Field Expeditions

Expanding our Knowledge of New Mexico Avifauna

New Mexico Ornithological Society (NMOS) expands our knowledge of New Mexico avifauna by sponsoring field expeditions. These field expeditions are multiple-day trips, usually involving camping, to all corners of the state that lack ornithological knowledge or are under-birded. Increasing our knowledge about breeding densities, migratory routes and winter distribution are all foci for the expeditions. Participation is voluntary, participants will arrange their own transportation, and food should be brought by each individual. Small groups split up during the expeditions to cover as much ground as possible each day. Groups return to a rendezvous point each day to compare notes. One, possibly two, trips will be scheduled each year, focusing on different seasons. For more information on these expeditions, please contact Matt Baumann at

Upcoming Field Expedition to Vermejo Park, Taos County (20-22 July 2018)

Leaders: Matt Baumann ( and Raymond VanBuskirk (

The New Mexico Ornithological Society is conducting a field expedition to the high elevation peaks at Vermejo Park in northern New Mexico. Our specific target will be locating evidence of breeding Brown-capped Rosy-Finches. VanBuskirk et al.’s recent finding of Brown-capped Rosy-Finches carrying nesting material in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness has prompted statewide surveys for this species. Vermejo Park is an ideal location to try and search for this species because it has expansive suitable breeding habitat and a few historical sightings, but is rarely explored. We will implement VanBuskirk’s point count search protocol throughout the weekend. Data sheets will be handed out and discussed with each participant. While we will specifically be looking for the rosy-finch, other species of interest that we will be looking for include White-tailed Ptarmigan, Fox Sparrow, White-winged Crossbill, Boreal Owl, and Wilson’s Warbler.


*Details subject to change. Be sure to contact trip leaders prior to expedition.

(NM) Friday: Meet up location/time to be determined based on fire restrictions/closures in Valle Vidal. Matt and Raymond will be in contact with final meet up location no later than July 18th. Once areas are assigned, head towards respective camps and begin survey, time permitting.

Saturday-Sunday: Explore the high elevation alpine habitat implementing rosy-finch protocol while looking for other species of interest. We will meet on Sunday afternoon to go over results and check out of Vermejo Park.

Things to know and bring:

Hiking and Camping: There will be lots of hiking and backpacking. Be prepared for many miles (could be as many at 10 miles round trip) travelled at very high elevations, ~12,000 ft, with unpredictable weather conditions. Note: no cell phone service in this area. Two way radios to stay in contact with your group are highly recommended. Tents or hammocks with functional rain gear are a must!

Food and Water: Participants will be responsible to bring their own food and water for the duration of the expedition, ~2-3 days. Given the strenuous nature of the hikes and the high elevation climate folks should be prepared to drink 3-4 liters a day (that’s 3-4 Nalgene water bottles worth). Be prepared for backpacking to overnight camps. There should be water at high elevation campsites and everyone should be prepared with water filtration systems. If you do not have one we will assign you to a group with someone who does. That being said, Iodine tablets are cheap, lightweight, and can be purchased at most outdoor recreation stores. There are no open flames allowed. If you plan to cook you will need a lightweight backpacking stove. Don’t forget a mess kit.

Bathrooms: Formal bathrooms are not available. Participants should expect to use Leave No Trace practices during the trip. Basically that means dig a hole and pack out the paper (bring a Ziplock bag).

Weather: Late July will be in the midst of the monsoon which means unpredictable and fast approaching rain/lightning storms are possible. Be sure to have escape routes in mind as weather approaches. Generally, one can expect cooler temperatures (70’s) and windy conditions and the highest elevation peaks. Overnight will likely drop into the 40’s. Each group will be given maps of the area so if you have to head off a ridge in a different direction than you came there should be no issues finding your camp again. Rain jackets, pack covers, and rain pants are recommended.

RSVP: Please RSVP via email to both Matt Baumann AND Raymond VanBuskirk (, They have a running spreadsheet for participation. Please be sure to give your full contact info (including phone number) in this email as they will be contacting you to discuss details as the trip approaches.

NMOS Membership:

If not currently a member of the New Mexico Ornithological Society, please consider becoming a member before partaking on this field expedition.

Wind River Ranch, Mora County (11-13 May 2012)

The inaugural NMOS Field Expedition was held on the Wind River Ranch in Mora County along the Mora River, immediately adjacent to Watrous, from 11-13 May 2012. Ten birders participated in gathering presence/absence data and relative abundance information. This 4500 acre ranch is being added to the USFWS New Mexico Refuge Complex which also includes Las Vegas and Maxwell National Wildlife Refuges. This ranch is a key piece of the >300,000 acre watershed protection area that has been identified by the USFWS as an “approved boundary” for the potential refuge lands in the area.

While an incomplete avian checklist had been compiled for the area, to our knowledge this was the first targeted search conducted at the Ranch. The group assembled on the afternoon of 11 May to discuss protocol, and designate team members and search area boundaries. Early on the morning of 12 May (International Migratory Bird Day), the group split into four teams to cover designated sections of the Ranch. Habitats included cottonwood/willow riparian along the Mora River, oak/juniper/ponderosa woodland, abandoned agricultural land, and grasslands. In the evening the results were compiled over a potluck dinner while it rained. The morning of 13 May some of the group explored sections of the Ranch to try to add species to the totals and view the resident herd of American bison.

A total of 92 species were tallied for the weekend. As expected, the riparian habitat supported the highest diversity with 84 species recorded; we documented 49 species in the oak/juniper/ponderosa woodlands and 30 species in the grassland-associated habitat. Ten new species were added to the Ranch list (see NMOS Bulletin 40(2): 31 for additional avian details). These data will be used to assemble a revised avian checklist for the Wind River Ranch.

“Pelagic” Field Expedition to Elephant Butte Lake (6 October 2012)

On 6 October 2012, nine birders braved the challenges of conducting a fall “pelagic” trip on one of the larger bodies of water in New Mexico – Elephant Butte Lake in Sierra County. The group boarded a 22-foot rental pontoon boat and daparted from the Rock Canyon Marina to explore the entire body of water in search of fall migrants and waterbirds. Captain Matt Baumann kept the boat in deeper waters (for the most part) allowing the group to scan while motoring around the pond (it exhibitted some of the lowest water levels in many years). For the 5+ hours on the lake, the group tallied a total of 29 species (see NMOS Bulletin 40(3 and 4):48 for some additional avian details). Totals were submitted to the NM Bird Records Committee.

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