Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Aplomado falcon family and sharing them with the world.
It is after careful consideration that I start this series on the Aplomado falcon on my weblog.
It was two years ago here in Veracruz, that I had a memorable encounter with a pair of Aplomado falcons. I was out birding/digiscoping and I heard a commotion, it was two Aplomado falcons giving a good "get the hell out of my territory" message to a Roadside hawk. Unforgettable. The Roadside hawk retreated to more hospitable terrain. I observed the pair of Aplomado's in my binocular and was able to "digiscope" with my rather rustic setup of a basic Nikon spotting scope and my 2 megapixel Sony Mavica 250CD.(after vingetting I was lucky to get a good 4X6!)
Suddenly one of the Aplomado falcons shot off of the branch where it had been perched, almost immediately the second Aplomado falcon followed. I saw it all in my binocular.
The first Aplomado was in rapid pursuit of prey, the prey headed for the nearest leafy tree.
As the prey entered the safety of the tree the first Aplomado shot up into the air and hovered/"kited" above the tree.
The second Aplomado, (which was not far behind) went directly into the tree pursuing prey.
An Aplomado falcon is an undisputed master of airspace for its aerial acrobatics, but put them into a tangle of branches and they do not do well! So I observe this Aplomado foundering in a tangle of branches....the prey (a juvenile Eastern Meadowlark) seeing its attacker clumsily flapping in the branches sensed the opportunity to escape and flies from the refuge of the tree. BIG MISTAKE.
The first Aplomado falcon which had been hovering above the tree, saw the escaping flight of the juvenile Eastern Meadowlark and deeply swooped to make a definitve "kill".
I had just witnessed what must surely be one of nature´s greatest "dramas"....the cooperative hunt of the Aplomado falcon!
This colorful, long-tailed falcon had made unforgettable impresion on me. I was hooked!
I began to study all the material that I could find on this amazing bird of prey.
I recently crossed paths with a family of Aplomado falcons here in Tlacotalpan Veracruz, Mexico where I live. What I hope to do over the next several weeks is share with you images as well as information regarding Falco femoralis - The Aplomado Falcon.

Here is the image a provoked a renewed interest in the Aplomado falcon. While conducting my annual spring hawkwatch here in Tlacotalpan, I had Dane Ferell (of the Corpus Christi Texas Hawkwatch) here with me helping me with my spring raptor migration count. One morning (April 3, 2006) we were out birding before the hawkwatch and we came across this female Aplomado. I digiscoped a few pictures. (For those who may not know "digiscoping" is a is a photography technique that couples a digital camera with a spotting telescope. In the birding world the late Laurence Poh is considered to be the "father of digiscoping". Laurence eagerly shared with many his techniques, which have revolutionized nature/bird photography. Thanks to this recent technology, it is now possible to photograph most birds from a considerable distance and still capture their behavior and visual characteristics without "stressing" the bird.
Unless otherwise noted my photographs of the Aplomado falcon have been "digiscoped" using a Nikon Coolpix P1 (8megapixels) camera handheld to a Nikon Fieldscope 82mmED with a 30XWide Angle eyepiece, with either a Slik or Gitzo tripod.
So the journey begins of the Aplomado falcon family in the spring of 2006 in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz Mexico.
David McCauley

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