RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Sunrise unveils glassy calm on Westlake at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

Rare tranquil mornings in southernmost Texas are to be savored during relentless springtime gusts. Despite the powerfully persistent March winds, blooming pitas prevail with their flowery displays.

Rafts of American coots gather in the shallows beneath towering blooms of yuccas.

While the majority of wintering waterbirds have migrated north to breeding grounds, the ubiquitous coots relish their home in deep South Texas and are reluctant to leave.

Vast rafts of the duck-like coots linger on the big lake. Not everything that floats is a duck, and the numerous coots are considered marsh birds more closely related to rails and gallinules.

The word coot can be traced back centuries and has come to mean a foolish or silly person, and that seems appropriate for the comically flapping and splashing coots.

Those coots better be on high alert, however, as warmer weather also stimulates the emergence of hungry alligators from winter dormancy.

There are some mighty big gators cruising the waterways in search of a springtime snack, and this massive creature sunning on the bank dwarfs his mate.

The smaller gator is perhaps six feet long, so that would appear to reveal her massive mate exceeding an impressive twelve feet.

Surveying this spectacle from a blooming pita, a Harris’s Hawk peers down in hopes of spotting prey, while a caracara selects a nearby perch from which to launch its morning hunt.

Joining the resident raptors is a diminutive Sparrow Hawk and a slightly larger Merlin, both of which will soon depart for northern breeding grounds.

As blooming pitas begin to fade into late spring and migratory birds wing it northward, those big gators will remain on the prowl.