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Weslaco Nature Center, Rio Costero Ranch

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

 Weslaco Nature Center is a lovely small preserve right in the town of Weslaco, Texas. For me, it illustrates the incredibly rich wildlife diversity even a tiny patch of Texas habitat will divulge. You'd expect fox squirrels in a city preserve.

A roseate skimmer rests on a yucca leaf.

Trundling slowly through the underbrush, a Texas tortoise (Gopherus berlandieri). This is one of only four native tortoise species in North America. It's a gopher tortoise, but it doesn't burrow nearly as much as the more familiar Florida beast. This tortoise loves prickly pear fruit, and I think I saw a smidgen of cactus pear on his beak as he moved by. He was about 10" long, not great big like the Florida gophers. I was, of course, rapt and charmed. It was tough to get a decent shot of him. He was movin' on. Tortoises always leave me humbled. They seem so old, so venerable, so determined, and so compromised at the same time, sort of clunking along wearing their house on their back, moving on a plan only they know. I feel momentary and insignificant around tortoises.

 Pretty sure this is a Texas whiptail lizard Cnemidophorus gularis. It was pretty tame. It moved jerkily over the leaf litter, affording me some decent photo ops.

A plain chachalaca drinks at one of WNC's many water features.

On Sunday morning, Bill, Phoebe, Liam and I helped host a "Breakfast With the Birds" at the beautiful private Rio Costero Ranch near Laguna Atascosa NWR. It was hog heaven to go birding and butterflying on those 1,000 intensively managed wildlife habitat acres with the promise of a ravishing home-cooked breakfast of tamales, casserole and fresh grapefruit awaiting. Yum! Our hosts were wonderful and we enjoyed fabulous birding and the best meal of the whole trip. Divine.

A Laviana White. Lovely little thing!

A long-tailed skipper.

Some not-fabulous shots of a merlin in flight, catching dragonflies. But you try getting a fabulous shot of a merlin in flight. Greased lightning.


A fabulous shot, if I say so meself, of another roseate skimmer. Sounds like it ought to be a bird, doesn't it? Love the venation in the wings that shows up so nicely against the pale dirt.

And I'm happy with this shot of a female 
western pygmy blue butterfly, North America's smallest butterfly. It's ridiculously tiny and I had to lie down on the soft dirt to get this photo. When I say "ridiculously tiny," I mean less than a half-inch long. Ridiculous. So cute. And so fancy. It rarely flies more than a few inches above the ground, hence the lying down part. With the Texas wind blowing a hot gale the whole time we were there, I'd hug the ground too. Especially if I were less than half an inch long.

Phoebe made my day when she stopped to save a walking stick who was struggling across a road. She calmly let it walk up on her hand. It resisted at first, and I heard her say, "Come here, walking stick. Let me love you."

Mmm-hmmm. Pretty little chip off the crusty old block she is. Well, not so little. Going for 5' 10". Ack.
 Tall and kind-hearted too. And not squeamish. Yay.


That kid gets more beautiful every time I see her. She's like to 'splode with beauteosity.

Lovely post. Hey Julie, your blogger widget keeps asking me for a user name and password when I try to come onto your site. I hit cancel and then I'm on, but it's kinda intimidating. What's up?

I know, Stefanie. I hate it and don't know what's going on, but it happens to me, too. My advice: Just hit cancel, don't feed it any passwords, like I did the first 10 x I got the demand. I worry that it's some kind of phishing scam out to collect usernames and passwords. My Web Witch is on vacation writing her novel but I have a pending request to her to look into it. I have the feeling my widgets got hijacked by an evil force. If you have typed in a password, by all means change it. Ucch. I hate scams and spammers and bots and hackers.

Funny, I'm in Arizona for the holiday and after reading this a couple days ago, today I saw and photographed my first Western Pygmy-Blue! You're right, they are indeed ridiculously tiny.

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