Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bosque del Apache, a Plethora of birds

      Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge, located in the tiny town of San Antonio, NM, about midway between Las Cruces and Albuqueque, is one of the premier birding spots in the nation. During the winter months, approximately 13,000 Sandhill Cranes and 30,000 Snow Geese make this their seasonal base. The refuge has herons, eagles, owls, roadrunners, coots, variety of ducks, cormorants, pheasants, turkeys, quail, varied songbirds, crows, hawks, and falcons.
       This trip I saw bigger wildlife including javelina, a bobcat, a skunk, coyotes, elk, and mule deer. But the prime attraction is the plethora of large birds who congregate at night in the marshes, flying out during the daytime to feed in fields within and around the refuge.
I've included a gallery of photos taken on this trip. In some ways this visit was disappointing. The cranes and geese have begun their northern migration ahead of schedule and the numbers are well under half, and I think by the end of my week, way below that, of the peak season. I've always visited in mid November to early December in the past. Still, I finally found the ideal spot for the greatest concentration and have been there for evening fly-in and morning flight out.
    to see images full screen, click on the first one.  you can then scroll through all of them.
The geese did not seem too concerned with the coyote. It walked past and then wandered off, probably looking for easier to catch rodents.

The refuge was built as a CCC project during the Great Depression. Much of the Rio Grande River had been channeled and controlled for flood and irrigation purposes and the habitat for the
cranes all but gone. But here was a remnant of the traditional riparian habitat. It just needed some assistance to recreate the flood, marsh, and dry periods of nature. The members of the Civilian Conservation Corp built levees, water retention areas, ditches with flood gates and barriers so that water could be controlled. When the refuge was started there were less than a couple dozen cranes. Soon, the number exceeded 13,000 and additional refuges were added along the flyway, most of which are not open to the public. Today efforts continue to eradicate non native plants, particularly Salt Cedar, which have crowded out native plants needed by the wildlife. Staff and volunteers are constantly working on restoring the native habitat through removal of plants, and by using flooding and drying at the right times.

The refuge is a magnet for birders and photographers. On any given weekend during the winter season, we could make a dent in the national debt with all the photographic and spotting gear.

A few of these images have been blown up and cropped so you can see them better in this small viewing space. You can enlarge by clicking on the photos. However, the light was low and I was using a very high ISO. Between the digital zooming, post capturing the image, and the high ISO, these last two photos are particularly grainy (noisy), but I loved these last two images; back lit images of Sandhills, above and a snow goose below.

This is a special place. Lin and I first visited during our initial year on the road. We attended a "Boomerang" in Alamagordo in October and long time RVers Betty and Jim Roughton gave us a crash course in full-time RVing 101, especially the art of boondocking or dry camping. I will never forget Jim telling us that we could slow down....we were no longer on a two week vacation, but living on the road and we could take our time, relax, smell the flowers. After that boomerang, we stayed on in New Mexico, exploring this magnificent state. And we made our first trip to Bosque del Apache. We returned a couple of times, and I have been back on my own.

If you haven't experienced this place, put it on your bucket list.

Bosque is along Hwy 25 which is the old El Camino Real. This historic route was used by native Americans, then by explorers and colonizers from Mexico. Recently a new museum opened about 20 miles south of the refuge. Beautifully done, it tells the story of this route and reminds us that before Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, Europeans had explored and settled in this land. The Ornate party came with families, priests, soldiers, craftsmen, workers in 1598.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


This scene is about as far removed from the recent posts from the Sonoran Desert as possible. Instead of aridity, the land is moist, the sea is ever present, the inland areas are lush and green. Although there are dry areas in Hawaii, it is still a moist environment after several months in AZ and southeast California.
Chris had a conference in Waikiki so I accompanied him. We had a couple extra days to play. Below is a photo from a dawn shoot on the northeast side of Oahu.

We took a side road on the trip from the airport to the hotel to take in some of the mountain scenery and views of Honolulu. Unfortunately the air was hazy, so the cityscapes were not much to look at but we enjoyed the verdant foliage.

Waikiki Beach, our hotel site, is brightly lit at night. The temperatures were balmy and people were out enjoying themselves.

The surfer was out at the beach where the dawn photos were taken.

Chris has been to Hawaii numerous times for this same professional organization and has traveled around the island and has gone to other islands, including spending several months on Kauai after the hurricane in 1991. But he had never gone to Hanauama Bay Marine Reserve and neither had I the time I was in Honolulu. Its a typical tourist thing, but one well worth doing.
We had a blast swimming with the fish in the coral reefs. Purists may argue that there are places with clearer water or more fish, but we were delighted. Chris gave me an underwater camera for Christmas so I had fun. He put his point and shoot in a waterproof housing and we both snorkeled for a couple of hours, well slathered in water proof sun block and sun shirts. The place can be terribly crowded, but we picked a good day. The temperature in and out of the water was perfect, the snorkeling gear fit well, the cameras worked fine although shooting underwater is far different from land shooting and our results are not spectacular. But we had fun.
The photos from our snorkeling, kayaking, and visiting with friends are on the blog site labelled fish and boats etc. which follows this one. I started this and adding photos later (waiting to get some of them from Chris) is messy and louses up all the attempts I have made at layout. Even with those attempts, the finished product often has big gaps of white between paragraphs and photos. Oh well. But look to the other blog entry to see more Hawaiian photos.
The next day we rented a kayak. With help mounting it on our rental car we headed off. Neither of us is an experienced kayaker, but we had read about a couple great spots which did not sound too advanced for us. The lagoon was a bit choppy that day so we opted to the alternative, a trip up the Kahana River. This slow moving, narrow body of water was just our speed. However, coordinating our paddling so that we went straight up river seemed to thwart our best intentions. We found it was easier if just one of us paddled, which was mostly Chris. We did well all the way up. Coming back, Chris caught his shirt on an overhanging branch. As he pulled himself free he overturned the kayak.
It happened so fast I had no warning. I came up under the boat with a mouthful of water. But my life jacket was on, my little underwater camera was strapped, with a flotation device, to my wrist and my hat was tied on. The oars are attached to the kayak. We made sure each was okay and then moved the kayak downstream to a shallower spot to re-board.
Experienced kayakers can board from deep water, pulling themselves up and into the boat. No way I was up for that.

Back in the boat we continued downstream. It wasn't until I was having trouble viewing my camera that I realized the one thing that was not tied to me was my glasses. We spent the next day at Lens Crafters getting me new glasses. I think Chris enjoyed reading menus to me at dinner the night of the flipping.

My camera was on movie mode when the upset occured. I have it all recorded.

Another treat during the stay was seeing Cindy and Jim Cook. Former RVers, I have known them for years. They are currently living in Oahu and we got together for a great dinner on Sunday evening. On Monday, while Chris was in his sessions, Cindy and I drove the rental car back to the airport (parking at the hotel was more expensive than the rental) and then we took the bus back to town where we met Jim in Chinatown for a Dim Sum Lunch. Had a great time.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

"Fishes" and boats and more photos

Here is a gallery of photos of the Hawaii trip. There are fish, boats, flowers, my friends Cindy and Jim Cook, surfers, Chinatown fish market , Chris snorkeling and taking a photo of me while I photographed him, and others. Enjoy

Kayaking on the river above, snorkeling below: