Every year in November, thousands of sandhill cranes migrate from Canada and the northern United States to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Our visit to New Mexico coincided perfectly with that migration. It was an excellent low-energy trip, allowing Anna to see lots of wildlife without walking and worsening her symptoms. We spent portions of three days at the refuge.
Before the trip we purchased a better zoom camera. The long telephoto lens made it much easier to photograph birds without spooking them. Copious wildlife activity meant we got plenty of practice with the new camera’s controls and features.
Bosque del Apache is situated next to the Rio Grande, along the migration path of many bird species. With many natural sources of food, water, and protected habitat disappearing over time, Bosque del Apache plays a key role in the success and survival of the birds that pass through each year. Refuge staff carefully manage water flows and crop fields to provide the right food at the right time for each species when it arrives.
This short video conveys the sheer quantity of birds that visit Bosque del Apache. It was so cool to watch:
We signed up in advance for a free van tour of the refuge. The tours are led by enthusiastic, knowledgeable volunteers. Spotting and identifying new bird species is much easier when you have an expert pointing them out! We felt like we were on a North American safari.
We also explored the refuge on our own. We drove more slowly, and sat and waited longer than most other visitors. As a result, we saw all kinds of birds and other creatures we would have otherwise missed. Patience is always a virtue, but that goes double for wildlife viewing.
In addition to the birds and animals pictured here, we saw many others we failed to capture well: a bald eagle, javelina (a pig-like animal also known as a peccary), roadrunner, American white pelican, bufflehead, cattle egret, long-billed dowitcher, northern shoveler, ruddy duck, northern harrier, meadowlark, softshell turtle, and more.
When the cranes started to arrive, it felt like a great performance had begun.
We played around with our new zoom camera to capture some footage of the cranes’ graceful motion and boisterous calls. Here’s a short video we created from the clips:
Spending time with thousands of beautiful birds was a unique and wonderful experience for us. We hope some of this experience came across in the post. Happy Thanksgiving!