By Daniel Rigney
Today we’re in Houston, gateway to Louisiana, celebrating the biodiversity of this sprawling urban ecosystem built in a swamp -- I mean a wetland -- on the western edge of Cajun country.
Even those who don’t know their boudin from an etouffee will appreciate the diversity of this region’s many exotic if endangered species, including the reclusive Texas Liberal and the fiercely loyal Yellow-dog Democrat.
I answer to either name myself. We are among the many strange and interesting life forms found in the Southern ecosystem, a region environmentalists call "the political twilight zone.”
People travel from as far away as Galveston to see Houston’s scenic brownwater bayous, teeming with alligators, water moccasins, river sharks (pictured below*) and mosquito larvae. The latter, tiny flying draculas, come out in swarms about ten days after a good rain, or what some may know as a “flood.”
Mosquitoes and other winged insects aren’t the only flying creatures in the region. Serious birders around the world admire our feathered wildlife and come from far and wide to catch a glimpse of our wetland fowl -- though since the recession it’s been harder to spot the construction crane, once plentiful in the Carbon City.
Still found in abundance, though, is the full-throated Right-winged Redstater, recently designated our official state bird by the Texas legislature, a subsidiary of the oil industry.
Houston’s most celebrated non-human life form is, of course, the creature our neighbors in Mexico call la cucaracha, or what I call the Louisiana land fish. I refer, of course, to the giant cockroach, one of the world’s least endangered species.
This storied creature is so beloved in the Gulf region that some have built parade floats in its honor.** Don’t believe me?
The one pictured above, stuffed and mounted, is larger than the average Gulf coast specimen. To be honest, most Houston land fish are less than half this size.
This has been your unauthorized field guide to Houston wildlife – officially unendorsed by the Greater Houston Partnership, our metropolitan Chambers of Commerce. For a more positive look at life in the big city, see any business booster club publication, or read the second half of my prior post, "A Houston Stringer for Open Salon."
Y’all come back now, you hear?
*I took this photo as we emerged from the shark tunnel at the Downtown Aquarium on Buffalo Bayou. "Bayou" is Cajun French, from a Choctaw word meaning "small stream" or river. In Houston, many of these have concrete embankments and serve as flood control channels.
**This is an actual entry in Houston’s annual Art Car Parade, my favorite event of the year. Houston may call itself, justly and with pride, the art car capital of the world. Eat your heart out, Minneapolis.