Aplomado Falcon Habitat Restoration

Near Brownsville, Texas there is a National Historic Park called Palo Alto Battlefield. The original site for the first Texan Mexican war.

It is a coastal arid prairie, located near the Mexican border. which is  a key part in the recovery of the Aplomato falcon. (It is a little known bird of prey.) 

They specialize in eating birds, insects and sometimes take young pack rats. It is one of the rarest birds in the lower 48 states, rarely seen above the border of Mexico. The last breeding pair in the United States hasn’t been seen since 1956. now after much effort there are around 60 breeding pairs currently in the Palo Alto Battlefield park. 

However, the Aplomato falcon is in a delicate situation, as the mesquite tree is still taking over the prairie which is home to a startlingly diverse ecosystem. This bird has few predators, including the great horned owl. 

Larger birds of pray such as Great Horned Owls can and will out compete the smaller Aplomato falcon in prey resources, they also have been known to prey on young falcons, dropping the already low seven percent survival rate to less than three percent. 

Most Owl’s can’t survive on an open prairie, so as the trees slowly take over, the other birds of prey, such as the Great Horned Owl will move with them. It Is hard to believe that the mesquite tree is the greatest threat to the Falcons very existence. 

We chose to handle the devastating toll in this situation by using herbicide to wipe out the mesquite trees from their non-native range. due to the hostile environment it lives in they adapted to have large thorns with mild toxicity. Which allows them to grow for hundreds of years. The older trees even grow up to fifteen to thirty feet tall. 

For the first five to ten years they grow rapidly then they grow much slower. The trees can’t be cut down as they will just grow back. To combat this We used an oil based herbicide that adheres to the bark of the tree and is then absorbed into the roots. The process takes anywhere from ten to thirty-six days depending on the size of the tree. 

The longevity of the mesquite tree makes it much more difficult for the Aplomato falcon to survive here in this desert like environment. This is why it is so important to preserve this irreplaceable species. So as the Texas conservation corps it it our sovereign duty to protect this increasingly rare bird and all creatures big and small who inhabit this one of a kind ecosystem. 

Thank you to the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park for allowing my team to work there. 

Thank you to the Texas conservation corps staff for giving us the opportunity to work in an amazing environment. 

Thank you to my roommates Lyric, Micah, and Abby for helping with grammar and other issues in the blog. I couldn’t have done this without them. 

 

Anthony Rodriguez – Coastal Crew

 

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Trails Across Texas joins the Bastrop Trail Crew

For the last two weeks, TAT has been working and camping with the Bastrop crew in Bastrop State Park. We’ve been assisting with their season long project of re-routing the 9 mile long Lost Pines Loop. Week one picked up where we had left off the previous week, clearing out corridor for a brand new section of trail. It works like this, the general direction the trail will take is flagged with a blue flag hanged on the up slope of the grade. Everything within 3.5 feet of the flag is cut out with a chainsaw, a task well received by TAT since chainsaw operation has been a seldom occurrence for the trail crew thus far. The difference between the first week of this hitch and the last week of the last hitch was that, after instruction of Bastrop and our Field Coordinator Nate, we were also removing potentially hazardous dead trees from the path of the trail. Once the path is cleared, pin flags are laid by Nate or the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department outlining the specific path the trail will take through the cleared area. Half of the members of each crew will then cut, grub, shape, and detail the new trail, while the other half of each crew bumps up ahead and begins to clear the next area. By week two the areas were all cleared! So, the half of the crew that wasn’t cutting trail went back to areas cut early on and cleared corridor that may has since been overgrown, and felling hazard trees we may have missed or were not yet comfortable felling at that point in the season. On the last day of the hitch, we were joined by YouthBuild who assisted us as we taught them to cut and shape trail! We will miss our brother and sisters in the Bastrop Crew, but we are excited to go back on our own time at the end of the summer and experience the fruits of their labor as we walk the finished Lost Pines Loop through 9 miles of Bastrop State Park!

Mikey Thomas – Trails Across Texas

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