Clovis tweet for birders

By Ryn Gargulinski: CNJ staff writer

If anyone says Clovis is for the birds — they’re right. At least according to the 2005 Great Backyard Birdcount.

This eighth annual event racked up 35 species — and nearly 6,000 birds — for Clovis alone. The findings are based on area volunteers’ checklists compiled Feb. 18-21, the end of winter or “season of survival.” By far the most abundant bird in the area is the European starling, with a hefty tally of 3,621.

“These birds are very opportunistic,” said Tish McDaniel, Nature Conservancy Short-Grass Prairie-Project coordinator and U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist. “Starlings do well in all kinds of habitats and like what people are doing by adding trees, food and water sources.”

Starlings seem to like Clovis so much, in fact, that the New Mexican city with the second-highest amount of starlings was Albuquerque with a meager 255.

McDaniel said we will also see a lot of grackles, another opportunitistic — and downright murderous — species.

“They are very nasty,” said McDaniel. “They steal eggs out of nests … they steal foundlings….”

Clovis racked up 722 great-tailed grackles this year, beating out second-place Roswell’s 455.

Third on the Clovis bird count list was the Canada goose, with 369. Maxell National Wildlife Refuge and Albuquerque surpassed the Clovis Canada goose count, with 570 and 739, respectively.

McDaniel said the Clovis area is a great bird-watching zone due to nearby grasslands and its location along a migrating path.

“We are at the height of migration and may very well spy birds not native to the area — like crossbills, warblers and hawks,” McDaniel said. “We have everything from the plain sparrow to beautiful buntings.”

Birdwatcher Glenda Anspaugh, who lives three miles south of Clovis, was working in her pasture one day when she heard “this screeching noise.”

She looked up to see a migrating flock of long-billed curlews. “There must have been about 75 of those birds,” said Anspaugh, who herself had contributed to the Backyard Bird Count several years ago.

Anspaugh said she first took part in the Backyard Bird Count — for which there is no “magic” technique other than a keen eye — because no one was participating from the southeastern New Mexico area.

She was pleased to find out at least 12 checklists were submitted for Clovis in this year’s count.

“I keep reading how bird watching is a growing hobby,” Anspaugh said. “I do it just for the enjoyment of it, to see something new that you’ve never seen before. I wish more people would take time to appreciate the beauty around them.”