Wildlife photo exhibit puts Valley nature in focus

A great blue heron prepares to take flight on South Padre Island. (Steve Sinclain/Courtesy)

Take a walk on the wild side at the annual Wildlife Photography Exhibition and fundraiser Saturday, Feb. 1 at Estero Llano Grande State Park on FM 1015 in Mercedes.

The exhibition lasts from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free, though regular fees apply to visit the rest of the park. All photos are available for purchase with money raised to be used for park projects. Refreshments will be provided.

Steve Sinclair has photographed South Texas wildlife for more than two decades, and many of his favorite images will be showcased.

Few places in North America can boast of such an impressive variety of wildlife as does the Rio Grande Valley, which includes approximately 520 species of birds and 300 species of butterflies. In addition, this region is home to the endangered ocelot as well as numerous reptiles and amphibians.

The reason is because of various habitats that include everything from coastal prairies to palm forests. These habitats are showcased by the nine sites of the World Birding Center as well as three national wildlife refuges and several city venues.

It’s the annual spring neo-tropical bird migration that attracts birders and photographers from throughout the United States and foreign countries.

Migratory birds leave Central and South America and make the long flight, most times at night, crossing the Gulf of Mexico on their way to nesting sites in the United States and Canada. When conditions are right, they make landfall on South Padre Island where trees and bushes come alive with buntings, grosbeaks, vireos, warblers, orioles and hummingbirds.

The birds use South Padre Island to replenish fat supplies and rest for a few days before continuing their migration.

The wildlife photo exhibition showcases many of these migrants as well as resident birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians.