- We take a scheduled flight from London to Houston and connect with a short flight to McAllen, Texas where we settle into the accommodation that is our base for exploring the wealth of birds along the Rio Grande. Welcome dinner.
- Accommodation: McAllen, 5-nights on full board basis.
In this fabulous part of the Rio Grande Valley, many Southern and Central American species have a 'claw-hold' in the USA. Noisy plain chachalacas attract attention, as do the bright colours of great kiskadees, Altamira orioles, green jays and possibly three species of kingfisher. Roadside telegraph poles can hold crested caracaras, while white-tailed kites and coyotes can also be seen from the roadside.Further inland lie Falcon Dam State Park and Salineno where we stand a chance of finding greater roadrunner and brown jay respectively. We also visit the coastal end of this superb river valley to search for more shorebirds as well as possibly two species of pelican, roseate spoonbill and American alligator.
- There may be an opportunity for one final birding outing in the McAllen area before we fly to El Paso in the far south-western corner of Texas. From here, we drive to Las Cruces in the state of New Mexico for an overnight stop.
- Accommodation: Las Cruces, 1-night on full board basis.
- Dripping Springs, nestled in the Organ Mountains, will be our first port of call. Here the birding can be difficult but rewarding, with such species as black-throated and black-chinned sparrows, with Gambel's quail amongst the scrub, and occasional red-tailed hawks overhead. We then drive to Silver City for a two-night stay. Throughout the journey occasional stops will be made to search for birds and there is a strong possibility of seeing golden eagles and prairie falcons perched on telegraph poles.
- Next day we explore the Silver City area. To the west of town we drive over the Continental Divide and head for the Gila River and Bill Evans Lake. Here, we may encounter our first bald eagles of the trip, as well as possible buffleheads and lesser scaup.
- Accommodation: Siver City, 2-nights on full board basis.
- Today we drive through other parts of the Gila Forest back towards the Rio Grande Valley. Wild turkey, western scrub jays and mountain chickadees have been encountered here on previous visits. Emory Pass viewpoint offers superb views eastwards – and occasionally good birds around the car park too. As we reach lower lying ground the trees give way to scrub and then we visit Caballo State Park where the huge reservoir attracts a good range of water birds and the campground often attracts Gambel's and scaled quails plus many other species that come to the feeders. We comb the area thoroughly before heading for the curiously-named town of Truth or Consequences.
- Accommodation:Truth or Consequences, 1-night on full board basis.
- Close to Truth or Consequences lies Elephant Butte State Park. Verdin, Gambel's quails and cactus wrens are all likely here, but the main target species is Crissal thrasher – a difficult bird to find at the best of times, but often seen here. Clark's or western grebes on the lake may cause some confusion, as they are very similar, but the cranes, geese and ducks should be much easier and also give us a flavour of what is to come at Bosque del Apache, which we visit for the afternoon 'flight in'. We continue the short distance to Socorro for a three-night stay.
- Much of our time here is spent exploring Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the superb site where it seems that no two visits are the same. Due to the presence of so many geese and cranes, predators abound. Coyotes hunt through the cornfields and frequently 'spook' the birds. Clouds of ducks, geese and red-winged blackbirds rise in alarm, while overhead a patrolling Cooper's hawk or peregrine may take advantage of the confusion caused. Magnificent bald eagles seem to do little except perch in dead trees. Occasionally they hunt and capture an injured or sick goose and this often happens in the early morning before the roosting birds fly out to their feeding grounds. It is then that the sunrise-lit skies literally darken with the sheer quantity of birds.
- Accommodation: Socorro, New Mexico, 3-nights on full board basis.
- UWe take a leisurely drive southwards towards El Paso, birding at various locations as we go. We may take one final drive around the tour loop at Bosque del Apache, to see what we might have missed, then head for Percha Dam State Park. Here birding can be exciting in the wide range of habitats found in the area, with phainopeplas feeding on the mistletoe berries in the trees and pyrrhuloxias down on the ground feeding on seeds.
- Accommodation: Las Cruces, 1-night on full board basis.
- Depending on the time of our flight, we may be able to make another birding visit locally before heading to El Paso airport to catch an internal flight, connecting with our overnight flight back to London.
Day 15 Arrive UK
All prices are per person and include:
- Services of the naturalist leader
- Most meals
- Guided activities
We stay in hotels or motels; all rooms have en suite facilities.
All meals are included
Price includes return scheduled flights London – McAllen / El Paso – London, and domestic flight McAllen – El Paso.
Visiting a diversity of habitats in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, including Bosque del Apache – considered to be one of the best winter birdwatching sites in the northern hemisphere – we hope to encounter prolific birdlife, from colourful Altamira orioles to sandhill cranes and snow geese.
- Altamira oriole
- Great kiskadee
- Vermillion flycatcher
- Bald eagle
- Snow & Ross’s geese
Aside from the spectacular birdlife, we may also encounter an interesting array of mammals along the way.
- Mule deer
- Collared peccary