Monday, February 6, 2017

A Day at the Bosque del Apache NWR

Saturday was a lovely warm day (72 degrees F.) for early February.  I have always wanted to see Bosque del Apache, a National Wildlife Refuge on the Rio Grande about 90 minutes south of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  So my husband and I drove south on I-25 to San Antonio about noon. Traffic was light, a little snow still showed on the top of the highest mountains, as we looked forward to seeing the Sandhill Cranes, the Snow Geese and other birds wintering over in central New Mexico.

San Antonio is a small village of about a hundred residents by the Rio Grande where farming is the main means of support.  It's most famous citizen was Conrad Hilton who was born and raised there. It is also the home of a couple of famous New Mexican bars that serve up green chile cheeseburgers with their beer and fries. If you live in New Mexico, you know that just about every restaurant serves up a version of a green chile cheeseburger.  Green chile in New Mexican means Hatch Green Chile, thick-fleshed New Mexico chile pods roasted just after they're picked and served up chopped, or in a thick sauce, or cooked with pork or pinto beans and served as a bowl of Green Chile.

The Buckhorn Tavern
Back in 2009, the Buckhorn Tavern was featured in a Chef Bobby Flay "Throwdown" TV program and Bobby Olguin's green chile cheeseburger was rated the best in New Mexico and #7 Best Burger in the USA.  We have gone to San Antonio on numerous weekends but never found them open (they close at 2:45PM on Saturday and they are closed on Sundays) so we always settled for The Owl Bar and Cafe (across the street).  But today, we arrived at 1:30PM and they were open but a line out the door meant a long wait.  We jumped onto two bar stools and got served within 30 minutes or so.  Very good burgers, mucho grande, and good french fries.  Worth the wait.
Green Chile Cheeseburger at the Buckhorn Tavern

After our green chile fix, we headed to the Bosque del Apache NWR, about 8 miles away.  The daily entrance fee is $5 for a car but we had a Senior Pass so it was free for us.  There are numerous hiking trails, a free guided walk most mornings, and two 7 mile auto loops.   The Rocky Mountain Sandhill Cranes winter here and depart for the northern Rocky Mountains at the end of February.  They were mostly feeding in farm fields.  They eat 3/4 pound of grain each day, insects, amphibians and small mammals. About 15,000 cranes were at the Bosque del Apache this winter.
Rocky Mountain Sandhill Cranes










We did see a pair of American Bald Eagles in a snag in the water:



We didn't catch the Sandhill Cranes in flight because we left just about an hour before dusk and that's about the time when they take flight from their feeding and head back to the water for the night. Here is a stunning photograph from the website of what they look like in flight:


There are many other birds including Snow Geese and many mammals.  Here is the brochure to see what you can encounter on a visit to the Bosque del Apache.