Learning the birds of Quinta Mazatlan, eBird style

One of my favorite websites, and also one of my most frequently used iPhone apps, is eBird. This website, created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, was launched in 2002 and has made incredible strides since. It is both a valuable tool for birders and scientists (for more info go to: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/).

But aside from being of practical use for birders, its also a great way to explore and learn about where birds live and migrate. One of the things scientists have done with all the bird observations entered into eBird is to create Occurrence Maps (http://ebird.org/content/ebird/occurrence/). These maps, created by combining environmental data and bird observations (read more at the link above), show the seasonal ranges and movements of over 50 birds in the United States. The result is mesmerizing.


The occurrence map seen above is that of the Wood Thrush, an uncommon but regular migrant in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. We got a brief glimpse of one today on our songbird stroll, but you can see from the map that this species is for the most part gone from the United States by November (and you can confirm this by exploring eBird data in this way).  I encourage you to visit the link for the occurrence maps above – it’s definitely a fun way to look at bird migration.

QM Hotspot

Quinta Mazatlan is in the top 10 eBird hotspots in Hidalgo county, with over 250 species reported from the park. On the hotspot page you can look at when birds were last seen, what was seen on recent visits, and more.

I also encourage you to explore the bird sightings at Quinta Mazatlan using eBird. Every bird walk that is led by our staff is uploaded into eBird, and on a side note, I’m proud to say that Erik Bruhnke and I have submitted over 350 checklists for the par.

Here's an American Robin that showed up on today's Songbird Stroll. It's only the 16th time since 2007 that they've been reported from the park.

Here’s an American Robin that showed up on today’s Songbird Stroll. It’s only the 16th time since 2007 that they’ve been reported from the park, but they have been showing up more frequently in the Valley the past few weeks.

If you’re starting to get into birding more, using eBird is a great way to learn more about where to find (and in what season) birds in the Valley. You can go to the eBird “Getting Started” page to learn some of the basics, and I hope to see more and more checklists submitted from Quinta Mazatlan and across the Valley.

Have a great weekend!

John Brush


Bird Walk December 3rd, 2013

This is a weekly bird report written and photographed by our Interpretive Guide John Brush

Bird Walk 12-3-2013 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker John Brush
Hello all,
Another fun morning birding at Quinta Mazatlan. We were joined by folks from Dallas, the northwest, and our fine locals, Marcia and Jane.
We started off by seeing a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in its usual Mesquite tree outside front desk area. Note the white bar in the wing, the single black line through the eye, and the red cap. This younger male bird has been hanging around the park for over a month.

Bird Walk 12-3-2013 Carolina Wren John Brush
We got a life bird Carolina Wren for one of our visitors this morning, and it obliged with some of the best looks you could get! These wrens are loud, musical singers, but are often hidden away in dense foliage.

Bird Walk 12-3-2013 Birders and School Group
This is a great example of the multifarious uses of Quinta Mazatlan. Some of the bird walk group is looking at an Eastern Screech-Owl while one of the many school groups we host is walking up Bougainvillea Lane. We love being able to share our beautiful property with visitors of all ages!

Bird Walk 12-3-2013 American Robin John Brush
American Robin is an irregular, somewhat irruptive visitor in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Last year, finding a robin was quite a difficult venture, but this year birders are finding American Robins sporadically across the area.

Have a great week!

Bird Walk 9-28-13

This is a weekly bird report written and photographed by our Interpretive Guide John Brush.

Hello all,
Another pleasant morning out in the forest of Quinta Mazatlan. Most of the warblers brought down by last week’s cool front have moved on, but there were still plenty of pleasant surprises to be found!
Bird Walk 9-28-13 American Robin John Brush
Our local interest American Robin continues to make appearances around the amphitheater and Hummingbird Lane. It came out to take a quick drink from the amphitheater pond, giving us nice views of its newly red-breasted plumage. It has been fun to watch it transition out of the spotted plumage of a juvenile into the lush, rich plumage of an adult.
Bird Walk 9-28-13 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher John Brush
A tiny migrant that has been coming through the park is this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. All of 4 inches in length, this little bird is constantly flitting around the foliage gleaning for insects, frequently doing what is called “hover gleaning”. They give a charismatic “speee!” call. Though formerly breeders in the Rio Grande Valley, they are now just migrant and winter regulars.
Bird Walk 9-28-13 Common Pauraque John Brush
Our regular Common Pauraque has been most cooperative that past few weeks, but is still hard to pick out from the forest floor at times. It is definitely a fan-favorite for birders, well worth the search for!
The Bird of the Day was this lovely female Green Kingfisher
Bird Walk 9-28-13 Green Kingfisher John Brush
As we walked towards Ruby Pond, a flash of white and deep green flew up to a Montezuma Bald Cypress. This Green Kingfisher gave us fantastic looks, and all were excited to have seen it. Most likely done with the breeding season, these birds may now spread out to different ponds and waterways for the duration of the fall and winter. Hopefully this one will make Ruby Pond part of its home range.
As always, have a great weekend – and get out birding!
Bird Walks are offered Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8:30, October – December

Bird Walk August 10th 2013

This is a weekly bird report written and photographed by our Interpretive Guide and Birder John Brush.

It was an excellent morning of birding in the park today – lots of activity, good species, and good looks. It was one of those mornings that just makes you want to do a fist pump, golf style!

Bird Walk 2013-08-10 Swainsons Hawk John Brush

The minute we stepped out of the WBC doors, we saw a pair of gorgeous Swainson’s Hawks perched up in a mesquite tree. These graceful hawks have about a 4.5 foot wingspan, and some of my favorite hawks. While they used to be more unusual breeders in the Valley, they seem to be on the increase… which I think is great!

Bird Walk 2013-08-10 Swainsons Hawk2 John Brush

This one looks rather affronted. Sorry to invade your privacy, buddy!

Bird Walk 2013-08-10 Orchard Oriole John Brush

Orchard Orioles are an early migrant species, and are coming through the park in good numbers. Females and immature males are this yellow color, while the full adult males are a rich, brick red.

Bird Walk 2013-08-10 Orchard Oriole 2 John Brush

The Bird of Day by far was this American Robin juvenile that made a brief appearance near the amphitheater.

Bird Walk 2013-08-10 American Robin John Brush

American Robins are a species that infrequently shows up in the Valley in winter, depending on the fruit crop in the northern parts of their range. So not only is it as a species uncommon in the Valley, but this is also an out of season sighting as well! Just goes to show that at any moment nature may throw something awesome your way.

Join us for a Bird and Nature Walk at 8:30am every Saturday throughout the summer at Quinta Mazatlan!