Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bosque del Apache, a Plethora of birds

      Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge, located in the tiny town of San Antonio, NM, about midway between Las Cruces and Albuqueque, is one of the premier birding spots in the nation. During the winter months, approximately 13,000 Sandhill Cranes and 30,000 Snow Geese make this their seasonal base. The refuge has herons, eagles, owls, roadrunners, coots, variety of ducks, cormorants, pheasants, turkeys, quail, varied songbirds, crows, hawks, and falcons.
       This trip I saw bigger wildlife including javelina, a bobcat, a skunk, coyotes, elk, and mule deer. But the prime attraction is the plethora of large birds who congregate at night in the marshes, flying out during the daytime to feed in fields within and around the refuge.
I've included a gallery of photos taken on this trip. In some ways this visit was disappointing. The cranes and geese have begun their northern migration ahead of schedule and the numbers are well under half, and I think by the end of my week, way below that, of the peak season. I've always visited in mid November to early December in the past. Still, I finally found the ideal spot for the greatest concentration and have been there for evening fly-in and morning flight out.
    to see images full screen, click on the first one.  you can then scroll through all of them.
The geese did not seem too concerned with the coyote. It walked past and then wandered off, probably looking for easier to catch rodents.

The refuge was built as a CCC project during the Great Depression. Much of the Rio Grande River had been channeled and controlled for flood and irrigation purposes and the habitat for the
cranes all but gone. But here was a remnant of the traditional riparian habitat. It just needed some assistance to recreate the flood, marsh, and dry periods of nature. The members of the Civilian Conservation Corp built levees, water retention areas, ditches with flood gates and barriers so that water could be controlled. When the refuge was started there were less than a couple dozen cranes. Soon, the number exceeded 13,000 and additional refuges were added along the flyway, most of which are not open to the public. Today efforts continue to eradicate non native plants, particularly Salt Cedar, which have crowded out native plants needed by the wildlife. Staff and volunteers are constantly working on restoring the native habitat through removal of plants, and by using flooding and drying at the right times.

The refuge is a magnet for birders and photographers. On any given weekend during the winter season, we could make a dent in the national debt with all the photographic and spotting gear.

A few of these images have been blown up and cropped so you can see them better in this small viewing space. You can enlarge by clicking on the photos. However, the light was low and I was using a very high ISO. Between the digital zooming, post capturing the image, and the high ISO, these last two photos are particularly grainy (noisy), but I loved these last two images; back lit images of Sandhills, above and a snow goose below.

This is a special place. Lin and I first visited during our initial year on the road. We attended a "Boomerang" in Alamagordo in October and long time RVers Betty and Jim Roughton gave us a crash course in full-time RVing 101, especially the art of boondocking or dry camping. I will never forget Jim telling us that we could slow down....we were no longer on a two week vacation, but living on the road and we could take our time, relax, smell the flowers. After that boomerang, we stayed on in New Mexico, exploring this magnificent state. And we made our first trip to Bosque del Apache. We returned a couple of times, and I have been back on my own.

If you haven't experienced this place, put it on your bucket list.

Bosque is along Hwy 25 which is the old El Camino Real. This historic route was used by native Americans, then by explorers and colonizers from Mexico. Recently a new museum opened about 20 miles south of the refuge. Beautifully done, it tells the story of this route and reminds us that before Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, Europeans had explored and settled in this land. The Ornate party came with families, priests, soldiers, craftsmen, workers in 1598.


Don Peterson said...

As you suggested, Betty, I added this beautiful place to my bucket list and look forward to being there next winter.

stillhowlyn said...

A very special place presented beautifully in your blog!

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