Memories of Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center

Built around a 1930s 10,000 square foot mansion, Quinta Mazatlan is an urban oasis, with trails weaving through 15 acres of birding habitat in the middle of the city of McAllen Texas. It is part of a complex of nine separate birding destinations called the World Birding Center. The other eight sites are Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley (Mission), Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Estero Llano Grande (Weslaco), Harlingen Arroyo Colorado, Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, Resaca de la Palma (Brownsville), Roma Bluffs, and the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. (I’ve visited those sites in italics.)

The story of Quinta Mazatlan is about a tiny victory in the war on the environment, and the rescue of an estate that was under threat of demolition and obliteration by developers. The city fathers heeded the out-cry of concerned citizens in the 1970s and bought the property, restored the buildings, and planted native trees on some of its neglected sections. Today, it is a jewel in the crown of this amazing part of our planet.

Despite the dense fog and dark skies that greeted me on my arrival, my day began with a bang. The first bird I met at the northern border of the compound was a Dusky-Capped Flycatcher. These birds look very much like their cousins, the Ash-Throated Flycatchers, but their calls and songs are different. Had this bird had not been issuing its plaintive whistled calls, I might not have had the confidence to assign the ID as I have. According to range maps, it shouldn’t be here.

The end of my day was as exciting as its start. Not only did I meet the flycatcher again (or its doppelganger), I had a long visit with a most cooperative Sharp-Shinned Hawk at a water feature as I was leaving. I’ve struggled over the years to capture decent images of this species, but this day made up for all my past shortcomings. The sun began peeking through the clouds as I was on my way out of the park and added a decent finishing touch to the series with the hawk.

The day’s take was not one of quantity, but of quality. The birds I captured were Black-Throated Gray Warbler, Dusky-Capped Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Hermit Thrush, House Wren, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Sharp-Shinned Hawk. I wouldn’t mind revisiting this place, but my time in south Texas was drawing to an end. So as Arnold once said, “I’ll be back.”

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