The Dark Side. It’s fantastic to see 40 thousand snow geese and 10 thousand sandhill cranes all taking off or landing at the same time or flying around the Bosque del Apache Refuge. Thousands of people come from around the world to see this phenomenon. There are, however, a few problems with this gorgeous natural event. The packing of so many birds into small spaces is very stressful to birds and particularly (for unknown reasons) to snow geese. The close proximity of so many human beings to these birds also stresses them. For reasons not fully understood, snow geese and other birds in this stressful environment often contract bird cholera. Perhaps their immune systems are getting hit too hard. Many birds die as a result. As volunteers, we need to be on the lookout for snow geese acting strangely. Symptoms, for example, include sluggishness, flying upside down, trying to land a foot higher than the water, etc. Fish and Wildlife personnel scour the refuge to collect sick and dead birds when they can be found. While a very few of the birds may undergo necropsy, all the rest are carried to a large burner near the railroad and burned. The aroma of roast goose wafting over the Refuge is pleasant but it’s not something the public really wants to know about. We’ll just tell them the volunteers are having a BBQ.
Another wilderness problem is tularemia, typically found in rabbits (or ticks). This bacterial disease can be contracted by humans who come in contact with diseased rabbits, rodents or other animals. One of the staff here at Bosque contracted tularemia a few months ago and it took a few weeks to diagnose the problem. He was hospitalized for almost a month and has just started working again. All of us are going to attend a Monday meeting about this disease and how to avoid it. Tularemia can be fatal to humans.
I’m not going to discuss Lyme disease, rocky mountain spotted fever, southern tick-associated rash illness, and ehrlichiosis, a collection of other diseases that can also be found around here.
- San Lorenzo Canyon,
- a small unnamed wetland site in Belen and
- Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque.
Sevietta didn’t have much to see this time of year but we saw a C-130 fly over us while refueling a helicopter. It probably was based at nearby Kirtland AFB. A cool sight. We signed up for a small Sevietta tour later this month. This tour takes visitors to parts of the Refuge where the public can’t go on their own. I had a very nice conversation with two volunteers at the Sevietta visitor center, one of whom had been at JFK day on White Sands Missile Range in 1963. I was also at WSMR way back then and we talked about that special day. He was an airman from Fort Bliss at the time and I was working the sergeant missile launch that day. Amazing.
We were disappointed that San Lorenzo Canyon didn’t work out for us. All the road signs advise 4-wheel drive vehicles. We hope to work something out before we leave New Mexico. It’s a beautiful place.
The little wetland in Belen (Spanish for Bethlehem) is hardly noticeable behind a Taco Bell but has a very nice variety of birds. We also spotted a nearby colony (?) of prairie dogs. We had never seen these clever little creatures before. Ranchers don’t like them or the holes they live in.
Petroglyph National Monument. The best part of the day was our visit to this National Monument. The petroglyphs are distributed on a 17-mile long volcanic escarpment in Albuquerque. Ancient people found they could chip away the black rocks to create images that were important to them. We walked a few miles to see many of the petroglyphs. Some images were made by Spanish explorers much later than those created by early pueblo people. I couldn’t help applying my own interpretation of what we saw. I respect the value of these images to Native American culture but see what you think of my version of the meanings.
Also, as often happens here in the desert, we encountered a snake along the petroglyph trail. It wasn’t a rattlesnake but a harmless bull snake. Unfortunately for the snake as it turned out, there was a sharp-shinned hawk sitting on a nearby fence, watching the snake intently. I took pictures and videos of the bird and snake and noticed the reptile appeared to be injured. It stayed out in the open and was moving around like it was delirious, even turning upside-down. I got really close and saw injuries on the snake’s head. I think the hawk had already attacked it at least once and was waiting for us to leave.
RV Life. We still love living in our little RV. Sometimes I can’t imagine living in a big house again. I guess I could if I had to. I’ve made cookies and more bread here this week. I’m not ready to make doughnuts again, not yet. Finally, my brother Rich and I are in preliminary discussions about a joint effort to publish my blog in a different manner. We’ll see what happens.
Thanks for following us,
Bob and Arlyne Draper