As a trusty but true phrase: “There is still something to discover!” To discover something really new on our planet requires a lot of effort, time and money. Because I don’t have one, I discover “the new” at least for myself. That was why I went with my friends to photographers where I had not been – to New Mexico. And as explorers, we could all feel a bit, because of the Czech wildlife photographers, we were the first to visit the corner of the fascinating “green desert”.
Bosque del Apache means “Les Apache” in Spanish translation. Until recently, in 1906, the Apache plundered a white farm in this region. The area is located in the Chihuahuan Desert near Soccoro, but in the vast Rio Grande Valley at 1400 meters above sea level. the surrounding desert landscape is surprisingly green. From the east and west it is surrounded by the mountains of Chupadera and San Pasqual, whose peaks rise to over three thousand meters and at the beginning of December they did not lack a snow cap.
The area of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, as the Conservation Area is called, covers 57200 acres (230 km2) of the Rio Grande flood plain. Part of this area is controlled by irrigation system of canals, culverts and dams. These wet habitats are alternated by dry semi-desert stands. Influencing water levels allows part of the territory to be extensively managed by humans (in cooperation with farmers) and adapted to the needs of wild animals, especially birds, by growing crops that serve as food. Especially corn. However, more than half is absolute wilderness. A large part of the area will turn into a swamp during the year to dry out or even destroy the fires that often break out in a few weeks. This allows a wide range of plants and animals to be present in one place within one year.
According to eBird server, 374 different bird species have been observed in the national wilderness of the Bosque del Apache since 1981, making it one of the most diverse bird areas in the United States. We were attracted mainly by thousands of flocks of Canadian cranes (Antigone canadensis), snow geese (Chen caerulescens) and Ross geese (Chen rossii), which arrive here from the polar regions of the Canadian far north to spend the winter here.
For visitors of the area there is prepared a very nice information center conceived, as it is in the US, in style. In addition to information, promotional materials and souvenirs there is a very beautiful desert botanical mini garden in the neighborhood. Neither of us are familiar with cacti. For us it was beautiful mainly because there were placed two feeders and watering, which attracted a large number of birds. These were mainly small singers, such as the white-crowned bunting (Zonotrichia leucophrys), the red-eyed pipila (Pipila erythrophtalmus), the bullfinch (Haemorhous mexicanus) or the spotted-thrush (Toxostoma curvirostre). The great sensation for us was the narrow-billed cardinal (Cardinalis sinuatus), similar to the parrot, but also the white-collared dove (Zenaida asiatica), the Helmeted Quail (Callipepla gambelii).
In the park itself, there are two about 14 km circuits. They can go by car, but also by bike. Of course, it can be done on foot, but no one is doing it here. We watched something new every time we passed the circuit. Several times it was a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), a redshank (Tringa melanoleuca), and above all a big surprise, the eagle owl (Bubo virginianus). Sunrises and sunsets were especially beautiful and captivating. At the same time, the morning and evening gold watches were the time with the greatest activity of large bird flocks, both cranes and geese, but also Red-winged Blackbirds.
Anyone expecting a hot weather in the desert of New Mexico would be a big mistake. Morning temperatures dropped to five degrees Celsius below freezing. But the icy carapace on the surface of the water did not bother either the hardy snow geese or the cranes. But he did not mind crickets, butterflies or lizards, which we saw here in early December.
In addition to bird jewels, there are interesting mammal species for Europeans. Quite abundantly, you can meet white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Like on African safaris, they can be found anywhere on both visitor circuits. As well as banded peccary (Pecari tajacu)) or banded skunk (Mephitis mephitis)). The ultimate experience, moreover, the last day of his stay, was a fleeting, but all the more beautiful, encounter with the king of this magical place – the Bobcat (Lynx rufus).
As part of our “discovery journey”, we must say that New Mexico surprised us with everything. The greenery of the Chihuahua Desert, the snow-capped peaks of the Chupadera Mountains, thousands of heads of cranes and snow geese, a number of bird species and frozen lake surface. Certainly even Christmas-decorated cacti, as Advent was in full swing. It really is worth coming here.