Friday, 20 March 2015

Birding 'Up the Valley'

This morning we explored the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse - a World Birding Center very close to the Rio Grande River.
It was originally used to pump water from the Rio Grande for crop irrigation. Initially the boilers were fired with mesquite wood. then converted to oil, then natural gas, then diesel. There is an interpretive centre in the old pumphouse, however today, we just explored the natural surroundings.

One of the first things we heard, then saw was a flock of noisy monk parakeets. This is the best I could do for a photo of one of them.
The border wall patrolled 24/7 runs through the area between the upper pumphouse area and the lower floodplain. This part is where the road goes over the levee.
Here's a panoramic shot.
and a shot of the covered area. I can imagine it is blisteringly hot here in the summer and the covering is a welcome respite.
Another view of the border wall from the path leading to the trail.
This is the old pumphouse.
This is a Couch's kingbird. I believe the difference between it and a tropical kingbird is the angle of the beak.
Another panoramic shot from the levee showing the border wall on the left (facing west) and the levee facing east on the right side.
We saw many kiskadees, a black phoebe, a scissor-tailed flycatcher, and many grackles.

After lunch, we then headed to Quinta Mazatlán - another World Birding Center and historical adobe mansion just east of the McAllen, TX airport.
It was built by in the 1930s by composer, writer and adventurer, Jason Matthews and his wife, Marcia, with 10,000 adobe bricks that were made on site. The owners lived there until the 1960s. It was then for sale from 1964 - 1967. Hurricane Beulah destroyed a lot of the roof. It was then purchased for $24,000 by Frank and Marilyn Schultz. Restoration began adding stone patios and expanding the home. Exotic flowers, shrubs, and trees were planted as well as welcoming the regrowth of the native Thornforest. The Schultz family lived and raised their children there for 30 years. In 1998 the estate was put up for auction after Mrs. Schultz' death. The city of McAllen purchased it and the surrounding eight acres for $1.4 million. Mr. Schultz died unexpectedly in 2009.
Quinta Mazatlan is now the McAllen wing of the World Birding Center.
There are over 100 species of birds and over 100 species of tropical and native trees, flowers and plants identified there. 

We spotted many chachalacas (I included this imperfect photo as it is the only one that shows the patch of red on its throat)

inca doves (a small dove with defined feathers),

white-winged doves,
a cute, but mangy-looking squirrel,
many kiskadees, house sparrows, and a clay-coloured robin - a life bird for both Skip and me.

It was warm and humid - like it should be this time of year. Ahhhh.

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