A BEAUTIFUL VIDEO. We’ve been working on taking photos and videos of things we see and do here at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. I’ve actually compiled several short videos that, unfortunately, only some of you have seen. The highlight of our stay, however, was a visitor who stopped by to show us his video, taken on the Pintail trail. It shows a groove-billed ani defending its nest from an indigo snake.
The video is delightful and you all can see it. Just go to YouTube and search for ani vs snake. You’ll like it. Alternatively, you can click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lZAhGgZMbI
I love groove-billed ani birds because they just look prehistoric.
ROMA BLUFFS NWR. Arlyne and I recently checked out a Government vehicle and drove to Roma Bluff NWR, some 80 miles west of us. It’s a little boutique Refuge but unfortunately has just been closed in an apparent cost-cutting measure. We helped with some educational programs for summer school kids. The city of Roma is a very historic place, founded in 1765. Many older buildings still exist. Viva Zapata, a Hollywood movie starring Anthony Quinn and Marlon Brando, was filmed here in 1952. There is still a Viva Zapata festival held here. We toured a nice work-in-progress museum as well. We like old stuff.
Roma is right on the banks of the Rio Grande and is unfortunately a prime illegal pathway into the U.S. The entire border here in the Rio Grande Valley is making news, as you have probably heard. (more on this later)
FUN STUFF. I played golf with a Fish and Wildlife guy (Chris Perez), whose father spent two years in the PGA. He had a nice swing (probably his father’s doing) and beat me by 5 strokes. He only had me by 1 shot after 9 holes but my back nine wasn’t great. Today, I shot an 86 at a local course, Tierra del Sol. I played by myself because nobody comes out in the heat, except me. It was 95 degrees. I like my score to be less than the temperature.
I baked four more loaves of bread. I don’t use our oven, which is too small, but our motorhome is parked near a small building adjacent to the Refuge that is used as an office and has a kitchen with a nice oven. I’ve given homemade bread and cookies to several of the people we work with. Arlyne made great enchiladas that some of the Fish and Wildlife people loved. Everybody happy.
EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES. Arlyne wrote a nice brochure for the Refuge that explained the differences between U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Forests, National Parks and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). I wrote a paper about Draper’s famous categories of trash, all of which can be found on the Refuge. Everybody seems to like our work. Santa Ana NWR has invited us back to volunteer January, February and March of 2015. That will be a great time to be here as it won’t be so hot and the air will be thick with birds and the trails filled with wildlife. A couple of days ago, I walked out on a couple of our trails and noted three places where the wind had caused trees to fall over and block the trail. I took pictures of the trees and marked their location on the map.
Today, Rueben, one of the maintenance guys, told me that they had taken care of the blocked trails. Arlyne wanted to contribute a little more so on our day off we power washed all the picnic benches with a gasoline-powered washer. I used a weed whacker around the Visitor Center, the front Refuge gate, and our motorhome. This isn’t something I recommend doing in 98 degree, high humidity weather.
I finally discussed my possible participation in checking bobcat traps with the research biologist here. Mitch explained that he suspends trapping when the weather gets very hot, as it is now. Being caught in a trap is very stressful and the cats can die from getting overheated. We agreed that I should be able to go out with him when we come back in January. He has been working with Mexican biologists and government officials to permit bobcats and even ocelots being traded to improve genetic diversity for the animals of both countries.
NWR MACHINERY. Santa Ana has been auctioning off several of their vehicles, mostly pickups and vans. But they still have a huge collection of vehicles and machines here for use by Fish and Wildlife maintenance people and permanent fire crews that are located here. I get to drive their little Kawasaki vehicles around the Visitor Center and Maintenance area too. I’m including some photos. In the middle is a 10,000 lb fork lift. On the right is “my” little Kawasaki Mule. On the left is a giant fire-fighting vehicle of some kind, carrying another fire-fighting vehicle.
ON THE BORDER. If you’re watching the national news, you’ve noticed the huge increase in illegal immigrants coming into Texas, particularly people from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The appropriate terminology for these people, in this area of Texas at least, is OTM (other than Mexican). The majority of illegal entries is now made by children, many unaccompanied. Just when we think things are getting better, another wave of illegals comes across. It is expected that 90,000 people will come across the Rio Grande this calendar year. The Governor of Texas has ordered Texas Rangers and other law enforcement people to come down here, effective immediately. We’ll probably be noticing more personnel around here. As I told my son David, I don’t believe all the reports of illegal immigrants suffering abuse at the hands of authorities. I do see and talk to hard, tough, sweaty men and women of the BP working day and night to halt the flood of immigrants. Most of the illegals in this area now turn themselves into the BP as soon as they cross the river, knowing they’ll be taken care of and receive bus tickets to wherever in the U.S. they want to go. We have a number of these tethered along the border. We can probably see border crossings with these things but it really doesn’t seem to matter.
Arlyne and I don’t actually see people coming across the river, except for a few days ago when a group of 5 walked past our Visitor Center. One of the Fish and Wildlife officials thought they looked suspicious and called the Border Patrol. When the group noticed they were being watched, they ran to an SUV idling in the parking lot, jumped in and took off. The Wildlife official took down the license plate number. A Border Patrol officer told me a half hour later that they had arrested two of these people and the other ones got away. They were illegal.
As I’m writing this, we hear donkeys braying (hee-haw) in the field next door to us. If you read my earlier blog about the antelope that the rancher is raising, I forgot to tell you that he also raises donkeys that act as an early warning systems for predators (and illegal immigrants). Arlyne and I found part of a shoe near our motorhome that wasn’t there the day before. Hmmmmm….. And the rancher reported seeing a mountain lion a couple of weeks ago.
This is our last week here at Santa Ana. We head to Austin for a few weeks and then it’s on to Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico. We’re looking forward to that.
This is probably my last blog until we arrive in New Mexico at our next volunteer assignment. Hope you enjoyed it, especially the video of the ani and the snake.
Bob and Arlyne Draper