Otero Canyon, located about 4 miles south of the Tijeras stoplight, is representative of some of the best mature pi?on/juniper landscape in New Mexico. When viewed from a vantage point, the ridges and valleys of the Manzanitas appear to have a closed canopy, somewhat resembling a jungle landscape. About two miles of Otero Canyon follows alongside State Highway 337 from the Otero Trailhead east to the junction with Sabino Canyon. This stretch of riparian bottomland has willows and cottonwoods and a perennial stream, often collecting in pools or spilling across rocky surfaces. Several good-sized cliff outcrops line the southern bank.
The forest service has created a Nature Trail through the heart of Cedro from the Otero trailhead to the climbing cliff. The brochure highlights many other attractions such as fossils, insects, and salamanders. The area is also rich in rock art.
Directions Four miles south of the stoplight in Tijeras, NM.
This site is significant to NM birds because two important habitat types are represented here. The pi?on/juniper woodland around Otero harbors one of the densest concentrations of Black-throated Gray Warbler. It is in fact the most common bird on a BBS transect that follows the western ridgeline. It is also an import breeding area for the Gray Flycatcher, a bird well represented in the Manzanitas, and even, to some extent, in the Manzanos, but virtually absent as a breeder in the Sandias. During a good pi?on winter, these woodlands are alive with Clark's Nutcracker, Red Crossbill, Cassin's Finch and Red-breasted Nuthatch. The Cedro Riparian Area is a favorite watering hole for migrants and hosts around 40 breeding species, including Lazuli Bunting (at least some years), Virginia's Warbler, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Plumbeous Vireo.
Sources: Cibola Breeding Bird Survey (1994, 1997), H. Schwarz personal observations (1992-1999)
Currently managed by the Cibola National Forest on the Sandia Ranger district there are no current major conservation concerns. Minor threats include the presence of some cowbirds, and rock-climbing on one cliff face within the area. Potential threats include increased firebreak activity which may reduce the canopy in pi?on/juniper woodland creating unsuitable conditions for Black-throated Gray Warbler and an increase in outdoor enthusiast use, especially mountain bikers and hikers going off trail. The site is relatively secure from encroaching development and concurrent habitat fragmentation.
Cibola National Forest, Sandia District, 11776 Hwy. 337, Tijeras, NM, 87059, 505-281-3304, Beverly deGruyter, Biologist, Dana Howlett, Visitor Information Specialist