The Bosque del Apache is a refuge for all seasons, but winter is the time to see the greatest number of birds, from early November to mid-February. Each fall, thousands of birds flying south stop by, where they can be viewed, photographed, and witnessed en masse. The annual Festival of Cranes takes place each November, with the star attraction being the sandhill cranes.
The festival takes place both outdoors and indoors. At the auto loop, visitors can drive around the refuge. Observation decks around the loop make perfect stopping places to take photographs, use viewing scopes and learn from the volunteers stationed there. Indoors, there are over 100 lectures, workshops, and hands-on activities, all related to the annual bird migration. Outdoors, hikes and tours will take place, such as special photography tours.
PDP was invited to lead a class on Prairie Dogs in Peril this year.
A synopsis of the lecture, presented by Jim T, follows:
The prairie dog (PD) is a keystone species integral to the life and well being of over 150 species of birds, animals, insects and plants. Their feeding and burrowing aerates the soil, stimulates optimal growth in prairie grasslands and provides habitat for burrowing owls plus other species. Once numbered in the billions, prairie dogs have been reduced to less than 2% of their original numbers and are scattered in small groups throughout their diminished territory. This catastrophic decline in numbers has resulted from human urban sprawl, annual poisoning by the thousands and target contests or “sport” shooting by thoughtless individuals. Today, only five of eleven species still exist. Jim’s talk describes how the prairie dog and the prairies have declined and what we can do about it.