I am down in Roma, Texas and I wanted to share where I am with y'all. I am volunteering at the Roma Bluffs World Birding Center that is one of the nine Centers strung out like a necklace along the Rio Grande corridor, a focal point in both North to South and South to North migration paths. Roma Bluffs is the western most of these centers and there are birds that frequent this natural gem, that can be found nowhere else in the United States. In addition to the migratory birds, the birding center, its lands, and the surrounding region is home to other species of birds that live in the valley the year-round. In 2012 and 2013, these included less common and rare species like:
- · Green Jay (Resident)
- · Clay Colored Thrush (Robin)
- · Greater Kiskadee (Resident)
- · Audubon’s Oriole (Resident)
- · Long Billed Thrasher
- · Buff Bellied Hummingbird
Visitors to Roma Bluffs World Birding Center include tourists from around the world and local birders who visit the Lookout over the Rio Grande and the Garden. Designed with birds and butterflies in mind the garden is a nurturing atmosphere for all, from the largest bird to the most minute caterpillar. Every day the staff and volunteers maintain the bird feeders the plants that provide nectar and shelter for the butterflies and caterpillars. Here the human guests can enjoy discovering rare species of butterflies along with dozens of the more common queens, soldiers, sulfurs and crescents in a relaxing garden atmosphere of flowers and fountains. A special 'Nursery' section is reserved just for caterpillar host plants and an indoor exhibit called the 'Butterfly Kindergarten' features live caterpillars in varying stages along with chrysalises ready to transform into the next generation of butterflies. These butterflies are then released to live free in the garden. The Gulf Fritillary newly morphed in the Roma Bluffs, Texas - World Birding Center was released in the garden. The photographs and chrysalis shell will become an exhibit along with other displays of butterfly and caterpillar photographs and information, their abandoned chrysalis shells and preserved leaves and samples of the host plants.
Biodiversity is more than just birds and butterflies. This is evident in the long swath of fossilized oyster shells incorporated into a layer of the bluffs visible from the river walk. Photographs of this natural wonder along with samples of these shells are in the Roma Bluffs World Birding Center for “hands on” examination. If you do not have a magnifying glass you can borrow one, just ask the staff and they will be happy to help you. Nature exhibits include bird nests, petrified wood, shells, minerals, and feathers, all of which are there to touched and examined freely by the guests. Another display houses various seeds, pods, acorns and fruits that provide native sources of food for local and visiting birds.
The Center is an outpost for Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and home to a Cornell eBird Trail Tracker kiosk where birders can record their sightings, look at other sightings in the area, look up bird species on line and get the most recent data on birding. Because Cornell Labs maintains the area sightings, the Roma Bluffs World Birding Center is the local resource for who saw what, when, where and how. The Gift Shop offers everything from specialized books on nature to finger puppets, T-shirts, coffee mugs, postcards and insect repellent. Insect repellant - just about something to please anyone.
The plaza where the Roma Bluffs World Birding Center is located is part of Texas history and deserves its own article. The Center itself is housed the historic Garcia Ramirez House and Store and the conjoined Francisco Margo House. The Francisco Margo House is presently being restored with meticulous detail and authentically crafted materials. The Garcia Ramirez House and Store was completed in 1881 and houses the Gift Shop on the Plaza level and office, and classrooms on the lower street level.