RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas — Among the first to arrive for an afternoon drink at this tranquil ranch country pond are a pair of bobwhite quail, who warily sip the life-giving water.
A colorful painted bunting shows up next and enthusiastically bathes. He dips his feathers repeatedly to cool off in the late afternoon heat.
A roadrunner stops by to dip its beak in the pond, pausing to survey its surroundings for any sign of danger.
Soon a pair of scaled quail arrives and enjoys a brief drink before moving off to snack on a nearby prickly pear tuna that is just too ripe to pass up.
A sharp-eyed ground squirrel stretches out to slack its thirst, but suddenly something spooks it.
A big indigo has slithered in, and is stretched out in the water as it satisfies its thirst. After searching the pond for prey the glistening black snake crawls off under the watchful eye of the scaled quail.
The pond grows quiet, and all the wildlife seems to have departed when a thirsty bobcat appears. Stooping to drink, the wildcat stares across the pond with its bright yellow gold eyes.
The bobcat, while naturally wary, seems quite content to leisurely drink its fill. The cat is so close; despite the breeze you can hear it lap up the tepid water.
Finally, after several minutes the feline gets its fill and with one last look over its tawny shoulder vanishes into the shadows.
Once the cat is gone, it takes several minutes before the birds begin to return, but the thirst for the life giving water provided by this ranch country oasis will eventually lure even the most wary of wildlife.