The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (/ˈbɒskiː dɛl əˈpætʃiː/ bos-kee del ə-pach-ee), in southern Socorro County, New Mexico, is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It lies in the Albuquerque Basin, near the Rio Grande astride New Mexico Route 1, formerly U.S. Highway 85. The refuge was founded in 1939. The name of the refuge means "forest of the Apache" in Spanish, referring to a time when Apaches frequently camped in the riverside forest there.
Some 377 species of birds have been observed on the refuge since 1940. The wetlands attract the huge flocks of wintering cranes and geese that are the refuge's most interesting feature. Many other species—notablywaterfowl, shorebirds, and birds of prey—also winter in the refuge. Striking vagrants such as a Groove-billed Ani have been found there. In the Chihuahuan desert terrain outside of the Rio Grande riparian zone, the refuge also hosts three federally designated Wilderness areas (Chupadera, Little San Pascual, and Indian Well).The diversity of birds is also high in spring, particularly the last week of April and first week of May, and in fall. In summer the area is hot but many water birds can be found, including such New Mexico rarities as the Least Bittern and occasionally the Little Blue Heron. Late November to late February is the best time for large numbers of birds, typically over 10,000 Sandhill Cranes and over 20,000 Ross's and Snow Geese. An annual 'festival of the cranes' is held the weekend before Thanksgiving as large numbers of cranes begin arriving in the refuge. Winter visitors generally plan to be in the refuge at sunrise or sunset, when the flocks of cranes and geese that roost in the refuge "commute" to or from local fields where they feed. Although winter sunsets and especially sunrises are chilly, the daily low temperature is seldom far below freezing
© Through My Lens - Dennis Donohue