I’m on a plane from San Antonio in pursuit of a Bahama Mockingbird. Yesterday evening, while birding with Richard Liebler, we located a pair of Aplomado Falcons along Old Pt. Isabelle Rd. north of Brownsville. What a handsome falcon. I remember when Jeff Wert and I saw our first Aplomado in Laguna Atascosa back in the early 90’s.
Now I’m sure many of you are wondering, “Why is he chasing/counting a bird from a reintroduced population?” That’s a very valid question. Let me present three reasons in an attempt to answer that.
1. My brother Tom eloquently presents a rational reason. The direction of conservation management is now towards restoration to a natural habitat and increasing and protecting the biodiversity of that habitat. Reintroduction of native plants and animals is an important component of this management strategy. It’s no longer adequate to simply maintain existing open spaces as they currently are. There is simply too much fragmentation and the habitat has been too radically altered for this approach. Mankind must manage restored areas and in fact restoration is the cutting edge tool of conservation management. Gray Wolves in Yellowstone, the Black-footed Ferret throughout the west, Western Leopard Frogs in Oregon, butterflies in the tall grass prairies of the Midwest are all examples of successful reintroductions. Look at Wild Turkey reintroduction throughout the United States. Aplomado Falcons are historically native to the grasslands of South Texas, the Trans Pecos, southern New Mexico and Southeastern Arizona but by the end of the 19th century were eradicated. Reintroduction of the Aplomado Falcon began back in 1993 and the first successful nesting happened in 1995, I believe. This type of reintroduction must occur too improve the biodiversity. Now the South Texas population of Aplomado Falcon has not increased as quickly as say the Gray Wolf reintroduction or Wild Turkey, but the population does seem to be stable even after the hurricane that hit Brownsville several years ago. Restoration of many conservative plants takes a long time to restore populations to a historic level. It’s been 18 years and nine generations since Aplomado Falcons were first released in South Texas in 1993.
2. Tom’s argument has merit, in fact I’ve met several birders recently who are now counting South Texas Aplomados on their life list. However, it’s a bit different with “countability” of birds in North America versus mammals or amphibians. There are some rules and guidelines at both the state level and at the American Birding Association level. The Texas State Committee must first decide to count this population. The ABA Records Committee would not normally lead the way. What’s encouraging is that members of the Texas Records Committee are currently and actively discussing adding the South Texas Aplomados to the Texas State List. This is a logical step for a stable population of birds reintroduced 18 years ago. In fact both Jon Dunn and Mary Gustafson have advised me to make the effort to see an Aplomado Falcon during my Big Year.
3. The third argument to include Aplomado Falcon on my list is that Sandy Komito included one of the South Texas Aplomado Falcons in his 1998 Big Year list total of 745 species. Chis “The Hitman” Hitt, has become the “unofficial” historian of North American Big Years and has taken it upon himself to research various lists and writings. Chris gleaned this information from Sandy’s book, I Came, I Saw, I Counted .
Anyway, tomorrow I’ll try for a Bahama Mockingbird with my friend, Larry Manfredi. It should be interesting, stay tuned.