Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Avocado Falcons

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
One of the very special birds that was hanging around Bosque del Apache NWR last week and for several week prior was an aplomado falcon. Aplomado is a Spanish word meaning lead-colored--referring to the bird's gray coloration. What you really notice about the bird is not the gray back, but the orange chest and boldly marked head.

Actually there were at least TWO of these rare, endangered birds on the refuge and I got to see both of them just an hour apart on the same day. Radio contact with birders still watching the other falcon confirmed the presence of two birds.

My son (and namesake) Liam, who was along for one of the field trips, asked why we were so excited. I pointed out the bird and said, "THAT'S a rare bird called an aplomado falcon!" Liam replied: "Oh. . . . What's an avocado falcon?" By the glint in his eye I could tell he was pulling his old man's leg.

These aplomados are from a captive breeding program that is trying to re-establish the population in the desert Southwest. Everyone was all abuzz about seeing these lanky falcons and a few of the harder-core birders were wondering if they were "countable" or not since they or their parents were once held in captivity. The birds had bands on the legs but seemed otherwise wild and well adjusted. We watched them eat dragonflies and the occasional small mammal or bird.

It was great to show the birds to a variety of people in our various birding trips. I'd seen the species twice before--both times at Laguna Atascosa NWR in South Texas where another aplomado hacking program has had great success over the years. But these looks at Bosque were better, with more cooperative birds.

I've got a lot more posts from NM to share. The only problema is that I still have to write them! In the meantime, here are a few of my aplomado images--all of these are digiscoped from a great distance.

The falcon stretching in the late-afternoon sun.

Despite my photography skills you can actually see the falcon's head pattern in this image.

A harrier decided to harass the aplomado.

To see how a pro digiscoper does it, visit Jeff Bouton's Leica Birding Blog and check out his pix of the aplomado falcon. I still have to fetch some of my digital camera images and if I have anything aplomadoish worth sharing, Ill certainly do so.


On November 27, 2007 at 8:35 PM Heron said...

What a wonderful sighting ! Although I'm not sure which would be better, seeing an aplomado falcon or hearing Liam refer to it as an avocado falcon ! What a great kid, such a quick mind.

On November 27, 2007 at 9:13 PM Mary said...

I love the shot of harrier harrassing the avocado falcon.

On November 28, 2007 at 11:40 AM Jeff Bouton said...

I hear they leave Guacamole stains on their perches!... ;p Sorry couldn't resist. Blame on your kids they always bring out the worst in me! It was great seeing y'all albeit too briefly. Next time. Oh yeah, and thanks for the props! The Avacado was one of my highlights along with being able to see 5 falcon species in one location and trip (a 1st in a quarter century of birding for me)!