Crane Festival at Bosque de Apache National Wildlife Refuge burst far past any expectation. WOW! We started our day before dawn, all wrapped up with the other participants in the limited walk in fly out program to watch ducks, snow geese and sand hill cranes lift off the lake. The moon rose, the smallest sliver of a crescent, then the ducks, the geese, the cranes. Honking geese and stately cranes crying musically rose in clouds from the lake and passed just feet over our head. They were simply beginning their day as they do every day, but we were in the middle of it - ordinary for them, astonishing for us.
I stood in awe as streams of white and silver birds traversed the brightening sky, honking, crying, glorious.
People can't equal nature's feats, but the bunch at this refuge gave it a good go. At the visitors' center we enjoyed a wildlife art show in which many media and takes on nature's images were, represented, and saw raptors, reptiles, and wolves brought as ambassador's by volunteers who care for them. We ate breakfast served by the Lion's club and hiked a canyon hike through beautifully quiet and austere Solitude Canyon. joined a bus tour of the far reaches of the refuge - saw acres of geese and cranes, a bald eagle, and a flock of at least fifty turkeys wandering through the woods. Accepting the volunteer tour guide - not letting her relative ignorance of birds (she wasn't even using binoculars) and something condescending in her tone - detract from the experience from me was a challenge and mostly a success.
But the peak birding came at the end of the day when Bob and I drove the tour road ourselves and saw corn field upon corn field of geese and cranes. The last field at which we stopped was so close we could see the faces of the geese (and practice recognizing the difference between Ross' and snow geese) and so crowded that new arrivals had trouble landing. The birds were loud, alive, present - lushly and abundantly right there. We were in their world and they seemed oblivious, sharing generously.