Saturday, February 11—Salineno , Texas, and More of the Rio Grande Valley

There was no rain yesterday or last night!

IMG_2168BSomeone at the Bentsen RGV State Park told us about sightings of a rare brown jay at Salineno, Texas, earlier in the week and we wanted to see it, too.

We drove northwestward on US Highway 83 from Mission, Texas, stopping at Chef McDonald’s for breakfast.  As we left Mission, there were fewer towns and the countryside was sparse, reminding us of the way the Rio Grande Valley looked in times past, and of the significant influence of Mexican culture.  There were no palm trees as these were not native to the area, and there were lots of cacti.  Even the names of places and things took on a Mexican feel as we paralleled the Rio Grande River.IMGP0224B  We passed several cemeteries, with lots of colorful decorations, and noted Mexican architecture in most of the private and public buildings.  We drove through Roma, Texas, founded about 250 years ago, and Rio Grande City, founded about 150 years ago.  This was the real south Texas.

There were several international birding centers along the way, but our target was Salineno.Kay at entrance to Salineno, Texas, birding park  When we got there, it was as if we had driven right into a third world country.  The buildings and streets reminded me of rural cities in Bolivia in South America.  As we approached the Rio Grande River, we saw a gated opening in a fence-in area, with a sign saying, “BIRDERS WELCOME WALK ON IN”, and lots of cars parked along side the road.  We parked near the river, Rio Grande River, Salineno, Texastook a few pictures of the Rio Grande River and Mexico, then walked into the opening.  About 50 yards up the dirt road, we came to another opening and saw two 5th wheel RVs parked at 90 degrees to one another with two rows of chairs, with lots of people sitting and standing; we didn’t know what we’d gotten in to.IMGP0210B  As we walked in, there were feeders everywhere and more orioles than I had ever seen.  I took many photographs of Altamira orioles, Audubon orioles, and Hooded orioles, golden-fronted woodpeckers, warblers, green jays, cardinals, and black-tufted titmouses.  The volunteer kept busy putting seeds and suet in the feeders, but was quite friendly and offered information on the various species of birds.  Several folks had come to see the brown jay, but it had not shown up today.  It was obvious that many were serious about birding—some as bird watchers and others as bird listers (those who keep a life list of bird species they have seen)—with some traveling thousands of miles and much of the year in pursuit of a “new” bird to add to their list.Golden-fronted woodpecker, Salineno, TX

Immature Altamira oriole (?), Salineno, TX

Audubon's oriole, Salineno, Texas

Orange-crowned warbler, Salineno, TX

Having heard much about Falcon Dam and Lake on network television recently in regards to the jet ski rider who was kidnapped and killed by the Mexican drug cartel about a year ago, we drove just a couple of miles northwest of Salineno to the dam and lake.  We begged the gate attendant to let us drive through Falcon State Park and took a few photos.

Hand-pulled Los Ebanos Ferry on the Rio Grande River, TexasOn our drive back “home”, we stopped at Los Ebanos, home of the last hand-drawn ferry in the US.  Again, this little town looked like it came right out of Mexico.  I could imagine cowboys chasing rustlers across the border and using the hand-drawn ferry to cross the Rio Grande River as part of the chase.  The Border Patrol is constructing a new modern border station here, and will forever change the culture and ambiance of the crossing—another piece of Americana lost forever.

Today’s road trip was a great one, and one we would recommend for all of our friends who visit the Rio Grande Valley.

NOTE:  More photographs of the trip can be found in our Picasa Web Album.  The link (address) is in the email letting you know about this update.

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