New Mexico wildlife refuge dazzles in November

Arctic snow geese and sandhill cranes flock to Bosque del Apache

On occasion, I time my vacations around an opportunity to experience a special event. Yosemite National Park in early May when its waterfalls are most powerful. Rocky Mountain National Park in September for the majestic elk bugling. And the Blue Ridge Parkway in October for the blazing foliage.

One of my favorite trips involved arriving at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, timed for the arrival of thousands of Arctic snow geese and sandhill cranes that migrate there to winter feed. Of course, sometimes nature doesn’t cooperate, no matter how much research you conduct. In this case, my November 4-5 arrival was perfect.

I saw five roadrunners but, no, they weren’t being chased by a coyote with an anvil.
They’re secretive and quick to flee, except for this particular Gambel’s quail.
Arctic snow geese come in two major colors – white and blue. And they stay those colors all year round.
Bosque del Apache is one of our country’s 569 national wildlife refuges.
Northern pintail ducks frequent the refuge during winter.
The Marsh Overlook Trail includes a boardwalk and picnic tables for viewing wildlife up close.
If you willing to sit and just watch, sandhill cranes will entertain you with dancing and antics.
Not surprisingly, raptors like this harrier hawk feed on birds at Bosque del Apache.
A sandhill crane will migrate up to 500 miles a day.
The refuge is famous for its thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes, but this rock squirrel is special, too.
Evening temps dipped into the 30’s, but early to mid-morning produced the best photo opps.

The refuge estimates that 12,000 sandhill cranes and thousands of snow geese migrate to Bosque del Apache each year after summer in the Arctic and Northern Canada. That estimate seemed low during my visit but I confess that I didn’t conduct my own precise count. The highlight was showing up before sunrise, joined by a small group of other lucky visitors, waiting to see and hear the birds take flight.

Bosque del Apache includes hiking trails, viewing platforms, boardwalks and a 12-mile auto tour route through the refuge, where there’s much more to see than just cranes and geese. I hope you enjoyed this brief photo tour of wildlife sightings during my day and a half visit to this national refuge.

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