Monday, February 15, 2010
Let me just start by saying it’s not called the land of enchantment for nothing. My good friends Mary Ellen and Gail have a wonderful home in Albuquerque and they asked me if I would like to come visit them and go see the Sandhill Cranes at Bosque Del Apache. Being busy people it took a few emails to figure out the best time and we settled on late January.
I flew up on a Thursday and we had a relaxing evening at the house, sitting at the kitchen table eating lentil soup and catching up. I should probably point out that Mary Ellen and Gail are former B & B owners so staying at their house is always a treat. I had a very sweet bedroom all to myself. The next morning after coffee and bagels, we started throwing our overnight stuff into various bags so we could head down to Bosque del Apache where we had booked rooms at a nearby B&B. Some dicey weather in the forecast almost changed our plans but we decided to go for it. As we headed south from Albuquerque the mountains to the west of us had lots of snow on them. It was cold and a little bleak outside the car but inside the car, we were in good spirits. We stopped for a few minutes so I could take this picture.
Our first stop was the Bernardo Wildlife Area, located between Belen and Socorro between I-25 and the Rio Grande. It’s set up so that you can drive your car through a big loop and stop at various places along the way to look at birds and take photographs. Rain had made the road impassable so the drive was closed. Undeterred by the closed gate, we parked outside and walked in. I heard the cranes before I saw them. It’s an amazing sound that I can’t begin to describe. For me, there is something mystical about it. I loved listening to them. Maybe it’s because their kind have been on this planet longer than we can imagine. From Wikipedia, “The oldest unequivocal Sandhill Crane fossil is "just" 2.5 million years old, over one and a half times older than the earliest remains of most living species of birds.” We are virtual spring chickens compared to these birds. To be in their presence is to touch the primal nature of the earth.
At Bernardo we saw hundreds, maybe thousands of sandhill cranes and lots of snow geese. We also saw a large flock of mountain bluebirds that rested in some branches a few feet away from us. The males are blue over most of their bodies. It’s a shocking bright blue that really catches the eye. We spent the better part of an hour walking around the area. It’s sort of an accidental wetland. Many years ago they diverted the Rio Grande to provide water to farmers. This created a riparian habitat that is now home to many creatures. In addition to their usual crops, many farmers plant corn for the cranes and the big birds can be seen on the fields, casually eating while overexcited humans gawk at them.
We weren’t thrilled with the mud that stuck to our feet but the cranes thought it was just dandy. Here are some of the many, many tracks we saw.
Stay tuned for the next post – Bosque del Apache and the stay at the B&B.