Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
gainst classic western landscapes, the trumpeting calls of flocks of Sandhill Cranes mix with the incessant calls of Snow Geese and Ross' Geese as the big birds glide to a graceful landing to feed among thousands of their kind, along with Mallards, Northern Pintails and Green-winged Teal in refuge cornfields. This is the classic fall and winter scene at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the best location to observe and photograph wintering species in the great Southwest.
Last winter, birders could find more than 15,000 Sandhill Cranes, 15,000 Snow Geese, a few hundred Canada Geese and 38,000 ducks. Check for families of geese with gray-colored immature birds, as well as sub-flocks of little Ross' Geese among Snow Goose flocks. Raptors include a number of Bald Eagles and an occasional Golden Eagle, Northern Harriers, Redtails, American Kestrels and a rare Peregrine Falcon or Merlin. Also watch for Greater Roadrunners, Ringnecked Pheasants, Northern Flickers, and Black and Say's Phoebes. Check all Sandhills for a slightly larger white crane -- a Whooping Crane. Two still survive from an experimental flock, plus a rare partial albino Sandhill was present last winter.
Albuquerque offers the closest airline and rental car connections, and Socorro has an assortment of motels and restaurants. The Festival of Cranes, which is held each November, has become one of the nation's biggest birding events. For information, contact Bosque del Apache NWR (505) 835-1828 and the Socorro Chamber of Commerce (505) 835-0424.
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