Lured by the promise of a rewarding birding experience, Ric and I decided to take the drive to McCallen and check out Quinta Mazatlan. As usual, I worry about the amount of walking involved when visiting a new locale, but we were reassured by those in the know that there is a house on the property where one can sit and see a lot of the bird activity.
Located off a major thoroughfare, at the back of a housing complex, Quinta Mazatlan is a walled estate that dates back to 1935. Once through the pillared entrance, it is like entering a magical world. Cars are directed to park just outside the gate and the entrance to the main house, and check in, is a fair walk, but the beauty of the place enticed me to make the effort.
It is obvious, at first sight, that a lot of love and care has been put into the upkeep of the property. Bronze statues, modelled after the local wildlife, line the walkways, accompanied by plaques offering information about each species. The home itself is a stately representation of Spanish Revival. Guests are welcome to wander through the halls and there is a gift shop and art display inside. The entry fee for both of us was $5.
The gardens follow a number of different pathways, and as it was a picture perfect day, I made the decision to push on and see as much as possible, knowing we would likely not have time to return this visit.
Most of the walkways are carved beneath a thick canopy of trees. Various bird calls serenaded us every step of the way. Concrete benches are plentiful, so there are lots of opportunities to just sit and enjoy. At one point, we came upon a pavilion, which offered shade for us and was an ideal lookout for spotting birds. A noisy Kiskadee that had been flitting from tree to tree ahead of us, finally landed within camera range. I also managed to catch a party of Inca doves, whose mottled appearance camouflage them quite effectively.
While we chose to wander on our own, there are guided tours available, focusing on different aspects of the grounds. Construction is underway to add new habitats. It is easy to imagine that the house and gardens would make the perfect venue for fairy tale weddings.
We managed to wander around for two hours before my body rebelled, and if there had been a coffee shop on sight, we might have been able to stay a bit longer. The two days of rest that it took me to recuperate afterwards were well worth the visit.