for the birds

February 05, 2023  •  9 Comments

Given the ten-day forecast and the clear weather predicted, it was time to head to another of New Mexico's jewels - Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, south of Socorro and a short drive from San Antonio.  It is one of those places to which nearly as many photographers flock as birds, and it is extraordinary.  Fred and I were trying to think of the last (and only) time we were there.  35-40 years ago?  Regardless, seeing so much water alone was worth the price of admission, as they say.  It gave us a larger picture of the vast extent of the acequia system along the Rio Grande, the fields that are fed by that river water, as well as the habitats it supports.  

Bosque del Apache is known for being the wintering ground for sandhill cranes and snow geese, and both were still there in good numbers.  Our plan was to spend the day, and charge our electric Bolt along the way.  Since we did not spend the night in Socorro, I did not plan on catching sunrise and sunset shots of huge flocks of birds rising into the sky and/or flying in from other areas.  My plan was to look, and be surprised and content with what could be found and photographed.  I most certainly was.  

First, a photograph of a sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) in the field.  Other photographers with perhaps 300 mm lenses as opposed to my 70-200 lens, were shooting bursts of 5 shots at a time.  There was much complaining about the cranes having their heads down, enjoying the goodies in the fields, and digging the dirt with their ample beaks.  The sure identifying mark is the red on the crown.

Bosque 2023 sandhill cranes 4Bosque 2023 sandhill cranes 4  

While shooting the sandhill cranes scattered throughout the fields, two Tundra swans took flight.  The docent at the gate told us we might see them.  Apparently, they have only been around the Bosque the last two-three years.  

Bosque 2023 - tundra swanBosque 2023 - tundra swan


While touring the north loop of the refuge, I was surprised by a group of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo).  As long as I have been hiking in New Mexico, I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen turkeys.  Here they were in all their glory.  I think these may be the Rio Grande variety.

Bosque 2023 - turkey 1Bosque 2023 - turkey 1

Bosque 2023 - turkey 4Bosque 2023 - turkey 4    


I am the first to admit my near-total lack of knowledge about water fowl.  When I saw these ducks, I thought they were mallards.  But after downloading the photographs and comparing the bills of mallards, I knew I was completely wrong.  These "dabbler ducks" are Spatula clypeata or northern shovelers, and I was totally enchanted by them.  Their thick, stout bills are designed for shoveling and retaining all the assorted bottom goodies found in shallower reaches.

Bosque - shoveler (northern) 3Bosque - shoveler (northern) 3

My mission in the image below was to catch the shoveler's wake.

Bosque - shoveler (northern) 2Bosque - shoveler (northern) 2

As with many of the birds we saw, they were doing one of four things.  Eating, sleeping, talking, or stretching and flapping their wings.  This shoveler was catching a quick rest, always aware with an eye open.

Bosque - shoveler (northern) 4Bosque - shoveler (northern) 4

Here is a female shoveler, also at rest.  

Bosque - shoveler (northern) 5Bosque - shoveler (northern) 5

I figure all of the birds are bulking up for breeding and nesting season.  Next week:  snow geese in abundance.


Thanks for Barbara F. R., Victoria, Paule, Jean & Sam, Lawrence, Ingrid, Steve, and Catherine for commenting on last week's blog.  

I hope that wherever you are this week, great photographic opportunities present themselves.

until next Monday,


a passion for the image©




Dianne James(non-registered)
I so enjoyed seeing your photographs of these birds. Such "Ahhhh" moments you must have had photographing them. Just beautiful work and beautiful birds. Last year, I got to see swans on Home Lake here. So incredible to see them in person. Thank you for the beauty you provide each week.
Brenda Morgan(non-registered)
Thanks for those beautiful birds. I traveled there frequently when I lived in NM.
Heather Herd(non-registered)
This blog gave the feeling of being there, and delighting in these feathered gems! Thank you for vicarious trip!
Steve Immel(non-registered)
Thanks for the reminder to visit Bosque del Apache. We've been talking about it. We've been twice, the last time at least 15years ago. You got some wonderful shots. As to the lenses of your fellow shooters I saw hordes of cameras on tripods, mostly 600mm lenses and greater. The Sandhill cranes are gawky creatures at rest but graceful in flight. Their spindly legs are humorous. That's a beautifully composed shot of the tundra swans. The space between them suggests the vastness of the sky. Beautiful! The tight shot of the shoveler's beak tells us why the bird got its name.

Turkeys are almost a nuisance and are in commend of their domain. They were a major presence who crossed streets at their leisurely pace in our small town in New England.

Great set, Daryl!
Ann Alexander(non-registered)
The Tundra swans have enviable Pilates-like poses. Thanks for this vicarious visit to Bosque through your exquisite photos.
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