RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — As sunrise peeks over the distant horizon, myriad shorebirds forage increasingly sparse waters of this vanishing lake in southernmost Texas.
Scores of terns dive into the diminishing waters, taking advantage of aquatic prey trapped in easily accessible shallows.
The lingering South Texas drought provides a temporary boon for many birds prowling shrinking ponds and lakes.
This group of white ibis and avocets mingles with other wading birds in barely ankle-deep water. The ibis busily sweep their long curved bills seeking crabs, crayfish, snails, and other tidbits.
The pond is so low and the morning so quiet you can hear them striding and probing through the shallows in an energetic ballet of sustained group foraging.
The avocets with their distinctive slightly up-curved bills are equally devoted to frenetic feeding, but occasionally pause to engage in a little feather maintenance.
On a nearby shrinking oasis, a lone glossy ibis performs its morning ritual with other shorebirds, including a green heron that prefers to snare its prey from crouched ambush, and sometimes the stealth approach works best.
Joining the birds, a wary coyote slips in for a quick drink. His yellow-gold eyes peer nervously about as he laps up the tepid water.
Suddenly he raises his head as his ears prick up, and in a flash, he flees. When and if he returns, the shy coyote will no longer find life-giving water at this precious oasis as it is now dry.
Although rain is on the horizon, it is too little and too late for some wildlife, as yet another area pond has shrunk so precipitously that the 50 to 75 alligator gar marooned in the stagnant pool have now perished.
Hopefully, fall rains will soon replenish lost oases, and resilient South Texas wildlife will share the bounty with thousands of migratory waterfowl now arriving.