Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mescalero Sands: 27 April - 10 May

We have finally returned from our long trip to Mescalero Sands in Southeastern New Mexico. In the future, we will be staying there for 10 to 12 days, but this trip was necessarily longer in order to install the snake traps – all 96 of them! With the help of several volunteers (thank you!), we installed a total of 24 drift fences over the course of 7 days. Our sites are located in habitat that has been fragmented by gas/oil production, habitat that will be fragmented, and habitat that is not fragmented. Where we spent most of our time the air reeked of the oilrigs that dot the landscape as far as the eye can see, and the power lines play the game of connect the dots. However, despite the fragmented landscape, our trapping session was nothing less than successful. We caught over 60 snakes during the 7 days of trapping and observed eight species:

· Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum)
· Western Hognose (Heterodon nasicus)
· Longnose Snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei)
· Glossy Snake (Arizona elegans)
· Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum)
· Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
· Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis)
· Desert Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus edwardsii)

Coachwhips were by far our most common species; we even caught three in one trap! Hognoses were also fairly common.
We also caught a variety of lizards including:

· Sand Dune Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus)
· Prairie Lizard (Sceloporus consobrinus)
· Six Lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineatus)
· Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana)
· Lesser Earless Lizard (Holbrookia maculata)
· Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum)
· Marbled Whiptail (Aspidoscelis marmorata)

As is common with most funnel trap studies, we encountered a few small mammal species in our traps:

· Ord Kangaroo Rat
· Pocket Mouse Species
· Pack Rat
· Spotted Ground Squirrel
· Grasshopper Mice

The birding in the area was pretty good. The highlights for me were pyrrhuloxia, barn owls, Bullock’s orioles, and Lazuli buntings, but be sure to check back soon for a full bird list from Mescalero Sands and nearby Rattlesnake Springs, a well known birding area in New Mexico.