Bernardo Wildlife Refuge & San Lorenzo Hike

Yesterday the weather was just beautiful for a January winter day. I just knew I had to take advantage of it. I’ve been wanting to go back to the Bosque del Apache. But the travel distance from my home is 2.5 hours away. When I travel there its a long all day excursion. 

Then I remembered Bernardo Wildlife Refuge. It’s only an hour from my house. It doesn’t have the big ponds like the Bosque del Apache so waterfowl viewing is very limited. But it does have big open cultivated fields. Something the cranes, ducks and geese can’t resist in the winter.

So I headed there yesterday morning early. I had heard the  numbers of cranes and geese were low this year at the Bosque. I can see why. They are all at Bernardo. When I arrived, the cacophony of bird calls was almost deafening. Bernardo is much smaller than the Bosque del Apache as far as open fields. So when birds gather they are tightly packed in and you drive all among them through the fields.

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Sandhill Cranes with the Monzano Mountains in the background

My best guess, I think there were 6,000 Sandhill Cranes at Bernardo. It was awesome!

They were busy feeding in the fields. After working a section, a big group would take flight and move over a few yards and start feeding again.

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Sandhill Cranes moving to the next feeding spot

There was a good number of Snow Geese there as well. My best guess was about 1,000 birds. They were staying in a tight flock. Just as I was almost adjacent to them in my car, something spooked the flock and they all launched. I immediately pulled over for some photo ops. It’s so beautiful to see them in flight.

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Snow Geese

They quickly settled down in about the same spot they started. So I got to sit and enjoy watching them. I noticed a lot of Sandhill Cranes among them as well. Crazy how birds don’t mind being crowded together.

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Sandhill Crane among the Snow Geese

As I approached the far edge of the flock, a train came by next to the field. It scared up a whole flock of Mallards that were feeding next to the Snow Geese. I had no idea they were even there.

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Mallards flying above the flock of Snow Geese

The views there at Bernardo are beautiful. Especially on a lovely winter day like this. 

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Ladron Peak in the background. Sandhill Cranes. Look closely at the right side of the photo and a Red-Tailed Hawk is flying by.

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Sandhill Crane

There were lots of Meadowlarks around. I love their beautiful yellow breasts and their song makes me happy.

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Western Meadowlark

There were a few House Sparrows and an American Kestral hanging out in the sagebrush.

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House Sparrows

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American Kestral

In the distance I noticed something big roosting in one of the large Cottonwood trees near the fields. When I got closer I realized it was a Bald Eagle.  How exciting!  He flew as soon as I got my camera up for a photo. The picture is blurry because he didn’t give me any chance to focus before he disappeared over the tree tops.

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As he flew off he was joined by another adult and a juvenile. Beautiful!

A much more cooperative Red-Tailed Hawk posed nicely for me.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I decided to go across the highway and see what might be about in the Sagebrush along the Rio Puerco.

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Diversion channel next to the refuge. Sandia Mountains in the distance.

I love the old bridge here at Bernardo. I couldn’t resist photographing it.

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While photographing the bridge I saw something fly by. To my delight it was a Loggerhead Shrike. I love these cool birds!

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Loggerhead Shrike

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Church near Bernardo

The morning was still young and the weather mild. I remembered a hike nearby that I haven’t been to in years. So I headed over to San Lorenzo Canyon. Scarlett was with me and she had been very patient while I was birding. She deserved to have some fun.

So I headed down the highway to Lemitar to get a snack and more water. The road to the canyon is close by.

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Church at Lemitar

While driving up the road to the canyon I had to stop to watch a huge flock of blackbirds. There were so many you almost couldn’t see through them.

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Blackbirds swarming around this donkey

The flock was a variety of Red-Winged Blackbirds, Starlings and Brewer’s Blackbirds.

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Brewer's Blackbird

We finally made it to the canyon. Just before turning into the canyon, there’s this really neat rock formation. My geologist husband said it is an example of an angular unconformity.

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San Lorenzo Canyon is a very wide slot canyon that you can drive through. It has smaller side canyons you can hike into. There are a lot of cool rock formations to see.

Scarlett had a blast exploring. She’d been cooped up in the car for a couple hours.

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Road through San Lorenzo Canyon

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Scarlett loved to scramble up the rock ledges.

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Terminus of the road in the canyon. To continue exploring you have to scramble up this rock formation.

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Scarlett didn’t like being in the bottom of the narrow arroyos. She couldn’t see anything. So she would run up the steep walls then expect me to follow. Too steep for me!

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Can you see Scarlett way up there?

As the day progressed the high thin clouds were getting thicker taking away the beautiful blue skies. It was time to head home anyway.

On the drive out, the change in daylight had created a dramatic feel to the San Mateo Mountains. I thought the contrast between the desert scrub, the low purple-hued hills, the snow-covered mountains and the sky made a beautiful landscape photo.   A breathtaking sight to end a perfect morning enjoying New Mexico’s landscape and wildlife.

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10 thoughts on “Bernardo Wildlife Refuge & San Lorenzo Hike

  1. That third photo of all the Snow Geese is crazy!! We’re lucky to get a few knocking around in open fields – seeing that many flying around in your pic is simply amazing. I’m jealous – that must have been quiet the sight!

    Like

  2. Wow on the Sand Hill Cranes and the Snow Geese! Also great composition on the Diversion Channel, you lead the eye from the channel to the grass to the mountains and finally to the sky.

    Like

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