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1-26 April 2015

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Easter 2012


PROLOGUE: On the afternoon of 15 April 2015 at 90 years of age, the matriarch of the Hilton Family breathed her final breath and joined the ranks of my ancestors. To honor her, I am exercising my editorial prerogative in devoting the current installment of "This Week at Hilton Pond" to Jackie Hilton. As noted below, she encouraged my early interest in critters and the out-of-doors and proudly supported me every step of the way in my chosen career as an educator-naturalist. Thus, I have elected to include herein three documents: Her obituary, remarks made at her funeral by my niece Lizzy Saunders, and the eulogy I delivered on behalf of my four siblings and our extended Hilton clan. We would be honored for you to read and accept these tributes to a life well-lived.


All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Obituary for
Eleanor Jacqueline Byars Hilton

ROCK HILL—Eleanor Jacqueline Byars "Jackie" Hilton passed away peacefully at White Oak Manor (York) on April 15, 2015 at the ripe old age of 90. She was a devoted mother and wife, a servant to her church, a connoisseur of thrift stores, and a lifelong collector of things old and new.

Jackie was born in Rock Hill on 27 July 1924, middle daughter of Lillie Mae Wisher Byars and David Madison Byars. She worked a few years with them at Arcade Cotton Mill as a spinner until serendipitously meeting her future husband—William J. "Bill" Hilton Sr.—when he visited West End Baptist Church while on weekend leave near the the end of World War II. Bill whisked Jackie away to Pittsburgh PA, where they were married at St. John's Lutheran Church (Carnegie) on 31 August 1945 and began growing their family.

While Bill was at work Jackie first devoted herself to sewing and handicrafts, producing keepsakes she gifted to friends and relatives. She and Bill joined the Howdy Club and spent many happy weekends socializing and square dancing. She was a member of several civic organizations in Crafton and Brookline PA that benefited from her enthusiastic leadership. Family life was always important to the Hiltons, who held frequent Pittsburgh-area get-togethers with grandparents, cousins, uncles, and aunts.

Following the birth of their fourth child, Jackie and Bill moved the family "back home" to Rock Hill in 1961 and built one of the first houses in Bel-Aire Acres. There Jackie continued to raise her children—including a fifth one—and took up gardening and yard work with Bill, developing their four country acres into an envied showcase of the neighborhood. A strong believer in education, Jackie finished her GED after age 50. She and Bill made sure their five children finished high school and enabled four of them to graduate from Newberry College. Jackie enthusiastically supported Bill's work on the board of Bowater of Carolina Recreation Association and enjoyed attending Saturday night dances with him at Rock Hill's Elks Club.

Despite her Southern Baptist upbringing, Jackie warmly embraced her husband's Lutheranism and with him became a pillar of Grace Lutheran Church (Rock Hill). She showed on-going commitment to her faith by preaching a Children's Sermon on Sunday mornings, by serving on church council, and by acting as the dynamic leader of Jubilees, the Church's group for senior members. Following Bill's death in 1984 she raised funds in his memory for a beautiful stained glass window in the main sanctuary, an act that helped rejuvenate the church and led the way to a long-needed building expansion.

Jackie further showed her commitment to family by hosting and nurturing her elderly mother-in-law, Sophie Hilton, for several years and through daily visits when her own mother was bed-ridden in a nursing home. Her children have tried to follow her example and are ever-grateful for the loving and considerate attention she received at Piedmont Medical Center and Carolinas Medical Center (Charlotte) following health emergencies, and at HarborChase (Rock Hill) and White Oak Manor (York) as age and disease took its inexorable toll. Despite advancing dementia, Miss Jackie's indomitable spirit and unpredictable sense of humor inspired and entertained her thoughtful caregivers as they helped make her final years worth living—especially at White Oak. The family is likewise thankful for end-of-life services provided by Hospice & Community Care, and for continuing support from friend and neighbor Tom Reeves.

As matriarch of the Hilton Clan, Jackie was predeceased by her parents, her husband, and her sister Clara Byars Roberts. She is survived by younger sister Nellie Mae Byars Hixson (Castle Hayne NC) and by five appreciative children who will miss her greatly: William J. "Bill" Hilton Jr. (Sue) of York and Stanley R. Hilton (Colleen) of Leesville, and daughters Cindy L. Farver (Ron) of Wadsworth OH, Patricia A. "Patti" Saunders (Larry) of Rock Hill, and Victoria A. "Vicki" Fulbright-Lutz (Andy) of Dallas NC. Her descendants include beloved grandchildren Billy Hilton III (Amanda) and Garrison Hilton, Katie Theado (Wally), James Hilton, Nick Saunders and Elizabeth Saunders, and Zachary Fulbright; plus her newest "hootie-patootie" great-grandchildren: McKinley Ballard Hilton and Hadley Reid Hilton, and Walter Charles Theado IV, Rose Elizabeth Theado, and Annie Patricia Theado.

A Graveside service and interment will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday (19 April) at Grandview Memorial Park (Cherry Road, Rock Hill). The Hilton family will receive visitors at 2 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church prior to a 3 p.m. celebration of Jackie's lengthy life, conducted by Pastor Christine Stoxen. Bass-Cauthen Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. In lieu of flowers, memorials should be sent to Jackie Hilton ElderCare Fund, c/o Grace Lutheran Church, 426 Oakland Avenue, Rock Hill SC 29730; or to Hilton Pond Center, 1432 DeVinney Road, York SC 29745. Online condolences may be registered on-line at www.basscares.com.

"A Tribute to Grannie"
by Elizabeth "Lizzie" Saunders
19 April 2015

When it comes time to die, let us not discover that we have never lived. Grannie lived for 33,134 days and she made the absolute most of every one of them. Even though I only knew her for a short period of that time, I know that in her 33,134 days she was one of the most stubborn people you'd ever meet. Even if you only met Jackie once, you would surely never forget her.

She was born on July 27, 1924 in Rock Hill. She had two sisters, Clara and Nell, and married my grandfather Bill in 1945. They were blessed with six children, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. I've heard many stories of my grandmother from when my mom, aunts, and uncles were growing up and I have my own stories of spending time with her. And let me tell you, Grannie was a believer in tough love. But honest love nonetheless.

A woman of courage and principle, my grandmother was always firm in her beliefs and it is here that we learned how to stand strong in ours. She was more than just a strong figure. She was a woman of gentle smiles, soothing hugs, and her famous tough love.

I remember when I was younger, falling and hitting my head on the marble coffee table in her living room--almost a rite of passage in the Hilton family. Everyone has done it and we all have the battle scars to prove it. After hitting my head, the first thing she said to me was "Well, I told you not to jump on the couch." But coming from Grannie, that was her way of saying "I love you and you'll be fine," then getting me an ice pack and letting me sit on her lap until I felt better.

There are many things we have to remember her by: Her love for Burger King, her fondness of the color blue, how she never really quite learned how to whisper (especially in church), and the way she would flirt with every man to cross her path. She definitely knew how to make life interesting for us and she never slowed down. Grannie was an incredibly hard-working woman and she always put others before herself.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

As I was growing up, my mom would pick me up from daycare and we would eat dinner at Grannie's house a few nights a week. I loved going over there because I knew Grannie would let me have cookies after we ate, she was always in the mood for a cookie. When I walked into the sun room, she would meet me at the kitchen door and say "Hey, Ladybug." This became our little thing and even as a young girl, it meant so much to hear it every time. As Grannie got older, she began to forget who we were and she didn't greet me that way anymore. I did not realize how much I loved to hear that until she stopped.

The last time I visited Grannie, as I walked up to her, she saw me and said "Hey, Ladybug!" just as she had for so many years. I can't put into words how amazing it was to hear those words one more time before she left us, especially after not hearing it for so long.

While we stand deeply grieved by the loss of one of the pillars of our family, we are so thankful for the chance to have had her. Not many people are granted the privilege of knowing someone as remarkable as her. We may not have her physically, but one day our Grand Maker will reunite us again. As we eagerly await that day, we keep her in our hearts and minds, where her memory will live on for as long as we do.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

"Eulogy for Our Mother"
by Bill Hilton Jr.
19 April 2015

Imagine this fairy-tale scenario:

It's mid-1944 and there's a war going on. A tall skinny guy from Pittsburgh with a Hollywood smile is stationed at Fort Bragg and gets a weekend pass with an Army buddy. They hitchhike 150 miles to the buddy's hometown of Rock Hill SC, where they decide the best place to find girls would be a local house of worship. They show up Sunday morning at West End Baptist Church looking very sharp in freshly ironed khaki uniforms and there's this beautiful 20-year-old woman sitting in one of the pews with a protective young man. The handsome soldier takes one look at her and she at him and they instantly fall in love. In spite of her current boyfriend the soldier promises to marry her, after which he hitchhikes back to base and returns to Rock Hill every weekend he can get leave.

The courtship occurs via daily letters and occasional visits but is nonetheless passionate, and the handsome soldier woos the young woman away from her local suitors. The soldier even makes an impression on the young woman's parents and upon honorable discharge from the military he offers a nearly unthinkable suggestion: "Let me take your daughter back north with me," he pleads, "and I'll marry her." Can you imagine the discussions her parents—Dave and Lillie Mae Byars—must have had about this Yankee soldier carpetbagger asking to run off with their Southern belle? Somehow, for some crazy reason, they ultimately agreed.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

And so, Sgt. Bill Hilton took Miss Jackie Byars from her spinning job at the Arcade cotton mill in Rock Hill SC to his own parents' house in Carnegie PA. There they lived under the watchful eyes of Ed and Sophie Hilton and as Jackie was always careful to point out—they resided in SEPARATE bedrooms. Bill and Jackie got hitched on 31 August 1945 at St. John's Church, a staunch German Lutheran congregation founded by Sophie Hilton's grandfather. It was there a newly wedded Eleanor Jacqueline Byars Hilton took her first step toward Lutheranism—sort of like going over to the dark side if you're raised a Southern Baptist.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Now married, Bill and Jackie were finally allowed to occupy the same bedroom, the eventual result 12 months later being ME. As first-born I was doted over by both parents and my mother spoiled me something awful, clothing me in fine, flowing dresses (above) until I was two. She then lost a son at birth, so she and my father decided to wait a while to enlarge the family. Thus, I was an only child until a baby sister came along and invaded my territory; at least I got to name her: Cindy Lou—after a singer I had seen on television. More children followed, first brother Stan and second-sister Patti, until Jackie and Bill decided four was enough. Or maybe too many.

Just before Cindy was born we moved to our own house in Brookline, a southern suburb of Pittsburgh. While my father made a living as an engineering draftsman, my mother stayed home cooking and cleaning and raising her gaggle of kids, allowing us to occasionally beat up on each other in a loving way and with no real lasting effects . . . that we know of . . . know of . . . know of. When we kids were at school, Jackie Hilton delighted in making sewn items and other handicrafts she gladly shared with friends and relatives. Amazingly, she found time to become involved in several civic and community organizations, some of which benefited from electing her president.

On weekends our parents found a little time for themselves, joining the Howdy Club and going to square dances and other social events. Even when they came home late on Saturday night we were up at the crack of dawn the next morning, faces scrubbed and wearing our best clothes as we went off together to Sunday School and church. It was a Lutheran church, of course, reflecting my mother's new-found belief in the value of infant baptism and ESPECIALLY the importance of using REAL WINE for communion—two significant changes from her Baptist upbringing. I can attribute my 16 straight years of perfect attendance at Sunday School in large part to her influence.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Things were tough in the 1950s in Pittsburgh for our family of six, especially when my father was between jobs. Nonetheless, due to my parents' ingenuity and the generosity of neighbors and grandparents, we always had food on the table and clean clothes on our backs, and we almost never missed a day of school. It was about this time I began to get very curious about the natural world—an interest that grew because just up the street from our house was a wonderful woodland where my childhood buddies and I could roam and explore. My mother encouraged these interests—even allowing me to keep small harmless snakes in cages in the basement and bugs in my bedroom. When these little critters sometimes escaped, she patiently helped me round them up and return them to their enclosures. I'm ever-grateful for this; had she been squeamish or antagonistic about my interest in nature my life might have taken a very different route.

In 1961 our father again lost his job as the steel industry in Pittsburgh began to collapse, so after 16 years he and my mother decided to move back to her hometown of Rock Hill. Here he found good employment and after living with relatives and in a rental home took the plunge of buying property in the country west of Rock Hill. In those days the tract seemed 'way out in the boondocks, but now Bel-Air Acres is just a hop and a skip from Northwestern High School and the WalMart in Newport. My dad designed a house to accommodate the whole family and supervised as contractors built a residence with a full basement—rather unusual down here in the South.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

The property eventually expanded to four acres, and my parents worked hard planting azaleas and pruning trees until it became the most envied lot in the neighborhood. My mother took great pride in her yard work, and spent countless hours in the summer sun grooming the lawn.

It was good we now had a full-sized dwelling, for in 1963 little Vicki came along—a bonus baby born to my mother when she was almost 40. After spending some time at Morrison Textile Machinery in Fort Lawn SAC, my father went to work at the Bowater pulp and paper mill and I went off to Newberry College, but my siblings got to spend their formative years growing up in the house on Hilton Road. They, too, took turns on the riding mower and tending the garden, perspiring profusely just like our parents and learning a work ethic that served them well—including when three more of them followed me to Newberry and graduated. Setting an example, our mother and her sister Clara Roberts accomplished the admirable goal of getting their GED certificates after age fifty.

While we were growing up, my mother demonstrated an uncanny ability—especially with her daughters—of knowing we'd done something unacceptable almost before the event had transpired. On one occasion she learned about Cindy sneaking out for a date with a policeman because she overheard it on a police scanner, and Patti and Vicki had similar encounters with a mother who seemed omniscient about potential misbehaviors among her girls. Brother Stan and I, of course, were PERFECT angels, but even so we sometimes felt the wrath of an angry mother who nonetheless forgave us all our indiscretions. This example of tough love and forgiveness proved very important to Cindy and me in our teaching careers, and to all five of us in raising our own children in collaboration with our respective spouses. In reality, our mother taught us MANY life skills as we were growing up. Who could have known, for example, that all those hours little Vicki spent cooking in the kitchen with her momma and grandmother were just preparing her for a future career running her own restaurant?

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center
Church photo © Brian & Melissa Powell

It was during the early-1960s—more than fifty years ago—that our parents began a lifetime of involvement with Grace Lutheran Church. My dad did everything from serving as Sunday School superintendent to being the de facto janitor and fix-it handyman. My mother amazed us by taking on that always-thankless task of serving on church council and by delivering the Children's Sermon on Sunday mornings. Later in life her organizational skills led to her become president of Jubilees, the church's organization for its "slightly older" members. She assumed this role with great zeal and for several years devoted huge amounts of time to making sure all her Jubilees had something to look forward to each month. They loved her for it.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

My mother was one of the most tenacious people I've ever known. When she took on a job like raising a family or tending her yard or volunteering for the Red Cross or leading Jubilees, she was a force to be reckoned with, and you'd better not get in her way as she fulfilled her responsibilities. This tenacity became very obvious during the last few decades of her life, when she repeatedly bounced back from major health problems. Two knee replacement surgeries? Hah! Those were mere trifles. Quintuple heart by-passes? That was nothing. Cataract surgery? Carotid artery clean-out? Mere minor inconvenience, and when I took her to rehab she always delighted physical therapists by rebounding so quickly. None of these maladies kept her from keeping house, or from doting over her ever-increasing number of grandchildren, and into her early eighties she still drove herself for Sunday services at Grace Lutheran. Here, she pushed her walker down the center aisle, sternly scolding any poor newcomer who happened to sit in her favorite pew. She'd stare intently at the offending worshiper and with a motion of her arthritic finger gave him no choice but to slide over and make room.

About five years ago Jackie's independence almost did her in when she defiantly quit using her walker and fell down the back steps of that house on Hilton Road. She hit her head on a concrete floor, developed a massive brain hemorrhage, and spent the next nine days unconscious in a critical care unit. She wasn't expected to make it, but my mother delighted in defying expectations and came back well enough to go through therapy. Alas, we had to move her from her home to assisted living at HarborChase, where despite the slow onset of dementia she managed to entertain and delight fellow residents and staff with her good humor, unexpected commentary, and flirtatious behavior. Yet another health crisis two years later sent her back to the emergency room and took her to death's door, where once again she showed the doctors SHE was in charge when they said she wasn't going to make it.

All these physical maladies took their toll, however, and we finally had to place her at White Oak Manor in York for full nursing home care. We've all heard horror stories about the devastating effects of dementia, but my siblings and I are happy to report Jackie Hilton never got mean, never got bitter, never gave up her daily will to keep on ticking. We take great pleasure in learning that on days when the staff at White Oak felt a little down or depressed, they merely had to spend a few minutes with Miss Jackie. We've heard time and time again how Miss Jackie's sense of humor, her on-going appreciation for the care she was receiving, and her cheerful disposition all brightened the day for everyone who knew her. How wonderful it was that our mother continued to have a positive influence on people even as her life was coming to a close.

And that brings us almost to the present. Last Monday afternoon I got the call from a White Oak nurse that Miss Jackie had a status change and wasn't responding well to caregivers. By Tuesday her condition had worsened and she was completely non-responsive, with high fever and far-too-rapid respiration. I stood post at her bedside and alerted my siblings, telling them our mother wasn't expected to make it through the night.

When I reported back to White Oak early Wednesday morning, however, Miss Jackie was unchanged and still hanging on—much to the surprise of medical personnel. Apparently, she wasn't quite ready, and once again was fighting the good fight. Finally, at about 1 p.m. she took her last breath, and she passed from the world of the living. Taking note of the date—April 15th—I think I know exactly why she waited: It was Tax Day and she wanted to make sure all her children had filed their income taxes before moving on.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Now Jackie Hilton is gone, but not forgotten. Thirty-one years ago her husband—my father—died far too young and I stood here delivering his eulogy, but he is not forgotten either. When he passed I suggested to my mother we honor him by asking the congregation to contribute to a stained glass window fund to replace the big window to my left. Parishioners and others were most generous, and we soon had a spectacular new window depicting Christ with little children. More important, that window stimulated a renewed interest in transforming the appearance of the sanctuary, and church members donated funds to replace plain old windows with those beautiful artworks you see to my right and along the side walls today. All these windows, in turn, began a rejuvenation of this church that eventually led to construction of the fellowship hall. The Hilton family is very proud our father's untimely demise had such a positive effect on Grace Lutheran, and it is our new hope that our mother's death can lead to something just as important. Hear me out.

If you listen to "Prairie Home Companion"--as my father ALWAYS did--you know Garrison Keillor (below right) jokes about how aloof and impersonal Lutherans can be, and there's a grain of truth in what he says. Over the past ten years—as my mother became increasingly incapacitated—the family has been grateful for visits from the pastor, for attention from laypeople who have administered her communion at the nursing home, and for Christmas caroling by the church's young people. We know, however, that contacts with the congregation were relatively few, so it's good she had a wide network of family members who could spend time with her as she aged. Having spent a LOT of hours with her in hospitals and nursing homes during the past decade, I know other residents who were not fortunate to have caring families often went days and weeks with no outside contact.

I'm guessing there are members of Grace Lutheran who were vibrant participants in this church, who came to Sunday services regularly, and may even have been involved with Jubilees. As their minds or bodies weakened, however, they were forced to stay home or were admitted to a care facility. Because of our own daily lives and busy schedules, some of these members may have been overlooked or forgotten . . . something none of us here want or should accept.

To help make sure we DON'T forget these older folks my family is asking church council to approve what we are calling the Jackie Hilton ElderCare Fund. We Hiltons will provide seed money for this fund, and we're hopeful the congregation and my mother's friends and other relatives will help it grow into a line item in the annual budget. We don't see this fund supporting existing programs such as SAGS—"Seniors At Grace"—but instead want this new money to go toward expanding and improving Grace Lutheran's ministry to its most elderly members who can no longer attend.

Pastor Chris and we Hiltons put our heads together on all this and believe the Jackie Hilton ElderCare Fund has real potential. It could, for example, help underwrite a parish nurse who keeps tabs on shut-ins and is attentive to their physical AND spiritual requirements. Speaking for my family, I can tell you we would be delighted for you to honor Jackie Hilton in this manner or in other ways the church sees fit as it tends to the needs of its most aged and infirm members. My father's death helped rejuvenate the physical plant of Grace Lutheran Church. Please do what you can to use the passing of Eleanor Jacqueline Byars Hilton to extend the church's ministry to its cherished elders.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

In closing I can say this with conviction: Jackie Hilton dearly loved her extended family, her friends, and her church. I guarantee you she's still watching over her sons and daughters and our offspring to make sure we all do the right thing, and I'll bet she'll always keep an eye on what transpires here at Grace Lutheran Church. So behave yourselves, all you Lutherans, and prepare to be scolded from above if you misbehave . . . or if you EVER DARE to sit in Jackie Hilton's favorite pew!

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center
Christmas 2014

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York SC 29745

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"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written and photographed by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History

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1-26 April 2015

Pine Siskin--37
American Goldfinch--19
Pine Warbler--2
Chipping Sparrow--34
Cariolina Chickadee--7 nestlings
Northern Cardinal--3
House Finch--6
White-throated Sparrow--7
Brown-headed Cowbird--8
Eastern Tufted Titmouse--1
* (3 nestlings)
Eastern Bluebird--5
* (4 nestlings)
Downy Woodpecker--2
Eastern Towhee--1
Blue Jay--1
Mourning Dove--3

* = New banded species for 2015

14 species
174 individuals

23 species (34-yr. avg. = 65.0)

1,764 individuals
(34-yr. avg. =

(since 28 June 1982, during which time 171 species have been observed on or over the property)
126 species
62,650 individuals

(with original banding date, sex, and current age):

Chipping Sparrow (5)
02/10/14--after 2nd year unknown
02/10/14--after 2nd year unknown (two birds)
02/14/14--3rd year unknown
02/15/14--after 2nd year male
0 4/03/14--3rd year unknown

Carolina Chickadee (6)
06/07/10--6th year male
07/12/11--5th year male

12/11/12--after 3rd year male
05/06/13--after 3rd year female
07/20/13--3rd year male
06/15/14--2nd year male

American Goldfinch (4)
04/23/13--after 4th year female
07/20/13--4th year male
07/20/13--4th year female
03/19/14--3rd year male

Northern Cardinal (1)
09/01/10--after 6th year male
0 9/27/11--5th year female

White-breasted Nuthatch (1)
10/05/12--after 3rd year male

House Finch (5)
08/07/08--8th year male

12/23/12--after 3rd year female
09/18/13--3rd year male
03/29/14--after 2nd year female
06/12/14--2nd year male

Downy Woodpecker (2)
04/01/14--3rd year male
05/06/14--after 2nd year female

Carolina Wren (2)
08/02/14--2nd year female
08/25/14--after 2nd year male

Eastern Tufted Titmouse (3)
04/26/13--after 3rd year male
12/25/13--after 2nd year
09/05/14--2nd year female

--Hilton Pond Center's first unbanded Ruby-throated Hummingbird of 2015 showed up on 2 Apr, exactly a week later than our banded RTHU that returned on the 26th and established a new early spring date for his species. By 20 Apr we had captured and banded an astounding 34 RTHU--putting us nearly SIX WEEKS ahead of our earliest date to reach that number (31 May 1997). Only two new RTHU so far this year have been females, but we have had two others returning from previous years; there also have been four male returns.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

--Native violets are so variable it's hard to pick a favorite, but if pressed we tend to go with Confederate Violet, Viola sororia priceana, a blue-veined form (or subspecies) of Common Blue Violet, V. s. sororia; both appear in the photo above, blooming the first week in April. It's hard not to like either of these violets, so we're always disappointed with homeowners who don't like wild violets popping up in their overly manicured front lawns.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

--A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak (above) passed through the Center on 20 Apr. To our knowledge there has never been a nesting record for this species in South Carolina, although RBGR do breed in North Carolina's mountains above 3,000 feet. They winter in Central America, the Caribbean & northwestern South America.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

--That bright thing in the sky on 21 Apr was what astronomers call the Sun. This heavenly body was essentially invisible at Hilton Pond Center during one of our wettest periods in a long time. From 13 through 20 April the digital rain gauge recording an incredible 5.20" of rain--more than half of it (2.83 ") coming in one big swoosh on 19 Apr. Good news is the pond itself is full to the top and overflowing--always a good way to start off the spring season. (Note in the photo above the water level is all the way up to the bottom of the boardwalk.) Full pond at this time of year bodes well for the impoundment NOT drying up during inevitably hot, evaporative days of summer.

--The last of this past winter's epic influx of Pine Siskins likely departed the Center on or about 21 Apr when we banded the 779th individual of the season. This far exceeded our previous winter high of 633 set in 2010-11 and obliterated the 34-year average of 97. (NOTE: Our latest-ever PISI was 5 May 1984.)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

--While visiting from his home in Costa Rica, friend and colleague Ernesto M. Carman banded Eastern Tufted Titmouse #2661-03108 at Hilton Pond on 26 Apr 2013. 'Nesto was back again this week and on 23 Apr we recaptured that very same titmouse! That's his hand and the bird this year in the attached phone photo above.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

--Our first newly emerged dragonfly of 2015 was a Common Whitetail, Plathemis lydia, on 24 Apr. Immature males (above) have prominent brown or blackish-brown markings on otherwise transparent wings; as widen mature their abdomens thicken and change to a bluish-white color--hence the common name. (Females have less prominent wing marks and brown abdomens. Some books refer to this species as Long-tailed Skimmer, a much less descriptive epithet.).

--As of 25 Apr Hilton Pond Center's 2015 Yard List stands at 48--about 28% of the 171 avian species encountered locally since 1982. New yard birds during the period: Barred Owl, Eastern Phoebe, Fish Crow, Black-and-white Warbler & Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

--The immediate past installment of "This Week at Hilton Pond" dealt with the return of a very early Ruby-throated Hummingbird and other late March phenology. The write-up is archived and always available on the Center's Web site as Installment #617.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research, conservation & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., aka "The Piedmont Naturalist," it is parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Web site contents--including text and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To request permission for use or for further assistance, please contact Webmaster.