Songbird Stroll October 3rd, 2015

It was a fresh autumn morning at Quinta Mazatlan – cool in the shade but still hot in the sun . On these sorts of mornings I can’t wait to get out and see what birds are in the park. Well, admittedly, I feel that way most mornings, but there is something about the turn of the season that spurs a new excitement at what could be seen next in the park – we’re always hoping to add more species to our current 250+ species list.

We're not sure how this Javelina got to the park, but it sure seems happy here!

We’re not sure how this Javelina got to the park, but it sure seems happy here!

The first thing I saw after putting out seed and suet at our amphitheater feeding station was one of the park’s local javelinas! We think there are two that roam the park. Javelinas (or Collared Peccary), according to Texas Parks and Wildlife, have an undeserved reputation for being aggressive, when oftentimes they hang around humans longer than other wildlife simply because they can’t see as well! However, one should never approach or try to feed a javelina, because they can get accustomed to humans and can become problematic. All the visitors who got to see this javelina were quite excited – another (big) example of wildlife in Quinta Mazatlan!

Two of Quinta Mazatlan’s Green Jays – notice the band on the Green Jay on the right!

One of the bird walk participants wanted to get photographs of a Green Jay, and our local birds decided to oblige! In some parts of the Green Jays large tropical range, they are known to cooperatively breed (having additional helpers-at-the-nest along with the parents), but in South Texas do not. They do, however, maintain family groups most times of year that defend their territory. Green Jays at Santa Ana National Wildlife refuge were known to have a territory size of about 37 acres, so it seems likely that we have a single family group here at Quinta Mazatlan (15 acres).

Clay-colored Thrush underneath

We got plenty of views at our flock of Clay-colored Thrushes. The one in this photo is showing the typical pale streaking on the throat.

Notice the yellow pollen on this Buff-bellied Hummingbirds head!

Notice the yellow pollen on this Buff-bellied Hummingbirds head. This bird is ready to do some pollinating!

There are quite a few hummingbirds in the park, with migrating Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and resident Buff-bellied Hummingbirds being the most common. The hummingbird in the photo above is most likely a female, distinguished by the dark upper bill and the central tail feathers being mostly green-bronze. The Buff-bellied Hummingbirds in Quinta Mazatlan are predominantly nectaring on Turk’s Cap and Tropical Sage (or of course from our hummingbird feeders), but I have seen them nectaring on aloe flowers and Coral Bean flowers as well. They don’t only drink nectar however, and frequently are seen hover-gleaning and flycatching for small arthropods.

Bird list below:
Plain Chachalaca  12     These birds were definitely agitated by the javelina
Killdeer  2
Inca Dove  4
White-winged Dove  17
Chimney Swift  7
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  7
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Vermilion Flycatcher  1
Great Kiskadee  7
Couch’s Kingbird  1
Green Jay  3
Black-crested Titmouse  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Clay-colored Thrush  11
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Long-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  11
European Starling  4
Yellow Warbler  3
Wilson’s Warbler  3
Olive Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  1
Great-tailed Grackle  14
Lesser Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  15

Have a great weekend!

John Brush

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August 1, 2015 Songbird Stroll

Although it is only early August, migration is just around the corner. Many songbirds are currently undergoing zugenruhe, which is migratory restlessness.  Many of the birds from the Canadian Boreal forest, northern prairies, northern mountains, and many other northern ecosystems will be passing through south Texas over the next few months.  Birds migrate to follow their favored food sources.

One very ambitious juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen at Quinta Mazatlan today!  Late August is when these beautiful birds begin to show up in their regular numbers for the southbound migration, and this species will be quite numerous in the Lower Rio Grande Valley come September. Get those hummingbird feeders ready with a solution of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water, and be sure to keep them clean with fresh nectar. The hummingbirds will thank you!

RTHU juvenile

Here a juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird takes a break from catching gnats in the air.

COPA

An impressively cute Common Pauraque rests on our forest floor while sporting those stout yet growing tail feathers!

Water often becomes scarce this time of year. The mid-day heat and blustery air wicks the land of standing water. Drought-resistant plants find these conditions tolerable, while many non-native plants struggle to survive on their own. Despite the intense heat and dry substrate various trees and low-growing plants are flowering and going to seed, with much more of this plant reproduction to come. With flowers blooming and seeds being produced, many birds will find food plentiful through the fall season.

PLCH drinking

A Plain Chachalaca drinks from one of our birdbaths.

javelina1

“Francis”, our resident javelina, is quite shy and will often wait until the coast is clear to enjoy birdseed that spills to the ground.

roseate skimmer

Roseate skimmer over Birding Creek.

SWHA

Here is a Swainson’s Hawk seen overhead. This raptor species is known for its two-toned undersides and lengthy, pointed wings.

COKI

A Couch’s Kingbird keeps watch and preens in the early morning light.

ESOW

The Eastern Screech-Owl is doing well today!

INDO

Inca Dove. Look closely and you’ll see that this dove’s right leg is banded!

OLSP backside

The secretive Olive Sparrow searches for seeds and insects on the forest floor. Their colors and markings are subtle yet so beautiful! The Olive Sparrow get their name from the color on their backside, as seen from this photo.

Here is the eBird list from today’s Songbird Stroll.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Plain Chachalaca  16
Gray Hawk  1
Swainson’s Hawk  2
Black-necked Stilt  1     Flew from the Ebony Grove pond!
Killdeer  1     Ebony Grove pond visitor
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
Inca Dove  18
White-tipped Dove  2
White-winged Dove  25
Mourning Dove  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1
Eastern Screech-Owl  1
Common Nighthawk  1
Common Pauraque  1
Chimney Swift  16
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1     Juvenile
hummingbird sp.  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  3
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Green Parakeet  8
Great Kiskadee  3
Couch’s Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  2
Purple Martin  30
Cave Swallow  2
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  2
Clay-colored Thrush  8
Curve-billed Thrasher  3
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  2
Olive Sparrow  2
Great-tailed Grackle  3
Orchard Oriole  1     Male
Hooded Oriole  1     Flyover
Lesser Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  30

Good birding. Hope to see you at the upcoming Songbird Strolls!

Erik Bruhnke

Bird Hike March 24, 2015

Phew, what a thrilling morning of birding it was! As the early-morning fog lifted, the air quickly dried and the skies warmed with the radiant sunlight. Plain Chachalacas could be heard singing through the entire morning. We were treated to wonderful looks of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, flitting about and feeding within arm’s reach of some of the visiting birders. We stood still, and let this beautiful migrant feed as it would. The close views provided learning experiences and memories that no camera could ever attempt to capture. What an incredibly beautiful little bird those kinglets are!

As the morning progressed, a light trickle of Broad-winged Hawks were seen streaming through the deep blue sky. While watching the hawks streaming overhead, we quickly realized that the few-dozen birds were being followed by over two hundred additional Broad-winged Hawks. It was so amazing! The kettles of Broad-winged Hawks continued through the latter half of the Songbird Stroll, and by the end of the stroll this morning, a conservative estimate of at least 1,700 Broad-winged Hawks had flown by!

SWHA

A migrating adult Swainson’s Hawk checks us out as it migrates overhead.

BWHA kettle

Here is one of the many kettles of Broad-winged Hawks that pushed north this morning. It is an incredible sight to see so many migrating birds riding thermals together. These Broad-winged Hawks have left their wintering grounds, and are headed north to the northern and eastern forests of North America in search of a nesting site! This beautiful species can be found breeding in deciduous and mixed forests.

BWHA two of them

Two beautiful adult Broad-winged Hawks zip overhead. Note the stocky wings, straight trailing edge of the wing, and pale underside of their wings.

BWHA

Here is a closeup of an adult Broad-winged Hawk flying overhead from this morning. What field marks stand out to you when looking at this picture? Keep your eyes out for more masses of Broad-winged Hawks to come through the Valley very soon!

WHIB

This flock of 70 White Ibis flew overhead this morning.

LAGU

One of the unexpected finds this morning was not just one, not two, but three Laughing Gulls!

PLCH calling

The Plain Chachalacas were very vocal this morning. They could be heard calling throughout the entire Songbird Stroll! Both male and female Plain Chachalacas have the red throat patch.

BBWD

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks have been busy chattering and whistling as they look for the perfect tree cavity to raise their young! The whistling-ducks are such a fun and unique species.

CCTH

The Clay-colored Thrushes wowed our eyes through binoculars, once again. This individual had found a muddy patch of soil in the middle of the grass, and was churning up all kinds of good-eats!

ESOW

The resident Eastern Screech-Owl was a treat to see, like always! The Eastern Screech-Owls found here in south Texas are of the McCall’s race, which is a Mexican race of the Eastern Screech-Owl species.

javelina peccary

We had great looks at the javelina today. Have you seen this beautiful animal along our trails yet?


With the dry southern winds outside last night and today were just right for migrating birds to push through the area! The kettles of raptors wowed us, and the bird diversity seen this morning was quite exciting. Despite seeing 45 bird species today, we did not find either of the two Common Pauraques. That is one of the many treats to search for, during this Saturday’s Songbird Stroll!

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  200
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Anhinga  3
White Ibis  70

Turkey Vulture   6

Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Cooper’s Hawk  6
Broad-winged Hawk  1700
Gray Hawk  1
Swainson’s Hawk  5
Red-tailed Hawk  2
American Coot  1
Laughing Gull  3
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  2
Inca Dove  6
White-winged Dove  7
Mourning Dove  1
Eastern Screech-Owl  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  1
hummingbird sp.  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  9
Red-crowned Parrot  8
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Great Kiskadee  14
Couch’s Kingbird  2
Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird  1
Green Jay  2
Tree Swallow  5
Cliff Swallow  2
Cave Swallow  6
Black-crested Titmouse  1
House Wren  3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Clay-colored Thrush  5
Curve-billed Thrasher  5
Northern Mockingbird  5
European Starling  2
Olive Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Great-tailed Grackle  5
Brown-headed Cowbird  1
Lesser Goldfinch  3
House Sparrow  12

Hope to see you at the upcoming Songbird Stroll this Saturday. We meet at the main house at 8:30. Until then, good birding!
Erik Bruhnke