RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas — Deep in the ranch country of southernmost Texas, tucked away amidst venerable mesquites, is a remote oasis where secretive wildlife abounds.
Spirited coyote chorus greets the dawn as a black-necked stilt strolls the tranquil water in rich golden light of early morning. A perfect reflection mirrors the tuxedo clad birds methodical probing on wonderfully long pink legs.
The solitary stilt is joined on shore by a young bull nilgai, that stares inquisitively back into the brush before vanishing.
Suddenly, a family of whistling ducks appears. After making a circuit of the pond, with two adults leading and four youngsters trailing behind, the ducks leave the water, then leisurely walk into the brush where they vanish.
Where’s there’s one stilt there are usually two, and as this pair grooms they are joined by a foursome of white-tailed deer.
The stilts stand guard as a velvet-clad buck cautiously drinks his fill. After the buck departs, a doe wades out into placid water and slowly satisfies her thirst before leaving the pond to the stilts.
As morning warms a red-eared slider climbs up onto a log to bask in the sun. Its wide, web-footed back foot replete with sharp claws secures purchase on the slippery surface as the turtle stretches its long-striped neck to the sun.
Emerging from the mesquite lined shore, a mature bull nilgai moves toward the water.
Throughout the morning, nilgai come and go at the oasis, lowering their muzzles into the tepid water and drinking long and deep.
Sometimes, they water two at a time as these bulls, and at others they are solitary drinkers like this female or cow nilgai.
Nearly always, the resident stilts are underfoot, as after all it is there oasis.