Parts of the Trans-Pecos had some frigid temperatures with ice/snow in late December-early January. More snow in early January lasted a couple days for most areas north of San Antonio but for the most part conditions were mild and dry. Until they weren’t. From 11-20 Feb, Winter Storm Uri and overlapping Winter Storm Viola really gut-punched Texas and much of the rest of the US with some incredibly cold temperatures along with a sizable dose of ice and snow. A large portion of Texas endured almost a week of subfreezing temperatures. The average temperature statewide on 15 Feb was said to be 11.8 degrees (Fahrenheit). Amarillo reported temperatures as low as -10 degrees. Longview (-5 degrees) and Tyler (-6 degrees) set record lows. Austin’s Bergstrom International Airport reported subfreezing temperatures for 160 consecutive hours, just hours shy of a full week, with many of those hours in the mid-teens or 20s. Houston and Corpus Christi got as low as 17 degrees. Far south Texas was not spared; Port Mansfield reached 21 degrees on 15 Feb, McAllen was 25 degrees that same day, while Falcon Dam and Rio Grande City recorded 19 degrees on 16 Feb. Parts of the south Texas brush region endured sub-freezing temps for almost two days.
Effects of such prolonged subfreezing weather wreaked immediate as well as longer-term havoc on wildlife and vegetation. Most of the immediate impact on birds was painfully visible to Texas birders, many of whom were stuck at home trying to keep their backyard birds fed. Numbers of weakened and often dead birds were reported state-wide. Harder to track were the many birds and species that seemed to disappear from many areas after the storms passed. With an almost record number of over-wintering hummingbirds this season, their absence in late Feb and early Mar was that much more noticeable. With a large number of invertebrates certainly falling victim to the weather, common insectivores, such as Eastern Phoebes, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Eastern Bluebirds, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, were also conspicuous in their absence. Though most of us hope the birds simply escaped the storm, the truth is that a very high number of the missing birds likely perished. On the coast, massive fish kills were painfully obvious, and it is not surprising that there were a fair number of coastal bird fatalities as well with their food source having been wiped out. Some of the longer-term effects remain to be seen. Far south Texas with its more delicate tropical vegetation may have more lasting effects in areas where the plant life could not endure the extreme cold.
Trying to find some silver lining, there were even more rarities uncovered in the last few days of Feb as more reasonable temperatures returned and presumably some of the misplaced birds were on the search for new locations for food and suitable habitat.
Steve Cardiff (eastern Trans-Pecos, email: [email protected]), Eric Carpenter (Central Texas, email: [email protected]), Bert Frenz (Central Oaks and Prairies, email: [email protected]), Anthony Hewetson (Panhandle and South Plains, email: [email protected]), Jim Paton (El Paso and Hudspeth Counties, email: [email protected]), Ross Rasmussen (North-central Texas, email: [email protected]), David Sarkozi (Photo editor, email: [email protected]), Willie Sekula (South Texas, email: [email protected]), Ron Weeks (Upper Texas Coast, email: [email protected]), David Wolf (East Texas/Pineywoods, email: [email protected])
LRGV (Lower Rio Grande Valley), Uri (short-hand used below for the 11-20 Feb winter storm event that was comprised of Winter Storm Uri and Winter Storm Viola), UTC (Upper Texas Coast).
Waterfowl through Grebes
Up to 15 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were in Hereford, Deaf Smith Co 15–23 Jan (Bob Friedrichs, m.ob., ph.), a reliable location for this species along the northwest edge of its range. Although regular at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves Co, Snow Goose is generally unexpected elsewhere in the eastern Trans-Pecos in winter. So, of interest were: one at Lajitas, Brewster Co 25 Oct–26 Jan (Carolyn Ohl, Dale Ohl, ph. Stephen Falick et al.); four at Amistad Reservoir, Val Verde Co 23 Jan (ph. Willie Sekula, Kim Garwood); a flock of 20 moving east over Fort Davis, Jeff Davis Co 13 Feb (Chris Pipes); one over Tuff Canyon Overlook, Big Bend NP 16 Feb (Carly Frounfelker, John Bryan); and one at B. J. Bishop Wetland, Presidio Co 17 Feb–1 Mar (ph. Ayla Erickson, ph. Jeff Bennett et al.). A rare blue morph Ross’s Goose was at McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth Co 8 Jan+ (Jim Paton); after Uri, the large Snow and Ross’s goose flock at that location, over 1000 most winters, ballooned to an estimated 3500 birds (Jim Paton). Likewise, probably pushed by the snow and subfreezing temperatures, 15 Ross’s Geese showed up in fields southwest of Lake Bryan, Brazos Co 18 Feb (Michael McCloy, Keith Andringa, Bill Eisele) with three remaining to 21 Feb (Sandy Dillard, Meredith Anderson). Similarly, 11 Ross’s Geese and 17 Greater White-fronted Geese in a mixed-goose flock near the community of Asa, McLennan Co 21–24 Feb (John Muldrow, ph. Anand Chaudhary) was unusual for the area. The two Greater White-fronted Geese that arrived at Ascarate Park, El Paso Co 11 Nov (ph. John Kiseda, m.ob.) were joined by a third 5 Jan+; another was at the Fort Bliss ponds, El Paso Co 13 Feb (ph. John Groves, John Kiseda). Unusual both for date and numbers, roughly 540 Greater White-fronted Geese flew over Texas A&M University, Brazos Co 18 Jan (Michael McCloy).
Rare but regular in the El Paso area, a Cackling Goose was at Ascarate Park, El Paso Co 1–15 Jan (ph. Barry Zimmer). Very exciting were five immature Tundra Swans at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves Co 6–7 Dec (ph. Tripp Davenport et al.); there are just a handful of prior well-documented occurrences for the region. Perhaps becoming more regular in early winter in northern locations, 14 Blue-winged Teal at Lake Six, Lubbock Co 19 Dec (Andrew Kasner, Niler Pyeatt) was an impressive count. A Cinnamon Teal at Lake Rita Blanca, Hartley Co from 3–16 Jan (Doug Smith, Sue Smith) was also unusual mid-winter so far north. A male Eurasian Wigeon seen off and on at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves Co 26 Dec–5 Jan (ph. John C. Mittermeier, ph. Erik Atwell et al.) was likely the same bird reported there in Dec 2019; another drake wandered about various Lubbock playas, Lubbock Co 3 Jan–15 Feb (ph. Phillip Kite, Anthony Hewetson, m.ob.). Most sightings of Mexican Duck far away from the Rio Grande corridor are of interest as we are still learning the extent of this species range; one visited Midland, Midland Co 15 Feb (ph. Ismael Perez). A notable 375 Canvasbacks were at Richland Creek WMA, Freestone Co 5 Feb (Jeremy Webster). Single Surf Scoters were nice finds at Irving, Dallas Co 2 Dec–19 Jan (ph. Charles Morris, m.ob.) and on Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, Bell Co 2 Jan (Barry Lyon, Brooke Smith). White-winged Scoters made an impressive showing inland with one on a neighborhood pond in Frisco, Denton Co 13–30 Dec (ph. Winston Caillouet, m.ob.), another on Lake Georgetown, Williamson Co 20 Dec (Chuck Sexton et al.), one at the NRG Cooling Ponds, Chambers Co 27 Dec–2 Jan (ph. David Hanson, Chuck Davis, m.ob.), three on Falcon Lake, Starr Co 1 Jan (ph. Cin-Ty Lee), up to five on Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, Bell Co 2–3 Jan (Barry Lyon, Brooke Smith, Randy Pinkston), and one at Lake Arlington, Tarrant Co 24 Jan (ph. Kenneth Younger).
A Black Scoter was found 12 miles northeast of Naples, Bowie Co 11–20 Dec (ph. David Brotherton) while five lingered at Lake Georgetown, Williamson Co 17–23 Dec (ph. Tim Fennell, m.ob.). As many as 30 Black Scoters in the bay off Alamo Beach, Calhoun Co 4–29 Jan (ph. Petra Hockey, m.ob.) were indicative of their presence along the coast. Inland, single Long-tailed Ducks were at Hornsby Bend, Travis Co 15 Dec–8 Jan (ph. Justin Foucart, m.ob.), at Calliham Unit, Choke Canyon SP, McMullen Co 20 Dec–9 Feb (ph. m.ob.), in Fulshear, Fort Bend Co 31 Dec–13 Feb (ph. Bill Schneider et al.), and on Lake Arlington, Tarrant Co 20 Feb (John Allendorf, ph.). Closer to the coast, three Long-tailed Ducks were along the O’Quinn Estuary Corridor, Galveston Co 7 Dec–13 Jan (Duke Liebler, ph. Sandy Kroeger, ph. Bob Becker, m.ob.), one was at Osprey Overlook at Laguna Atascosa NWR, Cameron Co 9 Dec (Madeleine Sandefur), and two visited Cattail Marsh in Beaumont, Jefferson Co 26–28 Dec (John Haynes, ph. Harlan Stewart, Pam Smolen). Unusual for South Texas especially away from the coast, a Common Goldeneye visited Calliham Unit, Choke Canyon SP, McMullen Co 27 Dec–8 Jan (Kent Taylor et al.), while three were just north of Quemado, Maverick Co 16–17 Jan (ph. Phyllis Laurence). A one-by-one tally of 213 Hooded Mergansers at Lake Bryan, Brazos Co 19 Feb (John Hale) was the highest ever count for the Central Oaks and Prairies region.
As many as 34 Common Mergansers at Ransom Lake and adjacent Buffalo Springs Lake, Lubbock Co 5–15 Feb (Drew Harvey, Brad Shine) was a nice count for the Lubbock area. Up to five Common Mergansers were a couple miles west of Roosevelt, Kimble Co 21–23 Feb (Greta Ramsdell) while one made it as far east as Canyon Lake, Comal Co 2 Feb (ph. Mike Crownover). A count of 28 Least Grebes at San Bernard NWR, Brazoria Co 18 Dec (Susan Heath, Tad Finnell) was an exceptional total for the UTC. A minimum of four Least Grebes in the Trans-Pecos included three individuals continuing from the fall: at Terlingua, Brewster Co, first observed 25 Oct and remained through the winter period (ph. Stephen Falick, m.ob.); at Lajitas, Brewster Co, first observed 13 Nov and remained to 13 Dec (Bill Sain); and one at Candelaria, Presidio Co 2 Jan (ph. Dell Little, D. D. Currie) was presumably the same bird first observed 10 Nov. A new individual was at Daniel’s Ranch Road near Rio Grande Village, Big Bend NP, Brewster Co 23 Jan (ph. Stephen Falick, Robert McClure). Two Horned Grebes on Falcon Lake, Starr Co 15 Dec (ph. Dan Jones) provided for a rare LRGV record. Less than annual in the state, a Red-necked Grebe on Lake Tawakoni, Van Zandt Co 7 Feb (ph. Ryan Shaw, Cameron Johnson) was a great find. Western Grebes ranged eastward with one on Tabbs Bay off Baytown, Harris Co 15 Dec–11 Feb (ph. Cin-Ty Lee, m.ob.), three on Lake Tawakoni, Rains Co 26 Dec (Blaine Carnes, Richard Kinney), and one at Bolivar Flats, Galveston Co 23 Feb (ph. Ian Davies, Cullen Hanks, Ash Ferlito, Seth Strimas-Mackey, Matt Strimas-Mackey).
Pigeons through Cranes
Well out of range was a Band-tailed Pigeon about 8 miles west of Hunt, Kerr Co 30 Dec (ph. Jimma Byrd). The two Common Ground Doves found in fall at Village Creek Drying Beds, Tarrant Co lingered to 25 Jan (m.ob.). The male Ruddy Ground Dove continued at Bentsen Rio Grande Valley SP, Hidalgo Co to 5 Feb (m.ob.) while the two pairs of Ruddy Ground Doves in El Paso, El Paso Co from Nov remained through 9 Dec (ph. Jim Paton) and 16 Dec (ph. Barry Zimmer) respectively. A male Ruddy Ground Dove at Davis Mountains SP 4 Dec–7 Jan (ph. Todd McGrath, ph. Carolyn Ohl, m.ob.) appears to represent the first documented occurrence for Jeff Davis Co. Remarkably, other single males were present at Lajitas, Brewster Co 12–13 Dec (ph. Stephen Falick, Bill Sain) and north of Three Rivers, Live Oak Co 18–22 Dec (Willie Sekula, Joe Fischer). A pioneering northerly White-tipped Dove a few miles west of Kyle, Hays Co 20 Dec (ph. Romey Swanson) was in an area where individuals have been found previously. Groove-billed Anis lingered in Hidalgo and Cameron Cos into Jan with up to five birds at four different locations (m.ob.). A Lesser Nighthawk at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston Co 4 Dec (ph. Dean Silvers) was one of very few winter sightings for the UTC. A Common Nighthawk was seen and heard at George Bush Park, Harris Co on the late date of 27 Dec (Bob Sanger). A road-kill Common Poorwill at Guadalupe Mountains NP, Culberson Co 5 Feb (Stephan Lorenz) added to the relatively few regional winter occurrences. An Eastern Whip-poor-will present in a San Juan yard, Hidalgo Co 4 Jan (ph. Bert Wessling) provided for a rare and unusual winter record for South Texas. A count of 19 White-throated Swifts at Caprock Canyons SP, Briscoe Co 22 Dec (Barrett Pierce, Peggy Trosper) was an encouraging sighting at perhaps the only semi-regular wintering location for this species outside of the Trans-Pecos region.
Rare in winter for central Texas, single Ruby-throated Hummingbirds lingered at four different locations into the last week of Dec or first week of Jan with one in Salado, Bell Co 31 Dec–1 Jan (ph. Daniel Kelch) being the northernmost individual. An immature male Ruby-throated Hummingbird persisted near Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches Co from early Dec–17 Feb (Kathy Greer, m.ob.). Lone Black-chinned Hummingbirds at separate locations in north San Antonio, Bexar Co both lasted until 31 Jan (ph. Andy Garcia, ph. Keith Bartels). A female Black-chinned Hummingbird in El Paso, El Paso Co 7–13 Feb (ph. Barry Zimmer) was a complete surprise as there are no previous local records between the third week of Nov and about the third week of Mar when spring arrivals appear. The exceptional Anna’s Hummingbird irruption noted in our Fall report continued and seemed to grow in numbers into Dec. The four individuals at Quintana Neotropical Bird Sanctuary, Brazoria Co continued into late Jan (m.ob.) while other impressive counts included an amazing five birds seen near Choke Canyon, Live Oak Co 6 Dec (Derek Muschalek, ph. Willie Sekula), up to four at a Tuleta, Bee Co feeder 23 Dec+ (ph. Linda Vegh), another four birds in a Calallen, Nueces Co yard 1–9 Jan (Clay Taylor), four more east of La Feria, Cameron Co 4–28 Dec (ph. Kristy Baker), and as many as five near Mico, Medina Co (ph. Laura Keene) through the period. An Anna’s Hummingbird remained as far north as Dennison, Grayson Co 3 Dec–12 Jan (ph. Aaron Hamilton, Jack Chiles); one in McGregor, McLennan Co through 13 Feb (ph. Juan Anaya) was a county first that likely didn’t survive Uri. Numbers tapered off at most locations in late Jan and early Feb though a few were still detected after Uri including one near Livingston, Polk Co through at least 20 Feb (Jerry Babcock).
An apparent Black-chinned x Anna’s Hummingbird hybrid visited Mico, Medina Co 8–18 Feb (ph. Laura Keene). Two different Costa’s Hummingbirds were in El Paso, El Paso Co: 16–20 Feb (John Barrera, ph. John Groves) and in a different part of town 15 Feb+ (ph. Barry Zimmer). The significant fall movement of Calliope Hummingbirds dissipated but birds remained at several locations. Across the state, individual birds were still being reported at nine locations when Uri hit, but only one remained afterward— a hardy female in an El Paso yard, El Paso Co 24 Jan+ (ph. Barry Zimmer). Once things warmed up, a Calliope Hummingbird appeared in Lake Jackson, Brazoria Co 26 Feb+ (ph. Larry Kirby, Vicki Kirby). A presumed Anna’s x Calliope Hummingbird lingered through the period and survived Uri in north San Antonio, Bexar Co until at least 22 Feb (ph. Keith Bartels). The extraordinary number of Rufous Hummingbirds stayed through the winter; a few individuals survived Uri though many were thought to have left or more likely perished during that extreme weather event (m.ob.). As with Rufous Hummingbirds, Allen’s Hummingbirds numbers continued into mid-winter with a drop off of sightings after Uri. A female Allen’s Hummingbird at a residential feeder in Benbrook, Tarrant Co 31 Jan–14 Feb (ph. Chris Acree) was one of only a couple north-central Texas records ever. Exceptional Broad-tailed Hummingbird numbers continued from the fall season though perhaps only a small handful made it through Uri (m.ob.). One Broad-tailed Hummingbird persisted as far north as Amarillo, Randall Co through 26 Dec (ph. Vicki Wilmarth) while one in Fort Worth, Tarrant Co 13 Dec (ph. Joe Castillo), and another in Tyler, Smith Co 2 Jan–18 Feb (ph. Carol Moore, Janet Cook) provided regionally rare records.
The overwintering male Broad-billed Hummingbird at Baytown, Chambers Co stayed until 17 Feb (ph. David Hanson et al.). Travis Co’s first Broad-billed Hummingbird from the fall in northwest Austin was seen by many through 8 Feb (m.ob.) while the county’s second record in west Austin remained loyal to feeders 8 Dec–14 Feb (ph. Michael Curren, m.ob.). A female Broad-billed Hummingbird was in El Paso, El Paso Co 19–23 Jan (ph. Michael Harvey) while more unexpected was a female in Raisin, Victoria Co yard 10 Jan (Brent Ortego) and a stunning male in northwest Fort Worth, Tarrant Co 22 Jan–7 Feb (ph. Brian Foltz, m.ob.). A Buff-bellied Hummingbird lingered in Tuleta, Bee Co 11–20 Dec (Linda Vegh) while another at a Wimberley feeder, Hays Co 17–18 Jan (Tom Toporowski) was well north of expected haunts. The celebrity of the avian show this season had to be the Spotted Rail that mesmerized birders at 75 Acre Lake, Calliham Unit, Choke Canyon SP, just the third record for Texas and the first one that was chaseable! Initially discovered 19 Dec (ph. Mark Bernier, Dianne Bernier), it continued to delight hundreds of visitors until 23 Jan when it was flushed across the lake by marauding birders with cameras, only to never be seen again. At least one King Rail heard on Fort Hood, Bell Co 17–20 Dec (Charlie Plimpton, Randy Pinkston) was a real prize for central Texas. Up to three Virginia Rails from the fall remained in College Station, Brazos Co until 7 Feb (Tyler Scott); one northwest of Calvert was perhaps a first for Robertson Co 13 Feb (Mark McDermott). Surprising was a lone Whooping Crane just east of Stith, Jones Co 6–17 Dec (ph. Brad Banner et al.). The long staying Whooping Crane pair from the non-migratory Louisiana flock northwest of Winnie, Chambers Co was present 2 Jan+ (ph. Tim Junker et al.) while another pair was found in western Jefferson Co 2–30 Jan (Michael B. Cooper et al.).
Plovers through Frigatebirds
A Black-bellied Plover on the shores of Granger Lake, Williamson Co 5 Jan (ph. Rich Kostecke) was an unusual mid-winter find. An American Golden-Plover with a growth/tumor on its underbelly lingered on Pleasure Island, Jefferson Co 6–11 Dec (ph. Ryan Leimbach, ph. John Whittle, ph. Greg Jackson); another near Point Comfort, Calhoun Co 27 Dec (Bob Friedrichs et al.) was likely a very late migrant. A Mountain Plover north of Balmorhea 20 Dec (ph. Bill Sain, Barbara Pankratz) was an outstanding find during the Balmorhea CBC and seems to be the first regional occurrence since the mid-1990’s and first photo-documented occurrence for Reeves Co. Up to 13 Mountain Plovers roughly 5 miles southeast of Wingate, Runnels Co 13–14 Jan (ph. Tony Leukering, Kathy Mihm Dunning, Drew Harvey) were also a nice find, as was a lone bird in the snow about 5 miles northeast of Brackettville, Kinney Co 18 Feb (ph. Troy Hibbitts, Marla Hibbitts). A Mountain Plover southwest of Lake Bryan, Brazos Co 18–20 Feb (ph. Simon Kiacz et al.) was a first for the county. Rather surprising for mid-winter was a Snowy Plover at O.C. Fisher Lake, Tom Green Co 13 Jan (ph. Jeffrey Roth). A Sanderling at the Fort Hancock sewage ponds, Hudspeth Co 18 Jan (ph. Stephen Falick, Robert McClure) was a complete shock and the first local winter record. Purple Sandpipers were reported from the 17th St. Jetty in Port Bolivar, Galveston Co 11 Dec (Clayton Leopold) and the Surfside Jetty, Brazoria Co 14 Dec (Joe Fischer). Counts of 27 Least Sandpipers at Post City Park, Garza Co 30 Dec (Kathy Mihm Dunning, Tony Leukering) and 29 at White River Lake, Crosby Co 2 Jan (ph. Phillip Kite) were impressive winter numbers for northwest Texas.
Early Pectoral Sandpipers were at the Texas City Dike, Galveston Co 17 Feb (ph. Brian Berry) and at Horseshoe Marsh at Port Bolivar, Galveston Co 19 Feb (Ian Davies). Two American Woodcocks reported from Wesley Seale Dam, San Patricio Co 17 Dec (Skip Cantrell) and another bird northwest of Normanna, Bee Co 13–20 Feb (Robert Benson) were noteworthy for being present in a very bad drought year. An American Woodcock at Cottonwood Campground, Big Bend NP, Brewster Co 28–31 Dec (ph. Michael Harvey, ph. Cameron Rutt, Justin and Nate Mayer) was only about the fourth documented regional occurrence and, amazingly, the second from this location. Seldom detected on the Edwards Plateau, an American Woodcock found dead in Kerrville, Kerr Co 19 Jan (ph. Chris Distel) was one of very few records for the county. An adult American Woodcock with a single chick at the Houston Arboretum, Harris Co 20 Feb (ph. Alejandro Yanes Molina) was the first documentation of UTC breeding in many years. Casual in winter, a Solitary Sandpiper in west El Paso, El Paso Co 1 Jan (ph. Jim Paton) was at a site with previous winter records. A first-cycle Black-legged Kittiwake lingered at Granger Lake, Williamson Co 7–12 Dec (Chuck Sexton, ph., m.ob.). Single Little Gulls were noted at Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir, McLennan Co 6–14 Dec (ph. Matthew York, m.ob.) and at White Rock Lake, Dallas Co 19 Dec–26 Jan (ph. Chris Runk, Ben Sandifer, m.ob.). Puzzling was an apparent influx of Laughing Gulls into inland locations in late Jan with one at Amistad Reservoir, Val Verde 23 Jan (Willie Sekula, Kim Garwood), 19 at Finfeather Lake, Brazos Co 24 Jan (ph. Cameron Johnson, Michael McCloy, Keith Andringa), at least 30 visiting a small lake 5 miles west of Ottine, Gonzales Co 24 Jan (ph. Florence King, Elaine Cowley), and a lone bird in Kerrville, Kerr Co 31 Jan (ph. Ruth King, ph. Ruth Hoyt).
An adult Mew Gull was detected on Lake Arlington, Dallas Co 28–30 Dec (ph. Colby Ayers, Greg Cook) while a first-cycle bird was the highlight of the Abilene CBC at Nelson Lake in Abilene, Taylor Co 3 Jan (ph. Jay Packer). Single California Gulls were scattered across the state with one at Fort Hancock Reservoir, Hudspeth Co 20 Dec (ph. Alec Hopping), another in Baytown, Chambers Co 2 Jan (David Hanson, Todd McGrath, John Berner), one on the northwestern portion of Lake Ray Hubbard Dallas Co 5–10 Feb (ph. Chris Runk, Michael James, m.ob.), and one more on Falcon Lake, Starr Co 1 Jan (ph. Cin-Ty Lee). Perhaps as many as four Iceland (Thayer’s) Gulls were detected intermittently on area lakes between White Rock Lake, Dallas Co and Lake Lewisville, Denton Co 4 Dec–18 Feb (ph. Chris Runk, ph. Colby Ayers, ph. m.ob.). Elsewhere, up to two Iceland (Thayer’s) Gulls were at Ash Lake, Harris/Chambers Co 17 Dec–9 Jan (ph. David Hanson, John Berner, Todd McGrath, Cin-Ty Lee), one was along the John F. Kennedy Causeway, Nueces Co 24 Dec–18 Jan (ph. Andrew Orgill, Rylee Gonzales et al.), another was at the Texas City Dike, Galveston Co 2–12 Jan (ph. Bayard Nicklow et al.), and one more was found at Amistad Reservoir, Val Verde Co 23 Jan (ph. Willie Sekula, Kim Garwood). Inland Lesser Black-backed Gulls have become regular enough that they may not be worthy of mention going forward, at least in the winter season. As many as a dozen individuals were noted in north-central Texas this season (Chris Runk, m.ob.) such that they are no longer a regional highlight there. Elsewhere away from the coast, at least 20 individuals were found at various locations across the state. Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Granger Lake, Williamson Co 8 Dec (ph., m.ob.), four at Southeast Park in Amarillo, Randall Co 14 Dec (K. Dean Edwards, ph. Doug Smith), and two on the lakes in San Angelo, Tom Green Co 25 Jan (Dorothy Tate) were indicative of how regular they are becoming.
A first-cycle Glaucous Gull was in West Carrollton, Dallas Co 15 Jan (ph. Jeff Sexton) while another was at the Port Arthur landfill, Jefferson Co 25 Jan (Phil Chaon). A first-cycle Great Black-backed Gull in Lewisville, Denton Co 14–23 Dec (ph. Christian Walker, Greg Cook, m.ob.) was a first for north-central Texas. A single Red-throated Loon was off the Lake Tawakoni Dam, Rains Co 26 Dec (Ross Rasmussen) during the CBC and then on the lake in Van Zandt Co 8 Feb (Richard Kinney, Jeff Sexton); another at Trading House Creek Reservoir, McLennan Co 6–13 Dec (ph. Matthew York, m.ob.) was a first for the county. A Pacific Loon found at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves Co 5 Dec (ph. Paul Sunby, m.ob.) was joined by a second individual by 17 Dec (ph. Michael Retter, Matt Hale), with both remaining until at least 23 Jan (ph. Cecilia Riley, m.ob.). Late season Band-rumped Storm-Petrels seen offshore in Nueces Co waters included a single bird 12 Dec and three individuals 13 Dec (ph. Jon McIntyre). Up to two Great Shearwaters were seen roughly 20 miles offshore from Port Aransas in Nueces Co waters 13 Dec (ph. Jon McIntyre). Puzzling inland sightings of Magnificent Frigatebirds continued with a female over Kirby Lake, Taylor Co 30 Dec (ph. Sam Sikes et al.); another female picked up at an El Paso mall parking lot, El Paso Co 15 Feb (fide John Kiseda, ph.) was taken to the El Paso Zoo for treatment. A Magnificent Frigatebird remained through the winter at South Padre Island, Cameron Co 28 Dec–25 Jan (ph. Huck Hutchens).
Boobies through Williamson Sapsucker
Brown Boobies were a rather unfortunate and conspicuous victim of Uri with several carcasses found along the coast (Jon McIntyre et al.) in the days following the brutally cold weather. No live birds were reported in Texas again until early Mar, and then only as either one or two individuals. Time will tell how many of the birds escaped the cold and will someday return; it may be some time before we have counts such as the 26 tallied at Mustang Island SP, Nueces Co 21 Jan (ph. Justin LeClaire). Amongst the Brown Booby carcasses that were found on the coast, an apparent Red-footed Booby carcass was also recovered on Padre Island NS, Kleberg Co 18 Feb (ph. Jon McIntyre). A tally of 340 American White Pelicans at Lake Somerville, Lee Co 2 Dec (Michael McCloy) and 350 on the Washington Co side of the lake 16 Jan (Fred Collins) provided the second highest winter count for the central oaks and prairies region. As many as four Brown Pelicans from the fall on the south San Antonio lakes, Bexar Co remained through the season with at least one still being detected at the end of the period (m.ob.). Other inland Brown Pelicans included singles at Trading House Creek Reservoir, McLennan Co 10–26 Dec (Simon Kiacz, Keith Reich, Matthew York) and at Lake Arlington, Irving, Tarrant Co 28 Dec (Ty Allen, Todd Fitzgerald, ph.). Unseasonal was an immature Reddish Egret on Lake Travis, Travis Co 16 Jan–11 Feb (ph. Jeff Osborne, ph. Janet Davis, m.ob.). Also odd for mid-winter was a Roseate Spoonbill below Longhorn Dam, Travis Co 1 Jan (Jeff Osborne, Janet Davis). Rare in winter, an Osprey was at Ascarate Park, El Paso Co 10 Jan (Kathy Mihm Dunning, Tony Leukering). Several folks looking for the Spotted Rail at Calliham Unit, Choke Canyon SP, McMullen Co got a shocking bonus bird with a Hook-billed Kite there 30 Dec (ph., m.ob.); only a couple of documented records exist outside the species’ usual LRGV riparian habitat.
A Golden Eagle reported from Falcon SP, Zapata Co 16 Jan (ph. Jessie Williamson) provided for a rare area record. Rare around El Paso, a Bald Eagle was at Fort Hancock Reservoir, Hudspeth Co 17 Dec–29 Jan (ph. Jim Paton) and another was in northeast El Paso, El Paso Co 1 Jan (ph. Yvonne Zimmer). An adult Common Black Hawk found on private property near Brazoria NWR, Brazoria Co 20 Dec during the Freeport CBC was just the second record for the UTC (ph. Allen Hardee, Michael Hardee et al.); the bird was present at the same location 23 Jan (ph., m.ob.). Harris’s Hawks had a strong presence on the northern and eastern edges of their range with six individuals in north-central Texas, four on the UTC and three in the Lubbock area (m.ob.). The northernmost White-tailed Hawk was one near Granger Lake, Williamson Co 8–9 Jan (ph. Tim Fennell, Rich Kostecke). A sick Swainson’s Hawk picked up near Ascarate Park, El Paso Co 15 Dec (fide John Kiseda, ph.) was a first local winter record; it did not respond to treatment at the El Paso Zoo and later died. An adult Swainson’s Hawk in Texas City, Galveston Co 30 Dec was rare for the winter season (Richard Goldfarb, Barbara Stern). A Zone-tailed Hawk at Del Rio, Val Verde Co 2–8 Dec (Justin Bosler, ph. Stephan Lorenz) was a nice find. Individual Zone-tailed Hawks pushing against the eastern edge of their range include one in Falls City, Karnes Co 1–3 Jan (ph. Willie Sekula, Derek Muschalek), another six miles southeast of Cuero, DeWitt Co 14 Jan (Maggie Carpenter, ph. Eric Carpenter), and one more in Calaveras, Wilson Co 27 Feb (Willie Sekula). Zone-tailed Hawks are slowly becoming a more regular winter bird on the UTC, but the only one detected this winter was one at Kleb Woods, Harris Co 27 Jan (ph. Bayard Nicklow, ph. Fred Collins, Andy Jordan).
An amazing southerly Rough-legged Hawk was discovered near Riviera, Kleberg Co 2 Dec (fide Tom Langschied); it remained in the area until at least 10 Feb (m.ob.). Unprecedented in north-central Texas was an invasion of an estimated 12 Ferruginous Hawks to the central section of the region. A Burrowing Owl near Knippa, Uvalde Co 18 Jan–19 Feb (ph. Kay Pergrem, Tripp Davenport) was a nice find. Another Burrowing Owl at Texas A&M University, Brazos Co 5–27 Feb (Alberto Manterola, ph. m.ob.) was the first in the county since 1999, while one west of Calvert, Robertson Co 22 Feb (Alberto Manterola) was also unexpected. Presumably the same individual at the same location as reported during Fall 2020, a Spotted Owl was in the Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis Co 19 Dec (Cecilia Riley, ph. Michael Gray). As many as five Long-eared Owls returned to their roost site from the previous winter in Ballinger, Runnels Co 26 Jan–20 Feb (Jean Martin, Nick Glover); elsewhere, singles were found in Kyle, Hays Co 30 Dec (ph. Mike Davis) and in the woods around Granger Lake, Williamson Co 8 Feb (ph. Tim Fennell). In far south Texas, a Long-eared Owl lived up to the species’ secretive nature while present at Estero Llano Grande SP, Hidalgo Co 19 Jan–8 Feb (ph. Huck Hutchens). Short-eared Owls showed up in force around Granger Lake, Williamson Co with as many as 22 individuals present during much of the period (ph. Tim Fennell, m.ob.); no birds were detected there after Uri passed. The female Elegant Trogon from the fall continued to delight birders throughout the season at Estero Llano Grande SP, Hidalgo Co (m.ob.).
Good finds were lone Ringed Kingfishers in Fredericksburg, Gillespie Co 2 Dec (John Curcuruto) and along the Llano River 10 miles west of Llano, Llano Co 25 Jan (ph. Jesse Huth). A Green Kingfisher at Candelaria, Presidio Co 10 Jan (ph. Stephen Falick, Robert McClure) established a new westernmost occurrence for the Trans-Pecos; the species is fairly regular along the Rio Grande west to Big Bend NP, but there are only a couple of previous reports from Presidio Co. Outlier Red-headed Woodpeckers included one in Brownwood, Brown Co 22–27 Dec (Erich Fickle, Luella Fickle, ph. Tyler Miloy), and up to three continuing near the community of Sloan, San Saba Co through at least 24 Jan (Jimma Byrd). An Acorn Woodpecker was a surprise at Rooney Park, Fort Stockton 6 Dec–7 Mar (Tony and Phyllis Frank, ph. Willie Sekula, Kim Garwood), the first photo-documented Pecos Co occurrence. Farther east, an Acorn Woodpecker roughly 10 miles southwest of Rocksprings, Edwards Co 12–10 Dec (ph. Joanna Roberts) was likely part of the small population in that area; more unexpected were two along the Guadalupe River just northwest of Gruene, Comal Co 3 Jan+ (ph. Jesse Huth, m.ob.); A Red-bellied Woodpecker at Mae Simmons Park, Lubbock Co 9 Dec–14 Jan (ph. Joe Cochran) was the western-most of a handful of reports of this species pushing the western edge of their range. After a relatively strong Fall 2020 influx, there were relatively few and only scattered reports of Williamson’s Sapsuckers continuing past early Dec. Still, a stunning male Williamson’s Sapsucker well out of range at Palo Duro Canyon SP, Randall Co from 3 Feb–2 Mar (ph. Doug Smith, Sue Smith, m.ob.) was a real prize.
Red-naped Sapsucker through Empidonax flycatchers
In South Texas, a Red-naped Sapsucker was present at San Juan Wetlands, Hidalgo Co 3 Dec+ (m.ob.) while the bird reported from Falfurrias Cemetery, Brooks Co in Nov lingered to 23 Jan (Mary Gustafson). Easterly Red-naped Sapsuckers were found at Taylor Lake Village Community Park, Harris Co 23 Dec–9 Feb (ph. Dale Wolck, m.ob.) and in Cypress, Harris Co 25 Dec (ph. Troy Hibbitts). Not one but two apparent Red-naped x Red-breasted sapsuckers were located in Brewster Co with one at Daniel’s Ranch Road, Rio Grande Village, Big Bend NP 14 Jan and the other at Lajitas 11 Feb (both ph. Stephen Falick). The mini-invasion of the Rocky Mountain subspecies group of Downy Woodpecker from the fall continued with a handful of birds present into Jan in Dallam and Hartley Cos (m.ob.); impressive were three birds in close proximity at Lake Rita Blanca, Hartley Co 12 Dec (ph. Justin Bosler). Westerly ranging Downy Woodpeckers from the Eastern subspecies group included one at Stanford Park, Yoakum Co 25 Dec (Jayna Adams, ph. T. Jay Adams) and another at Lajitas 26 Jan (ph. Stephen Falick) that was possibly the first well-documented occurrence for Brewster Co. One or more Hairy Woodpeckers in Dalhart, Hartley/Dallam Co 1 Dec–16 Jan (Nick Glover, ph. m.ob.) were thought to be from the Rocky Mountain population rather than birds wandering from the east. Rose-throated Becards had a banner winter with the male from the fall at the Falfurrias Cemetery, Brooks Co continuing to 30 Jan (m.ob.) and the female from the fall at Salineño, Starr Co being reported until 13 Feb (m.ob.). New birds found during the winter included a female at Sabal Palm Sanctuary, Cameron Co 15–31 Jan (Ken Retrum et al.), a male sporadically at Salineño, Starr Co 24 Jan–13 Feb (Tiffany Kersten, ph. Wayne Stahnke), a male at Quinta Mazatlan, Hidalgo Co 26 Jan–9 Mar (John Yochum, ph. Quentin Thigpen), and one more male at Resaca de la Palma SP, Cameron Co 26–27 Feb (Brad McKinney et al.).
At least 10 and likely more Dusky-capped Flycatchers were present this winter in South Texas with the most notable bird being one away from the Rio Grande Valley corridor at Lake Findley in Alice, Jim Wells Co 6 Dec (audio Blaine Carnes). Individual Ash-throated Flycatchers still northward in early winter included one on Fort Hood, Coryell Co 17 Dec (ph. Scott Summers) and another near Twin Buttes Reservoir, Tom Green Co 20 Dec (Linda White). An Ash-throated Flycatcher wintered northeast of Chappell Hill, Washington Co 1 Dec–7 Feb (Darrell Vollert) as did another in west El Paso, El Paso Co yard 30 Dec–25 Feb (Jim Paton, ph. Ad Koning, m.ob.). A Great Kiskadee in Robert Lee, Coke Co 5 Dec (Jane Tillman) was a northward outlier. Couch’s Kingbirds pushing their northern limit included one continuing at Finfeather Lake in Brazos Co 1 Dec–9 Feb (Brandy Falise, m.ob.), another on the east side of Lake Livingston, Polk Co 23 Dec (ph. Scott Lenfest), and up to three at Baylor University, McLennan Co 2–25 Jan (Chris Holmes). Lingering Western Kingbirds on the UTC included one at Thompson Road, Jefferson Co 6 Dec–24 Jan (John Whittle, Sheila Hebert), another at Levington Park, Orange Co 26 Dec (ph. Marilyn Guidry), and one at Bayside Regional Park, Galveston Co 13 Jan (ph. Kris Cannon, Jackie Farrell, Jane Murtishaw-Lindsey, Jodi Henricks). A Western Kingbird at Mitchell Lake, Bexar Co 30 Jan–6 Feb (ph. Ardell Winters et al.) was an unexpected mid-winter find so far from the coast. A Fork-tailed Flycatcher was found along Skyline Drive in Texas City, Galveston Co 29 Dec (ph. Nina Garcia); it was seen by many until 19 Jan.
Lingering Least Flycatchers away from the coast included one at Hornsby Bend, Travis Co 19 Dec–2 Jan (ph. Justin Bosler et al.) and another near the Medina River in south San Antonio, Bexar Co 20 Dec (Dawn Smith et al.). A Hammond’s Flycatcher present all period in a west El Paso yard, El Paso Co (ph. Jim Paton) was the first individual Empidonax proven to be present throughout a winter season in El Paso Co. In south Texas, a Hammond’s Flycatcher wintered at Resaca de la Palma SP, Cameron Co 19 Dec+ (ph. Mark Esparza, m.ob.). Adding to the growing number of wintering Hammond’s Flycatchers detected in central Texas, one was in far south San Antonio, Bexar Co 17–30 Jan (ph. Martin Reid, Sheridan Coffey, m.ob.) and another was along Pulliam Creek about 6 miles northwest of Camp Wood, Edwards Co 16 Jan (ph. Troy Hibbitts, Marla Hibbitts). At least 15 Gray Flycatchers located in Brewster Co 2 Dec–17 Feb (m.ob.) seemed an exceptional number; a lone bird at Memorial Park, El Paso Co 26 Jan (ph. John Groves) was a local winter first. About seven Dusky Flycatchers during the period in the eastern Trans-Pecos also seemed well above average (m.ob.); perhaps most notable was one relatively far north at Musquiz Creek, Jeff Davis Co 27 Dec (ph. Chris Pipes). Interestingly, none of these wintering birds were reported after mid-Jan. The UTC’s first Dusky Flycatcher was photographed and recorded at San Bernard NWR, Brazoria Co 24 Dec (ph. Nick Komar Jr., audio Ron Weeks); it was seen until 9 Jan along with another Empidonax making individual sighting determinations difficult.
The unprecedented fall invasion of Pacific-slope Flycatchers into Texas only continued to grow during the winter season. At least one of the two Pacific-slope Flycatchers from the fall at Southside Lions Park in San Antonio, Bexar Co continued to 9 Jan (m.ob.) while one of the two in Falls City, Karnes Co was last detected 1 Jan (Willie Sekula). The Pacific-slope Flycatcher at Quinta Mazatlan SP, Hidalgo Co since Nov continued until 13 Feb (m.ob.). Several new birds were uncovered this season, starting with one at Santa Ana NWR, Hidalgo Co 3 Dec–17 Jan (Stephan Lorenz, audio Patrick VanThull, m.ob.), another at Daniel’s Ranch, Rio Grande Village, Big Bend NP, Brewster Co 8 Dec (audio, ph., Eric Carpenter, Maggie Carpenter), one in west Houston, Harris Co 8–21 Dec (ph. Diana Strassman, ph. Cin-Ty Lee et al., John Berner, Drew Dickert, Chris Hammond, Nicholas DeMaio, m.ob.), and one northeast of Sargent, Matagorda Co 18 Dec (ph. Ron Weeks, Bob Friedrichs et al.). Another was found at Brazos Bend SP, Fort Bend Co 19 Dec–4 Jan (ph. Ryan Shaw, ph., audio Mark Scheuerman, ph. Janey Woodley, Bob Romero, ph. Sergey Buben), and what was possibly the same bird in a different part of the park 9 Jan (ph., fide eBird). One was also seen and heard at Bentsen-Rio Grande SP, Hidalgo Co 19 Dec (Petra Hockey). In Brazoria Co, an impressive three Pacific-slopes were documented at the Eagle Nest Lake unit of Brazoria NWR. The first two birds were discovered there during the Brazoria-Columbia Bottomlands CBC 2 Jan (ph. Robyn Savage, John Faragher) but their specific identity was not confirmed until 5 Feb (ph., audio Ron Weeks, Susan Heath). The third bird at that location was not confirmed until 13 Feb (ph. Ron Weeks et al.). On the same 2 Jan count, another Pacific-slope was seen and heard just north of West Columbia, Brazoria Co (Charlie Brower, Olivia Brower et al.) and another “Western” was photographed at Harris Reservoir, Brazoria Co (ph. Ron Weeks). In all, an amazing six birds on the UTC were identified as Pacific-slope (pending TBRC acceptance) with two other “Westerns” photographed for the season. Silent and thus not identified to species, “Western” flycatchers were at Davis Mountains SP, Jeff Davis Co 6 Dec (ph. Pat Oneil, Ellen Oneil) and in Carrollton, Dallas Co 9 Jan (ph. Nick DiGenaro).
Phoebes through Dippers
A Black Phoebe seen intermittently at different locations in Lubbock, Lubbock Co 12 Dec–14 Feb (ph. Jim Crites, m.ob.) and another in Plainview, Hale Co 8 Jan (Andrew Kasner, Niler Pyeatt) were pushing the northeast edge of where the species can be found during the winter. Say’s Phoebes pushed eastward into the Austin area and the UTC in higher numbers than usual it seemed; one west of Calvert, Robertson Co 3 Feb (Alberto Manterola) and another at Allen Farm, Brazos Co 6 Dec–9 Jan (Bert Foquet, John Hale) were in less expected locations. Surprising were Vermilion Flycatchers found at as many as seven locations in El Paso (m.ob.), including three at one location in west El Paso, El Paso Co, likely a reflection of very dry conditions away from urban areas. A Northern Shrike at White River Lake, Crosby Co 2 Jan (ph. Brandon Best, ph. Rich Kostecke) and another near Enochs, Bailey Co 22 Jan (ph. Jesse Huth) were nice finds south of where the species can be usually found in recent years. Extremely rare for the winter season, a Bell’s Vireo was at Galveston Island SP, Galveston Co 1 Dec (Kyle O’Haver, Dennis Cooke) while another at Rio Grande Village, Big Bend NP, Brewster Co 21 Dec (ph. Alec Hopping) was perhaps the first winter record for the Trans-Pecos (excluding late Feb sightings that are almost certainly early spring arrivals). Gray Vireo is currently considered rare in winter in Texas but may gradually be proven to be locally regular in very low densities in southern Brewster and Presidio Cos. This season there were three reports: one at Dugout Wells 29 Dec and two at Chimneys Trail 30 Dec, both at Big Bend NP, Brewster Co (both, ph. Cameron Rutt), and one at Arroyo Mexicano, Big Bend Ranch SP, Presidio Co 17 Jan (Amy Packer, Jay Packer).
On the edge of what is now their core range on the Edwards Plateau, single Hutton’s Vireos were a bit unexpected 10 miles west of Roosevelt, Sutton Co 7 Dec (Jane Tillman), on Fort Hood, Coryell Co 17 Dec (Nick Glover), and on the northeast side of Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, Bell Co 19 Dec (ph. Charlie Plimpton). A Hutton’s Vireo in west El Paso, El Paso Co 31 Jan (John Groves, John Kiseda) was the only report in that area. A Cassin’s Vireo was present at Choke Canyon SP, McMullen Co 14 Jan (ph. Michael B. Cooper et al.). A Blue-headed Vireo was quite far west at Alpine, Brewster Co 5 Dec (ph. Greg Cook, Steve Glover). Birders looking for the stake-out Crimson-collared Grosbeak in Portland, San Patricio Co were treated to a Philadelphia Vireo 2–3 Jan (ph. Willie Sekula, Derek Muschalek, Skip Cantrell), an incredible rarity for the winter in its own right. As amazing as any of the other out-of-season vireo sightings mentioned here, a Warbling Vireo at Cottonwood Campground, Big Bend NP, Brewster Co 5 Jan (ph. Carolyn Ohl, ph. Dale Ohl) was the first winter record for the Trans-Pecos. A Green Jay detected at Del Rio, Val Verde Co 2–9 Dec (Justin Bosler, Wyatt Egelhoff, Stephen Falick) was at the species’ far western limit along the Rio Grande. A Blue Jay flirted with the New Mexico state line in extreme northwest El Paso Co 19 Jan (ph. John Groves, Patricia Russell); there are only about ten county records. Given the small numbers of Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays that irrupted into Dallam and Hartley Cos, one at Muleshoe NWR, Bailey Co 20–30 Dec (ph. Jim Crites, Justin Bosler) was thought to be part of this push from the west rather than a bird that wandered off the Edwards Plateau.
We continue to watch Common Raven reports in northwest Texas with an increase of birds in the northwest Panhandle that appear to be coming from Colorado/New Mexico populations while a separate group of birds seem to be increasing from southeast of the Lubbock area, possibly from birds originating closer to the Edwards Plateau. As reports increase, it seems likely that Common Ravens are starting to fill in the gap between those two corners but it is a bit difficult to get a clear picture given the identification issues with Chihuahuan Ravens in those same locations. Well-documented Common Ravens in the El Paso area are rare to casual, so two Common Ravens near McNary, Hudspeth Co 17 Dec (ph. Barry Zimmer) and two in northeast El Paso, El Paso Co 23 Dec (Barry Zimmer) were noteworthy. A Common Raven 10 miles northwest of Pearsall, Frio Co 1 Jan (Martin Reid, Sheridan Coffey) was significant because the location was well away from the species’ usual Balcones Escarpment haunts. Up to five Bank Swallows spent most of the winter at Santa Ana NWR, Hidalgo Co (Zak Pohlen, ph. m.ob.). A Tree Swallow at Buffalo Springs Lake, Lubbock Co 11–12 Feb (ph. Brad Shine) was quite early for so far north and inland; it was not seen during or after Uri passed unfortunately. A Violet-green Swallow at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso Co 24 Dec–9 Jan (ph. Randy Hesford) provided a first local wintering record. Late was a Barn Swallow at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso Co 24 Dec (ph. Randy Hesford). A presumed spring migrant Cliff Swallow at Lajitas, Brewster Co 16 Feb (ph. Stephen Falick), was record-early for the Trans-Pecos and one of very few Feb occurrences.
A Carolina Chickadee at Plainview, Hale Co 1 Feb (Andrew Kasner, Niler Pyeatt) was an exceptional outlier, well west of range. The small Mountain Chickadee irruption into Dallam and Hartley Cos from the fall continued with previously reported birds remaining in place through much of the winter; the last one detected was one still present south of Texline, Dallam as late as 6 Feb (Deb Wallace, Lee Wallace). A Verdin at Muleshoe NWR, Bailey Co 20 Dec (Anthony Hewetson) was about as far north as they can be expected. A count of 26 Bushtits at Dickens Springs, Dickens Co 16 Jan (Mark Lockwood) was an impressive number for the region. A handful of White-breasted Nuthatches remained through the period in El Paso Co, where rare; more unusual were two Hudspeth Co records: Dell City 5 Dec (Kim Garwood, ph. Willie Sekula) and near Fort Hancock 17 Dec (ph. Jim Paton). A Winter Wren was at McNary Reservoir 17 Dec (Barry Zimmer), the only reliable Hudspeth Co location for this species. A Cactus Wren at Potato Spring, Dallam Co 31 Dec–21 Jan (ph. Josh Lefever, Gary Yoder) was about as far north as the species gets. Seven years after the last confirmed regional occurrence, an American Dipper was discovered at McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains NP, Culberson Co 7–9 Feb (ph. Michael Harvey, Stephan Lorenz).
Bluebirds through Goldfinches
Western Bluebirds continued from the fall irruption, with numbers continuing to increase though with no significant push farther east. Impressive counts included the existing flock west of Andice, Williamson Co increasing to perhaps 25 individuals (m.ob.), up to 17 on the northwest portion of Belton Lake 4–9 Dec (ph. Gil Eckrich), and over a dozen southwest of Benbrook Lake, Tarrant Co 24 Dec+ (Ed Wetzel, ph. m.ob.). Outliers beyond the eastern edge of the main irruption from Austin to Fort Worth included up to four continuing from the fall at Bryan City Cemetery, Brazos Co until 3 Dec (Eric Lewis), and one just north of Shiner, Lavaca Co 24 Feb (ph. Rich Kaskan); two birds along the Rio Grande northwest of Laredo, Webb Co 18 Jan (ph. Dennis Palafox) were much farther south than other reports. Western Bluebird was in excellent numbers in El Paso Co all period, as evidenced by the new high count of 96 on the 1 Jan El Paso CBC. Mountain Bluebird numbers from the fall also exploded in Dec–Jan with many locations reporting several dozen birds and birds continuing to push even farther east. Single birds made it to three different locations around Bryan/College Station, Brazos Co 28 Nov–31 Dec (ph. m.ob.), one was at Lake Somerville, Washington Co 28 Jan (Steve Wilborn), and another was northeast of Chappell Hill, Washington Co 16 Jan–7 Feb (Darrell Vollert, ph. Brian Berry). On the UTC, two Mountain Bluebirds were at John Paul Landing Park southwest of Cypress, Harris Co 1–4 Dec with one staying until 27 Dec (Howard Smith, Jim Hinson, ph., m.ob.) while two more made it to the coast in Texas City, Galveston Co 16 Jan (Chris Bailey, Angela Bailey). Some of the more impressive counts included 260 near Briggs, Burnet Co 2 Feb (ph. Rich Kostecke), 120 birds in a field northeast of Crystal City, Zavala Co 21 Jan (ph. Tripp Davenport), and an estimate of 140 near Knippa, Uvalde Co 13 Feb (ph. Tripp Davenport).
Townsend’s Solitaires were found in a few easterly locations but did not irrupt as hoped for; one made it to far west Travis Co 20–26 Dec (ph. Jeff Osborne, Janet Davis) and another was near Walter E. Long Lake, Travis Co 17 Jan (Owen Moorhead). A late Swainson’s Thrush was found at Santa Ana NWR, Hidalgo Co 20 Dec (ph. David J. Ringer). A Wood Thrush discovered at Marathon, Brewster Co 19 Nov continued through Dec and somehow survived snow and frigid temps at the end of Dec-beginning of Jan but was not observed after 4 Jan (ph. Donna L. Dittmann, ph. Stephen Falick et al.). Notable outside of the species’ regular LRGV haunts were single Clay-colored Thrushes on the south side of Choke Canyon, Live Oak Co 18–20 Dec (ph. Cinda Crosley), the same bird or another at nearby Calliham Unit, Choke Canyon SP, McMullen Co 29 Dec (John Groves et al.), another near McFaddin, Victoria Co 17 Dec (Daniel Walker et al.), and one more at Aransas NWR, Aransas Co 25 Dec (ph. Jason Loghry, Ben Horstmann). Continuing from late fall, up to three Clay-colored Thrushes remained at Del Rio, Val Verde Co until at least 22 Jan (ph. Bryan Calk, ph. Willie Sekula, m.ob.). A cooperative Rufous-backed Robin delighted many in a small city park in northeast El Paso, El Paso Co 31 Dec–19 Jan (ph. Barry Zimmer, m.ob.). In the Trans-Pecos, at least four Brown Thrashers included birds first reported during the fall at Davis Mountains SP, Jeff Davis Co (first observed 25 Oct; m.ob.) and at Gage Gardens, Marathon, Brewster Co (first observed 20 Nov, m.ob.) that remained through the winter period; another one or two were at Rio Grande Village, Big Bend NP, Brewster Co 9–21 Dec (Tom Goodwin et al.). Sage Thrashers that irrupted in the fall continued to be seen through mid-winter, though they didn’t push farther east nor did their numbers grow. Along the eastern edge of this irruption, far fewer birds were noted after Uri passed.
Easterly ranging Phainopeplas included one about six miles east of Tuscola, Taylor Co 18–19 Feb (Amy Packer, Jay Packer, ph. Brad Banner), and another 10 miles northwest of Uvalde, Uvalde Co 21 Feb (ph. Tripp Davenport). A substantial Evening Grosbeak irruption that was hoped for after a few fall reports never materialized; the only birds found were one at White River Lake, Crosby Co 2 Jan (Phillip Kite, ph.), another in Plainview, Hale Co 16–18 Feb (ph. Melba Olsen, ph. Niler Pyeatt), and up to 18 at various spots in Palo Duro Canyon SP, Randall Co from 26 Feb+ (ph. Raymond Burr, Micah Schulze, m.ob.). Purple Finch numbers continued to increase from the fall and the western edge of the irruption became a line from Fort Worth to the west of Austin, and to near Boerne on the Edwards Plateau. They were widespread at feeders throughout the Pineywoods all winter (m.ob.), a few feeding stations hosting up to 40 at one time with equally impressive numbers to the west such as 40+ at Kurten, Brazos Co 17–25 Feb (Shirley Wilkerson) and up to 60 at College Station, Brazos Co 21–27 Feb (Bill Eisele). Outliers to both the south and west of the main irruption included one at Tivoli, Refugio Co 17 Dec (ph. Ron Huebner), another at South Shore, Choke Canyon SP, Live Oak Co 23 Dec (Blaine Carnes), one at Buffalo Springs Lake, Lubbock Co 30 Jan (Brad Shine, ph.), and three in Kerrville, Kerr Co 16 Feb (ph. Dale Bargmann). Cassin’s Finches were in the northwest Panhandle with one in Texline, Dallam Co 31 Dec (Greg Cook, Steve Glover), another at the Dalhart Cemetery, Dallam 4 Jan (Wyatt Egelhoff), and an impressive 1–6 making it to Amarillo, Potter Co 13–18 Jan (K. Dean Edwards, ph. Doug Smith, m.ob.). They also pushed into the west-central part of the state, with up to three about 15 miles southwest of Rocksprings, Edwards Co through the period with one still remaining 28 Feb (Joanna Roberts), one continuing near Buffalo Gap, Taylor Co through 4 Dec (Jayton Carroll), five at Kickapoo Caverns SP, Kinney Co 31 Jan (ph. Cin-Ty Lee), and one near Mico, Medina Co 21–23 Feb (ph. Laura Keene). A few Cassin’s Finches persisted in Brewster Co into early winter, with up to four continuing at Alpine 30 Nov–7 Jan (m.ob.), one at Marathon 2 Dec (Wyatt Egelhoff), and, much farther south and more unusual, at least one in the Rio Grande Village area, Big Bend NP 23–29 Dec (Patsy Inglet, Tom Inglet, audio Justin Bosler).
Red Crossbills were largely missing from the widespread irruptive events of the fall and winter. There were only a few widely scattered reports with up to four continuing (from 30 Nov) at Alpine, Brewster Co until at least 7 Jan (Bill Sain, ph. Stephen Falick, m.ob.), one in Texline, Dallam Co 31 Dec (ph. Greg Cook, ph. Steve Glover), a flyover group of four vocalizing at Southside Lions Park in San Antonio, Bexar Co 26 Jan (Steve Glover), and up to seven in Sam Houston NF north of Lake Conroe, Montgomery Co 31 Jan+ (Tim Freiday, Iliana Mock). Audio from the Montgomery Co birds were confirmed to be both Type-2 and Type-4 birds (audio Drew Dickert, audio Kendra Kocab). The widescale state-wide irruption of Pine Siskins documented in the fall only continued with birds seemingly increasing as the winter went on. Unfortunately, Pine Siskins were one of the more obvious victims of Uri with many a backyard bird feeder having their feeders depleted by these swarming birds during the worst of the freeze. As Uri ended and perhaps as a result of the stress and congested feeding areas, an apparent outbreak of Salmonella swept through the population, with countless birds found weakened, dying and/or deceased in Texas and elsewhere. On the UTC, extralimital Lesser Goldfinches included singles in Pasadena, Harris Co 4 Jan (ph. Cathy Hay), in West Columbia, Brazoria Co 21 Feb–6 Mar (Charlie Brower, Olivia Brower et al.), and in Atascocita, Harris Co 24 Feb (ph. Li Li).
Longspurs through Yellow-headed Blackbird
Two Lapland Longspurs near Huntington, Angelina Co during Uri 18–19 Feb (James Childress, ph. Ashley Wahlberg) was the first Pineywoods report in 10 years; one also appeared at Cross Creek Wetlands, Fort Bend Co 18 Feb (ph. Albert Ribes, ph. Jason Bonilla, ph. John Berner, ph. Suzanne Mottin, ph. Gary Yoder), likely also a result of the storm. Three Chestnut-collared Longspurs near Axtell 12 Dec (Steve Glover, Greg Cook) was the first report since 2013 for McLennan Co; one flushed at Lake Bryan 13 Nov (Michael McCloy) was the first since 2011 for Brazos Co. Two Chestnut-collared Longspurs seen at Calliham Unit, Choke Canyon SP 20 Dec (Tripp Davenport) provided a rare McMullen Co record. A Thick-billed Longspur was detected calling overhead at Calliham Unit, Choke Canyon SP, McMullen Co 24 Dec (audio Cin-Ty Lee). Unusual for winter was a Grasshopper Sparrow at Clapp Park, Lubbock Co 9 Feb (ph. Joe Cochran). Lark Buntings continued steady into mid-winter at their numerous locales from the fall, including 45 still present south of San Marcos, Hays Co 23 Jan (Doug Booher, Amy Bishop). Some of the more easterly birds included seven near Ledbetter, Lee Co 28 Dec (Ken Hartman), 1–2 sporadically through the period west of College Station, Brazos Co (ph. m.ob.), six southeast of Monaville, Waller Co 1 Jan (ph. Drew Dickert, Harvey Laas, John Berner, Fermin Torrez), and one on the Warren Ranch, Harris Co 20 Feb (John Berner, Steve Gast, Timothy White). Small numbers of Clay-colored Sparrows persisted into mid-winter farther east and north than is typical. Individual birds were detected as far north as west of Andice, Williamson Co 13 Dec (ph. Shelia Hargis), 10 miles west of Llano, Llano Co 24 Jan (Jesse Huth), west of College Station, Brazos Co 11 Dec–28 Jan (John Hale), and near Roans Prairie, Grimes Co 26 Dec (Fred Collins). The species is a casual winter visitor at best to the Pineywoods so one at Alazan Bayou WMA, Nacogdoches Co 20–28 Dec (David Wolf, ph. Anne Tindell) was quite unexpected. On the UTC, there were a handful of reports including three at San Bernard NWR, Brazoria Co 1 Jan (Wendy McCrady) and up to four southeast of Monaville, Waller Co 3 Dec–1 Jan (ph. Harvey Laas, Bill Wright, Drew Dickert).
The Brewer’s Sparrow irruption tapered off a bit from the fall though a few new birds were detected into Dec. Notable birds include one west of College Station, Brazos Co 6 Dec–3 Jan (ph. Bill Eisele, m.ob.), another at John Paul Landing Park, Harris Co 12 Dec–31 Jan (ph. Brandon Nidiffer, Drew Dickert), and one more southeast of Monaville, Waller Co 17 Dec (Harvey Laas, John Berner, Drew Dickert). Fox Sparrow was the bird of the winter storms in the central Pineywoods and their invasion was truly remarkable. They were reported from at least 20 feeding stations in Nacogdoches Co alone, as well as from Angelina, Jasper, San Augustine and Shelby Cos. The highest count was up to 88 at once near Huntington, Angelina Co 17 Feb (ph. James Childress), but 28 were counted in one yard in Nacogdoches town 16 Feb (Cliff Shackelford) and 15–27 were in Jasper, Jasper Co 15–18 Feb (Phillip Hight). Large numbers of Fox Sparrows were pushed all the way to the coast with 15 estimated at Sabine Woods, Jefferson Co 18 Feb (John Haynes); numbers remained for two more days but none were found 21 Feb once reasonable weather returned. A Fox Sparrow at Suter Wildlife Refuge, Nueces Co 6–14 Dec and 15 Jan (ph. Ana Novak, m.ob.) and another bird at Goose Island SP, Aransas Co 15–27 Feb (ph. Ben Horstmann et al.) provided for rare Coastal Bend records. Three American Tree Sparrows near Buffalo Springs, Lubbock Co 19 Dec (ph. Drew Harvey) and one in the woodlands north of White River Lake, Crosby Co 2 Jan (Brandon Best, Rich Kostecke) were farther south than where the species is expected in recent years.
Despite the fact that it breeds in the Guadalupe Mountains, Dark-eyed (Red-backed) Junco (J. h. dorsalis) tends to be very scarce elsewhere in the Trans-Pecos region. A few continued in El Paso, El Paso Co through at least 26 Dec (Barry Zimmer), and up to four were in the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend NP through 10 Dec (ph. Tripp Davenport, ph. Eric Carpenter, Maggie Carpenter). At least another six individuals were documented in the Davis Mountains, Jeff Davis Co 27 Nov–3 Jan (ph. Beth McBroom, ph. Charmaine Ganson, ph. T. Jay Adams, ph. Donna L. Dittmann). An immature Golden-crowned Sparrow was an excellent find at Balmorhea Lake, Reeves Co 15 Jan (ph. Dell Little, D. D. Currie); there are about eight previously accepted regional occurrences. A Sagebrush Sparrow at Muleshoe NWR, Bailey Co 22 Jan (ph. Jesse Huth) was far from its normal range, perhaps pushed there by drought conditions. Of interest, though not in Texas, up to four Sagebrush Sparrows were present in New Mexico less than 2 kilometers from the Texas border just south of Texline 19 Dec–8 Feb (ph. Josh Lefever et al.). At least two Baird’s Sparrows near Marathon, Brewster Co 19–27 Jan (ph. Johnny Stutzman, Emily Card) added to the few previous winter occurrences away from Presidio and Jeff Davis Cos. Green-tailed Towhees reached the UTC with one at Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson, Brazoria Co 20 Dec (ph. Cindy Goodrum, Michael Goodrum, Tom Morris), one on the Katy Prairie, Waller Co 20 Dec–22 Feb (ph., m.ob.), two west of Brazos Bend SP, Fort Bend Co 19 Dec (ph. Henry Jerng, ph. Albert Ribes et al.), and one at Damon, Brazoria Co 23 Jan–23 Feb (ph. Susan Heath et al.). Also unusual was one present west of College Station, Brazos Co 9 Jan–6 Feb (ph. Shirley Wilkerson, Dan Wilkerson, m.ob.).
Spotted Towhees wandered in decent numbers to the UTC with as many as nine birds present including 1–2 at Boy Scout Woods, High Island, Galveston Co 17 Dec–22 Feb (ph. Kris Cannon, m.ob.) and another at Sabine Woods, Jefferson Co 12 Dec–22 Feb (ph. Steve Mayes, m.ob.). A female Eastern Towhee present at Calliham Unit, Choke Canyon SP 11 Dec–7 Jan (ph. Yvette Haughney) provided for a rare McMullen Co record. Establishing a first winter record for north-central Texas was a Yellow-breasted Chat found trapped in wire mesh (and then released) in downtown Dallas, Dallas Co 16 Jan (ph. Cameron Johnson). Surprising was the number of Yellow-headed Blackbirds that lingered into and through the winter almost state-wide. Small numbers of birds were found at several dozen locations across the state and in just about all regions except for the deep Pineywoods, though a male did reach just west of Crockett, Houston Co 1 Jan (Bruce Neville, Laura Sare). The most northerly bird was a male at Lake Rita Blanca, Hartley Co 18 Jan (ph. Wyatt Egelhoff). The El Paso area is just about the only region where Yellow-headed Blackbirds regularly winter in numbers but an estimated 15,000 near McNary Reservoir, Hudspeth Co 17 Dec (Barry Zimmer) was still impressive.
Orioles through Tanagers
A female Orchard Oriole was rather unseasonal near Thrall, Williamson Co 28 Jan (ph. Tim Fennell), as was a male in Lake Jackson, Brazoria Co 8 Feb (ph. Denis James). On the UTC, out of place and season was a female Hooded Oriole at Seabrook, Harris Co 2 Jan+ (Hilary Gibbs, ph. John Berner, ph. James Rieman, m.ob.) and a young male at San Leon, Galveston Co 11 Jan (ph. Stennie Meadours). Totally unexpected was the discovery of a male Streak-backed Oriole in the early stages of Uri in Arlington, Tarrant Co 14 Feb (ph. Patricia Smith, Paula Channell, Greg Cook); the bird lingered at feeders there until 27 Feb (ph. Ed Wetzel, ph. Eric Carpenter). Audubon’s Orioles continue to push up into the Edwards Plateau; of the many sightings this season, the northernmost included one near Mountain Home, Kerr Co 18–30 Dec (Paul Sellin, Pamela Goolsby) and another north of Blanco, Blanco Co 23 Dec–3 Mar (ph. Jay West). Lingering Baltimore Orioles well inland included one at Hornsby Bend, Travis Co 9 Dec–16 Jan (Tyler Miloy, ph., m.ob.), another near Kilgore, Rusk Co 17 Dec (ph. Barbara Cavin), one in Arlington, Tarrant Co 15 Jan (ph. Debbie Simek), another in Vernon, Wilbarger Co 1 Feb (ph. Terry Short), and one more in Benbrook, Tarrant Co 15 Feb (ph. Greg Cook). Single northerly Scott’s Orioles were notable north of Boerne, Kendall 4 Jan (Richard Park), 6 miles southeast of Bertram, Burnet Co 22 Jan (ph. Chris Landherr), northeast of Jonestown, Travis Co through 3 Jan (ph. Douglas Williams), and at feeders near Anderson, Grimes Co 27 Feb+ (Pix Hitchcock, ph. Pam Johnson) that was a first for the county.
Bronzed Cowbirds are staying longer into winter and perhaps edging towards permanent resident status in northwest Texas with one in a Lubbock yard, Lubbock Co 1–10 Dec (ph. Danny Hancock), another near Plainview, Hale Co 12 Jan (ph. Bob Friedrichs), and 1–3 in a Lubbock yard, Lubbock Co 1–25 Feb (ph. Kathy Teague). The most westerly Rusty Blackbirds included 1–2 in Lubbock, Lubbock Co 4 Dec–13 Jan (Sheri Anderson, ph., m.ob.), one at Rockport, Aransas Co 4 Dec (ph. David Browning), two at Mitchell Lake, Bexar Co 9 Jan (ph. Marion Tyler), seven at Abilene SP, Taylor Co 24 Jan (Jay Packer), and two more in north San Antonio, Bexar Co 16 Feb (Christine Turnbull). Unexpected were up to six Common Grackles at Balmorhea, Reeves Co 20–24 Dec (ph. Chris Pipes, ph. Steven W. Cardiff, Donna L. Dittmann). A Northern Waterthrush was a surprising late inland find at Village Creek Drying Beds, Arlington, Tarrant Co 4–17 Dec (ph. Colby Ayers, m.ob.). Rather late was a Tennessee Warbler at Santa Ana NWR, Hidalgo Co 24 Dec (ph. Simon Kiacz, Tiffany Kersten). A MacGillivray’s Warbler overwintered at Quintana, Brazoria Co 20 Dec–31 Jan (Brad Lirette, Melissa Crookshank, m.ob.). A male Hooded Warbler seen in Sugar Land, Fort Bend Co 4–6 Feb was rare for the season (ph. Robert Opperman). A female American Redstart along Onion Creek just south of McKinney Falls SP, Travis Co 19 Dec (ph. Lance Felber) was a nice find as was a male near the Medina River in far southwest San Antonio, Bexar Co 30 Dec (ph. Christian Fernandez). A Cape May Warbler found in late Nov in a Harlingen, Cameron Co yard stayed until at least 15 Feb (ph. Donna McCown).
A Tropical Parula was in Victoria, Victoria Co 16 Dec (ph. Bob Friedrichs), another was at Lake Findley, Jim Wells Co 21–22 Dec (ph. Philip Chaon), and one was seen sporadically in Dickinson, Galveston Co 3–6 Jan (Jane Murtishaw-Lindsey, ph. Jodi Henricks, Jackie Farrell). Lingering Magnolia Warblers were at Brazos River County Park, Brazoria Co 15 Dec (Joe Fischer) and Brazoria NWR, Brazoria Co 5–8 Jan (Joe Fischer, ph. Steve Metchis). A male Black-throated Blue Warbler in Missouri City, Fort Bend Co 24 Jan (ph. John Donaho) was one of few winter records for the UTC. Northerly Palm Warblers included one in San Angelo, Tom Green Co 20 Dec (ph. Troy Hibbitts, Marla Hibbitts), another near Benbrook Lake, Tarrant Co 6–8 Feb (ph. Todd Fitzgerald, Suzanne Odom), and one south of Lake Tawakoni, Van Zandt Co 9 Feb (Justin Bosler). A Yellow-throated Warbler at Pine Grove Campground, Lake Lewisville Park, Denton Co 18–20 Dec (Greg Cook, Winston Caillouet) was a rare find being so far north in late Dec. The extraordinary fall numbers of Black-throated Gray Warblers continued into early winter but then seemed to taper off a bit; the northern-most bird was one in Austin, Travis Co 16 Dec (ph. Justin Bosler). Like many species, it seemed like most of the remaining birds that were still present when Uri hit retreated or perished, though a few seemed to be hanging on after the storm passed. A Townsend’s Warbler on the south side of Canyon Lake, Comal Co 16 Jan (ph. Ed Hickl) was the only one reported in central Texas during the winter after a small handful were detected in the fall. A nice male Townsend’s Warbler visited Bentsen SP, Hidalgo Co 3–8 Dec (ph. Peggy Rudman, m.ob.).
The Hermit Warbler from fall stayed at the McAllen Nature Center, Hidalgo Co until at least 3 Feb (m.ob.). Another bird visited Quinta Mazatlan, Hidalgo Co 29 Jan–9 Feb (Jim Zervos, Tracy Zervos et al.). The Rufous-capped Warbler found at Del Rio, Val Verde Co 27 Nov was last reported 4 Jan (ph. Todd McGrath, Erik Atwell, m.ob.). A Golden-crowned Warbler reported initially in Nov was refound and delighted birders at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Cameron Co 9 Jan+ (ph., m.ob.). Another Golden-crowned Warbler made a brief stop at Resaca de la Palma SP, Cameron Co 25 Feb–1 Mar (ph. Mark Esparza, m.ob.). A Wilson’s Warbler was unusually far north in Flower Mound, Denton Co 9 Dec (Katherine Cavazos). A Painted Redstart in Houston 1 Dec–21 Feb (ph. Barbara Stern, Ed Robinson, John Berner, m.ob.) was a first for Harris Co while another was discovered in a McAllen, Hidalgo Co yard 5–12 Feb (Ernest Herrera et al.). Wintering Summer Tanagers included a female-type at Daniel’s Ranch Road, Rio Grande Village, Big Bend NP, Brewster Co 8–29 Dec (ph. Eric Carpenter, Maggie Carpenter, ph. James Smallwood, Sarah Preston, ph. Justin Bosler) and an adult male at Del Rio, Val Verde Co 22 Jan (Timothy Burkhardt). A Scarlet Tanager was quite surprising at South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, Cameron Co 24 Jan (ph. David Bailey, Mitchell Bailey). Western Tanagers had a strong showing along the coast with at least a dozen birds on the UTC and similar number in Cameron and Hidalgo Cos. Notable inland records included one in Del Rio, Val Verde Co 30 Nov–4 Jan (ph. Troy Hibbitts, ph. Erik Atwell et al.), one north of Centerpoint, Kerr Co 8–14 Jan (ph. Sherry Collins, Tom Collins), another at Aquarena Springs, Hays Co 18–22 Jan (ph. Anna Jones, Chris Gardner), one near Chappell Hill, Washington Co 22 Jan+ (ph. Darrell Vollert), one northeast of Concan, Uvalde Co 5 Feb (Mickey Redus), and one more in northwest San Marcos, Hays Co 14 Feb (ph. Amanda Moore).
Crimson-collared Grosbeak through Seedeaters
A stunning 15 Crimson-collared Grosbeaks visited or wintered at 13 different South Texas locations. The majority were in Hidalgo and Cameron Cos as usually happens, but there were notable outliers with a male at Salineño, Starr Co 6 Dec (ph. Joshua Covill), a female in Corpus Christi, Nueces 25 Dec (ph. Ruben Ayala), a female in Portland, San Patricio Co 27 Dec–2 Jan (Dell Little et al.), and another female in Corpus Christi, Nueces Co 4–27 Jan (ph. Janet Lee, Larry Lee, m.ob.). A Northern Cardinal was at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso Co 19 Feb (John Sproul); this has become a regular breeding location but winter reports are rare in the El Paso area. Pyrrhuloxias irrupted slightly above average for that species with small numbers reaching as far east as Williamson, Bastrop, and Calhoun Cos; one at the Artist Boat Coastal Heritage Preserve on Galveston Island, Galveston Co 9 Dec–21 Feb (ph. Greg Hall, Clayton Leopold, Duke Liebler, m.ob.) was an outlier. An apparent Northern Cardinal x Pyrrhuloxia hybrid at Del Rio, Val Verde Co 25 Dec (ph. Martin Reid, Sheridan Coffey) was possibly the region’s first well-documented example of this cross. A Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Kountze, Hardin Co 3–6 Jan (Nancy Angell) provided one of the very few winter records for the Pineywoods while another near Chappell Hill, Washington Co 24 Dec (Fred Collins) was also unseasonal.
Black-headed Grosbeaks may have had their strongest winter showing ever, with birds found in at least 50 locations state-wide during the season; they were mostly along the length of the coast but also extended inland in small numbers to Brazos, Travis, and Bexar Cos. A few locations held two individuals with one location in Mission, Hidalgo Co attracting four birds (ph. Nancy Leonard) through much of the winter. Notable northward birds included singles west of Lake Waco, McLennan Co 29 Nov–18 Feb (ph. Linda Taylor), near Wylie, Collin Co 16 Jan (Alicia White, Mike Cameron, ph.), southeast of Jasper, Jasper Co 20 Jan–18 Feb (ph. Fred Lyons), at Kennedale, Tarrant Co 16 Feb (ph. Don Troxell), and south of Tyler, Smith Co 20 Feb (ph. fide eBird). It was a banner winter for Blue Bunting starting with a male at Estero Llano Grande SP, Hidalgo Co 2 Dec (ph. Dennis Rabon). Bentsen-Rio Grande SP, Hidalgo Co hosted multiple birds with a female first found 3 Dec (ph. Eric Carpenter, Maggie Carpenter, ph. Justin Bosler, m.ob.), a young male 19 Dec (Petra Hockey), and a male there 5 Feb (Tiffany Kersten). The initial female hung around until at least 6 Dec followed by sightings of what seemed like multiple different females 21 Dec–8 Feb (ph. m.ob.). A female was caught in a mist net at the Longoria Unit, Las Palomas WMA, Cameron Co 6 Dec (ph. Mark Conway) while a male was present at Quinta Mazatlan SP, Hidalgo Co 9 Dec–9 Jan (ph. Peggy Rudman, m.ob.) where it was briefly joined by a female 6–7 Jan (Ryan Rodriguez, ph. Jon McIntyre). Additional stunning males included one at Resaca de la Palma SP, Cameron Co 22 Feb+ (ph., m.ob.) and another at Frontera Audubon in Weslaco, Hidalgo Co 27 Feb (ph. Cynthiia McKee). More surprising were single males discovered 20 miles south-southwest of Victoria, Victoria Co 21 Jan (ph. Bob Friedrichs) and at Concepcion Park just south of downtown San Antonio, Bexar Co 24 Feb+ (ph. Martin Reid, Sheridan Coffey, m.ob.); these are two of the northernmost records ever for Texas and the United States.
Rather unseasonal was a female Lazuli Bunting on the shores of Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Travis Co 11–12 Dec (ph. Nick Komar Jr.), a male at Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend NP, Brewster Co 8 Jan (ph. Stephen Falick), and another male in Brownsville, Cameron Co 9 Jan (ph. Ron Weeks). Out of season, an adult male Painted Bunting was at College Station, Brazos Co 30 Jan (ph. Vaishali Katju), while another male spent much of the winter west of Loyal Valley, Llano Co until 12 Feb (ph. Hal Livings); a female in Comfort, Kendall Co 19 Feb (Barbara Pankratz) was also unexpected. Single Dickcissels still present in early winter included one west of Lake Waco, McLennan Co 26 Dec (ph. Fay Ratta), one near Barker Reservoir, Harris Co 27 Dec (ph. Bob Sanger), another at the San Jacinto Battleground, Harris Co 30 Dec (Garett Hodne), and one in Hidalgo, Hidalgo Co 4 Jan (Mary Gustafson). There was also a late winter pulse of Dickcissels with one near Bailey’s Prairie, Brazoria Co 11 Feb (Cindy Goodrum), one in Edinburg, Hidalgo Co 12 Feb (Tim Brush), another at a Brackettville feeder, Kinney Co 13–14 Feb (ph. Troy Hibbitts, Marla Hibbitts), and one was in a Harlingen yard, Cameron Co 16 Feb (Mark Conway). Six Morelet’s Seedeaters 10 miles southwest of Brackettville, Kinney Co 20 Dec (ph. Bryan Calk, Kathy Bader) was a nice find away from the immediate Rio Grande corridor.