Sunday, February 22–Part 2
After lunch, we returned to the refuge. It had gotten fairly warm and the sun was shining brightly. Our bird finding guide said that there were supposed to be some good sparrows at the Solitude Canyon Trail. I guess I wasn't paying attention when Joan read that they were at the beginning of the trail; so Joan and I then took a very long walk on the trail; a winding walk down a dry river bed and up and over a butte. Only saw one or two birds at the beginning of the trail; none of which were the sparrows we hoped to find. Didn't see any other birds at all along the trail! It was ABSOLUTELY QUIET! No noise from traffic, planes, or anything else—manmade or natural. Moreover, the scenery was nice and we did get good exposure to the different types of vegetation at different altitudes. There were many interesting rock formations including a small natural arch. Joan also pointed out many of the different types of rocks along the way. So, even though we didn't see birds there, we did enjoy the walk.
After that, we went along the Marsh Loop. Saw many of the same birds that we had seen in the morning. Highlights were the large number of Green-winged Teal—40 in one flock. A group of birders was gathered at one area where someone said they had seen the Eurasian version; we didn't spend too much time though. We had our best looks ever at Northern Pintails—beautiful birds! Saw lots of American Coots, were surprised to see both Redheads and Canvasbacks together; just weren't thinking of New Mexico as the place for some of these birds. Watched more Northern Harriers gliding over the marsh. Saw Spotted Towhee. Heard a Ring-necked Pheasant call. There is supposedly an Afghanistan subspecies at the refuge but we didn't get to see it.
As the day wore on, it got cooler, but the late afternoon sun gave everything a nice golden hue. By 5:15 flocks of 100s of crows were flying to a roosting spot and the cranes and geese started coming in slowly. We made our way back to the "flight deck" and watched them land nearby. Some came directly overhead. A perched Bald Eagle didn't seem to deter them. As it got darker, the numbers increased dramatically. Suddenly 1000s of the Snow Geese took off and swirled around and around—a thrilling sight!
As we were leaving the park, Joan made me turn the car around. She had spotted an owl, that only could have been a Great Horned Owl, in a tree a little bit away from the road. (As usual, Joan found most of the good things). We sat in the car and watched it for several minutes before it took off. It gets very dark very quickly here; the sky had only a sliver of a moon and a bright planet near it.
We went back to Socorro for dinner; we shied away from the first restaurant we went to because it was rather smoky and then went to another Mexican Restaurant, Armijos, where we had a good, inexpensive meal. Then time for the hot tub.
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