Bosque is the name, borrowed from the Spanish word for forest or woods, for the habitat found on both sides of the Rio Grande river. The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is about a two hour drive south from Albuquerque, New Mexico. You drive to Socorro and then another 11 miles to San Antonio where there is a 8 mile loop road that follows the river and the refuge. Woods of the Apache is what Bosque Del Apache means.
Over 350 different bird species have been observed in the Bosque del Apache where huge flocks of wintering cranes and geese are the refuge's most interesting feature.
The Sand Hill Cranes are large tall birds with long legs and necks. They pair up for life and usually have one or two chicks. These birds migrate from Canada, Montana and Utah in the winter. They fly the chick down for a winter to teach them the way and then encourage the offspring to be independent.
November to late February is the best time to see large numbers of birds, typically over 10,000 Sandhill Cranes and 20,000 Ross's and Snow Geese. Sunrise and sunset is the time when the birds roost in the refuge after returning from the fields where they have feed.
Kathy and I spent a couple of days at this refuge a few years in late fall. We had been told by a friend that you just watch the birds sitting overnight on the water and that one will take off being the first to move and then the rest follow.
We were excited and hoped to really see them all get up into the air at once. It turned out that the birds flew off in small groups with a lead bird instigating the move.
The road edge was lined with people holding big cameras with huge, expensive, telescopic lenses. This group were the professional bird watchers. Some of the guys had camouflage pants and jackets. They had tripods for their cameras and all had special lens covers.
Just like the birds the people would move up and down the road in groups. One guy would break from the group and the others would follow.
We did see some people just watching like we were doing so we found our way into their little groups.
The guys with smaller lens just didn't fit in and sort of walked around by themselves so as to not be embarrassed perhaps.
Not many of the women had these "big" lens extensions or even tripods. It also seemed like the women showed up a lot later than the guys too. Many of the women were standing in groups.
Kathy and I were one of the first there in the early morning. Arriving early allowed us to experience the sunrise. When the light broke it was amazing to see how many birds were there.
We don't admit to having any particular camera but we were right there in the middle of it all. Ok, yes I had an I Phone and Kathy had a small 35mm camera and they worked great. With the exception of some lens envy, and not really fitting into a group, it was great getaway.