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2104 Raptor / Closures Update

Greetings everyone! Here is an update on raptor activity at Pinnacles National Park for the past 5 weeks.

Prairie falcons (PRFA) are continuing to establish territories, engage in courtship displays, and are inspecting potential nest sites for use this season. Two peregrine falcon (PEFA) pairs – one that nested last year for the ninth consecutive year at Hawkins and another that occupied the Balconies area for the first time in 50 years – are also active, 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 PEFA pair at Balconies is also inspecting possible sites on Machete but has not yet settled on a cavity nest for the season. At present the following have been documented: 9 PRFA pairs, 3 more territories with single prairie falcons, and the 2 PEFA territories. These are listed below:

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

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

  • Scout Peak
  • Discovery Wall
  • Frog / Hand
  • Tugboat
  • D. Soto Canyon
  • Guard Rock
  • Rocks West of Chalone Housing
  • Mating Rocks
  • North Wilderness Rock
  • South Wilderness Rock

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 late March or April. The PRFA pair at South Balconies and the PEFA pair at General Balconies and Machete have been observed diving at each other in spectacular aerial displays, but appear to be dividing up the cliff faces at Balconies in preparation for nesting this season. The PEFA pir at Balconies is also 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.

Climbing Closures

One group of climbers was observed at Balconies in the advisory area, and one advisory sign next to the trail at Balconies was severely vandalized last month. Otherwise climbers in general have been doing a great job of adhering to the advisories. Hikers have been seen occasionally hiking in advisory areas at Hawkins and Scout Peak but disturbance to falcons has not been documented. 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 5 weeks, with a pair actively courting at North Chalone Peak. No nesting activity has been confirmed yet.

Other raptors observed in the park in February and March 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, vocalizing and preparing stick nests for the season. 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 hopefully 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.

Also note that Alyson Schmidt is assisting with raptor monitoring efforts this season, as are two volunteers: Autumn Sartain and Megan Gnekow. If you see them scanning for raptor activity, feel free to report any raptor observations to them as well!

In particular, thanks to James Bouknigh, Robert Britton, Josh Littlejohn, Brent Johnson, Sierra Willoughby, Daniel George, Paul Johnson, Joseph Belli, Linda Regan, Dan Ryan, 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!

GAVIN EMMONS

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

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    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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