Borderlands Birding Bonanza, Looking for Birds Along Alamito Creek

It’s fall and it’s bird migration season in West Texas. Many people are itching to get out and find unique birds heading south for the winter. However, sometimes the greatest places to view birds are hard to get to. Which is why the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI), the Dixon Water Foundation, and the Shield-Ayres Foundation launched a new program, Borderlands Birding Bonanza, to connect people with birds.

The first Borderlands Birding Bonanza event was held on Oct. 24 and 25. Almost 40 birders from across Texas gathered for an chilly early morning of birding along the Dixon Water Foundation’s Alamito Creek Preserve, in Presidio County, about 30 miles south of Marfa. This preserve is a desert riparian area where the Dixon Water Foundation practices water, wildlife, and cattle management.

BRI graduate research assistants and birding experts, Emily Card and Alex Chavez, lead two groups of birders on the hike along the bed of Alamito Creek. Volunteers provided participants with educational information and details about birds in the area.

Graduate student Emily Card describes her experience as a guide: “The creek was bare, due to a very dry monsoon season, so we were able to walk on the creek bed with very large cottonwood trees that overarched us.”

“We saw a lot of cool birds, including an American kestrel, western bluebirds and Lincoln’s sparrows,” said Card. “We all got very excited when we spotted an eastern sub-species of the northern flicker, because that’s a rare sighting around here.”

Alex Chavez added, “it was really cool because as we heard chirping, everyone worked together to identify and see the bird…whispering what the bird might be and pointing to where it was in the tree.”

Following the two-mile hike, participants debriefed with the guides and other birders about what they saw and exchanged eBird contact information. Participants also received a gift bag with snacks, water, birding guides, a gaiter facemask, and BRI sticker. Many participants expressed how valuable the local expertise was and that it was a great learning opportunity.

A second Borderlands Birding Bonanza event for this fall is scheduled on Nov. 14 and 15 at the Dixon Water Foundation’s Mimms Ranch near Marfa. This free event will be hands-on, where registrants will directly assist researchers with capturing wintering grassland birds using mist-netting. For more information about how to sign up for the Nov. event, please visit bri.sulross.edu/events. Stay tuned for additional Borderlands Birding Bonanza events being planned for spring 2021.

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.

Birding Bonanza participants and Emily Card, BRI graduate assistant, searched for birds among the branches.
Large cottonwood trees overarched the birders as they hiked along the bed of Alamito Creek.