I’m taking a break from politics to talk about two months I spent at a special place. I volunteered for two months at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. While there I walked near the visitor center at twilight and watched armadillos digging for food in the grass. Armadillos, despite their reputation as one of Texas’ official mammals are late arrivals to the state. In the 1870s the Nine Banded Armadillo was found only in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas but has proliferated throughout the south in a short period.
Near the visitor contact station where I mostly carried out my volunteer duties just a bit further afield from where I usually saw armadillos, there is a slough. The slough has a little platform with a rail and a sign proclaiming it the alligator viewing area. It wasn’t a certain place to see alligators but one could often be seen, especially in the cool of early evening. I watched the alligator laying perfectly still except for the flaring of nostrils many times.
Down the road a bit is a small wooden bridge spanning a bit of marsh where often small, alligators nearing a year old could be found. Alligator mothers usually keep an eye on their young until they’re 9 months to a year old. The three alligators most often seen in this marshy slough were just barely old enough to be on their own.
After checking to see if there were any alligators at these two spots, I often would proceed on my morning bike ride down the road, if I wasn’t volunteering for the day, I would sometimes turn down a side road. The road to Dagger Point is less visited than the main road of Aransas and sometimes, it allows you to see wildlife hidden in other areas. It was on this road and a trail off of it that I saw most of the javelina I noticed during my time at Aransas. Like armadillos, javelina are a South American animal that has spread northward over time and can in their case be found in the Southwestern US. The javelina looks like a pig but are actually collared peccaries, a completely different animal. Javelinas often eat cactus, especially in desert environments (they also live in the Sonoran desert). Unfortunately, I never had a good camera when I encountered javelina and my phone doesn’t do them justice but you can see the adorable baby in the first picture.
Along the way, there are vault toilets and with them particularly interesting fauna some might find threatening…
When I had to volunteer for the day, I would make my turn around point the observation towers looking over the ocean and landscape of Aransas. The towers were always covered my a multitude of frogs in the early morning hours before the dew evaporated off. You can see how small this particular tree frog is in comparison to the screws.
On a walk I made sometimes on a side trail, I encountered an evolutionary oddity. The Western Slender Glass Lizard looks a bit like a snake but if you look closely, you can see the difference in head and ‘neck’ shape. Actually, true to its namesake, this animal isn’t closely related to snakes but is a lizard that through convergent evolution lost its legs.
There are so many other animals I saw regularly and chance encounters as well, enough perhaps for another post in the future. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this.