Thursday, October 22, 2015

Feathers, Foliage, Pies & Skies

That about sums up my first month here at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in central New Mexico.  When I arrived in late September, the sunflowers were still in bloom as daytime highs still hovered around 90 degrees.  One month later, Autumn is now in full swing as we begin to welcome back our famous winter residents.

sunflowers and chupaderas

Back in September, the cattails on the boardwalk were tall enough to hide dozens of blackbirds of all varieties.


The boardwalk’s pond was only one of two places to find water on the entire Refuge, so it attracted a variety of creatures (human and otherwise) to its welcoming oasis in the Chihuahuan desert.

boardwalk pond

A Belted Kingfisher posed nicely for me one morning…

belted kingfisher

as a Great Blue Heron did the honors one afternoon.

great blue heron

A Neotropic Cormorant with a half-dozen of its Western Painted Turtle friends stood stoically over water….

neotropic cormerant and painted turtles

while Roadrunners raced over land.

roadrunner on the road

To escape the late-Summer heat one afternoon, I headed up Highway 60 to pay a visit to one of New Mexico’s favorite tourist stops – the Pie-O-Neer Café’ in Pie Town, NM.  Yes, indeed, I drove 100 miles, across the Continental Divide, and up to 8,000 feet elevation just to get a slice of a freshly-baked pie! 

On this weekday, a dozen other tourists had made it their afternoon destination as well.


The New Mexico Apple Pie (with its baked green chilies) was worth the drive.  Spiced just right!

new mexico apple pie at the pie-o-neer

I can’t begin to describe the whole Pie-O-Neer experience, or being served by the lovely owner/baker Kathy herself.  Fortunately, New Mexico True did this great YouTube video to convey the true essence of the place!

With tummy contented, I made my way back down Highway 60 enjoying the light show on the mountains edging the vast grassland range in-between.

hwy 60 nm

I pulled over briefly to snap a photo of Highway 60’s other big attraction—the VLA (Very Large Array), the largest set of radio telescopes in the U.S.  The massive telescopes are mounted on railroad tracks and can be positioned into various configurations from 7 to 23 miles wide depending on researcher needs.   I’ll plan another trip up to the VLA one day to take the tour and get a closer view.

very large array

Back on the Refuge, October has felt like a bit of “changing of the guard” as summer birds leave and winter birds start arriving.  Our first group of snow geese arrived in early October including this mom and her 2 kids.

snow goose w 2 juveniles

A pair of Greater White-Fronted geese arrived with a flock of Canada Geese.

Greater White Fronted Geese Pair

The Canada Geese had great fun out in the tall grass one night.  I’d never seen Canada geese hide themselves like this before!

canada geese in the field

A few days later, the rock stars of the Refuge, the Greater Sandhill Cranes finally began arriving.  Not huge numbers yet, but by mid-November they should be up into the thousands!

sandhills with landing gear down

I watched in amazement as one group landed one afternoon.  They arched their heads back and began singing as if to say “Yippie—We’re Home Again!” (but actually, this display is known as a “unison call” to tell other birds around them that each yodeling couple is a bonded pair.  They’re sort of saying “Hello, we’re Fred & Wilma” while the other pair responds “Nice to meet you! We’re Barney & Betty!”).

sandhill cranes singing
3 sandhill cranes w wing display

Bosque means “woods” and there’s no better place to find blazes of gold than the Cottonwoods along central New Mexico’s Rio Grande valley in mid/late October…Bosque Fall CottonwoodsSan Antonio City Park Cottonwoods

The colors become even more vivid when the skies behind them turn stormy.  This was my view of the Refuge the other day from my RV after a morning thunderstorm had just passed through!

morning storm over the Bosque

On another morning as I prepared to head off to work at the Visitor Center, I snapped this incredible sunrise shot of the same scene.  It’s hard to get bored by a place like this!

Bosque Sunrise

But perhaps the most-thrilling skies have been the 3 end-to-end rainbows we’ve seen in the past 2 weeks!  When I photographed the first one, I thought for sure it was just a one-time rarity.

Rainbow 1 over the winnie

But the next week, it happened again!

Rainbow 2 View

and last night, it was a super-vivid double end-to-end rainbow.  Holy Cow!  Enchanted New Mexico skies indeed!

Rainbow 3Rainbow 3 WRainbow 3 Winnie


  1. I think that pecan oat pie would be scrumptious with a dip of ice cream on it!

    1. $4 extra for ice cream...they've got to haul it all the way up from Socorro.

  2. I was going to ask the same thing.....Where is the ice cream!! Beautiful photos.

    1. My waistline was taking enough of a hit with just the pie alone, had to choose just one!

  3. Great pictures, Lynne! That double end-to-end rainbow shot is incredible. Must have been awesome to just look up and stare at it for real.

    1. We had visiting biologists from Mexico here this week, and they were all outside with their cameras clicking away too. It was just breathtaking!

  4. i just started reading your blog a couple of weeks ago. I love your pictures. We live in Albuquerque and in the fall we like to drive to Bosque del Apache and take our bikes with us so we can ride the park loop. We just started seeing the cranes flying overhead this week and we can't wait to get down there and see the birds up close.

    1. We look forward to seeing you! FYI, though, after Sept. 30th, bikes can only be on the center Bosque Rd, up and down the trail next to the Low-Flow Conveyance Channel, or along Highway 1. Curiously, they tend to spook the birds more than cars or walking, so are not permitted on the Loops from Oct. 1 - Mar. 31 (when the largest flocks of birds are out on the Loop roads).

  5. Sorry, didn't have put my profile with my post.

  6. I like you, have really never seen so many rainbows as I do here in NM. Sometimes many days in a row, especially lately with the number of rain showers we are having - that sun always seems to know when it is best to come out and give those beautiful rainbows. When daughter gets here for the Thanksgiving holidays, we should make a trip up to see the cranes. I will be in the early stages of my radiation and a break away will be nice.

    1. Yes, mix some rain, the sun early or late in the day, and these big skies, and it's pretty easy to look around and find some kind of rainbow! We're starting to get lots of cranes now, so by T-giving, they should be quite a show!

  7. Love your sunset and rainbow pictures.

  8. You have some really great photos in this post! I went to NM for the first time in February, and really loved the southern half of the state. Unfortunately, we only had a very brief stopover at the Bosque and it seemed nearly all the birds had moved on.

    1. they migrated very early this year from what I heard (by early Feb, all the cranes had left, where normally, they'll wait until mid/late Feb). Fingers crossed that the birds will stay longer this year!

  9. Nice pix Lynne. Glad you are back in the groove. Keep up the great work!

  10. Beautiful photos, Lynne. Bosque WLRefuge has some interesting visitors. Maybe, September through December are the optimal months for seeing all those different birds. Wow.

    1. You certainly see both seasons of birds! The Sept species are the last of the Summer bird residents, October is transition month -- not much of anything, but a little bit of everything. November starts the arrival of the massive winter flocks-- less variety of species, but thousands of them!

  11. "Holy cow!" is right!! Lynne your pictures are heart-stoppingly gorgeous! You could surely sell your art. The cottonwoods pictures are incredible. And the double rainbow? Just incredible! Thanks for sharing.


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