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