Bird Walk July 22, 2014


Ladder-backed Woodpecker Erik

Photo by Erik Bruhnke

Hello all! It was a busy morning out at Quinta Mazatlan, both in terms of people and birds. We had volunteers, campers, and all the resident bird species each doing their own thing. The male Ladder-backed Woodpecker above certainly paid the bird walk little heed – its main focus was drilling off pieces of bark in search of prey (see short video clip here).

Photo by John Brush

Everyone enjoyed the beautiful, seemingly unstructured melody of this Long-billed Thrasher near the amphitheater. We noticed on this bird that the trail was starting to look pretty ratty, but soon enough it will be replaced when the bird undergoes its pre-basic molt.

Swainson's Hawk Erik

Photo by Erik Bruhnke

A pair of Swainson’s Hawks exhibited some interesting behavior. We saw the first bird coming in high from the west, and after a few moments it proceeded to perform a series of stoops. In response, a second Swainson’s (which we hadn’t noticed before) started calling from a much lower flight trajectory. There has been a pair seen in and around the park all summer, so its likely these are the same birds seen previously.


Photo by John Brush

There was a large group of volunteers doing work at the entrance to Ebony Grove, and just as the bird walk was leaving the area we had this pair of Green Parakeets come in and land on a palm directly above the volunteers. Despite all the activity the parakeets still gave us great looks, although they did seem a little anxious to have all the people beneath them.

Crimson Patch Erik

Photo by Erik Bruhnke

As always, our bird walk wasn’t just limited to focus on our feathered friends. We took time to smell the leaves of the aromatic White Brush (to which Lesser Goldfinches are attracted). Some of the group also got to see this South Texas specialty butterfly – the Crimson Patch (spotted and identified by Estero Llano Grande naturalist John Yochum). Another butterfly of note was a Guava Skipper that was attending Duranta flowers.

Have a great weekend and enjoy nature!

Bird List below:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Plain Chachalaca  6
Great Egret  1
Swainson’s Hawk  2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3
White-winged Dove  10
Mourning Dove  1
Inca Dove  4
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  8
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Green Parakeet  4
Great Kiskadee  2
Couch’s Kingbird  2
Western Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  1
Purple Martin  4
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  4
Clay-colored Thrush  3
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Long-billed Thrasher  2
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  1
Olive Sparrow  3
Northern Cardinal  1
Great-tailed Grackle  2
Bronzed Cowbird  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  1
Lesser Goldfinch  3
House Sparrow  15



Fall Arrives… Fall Breeze… Fall Colors… Fall Leaves

Written by Education Supervisor Carol Goolsby

Fall Arrives Butterfly Collage

For those of you from up north that miss the colors of Fall….let me turn your attention to what is unique about living down here in the Lower Rio Grande Valley—the change of COLOR in the Fall doesn’t come from our LEAVES…it flies in through the skies, on a breeze!

The first color you will notice is bright pink…on the throat on our Fall migrant hummingbird.  I saw my first one zipping around a Turk’s Cap flower just yesterday…reminding me of royalty.  (How can an animal with the weight of a penny not BAKE flying over 100-degree Texas!)   Catch a glimpse of its black beak, and you’ll know you’re not looking at the common resident Buff-bellied hummingbird that has a red beak.  The Ruby-throated hummingbird is a Fall Valley treasure… worth any northern gold leaf!

Next the skies will turn orange! Monarchs will arrive sometime in late September or October as they move en masse toward the forests of Michoacán, Mexico.  Don’t take them for granted though!  They have been suffering in recent years from chemical sprays and clearing of land.  The world’s most famous butterfly faces challenges greater than ever in its history.  During this year’s Fall migration, it is worth stepping outside to any nature park’s butterfly garden, and seeing the Fall sky “turn orange” while you can.

Of course don’t confuse a Monarch with two of its more commonly seen, equally beautiful relatives:  the Queen and Soldier.  Monarchs will be larger, lighter orange, and display thicker black veins.  And who knows!  Perhaps while admiring “butterfly royalty”, you might even spot a Zebra!   This striped black and pale yellow “heliconian” is nearly the size of your fist!  The hypnotic stripes of the zebra in flight might then lure you into an area that some of our most spectacularly colored butterflies favor—the edge of the woodland.  It is here you can see the country’s largest GREEN butterfly, the Malachite, preferring the shelter and nectar of our hackberry trees….or the amazingly beautiful Mexican Bluewing, with its   metallic blue and black stripes.  It takes jaunts into the open sun to nectar on a scarlet sage or crucita before racing back to the forest to camouflage its outer gray wings on the bark of a hackberry tree. There are orange, black, white, yellow, red-tipped, purple-hued, aqua  blue, green, silvery, metallic, and even CLEAR-winged butterflies!  And FALL is the best season to see them all!

Nowhere else in the country can a person see over half of its butterfly species, and the greatest diversity of resident and migrant birds…in such a small region.  Don’t let the most beautiful time of our year pass you by.

Just once a year Fall arrives…on a breeze…with OUR
Fall colors.  Get outside! …before Fall “leaves”.