Sunday, December 13, 2009

Elephant Butte Lake State Park

Our first Festival of the Cranes event took place away from the Bosque del Apache. After picking up our luggage at the Sunport International Airport in Albuquerque we drove south to Truth or Consequences. We stayed there overnight so we could arrive at Marina del Sur at Elephant Butte Lake State Park the next morning by 8:30. The first half of our 5-hour event was to enjoy the birds and landscape on the lake via a houseboat. Our leaders were Steve Green and Tamie Bulow from the American Birding Association. Steve was our houseboat pilot, and Tamie was the hostess who pointed out the various birds around the lake. Grebes (both western and clark's) were probably the most numerous we saw on the lake, but to get a decent photo of them was most challenging. This event proved to be quite chilly, especially on the lake. I dressed in layers, but I was still cold, and spent a lot of my time in the back of the houseboat where the wind was not whipping around me. This event was still lots of fun; it was limited to 14 people. I love small groups; you get to associate with fellow birders on a more intimate level. And this was one event that constantly provided lots of food! While on the houseboat we were given all kinds of pastries and locally grown produce along with plenty of coffee/hot cocoa. Elephant Butte is located near Truth or Consequences -- about 65 miles south of the Bosque del Apache.

To get a better view of the photos you can click on them to enlarge them. This was a place where we saw several double-crested cormorants, and one lone white pelican in the midst of them.
This particular "island" is called Rattlesnake Hill. Steve, while piloting the boat, explained how it was named, but I missed a lot of what he said.
Elephant Butte Lake is the largest and most popular recreation spot in New Mexico. Historically speaking, a dam was constructed (which created the lake) here in 1916 in order to provide irrigation and flood control of the Rio Grande River. Much of the landscape is the result of an ancient non-active volcano.
Here is another photo of the landscape which includes Tami's back. She was looking at and identifying a number of water birds in and around the lake.
Here is the area where white pelicans were spotted.

There is an island on the lake that has goats living on it. This photo shows two goats we saw. Kind of cute -- one white and one black.
And here are a couple shots of the "ram." Look at those horns; what a handsome looking animal. How cool is that?

When we got back to Marina del Sur we enjoyed a delicious box lunch before heading out on land to observe other types of birds. I don't have any photos of our afternoon outing which was walking a trail around a riparian area on the other side of the dam. The few photos I took are not worth posting -- they came out too dark and far away. We saw a lone great blue heron. Another large bird we saw was an osprey. Other smaller birds were the more common birds one would see in a drier climate, such as sparrows, finches and titmice.


Erie's Argonaut said...

The goats have it made since they probably don't have predators on the island. I think you said this was back in September? Is that month picked by the festival because of migration of the cranes or do they stay there year 'round? The house boat sounds cool.

Mary C said...

Hi Linda -- you're right about the lack of predators on the island. This was in November, the week before Thanksgiving (Nov 17-22). And yes, the Festival of the Cranes is always the same week previous to Thanksgiving because that's usually when about half of the cranes will already be there on their migration trail. Many of the cranes are coming from the Rocky Mountain states such as Montana and Idaho, and some from the central part of Canada. Many of the cranes may possibly stay until spring, but many others continue on to Texas to spend the winter. As long as there's food for the cranes they will very likely stay for the winter.

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

This is most interesting.A trip like that would be so fun.Thanks for sharing your time this way.

dAwN said...

Howdee your last post about being spammed..I finally had to add comment verification because I was getting some spam comments..oh well..i guess that happens..
Looks like you had a great vacation...
Hope you have a Wonderful Holiday Season and a Fantastic New year!
♥.•*¨* *¨*•.♥


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