Upcoming Event: Intro to Birding

Well, both River Classroom and our trip with McCurdy were cancelled this week. While we are working on rescheduling those, check out this upcoming event in Abiquiu!

We’re exciting to partner with the Abiquiu Inn to present an introduction to birding in the Abiquiu area. Come have dinner at the Inn before the talk and then learn how to identify common local birds. This event will be next Thursday, January 29. This will give you plenty of time to practice birding in your yard before The Great Backyard Bird Count, which runs from February 13-February 16.


Expedition to the Bosque del Apache

Last weekend, NMWC tried out our new 12-passenger van by taking some of our most dedicated volunteers to the Bosque del Apache. We left on Friday and headed down, went birding during the day, and hung around until the evening fly in. Then we got up very early on Saturday, made it to the Bosque in time for the fly out, and drove the loop one more time. We saw 32 species of birds on Saturday, including pyrrhuloxia, which has been on my list for quite some time.

It was a fantastic trip. We hope to have some of these expeditions open to the public in the future- stay tuned for announcements!

A field of sandhill cranes and light geese at Bosque del Apache
Checking out a few birds from the warmth of the visitor center
Morning fly out on the Bosque del Apache
Sunrise at the Bosque del Apache
A trumpeter swan at Bosque del Apache
Pyrrhuloxia, photo by Karen Garcia


Exploration on the Rio Grande

Last Thursday NMWC staff headed back down to Santo Domingo. Fortunately, the weather was much improved this time. The morning was pretty cool, but the sun showed its face, and it was a fantastic day to explore the Rio Grande Bosque.

We began the day with a trash pick up, and students collected three massive trash bags full of trash! We also hiked around the bosque and looked for signs of life. Students made some great lists, which included coyote scat, kangaroo rat tracks, a bird’s nest, a burrow, and feathers. We were able to find over 20 signs of animal life in each group! This helped us discuss the bosque- what lives here and why?

A hellgrammite discovered by our students.

A trip to the river isn’t complete without donning waders and exploring the water. This time our students were introduced to kick seine nets. We found quite a few benthic macroinvertebrates, including dobson fly larva (see photo), midges, and caddis. We discussed what these bugs mean for water quality. The next time we visit Santo Domingo, we will test water quality and compare our results to the survey of benthic macroinvertebrates!


January Water Quality on the Rio Chama

Today was a fantastic day on the Rio Chama! Since December, we have acquired 8 new students in River Classroom, and today was their first day on the river. These students made up one full group, so they got a thorough introduction to the riparian ecosystem that we monitor and explore.

Our three groups had separate missions. One group tested water quality on the Rio Chama. One group surveyed benthic macroinvertebrates. One group went for a hike to search for animal tracks.

Testing the water for phosphates
New students learning to use a kick seine
Two of our new students search for benthic macroinvertebrates in a kick seine
Examining benthic macroinvertebrates under a microscope

We had an exciting last minute addition to our schedule today when New Mexico Game and Fish brought a load of rainbow trout to stock the river. They graciously allowed our students to watch the trout fly out of the truck into the river.

A representative of NM Game & Fish explains his job to the students
Students watch as fish fly out of the truck and into the river
Splish, splash! Into the Chama!

A few adventurous students even helped move the fish around!

A student carefully releasing a fish into a more favorable part of the river

It provided a great opportunity to talk about why stocking is necessary, why we know the river will support the fish (since we tested water quality and surveyed benthic macroinvertebrates), and the importance of limits to how many fish you can keep. Apparently as long as the water isn’t icy (today it was 4.1 deg C), the fish can be stocked, but the colder water can be shocking.

It was a fantastic day on the river. We are so happy to have a few new students, and we have a great spring planned!


Eagle Watch 2015

Eagle Watch 2015 was a great success! We joined our partners, the US Army Corps of Engineers, at Abiquiu Lake last Saturday, January 3. Many citizen scientists braved the frigid temperatures and chilling winds and were either stationed at fixed points or sent out on the lake in boats to count bald eagles.

We met at the Visitor’s Center at Abiquiu Lake at 9 am for donuts, coffee, and a quick presentation by NMWC’s Executive Director, Katherine Eagleson. She provided practical advice on spotting eagles and detailed some of the threats to this bird. One of NMWC’s favorite residents, our bald eagle Maxwell, was on hand so participants could get an up close view of a mature adult bird.

Maxwell and handler Scott Bol, with Pedernal in the background

Once the watch began, eagles were sited almost immediately! It was so cold and windy that most of the eagles were staying in sheltered areas, but the boats would flush them out. The fixed view points were critical for tracking where the eagles flew to make sure we didn’t double count any.

What about the final numbers? 18 eagles total, of which 12 were adults and 6 were immature. How does this relate to years past?

2015: 18 eagles

2014: 13 eagles

2013: 12 eagles

2012: 17 eagles

2011: 15 eagles

This event has been going on for something like 15 years, and this data will help us understand the population of wild bald eagles in New Mexico. Thank you to all of the volunteers who participated, as well as to the fantastic staff at Abiquiu Lake for making the Eagle Watch possible!