When we think of the word "ALIEN", our minds often go to outer space. If you live close to an international border, you might think of someone who is NOT from your own country. Today's adventure takes us into the heart of a snow storm, the search for a very welcome alien, and a trip to Roswell, New Mexico. But we weren't searching for UFO's.
It began as we headed on I-10 towards New Mexico. My final days of vacation were to be spent searching for a very rare bird to North America. Some might call this bird an illegal alien. But most birders think otherwise:) I didn't want to go back to work wondering "What if...."
|Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge|
|The aftermath.....a frozen tundra!|
Known as the Common Crane in Europe and other parts of the world, this crane isn't so common here in North America. Cranes, during the day, will fly out into the agricultural fields and feed. At night, the birds return to their wetlands to roost. Early morning, they warm up and take off. Those opportunities are what birders call "windows". I didn't feel like chasing cranes all over the farmer's fields due to the bad road conditions. Ice had begun to form.
We arrived into Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge just in time. The snow was now falling quite a bit. We had our gear as we hiked to a spot where we could count the hundreds of Sandhill Cranes flying over our heads. It wasn't long before we spotted our target bird, but darkness had settled in.....and so had the cranes. We marked their location and where the Common Crane landed so that we could get some photos in the morning. By this time, the roads had become slick and dangerous.
On the way back, we spotted deer and elk along the sides of the country roads. We drove slowly to our bed and breakfast on the back roads careful not to make any sudden moves allowing ourselves enough breaking room.
In the darkness, I could make out Western Meadowlarks hunkering down for the night. This bird was very common around the fields here and it was a bird I wanted to study more. We have both Eastern and Western Meadowlarks in southern Arizona, but they seem to be trickier to capture on camera. Every time I've gone to New Mexico, they seem to pose for me.
But this Common Crane. It was our target bird. A couple years ago, I studied cranes and took plenty of notes on them during a summer trip to Wisconsin. My focus, at the time, was our state's very special crane known as the Whooping Crane. While we were there, we attended several lectures about the various crane populations around the world. The Common Crane, unlike many others, has a stable and very large population back in Europe, Asia and other parts.
I've placed a pic of the common Sandhill Crane below for comparison.
So I am including real time photos of what we saw. With my binoculars, I could see everything. As you can see with this camera pic, it's a lot more difficult using a camera. We stood in the cold. Micheal kept the data as I relayed to him the information from my bins. He'd punch in the numbers and I'd count the cranes flying over. This allowed me to focus on what direction the cranes were flying and where they were landing. Bitter Lake National Wildlife refuge was a new area for us and it was important we didn't waste time in the morning searching for the birds before they took off.
|Start counting and look for |
|Where might the Common Crane be? Can you find the bird?|
So part of our experience explored the cheesy tourist fun while the other led us into the amazing landscape vistas around this fantastic New Mexican locale.
|Note: Bald Eagle above my head|
|My Senior Graduation Picture|