Phil Norton Blind, Ducks Unlimited Pond
San Antonio, New Mexico 87832
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge website
Friends of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge website
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge Important Bird Area (Audubon) website
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge map
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Bosque del Apache NWR–Phil Norton Blind/ Ducks Unlimited Pond
Coordinates: 33.8264827, -106.8813705
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Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge Auto Tour Loop
Toward the end of the westward portion of the North Loop, a sign reading “Observation Blind” indicates the parking area for Phil Norton Blind and Ducks Unlimited Pond. From the parking area, you walk across a bridge over the ditch, cross the maintenance road, and begin a trail of only about a quarter-mile. (Do not stray up or down the maintenance road; both for visitor safety and to reduce stress on wildlife, the road is closed to visitors.) The finely-graveled trail is flat and wheelchair traversable.
A short way down the trail, which is flanked by sunflower and cottonwood at the beginning, is an observation blind consisting of a high wooden wall with large round viewing cut-outs, reminiscent of ship portholes. The field onto which these windows look was previously managed as a seasonal wetland, but choices regarding scarce water use have recently left the field dry. The large, mistletoe-covered cottonwood at the blind shades a picnic table, and at times Phainopepla may be seen in its branches.
After the blind itself, the trail continues northeast to a field managed as a seasonal wetland, which is also viewable from the east if the Farm Extension to the North Loop is open. When flooded during early winter, thousands of Snow Goose, Sandhill Crane, Northern Pintail, and Mallard gather to feed in this field, often under the watchful eyes of Bald Eagle and Common Raven. These are accompanied by flocks of hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds. Except for the summer months, look for Northern Harrier and Western Meadowlark in this field when it’s dry.
Seasonally, sunflower, cottonwoods, and bushes along the trail offer Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Flicker, Say’s Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrike, Western Bluebird, American Robin, Pine Siskin, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, and Spotted Towhee. Wild Turkey (Rio Grande subspecies) sometimes wander through the wooded area near the trail’s beginning during late winter and early spring.
Be sure to scope the ditch from the bridge. American Coot and Great Blue Heron are the most likely species on or near the water, whereas bushes higher up may hide White-crowned and Song Sparrow.
Directly south of the parking area, across the North Loop road, is a smaller ditch and brushy area. A few minutes roadside here can reward the birder with sparrow species and Gambel’s Quail. However, be careful not to fall through the dead kochia hiding the mouth of the ditch!
From John Montgomery
About Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1939 to provide a critical stopover for migrating waterfowl, the refuge is well known for the thousands of sandhill cranes, geese, and other waterfowl that winter here each year.
Situated between the Chupadera Mountains to the west and the San Pascual Mountains to the east, the 57,331-acre refuge harbors a wild stretch of the Rio Grande, a ribbon of cottonwood and willow trees visible on the landscape from distant mesas.
Petroglyphs tell the story of ancient people that lived and hunted here. The river and its diversity of wildlife have drawn humans to this area for at least 11,000 years when humans migrated along this corridor, sometimes settling to hunt, fish and farm. Artifacts and stone tools found nearby tell us that nomadic Paleo-Indian hunters pursued herds of mammoth and bison in the valley.
Today, Bosque del Apache is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, a national network of lands and waters set aside and managed for the benefit of wildlife, habitat, and you.
From Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge website