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Valley woman sights 725 bird species in US

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A Valley woman has already been highlighted by Texas Parks and Wildlife for the accomplishment of sighting 725 birds in the U.S., but it’s an incident that happened in her past that she’s hoping will make a difference nationwide.

“My original mission wasn’t to break the goal,” said Tiffany Kersten. “My goal was 700 species — I got really lucky with the first 700 species, and then at some point realized I could keep going and maybe get the record.”

Kersten says there are 30 species that are unique to the Rio Grande Valley, and some of those sightings were made right here. 

READ ALSO: Federal protections proposed for small owl spotted in the Valley  

“My 725th bird was a bat falcon, which is the first time ever in the United States that that bird was seen,” Kersten said.

But past that spotting at the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, her mission this year is much more than documenting.

“I was assaulted about three and a half years ago in an outdoor setting at a private ranch, actually here in South Texas,” Kersten said.

In overcoming her hardship, Kersten has instead worked to turn that into a strength by offering fellow women a special gift.

“I’ve actually been traveling the country, talking with women, connecting with women, making plans to meet with women in certain locations — other female birders and gifting these personal safety alarms to women that I meet along the trails,” Kersten said, who started a blog to document her experience.  

It's a method she admits isn’t the final solution.

“I’ve been in several situations this year where it felt very uncomfortable, where it would have been helpful for the men that were around me to maybe realize, ‘Oh, you know, we’re up here in this very remote area and it’s just her. Maybe we should give her more space,'” Kersten said. 

But a critical step in changing the world around her.

“It’s been really awesome to connect with that community and hopefully make a difference," Kersten said. 

Kersten says her goal mission isn’t over yet. She plans to fly out and document a few more birds to further cement her new record.

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