2023 New Mexico – Bosque del Apache
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Challenging
Group Size Medium Group
Bosque del Apache is without a doubt the most popular birding destination in all of New Mexico, and for good reasons. It is the winter home of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, plus thousands of waterfowl, a fine variety of raptors, and many additional species. The name is Spanish for ‘Woods of the Apache’ and refers to the once extensive stands of cottonwoods along the Rio Grande that were used as refuge by native Americans.
Many of the cottonwoods remain, and the birds are still found in abundance. Just a few of the species that we are likely to see there include Crissal Thrasher, Pyrrhuloxia, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Loggerhead Shrike, and Gambel’s Quail. Large flocks of sparrows may contain Vesper, Lark, Brewer’s, Cassin’s, Black-throated, and others. It is a great location for Neotropic Cormorant, Virginia Rail, Sora, Marsh Wren, and Western and Clark’s Grebes.
Other areas that we will visit are Water Canyon, the Sandia Mountains (hopefully for all three ROSY-FINCHES!), and Elephant Butte Reservoir, an excellent spot for aquatic species. The Rio Grande Nature Center and State Park in Albuquerque is reliable for Western Screech-Owl and many additional species. Lots of birds without the crowds, plus beautiful scenery: those are the attractions of birding in New Mexico.
The maximum number of participants is seven. On rare occasions we may take as many as ten.
Duration: 9 days
Limit: 4 – 8
Date: 07 November – 15 November 2023
Start: Albuquerque, NM
End: Albuquerque, NM
US$3395 per person sharing assuming 4 – 8 participants
Single supplement: US$605
We can run the same trip at a price similar to the larger group price for 2 tour participants, if they rent their own vehicle and pay for fuel – please e-mail [email protected] for details.
- Guiding fees
- Entrance fees
- All transport while on tour
- Domestic and International flights
- Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts
- Alcoholic drinks
- Personal insurance
- Laundry Service
Rio Grande Nature Center and State Park
Plan to arrive in Albuquerque by early afternoon. We will begin our tour with a visit to the Rio Grande Nature Center and State Park. In the nature center pond and the adjacent large stands of cottonwoods we are likely to find our first Cackling Geese, Gambel’s Quail, White-crowned Sparrow, Wood Duck, and possibly a Western Screech-Owl or Great Horned Owl.
Bird Treks founder, Bob Schutsky, saw his very first Greater Roadrunner in this location more than 40 years ago! Unusual birds that we have found here included a very late Green Heron, a somewhat out-of-range Brown Thrasher, and a highly unusual Harris’s Sparrow, studied well in the spotting scope!
Today we climb into the sub-alpine zone of the Sandia Mountains to look for high elevation species such as Golden Eagle, Clark’s Nutcracker, and Red Crossbill. We’ll pass through additional elevational zones to search for the typical Rocky Mountain birds of the Ponderosa Pines. These include Steller’s Jay, Mountain Chickadee, and Pygmy Nuthatch. There is always the possibility of uncommon birds in these mountains, such as Northern Goshawk, Dusky Grouse, Pine Grosbeak (we have had GREAT looks at this beauty), and American Three-toed Woodpecker. Our past tours have yielded a mixed flock of all three species of Rosy-Finch high on the Crest.
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
We will drive south from Albuquerque to spend most of the day among the thousands and thousands of Sandhill Cranes that call Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge their winter home. There will be Bald Eagles and perhaps a Peregrine Falcon on the snags, Gambel’s Quail in the thickets, and Ross’s Geese among the thousands of Snow Geese.
Highlights at the feeding station should include Spotted Towhee, lots of Whitecrowned Sparrows, and perhaps a Whitethroated Sparrow or Yellow-headed Blackbird. We’ll scour all of the watercourses, lakes, and cottonwood groves (bosques) for wintering waterfowl, lingering shorebirds, and songbirds. In November 2008 an incredible SUNGREBE was found here!
Overnight: Truth or Consequences.
Desert Birding and Black Range
Today we’ll bird desert habitat more intensively to look for Cactus Wren, Curve-billed Thrasher, Pyrrhuloxia, and Phainopepla. Our next destination is the Black Range for more montane species that should include Pygmy Nuthatch, Cassin’s Finch, and Steller’s Jay. There is a chance that we could find a (Mexican) Spotted Owl in this area. The birding is nice and the scenery is spectacular.
Overnight: Truth or Consequences.
New Mexico State University, Dripping Springs, and Isaac’s Lake
New Mexico State University in Las Cruces has a resident population of Burrowing Owls on the campus. With any luck we will find them and have excellent views. Dripping Springs, located at the base of the Organ Mountains east of Las Cruces, is our next stop. The scenery here is spectacular. Towering granite cliffs serve as the backdrop for some great birding.
We should see Western Bluebird, Pyrrhuloxia, and hopefully many different sparrows – – we have found as many as TWELVE species. The highlight was definitely several Black-chinned Sparrows, but Green-tailed Towhee, Black-throated Sparrow, and a Fox Sparrow were also nice sightings. A stop at nearby Isaac’s Lake may add Brewer’s, Cassin’s, and Grasshopper Sparrows.
Elephant Butte State Park and Bosque del Apache
We’ll visit a few of the reservoirs that are the winter home of large numbers of aquatic species. Most notable among these is Elephant Butte State Park, with its selection of diving ducks, gulls, loons, grebes and more cranes. We could easily see Western, Clark’s, and Eared Grebes, American White Pelican, Bald Eagle, and Ross’s Goose.
Also possible are Barn Owl, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Crissal Thrasher, and Black Phoebe. Percha Dam is located farther south and is likely to yield White-winged Dove, Green-tailed Towhee, Pyrrhuloxia, Phainopepla, and Wilson’s Snipe. We once witnessed a close encounter here between an adult Golden Eagle and a stunning Prairie Falcon.
Returning to Bosque del Apache, which means ‘Woods of the Apache,’ we’ll explore the system of desert trails for Gambel’s Quail, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Verdin, Pyrrhuloxia, Black-throated and Sagebrush Sparrows, and Green-tailed Towhee.
In the afternoon it is back to the marshes and pools of the refuge. We’ll spend one more evening watching the flocks of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese go to roost, perhaps being stalked by several Coyotes. Then we’ll spend our second night in Socorro after a world-famous green chili cheeseburger at The Owl Restaurant (or something slightly calmer, if your stomach would prefer).
Water Canyon in the Magdalena Mountains
Today we’re back in the mountains. We’ll explore some middle elevation pinyon-juniper and ponderosa habitats west of Socorro that include Water Canyon in the Magdalena Mountains. Typical birds in this area are Pinyon Jay, Rock and Bewick’s Wrens, Mountain Bluebird, and Juniper Titmouse.
At 10,000 feet we are likely to find Clark’s Nutcracker and perhaps a flock of Red Crossbills and/or Pine Siskins. After an intriguing tour of the VLA (Very Large Array), some spotlighting may produce a Barn Owl or Badger on our return trip to Albuquerque, where we spend the night.
Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge
We’ll set out northeast from Albuquerque for Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge. This area is great for ducks and other diving birds, and the surrounding prairie is excellent for sparrows and raptors including Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, and Loggerhead Shrike.
Our final destination is the ski area at Santa Fe. This is excellent habitat for some montane species that may include Gray Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Dusky Grouse, and Williamson’s Sapsucker.
Sandia Crest and Heading Home
We may return to Sandia Crest for another chance at the Rosy-Finches or, if we did well with them earlier in the tour, go to Petroglyph National Monument to look for Sagebrush Sparrow. We usually find a small flock in the expansive sage habitat. Then we’ll drive to the airport for our mid-day flights home.
NEW MEXICO & BOSQUE DEL APACHE:
15-23 November 2004
Top 10 lists are voted upon by the participants at the completion of each tour.
1 – Black Rosy-Finch – excellent looks at a mixed flock of approximately 60 Black and Brown-capped Rosy-Finches at Sandia Crest feeders.
2 – Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch – a single bird of the Hepburn’s race coming to the same feeders. All three of the rosy-finch species were life birds for most of the tour participants.
3 – Harris’s Sparrow – an immature seen at close range through the spotting scope at the Rio Grande Nature Center.
4 – Prairie Falcon – a pair circling low over our heads at Las Vegas NWR.
5 – Pyrrhuloxia – many good looks of this handsome bird throughout the tour.
6 – Crissal Thrasher – nice views at an often elusive species at Bosque del Apache NWR.
7 – Sandhill Crane – large gatherings at Bosque plus a pair-bonding dance made this an all-around favorite.
8 – Black-chinned Sparrow – repeated good looks at a new location on our itinerary, Dripping Springs.
9 – Phainopepla – several good scope views of this rather tropical looking member of the Silky-Flycatcher family.
10 – Sage Sparrow – we had good looks at a small flock at Petroglyph National Monument on the final morning of the tour.
Mammalian highlights included a large herd of 30+ Pronghorn, several sightings of Mule Deer, Coyotes stalking Sandhill Cranes, a Badger, and the improbable-looking Abert’s Squirrel.
Will we do any birding the first day?
Yes! We have birding planned if time allows and everything is on schedule.
Please note the tour start time for Day 1, and plan your arrival accordingly. Some clients prefer to arrive the day prior to the beginning of the tour to eliminate any concerns with late arrivals.
Note: The hotel stay and meals are not included for the day/night prior to the start of the tour.
How should I dress for the tour?
Check the weather for the destination as close to your departure date as possible, and dress accordingly for your comfort level. You can also review our What to Bring page for more information.
Besides clothes, what do I need to bring?
There are many items the will be useful to you while on a Bird Treks tour. We have put together our list of recommendations on the What to Bring page.
What language are tours conducted in?
Our tours are all conducted in English, but we do have some experience working with client that don’t speak English well – Some English would be needed for safety reasons. In locations where another language is predominately spoken, a native guide may accompany the tour.
Can you help me book flights?
Yes, we will always try our best to help with anything at all! We’re here to serve you. However, it is usually easier if you book your flight through your own travel agent as we can’t always get the best deals from your particular country. But we will help whenever needed!
Can you book accommodation for us the night before the tour starts or the night the tour ends?
While Day 1 is usually a travel (arrival) day, and the last day of the tour is usually also a travel day (departure), many people do like to arrive early and/or leave late. We can indeed book extra nights before and after the trip, and we in fact recommend you let us book them, as it avoids confusion and allows us to book the accommodation that is most convenient for the tour.
NOTE: Most often it is the same hotel or lodge that you use on the first night of the tour, but in some instances, it could be an airport hotel or an accommodation establishment where the guide is staying.
Do you provide trip insurance?
No, we do not. We find that it is better for trip participants to purchase their own medical, trip cancellation, and baggage insurance through their own insurance provider in the country they reside in. We expect all tour participants to have comprehensive insurance, and we encourage everyone to send us a copy of their insurance documents.
Are meals included?
For most tours, meals are included in the tour price. This may include a hotel-provided breakfast, or guide-provided box lunches. For dinners, we strive to find interesting and delicious local restaurants – this allows us to give back to the local economy, and find exciting new place to eat.