Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Within sight of I-25 in the middle of New Mexico, just south of San Antonio (not that San Antonio), east of the Very Large Array radio telescope array, west of the Trinity Atom Bomb blast site is a marsh site fed by the Rio Grande. The birds found it.

From all over the continent, Snow Geese, Sandhill Cranes, and numerous other species of duck and geese collect here in the winter. Not surprisingly, eagles, hawks, and other raptors are common as well. Just this morning, we watched a quartet of coyotes stalking the huge flocks of snow geese.

Watching the flocks is fascinating. When they take wing, the thunder of their beat can be heard for miles. The call of massed thousands of geese and the stately squadrons of cranes has to be experienced.

And if you have a camera, be very cautious. If you come here, you won't be able to leave without severe lens envy. Beside the little pond beside highway 1 at dawn, there can be fifty photographers lined up on an old railroad grade, snapping away. And each and every one of them has a lens longer than your arm with a huge bucket of a glass eye. You could find yourself with a ten to twenty thousand dollar wish list in nothing flat.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Gilbert Ray Campground

On Mary Ann's quest for desert places, our next stop is Tucson Arizona. We had visited the Gilbert Ray Campground once before, and she had wanted to come back for a longer stay. Gilbert Ray is in the Tucson Mountain County Park, and is a nice little place with dozens of campsites for RV's and tents. From my point of view the campsites had electricity, which made it perfect. It is right next to the eastern section of Saguaro National Park, and the whole park looks like it was carved out of a desert botanical garden. Each site is ringed with cactus, fishhook barrel cactus, saguaro cactus of course, chollas of various types, plus other native desert plants.

As usual, we arrived in off-season, so there were plenty of sites available. By the time the weekend expired, the place was practically empty. At least empty of people. The birds were there in quantity. Mary Ann and I had writing tasks, so it was nice to spend the days sitting in the RV's driver seat, laptop perched on the steering wheel, watching the birds out the window.

It was a desert, and the water fountain across the way had a tiny bead of water in its faucet, and birds were there to get a sip. Quail, cactus wrens, curve-billed thrasher, and road runners made their way across the campsites. Each morning I woke to the calls. And each evening we watched the sunset over the mountains. We stayed a week, and we'll be back soon.