BOSQUE DEL APACHE
Sand Hill Cranes at Ladd S. Gordon Bernardo Reserve, New Mexico
A few days before Christmas, my friend Kathy and I returned to Kingman from another trip to Bosque del Apache, a wildlife reserve near Socorro, NM. Sand Hill Cranes from way up north spend the winter in this area. Our last visit was in February, 2013 and Kathy was kind of disappointed by the low number of cranes that were there, as was I. This trip we decided to be there mid-season in hopes of seeing a larger number of cranes. That was not to be the case. Instead, we found thousands of Snow Geese.
After leaving Kingman we spent the night at the Motel 6 in Grants, NM. Pitiful place and to make it worse we had to eat at the Iron Skillet at the Petro truck stop. We had seen a sign advertising a barbeque joint but it was closed for the winter. The next morning we left for Socorro. After arriving we checked into the local Days Inn - the Motel 6 in Socorro has closed, and headed for Bosque del Apache. We stopped at one of the first ponds in the preserve just to check out things.
Over the next couple of days, we enjoyed shooting the birds and driving the loop roads around the preserve looking for bald eagles and other raptors. We met a guy named David - I think - at one of the ponds who told us where to look for a Screech Owl on the South Loop. We did not find it. When we saw David the next day, he had not seen it either when he returned to its nesting place.
While at Bosque, Kathy find out about another reserve, the Ladd S. Gordon Bernardo Reserve north of Socorro. One afternoon we went up there and found many more Sand Hill Cranes. At Bernardo, the cranes seemed to be more active than at Bosque. More of them were taking off and landing and even when on the ground they moved around more. Kathy loves shooting birds and even when they are inactive, she manages to get good shots of them. You can visit her site by clicking on "Other Photographers" on my home page and then clicking on Kathy Chin. You'll see what I mean.
Anyway, I find the birds more interesting when they are active. While at one of the ponds in Bosque, we witnessed a fly-off of thousands of Snow Geese. It was amazing and worth the trip. Hundreds or thousands will take off at the same time and the noise is fantastic. But with the good comes the bad. During a fly-off they will drop poop presents. My car was bombarded as well as my jacket sleeve and Kathy's camera bag - right on the zipper, making it more difficult to clean.
After a few days at Bosque, we went to the Salinas Pueblo Missions, a little northeast of Socorro. The Salinas Missions are a group of Spanish Missions and old Pueblo ruins. There are three sites within easy driving distance from the New Mexico town of Mountainair. I was in hog heaven visiting these sites. The sites names are Abo, Gran Quivira and Quarai.
Upon leaving the Salinas Missions we headed for Los Lunas to find a motel. On the way, we stopped again at the Bernardo reserve to check it out and we are glad we did. There were many cranes there and the sunset was fantastic. We were in an elevated viewing station and Kathy was going crazy moving from one side to the other shooting into the sunset or into the cornfields illuminated by the light to a golden color. A couple of guys Kathy had become friendly with were there but left for Bosque before the show began. We found that the movement of the cranes is somewhat controlled by the cutting of the cornfields planted at both Bernardo and Bosque. The cutting down of the cornstalks results in feed being more available to the cranes and other birds. Somehow the cutting of the fields is communicated among the birds and they move back and forth between the two reserves.
The next day, we departed for Santa Fe, NM. I figured Kathy would like to visit some of the galleries there. After checking into a local Motel 6, we headed to the plaza downtown. That area was filled with upscale galleries and outdoor exhibits you would expect to find at drive-in swap meets. Late that afternoon we found a barbeque joint called Cowgirls - great food. I had a brisket sandwich with slaw and fries. The sauce was tangy, not the sweet sauce so prevalent in western barbeque. The next day, we went to Canyon Rd. in Santa Fe. It seemed a better place but I sat in the car and read while Kathy visited the galleries.
We then took off Kingman, stopping at a Motel 6 in Holbrook, AZ for the night. Upon leaving the next morning we ran into snow as we approached Flagstaff. Considering taking a more southerly route, I called one of my neighbors. She said the skies east of Kingman were clear so we decided to stick with I40. Made it home without any problems.
At my house in Vock Canyon, Kathy saw one of my neighbors down at her corral. Kathy grabbed her camera and went down there. My neighbor was good enough to let her horses out into the attached arena so Kathy could take pictures of them. Kathy also likes to photograph horses.
It was a good trip.