Our adventure to Bosque del Apache began at a hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After a wonderful evening with group orientation and dinner, everyone packed up their gear and had a short rest in preparation for time together.
The next morning started off bright and early with a quick breakfast in the hotel lobby before departing at 5 a.m. We drove straight to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to photograph the snow geese blast off that occurs at sunrise. An ideal blast-off would be all the geese departing at the same time.
However, there were a few mornings when the geese took flight in smaller groups rather than as one large flock. There were also times when a cloudy morning caused beautiful colors in the sky, resulting in amazing bird photographs. This was great for landscape photography since the colors reflected off the water and surrounded the silhouettes of the waterfowl.
After the blastoff, we drove to a second pond to photograph the sandhill cranes as they began departing from their roost. Considering their take-offs weren’t as dramatic as the snow geese, it gave the guests plenty of opportunities to practice photographing birds in flight. Occasionally, this would give us a second opportunity to photograph the snow geese. Hours were spent at the pond photographing birds. Red-wing and yellow-headed blackbirds danced around the water’s edge and among the grassy fields. Mallards and pintail ducks dabbled in the mud. There were a couple of times during the second tour when we were gifted with the sight of a couple of coyotes hunting rodents among the vegetation. With a lot of patience, many photography opportunities presented themselves to us.
Aside from photographing waterfowl, we also drove around the refuge searching for other animals. Mule deer and turkeys were seen grazing in the fields. Red-tail hawks perched in the trees while northern harrier hawks glided over the wetland. Collared peccaries, also known as javelinas, scurried beneath the trees and foraged on the forest floor. As a final stop before having lunch at 11 a.m., we stopped at the refuge’s visitor center. At the center, they had multiple bird feeders, an artificial pond, and trails scattered along with a native garden which provided great habitat for songbirds. This area was a test of your patience and skill as a bird photographer. Especially since the birds were constantly on the move.
After having lunch in San Antonio we took a two-hour scenic drive to Alamogordo, NM, which is home to White Sands National Park. Originally known as a National Monument, White Sands became a national park in 2019. It is located in the Tularosa Basin and is known for being the largest gypsum dune field in the world. After checking into the hotel, we entered the park at around 3 p.m. to photograph the sunset before having dinner at 6 p.m.
The next morning, we returned to White Sands to enjoy and photograph the sunrise over the dunes and distant mountains. Our time in White Sands was short, but it was still a rewarding experience and a fascinating place to visit. After a few hours in White Sands, we had a warm breakfast at a tasty cafe before returning to Bosque del Apache for the evening.
The next day we departed our hotel in Socorro at 5:30 a.m. to score another chance at the blastoff. At about 10 a.m. we returned to Socorro for breakfast before having an afternoon break back at the hotel. During this break, the guides offered the option to have a two-hour classroom session where we discussed Adobe Lightroom techniques. Following the class, we ventured back out into the field to spend the evening photographing more birds. Group one went to Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Management Area, while Group two returned to Bosque Del Apache. After sunset, Group one had dinner in Socorro before traveling to the Very Large Array (VLA) to practice night sky photography.
The Very Large Array Radio Telescope facility was located 50 miles west of Socorro on the Planes of San Agustin, at about 7,000 feet above sea level. The facility contains 27 radio antennas which are arranged in a y-shape configuration. Sadly, due to COVID restrictions, the facility was closed, limiting us to only two satellites near the road. That didn’t stop us from getting great photos of the satellites in the foreground and the stars in the background. After 9:30 p.m. we departed the research facility to return back to Socorro. As for group two, we took a different route. Because of high winds and a partly cloudy sky, the second group agreed not to visit VLA. Instead, we had dinner in San Antonio before returning back to Socorro for the night.
The final morning of the week-long expedition was spent photographing sandhill cranes. The waterfowl management area turned out to be a success and was a chance for the guests to have one final photo adventure before returning home.
After a few hours, we returned to Albuquerque, New Mexico concluding the tour at 10 a.m. It was a wonderful expedition with great folks and a lot of birds. We look forward to seeing you next winter.
Trevor LaClair is an explorer who is passionate about wildlife. He has spent many years working with and around animals of all kinds, both in captivity and in the wild. The animals he enjoys the most are megafauna and dangerous animals. After growing up in Missouri, Trevor ventured across the country guiding in different places, including the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where he spent his free time tracking grizzlies and watching wolves.
After receiving his Bachelors in Fisheries and Wildlife from the University of Missouri, Trevor obtained a Masters in Biology from Miami University. During the past few years, Trevor has had epic adventures exploring places such as Komodo National Park, Serengeti, and the Great Barrier Reef. He loves playing outside and going on epic adventures. His mission is to inspire people around the world to appreciate nature and conserve this planet’s natural wonders. Through entertainment and education, Trevor uses the power of media to bring viewers on global adventures and up close to amazing animals. You can follow Trevor LaClair on his adventures by checking out his website trekkingwithtrevor.com.