Valley Land Fund Salineño Tract / the USFWS Kepler Tract
Return to Old US 83, and continue west (and north) about 1 mile where it merges with US 83. Continue west on US 83 to the Salineño turnoff. Go left (southwest) on River Road to the Rio Grande to the Valley Land Fund's Salineño Wildlife Sanctuary and the USFWS Kepler Tract.
The Valley Land Fund owns 2.6 acres of land here, adjacent to the Kepler Tract which was set aside for the protection of native bird and wildlife habitat. This sanctuary is a popular spot for birders and is usually open to the public from November through March. Contact the Valley Land Fund for additional information.
The Kepler Tract is a small set of wooded lots, once owned by birders, and now maintained by the USFWS. River Road ends at a small parking lot with a sweeping view of the Rio Grande. To the west you will see an island with tall trees where Red-billed Pigeons often roost. Look for the immense Montezuma Cypress along the U.S. shore in the same direction, one of the few individuals of this majestic tree that remain along the Rio Grande. This area along the river is an excellent spot for finding Valley birds such as Audubon's Oriole, White-tipped Dove, Groove-billed Ani (summer is best), Long-billed Thrasher, Green Jay, and (now infrequently) Brown Jay. The parking lot is a great gathering spot for birders and a favorite spot to wait for fly-by kingfishers (all three species), Muscovy, or Hook-billed Kite. While standing at the river, you may see such waterbirds as Least or Caspian Tern, Black Skimmer, various large waders, and Ring-billed Gull. During spring, Bank Swallows, Indigo Buntings, and Dickcissels stream across the river from Mexico, and although vocal, may be frustratingly difficult to see well. In winter, the river may be filled with both dabbling and diving ducks. Red-breasted Mergansers and scoters occur rarely as well. Check the boulders in winter for Black Phoebe and Spotted Sandpiper.
Return to US 83, and then continue west to FM 2098. Go north on FM 2098 2.7 miles to Chapeño Rd. (look for the Holy Trinity Catholic Church). Go south on Chapeño Rd. to Chapeño and access to the Rio Grande. From the El Rio RV Park entrance, go east to the second right turn after the RV park, to the public access to the river. Alternately, you may wish to pay a small fee to use the benches, tables, and shade of the RV park, formerly a good spot for seeing Brown Jay. Chapeño and Salineño have become the more interesting access points to the Rio Grande, with species such as Muscovy Duck, Hook-billed Kite, and Red-billed Pigeon rather regular in season. This is the last access point to the Rio Grande before Falcon Reservoir, and the water level here varies dramatically based upon releases from the reservoir.
Falcon County Park
Return to FM 2098, and go north on FM 2098 to the intersection with Spur 2098 and PR 46. Go south (left) on Spur 2098 to the park. The grass that dominates this county park is usually dense and sparrows often flock here during winter. Look for southwestern and Great Plains species such as Lark Bunting, Sedge Wren, Clay-colored and Lark Sparrow. In this area, the large flocks of meadowlarks in winter are mixed (both Western and Eastern). During spring, puddles near the buildings adjacent to the dam road to Mexico often harbor Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
Falcon State Park
Return to the intersection of Spur 2098, FM 2098, and PR 46. Go left (north, then west) on PR 46 to Falcon State Park. The woodlands along Falcon Reservoir are worth checking for Great Kiskadee, Vermilion Flycatcher, Couch's Kingbird, and migrant landbirds. The upland areas (dominated by Cenizo) should be searched for Common Pauraque, Scaled Quail (scarce, look around the RV areas in the evening), Ash-throated Flycatcher, Pyrrhuloxia, Verdin, and Black-throated Sparrow. Recent rarities include Roadside Hawk.