“The Felix” was loaded and ready for a fun boondocking adventure through forest and desert, ghost towns and lava flows, rainbow colored ridges and badlands. Central New Mexico is a splendid place to explore and discover wildlife, geology and spectacular scenery.
Come on along with us for 4 days of camping fun in the Land of Enchantment.
Observing nature, especially in a desert environment, requires cautious peering under scrub oak and cholla. It’s always wise to gently part the razor sharp leaves of plants like beargrass and banana yucca with a long stick. Everything seems well armed with spines, thorns or prickles. But look you must, because you never know what you might find cooling off in the shade of a big leafed buffalo gourd or making a noon meal of a prickly pear fruit in the shadows of fan-shaped pads.
But when exploring it’s wise to always, always remember you might be surprised by a snake. So imagine our relief and delight when on a stretch of dusty trail we encountered our very first desert box turtle!
Sandia Mountain granite! Such distinctively gnarly gargoyles, whimisically odd and judgmental, critter and caricature mimics ……. There’s nothing like these boulders! This is a short story about one of a cast of thousands; Grumpy G. Gus.
But there’s a longer story too. Underneath the often comical-looking and recognizable characters that can be envisioned in these boulders, there’s an even more fascinating tale that tells volumes about the geologic history of central New Mexico. Come along and meet Gus and learn a bit about Sandia Mountain granite.
In an effort to escape the blistering temperatures brought on by a mid-July heat dome, we decided to take a cooling hike high above Albuquerque. At 10,000+ feet, the trails along the top of Sandia Mountain are a refreshing contrast to the dry desert habitats we usually enjoy.
Up high there are spruce, fir and aspen trees surrounding lush meadows full of blooming wildflowers. On the margins we found flying, flitting, perching and singing some of the prettiest birds we’ve seen all season. Let me share some of the fun facts I learned about two of these birds; the Violet-green Swallow and the Northern Flicker.
A swooping, darting and sometimes hovering flycatcher, the Western Kingbird is such fun to watch. When they aren’t performing an aerial ballet to outmaneuver and catch a flying insect, you can find them on a favorite perch actively looking for their next meal to wing on by.
These lemon-breasted, robin-sized birds are easy to recognize. Just look up when you hear non-stop chittering and chatting and you’re likely to find a Western kingbird.
“The Felix” was back in action for another camping adventure into the wilds of New Mexico. For a few days we enjoyed spending time at one of our favorite dry campgrounds, Datil Well. Then on one day we unhooked truck from trailer and headed further afield to explore a seldom visited area of the Cibola National Forest ….. the Sawtooth Mountains.
Yes, I keep a life list of birds! But along with the list (which includes birds from around the world), I also try to learn something about the species logged, and lately I’ve been enjoying sketching them too.
It’s been a while since a new-to-me bird species came into view. So it was doubly exciting when I was able to increase my list by two on two consecutive days. Meet the Scott’s Oriole and the Hermit Thrush.
After trying for 4 years to collect one of the giant seed pods from our small population of banana yuccas, I was sure this would be the year. One of the plants was in full bloom about a month ago, and after noticing the fleshy fruits were enlarging, I kept watch almost daily.
I should’ve suspected the local population of mule deer were also keeping close watch, because a week ago they snuck in and harvested every single seed pod! Disappointed? Yes. But still determined …….
Then a few days ago I discovered another plant loaded with a dozen of the huge fleshy green pods! Without further ado, I liberated 2 of them and dissection began …..
“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.