We rolled down Texas 511 south of Brownsville, past the port, through the checkerboard of residential properties, scrapyards, auto repair shops, and trucking establishments; crossed the red palings that comprise a section of the incomplete barrier between the two countries; and entered the Sabal Palm Sanctuary. The 500-acre property includes one the last vestiges of original Rio Grande Palmetto (Sabal mexicanus), also known variously as Sabal Palm or Mexican Cabbage Palm. Our guide David Benn pointed out a key ID characteristic: the edges of the petiole on most palms you see in Texas (most of them introduced) is toothed, but in the Sabal Palm it’s smooth. As the tree grows taller, eventually the dead leaves along the trunk (the “boots”) drop off.
Oh, and the birding was good, too. The day started wet and chilly, so we hunkered down in a semi-blind at the edge of an artificially-maintained resaca, an oxbow lake that was once a loop of the rio. Lots of ducks to look at, and I got my first good view (of many to come) of Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus).
In the uplands, Black-crested Titmice (Baeolophus atricristatus) made our acquaintance, and we found more of that gluey Texas mud; back at the visitor center where a feeder is set up, an Olive Sparrow (Arremonops rufivirgatus) broke out of its skulk to become identifiably visible.