Sunday, 23 November 2014

Bosque del Apache

By 7.15am the dawn flight of cranes and geese was over so we drove around the North Loop, getting some fine views of Song, Lincoln’s and Savannah Sparrows – all of which were new for the trip. 

Habitat shots at Bosque del Apache.

There was also an immature Bald Eagle eating a Snow Goose,  Spotted Towhee, Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks, close Say’s Phoebe, plus a field with 3000+ Sandhill Cranes, and further on around a 1000 Snow Geese were feeding in a field beside the track. 

This huge flock of Snow Geese was feeding beside the track.

Back at the Flight Deck we scoped an adult Bald Eagle and all of a sudden around 6,000 Snow Geese began flying overhead and most of them dropped down into the lake behind us. This was a simply awesome spectacle and I cannot truly describe the volume of noise from so many birds. We then drove along the track and pulled up right beside all of these birds and spent a good long while watching them – they were almost at touching distance. Unbelievable! I was impressed by the numbers of Ross’s Goose present and I estimated 400+ in this one flock alone.

You get quite close to the birds here.....!

Spot the Ross's Goose....?

Eventually we went to the Visitor Centre for a nice hot cup of coffee and watched the feeders where a covey of Gambel’s Quails were very nice. There was also a couple of White-throated Sparrows with the White-crowneds, Spotted Towhee, Mountain Chickadee and House Finch.

Gambel's Quail at the feeding station.

Leaving here we drove just a few miles along the road to a nearby trail, seeing a Roadrunner doing its thing along the road and a Rock Wren greeted our arrival in the parking lot. The desert habitat here made such a pleasant change to what we had been accustomed to on this trip so far but it was very quiet to start with. However, things changed all of a sudden when a Green-tailed Towhee put in an appearance and no sooner had we seen that than my most wanted bird here, a Crissal Thrasher began singing from the top of a bush on the slope above us. Oh yes baby!  It was very nervous and wouldn’t allow a close approach at all so we settled down and watched it running between the bushes like a mini-roadrunner, with occasional sallies onto the tops to sing before he disappeared entirely. 

Black-throated Sparrow.

Brewer's Sparrow

Whilst sat down here a flock of sparrows came into view, which proved to be Brewer’s Sparrows and they showed nicely. We followed this with several Black-throated Sparrows and a flyby Lesser Goldfinch before returning to the parking lot. There were also a few Verdins around but they were flighty and disappeared pretty quickly.

So we drove back to Bosque del Apache, pausing at the Visitors Centre for more coffee before taking a slow drive around the reserve once more. This time we really soaked up the atmosphere as lake after lake had huge concentrations of waterfowl present and each provided an extremely tranquil scene. The light was stunning and we had lost the harsh midday glare, so we spent our time scoping each lake and pool in search of something new. The first lake was the best one of the afternoon in fact and had an adult Bald Eagle making sallies across the water in search of an easy meal. This led the ducks to take flight and settle again much closer to us. A fine Bufflehead was nice, as was Lesser Scaup, American Wigeon and Western Grebe, whilst a flotilla of Ring-necked Ducks stayed just out of range of the camera. 

Bald Eagle.

American Wigeon.

Bufflehead (female).

Lesser Scaup.

There was also a Black Phoebe (oh joy!) and a confiding Marsh Wren here as well. Moving on, the concentrations of each species kept changing at each lake we scanned, but eventually we found a trio of fine Redheads, American Avocet and Ring-billed Gull to add to our list.

By the time we had reached the reserve entrance it was already 4.30pm so decided to drive up the road to some nice pools, watching several Northern Harriers quartering the fields and enjoyed the crane spectacle once more. Sure enough several thousand Sandhill Cranes could be seen flying across the golden-hued trees and against the distant mountains before many of them flew in and settled right in front of us. 

Sandhill Cranes arriving to roost.

Some of the cranes flew right over our heads.

More cranes arriving to roost.

Just part of a flock of 1000 roosting beside the road.

What a show they gave and, once again, I was in awe of one of nature’s truly remarkable spectacles. The noise and sheer commotion of so many birds was very impressive indeed.

Official estimates today of 40,000 Snow and Ross’s Geese, 10,000 Sandhill Cranes and 50,000 species of duck in the reserve!

So to sum up in words our experiences today has been very difficult indeed. Suffice it to say, Bosque del Apache – AWESOME! BRILLIANT! INCREDIBLE!

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