We all know that birds fly south for the winter. Well, apparently, this is where they go. Every fall, tens of thousands of sandhill cranes, snow geese, Ross’s geese, and a healthy smattering of ducks take up residence outside of Socorro, New Mexico, at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, to winter in the wetlands.
The annual Festival of the Cranes, in its 31st year, is a multi-day celebration for humans who want to want to witness a small sliver of this annual phenomenon.
Clearly, it’s a bird watcher’s paradise. The wingspan of a sandhill crane is nearly 80 inches. From beak to tail, both males and females are about 4 feet long. Even for those less prone to avian fascination, the sight of massive cranes numbering in the thousands makes an impression.
A highlight for naturalists and photographers alike is the dawn ascension. The birds stay in the water overnight to protect themselves from predators. Come sunrise, thousands of birds take off en masse to head out and forage for the day. It’s a mini-daily migration that rivals those of most majestic across the planet.
The festival itself is a family friendly event with 140 different activities. The lineup is heavy with photography workshops and, naturally, birding workshops. There are also art exhibits, food, music, guided hikes, astronomy classes, and a wildlife zone.
Photo by Eric Afyouni
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