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First Raptor Report of 2014

For those who don't know me, my name is Gavin Emmons, and I have returned for a 12th season as the raptor biologist at Pinnacles National Park. 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. Two peregrine falcon (PEFA) pairs – one that nested last year for the ninth consecutive year at Hawkins and another that occupied the Balconies and Crowley Towers areas for the first time in 50 years –wintered at the park. The peregrine falcon pairs have both been observed in the Hawkins and Balconies areas respectively, calling to each other, engaging in courtship displays, and defending the territories by chasing other birds (condors, hawks, and ravens) out of the areas. The first prairie falcons were confirmed at Resurrection Wall and Egg Rock by the beginning of 2014. At present the following have been documented: 1 territory with a PRFA pair, 8 more territories with single prairie falcons, and the 2 PEFA territories. These are listed below:

  • Goat Rock / Resurrection Wall: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • Teapot Dome / Tunnel / Egg: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA pair
  • North Balconies: PEFA pair
  • Little Pinnacles (Yaks): Single PRFA, pair likely
  • Machete / Citadel: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • Willow Spring Slide: PRFA pair
  • North Chalone Peak: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • NE Section 15: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • Pig Canyon: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • Piedras Bonitas / Gargoyle / Prescribed Burn Cliffs: Single PRFA, pair possible
  • Pipsqueak Pinnacles: Single PRFA, pair possible

The following territories are currently unoccupied, but remain CLOSED:

  • Crowley Towers
  • South Balconies
  • North Balconies
  • Scout Peak
  • Discovery Wall
  • Frog / Hand
  • Tugboat
  • 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 normally in regards to annual occupancy and courtship schedules. Some of the unoccupied territories listed above may have active falcon pairs that arrive later in the season by February or March. A territorial PRFA again occupying the Machete territory, and advisories are in effect to include the upper southwest face of Machete as a partial advisory area for the season.

Please note that climbing and hiking advisories are in effect as of January 21st. Raptor advisory signs have been placed at Hawkins, Scout, Balconies, and Little Pinnacles, to protect these sensitive species from the pressures of off-trail hiking and climbing during the upcoming nesting season. Updated raptor advisory brochures / handouts are available at the east side Pinnacles Visitor Center and the west side Visitor Contact Station. 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. Owls have been unusually quiet so far this season but will likely pick up as the breeding season proceeds.

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 Paul Johnson, Joseph Belli, Linda Regan, Dan Ryan, Nora Quinn, Jennie Jones, Danielle Powell, Arianna Punzalan, 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!


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  • FREE Park Admission

    In celebration of National Park Week, Pinnacles National Monument will be offering FREE weekend admission for the weekend of April 15th & 16th, as well as, the weekend of April 22nd & 23rd.

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