january 12 2021
When it was time to leave Albuquerque, after visiting family, I jumped on Hwy 25 and headed south. I got closer to my first destination then pulled into a 24 hour gas station and settled in for the night. Since I often just run the RV engine for heat as it’s cheaper and quieter than the generator, I make it a habit of filling up my tanks in the morning as out here, gas stations aren’t on every corner.
LA JOYA & BOSQUE, NM DAY 11
It’s about two hours till sunrise, and I’ve planned a couple of stops before reaching today’s main trip destination. When researching locations using google maps, I first locate a water source, and then find the roads to access. The first one is only around 20 mins from here Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge but according to their site, the gates don’t open until 8am. I had researched their site and hadn’t found much information regarding the wetlands section of the park. While it mentions hunting, and redirects you to another website it didn’t give me the information I was seeking. I had seen an beautiful image somewhere with mention of a Cornerstone Marsh – Unit A and I wanted to find it. I had to do hours of research before I came up with what I was looking for but my determination and persistence paid off. I finally found the area La Joya Unit and detailed pdf maps of the area. It gave me the information I needed.
I am aware that it is duck hunting season and I have already passed a few parked trucks, so I don’t know if I will be able to access the area safely. But I too am ‘hunting’, so I don’t let this deter me. Upon arriving I pull over at the road entrance and read the signs with my headlight, and find out that Unit A is currently closed to hunters, so with that information, I am delighted. It’s still dark out, and I look down by the sign with my flashlight and see a huge frozen print, paw print that is. Maybe I’ll get lucky and spot the one that made it, but right now I’m hoping to get a nice sunrise shot at least.
As I’m on the long road, the suns starts to rise, so I quickly find a spot I think can work, and turn of the engine so the shot will be steadier. I turn on the propane heat as it is in the single digits, remove my window screen, and start shooting using the vehicle as the tripod.
I’m in no hurry today… so I take my time taking images along the road before finally arriving a Cornerstone Marsh. This is one of the few hunting areas that has handicapped status with a marsh spot accessible for a wheelchair. The gates are closed today so I park and walk in.
I am rewarded for my efforts with a mating pair of Tundra Swans, or Whistling Swans (Cygnus columbianus). I find out later they have been a rare event here and the talk of all the staff and birders who visit.
I drive some more on the roads which are starting to thaw and get soft. I’m pretty deep in the park now. A park ranger in 4×4 drives past me, I decide to not follow. I think it’s time to turn around as I don’t need to get stuck and the road ahead was already in extremely bad shape without the pending thaw. I head to the park visitor center on the other side of the Hwy and take a small hike. Afterwards, I go inside to get my National park stamp and talk to the staff to find out more about the area. They inform me of a place I hadn’t heard of north of here, a birder’s delight. So I add that to my checklist, and head out.
Note: I usually link destinations to Wikipedia instead of the direct website. I find them to have more detailed general information and history with external links of other reference attached for easy reading.