We had a two-day heat wave recently. The temperature was 90 and humid. Don was complaining about summer in Florida and how hot and muggy it is. I reminded him why we’re here. We moved from Maryland’s snow and ice and cold and many gray days linked together. I’ll take the heat and humidity, thank you very much.
His complaining reminded me of a birding trip to New Mexico. It was a trip organized by WINGS Birding Tours (WingsBirds.com) leader Rich Hoyer for a handful of Venice Area Birding Association members. We wanted to see the masses of snow geese at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.
Since we were traveling to New Mexico in January, our small group left Florida carrying winter jackets and wearing heavy hiking shoes. Our luggage was limited and already full of hats, scarves, gloves and other warm winter clothing.
Good thing: The next morning, it was 22 degrees. From Albuquerque, we traveled at the crack of dark to get to see the stunning snow geese display at Bosque del Apache. Our goal was to see thousands of geese at sunrise, and that was accomplished.
We actually were getting “warbler neck” from looking up for long periods of time. (Warblers are small birds that often flutter about high in the trees.) Our necks got rested when the snow geese landed on the marsh and covered it in white fluff that turned pink from the rising sun’s morning glow.
We estimated sighting five thousand snow geese and about 300 Ross’s geese. Our fingers and toes were numb from the cold. It’s impossible to take pictures and use binoculars properly while wearing thick gloves, so we had our gloves in our pockets, not on our hands. It was worth it. Bosque del Apache had been on my bucket list for many years and I was elated, as were all the members of our group.
Another day we traveled up into the hills to see other birds. This little group of Florida birders shivered through most of the trip. Our thin Florida blood sure was shouting to us, screaming, “Sun, sun, sun!” Rich stopped the van along the road to look at the trees covered in ice crystals. It looked like a winter wonderland from a fairytale book. One of the frosted trees had hundreds of pinyon jays decorating every limb singing away. It was in the distance but still close enough to get a decent photo.
One of our day trips was through an icy fog that deposited ice crystals everywhere. We were traveling slowly on the icy road up a mountain to locate four species of rosy finches. Snow drifted down as we were observing gray-crowned rosy finches, Hepburn’s rosy finches, black rosy finches and brown-capped rosy finches. When we came down the mountain, we spotted a pygmy owl and got some great looks.
Our trip in New Mexico was quite a few days and we sighted many species of birds, but those were the coldest times. I’ll keep them in mind while I’m walking around in sandals and shorts when we reach those blistering 90-degree days here in Florida.
Abbie Banks is a member of the Venice Area Birding Association, a group of folks who want to enjoy the environment and nature without the cumbersome politics of an organized group. For more info on VABA or to be notified of upcoming birding trips, visit AbbiesWorld.org/references.html or email her at Amberina@aol.com.