Riparian Habitats, Rio Chama, Bosque del Apache
Greetings from a blustery and chilly afternoon in San Cristobal, NM
We begin in Abiquiu along the banks of the Rio Chama underneath a cottonwood tree, its branches extending over the red willows to the river itself. Cerrito Blanco (butte) just north of the village of Abiquiu makes a natural focal point framed by a large tree limb.
The cottonwood trees (one with a heart shape) line the banks of the river upstream and downstream for many miles. If you want to get a faceful of fall color plan to visit in late September and October. Check out my photo tour/workshop page for info on my year-round trips.
Approximately four hours south is the Bosque del Apache (Woods of the Apache) NWR. This world-renowned National Wildlife Refuge is the wintering grounds for thousands of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese. Areas of the refuge are flooded to create marches which attract many more birds and waterfowl. The refuge is open year-round, but if you want to see it at its best then plan to visit between November and January.
Besides the winged ones, the refuge is teeming with other wildlife. Bobcats, coyotes, elk, mountain lions, (I’ve yet to catch a glimpse of one), javelina, snakes, and this mule deer with many of its cousins!
Below is one of numerous Great Blue Herons that frequent the area. Each bird seems almost territorial over its pond. I pretty much guarantee this bird will be here at this time, on this pond every morning, patiently waiting and watching. Patience and steadfastness are traits I like to aspire to. I think I’ve got the patience factor down.
Sandhill Cranes are the biggest attraction at the refuge. Here at sunset visitors wait for the fly-in when the cranes land in the marshes to settle in for the night, safe from predators. In the morning at sunrise, they lift off in small groups and take to the skies bound for the pastures and cornfields up and down the refuge and the nearby Rio Grande. It’s quite a spectacular sight. If you want to be truly amazed, be sure to catch the thousand upon thousands of snow geese lift off simultaneously at sunrise. Here’s a short video I shot a couple of years ago. Pardon the ad at the beginning. There are some more images from the Bosque del Apache here.
These birds watch and call to their family members as they fly in.
Before dawn is the time I like best on one of the loop drives. While all the visitors are watching the snow geese and cranes fly out, I enjoy the rest of the refuge pretty much to myself. I’ve watched the lift-off many times. I also enjoy the refuge throughout other times of the day. When the many photographers and crowds are gone for lunch in nearby San Antonio and Socorro, again I enjoy the refuge mostly to myself. I prefer a picnic and solitude, in the presence of raptors perched high up looking for their lunch below.
The tree in the center is a popular roost for bald eagles. There’s one in the tree in this photo.
As always, thank you for looking. G