Our lives have settled down, here in south Texas. The chiggers haven’t totally erupted yet but they will because the weather is getting hotter. We’ve had a bit more time to look for and photograph birds. We are birders of course and that’s what we like to do.
REAL BIRDS. As many of you know, Arlyne and I are going to Costa Rica for two months in early April. We’ve been fortunate in the last couple of weeks to get some good photos and see nice birds. It’s a warmup for the Costa Rica trip. South Texas has a fabulous collection of bird life, including a few that come only rarely from Mexico or Central America. We’ve been looking for a few rare birds this year but we really like the endemic south Texas birds that hang out here in the Rio Grande Valley. Here are some we like. And, we love to hear people that travel here for the winter talk excitedly about green jays, kiskadees, and special woodpeckers.
BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS and a rare bird. We see a lot of butterflies as well and we’re starting to learn their names. It appears that over 400 butterflies have been seen at Santa Ana NWR. Amazingly, there are a lot of moths here too. A couple of years ago, a moth expert was just outside of the Visitor Center and saw a moth he didn’t recognize. He took a photo and sent it to the Smithsonian Institute. A couple of months later he heard back and they said “Yes, this is a new one, never officially seen before.” This happens once every few years.
When Arlyne and I were at South Padre Island last week, a young man was happily taking dozens of photos of a beautiful butterfly so we talked to him. He was a naturalist at the nearby World Birding Center and informed us it was really a moth. It was a very rare tropical vagrant from southern Mexico, Central and South America. We got some photos as well. Who knew that moths could be so beautiful? Here it is down below, the Urania swallowtail moth. It seems that on its long journey, its swallowtails wore off. I guess a 1000-mile journey will do that to a moth.
We’ve been actively looking for three bird rarities here……the rose-breasted becard, Sprague’s pipit and the crimson-collared grosbeak. We’ll probably locate the pipit soon but the others are proving to be difficult. (As I prepare to post this blog, we’ve found and photographed the becard!!)
On South Padre Island, a few days ago, we saw an inconspicuous little bird that we had seen many years ago but just for a few seconds. I was looking in the reeds when I thought I saw a mouse or a frog. It turned out to be an incredibly cute little marsh wren. It scurried around and dove for cover anytime a larger bird flew anywhere near. Check out Arlyne’s terrific photo.
BUTTERFLIES. We’re not even novices regarding butterflies and moths but they are quite beautiful here. The trick is to take a decent picture then look at the reference books or ask somebody. Nevertheless, here are some of the little guys we’ve seen all around the visitor center and in nearly every bush. In this arid part of the world, plants have tiny leaves and tiny flowers because of the lack of water. The butterflies, for the most part, seem to be smaller as well. Some of these guys are lucky to be a couple of centimeters across. And these are not your typical backyard butterflies. I haven’t identified all of them yet.
BOATS. At Anzalduas Park, located right on the border, we saw law and border enforcement in abundance while we were birding. Part of this Park used to be in Mexico but the 2010 floods in the Rio Grande Valley changed the course of the river and part of the park is now in the U.S.
Although I thought the “game warden” terminology was no longer used, having been replaced by “wildlife officer”, this is not the case. I suppose I should google this. The Border Patrol (Federal) has part of the jurisdiction, the Highway Patrol (state) has part of it, local Constables (city) have a piece and Game Wardens (Federal) have part of it as well. I sometimes wonder how it is that Arlyne and I can wander around 50 feet from the border looking at birds surrounded by twenty-five tough-looking guys with bullet-proof vests and side arms. The really big boats have twin 50-calibur machine guns, GPS, huge lights, radar and probably infrared. I didn’t ask what other equipment they have but I think their night vision equipment can probably see by the light of one star. I don’t know what’s going to happen along our southern border but local attitudes seem roughly split down here, even among the Spanish-speaking population. It’s not always about illegal immigrants. It’s about the drugs, which mess everybody up, no matter their ethnicity, their political persuasion, their economic status or where they live.
Check out the river-going hardware. The BP says they’re outgunned but I wouldn’t want to come across these guys at night or early in the morning.
It’s actually fun down here, even though other people are working, under stress, and in danger.
Thanks again, Bob and Arlyne