Borderlands Birding Bonanza Launches in West Texas

ALPINE TX – The Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross State University is launching a new series of outreach activities to connect people with birds through its Bird Conservation Program. The “Borderlands Birding Bonanza” will kick off Oct. 24-25 with a birding field trip to Alamito Creek Preserve, a Dixon Water Foundation property in Presidio County, south of Marfa. There are 40 slots available for a series of birding tours that will focus on riparian birds.

“We are so excited about providing these opportunities to connect people with birds,” said Dr. Louis Harveson, who is the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., BRI Endowed Director and Regents’ Professor of Wildlife Management at Sul Ross State University. “Birding is an activity that anyone can participate in, from children to seniors, and novices to expert birders. We are extremely grateful to the Dixon Water Foundation and the Shield-Ayres Foundation for making these outreach events possible.”

The field trips will be organized into four groups of ten people and COVID protocols will be observed to ensure the safety of those participating. The tours will be led by experienced birders from the Borderlands Research Institute and partner organizations. The tours on Oct. 24-25 will be capped at 40 people, and organizers anticipate it will fill quickly. Registration is required, and those interested in participating should register online. The field trip is designed to be accessible to all birding levels, from beginners to experts.

The goal of BRI’s Bird Conservation Program is to advance the awareness, appreciation, and conservation of birds in West Texas. With over 500 bird species in the region, it is no wonder that West Texas is a favorite destination among birders. Birding is also one of the main outdoor recreational activities from which landowners can derive substantial income, and BRI is working with private landowners to learn more about the bird species in West Texas. To that end, BRI launched a comprehensive study evaluating wintering grassland birds on private lands in 2016. During the first two field seasons, volunteers within the birding community across Texas helped researchers capture birds so that student researchers could record data for their studies. More than 130 birders contributed more than 1,500 hours to the project, affirming the potential for developing a new Bird Conservation Program at BRI.

“We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and participation of volunteers in our grassland bird captures over the last few years for various research projects, and are thrilled to continue working with the birding community in this new program,” said BRI’s Bird Conservation Specialist, Dr. Mieke Titulaer, who is leading the new effort. “Connecting people to nature helps instill an appreciation for the natural resources all around us.”

A second birding field trip is being organized for Nov. 14-15 at Mimms Unit of Dixon Ranches near Marfa. Registration for that workshop will be available soon. Besides the field trips associated with the Borderlands Birding Bonanza, BRI’s Bird Conservation Program will be implementing a number of new initiatives to engage citizens in bird conservation. Upcoming activities will include bird photography workshops and educational seminars. In addition, a citizen science project will be developed that will document bird populations on private ranches through long-term monitoring efforts.

Register for the Oct. 24-25 workshop: https://bri.sulross.edu/events/

For more than a decade, the Borderlands Research Institute has encouraged effective land stewardship of the Chihuahuan Desert. Housed at Sul Ross State University, the Borderlands Research Institute builds on a long-lasting partnership with private landowners, the university’s Range and Wildlife Program, and cooperating state, federal, and non-governmental organizations. Through research, education, and outreach, the Borderlands Research Institute is helping to conserve the last frontier of Texas and the Southwest.

Dr. Mieke Titulaer is a Bird Conservation Specialist at Borderlands Research Institute.