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July 2014 Raptor/Closures Update

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

The raptor breeding season is winding down, and falcons have been productive in raising and fledging young from cliff cavity nests throughout the park. Prairie falcons (PRFA) successfully fledged 27 young from 7 nests. A peregrine falcon (PEFA) pair successfully fledged 2 young from a nest in the Balconies area for the first time in 50 years, and a second PEFA nest at Hawkins is still active, with an adult pair raising a single nestling. At present the following have been documented: 12 PRFA pairs, and the 2 PEFA territories. These are listed below with current nesting status:

  • Resurrection Wall: PRFA pair, nest confirmed, 2 fledglings
  • Teapot Dome / Tunnel / Egg: PRFA pair, nest confirmed, 5 fledglings
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA pair, nest confirmed
  • General Balconies: PEFA pair, nest confirmed, 2 fledglings
  • South Balconies: PRFA pair, nest confirmed, 4 fledglings
  • Crowley Towers: PRFA pair, nest confirmed, 5 fledglings
  • Citadel: PRFA pair, non-nesting
  • Little Pinnacles (Yaks): PRFA pair, non-nesting
  • Willow Spring Slide: PRFA pair, nest confirmed, 4 fledglings
  • Drywall Slide: PRFA pair, nest confirmed, 4 fledglings
  • North Chalone Peak: PRFA pair, nest failed
  • NE Section 15: PRFA pair, nest failed
  • South Chalone Peak: PRFA pair, nest confirmed, 3 fledglings
  • Pig Canyon: PRFA pair, nest failed

In general, PRFA productivity for 2014 was consistent with fledging success observed during the 29 years of the Pinnacles raptor monitoring program, with 27 young fledging from 7 nests and 3 additional nests failing, likely due to nest predation. The confirmed PEFA nests are particularly significant, representing the first time in over 50 years that we have had peregrine falcons nesting and producing fledglings on the West Side. Historic park maps from the 1920s and 1930s showed "falcon sanctuaries" or "peregrine areas" in the Balconies and Machete areas, indicating that park managers were aware of the importance of protecting nesting birds of prey even then. This protection of nesting falcons provided strong justifications for the inclusion of Balconies and Machete in the park property as the Pinnacles boundaries expanded early in the 20th century. It is amazing to see that peregrine falcons have finally returned to nest on the West Side on their own!

Please note that climbing and hiking advisories have just been updated as of July 9th. Raptor advisories are still in effect at Hawkins Peak (including Tuff Dome, H & L Dome, and Frothy Flake) while the late season peregrine falcon nest effort remains active. All other climbing and hiking advisories have been lifted for the year.

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.

Other nesting raptors observed in the park through July include American kestrels, red-shouldered hawks, a Cooper's hawk pair, a long-eared owl pair, and (just outside of the west side entrance of the park) a golden eagle pair. With the exception of prairie and peregrine falcons, most raptor species have been less productive than in previous years, particularly buteo hawks. In most years we have confirmed 5-8 red-tailed hawk nests and 5-6 red-shouldered hawk nests; in 2014 we have confirmed 2 red-shouldered hawk nests and no red-tailed hawk nests, though adult pairs have remained active in historical territories.

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.

A special thanks to Alyson Schmidt, Autumn Sartain, and Megan Gnekow for their efforts assisting with the raptor monitoring program; they definitely helped to confirm raptor activity and provide a broader picture of raptor nesting this year!

In addition, thanks to James Bouknight, Josh Littlejohn, Brent Johnson, Mike Shelley, Peter Urbach, Rose Fielding, Paul Johnson, Paul Marsell, Denise Louie, Joseph Belli, Linda Regan, Lori Frusetta, 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!

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

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