This past weekend I made a trip up to the Bosque del Apache to see the cranes.  The Bosque is a national wildlife refuge established twenty-five years ago to provide winter forage for migrating sandhill cranes and snow geese.  The refuge is only about 120 miles north of where I live, not a long distance by New Mexico standards, especially on the Interstate, but I had never been there during the winter season.  There were a fair number of cars taking the loop road and stopping to see the ponds and fields, but I am sure I avoided much larger crowds who will come for the Festival of the Cranes next weekend.

Geese on the pond

The Bosque del Apache takes its name from its use by Apaches during the Spanish era as a camping ground.  Now the area is turned over to the birds.  Fields are planted and ponds are maintained to provide the habitat needed.  (I think this is a great use of my tax money.  When the refuge was first created, the sandhill cranes were in serious decline.  Now there are plenty of them.)

Cranes in the field

I missed the move of the geese from the pond to their roosting areas.  The pond had hundreds of geese in it when I drove into the area.  Cars were lining up along the pond to see the “show.” When I completed the loop road the geese had flown, leaving the water to a few brown ducks.  I had come to see the cranes and I did.   They were moving in small groups from field to field, feasting on the only young green plants for miles around.

Cottonwood by the trailhead

I had intended to hike and stay until dusk to see the cranes fly to their roosting places, but it was cold and windy.  I decided to start for home before dark.  I had been richly rewarded for my time and travel by this first view of the cranes and the unexpected sight of so many geese.