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ALBUQUERQUE – Phred Benham’s ears easily picked out the “cheep” of a ladder-backed woodpecker from the din of a late afternoon on the University of New Mexico campus.
The 25-year-old University of New Mexico graduate student set off across a little campus road toward University House, where many of the university’s presidents have lived over the years.
Raising his binoculars, Benham spotted the woodpecker as she tap-tap-tapped her way around the trunk of a crab apple in the front yard of the house.
“He’s got some great bird habitat,” Benham said of UNM President David Schmidly, for whom the house serves as a ceremonial on-campus residence.
When it comes to campus bird habitat, Benham and a group of friends know what they’re talking about. Since May, the bird-watching students and faculty members have been scouring the campus, compiling a list of all the birds they see. The informal “UNM Campus Bigyear” project is already up to 105 species, and ornithology professor Chris Witt says they could easily get more than 130 by the time the project wraps up next April.
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