By Anthony Zurcher (BBC)
Marianna Trevino Wright sits on a bench near a wooded section of the National Butterfly Center and begins identifying animals.
Scissortail flycatchers, green jays, olive sparrows and clay-coloured thrushes swoop by, pecking at oranges set out as a snack and splashing in a bubbling fountain. From the tree branches above, great-tailed grackles screech and whistle like avian car alarms.
Closer to the earth, a menagerie of butterflies flit among the nearby flowering bushes. Zebra Heliconians and large orange sulfurs; queens and red-bordered pixies.
Then there are the other sights and sounds at the centre.
The hum of a US Department of Homeland Security helicopter high overhead. Border Patrol agents buzzing by on motorcycles and ATVs, their faces obscured by masks and goggles, pistols at their side.
The rumble of trucks dragging tyres behind them, smoothing dusty roads so the footprints of interlopers can more easily be spotted.
A government powerboat, with menacing .30-calibre machine guns on its deck, roaring down the river.
The butterfly centre, of which Wright is the director, sits on 110 acres near the southern tip of Texas – an area of low-lying marshes, brush and scrub forests, offering a variety of ecosystems that provide ample habitat for migratory species of all shapes and sizes.
It is also flush along the Rio Grande River, which forms more than 1,260 miles (2027 km) of the 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico.
That puts the small, private environmental preserve in the centre of a raging debate over immigration and national security – and whether and where to build Donald Trump’s oft-promised border wall.
“It is a war zone,” Wright says. “That’s what the government wants it to appear to be. It’s all theatre. So they’ve got to have all the actors, all the costumes and all the props.”
South Texas is a funnel of all sorts for animals that winter in Mexico and burst into the northern climes as the weather warms.
It’s also the closest point in the US geographically to Central America, where a growing number of families have been fleeing poverty and political violence to seek refuge on US soil.
Read more: The butterflies that could stop Trump’s wall