Western Tanager | Photo by Alex Harper

By Trisha Sanchez, Friends Donor Care Manager

Do you love birds? Do you want to learn more about their fascinating lives and incredible adaptive behaviors? Would you cherish the rare opportunity to behold the exquisite beauty of dozens of species of cacti and native plants in bloom all at once? Are you passionate about how you can make a difference in the shared water future of the Middle Rio Grande Valley? If you answered yes to these questions, then mark your calendar for a special opportunity happening Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4. Join Friends as we celebrate the return of spring migrants and blossoming desert plants at beautiful Bosque del Apache NWR during our second annual Spring Migration Celebration!

We’ve planned two days of festivities that will offer something for everyone, including the Friends Annual Meeting, a keynote presentation by ecologist and local advocate for the Rio Grande, Gina Dello Russo, our annual Desert Arboretum Stroll, and a dozen guided birding workshops too, tailored to accommodate varied levels of birding skill and experience.

While the cost of each birding workshop is $45 (with the exception of the Youth Birding Adventure, which is $10), we are also offering three free events on Saturday, May 4: Friends Annual Meeting, Keynote Presentation, and Annual Desert Arboretum Stroll. (Please note that we must still require registration for the Annual Meeting and Keynote Presentation so that we can appropriately plan the set-up of indoor space. The Desert Arboretum Stroll is a “come and go as you please” outdoor stroll for which no registration is required.)

Food and drinks will also be available for purchase from one food vendor and one coffee vendor from 8:00am to 4:00pm both days. These vendors will be located on the refuge plaza, adjacent to the visitor center.

Please visit the Friends website for more details and to register: https://friendsofbosquedelapache.org/smc/

In-the-Field Birding Workshops

Expert birding guides, Holly Merker and Alex Harper will lead twelve two-and-half-hour birding workshops over the course of two days, starting at 6:30am on Friday, May 3. Sessions will cover a range of topics, from birding 101 and migration to bird language and behavior, and will wrap up with evening birding on Saturday, May 4 at 5pm.

For the younger birders in your group, we’re also offering a Youth Birding Adventure, occurring in two concurrent sessions: one for teens aged 13 – 17 and another for kids aged 5 -12 (who must be accompanied by an adult).

Birding guides, Holly Merker and Alex Harper









Please bring your binoculars, water, your own car and your own refuge pass. (Click here for more information on refuge passes.) We advise that you wear comfortable walking shoes and layers of clothing to be comfortable in changing temperatures. Meet us at the Visitor Center Parking Lot – please arrive 10-15 minutes early. All birding workshops require advance registration and cost $45 (with the exception of the Youth Birding Adventure, which is $10.)

Friends Annual Meeting  & Keynote Presentation

We’re excited to welcome you on Saturday, May 4, 2024, from 10am – 12:30 MST for our Annual Friends’ Meeting and Keynote Presentation. During the business meeting, from 10am – 11:15am, we’ll start off by hearing a State of the Refuge Report presented by Refuge staff, followed by an overview of Friends’ operations and accomplished in the past year, thanks to your donations and volunteer efforts. We’ll wrap up with a Financial Report presented by the Friends Board.

Following the meeting, from 11:30am – 12:30pm, will be our Keynote Presentation: A call to action – You can truly make a difference! delivered by Gina Dello Russo, local advocate for the Rio Grande.

As a riparian ecologist, Gina has been building regional interest in and capacity for addressing Rio Grande ecosystem restoration and long-term health for the last thirty years. She is from a farming family of the Socorro valley, New Mexico. She worked as a physical sciences technician, including work in groundwater and surface water hydrology and contaminants for fifteen years before getting a BS in Biology from UNM. Gina worked with the federal government for twenty-seven years, most of that time serving as Refuge Ecologist at Bosque del Apache NWR, where she focused on landscape scale ecosystem restoration on and off the refuge.

Gina says, “It is an exciting time for all to be engaged in discussions on our shared water future. There are opportunities coming up for Friends to meet other stakeholders in the Middle Rio Grande. Through shared learning and advocacy, we can assure that the natural environment along the Rio Grande, including the jewels of the national and state refuges, are protected and have the capacity to thrive in the future.”

In this Keynote Presentation, Gina will give a short overview of the available science that will inform how we move into our water future. She will also interest Friends in the many ways they can become involved in local and regional discussions and actions to assure that our shared voices are heard, and our concerns are addressed.

Annual Desert Arboretum Stroll

Echinocereus boyce thompsonii in bloom. | Photo by Cari Powell

By Cari Powell, Friends Desert Arboretum Manager

Do you have a favorite color? Maybe yellow, red, purple or even green? Maybe you’re like me and could never choose a favorite because they’re all so good? Either way, you’re bound to find a beautiful rainbow of cactus blooms at Friends’ Annual Desert Arboretum Stroll, during our Spring Migration Celebration! Come out and join us on Saturday, May 4, from 12pm – 2pm to see the Arboretum in its full glory.   

At the stroll you’ll be able to see the bright red, waxy flowers of the Echinocereus coccineus (claret cup cactus), the delicate purple blooms of the Echinocereus boyce-thompsonii (Boyce-Thompson hedgehog cactus), the fuchsia flowers of the Echinocereus bonkerae (Bonker’s Pinkflower hedgehog cactus) and even the tiny green blooms of the Echinocereus viridiflorus (Green-flowered hedgehog cactus). Can you guess the flower color for the Echinocactus texensis (Horse crippler) or the Mammillaria heyderi (Little pinchushion cactus)? You won’t have to guess if you come see for yourself at the Desert Arboretum Stroll!

Echinocereus coccineus | Photo by Cari Powell

This FREE “drop-in” style event will allow visitors to experience the beauty of spring in the Chihuahuan desert while strolling through Bosque del Apache’s prized Desert Arboretum. Over one hundred species of native plants can be viewed in the arboretum, and you will find many in bloom, as well as opportunities to observe native pollinators hard at work all along this accessible trail. Knowledgeable volunteers will be available to answer questions about the cacti, native plants, water-wise landscaping and even the critters who call the arboretum home.

We’ve had an exceptional group of dedicated volunteers working very hard this past year and we’re excited to show you around this special place. Don’t miss this opportunity to view the refuge garden at its finest. We hope to see you there!

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