Bird Hike February 24, 2015

All five Songbird Stroll participants bundled up well as we birded through the trails of Quinta Mazatlan this morning. The chachalacas were fluffed up and huddled close to each other throughout most of the morning. Being from the north, I found these temperatures to be refreshing, however for the year-round wildlife found throughout the Rio Grande Valley, these cool temps (especially this late in the winter season) came as a bit of a shock to the wildlife. Great Kiskadees were feeding readily at the suet and orange halves. In between feeding sessions, these birds would perch on a branch and rouse their feathers to retain their warmth. One Gray Catbird was seen this morning, staying quite low to the ground. After watching it for a few minutes, it scratched around the leaf litter in search of a meal. We can greatly help birds out by planting native vegetation and offering birdfeeders. Birds benefit greatly from birdfeeders and native habitat, which are especially important when cold fronts and inclement weather comes through.


Gray Catbird, an uncommon but regular winter resident of the Rio Grande Valley

Participants were treated to great views of fun birds at the birdfeeding stations and along Birding Creek. After a few minutes of enjoying the presence of the flurry of birds, a swift-moving Sharp-shinned Hawk took flight overhead and landed atop a nearby perch, keeping its eye out for sudden movements for a potential meal. Following the Sharp-shinned Hawk was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk. This gorgeous mid-sized accipiter was molting from juvenile plumage into its first set of adult feathers. The belly feathers were mostly white, and vertically-streaked in brown markings’ however the underwings and flanks of the birds were beginning to show the horizontally-barred in rufous appearance. These rufous feathers are seen throughout the entire underbelly on full-adult Cooper’s Hawks (as well as adult Sharp-shinned Hawks too).


Sharp-shinned Hawk taking flight.


The hind end of a White-eyed Vireo


Clay-colored Thrush


Common Pauraque, resting on the ground this morning. Note how fluffed up he is, to stay warm during this cold front.


Great Kiskadee and Green Jay.

PLCH fluffy

Some of the Plain Chachalacas were roosting shoulder-to-shoulder to stay warm.

PLCH feet

Three sets of Plain Chachalaca feet, lined up on the branch.


Eastern Cottontail

The eBird list from this morning’s Songbird Stroll is below.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  350
Plain Chachalaca  15
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Harris’s Hawk  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  1
Great Kiskadee  3
Tropical Kingbird  2
Black-crested Titmouse  2
House Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Clay-colored Thrush  7
Orange-crowned Warbler  3
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1
Olive Sparrow  3
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  1
Great-tailed Grackle  3
House Sparrow  2

Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke


Bird Walk January 1st, 2014

Bird report photographed and written by Interpretive Guide John Brush

Rufous Hummingbird QM 1-25-2013


It was a crisp and clear morning at Quinta Mazatlan – temperatures in the mid 40s but with the sun shining brightly. The minute we stepped out the doors we had a nice variety of birds. We barely went 50 yards in 20 minutes because we were seeing so much! A Rufous Hummingbird perched above our heads towards the end of the extravaganza, giving us a “rear view”. You can check out the full list of birds here.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker QM 1-25-2013

This Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew into a Wild Olive tree behind the cottage and gave us some nice views of its red chin. You can see some of the sap wells the bird has dug on the tree trunk. It will come back and eat both the sap and the insects attracted to the sap.

White-eyed Vireo (1)

It took us a few minutes of searching, but we finally got some brief looks at one of the ever elusive White-eyed Vireos in the park (archive shot). We could hear it singing, could see movement, but seeing these thornforest denizens out in the open is not the easiest! You can listen to the song here.

Curve-billed Thrasher 1-18-2014

We got great looks at this Curve-billed Thrasher in the front garden. It hopped up onto one of our lamp posts and looked like it was enjoying the sunshine (just like we were!). Have a good weekend, and hope to see y’all out on a bird walk!

Bird walks are offered Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8:30 am.

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.

Bird Walk: April 23rd, 2013

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

Had another great walk this morning at Quinta Mazatlan, joined by both out of town and local birders (including our Conservation Hero, Jane Kittleman). The morning was filled with a variety of species: 3 vireo species, 6 warbler species, along with thrushes and some flycatchers.

Bird Walk 2013-04-23 Carolina Wren John Brush

We started by seeing a family of Carolina Wrens just outside the front desk doors in the Hummingbird Garden. There were three of these short-tailed, tufty little wrens just leaving the nest box. Notice the wide yellow gape – a sure sign of a fledgling. These cuties got all the appropriate attention.

Bird Walk 2013-04-23 White-eyed Vireo John Brush

Not to be outdone by the wrens for cuteness was this White-eyed Vireo fledgling, hidden a few meters back in some thick granjeno branches. Again, this bird looks like its very recently fledged – I wouldn’t have known it was a vireo if I hadn’t seen the adult feeding it!

Bird Walk 2013-04-23 Scarlet Tanager John Brush

We also got some mesquite-blocked views of a brilliant Scarlet Tanager, which are migrating through the Valley in large numbers, especially towards the coast.

Bird Walk 2013-04-23 Summer Tanager John Brush

The second tanager species we got was this female Summer Tanager, and we later saw an immature male starting to get its bright red plumage.

Bird Walk 2013-04-23 Common Pauraque John Brush

The Bird of the Day, chosen by all present, had to have been our beautiful nesting Common Pauraque . This is the third week we’ve seen a pauraque at the exact same spot. Three weeks is significant, because if it had been incubating eggs from the first time we spotted it then it would be about now that the eggs would hatch. The bird shifted a little bit when we saw, possibly meaning that there are small baby pauraques under its brood patch. We need to continue to check it every day we can!

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