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Bosque del Apache & White Sands, New Mexico

For wildlife photographers, one of the most spectacular and photogenic assemblages of birds in the United States can be found at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in south-central New Mexico. Bosque del Apache, "woods of the Apaches," is a 57,331-acre wildlife oasis of upland desert and floodplain established in 1939. The Rio Grande flows through the heart of this fertile bottomland bringing year-round water to the refuge. Management of water levels in man-made marshes, and corn and wheat fields planted specifically for the birds, create an important overwintering habitat for the 14,000 greater sandhill cranes, 32,000 snow geese and Ross’s geese, and 20,000 ducks of 14 species that migrate here. Cottonwood and willow bosques line the riparian areas of the refuge providing an even broader range of habitats and the animals that dwell in them.

Bosque del Apache Photo Tour Slideshow In 1941, only 17 sandhill cranes overwintered on the refuge due to former habitat loss of wintering and breeding areas. These days, habitat enhancement supports the thousands of cranes that fan out by day to feed in the adjacent farm fields. Huge flocks of snow geese frequent the refuge, and often erupt in explosions of wings when frightened by a stalking coyote or an eagle coursing the marsh. Great flight shots are easy here! At dusk, flight after flight of geese and cranes return to roost in the refuge marshes, making for great evening (and early morning) “birdscapes.” At dawn, the “Fly Out” is an unforgettable experience—an all-enveloping synthesis of sight and sound. Coyotes, black-tailed deer, porcupines, pheasants, wild turkeys, roadrunners, great horned owls, and bald and golden eagles are all part of the diverse photo menu served up by the refuge. And, during our visit, the colors of late autumn may be complemented by a light dusting of snow.

Although we spend most of our time at Bosque, we also head to Alamogordo and nearby White Sands National Monument. Here, enormous gypsum sand dunes deposited in this intermountain valley by prevailing winds tower over the surrounding landscape. The undulating white dunes stretch for miles—like a frozen sea swell. We take best advantage of the early morning and late afternoon light to add color and texture to these wind-sculpted dunes.

Join Len Rue, Jr. and Paul Bannick for the spectacular bird photography of Bosque del Apache and the surreal landscapes of White Sands.

Day 1 (Dec 7)

Participants fly to Albuquerque and meet the leaders at the Albuquerque airport in the late afternoon for the drive to Socorro. The group meets for orientation and dinner at 6:30 PM. (D)

Days 2–4

At sunrise we begin photographing the morning flights of sandhill cranes as they leave their overnight roost. In the afternoon we photograph geese and cranes feeding in the fields, and look for massive fly-ups as predators stalk the flocks. We search for porcupine, coyote, wild turkey, deer, birds of prey and other animals. There are also many opportunities to photograph a variety of wetland habitats. Afternoons are reserved for flight shots at last light. (BLD)

Day 5

We drive to White Sands National Monument. Late afternoon photography at the dunes. (BLD)

Day 6

We arrange for an early entry at White Sands to be at the dunes before sunrise. Later in the day, we drive to Albuquerque for an overnight at our convenient airport hotel. (BLD)

Day 7 (Dec 13)

Participants depart at any time today (B)

Tour Details

December 7–13, 2013
$3,095 from Albuquerque, New Mexico

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