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 15, 2015 Songbird Stroll

We’re delving more into migration as each day passes. Throughout the entire Lower Rio Grande Valley birding hotspots are finding the early migrants beginning to trickle through. Not just one, but two, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were seen this morning. In addition to a few more migrating birds showing up each day, butterflies wander and fly around different areas. The meandering butterflies put on quite a show, especially between September and the month of November.

Good looks at a Yellow-billed Cuckoo always make for a great morning! Look at those big and beautiful white tail spots at the end of each feather.

INDO yoga

We even have yoga at Quinta Mazatlan. Here is an Inca Dove stretching its wings and back while its neighbor preens a few feathers.

red-bordered metalmark

Red-bordered metalmark. This beauty is about the size of a quarter.

PLCH

This Plain Chachalaca kept watch as birders walked through our entrance gate. The chachalacas are like a welcoming crew!

GTGR

Great-tailed Grackles are a common bird throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Some of them have started to lose their tail feathers, which will be replaced in the months to come. The timing of their tail molt just happens to be when raptors and songbirds begin showing up in south Texas.

GRPA

Green Parakeets keep watch from their favorite guard post at the entrance to Ebony Grove.

During each songbird stroll we visit many unique areas along our trails. The open landscape and scattered trees of Ebony Grove provide great habitat for Loggerhead Shrikes, Northern Mockingbirds, dozens of Inca Doves, and our Green Parakeets which have taken up residence in the adjacent palm snags. We were treated to seeing them protect their cavities this morning. While observing them from a distance they decided to cling along the palm trunk and vocalize continually. Parakeets are intelligent birds, and we are lucky to have them living right here in our backyard! Have you seen them yet?

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

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  12     Flyover
Plain Chachalaca  16
Turkey Vulture  1
Inca Dove  12
White-tipped Dove  3
White-winged Dove  36
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1
Eastern Screech-Owl (McCall’s)  1
Common Nighthawk  1
Common Pauraque  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  6
Green Parakeet  8
Great Kiskadee  7
Couch’s Kingbird  3
White-eyed Vireo  2     One near the casita, one in the amphitheater
Green Jay  4
Cave Swallow  3
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Clay-colored Thrush  5
Curve-billed Thrasher  6
Long-billed Thrasher  2
Northern Mockingbird  3
Olive Sparrow  4
Summer Tanager  1     Near the casita
Northern Cardinal  1     Female
Great-tailed Grackle  8
Bronzed Cowbird  2     Emerald Lawn
Orchard Oriole  2     Male and female at Emerald Lawn
Lesser Goldfinch  5
House Sparrow  43

Good birding,

Kelly Smith

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 September 23, 2014

Lines of migrating raptors traced throughout the upper limits of the sky. Migrating warblers were seen among the branches, savoring the recent hatch of airborne insects. It was an amazing morning to be out, witnessing the spectacle of bird migration, as well as several great views of butterflies and a southern toad species…

Like many mornings, the Great Kiskadees charmed the air with their bubbly chatter and stellar appearance. Their wings are toned of dark grays and rufous-reds, with a belly of bright yellow, all topped-off with a sharp mask of black and white. Look closely, and you might even get to see their neon yellow stripe along the crown on their head! Great Kiskadees are year-round residents at Quinta Mazatlan.

Great Kiskadee taking flight

Great Kiskadee taking flight

Clay-colored Thrushes were seen feeding in two small groups. Each of the thrushes were busy foraging throughout the many nooks and crannies in the leaf litter and branch thickets. The young-of-the-year Clay-colored Thrushes are a little scruffy-looking, with grayish heads and scruffy bellies, as they molt into their clean-cut set of beautiful golden-brown and dark-chocolate-colored feathers.

Clay-colored Thrush

Clay-colored Thrush

Clay-colored thrushes

Can you find all three Clay-colored Thrushes in this photo?

The ever-squawking Green Parakeets were seen feeding on anacua berries. Their lime green plumage glowed against the blue morning sky. Through close observation, we could even see their rosy-purple eye rings and neon yellow leg feathers. They are a very flashy bird, and are often heard before they are seen.

Green Parakeet

Green Parakeet

Several fiery skippers were seen flying and feeding throughout the grasses and flowers in ebony grove. While crouching on the ground, I was able to get pictures of two of them in the same picture, with a side-profile as well as a back-profile of this butterfly species.

Fiery Skipper

Fiery Skippers. Note the positioning of the orange spots along the side of the wing.

Fiery Skipper

Fiery Skippers. Note the “black-toothed” margins along his hindwing.

One very content gulf coast toad was seen hopping across the the path, as it made its way from the expanses of leaf litter along the perimeter of a puddle of water. This is a primarily-Mexican species of toad, that can be found throughout central Texas through southern Texas, as well as the southern edge of eastern Texas. They are more common near the coast, and can be found as far “north” as the Gulf of Mexico coastline of Louisiana.

Gulf Coast Toad

Gulf Coast Toad

Late September is one of the prime times of fall migration to see migrating raptors coming through in large numbers. Several small kettles (migrating groups) of raptors were seen overhead, containing both Broad-winged Hawks and Mississippi Kites. Can you identify both of the birds shown below? Like all of the other photos in this blog, these two raptor photos were taken on the bird walk. To see the answer, position your cursor on the picture for a moment to let the answer appear. Get your binoculars out, field guides ready, and keep your eyes to the skies!

Mississippi Kite

Broad-winged Hawk

Below are the birds seen during this morning’s bird walk at Quinta Mazatlan.

Plain Chachalaca  12
Mississippi Kite  2
Broad-winged Hawk  26
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  4
Inca Dove  11
White-winged Dove  10
Mourning Dove  3
Chimney Swift  20
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  5
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Green Parakeet  4
Great Kiskadee  2
Couch’s Kingbird  1
Green Jay  1
Purple Martin  1
Tree Swallow  1
Cave Swallow  2
Carolina Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Clay-colored Thrush  8
Curve-billed Thrasher  2
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  2
American Redstart  1
Wilson’s Warbler  1
Olive Sparrow  3
Great-tailed Grackle  1
Orchard Oriole  1
Lesser Goldfinch  3
House Sparrow  7

 

Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke

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

 

Bird Walk July 15, 2014


The light breeze spread the fragrance of recently-opened flowers, and birdsong filled the air during yesterday morning’s bird walk. In addition to stellar views of many beautiful, year-round birds, one early migrant from up north also made an appearance!

This is the time of year when juvenile birds (young-of-the-year) are out and about. From the ever-calling Northern Mockingbirds, to the Olive Sparrows and White-winged Doves, it was a treat to see the young of these species exploring the woods. Juvenile birds of other species were seen too! One of the highlights of yesterday morning’s hike was seeing Plain Chachalaca young following their parents throughout the tree branches, trails and water features at Quinta Mazatlan. Right now there are several families of chachalaca roaming around, each with their own young; some have recently-fledged young, and some have young that are nearly fully-grown. Chachalaca love to forage on fruits throughout the trees. If you catch a sunlit glimpse of these brown, long-tailed, chicken-like birds, you may even witness the glossy olive-green sheen that shines off of their brown wings.

Plain Chachalacas are busy raising their young at Quinta Mazatlan this time of year! I wonder how much longer it will be until the little ones begin taking after their parents, and begin to give those classic squawking calls!

Plain Chachalacas are busy raising their young at Quinta Mazatlan this time of year! I wonder how much longer it will be until the little ones are taking after their parents, and begin to give those classic squawking calls.

Far from being shy, the Plain Chachalaca give very loud and unique calls!

Far from being shy, the Plain Chachalaca give very loud and unique calls!

 

Feather care is crucial for a bird to remain healthy. Here is a Plain Chachalaca, preening its feathers atop a snag during yesterday morning's bird walk.

Feather care is crucial for a bird to remain healthy. Here is a Plain Chachalaca, preening its feathers atop a snag during yesterday morning’s bird walk.

 

Known for their loud and raucous calls, Green Parakeets were observed surprisingly-close during yesterday morning's bird walk. In addition to the rich shades of green, what other colors do you see on these two beautiful birds?

Known for their loud and raucous calls, Green Parakeets were observed surprisingly-close during yesterday morning’s bird walk. In addition to the rich array of greens, what other colors do you see on these two beautiful birds?

Northern Mockingbirds are year-round residents at Quinta Mazatlan. Juvenile Northern Mockingbirds are out and about right now, exploring the many nooks and crannies inside the nearby habitat. Male Northern Mockingbirds are known for their complex and varying songs. Some male Northern Mockingbirds have been known to imitate nearly 200 different sounds!

Juvenile Northern Mockingbird. The pink base of the bill and mottled frontside are field marks that show this is a young Northern Mockingbird. Adults would be dark-billed, and would have an evenly-pale frontside.

Juvenile Northern Mockingbird. The pink base of the bill and mottled frontside are field marks that show this is a young Northern Mockingbird. Adults would be dark-billed, and would have an evenly-pale frontside.

This female Black-and-White Warbler was one of the uncommon stars of the morning. She is arriving here quite early! Black-and-White Warblers nest well north and northeast of here. Once fall comes around, more Black-and-White Warblers will begin to establish their wintering grounds here in the valley. Keep your eyes out for new migrants as the summer progresses!

This female Black-and-White Warbler was one of the uncommon stars of the morning. She is arriving here quite early! Black-and-White Warblers nest well north and northeast of here. Once fall comes around, more Black-and-White Warblers will begin to establish their wintering grounds here in the valley. Keep your eyes out for new migrants as the summer progresses!

Here is the eBird list of birds observed during yesterday morning’s bird walk at Quinta Mazatlan.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  3
Plain Chachalaca  14     saw 4 or 5 chicks
Great Egret  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  5
White-winged Dove  15
Mourning Dove  1
Inca Dove  3
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  10
Green Parakeet  7
Brown-crested Flycatcher  2
Great Kiskadee  1
Tropical Kingbird  3
Couch’s Kingbird  2
White-eyed Vireo  2
Purple Martin  2
Cave Swallow  10
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  1
Clay-colored Thrush  4
Curve-billed Thrasher  6
Long-billed Thrasher  3
Northern Mockingbird  5
Olive Sparrow  3     saw one feeding Bronzed Cowbird fledgling
Bronzed Cowbird  2     one was fledgling being fed by Olive Sparrow
Orchard Oriole  4
Lesser Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  28

 

Good birding!
Erik Bruhnke

Bird Walk June 28, 2014 – Parakeets!

Bird Report written and photographed by Naturalist John Brush

Curve-billed Thrasher fledglingThe bird walk started off by seeing this fledgling Curve-billed Thrasher. Notice the gape flanges (the yellow part at the base of the bill). This is a good indicator of a more recently fledged bird.

???????????????????????????????We also got to watch Plain Chachalaca chicks get fed by one of its parents. These little cuties were the first chachalaca chicks I had seen all summer, which is slightly surprising.

Green Parakeet preeningThe bird walk a great time enjoying the bright colors of a pair of Green Parakeets this morning. It was partly cloudy, but the sun would break through enough to give bright flashes of the parakeets’ green feathers – you can really see all the different greens on this bird!

???????????????????????????????Green Parakeet head from cavity

The parakeets showed interest in several different palm tree cavities, and moved from spot to spot with ease (and without any signs of nervousness towards us birders!).

Full bird list below:

Plain Chachalaca  8     w/ two babies
White-winged Dove  14
Inca Dove  1
Chimney Swift  3
Black-chinned Hummingbird  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  9
Green Parakeet  4
Great Kiskadee  3
Couch’s Kingbird  1
Western Kingbird  1
Green Jay  1
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Curve-billed Thrasher  4
Long-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  3
Olive Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  2
Great-tailed Grackle  4
Bronzed Cowbird  1
Lesser Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  25