RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – There is a special place in the Valley where geese and Sandhill cranes have come for centuries. Richard Moore takes us there for their spectacular sunset arrival.
The primordial call of wild geese embraces the sunset as they descend to ancestral wintering grounds in deep South Texas. Throughout the glowing twilight, flock after flock sets their wings, gracefully gliding to land in shallow waters of the historic salt lakes west of Raymondville.
Throughout much of the year, La Sal Del Rey, La Sal Vieja and East Lake are tranquil, simmering in the South Texas heat, but in the winter months the remote lakes host thousands of wintering waterfowl.
The Sandhill cranes are the first to arrive. Flying with rhythmically powerful wing beats and haunting calls, they soar in with long necks outstretched before touching down for the night.
The trio of salt lakes and their surrounding brush are part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. They were of vital importance to indigenous people and early settlers as a source of salt, but they are also recognized as a site of international significance for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl.
Geese and Sandhill cranes can live for more than 20 years, and it is likely that many of them roosting here have visited this site many times before.
Few sights in nature rival the spectacle of hundreds of Snow geese gliding in amidst their thronging brethren as the strident calls of newcomers mix with exultant greeting of the landed in a wonderfully wild clamor.
Geese and Sandhill cranes have been migrating here for perhaps thousands of years, and they have undoubtedly been both admired and hunted for nearly as long.
Native people surely gazed skyward captivated by the sight, and perhaps it is this powerful primal urge that commands our attention to the marvel of winged migration.