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The Literal Landscape
by Simmons B. Buntin, Editor/Publisher, Terrain.org

Flare: An Online Photo Gallery of Cranes and Geese at the Bosque del Apache


Flying Sandhill craneThe image of winter in the desert Southwest varies greatly: striations of snow on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, for example, or silver rain clouds settling low over a forest of saguaros.

In those rare dryland areas where water collects, winter also means wildlife, and few visual (or aural) experiences surpass the congregation of Sandhill cranes and snow geese at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Nestled along the Rio Grande in south-central New Mexico, the refuge straddles the northern edge of the Chihuahua desert.  The otherwise arid area includes nearly 13,000 acres of moist bottomlands and 9,100 acres of wetlands, farmlands, and riparian forest fed by water diverted from the river.

Over 340 species of birds inhabit the Bosque, and from November through February, as many as 17,000 cranes and 32,000 snow and Ross geese make the refuge their home. At dawn the birds leave the half-frozen ponds to feed in nearby fields; in the evening they return again. While the cranes leave in pairs or small groups after sunrise—lining up like airplanes on a runway—the clamorous geese rise from the water all at once, their white bodies gleaming in the morning sun. Their raucous departure is stunning, immersive—a strangely symbiotic and spiritual event.

Over the New Year my family drove from Tucson to the Bosque, a gain in elevation of nearly 2,000 feet. We arrived in the afternoon to welcome the birds’ advent, then woke before sunrise and bundled ourselves against the 15-degree morning to watch the birds flare into the day.

Enjoy my photos of the Bosque del Apache in this online gallery >>
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Simmons B. Buntin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments. With Ken Pirie, he is the author of the new book Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places (Planetizen Press, 2013). His books of poetry are Riverfall (2005) and Bloom (2010), both published by Ireland's Salmon Poetry. Recent work has appeared in North American Review, ISLE, Versal, Orion, Hawk & Handsaw, High Desert Journal, and Kyoto Journal. Catch up with him at www.SimmonsBuntin.com.
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All photos by
Simmons B. Buntin.


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