Calm, no wind—the tumbleweeds were at rest, gathered around the signposts, stacked against the fence.
Quiet, until a flock of honking Canada geese—fifty or sixty—came in for a landing.
I walked on a dirt road that bisected an alfalfa field toward a small clutch of tall gray cranes. They foraged for grain and insects, strolling away from me on gangly legs, always preserving the same distance between us. Realizing I was as close as I was going to get, I stopped and watched them through my binoculars. It was my first long look at a sandhill crane, red crowned with rusty splotches on its wings.
I visited Valle de Oro last week, the day after the brutal attack in San Bernardino. I had a list of errands to run, but made the wildlife refuge, five miles south of Albuquerque, my first stop.
This newly created urban refuge used to be a dairy farm—almost 600 acres, west of Interstate 25 along the Rio Grande. A haying operation is still in progress, but plans are underway to restore native grasses and create wetlands. The birds aren’t waiting for the rehabilitation—one morning this week on its Facebook page Valle de Oro reported a count of 2600 Canada geese, 200 sandhill cranes, and one Ross’s goose.
I stayed as long as I could, finally pulled myself away feeling a little less uneasy about going to the gas station, the post office, the mall.