Department’s pond provides habitat for a variety of birds

Through the fall and early weeks of winter, Mark Watson, terrestrial habitat specialist with the Department of Game and Fish, spent some time observing and photographing birds in and around the pond at the Department of Game and Fish headquarters in Santa Fe.

Above: Mountain bluebird. Below: Sora. Photos by Mark Watson.

The pond was repaired and refilled during the summer of 2018; since then, it has attracted a wide variety of birds, including waterfowl.

How did this once dry and weedy spot turn into a great place for birdwatchers?

The pond and surrounding area offers resources for a variety of species, said Erin Duvuvuei, nongame avian biologist with the Department of Game and Fish.

Above, first: Song sparrow. Above, second: Pied-billed grebe. Photos by Mark Watson.

“We’re in the high desert so any water source is a rarity,” explained Duvuvuei. “Water alone will bring in some birds. The associated wetland vegetation, chokecherry bushes, and other native vegetation provide cover and food sources, including abundant insects. Many passerines appeared to use the pond as a stopover site during fall migration to rest and refuel.

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Slideshow, one: Hen wigeon. Slideshow, two: Male mallard in breeding plumage. Slideshow, three: Ringneck duck. Photos by Mark Watson.

Waterfowl can frequently be found using the pond in the winter months. Because the pond is fairly deep, it provides habitat for both dabbling and diving ducks.

The manmade stream and pond system and surrounding piñon-juniper habitat have resulted in an ecotone, or habitat transition zone. Although artificial in this case, ecotones are typically associated with higher species diversity and richness.

Mark Watson is a biologist and habitat specialist with the Ecological and Environmental Planning Division of New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Mark has worked for the department for 21 years. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of New Mexico in biology, with emphases in ecology and zoology. In his spare time, Mark loves to hike, hunt, fish, camp and photograph wildlife.

About NMDGF

NMDGF
It is the mission of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to conserve, regulate, propagate and protect the wildlife and fish within the State of New Mexico, using a flexible management system that ensures sustainable use for public food supply, recreation and safety—and to provide for off-highway motor vehicle recreation that recognizes cultural, historic and resource values while ensuring public safety.