“Kiskadee. Kiskadee.” You may be sitting on your back patio or taking a walk on a quiet morning when you hear it. Usually the bright yellow breast draws your eyes to the branch where the Kiskadee rests, repeating his call as if to announce to anyone who can hear him, “I am a Kiskadee.”
The beautiful Kiskadee, donning his black mask and his soft brown feathers, is just one of over 200 species of birds that have been documented on the property of Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen. Birders delight in spotting the Tropical Parula, the Black-chinned Hummingbird, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, the Orchard Oriole and the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. Quinta Mazatlan also boasts over 100 species of plants.
Jason Matthews named the site in the 1930s, “Quinta” meaning “country estate” and “Mazatlan” a tribal word for “where the deer roam.” Formerly private property, the city purchased Quinta Mazatlan in March of 2004, thus establishing the McAllen Wing of the World Birding Center. “Quinta” could just as easily mean “sanctuary,” its nature trails providing a soothing escape from honking horns and car doors slamming. Incessant chatter is replaced by bird calls and water fountains. Mesquite benches offer visitors a place to sit and take in the surroundings.
“Quinta Mazatlan promotes environmental education and eco-tourism and inspires people of all ages,” said Colleen Curran Hook, manager of the site. In addition to the birding trails, the grounds host an art gallery, nature exhibits, a gift shop and an historic adobe mansion. Remants of the Tamaulipan Thorn Forest cover areas surrounding the mansion, providing another lesson in Valley ecological history.
“We like to say, ‘Save the Thorn Forest,’” said Hook, explaining that Quinta Mazatlan will soon unveil t-shirts with the slogan, which will be available in the gift shop. “The small urban forest, roughly 15 acres, attracts local and migratory birds.”
Quinta Mazatlan is one of the finest examples of “going green.” Landscaping consists of native plants and trees that not only support birds and other wildlife but cool and clean the atmosphere. The adobe block mansion incorporates materials from our surrounding area, including Saltillo flooring, Talavera tile, adobe blocks and Cantera stone.
Work will begin soon on a “Glassroom,” where environmental education sessions will be held. The goal is for the Glassroom to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified through the use of solar panels and recycled materials and by utilizing rainwater collection.
Throughout the year, Quinta Mazatlan offers a number of programs for visitors of all ages. The Thursday Evening Nature Speaker Series is held every Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday mornings from 10 to 11 a.m., guests enjoy a Friday Stroll Through History, which takes them on a guided tour of the home, detailing its history. The School Science Series, offered Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., is a curriculum-driven program for students. Quinta Mazatlan is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday evenings until dark.
In 2008, over 30,000 people visited Quinta Mazatlan, including students, families, eco-tourists, people renting the facility and dignitaries from around the globe. Every third grader in McAllen, a total of approximately 2,500 students, goes on a field trip to this “mansion with a mission,” encouraging them to recognize and appreciate the gifts of nature.
The beautiful blend of nature’s palette during the day transforms into a peaceful getaway once the moon enters the night sky and stars begin their evening dance. This scene provides the perfect backdrop for this year’s Moon over Mazatlan, Noche de Estrellas (Starry Night).
This third anniversary celebration will be held to raise funds for the construction of an educational sculpture trail. Platinum, gold, silver and bronze sponsors will fund 30 metal sculptures, including a Chachalaca, a bobcat, a Texas Spiny Lizard, a Green Jay and a Texas Tortoise, among others. Bilingual signage will be placed along the trail to communicate the “Land of Diversity in South Texas.”
During Noche de Estrellas, cocktails will be served while guests enjoy a live birds of prey show by Johnathan Wood in the meadow. Metal art sculptures by Michael Gilbert and an exhibition of original paintings by Don Breeden and Tony Bennett will be on display. Dinner will follow with Chef Stan from the McAllen Country Club, preparing gourmet adobe pork, chorizo and queso fresco chicken, sweet and sour chayote, mayacoba beans, conch ceviche and more.
Following dinner, the moon and stars will provide the lighting for the intoxicating music of Del Castillo, a rhythmic combination of flamenco, Latin rock, blues and world music. RollingStone magazine called the group, “Brilliance on Nylon-string classical guitars.”
Escape the sights and sounds of the city to enjoy a night under the stars. Relax under the Moon Over Mazatlan.