Bosque del Apache – After Action Report

Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

I recently completed my trip to Bosque del Apache, New Mexico to photograph the Sandhill Crane migration with my friend Ricardo Muiño. Bosque del Apache is a National Wildlife Refuge located about 20 miles south of Socorro off of I-25, about an 8 hour drive from Denver.

The last time I visited Bosque was in December of 2009, some 14 years ago. Time flies when you’re having fun, it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. Things have changed a bit in Bosque since my 2009 visit. More areas are marked “off limits” now, and there are fewer ponds by the observation decks on the north loop accessible by vehicle. The flight deck has also been rebuilt. The flight deck which used to be a major gathering point for photographers in the mornings is now pretty much unattended. Gentrification if you want to call it that. Much more tourist friendly, much less useful as a photography location.

The ponds on highway 1, north of the main entrance, had much fewer birds in the mornings but we still managed to make photos at sunrise.

In years past, sandhill cranes would crowd these ponds on highway 1. This year we only found a few hundred birds huddled together just south of the parking area. We still managed to make some great shots of them leaving the water at sunrise.

Sandhill Cranes during the winter migration in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Bosque is an interesting location, not just for the birds that can be found there, but also for the surrounding area. Just south we have White Sands National Park. 

To the west of Socorro, is the VLA Radio Telescope and there also Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, north of Socorro near La Joya. South of Bosque del Apache is Elephant Butte Lake State Park.

Sandhill Cranes during the winter migration in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico. The ponds on highway 1, north of the wildlife refuge entrance.

I think the Snow Geese stole the show this year though. They were plentiful and much more accessible to photograph. We were able to witness several blast-offs in the main lake near the flight deck.

Snow Geese Blastoff. Bosque del Apache, New Mexico.

We had a fortunate encounter with a family of Javelina on the north loop. They were gathered just off the road on the northern most loop. We had seen them earlier running along the roads, but never managed a really good look at them until this encounter.

Javelina (Tayassu tajacu) also known as collared peccary, are medium-sized animals that look similar to a wild boar.

We also made a side trip to the VLA (Very Large Array) Radio Telescope on the Plains of San Agustin, northwest of Socorro. We stayed until sunset and got some nice color in the sky to complement the photography.

VLA Radio Telescope
The VLA radio telescope near Magdalena, New Mexico

We observed numerous other species of animals, including mule deer and a wide variety of song birds common to the area.

Verdin – Song bird in New Mexico

I don’t know when I’ll return to Bosque del Apache, but I know that someday I will.

It’s a worthy road trip.