Along the Natchez Trace

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Back to the Bosque

I'm still a day behind on posts...  no wonder as we've been busy trying to see and do a lot in just a short time.

Wednesday night we stayed at the Birdwatcher's RV Park, which is just north of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  The Bosque has been in the news lately because in July, a bird never seen in the USA before had been sighted among the cattails at one of the ponds.  The Rufous-necked Wood-rail stayed around for a week or so, but hasn't been seen in over a month.

When we were here in 2001 Bill was an equipment operator and I worked as assistant to the Volunteer coordinator. However, we often worked on the weekends giving refuge tours.

The Rio Grande river is the main source of water for the refuge. Water is always a critical situation in New Mexico and is "managed" throughout the year.The Refuge, like any other agency, is allowed only a specified amount of water and the ditches and water structures are maintained rigidly.  During the summer months fields are allowed to "grow wild"... weeds grow, they develop seed heads and their root systems help the ecosystem.  In the winter months, many of these fields are flooded... the grasses and seeds then provide food and nutrients for the waterfowl.

 This is a year-round pond and marsh area.

The Boardwalk Trail
When I gave Refuge tours this was always one of the stops.
I could spend an hour just talking about the cattails, but, since most tours are supposed to take only an hour, I'd have to move on.

The refuge hosts "The Festival of the Cranes" in late November. At that time there will be thousands of sandhill cranes, and even more thousands of snow geese wintering on the refuge.  And there will be thousands of visitors...  birders, photographers and other wildlife aficionados...  from all over the USA and other countries...  from mid-November into February...  all hoping to see a "new" bird or maybe just to take the "perfect" photo.

 Muskrat in the Marsh

There's not much going on during the summer months...  most of the marshes are dry and the winter birds are still up in Nebraska, Utah or even Alaska.

 White Pelican
We felt lucky to see what birds we did see this morning.  But for us, seeing this pelican is every bit as exciting as seeing a snow goose.

The first tour I ever gave, way back in 2001, was to a family who was visiting their relatives...  who were Refuge personnel.  I wanted to give a good tour and was kind of nervous about saying the right things.  Wouldn't you know?  It started snowing and it snowed so hard you couldn't tell a snow goose from a snow flake!  
There's nothing like the unexpected to break the ice (so to speak) and make a person know the meaning of "don't sweat the small stuff".  We had a good time despite the weather, and I gave many, many tours as time went on.

 Female Green Wing Teal
This is the smallest dabbler on the refuge.  She was kind of surfing along with her beak, getting her breakfast.

Black Phoebe
We saw a lot of "first"s when we volunteered here.  I believe both the Black Phoebe and the Say's Phoebe were among them.

Green Heron
There used to be a rookery that was home to Black-crowned night herons...  it was fun to go out there in the evening and listen to their "croak".  The rookery is long gone....  and we didn't see any night herons, but did see a couple green herons and a few great blues.

Bill...  looking over the land he cleared of Salt-cedar in 2001 
That area in front of Bill was totally covered with the invasive tree, Salt Cedar.  It's not easy to get rid of...  takes a 3-step process...  the first is dozing the trees... Step 2 is plowing up the roots with a bulldozer.   Then the debris is burned.  Bill worked for nearly 3 months using the D7 bulldozer.
Bill showing me where he got a D7 bulldozer stuck...  it took 2 additional dozers to get it out.
On the right are 2 pieces of equipment he used while volunteering here.  Being a bit of a work-aholic, he also used the water truck on the dusty roads when needed, gave tours, and about anything else he could find to do.

Western Tanager (male)
When you visit in the summer you'll see birds that the winter folks never see.  We were thrilled to see the colorful western tanager.

And also the Blue Grosbeak...
 Blue Grosbeak
The top right shows some of the rusty brown on his wing.
He was quite a way off...  but we were still able to ID him.

The Lone Snag
 The "Bald Eagle Tree"
 During the winter months this area is flooded, creating a nutritious feeding place for the thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes.  Very often a bald eagle will sit in the top of this snag... looking over his potential dinner.  While this is an "actual" dead tree, it was never alive here...  it was placed there years ago... an artificial snag.... neat, huh?

Desert Globe mallow
There were lots of wildflowers blooming...  the globe mallow is one of my favorites...  especially when there are lots of it growing in clumps.  It's even prettier when other colors of flowers are growing among it...  coreopsis, sunflowers and others.

We have taken that Auto Loop tour more times than I could ever begin to count... I never tire of it...
The Chupadera Mountains
In fact, there were times I'd give 2 tours a day, and even though I drove the same route the tours would be quite different.
It all depended on what crossed our path...  or what birds we'd see...  or what the visitor's interests were.

I was working the Fee Booth once when a young woman pulled up and asked me how long it took to drive the Auto Loop Tour....  she had about a half hour to kill before being somewhere.
I told her that the speed limit was 25 mph, and the loop was about 15 miles total.  The first time Bill & I drove it it took us 2 days.
She decided she just didn't have the time.

Y'all just went on a mini-tour...  and look how much we saw.  I didn't even show you all 293 photos I took!

That's All For Today!


  1. Nice tour, I would have liked to see the heavy equipment action:)

  2. Thanks for the tour. It makes me feel like I've been there and want to go back. BTW, this is the first time I ever heard of anyone planting a dead tree (grin).

  3. I love the dead tree story. But probably not as much as the eagle does. Your bird pictures are gorgeous.

  4. I think it's little bits of trivia like that dead tree story that makes giving those tours so special.

    I've stayed at Birdwatcher's RV Park several times. Last time I was there, the son gave me a couple of his fresh tomatoes. :)

  5. A terrific post, and very informative. I like your photos, and it certainly looks like a refuge I'd enjoy visiting!!

  6. Sharon, I never worry about falling behind on reading posts as there's only so much time and SO many interesting ones to catch up on. That's exactly what I did for awhile today on your blog and had to progress backwards but it was great fun seeing all the photos along the route. Chiles are not for me, but that burger at Manny's must have been great.

  7. I had to go fetch and see if this was where I was ... and sure enough it was... just amazing there...

    And wow how embarrassed I could be as regards our photography ... BUT my little ol iPhone did the best job it could...

    What fun seeing this through your eyes and photography...

  8. I love the green heron photo. It must be very satisfying for Bill to see it now, after helping clear it for what it has become and the tours you gave, to show it off. I love the Chupadera mountain photo. I want to visit now! But I've seen it through your eyes, at least, if I never make it in person.

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  10. What a nice walk down memory lane. It is great to be able to go back and see some things that you've done. I love your story about someone needing to kill 30 minutes coming to a NWR tour loop. I've seen that at Laguna Atascosa and Aransas NWR. They find the first couple of miles interesting and then race through the last 13 miles because they are either bored or rushed. That became such a problem at Laguna that they put in a few dozen speed bumps on the back of the auto tour loop to protect the ocelots and other wildlife.

  11. Thanks for the tour from me as well. It was a nice relaxing one...beautiful birds! With our heat, we're not seeing many species. Mostly mocking birds.

  12. Oh, what a great tour. Thanks for whittling down the photos. I do that, too... take hundreds. It's torture to try to decide what to share and what to put aside.

  13. Nice photo of that Long Legged Billie bird. Pretty rare to get those!!