The evening air is crisp as the colors of sunset spread across the horizon in red, purple, pink, orange, and lavender. Everyone is scanning the horizon while listening for the distinctive bugling and honking of the tens of thousands of sandhill cranes and snow geese returning from their day of feeding to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in San Antonio, New Mexico, just a dozen miles south of Socorro.
Visitors to the refuge lift binoculars and cameras mounted with hefty lenses as the immense flocks of birds zigzag their way down to the marshy waters to settle in for the night. While there are always visitors at the refuge, many more will flock here December 1 – 3, 2022, for the 33rd Festival of the Cranes, which celebrates the migration of the sandhill cranes and offers a wide range of educational workshops. The sandhill cranes migrate from Canada to winter in the Rio Grande Valley. Both the cranes and snow geese begin arriving at the refuge in late October, with numbers reaching in the tens of thousands throughout the Rio Grande Flyway from late November to early December.
The Festival of the Cranes celebrates both the return of the sandhill cranes and the delicate ecosystem that supports them. People who care about the New Mexico environment meet to have fun outdoors, visit with like-minded people, learn about birding, and improve their photography skills. For three days, visitors can watch and photograph the many birds and other animals of the refuge between workshops on nature photography, hikes with expert guides, and environmental education presentations. In the Expo Room, visitors will dedicate time to test a range of cameras, binoculars, and scopes; examine collections of books and guides; and experiment with a range of related accessories. The Expo Room is open to the public from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. each day. At the time of publication, there may be
limited spaces still available in the workshops. To view a catalog of all events and register, visit friendsofbosquedelapache.org/festival.
CRANE FIESTA: A VIRTUAL EVENT
While birdwatching and photography are major attractions of the Festival of the Cranes, there are many additional activities connected to the festival this year, including a virtual Crane Fiesta to be held on November 18 – 19. Crane Fiesta gives everyone the chance to experience the awe of the sandhill cranes and the beauty of the refuge from the comfort and warmth of home. Register for Crane Fiesta workshops and classes at friendsofbosquedelapache.org/festival. You can also enjoy a free virtual morning fly-out.
FESTIVAL OF THE CRANES EVENTS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
“We are thrilled to invite people back in person for the first time since 2019,” says Mary Ruff, Friends of Bosque del Apache NWR board president. “We hope people come to immerse themselves in this unique environment and enjoy the community built from a shared love of this place and these animals.” Some presentations on birding and environmental education are free. However, there are fees and limited space for most and you must register for any of the workshops. This year’s Festival of the Cranes features a Wildlife Zone for children of all ages and an arts and crafts fair, both of which are free and open to the public. The Wildlife Zone will be held Saturday, December 3, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Macey Center on the campus of New Mexico Tech in Socorro. Many organizations will be on hand, some with rehabilitated wildlife or sharing activities, all creating memorable experiences. The Festival of the Cranes Arts & Crafts Fair will be held inside Socorro’s historic Garcia Opera House at California and Abeyta streets. Open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sunday, the event highlights New Mexico artists.
The Friends Dinner will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, December 1, at the Macey Center. Keynote speaker Barnaby Briggs, current chair of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, will speak on the topic “Wetland Magic: The Role of Wetlands in a Changing World.” His talk will address the question: “How can we — citizens, consumers, organizations, and private corporations — collaborate to create and restore wetlands?” Barnaby has an impressive global career, working in North and South America, Asia, and Africa. He has practical experience working with local communities, scientists, local stakeholders, and commercial interests to make measurable change happen. Limited seating is available and tickets must be purchased in advance.
HOURS AT THE REFUGE
The refuge and trails are open to all. The Tour Loop is open from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. The tour loop entry fee for private passenger
vehicles has been waived during the festival. All field workshops will be held outdoors at the refuge. The City of Socorro and Socorro Consolidated School District will provide transportation on the refuge. All indoor seminars will meet in Macey Center classrooms. During the festival, the visitor center and nature store will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Other Socorro County venues will host events during the festival. You may choose to see other parts of Socorro County, learn about its history, check out arts and crafts, or visit Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, about 40 miles north of Bosque del Apache NWR.
Safety measures have been taken such as renting large classrooms that will not be filled to capacity — giving everyone space to be 6 feet apart. Buses on the refuge also will be filled only to a COVID-safe capacity. These measures are being taken to ensure everyone can relax and enjoy the beauty and wonder of the refuge and workshops indoors and outdoors. All indoor classrooms and the theater at Macey Center are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act
November 18 – 19, 2022
Festival of the Cranes
December 1 – 3, 2022
Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge and nearby locations
Story by Jackye Meinecke | Courtesy photos
Originally published in Neighbors magazine.
Posted by LasCruces.com