South Texas December 2012 Days 7-10

Days 7 & 8 were chili for South Texas with one day’s high in the low 60s. Normally, I would have been out anyways but these two days found me indoors doing paperwork and getting caught up on stuff that people sometimes refer to as “responsibility”.  Days 9 & 10 were back to normal with leisurely visits to Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen, TX and Estero Llano Grande near Weslaco, TX.

Quinta Mazatlan is a lush little urban gem set in the city of McAllen, TX not far from the airport. It is a place one can easily get some of the Texas specialty birds like Green Jay, Plain Chachalaca, and Great Kiskadee…while watching bird feeders. This is a lazy birder’s treat. I enjoy watching feeders sometimes. It’s quite relaxing.

Entrance road to Quinta Mazatlan

Entrance road to Quinta Mazatlan photo by Greg Miller

The entrance road (which you walk–no cars inside the park) is a great place to see and hear the raucous chicken-like birds, Plain Chachalacas.

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Disneyland for Birders!

Not only are the birds beautiful and exotic, but did I mention the habitat?  Oh, yeah.  Welcome to a subtropical environment!  Ok.  It is not a cloud forest.  But…it is pretty phenomenal for birding in the U.S.  What am I talking about?  Ahh.  The Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  Just look this.

Santa Ana NWR

Birders looking for South Texas gems (birds).  This group is looking at a very camouflaged and cryptic looking Pauraque sitting well hidden among the leaves in the ground cover.  Up at the bend Great Kiskadees are loudly calling.  Olive Sparrows can be heard frequently in the underbrush, but are often more difficult to see.  The low-pitched cooing of White-tipped Doves can be heard along the trail.  Green Jays can be heard making a variety of calls including a characteristic growling like noise.  And as you walk along the trails sometimes everything gets overridden by the raucous sound of a flock of Plain Chachalacas.  A Buff-bellied Hummingbird buzzes past your head.  Exotic looking butterflies adorn an assortment of wildflowers.  Spanish moss dangles from the limbs of trees.  You’re interrupted again with a pair of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers.  This is an amazing place!!  So much for your first 10 minutes!  What will the rest of the day hold?  Who knows?  In a place like this it makes you feel like you are in some wonderful aviary.

But don’t stop there.  There are going to be tons of birders from all over converging on South Texas.  The birding will be great, but the people and programs and festivities?  Ahh.  It will tantalize all your senses.  Enjoyment coming from many different sources.  This is a great place to enjoy the birds.  It’s also a great place to meet people who share your passion for birding.  Yes, I will be at the Rio Grande Birding Valley Birding Festival next week, November 9-13.  I hope to see a lot of great birds.  And I really hope I get to meet a whole bunch of you there!

Check out all the great tours, events, and programs here at www.rgvbf.org!

If you live here in northeastern Ohio you should come on out to the Buckeye Book Fair in Wooster, Ohio on Saturday, November 5.  I will also be speaking at the Holmes County Library on Monday night, November 7.  Check out the “Events” tab on my website.

It’s bedtime for me.  I think I’ll coast into a peaceful oblivion while dreaming about Green Jays, Altamira Orioles, Roseatte Spoonbills, Hook-billed Kites, Harris’s Hawks, and zzzzzzzzzz…

My Birding Mentor

Dr. Bruce Miller on road to Chincoteague VA - early 90s photo: Greg Miller

Yesterday, April 4, would have been my father’s birthday.  I lost my father, friend, and birding mentor in late 2000.  He was a large animal veterinarian for the State of Ohio.  He was also a birder since a very young boy.  It was his patience and steady temperament that made him not only a good birder, but an outstanding mentor.  His approach to birding was thorough and meticulous, yet still he conveyed quiet joy and passion for the hobby. Continue reading