Each time we visit Hagerman Wildlife Refuge we have a different experience. Yesterday was no exception. We began our visit by spotting our favorite wild critter, our son. He was just on his way out of the refuge when he noticed our vehicle. We chatted a bit and then went our separate ways since he will be visiting here with us later today.
There were more visitors yesterday than we’ve seen in quite some time, perhaps because of the recent news reports about Hagerman, or maybe just because it was such a nice day. I have to take a moment to complain just a little about the rude or just ignorant behavior of some visitors. They drive far too fast, pass other cars quickly, and often overlook the fact that if a car is stopped it is probably because the occupants are trying to observe or photograph a bird. A little polite distance and understanding would be appreciated! If you aren’t in the refuge to do the same then why are you there?
That being said yesterday was still a great day! While most of the visitors were off viewing the enormous flocks of geese we were wandering around in search of new birds that might be attracted by the increase in water. Some of the marsh areas that were previously dry now have a few precious inches of water.
We did see lots of new ducks, although many were so hidden by the marsh grasses that I was unable to photograph them. Still so happy to just see them! And I took a few photos that are not great, but suitable for identification purposes. Also spotted an American Kestrel, a heron hiding in the grass, and a group of pretty pintails.
However, it wasn’t until we started to leave the park that we had the best encounter of the day. I saw a heron sitting off to the left of the road by the bridge and asked Gary to stop. He doesn’t often see the same birds since he is busy staying on the road and he can’t stop quickly on a gravel road, so by the time he had done so the heron had flown out of camera range. But then the heron did the totally unexpected! He flew over the bridge, landed on the left side of the road, and then walked in front of us! I took a couple of shots through our very dirty windshield just to record it, thinking at the time that he would soon fly off. No….he stopped at the side of the road, posed for a while, walked in to the grass, posed some more, and then flew away. The whole time Gary was inching the truck closer and closer. Another car even passed us. Nothing seemed to phase the heron’s calm walk through the grass.
If that wasn’t wonderful enough, in the last big tree before the exit there was a hawk watching the ground intently. I alerted Gary soon enough for him to approach ever so slowly, but apparently that wasn’t necessary. The hawk stayed in the tree long enough for me to take a dozen photos. Then I whistled and made a little noise in hopes that he would leave so I could get a few shots of him in flight. Didn’t move! He continued to watch the ground for several minutes and when he did finally swoop down I barely managed one blurry shot. They are fast!! He must have missed whatever he was after because he flew to a nearby stump, Gary backed up the truck, and I got a few more photos.
When we finally left we talked about how often we have had a great visit to the refuge despite the drought or weather conditions. Even on a day when nothing out of the ordinary seems to be happening the unexpected can make you so grateful that you took the time to drive through.
Why did the heron cross the road? I have no clue…but I’m so glad he did!