Continuing from my last blog about my recent trip to New Mexico, today we move up north along Interstate 25 (exit 175) to the area of Bernardo. Bernardo is a small community located along the highway and near the Rio Grande river. The main attraction within is the Bernardo Wildlife Area. For those of you in the Albuquerque area, it’s an easy drive south being just 50 miles away.
The area is about 200 acres, and the land provides corn fields for the sandhill cranes and snow geese to feed on. About 40,000 of these birds stop by each winter, and by offering this particular feeding area, it helps keep the birds away from the other farms throughout the Rio Grande Valley. There have recently been some improvements in the wildlife area, such as some hiking trails and viewing areas. These are sure to appease bird watchers and photographers.
The loop is a very friendly dirt road that is about 3 miles long. You can pull over along the dirt ways or find a designated area to park and hike/view. Along the loop, you will also find three elevated observation decks. These make for great spots to check the wildlife from slightly above the land.
Towards the last half of the loop, you will find a designated parking area. Here you will see an information sign that details the Bernardo Bird Refuge, along with a small trail that leads to a picnic table. Perhaps consider packing a sandwich, and enjoy the sounds while you snack. At the end of the trail resides a viewing area with a bench that also shields you from the weather elements. Rain, wind, and snow can be common in the winters here and it will get chilly. It should also be noted that there is a small restroom in this same parking area.
After you pass this area, you will see and have viewing access to two more fields. On my particular trip to Bernardo this year, the last field was the best area with the most birds. I also witnessed a spectacular snow geese launch in this field that made my day! Having said that, though, each year, corn will be planted in different areas or farms within the loop year to year. This is because of the nitrogen levels in the soil. You do not want to deplete them by growing in same field consistent seasons, as the corn yield would otherwise be lower.
You will typically see the snow geese and sandhill cranes sharing the good eats together daily during this time of year. Because of all the cultivated fields with a variety of open landscape, fields, and woods, you may also see owls, hawks, raccoons, deer and coyotes. There is also about 12 different duck species that can be viewed in the area, so keep an eye out for them as well.
The cornfields that you see get mowed down in the fall, so birds can easily reach the grain. Some of the corn gets knocked over with a pole, so that the taller cranes may feed easier and not worry about the geese. Overall, if you are in the Socorro area, or cruising along I-25, I encourage you to take the quick wildlife tour loop. It’s a small, but a special place for the birds and we are lucky enough to have access with a great view to observe and soak it all in. At the bottom of this blog, you will find the loop map along with some other relevant info such as visiting hours and a phone number. This is the same map and information available at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge located south of Bernardo and north of Socorro. For even more information about the Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex, which is the Bernardo Waterfowl Management Area, check the Visit Socorro Website. If you want to see your travel time to the Bernardo Bird Refuge, here is the Google Map.