“From the spillway below Cochiti Dam to the headwaters of Elephant Butte Reservoir, the Middle Rio Grande Bosque is more than a cottonwood woodland or forest. It is a whole riparian (or riverside) ecosystem…..”
This is how “A Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque”1 begins, and on June 26th, the Master Naturalists’ trainees spent quality time touring and learning about the nature of this very special area.
For a full morning, the monsoons took a break, and an eager group of Master Naturalists-in-training soaked up the knowledge of experienced tour guides, as we learned about the wildlife and riparian habitat along the Rio Grande.
It seemed there was something new to see around every curve in the Bosque’s trails ….. birds like Summer Tanagers, cormorants, a large family of Wood Ducks and teenaged ducklings, mallards and Canada geese, a beautiful Snowy Egret, a stately Great Blue Heron, and 2 Cooper’s Hawk chicks in a nest high in a cottonwood. There was a lesson about antlion larvae and their ambush hunting technique, we followed a large hairy-footed scoliid wasp scurrying on the ground perhaps hunting for a 10-lined June beetle to parasitize, then we found a very squished 10-lined June beetle! Plains cicadas were buzzing around us while a Southwestern Fence Lizard tried to hide in plain sight on a tree limb that had been chewed by a porcupine.
We discussed the age and health of the cottonwood forest lining the river, invasive plants like Salt Cedar and Russian Olive ever present in the riparian habitat, and the Silvery Minnow that used to inhabit side channels of the river that no longer see water.
It was an excellent tour that left us with more questions than time allowed.
The morning was topped off with an excellent presentation by a delightful Artist and Nature Journaler, Margy O’Brien. Many of Margy’s journal pages can be seen as interpretative signs featured around the Bosque. She talked about nature journaling as an observation tool and engaged us in some blind contour and memory drawings of cottonwood leaves and feathers. Then Margy shared many of her journals and I was asked to share some of mine! All great fun, and I’m so happy to have met someone who shares my passion for nature journaling.
1 “A Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque” Cartron, Lightfoot, Mygatt, Brantley, Lowrey, University of New Mexico Press, 2008.