A Texas couple traveled to the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge during the pandemic in search of a rare bird that had been sighted making its first-ever appearance in the United States—the bat falcon.
This tropical species typically inhabits Mexico, Central and South America, and Trinidad. But in late November 2021, the falcon was spotted north of the border for the first time, at the sanctuary in Alamo, Texas.
Retired university professor Peter Witt, 78, loves traveling the world with his wife, Joyce; so when the pandemic hit, it dawned that his passion for wildlife and photography would fit well in the birding scene—and make a great remedy for them, a chance to get outside their home in College Station.
They learned that the falcon sometimes appeared on a utility pole at the refuge entrance in the mornings; later it could be seen about 2.5 miles into the reserve, at Cattails Lake, Witt told The Epoch Times. As they didn’t find the falcon at the pole, they hiked to the lake.
Here, they found the bat falcon.
“When we arrived, another birder had spotted him at the north end, so we hiked over, and got to within 20 yards of the bird, who was perched on a tree snag,” Witt shared. “The bird would swoop down over the lake, catch a dragonfly, come back to his perch to eat the dragonfly, then repeat the pattern.”
The bird, believed to be a juvenile, was not bothered by all the attention, said Witt, who snapped the falcon using his Sony A6600 camera and 70-350 lens.
Although he wasn’t the first to snap the bat falcon, the encounter left Witt, and all the other visitors, filled with contentment.
“We left with satisfied smiles, having gotten pictures and memories,” the photographer added. Their day continued from there with a tour of other well-known birding sights in the Rio Grande Valley.
All in all, the couple were “excited and pleased” with the photos of the historic U.S. bat falcon encounter, which Witt happily posted on Facebook, where they went viral. They were even reposted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and covered by local media.
As for all the fame his photos have garnered, Witt gives credit to the bat falcon.
“I’ve gotten my 15 minutes of fame,” he said. “But it’s really the sightings of the bird that are important.”
For a pair of new birders traveling six hours by car to see a particular bird, he added, it made them feel like maybe they “were birders after all.”