Festival of the Cranes in New Mexico

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge situated south of Socorro, New Mexico, has developed into one of the most magnificent national wildlife sanctuaries in North America. It is here that tens of thousands of birds gather each autumn to stay for the duration of winter. The 20th annual Festival of the Cranes to take place from 13 to 18 November 2007 is a celebration in honor of the arrival of the cranes.

In the 1930s there was a severe decline in the population of greater sandhill cranes, mainly caused by a loss of wintering and breeding areas. The result was, that by 1941 there were fewer than 20 cranes wintering in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Since 1939 a project has been underway to restore wintering habitat for the cranes. Much work has been done to implement intensive moist soil management which promotes growth of natural wetland foods, resulting in a dramatic recovery of the crane population which currently numbers about 15,000. The refuge also serves as either a wintering stopover or winter home for bird species such as snow geese, pintails, shovelers, mallards and many other water fowl.

During the Festival of the Cranes, tours will be offered to introduce visitors to areas that are generally not available at other times of the year. Various topics will be discussed and visitors will have an opportunity to ask questions. Representatives of the local National Wildlife Refuges will give a detailed explanation of the operation of each refuge. There will also be a number of lectures, exhibits and workshops on a variety of wildlife related topics, with the emphasis on birds. Animal rescue groups will display birds and mammals, providing information on the important role that rescue groups play in the rehabilitation and re-introduction of animals.

Included in the many activities available during the Festival of Cranes will be a display of raptor hunting strategies presented by a professional falconer and his trained hawks and falcons. A houseboat tour will take visitors past a wide variety of water fowl followed up with a birding tour on land. Visitors that want to catch the unforgettable spectacle of thousands of geese and cranes leaving their nighttime roosts need to be at the festival before 5:30 am on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday – it will definitely be worth the effort.

The Festival of the Cranes in Socorro, New Mexico is an event that truly has something for everyone, from young to old, hobby birders to seasoned bird experts, and amateur to professional photographers – be sure that you don’t miss it!