Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Eastern New Mexico: Birders paradise

Many people enjoy watching exotic birds in nature documentaries on television. But residents in eastern New Mexico might try glancing out of their back door to witness something just as spectacular.

Eastern New Mexico is under the Central Flyway, one of four flyways that span across the continental United States and parts of Canada, which help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manage migratory birds and their habitats, according to the USFWS website.

Grant Beauprez, a conservation officer with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and avid bird watcher, notes that eastern New Mexico has much to offer.

"I think there definitely [are] unique things about [this area], especially where we sit here in the eastern plains during migration," Beauprez said.

He said certain areas, including Clovis and Melrose could get some species largely found only in the eastern part of the U.S.

"And you don't get them out here very often. But we're just on the edge of the migration path for some of these birds. And so they pop up every once in a while. And we get to experience eastern warblers, for example, where the rest of the state doesn't get them as much as we do," he said.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology estimates the 2023 spring migration of birds in the U.S. between the beginning of March 1 and June 15, with fall migration from Aug. 1 to Nov. 15.

Beauprez, who lives just outside of Clovis, has spotted 140 species on his property alone, the rarest being a flammulated owl about five years ago. But Twila Watkins, native and resident of Portales, demonstrates that even the most beautiful birds can come into your backyard in this region whether you're in the city or not -- and perhaps when you're least expecting it.

"My husband bought me a camera, and it had a little bit of a zoom on it," Watkins said. "And we have a pond in our backyard [...] and a waterfall that he put in when we moved here. And when I looked through my viewfinder with the zoom on, I saw a western tanager, which has a bright red head and bright yellow belly and black and white on the back. And I had never seen anything like that."

She was hooked.

Watkins has seen 108 species in her yard, including flyovers. Watkins and Beauprez utilize apps including E-Bird and Merlin Bird I.D., allowing users to identify, track, and even post pictures and updates of rare birds to share with other enthusiasts.

"I had a red-bellied woodpecker, which is not uncommon in the East at all. But here in New Mexico, it's very uncommon. And I've had a purple finch," Watkins said.

"I've had people come to my yard from Albuquerque and Santa Fe multiple times to see birds that I have here that they don't get to see," all thanks to posting her findings on the bird apps, Watkins said.

It was E-Bird that helped Beauprez about five years ago to confirm the first recorded sighting of a black-crested titmouse in New Mexico.

And so, just take a closer examination of your outdoor space. You might already have some creatures roaming about.

If you want to attract more of these remarkable creatures to your yard and contribute to the well-being of wildlife, Beauprez has three suggestions: provide food, water, and shelter.

He said the food can be in the form of hummingbird nectar or various types of seeds. Mix your own nectar easily by combining four parts of water with one part of sugar. He likes the shelled sunflower seeds for birds that prefer seeds and recommends planting native shrubs so birds have some cover. He said birds will come into the yard more if they feel comfortable and safe and have a place to hide when not at the feeder.

"So if you have trees and shrubbery, that's great. And providing water either in a birdbath, waterfall, or flowing water is good. They like flowing water," Beauprez said.

And while Beauprez mentioned that's not something everyone can have, just setting out a bowl of water with some rocks underneath for them to stand on or a shallow pan of water that they can get in and take a bath or get a drink is excellent.

And then, eventually, even in your own backyard, all you will have to do is look a little closer.

"Sometimes you just got to open your eyes and pay attention. Or your ears, for that matter," Beauprez said.

Autumn Scott is a correspondent for The Eastern New Mexico News. Contact her at:

[email protected]

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