Saturday, December 15, 2012

Festival of the Cranes

I finally made it to the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, along with 42,000 Snow Geese, 6,500 Cranes and 2 Eagles, but who's counting..Who was counting? 

Having never been to New Mexico, the entire landscape was alien, so along with birds to be seen there was landscape literacy to be obtained.. Of course there is never enough time..and so many birds..and a plethora of interesting festival activities.. not all at the refuge & not all birding..This post focuses on  birding activities..

First up was a bird-spotting cruise on Elephant Butte lake..yes, butte..stop laughing... This is a man-made reservoir used by New mexico, Northern Mexico and Texas.

That is an Elephant's Butte in the distance.
The birds were mostly in the distance too, and since water levels were very low, we couldn't get much closer.. We spotted birds..lots of Eared Grebe spots,  a Great Blue Heron or two surveying the scene from far, far away..and White Pelican dots..There were also thousands of Western Grebes and some Clark's Grebes too (I was told)..

Western Grebe near the dock, willing to pose.

After the cruise, lunch and a guided riparian (river) walk along a Rio Grand tributary. Cactus Wren, Canyon Wren, Bewicks Wren, Ladder Back Woodpecker and Phainopepla were all life-birds..

Water levels were low.

Prickly Pears were high in the air.

Life bird! Phainopepla.

Meanwhile, back at the refuge..

Some of the 42,000 Snow Geese.

A Snow Goose Blue Morph.
Fly By...

                                            Fly In... 

Sandhill Cranes at Sunset.

If you go to this not take a bus tour.. We carefully chose one we thought would bus us to walk/watch.. Like going to the fly in..but we were only let out twice..and that is frustrating..especially for photographers..

From the bus....

Allowed out on a dock for some ducks.
Female Shoveler.

Another release..for the Sandhill Cranes at a corn field..seems these birds do not just volunteer for the festival, but are lured by corn planted expressly for them..and of course they are helped to survive.

                        Meet the Crane family.

Bye bye!

That afternoon I hopped into my car and took a whirlwind tour of the refuge on my own..Here are some highlights..

Ha, ha yes! Just who I wanted to see!
An  odd duck.. Blue headed Mallard.

Sleepy Shovelers.

Beautiful Pintails.

                                               Time flew...

The best bird was in the parking lot. Gambel's Quail.

The bird of time has but a little way to fly, and lo, the bird is on the wing~Omar Khayyam, "The Rubaiyat"