The Rio Grande Valley -- my home for the next six weeks -- is a 60-mile stretch of land from Brownsville, TX to Mission, TX that hugs the Mexican border. It is a haven for northern snowbirds, who here are called "Winter Texans." I am near the western side, in Alamo, about 5 miles north of the Rio Grande River. This area is a contrast of cultures -- the desperately poor neighborhoods, where the per capita income is under $10,000, are within walking distance of shops like Macy's and Penney's, expensive restaurants, movie theaters, outlet malls, and all the other amenities of "The Strip."
Due south from Alamo is the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, where large numbers of birds, butterflies, insects, and a few interesting mammals such as bobcats, coyotes, armadillos, and jaguarundi can be found. Many of the flying creatures are migratory, and use this area as a stop-over as they head north in the spring or south in the fall.
The refuge has an hour-and-a-half tram ride, and we managed to get on the last ride of the day. A tour guide pointed out flora, fauna, and history along the way, and we stopped every so often for short hikes. As we were walking on one of the trails we spotted... something... odd ... on the ground. There were small green leaves in a pile at the base of a tree, and it sure looked like the leaves were moving!
It turned out a long, single-file string of ants were marching from a high tree branch, down the side of the tree, and into a hole in the ground -- each one carrying a leaf! Unfortunately, we didn't think to look higher to see how the "cutters" were felling what to them was the equivalent of a tree!
The tram continued through heavy vegetation where butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies were everywhere, then on a side road that led to an old cemetery, and finally to the Rio Grande River itself. We could see evidence of crossings -- abandoned bottles that had been used as flotation devices and clothing that had been dropped littered the shore. After we left the area, we heard an Immigration powerboat go speeding down the river. From our viewpoint, it looked to be a pretty easy crossing.
Here are some additional pictures:
I can already tell that this refuge will be a favorite of mine while I'm here!