Rick Hobbs Photography

Wildlife/Nature/Outdoor Photography

From The Field

Bosque del Apache NWR

Bosque del Apache means "woods of the Apaches," and is rooted in the time when the Spanish observed Apaches routinely camped in the riverside forest. Since then the name has come to mean one of the most spectacular national wildlife refuges in North America. Here, tens of thousands of birds--including sandhill cranes, snow geese, and many kinds of ducks--gather each autumn and stay through the winter. Feeding snow geese erupt in explosions of wings when frightened by a stalking coyote, and at dusk, flight after flight of geese and cranes return to roost in the marshes. In the summer Bosque del Apache lives its quiet, green life as an oasis in the arid lands that surround it.

Snow geese returning to the marsh - Bosque del Apache NWR

The refuge is located at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan desert, and straddles the Rio Grande approximately 20 miles south of Socorro, New Mexico. The heart of the refuge is about 12,900 acres of moist bottomlands--3,800 acres are active floodplain of the Rio Grande and 9,100 acres are areas where water is diverted to create extensive wetlands, farmlands, and riparian forests. The rest of Bosque del Apache NWR is made up of arid foothills and mesas, which rise to the Chupadera Mountains on the west and the San Pascual Mountains on the east. Most of these desert lands are preserved as wilderness areas.

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bosque del Apache NWR is an important link in the more than 500 refuges in North America. The goal of refuge management is to provide habitat and protection for migratory birds and endangered species and provide the public with a high quality wildlife and educational experience.

Sandhill cranes and snow geese - Bosque del Apache NWR

It is magical to be standing in a marsh as the sun peeks above the horizon signaling the beginning of another day full of challenges and new opportunities. On several occasions I have found myself, along with other photographers and birders, sharing the privilege of standing before a marsh full of snow geese as they wake up. The sound of thousands of excited birds filled the air and it was something that stirred the soul deep inside everyone fortunate enough to share that experience.

Snow geese - Bosque del Apache NWR

The early morning air was crisp and I felt a gentle breeze on my cheeks as I watched the geese go about their morning routine. This included stretching, preening, bathing, and then standing up to flap their wings. My emotions were swaying back and forth between the peace and simplicity that I was observing and the anticipation of what came next.

Then it happened, within minutes of the sun rising above the horizon, seemingly without any warning, thousands of snow geese simultaneously exploded off the water in a wild frenzy. The combination of seeing all those geese get up at once and listening to them calling to one another as they took flight was enough to overload our senses. Within a few moments it is over and the geese headed out to the local corn fields to feed. Everyone there looked at each other amazed at what we had just experienced.

Snow geese exploding off the water - Bosque del Apache NWR

For those forty-five minutes nothing else mattered. There were no problems in the world, no bills to pay, no telephone calls to return. Only the sense of relaxation and the thrill of being included in an event that was truly inspiring.

Snow geese - Bosque del Apache NWR

After the fly-out we went to the corn fields to photograph the snow geese as they landed. The sandhill cranes and snow geese feed in the local corn fields on the property during the day and then fly back to the safety of the water for the evening.

Snow goose - Bosque del Apache NWR

The main attraction is the tens of thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes that migrate to this area, however, we were able to photograph several other species of wildlife. Some of these included roadrunner, pheasant, hawks, ducks, quail, kestrel, mule deer, and more.

Pintail duck - Bosque del Apache NWR

I look forward to many more productive visits to this great location and I have added Bosque del Apache NWR and White Sands N.M.as a Workshop destination for December 6-14th, 2003. I am now taking deposits for this trip and it will be limited to only 6 photographers.

For more information about this or any other exciting photo trip please click on Events.