Monday, January 18, 2021

Covid Respite #11 - Wintering Waterfowl


                                                                                  My heart in hiding / Stirred for a bird.

                                                                                                        -- Gerard Manley Hopkins, "The Windhover"

Every year, waterfowl from the far north -- sandhill cranes, Canada geese, and snow geese -- come to central and southern New Mexico to spend the winter in the riparian wetlands of the Rio Grande and Pecos rivers.  The cranes come from as far away as Alaska and northeastern Siberia!

So last month it was time to take another Covid Respite trip -- in fact, five visits to three different locations along the Rio Grande:  the Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex about 50 miles south of Albuquerque (three times); the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge south of Socorro, NM; and the banks of the Rio Grande on the west side of Albuquerque.

Of the five visits I made in December, two afternoon trips to the Ladd Gordon Waterfowl Complex were the most photographically productive, so the images and accompanying narrative in this post are from those two trips.  

This area had reopened after being closed to the public for the past three years for removal of invasive plants, so we weren't sure whether the birds had returned or found a different area to overnight in.  Fortunately, they were there.

My friend, Alan and I made our first afternoon visit on December 16.  

Typically during the day, cranes and other waterfowl fly to fields miles away from their overnight wetlands to feed.  But in the late afternoon, they return . . . at first a few, then more and more as the sun sets.

Then larger groups began to arrive . . . 

Hundreds of snow geese took off from a nearby field . . .

and circled the pond in huge formations . . .

. . . the light from the setting sun painting the under side of their wings:

After circling the pond a couple of times, the snow geese headed south, perhaps to the Bosque del Apache 40 miles south.

Then, as the sun was dipping below the horizon, more cranes began to arrive . . .

 . . . and a crescent new moon appeared . . .

 . . . along with hundreds more cranes:

Two days later, having been moved by the sight of these magnificent birds, I went back to the Ladd Gordon area with my wife, Linda.

There were plenty of cranes on the ground, along with some mule deer . . .

 . . . some nice clouds to fill the sky . . .

 . . . and on schedule, more cranes coming in with flaps and landing gear down:

We got a beautiful sunset . . .

 . . . and the birds just kept on coming:

Here's a brief video to give you a sense of what it sounded like as the birds flew in:

Witnessing one of nature's most magnificent migrations was a welcome respite from the burdens of the Covid pandemic, and was  salve for the spirit at the beginning of the holidays.

If you would like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.