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Hello from New Mexico

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bosque del Apache NWR has to be one of the most spectacular places on earth. A perfect conjunction of vegetation, water, mountain backdrops, and migratory birds; every vista a painting. I almost overload with exhilaration and joy, coming here. I understand how people come down to volunteer and never leave. There's a changing palette of waterfowl and cranes and passerines, and it's all backed by golden cottonwoods and purple mountains. Aggggh. I come down here and think of all the people I love who would just eat it up (and you know who you are, so get your butts down here!!)

We're here to lead field trips and play a little music. My kind of job. I have to admit that the 4:09 AM wakeup is a little tough, but it's made easier by the fact that we're on Ohio time, mostly, so it isn't quite so cruel. Phoebe and Liam are along, and they're big enough to come with us and be troopers about it. This is greatly aided by the fact that it's incredibly mild and sunny and nice, so they aren't suffering. I pack gobs and gobs of fruit and snacks and water and everyone has been so kind to us. We're staying in a sweet little adobe house, courtesy of some of the Friends of the Bosque del Apache NWR, and we even have wireless in one little corner of said house...which goes miles and miles to making our babies happy on the occasions when they have to stay home and wait for us to do our birdly duties.

It is ravishingly beautiful here. Possibly the most beautiful fall on record. The cottonwoods are glowing gold, the smartweed is the color of wine, the coyote willow is sage green and pink, and the dreaded exotic tamarisk is peach colored. Put it all against a purple mountain backdrop and you get this:

I am in rapture most of the time. It's amazing how a day flies by when you're in rapture. I mean, you'd hardly have to have fantastic migratory birds by the bucketload to make me happy. The landscapes would be enough.

I don't know where to start. There are roadrunners. Stop for a moment, and consider the miracle of the roadrunner. This is a large ground cuckoo. It is our only ground cuckoo. There are some tropical forest ground cuckoos, but they're freaking impossible to see--I've seen one in Brazil, and it was a lousy look and I was 20. Here, roadrunners are common and tame and ridiculously appealing birds, with their expressive crests and tails and their fluid, dinosaur-like gait. Love them. Sorry about the Planter's jar. What're you gonna do? I would wager a guess that almost all good roadrunner shots are made from automobiles, because they really do run along roads. And there's junk along roads, because there are people along roads.

There are coyotes here. Coyotes you can see. Beautiful coyotes, full-furred, fat, glossy, duck-and-goose fed babies. Yummm. I'm thankful any time I see a wild canid. Just for the record: Chet's in puppy prison back in Marietta, where he's being well cared for but doubtless bored and missing Mether. Shila is hatching a plan to spring him for a hike in our woods. Don't know if they'll let her, but we'll see... So I am almost at the point of going up to coyotes and asking for kisses, but I settle for fawn-colored pugs named Magoo. He obliged, and gave me the best dog fix of the day (I also knelt before a mutt and a whippet, who somewhat sheepishly agreed to give me a little dog love).It is worth noting here that a fawn-colored pug was one of the canines who planted the seed in my slow-to-awaken brain that having a little dog might be a nice thing. I saw three little girls leading a pug on Bestor Plaza at Chautauqua about four years ago, and a light went off in my brain. Smashy-faced smallish dog. Could do that. Must look into it. Three months later I was on the phone with Jane of Pups will Travel. And the rest is dogstar history. Ohhh, I miss him.

Sorry to ramble, but my festival brain is a little scrambled. By my count, we led six field trips, played music for one dinner, and I gave a talk...all in four frantic days. Most of the time, we had the kids with us, so we were on full parent alert while tending to the birdseeking needs of dozens of people. Phewwww. We had exactly one afternoon together alone, and we used it well, shooting pictures of snow geese in the golden light. I'm looking forward to posting those.
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