The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (BdA) is a wetland located alongside the Rio Grande, just south of San Antonio, NM, in the central part of the state. In New Mexico, the Spanish word “bosque” usually refers to riverside groves of cottonwood trees. “Apache” needs no explanation.
My every visit to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is a soul-stirring experience of the plenitude and magnificence of Nature. While we no longer have millions of bison on the plains, or the skies full of passenger pigeons, we do have thousands of sandhill cranes and light (snow and Ross’s) geese crowding their winter roosts at BdA. Add to that the other birds and animals that fill the refuge and the fact that all the creatures that inhabit or visit the refuge are remarkably habituated to humans and their vehicles. This makes the refuge an open-air exhibit of unconfined animals, which borders on the unique in this part of the world. What else? There are the calls and cries – the din – of the cranes and geese, as they arrive or depart from their night-time roosts. This element adds considerably to the spectacle. Here is a video of sandhill cranes calling in the evening.
My wife Kathy and I stayed at the very conveniently situated Chupadero RV Park. From there to the Wetland Roost was a 2 -3 minute drive! The RV Park also has its own small group of cranes and a flock of widgeons had chosen to hang out on a pond that borders the park’s main field, where they feed. We spent two nights there, which afforded us two each of morning and evening flights and the day in-between.
The sandhill cranes, light geese, many ducks, bald eagles, harriers and others are winter migrants from points north. The cranes and geese are best seen at both dawn and dusk, when they leave their roosting ponds to fly to fields where they feed on grain crops, and when they return for the night, respectively. Photographers line up alongside the favored ponds at these times.
My photos of the cranes and light geese are presented in Part 2. In this part I present some scenes from the refuge, and some of the other birds and animals we were fortunate to encounter.
Birds and Animals
The bobcat seen above first approached us on the far side of a canal, then crossed on a bridge to the side we were parked on, and then walked right past us, to cross another bridge and then follow a new canal. The bobcat passed within a few feet of Kathy, who didn’t utter a sound, while I was looking the other way.
While on the boardwalk, an American bittern flew towards us and landed in the cattails no more than 75′ away. This was a new bird for us.
Also seen from the boardwalk were a few pied-bill grebes:
Along with mallards, pintails, northern shovelers and widgeons were the most common ducks. A few buffleheads were also seen.
End Part 1