WHAT TO BRING
First and foremost, bring your curiosity and enthusiasm about birds. If you have your own binoculars and field guide, that’s great. If not, WingsWest will be happy to loan you both. Temperatures can fluctuate greatly, especially in the spring and fall, so dress in layers (we may experience a change of seasons in one day). Sunscreen is always a good idea, even in winter, and sturdy comfortable walking shoes are a must.
(1-2 Persons = $105 / each additional person = $15)
Santa Fe Ski Basin: This tour (available May-July) surveys the breeding birds of four habitats in and around Santa Fe. The elevation gain of 3,000 feet exposes us to maximum bird diversity in a short period of time. Black-billed Magpie, Western Tanager, and Virginia’s Warbler are among the birds we may see.
Cochiti Lake: Cochiti Lake lies on the Rio Grande about 30 minutes south of Santa Fe. The combination of lake, canyon, and riparian habitats rewards us with interesting birding opportunities year-round. Wintering birds include Bald Eagle, Western Grebe and Mountain Bluebird, while in summer the focus shifts to songbirds such as Blue Grosbeak, Yellow-breasted Chat and Lazuli Bunting.
Espanola Valley: 30 minutes north of Santa Fe we can visit the valley where two major river systems of New Mexico, The Chama and the Rio Grande, meet. Some excellent examples of cottonwood groves, willow stands and marshes still remain. During the breeding season we will look for species such as Lewis’ Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Willow Flycatcher.
(1-2 Persons = $195 / each additional person = $25)
Las Vegas: Las Vegas is located one hour east of Santa Fe, where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. Our birding menu in this area is varied indeed as we can explore steep canyons, grasslands, lakes, and marshes, and several distinct forest zones. We also have access to several private ranches that consistently add to our sightings. Some breeding highlights include Clark’s Grebe, Long-billed Curlew, Yellow-headed Blackbird and Grace’s Warbler. In winter, we often see over a dozen Bald Eagles as well as Prairie Falcons, Ferruginous Hawks and other raptors.
Jemez Mountains: The Jemez Mountains, one hour west of Santa Fe, offer a spectacular array of volcanic mesas and canyons crowned by the awesome Valles Caldera National Preserve. Our breeding season tours feature species at the northern edge of their range such as Zone-tailed Hawk and Hepatic Tanager. Species in the heart of their range include Williamson’s Sapsucker, Dusky Flycathcer and Plumbeous Vireo. At Jemez Falls, we may catch a glimpse of the elusive Black Swift.
Upper Pecos Valley: The Pecos River begins its journey high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, about 45 minutes east of Santa Fe. This tour gives us one of the best opportunities in New Mexico to view American Dipper and Blue Grouse. In addition, our drive to the top of Elk Mountain (over 11,000′) brings us to the haunts of Gray Jay, Pine Grosbeak and Three-toed Woodpecker.
Sandia Mountains: The Sandia Mountains, located just east of Albuquerque, watch over the Rio Grande Valley in majestic silence. In summer, we can hear the trill of Black-chinned Sparrows in foothill canyons. Higher up, the buzzy song of the Black-throated Gray Warbler matches its dry Pinyon Juniper habitat. Still higher, the liquid song of the MacGillivray’s Warbler reflects the sound of the mountain creeks where it lives.
“Sunrise to Sunset” Tours
1-2 Persons = $235 / each additional person = $35)
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Socorro and the Magdelena Mountains: Two hours south of Santa Fe, and almost 3,000 feet lower, the Socorro area offers great year-round birding. Winter tours feature the unforgettable Bosque del Apache (“Woods of the Apache”) NWR where thousands of geese, crances, and waterfowl spend the colder months along with numerous hawks and eagles. In summer, the refuge morphs into a mecca for heron, egrets, and other marsh dwellers such as Common Moorhen, Least Bittern and Neotropic Cormorant. The nearby Magdelena Mountains beckon not only with relief from the valley heat but with the presence of species more typical of northern Mexico such as Red-faced and Olive Warblers.
Elephant Butte Lake: Tours to this part of the middle Rio Grande Valley generally require an overnight stay. Mild winters attract an interesting cross section of birds. Chihuahuan Desert regulars include Black-throated Sparrow, Pyrrhuloxia and Crissal Thrasher. The same habitat offers a winter haven for Sage Thrasher, Brewer’s Sparrow and Sage Sparrow. The lake itself hosts thousands of Western Grebes, plus wintering loons, gulls and eagles. Nearby Animas Creek makes us forget about the surrounding desert because of the massive sycamores that grow there. In winter, we expect to find Acorn Woodpecker, Bridled Titmouse, and Red-naped Sapsucker.
Cochas Lake and the Canadian River: 150 miles to the east of Santa Fe, we enter the Mesalands-a region of mesquite grasslands, and pinyon-topped red mesas. This truly is a region of “east meets west.” Mississippi Kites breeding along the Canadian River soar over rocky slopes that are home to Rufous-crowned Sparrows. Painted Buntings nest within earshot of melodious Canyon Wrens. The same woodlot at Conchas Dam hosts both Vermilion Flycatcher and Eastern Bluebird.
(email WINGSWEST for current prices)
Ranches of San Miguel County: Visit Clabber Hill, Ruby, Pritzlaff and Trout Springs Ranches with elevations ranging from 4-11000 feet. Breeding season tours typically discover over 170 species in seven major habitats.
Silver City and the Boot-heel: The Gila Mountains north of Silver City and the Peloncillo Mountains of extreme southwest New Mexico feature numerous species more typical of Sierra Madrean habitat of Mexico. Painted Redstart, Broad-billed Hummingbird and Greater Pewee are among the birds we typically find in the warm weather months. A survey along the Gila River itself usually uncovers Common Blackhawk, Gila Woodpecker and Hooded Oriole to name a few.
Carlsbad, Ruidoso and Roswell: From Sierra Blanca Peak at over 12,000 feet, to the Chihuahuan Desert along the Pecos River, at under 3000 feet, this area of southeast New Mexico provides us with the best example of “habitat compression” in the state. Birds typical of the central Rockies, such as Clark’s Nutcracker and Townsend’s Solitaire, are found in the mountains above Ruidoso. Northern Mexican species such as Magnificent Hummingbird and Montezuma Quail are along nearby creeks. The canyons of the Guadalupe Mountains are home to Gray Vireo,
Varied Bunting and Cave Swallow. The lush desert oasis of Rattlesnake Springs brings us excellent views of Orchard Oriole and Bell’s Vireo.