Name that Bird

bda-snow-geese1Armed with bird books and binoculars we approach Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge wondering what we’ll see on this visit. A few years ago we stopped in February, amazed at the quantity and variety of birds and waterfowl. Known internationally for the quality of wildlife observation the refuge is located off I-25 midway between Albuquerque and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Socorro is the nearest town, 20 miles to the north.

Along the banks of the Rio Grande the refuge encompasses over 57,000 acres. Mountain ranges rise to the east and west. Located on the northern edge of the Chihuahuan desert, the terrain varies from wetlands, farmlands and riparian forests to arid foothills and mesas. Bosque del Apache provides habitat and protection for migratory birds and endangered species while offering the public educational wildlife experiences.

bda-sandhill-craneWe start our visit with a picnic lunch in the pavilion near the visitor center. Before heading out for the driving tour we purchase a CD ($2.50) of interpretive information coordinated with numbered signs along the route. The Bosque Nature Store carries a large selection of birding and nature books plus gift items.

The Wildlife Drive is a 12-mile, one-way gravel road; a short two-way road bisects the route into the Marsh Loop and the Farm Loop. Depending on time and interest it’s easy to do either loop or the entire drive. What one sees changes with each visit, several pull-offs give access to trails, boardwalks and observation decks. You’re allowed to stop along the drive as long as you pull to the side to allow traffic to pass. We’re reminded that when wildlife is spotted near the road if we remain in the vehicle it can serve as a blind – wildlife may remain closer while being viewed.bda-ducks

Tens of thousands of ducks, geese, sandhill cranes and wading birds find ideal winter habitat in the water impoundments created by low dikes and fields cultivated for a winter food source. Migratory landbirds stopover in spring and fall. Since 1940, 377 species from been observed. Pick up a bird checklist for the Bosque at the visitor center.

bda-snow-geese-in-flightThe prominent sighting on this trip was hundreds and hundreds of snow geese. They’re quite a sight when they all decide to go airborne. I always wish we had more time here and vow next time we’ll sit and bask in the winter sun much like the turtle on the log watching the ducks drift pass.bda-viewing-deck

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When You Go: The Bosque del Apache Wildlife Drive is open for driving, walking or biking from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset daily, year round. Store and visitor center open Monday – Friday 7:30am – 4pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am – 4:30pm. A $3 / private vehicle fee is required for access to the Wildlife Drive; Golden Age, Golden Eagle, Golden Access or current Federal Duck Stamp honored. Five of  seven observation decks are handicap accessible.

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