While an internet search of the term ‘snipe hunting’ implies a practical joke or hazing ritual anyone who’s ever been a Boy Scout is familiar with, in truth it is actually possible to hunt down those elusive critters if you know where to look and what you’re looking for (although running around with a sack banging rocks together is not a particularly effective method). Toward the end of a good day at Bosque del Apache NWR last weekend, my keen-eyed friend Rebecca was the first to spot one near the Flight Deck.
Rather well camouflaged there at the base of the tree, you can see it keeping an eye on us and explains a bit how tricky they actually are to track down. Realizing we couldn’t possible be a threat from the boardwalk about ten yards away, it was a little easier to see when he turned sideways.
Soon after a second one showed up poking around in the grass, and they continued to browse the shoreline there for at least a half an hour. As other people showed up at the Flight Deck, it was fun pointing them out and watching what was usually a first reaction that we must have been trying to play some kind of joke on them until we let them look through the scope or our binoculars to see for themselves. I swear, those really are snipes!
While the weather wasn’t cooperating so well and we weren’t treated to the great views of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese we were expecting, there were some pretty good birds around that day. At the Eagle Scout deck across the pond from the Flight Deck, a young Bald Eagle was perched on a snag closer than I’m ever usually able to get to them and stayed for quite awhile as everyone ran around looking and taking pictures of it.
Later on the drive, we’d spot a more mature Bald Eagle, and later almost snuck up close to a young Golden Eagle that flew just as I got my camera up.
Northern Harriers were everywhere that day, and we got great closeup looks at both the females and one of the more elusive males of the species. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite quick enough with the camera for the really close ones, but did get this pretty good shot of a female about to pounce on something stirring in the grass.
Another good bird to see, which we don’t see all that often here but that was checking out the seed feeders at the Visitor Center, was this female Pyrrhuloxia.
Driving around the refuge, we surprised a small herd of mule deer about to cross the road. After staring at us for a few minutes, they moved a bit further up the road before making a dash to the other side.
With the weather forecast looking pretty grim in the coming days with much colder temperatures on the way and a good chance of snow (woke up to about 2″ this morning with more coming down at the moment), I headed out to a number of different locations this week in hopes of getting a few good pictures. Not too successful, however, with either the birds hiding somewhere or overcast skies and wind making for difficult conditions. The wind was apparently too much for the Rosy Finches to make an appearance up at the Sandia Crest, so a return visit is planned soon, but there were several Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Steller’s Jays about as I watched from the warmth of the Crest House.
A few more duck species have begun to show up down below near the Rio Grande that I hadn’t yet seen this Fall. On the river itself was a group of four Common Mergansers and in the Candelaria Ponds at the Rio Grande Nature Center, a couple of Hooded Mergansers, which are always a treat with those bouffant hairdos.
While I may not see any more snipes soon, there should be lots of opportunities to see a few raptors and other winter residents on one of the Christmas Bird Counts coming up in the next few weeks.