Songbirds in concert

Listen for the calls of spring at a cottonwood-shaded New Mexico refuge

Birders, don't put those field glasses away yet. Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, just off Interstate 25 about 20 miles south of Socorro, New Mexico, may be justifiably famous for its winter conclave of cranes and snow geese, but May is the best month to visit if you love the sound and sight of songbirds.

On a rosy morning, you'll have the refuge's canal-laced fields, thickets, and groves to yourself as you listen for distinctive calls of grosbeaks, orioles, tanagers, and as many as 35 types of warblers. Now through mid-June is the best time to catch the concert, with peak migration of songbirds during the second week in May.

Hike the Canyon Trail or drive the mile-long Seasonal Tour Road (located 1/2 mile out on the main Tour Loop) to find prime viewing areas. Roads shaded by cottonwoods make for meditative hiking, and a table next to the Observation Blind is perfect for a picnic brunch. Maps and bird lists are available at the Visitor Center (7:30-4 Mon-Fri, 8-4:30 Sat-Sun).

INFO:  Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge  ($3 per vehicle; 505/835-1828) is open from an hour before sunrise until an hour after sunset.

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