Join me at the Festival of the Cranes; Bosque del Apache NWR

The Sandhill Cranes of Bosque del Apache NWR.

Last year I went to the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache NWR and had such a great time I am planning on going again, this year–and maybe every year for the rest of my life! You can see my posts about that experience here:

If you are interested in Birding or in Bird Photography, then you may want to join me. The main draw for me was all the photography classes they offered, but if you just love birds and aren’t interested in photography there are still many classes you’ll be glad to take. See the entire list of classes here:

One of the classes I took last year was star photography at the VLA, where I took this shot. It was such a wonderful time, I’ll take the class again this year!

There are many classes for photographers, but there are many that anyone could enjoy, these two classes stand out for everybody:

  • Point & Shoot Nature Photography: $25  Serious nature photography is no longer the sole domain of the well equipped DSLR photographer. As thousands of photographers have discovered over the past few years, today’s long zoom Point and Shoot digital cameras, in the hands of a thoughtful and creative photographer, are capable of amazingly satisfying images of everything from birds and wildlife, to macros of wildflowers and insects, to grand landscapes and sweeping panoramas under dramatic skies…all in a relatively small, compact, and inexpensive package. This workshop provides a basic introduction to the cameras (including how to choose the best one for your needs) and techniques that put nature photography within the reach of anyone with the desire to share what they appreciate in the natural world. Part inspiration and part instruction, it will convince you that it is indeed possible to be a “real” nature photographer with a Point & Shoot camera.  Limit 20.
  • Deadly Beauty Behavior: $30 Live raptors in the field! Explore the strategies that hawks and falcons use to catch their prey and raise their young with falconer, raptor breeder, and wildlife rehabilitator Matthew Mitchell. Trained hawks and falcons will be released to fly, chase lures, and possibly even hunt wild quarry (viewers be warned!). This group will meet at the west side of the Owl Café in San Antonio at 8:00 AM and carpool a short distance to an area where the birds can be flown safely. Bring your questions and binoculars. Cameras are allowed, but no dogs, please.  Limit 30.

Last year I decided to go at the last minute so when I went to sign up for classes, many were full so I couldn’t take them–I’m not going to let that happen again this year! Registration for classes starts on September 8th for members of the Friends of the Bosque, and September 9th for non-members and I think I’m going to join just to get the 1 day head start!

The reason I’m posting this now is to invite you to join me in camping near the Bosque. Whether you just want to  camp with me on BLM land,  take a quick tour of the NWR, or even take some classes, it won’t cost much and you can travel with me on the way to Quartzsite. Here are some answers to questions you may have:

When is it? November 17-22, 2015. I’d prefer to avoid being there on the weekend but I think there is a class on Saturday I would like to take so I may be there until then.

Will we have to pay for camping? No,  I found a great, free campsite on BLM land about 10 miles north of the refuge. It even had decent internet. There is a $5 a day or $15 yearly pass to get into the Refuge. If you have the $80 Interagency pass like I do, or a federal senior or disability pass, you  can get in free. Get a Benchmark Atlas of the State from Amazon here: Benchmark New Mexico Road & Recreation Atlas

What will the weather be like? Last year the whole country was shivering in a deep freeze including the Refuge. It was very cold, down to the low teens every night. So come expecting and ready for very cold weather and if it’s warm you’ll be grateful. I recommend the Mr Buddy Heater from Amazon: Mr. Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Heater Be sure to get the Mr. Buddy filter to go along with the heater: MR Buddy Fuel Filter

Will it be crowded? I had worried about that last year but there were no crowds at all. But I didn’t stay until the weekend so it may get worse, but I doubt it will be unpleasant. This year I am planning to stay through the weekend.

Is there nearby shopping? There is a Walmart in Socorro, NM about 19 miles north of the Refuge.

Will I see many birds? Tons! To identify Birds this is one of the very best Field Guides, get it from Amazon here: National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America,

Is there anything else to do? It’s New Mexico, there’s plenty to see and do! I highly recommend this Photography Guide to New Mexico! I own it and wouldn’t go there without it! Get it from Amazon here: Photographing the Southwest: Volume 3–Colorado/New Mexico
Things that are fairly close by are:

  • Very Large Array radio-telescope
  • White Sands National Monument
  • Carlsbad Caverns NP
  • Gilla Cliff Dwellings NM
  • Petroglyphs
  • Roswell Aliens
  • Billy the Kid History
  • Ghost Towns

Where is it? The Refuge is 19 miles south of Socorro, NM and 96 miles south of Albuquerque, NM on I-25.


If you are interested in joining me let me know.

Photographing the Southwest: Volume 3–Colorado/New Mexico
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America
Photographing Birds: Art and Techniques
New Mexico Road & Recreation Atlas
Mr. Buddy 4,000-9,000-BTU Indoor-Safe Portable Heater
MR Buddy Fuel Filter

Come “land” at the Festival of the Cranes with me!

A star trail shot from the VLA.



I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

27 comments on “Join me at the Festival of the Cranes; Bosque del Apache NWR
  1. I would LOVE to go, Bob. Couldn’t find any info about the cost of registration, though. Is it just the cost of the classes?
    LaVonne Ellis recently posted…Respect yourselfMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Hi LaVonne, yes, there is no cost of registration. The only fees are the cost of getting into the Refuge itself (and with your Golden Age Pass it will be free) and the classes themselves. If you don’t take any classes it won’t cost you anything but the gas to get there.

  2. jonthebru says:

    There you go, off galavanting again!
    This really looks like a bucket list item if there ever was one. Cody has probably grown, he may need a new jacket to sleep in and keep warm.
    The Deadly Beauty Behaviour class sounds really amazing

    • Bob Bob says:

      jonthebru, he has grown! When I got Cody he was very skinny and he has filled out. I’ll have to get his coat out and see if it fits!

      I’m looking forward to that class the most. They will actually fly the falcons and we get to be right there and photograph them.

  3. Wayne (Wirs) says:

    I see Photomatrix is sponsoring a couple classes on HDR (high dynamic range) photography and processing (Wed and Fri 3pm). You shoot a lot of mid-day, bright sunlight shots Bob, so I highly recommend this class. HDR reduces the contrast and brings out detail in both the highlights and shadows which can produce a photo that is more in synch with the way the human eye sees. I shoot HDR all the time and use Photomatrix (and later, Nik filters) to process the shots.
    Wayne (Wirs) recently posted…What I Mean By “I, The Eternal”My Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Thanks Wayne, I’m more of a travel photographer than a fine art photographer so I shoot whenever it fits the schedule which tends to be mid-day. I doubt I’ll ever do anything with my photos than post them here, so I have to remind myself that I don’t need the very best shots. I’m pretty happy with my results now.

      That HDR class caught my eye as well and I may very well take it.

  4. Sameer says:

    This sounds very exciting. Now that I have bionic eyes, I am taking better pictures. May be 3 or 4 out of 75…might be good. Hahaha! I would love to learn night sky photography. I recently added a tripod and would like to learn to take pictures of the stars and planets. Actually looking forward to weather…cold in the mornings! I am marking this on my January list of Adventures!
    Sameer recently posted…Join me at the Festival of the Cranes; Bosque del Apache NWRMy Profile

  5. PamP says:

    Wow! Your enthusiasm is infectious! Enjoy and tell us all about it.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    getting closer to the time when we’ll hit the road, as my husband may retire next year and we have our van. in the meantime i’ve gotten my certification as a naturalist at a 15,000 acre nature preserve/research center as well as a becoming a certified interpretive guide through NAI, national interpretive association. doesn’t mean i know all the trees and birds, but more that i’m trained to interact with the public and share the wonders of nature. it’s been fun and i figure it’s a good think to have in my back pocket in case we want to settle down for a season in a park. anyway……..i’m in a book club with NAI and wanted to pass on a book you and many readers may love. it’s called THE ADVENTURES OF A NATURE GUIDE and you can download it for free at the below site since it’s copy written in 1920. it’s a wonderful little book with some fabulous quotes.

    “Irresistible is nature’s call to play. This call comes in a thousand alluring forms. It comes at unexpected times and sends us to unheard-of places. We simply cannot tell what nature will have of us, or where next. But from near and far, ever calls her eloquent voice. In work and in dreams she shows a thousand ways, suggests the presence of wonderlands yet unseen. She pictures alluring scenes in which to rest and play; in mysterious ways she sends us eagerly forth for unsealed heights and fairylands. Of these she whispers, or of them she sounds her bugle song. She fascinatingly commands and charms us to other scenes. We rush to respond and fix our eyes on a happy horizon, toward which we hurry; but ere we reach it she calls elsewhere, and elsewhere, with highest hopes of a boy at play, we hasten. It”

    LOVE IT!

    Mills, Enos Abijah (2015-06-21). The Adventures of a Nature Guide (Kindle Locations 925-931). . Kindle Edition.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Elizabeth, I think you will be very glad you got that certification, I’m sure it will open up lots of wonderful opportunities for you!

      Thanks for the link to the book, I’ll have to get it!

  7. Susan Wade says:

    WOW – thanks for the reminder!

  8. Susan Wade says:

    The Festival schedule looks great and I would love to take Roman’s Nighttime Photography class but I am not an “advanced” photographer. Would it be way above me and money poorly spent?

    • Bob Bob says:

      Susan, you need a pretty advanced camera. Any DSLR would work. You need:

      1) High ISO
      2) As wide an angle lens as possible
      3) Control over the aperture and as fast an aperture as possible
      4) Manual control over the shutter speed. We’ll shoot at 30 seconds and 15 minute exposures.
      5) Manual focus
      6) A cable shutter release
      7) Good quality tripod

      If your camera can’t do those things you won’t get any shots so the class would be a waste. If your camera can do that then you can take the class. Roman is a good teacher and he has numerous helpers. If you have the camera you can get the pics! The gal beside me was lost while we were shooting and Roman came over and figured out her camera for her and got her going. She went away with some nice shots!

      I love talking photography so I’d be glad to tell you everything I know!!

      • Susan Wade says:

        Great info- thanks!

        I have the camera (NikonD7000) but not the lens… guess I’ll have to decide about a new purcha$e! I read Roman’s ebook and know I need to practice manual settings. I’m planning on attending the conference but am still thinking about which classes to take. I’m not a bird photographer but I am a bird lover and this sounds like a fun opportunity

        • Bob Bob says:

          Sounds great Susan! If you are wanting to disperse camp let me know and we can camp together. My girlfriend Judy is uncertain if she’ll come. She doesn’t like the cold but that is a total unknown anyway. It just depends how the rest of our schedule falls together and I know nothing beyond the next day or two!

        • Bob Bob says:

          Susan, the problem is that stars are moving so to get an exposure that allows you to properly expose the stars will also show them blurring as they move. A supper wide angle lens hides that blur. You either need a very fast lens or a very wide lens, or both (big bucks!)

  9. jeff johnston says:

    Bob, where in Prescott AZ. do you camp for the winter? Im in the UP and will gradually make my way there as the temps go lower. My brother has a PHD in both astro physics and geo physics. He knows alot about terrain and the skies. All I know is they are beautiful and have been around a long time.Jeff the nomad

    • Bob Bob says:

      Jeff, Prescott is too cold to spend my winter there, so I move down to the desert. Usually I am in the area around Quartzsite, AZ. I don’t think there are any observatories around Prescott, but Flagstaff is 50 miles away and it has several there. It’s much too cold to spend the winter.

      See you soon!

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