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.
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.
A Belted Kingfisher posed nicely for me one morning…
as a Great Blue Heron did the honors one afternoon.
A Neotropic Cormorant with a half-dozen of its Western Painted Turtle friends stood stoically over water….
while Roadrunners raced over land.
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!
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.
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.
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.
A pair of Greater White-Fronted geese arrived with a flock of Canada Geese.
The Canada Geese had great fun out in the tall grass one night. I’d never seen Canada geese hide themselves like this before!
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!
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!”).
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.
But the next week, it happened again!
and last night, it was a super-vivid double end-to-end rainbow. Holy Cow! Enchanted New Mexico skies indeed!