Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Mexico

Ah, the land of entrapment (or so I’m told) and extreme weather. Now, according to the locals, April is typically windy but those same yokels also say this one is a doozy. We’ve been here <>hail, and dust-devils. Oh yea, wind, lots of wind with gusts up to 60 mph. I’m told Mescalero Sands (60 miles East of Roswell where we will be working a lot this summer) is a magnet for extreme weather in the state.

Work thus far has been a lot of snake-trap building, a week of lizard trapping in the dunes down South and a couple trips to a prairie rattlesnake den out in the middle of nowhere. To access the site you have to drive an hour plus and then hop on a 4-wheeler for another 30 minutes. We only found a handful of prairie rattlesnakes and wandering garter snakes on our last visit, but earlier in the week Larry (Game and Fish employee) captured 74 rattlesnakes and another dozen or so garter snakes and a couple of gopher snakes in one afternoon!!

I’ve been spending a lot of time birding or at least paying more attention to the birds around me, and in less than 3 weeks I’ve seen over 80 species including 26 life species:

· Cooper's hawk
· Eurasian collared dove
· red-tailed hawk
· pinyon jay
· scrub jay
· horned lark
· curve billed thrasher
· pied-billed grebe
· cormorant sp.
· great egret
· snowy egret
· cattle egret
· turkey vulture
· snow geese
· mallard
· blue-winged teal
· Northern shovler
· Northern pintail
· green-winged teal
· redhead
· lesser scaup
· bufflehead
· hooded merganser
· Canada geese
· osprey
· Northern harrier
· American kestrel
· ring-necked pheasant
· American coot
· black-necked stilt
· American avocet
· long-billed dowitcher
· ring-billed gulls
· greater roadrunner
· vermillion flycatcher
· tree swallow
· barn swallow
· red-winged blackbird
· Western meadowlark
· American crow
· common raven
· Clark's grebe
· white-faced ibis
· cinnamon teal
· ruddy duck
· Gambel's quail
· Wilson's phalarope
· black pheobe
· Say's phoebe
· downy woodpecker
· mourning dove
· common poorwill
· Eastern meadowlark
· American kestrel
· Swainson's hawk
· lesser prairie chicken
· lark bunting
· pyrrhuloxia
· Chihuahuan raven
· great-tailed grackle
· hairy woodpecker
· chickadee sp.
· dark eyed junco
· pygmy nuthatch
· American magpie
· Northern flicker
· Stellar's jay
· Western bluebird
· mountain bluebird
· Townsend's solitare
· red crossbill
· Wilson's warbler
· Audobon's warbler
· Western tanager
· bushtit?
· European starling
· Brewer's blackbird
· house sparrow
· white-crowned sparrow
· white-breasted nuthatch
· lesser goldfinch
· black-chinned hummingbird

That’s one day birding down at Bosque del Apache NWR by car, birds encountered around our lizard assemblage sites, walking around the Herp Tech house after work, and a few mountain birds seen while taking a scenic drive up in the Jemez Mountains last weekend after a recent snow storm.

So maybe you are thinking what have we found for herps thus far? Not much, but hopefully this miserable weather will quit pretty soon. We’ve seen a few prairie rattlesnakes, and wandering garter snakes near ABQ, and down south in Mescalero Sands, Aubrey found a nice AOR prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) and a nice desert massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) while I found a couple of western coachwhips which were slightly green in coloration. I was blown away at how similar the massasauga dorsal pattern resembled that of a corn snake or fox snake. During our lizard trapping we found:

- sand dune lizards (Sceloporous arenicolus)
- prairie lizard (Sceloporos consebrinus (formerly S. undulatus but I’m told recent genetic work out of California suggests multiple species are represented))
- six lined racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineatus)
- side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana)
- lesser earless lizard (Holbrookia maculata).

Mammal diversity has been high as well, and to date we’ve seen coyotes, black-tailed jackrabbits, mule deer, pronghorn, tassle-eared squirrels, fox squirrels (introduced population near Roswell), prairie dogs, DOR skunks, 1 DOR badger, and several species of small mammals including kangaroo rats or k rats (Dipodomys), pocket mouse (Perognathus) and grasshopper mouse (Onycomys).

- Matt