New Mexico Birding Hotspots

December 6-9, 2024

An American Serengeti Safari

New Mexico is home to one of North America’s true can’t-miss birding hotspots. Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge located near Socorro, New Mexico hosts one of the continent’s most spectacular wildlife spectacles in fall and early winter. In October, Sandhill Cranes start arriving. The cranes are followed by an array of other species including ducks, geese (most notably Snow and Ross’s geese), and shorebirds which join together and congregate in the refuge’s wetlands and marshes. More than a dozen duck species overwinter in the area. Raptors, especially Bald Eagles, soar overheard in search of the abundant prey now available.

A true highlight of our trip to Bosque del Apache is witnessing an early morning “fly-out”, when thousands of geese and cranes take flight from their overnight roosts.

In addition to Bosque del Apache, we’ll explore Albuquerque birding hotspots. We’ll visit Sandia Peak, a haven for all three species of rosy-finches in colder months, along with Petroglyph National Monument, Embudito Canyon, and Rio Grande Nature Center.

This trip is timed to maximize opportunities to showcase why New Mexico is home to one of the highest bird species lists in the US. We have strategically selected areas so that we have the time and space to truly enjoy our wildlife experiences in true Reefs to Rockies style. We’ll travel in a custom American Safari van with a conversion pop-top, 4WD, and spacious seating. This is not the traditional passenger van you may have traveled in on past trips. This one-of-a-kind vehicle has been specially designed by two wildlife biologists to allow for optimal viewing. It makes a perfect ‘blind’ and there’s ample room for everyone to view at the same time.

Join Front Range Birding Company and Reefs to Rockies for this unforgettable weekend getaway highlighting what makes this region of New Mexico so special.

CONSERVATION IMPACT: The Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT), founded in 1998, creates and protects a network of shortgrass prairie preserves, ensuring a future for native flora and fauna including bison, prairie dogs, coyotes, beavers, badgers, black-footed ferrets, swift foxes, and numerous bird species. A donation to SPLT to aid in their land acquisition efforts will be made on behalf of all participants.


ABOUT YOUR EXPEDITION LEADER: Chip Clouse is a long-time bird tour leader and Reefs to Rockies’ Lead Naturalist Guide. He’s also ProStaff for Opticron Optics and Former Manager of Front Range Birding Company.

Originally enamored with tooth and claw predators, his fascination with birds started by volunteering with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to monitor Peregrine Falcon nest sites. His fascination and love for birds was cemented once he saw his first Western Tanager while working for the Peregrine Fund in Oregon. Chip’s experience includes 20 years of bird research and project management experience in nine states and the Caribbean nation of Grenada, a Masters in Conservation Biology from Colorado State University, five years with the American Birding Association, two years as a rep with Novagrade Digiscoping adapters and stints guiding at 15+ different US birding festivals. Chip is excited to share his love of New Mexico’s natural history during this trip.


Day 1 (Fri, Dec 6): Albuquerque to Sandia Peak and Socorro ~ Morning arrival to Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ Airport). Chip will meet the group on arrival with “The Roaming Bison” safari vehicle. We’ll start with a visit to Sandia Crest, a hotspot just east of Albuquerque, that’s a winter haven for flocks of Gray-crowned, Black, and Brown-capped Rosy-Finches. We also may find Clark’s Nutcrackers, Red Crossbills, and other higher elevation highlights before making our way south to Socorro. We’ll make stops along the way showcasing New Mexico’s diverse habitats.

Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express Socorro

Meals: Lunch and Dinner

Plan to arrive to ABQ Airport by 11 am this morning.

Day 2 (Sat, Dec 7): Bosque del Apache ~ We’ll wake up early this morning and head to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge arriving before sunrise and the dawn “Fly Out”. Breakfast will be back at our hotel and then we’ll explore Water Canyon before an afternoon return to Bosque to enjoy the refuge’s Auto Tour Loop from the comfort of our game viewing vehicle.

Accommodations: Holiday Inn Express Socorro

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Day 3 (Sun, Dec 8): Socorro to Albuquerque ~ We make our way back to Albuquerque today. This afternoon, we’ll visit Rio Grande Nature Center and Petroglyph National Monument. More than 300 species of birds have been observed at Rio Grande Nature Center, including the Greater Roadrunner, New Mexico’s state bird. Petroglyph National Monument protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, a valuable record of cultural expression of Native Americans and early Spanish settlers. There’s even a petroglyph of a macaw representing this bird’s importance in Pueblo culture.

Accommodations: Hampton Inn & Suites Albuquerque North/I-25

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Day 4 (Mon, Dec 9): Departure ~ We have until this afternoon to continue birding Albuquerque area hotspots. Locations will be determined based on group’s interests and recent sightings.

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Plan to depart ABQ Airport at 4 pm or later today.


Price: $1900* per person based on two people sharing a double occupancy room. Add $295* if you prefer a private, single occupancy room.

Inclusions: accommodations, transportation in “The Roaming Bison” Custom Safari Van, driver/guide (Chip Clouse), daily guided wildlife viewing with spotting scope available, gratuities for your guide and at restaurants for included meals, entrance fees, and meals as listed. Trip starts and ends at Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ Airport).

Exclusions: flights, one dinner, travel insurance, optional gratuities for hotel staff, and activities not listed in the itinerary.

*Reflects payment by check or ACH. Credit card fees assessed at time of payment.

Group Size: Min 5 and Max 7 participants + Chip Clouse. We are known for having smaller group sizes with a better participant to guide ratio than most companies offering similar itineraries.

A Note About Gratuities – Your trip cost includes gratuities for your guide, as well as at restaurants for included meals. This allows us to reliably and equitably compensate everyone working so hard to keep you happy, healthy, and safe during your trip.

Level of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. Most of our observations at Bosque del Apache will be from the Roaming Bison. When seeking out birds on foot, there will be primarily short to moderate walks on a variety of terrain, though mostly even. In some of the mountain canyons, we will walk mostly on established trails of varying steepness with some uneven, rocky terrain. Opportunities to walk off trail under trees with a grass understory exist but are not required. Snowy conditions are possible at Sandia Peak. Most walks will be less than a mile with a total distance of up to two to three miles on a given day. Ability to climb up and down from a passenger van that is lifted for 4WD (stool provided) is required.

Reserve Your Spot Now!
by Sheridan May 19, 2024