Saturday

Birding in the Boot Heel

I'm not a birder, but it is an extremely popular activity in the basin and range province of southern New Mexico and southern Arizona.  I have written about the tradition of birding in the area but I must admit, being out in the valley and focusing on landscape restoration leaves little time for birding.  But as the landscape slowly improves the avian fauna are some of the first returning animals I see.  The number and diversity of avian species has slowly increased over time, so perhaps some dedicated study on local avian species is warranted to better understand how the improvements to the land affect which species utilize the available resources.  Since the beginning the most common bird species seen on the estate was the Eurasian collared dove.  The number of doves though resulted in the appearance of raptors such as owls, hawks, and kestrels which have been seen on the estate and I find bits and pieces of doves on occasion indicating a successful hunt.  Since collard doves are an introduced species, I do appreciate the assistance of these raptors in controlling their numbers.  Most recently, a northern harrier has been hanging out and can be frequently seen hunting in the grasslands towards the riverbed.

Below is a another new comer I saw for the first time on the estate, a female Ladder-back woodpecker, Picoides scalaris. Checking online birding sightings, this should be common species around here though the closest sightings are reported from Highway 80 about 1.5 - 2 miles further west.

Female Ladder-Back woodpecker at the Painted Pony Resort.

12 comments:

  1. On our hike Thursday, a birder helped a birder wanna-be and I just listened. I thought a sound was a Titmouse [told by another hiker] but then when I heard it again, the birder IDed it as one of the woodpeckers. Oops.

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  2. As a Biologist most folks would think I would or should know all about the natural history of the area, but I don't. I was a bench biologist, a molecular geneticist, so living down here has opened a whole new aspect of Biology to explore and like many others I'm on the learning curve.

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    1. Someone told me we're birdwatchers, a different, less crazed [and less knowledgeable]version of a birder. Have you seen the movie "The Big Year"? Peg told me that "they didn't go far enough with the rabid birders. Ha! Owen Wilson [in the movie] didn't care that his friend thought he may have broken his arm............"get the bird, GET THE BIRD"

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  3. I think that qualifies as an accurate statement, a birdwatcher as opposed to a birder. I must admit that my interest in birds goes mainly to species diversity as a result of restoration efforts.

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    1. Yeah on a trip with Peg once to the Pacific NW, I asked her about gulls. When she started telling me about different looks in juvenile, 1 year old and more, I said "never mind" plus all those bird parts! [malar, lores, remiges (by the way, got those from my bird book, don't know them!)] Good brain exercise but I'm too old to start so I'll stick to crossword puzzles for my brain exercise!

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    2. For the birders, there is nothing like following your passion and I congratulate them on their dedication. For many visiting PPR it is their first introduction to wildlife (and birds) and many seem to enjoy the experience.

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    3. We've had people come here to our home to see Scaled quail. We've been asked to count birds for counts and migrations, I believe JUST so they can get some Scaled quail on the count. A local expert birder, Dave, says "just go where the birds are"

      We had a van full of eastern new birders from a trip come here and they were most delighted to see the Cactus wren feed its young. Seemed like our usual but to THEM, they came where the birds are. . . .

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  4. PPR also has Scaled quail in addition to Gambles, but I'd only started seeing them a year or so ago. So another species that has moved back in. I remember wondering "what species is that" when I saw the whitish bob on top.

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    1. Scientists who came here to see a Gila monster told us that Gambel's and Scaled mate once in a while and the results are called 'Scrambled quail'. I've seen a Gambel's male with 2 head feather thingees and one with 3 but have never seen a Scrambled. I've heard that term again so I don't think they were pulling my leg.

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  5. Interesting, I had never heard that little tidbit of information but it is not uncommon for very closely related species to interbreed, though in many cases the offspring are sterile. Population isolating mechanisms and speciation is a whole branch of evolutionary biology trying to understand how populations change, become isolated eventually creating new species. All it takes is time.

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    1. By the way, good photo! How close were you?

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    2. Thank you, I was about 10-15' away. The woodpecker landed on a mesquite in the area I use as a control plot for the grassland restoration project which is right outside my door so the camera was handy.

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