Two Loves Accomplished in a Day!

I love wine and birds … along with friends and family … and many other things, but for this day I was focusing on birds and wine. 

I was visiting Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico to see geese, sandhill cranes and whatever other birds were there. Since I needed a place to camp for the night I checked in at a Harvest Host location: Black’s Smuggler Winery about an hour north of the wildlife refuge. 

Bird watching followed by a wine tasting and meeting local people at the winery — great ways to spend a day … I loved it! Tony and Mary Ann Black grow and produce their wines. I appreciated their hospitality. People loved their cranberry wine. I liked the Painted Lady.

After a good night’s sleep, I was back to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. However, be aware there are many other places to see wildlife between the winery and Bosque. New Mexico is doing a great job attracting birds along Interstate 25! Have time to visit? Check out the various places and certainly do not miss Bosque del Apache NWR!

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge; Part 1 of 2

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, in New Mexico, is more than 57,000 acres between the Chupadera and San Pascual Mountains with 30,000 acres designated as wilderness. I recently visited the refuge for a couple of winter days to view various ducks, sandhill cranes and geese. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages this area. It is a challenge to do so because of the shrinking water supply from the Rio Grande River. Birds do land here and then fly off to feed in nearby fields of the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

I scoped out the refuge the previous spring to know what to expect when I arrived here. There is a wonderful visitor center and nature shop. Friendly volunteers will answer questions and provide insight on how best to spend your day if this is your first visit. The first day of my visit I drove the north loop. It was four hours of slowly driving an auto loop, stopping at observation decks and a blind or other spots where I simply noticed some bird activity and wanted to spend more time. At some spots I walked with my camera and tripod to get closer to birds and not flush them with any vehicle noise. I eventually saw 20 different species of birds, 1 coyote, 2 squirrels, and 4 javelina. 

Some photos:

Beautiful landscape!
Cranes eating at the field.
Many birds are here, such as the great blue heron.
I only saw one bufflehead this day, but 15 the next day!
Huge blind yet no water on the other side of it at this time.

Other important info: You are at 4500 feet elevation so plan for cooler weather than the cities, plus hat, layers of clothing, sunscreen and sunglasses. Mountain lion are in the refuge; signs remind you of this fact. There is an annual Festival of Cranes each December to celebrate the sandhill crane migration. Hiking trails and a biking trail are other activities to check out when you have more time at the refuge.

Good things to know, so read the sign!

There were not many sandhill cranes there while I was at the refuge since it was midday and they were out for lunch! But about 150 were in the nearby agricultural land eating their lunch so I was able to observe them.

Sandhill crane.
Northern harrier. I love their owl-like, disc-like face.

Friends of Bosque del Apache help support this wild area since federal funding is not enough to meet the increasing challenges in this area. Here is a link if you wish to join the Friends. Or when you drive on Interstate 25 between Albuquerque and Las Cruces, New Mexico, plan a couple hours to visit the refuge! You’ll have a great break from driving as you spend time in nature.