Two days in bed and I’m ready to go again. It’s warm today. The sun is shining, and as seems to be the way in Texas, a strong breeze is blowing. We’re not sure if we’ll be able to see anything today, but our cameras are ready.
Weslaco is one town over from where we are staying and a fellow bird enthusiast suggested we visit the Nature Valley Center there. It turns out to be a great pick. The center itself houses a small museum detailing information about the habitat and what we might find. A few live specimens are on display also, mostly the ones we hope not to encounter in the wild – snakes and a tarantula.
Just through the back door is a deck and walkway overlooking a pond. On the far side, I immediately spot a pile up of turtles, sunning themselves. When we try to get closer, they quickly disperse, disappearing under water.
“Oh no!” I cry, thinking these are timid like our painted turtles back home.
“They’re coming,” Ric points out, lining up his camera.
He wasn’t kidding. Turtles come from all over, heads held high, little legs paddling excitedly. These are red-eared sliders. What a show! I feel guilty that I don’t have any food.
Just beyond the pond are trails, all well laid out and marked. Ric and I split up and plan to meet back in the middle. Feeding stations are set up with benches tucked out of view for filming, but we are a bit too late in the day. I do manage to catch one little bird, but smarter than me, apparently, he feeds from behind a branch instead of in the clear shot. Can you see him tucked back there?
Ric catches up to me and gets ready to take the photo when he realizes that there is another bird, much larger, on the ground nearby. A Chachalaca! We’d been hoping to see one of these. The size of a chicken, these birds have a loud almost cackling sound. This fellow is in dense brush, and doesn’t move when we try to get close, but the light is not great for taking pictures.
“Did you see the tortoise?” a young man who works at the center asks as we’re leaving.
We had not, so we follow him back through the trails and he pulls this small tortoise out of her hole in the ground.
“She been in there for a month now,” he says. “It’s too cold for her to come out.”
“I’m into reptiles,” he adds, leading us to a Five-lined Skink hiding in a cactus patch. He reassures us that there are not many snakes around.
Nature Valley Center in Weslaco, Texas. We’re hoping we’ll get back before we leave.