My wife and I make a trip to New Mexico every Spring but in the past it has always been during Spring Break, just a few weeks after most of the birds migrate north out of the refuge. But this year was different. Years of hinting and a well timed conference got us to NM in late February right around the time the birds usually leave. I checked the Friends of the Bosque website and the birds seemed to still be there so we drove south from Albuquerque on Friday with fingers crossed.
When we showed up at the bosque we were not disappointed. Thousands of geese still crowded around the edges of the northernmost ponds of the refuge and the cranes were busy in the corn fields preparing for the trip north. Along the loop road ravens and birds of prey soared overhead and tended their nests though they rarely chose to do so within camera range. Almost every pond held at least a few ducks or geese and a young mule deer graced us with his presence for a few moments before we headed back out to the ponds for the evening fly-in where wave after wave of cranes and geese came to the water for the night.
We made an unplanned trip back to the bosque the next afternoon only to find that the refuge much changed. A strong wind was blowing out of the south and there was hardly a crane to be found. We briefly saw one small group in flight high above but none in the fields and only a few stragglers remained at the ponds. In the evening when we gathered at the ponds the number of geese was way down from the previous day and the wind was ferocious. Almost as if an alarm had gone off, all of a sudden geese started rising up out of the water in groups of ten and twenty, turning resolutely toward the north. As we drove northward ourselves, thousands of white dots painted the horizon giving us one last lingering glimpse of the winter visitors.