I visited Bosque del Apache a few years ago, but in July, so there weren’t any birds that I could see (I’m a photographer, Jim, not a birder!). It was a handy visit because I got the general lay of the land. I was thrilled to be able to go back during bird season, even though it was in a peripheral month.
It’s around a 45 minute drive from Socorro, where you stay. It’s kind of nice, because you drive in more and more remote areas, so you’re mentally relaxing as you drive, but you’re also getting more and more excited. There’s something magical about the place. As you might have seen from previous posts, I’ve twice accompanied my friend Alex to see the migrating snow geese locally in Snohomish County during the winter. Thousands of gorgeous geese taking over a field, lifting up all at once, or coming into a field group after group, is something everyone should experience. It’s overwhelmingly beautiful and majestic.
So I was happy to see snow geese at Bosque. Even more thrilling were the Sandhill Cranes. I found several raptors as well. Each sunrise and sunset, there were a handful of photographers and birders at the landing. Everyone was friendly, and clearly we all were entranced. (One photographer had perfectly photographed a crane or heron eating a huge fish, the size of the bird, the previous day. A photo of a lifetime.) The photographers hung around after the light was gone, because we just didn’t want to leave. It’s a comfortable place (the one night I missed didn’t have wind, and I heard the mosquitoes were intense – something I remember from July. Each night I was there it was very windy, hence no bugs.), the landscape and the birds are inviting – you just relax, and nothing seems like it would be worth leaving for.
The second day I was there, I went to the visitor center and shop, visited a pond (no birds), and realized I had around 5 hours before I needed to set up for sunset. The Very Large Array was only around an hour away, and I’d always wanted to see it, so I decided to go for it.
The VLA is remote. There are two towns you go through, and I found it unbelievable that anyone could live out there. Still, Magdalena was photo-worthy, even if I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to it. It has a Marshall’s office! Lots of decrepit buildings, but again, too many to shoot. The landscape was similar to the road south. And again the weather was fascinating, so it wasn’t boring.
The order of the photos is:
the VLA, flocks at Bosque, the landscapes of the Bosque, Canadian geese, snow geese, the Cranes!, the predators, and sunset skies. I apologize for the tons of bird photos, but I promised Alex birds and wanted to deliver.
One caveat – most of the bird photos were taken with a 100-400mm lens, with a 2X extender. This means I was converting my lens to 800mm – pretty cool. However, when you do this, you can’t use auto focus. So all photos taken with that lens are focussed manually. When you shoot birds flying overhead, you can’t use a tripod, so those shots of were hand-held and manually focussed, while tracking birds over my head. So if they’re a little out of focus (especially the raptors), that’s why.