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First Raptor Report of 2013

Hello!

For those who don't know me, my name is Gavin Emmons, and I have returned for an 11th season as the raptor biologist at Pinnacles. I just wanted to send everyone an update as to the status of raptors for the past 3 weeks.

Prairie falcons (PRFA) have returned to Pinnacles and are establishing territories and engaging in courtship displays. A peregrine falcon (PEFA) pair that nested last year – for the 8th consecutive year –wintered at the park. The male and female peregrine falcons have both been observed in the Hawkins and Central High Peaks areas, calling to each other, engaging in courtship displays, and defending the territory by chasing other birds (vultures, hawks, and ravens) out of the areas. At least one adult peregrine falcon has also been observed in the Little Pinnacles (Yaks) area, and may be attempting to occupy the territory for nesting this year. The first prairie falcon pairs were confirmed at Crowley Towers and Chaos Crag / Tunnel by the beginning of 2013.

At present the following have been documented: 4 territories with PRFA pairs, 1 more territory with a single PRFA, 1 territory with the PEFA pair, and 1 territory with 1 PEFA. These are listed below:

  • Goat Rock / Resurrection Wall: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • Chaos Crag / Tunnel: PRFA pair
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA pair
  • Crowley Towers: PRFA pair
  • Little Pinnacles (Yaks): Single PEFA, pair possible
  • South Balconies: PRFA pair
  • Drywall: PRFA pair

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

  • Scout Peak
  • Goat Rock
  • Machete Ridge
  • Willow Spring Slide
  • Canyon North of Willow Spring
  • Pig Canyon
  • Discovery Wall
  • Frog / Hand
  • Pipsqueak Pinnacles
  • Prescribed Burn Cliffs / Gargoyle Area
  • Citadel
  • D. Soto Canyon
  • Guard Rock
  • Rocks West of Chalone Housing
  • Mating Rocks / Tugboat
  • North Wilderness Rock

South Wilderness Rock, South Chalone Peak, and Marion Canyon have not yet been checked for raptor territorial status.

In general, PRFA activity this season seems to be proceeding on schedule in regards to annual occupancy and courtship schedules. Some of the unoccupied territories listed above will likely have active falcon pairs that arrive later in the season by February or March. Advisories are in effect to include the upper southwest face of Machete as a partial advisory area for the season. Advisories may be updated later in the spring if PRFA pair occupancy at Discovery Wall is confirmed and nesting is attempted.

Please note that climbing and hiking advisories are in effect as of today, January 22nd. Advisory signs have been placed at Hawkins, Scout, Balconies, and Little Pinnacles, to protect these sensitive species from the pressures of hiking and climbing during the upcoming 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 3 weeks. No occupancy or nesting activity has been confirmed yet.

Other raptors observed in the park in January include American kestrels, and red-shouldered hawks have been seen in the Pinnacles Campground, near the Bacon barn, in McCabe Canyon, and in the South Wilderness, perching in valley oaks and vocalizing. Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks are active throughout the park along riparian corridors. Owl species have been unusually quiet in terms of early season vocalizations, but great-horned owls, western screech-owls, and barn owls have been active along riparian corridors, in the Pinnacles Campground, and in bottomlands areas.

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. If anyone on staff wishes to report raptor observations, I would greatly appreciate it if you please fill out a wildlife observation card, and deposit it in my box in the RRM Office.

In particular, thanks to Daniel George, Paul Johnson, Joseph Belli, Dan Ryan, and Alacia Welch for raptor observations. I appreciate the support!

If you have any observations within the park to report, or any raptor-related questions, please contact me through email or extension 276. Thanks!

___

 

Gavin Emmons
Raptor / Condor Biologist
Pinnacles National Park
5000 Highway 146
Paicines, CA 95043
Office: 831-389-4486 x276

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