Songbird Stroll October 17th, 2015

Hello all, another beautiful fall day here at Quinta Mazatlan, with a nice mix of migrant and resident birds going about their feathery business.

"Say what now?"

“Say what now?” This Clay-colored Thrush, a younger bird given the mostly brown eye color (it shifts to deep red in older birds), peered curiously from its perch.

I started off by seeing the flock of Clay-colored Thrushes that inhabit the park. These birds were enjoying the fruits of an Anacua tree (Ehretia anacua). They are always fun to see, but especially fun to hear – their meow-like calls and subtle are always a welcome sound.

Common Pauraque (2)

We also saw two of our resident Common Pauraques in their usual haunt. Perhaps it was just due to lighting, but the second individual (picture below) looked to have more gray in its plumage. According to Birds of North America “In Texas, upperparts of adult male brownish gray to tawny, mottled, spotted, and vermiculated with dusky brown, buff, and black.” Perhaps the difference was just variation in plumage, or perhaps it is related to age and sex.

Common Pauraque (1)

Gray Hawk QM (1)

My favorite bird of the day was this beautiful adult Gray Hawk. It flew into a palm, called loudly for a few minutes, and proceeded to fly to and call from the golf course next door. These raptors maintain small numbers in urban areas in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and I have seen them regularly (albeit infrequently) in Quinta Mazatlan and south McAllen neighborhoods. What a classy South Texas Specialty Bird!

As always the full list of birds is below!

Regards,
John Brush

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  40
Plain Chachalaca  10
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Inca Dove  5
White-tipped Dove  2
White-winged Dove  16
Common Pauraque  2
Chimney Swift  8
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  3
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  6
Great Kiskadee  4
Couch’s Kingbird  1
Green Jay  5
Barn Swallow  2
Black-crested Titmouse  3
House Wren  4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  6
Clay-colored Thrush  6
Curve-billed Thrasher  2
Long-billed Thrasher  2
Northern Mockingbird  8
European Starling  3
Orange-crowned Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  1
American Redstart  2
Yellow Warbler  1
Wilson’s Warbler  3
Olive Sparrow  3
Northern Cardinal  3
Indigo Bunting  6
Dickcissel  1
Great-tailed Grackle  12
House Sparrow  20

 

August 25, 2015 Songbird Stroll

Cool fronts well north of us are sparking bird migration. This morning’s Songbird Stroll treated the visiting birders to many Lower Rio Grande Valley specialists in addition to a recently arrived Black-and-white Warbler!

The mid morning heat continues to test the hardiness of many of the fledglings out there, with most young birds being fully-grown by now. The chocolate-bodied and dark-eyed Great-tailed Grackles (juveniles) beg aggressively in their parent’s direction for food. Families of Black-crested Titmice can be seen from time to time, bouncing from branch to branch and trunk to trunk in search of insects. The young Great Kiskadees flutter in a focused fashion after their parents. The young Green Jays with pale blue heads watch their parent’s actions closely as they learn how to feed on the wide variety of food that jays are known for consuming. Teenage Plain Chachalacas are becoming more independent as each day passes. This morning one of the young Plain Chachalacas was seen drinking water with its parents. It’s great to see family groups moving around together. Good native habitat makes for a good home-sweet-home to these previously mentioned birds and more species too!

PLCH immature

The almost full-sized Plain Chachalaca takes a moment to swallow water from our drippers. Moving water is a great way to attract birds!

Many of the adult birds seen throughout Quinta Mazatlan are quite ragged-looking right now. The adult birds are molting portions of their feathers, giving them an unkempt and messy appearance. Tail feathers are being forced out at different intervals, and intermittent primaries and secondaries are stunted compared to the rest of the fully-grown set of flight feathers. The handsome Eastern Screech-Owl that lives in our palm snags has been molting quite noticeably over the past week. His ear tufts and facial feathers are out of sorts compared to how this species often looks in field guides, and an occasional belly feather sticks to the snag cavity entrance. Despite the molt, this owl is dapper as ever!

ESOW1

COPA

Two rain showers in one week keep the forest floor moist and birds squeaky clean. Here is one of two beautifully-camouflaged Common Pauraques seen this morning.

GRPA

One of four Green Parakeets calls along the trunk of the Ebony Grove palm snags.

Here is the eBird list from this morning’s Songbird Stroll

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  1
Plain Chachalaca  30     Lots of tree top vocalizing this morning!
Killdeer  2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Inca Dove  15
White-tipped Dove  1
White-winged Dove  14
Mourning Dove  3
Groove-billed Ani  1
Eastern Screech-Owl  1
Lesser Nighthawk  1
Common Nighthawk  2
Common Pauraque  2
Chimney Swift  2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  3
Green Parakeet  5
Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill’s Flycatcher)  1
Great Kiskadee  6
Couch’s Kingbird  2
Green Jay  2
Purple Martin  4
Cave Swallow  2
Black-crested Titmouse  1
Carolina Wren  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Clay-colored Thrush  13
Curve-billed Thrasher  4
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  2
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Olive Sparrow  9
Summer Tanager  1
Great-tailed Grackle  5
Orchard Oriole  1
Baltimore Oriole  1
Lesser Goldfinch  4
House Sparrow  15

Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke

August 22, 2015 Songbird Stroll

The dispersal and movements of birds throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley is taking place right now. Birding hotspots throughout the Valley are reporting warblers arriving and trickling through. Over the past few days a family of Groove-billed Anis have decided to make Quinta Mazatlan a spot to live and feed as these gorgeous black birds stock up on energy reserves for their southbound migration. The Groove-billed Anis’ hiccuping-yodeling calls are very distinctive and these family groups are often heard before they are seen. This species is exceptionally social as they will hang out in groups and will vocalize quite often. Their large parrot-like bill and fondness of sunning their black wings is unique.

GBAN

Here are Groove-billed Anis feeding in a mesquite during this morning’s Songbird Stroll. There were eight additional Groove-billed Anis nearby when this photo was taken.

The recent downpours have saturated the land with much-needed water. The thickets of trees and low-growing plants currently have an abundance of neon green new growth along many of their branches. Succulent fruits have emerged in good numbers throughout the anacua and prickly pear cactus. The night-blooming cereus have also been producing many shoots of new growth near their fully-ripened fruits. The summer rains work wonders in our hot part of the country.

night-blooming cereus

Here is a stalk of night-blooming cereus. Its rosy-pink fruits are called dragon fruit.

COPA on ground

Through cool downpours and hot sunny days this resident Common Pauraque finds its home on our forest floor. This species can be found throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley within the woods that offer expanses of leaf litter on ground. Such beautiful birds they are! Have you found them yet along our trails?

PLCH baby2

This fledgling Plain Chachalaca is getting so big! Although nearly fully-grown, it is still under the careful watch and care of its parents.

PLCH sleeping

It’s hard work being a chachalaca…

teleus longtail

A teleus longtail was seen this morning along the entrance to Ebony Grove. This butterfly is found throughout the southern tip of Texas and southward. The teleus longtail hosts two white diagonal lines throughout each wing in addition to the long brown “tails” streaming off of each hindwing.

Here is the eBird list from today’s Songbird Stroll.

Plain Chachalaca  20
Swainson’s Hawk  1
Inca Dove  19
White-tipped Dove  1
White-winged Dove  25
Mourning Dove  10
Groove-billed Ani  10
Eastern Screech-Owl  1
Lesser Nighthawk  1
Common Pauraque  1
Chimney Swift  5
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Great Kiskadee  3
Tropical Kingbird  1
Couch’s Kingbird  4
Green Jay  2
Cave Swallow  10
Black-crested Titmouse  1
Carolina Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Clay-colored Thrush  4
Curve-billed Thrasher  4
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  1
Olive Sparrow  10
Northern Cardinal  1
Great-tailed Grackle  15
Orchard Oriole  1
Lesser Goldfinch  4
House Sparrow  11

Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke

August 12, 2015 Songbird Stroll and more!

The bird life at Quinta Mazatlan is exciting as ever. Families of Black-crested Titmice are seen daily as they feed as a flock throughout the various levels of our forest. One of the summer specialties of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, a Groove-billed Ani, was heard several times during yesterday’s Songbird Stroll. Juvenile Golden-fronted Woodpeckers check out nearly every tree cavity in search of food. Juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are being seen on a daily basis throughout our native flowers now. They mingle and share scolding notes with the local Buff-bellied Hummingbirds.

BBHU without tail2

BBHU without tail1 This juvenile Buff-bellied Hummingbird is growing its tail. Those wings look so long without having a nearby tail!

The families of songbirds are seen all over our trails. The beautifully-bedraggled young Inca Doves are following their parents around through the forest clearings. Juvenile Great-tailed Grackles are hosting a sharp-looking array of golden-brown and black mottled feathers throughout their appearance. The grackles’ continuous begging can be heard from quite a distance. The pale blue-headed juvenile Green Jays flutter their wings in hopes of a free meal from their parents. Recently-fledged Clay-colored Thrushes give their soothing call notes as they check under many dried layers of leaves. It is a unique time of summer when the bird life both young and old can be found on nearly every tree!

GRKI adult juvenile

Parent (left)  and young (right) Great Kiskadees. Note the adult’s dark bill and yellow crown stripe. Juvenile Great Kiskadees have a yellow gape and a solid black crown.

OLSP feeding close

As you walk through our trails you’re bound to hear the ping-pong ball song and shrilling call note of the Olive Sparrows that live throughout our woods. Several families of Olive Sparrows can be found here this summer.

Two our month-long birding workshops are going on right now. Today’s Intermediate Birding Workshop had some exciting finds including two roosting Common Nighthawks, the popular Common Pauraque, and even a Gray Hawk calling and circling high overhead!

CONI

Common Nighthawk roosting during today’s Intermediate Birding Workshop. Digiscoped.

CONI1

Another Common Nighthawk seen roosting this morning! Digiscoped.

COPA

This Common Pauraque’s tail is growing longer every day! Look how those stunning feather details and colors blend into the leaves. Digiscope.

GRHA adult

Adult Gray Hawk circling high up in the sky this morning.

Below is yesterday morning’s Songbird Stroll bird list.
Plain Chachalaca  20
Black-necked Stilt  1
Killdeer  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Inca Dove  25
White-tipped Dove  2
White-winged Dove  15
Mourning Dove  10
Groove-billed Ani  1
Eastern Screech-Owl (McCall’s)  1
Common Nighthawk  1
Common Pauraque  2
Chimney Swift  3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1     Juvenile
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Green Parakeet  6
Great Kiskadee  10
Couch’s Kingbird  5
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  3
Purple Martin  5
Cliff Swallow  3
Cave Swallow  5
Black-crested Titmouse  6
Carolina Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Clay-colored Thrush  5
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Long-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  7
European Starling  1
Olive Sparrow  5
Northern Cardinal  2
Great-tailed Grackle  12
Bronzed Cowbird  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Orchard Oriole  5
Lesser Goldfinch  5
House Sparrow  15

This morning’s Intermediate Birding Workshop bird hike results are below.

Plain Chachalaca  21
Gray Hawk  1     adult
Swainson’s Hawk  1     migrating adult
Killdeer  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  5
Inca Dove  4
White-winged Dove  25
Mourning Dove  10
Eastern Screech-Owl (McCall’s)  1
Common Nighthawk  2
Common Pauraque  1
Chimney Swift  3
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Great Kiskadee  4
Couch’s Kingbird  1
Green Jay  3
Purple Martin  3
Cliff Swallow  1
Black-crested Titmouse  4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Clay-colored Thrush  4
Curve-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  1
Olive Sparrow  5
Great-tailed Grackle  20
Lesser Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  30

Good Birding,

Erik Bruhnke

August 1, 2015 Songbird Stroll

Although it is only early August, migration is just around the corner. Many songbirds are currently undergoing zugenruhe, which is migratory restlessness.  Many of the birds from the Canadian Boreal forest, northern prairies, northern mountains, and many other northern ecosystems will be passing through south Texas over the next few months.  Birds migrate to follow their favored food sources.

One very ambitious juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen at Quinta Mazatlan today!  Late August is when these beautiful birds begin to show up in their regular numbers for the southbound migration, and this species will be quite numerous in the Lower Rio Grande Valley come September. Get those hummingbird feeders ready with a solution of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, and be sure to keep them clean with fresh nectar. The hummingbirds will thank you!

RTHU juvenile

Here a juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird takes a break from catching gnats in the air.

COPA

An impressively cute Common Pauraque rests on our forest floor while sporting those stout yet growing tail feathers!

Water often becomes scarce this time of year. The mid-day heat and blustery air wicks the land of standing water. Drought-resistant plants find these conditions tolerable, while many non-native plants struggle to survive on their own. Despite the intense heat and dry substrate various trees and low-growing plants are flowering and going to seed, with much more of this plant reproduction to come. With flowers blooming and seeds being produced, many birds will find food plentiful through the fall season.

PLCH drinking

A Plain Chachalaca drinks from one of our birdbaths.

javelina1

“Francis”, our resident javelina, is quite shy and will often wait until the coast is clear to enjoy birdseed that spills to the ground.

roseate skimmer

Roseate skimmer over Birding Creek.

SWHA

Here is a Swainson’s Hawk seen overhead. This raptor species is known for its two-toned undersides and lengthy, pointed wings.

COKI

A Couch’s Kingbird keeps watch and preens in the early morning light.

ESOW

The Eastern Screech-Owl is doing well today!

INDO

Inca Dove. Look closely and you’ll see that this dove’s right leg is banded!

OLSP backside

The secretive Olive Sparrow searches for seeds and insects on the forest floor. Their colors and markings are subtle yet so beautiful! The Olive Sparrow get their name from the color on their backside, as seen from this photo.

Here is the eBird list from today’s Songbird Stroll.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Plain Chachalaca  16
Gray Hawk  1
Swainson’s Hawk  2
Black-necked Stilt  1     Flew from the Ebony Grove pond!
Killdeer  1     Ebony Grove pond visitor
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
Inca Dove  18
White-tipped Dove  2
White-winged Dove  25
Mourning Dove  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1
Eastern Screech-Owl  1
Common Nighthawk  1
Common Pauraque  1
Chimney Swift  16
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1     Juvenile
hummingbird sp.  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  3
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Green Parakeet  8
Great Kiskadee  3
Couch’s Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  2
Purple Martin  30
Cave Swallow  2
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  2
Clay-colored Thrush  8
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  2
Olive Sparrow  2
Great-tailed Grackle  3
Orchard Oriole  1     Male
Hooded Oriole  1     Flyover
Lesser Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  30

Good birding. Hope to see you at the upcoming Songbird Strolls!

Erik Bruhnke

Bird Hike March 21, 2015


A little light rain won’t keep the fun from happening during our Songbird Strolls here at Quinta Mazatlan! The recent and upcoming rains are most-welcomed throughout Texas. The rains bring much-needed moisture to the many flowers, cacti, and trees, all of which support the existence of year-round birds and migratory birds too! We’re just starting to see the early pushes of songbirds trickling through the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Many of the cavity-nesting birds that live here have been busy searching for that perfect tree cavity throughout our snags, to call their home sweet home this upcoming summer.

BBWD perched up

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks love to perch up high and get a vantage point of their surroundings, especially when looking for a cavity to nest within!

PLCH without tail

This Plain Chachalaca contributed to the loud chachalaca chorus this morning. Note the lack of a tail on this bird. It may have had a lucky escape from a predator within the recent past!

INDO

Inca Dove, also without a tail. Like the Plain Chachalaca shown above, this bird may have had a quick escape from a predator.

CBTH

The song and appearance of the Curve-billed Thrasher is a delight to all birders. Note the soft tan blotching on the frontside, smooth brownish-tan backside, and bright orange eye on this beautiful bird.

COPA

This is one of two Common Pauraques we saw this morning!

cottontail rabbit

The eastern cottontail busily eats the greens this morning.

OLSP banded

This Olive Sparrow was one of several Olive Sparrows seen scratching throughout the leaf debris in search of seeds. They are always fun to watch, but a challenge to find! Note the band on this bird’s left leg. Blurred in the foreground is salvia, a native species of flower that hummingbirds really like!

PLCH wet

Squeaky clean or soaking wet chachalaca… it is all how you look at it.

RUHU

Selasphorus hummingbird. Rufous Hummingbirds are most expected here, however on rare occasions Broad-tailed Hummingbirds and the even-rarer (for the area) Allen’s Hummingbird can show up throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

hummingbird sp

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Do you have your hummingbird feeders and water features out? Migrating songbirds of many species will be passing through soon!


Here is the eBird list from this morning’s Songbird Stroll.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  50
Cattle Egret  1     Flyover, heading north
Inca Dove  10
White-tipped Dove  1
White-winged Dove  4
Mourning Dove  1
Common Pauraque  2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbird  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  7
Red-crowned Parrot  7
Green Parakeet  2
Great Kiskadee  5
Green Jay  3
Bewick’s Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Clay-colored Thrush  6
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Long-billed Thrasher  3
Northern Mockingbird  2
European Starling  2
Orange-crowned Warbler  2
Olive Sparrow  3
Lincoln’s Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  2
Great-tailed Grackle  10
House Sparrow  8

Good birding to all! Bring on the rains and migrating birds,

Erik Bruhnke

Bird Walk August 9, 2014

Yesterday morning’s bird hike at Quinta Mazatlan was packed with a wide variety of birds, many of which were freshly washed from the brief yet strong rain that fell earlier in the morning. We were treated to many great views of birds preening and drying themselves off.

One of the most unique finds was spotted by the one, the only, John Brush. Like most of the birds at Quinta Mazatlan yesterday morning, the ground-dwelling Common Pauraque were doing their best to dry off. I had never witnessed the disproportionately stout & tiny legs and feet of a pauraque. Shown below is a wet pauraque, keeping itself a full leg-length above the wet ground by perching on a small branch. Look at those tiny legs!

Common Pauraque

A really clean Common Pauraque

Other finds included the delightful year-round Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, and much more! A gorgeous Olive Sparrow was found feeding on the ground, alongside the trail. To our surprise this bird had a band on one of its legs. Bird banding helps people better-understand bird distributions and migration. There is a chance that we’ll see this exact Olive Sparrow again on future Quinta Mazatlan bird hikes… be sure to stop on by for future bird hikes to find out! You never know what exciting birds will show up. Many of the birds found at Quinta Mazatlan are unique to the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and nowhere else throughout the lower 48 states!

Banded Olive Sparrow

Olive Sparrow – Note the band on its left leg.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Plain Chachalaca

Plain Chachalaca. Preening helps keep the feathers clean and fit for efficient flying.

Plain Chachalacas

Plain Chachalaca

Below is the eBird list from the morning hike:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  1
Plain Chachalaca  15
Green Heron  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
Inca Dove  5
White-winged Dove  35
Chimney Swift  9
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  5
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Brown-crested Flycatcher  1
Couch’s Kingbird  3
Purple Martin  15
Black-crested Titmouse  3
Carolina Wren  1
Clay-colored Thrush  2
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Northern Mockingbird  3
Olive Sparrow  2
Orchard Oriole  2
Lesser Goldfinch  13
House Sparrow  8

Keep your eyes out for migrating birds! Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke