Bosque del Apache Travel
29 Dec 2002
Sunrise is the most exciting time of day at Bosque
del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in central New Mexico. Each morning at dawn,
some 5-10 thousand Snow Geese, with a few Ross' Geese mixed in, fly up en masse
from the shallow lake where they spend the night. They're easy to find:
just look for about 25 SUVs lining the nearby shore. Beside each vehicle will be a
photographer with a long telephoto lens mounted on his or her camera.
It's over in a few minutes, as the geese fly north to fields where they'll feed during the day. We bird around the Flight Deck observation platform, watching Pintails, Northern Shovelers, and a few Sandhill Cranes.
Then it's off to the visitor center, to warm up and get some surprisingly good coffee (Socorro restaurants offer little competition). By now the sun is well up, and we watch birds coming to water provided just outside the center: Gambel's Quail, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Crows, Spotted Towhees, Dark-eyed (Oregon) Juncos, but most of all White-crowned Sparrows - dozens of them swarm in the brushy areas around the visitor center. They're fairly tame, but usually perch within the dense shrubs, seldom allowing a clear view. Unlike the black and white crowns of adults, those of the first-winter birds are tan and brown. They are handsome nonetheless, as sparrows go.