Thursday, November 11, 2010

Long Ago and Far Away

One of the implicit ground rules of this blog is immediacy, but I need to tell/show something about the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. None of these photos bear on my here-and-now life, except to explain why I arrived at Ridgefield NWR on Saturday with expectations, and except that all weekend long I was remembering trips to the Bosque, and the friends I have been there with. Mentally composing emails to various of my beloveds as I drove: 'I took a road trip. You were on my mind.'

I think this is the population of greater sandhill cranes (subspecies Grus canadensis tabida) that breeds in Idaho, stages at Monte Vista NWR in Colorado, and winters on the Rio Grande. They don't travel very far, relative to their cousins that come down the coast, or the ones that stage in Nebraska. Photos from 2003, 2004, 2006, and unknown years like that.

Sandhill Cranes at Bosque del Apache, New Mexico, various years (Click for larger image.)

Just before sunrise on Flight Deck, December, 2006. Temperature about 5 degrees. Parts of the ponds were well-frozen, the birds walking around where they expected water, and skidding when they landed.

Watchers at Bosque del Apache, New Mexico (Click for larger image.)

There are also snow geese in (what feels like) Pleistocene plenitude, and by the numbers even more ducks. (Jeez. 80,000 ducks in the winter of 2005/2006. 55,000 geese some years. 15,000 cranes.) The Bosque is where PG taught me that ducks could be told apart, beginning I think with the altogether elegant Northern pintail (image)...

Snow Geese at Bosque del Apache, New Mexico (Click for larger image.)

OK, I think our cranes that come down the coastal arm of the Pacific Flyway are canadian sandhill cranes, Grus canadensis rowanii. Is the subspecies difference enough to explain why the Bosque cranes largely ignore people, feed in fields and yards all up and down the Rio Grande, while the Ridgefield cranes are so shy that visitors are not allowed anywhere near where they roost?

This post is for SP, who pointed out the flight of sandhill cranes over the Pacific Ocean when we were on Hobuck Beach on the Makah Rez. And for PG, RM, MS, SA, KB, IJ, LB, IR, GF, PB, RF, DG, MP, & UG, with whom I have watched at the Bosque on one trip or another; and for our neighbor JL who first told me about it, our second winter in New Mexico...

Note how those Mid-Continent Population cranes that breed so close to ours pass through Nebraska (up to half a milion of them) (Click for larger image.)

1 comment:

Rocco said...

Can't quite figure out why the NM-Chihuahua wintering area is the shape that it is. Is it following some Rio Grande/Bravo tributary down into Chihuahua? Have you ever noted cranes south of Bosque del Apache?