On Friday night, after packing up everything in the car, we got on the road and we got to Socorro at 11:30pm. We ended up having to spend the night in the back of our Sequoia by some train tracks due to lack of inexpensive hotel rooms or a spot at the RV park. I never knew how comfy it could be sleeping in the back of a car; albeit it was a bit cramped but comfortable never the less. We only slept 4 hours that night and got up bright and early at 4:30am. We then drove to the Flight Deck at the refuge and watched the morning Fly-Off. To anyone who hasn't watched this: it is very spectacular and worth the yawns and the frozen fingers. We waited about an hour and a half before the geese and cranes decided it was time to get going and then the usual mad, synchronized takeoff took place. The Snow Geese all took off at about the same moment but the Sandhill Cranes didn't quite feel like that kind of show. They left in small groups of 3 to 4 for the next half hour (which of course took a lot longer than the geese). After watching the fly-off for couple minutes, we drove over to the visitor center and got some breakfast and lost some bills to the gift store (oh, the temptation of spending money).
The rest of the day we spent birding around the refuge and going to several talks. The first presentation was by my friends Raymond and Michael. They talked about the Rosy-Finch banding project they started about 5 to 6 years ago. It was a great presentation and it was also great to see Raymond and Michael again. Right after that talk we sped back out to the refuge to go looking for a Surf Scoter that was reported earlier in the morning. It took us a long time but we eventually found it on the far side of a pond, in amongst the reeds. It wasn't a good look, but I'm not complaining! It was my first for New Mexico, which got me very excited. After loitering around the refuge for a couple of hours we went to the Macey Center in Socorro for the big keynote presentation by Mark Obmascik. He was talking about The Big Year, his true story about three guys who take a year off from their normal life to chase birds. It was another great presentation and I got a lot of questions answered about the book (and the movie).
Me and my dad spent the night in Albuquerque at our friend Bill's house. The following morning we went up to Sandia Crest for the first day of Rosy-Finch banding. We picked up Greg Miller (one of the 3 guys who did the 1998 big year that's featured in the book) and then raced up to the Crest in order to get there on time. It was a bit slow for birds but I had a great time chatting and catching up with the banders. A couple Black Rosy-Finches came to the feeders and they banded a few and they also banded some Mountain Chickadees, and White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches (because they're weren't many Rosy-Finches). My and I spent a couple hours up there and then we had to head back home. We spent a ridiculous amount of money at Costco and did a car wash and then finally got back to Las Vegas at 7:30pm.