Everyone loves blue skies and sunshine. But I love storms in the desert. Their power and beauty can be exhilarating, transformative, and inspiring.
While out roving one afternoon on the Refuge, a storm rolled in (literally). A gentle warm breeze turned into a furious stampede of wind and cold. Dark clouds battled with white puffs lit from the sun, which struggled to retain its foothold on the landscape. Marshes reflected light in valleys of white water caps whipped by the wind. Ducks dotted the water like dark tiny ships rocking on the water surface. The weather and skies changed quickly after a slow start. But I didn’t care.
As I drove around the loop road a few visitors braved the driving rain to enjoy the changes unfolding around them. I stood beside one young man with his binoculars, I with the camera. Our voices almost lost in the wind, I answered questions about the sandhill cranes and snow geese, and pointed out the white leucistic crane nearly hidden by other cranes.
We both watched the undulating mass of snow geese take flight, circle and land again. They came and went several times, apparently displeased with the stormy conditions. The cranes seemed unaffected by the weather and continued their rooting in the moist soil. Nor were the hundreds of mallards and pintail ducks disturbed in the shallow water near the observation deck.
Colors of vegetation were enhanced by the moisture. The dark greys and blues of the mountains provided a dramatic background for the white geese and the golden and orange vegetation. And the rain muted shapes providing a soft texture. Everything was dramatic and muffled as if everything around me was its own little temporary dreamland.
When my fingers were too numb to negotiate the lens and shutter release, I headed back to the car. I noticed then that rain drops covered the front of my lens despite its protective hood. Smiling, I realized I was oblivious to anything other than the landscape and animals around me.
The storm proceeded east turning the sky solid gray-blue. When the sun began to light the landscape surface from between the parting clouds, the contrasted fields and trees turned a vibrant gold. The geese remained upset, moving from marsh to field and back, unsure where to find shelter. While all the birds on the west side of the Refuge began to emerge from cover; ducks bobbing on water, cranes croaking to each other, and the raptors finding leftover breezes to soar.
The sun and remaining moisture in the air topped off the end of the afternoon with the most brilliant rainbow I’ve seen in a very long time. It was vibrant and immense as it almost circled the Refuge. A sense of renewal ended the afternoon storm’s drama and power.
This oasis in the desert is magical.