On Christmas Day, 2005, Pam and I set out to go to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, New Mexico. From Houston, we drove to Austin to visit my nephew and family for a couple of hours. Then, we drove to El Paso for the night.

The next day, we drove to the White Sands Monument in New Mexico, and then to the Three Rivers Petroglyph National Recreation Area, and then on to San Antonio NM where we had reservations at a Bed and Breakfast. We spent 3 days at Bosque del Apache, and then spent a couple of nights in Albuquerque before heading home.

It was a great trip. However, in a note to photographers, don't even think about going to Bosque del Apache without a 500mm lens. I took my 70 - 200mm zoom lens and a 200-400mm zoom. Many of the pictures I took was with the 400mm zoom with a 2X teleconverter on it, but the quality of the images was too poor to show here. (wait until next year). Note to Ron Resnick, whom I had the pleasure of shooting with one day: Thanks for the advice, Ron. I hope to see you there next year - I will come armed with at least 500mm.

Bosque del Apache is a rather small area, as national refuges go, but it is the winter home to 25,000 geese, 11,000 Sandhill cranes, 3 eagles, and various types of ducks.

Click on the picture to the right, and see more pictures of White Sands National Monument and Three Rivers Petroglyph National Recreation Area.
The photographers and some of the birdwatchers get to the "Flight Deck" area of the Bosque before dawn to set up their cameras for a wonderful site (see below).

Sometime, around dawn but before the sun is up, the geese start honking at each other. It gets louder and louder, and then, all of a sudden, they all take off at once to go to nearby corn fields to eat all day. It is an incredible sight that is over in about 30 seconds. You might get to see two or three of these flyouts if there are more than one flock nearby.

For the rest of the day, you can drive around the refuge, looking for cranes and geese in the corn fields, or looking for other animals.
Most of the time, the Sandhill cranes stay in groups. However, sometimes you will find one by itself.

However, being alone is not always healthful. We saw this coyote stalk and kill a Sandhill crane. He was too far away to photograph during the kill, but we watched the kill and then watched him walk away with the crane in his mouth.

Coyotes descend on Bosque del Apache during the winter to feast on cranes and geese. We also saw a bunch of white feathers that once was a snow goose.

There are other animals at Bosque del Apache. We were lucky to run into this 9 point mule deer buck. He was not afraid of us at all and just stood there, about 20 yards from us, and looked.

More pictures of Bosque del Apache

(click to enlarge)