Mention Bosque del Apache and images of throngs of sandhill cranes, snow geese, and others come to mind -- numbering well in to the 10's of thousands. Mention the Bosque in October, however, and the birds are just starting to trickle in -- as in this view:
And, the star attraction here are indubitably the Sandhills; seen typically in loose flocks, feeding in golden fields.
The stateley sandhill -- shown here a colt with its parents -- is a tall bird; indeed, the tallest after the whooper. But unlike its whooping cousin, it is not endangered: there are a thousand sandhills for every whooper (400,000 sandhills to 400 whooping cranes).
The sandhill (named after the Sandhills of Nebraska) is unmistakeable in its silver grey plumage with sand colored botches on their wings; white cheeks and red foreheads. And, like other cranes, their distinctive bugling calls can be heard from afar.
In addition to the cranes, there were the expected snow geese; I was also hoping to see Ross's Geese as well, but the considerable distance made it difficult to distinguish the two.
Bosque del Apache is a special place where wildlife abounds and the magic of the cranes can be felt at every turn.
It is a great place to see a variety of birds (sandhill cranes, American kestrel, western grebe), some in considerable numbers, from the comfort of your car and should be on everyone's itinerary when in New Mexico.