Phil and I took a 6 hour drive along Skyline Drive. I actually think I enjoyed it more than driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. More places to pull off and wider roads . The most exciting part of the trip was seeing two mama Brown bears and three bear cubs!
This poor little one got caught in a web,
It is such a beautiful drive. We really enjoyed it.
ANCA is the Association of Nature Center Administrators that holds training sessions for people that work at nature centers, and since I work at Quinta Mazatlan, I was invited to go to the Spring Bird Migration training on South Padre Island.
We were given a power point show by Mary Gustafson, who is one of the best bird guides in the valley. The power point slide show was on how and why birds migrate and why some birds don't migrate at all. Afterwards we got to go do some bird watching at the convention center which is the place to be during spring migration.
Birds have to travel many miles from their wintering grounds to their breeding grounds in the spring and they need a place to stop, feed, drink water, and rest before continuing their long journey.
The convention center on South Padre Island has a shallow water feature with dense vegetation that is a perfect stopover habitat for these tired creatures.There are also volunteers that put out fruit for the birds for much needed energy. A single bird can eat three times its weight in fruit in a single day!
I added several life birds to my list that day.
One was this beautiful Black-bellied Plover in breeding plumage.
Believe it or not, this handsome bird is actually kin to our native Killdeer, both being in the plover family.
This female Summer Tanager was enjoying the view.
A White Ibis and a not so White Ibis
This Great Blue Heron was distinguished looking
Baltimore Oriole eating some orange.
Tennessee warblers bathing
Cape May Warbler
We got to see lots of great birds and I personally learned so much from Mary.
Back in January I started taking the Texas Master Naturalist course, and on April 19th I completed it. This is something I have always wanted to pursue, and now, while working at Quinta Mazatlan, it seemed the perfect time to take these classes and get certified. The Texas Master Naturalist Program's mission is as follows: The Mission:To develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the State of Texas. At the state level, the Texas Master Naturalist program is sponsored jointly by Texas
A&M AgriLife Extension and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD)
I had to complete forty hours of combined field and classroom instruction though the South Texas Border Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists, which was done at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park. I also had to do forty hours of volunteer work and have eight hours of advanced training. We met once a week for classes with two different instructors every week speaking on subjects germane to our becoming Texas Master Naturalists. The classes were on Land Stewardship, Archaeology, Historical Naturalists of Texas, Ecological Regions of Texas, Ecological Concepts, Geology, Weather, Plants, Ornithology, Entomology, Ichthyology, Herpetology, Mammalogy, Land Management, Laws, Regulations and Ethics. Field trips included making fish prints at the The Coastal Studies Laboratory on South Padre Island, the La Puerta Tract, Sabal Palm and Estero Llano Grande State Park. The fish prints were interesting. They're a traditional Japanese art form called Gyotaku, from the 1800s, that allowed fishermen to record their catches. You take a dead fish, paint it, and then place rice paper over it and rub until the image is transferred to the paper.
My first attempt I had bird brain, as mine looked more like a Northern Cardinal than a fish.
My second attempt was a little better.
Our next field trip was to the La Puerta Brush Tract in Starr County.
La Puerta is a 4,000 acre tract that is three miles east of Rio Grande City, Texas on Hwy. 83
There are a couple of native plants that grow here that grow nowhere else in the United States.
I got some pictures of a couple of the native plants that aren't endangered.
Sabal Palm is always a neat place to visit. We don't go often because it's down in Brownsville.
We were thrilled to see a Great Horned Owl
These field trips were to show us the native flora and fauna and landscape of where we live in the Rio Grande Valley.
Estero Llano Grande State Park is one of my favorite places to visit in the Valley.
Black Necked Stilt
We had our graduation ceremony at Estero Llano Grande State Park.
I baked a Key Lime Pound Cake for the dinner.
I received a certificate and a Dragonfly Pin for completing all the requirements.
Ever since I got hired at Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center as a program assistant, my days have been filled with joy. I never know what new wonder will greet me as I go about my duties in one of the most beautiful places in McAllen, Texas.
Just to be able to walk around the alluring house and grounds would be gratifying in itself, but I also get to be surrounded by the birds and nature that I so love.
Walkway to house.
Quinta Mazatlan built in the 1930's
I get greeted by the Plain Chachalacas as I'm putting out the bird seed and the suet and oranges for the day.
A Great Kiskadee waits impatiently for me to finish.
I travel through the park and as I get to the second feeding station I see our resident Javelina watching me.
I then see this Eastern Cottontail enjoying a breakfast of Night Blooming Cereus
On another day, John, our staff naturalist, introduces me to a new bug,
It's a Flag-footed bug. This beautiful insect has what looks like flags at the end of it's feet, which it uses to create a diversion when confronted by a predator. It is only fund here in the US in Southern Texas.
Each day is a learning experience as I'm surrounded by people willing to tell me about the plants, bugs, and other natural wonders of Quinta Mazatlan and the unique Rio Grande Valley.