CENTRAL AVE. & TINGLEY DRIVE SW--I know everybody in Albuquerque is going crazy with the colors of autumn right now. What an incredible sight! Yet, some of us want just one thing this season: MORE! And that is what the ponds near Tingley Beach are all about.
No Need To Drive
There’s no need to drive a couple of hours north to view beautiful yellow leaves fluttering against a deep blue November sky. The Rio Grande bosque is ablaze with the same gorgeous yellow color, and our sky is just as blue as it is in Taos. Not only that, we capture that riot of color in the river and in the nearby rippling surfaces of grass and pond. This is especially true in the late afternoon...with the sun low in the west and maybe even shining on the underside of what clouds may be still in the sky.
I’m talking about the ponds that stretch along the Rio Grande south of Central Ave. and just west of Tingley Beach. There are two ponds there that are spectacular in the fall, both because of the wonderful colors but also because the waterfowl are migrating right now. Many of these birds are only here briefly.
Last Sunday I went down there with my grandson. I have been writing accounts of trips with Robby since he was eight. He is now thirteen and an eighth-grader at Wilson Middle School.
We parked the car at the far south end of Tingley Beach and walked into the bosque. The first thing we encountered was a bird viewing blind. These are pretty new and are part of the upgrade done to the ponds area a little while ago. They are a really pleasant place to stop and look out over the water in the morning. By late afternoon, however, you will wish to be on the western shore so the sun won’t be in your eyes when looking at the water.
Robby and I have been going to these ponds for a few years now. One of the things we try to keep track of is the growth of new cottonwood trees along the berm that encloses the ponds. These young trees are currently about 4 to 6 feet high. I am convinced that as these trees mature they will take over the terrain and will force out most of the other species of plants that now dot the shoreline. Just look at the rest of the bosque...when those cottonwoods start to take over, nothing else seems to remain.
I guess the point is that by the time Robby is old enough to have thirteen-year-old children of his own to take to these ponds, the whole look of the place will have changed...and he will be able to see the transformation happen little by little.
Beavers are hard at work all up and down the Rio Grande, and here by the ponds is no different. We found one tree that a beaver has pretty much destroyed, although the tree was still standing. This example looked to be about a year old.
Robby has been interested in the natural world for as long as I can remember. That is why I should never speculate and volunteer information unless I know what I’m talking about. The following conversation took place while looking at a stand of plants that had white plumes waving in the sunlight.
“Hey, look at those long white shaggy things on top of those plants. I think they might be Apache Plumes,” I said.
“No,” answered Robby, “They’re common reeds.”
He showed me their picture in the Book...you know, A Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque. I should have known we weren’t on an equal footing when I noticed that his copy of that three-pound tome was missing its cover. Whatever had happened to it, at least it wasn’t just sitting on his bookshelf unopened and forgotten.
Coots & Wigeons
I thought the coolest thing we saw were the waterfowl in the northernmost pond. Mostly they were coots and wigeons: specifically, American Coots and American Wigeons. Those black coots would dive down to the bottom of the ponds and nose around looking for food. Wigeons, on the other hand, are surface feeders. So while the coots dove to the bottom, the wigeons would hang out above the coots and wait to see what they brought back to the surface. The wigeons ate what the coots didn’t. The whole pond seemed to be full of coots which were being followed by wigeons.
It was quite a show and we if we had a couple of chairs, we could have watched it for hours.
The colors dancing in the water were amazing. These photos show the ponds as they are...alive with the colors of the sky and the trees.
We also saw some Canada Geese and a pair of Mallards. I know they are pretty common, but beautiful just the same. I heard on the radio the other day that 80% of all the bird species in the United States are found here in New Mexico. I believe it.
I would suggest taking a bird book with you if you go. You’re sure to see something you need help identifying.
Of course the trip didn’t end with the ponds. By the end of the day, we both felt the need for some ice cream. We stopped in Old Town and downed a couple of Dutch Chocolate cones before I took him back home. What a fine day with a great companion! Thanks Robby.