"Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge" Top 5 Page for this destination Socorro Off The Beaten Path Tip by toonsarah
Socorro Off The Beaten Path: 7 reviews and 16 photos
A little to the south of Socorro lies one of the most interesting bird-watching venue in New Mexico, considered worth a visit even if you're not a "serious" birder – which neither of us is. For a short while in late October/early November it becomes a focus for birding enthusiasts as tens of thousands of birds, including sandhill cranes, geese and ducks, descend on the refuge and settle into their winter home. Their arrival is met with a festival, the annual Festival of the Cranes, on the weekend before Thanksgiving. We were in Socorro a couple of months earlier than this, but thought that the refuge would still be worth a visit as there would be bound to be some birds whatever the time of year. We were, with a few exceptions, wrong!
We were a little surprised on arrival in the parking lot by the visitor centre to see only one other car but we figured that other visitors would be out exploring the loop drive. So we went inside, had a helpful chat with the ranger on duty who showed us on a map which roads through the refuge were open and explained that at this time of year (late September) we would be too early to see the large migrations but should see heron, cormorants and other birds out on the lagoon at the end of the loop drive. That sounded promising, so we headed out that way and were quite excited to see a large heron (I think a Great Blue) from the car as we approached, although it flew off before I could get a photo. So we parked up and followed a path that led out across the lagoon on a rather noisy metal footbridge. We got a good close up look at the turtles that live here year round, and a more distant view of some cormorants drying their wings in characteristic pose, but otherwise it was pretty deserted, and sadly the heron never returned. Maybe a more patient birding enthusiast would have lingered longer but we decided that we would rather cut our losses and left to explore downtown Socorro instead.
Entry was $5 for the car plus passengers – good value if you can time your visit better than we did. Once in the refuge you can drive the unpaved 12 mile loop road or one of two shorter sections: the 7 mile Marsh Loop or 7.5 mile Farm Loop. We took the former as it was reputed to be better for viewing waterfowl on the wetlands in summer. The loop drive is open for driving one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset daily.
Directions: From the north, e.g. Socorro, take I-25 south to San Antonio exit 139, then route 380 east .5 mile, then State Highway 1 south 8 miles to refuge
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