Hey! What kind of safari is this anyway? A south central Texas Exotic Wildlife Tour, that's what.
Today required a 7:30 a.m. start for the two-hour drive out to Y.O. Ranch in Mountain Home, Texas. The goal? To photograph over 50 species of exotic animals from all over the world and to learn about the history of the ranch. Our two-hour group tour cost $32.95 each and included a chuckwagon lunch. Bob and I did this tour a year ago and we loved it. He did not go with my mom, sis and I as he had surgery to remove skin cancer this morning.
We made it to the ranch as requested at 9:45 a.m. to pay for the tour. At exactly 10:00 a.m. our school bus painted in giraffe camouflage colors left the parking lot. The bus bumped and rattled up and down a hill on the way to our first locked gate. Apparently the locks on the gates had just been changed from numbered combination locks to keyed locks. Our tour driver forgot the key. Oops.
|Our driver/guide, Burna, telling us she forgot the key.|
|Auodad from Africa, one of the first exotic animals|
introduced to YO Ranch.
|Spotted Axis deer.|
|The bar with fireplace reflected in the mirror.|
|See story below.|
Our driver had to go back up the rocky road to the gate. This time she unlocked it and we watched rheas up the road. The rhea is a flightless bird from South America. The male builds the nest and sits on the eggs. He may find a surrogate male to sit on the eggs while he goes out in search of more females.
|Rheas can be gray or white and look similar to ostriches or emus.|
|Red deer (Europe, Caucasus Mountains, Asia) losing winter coats.|
|Blackbuck antelope does (India)|
|Two-year old giraffe|
|Close-up of female giraffe.|
|Mouflon sheep (?)|
|Beisa oryx (East Africa)|
|Wildebeest mom and calves.|
|Four horned sheep|
|Blackbuck male (India)|
|Ostrich in foreground; emu in background|
|Scimitar-horned oryx (extinct in the wild since 2000)|
|Greater Kudu (East Africa)|
|Ellipsen waterbuck (Africa)|
|Giant eland (East and Southern Africa)|
|Dama gazelle visits the tour bus.|
|Sika deer (East Asia)|
At the end of our Exotic Wildlife Tour, we had a chuckwagon lunch consisting of sliced top sirloin, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, a roll and almond cake. Very hearty and tasty.
Our next stop on today's itinerary was South Llano River State Park outside Junction, Texas. This state park is a birder's paradise in the spring and fall. Wild turkeys roost in the trees by the river at night. Here you can see some of nature's gorgeous brightly colored birds: painted bunting, vermilion flycatcher, and yellow-cheeked warbler.
When we drove in the entrance road to the park, my mom no sooner said, "Oh, I'd love to see a wild turkey," when we saw eight! There were two toms vying for the attention of six hens. The toms were in full display with tail feathers spread to the max and their chests puffed out as big as they could go. The dominant, large tom kept himself between the young tom and the hens. I wish I had remembered to take a photo. We watched them for about five minutes. Quite the show.
At the Visitor Center, we saw a black-chinned hummingbird. Off to a bird blind we went. No painted buntings have showed up yet this year. The wildflowers haven't bloomed (not enough rain apparently). We did see a few birds...
|Pine siskin or yellow-rumped warbler or Cassin's finch??|
|Definitely not a bird! Cool lizard, though.|
|A very thirsty Inca dove.|
|Goldfinch? Wilson's warbler? Anyone know?|
|Lots of turkeys at this time of year.|
|Trail from campground to bird blind. See how winter-like it still looks?|
Long day, but a wonderful time.
Travel Bug, Mom and Jan out.