BackgroundWe're not 100% certain where we learned of Bosque del Apache. We recall talking about it to a guy with a very large camera lens on the flight to Churchill, and we think it came up again with folks we met at Featherfest last year. It was supposed to be THE destination for bird photography in the US, AND it was located a mere two hour flight away so we figured what the heck.
Getting ThereThe nearest town to Bosque del Apache is Socorro, New Mexico, which is located about an hour south of Albuquerque. This is a super easy drive, on a good highway that has a pretty high speed limit (75 if I recall). Once in Socorro, keep going South to exit 139 (about 15 minutes) and follow the signs. Do NOT speed in this part of the country ! We got pulled over for 6 miles over the speed limit, but luckily we only got a written warning.
Socorro, New MexicoSocorro was not too exciting, especially on Thanksgiving when most everything was closed. The town's main street, California, is lined with motels, fast food joints and a few diners with signs reminiscent of 1960's Las Vegas.
- Frank and Lupe's El Sombrero - Very good Mexican food. Try the sopapillas (not the dessert kind) and the Carne Avodado (spicy!)
- Old Town Bistro - Probably the priciest option in Socorro, but tasty so worth it. Located off California on the town square (turn west at the store that sells the Jesus and gorilla statues).
- El Camino - Rated the highest on Yelp but blah. Denny's has better breakfast.
If you are in Socorro, you might as well head 40 miles west to see the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) "Very Large Array", a series of 27 gigantic radio antennae. The movie Contact was filmed here, though this VLA has nothing to do with SETI. Oh, and it was SUPER cold out there !
The BirdsTHE reason to visit this region is for the birds. A typical day is as follows.
- Wake up before 5 and dress quickly. No one cares what you wear, but it is cold so layering is important, including hat and gloves.
- Stop at McDonald's for coffee
- Arrive at the reserve about 45 minutes before sunrise. Pick up an envelope and drop your $5 fee in the box at the booth as you drive in
- Head for the flight deck, find a good spot, and wait
- Photograph the morning fly-out, where THOUSANDS of birds simultaneously depart their overnight locations
- Head over to the ponds along Highway 1 and shoot there for a while. (Stick to the ones on the west side of the highway, the one on the east side is marked no stopping and you can't get close due to the railroad tracks)
- Head back into the park and drive the Marsh Loop and Farm Loop trying to find a big flock
- Head back to Socorro for a late breakfast and then a nap (photography is best in the morning and late afternoon)
- Head back to the park around 2 and shoot for a bit before sunset
- Find a good spot for the sunset shot and wait for the golden light
- Make your way out of the park (it closes an hour after sunset) but keep an eye out for animals and great bird sightings as the park comes alive at this time of day
- Head back to Socorro and back up memory cards
Bottom line: a great place to go for wildlife photography.