We were in the mood for some more birds (or at least I was) so our destination for today was the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco. It is a bird sanctuary hosting a cackling array of birds nesting in the treetops. We saw and heard lots of chachalacas, a rather plain looking bird about the size of a crow, but with a noisy banter. I wasn’t sure how to describe the noises they make, so I turned to Wikipedia. “The call is a loud, raucous RAW-pa-haw or cha-cha-LAW-ka, often by several birds in a rhythmical chorus, especially in early morning and evening, usually from well up in trees. It also produces peeping whistles and cackles. Others describe chachalaca calls as irritating noises mimicking a bunch of men arguing.” We got some sound sound recordings of them. Click the audio file below to hear some of what we heard.
We also saw a lot of yellow crowned herons. When you think of herons, you think of a majestic bird walking on tall legs through marshland. These guys were more compact and sitting among the tops branches of trees. Some seemed to be guarding their nests, others seemed to still be looking for mates. When they flew, you still got that sense of majesty as their massive wings sent them gliding from tree to tree. In the underbrush were rabbits and four orange cats.
Just before leaving, we stopped by the turtle pond. There was a school group at the pond and their guide had just given them all a handful of cat food to feed to the turtles. We could tell the turtles were used to being fed because they came right up to us when we leaned over the railing, even though we didn’t have any food at first. Mom walked over to the guide and asked if we could also feed the turtles. She got a handful of cat food and we did some feeding, too. There were a three different kinds of turtles; one that was very plain and sort of looked like a pancake, one that had mossy splotches on its shells, and the other that was “painted” with vivid patterns on their shells. And if you threw some food and there was no turtle nearby the minnows nibbled away at the cat food piece until a turtle noticed it and came over to chomp it down.