You all must think my blog is for the birds lately. It certainly seems that way from my veiw point too, but the birds are what’s happening here in Central New Mexico right now. Because we live below one of the busiest fly ways in North America, it IS all about the birds. And a little bit of history. And a Festival.
I find it very interesting that Socorro, New Mexico should end up being the winter home of a vast number of migrating birds. Socorro means “succor, help, or relief” in Spanish, and was so named because it was at the end of the Jornada del Muerto, (the Journey of Death), which was a particularly dangerous part of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the Royal Road from Mexico City to Santa Fe, New Mexico. What a relief it must be to these feathered migrants, who have traveled from so far away in the Northern US and Canada Canada, when they land at their winter home just outside of Socorro at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Here they find the succor they need – food and water and a perfect habitat to last them through the winter. A refuge just as it had been for the desert weary human travelers of the past.
To celebrate the return of the Sandhill Crane to their winter habitat, The Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge created the Festival of the Cranes, held every November, this year from Wednesday, Nov. 17 to Sunday Nov. 22. While the cranes are the center of attention at this, their 22nd annual festival, there are many other species of migrants and residents to see at what we commonly call “the Bosque”.
The Festival started today, but the events run through Sunday, so be sure to check out the schedule on the Festival’s website. Be advised that many of the pages on this site look the same, so be sure to scroll down to get the info you are looking for.
I have prepared a Map to the Bosque del Apache using Google maps. Directions can be found by clicking on the route to the left of the map between the two blue balloons. The directions are from my B&B, but can be used generally from Albuquerque by using the intersection of I-25 and I-40 as a starting point.
The Festival of the Cranes has an incredible line up of educational opportunities, but if you can’t make it down to the Bosque during the festival, there is plenty to see all winter long. I usually visit the Bosque sometime in December when the bird numbers are high and the visitor numbers are lower than during the festival. While I am totally impressed with the view of a field full of hundreds, (sometimes thousands), of cranes, I am equally impressed by seeing thousands of Snow Geese resting in a wetland area, frequent sightings of many Bald Eagles sunning and preening in one location on the loop drive, and the numerous Harriers, King Fishers, many kinds of grebes, ducks, waders, coveys of quail and families of turkey crossing the road in front of my car… everything that makes this a fantastic trip for seasoned birders and newbies alike. Being there for the fly-in at dusk, or the fly-out at dawn is a breathtaking experience, especially the first time you see it for yourself. Wear a hat and leave your suede/leather jacket home!
Bring your binoculars and spotting scopes. Bring your cameras with close up and wide angle lenses. Bring a friend that has never seen this place before. And don’t forget your field guide, (I always bring three for the diversity of pictures they offer for identification and so there is no fighting over them, because there always is the need to look something up and argue about it). For a day by day list of the bird count use this page of the Friends website, and remember to scroll down.
Stop in at either the Owl Cafe or the Buckhorn Tavern, both in San Antonio just before you get to the turnoff to the Bosque, to wet your whistle and grab a bite to eat. I like the green chili cheese burgers at the Owl, but I have it on good authority that the Buckhorn has a better, award winning burger, but I haven’t personally tried one yet. Maybe this year. I’ll be sure to report back.
I know the best things to do in Albuquerque!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!