Bosque Del Apache NM Dec 2011/12
The drive from ABQ is interesting even though it is freeway. North/South Interstate 25, elevated on the volcanic flow ridges above the farms of the Rio Grande Valley below, gives an impression of flying low with a view from horizon to horizon.
We were greeted with a rare view of snow covered lower mountains as we approached Socorro NM. Usually they are rocky and forbidding in an enchanting mysterious way. The entrance to the Reserve is at San Antonio NM, a crossroads town along the Santa Fe Railroad. Conrad HILTON got his start here. The reserve entrance is about 4 miles or so south of there. The main roads are muddy from the snow visible on this year's trip, to our great surprise.
Every trip to the 'Bosque' as we refer to it, is very different. During last winter's trip, this was the situation according to Big Lar's camera
'Light Geese' (snow Geese we call them) from Siberia, hit about 20,000. American Coots numbered 782. Eagles, of which we observed at least two, numbered 13. Canada Geese, prolific in past years only counted at 172, while countless numbers are strung out all along the entire Rio Grande valley. One lonesome Peregrine Falcon is in the count. It was rehabilitated after an injury and is apparently hanging around. We saw what we believe to be that Peregrine on a wire alongside the highway near the entrance as we left the reserve.
We decided that the 'controllers' as we understand them, adjusted conditions to force the birds further south into Mexico due to the weather conditions. Of course somewhat meager drought condition food supplies growing and a percentage purposely left 'knocked down' during the harvest season, is always a factor.
Reports (fairly obvious) are that the 'fairness and equality' recently mandated by 'new think' govt, have resulted over the past years in substandard, low productivity farming practices. In order to survive and consume adjudicated 'water rights', this has to be a legally 'working Farm'. The powers that be, reportedly awarded the last contracts to rank amateurs instead of the professional farmers of years past. That figures, intentionally dumbing down?...
This year the numerous lakes were primarily Frozen on their surface. Somewhat rare in Socorro where the temp is usually 10 degrees warmer than ABQ. There were several open stretches of water and many fields that we parked near, to watch the thousands of birds. Hawks are not our usual easy sightings.
This year was far different. Several of them (43 Hawks and Owls official count) were visible perched in the tall trees, waiting for a confused or weak quarry to make a mistake. One large 'Red Tail'? Hawk swooped down range 100 yards to grab something small in the tall grass. We never saw what, if anything, it grabbed before heavily lofting itself to another distant tree. Great adventure to watch.
We paused at 'Coyote Deck' observation structure on Farm loop road to see what might be visible. Sure enough, a lone Coyote lurking near a ditch, while watching the big Sandhill Cranes in the field. Guess he was paid by the Rangers to position himself near 'Coyote Deck'. :>)
Normally there are so many ducks flitting rapidly (some of the fastest birds) and paddle diving tails up for muck snacks, that you see them clustered all along the roads. This year they were not as visible in big numbers, possibly the frozen waterways drove them further south along the Rio Grande.
A large section of usually open Marsh loop roadway was closed for this season. The lack of one circuit, shortened our late trip to just about right. A set of lakes near the railroad tracks north of the entrance, with parking along the highway miles south of San Antonio, was a reward in countless, loudly 'purring' Sandhill Cranes doing a continous series of 'fly-ins' for their evening roost.
Numerous tourists with $10,000 digital cameras, with long telescopic lenses arranged on heavy tripods for spectacular sunset enhanced shots, lined the observation shore. We had only wife's little digital, to record a few choreographed family landings in silhouette, with the rosy red dusk sky in low mountain horizon back lighting.
Something peaceful and calming about watching them all return from the heavily populated fields of feeding, to bed down safely in families for the night. They cup their wings for a 'whooshing' descent, while lowering their 'gear' using various techniques. The big birds then begin 'flaring' just before touch down, gracefully into the inches deep lakes. Many choose the shoreline for the night, believing in safety in numbers? "Coyote can eat my neighbor, but he won't be hungry after that...at least for me"?
The drive toward home after dark, resulted in 'No' much anticipated hamburger at the 'Buckaroo Bar', across the highway from 'The Owl Bar' in San Antonio. Closed for New Years Eve? Socorro was similar this night. Belen NM north was next on the I-25, so McDonald's was chosen. Waay too much Mayonnaise on the Angus Deluxe.
Happy to return home with no incidents to mar the New Years Eve adventure. After crawling into bed watching a Bourne adventure TV movie and the news, I slept through what wife described as several 'Pops' at 12 midnight. So much for the H.N.Y. spirit of our youth.
Bedding down for the night, reminds me of watching the birds all coming in to roost after their day of foraging. Enjoy life in this United States of America, One Nation Under God.