Are we mad?
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Having set the alarm for 5.30 and telling ourselves that if we felt like it we would get up, but if we didn't well not to worry, it didn't really matter...I took a moment to take stock, could I actually drag myself out of bed, pad into the 'kitchen' and put the kettle on for that all important life giving cuppa?
Tomorrow was another day; maybe we do it then...No! I would make the effort; it would be worth it if last night was anything to go by...
We had arrived at an RV park just outside the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert yesterday and had gone out at dusk in the hope of seeing some birds come back to roost and feed. This time of year is particularly good for Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes but we certainly weren't prepared for the experience we were lucky enough to have. The first thing to strike you is the noise - it's like hundreds of excited, chattering children; then the sheer numbers register.
Before us in the alfalfa fields were thousands of snowy white birds, busy pecking and 'gosspping' as fast as they could, oblivious to the many bird watchers fencing the road. As something startled them, they rose into the sky as one fluid, noisy hoard, soaring over us grounded mortals.
Spellbound we twisted and turned to keep them in sight as they swept around the skies above us, only to settle back to their banquet in a matter of moments. I squealed with delight, a response hardly welcomed by the more serious observers! Malc, already feeling inadequate in the size department since his camera was by far the smallest in the line up, was equally overawed. Though his shutter speed was faster than one or two, redressing the balance somewhat.
We couldn't help overhearing a small group beside us, " Right lights going to be gone in a few minutes, time to make it to the pond" rather like paparazzi on the trail of a star, we followed the experts to the next spot.
Here, the cranes whilst fewer in number were fascinating birds, far larger than we ever imagined, cruising in 4,5,6 at a time maybe; streamline in flight with heads eagerly outstretched before them, coming in to land somewhat awkwardly. Then strutting through the marshland rather like large herons, they were difficult to spot once the light began to fade.
It hadn't started out as a "Malc" kind of day, more me really, but I think he actually enjoyed it. So, this was how we came to be rising before dawn, to return to the birds to watch them fly out as the sun came up.
...So, as I hauled myself out of bed, I told myself it would be worth it. Hastily getting dressed, we downed our tea, grabbed coats and quietly went to get into Toad. Unfortunately that is as far as we got - poor Toad had a puncture! It was with a mixture of disappointment, exasperation and yet relief that we snuggled down under the bedcovers once more. We would try again tomorrow.
In the mean time were wowed again at sunset, once more joining the 'professionals'. The same agonising ritual followed early the next morning, only this time we made it. Waiting in the half light, trying not to let the icy wind chill us to the bone, we found a spot where the Snow Geese and the Cranes had spent their night.
As the day slowly dawned, they began to ruffle their feathers and shake their wings - they would take off into the wind Malc figured, so we positioned ourselves ready for the spectacle; once again part of a silent platoon armed with cameras.
Someone murmured that there must be at least $1,000,000 worth of equipment lined up. Tripods set, lenses primed, everyone watched and waited. Muted now, but just as awe inspiring, we watched as they slowly rose to take to the skies, perhaps they were finding it tough to get going too! At the slightest movement and every take off, the whirr of the cameras became continuous, here we were back amongst those paparazzi! We stayed until we couldn't feel our fingers anymore; Malc said he hadn't been so cold since the Southern Ocean. We returned to Bree, another cuppa and a bowl of porridge!
It seems that maybe that expensive equipment is what you need for specialist wild life dawn shots; but our shots will always remind us of a truly memorable experience. Don't think we'll ever forget the cold!
We had to wait 'til Monday to get the tyre fixed, so we overnighted in that friendly spot we've used before and then took advantage of the oversized car wash here in Socorro and took Bree for a shampoo. Can you believe it was only $6? Both he and Toad had become caked in salt from our journey here, but they looked great in the end.