Rarely a week goes by without a visitor remarking that I must have the best job in the world. I do have the best job in the world or perhaps I should say the best job for me. Although many people have expressed their desire to be a park ranger, I wonder how many individuals know exactly what it entails. This blog will provide an opportunity to share my experiences and observations as a Park Ranger in Bandelier National Monument.
It is that time of transition when winter begins to lose a tight grip, the weather warms, snow melts and woodpeckers drum frantically at dawn staking out their piece of turf. Spring is right around the corner. After a day of bluffing late season snow I welcome the intensity of sunshine under the blue vastness of the New Mexico sky. This morning, as I ascend the trail out of Frijoles Canyon to an archeological site on the rim, I am anxious to trade my winter uniform to the lighter weight of summer. With each switchback climbed I listen for any sound of spring announced by the voice of birds. The morning does not let me down. A sound, so familiar, tumbles from the sky into the depths, out of the mouths of Greater Sandhill Cranes, to the canyon below. Cranes wintering by the thousands in the middle and lower Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico have begun their northerly migration.Over the course of a few weeks the massive birds, with wings spanning greater than six feet, fly over the Monument in large formations and numbers, en route to their breeding grounds in Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Montana.
In the Bandelier wilderness there is a large carving of a crane pecked into stone at the edge of a broad canyon. With a view all the way to the Rio Grande this spot is a perfect place to watch the flight of birds. Each time I make the trek to see this petroglyph I imagine the ancient people of Bandelier watching the cranes as I do today. Someone, long ago, thought it important enough to place this bird forever in stone. It is a simple and beautiful way to mark the season.