The Bosque Del Apache NWR… Bird Haven, or Is that Heaven?

A sandhill crane catches early morning sun on its wings at the Bosque Del Apache NWR. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Necks straight out with feet trailing, hundreds of sandhill cranes took to the sky as they began their early morning launch in search of food in the middle Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico. Later in November, their numbers will be climbing to the thousands at the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Reserve just south of Socorro. We had watched long lines of the cranes flying back to the reserve the night before, burbling away in long lines, and were eager to witness the phenomena.

The night before, we had watched long lines of sandhill cranes flying into the reserve after a day of feeding along the Rio Grande. Enlarging this photo, I counted close to a hundred cranes in this picture alone.
Even when the sky seemed empty, we could hear the burbling, almost magical call of the cranes.
In addition to the wildlife, we were attracted to the beauty of the area. This windmill caught my attention.
As did this tree outlined by the setting sun.
The nearby Rio Grande River decorated by fall colors. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The owner of the RV campground that sits on the edge of the reserve told us we should be at the observation point about a mile from our campground by 6:30 a.m. to witness the early morning action. Peggy and I made it, barely, and jumped out of the RV into the icy air without coats, hats, or gloves to witness one of nature’s greatest shows. Numerous much smaller Ross’s geese joined the party while shoveler ducks ignored all of the hullaballoo and went about their business of eating breakfast.

We were greeted by shoveler ducks, sandhill cranes, Ross and snow geese, and more sandhill cranes. While my camera lacks the close-up capabilities of Peggy’s telephoto lens, it was capable of showing quantity!
Peggy provide a much closer perspective on the sandhill cranes. Note how most of them are facing forward, which is the direction they will soon be flying. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The light changed rapidly from 6:30 to 7:00. The cranes are all moving forward, long legs stretched out. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
We watched as the cranes took flight, using their powerful wings to thrust them into the air. The geese seem to have decided to let the cranes clear out first. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
In fact, the geese didn’t quite get the program and were landing instead of taking off. They would soon join the cranes in flying off, however. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I caught this photo just as the sun hit the reserve, turning the remaining cranes gold.
A wider perspective of the reserve caught in the early morning light.
Peggy thought that this cottonwood was a nice addition to the scenery. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Looking down the length of the preserve.
This fellow seems to be saying, “Hey, where did everyone go? Was it something I said?” (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The true thrill of the morning was catching the birds in flight. Again Peggy’s telephoto lens was best suited for this. The following photos are taken by her.
The one in front is chatting.
Even my Canon Powershot could catch the silhouettes!
And I was pleased with how I caught this sandhill crane with a line of Ross’s geese above the mountain.
And this flock of sandhill cranes caught in the sunlight.
Peggy was fascinated with how the sandhill cranes bunched up, apparently working out leadership issues. (grin)
I’ll conclude with this shot of geese flying out at sunrise. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT POST: Peggy and I will visit Taos where Georgia O’Keefe began her long association with New Mexico.

34 thoughts on “The Bosque Del Apache NWR… Bird Haven, or Is that Heaven?

  1. I see small groups of cranes around here, but this winter I’m going to try and find some larger groups. They tend to gather west and north of here, from what I’ve told, but I surely will be able tofind more if I concentrate on it. Of course, best of all would be going to this place, or to Nebraska, where they also gather. Your photos, and Peggy’s, certainly get my “go juices” revved up.

    The whooping cranes are on the move, too. A few have arrived on the Texas coast, and they’ve been sighted farther north, moving this way. Last week’s serious cold front and strong north winds are bringing in the white pelicans, too. I saw maybe 200 of them circling high in the sky on Sunday, and a smaller group while I was at work today.

    • I wish I would have seen some whooping cranes at the reserve, Linda. They are said to show up in very small numbers. Peggy and I loved our brief time at the Bosque Del Apache. I can see why serious birders show up there.
      Cant go wrong with pelicans! 🙂 My favorite bird. –Curt

  2. Turning green with envy here. Our timing was off since there were very few birds when we were at the Bosque several weeks too early. Depending on when or where I picked up this nasty, horrible cold/cough that has had me under the weather and the covers for over a week now… I may have been better off here at home the way it turned out.

    Thanks for the great images of what we missed!!! Much appreciated.

  3. Curt, thank you for sharing this spectacular show at sunrise.
    The cranes look magnificent against the sky. On their own and flying in formation.
    Both Peggy’s and yes ur photos are wonderful.

    Miriam

  4. That’s the one thing missing in my life; the ability to fly. Looking at all the photos of birds it must be so nice to be able to take off and fly. Of course, we can fly in a plane but that’s not the same as taking off and spread the wings by own power. I suppose, the closest would be parachuting or wind gliding.
    Thanks Curt and Peggy.

  5. Beautiful photos and definitely worth whatever it took to get there and make those shots. We have a sand hill crane event here that draws photographers who line up their tripods for just the right moments. Not only was I taken with the sight of these birds, but I was in prepared for the rush of sound as they lifted upward in unison. Thanks for reminding me to check in when this will occur again this spring!

    • Definitely a fun way to spend a morning Rusha. I was just telling Sue that Peggy and I should travel with a tripod as well. I love the way they burble. They talk almost as much as Canadian Geese but it is a gentler sound. 🙂 –Curt

  6. Curt looking at the extraordinary photos from not you and Peggy I kept imagining the sounds that accompanied them while being taken. What an experience to be in the midst of so many birds. Bravo for their flight captures especially!

    • They burble, Sue. 🙂 I did take a couple of videos that caught their calls. But the videos weren’t of the quality that I would put them on my post. (Peggy and I really should travel with tripods.) Thanks much. –Curt

  7. I LOVE this post, Curt! The birds and their softly-colored surroundings are just beautiful, and you both got some great photos. I find them all very peaceful, and they put a smile on my face this morning!

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