Grant Beauprez has turned his love of birds into a career. Photograph by Stefan Wachs.
ON THE SWEEPING PLAINS of eastern New Mexico, self-described wildlife and bird nut Grant Beauprez is the resident expert on the charismatic lesser prairie chicken and other grassland species. He began studying the greater prairie chicken—a once thriving grouse that has become threatened by habitat loss—while in graduate school at the University of Northern Colorado and got hooked on watching birds. “What drew me in was the fact they can fly,” he says. Beauprez, who moved to Clovis 14 years ago and now lives in Texico, has turned his love of birds into a career as a biologist for the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, as well as a focus of his vacations and, more recently, an art.
AT 51, I DECIDED I wanted to try painting. I never picked up a paintbrush until then. I’ve always liked going to museums and looking at wildlife art and was impressed by people who can draw or paint. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and taught myself. It’s for fun, but I do participate in art shows and am planning to attend the next Festival of the Cranes to paint there.
Most people only think of the Bosque del Apache in terms of birding in New Mexico, but eastern New Mexico has some good hot spots. I used to take people out as part of the annual Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival in Milnesand. We had to cancel the festival when the numbers of birds declined. But they are recovering now, and we hope to start the festival again.
People passing through on I-40 can also find me on the BirdingPal website. I’ll show them around the hot spots in the area, like the Melrose Migrant Trap. It’s a little island of trees and some water in the grasslands on state trust land. I go there every weekend when it’s open. It’s one of the best places in the country to see warblers. More than 40 species have been documented there.
I also chase birds on the weekends. The eBird app sends me alerts, so I get instantly notified when something rare pops up. Often, I’ll get to an eBird location and other birders will already be there. Right now, I’m in pursuit of Sprague’s pipit, which is my nemesis bird. It usually migrates through the eastern plains and is only here during a short window. It’s not a very exciting or sexy bird; most people haven’t even heard of them. But I need it.
Read More: New Mexico has some of the best birding in the country, although challenges threaten many species and force others into unfamiliar habitats. Let your passion soar with our guide to backyard birds, must-visit hot spots, and more.