Songbird Stroll October 20, 2015

Migrating birds are continuing to show up little by little as fall migration progresses. Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Orange-crowned Warblers are a couple of the later-arriving migrants that were seen this morning. While scanning the radiantly-red turk’s cap flowers along Birding Creek, the forceful chatter of a Buff-bellied Hummingbird was heard. After drawing our attention to the call notes we saw swaying stalks and leaves where this hummingbird was flying. It was such a treat to see this beautiful Buff-bellied Hummingbird hover and feed as it probed the freshly-opened turk’s cap flowers.

BBHU

Buff-bellied Hummingbird feeding on the turk’s cap flowers.

Green Jays gave their squawky call notes, marking their feeding territories to other jays in the area. As they leaped from branch to branch throughout the mature oak tree, the jays gobbled up acorns found hidden among the leaves. Green Jays feed readily on sunflowers and suet too. They can’t help but show off their endless shades of lime green and ocean blue.

 

GRJA eating sunflower

Down the hatch! A Green Jay is about to swallow a sunflower seed.

We continued to walk towards Ebony Grove after visiting Birding Creek. As we stood below the palm snags we heard and saw Golden-fronted Woodpeckers feeding over our heads. They gave their sharp call notes as the probed up and down the tree trunks looking for insects to eat.

GFWO

Look carefully and you’ll see the bright yellow “front” of this bird’s forehead. That is where the name Golden-fronted Woodpecker originates!

CCTH

Here is one of the many Clay-colored Thrushes seen this morning. They are such a striking bird!

INBU

First heard then seen, the buzzy “bzzt” call note caught our attention as we spotted this female Indigo Bunting.

PLCH

Two Plain Chachalacas rest together and preen each other in a mesquite along Birding Creek.

Below is the eBird checklist form this morning’s Songbird Stroll.  Be sure to join us next Saturday from 8:00-9:30 as we look for recently-arrived migrating birds!
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  50
Plain Chachalaca  20
Inca Dove  10
White-winged Dove  12
Mourning Dove  4
Common Pauraque  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  6
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Great Kiskadee  2
Couch’s Kingbird  2
Green Jay  2
Barn Swallow  5
Cave Swallow  3
Verdin 1
House Wren 2
Carolina Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Clay-colored Thrush 15
Curve-billed Thrasher 8
Long-billed Thrasher 1
Northern Mockingbird 6
European Starling 2
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Olive Sparrow 3
Northern Cardinal 2
Indigo Bunting 1
Great-tailed Grackle 20
Bronzed Cowbird 2
House Sparrow 15

Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke

Bird Hike March 28, 2015

The cavity-nesting birds put on quite a show this morning! The three beautiful palm snags  found along the trailhead of our Ebony Grove are really drawing a lot of attention this spring, which is why we leave the snags in the environment. In past years we’ve had Green Parakeets nesting inside of the snag, as well as Golden-fronted Woodpeckers and even Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. Late March and April is the time of year when birds are looking for the best-looking nesting sites, as they prepare to raise young throughout the duration of the spring and summer months. This morning we had three Green Parakeets fly over us at Ebony Grove, and to our surprise one of the whistling-ducks went inside the largest cavity within the snag.

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are a beautiful and somewhat clown-like duck species that nests in large tree cavities. We purposely leave the intact palm snags throughout our trails, to provide year-round food for the woodpeckers, and for the crucial (and hard to find) nesting opportunities for cavity-nesting birds!

GRPA

One of two Green Parakeets flying by this morning!

BBWD flight

Here is a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck coming in for a landing to check out the Ebony Grove palm snags. Look at those gorgeous pink feet and colorful bill, among the rich brown, white, and black plumage!

BBWD cavity1

The pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks seemed content with the large cavity atop the palm snag. Here is the first whistling-duck, checking out the palm cavity.

BBWD cavity

Checking out the view from the potential nesting site for the summer months!

YTWA

This handsome Yellow-throated Warbler was a delightful treat to see this morning. It was heard singing softly as it searched for insects throughout the leaves.

SWHA head on

Migrating Swainson’s Hawk, approaching head-on before gaining lift from the thermals over Ebony Grove

SWHA

Adult Swainson’s Hawk. Look at that beautiful gray head, rufous-brown breast, and two-toned wings!

GFWO male

Male Golden-fronted Woodpecker keeps watch.

GFWO

Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker, scanning her surroundings before entering her nesting cavity.

INDO

Inca Dove.

OLSP

Olive Sparrow.

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

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  50
Plain Chachalaca  30
Glossy/White-faced Ibis  2     Distant flyby
Swainson’s Hawk  3
Killdeer  1     Flyover
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
Inca Dove  5
White-winged Dove  4
Mourning Dove  1
Chimney Swift  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Black-chinned Hummingbird  1
Ruby-throated/Black-chinned Hummingbird  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  8
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Green Parakeet  3
Great Kiskadee  10
Couch’s Kingbird  1
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Green Jay  2
Cave Swallow  3
Black-crested Titmouse  3
House Wren  2
Carolina Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  4
Clay-colored Thrush  4
Curve-billed Thrasher  2
Long-billed Thrasher  3
Northern Mockingbird  7
European Starling  3
Orange-crowned Warbler  3
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Yellow-throated Warbler  1
Olive Sparrow  4
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Great-tailed Grackle  5
House Sparrow  10

Good birding!
Erik Bruhnke

Bird Walk August 12, 2014

Fledgling birds were really out and about this morning. Three first-year Inca Doves were seen lined-up on an ebony branch, the speckle-chested juvenile Northern Mockingbirds were calling throughout the thickets, and the young Clay-colored Thrushes scratched throughout the leaf litter on the ground in search of an insect-based meal. The Plain Chachalaca chicks are amazingly cute right now. In addition to their golden-brown downy bodies, they have a line of black feathers that runs along the central part of their head, from front to back. Before we know it, these little birds will be fully-grown, foraging on their own!

Clay-colored Thrush

A juvenile Clay-colored Thrush forages on the ground.

Plain Chachalaca chick

A Plain Chachalaca chick watches mom and dad closely, learning how to eat and what to eat.

A nesling Golden-fronted Woodpecker keeps watch over the sounds of humans below.

A nestling Golden-fronted Woodpecker keeps watch over the sounds of humans below.

An Olive Sparrow forages along a branch this morning.

An Olive Sparrow forages along a branch this morning.

Hummingbirds thrive here at Quinta Mazatlan. The Buff-bellied Hummingbirds take little breaks to perch on branches, in between their feeding frenzies when they hover around the array of colorful flowers. It’s fun to hear their wings hum as they feed nearby! Keep your eyes and ears out for these beautiful year-round residents here in the valley.

A Buff-bellied Hummingbird takes a breakfast break

A Buff-bellied Hummingbird takes a breakfast break

One recently-arrived Yellow Warbler was seen this morning. This species is one of the earlier birds to migrate through the area during fall migration.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  1
Plain Chachalaca  20
Green Heron  1
Inca Dove  9
White-winged Dove  30
Mourning Dove  3
Chimney Swift  2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  3
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Green Parakeet  2
Great Kiskadee  2
Couch’s Kingbird  3
Purple Martin  5
Carolina Wren  1
Clay-colored Thrush  3
Curve-billed Thrasher  5
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  2
Yellow Warbler  1     female
Olive Sparrow  2
Great-tailed Grackle  9
Lesser Goldfinch  6
House Sparrow  10

 

Good birding,

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

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).

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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 June 21, 2014

Bird Reports are written and photographed by Naturalist John Brush

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Plain Chachalacas are some of the most stand-out birds in the Valley, with their gawky behavior and chicken-like appearance. Somewhat surprisingly, I have personally yet to see a chachalaca chick running around the forest this year (though I know some co-workers have).

 

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This female Golden-fronted Woodpecker posed for the group in an odd fashion, and we also got to see the shiny band on her left leg – meaning she’s been banded right here at Quinta Mazatlan!

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The bird walk enjoying some Green Parakeets.

IMG_3150

As always, the Curve-billed Thrashers made appearances. We got to see one building another nest in Ebony Grove, only about 20-30 feet away from a Northern Mockingbird nest.

Bird list is below:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  1
Plain Chachalaca  8
Green Heron  1
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  1
Swainson’s Hawk  1
White-winged Dove  15
Inca Dove  2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  9
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Green Parakeet  4
Brown-crested Flycatcher  5
Great Kiskadee  4
Couch’s Kingbird  1
Carolina Wren  2
Clay-colored Thrush  1
Curve-billed Thrasher  4
Long-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  5
Olive Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  1
Great-tailed Grackle  8
Bronzed Cowbird  1
House Sparrow  15