October 31, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

Sunrise Sandhill Flight
Sunrise Sandhill Flight

Lone Rock, Utah to Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico

One week ago today, I awoke early at Lone Rock and hit the road just as the sun was coming up. Ended up being a long day on the road as I fought tire problems all day long and logged the 400+ miles to San Felipe, New Mexico. Back down Route 89 through Page, then picked up Route 98 east and before I had travelled more than 50 miles my tire monitoring system alerted me to a low pressure warning for my passenger side outside dually.

Found a place to pull off the highway and removed the valve extender for that tire, dragged out the compressor and reinflated the tire. That took care of that problem, but another 50 miles and the monitoring system alarm sounded again, this time for one of the tow dolly tires. Not wanting to take the Prius off the tow dolly so I could change the tire, I got the compressor out again and reinflated the tire, hoping that it was just a slow leak and I could get to my overnight destination without having to change the tire. I continued east on 98 then Route 160, then Route 64 into New Mexico, all fairly decent 2 lane roads with some rough sections and with very little traffic. Route 64 took me to Route 550 east ( actually goes south ) and that road took me down to I-25 at Bernalilo, where I headed a few miles north to the San Felipe Casino to overnight.

I had to stop and reinflate the tow dolly tire two more times, making a long day on the road seem even longer. Fortunately,  Route 550 is a 4 lane highway, with no hills and I was able to make up for lost time on this long stretch of road.

The San Felipe Casino camping area is a flat gravel lot with pull throughs and 50 amp electric hookups, no water at the campsite though there is water at the on site dump station. There were only two others camped there the two nights I spent there and there is a fair bit of noise from the Travel Center just across the road.

Hal Burns in Santa Fe for a Brake Job

I have needed to have the rear brakes on the motorhome looked at since late this summer in the Rockies and hoped to be able to make them last until I could get to Hal Burns in Santa Fe, where I have had major work done twice in the past. They were able to get me in on Wednesday and figured they would have me done the same day. I knew better than to think that would actually be the case and sure enough, it wasn’t, so I did spend one night at the luxurious Hal Burns RV Resort.

They do let you stay in your rig in their yard overnight and even will give you an electric hookup if one is available. It’s brightly lit, it’s noisy, and the atmosphere is lacking a little, but it’s free! Next day, they had me finished up around 3 PM and I was back on the road with fully functioning brakes again.

Only had to cover 150 miles to Bosque del Apache and made it to the Birdwatcher’s RV Park around 6 PM and got myself checked in and set up. This is a very basic campground with flat sites on gravel, essentially a large parking lot, with several pull throughs, with full hookups. The attraction here is the close proximity to the refuge and the price. I plan on staying a month or perhaps even more so I was charged the monthly rate of $350, or around $11 a day for a full hookup site, hard to beat.

First Trip Into Bosque

Pintails and Mallard
Pintails and Mallard

Since it was still light after getting set up, I zipped down the road a couple miles into Bosque del Apache NWR and instantly came across a rare sighting, for me at least. In a narrow stretch of water on the side of the road were about a hundred Pintail and Mallard ducks …

Stalking Bobcat
Stalking Bobcat

… and about 20 yards from them was this bobcat, crawling on it’s belly through the short field grasses cover towards the ducks! Even though I have been doing this wildlife thing for a long time, this was the first time I have ever had a close shot at a bobcat, and it looked like there was going to be some neat action as he continued slowly advancing on the ducks.

Bobcat
Scared Off

Unfortunately, a woman driving a pickup camper saw me parked on the shoulder of the road with a long camera lens showing out the window, so she came flying up in a cloud of dust to see what I was shooting. When she jumped out to get closer, of course, that was it for the bobcat and he bolted across the field to cover.

And Then Another Rarity!

Leucistic Sandhill Crane
Leucistic Sandhill Crane

It was getting dark when I spied something odd out on a burned section of the refuge. I could  make out a couple sandhill cranes working their way through the recently burned area, but, from a distance at least, I could have sworn that one of the cranes looked like a Whooping Crane, and I didn’t think they were ever found here. The shot above is a low quality image ( shot with my 600mm lens from a great distance in very low light ) of what turned out to be a leucistic Sandhill Crane, the first I have ever seen. The rangers here tell me this is his third year showing up here, so I hope I may encounter him again under better conditions during my stay here.

First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese
First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese

A Bit Early for Many Birds Here at Bosque del Apache

First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese
First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese

The last couple days I have been going into the refugee early each day to check on new arrivals. These snow geese are the first I have seen here this year, and while there are sandhills here, there certainly are not anything like the numbers that should show up in a few more weeks.

Sandhills Greeting the First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese
Sandhills Greeting the First Arriving Flock of Snow Geese

I knew I was going to be a little early arriving here before the start of November, but as a full timer, I am able to just sit back and relax and wait until the birds arrive in numbers, usually around the middle of the month. In the meantime, I have the place pretty much all to myself, nice not to battle crowds or traffic and driving the loop road through the refuge at sunrise each day, without traffic, is a wonderfully peaceful experience, whether you see any wildlife or not.

Pre-dawn Takeoff
Pre-dawn Takeoff

And each day, there are a few more birds arriving, and it’s kind of fun to see the numbers grow, and watch the fields being flooded and the refuge staff out cutting roadside vegetation to provide birders with views of the distant fields.

Pre-dawn Takeoff
Pre-dawn Takeoff

The first morning I went down the highway to the refuge there were absolutely no cranes on the ponds along the highway, the second day, I stopped and counted maybe 20, wading on the distant shore waiting for sunrise to takeoff and head out to feed. The two shots above were taken this morning just before sunrise, when some of the more than 100 cranes around the ponds were taking flight.

I can’t wait for tomorrow!

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3 thoughts on “October 31, 2016 Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico”

  1. Oh, man! You had me going there. I was all set to see some pictures of the bobcat interacting with the ducks. So sorry the inconsiderate lady ruined the perfect timing.

    I was going to tell you that instead of taking US-550 to Abq, take US-491 from Shiprock to Gallup and I-40 to Abq. However since you needed to be on the north side of Abq, and going to Santa Fe, 550 was your best route.

    The advantage of US-491 from Shiprock to Gallup and I-40 to Abq is that US-491 is almost flat and you can set your cruise control on at Shiprock and seldom need to disengage it until you get to a little north of Gallup. I have taken US-550 a couple of times and there are far to many times I have to disengage cruise control to keep the engine from screaming up the small hills trying to keep me at about 55mph. Also I don’t care for the drive through Farmington and Bloomfield. Additionally if you were going down I-25 south of Abq, you can pick up SR-6 west of Abq on I-40 and cut over to I-25 at Los Lunas, completely bypassing Abq. The 491/I-40 route from Shiprock to the I-25, I-40 intersection in Abq is about 20 miles longer than US-550, but I find it a much easier drive.

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