Seasonal Sightings for Central Prairie

Compiled by Bert Frenz,
North American Birds, Subregional Editor, East Texas and
Texas Ornithological Society, Director, Region VI, Central Prairie, Texas.


Summer Season:  June 1 - July 31, 2000


The 31 Texas counties included in this report are:  Austin, Bastrop, Bell, Brazos, Brown, Burleson, Caldwell, Cherokee, Coleman, Comanche, Coryell, DeWitt, Falls, Fayette, Freestone, Gonzales, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hamilton, Karnes, Lampasas, Lavaca, Lee, Leon, Limestone, Madison, McLennan, Milam, Mills, Robertson,   Washington, Williamson, and Wilson.  

Reduced from over 346 reports of 105 species from 1 June to 31 July 2000.

Weather report:

Since Darrell Vollert provided the majority of this summer's sightings, it seems only fair to let him give the weather report also. In late June he optimistically reported, "For the second consecutive June we are having above average rainfall. In between rain events the temperatures are getting up to 92 to 93 degrees. The fields and trees are beautiful shades of green. The summer birds here are loving it." But by the end of July, his story was completely different, "The month of July has been brutally hot. We have not had rain for five weeks now. Today [July 24] we broke a string of 12 consecutive days of 100 degrees or better. I thought we might get some rain yesterday as the wind kicked up out of the southeast and it became overcast. It did cool us off into the low 80s, but no rain came. There have been three days in which the temperature has reached 104 degrees." And finally on July 31, Darrell notes, "This afternoon we actually got some rain. The temperature has cooled off to the low 70s. Feels like heaven outside now."

Bird Sightings

LOONS TO STORKS

Least Grebe: (1 pair) 14 June to 8 July (Dorothy Bednarski, Claire Byrne, Monica Byrne), Sam Houston Road, Independence, Washington County [first county record and a first breeding record for Central Brazos Valley. The pair arrived at a stock pond on her property near Independence on June 14. They built two nests and laid an egg in one on or about June 20, but abandoned the nest around July 5 and only one grebe was seen from the 6th to 8th and none thereafter. No evidence of the egg was found and Mrs. Bednarski suspects a snake got the egg. The only other Least Grebe records for the RBA area are a sight record on 9 Sep 1998 at Alcoa Lake (Milam) after Tropical Storm Frances and another 11-19 Mar 1999 in Lee County. Outside of this area, Least Grebes have been known to breed in the southern parts of the Central Texas Prairie in Gonzales County and DeWitt County. There are also old, unsubstantiated records for McLennan County to the northwest, but the species is not included on the county checklist. Sight records for Bastrop County, directly west of Washington County, include a 27 Dec 1998 sighting.]

Pied-billed Grebe: (2 adult, 2 juv) 29 June (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake, near Chappell Hill, Washington County [rare summer breeder].

American White Pelican: (30) mid-June (Cathy Liles), Welch Park, Lake Somerville, Burleson County [rare in summer in region; few reports for this lake]; (100+) 16 July (Tim Fennell), Alcoa Lake, Milam County [have been known at this location since the early 80s according to Brush Freeman]; (10-15) throughout summer (Tim Fennell), Granger Lake, Williamson County [status at Granger Lake uncertain].

Anhinga: (1-35) throughout summer (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake, near Chappell Hill, Washington County; (1) Polk's Lake, near Chappell Hill, Washington County [rare in summer].

Least Bittern: (1 adult) 11 July (Keith Arnold), Country Club Lake, Bryan, Brazos County [rare in summer; only the third area record for July, the others occurring in 1993 and 1997].

Little Blue Heron: (3) 8-10 June; (20) 29 June; (4 flying nearby) 20 July; (50+) 28 July (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake, near Chappell Hill, Washington County [rare to uncommon in summer].

Tricolored Heron: (2) 26 May; (1) 16 June; (1) 29 June; (7) 28 July (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake, near Chappell Hill, Washington County [rare in summer].

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron: (2 immature) 16 June; (1 immature) 29 June (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake, near Chappell Hill, Washington County [uncommon breeder].

White Ibis: (1) 15 June (fide Cyn Rollandia), Hwy 183 at northern city limits of Lockart, Caldwell County; (15) 16 June (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake, near Chappell Hill, Washington County; (30, mostly immatures) 19 July (Gary Fritcher), Burleson County; (4 adults, 3 immature) 28 July (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake, Washington County [rare in summer, although numbers seemed to be increasing].

Glossy Ibis: (1 adult) 11 June (Brush Freeman), north of Gonzales, Gonzales County [very rare in region; status in Gonzales County not known].

Roseate Spoonbill: (1-2) off and on from 20 June to 1 July (Joe Yelderman, Frank Bumgardner), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [vagrant].

Wood Stork: (1) 2 June (Charles Bryant), Guadalupe River near Hochheim, DeWitt County; (7+20) 10 June (Dede & Jim Crusinberry), US290 near Giddings, Lee County; (19) 11 June (Toby Hibbitts), Yegua Creek near Lake Somerville, Lee County; (77 in 5 flocks) 11 June (Brush Freeman), Gonzales County; (106) 14 June (Derek Muschalek), 11 miles northwest of Yorktown, DeWitt County; (2) 16 June (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake, Washington County [early return; typical arrival date is mid June. The early return noted in the Central Prairie is consistent with sightings this year from 31 May onward in Harris, Fort Bend, Bee and other Texas counties].

WATERFOWL THROUGH RAPTORS

Black-bellied Whistling Duck: (nesting) May/June (Barbara Allen), "Cheapside" near Dewitt-Gonzales line, Gonazles County; (nesting, including 85-90 with a large number of young on 29 July) May/June/July (Frank Bumgardner) WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County; (3) 15 June (Cathy Liles), Dowling Road, College Station, Brazos County; (5) 27 June (Barbara Lorenz), near Tabor, Brazos County; (2) 28 June and (6) 28 July (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake, near Chappell Hill, Washington County; (7) 31 July (Darrell Vollert), US290 at FM1155, Washington County [Small flocks of these ducks have been nesting in the Central Prairie for decades and WMARSS is a well-known location. They have nested in southeastern Brazos County from the early 70s until 1989, and resumed again in 1997. Since then we've had summering birds at Hughes Lake near Chappell Hill, Washington Co., and in the Brushy Creek / TAMU Animal Science Research Facility / Wellborn area of Brazos Co. This is the first report for northern Brazos County].

American Wigeon: (1) 9-10 June (Joe Yelderman), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [uncommon in summer in this county; rare elsewhere in the region].

Blue-winged Teal: (several) 1 June to 24 July (Joe Yelderman, Frank Bumgardner), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [uncommon in summer].

Northern Shoveler: (1 female) throughout summer (Joe Yelderman, Frank Bumgardner), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [rare in summer].

Green-winged Teal: (1 male) 28 May to 24 July (Joe Yelderman), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [rare; very few summer records].

Redhead: (1 male) throughout summer (Joe Yelderman, Frank Bumgardner), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [rare in summer].

Ring-necked Duck: (pair) throughout summer (Joe Yelderman, Frank Bumgardner), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [rare; very few summer records].

Lesser Scaup: (1) 1-12 June (Joe Yelderman), (1) through 29 July (Frank Bumgardner), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [rare in summer].

Ruddy Duck: (pair) 1 June to 1 July (Joe Yelderman), (1-2) through 29 July (Frank Bumgardner), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County; (1) 2 July (Colin Bludau), water treatment facility, Karnes City, Karnes County [rare].

White-tailed Kite: (1) 17 July (Claire Byrne), Independence, Washington County; (1) 17 July (Darrell Vollert), Chadwick-Hogan Road and Nicholson Lake Road, Chappell Hill, Washington County [rare].

Mississippi Kite: (2 confirmed nests, 2-3 suspected nests) all summer (Darrell Vollert), Washington County. [rare nesters in Central Brazos Valley; two nests fledged one kite each; adult kites were found at two additional locations and another area where they nested last year was not been checked]; (1) 27 May to 2 June (Fred Collins, David Phalen), Hensel Park area, College Station, Brazos County; (1+) 27-30 July (Joan Dziezyc), Wellborn area near Brazos River, Brazos County [rare in summer].

Bald Eagle: (1 adult) 11 June (fide Brush Freeman), Woods Lake, Gonzalez County [rare, especially in summer].

Swainson's Hawk: (1 adult) 3 July (David Phalen), Fort Hood, Bell County [occasional in county; fide David Phalen, "I spoke to the ornithologists at the Fort and they said they have several breeding pairs."]; (1 adult light morph) 14 July (Tim Fennell), FM 1331 east of Circleville, Williamson County; (1 light-morph) 25 July (Tim Fennell), CR117, Round Rock, Williamson County [rare in July].

Peregrine Falcon: (1) 11 July (Joe Yelderman), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [few summer records].

QUAILS THROUGH SHOREBIRDS

Purple Gallinule: (1) 11 June (Brush Freeman), Woods Lake, Gonzales County; (1, appeared to have an injured left wing) 26-29 June, 1 July, 3-4 July, 9-10 July (Joe Yelderman, Frank Bumgardner), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [rare; photographed].

Common Moorhen: (3 adults, 1-2 chicks) all summer (Keith Arnold), Country Club Lake, Bryan, Brazos County [weekly census revealed dramatic drop in population at this site, with perhaps only one surviving chick, owning to demise of aquatic vegetation]; (1) 29 June (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake near Chappell Hill, Washington County [species is expected in Central Brazos Valley, but seems to be very specific to a few sites].

American Coot: (1) 1 June and 1 August (Darrell Vollert), Chappell Hill subdivision, Washington County; (1) all summer (Darrell Vollert), Polk's Lake near Chappell Hill, Washington County; (4-5) all summer (Keith Arnold), Country Club Lake, Bryan, Brazos County; (1) 26 July (Darrell Vollert), Texas 36, south of Brenham, Washington County; (5-6) 28 July (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake near Chappell Hill, Washington County [rare in summer and apparently non-breeding].

Black-necked Stilt: (6-16) all summer (Joe Yelderman, Frank Bumgardner), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [rare breeder; Joe Yelderman, "From 6 to 16 Black-necked Stilts were seen all summer. Several pairs nested. Only two eggs hatched and none fledged. The 2 young were seen between July 4 and July 14."].

American Avocet: (1) 19-20 June (Joe Yelderman), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [very late lingerer arrived after a storm].

Upland Sandpiper: (1) 29 June (E. G. White-Swift), Spring Valley Road, Hewitt, McLennan County [early migrant].

Long-billed Curlew: (1) 10 July (Darrell Vollert), FR2447, near Chappell Hill, Washington County [rare and first July record for 10-county area; first county record for Washington].

Pectoral Sandpiper: (1) 29 June (fide E. G. White-Swift), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [early migrant].

Stilt Sandpiper: (1) 19-20 June; (1+) 28 June to 31 July (Joe Yelderman), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [out of season migrant].

GULLS THROUGH TERNS

Laughing Gull: (1) 16 July (Tim Fennell), Granger Lake, Williamson County [rare].

Ring-billed Gull: (1) 16 July (Tim Fennell), Granger Lake, Williamson County [rare in summer].

Forster's Tern: (3) 16 July (Tim Fennell), Granger Lake, Williamson County [rare in summer].

DOVES THROUGH NIGHTJARS

Eurasian Collared-Dove: (20+) 11 June (Brush Freeman), Apache Stadium on Hwy 90 just east of 183, Gonzales, Gonzales County [expanding territory?]; (several) 20 June (fide E. G. White-Swift), McGregor, McLennan County [fide E.G., "While these doves are not currently on the county checklist, this is about the sixth report of these doves in the county over the last three years and the second consecutive summer they have been reported from the grain co-op in McGregor."].

White-winged Dove: (1) 4 July (Keith Arnold), Bryan, Brazos County [first July record for 10-county area; July is the only month of the year for which there was no record. However, in Waco there have been July reports at least since 1991].

Yellow-billed Cuckoo: (49) 11 June (Brush Freeman), Gonzales County [unusually large number].

SWIFTS THROUGH WOODPECKERS

Buff-bellied Hummingbird: (2) 11 June (Brush Freeman), 1 in Gonzales, 1 on CR192, Gonzales County [status uncertain]; (1-2) all summer (Marcia Effinger), Chappell Hill, Washington County [very rare in area; visited same feeders for third summer in a row; usually only one present, but on 5 July and 1 August two were observed and, on the later date, videorecorded].

Green Kingfisher: (1 female) 16 June (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake near Chappell Hill, Washington County [first county record. A brief search of historical sightings shows Green Kingfisher has a westerly and southerly distribution in Texas. The eastern edge is defined by accidental sightings from Wise County in North Central Texas to McLennan and Bell Counties in Central Texas. The northern edge is defined by a line of sightings stretching from Travis to Bastrop to Colorado to Fort Bend to Harris and Galveston Counties. Now the northern edge of this eastern distribution is shifting further north with accidental sightings in Lee Co. (4/5/98) and now Washington County].

Golden-fronted Woodpecker: (1) 11 June (Brush Freeman ), Gonzales County [fide Brush, "I also had a Golden-fronted Woodpecker and a Red-bellied Woodpecker within 40 feet of each other on oak snags. The Red-bellied chased the Golden-fronted off. I rarely see Golden-fronteds in Gonzales County, at least in this particular area."].

FLYCATCHERS THROUGH KINGBIRDS

Acadian Flycatcher: (1) 6 June and 30 July (Darrell Vollert), Nicholson Lake Road along Caney Creek, Chappell Hill, Washington County; (1) 11 June (Brush Freeman), CR210, Gonzales County [expected in Central Prairie, but summer distribution not well documented].

VIREOS THROUGH NUTHATCHES

Yellow-throated Vireo: (2) 6 July (Brush Freeman, Mark Adams), lost pines area, Bastrop County [breeding probable - territorial].

Purple Martin: (10,000) 21 June (Karl Kosciuch), Texas A&M University campus, College Station, Brazos County [staging of migrants is common here, although absent for a few years. This roost seems earlier than usual, especially in light of the next report]; (7 chicks) 25 June (Fred Collins), Garden Acres, College Station, Brazos County [fide Fred, "the martin house at that location had one compartment with 4 near fledgling chicks, another with 2, a week or so from flight and a third compartment with one chick, with feather tracts evident but still no feathers or pins."]; (thousands) 29 June (fide E. G. White-Swift), New Road and Waco Drive, Waco, McLennan County [fide E. G., "Purple Martins have begun their annual staging at dusk by the thousands at New Road and Waco Drive in Waco."]; (great density) 21 July (fide Don Verser), Bryan/College Station area, Brazos County [fide Don, "If you haven't been looking at the radar lately your missing some very interesting views of martin roosts. Go to Intellicast and look at the NEXRAD loops. This morning the Houston radar was showing at least 7 rings formed when the martins are leaving a roost… The locations appeared to be: 1) Bryan / College Station (the Texas A&M campus I presume), 2) north shore of Lake Livingston 3) Sam Rayburn Lake, 4) Beaumont, 5) Lake Charles, 6) Louisiana coast east of Cameron, 7) Louisiana coast west of Cameron. Looks like there may be a roost here in Houston but hard to tell with the ground clutter."]; (10,000) 24 July (Keith & Bev Arnold), Texas A&M University campus, College Station, Brazos County.

Cave Swallow: (1) 11 June; 25 June (Peter Barnes), Richland Creek WMA, Freestone County [first county record]; (lots) 23 June (Karl Kosciuch), Brazos County [fide Keith Arnold, "Lots of fledged swallows around the area; Karl thinks the Cave Swallows are on their 2nd broods."].

White-breasted Nuthatch: (1 heard only) 11 June (Brush Freeman), below the dam at Woods Lake, Gonzales County; (1) 14 July (Tim Fennell), Hwy 29 & CR366 Pecan Bottom, Williamson County [rare breeder].

WARBLERS

Yellow Warbler: (1) 26-July (Derek Muschalek), 11 miles northwest of Yorktown, DeWitt County [early arrival].

Pine Warbler: (1 male) 28 May (Darrell & Willie Vollert), Rehburg, Washington County; (2) 1 June (Darrell Vollert), 1 at FM2193 near SH105 and 1 at FM390 and SH105, Sandy Hill, Washington County; (1) 15 June (DV), FR 390 near SH105, Chappell Hill, Washington County; 28 June (1 juv) 28 June (DV), Brenham, Washington County [very rare in summer; not previously recorded as breeder in county; all sites were in mature Loblolly Pine].

Black-and-white Warbler: (1 male) 11 June (Brush Freeman), Gonzales, Gonzales County; (1) 23 July (Dorothy Bednarski), Sam Houston Road in Independence, Washington County; (1 male) 29 July (Darrell Vollert), Polk's Lake near Chappell Hill, Washington County [rare in summer].

Prothonotary Warbler: (2) 11 June (Brush Freeman), 1 at Woods Lake and 1 at Independence Park south of Gonzales, Gonzales County; (1) 29 June (Darrell Vollert), Hughes Lake, near Chappell Hill, Washington County; (1) 1 July and (2) 15 July (Ann Polk), Polk's Lake, near Chappell Hill, Washington County [rare and local summer breeder].

Swainson's Warbler: (1) 29 May, 18 June, 14 June (Darrell Vollert, et al.), Brazos River & US290, Washington County; (2) 6 July (Brush Freeman, Mark Adams), lost pines area, Bastrop County [rare local breeder].

Louisiana Waterthrush: (1) 11 June (Brush Freeman), Woods Lake, Gonzales County [late migrant]; (1) 29 July (Darrell Vollert), Polk's Lake, near Chappell Hill, Washington County [only second record for Washington County; no prior summer records for 10-county area; earliest fall migrant previously was 29 August 1990 (Brazos County?) and a 28 August 1996 record in McLennan County].

Kentucky Warbler: (1) 29 May and 13 June (Darrell Vollert), Brazos River & US290, Washington County; (1) 6 July (Brush Freeman, Mark Adams), lost pines area, Bastrop County [rare and local breeder].

Hooded Warbler: (3) 6 July (Brush Freeman, Mark Adams), lost pines area, Bastrop County [rare and local breeder].

TANAGERS THROUGH FINCHES

Cassin's Sparrow: (several) 11 June (Brush Freeman), CR192, Gonzales County [status?].

Blue Grosbeak: (1 male, 1 female) 24 June; (1 male, 1 female, 1 immature male) 25 June; (1) 27 June; (1 male) 20 July (Darrell Vollert), FR2447 at Red Gully, Washington County; (1 fledgling) ca. 2 August (David Phalen), Nature's Haven (wildlife rehabilitation facility), bird retrieved in the Bryan-College Station area, Brazos County [although suspected since 1987 of being a rare breeder in Brazos, Burleson and Washington Counties, there has been very little evidence of breeding heretofore].

Indigo Bunting: (4) 27 May; (2) 10 June; (1) 17 June; (5-10) 24 June; (5) 27 June; (2) 10 July; (9) 12 July; (3) 24 July; (7) 4 August (Darrell Vollert), FM2447 near New Year's Creek, Chappell Hill, Washington County; (2) 29 May; (1) 18 June (DV), Brazos River & US290, Washington County; (1) 1 June (DV), Chappell Hill subdivision, Washington County; (1) 15 June (DV), FR1155 in Chappell Hill, Washington County [thought to be rare local breeder, but may be lack of adequate records].

Dickcissel: (10 singing, 1 female) 27 May; (2) 17 June; (3 singing) 24 June; (9-10 singing) 25 June; (6-7 singing) 27 June; (15-20 singing, 1 female) 10 July; (7-10 singing) 12 July; (5 singing, 1 silent) 20 July; (2 dozen, none singing) 24 July; (30) 4 August (Darrell Vollert), FM2447 between New Year's Creek and Red Gully, Chappell Hill, Washington County; (1) 29 July (DV), Polk's Lake near Chappell Hill, Washington County; (flock overhead) 31 July (DV), Chappell Hill subdivision, Washington County [rare to uncommon breeder, but pattern of summer residency is not well documented; this data adds a lot to our understanding].

Yellow-headed Blackbird: (1) 12 July (Joe Yelderman), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County [rare].

Orchard Oriole: (1 adult male singing) early May through 29 May; (Darrell Vollert), FM1371 near Chadwick-Hogan Road and Caney Creek, Chappell Hill, Washington County; (1 singing) 30 May (DV), US290 1.5 miles west of Brazos River, Washington County; (1 adult male singing) 18 June (DV), FR1371 near FR1155, Chappell Hill; (1 singing) 25 and 27 June (DV); (1 observed and calling) 8 July; (1 adult male, 5 immature or females) 29 July (DV), Polk's Lake near Chappell Hill; (16+ male, female and immature) 10 July; (9 male, female and immatures) 12 July; (3 adult male, 4 female) 24 July; (2 adult males, 1 female or juvenile) 4 August (DV) FR2447 near Chappell Hill; (3) 11 July; (4) 12 July; (1 female) 22 July (DV), FR1155, Chappell Hill; (1 singing) 12 July (Dorothy Bednarski), her residence, Chappell Hill; (2 adult males, 2 females, 1 immature male) 16 July (Darrell Vollert), FM1371 near Chadwick-Hogan Road and Caney Creek, Chappell Hill; (1 calling) 27 July (DV) Sandy Hill, Washington County; (3 female or immature) 30 July (DV) Nicholson Lake Road and Caney Creek, Chappell Hill; (1 singing) 1 August (Fred and Mary Brandt), Chappell Hill subdivision [considered to be rare breeders, but not well documented; these details add much to our understanding of their status in Washington County]. Other Central Prairie sightings include: (1) 11 July (Joe Yelderman), WMARSS, Waco, McLennan County; (10) 19 July (Derek Muschalek), 11 miles northwest of Yorktown, DeWitt County.

Bullock's Oriole (?): (1) 11 June (Brush Freeman), Gonzales County [rare; fide Brush, "only seen in flight so am not completely positive, but did show lots of white in wing"].


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