Back in January, my mom and I drove to New Mexico to see the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the winter stomping grounds for thousands of geese and cranes.
One night, en route to the hotel, we saw a bunch of photographers and birders gathered on the side of the road with their binoculars and cameras pointed in the same direction. (Did I mention the first rule of wildlife spotting is to look for humans?)
Freshwater ponds at the base of the mountains were on fire with the day’s last rays of sun, and all across the sky, cranes were sounding out bugle calls as they came in to join their comrades.
It was like a painting, or a scene from a movie, almost too perfect to be real life!
Cranes like shallow water to wade and roost in, and these ponds were perfect for them. They had been feeding all day 20 miles north of the refuge in some corn fields, and flew back for the night.
(That’s a lot of effort for food, if you ask me.)
One of the rangers told us that every day is different; some days they roost in other fields, some days they spend all day at another refuge, and can’t be seen coming in until after dark, and some days they leave too early in the morning to be photographed. Sadly, you can’t schedule performances like this with wildlife.
But today, here they were, striking poses for us in perfect lighting.
Work it, cranes! I love it!
One of my favorite quotes about cranes is as follows, “The ultimate value in these marshes is wildness, and the crane is wildness incarnate.” — Aldo Leopold
Seeing these cranes in their element was a brush with that pristine “wildness” and something we will always remember.
Plan Your Visit
- How to Get There: Take I-10 from Texas past El Paso, head north at Las Cruces
- Where to Stay: Holiday Inn in Socorro (20 min) or Bosque Birders RV Park (5 min)
- Audio Guide: purchase at welcome center for $2.50
- Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge Website: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/bosque_del_apache/
- Bernardo Wildlife Area Website: Click Here
- Directions to Bernardo from Bosque: Head north on I-25, take exit signs indicating Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex, continue onto HWY 116 (looks like frontage rd of 25; runs parallel)
- Local Eats: Chile burger at the Owl Bar & Cafe
- What to Bring: A TELEPHOTO LENS!! Don’t even think about going without one. Rent one at your local camera store. You will be glad you did!