Moore 26 Dec was impressive (BPi). A Western Grebe was observed near Hog Island, Harris 3 Feb (StW). Two White-tipped Doves at Goose Island S.P., Aransas 22 & 31 Dec (DHo, MM) were noteworthy for the immediate coastal location. A Groove-billed Ani was at Rio Grande Village, Brewster 13 Jan+ (EV ph., m. ob.). A Lesser Nighthawk was detected at High Island, Galveston 22 & 26 Jan (MCo, SM ph., m. ob.). A Chuck-will’s-widow flushed at San Jacinto Battleground S.H.S., Harris 10 Dec (PR ph.) was quite surprising.

Swifts Through Shorebirds

Up to four Chaetura in Odessa, Ector 10–11 Dec were thought to be Vaux’s and will be reviewed by the T.B.R.C. (†MaR ph., SCo, †GC, †SGl, †BlC). Four White-throated Swifts were at Palo Duro Canyon S.P., Randall 20 Dec (JaF). Ruby-throated Hummingbirds overwintered at Rose Hill Acres, Hardin 1 Dec–22 Feb (JMa), and near Liberty, Liberty 31 Dec–18 Feb (ph. SE). A Black-chinned Hummingbird lingered in Kurten, Brazos through 25 Dec (ph. ShW) while another was observed at Rose Hill Acres, Hardin 26 Dec+ (†JMa). An Anna’s Hummingbird was in Bellaire, Harris 7–10 Jan (JO ph., et al.). A Costa’s Hummingbird frequented an El Paso yard, El Paso 4 Dec–17 Jan (JKi ph., m. ob.). Continuing Allen’s Hummingbirds were in San Antonio, Bexar through 3 Jan (RAy), and at West Columbia, Brazoria through 8 Jan (CBr, DSa ph., SH). Single birds were also present in Spring Branch, Blanco 26 Dec–7 Feb (LL ph.), and in Kingsville, Kleberg 9 Jan (JSi). A Calliope Hummingbird was banded in Dickinson, Galveston 11 Feb (SH, JML, JFa ph.). Broad-billed Hummingbirds enjoyed an exceptional winter with one from the fall in Denton, Denton through 11 Dec (BoB ph., MCa, m. ob.), one in the Davis Mountains Resort, Jeff Davis 12–18 Dec (MEa), one in San Antonio, Bexar 3–24 Jan (RAy ph., m. ob.), and another in Fulton, Aransas 19 Jan–25 Feb (CL ph., m. ob.).

Completely unexpected was a Yellow Rail flushed from suitable marshy habitat in Temple, Bell 5 Feb (RP). Single Virginia Rails were detected at Trinity River N.W.R., Liberty 5 Feb (MaF), and Bringle Lake, Bowie 18 Feb (BSp ph.). Purple Gallinules overwintered at Anahuac N.W.R., Chambers 22 Dec+ (JNe ph., MRo, et al.), San Bernard N.W.R., Brazoria 12 Feb (DSh ph.), and at Aransas N.W.R., Aransas 1–25 Feb (BCo et al.). A Common Gallinule southeast of Tahoka, Lynn 19 Dec (JB) was noteworthy for the northern location. One adult Whooping Crane was a surprise amongst Sandhill Cranes near O’Donnell, Lynn 22 Jan (AHe ph.). A remarkable 53 American Avocets were near Fort Hancock, Hudspeth 15 Dec (JiP ph.) with a few lingering through 15 Jan (SCo, MaR, WS). Noteworthy American Woodcocks were at Choke Canyon S.P., McMullen 12 Jan (RaK) and Santa Ana N.W.R., Hidalgo 5–9 Feb (CQ). Single Lesser Yellowlegs were good finds for winter in Lubbock, Lubbock 17 Dec (KaB, SkP, AZ) and in Crosbyton, Crosby 19 Feb (AHe ph.). A Wilson’s Phalarope at Skeen Playa, Lynn 12 Feb (BSt) and nine near Tahoka, Lynn 17 Feb (JB) are presumed to be exceptionally early migrants.

Jaegers through Pelicans

Pomarine Jaegers were at scattered coastal locations, including the Texas City Dike, Galveston 5 Jan (AR ph.), Boddeker Road, Galveston 8 Jan (CG), the Port Aransas Jetty, Nueces 15–25 Jan (AO, m. ob.), Padre Island National Seashore, Kleberg 29 Jan (RL, SL), and at East Beach, Galveston 14 Feb (JB). A Parasitic Jaeger was seen from Matagorda Bay Nature Park/Jetty, Matagorda 2 & 7 Feb (BO, BF). A one-day wonder Black-legged Kittiwake was at Padre Island National Seashore, Kleberg 15 Jan (RL ph.). An immature Little Gull was at White Rock Lake, Dallas 24–26 Jan (CRu, BSa ph.) with an adult there 28 Feb (CRu ph.). A Laughing Gull was a nice inland find near the Lake Amistad Dam, Val Verde 16 Jan (WS, MaR, SCo). A late Franklin’s Gull was observed at Lake Bob Sandlin, Titus 23 Dec (DBr). A first-cycle Mew Gull was detected in west El Paso, El Paso 1 Jan (JiP ph.) & 17 Jan (†WE). Continuing from the fall, a California Gull was at Lake Lavon, Collin through 6 Dec (GC, CWa ph.); presumably the same bird was seen occasionally at White Rock Lake, Dallas 29 Dec-2 Feb (CRu ph.). Two California Gulls were near the Lewisville dump, Denton 1–7 Dec (CWa, BlC). An adult Vega Herring Gull, present the prior two winters, was seen again at the Brownsville Landfill, Cameron 7–13 Jan (WS ph., MBS). As many as four Thayer’s Gulls was an impressive count at ponds near the Lewisville dump, Denton 21 Nov–14 Jan (GCe ph., CWa, BlC, m. ob.). A first-cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull was on Lake Nasworthy, Tom Green 4–7 Dec (BZe ph., RH ph.). A Great Black-backed Gull visited the J.F.K. Causeway near Flour Bluff, Nueces 21–22 Dec (MeC ph.); another was present at the Texas City Dike, Galveston 2–22 Jan (BBe ph., MiH, et al.). Three Sooty Terns were carefully studied near the mouth of Baffin Bay, Kleberg 10 Dec (DC). A Black Tern in East Matagorda Bay, Matagorda 27 Feb (SH) was out of season.

Noteworthy Red-throated Loons included singles in the Tres Palacios River, Matagorda 4 Dec (RSa ph., JSa), at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 22–24 Dec (ME, MEa, LHe), at Tornillo Reservoir, Hudspeth 1–15 Jan (DB, BPe ph., m. ob.), very likely the same bird at nearby McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 28 Jan–18 Feb (JiP, m. ob.), and on Lake Buchanan, Llano 8 Jan (RSt). Single Pacific Loons were at Red Bluff Lake, Reeves/Loving 31 Dec (WS, SCo), at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 8–12 Jan (ML, CRi), and at Lake Amistad, Val Verde 16 Jan (SCo, MaR, WS). To follow up on the Black-capped Petrel seen offshore during November, another was described 45 miles southeast of Matagorda Island, Calhoun 24 Jan (†JMc). Wintering Wood Storks included a single bird in Sugarland, Fort Bend 12 Dec (MS), five in Rosenberg, Fort Bend 13 Dec (MZe), one in Chambers 1 Jan (TM), and two from the San Jacinto Battleground, Harris 14 Feb (MiH). A Magnificent Frigatebird lingered in Port Aransas, Nueces through 23 Dec (MB). Up to eight Brown Boobies were at Pleasure Island and nearby Jefferson locations 21 Dec–7 Feb (GD, TFr ph., m. ob.). The Brown Booby from the fall at Lake Bridgeport, Wise lingered until 4 Dec (MCu, m. ob.). An impressive 5740 American White Pelicans were tallied at Lake Wright Patman, Cass 29 Dec (MD). A wayward Brown Pelican was at Fort Parker S.P., Limestone 18 Feb (†DN).

Herons through Woodpeckers

Notable American Bitterns were at Lake Meredith, Hutchinson 26 Dec–7 Jan (BPi) and Bringle Lake, Bowie 24 Jan (†BSp). A Least Bittern at Anahuac N.W.R., Chambers 3 Jan (CBe ph.) was noteworthy for mid-winter. Two Snowy Egrets were in Lubbock, Lubbock 1–31 Dec (AHe, m. ob.) with one lingering through 28 Feb (AHe, m. ob.). A Little Blue Heron on Red Bluff Lake, Reeves 31 Dec (SCo, WS) was unexpected. Also unexpected was a Tricolored Heron at Martin Dies S.P., Jasper 20 Jan (†DSa, TFr). Counts of 95 Cattle Egrets at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 15 Dec (BZi) and up to 35 at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 18 Dec (DoD, StC) were noteworthy for the Trans-Pecos region. A peak count of 40–50 Cattle Egrets at Richland Creek W.M.A., Freestone 28 Jan–7 Feb was impressive for the winter season (†PB, et al.). Large numbers of lingering or wintering White Ibis included up to 90 at Lakeside Park, The Woodlands, Montgomery 1 Dec–16 Feb (GP, RNo, PM), up to 105 south of Saratoga, Hardin 7 Dec–10 Feb (JMa), and 20 at Richland Creek W.M.A., Freestone 28 Jan (PB, AmM). Up to four White-faced Ibis wintered the entire season at Jenna Welch Nature Center, Midland (m.ob.). There were sporadic sightings of White-faced Ibis in the El Paso area through the period at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso with a high count of 220 there 30 Jan (JSp). A bird at McNary Reservoir 15 Dec (BZi ph.) and five near Fort Hancock 15 Jan (SCo, MaR, WS) were rare winter Hudspeth records. Three Turkey Vultures spent the winter at Presidio, Presidio (ML).

An Osprey was in El Paso, El Paso 26 Dec–5 Feb (JiP, JKi). Wayward White-tailed Kites included one near Paducah, Cottle 28 Dec (MA), single birds northeast of Cranfills Gap, Bosque 2 Jan–3 Feb (JNi ph., AD) and northwest of Throckmorton, Throckmorton 4 Feb (GCe, BlC, SGl ph.), and a peak of four southeast of Valentine, Jeff Davis 19 Feb (WS, DM). Common Black-Hawks were unexpected near Pearsall, Frio 11 Dec (LW) and at Salineno, Starr 15 Jan (FC, LMR). Two Harris’s Hawks were near Afton, Dickens 27–30 Jan (GBr, JoS) while another was at Brazos Bend S.P., Fort Bend 1 Feb (MaF ph.). Outlier White-tailed Hawks were near Hondo, Medina 3 Dec (TG ph.), near Elgin, Travis 10 Dec (AMo), north of Mumford, Robertson 28 Jan (ShW ph.†, DWi), east of James, Shelby 24 Feb (†SO), and two wintering near San Marcos, Comal throughout the period (m. ob.). A Broad-winged Hawk was a bit north and west in Laredo, Webb 9 Feb (LHo, SaP). A late Swainson’s Hawk was at Anahuac N.W.R., Chambers 28 Dec (JPo) while another lingered in San Antonio, Bexar 5 Jan–5 Feb (ZT, m.ob.). A Golden Eagle was at Willowbrook, Harris 27 Feb (BW).

Up to seven Long-eared Owls wintered at Lake Arrowhead S.P., Clay 11 Feb+ (DHa, m. ob.). A Ringed Kingfisher at the Shangri La Botanical Gardens, Orange 1 Dec was east of expected range (AJ ph.). Likewise, singles were well north to Hagerman N.W.R., Grayson 21 Feb (DN ph.) and near Tin Top, Parker 26 Feb (CA ph.). The Amazon Kingfisher present from the fall at Laredo, Webb continued to excite birders through 22 Jan (m. ob.). Out of place was a Red-headed Woodpecker southwest of Stonewall, Gillespie 27 Feb (JT, BSt).

Caracaras through Thrashers

Continuing their expansion into East Texas, two Crested Caracaras were probably first county records around Pirtle, Rusk 2 Dec–18 Jan (LP ph., PHa ph.). The Bear Creek Park, Harris Greater Pewee was present for its fifth consecutive winter (DWo, et al.) and a second bird was confirmed nearby at Memorial Oaks Cemetery, Harris 2 Jan–5 Feb (JHi, CM ph., et al.). Single Hammond’s Flycatchers were surprising winter visitors along Boy Scout Road, Jeff Davis 18 Dec–29 Jan (MGr ph., CRi, RWe, BrL), at Love Creek Preserve, Bandera 1 Jan (MHa ph.), at Rio Grande Village, Brewster 2 Jan (ML) and at Matagorda S.P., Matagorda 12 Jan (PHo ph.). A silent “Western” Flycatcher was at Sabal Palm Sanctuary, Cameron 13 Jan (FC et al.). A Black Phoebe on Davis Estates Road, Fort Bend 11 Dec+ (JeS ph., et al.) was likely a first for the county, while another in Bryan, Brazos 18–23 Feb (SD, NT ph., m. ob.) provided the first record for the Central Brazos Valley. Exceptional in the northeast corner of the state, a Say’s Phoebe wintered north of Lake Tawakoni Dam, Rains 26 Nov+ (RRa, RKi, EW ph., m. ob.) while another was at Cedar Mountain Nature Preserve east of Joe Pool Lake, Dallas 14 Dec (AD). Vermilion Flycatchers made a good showing north and east of their expected range. One wintered for the second consecutive year southwest of Jenkins, Morris (CWi, LB, DBr), another was at Willow Creek Recreation Area, Sabine 12–18 Feb (SGl, GC, DBe), and one more was at Lake Somerville S.P., Lee 29 Jan–3 Feb (BHu, JW).

A Great Kiskadee overwintered near Long Point, Fort Bend 17 Dec+ (JBo, LMa, JGi, et al.) while two were at Northpoint, Chambers 19 Feb+ (CP ph., et al.). The 2-3 Great Kiskadees from the fall at Spring Creek Park, Lake Nasworthy, Tom Green continued (ph. RH, m. ob.) while one west of La Grange, Fayette 7 Jan (SaW, KM) was a new location. Notable Tropical Kingbirds include one at Aransas N.W.R., Aransas 18 Feb (TU, CU), two birds continuing in Rockport, Aransas most of Feb (m. ob.) and one at Lake Alice, Jim Wells 26 Dec–13 Feb (TL, m. ob.). This species continues to establish itself in the Coastal Bend with five along Fulton Corridor, Corpus Christi, Nueces 10 Dec (KT); at least two of those appeared to be begging juveniles, unusual for the date. Couch’s Kingbirds continue their expansion with one at Balmorhea, Reeves 2 Jan (BPe ph.), two west of La Grange, Fayette 7–29 Jan (SaW, KM, RKo), and another in Brenham, Washington 13 Jan (DV). Without prior mid-winter records in the Central Brazos Valley, a Western Kingbird at Washington-on-the-Brazos S.H.S., Washington 9 Feb (RNe ph.) was a surprise. Unexpected winter sightings of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers included singles at Texas Eastman at Longview, Harrison 17 Dec–12 Jan (DBr, LB, CWi, †MEd) and at College Station, Brazos 2 Jan (JHa). A Fork-tailed Flycatcher was a real surprise near Texas City, Galveston 15 Feb (SK ph.). An immature male Rose-throated Becard present at Estero Llano Grande S.P., Hidalgo 9 Jan+ (m. ob.) provided the highlight for the Lower Rio Grande Valley this season.

Rare for winter, a Plumbeous Vireo was in El Paso, El Paso 18–21 Feb (ph. WE, JiP). Providing one of very few wintering records in Texas, a Warbling Vireo in Helotes, Bexar 13 Jan (BM ph.) was quite surprising; another was well described at Lake Tawakoni S.P., Hunt 26 Dec (ShP, TH, SFu). Out of range Cactus Wrens were at Glenrio Ghost Town, Deaf Smith 8 Dec (WJW) and near Desmona, Erath 18 Feb+ (CT, m. ob.). Lone Mountain Bluebirds wandered to north of Winscott, Parker 26 Dec (AK, MiR), near Mercedes, Hidalgo 4 Jan–7 Feb (MHu, JoH, m. ob.) and west of Hagerman N.W.R., Grayson 30 Jan–25 Feb (RRa, KW, ph., m. ob.). A Townsend’s Solitaire present near the southeast portion of Possum Kingdom Lake, Palo Pinto 11–19 Feb (TC ph., RWi) was a rare find. A Wood Thrush southeast of Sugarland, Fort Bend 26–27 Jan was notable (RO). A Clay-colored Thrush along the Rail Trail at Aransas N.W.R., Aransas 4 Feb was surprising (PHo); another was at Blucher Park in Corpus Christi, Nueces 9 Dec (LJ) & 23 Jan (RAl). Surprising anywhere in Texas but more so away from the Rio Grande corridor, a Rufous-backed Robin at San Angelo S.P., Tom Green 6 Jan (RSt ph.) was a one-day wonder. Single Varied Thrushes were studied in Midland, Midland 20 Dec (†GS) and at Pace Bend Park, Travis 26 Jan (†LSl). Out of range was a Long-billed Thrasher in Kerrville, Kerr 11 Dec (MS ph., PS). A Sage Thrasher, casual in north-central Texas, was northwest of Crowell, Foard 4 Feb (SGl, GC, BlC).

Pipits through Tanagers

A Sprague’s Pipit at the Rita Blanca National Grassland, Dallam 31 Jan (JoF, DSa) was a good winter find for the northerly location. It was a banner year for Smith’s Longspurs in north-central Texas. A stunning sight was a single flock of 700 Smith’s Longspurs in Greenville, Hunt 4 Jan (CSh, DH, JiG). Photos supported an amazing flock estimate of 1300+ Smith’s Longspurs southeast of Lone Oak, Rains 7 Dec (DC ph.), certainly a high Texas count in recent years. Totally unexpected was a late Ovenbird northeast of Edgewood, Van Zandt 26 Dec (BlC, JA, GC ph.). A Prothonotary Warbler near Port Lavaca, Calhoun 9 Dec (BO) along with another bird present at Santa Ana N.W.R., Hidalgo 3 Jan (LSP) provided rare winter records. Rare for winter in South Texas, a Tennessee Warbler lingered at Frontera Audubon, Hidalgo 7–29 Dec (MGu) while others visited Hugh Ramsey Park, Harlingen, Cameron 5 Jan (JGo) and Sabal Palm, Cameron 13 Jan (RWe); more surprising was one at Pecan Grove W.M.A. near Granger Lake, Williamson 2 Jan (BSt). A MacGillivray’s Warbler at High Island, Galveston 22 Dec was exceptional (BR, SGa, MCo), as was another at Laguna Atascosa N.W.R., Cameron 2 Feb (PKo ph., BiL). Rather unseasonal were single Hooded Warblers in Brownsville, Cameron 24 Dec (MeF) and at New Ulm, Austin 10 Feb (TS). An American Redstart was a surprise find along Shoveler Pond at Anahuac N.W.R., Chambers 7 Jan (CBo ph.).

Tropical Parulas well north of typical South Texas locations included one in Matagorda 15 Dec–9 Feb  (JSa, RSa), up to two at Refugio, Refugio 25 Jan+ (m. ob.), and one more at Riverside Park, Victoria, Victoria 30 Dec (BSt ph.). A late Magnolia Warbler was well described from South Padre Island, Cameron 6 Dec (MZi) while one at Brazos Bend S.P., Fort Bend 8 Jan (SFa ph.) was a great mid-winter find. Unusual for mid-winter was a Yellow Warbler in San Antonio, Bexar 10 Jan (MaR). A Chestnut-sided Warbler at Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, Hidalgo 31 Jan (JRR, DRR) left no doubt from the description. A stunning male Black-throated Blue Warbler was enjoyed by many at Southside Lions Park, San Antonio, Bexar 7–18 Feb (m. ob.). A Pine Warbler in El Paso, El Paso 1 Jan–26 Feb (JiP ph.) was just the fourth record for the county. Not regular in winter, a Yellow-throated Warbler was along Lady Bird Johnson Lake in Austin, Travis 4–8 Dec (VO ph.) and another was near the Medina River Natural Area, Bexar 18 Dec (LL, RRe). Prairie Warblers were reported in four coastal locations in December with one apparently wintering at Tyrell Park, Beaumont, Jefferson 30 Dec–21 Jan (SKH ph., et al.); one at Canton City Lake, Van Zandt 13 Feb (RKi) was even more unusual. The Grace’s Warbler that overwintered last year in southern Harris was re-found on the Armand Bayou C.B.C. 17 Dec (AHa ph.) and remained until at least 23 Dec (m.ob.). Unexpected was a Townsend’s Warbler in the Davis Mountains Resort, Jeff Davis 6 Dec (KeB ph.) and another in Boot Canyon, Brewster 25–26 Jan (JW). The prior winter’s Golden-crowned Warbler returned to Lion’s City Park, Refugio, Refugio 24 Jan (DM) where it remained until at least 24 Feb (m. ob.). A male Wilson’s Warbler at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 15 Dec (BZi) was just the fourth winter record for the county.

A Lark Sparrow at Ransom Lake, Lubbock 31 Dec (LMc) was northwest of expected winter areas. Perhaps a late migrant, a Grasshopper Sparrow remained near Red Mud, Dickens 31 Dec (AHe). A Chihuahuan Desert Grassland Bird Research Project surveyed private grasslands just north of Marfa and readily found Baird’s Sparrows through the period. As an indication of how common this species might be some winters, no less than 18 individuals were tagged in the first couple days of the project in late December. Netting operations would usually kick up 3-5 birds during subsequent efforts into early February. A scarce, rarely reported species of the Central Brazos Valley, a Henslow’s Sparrow was studied near Shiro, Grimes 28 Dec (ph. JeB). One LeConte’s Sparrow southeast of Lubbock, Lubbock 17 Dec (JB) and another at White River Lake, Crosby 8 Jan (AHe, MaC) were unusual for a species rarely reported in northwest Texas. Harris’s Sparrow was a pleasant surprise at the Sandia Wetlands, Reeves 27 Jan (RWe, BrL). Unexpected in winter in the Trans-Pecos, a Hepatic Tanager was at the Davis Mountains Resort, Jeff Davis 24–27 Jan (DS ph.). Unseasonal Summer Tanagers included singles in San Marcos, Hays 17 Dec (JeH, LSc), in southwest San Antonio, Bexar 23 Dec (RWe), at Warren, Tyler 5 Jan (PN ph.), and one more in Wimberley, Hays 11 Jan (RT ph.). A Western Tanager returned for its fourth winter to northwest Austin, Travis (JT) while others were at Boerne, Kendall 2 Jan (BSD) and Lampasas, Lampasas 30 Jan (JiB).

Grosbeaks through Orioles

Two very late single Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were reported in Colleyville, Tarrant 8 Dec (BT) and McKinney, Collin 11 Dec (SB); not expected in the dead of winter in the Central Brazos Valley, a male was in College Station, Brazos 20 Jan (†ES). A Black-headed Grosbeak was a nice winter visitor near Cibolo, Guadalupe 27 Jan–16 Feb (DSc ph.). A female Blue Bunting visited Santa Ana N.W.R., Hidalgo 26 Dec (†DJ). Late was a Blue Grosbeak at Laguna Atascosa N.W.R., Cameron 1 Dec (JKn ph.). Unexpected as a very late migrant so far north was Indigo Bunting in far north Van Zandt 26 Dec (RKi). A stunning male Varied Bunting visited the National Butterfly Center, Hidalgo 9–16 Feb (JoP fide MGu). A late departing female Painted Bunting was near Hearne, Robertson 5 Dec (†AlM, BrC), but more unusual was a male at Stagecoach, Montgomery 28 Jan (EBT ph., WT). Yet another out-of-season species, a Dickcissel was in Bryan, Brazos 16 Jan (CD ph., SD).

Above average numbers of Yellow-headed Blackbirds wintered in northwest Texas with five at Southeast Park, Amarillo, Randall 7 Dec (JB), four at Wayland Baptist University, Hale 28 Feb (NP), and 14 in Lubbock, Lubbock 28 Feb (JB). Rusty Blackbirds much farther west than usual included one in the Green Lake area, Roberts 6 Dec (JB), six northeast of Brackettville, Kinney 7–19 Jan (BrC), up to seven at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso 17–22 Jan (JSp), and one more at Skeen Playa, Lynn 12 Feb (BSt). Up to eight Bronzed Cowbirds in Brownfield, Terry 19 Feb (PKe) may have overwintered as they had been seen there in late November. One in Lubbock, Lubbock 28 Feb (JB) was early. Lingering Baltimore Orioles included singles at Rosehill Cemetery in Corpus Christi, Nueces 26–30 Dec (WS ph., MHe), at Rose Hill Acres, Hardin 12 Jan (†JMa) and, most surprising, at the Trinity Audubon Center in Dallas, Dallas 30 Dec (PC, m. ob.). The male Scott’s Oriole from fall that appeared in an El Paso, El Paso yard 15 Nov successfully overwintered (a first) and was last seen 7 Mar (BZi ph.). Another Scott’s Oriole was in the Chisos Basin, Brewster 6 Jan (GA ph.). A surprising county first was a Scott’s Oriole near Camp Swift, Bastrop 10 Jan+ (BBo ph.).

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 8 Feb 2021.

Photos–Texas: Winter 2016–17

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