This time of year the migratory birds are chomping corn, alfalfa and winter wheat up and down the Río Grande Valley. On MLK Day 8,000 Sandhill Cranes were reported to be at the Bernardo preserve about 50 miles south of Albuquerque. We could see the birds in the fields from the highway underneath a gauzy blue winter sky. So many birds the fields were gray.
We left the highway and pulled into the refuge. We opened the doors and could hear them immediately. Loquacious bird life sounding all around us.
Birds were flying in V formations ranging in all directions at various altitudes. We walked the loop road and went up onto the viewing platforms. It was bird paradise, spectacular.
Bird were everywhere. Over the fertile flood plain, flying across the high desert and past distant mountain ranges. Felt a world away from the city though the world is one and seamless.
You’ve got the rugged landscapes of Quebradas to the south, and the popular Bosque Del Apache refuge just past Socorro. But Bernardo may be the sweetest spot of them all.
These Cranes have been around for 10 million years according to the fossil record. I wonder what they sense of all the human goings on. The Hopi first, now more of us.
Admire the birds. There is something about their union with the sky that dissolves our worries. They take us away from anthropocentrism and suspend our sense of earthly bounds. Peter Matthiesen’s book The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes is a good companion for birding.
Seeing these birds fly is like witnessing soccer players weave on the field in long elegant lines, or a cycling peloton echeloning out in the wind. A consonance with ancient life and physics.