I visited Bosque del Apache for one day during the spring of 2007. Most people visit when during the winter when the sandhill cranes and snow geese are out in force, but I stopped by when I had the chance on a vacation to New Mexico. It was the mosquitoes that were out in force, but I still had a chance to see some fantastic creatures, some like Gambel's quail for the first time.
Familiar SongSince I had never visited the SouthWest before, many of the animals I saw were new to me. A familiar song greeted me near a pond as this male redwing flew to the top of a tree and began displaying. What was new to me was getting savaged by mosquitoes while I watched him, the little biters are much less of a problem in my native NorthWest.
WhitewallsAs I drove around the auto tour at Bosque del Apache, I at first assumed this preening dove was a mourning dove. My first clue that it was not were the white wingtips gleaming in the sun, a quick check of my bird guide revealed I had my first encounter with a white-wing.
Even if it wasn't the prime time to visit, I hoped for a few surprises.
The dark sky lightened as the minutes and miles passed, with the sun threatening to rise as I pulled into the parking lot of the Visitor's Center. There were no other cars in the lot and I knew the center would be closed, but I hoped to find some trail maps and refuge information. When I opened the car door, I was greeted by a primal call coming from up the hill. Another call came, and then another. I didn't recognize the call, so I grabbed the camera with the big telephoto lens attached and headed up the steps and towards the calls.
I moved slowly but anxiously until I saw a wooden pole with signs pointing in various directions. In the dim light I could see its top was crowned with a carved bird in the shape of a quail. I was a little disappointed when I guessed that the call's were probably just a recording and no more real than the carving, something to give visitor's a taste of the birds of the refuge. I decided to return to the car and head out onto the refuge proper.
But before I could take a step, the carved quail raised its head and gave a loud call, and suddenly I knew the bird was no more wooden than I was. I continued on into the little desert arboretum and other quail were calling all around me. It was a delightful little moment, to go from not sure if I'd see much of anything that day to being surrounded and serenaded by these birds from their high perches. The sun peeked above the horizon and I found this male in a nice location and angle to the sun, and only had to wait for the sun's rays to reach him and for him to make his call.
I didn't have to wait long. A later look at my bird book showed them to be Gambel's quail, a species I had never seen before. But names didn't matter for now. I stood alone and watched and listened, mesmerized by my welcome to Bosque.
Sound the Alarm
I thought at first this quail was coming to my defense, sounding the alarm to call in the swallows and rescue me from the mosquitoes that brutalized me while I was taking these pictures, but alas it was not to be. Many mosquitoes gorged themselves on my blood that morning.
It was worth it.
The first picture was taken a little further away than the second, leaving me room to crop into a taller and thinner format, which I prefer for this scene. I wish the camera would let me see the crop in camera so I could better make the decision in the field.
You'll notice a big difference in color between these pictures and the one higher up on the page, the sun had risen in the picture up top and directly lit the tree where the quail was perched.