Monday, December 29, 2008

My World: Bosque del Apache

In the middle of New Mexico, surrounded by Mountains and dessert, lies an oasis that is one of the top birding locations in the United States, the Bosque del Apache.

The Bosque is a 57,000 acre National Wildlife Refuge that straddles the Rio Grande River in Central New Mexico. It is comprised of 3,800 acres of active flood plane from the Rio Grande as well as 9,100 acres of wetlands, farm land and riparian forest which was created through a system of water management. These wetlands are surrounded by arid foothills, mesas and dessert.
Because it is the only extensive wetlands in an arid region the Bosque attracts many different types of birds, over 340 species, through out the year. However many people choose to bird the Bosque during the winter months when large flocks of water fowl descend on the wetlands making it their winter home.
My last visit to the Bosque was in January of 2007, which is when I took all of the pictures in this post. It was great to be there during the peak waterfowl season.
There were a lot of ducks out on the lakes and pools when I was there. A lot of them are pretty common back home in Minnesota during the warmer months, like coots and mallards, but there were other ducks that I rarely get to see back home. In Minnesota we do not see northern pintails all that often, at least not in the eastern portions of the state, so it was a treat to get many very close views of them down at the Bosque.
There were also a few northern shovelers swimming around. Shovelers are another duck that tends to spend their time more in the western portions of the continent.
I also got a chance to see a small group of greater white-fronted geese. This was a life bird for me. These birds breed up near the arctic circle and then spend their winters down in the southern US and Mexico.
The greater white-fronted geese were on the outskirts of a large flock of snow geese. Although snow geese where not a lifer for me on this trip, we sometimes see snow geese as they migrate south plus I had seen them on a previous trip to the Bosque, they are still a bird that I have only seen a couple of times. The Bosque is usually home to over 30,000 snow and Ross geese each winter.
The snow geese are not the only things that winter at the Bosque in large numbers. Approximately 14,000 sandhill cranes spend the winter on the refuge.
Sandhill cranes nest in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin so these are birds that I have seen and photographed often but we do not usually see them in as great of numbers as is possible down at the Bosque.
The big spectacle, during the winter, are the "fly in" at dusk and the "fly out" at dawn. Each day large flocks of birds spend their day out in the fields and farmland looking for food, but at night they come back to roost on the shallow pools of the Bosque. The times when the birds are coming in "fly in" or leaving "fly out" attract large crowds of spectators.

The Bosque has many different types of habitat, besides the wetlands, to explore. The arid hilly regions were habitat that was different then anything that I have near home.
Some of the birds preferred the habitat of these dry open hills. Many raptors could be found circling these areas looking for prey. The raptors that I saw at the Bosque were eagles, red-tailed hawks, coopers hawks, American kestrel and mostly northern harrier, like pictured above.
There were also quite a few passerines and other small birds that were birds that I do not often see like roadrunners, spotted towhee and red shafted northern flickers, the northern flickers that we see in Minnesota or typically yellow-shafted.

24 comments:

Lynne said...

Another wonderful blog that I read, Mary C at
"Mary's Corner of the World"
http://medlibber.blogspot.com/
did a post about this same place today.

HANNIBAL said...

Fantastic post today! Loved to see so many I've never had the pleasure of photographing like the pintail, red-shafted (the forked tail was a surprise!)and the amazing grassy shot with the sandhills!

Arija said...

An absolutely fantastic post! I'll come back to inspect even more closely, its 2 o'clock in the morning and time for bed now.

Richard said...

Another great set of pictures. My favorite was the pintails.

Shellmo said...

Another beautiful place - love that shoveler!

imac said...

Beautiful shots, love tnose ducks.

fishing guy said...

EB: What a neat amount of birds you found in NM.

Leora said...

Really is a bird lover and bird's paradise. You got in much of the lovely scenery, like the pink sky and the large mountains.

ewok1993 said...

This is a Disneyland for birders. I am sure you had a hell of a good time as evidenced by these great photos.

Your EG Tour Guide said...

The waterfowl are exquisite. What a great place to go birding!

babooshka said...

I just adore your world. As a twitching photographer this is my kind of , but we just don't get the variety.

Sylvia K said...

What a truly great post! I love the birds! and your photos are gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing! Have a Happy New Year!

ramblingwoods said...

Love seeing all the waterfowl that I don't see here..fantastic post..

2sweetnsaxy said...

Looks like a really great place to visit. Your photos are wonderful!

Lilli & Nevada said...

Wow! these are fantastic photos, thanks for sharing. If ever in that area i will certainly visit

antigoni said...

Excellent post and photos! Happy new year.

T.R. said...

One of my favorite places in the world. I used to live two hours away. Always rapturous anytime of the year.

Gaelyn said...

Great tour and awesome captures. Thanks for sharing.
Also like the Harlequins, they are so colorful. Remember seeing them in WA.

Happy New Year!

Kathiesbirds said...

Gus and I were here on Dec. 27, 2008 right after Christmas and one of the coldest days around! It was in the single digits when we left Santa Fe that morning but warmed up to above 30 by the time we got to the Bosque. It was my first time being here and though I did not get any lifers, it was a marvelous experience. If I had seen any Greater White-fronted geese, those would have been lifers for me. Photos of our trip there will probably show up on my My World Tuesday very soon! Lovely photos and you did a great job of describing the area. This was a very good and informative post!

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