Fly In At Sunset

November 17, 2012

Yesterday was partly cloudy, with only high clouds, but this morning it was completely cloudy. We had our breakfast and headed down to the Bosque. First on our agenda was to stop by the artists’ tent and buy the wall hanging which we had seen the day before. We also bought two stained-glass birds, a crane and a quail, to hang in our kitchen window.

Our first outing was a guided tour called “Water in the Desert”. We met up with our leader and a biologist in front of the visitor centre. There were supposed to be twelve people in the group, but only four of us showed up. This might have been because of a misprint in the festival brochure, but at any rate the small group was a lot better. The other couple on the tour had a pickup truck, so all six of us squeezed into it and they drove us over to the start of the trail.

Dried-up pond

Dried-up pond

We stopped off at the main lagoon to see what a difference water makes to the vegetation and wildlife, then we started walking on the Marsh Boardwalk trail. The trail itself was only ¾ mile long. First the trail followed a dirt road, then it headed onto a path through the desert. Not much wildlife was around, but we did see a Gambel’s Quail and a small lizard. At the end of the walk we crossed a pond via a boardwalk. Since there had been a drought in New Mexico for quite some time, the pond was almost completely dry and the mud was cracked into plates. The interesting part was seeing the various animal tracks left in the dried mud.

Dead mouse

Dead mouse

After the tour we had our lunch and then went into the expo tent. We picked up a number of brochures for various birding tours, and Rosemary talked about camera lenses to the Sigma rep for quite a while.

We had the afternoon off, so we decided to take another drive around the refuge. We bought a Duck Stamp for $15, which would get us into any National Wildlife Refuge until next June. This time we decided to drive the south loop to see what we could see. This was where we had gone for the Raptor ID tour a couple of days ago. As usual we saw Cranes, Snow Geese, Harriers, and Red-tailed Hawks, but nothing out of the usual. However at the south end of the loop we saw half a dozen mule deer out in one of the fields.

At 4:30 pm we were scheduled to go and see the birds fly into the pond for the night. There were a lot of people signed up for this “Walk Out to Fly In” tour, so they used two buses to transport us. It was at the same place where we had watched them fly out at sunrise a few days ago, but this time it was advantageous to be on the tour because as the cranes and geese were arriving we could see the sunset behind them.

Sandhill Cranes in flight

Sandhill Cranes in flight

The cranes had arrived first so they were mostly in the main lagoon already, but there were a few hundred in the field behind us. Trying to sneak up on them was a coyote but he saw the large group of people, so he retreated into the darkening surroundings. Our tour leaders had been mentioning a melanistic crane which had been seen on the refuge, and that crane was in the main lagoon right in front of us. Just like they said, it looked like a “chocolate crane”.

Snow Geese at sunset

Snow Geese at sunset

The Snow Geese were arriving in small groups, but soon they were arriving by the hundreds. A steady stream of honking geese lasting at least 15 minutes took us through the last of the sunset and into the dark. And suddenly the action ceased. It was an awesome spectacle. Slowly we all made our way back to the buses which took us back to the visitor centre.

November 16: Very Large Array

November 18: Mountain Birding

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