After I left Quinta Mazatlan, I drove out to Salineno. Salineno outside of Roma in Starr County. Once you get to the middle of nowhere, you take a left and there's a road that leads down to the river. It took me an hour and a half to get there from McAllen and it's mostly highway driving with a few stop lights in little towns on the way.
Salineno isn't run by Texas Parks and Wildlife or anything. It's staffed by a few dedicated, wonderful folks (one of whom looks astoundingly like Santa) who come down to the RGV for the winter and "feed the birds." There's also a great river-overlook that's a good place to see herons, ducks, etc. I wasn't there for those, though. I went for the Brown Jay.
It was actually my third trip out there to see the only Brown Jay in the United States that had been documented in years. The first time we went out, it was pouring rain and below 50 (which is cold here). No jay. The second time, it was hot and late in the afternoon. No jay. And finally, Saturday was just right! The other thing that made this trip superior to the first two attempts was that this time, I had a camera. I killed my time waiting around by chatting with other visitors and snapping some photos of the other birds who came to the feeders:
This is a male American Goldfinch (above). They're around north this time of year, too. If you set out feeders anywhere in the northeast, these guys will show up. This one happens to be eating off of a hubcap, so clearly, they're not fussy.
This is a black-crested titmouse. He's related to another northeastern feeder bird, the tufted titmouse. These guys are just about everywhere, but since this one posed, I snapped a picture. Remember, I'm killing time here.
This is one of my top 5 favorite birds EVER. It's called a Pyrrhuloxia. You probably noticed that they look a lot like a Northern Cardinal. You're right: they're related. The great thing about these little guys is that when they take off, all those red under-feathers shine and they look like they burst into flames. Beautiful. Added bonus: they mostly live where it's dry, so there's not a lot of opportunity to see them in the more "tropical" eastern RGV where I live. I was delighted to see this guy.
I also got this picture of a female Hooded Oriole at one of the feeders. The male is way more impressive (sorry). The males are usually around Salineno, but today, it was just her. Still worth a photo.
After sitting around and snapping photos, I saw it. The brown jay flew in. At first, people didn't see it...I got really excited and started taking pictures of it like it was some kind of celebrity, which, of course, it is. I have about 20 pictures of this bird, but this is one of the best. Enjoy!
The jay hung out for about 5 minutes and then took off into the trees. I was elated, but also ready to roll. I shook Santa's hand, got in my car and headed out to Zapata...