The wooded area along the river in Corrales is already protected as a preserve, but it’s earned a new designation inspired by its winged and feathered inhabitants.
The National Audubon Society has declared the entire 662-acre preserve on the west side of the river an “Important Bird Area.” The designation not only alerts bird enthusiasts of viewing opportunities, but emphasizes the importance of protecting it. The designation does not add extra restrictions. The site was nominated for designation by Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission member and local resident Janet Ruth.
More than 250 bird species have been found in the Corrales bosque, according to a society news release, and it’s an essential breeding, migrating and wintering habitat for birds. Ruth said the habitat is a mixture of trees, mostly cottonwoods, and some grasslands where the undergrowth has been cleared away.
Ruth is a birding enthusiast, which mirrors her professional life. She is a research ornithologist (a zoologist who studies birds) for the federal government with the U.S. Geological Survey. She said her main reasons for the nomination were to recognize the value of the bosque and to honor the Bosque Advisory Commission’s efforts to preserve the area.
Ruth said the types of birds found in the bosque depends on the time of year. It’s home to owls, hummingbirds, sparrows, crows, robins and sparrows to name a few. One of its best-known inhabitants is the Cooper’s hawk.
Gail Garber, executive director of Hawks Aloft, Inc., said the Corrales bosque has the highest documented concentration of nesting raptors in the United States, according to a study the group conducted in 2008. She said the new designation is a good way to recognize the “outstanding job” Corrales has done managing that land.
“Instead of focusing on more recreational and human use, the focus has been on wildlife,” she said. “They kept it as wild as possible.”
The land is jointly managed by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the village of Corrales. The village designated the bosque within its limits as a protected area in 1978, and prohibited commercial ventures, outdoor music events, large social functions, camping, fires, smoking, hunting or trapping and the removal or destruction of any plants or wildlife. Also prohibited are taking a motor vehicle into the wooded area and using the area at night.
Trevor Fetz, lead avian biologist for Hawks Aloft, said the organization’s study covered a 79-mile stretch from Rio Rancho south along the river. He said he believes he knows why the Corrales bosque has such a high density of hawks.
“It’s the way they manage the bosque as a preserve,” Fetz said. “They haven’t done extensive thinning that would affect the wildlife.”
The application for the new designation had to be approved by the Corrales Village Council and Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District board. Both governing bodies approved the measure unanimously.
“It in no way hinders our main activity of flood control and irrigation,” said Adrian Oglesby, MRGCD vice chair. “It’s a tremendous resource and any opportunity to highlight the area is important.”