Bird Walk October 4, 2014

Cool weather is most welcome this time of year. The recent cold front north of here graced the air with refreshing northeastern winds that brought a relief from the heat, as well as newly-arrived birds. During fall migration, many birds will make their largest migrational jaunts when the conditions are just right, and a tail-wind helps birds make this amazing journey with less effort.

Newly-arrived songbirds made themselves known throughout the vegetation this morning. Four beautiful species of warblers were seen today, including a male TROPICAL PARULA, a male American Redstart, a female Yellow Warbler, and a dapper male Black-and-white Warbler. The Tropcial Parula is a a lower Rio Grande Valley specialist (when considering where it can be found within the United States). They are much more common throughout Central America, and this beautiful, tropical species of warbler is quite sought-after by many birdwatchers that come down to the valley for the winter months!

American Redstart

American Redstart

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Northern Parula

Look closely… Can you find the Tropical Parula?

We were treated to delightful views of the year-round Inca Doves. This small dove species has a unique scalloped appearance throughout the feathers on their bodies, and these fine details compliment their deep-red eyes beautifully. If you’re lucky enough to see them stretching or flying-by, you will see their rusty-red wings.


Inca Dove

INDO pair

Cuddling Inca Doves, with a bit stretch!

The good ol’ Plain Chachalacas were seen grazing throughout the trees as well as the shrubs closer to the ground.  It has been a great time seeing the families of Plain Chachalaca raise their young at Quinta Mazatlan this summer! The chachalaca shown below is one of two siblings from one of the chachalaca families. Note the paler-faced, scruffy look on this young one. As this bird matures, it will have a darker face and more clean-cut look overall.


Juvenile Plain Chachalaca

One lone red-bordered pixie was seen today. This butterfly species is found primarily throughout Central America. While being out at the right time of year (and the right area), you may get lucky at seeing this southern species of butterfly. The only place within the country that experiences this butterfly happens to be the southernmost tip of Texas, right where we are!

red-bordered pixie

Red-bordered pixie

The Great Kiskadees made their presence know with their comical and exciting chatter! Here is one taking a little breather from calling.


Great Kiskadee

If you’re not able to be out first-thing tomorrow morning (to see the upcoming migrating songbirds with this cool front), be sure to keep your eyes to the skies today and tomorrow. The cool temperatures this time of year are not only pushing songbirds south, but raptors as well. Here is an adult Broad-winged Hawk that we saw riding a thermal this morning.


Adult Broad-winged Hawk

Here is the eBird list from this morning’s bird walk:

Plain Chachalaca  18
Turkey Vulture  1
Broad-winged Hawk  2     Both adults. One bird was flushed by accident from a roosting branch, the other was actively migrating upon being sighted.
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
Inca Dove  14
White-winged Dove  5
Mourning Dove  2
Chimney Swift  4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Olive-sided Flycatcher  1
Great Kiskadee  2
Couch’s Kingbird  4
White-eyed Vireo  2
Purple Martin  3
Tree Swallow  1
Cliff Swallow  1
Cave Swallow  3
Black-crested Titmouse  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  3
Clay-colored Thrush  4
Curve-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  5
European Starling  3
Black-and-white Warbler  1     Male
American Redstart  1     Male
Northern Parula  1     Male
Yellow Warbler  1     Female
Olive Sparrow  6
Northern Cardinal  2
Great-tailed Grackle  2
Lesser Goldfinch  4
House Sparrow  6

Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke


Bird Walk August 26, 2014

A high-perched Olive-sided Flycatcher greeted all four bird hike participants as we left the main house. The beautiful Plain Chachalacas made their presence known with their cackling calls, as well as their sail-like wings & tails as they soared between the rooftops and treetops. Great Kiskadees chattered up a storm, and the nectar-loving Golden-fronted Woodpeckers made sure to enjoy the hummingbird feeders with their long, well-adapted tongues. Buff-bellied Hummingbirds and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird partook in the sweet-tooth breakfast at the nectar feeders this morning too. One stunning Yellow Warbler was seen feeding atop the mequite trees.

The Olive-sided Flycatcher was a special treat to see. This well-dressed flycatcher species breeds throughout the Boreal (Canadian) forest as well as western coniferous forests of the United States. They are only found in the valley during migration. Over the next month and a half, this bird will be moving through the area in fair numbers. Once mid-October comes around, the bulk of the Olive-sided Flycatchers will have passed through the valley. Although we didn’t get to hear this bird’s delightful song, the classic field marks of a pale belly with a vest of dark-gray plumage was easily-noticed. This is the largest of the northern flycatcher species found in North America. In past summer months back in northern Minnesota while watching the beautiful Olive-sided Flycatchers in the boreal bogs, the adults pick out favorite perching spots atop tall standalone trees, and will actively pursue airborne insects in search of food, while nearly always returning to the same “favorite” perching spot. The Olive-sided Flycatchers are heading to central and northwestern South America for the winter months, as well as a few select areas of Central America, where they’ll reside along forest edges where the shrubs and tall snags are present. They are a very cool bird. Be sure to see them while you can!

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Distant Olive-sided Flycatcher, sporting that gorgeous vest of gray feathers!

Buff-breasted Hummingbird

Buff-breasted Hummingbird feeding from a nectar-rich turk’s cap flower.

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

Buff-bellied Hummingbird at a turk’s cap this morning. They have such an incredible array of colors and finely-detailed feathers throughout their tiny body!

Plain Chachalaca

Plain Chachalaca, looking handsome as ever!


Golden-fronted Woodpeckers

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers feeding along a snag this morning.

Below is the eBird list from this morning:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Plain Chachalaca  12
Inca Dove  1
White-winged Dove  35
Mourning Dove  3
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1
Chimney Swift  15
Ruby-throated/Black-chinned Hummingbird  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  5
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Olive-sided Flycatcher  1
Great Kiskadee  3
Couch’s Kingbird  1
Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird  2
Purple Martin  2
Cave Swallow  5
Clay-colored Thrush  4
Curve-billed Thrasher  2
European Starling  2
Yellow Warbler  1
Olive Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  1
Great-tailed Grackle  3
Lesser Goldfinch  9
House Sparrow  20


Good birding!

Erik Bruhnke


Bird Walk August 23, 2014

This morning’s bird hike was filled with so many birds… many year-round residents, and some migrants coming through too! With the upcoming hot day making itself known, the Plain Chachalacas were taking it easy by laying-low and foraging in the shade. Some of them even decided to take a morning nap!

Plain Chachalaca

A Plain Chachalaca stays cool and takes a post-breakfast nap

Plain Chachalaca

Plain Chachalacas are very opportunistic with their napping spots. This is one comfy chachalaca!

Plain Chachalaca

Seen in the right light, a Plain Chachalaca’s tail has gorgeous shades of green that glow against their gorgeous brown backsides.


A rare female SCARLET TANAGER made herself known by feeding in the mesquite tree near the central pond here at Quinta Mazatlan. During the fall migration, they are a very uncommon migrant within the valley, and are most-expected in the far-eastern regions of Texas, primarily coastal sightings. Your best chance of finding this uncommon bird is during the month of September, but even so, they are never a common sight. It was fun to see this bird moving through here in the valley, as it is a “backyard bird” where I recently moved-from in northern Minnesota. Back in Duluth within the older-aged mixed deciduous woods, Scarlet Tanagers make their presence known during the breeding months. Several migrating Yellow Warblers were seen this morning too! They are delightful little yellow birds, and are one of the earlier-migrating warbler species found within the valley during the fall migration.

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

A gorgeous Buff-bellied Hummingbird rests for a few moments on a mesquite branch.

Yellow Warbler

A stunning Yellow Warbler keeps watch and forages through the branches.

Northern Mockingbird bathing

Northern Mockingbirds gotta stay clean! Here is a bathing Northern Mockingbird seen during this morning’s hike.


Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers are known for their “sweet tooth,” and will readily enjoy some sips of nectar at the hummingbird feeders!


Below is the eBird list from this morning.

Plain Chachalaca  16

Swainson’s Hawk  2

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  25

Inca Dove  3

White-winged Dove  45

Chimney Swift  5

Buff-bellied Hummingbird  4

Golden-fronted Woodpecker  8     One pair had three young. Very cool to see a family foraging together, and meandering through the habitat.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2

Green Parakeet  2

Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill’s Flycatcher)  1

Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird  2

Carolina Wren  1

Bewick’s Wren  1

Clay-colored Thrush  2

Curve-billed Thrasher  3

Northern Mockingbird  3

European Starling  2

Yellow Warbler  5

Olive Sparrow  2

Summer Tanager  1    Female

Scarlet Tanager  1     Female. Dusky-yellow head, gray wings, bright-yellow belly. Tanager-like bill (thick at base, medium-length, coming to a sharp point). Gray wings were contrastive/well-defined among the yellow body (not grayish-yellow like Summer Tanager). Seen feeding in a mesquite tree.

Northern Cardinal  2

Red-winged Blackbird  1     One flyover

Orchard Oriole  1     One first-year male

Lesser Goldfinch  5

House Sparrow  7


Hope you have a wonderful and bird-filled weekend! Good birding,

Erik Bruhnke


Bird Walk 9-21-13

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

The birding was excellent on this gray, wet morning. I finished the morning with 53 species – nearly equaling my previous high for a morning of birding at QM – and warblers had much to do with it! I saw 13 species of warbler in the park, most of them moving through the forest along the Wildcat trail and the path to Ebony Grove.

Bird Walk 9-21-13 Great Crested Flycatcher John Brush

We started off our walk over by Ruby Pond, where this Great Crested Flycatcher sat very cooperatively in some open branches of a mesquite. Flycatchers in the genus Myiarchus look very similar for the most part, so it can take a little time to get familiar with IDing them. This isn’t the most diagnostic shot of a Great Crested, but you can see a touch of the darker gray on the throat, and the light base to the lower part of the bill (mandible). Overall, Great Crested Flycatchers are much more bright and contrasting than the other Myiarchus in the area. Learning the calls always helps too! Great Crested Flycatchers are a species that migrates through the Lower Rio Grande Valley, spending the winter mostly in Central America.

Bird Walk 9-21-13 Swainson's Thrush John Brush

This Swainson’s Thrush popped up for a half minute or so along the far eastern portion of hte Ebony Grove trail. The buffy line extending from the bill to the similarly colored eye ring is a good field mark for this species. This is another neotropical migrant species, one that has much of its breeding range in the northern US and in Canada.

Bird Walk 9-21-13 Yellow Warbler John Brush

And now we come to a couple warbler pictures. Given the gray, dark morning it was difficult getting shots of these quick-moving birds, but this Yellow Warbler took a brief moment to pause near a water feature. These mostly uni-colored birds (varying shades of yellow, with males having rusty streaks on the breast) are a very common migrant through the LRGV – their yellow plumage and distinctive flight calls of “zeet” make them pretty easy to find.
I could choose any one of the 13 species of warbler for my Bird of the Day (heck, I could choose any of the 53 species we saw) but I can’t deny that Blackburnian Warblers are some of my favorites.
Bird Walk 9-21-13 Blackburnian Warbler John Brush
This female Blackburnian was foraging somewhat by herself on the edge of a mixed flock of warblers, and boy does she catch the eye; between the yellow and dusky contrast on the face and the white wing-bars, this really is a fine looking bird. I highly encourage you to get out and do some birding, even if its in your backyard – the Valley is starting to heat up (with birds).
Have a great weekend!