Finally — the Brown Jay

Since December, a Brown Jay has been regularly visiting the feeders at the Salenino, Texas bird sanctuary where Cheryl Longton and other volunteers continue a long tradition of taking care of the birds of the area.  The site is famous for the three orioles (Audobon’s, Altimira, and Hooded) as well as Green Jays and Greater Kiskadees.

So, as we planned our trip last winter, I watched the listserve and saw steady sightings of the Brown Jay, a Mexican bird that rarely strays north these days.   We were delayed at Goose Island for several weeks with our dog’s operation but the reports continued.

We arrived at Falcon State Park Thursday night and Friday morning, loaded up and made the short drive down to Salenino — to learn that the jay had not been seen there for three days.  The story of my birding life but not the end of the world — the orioles were there and it was a great to once again see the wonderful variety of birds there.

A large birding group from Austin came in and I learned from their tour leader that a Brown Jay had been seen just upriver at an old RV park at Chapena.  They were going up to check it out but we decided, since the dog’s foot was bothering her, to head back and try the following day.  (I read that night that all 14 of the group had seen the Jay at the RV park.)

So, Saturday morning, we drove the 15 minutes down to the park by the river.  It is pretty rundown and sort-of third world looking with stray dogs here and there, hand-lettered signs, a modest entrance fee, and no Brown Jay.  We did have a nice outing down by the Rio Grande and went back to Falcon figuring this quest was over … until I heard from a birding friend that the Jay had returned to Salenino.

This morning, with modest expectations, we drove down to Salenino again and walking in, learned that the Brown Jay had come in about 8:30 but had left.  We sat around, watched Greater Kiskadees and Altimira Orioles along with all the other visitors when suddenly Cheryl said, “There he is, over by that feeder.”  Well, once it showed it was hard to miss — nearly the size of a crow and perched there, munching on an orange, to the accompaniment of camera shutters and birders oohing and aahing.  The Jay left after 10 minutes or so but likely was back later in the morning for some chicken leftovers put out for him.

We didn’t come to Falcon for this bird — we’ve been here three years in a row — however, it makes it nice to have a life bird so close (10 to 20 minutes away) and to finally get to see it.  Given the fact that Brown Jays, once fairly reliable here, have not been seen for a couple of years — and that this year there was only one steady one — make this feel like a solid lifer.

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