November 15, 2012
Today was our very early day – the alarm went off at 4:30 am. We put on our warm clothing, grabbed a banana to eat, and headed for the refuge. Our “Walk Out to Fly Out” tour started at 5:30 am. It was still cold and dark but the bus was toasty warm. The bus ride was quite short, and then we walked along a dirt road which is normally closed to the public. By now it wasn’t completely dark, so we didn’t need to use flashlights.
We were standing on a dirt road next to the pond where several thousand Snow Geese were roosting. There were a lot of stars still visible, along with Venus high above the horizon. Slowly it got brighter in the east, and meanwhile in the pond the geese remained motionless. We waited for a while; from time to time a few geese flew up from our pond. Then suddenly and without warning, most of the geese in our pond took off and flew away, squawking like anything. It was quite a spectacle. Once they had taken off we could see that the Sandhill Cranes were left standing in the lagoon. Slowly they too started to leave, but not all at once, only in small groups.
Sunrise was lovely, and now the sky was full of skeins of geese, cranes, crows, and blackbirds. Our group filtered back to the bus and then back to the visitor centre. The gift shop was already open, so we went in to have a look around. We bought a deck of “Birds of Prey of the World” playing cards and then headed back to Socorro. We had a proper breakfast, and then walked over to Walmart to buy a few more groceries.
Next on our schedule was a lecture on horned lizards. It was held at the Macey Center up at the university, New Mexico Tech, so we walked up there, arriving just in time. The talk was very interesting and was given by one of the staff biologists from the refuge. She was also the leader of our early-morning tour, so we chatted a bit prior to the talk.
By the time the talk was over it was lunch time. Since we were at home we had chicken with rice soup along with crackers and salami. We had some free time before our next talk, so we walked over to the Plaza to look around. There was a marble monument with pictures of all of Socorro’s mayors since about the 1880’s, and a display with a fragment of a steel container used in testing of atomic bombs in the 1940’s. We noticed that they had already started to put up Christmas decorations on the lamp posts.
Finding a computer shop, we stopped in to see if they had a power cable for our netbook. Paul had inadvertently brought the wrong power cable, and the battery had run down, so we could no longer use it. The owner did have the right cable, but he wanted $30 for it and we weren’t really ready to pay that much just for the week until we got home.
Time was running out because we had a talk at the Macey Center at 3 pm, so this time we drove up there. This talk was about bats and it was quite full compared to this morning’s horned lizard talk. The speaker was very good and his photos of the various bats were totally amazing. After the talk was over he explained how he got the photos. First he used a mist net to catch the bats, then he let them fly through a camera setup which he built himself, taking their own pictures with high-speed flash by flying through a light ray which triggered the camera.
The talk went on for the full time, so we arrived back home at about 5 pm. Dinner was pasta again with broccoli and a salad. After dinner we went over to the Friends of the Bosque’s dinner at the Bodega Burger restaurant, where they had a silent auction to raise funds. There were some nice paintings there, and a lovely pottery vase, but nothing that really caught our eyes.
November 14: Bosque del Apache
November 16: Very Large Array