The Bosque Del Apache NWR… Bird Haven, or Is that Heaven?

Wandering through Time and Place

A sandhill crane catches early morning sun on its wings at the Bosque Del Apache NWR. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Necks straight out with feet trailing, hundreds of sandhill cranes took to the sky as they began their early morning launch in search of food in the middle Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico. Later in November, their numbers will be climbing to the thousands at the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Reserve just south of Socorro. We had watched long lines of the cranes flying back to the reserve the night before, burbling away in long lines, and were eager to witness the phenomena.

The night before, we had watched long lines of sandhill cranes flying into the reserve after a day of feeding along the Rio Grande. Enlarging this photo, I counted close to a hundred cranes in this picture alone.

Even when the sky seemed empty, we…

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Some Recent Bird Sightings


Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
North Staten Island Rd, Galt, CA; NOV 2019

A week ago, we visited Staten Island, CA. It is an island in
the Sacramento-San Jouquin River Delta. More importantly, Staten Island is
owned by The Nature Conservancy and is managed to allow conservation friendly
agriculture and as a place for birds to stop on winter migrations as well as to
winter over. For this area, it means we have an opportunity to see Sandhill
Cranes, Tundra Swans, White-fronted Geese and many other birds. On this visit,
we got to see the Sandhill Cranes, Cackling Geese, Snow Geese and Sora.

The Sora (Porzana Carolina) was my surprise bird. I didn’t even know they existed. It is one of those drab, gray birds that hide in the brush, along streams and irrigation ditches. But drab and gray is not a fitting description. They are quite beautifully marked and have…

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Vultures and Other Scavengers


Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) Feeding On Salmon;
Lake Natomas, American River Parkway, Gold River, CA; NOV 2019

In Sacramento, we are privileged to live along the American
River. This mighty river is one of many that provide spawning territory for
salmon. Spawning is the last great act of these creatures; after they spawn,
they die. Though it is the end for them, their death provides nutrients for
plants and other animals. When the Salmon run gets underway, migrating Turkey
Vultures and Gulls arrive and supplement the year-around population and clean
up the carcasses.

Scavenging is not limited to the Salmon carcasses. I’ve also
found a Raven with the carcass of a dead bird. Hunting and killing is not
normal behavior for the Raven so most likely it found the carcass.

Look closely at the rocks among the vultures. Some of what looks like rocks are part of the carcasses.


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Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus Buccinator)
Swan Lake Flat, Yellowstone National Park; SEP 2018

Today I am sharing images of swans I’ve photographed over
the past several years.

Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus Buccinator) are North America’s
largest waterfowl. Thy can have a 6 foot wingspan and weigh as much as 26
pounds. According to All About Birds, a Website from Cornell Labs: “They breed
on wetlands in remote Alaska, Canada, and the northwestern U.S., and winter on
ice-free coastal and inland waters.” The odd thing here is that I found some on
the icy Yellowstone River in February.

The Tundra Swan (Cygnus Columbianus) is a winter migrant to
the US. We see them winter over on the Pacific Flyway from late October through
about the end of February. They nest on arctic tundra. The Tundra Swan is
sometimes called a Whistling Swan.

The Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor) is not native to North America…

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