Stopover

The National Wildlife Refuge east of Las Vegas, New Mexico hosts flocks, bevies and coveys each year. The lakes and fields between plains and mountains is a natural stopover on the Central Flyway.

las-vegas-nwr-signWe’re too early for spring migration, however several species winter at the refuge. From an observation deck overlooking Crane Lake we focus on the  white “island” across the lake – hundreds and hundreds of snow geese. Sandhill cranes stalk the far shoreline. Canada geese flap and strut near the lake’s edge. Numerous species of ducks bob directly in front of us. Unfortunately my knowledge of species stops at mallard and teal. I need our Sibley’s to identify all that I observe. Wind whipped and chilled we opt for viewing along the eight-mile auto loop passing ponds, lakes, marshes, grasslands and cottonwood groves.

mcalister-lake-lvnwrThe brochure says 20-50 eagles winter at this refuge but we see none on this visit. We do see a northern harrier hawk drift low over the dry gama grass, stalking its prey – probably a vole.

While stopped near Brown’s Marsh I spot movement in a brush thicket. I get the binoculars focused in time to see the head of what I’m assuming will be a coyote. The brain quickly processes this is not a coyote face looking back at me but a bobcat. Speaking with a ranger later in the day, from my description he confirms that is probably exactly what I saw.

When You Go : Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge  is 5.5 miles from I-25, exit 345. The Gallinas Nature Trail, open weekdays only, requires a permit from the refuge office.

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