One of the fun parts of visiting the Rio Grande Valley is the chance to see an aplomado falcon. One of the best places to look is Laguna Atascosa NWR. Two years ago I got the chance to chase one down (it practically took half the bird festival to help me get it). The aplomado falcon in this area is a reintroduced species, their populations have been affected by pesticide use and the Peregrine Fund has been releasing captive raised birds in an effort to reestablish the population. They eat mostly small birds and insects.
On Sunday morning, as I was driving into Laguna Atascosa, I noticed a car pulled over ahead of me, I slowed to find out what they were looking at. It was an aplomado falcon perched on a fence post about 30 feet from the road. As I slowed, the bird took off, but then perched again on the fence further down the road. Both the car in front and I approached slowly. It was painful. I had all my digiscoping equipment next to me in my rental vehicle, but I knew if I got out to set it up, the falcon would fly off. I so wanted to get an awesome photo for the blog, but rather than spoil the perfect view, I decided to just enjoy the bird in front of me. When I reached the visitor center at Laguna, I took photos of their stuffed bird for the blog entry. It was a kick ass look.
As I birded some more around Laguna, another aplomado falcon flew over my vehicle and landed in a far away palmetto. Such a pretty bird, but gone in a flash. While I was out, I ran into Sam Crow and Hugh Powell who do Round Robin Blog for Cornell. Hugh showed me his photo of the aplomado, they had come across the bird on the fence earlier (I now wonder if they were in the vehicle in front of me). They got a good shot and it was painful for me to see. You can view the apolomado photo over at Round Robin.