One of the interesting aspects of being volunteers for Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge is that we have an inside look at refuge activities. Last week we had the opportunity to be behind-the-scenes for the annual Festival of the Cranes. The backdrop for this major community event is set by the waterfowl who arrive by the thousands to spend the winter months. But, this year there was a birder's dream surprise. Can anyone say Sungrebe?! I know, most of the people reading this will say: "What's that?" Well, it's a bird that belongs in the tropics of South America. This was reportedly the first siting ever in the United States. Conveniently, it happened during this Festival time period. Birdwatchers came from across the country to try to get a glimpse. Talking with these very excited visitors was a hoot! Anyway, I guess this poor bird's navigational equipment malfunctioned. Who knows?
But back to my story: During the third week of November each year, the humans flock to the area for this six-day event. They come to watch the birds, learn about related subjects, hike the trails, shop for wildlife items and take photos with the most impressive scopes and lenses you'll ever see.
Each year a group of approximately 50 staff and volunteers put their joint efforts together with the Festival Director to pull off this extravaganza. If we had one of those videos in fast motion to view the whole event, it would include big-top tents being erected, setup of exhibits of every sort, including a blacksmith, wolves, artists and solar ovens; a steady stream of bus loads of people on tours; extra parking lots, people soaking up lectures and making purchases --- and then there would be the disappearance of the extra structures as it all returns to normal. Not to mention, the full agenda of events that take place in Socorro, twenty miles north. It is a large undertaking. (Here's one of the visitors at a booth giving me a "wise" look.)
I thought I'd give a glance of the Festival from the perspective of this one volunteer, interspersed with a few photos for atmosphere.
What types of things do we volunteers do? How does it all happen? As volunteers we work side-by-side with the "brown shirts," the full-time employees. About ten days before the Festival a list of approximately 150-200 jobs is posted and everyone signs up to take on various tasks. One might be setting up tents, dispatching busses, operating the fee booth, coordinating lunch delivery, driving a vehicle for a tour, answering phones -- you get the picture. There are more than enough jobs to go around. As the week goes on, it all progresses and everyone participates.
From the view of a volunteer who now has participated for the second time in this same effort, there is an overall feeling of pride and teamwork that keeps the event flowing smoothly and makes it fun. When the old Bosque bus broke down with a workshop group onboard, there were drivers with vans to pick up the pieces. When I needed help getting a room setup for daily workshops, without fail I had able young firemen or other volunteers lifting tables in no time. Jerry found ways to bring his own flavor to his jobs too, whether it was greeting people at the fee booth or loading busses.
One of the highlights of the annual event for those of us workers is that Leroy, the Bosque chef extraordinaire, prepares his fine array of breakfasts and lunches for us. We all enjoyed scrumptious breakfast burritos, pozoli, with chili sauce, out-of-this-world carrot cake and several super soups. And how could I not mention the fantastic sopapillas we all devoured. And the fried turkeys made by George. Oh, wow! It was not a time to worry about the carbs, but to just enjoy. These people's personal efforts add a welcome special touch during a busy day.
That's just the perspective of one volunteer about one event here at the Bosque. Of course there are many more stories of people we've met and funny and interesting episodes. Stay tuned!