August 22, 2015 Songbird Stroll

The dispersal and movements of birds throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley is taking place right now. Birding hotspots throughout the Valley are reporting warblers arriving and trickling through. Over the past few days a family of Groove-billed Anis have decided to make Quinta Mazatlan a spot to live and feed as these gorgeous black birds stock up on energy reserves for their southbound migration. The Groove-billed Anis’ hiccuping-yodeling calls are very distinctive and these family groups are often heard before they are seen. This species is exceptionally social as they will hang out in groups and will vocalize quite often. Their large parrot-like bill and fondness of sunning their black wings is unique.


Here are Groove-billed Anis feeding in a mesquite during this morning’s Songbird Stroll. There were eight additional Groove-billed Anis nearby when this photo was taken.

The recent downpours have saturated the land with much-needed water. The thickets of trees and low-growing plants currently have an abundance of neon green new growth along many of their branches. Succulent fruits have emerged in good numbers throughout the anacua and prickly pear cactus. The night-blooming cereus have also been producing many shoots of new growth near their fully-ripened fruits. The summer rains work wonders in our hot part of the country.

night-blooming cereus

Here is a stalk of night-blooming cereus. Its rosy-pink fruits are called dragon fruit.

COPA on ground

Through cool downpours and hot sunny days this resident Common Pauraque finds its home on our forest floor. This species can be found throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley within the woods that offer expanses of leaf litter on ground. Such beautiful birds they are! Have you found them yet along our trails?

PLCH baby2

This fledgling Plain Chachalaca is getting so big! Although nearly fully-grown, it is still under the careful watch and care of its parents.

PLCH sleeping

It’s hard work being a chachalaca…

teleus longtail

A teleus longtail was seen this morning along the entrance to Ebony Grove. This butterfly is found throughout the southern tip of Texas and southward. The teleus longtail hosts two white diagonal lines throughout each wing in addition to the long brown “tails” streaming off of each hindwing.

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

Plain Chachalaca  20
Swainson’s Hawk  1
Inca Dove  19
White-tipped Dove  1
White-winged Dove  25
Mourning Dove  10
Groove-billed Ani  10
Eastern Screech-Owl  1
Lesser Nighthawk  1
Common Pauraque  1
Chimney Swift  5
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Great Kiskadee  3
Tropical Kingbird  1
Couch’s Kingbird  4
Green Jay  2
Cave Swallow  10
Black-crested Titmouse  1
Carolina Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Clay-colored Thrush  4
Curve-billed Thrasher  4
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  1
Olive Sparrow  10
Northern Cardinal  1
Great-tailed Grackle  15
Orchard Oriole  1
Lesser Goldfinch  4
House Sparrow  11

Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke


Mid-Summer Night’s Dream

Written by Carol Goolsby, Education SupervisorARTICLE 2013-07-23 Mid Summer's Night Dream 06

Your jaw might just drop. Your feet might come to a sudden halt.  Your eyes won’t believe what they are seeing.  There is a flower…only few people in the United States have the privilege of getting to see…that has one SERIOUSLY beautiful scent!  A CACTUS flower that only blooms at NIGHT!  And it grows in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  I’d like to introduce you…to our Night-blooming Cereus.

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Although it is widespread further south in Mexico, the Lower Rio Grande Valley is its northernmost growing range.  We are its only home in the U.S.  It grows along the back wildcat sculpture trail at Quinta Mazatlan, standing 5-10 feet tall, growing in massive clumps around every bend.  During the daytime one’s attentions might be diverted to the lizards, rabbits, birds and snakes darting in and out of its thorny mott to take refuge.  But at night…if you are lucky to pass through in a week after a rain…something magical happens…the flowers bloom.  And nothing else…compares.

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Although this cactus can propagate itself by simply falling over onto new soil, and digging new roots in where it lay, Night-blooming Cereus is hardwired to “know” that any plant species is better off if it can get away from its parent.  So it puts out a delicious red “tuna” full of seeds, hoping for some bird, rabbit, javelin, deer to be lured to eating the fruit…and then “depositing”  its seeds far away.  But no fruit…no seed…could have ever developed were it not for a different creature of the nocturnal forest:  the mighty moth!  When the sun goes down…Night-blooming Cereus opens its petals, and the forest is filled with the perfume of the heavens.  Moths are lured in like a hot Friday night date!  As they feast on the nectar deep within the flower, their wings become coated in pollen.  Crazy from the scent in the air, they move from flower to flower in a feeding frenzy that leaves the motionless cactus flower… quietly pollinated.  The petals then close, and the chemistry of pollination forces the flowers to fall off.  And the plant no longer needs its perfume.  Instead it turns its energies on nurturing the new life inside its seeds.

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Only a few people in this country ever get to experience this “magical floral feast in the forest”.  It’s not only difficult to see because it is at NIGHT when this happens, but it is also difficult because it only happens after a rain burst.  Which is RARE these days!  But when the LRGV does have a downpour, like we did last week…the cacti respond rapidly.   Your jaw just might drop open at seeing just how many fist-size fruit are suddenly decorating the otherwise drab gray forest in bright fuscia reds.  Your feet might just come to a sudden halt when you see how LARGE those closed up flower petals are, that two weeks ago were not even there.   And your mind might just wander off to the right place—to a Lower Rio Grande Valley  “WOW” moment… as it realizes just how “seriously” unique and  beautiful  this place we call home…can be.

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You can see the Night-blooming Cereus Cactus on Quinta Mazatlan’s Wildcat Trail.  Quinta Mazatlan is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 8 am-5 pm, with extended hours on Thursday evenings, for Family Night activities.