8. Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico
“Bosque’s best asset is its location, aptly described as ‘out in the middle of nowhere,’” says Toni Miele of Alto, New Mexico. Indeed, the desert oasis in central New Mexico is a famous winter home of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese, but it’s a great birding spot year-round.
Miele says she enjoys Bosque’s “30,000 acres of wilderness flanked by the Chupadera Mountains and the Magdalenas, in the Chihuahuan Desert. Fortunately, the Rio Grande and its floodplain are close neighbors.
“Bosque del Apache is almost never crowded except during the four-day Festival of Cranes in November. People of all physical abilities and birding experience can access this refuge.
“The sunrises and sunsets are a photographer’s dream, and many [people] come from all over the world to photograph the famous ‘fly in’ and ‘fly out’ of Snow Geese and cranes. My last visit, I was treated to a meteor storm at 1 a.m. and three rainbows on consecutive days in November. The birds themselves seem to realize they’ve found an oasis in the desert, and they linger in close view, thrilling observers by the thousands each year. The coordinated efforts of the refuge personnel, the volunteers, and the local farmers are impressive in scope and results. Bosque del Apache NWR is one of the truly magical places on earth.”
Location: Between the Chupadera and Magdalena Mountains, three miles south of San Antonio, New Mexico • Best time to visit: December through March • Birds: Lesser Snow Goose, Ross’s Goose, Sandhill Crane, Gambel’s Quail • Contact: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge: (505) 835-1828