It’s no secret that the Rio Grande Valley’s best kept secret is its amazingly diverse wildlife. We’ve got elusive ocelot stalking through the thorn scrub beneath a clouded moon, and lemony bright great kiskadees chattering loudly in our backyard bird feeders. There’s zebra longwing butterflies flitting hither and thither among the milkweed, and sharp-eyed osprey giving us some angling competition as they spot their finned food swimming below the water.
You could throw a dart at a painter’s color wheel and easily find numerous examples of plants and animals that display whatever color the dart lands on.
Were the dart to land on ‘blue’ you’d surely have no trouble spending the weekend finding Mexican bluewing butterflies, spotting a splash of cerulean on a green jay, eyeing an indigo snake the shade of a warm summer midnight sky sunning itself in the dirt, or perhaps even finding a bluebonnet blooming among the weeds, if the season’s right.
On another weekend you could find a whole host of things that are red with sightings of cardinals, scarlet tanagers, Turk’s cap flowers, redfish and red-tailed hawks.
And you don’t have to go far to find such treasure either. While our local state parks and national wildlife refuge lands are perhaps the best places of all to spot a glimpse of the best Mother Nature has to offer, the Laguna Madre is unique in that those glimpses can often be caught nearly all around us, no matter where we are.
If you’re willing to have the patience for stillness and quiet, sometimes Mother Nature will come to you. Take a walk around the Lighthouse Square in Port Isabel and you may hear the keening call of a certain peregrine falcon that sometimes like to perch atop the Lighthouse.
Meander around the jetties and you’re likely to see a heron or two probing the shallows for a tasty morsel. Sit quietly beneath a park bench and you could spot a Mexican ground squirrel skipping across the lawn looking for a nibble of food. Drive along Highways 100 or 48 and you’re sure to spot osprey resting on the telephone wires or pelicans relaxing on the Bahia Grande. Sit at the end of a bayside street on South Padre Island at sunset and you’ll hear bait fish splashing their goodbyes to the day as the sun sinks below the horizon.
But even if you’ve lived in the Rio Grande Valley your entire life, you might not know about all these treasures that surround us. I know I certainly didn’t. It wasn’t until I was an adult and had the good fortune to begin attending events that celebrate this land that I began to learn. Events like the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival and the Winter Outdoor Wildlife Expo (WOWE) helped me better appreciate my own home. And there’s still so much more to learn.
Fortunately for me, and for you, WOWE is set to take place this coming week. The expo kicks off at 9:30 a.m. this Tuesday at the Birding and Nature Center (BNC) on South Padre Island. From that moment, until the last presentation on Saturday afternoon, the BNC will play host to numerous local wildlife officials and enthusiasts who will teach us about everything from alligators to ocelots, and from how to catch a fish to how to capture that perfect wildlife photograph.
WOWE will offer something for nature enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels. So come on down to South Padre and learn a little more about what makes this place paradise.
By DINA ARÉVALO