Every fall they descend en masse onto New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in a joyous cacophony of sound and motion. They fly in an undulating variation of the usual V formation, moving in waves across the sky. They’re Snow Geese, and in the fall and winter the floodplain marshes of the Rio Grande are teeming with them.
Here, just 90 miles from Albuquerque at the edge of the great Chihuahuan Desert, is nearly 60,000 acres of protected grassland and marsh. This refuge is the winter home for more than 10,000 Sandhill Cranes, as many as 50,000 Snow Geese, and a great many other birds, including Golden and Bald Eagles.
Photographers and birdwatchers also flock to Bosque del Apache each year to take part in this great annual spectacle. The best views are often at sunset, when thousands of geese settle down together to rest, and at daybreak. As dawn spreads across the water, the great flocks begin to stir. Several geese begin honking, then a few more, and then, as if by signal, there’s an explosion of sound as they blast off in a whirling mass into the sky.