The refuge is a man-made complex of wetlands and farm fields where corn is raised to attract the birds. The Bosque del Apache is kind of a misnomer since there are not forests (Bosque means forest in Spanish) and no Apache Indians to be seen. It borders the Rio Grande that farther south becomes the boundary between the USA and Mexico that empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Aldo Leopold who is considered the father of wildlife management, started his career here back in the early 1910’s.
By coincidence, I arrived there Monday the week of the 22nd when the annual “Friends of Bosque de Apache” festival was taking place and departed on a Thursday just as huge flocks of of bird watchers and photographer were arriving. The event included sales of art by the local artists, tours of the refuge as well as bird seminars conducted at the Refuge Headquarter.
In the way back to Albuquerque later in the week, I stopped back at the refuge for the sunset incoming flights of geese and cranes into the water impoundments just south of the Refuge Headquarters in Highway 1. Parking was hard to find as well as a choice location to photograph in the shoreline. There were more long telephotos at this location that there were at the recent Olympic Games in China. Unfortunately the incoming flights were not as heavy as I saw early in the week.
Among the birds there the Sandhill cranes were the largest birds while the Snow geese probably the most numerous. There were several species of ducks and birds but these were not easily photographed.
The cranes were the most interesting since they seem to be in pairs with some siblings trailing alone. It was funny early in the morning since it appears that the cranes legs got frozen into the pond’s surface ice and while trying to brake the ice, they loose their equilibrium and after breaking loose, they appeared to skate on the ice and slipped all over. Some will stump the ice with the legs to break the ice to move on while others waited later into day for the ice to melt. When taking off, one could see like a ring of ice in the legs (see image below), they would beat the wings and run to get air speed and would slip, slow down and try again.
Why are they called Sandhill cranes? I research this but could not find an explanation as well as why the young ones are called colts. Fortunately one of the blog visitors provided insight into the name; it is due to the sandhills in the Platter River, I was further educated and told that the proper name is Greater Sandhill cranes or scientifically Grus canadensis. Paired cranes engage in synchronized conversation and it is said that the female calls twice for each one call of the male…how do they know this since both sexes look the same? I found out that there are 6 subspecies of which 3 are not migratory and found in Mississippi, Florida and Cuba. Below is an image at the end of the day and these group just landed to spend the night. I was told that the reason why they sleep in the impoundments is for protection against predators. While in Bosque, I witnessed coyotes trying to capture cranes while these were feeding in the cornfields with no sucess.