10.16.2011,1:25 PM
Bosue del Apache Wildlife Refuge, NM
The next day we went south to visit another wildlife refuge; Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Covering thousands of acres along the Rio Bravo, it is the winter home for thousands of birds, mostly geese and sandhill cranes. The Rio Bravo is a stop on the Central Flyway for migratory birds that winter on the Rio Bravo or as a stop over on their way to Mexico and Central America.

Because human population of the Rio Bravo valley has altered the course and flow of the river water, refuge management tries to simulate the natural vegetation and water habitat for the birds. Actually, as we learned, there are several refuges along the river that coordinate availability of food and water during the year for the birds. It is so complex and intensive, that it seems almost impossible. Trying to duplicate what was natural requires more work than I ever imagined.

But we have changed the face of the Rio Bravo valley in such a way that nature cannot follow its natural course. We have terraformed it to suit our own purposes without regards for other species. And I am glad and grateful that the national wildlife refuge system is in place to help maintain a place for the birds and other wildlife to stay alive.

We hiked a few trails with Buck the Dog. I practiced my stealth walking to creep up on a group of cormorants and later a painted turtle.

We hiked through the desert area (this is the Chihuahuan desert) where we practiced our tacking skills. We found lizard, bird, snake, deer, rabbit and coyote tracks. And equine. Those were shoeless, but definitely equine tracks. Perhaps burro tracks. Tracking in dry sand is not as easy as people think because sand along the edges of a track will flow back into the impressions and obscure the outline. Wet sand is the best terrain (other than snow).

We hiked up the side of a cliff that overlooks the refuge in the valley. There was the typical Chihuahuan desert vegetation. All the ocotillos were covered in a rich green velvet of leaves. From above, we could see several groups of geese and ducks in the marshes below.

After we hiked down and skirted the marsh, we made the loop of the rest of the refuge. Although some fowl make the refuge their home year round, most of the cranes, geese, an eagles begin arriving in November and stay until late Feb. So we missed the big show, but it was also empty of people, too.

On the way back north to camp, we stopped for lunch at a recommended place called the Buckhorn Tavern. It is famous for their green chili cheeseburger which won seventh place in a Food Network competition. And it was good! We topped it off with good ice cream across the street.

Before heading back to camp, we stopped at another wildlife refuge near the RV park. Small compared to Bosque del Apache, but it plays an integral part in food availability for wintering fowl on the flyway.

Buck the Dog was beat. He slept like a rock.


posted by Macrobe
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