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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
The 2004 Aplomado Hack Season
Erin Gott — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration    Share

On 5 January the Texas Aplomado team gathered at its new office located in Port Isabel, Texas, south of Laguna Atascosa NWR.   We wasted little time getting the 2004 season started.  We focused first on building new artificial nest structures. Our goal this year is to boost nest production of Aplomado Falcons by implementing nest structures in known falcon habitat.  

Erin Gott working on barred structure<br />(Matagorda Island NWR)
Erin Gott working on barred structure
(Matagorda Island NWR)
From 9 January to 20 February, we built 31 artificial nest structures (22 open and nine barred style.) The type of structure used (open or barred style) depends on the ecological composition of each falcon territory.  For example, open salt prairie territories with little brush are given open structures, while the brushier territories receive barred structures.  The difference between the two structures is obvious; the open structure is a 2’x2’ platform with two walls (to block prevailing wind) and a human-made nest placed on a 20’ pole, while the barred structure is a welded 3’x3’x14” square box with vertical conduit bars spaced 4.75” apart, a wooded floor and ceiling and a human-made nest, placed on a 12’ pole.  This “wall of bars” allows Aplomado Falcons to enter while larger predators are restricted.

On 17 and 18 February, Angel Montoya, Paul Juergens and I flew, with pilot Chuck Schroll from Light Hawk, over 600 miles of potential Aplomado habitat.  During the aerial survey we explored coastal prairie habitat from Tepehauje, Tamp., Mexico to Matagorda Island, Matagorda County, Texas.  We observed eight Aplomado Falcons, their prey species and suitable habitat both in areas restricted and unrestricted to us on the ground.  The information gained from the flight will allow our biologists to conduct thorough surveys on the ground in unexplored areas of potential Aplomado Falcon habitat

On 21 February we finished building structures and started placing them on Laguna Atascosa NWR, Matagorda Island NWR, and surrounding private properties.   To date we have placed a total of 24 nest structures (16 open and eight barred.)

Bayside Loop pair on structure.
Bayside Loop pair on structure.
During the past week (14 March - 21 March) Paul and I joined Jessi (who has been busy observing our Aplomado pairs since January) in the field.  So far we’ve identified 22 individual falcons by reading their I.D. leg bands and 17 territorial pairs.  Although a majority of our 2004 pairs are the same as last year, a few have changed.  The most noteworthy change is our Bayside Loop Pair on Laguna Atascosa N.W.R.  For several years this pair consisted of an unbanded female and a 1993 released male.  For 11 years the male defied mortality odds to live, produce and provide for many wild born Aplomado Falcons.  His legacy includes two known offspring who are now part of our wild breeding population.  This year the male is replaced by an unbanded Aplomado Falcon, establishing the first known North American unbanded pair since the inception of this restoration project.

For the next two months, we will be busy searching for Aplomado Falcons in South Texas, identifying pairs and floaters, observing behavior and documenting nesting success.

From this point on I hope to update our notes from the field every couple of weeks, so stay tuned.

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