Today, we will talk about a small area with ample birding opportunities along Interstate 25 (exit 175) to the area of Bernardo. This area is also known as the Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex.
Bernardo is a small community located along the highway and near the Rio Grande River. The main attraction within is the Bernardo Wildlife Area. For those of you in the Albuquerque area, it’s an accessible drive south, being just 50 miles away.
About the Area
The area is about 200 acres, and the land provides cornfields for the sandhill cranes and snow geese to feed on.
About 40,000 of these birds stop by each winter, and offering this particular feeding area helps keep the birds away from the other farms throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
There have recently been some improvements in the wildlife area, such as some hiking trails and viewing areas. These are sure to appease bird watchers and photographers.
The Auto Loop
The loop is a very friendly dirt road about 3 miles long. You can pull over along the dirtways or find a designated area to park and hike/view.
Along the loop, you will also find three elevated observation decks. These make for great spots to check the wildlife from slightly above the land.
Take a Short Walk
You will find a designated parking area in the last half of the loop. Here, you will see an information sign that details the Bernardo Bird Refuge, along with a small trail that leads to a picnic table. Consider packing a sandwich and enjoying the sounds while you snack.
At the trail’s end resides a viewing area with a bench that shields you from the weather elements. Rain, wind, and snow can be expected in the winter here, and it will get chilly. It should also be noted that a tiny restroom is in this same parking area.
After you pass this area, you will see and have viewing access to two more fields. On my particular trip to Bernardo this year, the last field was the best area with the most birds. I also witnessed a spectacular snow geese launch in this field, which made my day!
Having said that, though, corn will be planted each year in different areas or farms within the loop from year to year. This is because of the nitrogen levels in the soil. You do not want to deplete them by growing in the same field in consistent seasons, as the corn yield would otherwise be lower.
Keep an Open Eye
You will typically see the snow geese and sandhill cranes sharing the good eats together daily during this time of year. Because of all the cultivated fields with various open landscapes, fields, and woods, you may also see owls, hawks, raccoons, deer, and coyotes. About 12 different duck species can be viewed in the area, so keep an eye out for them as well.
The cornfields that you see get mowed down in the fall, so birds can easily reach the grain. Some of the corn gets knocked over with a pole so that the taller cranes may feed more efficiently and not worry about the geese.
If you are in the Socorro area or cruising along I-25, I encourage you to take the quick wildlife tour loop. It’s a small but special place for the birds, and we are lucky enough to have access to a great view to observe and soak it all in.
For more information about the Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex and the Bernardo Waterfowl Management Area, check the Visit Socorro Website.