Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (Texas)

Bosque Del Apache—“Woods of the Apache,” named for Indians who once camped in the shade of cottonwoods along the Rio Grande in New Mexico—has been called the most spectacularly situated wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states. One can see why on a fall or winter day here with some 100,000 birds in the air at once—stately sandhill cranes with seven-foot (2.1- m) wingspreads, snow geese, and waterfowl of a dozen other species—calling to one another overhead, flying out to feed in a rosy dawn and back to nightly roosts against a dramatic backdrop of scenic mountains silhouetted by a crimson sunset.

A few rare whooping cranes may be with them. In summer nighthawks swirl around for insects. On the ground are roadrunners, strutting wild turkeys, and cackling white-winged pheasants.

Porcupines doze in tree forks. Beavers nibble saplings. Mule deer browse. Coyotes look for unwary geese but may settle for field mice. Less conspicuous among 75 resident mammals are badgers, bobcats, and mountain lions.

Birders usually see new species: lark sparrows, blue and black-headed grosbeaks, Chihuahuan ravens, neotropic cormorants, black-chinned hummingbirds or other uncommon varieties among the 325+ species on this 89-square-mile (232-km2) refuge of flooded marsh, desert, mountains, woods, and grassland along the Rio Grande 93 miles (150 km) south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Late fall to winter is the best time but all year is interesting, especially in spring when thousands of colorful songbirds “fall out” to rest and feed on their trip north.