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      Nature Report: "Ranch Morning"

      The sun is just beginning to top the distant mesquites at the end of a long dusty sendero in the ranch land of western Starr County. A cactus wren greets the dawn with exuberant song from atop a prickly pear, and it promises to be another dry, hot day in the arid wildlands. But, fortunately for the wildlife on this patch of parched chaparral there are several ponds providing vital water to thirsty creatures. It can get pretty crowded and quite noisy at the popular watering holes, as flocks of mourning doves burst off in flight and green jays scold from shadowy perches. The bird life at a ranch country oasis is astounding, and sooner or later everybody drops by for a drink, including this threesome of lark sparrows. The quail arrive in coveys, and while these bobwhites thirstily tank up they never all seem to lower their heads at once, as a couple of them are always on alert for any hint of danger. Joining the bobwhite quail are the scaled quail, so called for the scale like appearance of their feathering. They are also referred to as blue quail for their gunmetal blue hue when the sun hits them just right. Another moniker for these quail is cotton top in reference to the fluff of white feathering atop their heads. The bobwhite and scaled quail have ranges that overlap in the western valley, and when they appear together it is apparent how much larger the cottontops are. Throughout the day, the wildlife parade continues, and as the shadows lengthen a wary cottontail rabbit slips in for a quick drink before scampering off. With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore.