It is cold as we step out of the car under a cloudless night sky still ablaze with stars. Without the moon, it is difficult to see the pond in front of us, but a moment of silence confirms our early rise was worthwhile. By the sound, there must be hundreds of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese on this pond, where they have overnighted for safety. But soon the birds will be off hunting for breakfast, so we have arrived on time.
In the east, the early morning rays of the sun paint the sky pink, then yellow, then orange behind us. As we stand and watch the sun rise, we see small dark shapes in the sky. Slowly, almost imperceptibly there is a sound. It grows louder as the shapes get bigger. Yep, geese. Snow Geese to be precise. In the air and moving this way. Clearly, the Snow Geese in front of us on the pond can hear them coming, but they seem content to wait for their arrival. The new geese circle overhead, honking and honking, as they filter down to join their comrades. Once all the new geese have landed the volume of noise drops but it never goes quiet. We wait and watch. Then without warning, a blast of noise as almost in complete unison, the entire flock of snow geese take off. The sound is almost deafening. Then, they are gone.
Such is a morning in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, New Mexico in early February.