The El Defensor Chieftain reports that the 23rd Annual Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico got off to a great start.
Shawn Gillette, chief of visitor services at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, said on Wednesday that the guests of honor opened the festival in grand style.
“We had an excellent fly-out this morning. The morning sky was literally dark with birds,” he said.
The cranes took flight at 6:04 a.m. that morning. The day’s bird count recorded 4,777 Sandhill Cranes, up by more than 2,000 from the previous week.
In addition, 26,500 Snow Geese joined the party. There are more than 66,000 ducks, more than 1,000 American Coots, 28 hawks and owls and three Bald Eagles. There are also a couple dozen White Tail Kites, a bird that’s rarely seen in these parts.
Anyone who has heard only one sandhill crane calling out knows how much noise they can make — it’s hard to imagine thousands of them calling.
Gillette also reported that visitors were treated to some elk bugling at the refuge, which is also a wonderful nature sound.
One new feature at the refuge is the John Taylor Memorial Trail, which opened last year. Taylor was a gifted senior wildlife biologist at Bosque del Apache NWR, who was named the National Wildlife Refuge System “Employee of the Year” in 2004. He had researched, pioneered and implemented innovative techniques for conserving river water during severe drought while managing the conversion of salt cedar monocultures back to native vegetation. Sadly later that same year, John Taylor suddenly died of a stroke at the age of 49.
This year’s festival had the potential to draw about 3000 people, and included a Wildlife Expo, art show, and over 100 lectures, workshops, tours, hikes and hands-on activities.
If you’d like to make plans to attend next year’s festival, be sure to watch the festival page on the Friends of the Bosque website for the latest updates. They currently have a Festival blog where they promise to post videos of this year’s festival.