One of my favorite birdwatching hotspots in the Albuquerque area is on my “home patch” — the Corrales Bosque Preserve, which was designated by Audubon New Mexico as an Important Bird Area in 2013.
Where to Find Corrales Bosque Preserve
Corrales Bosque Preserve is only about 12 miles from Downtown Albuquerque. The preserve stretches north along the west bank of the Río Grande from the Alameda Bridge to where Siphon Road reaches the river at the northern boundary of Corrales. It is bounded by the Clear Ditch and Sandoval Lateral on the west and the river on the east.
It’s quite a unique and relatively undisturbed, portion of the bosque, primarily cottonwood gallery forest with various understory types including the native New Mexico olive, as well as open patches of meadow, willow swales, and dense edge habitat along the river edge, on sandbars in the river, and along drainage ditches.
What You’ll Find at Corrales Bosque Preserve
There is something for birdwatching enthusiasts in the Corrales Bosque Preserve at any time of year. When compared to many other Middle Rio Grande Bosque sites, the one in Corrales supports larger numbers and diversity of birds. The Annotated Checklist of the Birds of the Village of Corrales and the Corrales Bosque Preserve documents 309 species, the vast majority of which have been seen in the Bosque.
In winter, the dense shrubby edge habitat along the drainage ditches is a good place to find a wide range of winter sparrows, and if you look closely in the grass and reeds in the ditch water or the shrubs along the bank, you might be lucky enough to see a brown thrasher, winter wren, Wilson’s snipe, or an even rarer American woodcock. Although the bosque woodlands tend to be a bit sparse (bird-wise) in the winter, you might happen upon an orgy of cedar waxwings, American robins, and hermit thrushes feasting on the berries of native New Mexico olive or exotic Russian olive.
On the river (or in the fields around Corrales) you may see many wintering sandhill cranes and Canada geese. Spring and fall migration periods offer up many species of warblers, tanagers, vireos, and flycatchers, and if you check the river itself, you might be treated to quite a few species of waterfowl and shorebirds.
And the bosque in summer provides a wide range of both common and uncommon breeding birds. It has one of the highest densities of breeding Cooper’s Hawks and you can often see one of a favorite raptor — the Mississippi kites that breed up away from the river but can be frequently seen soaring over the bosque hunting for dragonflies, grasshoppers, and lizards. Some of the common breeders that will surround you with song and flight as you walk the trails are black-chinned hummingbird, rufous hummingbird, spotted towhee, summer tanager, yellow-breasted chat, ash-throated flycatcher, and the more uncommon gray catbird, and two species that have been expanding their ranges northward — Lucy’s warbler and Bell’s vireo.
Access to Corrales Bosque Preserve
It is easily accessible from several locations. Starting in the south — a parking lot on the northwest side of the Alameda Bridge, accessed from Alameda Boulevard immediately west of the river. The remainder of the access points are reached by traveling north along Corrales Road from its intersection with Alameda, in all cases turning right (east) off Corrales Road at — Cabezon Road, East La Entrada, East Ella, Dixon, Romero, and Siphon Road (right where Corrales Road turns up the hill and into Rio Rancho) and which follows an acequia all the way to the river.
A popular access point is off Romero Road, which has a nice parking lot and good access to the bosque itself and all the trails that crisscross it, as well as the levee road and the tracks along the Clear Ditch and the Corrales Lateral. The Corrales Bosque Preserve is used by many Corraleños and folks from outside the village, so please respectfully share the tracks and trails with hikers, runners, bikers, and equestrians
A recently added highlight can be accessed by walking north from the Romero Road parking lot along the Clear Ditch or levee road to the Harvey Jones Channel which drains a major arroyo from Rio Rancho into the Río Grande.
Through a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority, the Middle Río Grande Conservancy District, the Village of Corrales, the City of Rio Rancho, and with the help of many volunteers, a 10-acre wetlands project has been created. It uses both the stormwater that drains down the arroyo from the escarpment above Corrales as well as treated sewage water from Rio Rancho that used to pour directly into the river but is now diverted through these created wetlands. It has involved a lot of earth moving and planting of native trees and shrubs and it is just beginning to emerge from the construction phase. But already you can see new plants and wildlife using the area — a demonstration of “if you build it, they will come!”
Story and photos by Janet Ruth.