As the annual Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) have been conducted for over a hundred years in late December and early January, participating birders know that adverse weather can affect the results of any count. Frigid cold, rain, snow, wind and a combination of these weather events can make birding difficult and produce low counts of observed birds. Here in the Hill Country this year we had excellent weather conditions with clear skies, low wind and moderately brisk temperatures, yet the results were not good.Our count results were directly impacted by the dreadful drought that the state of Texas experienced this past year. No rain, no plants, and no fruit sums up the result of this devastating drought across the Hill Country and state. A drought impacts the whole food chain from the bottom to the top. Not only was the food chain impacted, but also cover and water, the three essential requirements of sustaining wildlife, whether birds, mammals or insects. Fortunately the Hill Country was not impacted by horrible fires that wiped out whole ecological systems over large areas in other portions of the state.The bottom line from our three counts in the Kerrville and surrounding area was low numbers of individuals, but average to slightly above average species numbers. Those species which normally occur here were down, but were compensated by having a few bird species moving here from other areas where conditions were bad, or even worse than here. An example would be the Mountain Bluebirds that came here from the Trans-Pecos Region where fires and drought destroyed some of their normal wintering range.With very good weather conditions on the days of the counts, our counters were able to ramp up their efforts to find the birds, and for the most part, found the birds, but in low numbers. I commend all of this year’s participants for their dedication to work a little harder to get the best results possible. Birders have a very positive attitude when presented with a challenge. I point to the West Kerr CBC where our total of 94 species observed was the all-time high count in the ten-year history of the count.To understand why the individual numbers were low, one has to point to the virtual lack of grass production in 2011. Grass provides both food and cover for insects, mammals and birds. Except along permanent streams, the Hill Country landscape was devoid of grass produced last year. Seed eating birds, such as sparrows and finches, were hardest hit for lack of food and cover. Hawks depending on small rodents and large insects were also impacted. Many trees suffered damage in the drought and did not produce fruit for bird consumers. All plants involved in the food chain were negatively impacted last year.Water is also in low volumes this winter. Permanent streams became intermittent and intermittent streams went dry, as did many stock ponds. Springs are at very low volumes. Recent rains have helped to alleviate the problem, but the question is, for how long. Waterfowl, waders and shorebirds are concentrating in the remaining few wet habitats, or have left the area. Counters could concentrate on water and food sources to find the birds they were searching for. Backyard feeders were good sites to find the seed-eating birds this year. Surprise birds this year included Sage Thrasher, Rusty Blackbird, Mountain Bluebird, Yellow Warbler, and Western Screech Owl. I was surprised to find a Turkey Vulture and a Brown-headed Cowbird on my Comfort-Boerne count area; these birds winter south of the Hill County. Another surprise for me was that I only had fifteen Great-tailed Grackles in my sector of the Kerrville count, compared to many hundreds in normal years.It was disappointing to see such few sparrows in the countryside. Chipping Sparrows numbers reach into many hundreds in normal years, but were reduced to fewer than one hundred this year. It was hard to find Savannah, Lark, White-crowned, and Vesper sparrows this year because of the sparsity of grass seed. Northern Mockingbird numbers and other fruit eating birds were lower for lack of berry production. We all must hope that we will have rains in the Hill Country this year to bring the bird numbers back to normal year expectations. Article by Bill Lindemann. Jimma Byrd & Christine Bessent from the SSBN Club shared in the rewarding experience of helping Bill & others with the West Kerr County CBC on January 3.