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Raptor Monitoring Update for Apr/May

Prairie falcons (PRFA) and the Hawkins peregrine falcon (PEFA) pair are actively nesting, with most pairs feeding nestlings that are developing towards fledging, or first flights. At present the following have been documented: 11 territories with PRFA nests, a PRFA territory with a non-nesting pair, and the PEFA nest. These are listed below:

  • Resurrection Wall: PRFA nest, nestlings confirmed
  • Egg / Tunnel / Teapot Dome: PRFA nest, fledglings confirmed
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA nest, nestlings confirmed
  • Crowley Towers: PRFA nest, fledglings confirmed
  • Hanging Valley / Little Pinnacles: PRFA pair, non-nesting
  • Citadel: PRFA pair, nest failed
  • South Balconies: PRFA nest, nestlings confirmed
  • Machete: PRFA pair, nest failed
  • Canyon North of Willow Spring: PRFA nest, nestlings confirmed
  • Drywall: PRFA nest, 2nd clutch attempt after failed 1st attempt
  • North Chalone Peak: PRFA nest, nestlings confirmed
  • South Chalone Peak: PRFA nest, nestlings confirmed

The following territories are currently unoccupied, with no falcons observed within them:

  • Scout Peak
  • Goat Rock
  • North Balconies
  • Pipsqueak Pinnacles
  • Prescribed Burn Cliffs / Gargoyle Area
  • Frog / Hand
  • Mating Rocks / Tugboat
  • North Wilderness Rock
  • South Wilderness Rock
  • Marion Canyon / Narrows

This has been an interesting year for PRFA nesting activity at Pinnacles. The nests at Egg and Crowley successfully fledged all nestlings on 20-26 May. On average, these represent very early nesting efforts for PRFA; generally nesting pairs fledge young in mid-June. The PRFA pair at Drywall laid eggs at an eyrie by April, but the nest subsequently failed. By late May the Drywall PRFA pair had re-nested at a new location, representing the first second clutch nest attempt by a Pinnacles PRFA pair in more than 10 years.

Please note that climbing and hiking advisories are in effect, and have been updated for May 2012. Raptor advisory signs have been placed at Hawkins and Balconies to protect these sensitive species from the pressures of hiking and climbing during the nesting season. Any assistance park staff can provide in diverting visitors from advisory areas, and reporting incidents of climbers and hikers in advisory areas to law enforcement staff, is highly appreciated!

Golden eagles have also been seen regularly in and near the park over the past month. Nesting attempts at the Eucalyptus Grove along Highway 146 approaching the west side entrance of Pinnacles, and at North Chalone Peak, likely failed due to predation or abandonment.

In total, forty-six raptor nests representing 11 species have been confirmed at Pinnacles so far this season. These include:

  • 9 red-tailed hawk nests, 6 red-shouldered hawk nests
  • 1 white-tailed kite nest, 6 American kestrel nests
  • 4 Cooper’s hawk nests
  • 3 barn owl nests
  • 2 long-eared owl nests
  • 1 great-horned owl nest.

This ranks as the second-highest total nest numbers ever documented in a season during the 26 years of the raptor monitoring program at Pinnacles. Kim Sawyer and Nate Melling have been assisting with raptor monitoring throughout the year and deserve a lot of credit for the comprehensive nest numbers we’ve been able to document this year. Their efforts are much appreciated!

Thank you to all the staff who have continued to provide me with raptor observations; every detail on raptor behavior helps to provide a more complete picture of raptor breeding at the park. In particular, thanks to Josh Littlejohn, Shauna Hobbs, Liz Allard, Sean Parnell, Paul Johnson, Jennifer Tiehm, Elise Hinger, Tessa Christensen, Jennie Jones, Dan Ryan, Daniel George, and Alacia Welch for raptor observations. I’m grateful for the support!

If you have any observations within the park to report, or any raptor-related questions, please email Gavin Emmons or call (831) 389-4486 x276.


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