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In 1998, Greg zig-zagged 130,000 miles across the USA, while trying to hold down a full-time job, aspiring to reach at least 700 species of birds in one calendar year. "The Big Year," a novel by Mark Obmascik detailed his travails alongside two competitors. The book was later turned into a movie of the same title that starred Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson!

Texas Rio Grande Valley – Day 5

Day 5 in the Rio Grande Valley started with, well, more rain. And our first birding stop was <…drumroll…> south of the Border Fence. A conversation like this may have occurred:

Person A: Is that the Fence everyone is talking about?
Person B: Yes.

Person A: But we just crossed through it. Are we in Mexico?
Person B: No. We are still in the U.S.

Person A: Then where are we now?
Person B: Still in the U.S. The real border is the Rio Grande River.

Person A: Why is the Border Fence in the U.S.?
Person B: Well. It isn’t always in the U.S. Sometimes it runs on the Mexican side.

Person A: Whaaaat? That doesn’t make any sense. And besides. It has a hole in it. We just drove through and no one stopped us.
Person B: Ha! You noticed. < laughter >

So here’s a little video to show you what it’s like to drive through the Border Fence south of Brownsville, TX.

Crossing through the Border fence to Sabal Palm Sanctuary south of Brownsville, TX

Awesome, right? Yah. I thought so.

We got soaked watching the feeders at Sabal Palm Sanctuary. But even in the rain it was enjoyable to look at all the Green Jays, and White-tipped Doves, and a single, secretive Olive Sparrow.

Next we went to Resaca de la Palma State Park which is also in the Brownsville area. The feeders here are well maintained and have, in my opinion, the most reliable and easily seen Green Jays in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Altamira Orioles were also present as were Long-billed Thrashers, and a much more cooperative Olive Sparrow. We got to take a cool tram ride, too.

A Resaca de la Palma State Park near Brownsville, TX
A resaca…at Resaca de la Palma State Park near Brownsville, TX – photo by Greg Miller


For lunch we visited a great little Mexican restaurant, Taqueria Ultimo Taco, in Brownsville, TX. The entire menu is printed on a laminated card that is about 6″ x 9″. And it is all in Spanish. Thankfully, the food is really good even if you cannot figure out what everything is.

After lunch we headed back up to the Harlingen, TX area and went to the Superior Turf Farm again to try for the Sprague’s Pipits. This we successfully found two birds with all the other assorted species.

Getting views of the Sprague's Pipits at the turf farm
Getting views of the Sprague’s Pipits at the turf farm – photo by Greg Miller


We finished the day driving into Harlingen, TX looking for the Red-crowned Parrot roost. But we never made it all the way to Calvary Baptist Church. My co-leader, Chris Brown, heard parrots calling with the van windows closed while he was driving. We stopped at a traffic light and he rolled his window down. Sure enough, some Red-crowned Parrots flew across the road in front of as and landed on the wires. We pulled off the street and parked. The parrots were really noisy and moving about constantly. I am guessing there were at least 70 birds there. The best part? We didn’t have to drive as far or wait for sunset. Thank you Chris Brown!

What an awesomely fun week this has been. This is our eleventh and last trip of the Big Year Tours for 2016. We have only one more full day of birding and this adventure is coming to an end. Our trip total is at 155 species and our Big Year Tours total is 545 species. I have gotten to travel all over the United States. I have gotten to see more than half the species in North America this year. And I have met so many truly wonderful people. I may wax more eloquently later when my mind is not so fried and my body is not craving sleep so desperately. Tomorrow I am hoping for one last awesome day to top off such an exciting and fun-filled year.

Stay tuned…



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