Sandhill Cranes flying out, Bernardo Wildlife Management Area, Bernardo NM, February 8, 2014

Collections / New Mexico / Bernardo Wildlife Mgt Area, Bernardo NM

The Bernardo Wildlife Management Area, in northern Socorro County, New Mexico, is in the Albuquerque Basin on the west bank of the Rio Grande just north and upstream from that river's confluence with the Rio Puerco.

The area attracts large flocks of wintering cranes, ducks, geese, and many other species of waterfowl, shorebirds, and birds of prey.

I've spent considerable time the last few winters photographing birds at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to the south in San Antonio NM and will visit Bernardo occassionally to see what’s happening.

Bernardo Wildlife Management Area

Bernardo is a tiny unincorporated community in Socorro County, New Mexico at the northern junction of US 60 and Interstate 25. Bernardo was named around 1902 after a friend of John Becker, a leading merchant in nearby Belen. The main point of interest is the nearby Bernardo Wildlife Management Area, visited by large flocks of sandhill cranes and other birds.

The New Mexico Department of Water Game and Fish manages the Bernardo Wildlife Management Area, a unit of the Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex. It covers 1,700 acres (690 ha) that have been set aside to provide a winter habitat for waterfowl such as ducks and geese and for sandhill cranes. A flock containing as many as 5,000 cranes may congregate at one time in the area. There are three observation decks along a 2.8 miles (4.5 km) dirt road near the Rio Grande. A separate 3 miles (4.8 km) loop goes through some of the huge, undeveloped area of grasslands along a deep channel of the Rio Puerco.

Fields of parched corn and of alfalfa are planted to provide bird food. The birds are wary of predators such as coyotes who may lurk in the standing corn, but sections are pulled down for them so they can eat in safety. In the winter some of the fields may be flooded, or there may be ponds where the cranes roost for safety. Mule deer sometimes share the fields with the birds.