This week I traveled to New Mexico to visit the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to photograph the tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese and other migratory birds. The 57,000+ acre refuge was established in 1939 to provide a stop-over for these birds.
The high desert conditions average only 7″ of rain a year. In recent years artificially created marshes have replaced some of the natural wetland lost to the development of reservoirs. Over 340 species of birds live in the refuge year round.
The landscape in and around the refuge is spectacular. Although temperatures this time of year can be very cold I was fortunate to have some mild weather. A good thing for this Louisiana based girl!
(Click on an image to enlarge)
Of all the crane species the Sandhill is the most numerous and wide-ranging. They are also one of the oldest bird species estimated to have been around for at least 2 million years (some scientists believe up to 10 million years). Three of the sub-species, lesser, greater and Canadian, are migratory. The Mississippi, Florida and Cuban Sandhill are not and they are on the endangered list.
During the day the cranes feed in the fields that the refuge provides. At 3-4′ feet tall with up to a 5′ wingspan the Sandhill is one of the largest cranes. It takes a bit of space to get them air bound and a lot of flapping of wings and calling out to one another.
When the sun begins to go down the cranes along with other birds will fly into the middle of one of many ponds within the refuge for the night providing them protection from coyotes and other animals. The late ones are still coming in as the sun goes behind the mountains.
As the sun begins to rise the birds will take off for the fields for the day. Huge flocks will rise at the same time with the accompanying noises sounding much like a cheering crowd in a football stadium. The honking and beating of wings can be almost deafening. Smaller groups seem to be rather indecisive taking more time to decide when and where to go feed.
In the next post I’ll have some highlights from other birds, including the Snow Geese, that I photographed. Hope you enjoyed this post. Sign up at the top of this page to receive notice of the next one. And, please leave comments below. I love to hear from you!
Thanks for joining me, Cheryl