November 17, 2007
Continental breakfast at the motel nearest Bosque DelApache Wildlife Refuge brought an encounter with Marianne, a recently retired kindergarten teacher fro New Hampshire who had just seen her first sand hill cranes. When I asked her about New Hampshire wildlife experiences she told me that her special interest is moose photography – that she goes out early in the mornings to places where she knows the moose will come and waits to take their pictures. She said she had come, over the last several years, to feel that she knows several moose a bit, and that they have become familiar with her. And yes, she does know Fred Small’s song “If You Were a Moose and I was a Cow” and even had the good grace not to make a face when I asked her if she knew the song. I realized later that she probably gets asked that question a lot.
The first bird I saw at the refuge was a road runner (always a bird that brings fond memories of Ruth’s childhood because she liked road runners). The last birds we saw were several thousand snow geese swirling noisily up into the sky from their pond – perhaps frightened by the bald eagle we had seen earlier. Most unusual sighting was of an aplamado falcon, beautiful bird that was once almost extinct in the United States. Reintroduction has been successful enough that this individual wandered unbidden into the Bosque, a very good sign and a delight to birders. The sand hill cranes are still the centerpiece of the refuge, stately and numerous – flying, walking, standing about in family groups of three.
Bob and I were both impressed by the human migrants to the Festival of Cranes – wildlife artists whose work captured the eye and the imagination and activists for many environmental causes. They came with an impressive number of rescued raptors we could see up close, a white wolf, post cards to write to Senators, information about global warming and wolf reintroduction, photographs of canyons and sky, silk scarves, glowing oil paintings, sculptures and statues of owl, wolf – so much work of many kinds in tribute to the glories of nature.
As we drove the windy road to the Lariat Inn in the tiny town of Glenwood at the edge of the Gila wilderness, the elk standing beside the road made it very clear that the “Elk Crossing” signs were for real. We were very happy to arrive at our cozy room – stone and wood – very simple, with a comfortable bed.. My only complaint is the lack of a bath tub or adequate hot water. Those lacks are more than compensated for by the presence of a long eared owl just outside who classically inquiers “Who?”