I say most of the time, because the last two times we tried to bring guests with us, our timing was way off and there were no birds there. We still have yet to top our best visit to the refuge and that was our first late autumn here.
We moved to NM in August (2008) and we went down there to check it out for the first time in early December, I believe it was. I was just absolutely blown away by the sheer number of birds in one location. "So this is where the birds come when they fly south for the winter!" It was amazing.
Since then, we've had visits during various seasons and there is always something new to see. When it's not the season for birds, we've seen mule deer, turtles, a giant swimming rodent that may have been a nutria -- I'm still not sure, and other fun bits of wildlife. We love to walk around and take the driving tour there. It's all a good time for like $5 a carload for the entire day.
But since our last two visits were a little bit lackluster in the bird department, this time, we scheduled a visit around the time of the Festival of the Cranes. We had heard that the Festival is actually the worst time to go because of all the tourists, but the way we figure it, the birds don't have calendars, so any time around the festival is probably close enough to get a pretty good look at nature during migration times.
So we decided to go down there last Saturday.
I want to share some of my photos and a couple videos of our trip, but I feel I must add a disclaimer. I love bird-watching and teaching the kids about our feathered friends, but I have not yet mastered in any shape or form, how to beautifully capture these creatures with my camera. Part of this is my lack of time to really focus on the art of photography, but part of it is that the birds tend to fly in just after sunset, so the light is really low and the birds don't really sit still. I took about 800 photos and these are the best of what I took. I hope you'll forgive these less than beautiful pictures and just try to appreciate them for the amazing events that inspired them.
|Even before sunset, the snow geese were gathering.|
|They post a count once per week at the visitor's center. This was what was posted on the day we arrived.|
|One of our favorite ponds/wetlands in the refuge is usually bustling with activity of all kinds of wildlife. But this time, it was almost completely dried up. Eerie.|
|Ah, yes, I guess New Mexico does have some drought issues ... it just really doesn't seem like it up further north.|
|We got to see a few groups of mule deer in different parts of the refuge. None of them were super close, so this was as far as I could zoom up. Still, you get the idea.|
|The kids were all excited about this "waterfall" and wanted me to take a picture of it. These are the same kids who have actually been to Niagara Falls, among other waterfalls we've hiked to. I can't believe this impresses them.|
|As the sun started to set, flocks of cranes and geese started making there way in for the evening.|
|What season is this? It was getting so chilly as the sun set and still, our youngest daughter was happy in shorts and snow boots. Crazy girl.|
|So yeah, there were not nearly as many cranes as there were on our first visit, but it was still much more exciting than the last couple visits when there were practically none.|
The cranes and geese are such social animals, it's always fun just to listen to their chatter. It gets pretty loud at times!