Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cranes, Part 2 – Bosque del Apache and the stay at the B&B

After a quick lunch of Mexican food in Socorro, we headed straight for the Dancing Cranes B&B to check in and meet our hosts, Jim and Jana. We wanted to be sure to get to Bosque del Apache for the nightly fly out of the cranes so after a quick meet and greet, we took off in that direction.
Here’s the crane drill for novices (and I was in that camp until this trip). Like most (maybe all?) waterfowl, the cranes get up at the crack of dawn and fly off for a day of eating and doing whatever else they do. Mostly eating, I suppose. Toward dusk they fly back to their favorite water spot and settle in for the night. For the birds, this is a fairly simple thing. Humans scramble around, layering cold weather clothes on themselves, putting wool stockinged feet into boots, grabbing cameras, hats, and so on, all the while muttering (all of us) “We don’t want to miss the fly out.” Having been bitten by the crane bug earlier in the day at Bernardo Wildlife Refuge, I was right there with the other humans, wanting to get out the door and off to “pond one” which we had been assured was the favorite nightly spot for the cranes.
Thankfully, we got there enough in advance of their arrival that we had some time to drive around Bosque del Apache for a bit. We also hit the gift shop where I bought things I didn’t need but am happy with still the same. Around where this picture was taken, we saw flocks of small, frustrating little birds that challenged our birding knowledge. Later we discovered they were pine siskins. Here are Mary Ellen and Gail.

We headed over to pond one, parked, and walked as close to the pond as we could get. I took along my little Canon point and shoot mostly because it has a video feature. That allowed me to capture the sound of the cranes. I was truly fascinated by the sounds they make. What’s interesting is that most of us humans barely spoke. We stood and listened as bird after bird flew in noisily announcing their arrival while the birds already in the water called out greetings. We stayed until it was dark and the stragglers were few and far between.

Back at the B&B, Jana had made a vegetable casserole. There’s something about being cold that works up an appetite. I ate my share and then some, along with a few glasses of wine with Gail and Jana. All that was followed by fresh apple cake and it was all accompanied by friendly conversation with our hosts. Jim was more than happy to fill in my knowledge gap around the cranes. He pulled out a book and showed us photos and maps of the trek these amazing animals take every year. We learned that a separate group makes a similar journey over in the Midwest around the Platt River. I sat and looked through the book some more while Jim and Jana tidied up. Then it was off to bed so we could get up early and go back to pond one for the fly out!
I was still on Central Time so it was no trouble for me to get up early. I got dressed and had coffee and more apple cake with Jana. I learned that, in addition to being a photographer and jeweler, she’s an avid scuba diver and counts the Galapagos as one of her scuba destinations. Here is the link to her photography gallery. When Mary Ellen and Gail got up and had a little coffee, we headed back to the pond. Jana joined us so she could add to her collection of crane photos.
The fly out was as spectacular as the fly in. I stood with Jana in a location close to a group of cranes. We watched and listened as they talked and talked about flying out, doing so in small groups, pairs or singly, but all with much conversation.

Here is a photo of Mary Ellen, Gail, and Jana, bundled up.

As the last of the flock headed out for the day, we headed back to the B&B, where Jana had promised a tour of her studio. There we saw many of her photos and some of her jewelry. I bought a silver pendant with a bird stamped on it. It’s now one of my favorites. After that, we packed up, said our goodbyes to Jim & Jana, and hit the road again, headed back to ABQ.
The trip back is short but it was marked by three interesting events. We had gotten word that an artisan familiar to Mary Ellen and Gail (who also happens to be a neighbor of Jim & Jana) had a table at the Socorro Farmers Market. We stopped in there to see her wares. I bought some prayer flags that I still need to hang up – and a onesie for a little baby who is still in the oven. She’ll get the onesie in May when she joins the rest of us in the world. Thing two was a surprisingly hip restaurant/coffee shop that we found in Socorro. The food was great. I had an avocado/cheese sandwich with a side of homemade potato soup. Thing three about the trip back was the weather. After leaving Socorro, we drove through rain, sleet, snow, and hail – all in an hour and a half! All in all, the trip to see the cranes was an amazing adventure. It has taken me so long to write about it that I’m ready for another adventure now.

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