Sunday, July 6, 2008

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

About 15 miles from out campground is Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. It is a large expanse of wetlands (according to the sign about 30,000 acres); just the kind of place the migratory birds like. It is right on the Atlantic Flyway of birds migrating between South America, the Canadian Maritimes and the Arctic Ocean. Like most well managed refuges, there are a few fields planted in whatever birds like to eat. There are two fairly large, relatively shallow pools (about 1,000 acres each) with a lot of open water as well as vegetation around the perimeter. Another area was more swamp-like but without the Spanish moss so typical in the southern coastal swamps of Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. There was another area which was mostly dry when we visited with small pools of water from a recent rain. I can imagine this area being completely wet in March from melting snow and spring rains. Near the northern edge of the refuge, ran a connector barge canal from the Erie Canal.
Red-winged black bird

As is our luck with places like this, there are no flocks of migratory birds here right now. This is going to sound like the story of Creamer Wildlife Sanctuary in Fairbanks when we missed the swans by just 2 weeks. I chased all over Alaska looking for those swans. Finally caught up with them 2 years later in Yellowstone in February. Who would have thought. Anyway, spring brings some 100,000 snow geese which were here a few weeks before we arrived. The Osprey are nesting right now, so the trail to see them was closed. They do have a few nesting eagles; perhaps we’ll see one before we leave. There are several Canada geese here now roaming the streets, but 150,000 should show up in the fall.
Grasses on the perimeter of the main pool
Swamp area

We went out early Saturday morning with a thermos of coffee and bagels. I sat up the camera at the viewing platform and we settled in. Not being birders, we were far too noisy in our approach and the three large wading birds that would have been within petting distance flew away before we got there. We did have fun, though. It is not the sort of thing we do, so just that change of activity was refreshing. The quiet and solitude was also a welcome change. The struggle to slow our life down is always challenging so just to sit and contemplate the sounds of the song birds was inspiring even if we couldn’t identify what we were hearing. After a while we moved away from our perch to walk the short 1-mile loop trail. Our short hike was cut short when we got to the area that was closed because of nesting osprey. On our drive through the Refuge we saw lots of birds we were not able to identify as well as a very few we could—Canada Geese, red-winged black birds, and great blue herons.
Barge canal
We're thinking this might be a beaver.

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