2020-11-30 Monday at Bosque del Apache

Mountain Bluebird - Sialia currucoides
This was my first Mountain Bluebird sighting at Bosque. It was a relatively slow day for birds at Bosque del Apache, but even a slow day there beats most places I’ve birded.

I first visited Bosque del Apache in August 2003. Having heard of its legendary assembly of winter geese and cranes, I found a means for combining work in Santa Fe with pleasure at the Bosque. Summer is not a season most visitors come to the reserve, because the winter extravaganza begins nearer Thanksgiving and lasts until early spring. Still, I was new to bird photography, and there was a wealth of subjects to entertain me. I enjoyed my encounters so well that I returned a month later to spend more time in this wondrous place.

It wasn’t until February 2005 that I first witnessed the full Monty of geese and cranes at Bosque del Apache, and it lived up to the stories I’d been hearing about the place. I watched as acres of large white birds grazing on fields would rise in unison, overwhelming all my senses. The visual and audio spectacle defied adequate description. I didn’t visit Bosque again until March 2016, but I was late for the winter birds on that trip.

Now in 2020, at the end of November, I found the opportunity to visit this refuge when winter madness promises a bird extravaganza. However, the curse of 2020 seems to have affected the hordes of geese and cranes I would expect to find here. The spectacle of 2003 I’d hoped for would not repeat on this tour. There was perhaps only 10% of the geese and cranes I’d seen in 2003 on the reserve during this visit. I’m not sure what the reason was for the poor showing. It could be the food and water supplies on the reserve weren’t what they used to be, or perhaps something in the weather systems this year had altered the migration timing. But even a slow day at Bosque del Apache is better than the best day at most other birding destinations I’ve been to.

For me, perhaps the most exciting episode of the day was in the late afternoon, when coyotes prowled between the fields and approached within a few feet of my position. In my experience, rarely does a situation occur where the lens on my camera is too big for the situation. However, such was the case this day when a young coyote ran past me so near, I could not fit him in the frame. Yet, the experience left me with a smile that lasted the rest of the day.

The creatures I photographed on this expedition were Buffleheads, Bushtits, Coyotes, Greater Roadrunners, Merlins, Mountain Bluebirds, Northern Harriers, Northern Pintails, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Ross’s Geese, Sandhill Cranes, Say’s Phoebes, Snow Geese, Western Meadowlarks, and White-Crowned Sparrows.

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