I’ve lived in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas for 2 years now. D moved here a year before me to take a refuge management job, and I followed right before we got married in 2011. We planned to stay here for 2-3 years, both of us working full time and building our savings. Now that time is coming to a close, as D has accepted a position in northern Montana! Yes, we are moving from one border to the other!
We have a little over a month left in Texas and I’m contemplating all the things I wanted to do while we were here. I call it my RGV Bucket List. We also did lots of things we never expected we would be doing 3 years ago! Here I outline the Wildlife and Animals part of my RGV Bucketlist.
The first time I visited Santa Ana with D I took my picture next to a sign that said “Chachalaca Crossing.” I’d heard about these loud pheasant-like birds and couldn’t wait to see one. I didn’t seeing on that day, but I did end up working at a nature center where Chachalacas are encountered daily! In my first week, I watched a momma coral her two chicks that had just left the nest in a palm tree! I love these hilarious birds and their big personalities. One of my favorite moments was filling the suet feeders on a cold winter morning and feeding them suet right out of my hand.
Before I began working, I remember seeing a big yellow bird in our backyard while D was at work one day. I was amazed and had never seen anything like the Great Kiskadee. I pulled out my bird field guide and learned about this large flycatcher. Now I listen to their calls every day from my office window.
The Green Jay is the City Bird of McAllen. Pictures show it to be a brightly colored big bird and I assumed I would see them all the time, like Blue Jays back in the Southeast. Turns out, they are VERY well camouflaged and quite secretive. I’m still thrilled when I see a pair at our sunflower seed feeders. One of my favorite Valley birds.
I had seen pictures of Common Pauraques on Birdchick’s blog. Well, she said the bird was in the picture, but I couldn’t really tell! Incredible leaf-litter camoflauge paired with the un-moving nature of this night-jar, I wasn’t sure I’d ever see one. But our groundskeeper always knew how to point them out and I eventually became quiet adept at finding them! I always love showing visitor’s this forest-floor bird because once you see it, you feel like you’ve been let in on a secret!
I had no idea there was such a large population of wild parakeets and parrots. I now know how to tell if its a grackle or a parakeet on the powerlines at dusk. There will always be a few parakeets upside down, and grackles never do that! I also enjoyed the parrots coming to Quinta this spring to feed on the Coral Beans early in the mornings. Both Red-crowned and Lilac-crowned visited us.
Other species I love to see: Crested Caracaras, White-tailed Hawk, Eastern Screech Owls, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, and Groove-billed Ani’s!
Nilgai and Deer!
When D first told me about Nilgai I didn’t understand. So it’s an antelope, as big as a horse, from India and Pakistan, just roaming free in a wildlife refuge? Now they are a regular part of our visits to Laguna Atascosa, and a regular meat in our freezer. Because nilgai are exotic, there is no closed season for hunting them. As long as you are in the right place, you can shoot them. When we were duck hunting, we always passed public land where nilgai roamed and subsequently we always had a rifle with us, just in case. This planning paid off when a friend of ours shot 2 nilgai in the middle of a duck hunt and has been sharing that meat with us since! If you’ve never had nilgai steaks, I highly reccommend them!
I love most of the herptefauna down here too. The Texas Tortoise, a species of concern, is spotted regularly in wild places, munching on Prickly Pear Cactus fruit.
The beautiful blue-black Indigo Snake (another species of concern) is a big strong snake that eats rattlesnakes, but is very docile when handling. And of course there are more dangerous herps here as I learned when a Black-striped Snake bit me and sent me to the ER for pain and swelling for 16 hours. This happened at work too, so that was some fun paperwork (/sarcasm).
I ALWAYS love seeing American alligators!
I’ve gotten to get up close and personal with lots of ranch animals. Ranching both cattle and white-tails is big down here. Here are some of my favorites…
Texas Longhorn at Rancho Lomitas in Rio Grande City
Every time we go fishing or duck hunting from the Arroyo Colorado, we see dolphins using the deep channels! One of our first times out, they came right up to our boat!
We also got the opportunity to assist with a White-tailed Deer artificial insemination at El Canelo. Fascinating!
Another surprise was holding canonball jellyfish! They don’t sting the same way the beach jellies do, and they rarely harm humans. We were wade-fishing one day and they were swimming around us, so we took some pictures!
We got a special invitation to help out with Raptor Banding in the sugar cane fields on the border. This was such a thrill! We watched as the expert took measurements and attached bands to hawks he caught using a field trap. Then Mr. Clark let us hold the raptor and release it! This was a once-in-a-lifetiem experience for sure and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. (Mr. Clark is actually doing a Raptor Banding Field Trip as a part of the RGV Birding Festival this November if you are interested in being able to do this!)
I would still like to get a better look and even photograph Javelina. I saw one from the road one morning on our way to duck hunting, so I’m counting it, but I’d like to see them closer. Other than that, my RGV animal bucket list is pretty much complete!