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Lower Rio Grande Valley Update No. 3

by Bryan on April 7th, 2012

Pity the vultures. On our final day of scouting before my Vermont Bird Tours outing to the Lower Rio Grand Valley of Texas, Peter and I watched an Aplomado Falcon defending what is most likely its nest.

These shock-and-awe falcons once ranged widely from the southernmost US through South America. But conversion of marsh, scrub and grassland savannah habitats to agriculture and commercial development erased the falcon from south Texas and other portions of its turf.

A reintroduction program, under the direction of the Peregrine Fund, has brought them back. Aplomado Falcons are again rocketing across south Texas, mostly in pursuit of songbird prey. Normally, they’ll “reoccupy” abandoned raptor or corvid nests in scrubland trees, including the yucca species we’re seeing out here. (Or they might even nest in large arboreal bromeliads, which is really cool.) We noticed this bird in a nest on a utility pole (where Ospreys are also nesting). It’s one of the reintroduced falcons; you can just make out its leg bands.

When a pair of vultures visited the pole, one of the falcons wouldn’t stand for it. From a quarter mile away, it launched with fierce determination on slender, angular wings. The vultures vacated promptly.

Peter and I kept a respectable distance from this nest. Only a big lens and lots of PhotoShop produced these images. I’ve included the two unedited photos in the bottom of the post.


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