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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
Aplomado Falcons update Feb. 2010
Paul Juergens — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration    Share

Angel Montoya, Brian Mutch, and I have just wrapped up our trip to South Texas to maintain existing nest structures and place a few new nest boxes in Aplomado Falcon territories.

It was a very productive trip despite the difficulties in getting around. Both the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge areas this winter finally received much needed rainfall, which made travel off of pavement or maintained all-weather roads next to impossible in the trucks. However, the ATVs we brought down were great and we generally had no trouble getting us to the nest sites, even with tools and materials in tow.

Wade Ruddock and the crew on San Jose Island were again very helpful and were able to help us get four nest boxes and poles up to the Matagorda Island refuge, which saved us a tremendous amount of time. Wade also assisted us in visiting nest sites on San Jose Island. Had they not helped us, the smaller refuge boats would have needed to make many trips across the bay to get all six nest structures across to the island and would have taken one or two more days than planned to complete. Instead we completed our work at Matagorda Island in three days, including one day on San Jose Island.

Regarding changes to the construction of the nest structures, we made a slight improvement to the design to effectively eliminate access to the nest by Crested Caracaras or other larger raptors. Placement of a 1x 4-inch board on edge around the perimeter of the box floor and outside of the bars created a 7-inch vertical opening through which the falcons can access the interior. Another design change is the addition of a roof access port or door that will allow us access to the nest for maintenance or banding if necessary. Other than that, the design is the same as those built the last two years. Here is a brief numerical synopsis of the work we performed in South Texas:
•    Structures maintained – 30 (LANWR – 19; MINWR – 11)
•    Existing structures replaced with new boxes – 2 (LANWR – 2; MINWR – 0)
•    New nest box structures placed – 7 (LANWR – 1; MINWR – 6)
•    Total sites visited – 39 (LANWR – 22; MINWR – 17)

In the Laguna Atascosa area, we postponed placement of two nest structures until this spring or next February when the prairie will have hopefully drained off and dried some. Instead, we made sure the existing structures in those two territories were in suitable shape for at least one more breeding season.

On another note, we did see several Aplomado Falcons as well as a handful of Merlins and Peregrines. In particular, on MINWR and SJI we observed 11 pairs of Aplomados and three individuals. Down south in the LANWR area, four pairs of Aplomados were observed as well as eight individuals. It is typical for us to see more falcons on MINWR this time of the year, so really nothing out of the ordinary. The falcons looked great, and they should be in excellent shape going into the breeding season, especially with all of the nest structures having been checked and maintained.

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