Saturday, February 11, 2012

Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge

According to the wildlife refuge's website: "Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1962 as a haven for migratory birds and other wildlife. 14,345 foot Mt. Blanca of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains provides a stunning backdrop for this 11,169 acre refuge."  Northern pintails, Sandhill cranes, and Canada geese stop at the valley refueling for their journey to northern breeding grounds in spring time; Nesting shorebirds (American Avocets, Wilson’s Phalaropes, White-faced Ibis), and water birds (American Bittern, Sora, Black-crowned Night Herons) arrive in summer. 

There was not much to be seen at Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge during winter time,  we visited there nevertheless after our Wolf Creek skip trip.

The refuge is linked to US 160 via a 2-mile long gravel road. I had to drive really slow, ~ 2 -5 mph to minimize the shake and swing, so we had time to look around - there was not much to look at in the valley - the wetland that migrating birds are here for was dry; the grass and vegetation were dormant, creeks had no water in them, the pounds were half full. The scene was gorgeous when I looked into horizon in any direction - blue sky, snow covered rocky mountains all around. We moved on to drive through the 2-mile auto tour route to have a look of the place.  

As we were near the visitor's center, Lily saw a big bird on the tree at the Y shaped intersection of roads. When I stopped the car at good position to take a picture of it, it flew away. It turned out to be a resident hawk. There were supposedly many bold eagles wintering at the refuge along Rio Grande; it was very cold that morning, we did not take a hike to Rio Grande river bank and thus missed a potential chance to watch bald eagles.

We drove on slowly, Lily and I chatting, the boys watching a movie. A mile into the auto tour route, I noticed a "wolf" by a forested area - we were all excited: it seemed to notice us as well, walking slowly along the edges of the bushed area, and then it disappeared - we continued to discuss whether it was a wolf or a coyote. As we were about to leave the auto tour route, I noticed a "wolf" again! Lily exclaimed " you really have good eyes for wildlife!" - this time she caught the animal on camera. From Big Bend to Yellowstone, from Denali to Banff, I have had a good track record on spotting wildlife. My secret is - not expect to see much but keep looking, be prepared to see. When chances do come, I feel the thrill of discovery!

The trip to  Alamosa was not great, but not bad. I hope that I will visit the area in the future to witness the migration of SandHill cranes at spring time.

note: checking the refuge's website - there is no wolf in the area, so what we saw was coyote. Justin did a side by side comparison of photos of wolf and coyote - the difference between the two is really small.

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