Bird Walk September 14th, 2013

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

Fall migration is well underway here at Quinta Mazatlan. Lots of brightly colored birds are moving through on their way south for the winter. We had 5 species of warbler this morning, along with some brilliant orange Baltimore Orioles. Our unusual visitor of an American Robin is still out in the park, and made a brief appearance this morning. There is still evidence of our local birds breeding – a family group of White-eyed Vireos foraged in a cedar elm by the amphitheater.

Bird Walk 9-14-2013 European Starling John Brush

We enjoyed looking at this newly molted European Starling as we started off on the trails. Many birds have two molts a year: one in the fall (the pre-basic molt, in usually all the feathers are molted) and the other in the spring (the pre-alternate molt, where the wing and tail feathers usually are not molted). Starlings, however, only have one molt, which they undertake in the fall. The fresh feathers that come in have white tips. These tips wear off over the winter, so by spring the starlings have that glossy black and iridescent plumage. There is A LOT of complex molting patterns and information out there (which I’m not an expert on), but its fun to observe the drastic changes seen in starlings.

Bird Walk 9-14-2013 Clay-colored Thrush John Brush

One of my favorite Quinta Mazatlan birds, the Clay-colored Thrush, has had a huge presence in the park lately – just about can’t miss them if you go along the Ruby Pond or Wildcat trails. This one was enjoying a sunny spot along the Wildcat trail.

Bird Walk 9-14-2013 Green Heron John Brush

One of this year’s brood of Green Heron made an unexpected appearance at the Mesquite trail pond – maybe with all the rains a big dish of tadpoles would be on the menu. It gave us the wary eye as it waited for us to move away from its (small) foraging spot.

Bird Walk 9-14-2013 Common Pauraque John Brush

We spent a good amount of time searching, but we finally spotted a Common Pauraque in the traditional spot along Bougainvillea Lane. The search may be tough, but the reward is always worth it.

My Bird of the Day for this week is the lovely, petite, sweet-sounding Lesser Goldfinch.

Bird Walk 9-14-2013 Lesser Goldfinch John Brush

These beautiful little birds have been extremely active around the Valley the past month or so, a testament to the fact that they can breed all through September and into October. Listen for their sweet calls as they fly overhead as a cue to start searching for these little birds. They frequently come down to our century plant water feature in the amphitheater. The bird is the photo above is a female, lacking the black back and bright yellow breast of the male.

Have a great weekend!

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


Bird Walk August 31st, 2013

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

It was a beautiful Saturday morning for a bird walk today – sunny, reasonably warm, and full of activity. Lizards, butterflies, and of course the birds, were all out and about.

Bird Walk 8-31-13 Eastern Kingbird John Brush

Out in the Amphitheater, where the bird feeders were dripping with activity (including bright visits from Lesser Goldfinch and Green Jay), I was puzzled by a twittering coming from the top of a Hackberry. Looking up, the clean white front of a couple Eastern Kingbirds stood out in the sunlight. These kingbirds are migrating from as far north as Canada down into South America. They’re crisp-looking plumage is quite pretty.

Bird Walk 8-31-13 Plain Chachalaca John Brush

The Plain Chachalacas seemed extra beautiful today, and this one definitely proves my point – it was looking quite serene as it sat near the Amphitheater feeding station. There are still some baby chachalacas wandering about the Thornforest with their black mohawks.

The Bird(s) of the Day was a family of Green Herons that were fishing along the shoreline of Ruby Pond.
Bird Walk 8-31-13 Green Heron John Brush
These small herons are some of my personal favorites. Not only do they have beautiful plumage and the graceful (though sometimes awkward) movements that all herons boast, but they also makes neat calls and have interesting behaviors. They are true fisherman – they’ll sometimes use bread, twigs, or other items as bait to help catch fish! The pictured bird is a juvenile, as you can see from the rusty checkers on the wings.
Have a great weekend!
Join us for a Bird and Nature Walk at 8:30am every Saturday throughout the summer at Quinta Mazatlan!

Bird Walk: April 20th, 2013

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

Marsh, Sylvia, and William came by for todays bird walk, and it was a full day! I counted a total of 48 species (including a couple empidonax flycatchers that I couldn’t identify). Migrant birds are still coming through (warblers, orioles, flycatchers, shorebirds), and the resident birds are in full swing for their breeding season.

Bird Walk 2013-04-30 Green Heron John Brush

I started off the morning (before the bird walk actually started) by seeing this beautiful Green Heron at Ruby Pond. Notice the brilliant orange legs – this is a male heron in high-breeding plumage (see the blue around the eye as well). These birds could very well nest in the trees around the pond.

Bird Walk 2013-04-30 Ovenbird John Brush

We banded an Ovenbird on Sunday, but this one is a different individual (no band on the legs). Ovenbirds, a species that breeds further north in the U.S. and Canada, got its name because it builds domed nests on that ground that resemble old-fashioned ovens!

Bird Walk 2013-04-30 Curve-billed Thrasher John Brush

We found three Curve-billed Thrasher fledglings on the trail out to the Ebony Groves. They gave soft little calls as we walked by, but certainly weren’t wary! Notice the tan, overall colorless eye of the fledgling – when they get older, they’ll start to develop more color, and when they’re full adults the color will be a bright orange.

Bird Walk 2013-04-30 White-eyed Vireo juve John Brush

White-eyed Vireos also have dark eyes as juveniles and fledglings. This little bird was sitting very quietly and patiently for one of its parents to feed it – unlike many young birds! The juveniles really don’t have many distinctive features, so its helpful to see the adult vireos around to confirm.

Bird Walk 2013-04-30 White-eyed Vireo John Brush

The Bird of the Day (at least for me) was more of just enjoying all the wonderful activity in the park, but seeing the adult White-eyed Vireo so out in the open and cooperative was definitely a highlight.

Have a great week – get out birding if you can!

Join us for a Bird Walk! Tuesdays (through April) 8:30am-10:00am at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, Texas.