Texas: Winter 2017-2018
1 December – 28 February
Carpenter, E., et al. 2020. Winter 2017-2018: Texas. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-8YJ> North American Birds.
Contributors (subregional editors in boldface)
Megan Ahlgren (MAh), Jan Allen (JAl), John Allendorf (JoA), Joe Anderson, John Anderson (JAn), Kitty Anding, Susan Andres, Connie Andrus, Marlin Andrus (MAn), Jane Azzaro (JAz), Carol Bailey (CaB), Rebecca Bailey (RBa), Helen Baines, Monica Barerra (MBa), James Barnes (JaB), Glenda Barrera, Trey Barron (TBa), Jessie Barry (JeB), Chuck Baskin (ChB), Dianne Baughman (DBa), Bill Beaty (BiB), Mikael Behrens (MBe), Kevin Bennett (KBe), Chris Bergmann (CBe), John Berner (JBe), Brian Berry, Brandon Best (BrB), Stephanie Bilodeau (SBi), Amy Bishop, Ken Blankenship (KBl), Doug Booher (DBo), Justin Bosler (JBo), Wanda Bosman, Robert Boyd (RBo), Sonny Bratz (SBr), Benji Brooks (BBr), David Brotherton (DBr), Luanne Brotherton (LuB), John-Edd Brown (JEB), Lamont Brown (LaB), John Brush (JBr), Kelly Bryan (KBr), Scott Buckel (SBu), Timothy Burkhardt (TBu), Kevin Burns, Marissa Buschow (MBu), Chris Butler (CBu), Kenneth Butler (KBu), Martin Byhower (MBy), Winston Caillouet, Gene Campbell (GCa), Josh Cantor (JCa), Skip Cantrell (SkC), Steve Cardiff (StC), Eric Carpenter (ECa) (Central Texas),, Sebastian Casarez (SeC), Roland Castaneda, Alicia Cavazos (AlC), Katherine Cavazos (KCa), Juan Chavez (JuC), Marc Chelemer (MCh), Jack Chiles (JaC), Elijah Clark (ElC), Eric Clum (ErC), Kevin Cochran (KCo), Sheridan Coffey, Ann Collins, Fred Collins, Sherry Collins (SCo), Tom Collins, Carolee Colter (CCo), Greg Cook (GCo), Paul Cook, Dennis Cooke, Mel Cooksey (MCo), Anita Cooper (ACo), Michael B Cooper (MBC), Brian Corcoran, Elizabeth Cowan (ECo), Jim Crites (JCr), Carter Crouch (CCr), Tripp Davenport (TDa), Chuck Davis (CDa), Howard Davis, Jeff Dawson, Nathan DeBruine, Raul Delgado, Michael Densmore, Drew Dickert (DrD), Philip Dickinson, Cindi Dillard (CDi), Sandy Dillard, Donna Dittmann (DoD)
Ken Dixon (KDi), Ted Drozdowski (TDr), Kathleen Dvorak (KDv), Gil Eckrich, Mark Edmund (MEd), Frances Edwards, Jon Edwards, Lisa Edwards, Shelli Ellerbe, Daniel Elting, Michael Emenaker (MEm), Ed Fair (EFa), David Fees, Lance Felber, Tim Fennell (TFe), Jean Ferguson (JFe), Christian Fernandez, Brad Fields (BFi), Andy Filtness, Ellen Filtness (EFi), Joe Fischer (JFi), Smiley Flores (SFl), Bert Foquet (BFo), Terrie Ford (TFo), Ross Foreman, J Foster (JFo), Susan Foster (SFo), Tony Frank (TFr), Bert Frenz (Central Oaks & Prairies), Bob Friedrichs (BFr), Anna Galvan, Stephen Gast (SGa), Heinz Gaylord, Judy Geiger (JGe), Larry Geiger (LGe), Doug Ghrist (DGh), Corina Giron (CGi), Gary Giroux, Steve Glover (SGl), Javi Gonzalez (JGo), Leslie Goodman (LGo), Pamela Goolsby, Charles Grair (CGr), Mike Gray (MGr), David Grise (DGr), John Groves (JGr), Mary Gustafson (MGu), Eric Guzman, Martin Hagne, John Hale, Mary Halligan (MHa), Danny Hancock, David Hanson (DHa), Allen Hardee (AHa), Michael Hardee (MiH), Shelia Hargis (SHa), Ken Hartman (KHa), Drew Harvey (DrH), Yvette Haughney, Lynn Hay (LHa), John Haynes (JHa), Susan Heath (SuH), Sheila Hebert (ShH), Kelli Heindel (KHe), David Heinicke (DHe), Thomas Hellweg, Anthony Henehan, Jodi Henricks (JHe), Richard Hermosillo (RHe), Anthony Hewetson (Ahe) (Northwest Texas – Panhandle and South Plains), Ed Hickl (EHi), Jim Hinson (JHi), Petra Hockey, Joan Holt (JHo), Ryan Homer (RHo), Elaine Horton (EHo), Lee Hoy (LHo), Jonathan Hruska (JHr), Ron Huebner, Robert Hughes (RHu), Jay Huner (JHu), Kenneth Isaacson, Patricia Isaacson, Ernst Iverson, A.J. Johnson (AJJ), Cameron Johnson, Lew Johnson (LeJ), Dan Jones, Larry Jones (LaJ), Nickolus Kanakis, Teresa C. Keck (TCK), Peter Keyel, Kurt Kguyen, Suzanne Kho (SKh), Simon Kiacz (SKi), John Kirk, John Kiseda (JKi), Brian Kolthammer, Rich Kostecke, Lee Kothmann (LKo), Linda Kuhn (LKu), Michael Kuzio, Sarah Kuzio (SKu), Harvey Laas, Francois Lacasse, Jacqueline Lacasse (JLa), Terry Lairmore (TLa), Drew Lanham (DLa), Mark Lanham (MLa), Greg Lasley, Rick Laughlin, Laurie Lawler, Dominic Le Croissette (DLe), Anna Leal, Cin-Ty Lee (CTL), Jason Leifester (JLe), Duke Liebler (DLi), Brad Lirette (BLi), Mark Lockwood (MLo), Bill Lupardus (BLu), Travis Ly (TLy), Barry Lyon (BLy), Alberto Manterola (AMa), Joseph Manthey, John Maresh (JMa), John Mariani (JMr), Michael Marsden, Michael Mathews (MMa), Steve Mayes, Curtis McCamy (CuM), Mark McDermott (MMc), Todd McGrath, Liam McGuire, Debra McKee (DMc), Conor McMahon (CoM), Colette Micallef (CMi), Paul Micallef, Carol Moore (CMo), Eric Moore, Arman Moreno (AMo), Geryl Mortensen, Heather Mosko, Derek Muschalek (DMu), Chad Mussman (CMu), Gretchen Nareff, Erich Neupert, Ron Newhouse (RNe), Bayard Nicklow, Raymond Nojek (RNo), Cody Norris, Kyle O’Haver, Suzanne Odum (SOd), Andrew Orgill, Brent Ortego, Sue Orwig (SOr), Amy Packer, Jay Packer, Greg Palko, Barbara Pankratz (BPa), Jack Parlipiano (JPa), Jim Paton (JiP) (Trans-Pecos), Laura Paulson (LPa), Daniel Perales (DaP), Dina Perry (DiP), Barrett Pierce (BPi), Randy Pinkston, Jeff Pippen (JeP), Charlie Plimpton, Paul Prappas, Sumita Prasad, Linda Price (LPr), Malise Prieto, Nina Rach, Ross Rasmussen (North Central Texas), Janet Rathjen (JRa), Martin Reid, Becky Reyes, Albert Ribes, James Rieman (JRi), Cecilia Riley (CRi), Colton Robbins (CoR), Christian Roberts (ChR), Joanna Roberts (JRo), Tal Roberts, Glenn Ruebon, Chris Runk (CRu), Kelly Kristen Sampeck (KKS), Madeleine Sandefur (MSa), David Sarkozi (DSa), Rick Schaefer (RSc), Mark Scheuerman (MSc), Mia Schober-King (MSK), John Schueler (JSc), Willie Sekula (South Texas), Cliff Shackelford (CSh), Julie Shackelford (JSh), Douglas Sheldon (DoS), Dennis Shepler (DeS), Dan Sherick (DaS), Dean Silvers (DSi), Letha Slagle, Eric Spink, Justin Springer (JuS), John Sproul (JoS), Carrie Steingruber (CSt), Denise Stephens (DSt), Mike Stewart (MSt), Byron Stone, Mary Beth Stowe (MBS), Adrianne Streckfus, Michelle Summers (MSu), Gautam Surya, Steve Svedeman, Romey Swanson (RSw), Bryan Tarbox (BTa), John Tharp (JTh), Susan Thompson, Brandon Thurston (BTh), Jane Tillman (JTi), Barbara Tompkins (BTo), Donald Troha, Robert Truss, Kirsten Tucker, Christine Turnbull, Connie Unsicker, Tom Unsicker, Gustavo Valero, Tim Vasquez, Linda Vegh, Lisa Velasquez (LVe), Betty Vermeire (BVe), Mark Vernon, Bruce Vodson (BVo), Christian Walker (CWa), Daniel Walker, Dave Wallace (DWa), Deb Wallace (DeW), Lee Wallace (LWa), Vickie Wallace, Johan van der Watt (JvdW), Mike Wease, Nancy Webber, Mary Anne Weber (MAW), Jeremy Webster (JWe), Ron Weeks (Upper Texas Coast), Dennis Weller (DWe), Carol Wells (CWe), William Wenthe (WWe), Ed Wetzel, Philip White, Timothy White, Joel Williams (JoW), Jennifer Wilson (JeW), Laura Wilson (LWi), Jan Wimberley (JaW), Dale Wolck (DWo), David Wolf (DWf), Adam Wood, Chris Wood (CWo), Woody Woodrow (WWo), Casey Wright (CWr), Sue Wright, Wendy Wright (WWr), Mike Yandell, John Yochum, Tim Young, Barry Zimmer.
L.R.G.V. (Lower Rio Grande Valley); U.T.C. (Upper Texas Coast).
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks continue to expand to the northwest with 3 at Ransom Lake, Lubbock 25 Jan (PK, ph.). Near Dayton, Liberty, up to 16 out-of-range Fulvous Whistling-Ducks were present 24-28 Feb (ph. PM, CMi). A local record count of 1200 Snow Geese (including 36 Blues) and 1100 Ross’s Geese was made at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 30 Jan (BZ). The 6 Cackling Geese from fall at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth had grown to 7 by 1 Jan (AP, JP) and remaining through at least 9 Feb (m.ob.). More unexpected was a lone Cackling Goose in Dell City, Hudspeth 14 Jan (ph. JiP); the species is rare in the Trans-Pecos.
A Trumpeter Swan put in a one-day appearance at the Fort Worth Nature Center, Lake Worth, Tarrant 14 Dec (EW, m.ob., ph.). Up to 3 Tundra Swans were at the Fort Worth Nature Center, Lake Worth, Tarrant 28 Nov – 13 Jan (CN, ph., m.ob.), while 5 were located on private land at Huntington/Kiel Road in southwest Wichita Falls, Wichita 30 Dec (DMc, ph.). A nice count of 8 was at the F.M. 1054 x F.M. 1313 Playa, Lynn 10-31 Dec (GCo, SGl, m.ob., ph.). Farther south, an unusual sight was 4 Tundra Swans flying over southwest of Lometa, Lampasas 1 Jan (ph. ElC). Two apparently wild Muscovy Ducks were found on a private ranch in Zapata 28 Dec (ph. RD, TCK, DaP). Along the Rio Grande at Salineno, Starr one bird was seen 25 (MEm) & 26 (JGe, LGe) Jan. This species has become quite scarce in the past several years.
Blue-winged Teal is rare to casual in Dec-Jan in the El Paso area before migrants begin to return in late Feb, so an injured female near Dell City, Hudspeth 9 Dec (JiP) and 2 at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso 6 Dec (JoS) were of note. Cinnamon Teal were again common at Cattail Marsh in Beaumont, Jefferson with a high count of 12 on 18 Dec (SW). The American Black Duck found last winter returned to White Rock Lake, Dallas 1 Jan – 5 Mar (AG, ph., m.ob.). A count of 118 Canvasbacks near Woodsboro, Refugio 10 Jan was notable for the southerly location (BO). A seasonal high count of 118 Redheads were present 15 Feb (DWf) at the Nacogdoches sewage ponds, Nacogdoches. A count of 450 Ring-necked Ducks made at Choke Canyon S.P., McMullen 6 Jan was impressive for the location (MCo). Ascarate Park in El Paso, El Paso has had very small numbers of wintering Greater Scaup in recent years, with one there 1-15 Jan (ph. BZ). In addition, lone Greater Scaup were at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth (BZ) and Fort Hancock Reservoir, Hudspeth (ph. JiP) 16 Dec.
A Surf Scoter was near Boca Chica, Cameron 4 Jan (DJ). Three Surf Scoters and a lone White-winged Scoter spent the winter on Belton Lake, Bell 24 Jan – 9 Mar (ph. CP, ph. ECo, m.ob.). Two White-winged Scoters were seen from a boat in Aransas Bay, Aransas 10 Dec (SFo, DSt, MH); 2 at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 10-12 Dec (ph. MLo, ph. DBo, AB) were more unexpected. A female/immature Black Scoter was off of Pleasure Island, Jefferson (SM, ph., JHa); another was at Miramar Park, Chambers/Harris 27-31 Jan (BC, ph., et al.). Inland Long-tailed Ducks included one at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves 10-30 Dec (ph. DBo, AB), one at the sewer ponds in Van Horn, Culberson 4 Jan (JP, AP), another at Lake Providence, Denton 14 – 23 Jan (GM, ph., m.ob.), one at Thrall, Williamson 25 Jan – 10 Mar (ph. TFe, m.ob.), and one other at Canyon Lake, Comal 4 Feb – 17 Mar (ph. LE, ph. BN). On the U.T.C., up to 3 Long-tailed Ducks were seen sporadically off of Pleasure Island, Jefferson 6-28 Jan (JHa, JMr, ph., et al.). Eastward wandering Common Mergansers included an impressive 7 on the west end of Lake Travis, Travis 19 Dec (ph. GG) that remained most of the winter (m.ob.); 3 were still there 8 Mar (ph. LeJ). Two others visited Canyon Lake, Comal 14 Feb (ph. SS).
Grebes through Swifts
Rare in Brazos, a lone Least Grebe was found in Wellborn on the College Station C.B.C. 31 Dec (†ph. JH) and was still present the next day. It is a third record for the county. On the U.T.C., Least Grebe numbers continue to be higher than normal with the highest tallies being 20 from San Bernard N.W.R., Brazoria 19 Dec (CBu, et al.) and 15 from Brazoria N.W.R., Brazoria (AHa, MiH). Rare in the Trans-Pecos, a Horned Grebe was at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 16 Dec (BZ). Aechmophorus grebes are resident at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth with 200+ typically present in winter, with both Western and Clark’s well represented. It was therefore unusual that numbers had dropped to just nine Western Grebes 30 Jan (BZ) and only one Western Grebe 4 Feb (JiP).
A Common Ground Dove north of normal winter range along County Road 3122, Bynum, Hill 20 Jan (BrB, ph.) was an unexpected winter sighting. Still uncommon and local, White-winged Doves are just beginning to colonize the Central Pineywoods. This season included up to 5 at the Stephan F. Austin State University campus and various streets in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 15 Dec-6 Feb (NR, DWf, PG, RSc). A Groove-billed Ani was reported from Santa Ana N.W.R., Hidalgo 5 (RHu) & 26 (TU, CU) Dec; a group of 7 were east of normal near Sea Rim S.P., Jefferson 28 Dec (ShH, ph., TH, SM).
At least one Common Nighthawk was heard “peenting” at a shopping center in Galveston, Galveston 5 Feb (DLi). This species is rarely detected in winter, although there are a few Jan/Feb records for the southern United States. Rare for the season were a Chuck-will’s-widow seen at Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, Hidalgo 28 Jan (DWe) and another bird in Corpus Christi, Nueces 25 Feb (ph. DaS) which might have been a very early spring migrant (MCo). Another Chuck-will’s-widow was seen sporadically 19 Dec-22 Feb at Sabine Woods, Jefferson (HD, RW, SM, et al.). An early Eastern Whip-poor-will, by about a week, was heard near Dayton Lakes, Liberty 24 Feb (†PM). A Chimney/Vaux’s Swift was seen in a feeding flock of Tree Swallows at Guadalupe Delta W.M.A., Calhoun 15 Jan (PH); Vaux’s Swift continues to elude the state list of accepted bird species. Unusual for mid-winter in northwest Texas, one White-throated Swift was near Post, Garza 18 Jan (JBo), while 4 were at Caprock Canyon S.P., Briscoe 18 Jan (JEB), and 15 were tallied at Caprock Canyon S.P., Briscoe 15 Feb (JHr, JM).
Hummingbirds through Cranes
An immature Green-breasted Mango found at Quinta Mazatlan, Hidalgo 2 Dec (ph. JBr) was the first for Texas in over eight years; it was reported to 11 Dec (MBS). A Ruby-throated Hummingbird in an El Paso yard 26 Dec – 24 Jan (ph. BZ) was a complete surprise and the first in winter for El Paso. An early migrant Black-chinned Hummingbird passed through College Station, Brazos 28 Feb (ph. HB). It was a banner season for Anna’s Hummingbirds with single birds in San Angelo, Tom Green 1-4 Dec (ph. MP), north of Centerpoint, Kerr 12-15 Dec (ph. TC, SCo), on the southside of Canyon Lake, Comal 15 Dec (ph. EHi), in Sun City north of Georgetown, Williamson 15 Dec (ph. MBy), in Midland, Midland 24-31 Dec (ph. CaB), in south Austin, Travis 31 Jan – 1 Feb (ph. SHa) and near Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, Bell 7-8 Feb (ph. TLa). As many as 3 were in Sanderson, Terrell thru 16 Jan (ph. LHo, m.ob.). Closer to the coast, a Port O’Connor, Calhoun yard hosted a female Anna’s Hummingbird 14 Jan that was joined by an immature male 17 Jan (PH), while on the U.T.C., one was at Cypress, Harris 16 Jan (MK, SKu) and another was in Lake Jackson, Brazoria 18-27 Jan (BK, SuH, et al.).
A Costa’s Hummingbird visited an El Paso, El Paso yard 1 Jan – 6 Feb (ph. BZ). A Calliope Hummingbird remained loyal to a feeder in southwest Austin, Travis 2 Jan – 9 Mar (ph. ECa, m.ob.). A Rufous Hummingbird wintered in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 31 Oct-19 Feb (CSh, JSh). A male Allen’s Hummingbird visited a Harlingen, Cameron yard 28 Jan – 24 Feb (SBi, KBr). Broad-tailed Hummingbirds visited 4 different feeders scattered throughout the Austin, Travis area 3 Dec – 11 Feb (ECa, AF, EFi, AL, LF) for an above average showing of this species in the region. Rarely seen in the Central Brazos Valley, an immature female Broad-tailed Hummingbird visited College Station, Brazos feeders 23-24 Jan (ph. KA). For a trifecta of rare hummingbirds, the same El Paso yard that held both Ruby-throated and Costa’s also had a Broad-billed Hummingbird 1-4 Jan (ph. BZ). A real surprise and a certain highlight of the season was a cooperative Violet-crowned Hummingbird in Sanderson, Terrell 13 Dec – 2 Jan (ph. MCo, m.ob.); the bird apparently perished on site as it was found dead in early February (LHo).
A count of 763 Common Gallinules from Wolfweed Reservoir at San Bernard N.W.R., Brazoria 15 Dec was impressive (SuH, et al.). An adult Purple Gallinule wintered at Brazos Bend S.P., Fort Bend 6 Jan+ (DHe, TBu, ph., et al.). A nice count of 19 Yellow Rails was made at Mad Island Marsh Preserve, Matagorda 18 Dec (RK et al.). A Whooping Crane near Silverton, Briscoe 8 Feb (ph. BBr) was unusual for mid-winter and suggests a bird that perhaps wintered with the local Sandhills. Two Whooping Cranes present in Port Aransas, Nueces 10 Jan+ (JHo) provided for a rare record for the location.
Black-necked Stilt often winters in double digit numbers at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park and/or along the Rio Grande where Texas, New Mexico, and Chihuahua all meet, but, despite the mild winter, did not do so this winter. The only reports for El Paso were lone birds at Keystone Heritage Park 1 Jan (JiP) and next to Rio Bosque Wetlands Park 11 Jan (JoS). Elsewhere in the Trans-Pecos, one was at Imperial Reservoir, Pecos 23 Dec (JBo). Late migrant American Avocets included 8 at the Highway 87 x County Road 7500 Playa, Lubbock 10 Dec (DrH, AHe) and another at the O’Donnell Playa, Lynn 25 Dec (AHe); another (or the same) was back at the O’Donnell Playa, Lynn 1-28 Feb (DrH, m.ob.). Rare to casual in winter in the Trans-Pecos, 3 American Avocets were at a sewage pond near Fort Hancock, Hudspeth 16 Dec (ph. JiP).
Quite unseasonal was a Black-bellied Plover at Imperial Reservoir, Pecos 23-26 Dec (JBo, MR, SC). A very late American Golden-Plover was found at Charlie’s Pasture, Nueces 18 Dec (ph. MBe). Mountain Plovers wintered in Cameron again with a high number of 15 birds near La Leona Cemetery 29 Dec (CCo, PP). In Refugio, 40 were found in fields west of Mission Bay 14 Jan (SBr) with lesser numbers present to 21 Jan (DMu et al.). Snowy Plovers persisting into at least early winter in northwest Texas included 7 at Muleshoe N.W.R., Bailey 17 Dec (JCr, CGr, AHe, ph.) and 2 near Tahoka, Lynn 25 Dec (AHe).
A count of 6 Whimbrel at Galveston, Galveston 29 Jan was notable for the winter season (KO). A flock of 6 Long-billed Curlews visited farmlands near Calvert, Robertson 27 Dec-17 Jan (AMa). Good numbers of Long-billed Curlew winter in agricultural fields around Dell City, Hudspeth as evidenced by counts of 400 on 9 Dec and 220 on 17 Feb (JiP). Quite unexpected and out of season was a Ruddy Turnstone at Lake Benbrook, Tarrant 22-24 Jan (MY, JoA, ph.). Totally amazing was an out of season Red Knot at Lake Lewisville Park, Denton 21-22 Jan (KCa, WC, ph.), which was quite likely the first winter inland record in Texas and perhaps one of precious few for the interior United States during winter. Rare inland away from the coast, single sightings of Dunlin 13 Jan (YH, ph. MSt) at Richland Creek W.M.A., Freestone and 19 Feb (†JWe) at The Falls, Marlin, Falls are noteworthy; 975 was tallied at the Tratton Unit of Aransas N.W.R., Aransas 22 Dec 2017 (BO) was a notable count. A Purple Sandpiper found on the old causeway near Point Comfort, Calhoun 16 Feb (ph. BFr) provided for easy viewing to many birders into the spring.
A Buff-breasted Sandpiper southwest of Austwell, Refugio 2 Jan provided for a very rare winter record for the state (ph. GS). An impressive count of 1100 Western Sandpipers was made on the Tratton Unit of Aransas N.W.R., Aransas 22 Dec 2017 (BO). An American Woodcock paid a rare visit to South Padre Island, Cameron 1-2 Dec (JGo, MGu et al.); another at Santa Ana N.W.R., Hidalgo 16 Dec was also noteworthy (LPa et al.). Notable for winter was one Lesser Yellowlegs at MacKenzie Park, Lubbock 29 Dec (DH) and another at Lake Meredith, Moore 6 Feb (MCo, BPi). A Wilson’s Phalarope at Formosa-Tejano Wetlands, Jackson 26 Feb was thought to be an early spring migrant (CDa, DHa).
Jaegers through Skimmers
A Parasitic Jaeger seen from Fish Pass Jetty, Nueces 8 Dec was a seasonal rarity for the Coastal Bend (ph. GN); another was working the Texas City Dike, Galveston 15-16 Jan (DeS, ph., DC, ph., BB, ph., JRi, ph.). It was a banner season for Black-legged Kittiwakes with single immatures at the Houston Yacht Club, Harris/Chambers 16 Dec – 25 Jan (CDa, ph., RH, m.ob.), around the jetties on South Padre Island, Cameron 3 Jan (ph. JGo, AH) and also a different bird there 13-20 Jan (ph. GV), on Matagorda Island, Calhoun 9 Jan (PH) and at Tornillo Reservoir, El Paso 10 Jan (ph. MD). After disappearing for a month, the immature Sabine’s Gull returned to the Kemah Boardwalk, Galveston/Harris/Chambers 16-31 Dec (LKu, ph., et al.).
A second winter Little Gull was described 29 Dec along the ship channel in Galveston, Galveston (DSa). What may have been the same bird was found along the Texas City Dike, Galveston 16 Jan (DLi, DC, ph., BB, ph., DeS, ph., JRi, ph.). Another Little Gull was at Lake Arlington, Tarrant 13 Jan+ (GCo, ErC, ph. m.ob.). Single Laughing Gulls at the White Rock Lake Spillway, Dallas 9 and 21 Dec (CRu, CJ, ph.), along I-35 in Grandview, Johnson 24 Feb (MR, SC, ph.), and at the Lake Aquila Spillway, Hill 25 Feb (BrB) were unusual casual winter finds. Two Laughing Gulls on a small pond north of Dripping Springs, Hays 15 Feb (ph. GL) were rather unseasonal. Rare in winter in the Central Brazos Valley and unusual away from major lakes, 3 Laughing Gulls were at tiny Country Club Lake, Bryan, Brazos 15 Feb (ph. †RNe). An amazing count of at least 115 Laughing Gulls were at the Lake Livingston spillway, San Jacinto 28 Jan (DWf, RT). Late fall migrating Franklin’s Gulls were 4 at Lake O’ the Pines, Marion 13 Dec (ph. MMa). A Franklin’s Gull present at Mad Island Marsh Preserve, Matagorda 17 Dec was also likely a late migrant (RK). A first winter bird was at Choke Canyon S.P., McMullen 6 Jan (MCo) & 13 Jan (MR, SC, DLe).
Casual at best was a first cycle Mew Gull at Lake Arlington, Tarrant 8 Feb (MW, ph.). California Gulls made a great showing inland with one on Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Travis 24 Dec (ph. BLy, m.ob.), what was perhaps the same bird was on nearby Walter E. Long Lake, Travis 13 Jan (ph. EFa), another sporadically at the White Rock Lake Spillway, Dallas 6 Jan – 4 Feb (GCo, ph., DSt, RR, CRu) and one at at Lake Meredith, Hutchinson 6 Feb (MCo, BPi). In west Texas, an adult California Gull was at Fort Hancock Reservoir, Hudspeth 16 Dec (JiP) with 2 birds at the Hudspeth/El Paso reservoirs 9 Feb (JGr, JKi); another adult was at Imperial Reservoir, Pecos 24 Dec (MR, SC) while a first-cycle bird was on Lake Amistad, Val Verde 22 Jan (PH). An adult California Gull found at Sea Rim S.P., Jefferson (ShH, ph., et al.) 28 Jan-5 Feb was one of few U.T.C. documented records in recent years. Counts of up to 30 Herring Gulls at Lake Meredith, Hutchinson 13 Jan-6 Feb (MCo, BPi, DMu, WS, ph.) were remarkable numbers for the Panhandle.
Iceland (Thayer’s) Gulls were scattered across the state with singles at East Beach and the Texas City Dike, Galveston 4 Dec-2 Jan (JBo, ph., et al.), at Lake Benbrook, Tarrant 17 Dec (GCo, ph.), at White Rock Lake Spillway, Dallas, 25 Dec (GCo, ph.), from the John F Kennedy Causeway Wetlands, Nueces 7 Jan – 11 Feb (ph. RL) and at Lake Meredith, Hutchinson 6 Feb (MCo, BPi). Single Lesser Black-backed Gulls can usually be found scattered through the state but reports of multiple birds are more noteworthy. This season, 2 were on Belton Lake, Bell 4 Dec (ph. GE), up to 4 were at Lake Meredith, Hutchinson 30 Dec-17 Feb (DMu, WS, MCo, BPi), a truly amazing 21 were counted at the west dam overlook of Lake Livingston, San Jacinto 28 Jan (DWf, RT), while 59 in flooded fields near a landfill along Davis Estates Road, Fort Bend 10 Feb (RW) was closer to the coast but still a noteworthy count. It was an above-average winter for Glaucous Gull with 3 in north-central Texas, 4 on the U.T.C. and one in coastal south Texas (m.ob.). At less traditional sites, one was at Imperial Reservoir, Pecos 30 Dec – 28 Jan (ph. MR, ph. SC, WS, m.ob.) while up to 2 were at Lake Meredith, Hutchinson 30 Dec-11 Feb (BPi, DMu, WS, MCo, BPi, ph.).
Exceptional for the Panhandle, a Great Black-backed Gull was at Lake Meredith, Hutchinson 13-27 Jan (DMu, WS, BPi, ph.); another at the Texas City Dike, Galveston 7-26 Dec (BB, ph., et al.) was at a more expected location but still notable. The Elegant Tern originally found at the end of the fall period continued to frequent the Surfside Jetty, Brazoria until 19 Dec (CBu, et al.). Rather odd away from the coast, a Black Skimmer visited Calaveras Lake, Bexar 24 Feb (ph. CF et al.).
Loons Through Ibis
A first record for the Central Pineywoods area, a Red-throated Loon flew past the Texas 147 causeway of Lake Sam Rayburn 7 Jan (†SGl, GCo), providing first county records for both Angelina and San Augustine. At more expected locations but still notable were singles at White Rock Lake Dallas, 3 Dec – 3 Jan (TR, ph., m.ob.), at Imperial Reservoir, Pecos 23 Dec (ph. JBo), at Red Bluff Lake, Reeves 30 Dec (CRi, ph. MGr), at Lake Benbrook, 27 Jan – 4 Feb (GCo), and at Lake Lavon, Collin 3 Feb (GCo). Inland Pacific Loons included one at Lake Benbrook, Tarrant 3-30 Dec (JoA, EW, ph., m.ob.) and another at Lake Tawakoni, 26 Dec (GCo, LL, MSu). Two Common Loons reported from Falcon Lake, Starr 17-31 Jan (LGe, KDv, GR) were noteworthy for the southerly location. Rare in the El Paso area, lone Common Loons were at a flooded area where F.M. 192 meets the Rio Grande in central Hudspeth 11 Dec (ph. DLe) and at Ascarate Park, El Paso 7 Feb (ph. JKi).
Wood Storks are very rare in winter so one from the Brazos Bend S.P. C.B.C., Fort Bend 18 Dec (BVo, et al.), 3 from Brazoria N.W.R., Brazoria 19 Dec (RBa, BTh, TY), and singles from Archbishop Fiorenza Park, Harris 27 Dec (MAW) and Addicks Reservoir, Harris 12 Jan (JeP) were notable. A late male Magnificent Frigatebird was off the Freeport/Surfside Jetties, Brazoria 20 Dec (DeS, ph., JTh, ph., JWe); a female in Port Aransas, Nueces 6 Jan provided for a rare mid-winter record (ph. AO).
A moribund Masked Booby picked up on South Padre Island, Cameron 24 Feb and later died (JY). The Brown Booby count in Espiritu Santo Bay, Calhoun peaked at 6 on 24 Dec with 4 remaining until at least 5 Jan (ph. PH). On the U.T.C., lone Brown Booby sightings included an adult 13 Dec (DeS) and an immature 29 Dec (DSa, ph.) at the Texas City Dike, Galveston and an adult the Quintana Jetty, Brazoria 30 Dec (BB, ph.).
The 2 unseasonal Anhingas at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves from the fall continued to at least 17 Dec (ph., m.ob.) with one remaining until 30 Dec (TM). One of the 2 juvenile Brown Pelicans found at Hagerman N.W.R., Grayson 12 Aug (FE, JE, JaC, ph.) lingered until 16 Dec (JaC, ph.), while the other was found below Denison Dam, Grayson 1 Jan (RC, ph.).
An American Bittern in Midland, Midland 29 Dec (ph. CaB) may have spent the winter there. The only Least Bittern on the U.T.C. was one at San Bernard N.W.R., Brazoria 15 Dec (SuH). A rare winter sighting of Little Blue Herons for the Pineywoods was an adult and a white imm. at San Augustine Park, Lake Sam Rayburn, San Augustine 13 Jan (AHe, m.ob.). An out-of-season Tricolored Heron was at Martin Dies S.P., Jasper 3 Jan (†JAl). Curiously, one was also seen at the state park one year ago January. A flock of 16 Cattle Egrets near Lake Naconiche, Nacogdoches 18 Jan (JSh) was unseasonal for that region. Remarkably, 2 White Ibis wintered in a farm pasture near Red River, Bowie 18 Dec-25 Feb (ph. PW, ph. RBo, ph. ES, et al.). Rare in winter in East Texas, a White-faced Ibis was at Texas Eastman at Longview, Harrison, 15 Jan (†DBr, MEd). Increasing in winter in the El Paso area, small numbers of White-faced Ibis were seen off and on all winter at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso with highs of 45 on 5 Dec and 38 on 25 Jan (JoS). In neighboring Hudspeth, 28 were at Fort Hancock Reservoir 16 Dec (ph. JiP) and an impressive 90 were along the Rio Grande in the central part of the county 1 Jan (AP, JP).
Vultures through Hawks
Three Turkey Vultures over Buffalo Springs Lake, Lubbock 8 Dec (JCr) were a bit late. Turkey Vultures again wintered in small numbers in and around Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso with a high of nine on 5 Jan (JoS, m.ob.); more unexpected was one in west El Paso 9 Jan (JGr). An Osprey, casual in winter, was present all period in west El Paso, El Paso and has likely been continually present for over a year (ph. JGr, ph. JiP, m.ob.). Rare in the Central Brazos Valley in the past decade, a White-tailed Kite flew over the Rock Prairie landfill, Brazos 5 Feb (SKi, CGi). In the Cameron area of Milam a White-tailed Kite was seen 3 Dec (GCo, SGl) and 31 Dec (NW). One to 2 White-tailed Kites were consistently seen through early February at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso and less consistently through the end of the period, with a surprising 3 on 24 Jan (JoS). This is the most regular Trans-Pecos location for the species. More unexpected were one near Fort Hancock, Hudspeth 1 Jan (KB) and 2 at Tornillo Reservoir, El Paso 9 Feb (JGr, JKi).
Two Golden Eagles were in with the Bald Eagles near Canyon of the Eagles on the upper reaches of Lake Buchanan, Llano/Burnet 2 Dec (ph. LKo). Extremely scarce in East Texas, a juvenile Golden Eagle was found at Boggy Slough, Davy Crockett N.F., Trinity 12 Jan (CSh, †NW, †JTi, m.ob.) during the Texas Ornithological Society meeting field trips. A nice count of 6 Bald Eagles in Colorado 20 Dec (SP et al.) was surpassed by 10 Bald Eagles seen at the South Texas Plant, Matagorda 3 Feb (MSc et al.). A Bald Eagle was seen flying over the Rio Grande at San Ygnacio, Zapata 9 Feb was noteworthy for the location (DLa et al.). Quite late was a Mississippi Kite over Brushy Creek, Williamson 4 Dec (KBr).
Harris’s Hawks made a small incursion along the eastern edge of the Edwards Plateau, highlighted by a group of birds, perhaps as many as 5, that spent much of the winter around Thrall, Williamson 30 Dec – 13 Mar (ph. SeC, m.ob.). The first confirmed record for Harris’s Hawk in Milam was observed 23 Dec-2 Jan (ph. EHo, ph. GE, ph. RP, ph. †BS, AC, †NW) near Rogers. In north-central Texas, Harris’s Hawks continued their unprecedented widespread fall invasion; a least 15 Harris Hawks were tallied in the region during the winter season. Harris’s Hawks made a strong showing on the U.T.C. as well with an amazing 7 counted near Freeport, Brazoria 1 Jan (LGo, ph., TLy, ph.) with lesser numbers seen through the season. An immature at High Island, Galveston 8 Dec+ was joined by 2 adults on 25 Feb (DE, ph., et al.). White-tailed Hawks also had a strong showing in central Texas with the northernmost being an adult around Granger Lake, Williamson 10 Dec – 9 Feb (ph. PD, m.ob.). At the edge of its range and a first county record for Milam, a White-tailed Hawk was seen, surprisingly with a Harris’s Hawk, 31 Dec-6 Jan (†AC, †NW, ph. RK) at County Road 115 near Rogers. A White-tailed Hawk flying south over Lake Waxahackie, Ellis 19 Jan (TDr) and a subadult at the Blue Sky Sod Farm, Seagoville, Dallas 25 Feb (CWa, CRu, EW et al., ph.) were great winter finds.
An immature Swainson’s Hawk was near Sabine Pass, Jefferson 28 Dec (JHa); another at the Cefe Valenzuela Landfill, Nueces 24 Jan provided for a rare winter record for the Coastal Bend (MCo). Two Zone-tailed Hawks were observed on La Palmas Trail in Laredo, Webb 3 Dec (RHo, GB). In north-central Texas, single Rough-legged Hawks were east and south of normal winter range along Aledo Road, Tarrant 16 Dec (JFe, ChB), at Seagoville, Dallas/Ellis, 24 Dec – 28 Jan (EW, ph. m.ob.), and at Hagerman N.W.R. 2 Jan (JaC, m.ob., ph.). Not as regular as they once were in much of the Trans-Pecos, a Rough-legged Hawk 10 miles south of Toyahvale, Jeff Davis 4 Jan (ph. KHe) was a nice find. Three Ferruginous Hawks east of normal winter range included 2 along Aledo Rd, Tarrant, 16 Dec – 3 Jan (JFe, ChB, ph., m.ob.) and one over Robson-Hill, Argyle Tarrant 17-21 Jan (JK, GCo).
Owls through Kingfishers
A Barn Owl heard as it flew over Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches 16 Jan (CSh) adds to a very few East Texas Pineywoods records. An amazing and unprecedented 5 Snowy Owls were in the northern portions of the state this season. An injured and sick Snowy Owl was found at the North Central Texas Airport near Denison, Denton, 20 Dec (EN, ph.). It was captured and transferred to the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center where it was successfully re-habilitated and sent to a Minnesota for release. Another Snowy Owl delighted many observers at and in the vicinity of the Marriot Hotel along Heritage Trace in Fort Worth, Tarrant 21-23 Feb (JSc, m.ob., ph.). In the Panhandle, another Snowy Owl was a few miles southwest of Gruver, Hansford 29 Dec (CMu, ph.) while one lingered in Amarillo, Randall 26-28 Jan (CA, MAn, PK, JuS, ST, ph.). Central Texas got a piece of the incredible Snowy Owl irruption with a fairly cooperative bird in northeast Odessa, Ector/Midland 23 Jan – 13 Mar (ph. JvdW, m.ob.).
A Burrowing Owl southwest of Sayersville, Bastrop 17 Dec (ph. JLe) and another one south of Knippa, Uvalde 18 Feb (ph. TDa) were locally good finds; another observed 28 Jan (†HL, JBe, LaJ) at Muske Lane and Buller Road may well be a first county record for Waller. One of the winter highlights for El Paso was a Spotted Owl found roosting in an oak at Hueco Tanks State Historic Site 20 Jan (ph. JGr, RHe, JKi) for only about the fourth county record. At least one Long-eared Owl was seen off and on at Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, El Paso (RHe) and likely overwintered; up to 3 were loyal to a roosting site west of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 11-20 Feb (StC, DoD et al.). More unexpected in south Texas, a Long-eared visited Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Hidalgo 4-16 Jan & 26 Feb (MBa, BR et al.). Very rare sightings of Short-eared Owls in East Texas included up to 4 at County Line Rd, Rusk/Panola 25 Dec-13 Jan (WB, ph. DBr, LuB, †DGh, m.ob.); these are probably first county records for Panola and only a second record for Rusk.
Easily one of the highlights of the season for the entire state was an Elegant Trogon at New Braunfel’s Landa Park, Comal 27 Jan – 8 Feb (ph. JAz, ph. m.ob.). The prior 6 records for the state have come from either Brewster or Hidalgo so this outlier was a real head-scratcher as to how/why it made its way to the center of the state. A male Green Kingfisher found on the San Bernard River east of West Columbia 24 Dec (JeW, WWo) and re-found a mile north of the original location at Hanson Riverside Park 1-2 Jan (BLi, ph., RW, et al.) was a first for Brazoria.
Woodpeckers through Falcons
Quite surprising was a Lewis’s Woodpecker in a Lubbock yard, Lubbock 7 Dec (ACo). A Lewis’s Woodpecker was a small bonus in Midland, Midland 27 Jan – 9 Feb (ph. BLu, m.ob.) for folks that chased the nearby Snowy Owl; another (or the same?) was some 50 miles away just north of Andrews, Andrews 19 Feb (ph. BLu). A single Lewis’s Woodpecker in west El Paso, El Paso 23 Dec (ph. JGr, JKi, m.ob.) had grown to 3 by 29 Dec, with all remaining through the period. Another Lewis’s Woodpecker was just northeast of Fort Davis, Jeff Davis 16 Feb (ph. DoD, StC). Outlier Red-headed Woodpeckers included one in a Lubbock neighborhood, Lubbock 20 Dec (WWe), another just east of Lake Brownwood, Brown 16-17 Feb (EFa, ph. SHa, m.ob.) and one in Big Lake, Reagan that continued from the fall until at least 24 Feb (ph. TV et al.). A Red-bellied Woodpecker was well west of expected areas at Thompson Grove, Dallam 1-18 Dec (DrH, m.ob.).
A Red-naped Sapsucker wintered again at Bentsen-Rio Grande S.P., Hidalgo (m.ob.). An apparent Red-naped x Red-breasted Sapsucker was at Ascarate Park, El Paso 18 Jan – 7 Mar (ph. JKi). A Downy Woodpecker in Dell City 10 Dec – 6 Jan (ph. JRa, LS, AW) was just the second for Hudspeth; one in Van Horn, Culberson 31 Dec (ph. WS, SC, MR) was also quite unusual. Surprisingly much less regular in the lowlands of El Paso and Hudspeth than Downy Woodpecker, the male Hairy Woodpecker from fall in Dell City, Hudspeth continued through 6 Jan (m.ob.) and was joined by a female 3 Dec – 14 Jan (MLo).
An Aplomado Falcon was seen from a boat in Aransas Bay, Aransas 22 Dec (MSt, YH, EM); another at Santa Ana N.W.R., Hidalgo 2 Dec was noteworthy for being away from the coast (ph. PI). A first county record for Milam, a Prairie Falcon was found perching on and flying between poles on County Road 264 near the Brazos River 7 Dec (JWe).
The Rose-throated Becard from the fall at Santa Ana N.W.R., Hidalgo remained through 7 Jan (m.ob.) followed by a different individual at the refuge 15 Jan – 15 Feb (ph. MHa, m.ob.); the individual northeast of Los Fresnos, Hidalgo from the fall remained through the period until 3 Mar (m.ob.). The 3 Great Kiskadees at Spring Creek Park/Lake Nasworthy, Tom Green continued until at least 24 Dec; 4 seen together at Walter E. Long Lake, Travis 15 Feb (ph. ECa) hinted that perhaps local breeding has occurred nearby in the recent past. Out of place was a Great Kiskadee along Highway 385 about 13 miles south of Fort Stockton, Pecos 11 Dec (ph. DBo, AB).
Couch’s Kingbirds have occurred as singles and a pair before near the Colorado River just west of La Grange, Fayette but 6 there 18 Dec (ph. BLy) was surprising. A Western Kingbird at Estero Llano Grande S.P., Hidalgo on the odd date of 13 Feb was of note (ph. JBo). Unseasonal for the dead of winter was a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at Hornsby Bend, Travis 7-14 Jan (ph. SA, m.ob.); one just south of Kerrville-Schreiner Park, Kerr 24 Feb (BFi) may have been a very early migrant. Elsewhere, lingering Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were at Lake Jackson, Brazoria 30 Dec (MH, DSt), Freeport, Brazoria 3 Jan (MH) and 4 at College Station, Brazos 12 Jan (†BVe).
The Bear Creek Park Greater Pewee reappeared for its sixth consecutive winter at Bear Creek Park, Harris (JHi) on Dec 10 and was last reported 10 Mar (m.ob.). A Hammond’s Flycatcher on Love Creek Preserve, Bandera 14 Dec (ph. RSw, ph. RK) was a good find and yet another fall/winter record of this species in central Texas. The Hammond’s Flycatcher found at Estero Llano Grande S.P., Hidalgo at the end of November was reported to at least mid-Feb (m.ob.). Another Hammond’s Flycatcher was at Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, El Paso 20 Jan (ph. JGr, RHe, JKi); any winter empid is rare to casual in El Paso with Hammond’s probably the most likely.
The locally-rare Black Phoebe of last winter that returned 23 Oct to the Brazos Center Park, Bryan, Brazos remained until 27 Jan (m.ob.). Also noteworthy was a Black Phoebe was at Guadalupe Delta W.M.A. Calhoun 14 & 30 Dec (DGr, PH); it was seen again 15 Jan (PH). In east Texas, a spurt of Vermilion Flycatcher sightings in unexpected places include the continuing 2 at Old Sour Lake Road, Hardin 18 Dec-13 Jan (ph. JMr, m.ob.), the same or another in Hardin at Village Creek S.P. 23 Jan (†CMo, LWi); a male at New Caney, Montgomery 30 Dec (TFo); a male at the Texas 147 bridge, Lake Sam Rayburn, San Augustine 7 Jan (SGl, GCo); and an immature male at Bryan, Brazos 21 Jan (ph. SFl).
Vireos through Swallows
Rare but regular, 2 Hutton’s Vireos in El Paso, El Paso 1 Jan (BZ) and a continuing fall bird through 23 Dec (ph. BZ) were not completely unexpected; one was also noteworthy at Frijole Ranch, Guadalupe Mountains N.P., Culberson 30 Dec (WS, MR, SC). A Plumbeous Vireo was in El Paso, El Paso 24 Dec (ph. JiP), where any “Solitary” Vireo is rare in winter, and Plumbeous being the most expected form.
The strong Steller’s Jay irruption in El Paso continued unabated through the period with several hundred present in the city and a record 96 on the 1 Jan El Paso C.B.C. One bird from fall continuing through 9 Dec in Dell City (JiP) and one in Sierra Blanca 30 Dec (ph. AP, JP) were just the second and third for Hudspeth. Adding to the Tamaulipas Crow drama from fall was a lone bird present at Big Tree, Goose Island S.P., Aransas 29 Dec – 3 Jan (m.ob.). Apparently, the bird was feeding on anacua berries until they froze and the bird left. The traditional spot for Tamaulipas Crow in South Texas, the Brownsville Landfill, Cameron hosted up to 5 birds sporadically during the season and on South Padre Island a single bird was reported 3-11 Jan (m.ob.). The exciting Tamaulipas Crow invasion extended east to East Beach, Galveston with one photographed and heard 26 Nov (MH, DSt, KO, et al.). That bird was a no show the next morning only to have what was apparently the same bird appear at San Luis Pass, Galveston/Brazoria 27 Nov (DSi, et al., ph.) in the company of the lingering Fish Crow. What is believed to be that same bird reappeared in the East Beach area 1 Dec (CoR, ph.) where it remained until 5 Dec (DC, ph., et al.).
The Fish Crow at San Luis Pass, Brazoria was seen until at least 24 Jan (SuH). Another at Wallisville, Chambers 28 Jan (JeP) was further evidence of the species’ creep westward. A Chihuahuan Raven seen at the Corpus Christi International Airport, 14 Jan provided for a rare Nueces record (MSK, MCh).
Small numbers of Tree Swallows were seen throughout Jan at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth with a high of 25 on 1 Jan (AP, JP). Early Tree Swallows in the Pineywoods include 5 at Martin Dies S.P., Jasper 3 Jan (†JAl) and 3 at Kurth Lake, Angelina 12 Jan (JBo). Eight Northern Rough-winged Swallows in west El Paso 1 Jan (ph. JGr, RHe, JKi) were an excellent mid-winter total and one was at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso 21 and 24 Jan (JoS). The rarest of the possible winter swallows in the western Trans-Pecos, 3 Barn Swallows were at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 1 Jan (AP, JP) and 2 were at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso 21 Jan (JoS). Only mild winters can keep Cave Swallows in East Texas, so noteworthy is 10 at Lake Gladewater, Upshur 31 Dec (ph. LPr), but only one there the next day.
Chickadees through Thrashers
One to 2 Mountain Chickadees were at 2 sites each in both El Paso and Hudspeth in Dec – Jan (m.ob.), indicating a weak irruption of a species absent most winters. An out of range Verdin, which wandered 100+ miles east of its normal western range, was discovered at the Audubon Center, Dallas 18-20 Feb (JPa, NK). Though no individual sighting was noteworthy, Red-breasted Nuthatches moved through both northwest Texas and parts of the Trans-Pecos in unusually large numbers and an irruptive event had clearly occurred. One to 2 White-breasted Nuthatches continued through the period at multiple El Paso sites, for its best winter there in recent years. More unusual in Hudspeth, one or 2 continued from fall through 14 Jan at Dell City (m.ob.). Pygmy Nuthatches have virtually disappeared from the Davis Mountains in recent years so a group of 14 on the Davis Mountains Preserve, Jeff Davis 10 Dec (ph. AB, DBo, MLo) was astounding; at least 2 were still in the area 2 Jan (SuH).
Two Winter Wrens at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 16 Dec (ph. BZ) were at a regular location though the species is rare in the western Trans-Pecos. While typically a rare winter find in the Central Pineywoods, a record high of 16 were tabulated on the Nacogdoches C.B.C. 17 Dec (fide DWf) and were found on 13 of the 30 T.O.S. convention field trips 12-14 Jan in Nacogdoches and Angelina. Three El Paso records of Golden-crowned Kinglet (JGr, RHe, JiP) indicated a weak movement of this irregular winter visitor.
Rare east of normal range was 2 Western Bluebirds near the entrance to W.T. Waggoner Ranch, Archer 20 Jan (LaB). The only reported Mountain Bluebirds in north-central Texas were a flock of 50 on a private ranch along the Pease River, Hardeman 6 Feb (MBu) and 8 along Highway 70 west of Crowell, Foard, 27 Feb (SGl). A well-described Veery from the Convention Center/World Birding Center, South Padre Island, Cameron 3 Dec was an extremely late migrant (MSa). Not at all expected in winter, a Wood Thrush was in south Austin, Travis 29 Dec – 23 Jan (SKh, ph. JBo).
Not expected in winter, a significant number of winter-resident Gray Catbirds were reported in east Texas and the Pineywoods this season: 5-24 Dec (CWe) in Douglas, Nacogdoches; 2 on 5-13 Jan (SE, m.ob.) at Old Sour Lake Road, Hardin; one 22 Dec-2 Jan (CoM, et al.) at W.G. Jones State Forest, Montgomery; up to 3 on 7-24 Jan (BFo, KK, ph. JH) at Lick Creek Park, Brazos; up to 5 23 Dec-19 Feb (JWe, JHe, MV) at Martin Dies S.P., Jasper/Tyler. These are in addition to single-day sightings elsewhere in Angelina, Bowie, Grimes, Liberty, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Newton, Shelby, Smith, Tyler, and Walker. A Brown Thrasher present on South Padre Island, Cameron 6-31 Dec was noteworthy for the southern location (BiB et al.).
Waxwings through Finches
An amazing flock of 4000+ Cedar Waxwings invaded downtown Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches to feast on ornamental holly trees 7 Feb (CSh, DWa, VW). A female Phainopepla was a nice find at the Lubbock Cemetery, Lubbock 8-30 Jan (DrH, m.ob., ph.).
It was a quiet season for Purple Finches though notable was a female Purple Finch 9 & 13 Feb at a feeder in Sugar Land, Fort Bend (ph. DT) and another in a Lubbock yard, Lubbock 22 Feb (LM, PK, ph.). A minor irruption of Cassin’s Finch made its way into central Texas with up to 6 birds at South Llano River S.P., Kimble 28 Jan+ (ph. MSt, m.ob.) and up to 4 birds 10 miles southwest of Rocksprings, Edwards 7 Feb+ (ph. JRo). After a scattering of Cassin’s Finches in fall in El Paso, only 2 single females were reported in winter – 21 Dec (JiP) and 1 Jan (ph. JGr, JKi). Elsewhere, large numbers were present in the Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis through the period with a high count of 65 there 15 Feb (StC, DoD). Smaller numbers were in the Guadalupe Mountains, Culberson peaking at about 30 birds there 28 Jan (AMo, AJJ); 2-3 reached Sanderson, Terrell 24-26 Feb (ph. LHo).
Extremely rare anywhere in Texas, but a third local record for the Pineywoods in 6 years, a Common Redpoll visited a black oil sunflower seed feeder 10-15 Feb (ph. EI) in Lufkin, Angelina; farther north and west, another was studied at Lake Rita Blanca, Hartley 27 Dec (JeB, CWo, ph.).
The Red Crossbill irruption that started in the fall roared into the winter season with too many highlights to mention here. Large numbers were had in all regions except for South Texas and this was certainly the hardiest irruption in many years. Some of the higher tallies across the state included 20 from 8 Jan-2 Mar (audio RSc) at Lake Ratcliff, Davy Crockett N.F., Houston, 25 at Wichita Falls, Wichita 23 Dec (DMc, ph.), up to 35 Red Crossbills almost daily at the Lubbock Cemetery, Lubbock 1-30 Jan (PK, m.ob., ph.), 24 near Fort Hancock 16 Dec (ph. JiP, BZ), 21 in the Marfa Cemetery, Presidio 29 Dec (MLo), and as many as 16 individuals at James Kiehl Park east of Comfort, Kendall 23 Jan – 10 Feb (ph. BPa, m.ob.). The assumption is that the vast majority of the birds were “Type 2” Red Crossbills though some Type 4 individuals were confirmed via audio in both Lubbock and Presidio; some calls from Houston were confirmed as Type 5 birds.
DWf reported the Pineywoods had a modest flight of Pine Siskins, widespread in late Dec and mostly gone by mid-Feb (fide DWf, m.ob.). A Lesser Goldfinch wandered east of its normal range 14-17 Jan (ph. KKS, ph. †JH, †MMc) at the Texas A & M University Research Park, College Station, Brazos; 2 at Lake Meredith, Potter 6 Feb (MCo, BPi) were unusual for the winter season in the Panhandle.
Longspurs through Sparrows
In north-central Texas, a flock of 450+ Lapland Longspurs at Graf/Neely Roads, Clay 11 Feb (SGl, GCo) was the highest number reported in the past 20 years. In Colorado, a count of 50 Lapland Longspurs almost 10 miles northeast of Eagle Lake 3 Feb was a good number for this southerly location (TFr, DrD, JBe). Hanging out with an enormous flock of McCown’s Longspurs near Dell City, a Lapland Longspur 17 Feb (JiP) was just the third for Hudspeth. A single Chestnut-collared Longspurs, casual in north-central Texas, wandered east of normal range near Texas Highway 47/F.M. 2475, Van Zandt 2 Jan (BTo), and a stunning flock of approximately 80 at Graf/Neely Roads, Clay 11 Feb (SGl, GCo) was an exceptionally high number for the region and the largest number reported in many years. Notable for the southerly location was a flock of 20 Chestnut-collared Longspurs seen near Campbellton, Atascosa 13 Jan (SC, MR). A bare dirt field near Dell City, Hudspeth was attractive to McCown’s Longspur with 250 there 9 Dec building to an astonishing regional tally of 890 carefully counted from photos on 17 Feb (ph. JiP) with many males coming into alternate plumage by the latter date.
Rarely reported in winter and likely overlooked during this season, 4 Cassin’s Sparrows were at Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, El Paso 16 Dec (RHe), one was at Fort Hancock Reservoir, Hudspeth 16 Dec (JiP), and 3 were in northwestern Hudspeth 14 Jan (ph. JiP). A good count for winter was 3 Grasshopper Sparrows at the Lockney Water Treatment Ponds, Floyd (DrH, AHe, DeW, LWa); one near Dell City 10 Dec (ph. DLe) was one of few records ever for Hudspeth. Two Field Sparrows seen at Estero Llano Grande S.P., Hidalgo 12 Jan was noteworthy for the southerly location (MBS).
Fox Sparrows rarely reach the coast, especially east to Jefferson, so one found 3-9 Jan at Sabine Woods was notable (JHa, et al.); 2 were at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso 4 Jan (ph. BZ) where rare. Not as abundant in the Panhandle as in past years, notable counts of American Tree Sparrow included up to 40 at Lake Palo Duro, Hansford 9 Dec-17 Jan (DeS, m.ob., ph.) and 35 near Gruver, Hansford 19 Jan (FC, DeS). A great find for central Texas was a rather cooperative Golden-crowned Sparrow north of Cibolo, Guadalupe 11 Dec+ (ph. JoW, m.ob.). Elsewhere, one-2 Golden-crowned Sparrows were at Lake Palo Duro, Hansford 9-28 Dec (DeS, JFi, DSa, CBe, ph.) and another was seen briefly at McBride Canyon on Lake Meredith, Potter 6 Feb (BPi). A Harris’s Sparrow near Dell City 10 Dec (DLe) was just the fourth for Hudspeth.
A LeConte’s Sparrow was unexpected at White River Lake, Crosby 30 Dec (BrB, RK). Most interesting was a well described Henslow’s Sparrow from Welder Wildlife Refuge, San Patricio 15 Dec (DGr); also notable was one at Ash Lake in Baytown, Harris 4 Jan (CTL). Rare east of normal range was a Green-tailed Towhee at the Trinity River Audubon Center 30 Dec+ (CSt, ph., m.ob.).
A group of 12 Yellow-headed Blackbirds seen in Portland, San Patricio 4 Jan was impressive for the date and location (SkC). Further east in Colorado a lone bird was noted near Eagle Lake 3 Feb (JBe, DrD). Yellow-headed Blackbirds are occasional in winter on the U.T.C., but 50 at the Skillern Unit of Anahuac N.W.R., Chambers 21 Jan were truly exceptional (JMr, ph.). Four Hooded Orioles again overwintered in the El Paso, El Paso yard where at least one has done so every winter starting in 2008-09 (ph. BZ).
A male Bullock’s Oriole frequented Houston’s Robert C. Stuart Park, Harris from 9 Jan-18 Feb (JRi, et al.) while another was seen 10-11 Jan in Baytown, Harris (GCa, DHa, ph.). An immature male Bullock’s Oriole visited a San Benito, Cameron yard 8-20 Feb (ph. AlC et al.). A female Bullock’s Oriole in a Lubbock yard, Lubbock 11-12 Jan (KDi, ph.) was a real outlier for the season. Strangely out-of-season, a male Baltimore Oriole was at a Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches feeder 8-22 Feb (ph. HG). Nearer to the coast, an adult male lingered in San Benito, Cameron 8 Dec – 15 Feb (MM) while another was in Beaumont, Jefferson 3 Jan (KBl). Quite surprising was a Scott’s Oriole just east of Lake Bastrop, Bastrop 1 Jan (SHa); another just north of Comfort, Kendall 30 Dec (ph. BPa) might have been overwintering as well. In the same El Paso, El Paso yard as the Hooded Orioles, the male Scott’s Oriole from fall remained through the winter, the second straight year it has overwintered here (ph. BZ).
A male Bronzed Cowbird was perhaps overwintering at Higginbotham Park, Lubbock 19 Jan (ElC). Rusty Blackbirds are seemingly becoming more regular in the Panhandle with 3 north of Gruver, Hansford 6 Dec (BFr, DSa), as many as 12 west of Gruver, Hansford 6-16 Dec (BFr, KI, PI, DSa, DeS), 9 at Lake Marvin, Hemphill 11 Dec (JFi), and 2 at Lake Rita Blanca, Hartley 27 Dec (JeB, CWo). Other outliers to the west included 2 in Midland, Midland 2 Dec – 17 Jan (ph. GP et al.), and 4 at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso 27 Dec (ph. JiP) with at least 2 remaining through 17 Jan (JoS). A Common Grackle seen at Estero Llano Grande S.P., Hidalgo 13-17 Jan (KDv et al.) provided for a rare L.R.G.V. record.
Single Ovenbirds were at Selkirk Island area & near the South Texas Nuclear Project in Matagorda 18 Dec (SuH, JBo, KHa). Rather late or perhaps wintering Louisiana Waterthrushes were one in southeast San Antonio, Bexar 10 Dec (WS), at the Heard Museum, Collin 12 Dec (PC), and another near the Guadalupe River about 10 miles south-southwest of Kendalia, Kendall 4 Jan (ph. KBu). A Louisiana Waterthrush was present at Lion Shelley Park, Refugio 29 Jan – 21 Feb where the species has been a regular winterer in recent years (m.ob.). Not expected in the colder part of winter in east Texas, a single Black-and-white Warbler was foraging at Lakeside Park, The Woodlands, Montgomery 25-31 Dec (RNo, †KBe, †JaB); another was at Martin Dies S.P., Jasper 19 Jan (JWe).
A Tennessee Warbler seen in Port O’Connor, Calhoun yard 2 Dec was probably a late migrant (PH) while one just a few miles southeast of Gillett, Karnes 6 Jan (DMu) may have been wintering. The hike & bike trail on the southeast side of Austin’s Lady Bird Lake were a winter warbler wonderland for local birders. Initially triggered by a Townsend’s Warbler discovered on the Austin C.B.C., the area along this part of the lake hosted a Cape May Warbler 17-30 Dec (ph. AMo, m.ob.), a Chestnut-sided Warbler 17 Dec – 3 Jan (ECa, ph. AMo, m.ob.). as well as that Townsend’s Warbler 16 Dec-5 Jan (JMa, ph. AMo, m.ob.) to the delight of many. A male Cape May Warbler photographed at Kempner Park in Galveston, Galveston 15 Jan was quite a surprise (LVe, DBa, ph.).
Quite late was a Northern Parula in El Paso, El Paso 24 Dec (JiP) and another still at Brazos Bend S.P., Fort Bend 29 Dec (DF). Tying the earliest arrival date in the Central Brazos Valley, a Northern Parula was singing in Lick Creek Park, College Station, Brazos 28 Feb (†SKi, †ChR) where it is known to nest. A Tropical Parula was a bit north to the Womac Ranch, Victoria 14 Dec (TBa, DW, BTa, JAn). A very late Bay-breasted Warbler was found near Arroyo City, Cameron 27 Dec (SKi). A Yellow Warbler found at Clear Lake Park, Harris 16 Dec (DWo) was unexpected as this species is less than annual in winter on the U.T.C.; even later were 2 at Guadalupe Delta W.M.A., Calhoun 6 Jan (PH). A Chestnut-sided Warbler was seen at Sabal Palm Sanctuary, Cameron 10 (SBi, CWr) & 21 Dec (JuC); even more out of place was one in Llano, Llano 23 Dec (ph. CWa).
A male Black-throated Blue Warbler seen at the Pine Forest Country Club in Houston, Harris 28 Jan-2 Feb (TW, ph., SGa). A Palm Warbler was a nice find at Choke Canyon S.P., McMullen 25 Dec (ph. FL, JLa). A Yellow-throated Warbler was at Riverside Park, Victoria, Victoria 23 Dec (DMu) while another bird was at Coleto Creek Reservoir & Park, Goliad 28 Dec (AR). A male Prairie Warbler found in the fall at Pollywog Pond, Nueces was seen again 1-5 Dec (DGr, CCr, KCo). On the U.T.C., Prairie Warblers were at Brazoria N.W.R., Brazoria 17 Dec (RF, ph., BTh) and Friendswood, Galveston 14-15 Jan (JHe, ph.).
Adding to the haul of winter warblers in Austin, a Black-throated Gray Warbler was often difficult to find though persisted at Mayfield Park, Travis 14 Jan – 11 Feb (JD, ph., m.ob.); another observed 3 Dec (†SD, CDi) at a feeder in Bryan, Brazos was the fifth record for the Central Brazos Valley and the first since 1989). Closer to the coast, single Black-throated Gray Warblers were at Selkirk Island, Matagorda 18 Dec (RW, SuH), at Richwood, Brazoria through 17 Dec (SuH, ph., LHa), at Kempner Park in Galveston, Galveston 19 Dec-15 Jan (DHa, ph., CDa, SBu, JFo, et al.), a returning bird at Lakes at Eldridge in Houston, Harris through 30 Dec (KHa, et al.), and at Jim Hogg Park in Houston, Harris (WWr, ph., et al.). A Townsend’s Warbler graced Bentsen-Rio Grande S.P., Hidalgo 10 Dec – 8 Feb (MBC, TH, m.ob.); while another was at Quinta Mazatlan, Hidalgo 20 Dec – 15 Feb (CT et al.).
The Golden-crowned Warbler that had spent the past 2 winters at Lions Park in Refugio, Refugio was present again 14 Jan – 15 Feb (SBr et al.). A Wilson’s Warbler lingered at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth 16 Dec (BZ). A Painted Redstart was discovered at Goliad S.P., Goliad 4 Dec (MM); it was seen to 7 Jan (ph. WS).
Tanagers through Dickcissel
A winter Summer Tanager was near Whitehouse, Smith 22-30 Dec (JHu, et al.). A lingering Scarlet Tanager was noted at the Birding & Nature Center, South Padre Island, Cameron 3 (KT) & 31 Dec (SKi, CGi, ND) and again 6 Jan (JCa). On the U.T.C., a Scarlet Tanager at Houston, Harris 15 Dec (SOr, ph.) was a nice find for the winter. A male Western Tanager seen at a water feature 28 Dec in Tuleta, Bee was joined by a female the next day (LV). On the U.T.C., Western Tanagers were noted near Rose Hill, Harris 8 Jan (MAh), at Bear Creek Park, Harris 14 Jan-2 Feb (SOd, MSc, ph., JHi, et al.) and near Sienna Plantation, Fort Bend 16 Jan-19 Feb (AS, ph.).
A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak in southeast San Antonio, Bexar 2 Dec (WS) was late as was one from the fall in El Paso, El Paso last seen 10 Dec (ph. BZ). More unusual was a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Wagon Wheel Ranch, Randall 23-24 Feb (MLa, ph.), which may have wintered locally. Surprising was a Black-headed Grosbeak at Charro Ranch Park in Dripping Springs, Hays 3 Dec (ph. BTa) as was another south of Bulverde, Bexar 24 Feb (ph. DiP). The only Black-headed Grosbeaks on the U.T.C. may have been the same bird as they were about a mile apart in Sugar Land, Fort Bend 7-16 Jan (HM, ph.) and 19 Jan+ (MSc, ph., et al.).
A Blue Bunting was discovered at Quinta Mazatlan, Hidalgo 30 Dec (ph. JBr) which stayed through the rest of the season to delight birders. Single Blue Grosbeaks on South Padre Island, Cameron 3 Dec (MSa), at Sabine Woods, Jefferson 8 Dec (JHa) and along River Road, Refugio 14 Dec (ECa) were probably late migrants. Rather unseasonal were 1-2 Lazuli Buntings at Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend N.P., Brewster 17-28 Jan (ph. CuM, ph. EG). A great find for the winter was a female Varied Bunting at Davis Mountains S.P., Jeff Davis 16 Feb (StC, DoD). A female Painted Bunting visited a feeder in Rockport, Aransas 25 Dec (JaW). Exceptional was an apparent overwintering Dickcissel well studied at Jackson Nature Park west of Stockdale, Wilson 3 Dec & 21 Jan (DMu). A Dickcissel was reported in the Lower Guadalupe River Delta, Calhoun 14 Dec (JBo). In the L.R.G.V. single birds were in Hidalgo at Estero Llano Grande S.P. 24 Jan (ph. DoS) and near Alamo 26 Jan (ph. JA et al.).
Report processed by Byron Swift, 11 Oct 2020.