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.


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.


“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.


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


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


The Eastern Screech-Owl is doing well today!


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 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!


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!


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


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.


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


Inca Dove.


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 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!


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.


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!


This flock of 70 White Ibis flew overhead this morning.


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.


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.


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!


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

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 August 10th 2013

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

It was an excellent morning of birding in the park today – lots of activity, good species, and good looks. It was one of those mornings that just makes you want to do a fist pump, golf style!

Bird Walk 2013-08-10 Swainsons Hawk John Brush

The minute we stepped out of the WBC doors, we saw a pair of gorgeous Swainson’s Hawks perched up in a mesquite tree. These graceful hawks have about a 4.5 foot wingspan, and some of my favorite hawks. While they used to be more unusual breeders in the Valley, they seem to be on the increase… which I think is great!

Bird Walk 2013-08-10 Swainsons Hawk2 John Brush

This one looks rather affronted. Sorry to invade your privacy, buddy!

Bird Walk 2013-08-10 Orchard Oriole John Brush

Orchard Orioles are an early migrant species, and are coming through the park in good numbers. Females and immature males are this yellow color, while the full adult males are a rich, brick red.

Bird Walk 2013-08-10 Orchard Oriole 2 John Brush

The Bird of Day by far was this American Robin juvenile that made a brief appearance near the amphitheater.

Bird Walk 2013-08-10 American Robin John Brush

American Robins are a species that infrequently shows up in the Valley in winter, depending on the fruit crop in the northern parts of their range. So not only is it as a species uncommon in the Valley, but this is also an out of season sighting as well! Just goes to show that at any moment nature may throw something awesome your way.

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