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

Advertisements

Bird Hike October 7, 2014

What a foggy morning it was to be out birding. Despite the conditions, an impressive spectrum of many awesome birds were seen and heard this morning! The soft hiccuping-chuck calls of the Summer Tanagers were heard upon the start of the bird hike, and the ever-exciting Great Kiskadees made their presence known through their back-and-forth calling. The raspy calls of the Plain Chachalaca were enjoyed throughout the entire morning’s walk.

Before elaborating further on this morning’s sightings, I’d like to point out a bird identification error (of a very cool bird) that I made on this past Saturday’s blog post. The Northern Parula that I showed pictures-of, had an exceptionally yellow belly, and lacked a dark breast band. The views of this bird in the field were distant, and quite brief. Upon posting the photos, the finesse field markings on this bird could be seen, even with the bird being slightly out of focus. Male Northern Parulas host an orange-washed breast with a dark breastband on top, as well as a yellow chest that is limited to the upper portions of the body. Most of the Northern Parula’s belly consists of bright white feathers.Tropical Parulas, the far-southern relative of the Northern Parula, look somewhat similar, but have their subtle differences upon closer observation. The greater extent of yellow throughout the belly, plus the lighter orange chest without the dark breastband, are great markings to identify this past weekend’s parula as a male Tropical Parula! The Tropical Parula’s range extends outside of their primary residence of Central America, but only as far north as the extreme southernmost tip of Texas (where we are, here in the lower Valley). A very special thank-you goes to my friend Javi Gonzales, who brought this bird’s identification to my attention recently. Javi is a good friend, avid birder, and outstanding naturalists here in the Valley!

Northern Parula

Male Northern Parula. Note the white belly, limited amount of yellow in the throat, darker breast-band (the necklace area), and the tiny white eye crescents. Photo credits go to the one, the only, John Brush for this picture!

Tropical Parula

Male Tropical Parula. Note the yellow throat and yellow belly, light orange breast without any dark breast band, and a dark face (they typically lack the white eye crescents that Northern Parula have). Photo taken during this past weekend’s bird walk.

The watery call-notes of the Curve-billed Thrasher were heard throughout the morning. They are such an exciting bird to see. Those orange eyes just glow against their beautiful tan and clay-colored feathers! Can you find “nature’s birdhouse” in the photo below?

Curve-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrashser

The soft cooing of Mourning Doves sweetened the air, even throughout the heavy fog that surrounded Quinta Mazatlan and the city of McAllen this morning.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Chachalacas were seen up-close and at a distance throughout this morning’s bird hike. One young chachalaca was seen with its parents. Look closely, and you can see some of the baby “down” on top of its head slowly being replaced by the deep brown-gray feathers that the adults have.

Plain Chachalaca

Plain Chachalaca

Plain Chachalaca

Plain Chachalaca

Plain Chachalacas

Plain Chachalacas. The immature chachalacas sure are scraggly this time of year! Before we know it, they’ll be as sharp-looking as the adults. The immatures stay very close to mom and dad for safety, and learning how to feed.

Here is list of birds observed during this morning’s bird hike:

Plain Chachalaca  14
Inca Dove  3
White-winged Dove  30
Mourning Dove  3
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Green Parakeet  18
Great Kiskadee  4
Couch’s Kingbird  1

Purple Martin  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Clay-colored Thrush  1
Curve-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  2
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Olive Sparrow  1
Summer Tanager  2
Northern Cardinal  1
Great-tailed Grackle  3
Lesser Goldfinch  1
House Sparrow  2

Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke

Bird Walk September 30, 2014

This morning’s bird hike treated us to damp conditions of mushrooms galore, great looks at birds, and a delightful time being out in the woods. By far the biggest highlight was hearing a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet singing away!

While watching two distant Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, I thought about how the environmental elements, and how they influence our ability to identify birds. Putting binoculars aside, it is normal to see less color and contrast on birds during overcast mornings. The Golden-fronted Woodpeckers showed their black and white-striped wing backsides very clearly, but the regions of orange and yellow on their heads were difficult to see through the hazy atmosphere, all under the cloudy conditions. Several birds that we saw today were viewed through the thickets and underbrush. How much of a bird do you need to see, in order to identify it? This amount will vary, from bird to bird…

Some birds have distinct colorations that are unique to them, like the radiant greens adjacent to the ocean-blues on the Green Jay. The lemon-yellow belly against the rusty-red wings are bold colors to look for on the Great Kiskadee, not to mention the contrastive black and white mask. Some birds are drabber, and do not host this bold and vibrant array of colors. Take a look at the bird below. What do you notice about this bird’s profile and structure? Pay attention to what you see, and note what you don’t see, since the end of this bird’s bill as well as the body are not visible.

Plain Chachalaca

What do  you notice about the colors on this bird? Are this bird’s tail feathers the same color as its body? Are the tail feathers one continuous color, or are there details (like having a set of tail bands, or maybe a bold white band at the end of the feathers)? Is this bird long-legged, or short-legged? Be sure to read more on today’s blog, to find out the answer to this quiz bird!

Plain Chachalaca

This morning we had delightful views of this Curve-billed Thrasher. Look closely, and you can see a band on its left leg!

Curve-billed Thrasher (banded)

Curve-billed Thrasher, hosting a band on its left leg.

The plentiful rains have sparked a beautiful appearance of mushrooms throughout the fallen logs and ground. Here are some pictures from this morning.

MushroomsMushrooms

Mushrooms

Some of the eastern cottontails are quite tame. This one didn’t seem to mind our presence as we walked on by!

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Cottontail

The eastern gray squirrels were out and about this morning.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

If you guessed Plain Chachalaca from the beginning of this blog, you are correct!

The proper chachalacaPlain Chachalaca profile shot

Here are the birds seen during this morning’s bird hike:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  40
Plain Chachalaca  15
Green Heron  1
Killdeer  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  15
Inca Dove  1
White-winged Dove  10
Mourning Dove  2
Chimney Swift  2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  3
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet  1
Great Kiskadee  2
Couch’s Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  2
Tree Swallow  1
Black-crested Titmouse  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Clay-colored Thrush  3
Curve-billed Thrasher  2     One was banded
Northern Mockingbird  5
European Starling  3
Common Yellowthroat  1
Olive Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  8
Great-tailed Grackle  5
House Sparrow  1

Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke

Bird Walk August 2, 2014

Chachalacas!

These vocal and awkwardly-acrobatic birds were the big stars of the morning. Plain Chachalacas are always a sight to see, and their year-round residence here in the valley is a delight. On some mornings, Plain Chachalacas fill the air with their harsh chatter, calling back and forth throughout the trees tops. The chachalacas were quite reserved this morning (vocally), however the wide array of birdsong could be heard non-stop, from Great Kiskadees Calling to the many Inca Doves making their presence known.

This morning the six participants and I were treated to amazing views of Chachalacas behaving in ways that many birders don’t see every day. While birding around the central pond near the amphitheater this morning, two male Plain Chachalacas decided to win the companionship of another chachalaca nearby. Both male chachalacas’ hackles were raised, their bright red throat pataches were flared, and the quirky, gurgling chatter commenced. We watched this for several minutes with smiles on our faces, as the “battle of the chachalacas” is impressive and somewhat comical in it’s own way. Throughout the males’ duel of jumping in the air and constant chatter, the female decided to focus on something else, like eating fruit bits that had spilled on the ground. She didn’t seem too impressed at what was going on. After several jumps, scratches, and big-chachalaca feats, the males went their merry ways.

The Plain Chachalaca eyes up competition...

The Plain Chachalaca eyes up competition…

Two male Plain Chachalacas compete for the female chachalaca (background)

Two male Plain Chachalacas compete for the female chachalaca (background)

Two male Plain Chachalacas work hard to  compete for the nearby female

Two male Plain Chachalacas work hard to compete for the nearby female

Male Plain Chachalaca

Male Plain Chachalaca

Another star of the morning was the Curve-billed Thrasher. This beautiful species was heard nearly all morning long, and were seen keeping watch over their feeding territories, taking dust baths, and feasting on berries.

Here a Curve-billed Thrasher enjoys breakfast... a granjeno berry

Here a Curve-billed Thrasher enjoys breakfast… a granjeno berry

Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke

 

Here is the eBird list from today’s Quinta Mazatlan songbird stroll:

Plain Chachalaca  15
Swainson’s Hawk  2
White-winged Dove  28
Mourning Dove  3
Inca Dove  8
Chimney Swift  4
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Green Parakeet  2
Great Kiskadee  2
Couch’s Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  1
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  1
Clay-colored Thrush  1
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Long-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  2
Northern Cardinal  1
Orchard Oriole  2
Lesser Goldfinch  7
House Sparrow  6

Hope to see you at the next bird hike!

Hope to see you at the next bird hike!

 

 

 

 

Bird Walk July 29, 2014

This morning’s bird hike was nothing short of thrilling. Plain Chachalacas serenaded us with their repetitive calls. Inca Doves cooed softly with their gentle calls of “no hope.” Northern Mockingbirds filled the tree tops with chatter. The happy-toned songs of Lesser Goldfinches meandered throughout the thickets as these tiny finches fed on mid-summer seeds.

Adult male Lesser Goldfinch, keeping  watch over his young.

Adult male Lesser Goldfinch, keeping watch over his young.

As the morning bird hike progressed, we came across a gorgeous Curve-billed Thrasher taking a delightful dust bath in ebony grove. Although it may seem desolate, the ground within ebony grove is packed with seeds that are ready to germinate when the timing and conditions are just right.  The intermittent spacing between the young and old trees in the grove makes this area an insect-rich environment, which draws-in the bird numbers and bird diversity. Be sure to visit ebony grove when you are here birdwatching, as there are always birds flying overhead and feeding within the trees. Because of the dusty soil conditions existing within this area, ebony grove has become a favorite spot for Curve-billed Thrashers looking for refreshing dust baths on a regular basis!

Curve-billed Thrasher taking a dust bath.

Curve-billed Thrasher taking a dust bath.

With a careful set of ears, the Tropical Kingbird can be heard locally, as some of these individuals meander out of their more densely-populated areas of Mexico this time of year. This species is known for their twittering bursts of call notes. Tropical Kingbirds look extremely similar to Couch’s Kingbirds, which are a more-common year-round resident of the lower Rio Grande Valley. These two species can be differentiated by their call notes.

Tropical Kingbird

Tropical Kingbird

We were treated to some sunlit views of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers this morning. Both the adult female and adult male Golden-fronted Woodpeckers will have a golden-orange nape (back of the head and rear portion of the neck). The adult females will have a pale crown (top of the head), whereas the adult males will have a deep-red crown. Did you know that the only places where you can find Golden-fronted Woodpeckers in the lower 48 states, is in Texas and southwestern Oklahoma?

Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Below is the eBird list of birds observed during this morning’s bird hike.

Hope to see you at the upcoming bird hike this Saturday! Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Plain Chachalaca  9
Swainson’s Hawk  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  8
White-winged Dove  35
Mourning Dove  4
Inca Dove  4
Chimney Swift  10
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Tropical Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  1
Purple Martin  25
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Clay-colored Thrush  1
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Long-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  14
European Starling  1
Olive Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Great-tailed Grackle  11
Bronzed Cowbird  2
Orchard Oriole  3
Lesser Goldfinch  15
House Sparrow  18

Bird Walk July 19, 2014

???????????????????????????????Started off on the very humid morning (bins and camera lenses would not stay defogged) by seeing this Carolina Wren singing with gusto in the Hummingbird Garden.

???????????????????????????????In the span of a minute, this female Golden-fronted Woodpecker and her mate visited their nest 5 times with food! The female stuck with bringing Anacua fruits, while the male (below) brought in the white, flakey pulp of a Night-blooming Cereus fruit.???????????????????????????????

Night-blooming Cereus fruitAn opened, pecked at Night-blooming Cereus fruit.

???????????????????????????????Curve-billed Thrasher posing on a mesquite branch – love those bright orange eyes!

???????????????????????????????This male Ladder-backed Woodpecker really worked at a particular spot on a Huisache tree. We got to see it get a couple juicy morsels: one looked to be a white larva, and the other a green caterpillar.

???????????????????????????????Perhaps the most interesting sight of the morning was this family group of Plain Chachalaca foraging in the parking lot. The parent regurgitated several yellow Esperanza flowers (its a commonly used ornamental plant in the Lower Rio Grande Valley), which the chicks proceeded to ravenously devour (see series below).

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Have a great weekend!

– John Brush

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  4
Plain Chachalaca  13     In the parking lot had two chicks getting fed regurgitated Esperanza flowers by a parent
Swainson’s Hawk  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  9
White-winged Dove  5
Inca Dove  3
Common Pauraque  1
Chimney Swift  12
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  10
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Brown-crested Flycatcher  1
Great Kiskadee  1
Couch’s Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  1
swallow sp.  1
Black-crested Titmouse  4
Carolina Wren  1
Clay-colored Thrush  3
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Northern Mockingbird  2
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Olive Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  2
Great-tailed Grackle  5
Bronzed Cowbird  2
Orchard Oriole  16     one flock of 9 overhead, scattered small groups throughout the park
House Sparrow  20

Bird Walk July 12, 2014

???????????????????????????????Hello all, another solid morning of birding in the park. We finished with 32 species for the morning, including our typical residents like Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Couch’s Kingbird, etc. We are also in a major period of fall migration for Orchard Orioles, who have been moving around the park giving their “yeh” calls. We had fun watching this Curve-billed Thrasher take a prolonged dust bath in Ebony Grove. It got down in a soft soil depression (pictured below) and preened, rubbed its feathers in the dirt, and eventually flew off.

Curve-billed Thrasher bathing spot

This is the small dirt depression which the thrasher bathed in – it looked to be about 3-4 inches deep

Plain Chachalaca Texas PersimmonThis Plain Chachalaca gave us little attention as it went about searching for that perfect Texas Persimmon fruit. Most of the fruits were unripe, but the bird still managed to find a couple ripened ones. You can see the fruit stain on its bill.

As always, full list is below:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Plain Chachalaca  12     3 young in a family group
Snowy Egret  1
Green Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Swainson’s Hawk  1
Laughing Gull  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  14
White-winged Dove  25
Inca Dove  3
Chimney Swift  55     two congregations in separate parts of the park, easily up to 55 – calling loudly.
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  10
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Green Parakeet  4
Great Kiskadee  3
Couch’s Kingbird  1
Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird  1
Black-crested Titmouse  1
Carolina Wren  1
Clay-colored Thrush  1
Curve-billed Thrasher  5
Long-billed Thrasher  3
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  2
Olive Sparrow  4
Northern Cardinal  3
Great-tailed Grackle  2
Bronzed Cowbird  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  1
Orchard Oriole  7
Lesser Goldfinch  5
House Sparrow  40