Friday, November 9, 2012

Desert Oasis in New Mexico Part Two

Interviewing Martha Cooper, director of the Nature Conservancy's riparian preserves in southeastern New Mexico

shooting at an agricultural diversion on the Mimbres River at the Nature Conservancy's Mimbres River Preserve

On our first day in southwestern New Mexico exploring the Nature Conservancy's riparian preserves we met Martha Cooper, director of the two preserves at the Mimbres River Preserve. It is a more intimate setting than the Gila River with a river that seems more like a creek from my experiences on the east coast growing up. We were surrounded by beautiful trees and forest in the river bottom. The Mimbres River Valley is an oasis surrounded by desert. We saw beautiful box elder, black walnut, cottonwood and willows as well as number of other trees. On our drive into the valley we saw desert plants and cactus interspersed with green fields and the various other flora that this floodplain supports.

I love the places in New Mexico where water creates this dichotomy of desert and plants and trees that need more water.

The river is fed by springs such as this one that Bob is walking along with his camera trying to find the Chiricahua leopard frog. There is a large marsh fed by the spring. We were unable to see the actual frog but Bob did get shots of them jumping.

The grasslands in the flood plain of the Mimbres River. There are many native american pot shards etc on the bluffs from the tribes that live here.

Like the Gila River, the Mimbres is impacted by agricultural diversion and while the population is not large in the valley, it requires a balancing of human versus animal and native flora preservation. This river is the only place that the chihuahua chub can be found in the United States. The Nature Conservancy works hard to insure that this species of fish can survive. We interviewed Martha in the river bottom with the clear clean water rushing by. It is magical to hear the sound of water in our generally arid New Mexico ecosystem. This like many other special places in New Mexico demonstrates the great diversity of our state.
Fran and Martha crossing the river to go into the floodplain forests and fields
Shooting stills of the river for reference for possible paintings
Shooting stills of a black walnut tree for future paintings of trees. My passion
is ancient trees and trees of all kinds. You can see them on my website 
I didn't expect to find black walnuts in southern New Mexico as we had gorgeous old black walnuts on the farm we used to own in western Pennsylvania. What I find in New Mexico never ceases to amaze me.
This was one of those spectacular New Mexico days that makes one's heart ache for more days out in nature in our beautiful and unique state
This is just one of a flock of wild turkeys that we saw come by us in a long line across the grassland in the floodplain. Bob thought he was going to miss the shot as we were focused on shooting something else but then they just kept coming and coming one at a time in a long line.

When we climbed out of the valley toward Silver City I saw these wonderful plants with the efflorescence dried but still magnificent. I would like to see these when they first bloom. Is this a type of yucca. Can any of you tell me?

In 1994, the Conservancy established the Mimbres River Preserve in southwestern New Mexico, near Silver City. The preserve is an irreplaceable riparian area covering 600 acres and five river miles. The river is a closed-basin desert stream—meaning its surface water never flows out of the Mimbres River basin. But over its 40-mile length, the Mimbres covers a wide and diverse landscape, from its headwaters near 10,000 feet in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness of the Gila National Forest to its terminus in the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands near the Mexican border.
The Mimbres watershed includes dense forests of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine, piƱon-juniper savanna, desert grasslands, Chihuahuan desert scrub, riparian forests, cienegas (or marshes), springs and stream reaches that may be perennial, intermittent or ephemeral.  The basin, located between the mountains of the Mogollon Rim, the Rio Grande watershed and the Chihuahuan Desert, has been alternatively isolated from and connected with other river systems over time.  As a result, the Mimbres has evolved a remarkably diverse fauna and flora, including a handful of species, such as the Chihuahua chub, that are found nowhere else in the United States.
The waters of the Mimbres, replenished by abundant summer rainfall in the upper basin, also support an extensive network of cottonwood-willow forests, sacaton floodplain grasslands (a coarse perennial grass), hot and cold springs and other rare riparian communities.
The Mimbres River is a 91-mile-long (146 km)[1] river in southwestern New Mexico. It forms from snow pack and runoff on the south-western slopes of the Black Range and flows into a small endorheic basin east of Deming, New Mexico. The uplands watershed are administered by the US Forest Service, while the land in the Mimbres Valley is mostly privately owned. The upper reaches of the river are perennial.[2] The river flows south from the Black Range and the surface flow of the river dissipates in the desert north of Deming, but the river bed and storm drainage continue eastward, any permanent flow remaining underground.[3][4] The Mimbres River Basin has an area of about 13,000 km² (5,140 mi²) and extends slightly into northern Chihuahua.
A wide diversity of species (37 species; excluding arthropods other than crustaceans) are of great conservation concern. Eighteen species (49%) are classified as "vulnerable, imperiled, or critically imperiled" state wide as well as and nationally. Additionally 13 species are classified as "vulnerable, imperiled, or critically imperiled" in the state although they are secure nationally. Birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles are also of concern within the riparian, ephemeral and terrestrial habitats.[3]
The use of water from the Mimbres River is still a matter of contention.[5]

[edit]Mimbres culture

Mimbres bowls at Stanford University
The Mimbres Basin supported the prehistoric Mimbres Culture, which was part of the larger Mogollon culture. The culture developed from around 200 to 1000 CE, known as the pithouse period. During this time the use of pottery increased and there was a greater dependence on agriculture throughout the Mogollon area. This agriculture depended more and more upon irrigation from the perennial and storm flow of the Mimbres River. In the later part of the pithouse period distinctiveMimbres pottery black-on-white designs grew more complex and ornate. Villages and irrigation complexes grew larger, and large kivas were built. These community ritual constructions were destroyed around 900 CE in huge ceremonial fires. This marked a major transition in social and ritual practices.
The Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is native to North America and is the heaviest member of the diverse Galliformes. It is the same species as the domestic turkey, which was originally derived from a southern Mexican subspecies of Wild Turkey (not the related Ocellated Turkey). Although native to North America, the Wild Turkey got its name due to the trade routes in place. During the 16th Century, the the major trade route from the Americas and Asia required the goods to go to Constantinople in Turkey before being sent to Britain. The British at the time therefore, associated the Wild Turkey with the country Turkey and the name stuck.
Adult wild turkeys have long reddish-yellow to grayish-green legs. The body feathers are generally blackish and dark brown overall with a coppery sheen that becomes more complex in adult males. Adult males, called toms or gobblers, have a large, featherless, reddish head, red throat, and red wattles on the throat and neck. The head has fleshy growths called caruncles. Juvenile males are called jakes, the difference between an adult male and a juvenile is that the jake has a very short beard and his tail fan has longer feathers in the middle. The adult male's tail fan will be all the same length.[3] When males are excited, a fleshy flap on the bill expands, and this, the wattles and the bare skin of the head and neck all become engorged with blood, almost concealing the eyes and bill. The long fleshy object over a male's beak is called a snood. When a male turkey is excited, its head turns blue; when ready to fight, it turns red. Each foot has three toes, and males have a spur behind each of their lower legs.
Juglans nigra, the eastern black walnut, a species of flowering tree in the walnut family, Juglandaceae, is native to eastern North America. It grows mostly inriparian zones, from southern Ontario, west to southeast South Dakota, south to Georgia, northern Florida and southwest to central Texas. Isolated wild trees in the upper Ottawa Valley may be an isolated native population or may have derived from planted trees.
The black walnut is a large deciduous tree attaining heights of 30–40 m (98–130 ft). Under forest competition, it develops a tall, clear bole; the open-grown form has a short bole and broad crown. The bark is grey-black and deeply furrowed. The pith of the twigs contains air spaces. The leaves are alternate, 30–60 cm long, odd-pinnate with 15–23 leaflets, with the largest leaflets located in the center, 7–10 cm long and 2–3 cm broad. The male flowers are in drooping catkins 8–10 cm long, the female flowers are terminal, in clusters of two to five, ripening during the autumn into a fruit (nut) with a brownish-green, semifleshy husk and a brown, corrugated nut. The whole fruit, including the husk, falls in October; the seed is relatively small and very hard. The tree tends to crop more heavily in alternate years. Fruiting may begin when the tree is 4-6 years old, however large crops take 20 years. Total lifespan of J. nigra is about 130 years.
While its primary native region is the Midwest and east-central United States, the black walnut was introduced into Europe in 1629. It is cultivated there and in North America as a forest tree for its high-quality wood. More nuts are produced by open-grown trees. Black walnut is more resistant to frost than the English or Persian walnut, but thrives best in the warmer regions of fertile, lowland soils with high water tables. It is a light-demanding species. The wood is used to make furniture, flooring, and rifle stocks, and oil is pressed from the seeds. Nuts are harvested by hand from wild trees. About 65% of the annual wild harvest comes from the U.S. state of Missouri, and the largest processing plant is operated by Hammons Products in Stockton, Missouri. The black walnut nutmeats are used as an ingredient in food, while the hard black walnut shell is used commercially in abrasive cleaning, cosmetics, and oil well drilling and water filtration.
Where the range of J. nigra overlaps that of the Texas black walnut J. microcarpa, the two species sometimes interbreed, producing populations with characteristics intermediate between the two species.

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