Thursday, November 1, 2001
Wetlands an Avian Paradise
By Sue Bohannan Mann
For the Journal
Enjoy the solitude of sitting on an iron bench under a giant cottonwood along the short but refreshing Perea Nature Trail. Just off N.M. 550, two miles south of San Ysidro, absorb the area's diversity in the midst of an arid land.
Maps are available at the Bureau of Land Management sign marking the start of the trail. Take one, and walk the short distance around the trail. Peer through a bird blind and watch the surrounding drama: unusual feathered friends making themselves at home among four-wing saltbrush, cattails, arrowgrass, sedges, arrowheads and yerba mansa.
Perea Nature Trail
HIGHLIGHTS: A quiet escape on a short, easy trail.
LOCATION: From I-25, take Bernalillo Exit 242 and drive approximately 22 miles northwest of Bernalillo toward San Ysidro. The trailhead is located to the left of N.M. 550, north of the Rio Salado Bridge.
ROUND-TRIP DISTANCE: 1 mile
BEST SEASONS: Year-round, weather permitting
MAPS: Usually available at the trailhead, or you can pick one up at the Bureau of Land Management Office, (505) 761-8700.
Part of the Rio Salado Marsh dries out from November to March. It is flooded with irrigation water from the Jemez River and the floodwaters of the Rio Salado in summer.
Summertime is the favorite season for various hummingbird species (black-chinned, broad-tailed and rufous) as well as the belted kingfisher, brewers blackbird and a host of others.
Through spring and fall, you might see the Northern oriole, rufous-sided towhee, orange-crowned warbler or savannah sparrow. Northern harriers live here year-round, along with the great horned owl, Western meadowlark, and Western scrub jay.
Also in the area but more difficult to spot are lizards, garter snakes, tiger salamanders and the Woodhouse's toad.
While New Mexico's riparian wetlands occupy less than 2 percent of total state acreage, they play a more significant role in this arid land than their size suggests. A wetlands' water table lies near or above the surface, and the land is waterlogged enough to support "hydrophytic" vegetation, i.e., plants that grow well in wet soil and produce lots of oxygen.
Wetlands catch the sun's rays and store them as chemical energy, and the land can recycle it to produce its own energy stored in nutrient traps. These productive wetlands areas may someday help solve our air- and water-pollution problems.
Funds for the area are provided through a small share of the BLM's Habitat Stamp revenue, and there is no admission charge.