Friday, November 21, 2008

SUNGREBE Status - 11/21/08

Hi all. We've now spent 3 full days waiting for the Sungrebe to return to the public areas it was seen a week ago Thursday and last Tuesday. NO such luck. The bird may have moved, passed on, or simply be hanging out in the closed area, though refuge personnel have been looking for it with no success. Doesn't mean it's not there, could be very difficult to spot. Anyhow we'll keep our eyes open and report daily on any activity (calls will go out much sooner if anything positive develops).

This female Sungrebe was photographed on 11/18 at Audio Stop 8 on the Marsh Loop. It It was seen and photographed earlier (11/13) about a mile downstream of this location, but on the same ditch.

Sungrebe belongs to a family with only three species worldwide. Called finfoots, they are actually more closely related to the rails than to grebes. The Sungrebe is often called the American Finfoot. The species ranges from northern South America through Central America and up the east coast of Mexico to almost central Tamaulipas, not far (150-200 miles) south of Brownsville, TX. There are anecdotal reports of sightings as close as 100 miles south of Brownsville. There are no previous modern records of Sungrebe in the United States. Some of the old time (early to mid 1800's) ornithologists mention Sungrebes, but evidently this does no constitute a valid record without more details and prefereably a specimen.

2008 Festival Art on T-shirts, mugs, pins, totes...

Below is a picture of the Festival Art 2008. This image is featured on the Festival T-shirts, mugs, pins, tote bags...
Sales from the Bosque Nature Store (online at Friends of the Bosque and at the Nature Store at the Refuge 575-835-1828) all help to fund the Friends of the Bosque's wonderful educational and other valuable programs - all which support the Refuge!

Friday at the Festival of the Cranes

Today ( this is just a sampling of the dozens of tours and workshops!) we are looking forward to Black Belt Birding workshop/tour, Sandhill Crane Behavior, Birds of New Mexico -
Since New Mexico's wildlife habitats range from semi-arid desert to coniferous forests, it is no wonder that the bird life here is diverse. Mary Alice Root, past president of the New Mexico Ornithological Society, will give a slide presentation on birding in New Mexico, and later on she will also conduct "A Birder's Guide to the Evolution of Birds." She will explain how we know that birds shared the skies with the pterosaurs and the shallow seas and shorelines with the dinosaurs, and will discuss the over 200 million year evolution of birds. Fascinating!
There are so many offerings here at the Festival! A new one for me is a lecture "Principles of Stalking Bird Photography" by veteran birder John Shipman who enjoys the type of bird photography that emphasizes portability, going on foot almost anywhere a birdwatcher with binoculars would go - it's bird photography without tripods!
All About Raptors with Dr. Kathleen Ramsay is a comprehensive course on the identification of birds of prey, combining live demonstration birds, photographs and field observation to help us learn to recognize the plumage variations in red-tailed hawks to telling the age of an immature bald eagle. Dr. Kathleen Ramsay started the Wildlife Center in Espanola, NM, over 20 years ago and provides veterinary care for hundreds of raptors every year. She is also one of the primary field veterinarians for the New Mexico Game and Fish Department.
oh yes and the Sevilleta Geology Tour! We will see areas of Sevilleta not open to the public. This is one of the rare opportunities the Festival provides along with
More news later, and we sure hope Jerry will add photos of the SUNGREBE!

Thank You All Volunteers! & The National Volunteer of the Year

The Friends Annual dinner was held last night and John Bertrand was honored as the 2008 National Volunteer of the Year for the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)!
This is a Tremendous National Honor!
This is in recognition of many years of volunteering and many thousands of hours. Details of his help and contributions are on the Friends' web site by clicking here: Volunteer of the Year
Thank you John, and Thank you ALL volunteers! With your help, the Refuge will thrive!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Weekly Waterfowl Survey
Bosque del Apache Numbers as of 20-Nov-08
Ducks ... 23000
Canada Geese ..... 360
Light Geese ..... 37400
Sandhill Cranes .....4750
Bald and Golden Eagles ..... 2
Swans ..... 0
American White Pelicans ..... 0
American Coot ..... 570
Marsh and Water Birds ..... 16
Shorebirds ..... 4
Gulls and Terns ..... 3
Hawks and Owls ..... 14

Rare Birds Noted at Refuge
Sungrebe - A Central & South American species.Photographed on Nov 13th & 18th. Not seen on Nov 19th.

Rare Bird?

Rare bird seen at the Refuge-The NM rare Bird Alert report reads something like this:
JK on November 14 took a photo of an unknown bird at
Bosque del Apache Refuge which was identified by SF on
November 17 as a SUNGREBE. It is not known from whence
it came, but JO and around 30 others saw it on the east
side of the Farm Loop between Audio Stops 7 to 9 on
November 18. MB and JSt report that it was not seen on
November 19, but hopefully it has retreated into the
restricted area where no one may follow and will reappear.
For notes on the Sungrebe, please see:
Oldenettel's Page

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

First Day of Festival

The workshops today were exciting, and one of the most popular ones is Sandhill Crane Behavior. This year the workshop is led byPaul Tebbel and Keanna Leonard. There were 17 registered for the class, and we learned common vocalizations, body language and other characteristics of sandhill cranes. We learned how to recognize juveniles, tell subspecies apart, distinguish between dancing and aggression and many other details. For me, Sandhill Cranes are one of the most fascinating birds with their roots going back to the Eocene, some 40 million years ago. Seeing them at their winter home at the Refuge and learning about them is exciting! At first light we listened to the cranes on their roosting spots, identifying vocalizations and other behaviors. We then went to the classroom for breakfast and viewed many behaviors on film before traveling to different locations on the Refuge to watch and interpret crane interactions. It was a great morning!

Festival goers are always excited about and quickly fill the workshop Digital Photography with Long Lenses conducted by Jerry Goffe and co-instructors It is a fabulous 3-day experience on wildlife and nature photography- sunrise and sunset photographing sandhill cranes, geese, other animals and landscapes of the Refuge. Jerry is a great and knowledgeable guy and his co-instructors are so helpful and are professional photographers as well.

Deadly Beauty Behavior, a fascinating class with Matt Mitchell and his trained hawks and falcon takes you out on in the open country on the other side of the Rio Grande and gives you a wonderful opportunity to learn and see a variety of behaviors and also to photograph these birds in action. I took this class a few years ago and found it quite exciting. I'll look for one of the photographs (of his Harris Hawk) and post it when I get a chance.

I took the Land, Sea and Air trip in 2006 with Steve Green at Elephant Butte Lake, and it was a fun experience filled with grebes. I haven't heard this year how the birding was, but the weather is fantastic, and sea birds, diving ducks, cormorants, grebes, white pelicans and more should be around, and the the dramatic geological setting at the lake is worth seeing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Festival is about to begin!

The Festival is about to begin, and everything is looking great- Many volunteers (Friends of the Bosque!) are working so hard to make this Festival a success, and they are doing this because they love the Refuge and the birds and wildlife who rely on it for their survival. Volunteers are ready to help you at the Refuge decks, and have been busy printing banners, handouts & signs; getting the Friends' tent ready; helping with the Art Tent and the Exhibitor Tent; and working in the Bosque Nature Store so the non-profit Friends can support the Refuge and continue their wonderful educational programs!
The Refuge sure has a great bunch of Friends! Do join Us and become a Friend, too (if you haven't already!!)
Now ..... on to the latest bird count which was done on Nov 13, 2008
Ducks 23,840 - Canada Geese 114 - Light Geese 20,300 - Sandhill Cranes - 4100 - Bald & Golden Eagles 1 -American Coot 295 - Marsh & Water Birds- 14 - Hawks & Owls 15
Cranes and other birds are still arriving, and increasing throughout the whole Middle Rio Grande area.

(All photos on this blog are under copyright. The photographers gave us permission to use them, but they may not be used by anyone else for any purpose in any medium. Thanks for your understanding!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

 We are about a week away from the start of the 21st Annual Festival of the Cranes, and, as always, the Refuge is looking beautiful, and there is  a lot to see and do! As of November 7, the weekly Waterfowl Survey count is: 18,367 Ducks, 222 Canada Geese, 14,100 Light Geese, 4108 Sandhill Cranes, 2 Bald & Golden Eagles, 300 American Coot, 24 Marsh & Water Birds and 19 Hawks & Owls. More are arriving daily.
The count is updated weekly throughout the winter and can be found at the Friends web site at
We look forward to seeing you at the Festival of the Cranes