Web Extra: Creatures of Independence Creek Preserve
In the February issue, writer E. Dan Klepper reveals some of the many mysteries of The Nature Conservancy’s Independence Creek Preserve, a literal oasis in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert.
Intrigued by the tale of the miniscule Ereboporus naturaconservatus, an elusive, eyeless beetle discovered at the preserve in 2007 and named in honor of The Nature Conservancy, Senior Editor Lori Moffatt visited with conservation biologist John Karges about some of the more visible creatures keen-eyed visitors might spy during the Preserve’s spring and fall Open Weekend events. In the process, Karges revealed other reasons why Independence Creek is so vital to West Texas habitat conservation and its geographic setting.
“Thanks in part to water flowing from Independence Creek, “says Karges, “ the Pecos River—unlike most rivers in Texas and elsewhere—actually gets better on its way downstream. As soon as the river flows south of Interstate 10, numerous springs are contributing to it. The Pecos gets clearer and clearer all the way to Lake Amistad.
“Independence Creek is a spring-fed creek that has never gone dry—in the Chihuahuan Desert. That is a remarkable thing. The area here is where the Western Edwards Plateau and the Chihuahuan Desert meet, and thanks to the water, we have mature live oaks here that are ancient. The stories they could tell! We’re on the western edge of the plateau live oak’s range. Which means that the Preserve is a good place to see neotropical songbirds like orioles, grosbeaks, warblers, vireos, and painted buntings, who select those bankside woodland patches of live oaks as they travel north and south during migration. Visitors can also see such neotropical raptors as zone-tailed hawks, which nest here.
“The same live oaks attract monarch butterflies in October as they return south for the winter. They’ll select these trees, all of them found along the river bottoms, as overnight roosts. Some years, the wave of monarchs is awesome.
“Other animals found here include the Rio Grande cooter, one of the turtles known as sliders; and then there are native mammals such as porcupines, gray fox, and ring-tailed cats, which visitors sometimes see at the edges of the day, if they’re camping here during Open Weekends.”
Independence Creek Preserve is one of more than 35 Texas properties under The Nature Conservancy’s umbrella, representing 20,000 of the almost one million acres in Texas protected by the organization to date. The nonprofit Conservancy works with landowners, businesses, institutions, government agencies, communities, individuals, and other non-profit groups to promote non-confrontational, market-based solutions for conserving the diversity of life on Earth.
Independence Creek Preserve is in Terrell County, 36 miles
north of Dryden on Texas 349. Go to www.nature.org/texas for more information on the
Preserve and other Nature Conservancy efforts in Texas. Open Weekend dates in 2012 are Mar. 23-25, Apr.13-15, and
Sep. 7-9. In addition, there’s an Open Day (no overnight camping) on Jun. 9.
Events are free, though advance registration and reservations for camping are
required. Call 432/345-6773 or email Program Coordinator Lisa Wrinkle or
From the June 2012 issue.