Purola
Bird
Records

1975 to summer 1998


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*Note: Purola is located on Deadman's Creek in NW Hays County, c. 2 miles above Deadman's Hole.

Record tables:

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1998 Rufous Hummingbird Update as of August 6

'Our' rufous finally left for spring breeding (I assume) on April 11, having been in contiuous residence since August 2. But it wasn't gone long, since now it has returned on August 5. I am pretty certain from its behavior that this is the same individual that has overwintered at our cabin the past two winters (some 8 months each year). It arrived in mid afternoon with the first 'cool' front (north wind) of the season and immediately set up in the large Garrya ovata (Silktassel) in our yard.

January 1998

Our rufous is still in place (as of Jan. 18). She seems to have developed some sort of curiosity about our activities in the 'yard' area of our cabin, following us about. Otherwise she stays in the large Garrya (Silktassel) bush 25 feet from the porch bottle.

There have been exceptionally few unusual sightings this winter. Most interesting was a porcupine, our first ever, found by our dogs on January 15. Fortunately it didn't run, so our dogs didn't give chase or make contact. It has done a lot of damage to smaller trees, especially young madrones.

December 1997

The mute swan on the tank returned for several weeks, but has taken off again.

November 1997

There was a 24F freeze on November 16, but our rufous was at the frozen bottle early on. I used the warmth of my hands to thaw the solution to where it could be used, but also put out a second bottle in a sunny location - immediately preferred.

The cold front also brought in the first larger flocks of Robins, but few other birds.

On Nov. 8 we had our first ground doves (3), hugging low in a ditch sheltered from a very strong north wind. But they didn't stay around. A grasshopper sparrow came through November 2.

September 1997

The most exciting bird event since spring has been the return of our overwintering rufous on August 2. Now a mature female - we had wrongly assumed we had a young male last fall - she has taken up exactly where she left off, all behavioral patterns identical from the first day back. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is the very same individual, and she plans to stay the winter. We have had very few hummers since our resident black-chinned population took off in July. As of Sept. 7 we had four birds, one ruby-throat male and two others, probably also ruby-throats, all kept from the porch of our cabin by queen rufous.

The evening of Aug. 30 some 100 Mississippi Kites came in low, apparently to overnight in the cedars above our place. They quickly disappeared from sight.

Late Spring & Summer - Yet to be written.

April

April 13 was the last day recorded for our main rufous, having set a record 8-plus months of continuous residence. He was still in place, staunchly defending the porch bottle against a large number of black-chinned. On 4/13 a ruby-throat took command of the pump bottle, but there is a third bottle reserved for the less agressive black-chinned. When we returned on 4/16 the rufous had finally left, either overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of black-chinned or some other innate urge to reach his own breeding grounds. It is worth noting that the rufous that overwintered 1995-96 left on April 12.

The tank is full, sending a torrent over the spillway, and our creek has suffered from a major flood - raising the level from several inches to a dangerous height of some 3 feet during a 5" gullywasher a week ago. An Osprey was seen fishing the lake between April 5 and 12. There is still a pair of Coots; and Barn Swallows were skimming the surface on April 12.

The Ash-throated Flycatcher returned the first week of April, but in very limited numbers compared to past years. Our E. Phoebe has aborted nesting again this year. We have no idea what is going on. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are busy building a nest in an oak branch right over the porch steps.

Summer Tanager returned April 19. A House Wren passing through was singing up a storm on 4/20.

March

Both rufous made it through the winter unscathed, but the pump rufuous completed his 6th month in residence before taking off when the first black-chinned arrived March 19. The porch rufous vigilantly keeps arrivals from HIS bottle, although a rufous female moving through on 3/22 was permitted to share it and to perch in HIS oak tree. And he has frequently displayed his partially developed gorget the past few days.

Other March arrivals: Purple Martin (3/9), Poor Will (3/19), Rough-winged Swallow (3/19), White-eyed Vireo (3/19), Blue-winged Teal (3/22), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (3/22).

Winter 1996-97 Birds

February

February got off to a warm start, reaching 89 F on the first. As earlier cold & warm periods continue to alternate. Our porch rufous has now been with us continuously for over 6 months.

Signs of spring: a wedge of Canada Geese flying north (2/16, again 3/1), Sandhill Cranes (2/22), and the first Red-winged Blackbird at the tank (2/22).

January

January ended with a very hard freeze. A sub-zero chill factor for a full 24 hours preceding a 16 F overnight low combined to freeze both hummingbird bottles solid, the first time I have seen this happen. They had not frozen with an overnight low of 13 F. As I warmed one bottle with the heat of my hand, our rufous came to check it out.

Purola was struck by a devastating ice storm Jan. 7-8. When I arrived the morning of Jan. 9, in bright warm sunlight, even the tall cedars were still compressed by the weight of the ice to roughly 40% of their normal height, narrowing roadways and making trails impassable. Hundreds of oaks had lost major limbs, leaving long tears in their trunks. One huge (32 inch diameter at the base) Spanish oak, which had kepted its leaves, refused to give up any limbs - so the ice tore it from the ground, snapping its roots.

But both our rufous hummingbirds had survived. (The rufous shared with our neighbor hasn't been around as much since the end of December, but it did show up the week following the storm.)

Warm weather the first week of January triggered a false sense of Spring, with a marked increase in bird vocalizations - especially notable were Turkey, Roadrunner, Great Horned Owl, Scrub Jay, Bewicks Wren, Carolina Wren, Cardinal - and even some Robins were heard practicing their spring songs.

New winter arrivals included Spotted Sandpiper (1/31), Com. Snipe (1/26), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1/16), Hermit Thrush (1/10), Pine Siskins (1/4) and a lone coot on the tank (1/3), not intimidated by the Swan (who has returned after another 2-week absence). The tank, which had been reduced in size by some two thirds, is rapidly recovering and will soon be back to full capacity - but this 'new' high water apparently is not attractive to ducks. A few comorants have started to return, so things may be improving. [Neither a siskin nor a coot has been recorded in recent years.]

December

December 1 was marked by an Osprey visit, spotted first at our place, then flying with prey (?large fish) to a dead tree at the tank.

Both our hummers have survived several bitter cold snaps (13 F on Dec. 19 and 22 F on Dec. 25) only one rufous, at the porch feeder, is a constant visitor. The other rufous, which had not been around much mornings, turns out to be a regular at our neighbor's place 2 miles downstream (John Gee). This bird, an immature male with a very distinctive asymmetrical gorget pattern, has been at John's feeder only in the morning. We have been wondering about shared hummers the past three winters, starting with a calliope two years ago. This hummer finally provides some evidence of the range of hummers on their winter territories. Like us, John also has one constant hummer - and our shared rufous may not be dominant enough to merit a fixed territory of its own.

The first Cedar Waxwings were noted only on Dec. 25, also a Yellow-rumped Warbler. Other December arrivals include Slate-colored Junco (Dec. 21) and White-throated Sparrow (Dec. 12).

Fall 1996 Birds

November

Our two rufous hummers remained in place all month despite several strong cold fronts, a freeze of 24 F on Nov. 25. One is at the porch bottle (since Aug. 10), and the other at the pump bottle (since Oct. 20). They were both seen at our Japanese persimmon, loaded with soft ripe fruit through the month, some torn open by a Mockingbird and teeming with fruit flies. I strongly suspect that the hummers are actually dipping into the ultra-sweet nectar, but I have no direct confirmation of this.

The swan continues to come and go. The week that hunting season opened it disappeared. Earlier, in October, it was gone for 3 weeks. Both times we began to suspect foul play, but it keeps coming back, flying up our valley just at treetop level, cranking its powerful wings so that each beat echos throughout the valley.

Mid November finally brought in large numbers of American Goldfinches (11/9) and sparrows - especially Field, Chipping and Song Sparrows. Diving ducks - including Bufflehead, Canvasback and Ring-necked Duck - began arriving 11/17. Other fall firsts were E. Bluebird (11/17), E. Meadowlark (11/2) and one stray Blue Jay (11/14). The House Wrens stayed all month.

October

The morning of October 6 saw a major hawk migration: initially roughly a dozen red-tailed, followed by a long column of mixed hawks lasting c. 15 minutes, mostly Broad-winged Hawks, but also with an occasional accipiter mixed in. There does not appear to be a local red-tailed in our immediate vicinity this fall.

House Wrens were abundant the whole month. A small group of Bushtits were observed on 10/26, last having been recorded in late Spring.

Fall first arrivals include: Pied-billed Grebe (10/3), Double-crested Cormorant (10/13), Pintail (10/17), Wigeon (10/26), Gadwall (10/31), Green-winged Teal (10/31), Sandhill Crane (10/17), Greater Yellowlegs (10/26), Yellow-shafted Flicker (10/10), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (10/31), Robin (10/12), Orange-crowned Warbler (10/26), Rufous-sided Towhee (10/12), Lincoln's Sparrow (10/31), Swamp Sparrow (10/31).

On Oct. 3 Cattle Egrets stopped at the tank; a Yellowthroat was seen. The last summer bird to check out was the Blue-Gray Gnatcather (10/17).

September

The first cold front the weekend of Sept. 28-9 brought a few good birds, but not many. Best find was an Am. Avocet on the tank. It stayed all day Sunday, even flying some loops for us. Also spotted were the fall's first Sharp-shinned Hawk and numerous House Wrens. Our hummers, rufous and ruby-throat (incl. one adult male) stayed in place in spite of temperatures down to 42 F.

The most vocal bird the end of September was Poorwill, several birds calling from early evening throughout the night right up till first light.

Baltimore Orioles came through in numbers on Sept. 21, but didn't linger.

On September 19 a brightly colored Roseate Spoonbill turned up on the tank. Later in the morning the swan was heard vigorously flapping its wings, often an aggressive gesture, and when we checked the tank the spoonbill was gone. We suspect the swan drove it off, but perhaps not.

The Rufuous Hummingbird that first arrived on Aug. 10 is still agressivley defending the porch bottle. Other birds have had to take turns at two bottles a short distance away. The 'pump' bottle was taken by a second rufous Sept. 7-8, but on Sept. 12-14 ownership had passed to an adult male ruby-throat, then an immature ruby-throat by Sept. 19, and back to a mature male by Sept. 28. Otherwise this has been a very quiet fall thus far (thru Sept. 14). The first real fall birds were Blue-winged Teal (8/24, again 9/14). A somewhat early visitor was the House Wren on Sept. 12 (also 9/19). Passing through in recent weeks have been large numbers of Chuck-wills-widows (9/1), an Olive-sided Flycatcher (9/1, 9/19), and a Loggerhead Shrike (8/21). Summer birds that left in mid September were Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, and Summer Tanager. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are still hanging on as the month ended.

June, July, and August 1996 Birds

Special sightings in 1995-96:

Anhinga: 31 May 1995
Roseate Spoonbill: 19 Sept. 1996
Am. Avocet: 29 Sept. 1996
Peregrine Falcon: 26, 30 June 1996
Osprey: 6 April 1995; 21 April & December 1, 1996; April 5-12, 1997
Caracara: 17 Sept. 1995
Am. Woodcock: 2 Feb.- 18 March 1995; Dec. 13-16; Feb. 17, 1996
Anna's Hummingbird: 14 July - Aug. 3, 1996
Calliope Hummingbird: continuous from 9 Oct. 1994 to 8 April 1995
Rufous Hummingbird: 16 August 1995 to 12 April 1996; July 31, 1996 to April 13, 1997
Long-billed Marsh Wren: 25 Sept.-23 Oct. 1994 & 28 Oct. 1995
Townsend's Warbler: 7 April 1996
Golden-cheeked Warbler: 28 June 1995
Hooded Warbler: 20 April 1996
Purple Finch: January 27, 1996
LeConte's Sparrow: 18 Feb. 1995
Oregon Junco: 26 Dec. - 9 Feb. 1995

August

The hummingbird population has changed several several times since late June. In August there were usually only 4-5 hummers around, but each of the three bottles is jealously guarded by a male: (1) immature rufous at the porch, (2) mature ruby-throat at the pump and (3) immature ruby-throat in an oak grove. It seems to be a matter of honor to make sure that no other bird gets a shot at the bottles. The attempts of others to enter the area are so quickly rebuffed that we have no chance to even get a binocular on the intruder.

The first rufous arrived on July 31, a brilliantly colored mature male, with a greenish crown and upper back. When I saw it perched at a bottle alongside an Anna's, which stood a full head taller, I was sure that we had an Allen's. But color and size aren't enough. Our neighbors Carol Edwards and John Gee stopped by Aug. 3 to help check it out; but the tail feathers necessary to confirm an Allen's (sharply pointed vs rounded) did not support our initial wishful thinking (that it was not just another gorgeous rufuous!).

August 10 the small group of black-chinned had been joined by two immature male rufous. One of these was extremely aggressive and soon had driven the others away from our three feeders. At that point I was forced to place two of the three bottles some distance from the porch.

August 10-11 a Northern Waterthrush showed up on our creek, and seemed to be eating great quantities of water critters, at times turning over quite large leaves to find them. On August 17 the same spot was taken by a Little Blue Heron, actively canopy feeding in the shallow water.

July

Our Black-chinned Hummingbirds continued strong through July 12. July 14 marked the arrival of the first post-breeding ruby-throat (im. male), who fiercely dominated the one available bottle. To my surprise the birds he was blocking from the feeder were not our black-chins, but young birds with large stout black bills - Anna's Hummingbirds! I added another bottle, and it was quickly claimed by an adult female Anna's, although from time to time two immature Anna's were permitted to drink. An dark adult male Anna's later made two brief appearances. I added yet a third bottle, and finally a few young black-chins came to feed. [An adult male black-chinned was also around, but was never seen at the feeders. The same thing happened on Aug. 3. Very strange.]

The end of July a pair of Inca Doves moved into our area. Also moving through were Acadian Flycatchers and E. Wood Pewees. Chuck-wills-widow has stopped calling, but this seems to have induced poorwill to compensate for the silence.

June

Some 50 species of birds have been observed at Purola this past June, many of them breeding at Purola or in the immediate vicinity. Our resident swan was gone for several weeks, but then reappeared at the tank, now very low as a result of the drought. Nearly 6 inches of rain between the last week of May and the end of June temporarily improved the general landscape, but did little for the water table.

Most of our local breeders fledged successfully at least one brood of young. Families of 4-5 hummingbirds arrived with great commotion at the feeders. Consumption of sugar water leveled off at 2-3 quarts per week. (We were only able to go out to Purola twice a week, and the bottles were always empty when we arrived.)

Red-shouldered Hawks accompanied by one fledgling came to the tank on June 8. Normally we only get them one at a time. A Red-winged Blackbird was later seen chasing one of them back downstream toward the Pedernales river.

One of Junes best sightings was a beautiful russet Chuck-will's-widow nesting right alongside one of our paths on June 9. It didn't move, but let us take a good look after we had passed a secure distance. We avoided that path until June 26, and to our surprise it was still on the same spot (and again on June 29, when I went back to photograph it -- seen there last on July 21).

One rare special sighting was a Peregrine Falcon seen in a tree some 50 yards off along the tank, June 26. Sirpa saw it's distinctive black head marking (with no eyebar) quite clearly, apart from general shape and blue-gray back. I saw it in flight on June 30 a mile downstream. It was several hundred yards away, but the profile was distinctive - 'pointed' wingtips and long tail. When it spotted me it took off north toward the Pedernales River with the typical rapid wingbeat and in no time it was high and out of view.

The June Birds
Birds in boldface are fairly certain to have nested at Purola or within a stone's throw of our fence.
Birds in purple were not regular visitors in June; the Blue Jay and Shrike were probably post-breeding 'wanderers.'
Great Blue Heron Blue Jay
Green Heron Scrub Jay
Mute Swan Carolina Chickadee
Turkey Vulture Black-crested Titmouse
Black Vulture Bewick's Wren
Red-tailed Hawk Carolina Wren
Red-shouldered Hawk Mockingbird
*** Peregrine Falcon *** Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Bobwhite Loggerhead Shrike
Mourning Dove White-eyed Vireo
Yellow-billed Cuckoo Red-winged Blackbird
Roadrunner Orchard Oriole
Screech Owl Brown-headed Cowbird
Great Horned Owl Common Grackle
Chuck-will's-widow Summer Tanager
Poorwill Cardinal
Common Nighthawk Blue Grossbeak
Chimney Swift Painted Bunting
Black-chinned Hummingbird House Finch
Belted Kingfisher* Lesser Goldfinch
Ladder-backed Woodpecker Lark Sparrow
Great Crested Flycatcher Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Ash-throated Flycatcher Field Sparrow
E. Phoebe  
Barn Swallow  
Cliff Swallow  
Purple Martin  

*Kingfisher resumed 'regular' status in July.

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Special 1994 sightings.

Summer 1995 Purola Birds.


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Updated 27 December 1996 by Bob Harms.
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